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Europe's population would decline without migrants
Translations available in: English (original) | French | Spanish | Italian | German | Portuguese | Swedish | Russian | Dutch | Arabic


The population of the European Union is avoiding decline mainly thanks to immigration from other parts of the world, as native Europeans have stopped making as many babies.

While anti-immigrant feeling is on the rise both amongst European politicians and the wider public, ironically, the union's population would soon go into decline without the immigrants that arrive here, according to fresh figures from the EU's statistics office, Eurostat.

The EU's total population was up 0.48 percent last year - some 2.39 million people, reaching 497.5 million inhabitants, Eurostat said on Tuesday (23 September). The union is now getting very close to the ‘500 million' Europeans rounded-up number widely quoted by Brussels public figures.

But some 80 percent of this growth comes from immigration, and only a fifth from so-called natural change, meaning the increase of births over deaths.

This is a result of steadily declining fertility rates amongst native-born Europeans. According to Eurostat, in 2007, there was an average of just 10.6 births for every 1000 citizens, totalling 5.3 million registered births in the union last year, an increase of 0.8 percent.

Nine countries had more deaths than births - Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal and Romania.

In only France, the UK and the Netherlands was natural change the main driver of population growth.

Meanwhile. there was a net increase in immigration of 16.4 percent, or 1.9 million new folks coming to the EU to build a new life.

Indeed, in 1992, migration surpassed natural change for the first time as the leading driver of European population growth.

The statistics office says that within a few years, if fertility rates continue to decline, the EU as a whole will see negative natural growth. Accelerating this, in the coming decades, there will be a sharp drop as an aging baby-boomers begin to die.

The role of immigrants in maintaining Europe's population is larger even than these figures suggest, says Eurostat, as once they become established in their new countries, they also contribute to the natural change in population by having more children on average than native-born Europeans.

Beyond the EU's borders, the population of Europe as a whole (defined by Eurostat as the members of the Council of Europe plus Belarus and the Kosovo territory) increased by 2.9 million last year to 822 million individuals, a growth rate of 3.5 percent.

Similar to within the EU, immigration across Europe makes up the bulk of this increase, contributing 76 percent of the change.


Today @ 09:28 CET

September 24, 2008 | 3:33 PM Comments  {num} comments

Russian Navy deploys ships to Venezuela
Related to country: Russia

Translations available in: English (original) | French | Spanish | Italian | German | Portuguese | Swedish | Russian | Dutch | Arabic

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik) - A Russian Navy squadron set off for Venezuela Monday in a deployment of Russian military power to the Western Hemisphere unprecedented since the Cold War.

During the Cold War, Latin America became an ideological battleground between the Soviet Union and the United States.

The Kremlin has recently moved to intensify contacts with Venezuela, Cuba and other Latin American nations amid strained relations with Washington after last month's conflict between Russia and Georgia.

The squadron comprising the Russian Northern Fleet's Pyotr Veliky (Peter the Great) battle cruiser and the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) ship Admiral Chabanenko will participate in exercises off the Venezuelan coast.

In the past, the world's major powers would demonstrate their naval capabilities in various regions, hinting ominously that they could disrupt enemy lines of communication in case of conflict.

Gunboats and other small warships, rather than capital warships, were an effective instrument for accomplishing such objectives.

However, the Pyotr Veliky and the Admiral Chabanenko are the Russian Navy's newest capital ships. Moscow's decision to send them to Venezuela implies that both warships can show their flags and defend them.

Military analysts often stress that the Russian Navy is vastly outnumbered by the U.S. Navy and those of NATO countries, and that Russian warships would be unable to score any impressive results.

Although the U.S. Navy is a powerful fighting force, it cannot be strong everywhere. The arrival of two capital Russian warships in the Caribbean Sea, traditionally a U.S. sphere of influence, will be a nasty surprise to Washington, compelling it to devote more attention to regional defenses.

The Pyotr Veliky displaces 25,000 metric tons and carries 20 P-700 Granit (SS-N-19 Shipwreck) supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles that can destroy ships of any class. The Russian battle cruiser is also heavily armed for ASW and air-defense missions; such weaponry also enhances its combat survivability.

The Admiral Chabanenko, which carries eight P-270 Moskit (SS-N-22 Sunburn) anti-ship missiles and surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, is intended to locate and destroy enemy submarines.

Both warships can support each other and have the capability to inflict major losses on any adversary before they are outgunned.

The Russian squadron's objectives, rather than its capabilities, are a high-priority issue. The Kremlin has recently used the Navy during the peace enforcement operation in Georgia and now wants to display its naval might at America's doorstep.

Nevertheless, the Russian Navy's state will not improve as a result of Moscow's modified policies. Hopefully, the government will soon start restoring and rearming the Navy because any show of strength will otherwise prove ineffective.

