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Return Migration and Re-Integration into Croatia and Kosovo (Roundtable, May 11-12, 2015 -- Zagreb/Croatia)

Hanspeter Wyss's picture
The goal of KNOMAD’s roundtable Return Migration and Re-integration into Croatia and Kosovo was to probe the hypothesis that return migration and homeland reintegration promote development through the transfer of enhanced human and social capital that migrants commonly acquire in their host society integration. This hypothesis raises the relevance of migrants' integration in host societies and their reintegration in homelands as development factors in an era of continuous mobility.
 
The KNOMAD roundtable in Zagreb put together professionals from Kosovo and Croatia who have had either direct or indirect experiences of migration and who were eager to share them, with the goal to identify best practices and gaps in migration management and ways in which they could be addressed through policy-making. What resulted is the picture of a complex, multiple migration process, which involves challenges and decision-making by different stakeholders at all times in the continuum: emigration, host society integration, return, reintegration, and remigration. Continuous mobility and transnationalism came out as fundamental characteristics of this process, one that necessitates proactive management at all levels (i.e. personal, institutional, local, national) if it is to be put to development purposes.
    
With their transition from constituents of former Yugoslavia to independent states and from Communism to market economies, Croatia and Kosovo have both known emigration in large numbers. On the one hand, emigration affected the working to non-working age ratio, changing the family structure, and creating a cycle of dependency on émigrés' remittances. On the other hand, outmigration can be viewed through a positive lens, given the long-term contribution to homeland development via the transfer of human, social, and financial capital by migrants, diasporas and returnees.
 
Both countries are trying explicitly to manage return and reintegration to this end. While Croatia has reached a stage when efforts for development can rely on its returnees' role, Kosovo focuses its attention on the development potential that regular migration, in particular labor emigration and remittances, can harbor. This distinction is triggered by the differentials in economic performance at home, the appeal that homeland consequently has for diasporas, and diasporas' socio-demographic profile. The two countries draw on common historical context, but have developed differently since the 1990s. Croatia is now a member of the EU and is well placed to advocate the integration of other Balkan states, including Kosovo.
 
The need for brain circulation, brain gain, and a culture of dialogue has been made evident in both cases; what was showed to work best for this goal is policy aimed at creating networks, in combination with mobility programs. A favorable investment environment and a stable political climate are essential ingredients for attracting diasporas and their investments. Equally important is a welcoming social milieu, where returnees and diasporas feel their mobility and multiple identities are valued and their skills rewarded on a merit basis. The roundtable also underscored the significance of research and data collection to support not only policy development, but also a more effective and efficient delivery of public services.
 
All this is to say that, besides governance structures specifically addressing migration and reintegration issues, inter-ministerial collaboration and partnerships with civil society are needed to meet development challenges that cut across fields of activity beyond migration.
 
The report on the roundtable Return Migration and Re-integration into Croatia and Kosovo can be downloaded here.