The long-awaited European economic recovery has already come and gone

Defining moment.
Defining moment.
Image: Reuters / Yves Herman
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The European Commission is known for being circumspect when forecasting the economic prospects of EU member countries. In fact, it is a great fan of using words like “moderate,” “muted,” and “gradual” in its assessments. But in 2017, the forecasters perked up, announcing the start of a long-awaited economic recovery across much of the EU (the word “brightening” even made an appearance).

It now appears that recovery has already come and gone.

After anticipating strong growth rates and an economic expansion in Europe for 2017, the commission’s latest economic forecast, published today, announced a slowdown in growth amid a tense global economic environment.

As Quartz has previously written, you don’t need to read the entire 220-page forecast report to get the gist of how things are going. The forecasts are published three times a year, pegged to the European Semester schedule, and are given a pithy title that basically sums up what’s inside. As you can see, titles basically follow a pattern of mild optimism followed by extreme hedging, with the occasional nautical metaphor.

The evolution of those titles in recent years tracks a decade-long slump followed by a short-lived, anti-climatic burst of economic activity:


  • Spring 2010: A gradual recovery
  • Autumn 2010: A gradual and uneven recovery
  • Spring 2011: European recovery maintains momentum amid new risks
  • Autumn 2011: A recovery in distress
  • Spring 2012: Towards a slow recovery
  • Autumn 2012: Sailing through rough waters


  • Winter 2013: Gradually overcoming headwinds
  • Spring 2013: Adjustment continues
  • Autumn 2013: Gradual recovery, external risks
  • Winter 2014: Recovery gaining ground
  • Spring 2014: Growth becoming broader-based
  • Autumn 2014: Slow recovery with very low inflation
  • Spring 2015: Tailwinds supporting the recovery
  • Autumn 2015: Moderate recovery amid headwinds
  • Spring 2016: Staying the course amid high risks


  • Autumn 2016: Modest growth in challenging times
  • Spring 2017: Steady growth rates ahead
  • Autumn 2017: Continued growth in a changing policy context
  • Spring 2018: Expansion to continue amid new risks


  • Autumn 2018: Less dynamic growth amid high uncertainty