New figures from the European Union's statistical agency project that the bloc's population will top a half-billion in 2009, but birth rates vary widely
The European Union's population is set to reach the 500 million mark in 2009, new figures from Eurostat, the bloc's statistics agency, showed on Monday (3 August).
On 1 January 2009 the population was estimated to stand at 499.8 million, compared with 497.7 million on 1 January 2008.
The EU population has been on the rise since 2004 due to an increase in birth rates combined with annual immigration of between 1.5 and 2 million people.
Last year, 5.4 million babies were born in the 27 EU member states, which translates as 10.9 per 1,000 inhabitants.
Only in Germany fewer children were born in 2008 than in previous years (8.2 per 1,000 inhabitants in 2008 compared to 8.3 in 2007).
Outside the EU, Turkey also saw a significant drop in its birth-rate (from 19.4 in 2007 to 17.9 in 2008).
Ireland still holds the record as the most fertile EU country (16.9 per 1,000 inhabitants) followed by France (13.0), the UK (12.9), Estonia (12.0), Sweden (11.9) and Denmark (11.8).
At the other end, Germans are making the fewest babies. Austria had the second lowest birthrate in the EU (9.3) and despite the Italians' reputation for romance, the country had the third lowest figure (9.6).
At the other end of the scale, the EU27 deathrate was stable at 9.7 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants in 2008, the same as in 2007.
Bulgaria has the highest deathrate among member states (14.5), followed by Latvia (13.7). The lowest deathrates were recorded in Ireland, Cyprus and Turkey (6.4).
Germany is still by far the most populous EU country with 82 million inhabitants on 1 January 2009, followed by France (64 million), the UK (62 million) and Italy (60 million).
On immigration, Luxembourg welcomed the most newcomers per capita (15.8 per 1,000 inhabitants), followed by Slovenia (9.6), Spain (9.1) and Italy (7.3).
Four countries are shedding people however, with people leaving Lithuania (-2.3 per 1,000 inhabitants), Latvia (-1.1), Poland (-0.4) and Bulgaria (-0.1).