Escape from poverty


Priština, Kosovo  Migration shapes societies all over Europe: While the West tries to keep out immigrants, countries like the Kosovo struggle with an exodus of young people.

High unemployment and economic stagnation are forcing people to leave Kosovo © flickr/cc/MPD01605

In Kosovo history is repeating itself. Like in the 1970s today people again are leaving the country in large numbers to Western Europe. This raises a number of important questions: What are the reasons for humans to migrate? Why are people leaving everything behind for an unknown future in an unknown place? And how do their decisions affect societies?

The similarities between 1970 and 2015 are striking: Again poor perspectives, high unemployment among the youth and economic stagnation are forcing people to flee Kosovo. But there is a crucial difference too: Back then workers made their way to Europa, in Germany they were called “Gastarbeiter”. Today mainly young and highly educated people are leaving Kosovo. This leads to a dramatic brain drain.

Today: A lot of people are ready to go

In the 70s the dire economic situation in Former Yugoslavia forced around 200.000 Kosovars to emigrate mostly to Western European countries in search for a better life. In the 90 people had to escape from the war on the Balkans.

Today, peace prevails. But people are still leaving. A whole young generation is frustrated by the lack of jobs, nepotism, corruption and lack of good education in Kosovo. Kosovo is one of the poorest countries in Europe. The unemployment rate in Kosovo is approximately 47 percent. Poverty remains persistent and widespread. According to World Bank statistics over 45 percent of the population is living below the poverty line, while 15 percent live in extreme poverty. Many decide to go somewhere else. In 2014, according to Eurostat, 23.000 Kosovars applied for Asylum in Europe. One of 165 Kosovars is willing to emigrate.

No sign for a visa liberalization

The Government of Kosovo can`t improve the living conditions. Since Kosovo declared its independence in 2008, the level of unemployment has remained high. People lost hope. The state today fails in a similar why like the authorities of Former Yugoslav did in the 70s.

Kosovo is the only country in the Balkans, which is not part of the free visa system. While the country is about to sign the EU Stabilization and Association Agreement, there is little hope for a visa liberalization. The main conditions are not met: Kosovo continues to face organized crime and corruption. The number of emigrants is rising. The EU has spent more development aid in Kosovo than in almost any other country. But it could not stop the brain drain.

Publiziert Juli 2015
Erstveröffentlichung: 28.01.2015 (