Ranking the regions: people live longest in Navarre
By Philip Ebels
The Bulgarian region of Severozapaden, meaning "northwest," is the poorest in the EU. The people there have little over a quarter of the average purchasing power of people elsewhere in the Union.
By contrast, those who live in the inner city of London tend to be able to buy more than three times the average (even though big differences exist within the city).
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Every year, the EU spends around a €40 billion trying to reduce the differences between rich and poor. But, according to Eurostat, the EU's statistical office, big differences remain - and not only in terms of income.
Of the 270 so-called "Nuts 2" regions in the EU (one level lower than the Nuts 1 "major socio-economic regions"), inner London is not only the richest, it is also the most densely populated, with close to 10,000 people per square km.
In a similar boat is Brussels, the EU capital. It is the third richest region - after Luxembourg - and has more than twice the average to spend. But it is also the second most crowded, with almost 7,000 people living on one square km.
By contrast, not even three people per square km live in the French overseas region of Guiana. Least populated in Europe are Iceland and the northernmost Swedish region of Upper Norrland, with little over three inhabitants per square km.
Brussels may be rich, but it is also short of work.
Over one in six people do not have a job, putting the city-state at number 27 on the unemployment list. Number one is Andalucia, with almost one in three out of a job, followed by much of the rest of Spain.
Looking at the figures, one might conclude that work is not conducive to longevity.
Unemployment in places where people live the longest (in Navarre, Spain, and Madrid) is higher than where people live the shortest lives (in Yugoiztochen, Bulgaria, followed by Severozapaden). Of the eight regions where people live the longest, five are Spanish.
"I don't think there is just one reason," Maria Lozano Uriz of the Navarre representation in Brussels, told EUobserver.
Instead, she said, it is a "variety of food quality, lifestyle and genetics, I presume."
It must be an attractive lifestyle.
Spain also tops the tourism charts. The first three most popular destinations are the Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands and Catalonia. The Canary Islands in 2011 received almost double the amount of overnight stays than Ile-de-France, or the Paris metropolitan area, the number five on the list.
As for Severozapaden, it finds itself once again at the bottom of the list. In 2011, less people came to stay the night than in any other region on record.