Integrating a half-empty Balkans into the EU

A map showing the Western Balkans’ population losses
Changes in the population of the Western Balkan countries between the 1990-1991 and 2001-2003 censuses (source: macpixxel for GIS)
  • The Western Balkans countries may soon lose up to a quarter of their population to emigration
  • The region does not match the rest of Europe in living standards and governance, so people vote with their feet
  • Labor-hungry Germany is happy to absorb newcomers, but the brain and workforce drain will not help the Balkans

The year 2019 will mark two decades of the Stabilization and Association Process, the European Union’s policy for integrating the Western Balkans. During that time, only Croatia managed to join the EU community – in 2013. Two other countries, Montenegro and Serbia, the most advanced in the procedure, are unlikely to make it before 2025. The rest of the pack of applicants will have to wait until 2030, at best. By that time, the region will be significantly depopulated.

People act faster than politicians and bureaucrats – with their feet. By the time the region’s integration has run its course, a large portion of its inhabitants will, most likely, already be settled elsewhere on the European soil. They will not be stopped by the fact that, since 2015, immigration has become a political hot potato in the EU.

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