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Wang
28-01-06, 00:48
Turning out EU's lights

By MARTIN WALKER
UPI Editor

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- While the stunning election victory of Hamas in Palestine has dominated the world's attention, another important bombshell has exploded in Berlin, where it now seems that a majority of Germans now see the European Union as the problem, rather than as any kind of solution.

The Berliner Zeitung newspaper has obtained a leak of the latest Eurobarometer opinion poll, organized by the EU's own Commission, that shows a large majority of the 1,534 Germans polled blaming the EU for economic and social problems. And 84 percent of Germans polled fear that German jobs are likely to be lost to EU countries where labor costs are lower.

The poll also showed that one in two Germans feared that further European integration, for example the inclusion of Turkey and/or Ukraine into the 25-member EU, could result in an economic crisis. As a result, 59 percent of those polls said that no further enlargement should take place in the foreseeable future.

Almost two-thirds of those polled, 64 percent, said declining social standards and welfare and pension benefits were a serious problem for Germany, and while they did not blame the EU specifically, they said that EU membership was "part of the negative development" making German life less agreeable.

Germany, with the largest economy and biggest population in the EU, has traditionally been the political and commercial locomotive of European integration, the country that usually bankrolled the complex deals reached to resolve the EU's internal crises. But Germany's sluggish economic growth and high unemployment over the past decade as the country has grappled with the challenge of integrating the former East Germany have tested this unique German role.

Many of the EU's current difficulties can be attributed to this German weakness, and the vacuum of European leadership in policy and planning that resulted. And while Germany's new Chancellor, Angela Merkel, seems ready to resume that role of German leadership and is currently winning high approval ratings from German voters, the broader unpopularity of the EU among Germans and their doubts about further enlargement will limit her room to maneuver on the EU stage.

This leak of the Eurobarometer poll was echoed by two further unhappy developments for the EU. First, a survey of members of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce published by Die Welt newspaper found 76 percent of the members said that the EU "interferes too much into business."

German businessmen are not against the EU in principle. Indeed, the poll showed that a majority of 58 percent wanted harmonized environmental rules across Europe and also preferred a single Europe-wide tax system - a development that key nation states like Britain adamantly oppose. But the image of the EU as bureaucratic and over-interfering in business is damaging for the EU, an organization whose prime boast is that its single market has helped build European prosperity.

Another damaging development was the claim this week by Frits Bolkestein, the former EU Commissioner for the internal market, that the EU's new single currency, the euro, may not survive in the long term. In a speech to Dutch businessmen in London Wednesday Bolkestein warned that the euro would face a dramatic test in about ten years time when the pension crisis hits Europe "ruthlessly," with a swelling number of baby-boomers reaching retirement while too few young workers are available to pay the taxes needed to service the pensions.

Important states like Italy, the third largest economy in the Eurozone, are wholly unprepared for this crisis, Bolkestein warned.

These states "will be forced by political pressure to borrow more and increase their budget deficit, with consequences for interest rates and inflation," he said. And all other countries using the euro would be affected by the consequent deficits and pressure on the currency, he added.

"The real test for the euro is not now, but in ten years time," Bolkestein went on. "Therefore, in my view the long-term chances of survival of the euro should be questioned."

This looming pensions crisis is one of the arguments used by opponents of the euro in Britain, Sweden and Denmark against their countries joining the single currency. They claim that the choice would be between bailing out high deficit states like Italy, or cutting Italy loose from the rest of the eurozone in order to stave off a currency crisis.

A further blow for the EU came this week when another former Commissioner, Austria's Franz Fischler, warned that the EU risked becoming "the first empire in history to go down before it was founded."

Fischler, the veteran Agriculture Commissioner throughout the 1990s, was launching his new book, 'Europe: The Unwanted State," on the margins of a conference convened in Salzburg by the Austrian government to launch "a new political and cultural debate" to rethink what the EU is and what it should become. Austria, the current holder of the rotating Presidency of the EU, launched the conference to coincide with the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth, and to tackle the crisis of confidence that has gripped the EU since Dutch and French voters rejected the draft new EU constitution their referendums last year.

Any restoration of confidence in the EU will depend heavily on German economic recovery, and there are strong indications that this may be coming. Germany's business confidence index reached a 6-year high this week, with signs of increasing productivity, good profits and renewed investment.

But against the good economic news came a further blow this week to German self-confidence: new demographic figures showed that Germany had the world's highest proportion of childless women. This underlines the coming pension problem that Bolkestein had stressed. The statistics, collected by the EU in 2005, found that thirty per cent of German women have not had children, and women graduates were even less likely to breed, with 40 percent of them having no children.

Unless the birth rate recovered and began to grow again, as it is doing in Britain, Sweden and France, Germany would have to "turn out the lights," commented the country's Minister for Families, Ursula von der Leyen.


