Executive Guide to Doing Business in the EU

Overview of the EU
Major cities
Population growth
Age structure
Life expectancy
Gross Domestic Product
Income per capita
Biggest imports/exports
Major trading partners
Health expenditures per capita
Government expenditure on healthcare
Private expenditure on healthcare
Out-of-pocket expenditures
Medical device market size
Physicians & hospital beds per 1,000 people
Doing business with the EU
Documents needed to import
Time to import into the EU
Burden of customs procedure
Logistics performance index
Enforcement of contracts
Exchange rate history
Total tax rate

Overview of the European Union

Capital: Brussels
Language: 24 official languages
Currency: Euro & others
Population: 507 million (2012)

The European Union is an intergovernmental and supranational consists of 28 member states located in Europe. Countries in the EU benefit from access to a single market made possible through a set of standardized law. Members are also characterized by a common currency, common diplomatic representation, foreign and security policies. The monetary union was established in 1999 and now is composed of 17 countries that use the Euro. 22 other countries and four non-EU countries are also part of the Schengen Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland), which allows the free movement of goods, people, services and capital.

The European Union has a population of 507 million people which accounts for 7.3% of the world population. The EU had a GDP of 16.584 trillion US dollars in 2012, representing 20% of the global GDP, in terms of purchasing power parity and amounting to the highest nominal GDP in the world.

1Major cities in The European Union

London - 8,3
Berlin - 3,3
Madrid - 3,2
Rome - 2,8
Paris - 2,2

The largest cities in the European Union are London, with 8.3 million inhabitants, Berlin, with 3.3 million, Madrid – 3.2 million, Rome, 2.8 million and Paris with 2.2 million. London is also one of the most important medical device hubs in the EU, along with Paris, Berlin, Dublin and Hamburg.

Population growth in the EU

In 2012, the European Union’s population grew by 1.3 million from the previous year, following a continuous growth since the 1960s. Out of the total of 27 countries members in 2007, the biggest growths in terms of population were recorded in Cyprus, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Sweden and France. Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy comprise over half (54%) of the total population of the EU.[1]

EU population growth
EU population growth (millions)

Age 0-14 - 15.6%
Age 15-64 - 66.9%
Age 65+ - 17.5%
Median age - 41.2

Age structure in the EU

Low birth rates and higher life expectancy will mean a larger percentage retired citizens and a shrinking working age population. The transition towards an older population structure is already apparent in some member states and is higher than that of the United States (14%) or Brazil (7%), but lower than Japan’s (24%). As the baby-boom generation born after the war is reaching retirement, the share of seniors in Europe will increase and require an increase in social expenditure. The highest percentage of seniors (65 years and older) was recorded in Germany (20.6%), Italy (20.3%) and Greece (19.3%).

EU age structure

Male/female: 76/82
Globally: 68/71

Life expectancy in the EU

Improvements in living standards and health systems makes the life expectancy of EU citizens one of the highest in the world, increasing by 10 years during the past five decades. The highest life expectancy for females was recorded in Spain, with 84.5 years and in Sweden for men, with 79.9 years. Many countries are expected to experience a decline in population due to the decreasing birth rates, a trend which can be reversed by new countries joining the EU.

GDP @ official exchange rate
US$ 17.459 trillion (ranked 1st)

EU's Gross Domestic Product

The economy of the European Union generated $17.459 trillion in 2012, according to Eurostat, making up one fifth of the Gross world product (GWP) [2]. This percentage has been decreasing due to the growing of emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil. The GDP of the EU has been growing steadily, with a slight drop in 2009 due to the recession. The highest growths were recorded by the newer member states, especially in the Baltic states or Slovakia. The biggest contributors to the total GDP are Germany, the UK, France, Italy and Spain.

