Aggregate EU growth was estimated to have been 2.6 per cent last year, markedly higher than the 1.8 per cent recorded in 1996. Ireland remained the fastest growing EU economy with the most recent estimates putting growth at over 10 per cent last year. Finland also recorded rapid growth of nearly 6 per cent. A large group of countries, comprising the UK, Denmark, Greece, Spain, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal also enjoyed growth rates of 3 per cent or above. Italy and Sweden recorded growth rates below 2 per cent for the second year running.