European Neighbourhood Policy - East - statistics on trade flows with the EU
Data extracted in December 2019.
Planned article update: April 2021.
Two of the six European Neighbourhood Policy-East countries — Azerbaijan and Belarus — recorded surpluses for trade in goods with the EU-28 in 2018.
In 2018, more than two thirds of all the goods exported from Moldova were destined for the EU-28.
Some 1.9 % of all goods exported from the EU-28 in 2018 were destined for the six European Neighbourhood Policy-East countries.
This article is part of an online publication and presents information relating to recent developments for international trade in goods between the European Union (EU) and the six countries that together form the European Neighbourhood Policy-East (ENP-East) region, namely, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Data shown for Georgia exclude the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia over which Georgia does not exercise control and the data shown for Moldova exclude areas over which the government of the Republic of Moldova does not exercise control. The latest data for Ukraine generally exclude the illegally annexed Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol and the territories which are not under control of the Ukrainian government (see specific footnotes for precise coverage).
The article highlights recent developments in trade flows between the EU and its eastern neighbours over the period 2008-2018, with information on exports, imports and the trade balance. It provides an analysis of trade flows between the EU-28 and the ENP-East countries, detailing the relative importance of trading relations between these two areas; it also presents an analysis by main product group.
The first part of this analysis looks at trade flows between ENP-East countries and the EU-28 from the perspective of the ENP-East countries, using data reported by the ENP-East countries themselves. The subsequent parts of the analysis mirror this approach and look at trade flows to/from ENP-East countries from the perspective of the EU-28 and its Member States. There are differences in the values of trade reported by ENP-East countries and by EU Member States: more information on this phenomenon is provided in the data sources section.
Importance of the EU as a trading partner for the ENP-East countries
There was a quite rapid decrease in trading relations for goods between the EU-28 and the ENP-East countries as a result of the global financial and economic crisis, followed by a rebound. The combined value of goods exported from the six ENP-East countries to the EU-28 fell 52 % between 2008 and 2009, reflecting lower exports from all of the ENP-East countries, most notably from Azerbaijan, while the value of goods imported into the ENP-East countries from the EU-28 decreased at a slower pace, falling 33 %, again reflecting falls reported by each of the ENP-East countries, but most notably Ukraine (see Table 1). From this low point, levels of trade increased, peaking in 2012 for exports and imports. Thereafter, the combined levels of trade between the ENP-East countries and the EU-28 (as reported by the ENP-East countries) fell again through until 2015. In the last year for which a full set of data are available, 2016, a large increase was again reported for both trade flows.
For Armenia and Ukraine the developments were quite similar to those described for the ENP-East countries together, with an initial fall during the crisis, expansion until 2012 a subsequent decline and a more recent recovery. For Ukraine this reflects to some extent its size and therefore its dominance within the aggregate data for all of the ENP-East countries together. The developments for Belarus and Azerbaijan were similar to those in Armenia and Ukraine, except that the decline in exports experienced in Belarus in 2013 was much stronger than in either Armenia or Ukraine, while the same was true for the decline in exports experienced in Azerbaijan in 2009. Georgia and Moldova also experienced an initial fall in trade in 2009, but thereafter they both recorded an expansion in exports to and imports from the EU-28 in most years; at the end of the period (2018 for Moldova, 2017 for Georgia) trade levels for both of these countries were considerably higher than they had been in 2008, particularly for their exports.
Azerbaijan and Belarus recorded trade surpluses for goods with the EU-28 in 2018
Azerbaijan and Belarus recorded trade surpluses for goods with the EU-28 in 2018, as did Ukraine in 2016 (latest data available). There had been a marked increase in Azerbaijan’s trade surplus in 2008, which coincided with historically high prices for crude oil and gas, as well as increased capacity for exporting mineral fuels as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (Turkey) oil pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum (Turkey) gas pipeline became fully operational. This spike in the value of exports from Azerbaijan was curtailed by the onset of the global financial and economic crisis in 2009, but there was a rebound in the value of exports and the trade surplus thereafter, as exports from Azerbaijan to the EU-28 stabilised at levels that were considerably above those recorded prior to 2008. Between 2010 and 2018, Azerbaijan’s trade surplus with the EU-28 was generally in the range of EUR 4.9-7.0 billion, exceeding this in 2011 and falling below it in 2015. For Ukraine, the EUR 1.4 billion surplus for trade in goods with the EU-28 in 2016 was the first and only trade surplus during the years shown in Table 1; Ukraine’s trade deficit had peaked at EUR 7.9 billion in 2011. The trade balance for Belarus followed an irregular development: having posted a relatively large surplus for trade in goods with the EU-28 in 2008 (EUR 3.9 billion), the global financial and economic crisis resulted in a considerable contraction in trade flows (particularly exports) such that the trade situation was almost balanced in 2010. There was a considerable rebound in 2011, as exports from Belarus to the EU-28 almost doubled and a trade surplus of EUR 5.0 billion was recorded; the surplus grew even larger the following year to peak at EUR 6.4 billion. Exports from Belarus to the EU-28 fell by 42.3 % between 2012 and 2013 and this resulted in a small trade deficit. However, this was short lived and Belarus returned to a trade surplus for goods with the EU-28 in 2014 and maintained this through to 2018.
