Gaping wealth disparities among EU regions: study

Thu Feb 18, 2010 7:24am EST
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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union's richest region, inner London, is more than seven times wealthier than the poorest one, Severozapaden in Bulgaria, according to a study that detailed a deep east-west divide in the bloc.

The report by statistics office Eurostat said the EU's 20 poorest regions were in Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Hungary -- all ex-communist countries from central and eastern Europe that joined the bloc in 2004 or 2007.

Regions in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Britain dominated the list of the bloc's richest areas.

Inner London, the wealthiest, had economic output per capita that was 334 percent of the EU average, or 49,100 euros ($66,560) a year. In the poorest Bulgarian region, the corresponding figure was 26 percent of the average, or 6,400 euros. Both figures are adjusted for the cost of living.

Regional wealth will be an important factor in allocating aid from the EU budget, now worth 125 billion euro ($169.4 billion) a year. Negotiations on the EU's next long-term budget, for 2014-2021, will start this year.

Eurostat said Luxembourg was the second-richest region in the EU, followed by Brussels and Germany's Hamburg. Prague in the Czech Republic came fourth, the only central European region to feature in the top 20.

For its study, Eurostat broke the 27 countries of the EU down into 271 regions. Luxembourg, a small country, was its own region. The Netherlands, for example, had 12 regions.

(Reporting by Marcin Grajewski; Editing by Jon Boyle)