Here is the article (http://www.upi.com/InternationalIntelligence/view.php?StoryID=20060127-105125-9798r)


Normally I don't indulge myself much in European politics, but I stumbled upon this interesting article. What do you think about this?

Maciamo
28-01-06, 12:10
Eurobarometer opinion poll, organized by the EU's own Commission, that shows a large majority of the 1,534 Germans polled blaming the EU for economic and social problems. And 84 percent of Germans polled fear that German jobs are likely to be lost to EU countries where labor costs are lower.

This would happen even without the EU. It is almost completely unrelated. The real cause is globalisation and the fact that companies relocalise where labour cost is cheaper, even if it is outside their continent.


The poll also showed that one in two Germans feared that further European integration, for example the inclusion of Turkey and/or Ukraine into the 25-member EU, could result in an economic crisis. As a result, 59 percent of those polls said that no further enlargement should take place in the foreseeable future.

So far, we are fairly sure that Turkey's accession won't take place within the next 10 years. Ukraine is not even a candidate country yet. Croatia should join before either countries, and such a small country won't affect much the EU as a whole.



Almost two-thirds of those polled, 64 percent, said declining social standards and welfare and pension benefits were a serious problem for Germany, and while they did not blame the EU specifically, they said that EU membership was "part of the negative development" making German life less agreeable.

People always have to find a scapegoat when things go wrong. Germany's economy is the 2nd most sluggish among the 25 EU countries after Italy's. More than half the EU countries have a GDP growth higher than the USA. It would be easy to say that Germany causes the EU's problems and average sluggish growth, not the opposite. But the true reason for that is not even economic but demographic. Germany and Italy are the only two EU countries where the population is shrinking rather than growing. Forcedly, it has repurcussion on the total GDP growth. It means that even at 0% growth, as the population decreases, the GDP per capita would still be growing.

Wang
28-01-06, 13:38
Germany and Italy are the only two EU countries where the population is shrinking rather than growing.
There are more European countries where the population is or will be declining.

Alarming figures

The Central and Eastern European countries have the lowest fertility rates, just about 1.2, the cost of having children being a determining factor.
Traditionally family oriented South European countries, such as Spain, Italy and Greece have very low birth rates, around 1.25 births per woman, while at the same time the average age is increasing dramatically. The United Kingdom and Scandinavian countries seem to do better with around 1.7. Ireland and France are the European champions in fertility rates, although below the replacement level. In France the total fertility rate is 1.87. This rate is probably related to pro-natal governmental measures, such as incentives given to large families. Ireland has the highest rate in Europe, 1.98, a score linked to the strong family values of Irish people and the influence of the Catholic Church.

Some of the main reasons of the fall in fertility levels in Europe are high unemployment rates, people pursuing longer studies, the cost of life and housing, and the lack of adequate child-care provisions. Most of the Europeans in Southern and Western Europe leave the parental home at the age of 30. Forming a family later in life is related to having fewer children. Low fertility is also associated with the disadvantages mother employees face in the workplace.

The social patterns and people's expectations have changed over the years. The new generations of Europeans are less willing to renounce their leisure activities and conveniences to raise children. Moreover, contraception and abortion are more easily accessible and divorce rates keep on growing.

Babies and transatlantic relations

The total fertility rate in the United States is much higher in comparison to Europe. It is estimated around 2.07. Demographers attribute this rate to greater immigration and to the heterogeneity of the American society. It is also linked to different patterns of life or to more confidence for the future in comparison to Europeans. While Europe's population is ageing and declining, the US population is getting younger, thus more competitive and dynamic, and it is significantly growing. There is a possibility for the US to surpass Europe in population by 2040. These estimations provoke serious worries about the EU's long term economic and political position in the world.


http://www.newropeans-magazine.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1336&Itemid=88



In Spain and Sweden, Germany and Greece, the total fertility rate -- or the average number of children that a woman, based on current indicators, is expected to give birth to -- was 1.4 or lower last year, according to the World Health Organization.

In no West European country did the rate reach 2.1 -- the marker that, demographers say, means an exact replenishment of the population. By contrast, the United States had a 2.0 rate, which demographers attribute to greater immigration.

While that trend has been evident for many years, its slow-building consequences are now coming into starker relief, as more West European countries acknowledge and take new steps to address the specter of sharply winnowed and less competitive work forces, surfeits of retirees and pension systems that will need to be cut back deeply.

In Italy, where the fertility rate last year was 1.2, according to the health organization, Labor Minister Roberto Maroni has announced that the cost of the state pension system will need to be reduced. Mr. Maroni said the government would offer incentives, which he did not specify, to keep people at work past the minimum retirement age of 57.

The United Nations recently published data suggesting that the population of Spain could decline to about 31.3 million in 2050 from about 39.9 million now. According to the World Health Organization, Spain's fertility rate last year was 1.1, the lowest in Western Europe.

Many provinces in Italy's wealthy, well-educated north have rates well below that.