By contrast, the remaining three ENP-East countries recorded deficits for their trade in goods with the EU-28 throughout the period from 2008 to 2018. When trading with the EU-28, the deficit for Armenia was EUR 401 million in 2018 and that for Moldova was EUR 838 million, while the deficit for Georgia was EUR 1.4 billion in 2017.
In 2018, just over two thirds of all the goods exported from Moldova were destined for the EU-28
The EU-28 is a key partner for most of the ENP-East countries in terms of their international trade in goods. It was the destination for more than two thirds of all goods exported from Moldova (68.8 %) in 2018 and close to two thirds from Ukraine (65.8 % in 2016), as well as more than half of the goods exported from Azerbaijan (54.4 %; 2017 data) and around a quarter of the goods exported from the other ENP-East countries (see Figure 1). Comparing 2008 with 2018, half of the six ENP-East countries — Armenia, Azerbaijan (2008-2017) and Belarus — reported a fall in the share of their exports destined for the EU-28 and the other half an increase. The most notable increases were observed for Ukraine (up 30.2 percentage points between 2008 and 2016) and Moldova (up 17.3 percentage points between 2008 and 2018).
These close trading links between the EU-28 and Ukraine were also apparent for imports, as more than half (57.1 %; 2016 data) of the goods imported into Ukraine originated from the EU-28. In 2018, the EU-28 also accounted for just under half (49.5 %) of the goods imported into Moldova as well as around one quarter of the total goods imported into Georgia and Armenia, with the share closer to one fifth in Azerbaijan (20.3 %; 2017 data) and Belarus (18.6 %); see Figure 2. Ukraine (2016 data) and Moldova (2018 data) reported a larger share of their imports coming from the EU-28 than had been the case in 2008. Georgia reported a slightly smaller share of its imported goods coming from the EU-28 in 2018 than in 2008, while in Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan (2008-2017) this share fell at a more rapid pace.
Importance of the ENP-East countries as trading partners for the EU
Some 1.9 % of all goods exported from the EU-28 in 2018 were destined for the six ENP-East countries
Looking at trade flows of goods from the perspective of the EU-28, the six ENP-East countries accounted for a relatively small share of the EU-28’s trade in 2018, some 1.9 % of all exports leaving the EU-28 and the same share of all imports arriving in the EU-28 from non-member countries (as shown in Figure 3). The relative importance of trade in goods with the ENP-East countries peaked in 2008 at the onset of the global financial and economic crisis, fell rapidly in 2009 and showed signs of a recovery during the period 2010-2013. The share of ENP-East countries in the EU-28’s total trade dropped back again in 2014 and 2015 as well as in 2016 for imports. In 2017 and 2018, these shares rose again, but remained below their pre-crisis peaks, particularly for exports: a comparison with the 2008 peak value shows that the share of the ENP-East countries in the EU-28’s exports in 2018 was 0.9 percentage points lower, while for imports, the share of the ENP-East countries in the EU-28’s total imports from non-member countries in 2018 was 0.1 points lower.
The fluctuation in the relative weight of imports from the ENP-East countries may be linked to overall economic developments within the EU-28, in particular, changes in demand for energy-related products (such as oil and gas) and the price of these products. With a partial recovery in the EU-28 economy there was a marked increase in the proportion of imports originating from oil and gas-rich ENP-East economies in 2011. However, sluggish growth in the EU-28 economy combined with falling oil and gas prices contributed, at least in part, to the somewhat lower proportion of the EU-28’s imports originating from the ENP-East countries in recent years.
