Tag Archives: Inkscape

Who gets the UK’s 73 MEPs

UK-73

The UK will leave the European Union, most likely at the end of March 2019, two years after it invoked Article 50. Currently, the United kingdom has 73 seats in the European Parliament, representing England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar, but the question is what happens to these seats once the country leaves?

Three solution

One option would be redistribution among existing member states. Since there is no predetermined formula, the redistribution has to be agreed on like any other change, through negotiations within the European Council. I doubt the EC has the time and energy for this before the 2019 European elections.

Another option, favored by the French president as well, is to create a new 73-seat European constituency. While I am sympathetic to this option, I think the most likely outcome will be the one of least resistance: leaving the seats vacant until new members join the EU, who then gradually fill them up.

It is from this scenario that the current visualization was born, as a means to explore which countries could join before the 73 seats run out. By using population numbers, I estimated how many MEPs a country was likely to get, and on somewhat subjective criteria, I added what I considered the most likely scenario.

The Western Balkans

While the Western Balkans are at different stages of accession, from opened negotiations to “not-candidate-(yet)” in the case of Kosovo, they seem the most likely states to gain membership in the near to medium future, and I think the EU is also very interested in getting them under its wing.

Turkey

Given the way Turkish politics evolved in recent times, and adding to that the fact that many member states fear the addition of a Muslim state the size of Germany, one can safely assume its membership is frozen.

The Eastern Partnership

Things here oscillate between “impossible”, when it comes to Belarus and Azerbaijan, and “maybe, but not right now”, when it comes to Georgia, who made strong progress on its European path. I think smaller states such as Georgia, Moldova and Armenia might have an easier time getting EU membership than bigger ones, such as Ukraine.

Other countries

Iceland, Norway and Switzerland don’t seem too eager to join any time soon, and Russia is both too big, too undemocratic and too confrontational to consider for this thought experiment.

On a side note: I think there is some potential in an interactive tool that could explore various scenarios starting from this premise. A map were you could add/remove candidate countries, enable/disable automatic redistribution of seats (based on the Duff proposal), and create a custom European constituency of any size. Unfortunately, I have yet to master the art of JavaScript.

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Great Britain and the European Union of 27

EU27-UK Flow

This latest visualization has its genesis in this reddit thread. I wanted to represent the data therein in a way that would be easier to compare than a print-screen of an Excel table. As time went by, I found more detailed and accurate data, and I started looking at a way in which I could represent the relationship between the UK and the EU27 from the angle of the Four Freedoms :

1. Free Movement of Goods and 2. Services – The main focus of my visualization. Talk about Britain’s future relationship with the EU has often revolved around how free the trade will be and how high the risk of barriers will be. While the flow of goods has been much easier to free than that of services, and will be much easier to keep unrestricted in the post-Brexit world, I treated the two as somewhat two sides of the coin called Trade. A challenge of this infographic was to visualize both the absolute values, and the relative values to each other (imports vs exports, goods vs. services, UK-to-EU27 trade vs. global national trade)

3. Free Movement of People – Easily the most controversial of the Freedoms, at least in the United Kingdom, and a somewhat thorny subject in the early stages of negotiations, the size of Immigrant / Emigrant communities can inform on which countries might have strong incentives to protect their diaspora during negotiations.

4. Free Movement of Capital – By far the one I grasp the least, I limited myself to showing which countries are members of the Eurozone, and which ones still use their national currencies.

Made with Python (svgwrite module) and Inkscape. Data from Eurostat

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.

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

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

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

Eastern EU’s role in the Refugee Crisis

The idea that the West is to blame for the current wave of refugees is widespread in the Eastern part of the EU, with the US invasion of Iraq and Germany’s alleged decision to invite Syrians into Europe seen as key events of the unfolding crisis.

Czech president Miloš Zeman said last year that “the immigration wave is rooted in the crazy idea to invade Iraq […] [T]hen there was the crazy idea to make order in Libya, then the same in the case of Syria.”[…] “The responsibility for the wave of refugees lies precisely on those whose silly actions provoked this wave”

A similar thought was uttered by Slovak prime-minister Robert Fico around the same time when he said: “I only have one question: Who bombed Libya? Who created problems in North Africa? Slovakia? No.”.

It is a classic expression of the “victims of history” motif, so dear in these parts, but on closer scrutiny, it holds little water.

Responsability

Eastern EU states have actually been willing actors in the destabilization of Iraq with Poland actively participating alongside the United States in the Iraq invasion, while most other countries supporting the invasion and later participating in the occupation. The Eastern flank of the EU acted in Syria too, both diplomatically – by recognizing the Syrian Opposition as legitimate – and militarily, by providing military aid to anti-ISIL factions. Romania and Bulgaria also participated in the UN-sanctioned anti-Ghaddafi campaign of 2011, which ultimately lead to a politically fractured Libya unable to stop trans-Mediterranean migrant smuggling, and the entrenchment of ISIL in some areas of Central and Eastern Libya.

While I do not oppose the interventions themselves (with the exception of the original Iraq invasion), I do have great issue with the demonstrably false narrative that the Eastern EU states are victims of Western geopolitical action, and not willing participants themselves. It is profoundly incorrect to benefit from close collaboration with US adventures abroad (the cooperation during the Iraq War was very beneficial in obtaining the American good will necessary for NATO membership), yet shun the responsibilities when the chickens come home to roost.