Photo description: Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra presenting the annual and state budget in the traditional briefcase on Prince’s Day.

Government finance

The countries of the European Union have a combined public debt of nearly 13 trillion euros. This amounts to 80.0 percent of the European Union’s GDP. At 52.4 percent of national GDP, Dutch public debt is well below the EU average; it is also below the so-called EMU target of a public debt not exceeding 60 percent of GDP. Which EU countries have a surplus and which have a deficit? And which country has the highest tax and social security burden?

Meetlat-11-overheidsschuld_ENG GR I T P T C Y BE FR ES UK EU HR A T HU SI IE DE FI NL SK PL M T SE L V RO L T DK CZ BG L U EE 80.0% of GDP 52.4% of GDP G ov ern m e n t d e b t , 2018

National debt varies widely in size among the member states. In 2018, it was more than 60 percent of GDP in fourteen countries and below 60 percent in the other fourteen countries. Most former Eastern Bloc countries have a relatively low debt as they started with a clean slate after the break-up of the Soviet-Union. Other countries have a relatively high debt instead. Greece has the highest debt level at 181.1 percent of GDP.

EU still has budget deficit

In 2018, the 28 countries of the EU had a combined public deficit amounting to 0.6 percent of GDP. The government balance – the gap between revenue and spending – is widely different in the various countries. Fourteen member states had a deficit and fourteen a surplus. Luxembourg had the largest surplus (2.4 percent of GDP) and Cyprus the largest deficit (4.8 percent).

In 2018, the Netherlands realised a surplus of 1.5 percent of GDP,up from 1.2 procent in 2017. The surplus rose mainly because of higher income from taxes and social security contributions.

48.4% of GDP tax and social security burden in France in 2017
23.5% in Ireland

Higher tax and social security burden

In 2017, the tax and social security burden in the Netherlands reached 39.2 percent of GDP. This was still 35.4 percent back in 2009. In European perspective, the Netherlands falls below average (40.2 percent). Throughout the EU, the tax and social security burden has grown steadily in recent years. France currently has the highest burden: 48.4 percent, while Ireland has the lowest: 23.5 percent. The burden tends to be low in the former Easten Bloc compared to the rest of Europe.


Eurostat – Government finance statistics


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