During the period 2008-2018, the EU-28 recorded a deficit for trade in goods with the six ENP-East countries in 2011 and 2015, while its highest surplus was in 2013
Naturally, these developments were reflected in the EU-28’s trade balance with the six ENP-East countries (see Figure 4). During the period 2008-2018, the EU-28 generally ran a surplus for its trade in goods with the six ENP-East countries (based on an aggregation of their data). Between 2008 and 2009 this surplus narrowed from EUR 5.4 billion to EUR 4.0 billion. There was a rapid expansion in the value of goods imported by the EU-28 from the ENP-East countries in 2011 and although the value of goods exported by the EU-28 also continued to grow, it did so at a considerably slower pace. As a result, the EU-28 recorded a trade deficit of EUR 1.2 billion with the six ENP-East countries in 2011. This was short-lived, as in 2012 the EU-28 once again recorded a surplus, followed by a much larger surplus in 2013, reaching its peak during the period under consideration (EUR 7.7 billion). In 2014, the trade surplus for goods narrowed greatly and in 2015 the EU-28 again recorded a trade deficit with the ENP-East countries, this time valued at EUR 1.8 billion. Once more this was short lived, with the EU-28 returning to relatively small trade surpluses in 2016 (EUR 2.1 billion), 2017 (EUR 1.1 billion) and 2018 (EUR 0.1 billion).
Ukraine accounted for three fifths of the EU-28’s goods exported to ENP-East countries in 2018
Figures 5 and 6 provide more detailed information as to the destination and origin of trade in goods between the six ENP-East countries and the EU-28. Based on data provided by the EU Member States, Ukraine accounted for the largest share of goods exported from the EU-28 to the six ENP-East countries in 2018 (see Figure 5) — three fifths (60 %) of the total value. Just under one fifth (17 %) of the goods exported to the ENP-East countries from the EU-28 in 2018 were destined for Belarus, while the next highest shares were recorded for Moldova, Azerbaijan and Georgia (all in the range of 6 % to 7 %). The geographical distribution of goods exported to the six ENP-East countries from the EU-28 changed substantially when comparing 2008 with 2018, mainly due to an 8 percentage point reduction for Ukraine, whose share of goods exported to the ENP-East countries fell from 68 % to 60 %. Consequently, the shares of several other countries increased.
Azerbaijan and Ukraine together provided four fifths of all goods imported into the EU-28 from the six ENP-East countries in 2018
Azerbaijan and Ukraine were the main origins of EU-28 imports of goods from the ENP-East countries in 2018; imports from Ukraine accounted for 49 % of the total value of goods imported by the EU-28 from the six ENP-East countries, while Azerbaijan’s share was 31 %. Belarus (12 %) was the third largest origin of imports in 2018. By contrast, the remaining 8 % of goods imported by the EU-28 from ENP-East countries originated from the three remaining countries of Moldova, Georgia and Armenia. As with the developments observed for exports, there was a shift in the geographical distribution of the value of goods imported to the EU-28 from ENP-East countries between 2008 and 2018, but the change was less focused on one country. There were decreases in the share of imports originating from Belarus (down 3 percentage points), Azerbaijan (down 2 percentage points) and Georgia (down 1 percentage point), which were balanced by increases for Ukraine and Moldova (both up 3 percentage points).
Main products traded between the ENP-East countries and the EU
Tables 2-7 provide, for each of the individual ENP-East countries, a summary for their trade in goods with the EU-28 (as reported by the EU Member States), analysed for 10 main product groupings according to the standard international trade classification (SITC Rev.3).
Nearly all of the goods imported into the EU-28 from Azerbaijan were mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials
A country’s endowment with natural resources often impacts on trade (and production) specialisations within certain industrial products. By contrast, countries may lack specific resources and as a result they seek to import these goods in a raw and/or processed form. As a result, there are considerable differences in the types of goods that individual countries export and import. Mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials accounted for almost all (98.7 %) of the EU-28’s imports originating from Azerbaijan (see Table 3) in 2018. By contrast, manufactured goods accounted for the highest share of the EU-28’s imports from Armenia (32.2 %), Belarus (30.5 %) and Ukraine (27.5 %) — see Tables 2, 4 and 7 — while nearly one quarter (24.4 %) of the EU-28’s imports originating from Moldova (see Table 6) were miscellaneous manufactured articles. Crude materials accounted for nearly half (46.4 %) of imports from Georgia (see Table 5)
There was a clearer pattern in relation to the main products that were exported from the EU-28 to the six ENP-East countries in 2018. The highest share of EU-28 exports destined for the ENP-East countries was consistently recorded for machinery and transport equipment. This pattern was observed for all six ENP-East countries, as machinery and transport equipment products accounted for more than two fifths (43.4 %) of all goods exported to Belarus from the EU-28 in 2018, while their lowest shares were recorded in Moldova (29.3 %) and Georgia (27.7 %).
