EU freedom of movement (from East to West)

The Free Movement of People within the European Union has become one of the hot topics surrounding the whole Brexit debate, and the following graph was born out of the desire to explore the relationship between intra-EU work restrictions on new members, and the growth dynamics of the number of immigrants from these new Eastern European states.

The initial idea was to compare the evolution of the number of New EU citizens in the Old EU member states, and especially between the the Big Three – Germany, Britain and France -, who each imposed different levels of restrictions on the 2004 wave of new member states – the wave that gave the world the image of the infamous “Polish plumber”. I wanted to see how much the presence or absence of work-restrictions slowed down immigration from the East.

Here are some of the findings:

  1. The UK is the only country where immigrants from EU-8 (the 2004 wave) grew as fast as those from EU-2 (Romania and Bulgaria). This later wave tended to be bigger in all countries, except the UK (and the 2013 wave, i.e. Croatia, tended to be between the two when it comes to growth)
  2. Work restrictions don’t seem to be the only factor in the rate of growth, but accession is clearly a tipping point when immigration accelerates. The removal of work-restrictions however are noticeable only in some cases (in Austria most clearly)
  3. I was surprised to see much calmer growth post-accession into Germany and Italy, but that is also due to already having larger numbers of immigrants from said countries before those countries joined the EU. The UK and Germany both ended up with 1+ million Central Europeans after 9 years, but they started out out from different base populations (136k vs. 481k)

One immediate problem that prevented me from a broader analysis was the lack of available data in some countries due to different methodologies. France, for example, does not, to my knowledge, publish an estimate on a country by country basis, the EU immigrants being divided solely into “Spain, Portugal, Italy, rest of the EU”, while other countries don’t go far enough into the past to be useful. True to stereotype, the most rigorous seem to be the Germanic nations, which is somewhat fortunate since German-speaking countries and Scandinavian ones are preferred destinations of intra-EU migration. Also, the numbers in Italy after 2011 are based on the census of 2011, but the data before that year, overestimating the number of immigrants, hasn’t been revised, and I had to revise the data myself, so as to not have an odd sudden drop around 2011.

freedom-of-movement

Made in Python w/ Matplotlib (lineplots), LibreCalc (work restriction viz) and Inkscape.

Winter vacation

This December I went home to Romania for the first time after having emigrated to France 15 months prior. I took 3 weeks off from work to have time to visit as many relatives and friends as possible, and spend my winter holidays with my parents and siblings.

At the same time, I received Giorgia Lupi’s and Stefanie Posavec’s breathtaking book as a Christmas gift from my wife, and it inspired me to seek a ‘small and personal data’ project of my own. Since, out of necessity, I already started collecting data during my vacation on who I’d already met and who I still have to meet, I thought it’s a good starting point.

I’m not entirely sure if I’m going to seek out a different subject every month, or if I’m going to explore alternative ways of visualizing the data shown below. I went through numerous forms, before deciding that a musical-notation type visualization feels best for my data, but I’d like to further explore my previous ideas as well. Until I decide on the issue, enjoy this small experiment:

wintervacation

Made in Inkscape.

The curious case of Romania’s Gheorghe Doja streets

Having streets in Hungary named after a Hungarian historical figure is nothing unusual. It’s by no means that unheard of to have streets in neighboring countries bear said name, provided  that we’re talking about areas where ethnic Hungarians make up a significant slice of the population. But what sets Dózsa György apart is that his name was used to christen street all across Romania, including many town where few, if any, Hungarians have lived. A weird relic of early communist times, when revolutionary credentials were more important than national origin…

dozsa-doja-infographic

Made in QGIS and Inkscape.
Data: OpenStreetMap and the Romanian Permanent Electoral Authority

Romanian version: Link

Distance of Legitimacy within the EU

One oft repeated criticism of the European Union and its institutions is that they are too far away from the people. That unlike the national governments and parliaments, which are within reach of the electorate, the EU leaders are 4-5 steps away, too far, making them essentially “unelected bureaucrats” and not “politicians answerable to the people”.

While still having plenty of problems (like the low turnout rate at the Europarliament elections), the EU has improved a lot since the Lisbon reforms when it comes to democratic legitimacy. That’s why I often find that the “too removed from the people” argument is often based either on outdated perceptions vis-a-vis the way the Union functions, or on a lack awareness on just how complex some national democratic setups are when it comes to some of the EU members. Many Member States, especially big ones in the western side of the continent have comparably complex constitutional setups.

