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EU grows slightly, migrant inflow despite recession

New data on population trends show that the 28-nation European Union grew by nearly one million last year. It hasn't quite made up from a drop in 2011, when the count shrunk by 1.8 million as recession hit Europe.

The EU logged 900,000 more people in 2012 as a result of net migration influx - almost four times the natural growth between births and deaths.

Germany and Italy were the magnets for migrants in 2012, according to the EU's Luxembourg-based statistics agency, Eurostat. Spain hemorrhaged more than 160,000 people. Ireland had the highest rate of birth.

Eurostat put the EU's total population last year at 505.7 million. Of that, 331 million shared the common zone of the euro currency. Compared to 2011, the EU overall population grew by just 0.2 percent.

Growth was recorded in each of the biggest four EU countries. Germany had 80.5 million, France 65.6 million, Britain 63.9 million and Italy 59.7 million residents.

Germany and Italy posted the largest net migration increases of 390,000 and 370,000 people respectively.

Britain posted the biggest increase, nearly 400,000 more people due to national growth and net immigration.

Irish most prolific

Some 5.2 million babies were born in the EU last year, with Ireland that most prolific at 15.7 live births per 1,000 residents.

At almost half that rate, Germany was least prolific with 8.4 births per 1,000. Another tail-ender was Portugal with 8.5, and Italy with 9 per 1,000.

Ireland also benefitted by having the lowest death rate at 6.3 percent.

The highest death rates - lying between 12 and 15 percent - occurred in the former communist territories of Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania and Croatia.

Lithuania's population fell under 3 million. That represented a shrinkage of half-a-million over the past 10 years.

Poland, which experienced a sharp exodus when it joined the EU in 2004, stabilized in 2012. The net Polish migration outflow declined to 7,000 people.

ipj/jr (dpa, AFP)