16:59 | 23/ 09/ 2008

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

September 23, 2008 | 1:40 PM Comments  {num} comments

The financial Ike
Translations available in: English (original) | French | Spanish | Italian | German | Portuguese | Swedish | Russian | Dutch | Arabic

Reflections of Fidel:

TODAY’S afternoon news waste nothing:

"Bush cancelled all his activities. He intended to travel to Alabama and Florida to participate in campaign fundraising events."

"He said on Thursday that he was worried about the financial markets and the U.S. economy…"

"Markets have plummeted," the cables continue to report. "The government has seen itself forced to nationalize the giant insurance company American International Group (AIG), and the Federal Reserve, in a coordinated action with other central banks, has injected $180 billion into the financial markets."

"The president reaffirmed that his government is taking aggressive and extraordinary measures ‘to appease the markets.’"

"Authorities all over Asia are trying to stop their currencies, stock markets and securities from falling to prevent the Wall Street crisis from affecting the region."

"President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil today blamed the international financial crisis on speculation, and admitted he was worried about the danger of a possible recession in the United States.

"He also sympathized with the situation of major banks in the United States which, in the past, have criticized Brazil and other emerging countries, and called into question the international financial system.

"He said, ‘There is a crisis in the United States, a very big crisis that has extraordinarily shaken up the largest economy in the world.’

"‘It is not that we are not worried. The United States is the world’s largest economy and its largest importer.’

He concluded by saying, "It is with a certain degree of sadness that I see how important banks, very important banks that were always giving advice about Brazil and about what we should or should not do are now broke or have declared bankruptcy."

The hurricane winds of the financial Ike are also threatening all of the world’s "provinces." The weather forecast is uncertain; it’s been talked about for weeks, and gusts of more than 200 kilometers per hour are now being felt. As Rubiera would say, its [the hurricane’s] devastating power is increasing geometrically from one category to the next.

It is very difficult to closely follow and understand the fabulous figures of fresh money that are being injected into the global economy. They are huge doses of paper money, which are inevitably leading to a decline in its value and purchasing power.

Higher prices are inevitable in consumer societies and disastrous for emerging countries, as Lula da Silva said. If the largest importer in the world stops importing, this will impact on the rest; if it goes out to compete, this will impact on other producers.

The big banks of the developed countries are imitating and trying to coordinate with the banks of the United States; if the U.S. banks go broke, theirs will too, and they will devour each other.

Fiscal paradises are prospering; people are suffering. Is this how humanity’s well-being can be guaranteed?

Fidel Castro Ruz

September 18, 2008

8:46 p.m.

September 21, 2008 | 10:08 AM Comments  {num} comments

The same lie twice over
Related to country: Cuba

Translations available in: English (original) | French | Spanish | Italian | German | Portuguese | Swedish | Russian | Dutch | Arabic

Reflections of Fidel:

READING the cables will suffice.

In the reflection I wrote the day before yesterday I stated that Cuba would not accept any donation from the government that is blockading us and that, in the Verbal Note handed over to the U.S. Interests Section, we had requested authorization so that U.S. companies could sell us construction materials; that same Note made no reference whatsoever to foodstuffs. There was an additional request for trade in those materials to take place under normal conditions, including credits, something that is only logical considering that, for eight years, our country has been paying in cash for the few commodities that U.S. companies are authorized to export to Cuba.

Such a request was all the more justified in the face of the emergency situation created as a result of the ravages of the hurricanes.

It was precisely George W. Bush who, after Hurricane Michelle violently lashed the island on November 4, 2001, authorized the sale of agricultural produce to Cuba, which included lumber as a product derived from silviculture, which is highly developed in that nation. He did not insist on any in situ inspection when, as is currently the case, we responded that we had already completed such an inspection. In the main, we imported foodstuffs. Within a few weeks we had imported $4.4 million dollars worth, once all the relevant procedures were rapidly finalized.

In 2002, we purchased $173.6 million in goods; in 2003, $327 million; in 2004, $434.1 million; in 2005, $473 million; in 2006, $483.3 million; in 2007, $515.8 million, and during the first semester of 2008, $425 million. As can be seen, the figures have increased year by year, and this year, after the devastating impact caused by two hurricanes, it is possible that the country would have to import a much higher volume from the United States alone, especially taking into account that prices have risen significantly and the colossal blow that has been dealt to agriculture.

The government of that country informed world public opinion that it had authorized the sale of foodstuffs and lumber, as if this was a new decision related to the two hurricanes, Gustav and Ike. A total and complete joke.

What did the State Department spokesperson say?

On Sunday, September 14 he declared that, as soon as Hurricane Gustav reached Cuba, the United States authorized $250 million in agricultural sales to the island, including lumber. Prior to that, the U.S. secretary of commerce had ruled out any commercial credits.

