There have been all kinds of reactions to this news in individual nations. Let's start with the smaller member-states. Observers in the Czech Republic pointed out that the Eurostat data presuming a decline from 10 to 9 million underestimate immigration and births, with some arguing that the population could instead rise to 13 million by 2060. People in the Republic of Ireland are reacting to the news that, with an estimated 2060 population of 6.7 million, the island of Ireland would have regained its pre-Famine population of eight million. News that the population of Estonia might decline by one-sixth to 1.1 million have been greeted with concern, along with the news that Bulgaria's population is projected to fall by 29%, as have news that Romania will certainly see rapid and perhaps economically unsustainable population aging as the population falls by 4.5 million.
The changes among the largest European Union states are perhaps especially noteworthy for their influence on the balances of economic and perhaps political power, Britain's projected growth to 77 million people, giving it the largest national population in Europe, is fitting into national concern over "uncontrolled" immigration, while metropolitan France's expected growth to nearly 72 million--not, it should be noted, out of line with 2005 projections charting a French population of 75 million by 2050--coexists with a Gemran population projected to fall to less than 71 million and a Spain projected to grow to just short of 52 million people. Italy's population is projected to remain stable at 59 million, but quite frankly the numbers look cooked--is a natural decrease of 12.0 million really going to be almost entirely balanced out by an immigration of 11.8 million? Who knows, perhaps it is the recent rivalry with Spain at work. Poland, at present the sixth EU member-state by population at 38 million is projected to see a fall to 31 million. Barber is quite right to note that all these changes will of necessity influence the development of Europe.
It is hard to believe that such massive changes, which Eurostat says will take place in spite of immigration into the EU, would not have a big impact on the distribution of power in the EU. For example, the Lisbon treaty - which, of course, may never come into force - recognises Germany’s present pre-eminence by allocating Germany more European Parliament members than any other country. But that arrangement surely could not last if Eurostat’s forecast were to prove accurate.
As for Poland, its leaders cited its population size last year as an argument for more weight in the EU’s institutions. But if its population were to shrink as much as Eurostat predicts, it would be difficult to make the case that Poland deserves the same influence as, say, Spain.
Meanwhile, the UK would find itself in the remarkable position of being the largest country in an organisation that it has never seemed entirely sure it wants to be part of. Of course, the secession of Scotland (with just over 5m people now) from the UK would make a difference.
One glaring omission from the Eurostat report is Turkey, an official candidate for EU membership. Hostility to Turkey’s bid in countries such as Austria and France stems partly from the objection that Turkey is already so big (more than 70m people) that its admission would fundamentally change the EU’s nature. But I see that, according to a recent United Nations Population Fund forecast, Turkey will keep on growing and have over 100m people by 2050.
Everyone, everywhere, is concerned about population aging, much more rapid in some countries--Bulgaria and Romania stand out particularly--than in others.
It should be noted that as we've seen with Spain, these projections can change radically if you account for the possibility of large-scale migration described in the report's Table 12.
Maybe the populations of high-income places like the Czech Republic, Slovenia or Estonia will grow as Ukrainians, Vietnamese, and others move to pleasantly high-income societies. Maybe France will open its dors to la francophonie while Spain will shut its doors. Maybe the populations of Romania and Bulgaria will decline even more quickly than projected as their economies get caught in downward spirals. Who knows for certain how fine details will evolve over the next 52 years? All that I'm willing to say is that for now, thi projection provides a useful starting point for discussions about population trends in their national and European contexts.