The Way Back: Brain Drain and Prosperity in the Western Balkans

Policy Brief by Alida Vracic published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

The paper analysis how the EU should do more to promote circular migration as part of their ongoing pursuit of European integration.


  • The Western Balkans will most likely remain an exporter of smart, educated people for years to come – within a migration dynamic that destination countries control.
  • Public discourse on brain drain in the Western Balkans is often oversimplified: emigration boosts knowledge transfers, remittances, and access to advanced technology, improving stability and long-term development opportunities in the region.
  • Membership of the EU would not end – and could even exacerbate – brain drain, as can be seen from developments in Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia.
  • Western Balkans governments must break their silence on emigration and be willing to take part in a difficult debate on the issue based on reliable data.
  • The EU should try to understand the implications of emigration for Western Balkans countries, and to promote circular migration as means of maintaining their access to expertise in healthcare, education, and other sectors.
  • Members of the EU should harmonise their immigration policies on the Western Balkans, coherently signalling their plans for the immigration of highly qualified workers.

Find the document here

Document type
  • Research paper


Publication Year


Bosnia and Herzegovina
Geographical focus
  • WBC
Scientifc field / Thematic focus
  • General

Entry created by Admin on October 8, 2018
Modified on October 8, 2018