Thursday, January 20, 2005

United Europe?

Don't get too used to the European Union:

THE CIA has predicted that the European Union will break-up within 15 years unless it radically reforms its ailing welfare systems.

The report by the intelligence agency, which forecasts how the world will look in 2020, warns that Europe could be dragged into economic decline by its ageing population. It also predicts the end of Nato and post-1945 military alliances.

In a devastating indictment of EU economic prospects, the report warns: "The current EU welfare state is unsustainable and the lack of any economic revitalisation could lead to the splintering or, at worst, disintegration of the EU, undermining its ambitions to play a heavyweight international role."

It adds that the EU’s economic growth rate is dragged down by Germany and its restrictive labour laws. Reforms there - and in France and Italy to lesser extents - remain key to whether the EU as a whole can break out of its "slow-growth pattern".

Reflecting growing fears in the US that the pain of any proper reform would be too much to bear, the report adds that the experts it consulted "are dubious that the present political leadership is prepared to make even this partial break, believing a looming budgetary crisis in the next five years would be the more likely trigger for reform".

The EU is also set for a looming demographic crisis because of a drop in birth rates and increased longevity, with devastating economic consequences.

The report says: "Either European countries adapt their workforces, reform their social welfare, education and tax systems, and accommodate growing immigrant populations [chiefly from Muslim countries] or they face a period of protracted economic stasis."

As a result of the increased immigration needed, the report predicts that Europe’s Muslim population is set to increase from around 13% today to between 22% and 37% of the population by 2025, potentially triggering tensions.

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