SCC at the Belgrade Security Forum – event review

Migration – challenges and opportunities

Serbian City Club was privileged to be invited to the Belgrade Security Forum 2019 to address a very timely and topical item ‘Our own migration crisis: people are leaving and what can be done about it’.

This topic is very close to our hearts and one of the key projects we are working on and have been addressing for the last 15 years.

We are acutely aware of migration, its benefits and challenges.

It has to be noted that migration is a natural phenomenon occurring all over the world. However, what Serbia lacks is a clear strategy or institutional framework for the return and circular migration of the highly qualified population, as well as for curbing one directional migration. As a result, the country is bereft of its experts who are of great importance for its development, progress and stability. In accordance with the Report by the World Economic Forum for 2016/17, Serbia ranked 134th and 132nd (of 137) in two very significant categories – “capacity to retain talent“ and “capacity to attract talent“ (The Global Competitiveness Report 2017–2018, downloaded from

Whereas mobility of people in itself is a positive occurrence for every society, the fact that a very small number of people is returning to Serbia presents a considerable challenge for our country. In accordance with numerous official and unofficial sources, the Republic of Serbia ranks 1st in the world in terms of the number of people leaving the country, especially the highly qualified workforce. It has to be noted that a number of people are also returning, but the profile of those people does not fully match the profile of those who are leaving (e.g. pensioners vs highly skilled professionals at the peak of their working life).

We have long advocated for circular migration that would help people share and apply their knowledge, skills and experiences, attained at the most prestigious foreign universities and companies in the world.

We also have to be realistic and realise that people/returnees face many challenges when returning; there are a number of misconceptions they face on a daily basis that need to be addressed:

  • They returned to steal jobs
  • They returned because they did not succeed/failed
  • They think they are better than people that never left

Therefore, we have to make sure there is a healthy platform and appropriate conditions for positive competitiveness are supported at the highest levels. We are pleased that the office of and the Prime Minister of Serbia herself take this subject extremely seriously, but the whole Government must take the lead in this field and change the rhetoric on this subject. That would help in building trust and creating bridges between Serbia and its diaspora.

Well-governed migration policies, intended to attract highly qualified migrants with specific work and innovation skills can contribute to a faster growing economy and competitiveness, thus making up for the lack in workforce and mitigating the negative effects of the current one directional migration.

It also has to be noted that this is not about stopping migrations, but about how we could use it to Serbia’s advantage. Our skilled professionals in both Serbia and abroad are an invaluable asset – we should nurture and look after them better.