Doing business with Europe: An overview

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Posted by DHL Express UK : Posted on December 17, 2014

Confusing your Balkans with your Baltics? Here’s our overview of Europe’s geopolitical and economic blocs.


If you’re looking to take your business global, our Trading with Europe, the EU and EFTA guides give a strong overview of the opportunities available just on the UK’s doorstep.

However: though Europe is the second-smallest continent after Oceania, the region is home to an astounding 50+ countries. Here’s our overview of how they fit together…


The EU and EFTA have 32 member states.


The Group of 7 (G7) comprises the seven world’s wealthiest major developed nations as measured in terms of national net wealth: the UK, France, Germany and Italy from Europe as well as the United States, Canada and Japan.

The group has met regularly since 1976 to discuss key issues related to global economic stability together with heads of international financial institutions.

All EU G7 economies are highly advanced and stable with strong political and economic relations to the UK. Though the G7 economies are highly open, the domestic markets tend to be more saturated than those of emerging economies.

The Celtic Tiger

Ireland is a natural trade partner for British businesses, and imports more from the UK than from any other country. The country’s GDP growth is expected to be back on track for 2015.

The Nordics

Denmark, Sweden and Finland have comparatively small populations, but are renowned for their strong economic performance and advanced markets. Unemployment is low and per capita GDPs are comparatively high, though private consumption has decreased since the recession.


Like the Nordic countries, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are small but economically powerful – but with the added advantage of being easier to reach, especially from the UK. Home to some of the world’s most influential and well-known international organisations and businesses, the BeNeLux economies are set for steady future growth.

The Baltics

Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are among the fastest-growing EU economies, with measures undertaken to ensure their performance can be sustained. With strong historical and trade connections to Russia, the countries also serve as a European gateway to this market.

‘High Growth’ Central and Eastern Europe

UKTI currently has strong efforts underway to help British businesses understand the opportunities offered by Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Overall, this region offers a market of 110 million consumers with increasing purchasing power and continuing economic growth.

Austria, home to a range of international organisations and businesses, serves as a strong starting point for businesses looking to trade with this part of Europe.

The Mediterranean

Portugal and Spain are strong entryways to Spanish and Portuguese speaking markets around the world (especially the Americas), while Greece, Malta and Cyprus are all well-positioned for trading internationally with strong maritime and land networks.


Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are connected to the EU through the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The EFTA economies are sophisticated with high per capita GDPs and the countries are world leaders in terms of quality of life, education and transparency.

Beyond the EU


The world’s largest country by size and currently the eighth largest economy, BRIC Russia is predicted to become Europe’s largest consumer market by 2020. Russia is an attractive market for British businesses; promising sectors include pharmaceuticals, energy efficient manufacturing technologies and equipment as well as projects related to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Learn more about doing business with Russia in our country fact sheet and Customs video:


Turkey, a major emerging market, holds a strong geostrategic position with close market access to the Mediterranean, Central Asia and the Middle East. The country is currently ranked as the world’s 18th largest economy, and has the potential to reach 12th place by 2050. Turkey is considered Europe’s sixth largest economy and is one of the fastest-growing markets in both Europe and the OECD.

The Balkans

Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are not EU members, though with the exception of Kosovo all countries are potential or confirmed candidates for Union membership.

The Balkans are in a geostrategically strong position as they can control the direct land routes between Western Europe and the Middle East, but have also experienced their share of political instabilities. The UK supports regional efforts to move towards EU and NATO membership and is working to promote stability and support reforms – all measures that will also have a positive effect on establishing strong trade relations.

The Smaller Transcontinentals

The British government also has measures in place to boost trade with Armenia, Georgia and especially Azerbaijan (one of the world’s fastest-growing economies).


Our destination guides have more information on trading with Europe – and if you have any questions about getting started or entering a new market, our Business Export Advisors are here to help.

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