Seeking the Virtuous Circle: Migration and Development in the Balkans

Development and Transition, No. 2, pp. 7-11, 2005

14 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2009 Last revised: 29 Dec 2009

Date Written: 2005


Reliable data on migration has been largely missing in Southeastern Europe. Each country in the region has developed its own system of measuring population movements, which often makes it difficult to aggregate data across countries or make valid comparisons. This report aims to fill the void. It is the first UNDP cross-regional attempt at summarizing data from individual countries to capture current migration trends.

The main finding of this report is that people in Southeastern Europe don’t move as much as is presumed – or feared – in the West. Just 3 per cent of Romanians, 4 per cent of Bulgarians, and only 2 per cent of Macedonians would settle permanently abroad. The large majority of people in these countries would not even travel at all, let alone for work, if given the opportunity. The survey shows that 88 per cent of Romanians have never travelled to a neighbouring country. Fifty-eight per cent have not made it as far as Bucharest, the national capital, and 41 per cent, most of whom are peasants, have not travelled to the capital of their county. Eighty-four per cent of Bulgarians have never been to a distant foreign country and 78 per cent have not travelled to a neighbouring country. Even if Schengen visas are lifted for the Western Balkan countries, as they have been for Romania and Bulgaria, the large majority of the population would not even travel, not to speak of settling abroad.

The report finds that there are positive economic effects of migration, both for the sending and receiving countries. A recent study finds that migration to the West of 1 per cent of the population from the new member states would increase aggregate GDP in the sending and receiving countries by 0.2 to 0.3 per cent respectively. Evidence from Albania, Romania and Bulgaria shows that the money which migrants send home prevents a large number of people from falling below the poverty threshold, contributes modestly to local development as well as boosts consumption spending, which contributes to the high rates of growth in these three countries.

Keywords: migration, Balkans, Southeastern Europe

Suggested Citation

Mungiu-Pippidi, Alina, Seeking the Virtuous Circle: Migration and Development in the Balkans (2005). Development and Transition, No. 2, pp. 7-11, 2005, Available at SSRN:

Alina Mungiu-Pippidi (Contact Author)

Hertie School of Governance ( email )

Friedrichstrasse 180, Q110
Berlin, 10117

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