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Migration in Serbia and the Western Balkans has accelerated as a result of economic movements influenced by relations and conditions in the largest states and economies of the European Union. With the increase in the number of emigrants and immigrants, the population profile in Serbia undergoes significant changes. Therefore, the question arises as to who will become a citizen of the European Union when the time comes. The magnitude of the consequences of emigration can be considered based on the results of the analysis “Costs of Youth Emigration” from 2019 and the methodology for calculating the annual costs and benefits resulting. from the emigration of the population from Serbia. The analysis has shown that, in monetary terms, Serbia annually suffers a loss of between 2.5 and 3 billion euros due to the emigration of people who have been invested in through their education, as well as because they no longer participate in the creation of Serbia’s gross domestic product. The benefits resulting from emigration have also been considered, which are reflected in the constant increase in remittance inflows sent to Serbia. The methodology developed for Serbia has been applied to other countries in the Western Balkans, leading to the finding that the region suffers annual losses of over five billion euro.


An indirectly raised research question through the analysis of emigration costs is the number of emigrants from Serbia on an annual level. Namely, by cross-referencing data from international sources, it has been estimated that between 15,700 and 49,000 people emigrate from Serbia each year. Domestic sources were not considered during the research because, after comparing the number of emigrants from Serbia with the data provided by international organizations such as the OECD, it was concluded that they are completely irrelevant and incomplete. After a debate in the public and professional circles, the dilemma regarding the number of emigrants was resolved by the publication and interpretation of the first data from the Population Census conducted by the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia (SORS) in 2022. Representatives of SORS presented an estimate that between 25,000 and 27,000 people emigrate from Serbia annually, with the caveat that this is a research estimate and not a data derived from the results of the 2022 Census due to the incomplete comparability of the 2022 Census with the 2011 Census. Comparability is not possible due to the methodological framework that has now been implemented for the first time, as well as other factors such as the participation of Albanians from the municipalities of Preševo, Bujanovac, and Medveđa in the 2022 Census. According to later confirmations by SORS, approximately 300,000 people net emigrated from Serbia between 2011 and 2022. However, it should be understood that the number of people who emigrated from Serbia is higher than 300,000, as net emigration is obtained when the number of emigrants is subtracted from the number of immigrants to Serbia.


Unlike the situation where domestic emigration statistics from Serbia are almost non-existent and international statistics are not comprehensive, immigration statistics to Serbia are a significantly more regulated area. The existence of data on immigration to the Republic of Serbia is a result of international obligations that the Republic of Serbia has undertaken in the process of visa liberalization, specifically within the framework of the Visa Liberalization Roadmap set by the European Commission for Serbia in 2008. The time series of data, available to researchers, decision-makers, and the public, has been accessible since 2010, primarily thanks to the preparation and publication of the Migration Profile of the Republic of Serbia by the Commissioner for Refugees and Migration. Although more advanced than emigration statistics, immigration statistics have numerous shortcomings that prevent precise conclusions about the number, structure, and trends of immigrant contingents. One reason why immigration statistics are not straightforward to interpret stems from the regulations of the Republic of Serbia itself, so Serbian nationals from the region who come to study at universities in Serbia remain invisible in immigration statistics until the moment they become citizens of the Republic of Serbia.


Through a comprehensive analysis of various migrant contingents from the Migration Profile, insights can be gained into the number of foreign nationals who have immigrated to the Republic of Serbia and contribute to its economy. The number of issued visas, as well as their structure according to various parameters, can be one of the first, but not necessarily robust indicators of immigration. In the period from 2010 to 2021, 127,596 visas were issued in the Republic of Serbia, with a quarter of them being granted to citizens of the People’s Republic of China. Immigration or settlement represents the relocation to the Republic of Serbia from another country, which lasts or is expected to last longer than 12 months. According to the previously accepted general definition, the immigrant population in Serbia doubled during the period from 2010 to 2021. On average, the immigrant population consisted of 27,000 people annually, but it is noticeable that there is no constant growth, and the number of immigrants within the immigrant population is highly variable. Furthermore, considering the number of approved temporary residence permits for individuals staying in Serbia for the first time, it can be observed that the number of these individuals almost tripled from around six thousand to 17.5 thousand from 2011 to 2021. This increase is primarily a consequence of an increased number of Chinese and Turkish citizens receiving approval for temporary residence in Serbia for work purposes. Compared to 2011, there are over five thousand more Chinese in this category, while Turkish citizens first appeared in this category in 2016, and their number has been steadily increasing, reaching around four thousand in 2021. From 2010 to 2021, an average of about 21,500 people per year acquired Serbian citizenship. In total, over the course of 12 years, the number of newly admitted Serbian citizens amounted to 257,148. From 2011 to 2021, the number of new Serbian citizens from Bosnia and Herzegovina was 156,4236, which accounts for two-thirds of the total number of granted citizenships in the analyzed 11 years. If acquiring citizenship meant that a person resides and contributes to Serbia, then through the analysis of the number of newly admitted citizens provided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, it could largely explain the annual immigration rate. However, an immigrant is someone who resides or plans to reside in the Republic of Serbia for more than 12 months, so the conclusion is that not all those who acquire Serbian citizenship are immigrants.


Emigration and immigration represent complex processes that involve numerous factors that drive them, as well as processes that leave immeasurable and unpredictable consequences. In the case of Serbia, emigration and immigration movements are significant, indicating that the population contingent, i.e., people living in the Republic of Serbia, undergoes significant changes over the years. This leads to the fact that, at this moment, we cannot predict the extent to which current residents of Serbia will become citizens of the European Union when Serbia becomes part of this community.

Author: Nenad Jevtovic, BS in Economics (text published in Ivanić V. (ed.) Smart Regions, National Convention on the European Union, 2023)

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