Again on September 16, the State Department announced that the United States had authorized some licenses for food aid after the disaster caused by the two hurricanes, and that those agricultural licenses included "lumber, an important material for reconstruction."

In addition to the lies, what were the arguments with which they tried to justify the prohibition on U.S. companies facilitating normal trade credits to Cuba? "The government of the United States has to respect Congress laws." One would suppose that the blockade is a congressional law by virtue of a perfidious Platt Amendment-type provision. The president of the United States can declare war without consulting Congress – something unheard of in the history of that country – but cannot, however, authorize a U.S. company to trade with Cuba under normal conditions.

In the message sent to Hugo Chávez, president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, which described some of the experiences of our Revolution, I wrote that, due to the "ruthless and absolute economic blockade, it is not possible to purchase one single kilogram of food. This changed slightly 30 years later, due to pressure exerted by farmers, but this policy was accompanied by leonine financial and monetary obstacles." The Venezuelan revolutionary leader partially disclosed that message himself.

Everything is obvious and clear.

In resorting to the same lie twice over, the State Department has had no qualms over deceiving world public opinion, and it is doing so in a cynical manner.

Fidel Castro Ruz
September 18, 2008
12:20 p.m.

September 20, 2008 | 11:00 AM Comments  {num} comments

Hydrocarbons - the formula of war
Translations available in: English (original) | French | Spanish | Italian | German | Portuguese | Swedish | Russian | Dutch | Arabic

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik) - Hydrocarbon prices, new nuclear and hydro-power plants, oil blackmail - energy is now one of the central issues discussed in the world. Even the defense sector is not immune: many analysts tend to view most 20th century wars as wars for energy. The role and significance of energy resources and the part energy plays in wars is worth examining.

As industrial society forges ahead, energy and energy resources play a more significant role in the affairs of nations. Eventually, a nation reaches a point at which accessible energy resources become vital for its existence, and any shortage in these resources may result in serious consequences for its economy. Control over energy production was not the ultimate goal for Germany, Italy or Japan - the aggressor countries in World War II - but it was one of the overriding objectives.

The significance of that objective can be understood from the objectives set by the armed forces of the three countries. For Germany and Italy, one of the aims of the 1942 campaign was to capture the oil resources in the Caucasus (on the Soviet-German front) and on the Arabian peninsula (on the African front). This was the result of a severe fuel shortage experienced by both, which could not be met either by oil fields at Ploesti in Romania or synthetic gasoline plants in Germany. For Japan, the embargo placed on oil in South East Asia triggered a war for vital resources.

Throughout the war, oil fields, coal mines, tankers, oil storage facilities, fuel-filled freight trains, and power plants were regarded as targets of the utmost importance. For the submarines of all warring nations, tankers, for example, ranked after aircraft carriers and battleships, while oil refineries, synthetic fuel factories and power plants in Hitler's Germany were prime targets for Allied bombers.

The situation did not change much after the war. Oil-bearing regions have become the scene of rivalry between leading nations of the world which rushed to seek allies with the holders of the black stuff. The attractiveness of oil among other energy resources is easy to explain: it is a very calorie-rich fuel (a small amount yields a large volume of energy), its production, transportation and storage are simpler than that of other resources, and it is these advantages that have ultimately led oil and petroleum products to become the main resource of our machine-based civilization. Soon natural gas joined oil to become a near ideal source of energy for thermal power plants.

The history of Middle East conflicts bears excellent testimony to the role of oil. The interests of the great powers have turned the region into a flaming bonfire of conflicts, with "the oil barrel of the planet" being the main prize. There used to be an equally sharp debate about Vietnam, whose economic zone (in the sea) includes large stocks of hydrocarbon reserves. The debate still continues - leading South East Asian countries are hotly vying for oil-rich parts of the shelf but have avoided an open clash.

Within the next few years, the Arctic is likely to become another area of conflict in the drive for energy. Global warming, which is opening up long-term access to the Arctic shelf, combined with large proven hydrocarbon resources, is bound to make the leading world powers challenge neighbors' rights to some parts of the shelf.

Meanwhile, energy resources have turned from an end into the means to an end. If before World War II, restricted access to oil meant no more than slow development (coal, peat and wood were more important), now such a restriction spells an economic collapse for a large state, involving stoppage of transportation, outage of industry and, especially during wintertime, a heavy toll of life and the evacuation of megacities.

Awareness of these factors lends to one's understanding as to why the European countries worry over fuel supplies from Russia. The hydrocarbons from the North Sea, the Persian Gulf and elsewhere are running out and cannot meet the needs of the European economy. Such interdependence of the sides works well in bringing them closer together and softening their stance over disputes - regardless of the fine words in which politicians and diplomats couch the description of the process.

Energy is not only a great divider, it is also a gap bridger.


14:35 | 19/ 09/ 2008
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

September 19, 2008 | 12:42 PM Comments  {num} comments

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