The EU's Other Migration Problem

Brain Drain in Central and Eastern Europe

A general view of Riga Old City, May 4, 2011. Ints Kalnins / Reuters

As Western Europe continues to grapple with an influx of immigrants and refugees, its central and eastern European neighbors are dealing with the opposite problem: keeping citizens from leaving. As their best and brightest flock westward to settle in the European Union’s wealthier states, eastern nations have seen economic malaise and steep population declines. In turn, anti-emigration sentiment has gained steam. In late October, Lithuania elected a fringe anti-emigration party, the Farmers and Greens Union, to head its parliament.

That result should not have been surprising. The country had seen around ten percent of its population leave since it joined the European Union in 2004. Weeks before, the Visegrad group of central European nations—Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia—convened a summit to call for more action to prevent the emigration of younger citizens. And over the summer, Latvia launched a campaign to lure its diaspora home, using the

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