(A few statistics, I’m afraid…..)
The prime minister of Croatia, Andrej Plenkovic – whose government has just assumed the rotating presidency of the EU – has warned that his country is suffering a “population loss equivalent to losing a small city every year”, and called for EU-wide strategies to tackle the “existential” threat in southern and eastern Europe posed by falling birth rates and mass emigration.
Last year, 230,000 Croatians left their country (mostly for Germany, Austria and Ireland) between 2013 and 2016; the country’s population is just 4.2 million. The populations of ten of the EU’s 28 member states fell in 2018, with the biggest relative drops recorded in Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Croatia and Romania.
But….the Financial Times reports a quite different situation in Spain:
“A decade after Spain faced economic crisis, prompting hundreds of thousands of people to flee the country, its population has reached its highest ever level as immigrants and returning locals flood into the eurozone’s fastest growing major economy. Spain’s population grew by 276,000 people in 2018 to nearly 47 million, the fastest annual increase since 2009. The rise came largely from immigration, both from traditional sources in Latin America, especially Venezuela and Morocco as well as other European countries such as Italy and Portugal.
“In the four years to 2016, Spain’s population declined by nearly 400,000 people. The fall reflected the severity of the crisis that hit the country: between 2008 and 2013 the Spanish economy shrank by nearly 10 per cent. At the end of 2013, more than one in four persons of working age was unemployed; nearly 60 per cent of those under 25 seeking a job could not find one. Now Spain is more than four years into a strong economic recovery. The improving picture in the labour market helps explain the migration inflow and the fall in emigration by Spaniards. More Spaniards returned home than left the country last year, for the first time in at least seven years. Spain’s economy has been expanding at twice the eurozone average since 2015 and it is expected to continue to do so this year.
Of course, what isn’t discussed is why the population declining in countries like Croatia and Italy but growing in Spain? The improving picture in the labour market helps explain the Spanish migration inflow and the fall in emigration by Spaniards. But the labour market usually responds to government policy. So what is wrong with Croatia and Italy? is it government incompetence or could it be a culture of corruption, or both? Corruption in Eastern Europe is a well- known problem.