The demographic issue in the Neighbourhoods is all too often considered as a threat (a shrinking Europe confronted to the overwhelming “pressure” of Neighbours migration). Indeed, during the past two decades many people emigrated from the former Soviet Union, former Yugoslavia and, still more, from Arab Neighbours. No doubt many others would like to leave countries at war or inefficiently developed and come to Europe. Yet, the ITAN report highlights the main trends: there rather is demographic convergence than divergence between the EU and its Neighbours; Mediterranean neighbours are experiencing a “demographic gift” period –a key period for development; some migration flows are reversing from North to South. The major lesson is that diasporas are the best asset for our wider region integration; that implies to think in terms of mobility rather than of migration.

Population growth: no “divide” between European countries and its Neighbours

The 508 million people of the European Neighbour Countries (ENCs, 2011) progress rapidly, mostly in the Mediterranean. There is no demographic divide between European countries and their Neighbourhoods. There is rather a differentiation between Western Europe / declining central Europe & Eastern Neighbourhoods / and the Near-East with Turkey as a key interface (Map 1).
Turkey is a transitional country in many ways. The demographic transition is largely advanced there, and its national territory is split into demographically rising territories and declining ones. For a little part of their national territories, this is also what is beginning to happen in Tunisia and in Morocco. Mediterranean neighbour territories are experiencing the territorial evolution that European ones formerly experienced: demographic transition, rapid urbanisation, coastal concentration. This opens up avenues for potential cooperation in planning and regional development.

Map 2 shows that young people of the wider European region are concentrated in the Near-East and in some parts of North Africa. The elders –consider it as an asset when it comes to know-how or as a burden when it comes to pension funding issues– are concentrated in Europe, Eastern Neighbourhood included. This demographic shift is striking: poorly managed it could drive to conflicts between territories and perhaps countries confronted to a difficult transition, but properly managed it constitutes very favourable complementarities.

Map 1. No divide Europe/Neighbours. Demographic growth in the wider European region, 2000-2010
Map 2. Today’s and tomorrow’s demographic growth, children under 15 in the wider region, 2010


Demographic “gift” rather than “risk”, stakes common to the EU and to its Neighbours

Rising population in Mediterranean Neighbour countries means rising markets and potential opportunities if European firms can find the way to a deep partnership with their neighbour counterparts. Mediterranean ENCs are experiencing a “demographic gift” phase, during which a country benefits from a large number of young adults who are available for their country development without bearing the burden of a large amount of youngers (ending of the “numerous family” phase) and of seniors (on-going raise of life expectancy). Young adults are ready for development –or for unrest if the country does not offer them the jobs they need. Many revolutions in history have occurred in this peculiar demographic gift moment; so did the Arab spring.

The “dependency ratio” has two very different components: vis-à-vis the youth (high dependency in Eastern Mediterranean), and the seniors (high dependency in the EU & in Eastern Neighbourhood). But as a whole, the demographic structure is converging at high speed between EU countries and their Neighbours. Both aging Europe and booming Mediterranean have to tackle high dependency ratios, in a context of insufficient jobs creations: this de facto creates a convergence of stakes. Map 3 shows that the major contrast will rather be internal to countries such as Turkey (West v. East), Algeria (coast v. inland), Morocco (large cities v. rest of country).
The important “oldies boom” is well-known in Europe and its Eastern Neighbourhood; such aging means a convergence of social structure and possible cooperation. What is less known is the coming oldies boom in Mediterranean Neighbourhood, especially in North Africa where demographic transition and birth rate decline are particularly quick (Map 4). This suggests avenues for a new type of possible cooperation with Europe. Today’s oldies boom is European, West and East; tomorrow it will clearly expand in the Mediterranean.

Map 3. Dependency ratio in the wider European region, a typology
Map 4. Population 60 and over in 2010 and 2050: the coming oldies boom in North Africa


Gibraltar case study: demographic convergence Spain v. Morocco, reversed migration flows

Fertility rates (children per woman) in Morocco have kept decreasing since the 1970s and are today approaching those typical of European countries a few decades ago. In 1970, fertility in Morocco was around 7,2 children per woman, in 2010 the rate was 2,2. According to the United Nations it could fall below 2 shortly after 2020. Old-age dependency ratio in Morocco in 75 years from now could be just as in Europe today. In Spain, the arrival of millions of new residents between 1997 and 2008 has brought in a younger population giving way to a slight increase in fertility rates.

