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The $16 Trillion European Union Economy



Chart showing a breakdown of the European Union economy by country

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The $16 Trillion European Union Economy

The European Union has the third-largest economy in the world, accounting for one-sixth of global trade. All together, 27 member countries make up one internal market allowing free movement of goods, services, capital and people.

But how did this sui generis (a class by itself) political entity come into being?

A Brief History of the EU

After the devastating aftermath of the World War II, Western Europe saw a concerted move towards regional peace and security by promoting democracy and protecting human rights.

Crucially, the Schuman Declaration was presented in 1950. The coal and steel industries of Western Europe were integrated under common management, preventing countries from turning on each other and creating weapons of war. Six countries signed on — the eventual founders of the EU.

Here’s a list of all 27 members of the EU and the year they joined.

CountryYear of entry
🇧🇪 Belgium1958
🇫🇷 France1958
🇩🇪 Germany1958
🇮🇹 Italy1958
🇱🇺 Luxembourg1958
🇳🇱 Netherlands1958
🇩🇰 Denmark1973
🇮🇪 Ireland1973
🇬🇷 Greece1981
🇵🇹 Portugal1986
🇪🇸 Spain1986
🇦🇹 Austria1995
🇫🇮 Finland1995
🇸🇪 Sweden1995
🇨🇾 Cyprus2004
🇨🇿 Czechia2004
🇪🇪 Estonia2004
🇭🇺 Hungary2004
🇱🇻 Latvia2004
🇱🇹 Lithuania2004
🇲🇹 Malta2004
🇵🇱 Poland2004
🇸🇰 Slovakia2004
🇸🇮 Slovenia2004
🇧🇬 Bulgaria2007
🇷🇴 Romania2007
🇭🇷 Croatia2013

Greater economic and security cooperation followed over the next four decades, along with the addition of new members. These tighter relationships disincentivized conflict, and Western Europe—after centuries of constant war—has seen unprecedented peace for the last 80 years.

The modern version of the EU can trace its origin to 1993, with the adoption of the name, ‘the European Union,’ the birth of a single market, and the promise to use a single currency—the euro.

Since then the EU has become an economic and political force to reckon with. Its combined gross domestic product (GDP) stood at $16.6 trillion in 2022, after the U.S. ($26 trillion) and China ($19 trillion.)

ℹ️ GDP is a broad indicator of the economic activity within a country. It measures the total value of economic output—goods and services—produced within a given time frame by both the private and public sectors.

Front Loading the EU Economy

For the impressive numbers it shows however, the European Union’s economic might is held up by three economic giants, per data from the International Monetary Fund. Put together, the GDPs of Germany ($4 trillion), France ($2.7 trillion) and Italy ($1.9 trillion) make up more than half of the EU’s entire economic output.

These three countries are also the most populous in the EU, and together with Spain and Poland, account for 66% of the total population of the EU.

Here’s a table of all 27 member states and the percentage they contribute to the EU’s gross domestic product.

RankCountry GDP (Billion USD)% of the EU Economy
1.🇩🇪 Germany4,031.124.26%
2.🇫🇷 France2,778.116.72%
3.🇮🇹 Italy1,997.012.02%
4.🇪🇸 Spain1,390.08.37%
5.🇳🇱 Netherlands990.65.96%
6.🇵🇱 Poland716.34.31%
7.🇸🇪 Sweden603.93.64%
8.🇧🇪 Belgium589.53.55%
9.🇮🇪 Ireland519.83.13%
10.🇦🇹 Austria468.02.82%
11.🇩🇰 Denmark386.72.33%
12.🇷🇴 Romania299.91.81%
13.🇨🇿 Czechia295.61.78%
14.🇫🇮 Finland281.41.69%
15.🇵🇹 Portugal255.91.54%
16.🇬🇷 Greece222.01.34%
17.🇭🇺 Hungary184.71.11%
18.🇸🇰 Slovakia112.40.68%
19.🇧🇬 Bulgaria85.00.51%
20.🇱🇺 Luxembourg82.20.49%
21.🇭🇷 Croatia69.40.42%
22.🇱🇹 Lithuania68.00.41%
23.🇸🇮 Slovenia62.20.37%
24.🇱🇻 Latvia40.60.24%
25.🇪🇪 Estonia39.10.24%
26.🇨🇾 Cyprus26.70.16%
27.🇲🇹 Malta17.20.10%

