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Balkans are emptying, population decline across the region

Recent censuses and surveys confirm a sharp drop

08 January, 16:21
(by Stefano Giantin) (ANSA) - BELGRADE, JAN 8 - For years, significant and continuing losses have undermined every effort aimed at lasting economic and social development. The neighboring Balkans risk becoming a "desert" due to unemployment and, above all, emigration, especially of the young. This scenario emerges from different pieces of a complex puzzle being put together in recent weeks. These pieces include the fundamental one posed by the census in Bulgaria, which has certified an 11% drop in population over the last ten years. Another census, the one in neighboring North Macedonia, the first to be conducted in the country since 2002, confirmed that the problem is widespread, with provisional results that have worried the authorities in Skopje. According to the first data processed by the National Statistical Office, Macedonia would now have about 1.8 m inhabitants, about 10% less than twenty years ago, with 600,000 Macedonians now living abroad. Perhaps even lower than the real ones, these numbers speak of a demographic catastrophe. Those who leave the country are predominantly young people, whereas the cradles remain empty at home, and the number of older people is growing. And Macedonia is far from being an exception. Even in neighboring Romania, which is already a member of the EU, the consequences due to migration to more prosperous countries now appear uncontrollable.

Adevarul, a daily newspaper, cited "dramatic figures" and UN estimates that show Romania with just under 12 m inhabitants in 2100, which is 7 million lower than today and most of them over 60. Estimates mirror those of neighboring Bulgaria, which in 2100 could have only 3.5 m inhabitants. And then, returning to the non-EU Balkans, there is Albania, land of emigration par excellence, which could find itself with only 1.1 m inhabitants in eighty years. About 50,000 Albanians obtained a residence permit in Germany alone as of 2018, with Berlin now about to overtake Rome and Athens as an emigration destination, local media have reported. And since 2008, about 800,000 Albanians have emigrated to EU countries. The situation is even worse in Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to Sarajevo-based media, about 500,000 people have left the country in the last ten years. No "policy" to stop the exodus, said demographer Aleksandar Cavic, who warned that the negative trend is accelerating, with more and more young people leaving and more and more old people and pensioners remaining alone at home. This situation occurs in all countries, including Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Croatia.

"Emigration, headed by young people," will not stop, warned even a recent survey conducted by researchers Tado Juric and Faruk Hadzic, who predicted and depicted the consequences. In the Balkans, economic development will decline due to depopulation, undermining the social structure in the medium to long term. But even the EU cannot smile, given that in the decades to come, it will have to deal with an emptied, impoverished, and unstable region in its backyard. (ANSA).

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