Germany avoids recession - just - and France surprises to the upside, according to latest growth numbers. But should Europe breathe a sigh of relief or brace for a prolonged slide? As Ciara Sutton reports, that and continuing tensions with Russia are the talk of the latest G20 and ECOFIN meetings.
No records broken but euro zone GDP figures certainly could have been worse. France hit the brightest spot, growing 0.3 percent in the third quarter, its highest reading in over a year. It's not enough to lift the euro zone's second-largest economy out of the gloom, but it was better than forecasts. Germany narrowly avoided recession, but was outpaced for the first time in nine years by Greece which is no longer in recession. Numbers for the bloc overall revealed the region grew by 0.2 percent. But inflation data was at 0.4 percent in October prompting fresh calls for intervention from ECB chief Mario Draghi. ETX Capital's Joe Rundle. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HEAD OF TRADING AT ETX CAPITAL, JOE RUNDLE, SAYING: "The euro zone has some real structural problems and the one shining light, Germany, seems to be stuttering at the moment. So I think Draghi is certainly going to want a weaker euro and try and get some sort of inflation. There really is a risk of a lost decade like Japan here." Despite reporting modest growth, Germany will likely feel the pressure to take one for the team and spend more rather than just balancing the books. Sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine have hit Germany hardest. German Chancellor Angela Mekel. (SOUNDBITE) (German) GERMAN CHANCELLOR, ANGELA MERKEL, SAYING: "We, from the German side, will underline that at the same time we wish for sound fiscal policies. We think that that is one of the pre-conditions for a robust growth." Italy posted the most disappointing results of the bunch - languishing in recession sliding 0.1 percent. Italian workers and students showed their frustrations by striking as unions stepped up resistance to the government's planned overhaul of employment protection rules. The global growth debate is likely to flare back into life it at a meeting of European finance ministers in Brussels and country leaders at the G20 in Brisbane. They're gathering for their their annual summit, with Ukraine and Russia expected to take centre stage. Russian President Vladimir Putin has blasted sanctions against the country as a threat to the global economy. But with fresh reports of Russian troops pouring into Ukraine, a showdown between Western leaders and Putin could be unavoidable.