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International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
Food prices, Europe, Michael Deppler, Small States, Abdoulaye Bio-Tchane, Germany, Czech Fiscal Reform, Sustaining Growth, Decline in Funds to Emerging Markets, IMF Loan to Togo, Vietnam's New Challenges, News Briefs.
International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.

Europe’s upswing is showing momentum, creating bright prospects for 2007 and 2008, according to Michael Deppler, head of the IMF’s European Department. “The situation in Europe, which improved markedly last year, is set for a sustained expansion,” he told journalists at an April 14 press briefing during the IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings. Europe as a whole is expected to see growth of 3.4 percent in 2007, against 3.7 percent last year (see table). The euro area is set to expand by at least 2.3 percent this year.

International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
John Lipsky's visit to South Africa and Mali, Latin American growth, Uruguay repays loan, Eastern Europe, Albania's economy, Belarus and Morocco, U.S. current account deficit, Francis Warnock, IMF governance, fiscal adjustment.
International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.

As part of the process toward monetary union in Europe, countries were required to fulfill three criteria, set out in the Treaty of Maastricht. One of them required countries to achieve an inflation rate for one year of no more than 1½ percent above the average of the three European Union (EU) member states with the most stable prices. The purpose of this criterion was to bring high-inflation EU countries in line with low-inflation countries before the euro was introduced. According to a new IMF Working Paper, the criterion has achieved its aim of narrowing the inflation gap between EU countries. But it has also encouraged countries to adopt short-run, fiat measures to reduce inflation rather than structural reforms with longer-term economic benefits. The study examines what implications this may have for the 10 new EU member countries, all of which are hoping to join the monetary union in the near future.

Zsófia Árvai

Nearly two years ago, on May 1, 2004, eight transition economies—the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia (EU8)—joined the European Union (EU), together with Cyprus and Malta. One of the requirements for membership was full capital account liberalization. Sizable or volatile capital inflows, particularly those sensitive to interest rates, can pose difficulties for monetary and exchange rate policy. A recent IMF Working Paper looks at the EU8’s experiences with freeing up capital flows to draw lessons for other countries that will need to take this path.

Mr. Julian Berengaut and Ms. Katrin Elborgh-Woytek

More than 15 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the transition economies of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union continue to suffer the consequences of output losses incurred in the early years of transition. A recent IMF Working Paper analyzes the sharp differences in output decline among these transition economies, focusing on two major factors—armed conflicts and institutional quality. The differences in the extent of conflict and the quality of institutions, it argues, explain 60 percent of the differences in output decline.