The rate in the province of Ferrara, which includes the city of Ferrara, has been under 0.9 for each of the years since 1986 that Italy's National Institute of Statistics kept track.

Ferrara officials talk about the dearth of young children in the streets, the closing of elementary schools over the last decade and a pervasive sense that something is missing.

''There's a lack of energy,'' Deputy Mayor Tiziano Tagliani said in a recent interview here. ''The society is colder without children.''

Nationwide, Italy's fertility rate has been so low for so long -- under 1.5 since 1984 -- that the country offers an especially good glimpse into the dimensions and dynamics of the trend.

For example, Italy now has the world's oldest population. The percentage of people 60 or older is 25, compared with 16 percent in the United States, according to the population division of the United Nations.

The division's experts project that by 2050, if current trends hold, 42 percent of Italy's population will be 60 or older.

Antonio Golini, a professor of demographics at the University of Rome, Sapienza, said that would be ''unsustainable, from a cultural and even psychological point of view.''

That sense of alarm was reflected in Pope John Paul II's first-ever address to the Italian Parliament in November. The pope said ''the crisis of the birthrate'' in Italy was a ''grave threat that bears upon the future of this country.''


http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9C06EFDA103CF935A15751C1A9649C8B63



The simplest way to see the failure of the extended welfare state is to look at the demography of Western Europe. The demographic implosion of Europe has both economic and spiritual causes. And the demographic problem illustrates the most basic flaw of the system: It is not sustainable. The modern welfare state or social assistance state can not replenish itself because it has marginalized the family.

The raw demographic facts are these: Europeans are not having enough babies to replace themselves. The fertility rates in the western industrialized countries are well below the replacement rate of 2.1 babies per woman. For the European Union as a whole, the estimated 2005 fertility rate was 1.47 babies per woman. In some countries, the rate is even lower. However, in France, approximately one birth in three is to a Muslim family. Stripped of the Muslim influence, the fertility rate of the native-born or traditionally European French would be 1.2, similar to the rates in Italy and Spain.


http://www.acton.org/ppolicy/comment/article.php?id=307

Duo
29-01-06, 04:49
The fertility rate has been a growing problem ever since before the recent expansion of the EU and introduction of the Euro. Sweden and Norway are not full EU members yet, btw. I don't think the rate of infant births in the Balkans and Eastern Europe is that bad. Frankly, southeastern europe is good source for human resources for the lacking western european side. EU can draw people from there after newly joined EU members states have been squized dry.. which doesn't seem likely in the near future.


Furthermore, about America having more infants, does this also include teenage pregnancy? Europe has a much lower teenage pregnancy so that also adds to that difference in rates.


The problem of the economy is not one that is cause of the EU enlargment and introduction of the single currency. Politicians to readily begin to use the EU and Brussels as reason for this just so they can save their own seat in parliament. Fact are that the EU has actually a protective stand on trading for its member nations and that is only beneficial to the economy. The problem of outsourcing would happen in any case, with or without the EU. I think that America's recent economical decline has also affected things over here, the de-evalution of the dollar has caused Americans to buy less European goods and the unregulated influx of chinese goods has not helped things either. We must not simply swing widly at Brussels and blame it all on the Eurocrats.


Some people are not even giving the EU a fair chance. With only 25 states integrated so far, and entering the 6th year now of using the single currency people are begining to judge to quickly. In economics there is always a ascending and descending, and there has always been. Why is it always hear negative things only about the EU? What about the good aspects? We are all quick to say oh look problem problem and dont even bother to look deep enough for the cause and just blame it on the EU instead of trying to understand how things evolved the way they did.

Wang i know you're not a Euro favorable person... and this shows because from your original point on the problematic german economy you went on to describe the bad infancy rates, as if that was was caused by Eurocrats here in Brussels limiting the number of children and telling people to stop procreating. This is a modern problem that needs a moder solution and we can't achieve that by associating such independent problems by associating them with the EU advancement in Europe.

Wang
30-01-06, 13:28
Wang i know you're not a Euro favorable person... and this shows because from your original point on the problematic german economy you went on to describe the bad infancy rates, as if that was was caused by Eurocrats here in Brussels limiting the number of children and telling people to stop procreating. This is a modern problem that needs a moder solution and we can't achieve that by associating such independent problems by associating them with the EU advancement in Europe.

I'm not against the EU but thought the first article is interesting because it has some important figures such as Franz Fischler and Frits Bolkestein warn about these problems. The other articles I posted afterwards were to back up what I said.

Indeed low child birth rates are a big problem in most developed nations but the USA has solved this with massive immigration which most countries in the EU don't want apparently because most of these immigrants would come from North-Africa and the Middle East.

It's also interesting that in France, approximately one birth in three is to a Muslim family. I have no idea what the percentage of indigenous European's birth rates compared to non indigenous peoples are in the developed European states. I think in the long term these ethnic changes will change the societies too.

Anyway we shall see what will happen with the Euro in about 10 years time when the pension crisis hits Europe.