For mine, way too much attention is being spent on the PIIGS of Europe, whilst not enough discussion is taking place – well, at least publicly – about the real forces behind a long-term united Europe, being the German/French alliance and demographics.
Europe cannot escape its demography.
And the election of Francios Hollande (who? most Aussies might ask) as France’s new president is a potential game changer.
You see, the EU is – at its core – really about a Franco-German relationship and of late, France’s struggle for a more dominant role in European affairs at a time of German ascendency. And whilst this Franco-German consensus is immediately critical for Europe, it is demographics that are crucial for the EU’s survival. And the outlook isn’t very promising!
One of Europe’s many underlying problems (another is the rise of nationalism and populism – click here for more) – and one that is completely divorced from the current political mess, is that the continent’s population is aging rapidly. And to make matters worse, Europe’s youth are migrating overseas due to rising unemployment at home.
Across Europe it is fairly common for 50-somethings (and in many cases even 60-somethings) to outnumber teenagers. Not only is there insufficient money to pay for pensions, but 20 and 30-somethings do most of the consuming, and therefore drive most economic growth. Modern economies are reliant on this domestic consumption – something that is lost on Australia’s current federal politicians, too!
Fixing Europe’s economic problems isn’t a matter of simple accounting or belt-tightening. It isn’t just about Greece or the others PIIGS. It is really about restoring a “normal demography”, which requires a mass increase in the birth rate for a decade or so. Even in the most aggressive case, this is a generational process, but more likely two i.e. 50 to 60 years.
Europe’s days of economic growth do not have a bright future, regardless of whether France or Germany can agree on a common economic strategy. However, if France and Germany cannot get on the same page (or the rising trend towards nationalism/populism accelerates) then the underlying fissures within the EU will cause its current structure to breakdown.
It is somewhat ironic – just like the Eagles song that started this piece – that one of the EU’s more defining traits was its deliberate lack of Passion. The EU also promised Peace and Prosperity. These thee-P’s are now crumbling and with it the EU. (click here)
In short, there are no quick fixes here; the world will need to adjust. And sadly, as I will outline in another Missive soon, China faces similar turmoil.
We are definitely living in uncertain and unstable times.
Michael Matusik is the director of independent property advisory Matusik Property Insights. Matusik has helped over 550 new residential developments come to fruition and writes the weekly Matusik Missive. The Matusik Missive is free, however, reprinting, republication or distribution of any portion of this material, or inclusion on any website, is strictly prohibited without the written permission of Matusik Property Insights and may incur a charge.
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