The population of the European Union increased to nearly half a billion in 2008, thanks largely to a rise in net migration, new figures show.
This is just a drop in Europe's proverbial bucket
According to the bloc's statistical office, Eurostat, the 27 countries that form the EU will have a combined population of 499.7 million people on Jan. 1, up 2.2 million from 2007. About a third of this rise is attributable to the number of immigrants entering the bloc.
With the accession of Slovakia into the euro zone, 328.6 million people will be sharing the bloc's common currency, the euro, next year.
Ireland sees biggest surge
Immigration has boosted Europe's population
Ireland recorded the bloc's highest population increase -- from 4.40 million to 4.52 million -- by registering both the highest natural change rate (the difference between birth and death rates) and the highest net migration rate.
Bulgaria, by contrast, registered the biggest population drop -- from 7.64 million to 7.60 million -- following a decline in both its natural and net migration rates.
Of the EU's four largest member states, Germany is the only one to have seen its population shrink -- from 82.22 million to 82.06 million -- as deaths continue to outnumber births in that country.
In all, population rates will have increased in 20 member states and will have dropped in the remaining seven.