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Europe's demographic challenges require local solutions  

​​Regional and local leaders urge EU institutions to work closely together with local governments to counter the territorial and socioeconomic consequences of demographic change

In a debate with Dubravka Šuica, European Commission's Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, Europe's local and regional leaders urged EU institutions to work closely together with local governments to counter the territorial and socioeconomic consequences of demographic change. As population is declining in more than 40% of EU regions, the European Committee of the Regions is calling to integrate the demographic dimension across all EU policies and in the debate on the Future of Europe.

European Commission's recently published Report on the Impact of Demographic Change acknowledges that issues related to demographic change "can often best be addressed at the local and regional level". It also points out the close link between demographic change and the green and digital transition and states that demographic change can lead to “loss of faith in democracy" in areas struggling with declining population. In long term, the shrinking working-age population is likely to put a strain on public budgets and have a negative impact on Europe's geopolitical outlook and position in the world.

Speaking at the European Committee of the Regions' plenary session on 1 July, European Commission Vice-President Dubravka Šuic​a said: “We need to enable regions most affected by demographic change to maintain and improve the quality of life and equip ourselves with the necessary tools to find innovative solutions. We are committed to support and accompany people through change by providing concrete opportunities and ensuring that no one is left behind."

Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the European Committee of the Regions, said: "The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to think and act strategically about demographic change and its long-term severe territorial and socioeconomic impacts. These may even give rise to the development of a 'geography of discontent', fuelling extremist movements and anti-European views in some regions suffering from demographic decline and brain drain, eventually leading to a polarisation in the democratic system. Since regional and local authorities hold many legal competences on demographic matters, our Committee is ready to support the Commission's initiatives tackling this phenomenon and aiming at improving people's lives in EU's regions, cities and villages."

The European Committee of the Regions will outline its proposals on tackling negative effects of demographic change in EU regions in its next plenary session in October. The current draft opinion highlights that Europe's ageing population, low birth rates and the worsening unequal distribution of the population require a coherent policy response at all levels of governance and across all EU policies. It particularly insists on the link between demographic change and the improvement of living conditions everywhere.

Rapporteur János Ádám Karácsony (HU/EPP), Member of Tahitótfalu Local Council, said: "The consequences of demographic change will be felt in the long-term, so it is very important to see what answers had already been found before and what solutions we can find now. When talking about Europe's demography we need to take into account different aspects such as ageing or longer life expectancy, depopulation of rural areas, internal and external migration, brain drain, as well as changing fertility patterns and parenting intentions."

More information:

European Commission published on June 17 the long awaited Report on the Impact of Demographic Change, as well as a series of detailed statistics about the situation in each Member State and further maps and data at EU level. For 2021 the Commission also foresees to put forward a Green Paper on Ageing and a Long-term vision for rural areas. The CoR's Annual Local and Regional Barometer in October 2020 will also provide figures and maps about demography and regions.

The European Union's severe demographic challenges show up in many places in the EU by a combination of three trends: a shrinking population, an ageing population (with an increase in dependency ratio) and a low birth rate. Over 40% of European regions are losing their population and the population of predominantly rural regions is projected to fall by 7.9 million by 2050. At the same time, the EU's population is the oldest in average and by 2070 Europe is expected to account for only 4% of the world's population. Europe's share of global GDP is also continuously shrinking.

The Covid-19 pandemic particularly affected Europe's ageing population, showing the need for good quality, accessible and affordable health and long-term care. The ongoing crisis has also underlined the importance of closing the digital divide and of robust digital infrastructure.

In its resolution on European Commission's working programme 2021, the European Committee of the Regions is calling on the European Commission to present a science-based evaluation of the impact of Covid-19 on demographic change and to ensure that future decisions are tailor-made to the local needs and specificities. It also underlines the role of accessible high quality education and training as a response to demographic change and brain drain and in this regard supports the rollout of a European Education Area by 2025 in close synergy with the European Research Area.

Lauri Ouvinen
Tel. +32 473536887

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