Weakening economic prospects, two violent wars and extreme weather events have profoundly affected Europe in 2023.
While the cost of living crisis showed signs of easing in 2023 as inflation data cooled, economies considered among the most resilient in Europe returned under immense pressure due to the impact of inflation on consumer spending.
2023 also saw far-right parties make small but solid gains across the continent, building momentum ahead of the 2024 European elections.
July, the hottest year on record, brought with it extreme fires to southern Europe. The bloc has since begun increasing its firefighting fleet in preparation for increasingly scorching summers.
Euronews analyzes the European year in 2023 through data.
The cost of living crisis is cooling
After prices skyrocketed in 2022 due to the energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 2023 saw lower inflation across the continent.
While the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia continued to grapple with high consumer prices until the end of the year, inflation in the 27 European Union member states fell threefold, from an average of 9.9 % in February to 3.1% in November.
The decline was driven by a particularly sharp decline in the cost of energy, which fell by 11.5% year-on-year in the euro area in November 2023, the largest decline since 2020.
A steady decline in food prices has also brought some respite to consumers, following the surge in prices of essential goods in 2022.
Economies have been under pressure
But stubbornly high inflation throughout 2022 and early 2023 It took its toll on European economies, with narrow belts that slow down consumption and investments.
The 19 euro area countries entered a technical recession in June, after two consecutive quarters of decline, driven by soaring energy prices. It continued to contract in the third quarter, while the European Union economy stagnated.
The decline was driven by the disappointing economic performance of Europe’s industrial powerhouse, Germany. According to government estimates, the German economy is it should reduce by 0.4% in 2023, while the EU executive expects a slightly lower contraction of 0.3%.
The far right has slowly gained ground
2023 has seen Europe’s far right make small but solid progress, gaining momentum that could translate into electoral success in key elections which will take place in 2024.
The German Alternative for Germany (AfD) won a historic local election victory in the central state of Thuringia in June and its first mayoral election in a city in December.
Geert Wilders took many in Europe by surprise when he snatched an average of surprise electoral victory in the Dutch elections in November, leaving him in pole position in ongoing coalition government talks.
With support rising in countries like France and Austria, far-right parties could make major gains in next June’s European elections.
Europe was boiling
July was the warmest month the world has ever seen, pushing the global average sea temperature to a new record of 20.98°C.
Spain saw sea temperatures reach 31.21°C in Dragonera, in the Balearic Islands.
With the scorching heat, devastating fires occurred. The largest fire ever recorded in the EU enraged in northeastern Greece in August, when the EU mobilized half its aerial firefighting fleet to contain the fire.