Economic development in the Central and Eastern European countries in which UNIQA is active was relatively encouraging on the whole. The economic recovery in the euro zone had a positive impact on the markets of Central and Eastern Europe thanks to their high export ratio. In Poland and Hungary, exports started to improve in the third quarter of 2013, with growth accelerating to 5.5 per cent and 5.9 per cent respectively, while Slovakia and the Czech Republic are likely to benefit in the near future. Romania and Bulgaria also enjoyed a strong export cycle, with growth of 19.4 per cent and 8.5 per cent respectively.
An upturn in domestic demand means that Poland is also on a relatively balanced growth path, recording GDP growth of 1.4 per cent in 2013. Hungary emerged from a severe recession in the first half of 2013, with economic growth rising to 1.1 per cent at year-end. Slovakia recorded GDP growth of 0.9 per cent. The Czech Republic also emerged from recession in the fourth quarter, but was unable to achieve a turnaround in GDP development on a twelve-month basis (minus 1.3 per cent).
The Romanian economy delivered one of the positive surprises in the region, with general economic activity increasing by 3.3 per cent. By contrast, Ukraine remained in recession in the past year, not least as a result of the instability of the macroeconomic and political situation in the country. Towards the end of the year, there were signs that the Ukrainian government was becoming increasingly dependent on official financial aid. As previously, the Russian economy was driven to a large extent by private consumption in 2013. However, general economic activity slowed slightly, with GDP rising by just 1.3 per cent.
Southeastern Europe also saw an upturn in 2013. Bulgaria pulled free from economic stagnation in the second half of the year, recording moderate full-year GDP growth of 0.6 per cent. In both Bulgaria and Serbia, the export industry is helping to drive economic development. Economic growth in Serbia accelerated to 2.5 per cent. The Croatian economy lagged behind its neighbours, contracting by 1.0 per cent, while the southern Balkan nations (Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro) enjoyed a slight economic upturn as against the previous year.