Michel Barnier continues to huff and puff about what he clearly considers to be a reincarnation of Perfidious Albion while Europe itself, that is the entity that is the European Union rather than the real thing – from Ireland to the Urals – faces what many diagnose as an existential malady. And that’s not Covid19.
The editor of The Week, Theo Tait, in the current issue of the magazine, asks, ‘What is the “existential problem” facing the EU? The euro’s many crises? The bloc’s democratic deficit? Immigration in the Mediterranean? The coronavirus apocalypse?
None of the above, he suggests, taking up the theme of the current EU President, Andrej Plenkovic, the PM of Croatia – which currently holds the EU presidency.
It is none of these, Plenkovic maintains. it’s the depopulation of large parts of eastern and southern Europe, due to migration and low birth rates.
The demographic reality is that since 1989, the population of the Baltic republics has declined by almost a third; Bulgaria lost 20% of its people, and is projected to lose 20% more in the coming 30 years. Romania’s population fell from 22.4 million in 2000 to 19.5 million in 2018. Between 2013, when Croatia joined the EU, and 2017, some 5% of its people moved to other member states. Since the financial crisis in 2008, Greece and Spain have also seen great waves of emigration to other parts of the EU.
It is a startling picture and there is no sign of a swing in any other direction just now. The UK, which suffers from the same malady has just revealed that it kills one in every four children who begin life in the wombs of their mothers. It is – apart from its immorality – demographic and economic madness rooted in myopic selfishness, blinding the carriers of the virus to the fate they will be facing in thirty of forty years from now.
In the shorter term the migration of populations is showing what will be happening decades from now in whole countries left with just elderly people living on diminishing incomes and in economic wildernesses.
As Tait points out, in relation to migration, in most cases, it’s the young and well-educated that leave. “This drives a pan-European version of the regional inequality that we see in the UK: profitable companies and younger, highly-skilled people cluster together in thriving cities, leaving older, less successful areas far behind. A recent Guardian study found a series of “youth deserts” across the continent: in eastern Germany and rural Spain, Romania and Greece. It’s demoralising for those who stay, and it changes the politics too: older areas skew to the right. The EU appointed a new commissioner for “democracy and demography”, Dubravka Šuica, last year. She has a great deal of work to do.”
She will be wasting her time unless the wholesale destruction of future populations is tackled. A culture and its supporting education system which glorifies selfish individualism will never provide anything other than a quicksand foundation for the work that has to be done.