A segue from The Guardian.
One Balkan joke best captures the mindset of people who feel they’ve been left waiting far too long: when it comes to EU membership, the difference between pessimists and optimists is that optimists believe Turkey will join during the Albanian EU presidency, while pessimists believe Albania will join during the Turkish EU presidency. Meaning: never.
In the main, the Balkans are the part of Europe ruled by the Ottoman Empire (today’s Turkey) for the longest time, as recently as 100-odd years ago in some locales.
The term Balkans is a geographical designation for the southeastern peninsula of the European continent. Europe has many regions, of course, and has two other southern peninsulas–the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and the Italian peninsula. But no other region of Europe contains as many different peoples (in the technical sense, “nations”) as the Balkans.
There are numerous reasons for the persistence of instability in the Balkans. Scholar have spent entire careers researching this, and there isn’t any one magical answer. What is clear is that whenever lots of young people move elsewhere, and the ones who don’t opt for smaller families, there is plenty for demographers to chew on.
The demography of south-eastern Europe threatens its hopes of prosperity
Measuring demography in the Balkans is difficult: apart from those for births and deaths, data are hard to come by … yet the data that are available paint a clear picture.
The population of every Balkan country is shrinking because of emigration and low fertility. In the past, populations grew back after waves of emigration, since many women had six children. Now few have more than one. Serbia may have more pensioners than working-age people by next year.
In the short run governments do not mind emigration because it lowers unemployment and increases remittances from abroad. But in the long run, says Vladimir Nikitovic, a Serbian demographer, it is “catastrophic”. About 50,000 people leave Serbia every year. Of those who return, around 10,000 are pensioners who have spent their working lives in the West. Their children will not follow them back.