The top-heaviness continues. By adding Spain ($1.3 trillion) and the Netherlands ($990 billion), the top five make up nearly 70% of the EU’s GDP. That goes up to 85% when the top 10 countries are included.

That means less than half of the 27 member states make up $14 trillion of the $16 trillion EU economy.

Older Members, Larger Share

Aside from the most populous members having bigger economies, another pattern emerges, with the time the country has spent in the EU.

Five of the six founders of the EU—Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium—are in the top 10 biggest economies of the EU. Ireland and Denmark, the next entrants into the union (1973) are ranked 9th and 11th respectively. The bottom 10 countries all joined the EU post-2004.

The UK—which joined the bloc in 1973 and formally left in 2020—would have been the second-largest economy in the region at $3.4 trillion.

Sectoral Analysis of the EU

The EU has four primary sectors of economic output: services, industry, construction, and agriculture (including fishing and forestry.) Below is an analysis of some of these sectors and the countries which contribute the most to it. All figures are from Eurostat.

Services and Tourism

The EU economy relies heavily on the services sector, accounting for more than 70% of the value added to the economy in 2020. It also is the sector with the highest share of employment in the EU, at 73%.

In Luxembourg, which has a large financial services sector, 87% of the country’s gross domestic product came from the services sector.

Tourism economies like Malta and Cyprus also had an above 80% share of services in their GDP.


Meanwhile 20% of the EU’s gross domestic product came from industry, with Ireland’s economy having the most share (40%) in its GDP. Czechia, Slovenia and Poland also had a significant share of industry output.

Mining coal and lignite in the EU saw a brief rebound in output in 2021, though levels continued to be subdued.

RankSector% of the EU Economy
4.Agriculture, forestry and fishing1.8%


Less than 2% of the EU’s economy relies on agriculture, forestry and fishing. Romania, Latvia, and Greece feature as contributors to this sector, however the share in total output in each country is less than 5%. Bulgaria has the highest employment (16%) in this sector compared to other EU members.


The EU imports nearly 60% of its energy requirements. Until the end of 2021, Russia was the biggest exporter of petroleum and natural gas to the region. After the war in Ukraine that share has steadily decreased from nearly 25% to 15% for petroleum liquids and from nearly 40% to 15% for natural gas, per Eurostat.

Headwinds, High Seas

The IMF has a gloomy outlook for Europe heading into 2023. War in Ukraine, spiraling energy costs, high inflation, and stagnant wage growth means that EU leaders are facing “severe trade-offs and tough policy decisions.”

Reforms—to relieve supply constraints in the labor and energy markets—are key to increasing growth and relieving price pressures, according to the international body. The IMF projects that the EU will grow 0.7% in 2023.

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Mapped: The State of Economic Freedom in 2023

How free are people to control their own labor, property, and finances? This map reveals the state of economic freedom globally.



economic freedom

Mapped: The State of Economic Freedom in 2023

The concept of economic freedom serves as a vital framework for evaluating the extent to which individuals and businesses have the freedom to make economic decisions. In countries with low economic freedom, governments exert coercion and constraints on liberties, restricting choice for individuals and businesses, which can ultimately hinder prosperity.

The map above uses the annual Index of Economic Freedom from the Heritage Foundation to showcase the level of economic freedom in every country worldwide on a scale of 0-100, looking at factors like property rights, tax burdens, labor freedom, and so on.

The ranking categorizing scores of 80+ as free economies, 70-79.9 as mostly free, 60-69.9 as moderately free, 50-59.9 as mostly unfree, and 0-49.9 as repressed.

