According to data recently released by Eurostat, Poland and Hungary respectively rank as the third and fourth cheapest countries in the European Union. The study takes into account the prices of a dozen different categories of goods and services, from food and beverages to electricity, clothing, housing, restaurants or hotels, and compares it with price levels from 2000.
Poland and Hungary among the cheapest EU countries
The third least expensive country in the EU, Poland‘s price levels are only higher than in Romania (52% below EU average) and Bulgaria (56%). In 2000 – before it joined the EU – Polish prices were 49% below European average, compared to 47% today (+2 pp).
This slight relative increase of price levels – compared to EU average – in Poland is therefore one the lowest in the bloc, along with Greece. The contrast is particularly striking with neighbouring Central and Eastern European countries, where prices have skyrocketed in the last two decades.
Taking a closer look at the data, we can see that Poland is the cheapest EU country when it comes to communications services and equipment, and the second cheapest in the areas of “food and non-alcoholic beverages”, “clothing and footwear” and “housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels”.
With prices 42% lower than the EU average (compared to 56% lower in 2000), Hungary comes right after Poland and ranks as the fourth cheapest country in the bloc.
Slovakia is the most expensive country in Central Europe
The only member of the Visegrad Group to have joined the Eurozone, Slovakia ranks as the most expensive Central European country, but the 7th cheapest in the EU (35% below EU average, compared to 62% lower in 2000).
Whereas Poland had one of the smallest relative price hikes, Slovakia has experienced one of the most significant ones. According to the Sme daily, prices in Slovakia are almost 20% higher than in Poland (and nearly 30% higher for food). The cost of clothing and footwear is actually the only one above the European average. In Slovakia, rising prices have been a cause for concern for many years now, especially since the country joined the Eurozone, and inflation is often mentioned by Slovaks as one of their biggest worries.
The Czech Republic remains slightly cheaper than Slovakia (36% below EU average, compared to 57% in 2000). While communications services and equipment stand out as particularly expensive items compared to the rest, Czech restaurants, cafés, bars and hotels are among the cheapest in the EU.
A few months ago, Prague and Bratislava were ranked as two of the richest cities in the EU in terms of GDP per capita – regional wealth compared to local cost of living.
Non-EU countries are the most expensive in Europe
At the other end of the scope, Denmark, Luxembourg and Sweden rank as the most expensive countries in the EU. If we consider the whole continent, however, non-EU countries such as Iceland, Switzerland and Norway have even higher price levels.