Relative importance of trade flows with the ENP-East countries for individual EU Member States
Germany accounted for one fifth of all goods exported from the EU-28 to the six ENP-East countries …
In 2018, Germany had the highest exports of goods to the six ENP-East countries from among the EU Member States, with a 20 % share; this relatively high share may, at least in part, be linked to Germany’s size and its specialisation in the manufacture of machinery and equipment. Poland had the second highest share (17 %) of the EU-28’s goods exported to the ENP-East countries, followed by Hungary and Italy (both 8 %) — see Figure 7.
… while close to one quarter of all goods imported into the EU-28 from the six ENP-East countries were destined for Italy
By contrast, Italy was the most important market among the EU Member States for goods imported from the ENP-East countries in 2018; this may, at least in part, be explained by limited indigenous energy supplies and a relatively high level of oil imports from Azerbaijan. Italy accounted for close to one quarter (24 %) of all imports made by EU Member States from the six ENP-East countries in 2018, while Germany and Poland were the second and third largest markets, with 12 % and 11 % shares of the EU-28 total respectively — see Figure 8.
Geographical proximity appeared to play an important role in determining which EU Member States had relatively high trade flows with the six ENP-East countries
A more complete analysis of trade flows between the individual EU Member States and the six ENP-East countries is provided in Figure 9. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given their geographical location, the EU Member States which had a relatively high share of their total trade with ENP-East countries included Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Estonia, Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary. Some 7.3 % of all goods exported by Lithuania in 2018 were destined for ENP-East markets. By contrast, there were 19 EU Member States where exports of goods to the six ENP-East countries accounted for less than 1.0 % of total goods exported. Among the EU Member States, Estonia recorded the highest share of its imports of goods originating from the ENP-East countries, at 3.6 % in 2018, followed by Lithuania with 3.4 %. There were 16 EU Member States which reported that less than 1.0 % of their imported goods originated from the ENP-East countries.
Overall, the relative share of goods exported from the EU-28 to the six ENP-East countries fell from 2.8 % of the total in 2008 to 1.9 % by 2018 (see Figure 10). However, the relative importance of ENP-East export markets declined at a relatively fast pace in Poland and Romania, falling by 2.0 and 1.9 percentage points respectively during the period 2008-2018, while a fall of 1.3 percentage points was recorded for Estonia; note this does not necessarily mean that the absolute value of exports fell. Among nearly all of the other EU Member States, the relative importance of the ENP-East countries as an export market fell by less than 1.0 percentage points or was stable, with Hungary’s increase of 0.3 percentage points the only increase in the share of exports destined for the ENP-East countries between 2008 and 2018 that was greater than 0.1 percentage points.
The relative importance of EU-28 imports originating from the six ENP-East countries fell by 0.1 percentage points between 2008 and 2018 to reach 1.9 % of all imported goods (see Figure 11). The share of goods imported from ENP-East countries rose by 1.1 percentage points in Portugal over the same period and by 0.8 points in Croatia and 0.7 points in Romania. By contrast, the share of goods imported from the ENP-East countries fell by 6.0 percentage points in Bulgaria, 1.9 points in Cyprus and 1.8 points in Latvia.
Source data for tables and graphs
International trade statistics track the value (and quantity) of goods traded between countries. They are the official source of information on imports, exports and the trade balance. Traditionally, customs records are the main source of statistical data on international trade. Following the adoption of the Single Market on 1 January 1993, customs formalities between EU Member States were removed, and so a new data collection system, intrastat, was set up for intra-EU trade. In the intrastat system, intra-EU trade data are collected directly from trade operators, which send a monthly declaration to the relevant national statistical administration.
The data for ENP-East countries are supplied by and under the responsibility of the national statistical authorities of each country on a voluntary basis. The data result from an annual data collection cycle that has been established by Eurostat. These statistics are available free-of-charge on Eurostat’s website, together with a range of additional indicators for ENP-East countries covering most socio-economic topics. For some ENP-East countries, these data have been supplemented by data compiled from the Comtrade database of the United Nations.
