Migration and integration from the perspective of the Western Balkans by Emilio Cocco
Migration and integration from the perspective of the Western
Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished colleagues,
I am pleased to be here and I would like to thank our hosts. Thank you for
coming to listen to my speech, although I suspect the reasons you are sitting here
in this room might depend on the freshness given by the air conditioning in such
a hot day. But I do hope is not the only reason and I am sure you are going to be
an extremely interested audience.
We have here a representation of young leaders of the civil society sector, who
will probably provide some of the future political leaders of this country. The
topic I am discussing today is strategic both for civil society and political sector.
However, by reading newspapers and watching television one may assume that
the issues of migration and citizenship still portray some ambiguous topic, which
is not clear in its boundaries. Moreover, although European countries do face
effects and consequences of migration everyday, no real model or easy‐made
solution is available for decision makers.
Given the above, my intention today is to shed some light on the issues of
migration and integration as seen from the Western Balkans perspective.
The reason is multifold. First, this is a region where migration is an essential part
of nation‐building and identity‐making. No single nation of the area is living
today where it used to be centuries ago, and this is one of the reason why the
state‐borders are such a complicated question in the Balkans. Secondly, this is
the only are where European Enlargement is going on: Croatia recently joined
the EU and all the former Yugoslav countries plus Albania are part of the EU
integration process. The outputs of this process would affect consistently the
movement of people n Europe. Finally, the Balkans are at the crossroad of
Europe, Middle East and the larger Mediterranean. The Adriatic Sea resembles
the Baltic one for many geopolitical factors but its context is more complicated.
The Balkan region is thus a transition area but also a transit area, which means it
works as a stage to perform larger and more complex political games.
Transnational crime and illegal migration are also part of this game.
My speech will tackle three main issues. First I will sketch out some aspect of the
migration phenomenon, generally speaking, clarifying its social nature and the
classic ways interpret it. Secondly, I will talk of Balkan migration since IIWW till
present days. Eventually, I will say a few words about the problems of
integration and citizenship
Migration is essentially a social phenomenon, that is to say its entails social
relations and historically produced networks of people. Although the decision to
migrate can be an individual one, migration cannot be reduced to a psychological
matter. Also, it cannot be just quantified in terms of figures and archives for even
when labor migration is at stake, there are always people with their relations
involved (i.e. families, friends, etc.)
In spite of its similarity with other mobility forms, such as tourism, wandering,
explorations, expatriations (i.e. diplomacy), migration is a specific phenomenon
that involves a temporary detachment ‐ e‐migration ‐ from a socio‐cultural
territorially defined environment (whose borders do not need to be official or
administrative) and a temporary installment into a second environment – im‐
migration. Thus, the migrant is necessarily a “foreigner”, who comes and might
one day go away (following the definition of foreigner by G. Simmel). This is why
“return” migration is also part of the phenomenon, although this is a generally
less spoken side. Differently, the movement of people produced by colonialism is
not exactly migration for these people were moving to stay forever into a new
country, a country of new foundation. On the other side groups as merchants,
nomadic people, university students do resemble migrants a lot.
After Second World War (IIWW) migration in Europe becomes a mass
phenomenon for economic reasons. Labor migrations start to shape, socially and
demographically, many European countries that were accepting thousands of
guest workers from other European countries or former colonies. Not
surprisingly, economic theories were the first to explain the phenomenon. Some
of them stressed the “macro” level, by underlining the differences between
countries in terms of GDP, technology and accumulation. Some others, where
more eager to note the “micro” differences that made the rational choice of
migration possible: namely wage differential or better economic conditions.
Later, a new set of approaches, named the “new economics” of migration pointed
out the importance of socio‐cultural factors by discussing the importance of so‐
called “other markets” than labor such as the one of security condition. Thus, in
more recent times, social science acknowledged the relevance of factors like
family bonds, friendship, cultural fascination and so on and so forth in the
making of migration. For instance, the effect of cumulative causation that
explains why more people from a single place tends to move towards a second
place, structuring a well defined flow, is explained by the role of pioneers. That is
to say, first migrants that install and than call family members to join them.
The most known model to describe migrations is the so‐called “Push and Pull”
model that spells out factors of expulsion (push) from one place and factors of
attraction (pull) towards another place. Push factors that make you want to leave
a place can be:
• Economic factors:
Lack of employment, economic breakdown caused by natural disasters
(earthquakes, floods, etc.), lack of food or shelter, lower standard of living
• Social Factors:
Lack of health care, cultural marginality, lack of educational opportunities, lack
of religious tolerance.
• Political Factors:
Unfair legal system, political repression, war and terrorism
Pull Factors—Factors that draw you to live in a place can be:
• Economic Factors:
Hope for better employment, better wages and more food, better shelter, hope
for family to reach a higher quality of life.
