At least one Eurostat publication uses the following def of recession:

A recession is normally defined in terms of zero or negative growth of GDP in at least two successive quarters.

And they cite a whole bunch of EU regs at the end on data collection and terminology. Which unfortunately, by their sizeable number, make it difficult to quickly tell if recession is defined in one of those EU regs or if Eurostat is just using a textbook definition. So, do EU regulations define the term "recession" (at least for Eurostat's purposes)?

  • I'd venture a guess the answer is actually "no" beucase 1503/2006 defines how to measure GDP essentilly, but not recession, but I'm not 100% that there is no other reg.
    – Fizz
    Jul 29, 2022 at 6:22
  • That's the usual definition (see Wikipedia). I'm not sure what you're looking for: do you want a definition that's normative over every EU institution (ECB, Commission, etc), do you want to know if any EU document specifies what definition they are using, or are you just wondering if other EU institutions sometimes use a different definition.
    – Stuart F
    Jul 29, 2022 at 12:29
  • I strongly suspect the answer is "no," but it's hard to prove a negative. The purpose of a legal definition is to make the law operate differently in different circumstances. It's rarely helpful or desirable to have the law automatically change during recessions, because you normally want monetary policy to be made by the humans in charge of your central bank, not by some automatic rule that nobody can control or override. It's unlikely that the "two quarters of successive negative growth" definition will exactly match the actual duration of the recession, for example.
    – Kevin
    Aug 2, 2022 at 3:07

1 Answer 1


This is the popular (but not only one) textbook definition of recession (see Blanchard et al Macroeconomics: A European Perspective pp 572).

The regulations cited in the document, namely (EC) No 1165/98, (EC) No 1158/2005 and (EC) No 1503/2006 do not even contain the word recession (I even searched for the synonym contraction).

Thus I believe it is safe to say that the authors just say they elected to use the popular definition.

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