EUROPE – Former European Commissioner Chris Patten has said there is little political debate yet at the European level about demographic ageing – and warned the crisis is not a good basis for European integration.

“There is no real sense yet in our political debates of the scale of the demographic problem confronting Europe (though Adair Turner’s recent work on pensions has opened up the issue in Britain),” Patten wrote in a newspaper article.

“Europe has a falling and ageing population,” the European Union’s former external relations chief said. He added: “Alongside the rise of India and China, this will ensure that we have smaller share of world GDP. This is, at the very least, not the basis of superstatehood.”

The comments came in a review of a new book by Jeremy Rifkin called ‘The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream’.

Patten, who is now chancellor of Oxford University, is no stranger to demographics issues. In September he co-chaired the annual UK-Italian conference, which this year focused on the effects of ageing populations and immigration.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has released research showing how diet can improve old people’s health.

“Research on nutrition for the elderly is revealing new possibilities for the prevention of disease and better health for improved quality of life,” said science and research commissioner Janez Potoãnik.

“The elderly form a growing proportion of our population. It is part of our policy on active ageing to ensure people live longer in good health. The research being presented today will make a significant contribution in this area.”