Measuring Economic Freedom

This ranking uses four broad categories with three key indicators each, both qualitative and quantitative, to measure economic freedom.

  1. Rule of law: property rights, judicial effectiveness, government integrity
  2. Size of government: tax burdens, fiscal health, government spending
  3. Regulatory efficiency: labor freedom, monetary freedom, business freedom
  4. Open markets: financial freedom, trade freedom, investment freedom

The 12 indicators are weighted equally and scored from 0-100. The overall score is then determined from the average of the 12 indicators.

Here’s a closer look at every country’s score:

RankCountry2023 Score
#1🇸🇬 Singapore83.9
#2🇨🇭 Switzerland83.8
#3🇮🇪 Ireland82.0
#4🇹🇼 Taiwan 80.7
#5🇳🇿 New Zealand78.9
#6🇪🇪 Estonia78.6
#7🇱🇺 Luxembourg78.4
#8🇳🇱 Netherlands78.0
#9🇩🇰 Denmark77.6
#10🇸🇪 Sweden77.5
#11🇫🇮 Finland77.1
#12🇳🇴 Norway76.9
#13🇦🇺 Australia74.8
#14🇩🇪 Germany73.7
#15🇰🇷 South Korea 73.7
#16🇨🇦 Canada73.7
#17🇱🇻 Latvia72.8
#18🇨🇾 Cyprus72.3
#19🇮🇸 Iceland72.2
#20🇱🇹 Lithuania72.2
#21🇨🇿 Czechia71.9
#22🇨🇱 Chile71.1
#23🇦🇹 Austria71.1
#24🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates70.9
#25🇺🇸 United States70.6
#26🇲🇺 Mauritius70.6
#27🇺🇾 Uruguay70.2
#28🇬🇧 United Kingdom69.9
#29🇧🇧 Barbados69.8
#30🇵🇹 Portugal69.5
#31🇯🇵 Japan69.3
#32🇧🇬 Bulgaria69.3
#33🇸🇰 Slovakia69.0
#34🇮🇱 Israel68.9
#35🇬🇪 Georgia68.7
#36🇶🇦 Qatar68.6
#37🇸🇮 Slovenia68.5
#38🇼🇸 Samoa68.3
#39🇯🇲 Jamaica68.1
#40🇵🇱 Poland67.7
#41🇲🇹 Malta67.5
#42🇲🇾 Malaysia67.3
#43🇧🇪 Belgium67.1
#44🇵🇪 Peru66.5
#45🇨🇷 Costa Rica66.5
#46🇭🇷 Croatia66.4
#47🇨🇻 Cabo Verde65.8
#48🇧🇳 Brunei Darussalam65.7
#49🇦🇱 Albania65.3
#50🇦🇲 Armenia65.1
#51🇪🇸 Spain65.0
#52🇧🇼 Botswana64.9
#53🇷🇴 Romania64.5
#54🇭🇺 Hungary64.1
#55🇵🇦 Panama63.8
#56🇲🇰 North Macedonia63.7
#57🇫🇷 France63.6
#58🇷🇸 Serbia63.5
#59🇻🇨 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines63.5
#60🇮🇩 Indonesia63.5
#61🇲🇽 Mexico63.2
#62🇨🇴 Colombia63.1
#63🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina62.9
#64🇬🇹 Guatemala62.7
#65🇩🇴 Dominican Republic62.6
#66🇧🇸 The Bahamas62.6
#67🇫🇲 Micronesia62.6
#68🇧🇭 Bahrain62.5
#69🇮🇹 Italy62.3
#70🇻🇺 Vanuatu62.1
#71🇰🇿 Kazakhstan62.1
#72🇻🇳 Vietnam61.8
#73🇲🇳 Mongolia61.7
#74🇸🇹 São Tomé and Príncipe61.5
#75🇦🇿 Azerbaijan61.4
#76🇵🇾 Paraguay61.0
#77🇲🇪 Montenegro60.9
#78🇽🇰 Kosovo60.7
