Four EU member states that threaten the union’s welfare

  • 14 Dec 2018

France, Italy, Spain and Greece have been experiencing economic recessions, causing difficulties for their citizens.

EU leaders take part in a European Union summit in Brussels, Belgium June 28, 2018. ( Reuters )

France, under its President Emmanuel Macron, has faced violent protests by agitators, known as “yellow vests”, after the government announced a new fuel tax that hurt people in villages and small towns the most.

But France is one of several EU members where people are complaining about economic hardships. 

These countries, which include Italy, Spain and Greece, were for many years seen as bedrock of prosperity and welfare. That changed after the implosion sovereign debt crisis in 2009.  

The protests in France have now prompted in other countries to raise voice against austerity measures, which the governments introduced to cut back on high cost and spending.

That became a drag from the combined economy of the EU, which saw its share in global output recede in last ten years, Yakup Kocaman, an economic consultant, told TRT World.

Here's what's happening in the four troubled countries. 


The unemployment rate in France at 8.9 percent is higher than the EU average of 6.7 percent in October 2018.

Between 2007 and 2017, youth unemployment  increased from 19.5 percent to 22.3 percent.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire expects a drag on the economic growth by year end due to the protests.

A man wearing a yellow vest and holding a French flag stands on a bridge near the Nantes Atlantique Airport as the "yellow vests" movement continues, in Bouguenais, France, December 11, 2018.(Reuters)

The central bank also sees growth slowing down in the last quarter, which runs from October to December 2018. 

Income inequality rose sharply in last few years, despite the French egalitarian ideals.

The annual average household income per capita in France is $31,137, higher than the EU average. 

However, there is a considerable gap between the rich and the poor people - top 20 percent of population earns nearly five times as much as the 20 percent at the bottom.

France's high sovereign debt has forced the government to introduce unpopular measures such as the hike in taxes.  

And the problem is not expected to go away any time soon. 

France's external debt is almost as much as its annual economic output, says Kocaman.


Italy has also been experiencing economic difficulties in recent years due to its financial problems.

Since the League and the anti-establishment Five Star party formed a coalition government, Italy’s economy has gone into reverse. The new administration's big-spending budget plans have prompted fears of another banking crisis.

A new budget submitted to the EU promises to lower the retirement age and introduce income support. The European Commission has rejected the package, saying it will not cut Italy’s large public debt as the rules require, and has warned it could penalise Rome unless changes are made.

Tens of thousands rallied in Turin to protest against a high speed train project to the French city of Lyon, fiercely opposed by environmentalists, as a waste of public funds. (December 8, 2018)(Reuters)

According to Eurostat, Italy has the third highest unemployment rate among the EU countries at 10.6 percent

Italy's GDP growth is also second worst, second only to Greece, among the 28 EU members. 

The country also suffers from high income inequality with purchasing power of the majority population steadily decreasing in last five years.


Spain was one of the worst affected countries from the debt crisis leaving many of its financial institutions struggling. 

This had a fallout on people as the country saw its unemployment rate surge to 14.8 percent, one of the highest in Europe. 

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez stands next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a joint statement in Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain on August 11, 2018.(Reuters)

Here again, a high income inequality has made the lives of the poorest people difficult. 


Greece has seen it all: huge debt, political crisis, protests, and bankruptcy. 

It's unemployment rate at 18.9 percent is highest in the eurozone. 

After many years of negative GDP growth, Greece is still yearning for a leap ahead. 

(LtoR) Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiadis, Italy's Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, France's President Emmanuel Macron, Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa pose for a family photo with Italy's Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni prior to the summit of Mediterranean EU countries at Villa Madama in Rome on January 10, 2018.(AFP)

Like France, Italy and Spain, the purchasing power has been decreasing  in Greece, making life difficult for ordinary citizens.