The attitude of managers from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and Austria improved against last winter, said Peter Brezinschek, the head of Raiffeisen Research, a unit of Raiffeisen Bank International AG (RBI). According to a survey conducted by Raiffeisen Research, the improvement of economic prospects in Germany – by far the most important export destination of CEE states – was the main reason for the GDP-related forecast increase. Now, the crisis of sovereign debts in Europe does not seem to affect the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, Brezinschek explains. The chief-analyst expects that, as a whole, CEE will experience an average GDP growth rate of 2.6 pc in 2012, up from the 2 pc estimated in December. Considering the 0.5 pc decline of the euro zone’s GDP, it is obvious that CEE will remain the growth zone of Europe, Brezinschek commented. According to the same survey, the high prices of food and energy pushed inflation beyond expectations in the CEE region, during the first months of 2012. “This is the reason for Central Banks across the region not reducing the key interest rates – like in Poland and the Czech Republic – or postponing this for the second half of 2012,” Brezinschek explains. According to the analyst, key interests might be reduced in Hungary, Romania and Russia by autumn, as the situation improves. Raiffeisen Research analysts reject the idea that CEE will be severely hit by the reduction of the indebtedness degree in the banking sector of Western Europe. “We consider that there is no sign of a crediting crisis in the CIS and CE, except for Hungary,” Brezinschek stated. There will certainly be challenges in some countries of SEE, such as a low growth of the volume of loans and an increase of bad loans. Furthermore, he expects to see bad loan rates stabilise in the countries with the strongest banking sectors: Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.