Depopulation – an escape from the “powder keg”

Milivoje Mihajlović
Milivoje Mihajlović, rođen je 1958. godine u Prištini. O događajima na Kosovu izveštavao je za prištinsko „Jedinstvo“, Tanjug, Radio-televiziju Beograd, BBC, APTN, Agenciju Frans Press, CBS… Bio je glavni urednik Radio Prištine, osnivač Media centra, urednik informativnog programa YU-info televizije, direktor Radio Beograda.

Dear friend,

I see that the Kosovo citizens got rid of the „liberators“ in the elections and overcame the fear spread by the ruling set of „commanders in Armani suits“. I want to believe (although I am not optimistic) that nothing will be the same in Kosovo, but also in the region, that new people will place life before politics, and not, as it has been done so far, sacrifice the lives of citizens for the sake of their policies and making a fortune.

The new Kosovo leader sent many messages during his performance in the square in Pristina after his victory, but the people also sent him a message. As he spoke, he stared at the only banner that read „Thieves should be sent to jail.“ Perhaps this is a symbol of a start of a showdown with kleptocrats across the region.

During the pre-election campaign, we observed expensive „stunts“ by PR experts, agencies for „checking the pulse of the people“, slogans that insulted our intelligence (which could be read as „criminals against crime“…) photographs from secret services archives, physical confrontations… all coming from the „Balkan election arsenal“. But I would say that the citizens have displayed maturity and, hopefully, stopped the decline. After the election, many analysts are racing to „determine“ the priorities of the new government. The dialogue with Serbia, the fight against corruption and crime, the court in The Hague… this is a burden that is being placed on the shoulders of the new authorities in advance.

Unfortunately, these are not the most difficult problems in Kosovo or the region. I believe that the most serious problem – the consequences of which we will face in the future – is depopulation.

The current President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic recently stated that only based on birth rates, Serbia annually „loses a city the size of Kikinda“, and that a loss of 38,680 people is created by the difference between 100,000 deaths and 63,175 births. In Serbia, we call this phenomenon the „white plague“. According to this calculation, in the last 20 years, Serbia has „lost“ cities the size of Nis and Novi Sad. It should be added that, according to official European statistics, more than 51,000 people leave Serbia annually through emigration. The number is slightly higher as Serbian citizens with Hungarian and Bulgarian passports are also leaving the country. Thus, Serbia annually „loses“ not one, but – three „Kikindas“. The devastating statistics is complemented by the fact that 52,663 citizens die from a heart attack in Serbia every year. To continue in the same manner of comparison – this is a „city“ the size of Uzice.

“White plague” and the “brain drain” ravaged the entire region.

According to UNESCO, by 2010, one in four highly educated persons has emigrated from Albania. In 2010 and 2011, the migration of educated people from Albania increased by 223 %. In terms of immigration of educated people, Albania is among the top 15 countries in the world. Approximately 62,000 people emigrate from Albania annually. It is shocking and almost unbelievable that 42 % of the population has left this country in recent decades.

Statistics from Romania show that this is an „infection“ present throughout the region. The emigration rate from Romania shows that 24 people are leaving this country per hour! Authorities say 4 million people have emigrated from Romania so far. 700,000 Romanians have gone to Germany, while over a million moved to Italy. During the summer, an additional one million seasonal workers, mostly farmers, waiters, and construction workers leave Romania.

Last year, 300,000 workers from the Western Balkans changed their place of residence. In just a few years, more than half a million people left Bulgaria. Nearly 40,000 people leave Hungary every year. In three years, 250,000 people left Croatia. They mostly „flee“ to Germany (nearly 60,000) to Austria (75,000) and, recently, Croats have been increasingly moving to Ireland. In Croatia, 12,000 elementary students and 32,000 high school students have been „lost“ in five years. About 3,000 citizens leave Montenegro every year. Northern Macedonia has recorded 24,300 migrant workers last year. Every year, 34,500 citizens leave Kosovo (despite the lack of visa-free travel). Nearly 19,000 of them look for their new address in Germany every year.

Currently, Bosnia and Herzegovina has less than three million inhabitants, which is less than half a million compared to the 2013 census, the leader of HDZ in BiH, Dragan Covic recently warned. Last year, almost 70,000 citizens from Bosnia and Herzegovina went to Germany, Slovenia and Croatia alone. A Facebook group “Movement for Departure” (Pokret Za Odlazak) was formed with plans to be turned into an association that will assist the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their slogan is „Living, Not Surviving“ and they already have ten thousand Facebook members.

More people are moving out of our region in peaceful times than from war-time Syria.

The statistics are „like a swimsuit – it reveals everything, but covers the most important things“. The devastation left behind by the massive number of people in the region going to work abroad does not disturb the authorities. On the contrary, their statistics conceal this problem – through data on the „reduction“ of unemployment. What do the authorities get by people moving out? First of all, the number of „hungry mouths“ is reduced. Then, the people leave disgruntled and ready to protest against the authorities. In addition, those leaving would anyway be voting for opposition and change. Then, people leaving opens the space for party employment, according to the principle – as professionals are leaving, their positions are taken up by those who are loyal (of course, party loyalty is qualification).

More than half of those who leave do not do it because they have no jobs. They leave because they are dissatisfied with their earnings, working and living conditions because they have too many obligations for which they are not sufficiently rewarded… In the polls, most of them cite important reasons – lack of perspective, systemic corruption and crime, but also lack of democracy.

Since 1990, between 9 and 10 million people have left the Balkans! The best people are leaving. No one is trying to stop this „loss of substance“ and „demographic potential“ or „disappearance of the true elite“. No one, even in pre-election campaigns when everything is allowed, has mentioned this problem – not even as a false promise. Power is power – even in an „empty house“.

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