With this in mind, I felt a comparison of the EU side by side with its Member States (plus the 3 bigger EFTA members) is necessary, in order to show that the EU’s institutions are no more distant from the Electorate than the institutions of its member countries, the democratic legitimacy of which are far less often questioned.

Note. A government appointed by an indirectly elected Head of State, but answerable to a directly elected Parliament will be considered as being ‘indirectly elected‘ since it is the vote of confidence, rather than the nomination per se which gives it a democratic legitimacy. Otherwise one will be forced to consider Governments appointed by hereditary Monarchs as being ‘undemocratic‘.

eu-degree-legitimacy1

Countries ordered by GDP.

Made in Inkscape.

What if: the EU had presidential elections like the USA?

electoral-college-eu2

Context: For those unfamiliar with the EP Groups, here is a quick rundown:
EPP – Center-Right, Pro-EU
SD – Center-Left, Pro-EU
ALDE – Liberal (in the European sense), Pro-EU
Greens-EFA – Greens and Regionalists
ECR – Conservatives, Soft Eurosceptic
GUE-NGL – Left to Far-Left, Soft Eurosceptic
EFD² (or EFDD) – Populist Right, Hard Eurosceptic
ENF – Far-Right, Hard Eurosceptic
NI – Others (outside groups)

The EU/USA analogy

There are two phenomena which converged towards the writing of this blogpost. First of, the recent US elections have put into question, yet again, the voting system used in electing the US president, where wining a majority of the votes can still leave one defeated.

Second, the recent Brexit referendum has stimulated discussions about patching up the real or perceived democratic deficits of the European Union, and one popular solution to this problem is the call for a directly elected European President. Given that the United States of America is often used as inspiration for Federalist proposals, I ran with this thought experiment.

What are Electoral Colleges

The US presidential elections are won by the candidate who wins the most “electors” on a winner-take-all-state system. That is to say, if candidate A wins the most votes in Texas, let’s say 56%, candidate A gets 100% of Texas’s 38 electors, not just 56%. The only two states that do not use “winner-take-all” are Maine and Nebraska (we’ll come back to these). There are 538 electors in total, 3 for DC and a number equal to the sum of its representatives (who vary according to population) and its senators (2 per state) for all the actual states.

Finding Electoral Colleges for the EU

The first problem with translating this system into the EU is finding the number of electors per each state. The “representatives” the EU system would be the MEPs (the ‘Members of the European Parliament’), but finding the number of “senators” is a bit trickier. The EU’s de facto Upper House of the Legislative is the Council of Ministers, which doesn’t have a fixed make-up. While it’s made up of a minister from each EU country, the minister in question varies depending on the subject of the legislation that needs to be voted on (i.e. if it’s legislation concerning internal affairs, the Council of Ministers is made up of each EU state’s “Minister of Interior/Home Secretary” – or equivalent). So a simple solution would be to add 1 elector to the number of MEPs.

QMV – a possible solution

One possibile alternative might be to take into account the Qualified Majority Voting (‘QMV ‘ for short) system of the Council of Ministers, and extract our “upper house electors” from there. Since the Lisbon Treaty, a passing vote requires a “majority of countries” (55% or 72% of them) representing a “majority of the population” (at least 65%) so there are no numbers to work with to get electors. Fortunately, up until 31 March 2017, countries can request a vote under the Nice Treaty’s system of QMV where each state had a fixed number of “voting weights”. So for example, the big 4 have 29 “weights” each, Spain and Poland 27, Romania 14, the Netherlands 13, and so on, all the way down to Malta’s 3, to a grand total of 345 “voting weights”.

So a possible solution for finding each state’s number of “electors” is to add up its number of MEPs with its number of “voting weights” from the Council of Ministers.

The easy way out

While the two examples above could make things interesting, truth is that just using the number of MEPs gives us about the same proportion of votes. See table further down.

The Belgian exception

Remember how Maine and Nebraska use a “per congregational district” system instead of a “per state system”? Given that Belgium is very polarized between its 2 main linguistic communities, I decided to apply a similar “per voting circumscription” system, and devolve the winner-take-all part to the 3 linguistic-communities/voting district.