Income per capita in the EU

US$ 32,667 (ranked 34th)

The unemployment rate for July 2013 for all countries of the EU combined (EU-28) was 11%, stable compared to previous month but higher than 10.5% in July 2012. The rate of unemployment has increased since 2008, with the debut of the recession and worldwide credit crisis. The most affected countries in terms of unemployment were Spain, Greece, Ireland and the Baltic countries. The rate is higher than that of the US in July 2013 (7.6%) and of Japan (3.9%).

Because of striking differences in terms of GDP per capita (from Bulgaria with $15,354 in 2012 to Luxembourg with $119,719) between EU members, common policies prove challenging to enforce. The average GDP for the 27 EU countries (without Croatia that joined in 2013) is 52% lower than that of the US and 43% than Japan’s.

EU GDP per capita
EU GDP per capita (PPP)

Biggest imports/exports in the EU

The 28 countries of the EU are responsible for one sixth of the world’s trade in goods. The EU’s international trade in goods in 2011 was around $4.33 trillion, an increase of $504 billion from the previous year after a considerable fall in 2009. The largest countries in the EU in terms of international trade are Germany, which accounts for 27.7% of exports, and 19.2% of imports. The UK (11.5%), France (10.7%) and Italy (10.6%) were the next biggest exporters while the UK (14.5%), the Netherlands (13.4%) and Italy (10.9%) the largest importers.

Imports come from:
China - 16.2%
Russia - 11.9%
United States - 11.5%
Exports go to:
United States - 17.3%
China - 8.5%
Switzerland - 7.9%

Major trading partners for the EU

The European Union has signed free trade agreements with Chile, Korea, Mexico and South Africa. Agreements are also in talks with the ASEAN countries (Burma - Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam), Canada, the countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), as well as India and Ukraine. [3]

Other association agreements that also approach free trade are being negotiated with several Central American countries, including Colombia and Peru, and Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Bolivia). The intention of a free trade agreement with the United State has been announced and may be finalized by the end of 2014.

eu trading partners
Top 10 trading partners listed in dark blue, while the next 10 are listed in light blue.

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Healthcare in the EU

US$ 1.94 trillion
Health spending per person:
Growth from 2006 to 2011: +32%
Total health expenditure on health as % of GDP: 8.9%

Health expenditure per capita

The healthcare systems in the EU vary drastically from country to country, with an average of 8.8% of GDP being spent on Healthcare. Some countries such as France or Germany spend as much as 11% of their GDP on healthcare, while others such as Romania or Cyprus around 5%. Public and private health spending per individual differs as well, with an average of US$2908, data showing that citizens from countries with a high GDP per capita tend to spend more on healthcare.

health expenditure capita EU

Government expenditure on healthcare

There is a mix of both public and private funding in the EU in terms of financing healthcare expenditure. Public funding accounts for the majority of funds in most EU states with an average of 73%; the exception is made by Cyprus, where the share of public funding is only 42.1%. The highest government expenditures as part of the total expenditure is in countries such as Denmark (85%), Croatia (84%). [3]

general expenditure health EU

Private expenditure on healthcare

Private expenditure on healthcare generally represents a small share of health costs in Europe. The countries were the highest percentage of private expenditure was recorded are Cyprus, Greece and Portugal.

private expenditure health EU

Out-of-pocket expenditures

In the EU, private health expenditure is generated by out-of-pocket payments. The member states that pay the highest out-of-pocket expenditures are Cyprus (50.2%), Bulgaria (42.6%) and Latvia (37.3%), while the smallest amounts are paid by French (7.5%) and Netherlands (6.2%).

out of pocket expenditure health EU

US$ 122.5 billion (2011, revenue)
Number of hospitals: 7499
Growth Potential: 2 (1 - low; 5 - high)

EU's medical device market size

The medical device market in the EU accounts for one third of the global market, with around €95 or $122.5 billion in yearly revenue. The industry consists of over 22,000 companies all over Europe that employer around half a million people. It reinvest 8.5% of sales (around $10 billion per year) into research projects and development, making it possible for EU citizens to benefit from the latest medical technologies years earlier than in the US or Japan. [4]