Figure 1. Convergence of fertility rate (children per woman) for Spain and Morocco, 1950-2100

The rate in which Morocco sends new residents abroad is decreasing, and simultaneously, Morocco has been receiving a relevant number of migrants from Central Africa in the last ten years. The number of MRE (Marocains résidents à l’étranger, or Moroccans living abroad) was 3,3 million in 2006, decreasing to 2,9 million in 2012. This represents approximately 10% of Moroccan population –but 37% of the savings in banks in the country. Around 90% of MRE live in Europe, mostly in France and Spain. Reversely, in 2012 there were 1,8 million Spanish residents living abroad (1,5 in 2009) –mostly new Spanish emigrants are young unemployed looking for job opportunities in other EU countries (35% of emigrants). What is new is that since the 2008 crisis, young Spanish emigrants go to… Morocco, where new opportunities of jobs are arousing.

Figure 2. Net migration flows (migrants received/generated) in Spain, France and Morocco, 1950-2050


Diasporas as an asset for regional integration, Europe losing high level migrants

Europe benefits from an important diaspora coming from its Neighbourhoods (Figure 3). Given the growing role of diasporas in economic and cultural development, it is important for European public opinion and politicians to consider migrants in a renewed way: they used to be regarded as a social problem (integration, education, unemployment), they should all the more be regarded as a solution now that their education level is raising. As a whole, it is of utmost relevance to think in terms of “mobility” rather than of “migration”, because the actual economy is based on the former, much more than on the latter. People who live in Western Europe as foreigners come more and more from the Neighbourhoods, namely the Mediterranean one, and from Sub-Saharan Africa which is an extension of the European area of influence. This is an asset to rely on, given the foreseen development of Africa in the coming century –which for the moment benefit mostly to other world players than Europe.

Figure 3. Europe benefits from an important diaspora from its Neighbours

But Neighbourhoods are less and less connected to Europe, especially the East Mediterranean where the influence of the Gulf countries is growing, with declining common social, cultural and political references with Europe. Europe is losing the battle for attracting the ENCs qualified labour forces. Only 1 out of 6 high level Jordanians students enrolled abroad come to EU countries (Table 1). The majority of high skilled East Mediterranean people living abroad live in Northern America. The ITAN report states that, except for singular countries such as Lebanon, outmigration of skilled people is not a brain drain but a brain gain.

Figure 4 shows that the vast majority of remittances that arrive in Morocco come from Europe which means intense flows of migrants and money but also information, ideas and references –mobility flows between Maghreb and Europe are one component of the transformation of Maghreb family structures. On the contrary, a tiny part of remittances that arrive in Egypt come from Europe; this is a proxy for measuring the European contrasted influence upon the Western and Eastern Mediterranean partner countries.

Table 1. Jordanian students (a) enrolled abroad
Figure 4. The Eastern Mediterranean evades European influence. The case of remittances, 2010

European Union and its Member States have not yet found the good mobility policy vis-à-vis Neighbour countries. The rising number of people who die when crossing Mediterranean border to EU –because of rising reported measures but mostly because of rising travels– gives a terrible vision of this failure (Map 5).

Map 5. The failure of the European policy on mobility. Rising deaths at the Mediterranean border crossing, 1994-2011


The wider region seen through the geography of migration and other flows

If one considers several flows such as migration, air flows, trade flows, international cooperation and aid, Neighbours do not constitute independent coherent groups, except in the case of the former USSR. Maghreb countries, except Libya, are always linked to south-western Europe. Western Balkans seem to belong to different groups according to the types of flows: linked to Germany and central-eastern Europe for trade and air connections, they are rather linked to Nordic Europe in cooperation and migration flows. Turkey and the Near-East are grouped with former USSR in air and trade flows. In contrast, Turkey is grouped to the German group in migrations while the Near-East forms a coherent area in migratory flows. These maps illustrate the existence of several distinct Neighbourhoods (former USSR, Maghreb, Near-East, and Western Balkans) linked to different parts of Europe, and these features hold steady throughout times.

Map 6. The space of privileged relations within wider European region (UE+Neighbourhoods), 2010

Note. Countries of Europe and ENCs are grouped together if their relations are more intense than expected on the base of their respective size. For each pair of country, we thus calculate their theoretical relations according to their respective size, compare them with real flows though a Chi², and then group countries according to the intensity of these relations.