#79🇱🇨 Saint Lucia60.7
#80🇹🇭 Thailand60.6
#81🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire60.4
#82🇹🇴 Tonga60.0
#83🇹🇿 Tanzania60.0
#84🇧🇯 Benin59.8
#85🇧🇿 Belize59.8
#86🇩🇲 Dominica59.7
#87🇸🇨 Seychelles59.5
#88🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago59.5
#89🇵🇭 Philippines59.3
#90🇧🇹 Bhutan59.0
#91🇲🇬 Madagascar58.9
#92🇰🇮 Kiribati58.8
#93🇯🇴 Jordan58.8
#94🇭🇳 Honduras58.7
#95🇴🇲 Oman58.5
#96🇲🇩 Moldova58.5
#97🇲🇦 Morocco58.4
#98🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia58.3
#99🇬🇭 Ghana58.0
#100🇫🇯 Fiji58.0
#101🇬🇲 The Gambia57.9
#102🇳🇦 Namibia57.7
#103🇸🇳 Senegal57.7
#104🇹🇷 Türkiye56.9
#105🇬🇾 Guyana56.9
#106🇬🇷 Greece56.9
#107🇸🇧 Solomon Islands56.9
#108🇰🇼 Kuwait56.7
#109🇺🇿 Uzbekistan56.5
#110🇰🇭 Cambodia56.5
#111🇧🇫 Burkina Faso56.2
#112🇬🇦 Gabon56.1
#113🇩🇯 Djibouti56.1
#114🇸🇻 El Salvador56.0
#115🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan55.8
#116🇿🇦 South Africa55.7
#117🇲🇷 Mauritania55.3
#118🇹🇬 Togo55.3
#119🇪🇨 Ecuador55.0
#120🇸🇿 Eswatini54.9
#121🇳🇮 Nicaragua54.9
#122🇲🇱 Mali54.5
#123🇧🇩 Bangladesh54.4
#124🇳🇬 Nigeria53.9
#125🇷🇺 Russia53.8
#126🇳🇪 Niger53.7
#127🇧🇷 Brazil53.5
#128🇰🇲 Comoros53.5
#129🇬🇳 Guinea53.2
#130🇦🇴 Angola53.0
#131🇮🇳 India52.9
#132🇹🇳 Tunisia52.9
#133🇲🇼 Malawi52.8
#134🇲🇿 Mozambique52.5
#135🇰🇪 Kenya52.5
#136🇱🇰 Sri Lanka52.2
#137🇷🇼 Rwanda52.2
#138🇹🇩 Chad52.0
#139🇨🇲 Cameroon51.9
#140🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea51.7
#141🇱🇸 Lesotho51.6
#142🇳🇵 Nepal51.4
#143🇺🇬 Uganda51.4
#144🇦🇷 Argentina51.0
#145🇧🇾 Belarus51.0
#146🇹🇯 Tajikistan50.6
#147🇱🇦 Laos50.3
#148🇸🇱 Sierra Leone50.2
#149🇭🇹 Haiti49.9
#150🇱🇷 Liberia49.6
#151🇪🇬 Egypt49.6
#152🇵🇰 Pakistan49.4
#153🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea48.3
#154🇨🇳 China48.3
#155🇪🇹 Ethiopia48.3
#156🇨🇬 Congo48.1
#157🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of the Congo47.9
#158🇿🇲 Zambia47.8
#159🇹🇱 Timor-Leste47.2
#160🇲🇻 Maldives46.6
#161🇹🇲 Turkmenistan46.5
#162🇲🇲 Myanmar46.5
#163🇸🇷 Suriname46.1
#164🇱🇧 Lebanon45.6
#165🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau44.6
#166🇨🇫 Central African Republic43.8
#167🇧🇴 Bolivia43.4
#168🇩🇿 Algeria43.2
#169🇮🇷 Iran42.2
#170🇧🇮 Burundi41.9
#171🇪🇷 Eritrea39.5
#172🇿🇼 Zimbabwe39.0
#173🇸🇩 Sudan32.8
#174🇻🇪 Venezuela25.8
#175🇨🇺 Cuba24.3
#176🇰🇵 North Korea2.9
-🇮🇶 IraqN/A
-🇱🇾 LibyaN/A
-🇱🇮 LiechtensteinN/A

