Corruption, lack of opportunity driving young people away from W Balkans
A panel at the Bled Strategic Forum on 29 August hosted by President Nataša Pirc Musar explored why young people decide to emigrate, especially from the Western Balkans. Corruption, nepotism, lack of opportunity, and politicisation were highlighted as the main reasons.
Nina Vukoslavčević of the International Cultural Diversity Organization, who is from Montenegro but currently lives and works in Vienna, said there were three main reasons why she left: education, endemic corruption and nepotism, and "constant politicisation of national identity".
She said it was necessary to give young talented individuals a sense of purpose, otherwise they will leave. The way to tackle corruption and nepotisms is by adopting a merit-based approach. And a more inclusive dialogue is needed instead of divisive political rhetoric.
Similarly, Mirjana Nikolovska from North Macedonia, who left 15 years ago and now works in Slovenia, highlighted the economic conditions in the country, political discourse populism, nationalism and nepotism as the reasons why she left.
"The only way that you can prosper is to belong to the right political establishment," she said, noting that there was no merit-based system, no space for critical constructivism, and no space to express one's freedom.
Vehid Fetić, an MA student at the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences, said that Bosnia and Herzegovina was "one of the most corrupt societies in the world" and the people there were "cursed with corruption" the moment they were born.
While singling out corruption, nepotism and a lack of jobs, he said that the only way to get ahead in Bosnia and Herzegovina was to be a member of one of the large nationalist political parties, but that required one to "kill all of your beliefs".
None of the three are opposed to returning at some point, but for that the situation would have to improve.
Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe commissioner for human rights, said she left Bosnia and Herzegovina for similar reasons. She refused to be part of any political group and sought independence, which she has found working for international organisations.
She said that in the Western Balkans there was still glorification of war criminals and denial of genocide, as she criticised politicians in the region for their discourse, as evident at yesterday's Bled Strategic Forum panel featuring Western Balkans prime ministers which she said left her "poisoned by the attitude of the leaders".
Maia Sandu, the president of Moldova, agreed with the reasons why young people emigrate, noting that in the last three decades a million people have left Moldova. She added hostility to business and the quality of government policies to the causes of migration.
But she also argued that young people, instead of merely rejecting bad politics, should become more active in politics to make it better, just like she did when she returned to Moldova from abroad, first as education minister and later when she helped set up a political party.
Not everyone should join a party, but politics would benefit a lot from people who are not into populism, who do not use divisive rhetoric, she said.
In Moldova, according to Sandu, there is plenty of work to be done but at least it has started. "But we will have to make a critical mass of improvements across the board," she said, mentioning healthcare and education as areas that need to be worked on.