Category Archives: Europe

Chart of the day: Greek demographic implosion

From the Hellenic Statistical Authority, Greek deaths are rising [magenta] as births [dark blue] fall, declining even more dramatically with the onset of the Great Recession:blog-greece

Chart of the day: European Union jobless rates


From Eurostat:

Among the Member States, the lowest unemployment rates in August 2016 were recorded in the Czech Republic (3.9%) and Germany (4.2%). The highest unemployment rates were observed in Greece (23.4% in June 2016) and Spain (19.5%).

Compared with a year ago, the unemployment rate in August 2016 fell in twenty-four Member States, remained stable in Denmark, while it increased in Estonia (from 5.3% to 6.8% between July 2015 and July 2016), Austria (from 5.7% to 6.2%) and Belgium (from 8.0% to 8.2%). The largest decreases were registered in Croatia (from 16.6% to 12.9%) and Cyprus (from 14.7% to 12.1%).

In August 2016, the unemployment rate in the United States was 4.9%, stable compared to July 2016 and down from 5.1% in August 2015.

Youth unemployment

In August 2016, 4.199 million young persons (under 25) were unemployed in the EU28, of whom 2.927 million were in the euro area. Compared with August 2015, youth unemployment decreased by 381,000 in the EU28 and by 209,000 in the euro area. In August 2016, the youth unemployment rate was 18.6% in the EU28 and 20.7% in the euro area, compared with 20.1% and 22.3% respectively in August 2015. In August 2016, the lowest rate was observed in
Germany (6.9%), and the highest were recorded in Greece (47.7% in June 2016), Spain (43.2%) and Italy (38.8%).

Troikarchs steal still more of the Greek commons

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza party swept into power last year with a promise to end the austerity measures imposed on Greece by the financial overlords of the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank.

Their vow has provd as hollow as the political vows of countless other politicians, and in the two years since, Greece has sliced pensions and health care to pay the banksters, as the country continues to record massive unemployment and deepening misery.

And now Tsipras has done it again, surrendering to their latest demands with yet another round of cuts and selloffs of the national commons, although many of his own party voted in opposition.

From Deutsche Welle:

The reforms were passed by a narrow 152-141 majority vote in Greece’s 300-seat parliament, after 152 parliamentary members of the ruling Syriza-Independent Greeks coalition approved the reform bill. Only one member of the coalition voted against the bill, along with all opposition members.

The reforms will see public assets transferred to a new asset fund created by Greece’s creditors. Assets include airports and motorways, as well as water and electricity utilities. The holding company groups together these state entities with the country’s privatization agency, the bank stability fund and state real estate. It will be led by an official chosen by Greece’s creditors, although Greece’s Finance Ministry will retain overall control.

The reforms sparked significant backlash among demonstrators and public sector workers.

Ahead of the vote, protestors outside of the parliament in Athens chanted, “Next you’ll sell the Acropolis!”

Greece’s public sector union criticized the reforms, saying that the transfer of public assets paved the way for a fire-sale to private investors. “Health, education, electricity and water are not commodities. They belong to the people,” the union said in a statement.

Workers at Greece’s public water utility companies in Athens and Thessaloniki walked out on Tuesday to protest the reforms. “They are handing over the nation’s wealth and sovereignty,” George Sinioris, head of the water company workers association said.

Map of the day: Europe’s multilingual children

Way back in our college days, one of our profs posed a series of questions:

What adjective do you use to describe a person who speaks three languages?

Several voices replied, correctly, Trilingual?

What do you call a person who speaks two languages?

More voices responded, Bilingual.

And then the kicker:

What do you call a person who speaks just one language?

Before we could respond, he provided the answer:

An American.

Elsewhere, things are different:


From Eurostat:

In 2014, more than 18 million primary school pupils (or 84% of all the pupils at this level) in the European Union (EU) were studying at least one foreign language, including nearly 1 million (around 5%) studying two foreign languages or more. At primary level, English was by far the most popular language, studied by over 17 million pupils.

The dominance of English is confirmed at the lower secondary level (pupils aged around 11-15 depending on the national educational system) with over 17 million pupils in the EU learning English as a foreign language (97% of all the pupils at this level) in 2014. French (5 million or 34% of the relevant population) came second, followed by German (3 million or 23%), Spanish (2 million or 13%), Russian (0.5 million or 3%) and Italian (0.2 million or 1%).

On the occasion of the European Day of Languages, celebrated each year on 26 September, Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, publishes data on language learning at school. Currently there are 24 official languages recognised within the EU. In addition there are regional languages, minority languages, and languages spoken by migrant populations. It should also be noted that several EU Member States have more than one official language.

While the United Kingdom isn’t listed in the Eurostat figures, thanks to the U.K.’s notorious Brexit, learning a second language is now compulsory in primary schools in Old Blighty.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., to quote from a 10 May 2015 report in the Atlantic,   Less than 1 percent of American adults today are proficient in a foreign language that they studied in a U.S. classroom.

Chart of the day II: EU asylum seekers increase


From Eurostat, which reports:

During the second quarter of 2016 (from April to June 2016), 305,700 first-time asylum seekers applied for international protection in the Member States of the European Union (EU), up by 6% compared with the first quarter of 2016 (when 287,100 first-time applicants were registered).

With nearly 90,500 first-time applicants between April and June 2016, Syrians remained the main citizenship of people seeking international protection in the EU Member States, ahead of Afghans (50,300 first time applicants) and Iraqis (34,300).

