The Western Balkans is facing an emigration crisis. This is particularly evident in North Macedonia, as its most recent census shows, write euronews.com
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama hosted the two-day meeting in the Albanian capital with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.
The country has shed at least ten per cent of its two million people since the last census in 2002, the latest numbers revealed. Since the country declared independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, many Macedonians hoped the promise of quick integration into the European Union would provide a brighter future.
But North Macedonia’s path to EU membership has been repeatedly blocked for decades, first by Greece and now Bulgaria, ushering in strong doubts that the country will ever join and pushing many to jump ship.
Bosnia and Kosovo have not even been granted candidate country status despite their best efforts, while Serbia and Montenegro are also far from becoming full-fledged members, despite both being considered as forerunners for accession and the former recently opening new negotiating chapters with the bloc.
In neighbouring Albania — coupled with North Macedonia in its EU accession process and similarly stalled by the Bulgarian veto — about 1.7 million people, or roughly 37 per cent of the population, have left the country in the past three decades, according to government figures.
Hundreds of thousands left Serbia to resettle abroad after sanctions against the regime of President Slobodan Milošević caused by the Yugoslav dissolution wars in the 1990s and the 1999 NATO bombing to stop the conflict in Kosovo pummelled the economy, with estimates suggesting up to 10,000 doctors alone left in the last 20 years.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, research from local NGOs shows that at least 400,000 Bosnians have emigrated from the country for the past eight years.
The country’s most recent political crisis — deemed to be the most troubling since its independence and the end of the 1992-1995 war — is expected to drive even more people to depart soon.
“All the countries of the Western Balkans are affected to varying degrees by emigration,” said Ilir Gedeshi, a professor of economics based in the Albanian capital Tirana.
“The main reasons are economic, but apart from that, social reasons occupy an increasingly important place.”