Physicians & hospital beds per 1,000 people

3.3 physicians 8 nurses serve every 1,000 people in the European Union, on average. The highest number of practicing physicians was recorded in Austria (4.8) and in Norway (4), with Switzerland, Sweden and Greece also reporting high numbers. The EU average is close to that of the US, with 2.4 physicians and 9.8 nurses and lower than Brazil's, with 1.8 physicians and 6.4 nurses.

medical personnel EU

There is an average of 5.8 hospital beds for every 1,000 people. The number of hospital beds far exceeds Brazil, with 2.3 per 1,000 people, the US, with 3, and falls behind Japan, with 13.7 hospital beds per thousand people.

hospital beds EU

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Doing business in the EU

Doing business in the EU

According to data from the World Economic Forum, 8 EU members are ranked in the first 20 countries of the Global Competitiveness Index for 2013-2014. The most competitive economies in the European Union are Finland, Germany and Sweden, while the least competitive – Greece, Romania and Croatia. In terms of the ease of starting a business, the highest ranking countries were Ireland, the United Kingdom and France with the Czech Republic, Greece and Austria coming at the bottom. [5]

ease of doing business EU
ECA - Europe & Central Asia, EAP - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, MENA - Middle East and North Africa

Documents Needed to Import

The chart below provides an overview on how easy it is for businesses located in the European to trade across borders. Apart from the regional average, statistics are shown from the ECA countries (Europe & Central Asia), EAP countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) and Latin America.

documents to import EU
ECA - Europe & Central Asia, EAP - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, MENA - Middle East and North Africa

Time to import into the EU

The time to import a product in the EU is 11 days on average, 8 days less than the average in the Latin American region and 1 day more than the OECD high income countries’ average. The fastest imports occur in Denmark, Estonia and Luxembourg while the slowest are in Bulgaria, Italy and Greece.

time to import EU
ECA - Europe & Central Asia, EAP - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, MENA - Middle East and North Africa

Burden of customs procedure

In the European Union, goods can circulate freely between Member States. There is a tariff common to all states, the 'Common Customs Tariff' (CCT), which differs depending on where the import comes from and on its classification. There are certain arrangements that apply to various countries when an import originates from there; to view a list of arrangements the EU has with every country, access the following page on the Taxation and Customs Union website [6].

Logistics Performance Index – 3.46

The Logistics Performance Index (LPI) is the average score for a country reflected by the efficiency of custom procedures, trade and transport related infrastructure, ease of arranging competitively priced shipments, quality of logistics services, ability to track and trace consignments and timeliness of shipments in reaching their destination. The average LPI for the EU member states is 3.46, with an average ranking of 30 out of around 150 countries surveyed. The best performances were registered by Finland, Germany and the Netherlands while the worse Latvia, Greece and Estonia. 1 = Low; 5 = High
1 = Low; 5 = High[15]

Enforcement of Contracts

The average ranking of the EU as found by Doing Business is 45 out of 183 countries surveyed. The EU member states where enforcing contracts is the easiest are Luxembourg, France and Germany while the most difficult are Italy, Cyprus and Greece.

eu enforcement contracts
ECA - Europe & Central Asia, EAP - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, MENA - Middle East and North Africa

Exchange rate history

For a detailed overview on how the European Euro (EUR) compares to the US dollar (US$), please see the graphic below.[7]


Total tax rate (% of commercial profits)


Profit taxes in the EU member states vary greatly, from 20.8% in Luxembourg to 68.5% in Italy, with an average of 45%. This similar to the OECD high-income average of 42.7%.; the average is also close to that of the US and Japan with 50%.

EU's tax rate
ECA - Europe & Central Asia, EAP - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, MENA - Middle East and North Africa

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Data compiled October 2013. Updated yearly

If you see inaccurate data in this summary, please helps us by reporting outdated or missing documents.