UPDATE 1-Central European leaders say migration is not the solution to population decline
Central European leaders on Thursday signed a joint statement saying immigration should not be the answer to the European Union’s falling birth rate, while calling on the bloc to keep family policy under national jurisdiction.
The strong anti-immigrant positions taken by the governments of central European countries such as Hungary – although popular with many national voters – contrast sharply with the policies of the rest of the bloc. These central European countries have also opposed criticism of the EU regarding their policies on social issues such as gay rights. “The increase in the number of European children is essential to preserve the Christian culture and other religious traditions of Europe for future generations,” said the declaration, signed by the Prime Ministers of Hungary, Poland, the Republic Czech Republic, Slovenia and the President of Serbia, which is not a member of the EU.
“Migration should not be seen as the main tool for tackling demographic challenges.” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, facing the prospect of close elections next year, has become increasingly radical on social policy to protect what he says are the traditional Christian values of Western liberalism. He has also stepped up his anti-immigration campaign in recent weeks following the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.
Orban, who sees Muslim immigration to Europe as a threat to the continent’s cultural identity, visited a steel fence on the EU’s border with Serbia on Wednesday with his Czech counterpart Andrej Babis. Babis also faces an election in two weeks and like Orban, he campaigns on a strongly anti-migrant platform.
The European Union’s birth rate has been falling since 2000, Eurostat figures show, with 1.53 live births per woman in 2019, well below the 2.1 mark considered sufficient to prevent a decline Population. “The only lasting solution to Europe’s extinction is to increase the birth rate,” Babis said at the Budapest Demographic Summit, where Central European leaders issued their joint statement.
As Central European economies recover from the pandemic, businesses in the region are struggling to find workers as labor markets tighten.
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