Monthly Archives: August 2008

The demographic forecasts contained in a new report from Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical agency, are worth a good look. Everyone knows the EU’s rapidly ageing population and shrinking workforce are making its task of promoting prosperity and job growth ever more difficult. But we don’t often see the hard numbers behind the general trend.

What I found most striking were the predictions for the big EU-6. In terms of their current populations, these are Germany (82.2m people), France (61.9m), the UK (61.3m), Italy (59.5m), Spain (45.3m) and Poland (38.1m). 

Among the lessons to be drawn from the Russian-Georgian war is that the next flashpoint between the European Union and Russia may turn out to be Ukraine. There is a particular risk of trouble over Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula where ethnic Russians are in the majority and where Russia’s Black Sea fleet has a 20-year lease on bases that is due to expire in 2017.

To help avert a crisis in Ukraine, the EU badly needs to come up with a convincing strategy for rescuing the country from the geopolitical no man’s land in which it has languished since the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991. Russia’s military intervention in Georgia underscores the Kremlin’s determination to rebuild its influence in former Soviet republics on its western and southern borders. Ukraine – with 46m people and a culture and history intimately connected to that of Russia – is the biggest prize of them all.