Only four countries in the world have a score of 80 or above, Ireland, Singapore, Switzerland, and Taiwan, categorizing them as completely free economically.

Let’s now look at things from a more regional perspective.


map of economic freedom in europe in 2023

From a regional perspective, Europe ranks the strongest in economic freedom.

Despite being a powerhouse within Europe, Germany ranks 10th in the continent, with a score of 73.7. One of the categories Germany scored the weakest in was government spending (28.3/100). Over the last three years, government spending has averaged 49% of GDP.

Ireland ranks third globally, scoring particularly high in categories like property rights and judicial effectiveness. The country also has no minimum capital requirement—which is typically a banking regulation and corporate law issue determining how many assets an organization must hold—making it attractive for businesses to set up shop on the Emerald Isle.


map of economic freedom in Africa in 2023

Currently, Africa is the continent with the least economic freedom in the world, however, it is also the region with the highest potential for economic growth. A booming population, and thus, labor force, are promising for future innovation. In fact, it’s anticipated that Africa will see an increase of 2.5 billion people by the end of the century.

The lowest scoring country in Africa is Sudan, a country under further strain thanks to rife civil conflict. Historically, economic development has been constrained by rampant corruption and a lack of institutional capacity.

Conversely, Botswana registered the highest score on continental Africa (64.9), ranking higher than countries like France and Italy.

The Americas

map of economic freedom in the americas in 2023

In the Americas, the United States ranks 3rd regionally—25th overall—with a score of 70.6. The report attributes the categorization of U.S. as only “mostly free” to issues like inflation, increasing government debt, and unchecked deficit spending. Public debt currently sits at a figure equivalent to more than 128% of GDP.

In South America, Chile comes out on top, ranking above many other economic powerhouses like the U.S., the UK, and Japan. However, the 2021 election of a new Constitutional Assembly could risk the current economic state, as it favors a much more socialist approach to the economy.

East Asia and Oceania

map of economic freedom in asia and oceania in 2023

China’s score is among the lowest in East Asia & Oceania, ranking 154th in the world categorizing it as a repressed economy. The ruling Chinese Communist Party routinely exercises direct control over economic activity. China’s protectionist stance towards foreign investment and a plethora of trade tariffs imposed by other nations also factor in here.

In India, where public debt is equivalent to about 84% of GDP, fiscal health is the worst-scoring category. Additionally, much of the economy remains quite informal; a large share of people work in jobs without tax slips, recorded income, or formal contracts protecting them, which challenges labor freedoms.

The Middle East and Central Asia

map of economic freedom in the middle east and central asia in 2023

It may come as no surprise that the United Arab Emirates has the highest score in the Middle East. The UAE has implemented various measures and initiatives, such as tax exemptions, duty-free zones, streamlined business registration processes, and flexible regulatory frameworks to encourage entrepreneurship and foreign direct investment. As well, the top individual and corporate tax rates in the country are 0%.

Türkiye’s lowest scoring category relates to judiciary effectiveness and the rule of law. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has already been in power for two decades, recently won the country’s election, again cementing his authority over Turkish politics. This makes it unlikely that Türkiye’s economic freedom score will recover in the short to medium term.

Where Does This Data Come From?

Source: The Index of Economic Freedom from the Heritage Foundation

Data notes: A number of countries were not ranked due to unavailable data or other factors, like ongoing war, that made it difficult to properly assess the economy. These countries include: Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Liechtenstein, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.

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