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‘I’m not going to sugarcoat it: 2023 will be tougher than 2022,’ IMF’s Kristalina Georgieva tells Euronews

By Euronews Brussels bureau

The world economy is in for a wild ride.

“The horizon has darkened significantly over the last year,” Kristalina Georgieva, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), told us.

“One year ago, we were recovering from COVID and we finished with over 6% global growth. And then two shocks: Omicron and Russia’s war in Ukraine have not only interrupted the recovery, but reversed it.”

Georgieva sat down with our colleague Sasha Vakulina after speaking at the Making Markets Work For People event in Brussels.

“The number one priority [is] to fight and win against inflation. What does that mean? Tightening financial conditions. Interest rates are going up,” she noted.

“When central banks are stepping on the brakes, finance ministries cannot press the accelerator.”

The IMF chief did not mince her words: the picture she painted of the global economy was unmistakably dark and gloomy, with a worsening cost-of-living crisis and momentum slowing down in Asia and America. For Europe, the outlook is even bleaker. 

“Europe is affected more severely by the increase of energy prices. The heat on European economies is such that we actually expect half of the countries in the eurozone to experience at least two quarters of negative growth. In other words, a recession,” she explained.

“Just to give you a sense as to how significant the hit on Europe is, our pre-pandemic projections and our current projections differ by half a trillion euros. In other words, the loss to the European people is quite, quite dramatic.”

Georgieva praised EU policymakers for providing “targeted, timely and temporary” support for households and companies under financial stress, and said the focus should remain on energy savings to rebalance the supply-demand mismatch.

But great challenges lie ahead.

“I am not going to sugarcoat it: 2023 will be tougher than 2022. Next winter for Europe may be even harsher than this winter,” she declared.

“Why? Because European policymakers acted very swiftly to fill gas storage. If conditions remain as they are with Russia not providing gas to Europe, how is this gas storage going to be filled next year?”

Amid the disheartening projections, Georgieva struck a note of optimism, arguing the current energy crisis will be a major boost for green technologies in the same way the pandemic accelerated the digital transition.

“It is heart-breaking to see a war on our territory again, refugees again, and the tremendous suffering of people under siege – again. We thought that this would never be repeated. And I am, in my mind, still wrestling with this image of Europe at war again,” she said. 

“The key question today in Europe is: Can Europe stay united and can the public be brought on board for this difficult time?”

ECONOMIC UPDATE While Kristalina Georgieva was speaking to Euronews in Brussels, European Central Bank Christine Lagarde announced a new super hike of interest rates.
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THE FRONTLINE The Ukrainian government has urged the millions of refugees who have fled the country not to return home this winter, as Russian strikes hit energy systems. “The threat of shelling, cold and hunger remains,” said Deputy PM Iryna Vereshchuk. At the same time, Russia notified the United States about its plans to carry out annual exercises with nuclear forces. Meanwhile, the Kremlin’s unfounded allegations that Ukraine intends to use “dirty bombs” spread across social media and even reached the UN Security Council. In Brussels, a far-right Dutch MEP quit his parliamentary group after tweeting “Go, Putin!” And in Berlin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Ukraine’s reconstruction will be a “challenge for generations.” Also this week, Scholz met with French President Emmanuel Macron in a bid to repair strained relations between the two countries.

ENERGY CRISIS Some good news: Europe’s gas prices fell this week below €100 per megawatt-hour for the first time since June, as warm autumn weather tamed demand. The downward trend makes blackouts less likely this winter, although uncertainty remains. At the same time, member states remain deeply split over an unprecedented proposal to establish the first-ever EU cap on gas prices. 

CLEAN AIR Every year, air pollution causes the premature deaths of 300,000 people in Europe. With this in mind, the European Commission has proposed new, stricter rules on air quality to achieve the ambition of zero pollution by 2050. “What zero pollution actually means is that, for example, our air quality standards are that high, that pollution is no longer harmful anymore to our citizens' health,” Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for the environment, told our reporter Gregoire Lory.

BLAST FROM THE PAST An obscure international agreement dating back to the post-Cold War era is being openly contested by a growing number of European countries, almost 30 years after its signature. France, Spain, Poland and the Netherlands have all announced plans to withdraw from the Energy Charter Treaty. Here’s why the 1994 agreement is so controversial.
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PERENNIAL CANDIDATES Despite joining the EU back in 2007, Bulgaria and Romania are still waiting to join the passport-free Schengen Area. The European Commission has repeatedly confirmed their readiness since 2011, while the European Parliament has called for their immediate accession. But one obstacle remains: politics. Jorge Liboreiro has the full analysis

Denmark goes to the polls on Tuesday 1 November in a snap general election called seven months ahead of schedule. In case you're not following Nordic news, David Mac Dougall has this quick and easy guide to understand Danish politics, parties, personalities and the issues at stake at the immigration-dominated election.

THREE IN A YEAR Rishi Sunak became this week the first person of Asian-heritage to be named British Prime Minister. He is also the wealthiest individual to occupy the top position. Andrea Carlo has a profile on the new premier and his policies. Upon arriving at Downing 10, Sunak promised to fix the “mistakes” made by his predecessor, Liz Truss, who lasted just 44 days in office.

SHORT-LIVED Besides Truss, who are Europe’s other shortest-serving prime ministers? The current record is 7.5 hours. Check out the list

OFF THE BEATEN TRACK France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Austria… They’re all known for being highly popular and sought-after destinations for travellers. If you’re not a fan of crowds and endless queues, Euronews Travel selects the 8 most underrated countries in Europe.
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An energy company has become the first firm in Australia to be fined for “greenwashing” by the country’s corporate watchdog: Tlou Energy was ordered to pay the sum of 53,280 Australian dollars (€34,260) for making “factually incorrect” statements about its environmental credentials.

Is European politics beginning another lurch to the right?

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Something is shaking European politics. Last week, Giorgia Meloni became Italy’s first far-right leader since the war-time fascist Mussolini. Last month, the nationalist, right-wing Sweden Democrats gained 20.5% of the vote in an election dominated by concerns over gang violence and immigration. Though there are some exceptions, these two examples point to a possible right-wing resurgence in Europe, with populists polling well in Bulgaria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Finland. Experts point to a growing convergence of policy stances between these forces and traditionally centrist parties. But that’s not the only factor at play. Joshua Askew examines Europe’s lurch to the right.

GO DEEPER Today marks 100 years since the start of the March on Rome, Benito Mussolini’s coup d’état that led to the creation of a 21-year-long fascist regime. As Italy remembers one of the darkest moments in its history, many wonder: does fascism still remain a threat to the country’s democracy?

Mesmerising northern lights were seen this week around the Arctic Circle in Finland. At one point, red auroras were also visible. According to locals, seeing such red auroras with a naked eye is extremely rare.
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