The European Union consists of 28 countries, and when they work together, they create a really nice place to live. However, just like in the story of Captain Planet, where each Planeteer had their own strengths and weaknesses, these countries also have their own problems. For example, there are things that each European country isn’t very good at, just like the Planeteer who controlled the element of Heart may not have been great at getting haircuts. Now, let’s talk about what each European country struggles with.
Austria: Most youth smokers. Many young people in Austria smoke a lot. About 29.4% of Austrians aged 15-24 smoke cigarettes every day, even though it’s not good for their health.
Belgium: Most traffic congestion. Belgium has some of the worst traffic jams. Driving through Belgian cities can take a long time because they have a lot of congestion. Cities like Brussels and Antwerp are among the most congested in the world.
Bulgaria: Least freedom of the press. Bulgaria has the least freedom for journalists to write and report on news in the European Union. It’s not very good for press freedom, and it ranks 87th out of 179 countries in the world for this. However, it’s important to remember that the people there might not be reading this. Finland has the most freedom for the press in the whole world, by the way.
Croatia: Least Erasmus participation. Croatia hasn’t participated much in a program called Erasmus, which lets students from different European countries study abroad at each other’s universities. Even though Croatia joined the European Union in 2013, it hasn’t been as active in this program as other countries. Croatia looks like a big letter C on the map, which is kind of cool, unlike Italy, which looks like a boot. Maybe it should be called “Bootaly” instead.
Cyprus: Fewest 18-year-olds in school. In Cyprus, 18-year-olds aren’t going to school as much as in some other places. They might not be smoking as much as young people in Austria or facing cycling accidents like the Dutch, but they’re still not hitting the books regularly. Maybe it’s because of the nice Mediterranean weather.
Czech Republic: Worst modern slavery haven. The Czech Republic is a place where modern slavery is a big problem. It’s so bad that it could have been the setting for the movie “Taken.”
Denmark: Fewest Zaras per capita. Denmark is a great place to live, but they only have two Zara clothing stores in the entire country. That means if you want to shop at Zara, you’ll have to compete with a lot of other Danes because there are about 2.8 million people for each store. That’s a whole bunch of Danes in one store!
Estonia: Biggest gender pay gap. In Estonia, women earn 27.3% less than men do for similar work. This pay gap is much bigger than in places like Italy, where it’s only 5.8%. It’s like playing Monopoly with really unfair rules.
Finland: Highest depression rate. While Finland excels in many things, it also has a high rate of depression. Maybe the cold weather up north contributes to it. Luckily, Finland’s suicide rate is not as high as Lithuania’s.
France: Lowest English proficiency. It’s no surprise that France has the lowest proficiency in English in Europe. You can imagine a person in France munching on soft cheese and a baguette while saying, “I don’t care” in French.
Germany: Lowest homeownership rate. Germans don’t seem to be very interested in owning their own homes, possibly because they already have a lot of influence over Spain and Greece.
Greece: Highest foreign debt. Greece has the highest foreign debt, and it’s a pretty big problem. As of the end of 2013, their foreign debt was 130.3% of their GDP, which is really bad. It’s almost like competing with someone for the hairiest arms title.
Hungary: In Hungary, they have the highest value added tax (VAT), which is a kind of tax added to the price of goods and services. The standard rate is a whopping 27%. So, if you’re okay with the government taking a big chunk of the money you spend on stuff, Hungary might be your new home.
Ireland: Ireland has the highest rate of cystic fibrosis, with one case occurring for every 1,800 births. This is a serious health condition, and it’s not something to make jokes about.
Italy: Italy has a lot of tax evasion, and it’s not a coincidence that even Al Capone got caught for not paying his taxes. Italy has the highest percentage of unreported economic activity in the European Union. Every year, an estimated $239 billion USD in taxes go unpaid there. That’s a huge amount of money, enough to buy a lot of spicy meatballs.
Latvia: Latvia has the highest percentage of its people in prison, with 305 out of every 100,000 residents behind bars. But even though that number is high, it’s only half of the rate in the United States, where 716 out of every 100,000 people are incarcerated.
Lithuania: Lithuania has a very high suicide rate, almost ten times higher than Greece’s rate. It’s a serious concern, and it’s not clear why this is happening.
Luxembourg: In 2007, Luxembourg only spent 3.15% of its money on public education, which is quite low. They might have used the rest of their money to add more vowels to their country’s name.
Malta: Malta is one of the most challenging places to start a business. On a list of 189 countries, Malta ranked 161st in terms of how easy it is to open a business. It was even tougher than countries known for disorganization like China, the West Bank, and Spain.
Netherlands: While the Netherlands is generally a great place, it has the highest percentage of cyclists killed in road accidents in the European Union. So, if you ever have a car accident in an EU country, be especially careful if you’re in the Netherlands because the odds of hurting a cyclist are higher there.
Poland has a shortage of doctors, and you’re less likely to come across a doctor there than to correctly say their name.
Portugal: Portugal has a very low birth rate, with only 7.9 births per 1,000 people. That’s almost half of Ireland’s birth rate, which is 15.0 births per 1,000 people. So, in the future, Europe might have more Irish people and fewer Portuguese people.
Romania: Romania has very few cinemas, with only 3.8 cinemas for every million residents. Just imagine how crowded it must have been on the day “Guardians of the Galaxy” was released. The lines were probably incredibly long, and still, nobody wanted to sit in the front row. In contrast, the Czech Republic has the most cinemas per capita, with 49.2 cinemas for every million residents.
Slovakia: Not many people vote in Slovakia, with a voter turnout of just 13.05%. This is quite low compared to Belgium, where 89.64% of the population participates in voting. Maybe they should vote for less traffic.
Slovenia: Slovenia has a high number of alcohol-related deaths. It’s important to learn about moderation when it comes to alcohol.
Spain: Spain has the highest dropout rate in the European Union. This means that 23.5% of students in Spain do not finish their mandatory education. So, nearly a quarter of Spaniards may not even know we’re talking about them in this article.
Sweden: Sweden has the fewest hospital beds for every person. Maybe there are fewer sick people in Sweden, or perhaps Swedish hospitals expect patients to bring their own sleeping bags. It’s like a camping trip for sick and injured people!
UK: The United Kingdom has the highest usage of cocaine compared to other EU countries. Additionally, the UK also uses more amphetamines, ecstasy, and LSD than any other EU nation.