Significant differences can be observed across the European Union (EU) regarding the sector in which government debt is held. Among Member States for which data are available, the share of public debt held by non-residents in 2018 was highest in Cyprus (76%), followed by Latvia (74%) and Lithuania (73%). In contrast, the largest proportion of debt held by the (resident) financial corporations sector was recorded in Denmark (72%), ahead of Sweden (70%) and Italy (65%).
Generally across the EU, less than 10% of debt was held by the resident non-financial sectors (non-financial corporations, households and non-profit institutions serving households), except Malta (25%), Hungary (22%), Portugal (13%) and Ireland (11%).
This information comes from an article released by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. It provides detailed information on general government debt in the EU Member States broken down by subsector, financial instrument, debt holder, maturity, currency of issuance as well as government guarantees and other features. Only a small selection of data is published in this news release.
Highest shares of short-term initial maturity in Sweden, Hungary and Portugal
With slightly above 20% of total government debt having a term below one year, Sweden registered the highest proportion of short-term initial maturities of debt among the Member States in 2018, ahead of Hungary (18%), Portugal (17%), Italy (13%) and Denmark (12%). At the opposite end of the scale, almost all of the debt was made up of maturities exceeding one year in Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland and Cyprus.
General government gross debt mainly financed by debt securities in most Member States
In 2018, debt securities were the main financial instrument in almost all Member States. This was notably the case in Czechia (90% of total general government debt) and Hungary (89%), followed by Malta and Slovenia (both 88%), the United Kingdom (87%), Spain, France and Slovakia (all 86%), as well as Italy (85%). In contrast, loans largely prevailed in Estonia and Greece, where they accounted for 88% and 82% respectively. The use of loans was also relatively high in Cyprus (48%), Luxembourg (32%), Croatia (31%), Sweden (30%) and Portugal (28%). Currency and deposits generally made up a relatively small share of debt, except in Portugal (11%), Ireland and the United Kingdom (both 10%), and Italy (8%).
Methods and definitions
For calculation of general government gross debt, the definition of the Maastricht treaty used for the excessive deficit procedure (EDP) is followed; meaning gross debt is valued at nominal (face) value and is measured as relevant liabilities outstanding at the end of the year consolidated between and within the sectors of general government. This means that at general government level, debt issued by one subsector and held by another cancels out. The share of intra-government debt is different in each country. The instruments included in general government gross debt are currency and deposits, debt securities and loans. Resident non-financial sectors include non-financial corporations, households and non-profit institutions serving households. The general government gross debt corresponds to the totals transmitted in the context of the April 2019 EDP notification.