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SEB presents Eastern European Outlook

Economic growth in Central and Eastern Europe will culminate this year but remain healthy in 2007-2008. The exception is Hungary, which is entering a slowdown. Global deceleration will have a modest impact. The uncertain political situation in Central Europe will continue, but this does not threaten the region's favourable growth, according to SEB's new issue of Eastern European Outlook, which is being published today.
"In the space of only six months, after parliamentary elections in several countries a new political landscape has emerged in Central Europe. This is now resulting in a more expansive fiscal regime in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which will provide short-term support to growth. Meanwhile this will make it increasingly difficult to come to grips with large government budget deficits. There are risks that economic instability will increase and that necessary structural reforms will be postponed," says Mikael Johansson of SEB Economic Research, Chief Editor of Eastern European Outlook.
One consequence of the new political situation is that euro zone membership is no longer as high a priority in Central Europe. SEB Economic Research expects Slovakia and the Czech Republic to join in 2011, Poland and Hungary even later. In the Baltic countries, high inflation remains an obstacle to euro zone accession. Delays imply that the Baltics will join in 2010 at the earliest.
In the Baltic countries, labour shortages pose both an inflationary risk and an obstacle to continued rapid economic growth. The situation is exacerbated by adverse trends in demographics and emigration.
"The labour shortage has emerged as one of the most heated issues in political discourse in the Baltics. So far, few steps have been taken to deal with it. The governments would also need to cool off strong domestic demand. Estonia and Latvia show clear signs of overheating, but no fiscal tightening is on the horizon," Mr Johansson says. 
Russia's economy is growing at a healthy pace, with domestic demand as the strongest driving force. High inflation is being dampened somewhat by a degree of rouble appreciation.
"The Russian economy is looking good in the short term, but a low investment level will be a source of concern for growth in a longer perspective. Unanswered questions about the federal government's role in the business sector remain an uncertainty factor in attracting investments," says Bo Enegren of SEB Economic Research.
Since the Bank opened in 1856, generations of customers and employees have made SEB what it is today. This year the Group is celebrating 150 years of longstanding customer relationships, entrepreneurship and international outlook.
The SEB Group is a North European financial group for 400,000 corporate customers and institutions, and 5 million private customers. SEB has local presence in the Nordic and Baltic countries, Germany, Poland, the Ukraine and Russia and has a global presence through its international network in another 10 countries.
On 30 June 2006, the Group's total assets amounted to SEK 1,986bn while its assets under management totalled SEK 1,086bn. The Group has about 20,000 employees. Read more about SEB at www.sebgroup.com.
For further information, please contact:
Mikael Johansson, Chief Editor, Eastern European Outlook, SEB Economic Research: tel. +46 8 763 8093, mobile +46 70 372 2826
Bo Enegren, SEB Economic Research: tel. +46 8-763 8594, mobile +46 70 718 0313