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8th Dec 2016

Focus

Prague and Bratislava richer than most old EU states

  • The Eurovea shopping mall in Bratislava (Photo: theodevil)

The Prague region in the Czech Republic and the Bratislava region in Slovakia are among the richest in the EU. But by and large, the bloc still suffers from a massive east-west income gap.

EU figures out on Thursday (24 February) show that people in Prague have a GDP per capita measured in terms of purchasing power for locally-priced goods and services (PPS) of €43,200 and in Bratislava of €41,800.

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The levels are not high compared to Europe's traditional centres of wealth - inner London (€85,800), Luxembourg (€70,000) and Brussels (€54,100).

But with the former Communist and Soviet member states still often seen as the poor cousins of long-term EU members, the Czech and Slovak capitals are richer than any part of Austria, Greece, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Portugal or Spain.

The Prague region was already the 12th wealthiest in the EU just after enlargement in 2005. But six years ago Bratislava had a GDP per capita, PPS of €33,124 and was not even in the EU top 15.

The fresh numbers come as the EU gears up for another major redistribution of wealth in the 2014 to 2020 EU budget, with former Communist countries worried that the richer west will be less inclined to largesse than in the past due to the economic crisis.

They also come amid a debate on living standards caused by the EU-IMF bail-outs for Greece and Ireland.

With Germans complaining that they are being made to foot the bill for Greek and Irish profligacy, the figures show that southern and eastern Ireland (€37,000) is much richer than many parts of Germany. And with Slovakia last year opting out of the EU bail-out for Greece on grounds of relative penury, they show that the richest part of Greece (€28,300) lags far behind the Slovak capital.

The old truths are still true in terms of the overall east-west divide, however.

The 15 poorest regions in the EU are all in former Communist countries. Bulgaria and Romania dominate the low end of the table, followed by Poland and Hungary. The poorest region in the whole bloc - Severozapaden in Bulgaria - has a GDP per capita, PPS of just €7,100, meaning that people there are 10 times less well-off in real terms than those in London.

Putting the numbers into a broader perspective, the poorest people in the world in absolute terms are in Burundi, which has a GDP per capita of €121, according to the World Bank. The richest are in the tiny EU tax havens of Monaco (over €150,000) and Liechtenstein (over €100,000).

Correction: this story was amended at 12.15 Brussels time on 25 February to take out a mistake about relative Irish-German wealth

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