CROATIA – Migration and demographic patterns in Central-Eastern Europe

This report is a part of deliverable “D.6.2. Report on migration and demographic patterns in the EU CEE countries and potential source countries” from the project FUME – Future Migration Scenarios for Europe (870649), financed with the Horizon 2020 programme. In particular, this country report focuses on critical analysis of migration data from Croatia, and in particular - immigration data. The analysis consists of an overview of stock and flow data on migrants including such dimensions as age groups, gender and the country of origin. This report is a first step in analytical task which aims to determine migration potential from and to Croatia and, furthermore, to provide necessary data input for fine-tuning of FUME migration projection model.

The Republic of Croatia is located in southeastern Europe on the Balkan Peninsula. It has joined the European Union in 2013, but it is not a member of the Schengen Area yet. Croatia has been facing significant challenges due to the aging processes and depopulation – due to negative demographic processes (such as low birth rate) and extensive emigration of the working age population.

Historically, Croatia was characterized by high emigration to overseas destinations, such as America and Australia, and to Western Europe. Since independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, emigration has continued while immigration processes were very significant (with the notable exception of refugees from other Balkan states). After joining the EU in 2013, Croatia has experienced a further demographic decline due to emigration of mostly younger generations to other European countries with a higher level of socioeconomic development. It includes the emigration of highly skilled professionals, which is a relatively new feature in Croatian migration history. These processes account for negative migration balance characteristic of Croatia’s recent history.

Immigration trends, however, are expected to change since the EU membership and recent economic growth make Croatia more attractive for foreign workers. Membership in the Schengen Area, which is planned for the nearest future, can also impact immigration level. For the moment, however, Croatia has one of the lowest immigrant/inhabitant ratio among EU member states. While in 2019 the majority of EU member states observed more immigrants than emigrants, Croatia was one of a few exceptions (Eurostat, 2021).