No end in sight for Romania’s political chaos

According to recent Eurostat data, Romania had recorded a decrease in population of 0.7% in 2020, the biggest such drop in the entire European Union, writes Cristian Gherasim, Bucharest correspondent.

2020 was also a year marked by the highest mortality rate in the EU in over 60 years. The largest decrease in population, in overall number of people, can be seen in Italy (-384,000, or -0.6% of the population), followed by Romania (-143,000, -0.7%) and Poland (-118,000, -0, 3%). However, as percentage of the total population, relative to the population of each state, Romani takes first spot.

EU countries recorded 534 thousand more deaths in 2020 than in 2019 (an increase of 11%), from 4.7 to 5.2 million, and the data reflect the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Eurostat. Excess mortality has contributed to a slight decrease in population, from 447.3 million inhabitants to 447 million inhabitants.

Eurostat spokesperson said that this has been “the highest annual death toll since 1961” since data became available for all these countries. The number of deaths increased in all EU countries during this period, but especially in Italy (+111,700, + 18%), Spain (+75,500, + 18%) and Poland (+67,600, + 17%), according to figures from the European Office of Statistics.

To make matters worse, the number of births continued to decline as well. The natural balance (difference between births and deaths) has been negative since 2012. From 2001 to 2019 , the population increased by 4%, an increase fueled by migration, which decreased in 2020 due to the pandemic. “There was an impact, either because the borders were closed, which hindered the movement of the population during this period, or because people returned to their countries of origin due to job loss or other causes,” Giampaolo Lanzieri from Eurostat said.

If EU’s demographic situation can raise alarm bells, non-EU member states such as the Republic of Moldova have it much worse. According to an analysis by the Chisinau-based Institute for Development and Social Initiative (IDIS) Viitorul, from 1991 to now, the population of the Republic of Moldova has decreased by almost 1.5 million people. The number of Moldovan citizens is now at 2.9 million – including citizens on the left bank of the Dniester, representing the breakaway Transnistria region, where there are just over 300,000 Moldovan citizens left.

The findings show that Moldova is nearing its population level of 1950, if the trend continues.

Nearly a third of Moldova’s population has left over the past three decades, making the country one of the worst hit by the demographic decline seen throughout many parts of post-communist Europe. The breakaway Transnistria region saw the most shocking population fall, decreasing from 731,000 to 306,000 over the past 30 years. According to Veaceslav Ionita, the IDIS expert on economic policies, in 1991 Moldova’s population reached 4,364,000, including the people of Transnistria with 731 thousand citizens counted there.

Thus, for 30 years, the number of Moldovan citizens left in the country decreased by 1,5 million: 1, 036 million fewer on the right bank of the Dniester and 425 thousand citizens fewer in the Transnistria region. With Moldova, the demographics drop is very much connected to the country’s economic woes. Troubled by political upheaval, extreme poverty and corruption, it’s no surprise that even with a severely declining population, remaining Moldavians are still looking for a way out.

According to a survey, one-in-three Moldovans would still like to leave the country.

Moldova is facing Europe’s worst demographic crisis, the situation being so bad that some experts even talk about an existential crisis with the stake being the very survival of that state.

Moldova’s pro-European government hopes to turn the tide by clamping down on corruption and improving the country’s economic situation.