• Social Factors:
Encouragement from family and friends already settled there, better health care,
better educational opportunities, religious tolerance and cultural integration.
• Political Factors:
To gain protection under the law, right to vote and freedom from persecution,
Although the model is quite useful to describe the migration phenomenon still is
not enough to predict how and where migration flows occur. To determine in
advance direction and intensity of migration is not an easy task as too many
factors intervene to shape the social relations involved. For instance, some
factors of repulsion for a country may play a role whereas some other of
rejection create invisible obstacle. Thus, there are countries that seek migrants
but do not receive enough of them because they are not attractive (i.e. bad
weather, bad connections, difficult language, etc..), whereas countries targeted
by many migrants actually reject them, although seemingly they are not doing it
(i.e. bureaucratic obstacles, no policies for migrants, etc.).
Balkan migrations in the decades of the cold war
After the IIWW migrations from the Balkans had two main reasons. First of all
they were ethnic migrations: people living in territories that changed
sovereignty or political system (i.e. Communist regimes) moved out to their
“mother‐countries” or safer places. (tab. 1)
From the 1960s, economic reasons take the upper hand. In Yugoslavia, strong
economic motives and supportive policies, made the country one of the first
exporters of migrants towards Western Europe. The trend of emigration from
Yugoslavia to Western Europe grew till the 1970s with a peak in 1973 (850.000
migrants to Western Europe: Germany, Austria, Switzerland mostly). In 1975‐
1985 there is a reverse trend for the restrictive policies of hosting countries
(drop to 500.000 in 1985). In 1985‐1990 a new growth for the political, social
and economic deterioration of in Yugosalvia (550.000 in 1990).
But if we consider family members/inactive population (countries of destination
statistics) the figure reaches 1.3 million!
The Conflicting representations depending on the methodology and the way the
problem is approached.
For instance, the index called “net migration rate” is calculated on the statistics
of receiving countries. Whereas the one called “net migration rate as residual” is
the result of a balance between the total growth of the population and the
natural balance (birth/death). Therefore, the second index is based on the
statistics of the origin countries and reveal that actually more people migrated
than they were actually registered. Moreover, the way people were registered
(active, inactive, etc.) also varies and created differences in the representations.
Balkan migrations in the 1990s
The phenomenon of migration from the Balkans and more precisely former
Yugoslavia, takes a quite different outlook by the 1990s.
First of all, because the break‐up of Yugoslavia and the occurrence of ethnic
conflicts produced a number of forced migrations. (displacements, refugees,
asylum seekers, etc.).
Secondly, new “spontaneous” migration flows emerged and they differed a lot
from the ones previously controlled by the state.
Thirdly, Yugoslavia became not only an “origin” but also a “transit” country.
The factors briefly outlined above, describe a substantial change in the types of
migration flow from former Yugoslavia towards Europe. Particularly, a new
strategic role is played by the illegal and informal networks. Moreover, the lack
of reliable statistics becomes a recurrent event. Eventually, new negative
stereotypes emerge, such as the term “Yugo” that once had quite positive
connotation and lately becomes synonym of poor refugee, Balkan violence, etc.
The following tables give a statistical picture of the Balkan migration towards
Western Europe after the 1990s. (Tab. 3‐4‐1bis)
In conclusion, one can note that:
• BiH had greater losses in 1990‐1995 (almost 1 million out of 4,3 millions)
partly recovered in 1995‐2000.
• Albania 700.000 “losses” in the 1990s
• Slovenia and Croatia have positive trends (countries of immigration in the
• Macedonia and Serbia‐Montenegro alternates positive and negative
So, a quite diversified picture, where the issue of displacement and refugees play
a crucial role.
Integration and citizenship
Eventually, only a few words about integration and citizenship for time is
running. I would like to point out two aspects.
First, the issue of “second generation” that calls in the debate on “Ius Soli” and
“Ius Sanguinis”. Although, for many years labor migration from former
Yugoslavia was treated as an economic question, nowadays many former
Yugoslavs live in Western Europe with their families and sons. This is a factor
that eventually shapes the social picture of Western European countries in many
ways. Particularly, one cannot talk anymore of gust workers but should conceive
these bilingual (or trilingual) and multi‐national people as truly part of the polity.
What are the duties and the rights of these people? When and how one can truly
become Austrian, German, Italian or Swiss citizen? Is it enough to be born
somewhere to become citizen when the European juridical systems are mostly
stressing the blood kinship? I personally think this is where EU should test its
influence and power.
Secondly, the problem of returning immigrants. Many Western European of
Yugoslav descent would like to go back or at least to keep some affiliation with
their country, which in some case does not exist anymore. Are these people going
to be treated as true nationals or second class citizens? Or, alternatively, when
diaspora is manipulated for political purposes and granted more rights – for its
ethnic “purity” – than to the regular residents?.
These are questions to be tackled together to reach a citizenship balance.
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