I thought about doing the same for the French Overseas Territories voting circumscription, but given Frence’s centralist nature, I went with an “all in” approach.

Who won which state?

Now we get to the second part of the problem: applying our system to the 2014 European elections.

When people vote First-Past-The-Post versus Proportional Representation, voting patterns change, but since the European Elections are the only pan-European elections we have, I ran with the numbers of the 2014 EP elections. I took the the winner to be the europarty/coalition (basically EP Group) that got the most MEPs. When 2 or more groups had the same number of MEPs (as in the case of Cyprus), I took votes cast. Here is the result (as mentioned above, I used the numberof MEPs without any additions):

EUROPARTY MEPs+Nice QMV MEPs+1 MEPs
no. % no. % no. %
EPP 506 45.9 356 45.7 342 45.5
SD 228 20.7 165 21.2 160 21.3
ALDE 111 10.1 73 9.4 68 9.1
GUE-NGL 33 3.0 22 2.8 21 2.8
ECR 20 1.8 14 1.8 13 1.7
EFD² 102 9.2 74 9.5 73 9.7
ENF 103 9.3 75 9.6 74 9.9

Made in Inkscape. Inspired by the Fivethirtyeight’s Electoral College cartogram

A functional view of the European Union

One of the big problems of the EU seems to be that it’s difficult to understand how it works and who does what. The prevailing image is one of “Councils” and “Commissions”, each headed by a President of some sort. It doesn’t help that on top of that you have non-EU institutions that sound like they are part of the EU (the Council of Europe – a non-EU entity – versus the European Council and the Council of the European Union – both EU entities). Often infographics that try to explain the EU do little to help.

As such, the infographic below tries to approach the institutional framework of the EU a bit differently, by portraying institutions through theirs national analogies, and using a more varied vocabulary to explain the function of each “president” (for example, the “President of the European Parliament” can be thought of as the “Speaker of Parliament”). In essence, what each institution does is more important than what it’s called, and even if the analogies are imperfect (since, for example, the Commission has legislative attributes as well), they help better differentiate the institutions.

eu-infographic-v

Made in Inkscape.

Federalist sentiment in the European Union

The imminent departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union has raised some important questions regarding the future of the EU. Given that the member state which, for a long time, has been seen as the most obtrusive is on its way to triggering Article 50, a lot of people have expressed hope that the federalist direction of EU reforms can now progress in a more unimpeded fashion. Others have rightly warned that Euroskeptic sentiment was not confined to the UK and other states might be less than happy to hand over more sovereignty to the European level.

In trying to find an answer to the question “Who’ll be the next Great Britain at the table”, the EU’s Standard Eurobarometer collection offers some strong hints. Unfortunately, only 4 such Eurobarometers contain questions relating to willingness to move towards a “federation of nation-states”, as the question was discontinued after spring 2014.

eb81-federalism

Some interesting patterns can however be noticed:

  • The Nordic countries are the most anti-federalist, even more so than the UK, with ‘No’ always at least double the size of ‘Yes’
  • Ireland, surprisingly, never had ‘Yes’ outnumber ‘No’, albeit the difference was small
  • Most member states hover around the center, with a slightly positive dent in the score
  • The public opinion of Hungary and Poland is more federalist than their current governments’ reputation would lead to believe

On the other hand, one should be careful in drawing conclusions, as:

  • Scandinavian Euroskepticism might be different to British Euroskepticism
  • The question is somewhat ambiguous, as some might see a contradiction between “a federation” and “nation-states”
  • There are only 4 Eurobarometers, so the picture might be incomplete or outdated

Nonetheless, it is obvious that the “smooth sailing towards Federalism” envisaged by some is nowhere near the horizon, and we might soon see a Nordic Group giving headaches in the EU Council, when discussion the EU’s Future.


Infographic made in QGIS, Inkscape and Veusz. Data via the 78-81 Eurobarometers

Anti-burkini decrees

Surely, one of the most bizarre controversies this summer was (and still is) the whole anti-burkini debate going on in France. Regardless of the debate itself, one annoying feature of the way it is reported in the press is the lack of cartographic representations of the extent of the municipal bans. The following image tries to rectify this, and given that France’s top administrative court has just overturned the municipal decree of Villeneuve-Loubet, I doubt there will be any new additions to the list of municipalities:

Burkini Arret Municipal

Made in QGIS and Inkscape. Basemap source: OSM and Wiki Commons.

