22 Apr 2013

European Public Sector Debt and Interest Payments for 2012 - €11 trillion debt, €380 billion in interest

The latest Eurostat figures for Government Debt and Interest payments have just come out.  You can find them on the website and there is a summary document that you can download here. I've compiled the key figures in the following table (updated on the 24th of April to include numbers for the cumulated interest payments).
First, total government debt for the 27 countries has now topped €11 trillion, up 5.5% on 2011. For the 17 eurozone countries, the total is now nearly €8.8 trillion (for some reason, the Eurostat data gives a total of €8.6 trillion - not sure why there's a difference). Germany is still easily the most endetted country of them all - its debt levels have increased by nearly 4% since 2011 to €2.17 trillion. Interestingly, Greece has managed to reduce its debt level by around 15%, but Spain's debt level has increased by 20%. The record has to be Estonia, whose debt level has increased by 73%.

Outside the Eurozone, it is interesting to see that the UK's debt level has increased by 9.6%.

The 27 countries paid a total of over €380 billion in interest payments, which means that 2.9% of GDP is lost in paying these fees. For the 17 eurozone countries, the bill for interest payments was €294 billion - about 3% more than in 2011, and amounting to 3.1% of Eurozone GDP.

If we add the total cost of interest payments for the Eurozone for the entire period for which the figures are available  (1995-2012), we get the impressive total of €4.83 trillion, about 55% of all government debt (The numbers in Red mean that the figures are not available for the entire period). French taxpayers have paid out €835 billion and German taxpayers have paid €1,173 billion. But the most generous have been the Italians who have paid out €1,433 billion since 1985.

For the UK, which paid out another £46 billion of taxpayers money in interest in 2012, the total since 1985 now totals £542 billion (€737 billion).

The proportion of debt which is directly attributable to interest payments since 1995 varies a lot between countries. Over all 27 countries, total interest payments have reached €5.97 trillion - lets call that about €6 trillion - a number that constitutes 54% of all government debt. But over 80% of government debt in Sweden, Hungary and Bulgaria can be directly explained by interest payments. And in the Eurozone, the worst examples are Italy and Belgium where over 70% of  government debt is the result of interest payments.

I won't bother commenting on these numbers just yet. I think they speak for themselves.


  1. Hi I would like to ask, where did you get the numbers on interest payments paid by states? I reviewed the document, which you linked, but I couldnt find the information there. Thanks

  2. Aha! Yes, it's not trivial. Go to http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/statistics/search_database

    Select "Economy and Finance" then "Government Statistics" then "Government Deficit and Debt (gov_dd)"

    Click on the little Excel file next to gov_dd_edpt1
    Then you can chose what you want for the SECTOR via the little (+) sign (eg. General government (S13))
    Next, you use the little (+) next to INDIC_NA to choose (eg. "Government Consolidated Gross Debt (GD), and/or "Interest" (D41))
    Then use the (+) next to UNIT to choose (eg. Millions of Euros, Millions of Currency Units or %GDP)
    Click "UPDATE"

    You can then download the data via an icon at the top.

    Simple ;-)