LONDON (AP) — The latest figures out of Europe show that the region is edging closer to recession, dragged down by the crippling debt problems of the 17 countries that use the euro.
Eurostat, Europe's statistics agency, revealed that the economies of both the eurozone and the European Union, which has 27 countries, shrank by a quarterly rate of 0.2 percent in the second quarter of the year. In the first quarter, output for both regions was flat.
Europe's stumbling economy is making it harder for other economies around the world to recover and policymakers are urging more decisive action to deal with the crippling debt crisis to restore confidence to the global economy.
Here's a round-up of reaction from employers' bodies and trade unions from around Europe to the latest economic news:
—GERMANY - Alexander Schumann, chief economist of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce:
"A lot of the GDP drops have already been priced in and so the latest figures aren't a surprise. But politicians need to ensure stability so companies can work without further certainty."
"We need to be patient but there are positive signs that in 18 or 24 months we might see light at the end of the tunnel in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece. We can get there if politicians don't block the tunnel with ideas that add new uncertainty."
—ITALY - Danilo Barbi, official at CGIL, Italy's largest labor confederation:
"The CGIL for a long time has been saying that the existing policies of the eurozone have created the conditions for a general recession, and this confirms that view."
"We need to have economic policies of expansion, and then confront the debt. If you do it the other way around, as we are now, you create a disaster. First the architecture needs to change, then the economic policy."
—NETHERLANDS - Jan Klaver, spokesman for VNO, the main Dutch employers' association:
"Our very first priority is of course the approach to the crisis — the Netherlands economy has as much as 75 percent of our trade within Europe, so we have every interest that the southern European countries get back on firm financial footing."
(On the preferred approach to solve the eurozone's problems) "We choose for (a united) Europe, we choose for no higher taxes, but for cutting government spending."
—FRANCE - Nasser Mansouri-Guilani, economist with the CGT, France's powerful labor union:
"We are in a crisis that is not just financial but also social."
(On the need for borrowing rates for businesses) "That could release significant means to finance new jobs, higher salaries, and all number of things."
"There is a European and international dimension. France can't do this alone."
—PORTUGAL - Armando Farias, executive committee member of the Confederation of Portuguese Workers:
"Austerity measures are sending us into poverty."
"We need development and investment, and we can't get them this way. We need to change path. Something needs to be done, and quickly."
Frank Jordans in Berlin, Colleen Barry in Milan, Toby Sterling in Amsterdam, Angela Charlton in Paris and Barry Hatton in Lisbon contributed to this article.