Romania: Education by ethnicity, religion and country of birth

The Romanian Census of 2011 has produced a lot of information regarding the country’s inhabitants. One such interesting statistic that I stumbled across is the level of education of the population (aged 10 or above) broken down by ethnic affiliation and by religious denomination, as well as that of foreign residents.

Romania Education Ethnicity 2
Ethnicity

Looking at ethnic breakdowns, one of the first things that is noticeable is that the numbers for Roma shift heavily towards the lower end of the spectrum. They are 10 times more likely to be illiterate (defined as “people who do not know how to write, but may or may not know how to read”), but also have higher than the national average “primary only” and “secondary only” education; while at the other end of the spectrum they are 18 times less likely to have a Bachelor’s degree.

While this “education deficit” of the Roma population is general knowledge, one interesting find in the data is that the Turkish minority has an almost similar skew towards the lower end of the spectrum (second highest rate of illiteracy, with more than 1 in 10 being illiterate, almost 8 times the national average), although the number of Turks with higher education is significantly higher (9.2%) than the Roma with such a degree (0.7%).

Interestingly enough, the other Muslim minority of Dobruja, the Tatars, are very different from the Turks. The overall numbers are close to the national average, with a slight skew towards the positive (a bit more higher-educated people, a bit lower numbers of people who cannot write).

On the other end of the spectrum (low illiteracy, very high levels of higher education) one finds the Jews (over half being college educated), the Armenians, and to a lesser degree the Greeks, the Italians and the heterogeneous “Other” group. What probably distinguishes these ethnic groups is probably their historic status as “mercantile minorities”, usually found in urban areas (cities usually have higher levels of education compared to the countryside).

While Serbs and Bulgarians tend to have a profile similar to ethnic Romanians, Ukrainians, Croats, Czechs and Slovaks tend to have higher rates than the national average in the ‘Secondary Education’ cathegory, while having lower rates at the extremes (college and no/primary education). This might be connected to them inhabiting mostly rural, mountainous areas.

Romania Education Religion 2
Religion

When it comes to religious breakdown, the highest numbers of people with primary education or less are Muslims (due to the low rates among Turks and Muslim Roma) and Pentecostals (a denomination which also has many Roma converts). But while Muslims have average levels of college education, college graduates of the Pentecostal persuasion are just a third of the national rate, with small rates of high-school graduates as well. Many evangelical denominations also display lower than average higher education graduation rates, such as the 7th Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Plymouth Brethren but interestingly enough, not the Baptists or the Romanian Evangelicals.

The traditional Hungarian denominations (Roman-Catholics, Reformed, Unitarians and Evangelical Lutherans) on the other hand tend to display lower college rates but higher levels of secondary schooling, especially vocational training.

On the other end of the spectrum we find Jews and Armenians once again, together with Atheists and those who declared No Religion (the Romanian census treats the two options as distinct). This fits in the general trend of the worldwide irreligiosity being correlated with higher levels of education.

One last interesting quirk is the higher than average post-high-school education among the Greek-Catholics. Reasons for this might be either their tradition of being an important part of the Transylvanian-Romanian intellectual elite, or a more pronounced tendency of the intellectuals to revert back to the Greek-Catholic identity after the church was legalized again post-1989 (the Greek-Catholic Church was outlawed and its assets given to the Orthodox Church by the Communist authorities in 1948).

Romania Education Foreigners 2
Foreigners in Romania

The last visualization features roughly the same stats (minus rates of illiteracy and Bachelor’s only education) for people residing in Romania for more than 12 months at the time of the census.

The biggest surprise in the data is that all of the foreigners have rates of higher education above the Romanian average, with the notable exception of Tunisians, which are one percentage point below, which also displays a very rate of high-school-only educational level. Western Europeans, Middle Easterners, Ukrainians and first and foremost Americans all display levels of higher education at least twice as high as Romanian citizens.

This is probably due to the restricted levels of immigration, which have seen mostly „western expats” moving here due to work-related reasons, or the traditional „arab (medical) student” choosing to remain in the country after graduation.

Data: Romanian census of 2011
Made in LibreOffice Calc and Inkscape