Note that although trade flows should ideally mirror each other (in other words be the same from the perspective of the exporter and the importer), there may be considerable differences in the values presented depending upon which party (exporter or importer) is used as the reporting entity. These discrepancies are often referred to as asymmetries and can be seen when bilateral data for two reporting parties are compared. Generally, while international recommendations for reporting trade statistics exist, countries may adopt methodologies that deviate from the recommendations for practical reasons. Consequently, when exports from country A to country B are compared with imports into country B from country A, the figures rarely (if ever) match. More information concerning the causes of asymmetries can be found in the user guide for statistics on the trading of goods.
Tables in this article use the following notation:
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The EU has a common international trade policy, often referred to as the common commercial policy. In other words, the EU acts as a single entity on trade issues, including issues related to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). In these cases, the European Commission negotiates trade agreements and represents the interests of the EU Member States.
The EU seeks to promote the development of free trade as an instrument for stimulating economic growth and enhancing competitiveness. International trade statistics are of prime importance for both public sector (decision makers at international, EU and national levels) and private users (in particular, businesses who wish to analyse export market opportunities) as they provide valuable information on developments regarding the exchange of goods between specific geographical areas. These statistics enable the EU to monitor the development of trade ties with its ENP partners, while they are also used by the European Commission to prepare multilateral and bilateral negotiations for common trade policies.
The EU completed trade negotiations with three ENP-East countries in 2014 as part of a process to establish Association Agreements. Bilateral trade relations are covered by a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), as signed with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine in June 2014. These changes are designed to boost bilateral trade in goods and services between the ENP-East countries and the EU and to bring trade-related rules and standards in the ENP-East countries into line with EU regulations in this domain. In November 2017, the EU and Armenia signed a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement which entered into provisional application in June 2018.
EU-Azerbaijan bilateral trade relations are currently regulated by a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. However, in December 2017 there was an agreement between the EU and Azerbaijan to renew their engagement and dialogue launching negotiations for a comprehensive new partnership. By contrast, bilateral trade and economic relations with Belarus remain covered by a Trade and Cooperation Agreement that was concluded by the European Community with the Soviet Union in 1989 (subsequently endorsed by Belarus).
On 18 November 2015, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Commission jointly presented a review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (SWD(2015) 500 final) which underlined a new approach for the EU in relation to its eastern and southern neighbours, based on stabilising the region in political, economic, and security-related terms.
In cooperation with its ENP partners, Eurostat has the responsibility ‘to promote and implement the use of European and internationally recognised standards and methodology for the production of statistics necessary for developing and monitoring policy achievements in all policy areas’. Eurostat undertakes the task of coordinating EU efforts to increase the statistical capacity of the ENP countries. Additional information on the policy context of the ENP is provided here.
- Basic figures on the European Neighbourhood Policy — East countries — 2019 edition
- Basic figures on the European Neighbourhood Policy — East countries — 2018 edition
- Basic figures on the European Neighbourhood Policy — East countries — 2016 edition
- Basic figures on the European Neighbourhood Policy — East countries — 2015 edition
- Basic figures on the European Neighbourhood Policy — East countries — 2014 edition
- International trade for the European Neighbourhood Policy — East countries — 2016 edition
- European Neighbourhood Policy-East countries — Statistics on living conditions — 2015 edition
- European Neighbourhood Policy — East countries — Key economic statistics — 2014 edition
- European Neighbourhood Policy — East countries — Labour market statistics — 2014 edition
- European Neighbourhood Policy — East countries — Youth statistics — 2014 edition
- International Trade (enpr_et)
- ENP countries: international trade - main indicators (enpr_etmain)
- ENP countries: Trading partners - flows (enpr_etflow)
- ENP countries: Trade by commodity (SITC) (enpr_etsitc)
- International trade in goods - aggregated data (ext_go_agg)
- International trade in goods - long-term indicators (ext_go_lti)
- International trade (ext_go_lti_int)
- International trade of EU, the euro area and the Member States by SITC product group (ext_lt_intertrd)
- EU trade by Member State, by partner and by product group (ext_go_lti_ext)
- Intra and Extra-EU trade by Member State and by product group (ext_lt_intratrd)
- International trade (ext_go_lti_int)
- International trade in goods - long-term indicators (ext_go_lti)