(by Stefano Giantin) (ANSA) - BELGRADE - After Malta (5.2% growth in 2019), Slovakia's GDP growth forecast of 4.1% will be the joint second highest in the European Union this year, together with Ireland, according to the latest Winter 2019 Economic Forecast made public by the European Commission. In general, the forecasts show, the economies of Central and Eastern European member states will continue to expand at a significant pace, but the growth of many countries will experience a gradual slowdown. "Slovakia's economic growth is estimated to have strengthened to 4.2% in 2018 from 3.2% in 2017, driven mainly by domestic demand," the European Commission said, forecasting a real GDP growth of 4.1% in 2019 and 3.5% in 2020. The foreign demand will stimulate the economy also this year, "not least due to rising production volumes in the export-oriented automotive sector." Neighbouring Czech Republic will continue to expand at a 2.9% pace in 2019, the same rate registered last year, before easing to 2.7% in 2020. In 2018, "investment increased considerably, boosted by automation needs in manufacturing and a surge in public investment supported by EU funds," the EU recalled. The Czech economy is currently "propelled mostly by domestic demand," the Commission added. The largest Central European economy, Poland, grew by 5.1% in 2018, "the fastest growth rate since 2007" and the third-strongest at EU level last year, but "real GDP growth is expected to gradually slow to 3.5% in 2019 and 3.2% in 2020." The main risks for the Polish economy arise mainly from "external demand and private investment trends." Hungary, the Commission said, managed to "defy the international economic slowdown in 2018," with the GDP growth accelerating from 4.1% in 2017 to almost 5% in 2018. However, with export growth remaining modest, the "economic growth is set to slow to 3.4% in 2019 and further to 2.6% in 2020." Hungary is currently experiencing a growing private consumption, thanks to "robust labour market" and "high confidence", associated with employment rates that have risen to new records. Croatia will experience also in 2019 a growth at a constant pace of approximately 2.7%, "increasingly driven by private consumption." Overall, the Croatian economy is forecast to moderate its expansions to 2.7% in 2019 and 2.6% in 2020, also "due to the anticipated slowdown in Croatia's main trading partners in the EU." Economic growth in Slovenia is estimated to have reached 4.4% in 2018, compared to 4.9% in 2017, but it will ease to 3.1% in 2019 and to 2.8% in 2020. Also Romania will continue to experience a slowing down of the growth, after the boom that started in 2017. Growth eased from 7% in 2017 to 4% estimated in 2018, the new economic forecasts read, forecasting a further decrease to 3.8% in 2019 and 3.6 % in 2020. In 2018. On the contrary, Bulgaria - after growth slow momentum last year with an estimated rate of 3.2% - will experience an economic expansion of 3.6% both in 2019 and in 2020, with domestic demand remaining the main engine of growth and good prospects from private and public investments. The European Commission said also that Greece's economy will grow by 2.2% in 2019 and 2.3% in 2020, noting that "the economy's recovery remains heavily contingent on the continuing implementation of reforms." The three Baltic States, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, will also grow in 2019 and in 2020. Latvia will record a 3.1% growth in 2019, 2.6% in 2020; Estonia and Lithuania both 2.7% this year and 2.4% in 2020. (ANSA).

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