These quarterly data on asylum in the EU come from a report issued by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

They represent the three main citizenships of first-time asylum applicants in the EU Member States over the second quarter 2016, accounting for almost 60% of all first time applicants.

Six in ten applied for asylum in Germany

During the second quarter 2016, the highest number of first-time applicants was registered in Germany (with almost 187,000 first time applicants, or 61% of total first time applicants in the EU Member States), followed by Italy (27,000, or 9%), France (17,800, or 6%), Hungary (14,900, or 5%) and Greece (12,000, or 4%).

Among those Member States with high numbers of asylum seekers, numbers of first time applicants in the second quarter 2016 more than doubled compared with the previous quarter in Greece (+132 %) as well as in Hungary (+118%), and rose notably in Poland (+65%) and Spain (+37%). In contrast, decreases were recorded in particular in the Nordic Member States — Denmark (-59%), Finland (-53%) and Sweden (-42%) — as well as in the Netherlands (-47%), Belgium (-44%) and Austria (-22%).

Map of the day: Far-Right populism in Europe

From Business Insider, a map of countries where far-Right populist parties have made significant gains in the last two years:

And from RT, a report on another major gain for Germany’s most prominent anti-immigrant populist party:

Anti-migrant AfD makes Berlin breakthrough, as Merkel’s CDU slumps

Program notes:

Germany’s anti-Islamization and Eurosceptic AfD entered its tenth state assembly, as voters deserted the mainstream parties in the nation’s capital. But a left-leaning coalition is likely to take control of the city.

From Deutsche Welle, Germany’s prime minister reacts to the Berlin vote:

In her first news conference after her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) recorded its worst-ever showing in a Berlin election, Merkel took partial responsibility for that defeat while again blaming opposition to her refugee policies on communication shortcomings.

“I’m the party chairwoman, and I’m not going to duck responsibility,” Merkel told reporters. “If one of the reasons for the CDU’s poor showing is that the direction, goal and conviction behind our refugee policy haven’t been explained well enough, I’ll endeavor to rectify that.”

Merkel admitted that some Germans may have objected to her declaration, “We’ll get it done,” when faced with hundreds of thousands of refugees and said it wasn’t meant to imply that it would be easy to deal with the influx. She also said Germany lacked sufficient practice integrating immigrants.

“It can’t be done quickly, among other things because we didn’t do everything correctly in past years,” Merkel said. “We weren’t exactly world champions in integration, and we waited too long before we addressed the refugee issue. We have to get better — I do as well.”

Merkel said Germany had placed too much faith in agreements to share refugees among European nations.

Monsanto buys Bayer; Big Agra consolidates

In a move that should chill the hearts of farmers across the globe, the two leading manufacturers of pesticides and herbicides, as well as dozens of GMO crops, are merging, with German-based Bayer taking over the U.S. giant Monsanto.

The takeover is the largest corporate consolidation of the year, and is certain to face critical scrutiny from governments and NGOs.

From Deutsche Welle:

After four months of public negotiations, US seed and weedkiller maker Monsanto agreed on Wednesday to be bought by German drug and farm chemical company Bayer.

The $128-a-share deal, up from Bayer’s previous offer of $127.50 a share, has emerged as the signature deal in a consolidation race that has roiled the agribusiness sector in recent years, due to shifting weather patterns, intense competition in grain exports and a souring global farm economy.

“Bayer’s competitors are merging, so not doing this deal would mean having a competitive disadvantage,” said fund manager Markus Manns of Union Investment, one of Bayer’s top 12 investors.

Grain prices are hovering near their lowest levels in years amid a global supply glut, and farm incomes have plunged.

“The combination with Monsanto represents the kind of revolutionary approach to agriculture that will be needed to sustainably feed the world,” Bayer chief executive Werner Baumann told investors in a conference call.

As Brad Plummer notes in a critical commentary for Vox:

That would put the new firm in a commanding position vis-à-vis our food supply. Which is why European Union regulators and the US Department of Justice are likely to scrutinize this deal more closely than usual, to make sure it doesn’t create an all-consuming monopoly that can crank up prices on farmers and shoppers. The deal comes amid a blurry rush of agribusiness consolidation in recent months, with ChemChina-Syngenta and DuPont-Dow Chemical forming their own multibillion-dollar Voltrons.

Some onlookers are fretting that the reduced competition could shrivel up innovation, leading to slower improvements in crop yields. Others worry that these new agricultural giants may have outsize political power. “They’ll have more ability to lobby governments,” says Phil Howard of Michigan State University, who studies consolidation in the food industry. “They’ll have a lot more power to shape policies that benefit themselves at the expense of consumers and farmers.”

It’s a big story, and not just because Monsanto is such a famous (or infamous, if you prefer) brand. The consolidation of the world’s seed, chemical, and fertilizer industries over the past two decades has been astonishing, with potentially large ripple effects for farms and food systems all over the globe.

Back in 1994, the world’s four biggest seed companies controlled just 21 percent of the market. But in the years since, as crop biotechology advanced, companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, Bayer, and Dupont went on a feeding frenzy, buying up smaller companies and their patents. Today, the top four seed companies and top four agrochemical firms command more than half their respective markets.

The merged corporate giant will exercise even more control of the political and regulatory processes of nations across the globe, something that should worry all of us.