The Changing Faces of Europe – “In One Generation, Europe Will Be Unrecognisable”

30th August 2016 / EU

By Graham Vanbergen – The official statistician of the European Union ‘Eurostat’ confirms the worries of many millions of European’s when it comes to immigration, and The Gates Institute pulls no punches in what it has to say about it.

“Deaths that exceed births might sound like science fiction, but they are now Europe’s reality. It just happened. During 2015, 5.1 million babies were born in the EU, while 5.2 million persons died, meaning that the EU for the first time in modern history recorded a negative natural change in its population. The numbers come from Eurostat , which since 1961 has been counting Europe’s population.”

Breaking down some of these numbers and a new picture emerges from the official statistician. For instance, whatever population is rising, is only rising because of immigration.  That particular figure showed growth by immigration of two million persons in just one year. The Gates Institute goes on to say that – “Europe has lost the will to maintain or grow its own population. The situation is as demographically as seismic as during the Great Plague of the 14th Century. In one generation (about 20 years), Europe will be unrecognizable.

Strong words, but as the statistics reveal, Eastern Europe now has “the largest population loss in modern history”, while Germany overtook Japan by having the world’s lowest birth rate.

Employment in German manufacturing sector hit record high in 2014

Employment in German manufacturing sector hit record high in 2014

Is this the reason for Angela Merkel’s rather open border policy when it comes to fleeing refugees from a war-torn Middle-East? On reading the Financial Times report that headlined ‘Germany’s demographics: Young people wanted‘, it is not hard to understand what the underlying political reasons may be. With a resilient economy and high employment, its working-age population is rapidly declining, putting huge pressures on employers, and one has to say – their profits. It is estimated that by 2020 Germany will have a shortage of nearly two million skilled workers, doubling again by 2060.

For Britain and France, social democracy, headed down a path of assisting with child-rearing and fostered the national importance of family values along with protection of working mothers in particular. This was not the case in Germany.

In Post-1945, successive West German governments decided that women should care for children at home and at the same time offered far less in the way of state-backed childcare and other support for working mothers, than in France or the UK. For many German women, faced with the choice between a job and raising children, many chose their jobs. The result was obvious, the birth-rate quickly declined.

The percentage of Germans under 15 is forecast to fall to 13 per cent within a decade, among the world’s lowest. The share of those over 60 is expected to rise from 27 per cent to 39 per cent. Germany is now in a position where at 46, the average age is now second only to Japan’s and even then it’s only because Japan is the longest living nation on earth. The numbers do not look great as one in 20 Germans is already over 80 and in little more than one generational cycle of 20 years, UN data says it will be one in six.

The geopolitical implications for Germany do not bode well. There are some countries in the EU with large populations that are economically efficient such as Britain and France, both whose populations are still growing. The balance of political and economic power will shift.

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The result is that European politicians, particularly German politicians, are looking at its ageing population and welcoming huge numbers of migrants and refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Asia, who are already replacing native Europeans. Of course, people from different regions of the world bring very different cultural views and values on just about everything.

The EuroStat report goes further by saying that “In 2015, net migration accounted for an increase of over 1.9 million persons, approximately twice the increase in 2014 and the largest increase recorded since the time series began in 1961. Since 1992, net migration has been the main determinant of population growth in the 28 nations of the EU”.

Europe and the European Union project has many problems, not least that it faces an existential crisis on all fronts, not just economic or political but directly from immigration on the one hand and falling birth-rates on the other.

The Guardian reports that “Across Europe birth rates are tumbling. The net effect is a ‘perfect demographic storm’ that will imperil economic growth across the continent”. It speculates that Europe needs many more babies to avert a population disaster whilst also reporting that the the refugee crisis is tearing Europe apart. You can’t have it both ways.

The American and European coalition invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria is turning Europe into an incubator of terrorism as second and even third generation Muslim’s living in Europe feel the pain and distress of their largely defenceless brothers and sisters being bombed and attacked in what they regard as their spiritual homeland.

Pew Research, published just last month, confirmed that European’s fear a wave of refugees will mean more terrorism and fewer jobs. The VP of the International Relations Committee at Hungary’s parliament, Jobbik Member Marton Gyongyosi has suggested that “The US caused this problem in the neighborhood of Europe and then leans back criticizing European countries for not dealing with the problem efficiently” and insists on “physical protection of the border.”

The outcome is a changing political landscape. Before the European Union was created by the Maastricht Treaty on November 1st 1993 there were just 25 nationalist political parties. Since the birth of the formalised EU there has been a 150 per cent rise in political parties on the far left or right of the political spectrum, now totalling 64. One of them was Ukip that focused on immigration and subsequently produced the ‘Brexit’ upset.

Ruth Wodak is Emeritus Distinguished Professor and Chair in Discourse Studies at Lancaster University and Professor in Linguistics at the University of Vienna. She has stressed that the rise of populist parties across Europe has different reasons in different countries. In a March 2014 article she divided these parties into four groups.

Parties that gain support via an ambivalent relationship with fascist and Nazi pasts” (e.g., in Austria, Hungary, Italy, Romania, and France), parties that “focus primarily on a perceived threat from Islam” (e.g., in the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Sweden, and Switzerland), parties that “restrict their propaganda to a perceived threat to their national identities from ethnic minorities” (e.g., in Hungary, Greece, Italy, and the United Kingdom) and parties that “endorse a fundamentalist Christian conservative-reactionary agenda” (e.g., in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria). According to the Economist, the main attraction of far-right parties in the Scandinavian countries is that the national culture is under threat.

So whilst Wodak provides an explanation of the rise of nationalist political parties by breaking them into categories, the reality is that three of the four categories surround issues relating to religion, perceived threats from immigration and the forced change of indigenous cultural values. These countries with progressively more powerful nationalist parties house 287 million people across Europe and although they do not represent all of the views of these people, they are representing a rising opinion of the electorate.

The political shift from social democracy on the left, born of the two world wars is dramatically, and with some irony, swinging to the far-right, which has spawned not just a poisonous agenda of Islamophobia but also of anti-Semitism. Amid the migrant and refugee crisis, slowing economic growth and an expansion of disillusionment with the European Union and its unaccountable EU Commission, right-wing parties in a number of notable European countries have made strong electoral gains.

The rise of Norbert Hofer could usher in a new era of far-right politics at the heart of Europe

The far-right ‘Alternative for Germany’, which only started three years ago as a protest movement against the euro currency, recently won 25 percent of the vote in German state elections in March.

The huge change in demographic is providing a full frontal assault on Germany’s consensus-driven politics. This is the same in France where the National Front polled 27 per cent of the national vote in the initial round. Greece, Sweden, Hungary and Poland have all made in-roads towards far-right politics. ‘Brexit’ was largely fought on the grounds of immigration. But no-where has yet seen the dramatic rise of the right than from Austria where in May’s runoff election, the Nationalist Freedom Party won 49.7 percent of the vote, headed up by Norbert Hofer, narrowly losing to Alexander Van der Bellen, a 72-year-old economics professor and former Green Party leader.

Even then, Austria’s highest court has ordered a re-run due to ‘electoral irregularities’ and the narrow win for the centre ground was anulled. Hofer could still win and usher in the first far-right political party in Europe since the rise of Hitler. All this because immigration is needed, but not wanted.


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