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Europe is in a constant state of flux. Some cities and regions are losing their populations and, along with them, their importance. But other areas are booming – enjoying growth and a growing population.

Our map shows the latest European population developments. It shows which regions have grown or lost inhabitants over the past six years. The more intense the shade of red in a region, the more inhabitants it has gained, whether by people moving in or by birth. The more intense the blue, the more inhabitants the area has lost.

The map is based on figures published by Germany's Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development, which regularly conducts detailed analyses of demographic trends. In this graphic, we focus on the most recent period reviewed, from 2011 to 2017. It illustrates more than 100,000 municipalities in 44 European countries, states and principalities. Precise data for Greece, Albania and Cyprus were not available to the Federal Institute for 2011 to 2018 because there is no population update at the local level in these countries. Hence, they are not included in the map.

Shifting demographics is a dynamic process. This can be clearly seen in eastern Germany, which saw a large population decline after the fall of communism. This trend still persists in some rural regions of eastern Germany, but, overall, the population decline slowed between 2011 and 2017 compared to previous years.

Indeed, many large and medium-sized cities in eastern Germany actually experienced relatively strong growth in the latest period examined. Leipzig, for example, has recently been Germany's main boom city. With a population growth of almost 70,000 people between 2011 and 2017, this major city in the state of Saxony grew faster than any other in Germany, with an annual growth rate of more than 2 percent. A similar dynamic can also be observed in a number of smaller eastern German cities: Magdeburg and Rostock, for instance, experienced 0.7 percent annual growth during this period.

Despite this positive development, however, a number of large rural areas in the east are experiencing an ongoing decline in population. Politicians and communities in these areas face great challenges in meeting the guaranteed right to equal living conditions stipulated under Germany's constitution, the Basic Law – including, for example, transportation links, the availability of doctors and high-speed internet access. 

The situation is even worse in Spain. The dominant color on the map over the country is blue, reflecting population decline -- and this applies not only to a few rural regions, but to the country as a whole. The economic crisis of the past decade has been a catalyst for many Spaniards to emigrate to countries like France and Germany, Volker Schmidt-Seiwert told ZEIT ONLINE in an interview. He coordinates the European spatial development observations for the Federal Institute. The regions surrounding larger cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao, however, are exceptions because they have shown positive population developments.

This trend – Schmidt-Seiwert calls it a commuter belt effect – can be observed in several European countries. Poland provides a striking example: Here, too, the suburbs of large cities like Warsaw and Gdansk are growing faster than the large conurbations themselves. Meanwhile, the population is declining in rural areas, especially in already sparsely populated northern Poland.

Schmidt-Seiwert also refers to this phenomenon as urbanization: Big cities are spreading. The infrastructure in the suburbs and the surrounding towns is improving and making them more attractive. Big cities and small towns are growing together. This makes cities even bigger, but it has the same effect on the urban-rural divide. This can be found in several regions of Eastern Europe (but it is particularly striking in the Baltic states).

Similar trends can also be observed in Turkey. The Federal Institute also analyzes the dynamics of the EU accession candidates, to which Turkey still officially belongs. Like many European countries, Turkey has undergone a major phase of growth and modernization. But it also suffered hard from economic crises from time to time, as well. And we know the consequence of that kind of development from the rest of Europe: It typically results in an exodus from rural areas and continued urbanization.

Inspiration: Berliner Morgenpost. With additional reporting by Christopher Möller, Translation: Daryl Lindsey