Europe, Immigration, recent, World Affairs

Eastern Europe’s Emigration Crisis

In recent years, most of the debate around the global migration of people has focused on the movement into developed countries and the political battles that ensue. Most famously, Trump has overturned the wisdom of the American political establishment by saying the unsayable on immigration. Politicians from Riga to Rome have won votes (and office) by exploiting similar anxieties. But we seldom talk about the places which, year after year, see more people leave than arrive, and the consequences of countries saying goodbye to some of their best and brightest—often for good.

Nowhere is this concern more pressing than in Eastern Europe. According to the UN, of all the countries that are expected to shrink the most in the coming decades, the top 10 are all in the eastern half of the continent, and seven of those are in the European Union. One cause for concern among many of these countries is the EU’s freedom of movement, one of the four “fundamental freedoms” of goods, capital, services, and people that bind the 28. Although most press coverage of the bloc’s easternmost nations has focused on the rise of anti-immigration populism, there is mounting concern about the brain drain of its most highly qualified citizens to better jobs abroad. In at least six of the EU, the people leaving have become as controversial as those arriving, with some countries now favouring emigration controls.

In essence, the EU’s freedom of movement guarantees an absence of barriers for anyone looking for a job within the 28 countries and makes discrimination based on nationality in work or employment illegal. For many of the EU’s new entrants in the East—including Poland, Hungary and Romania—a future where capital and people could move more freely between themselves and France, the UK, or Germany looked like a fast-track to the top-tier of developed nations. But somewhat ironically, it has only accelerated the departure of those who are crucial to getting there.

In the last century, Eastern Europe has suffered the most dramatic population decline in recent history. According to one study, between 2013 and 2016, approximately 230,000 people left Croatia—a country with a population of only four million—for the 11 “core EU countries” of Western Europe. In the United States, this would be the equivalent of a city the size of Chicago leaving every year. This mass exodus of people is not lost on the country’s politicians; last year the Croatian President called the freedom of movement the “biggest drawback” of the EU. “Mobility is good, as long as people come back. But Croatia is now recording strong negative demographic trends,” she said during a visit to Brussels.

Since Latvia joined the EU, it has lost one-fifth of its population. Romania, a country that according to one organisation is due to see the most drastic population decline, has seen over three million leave the country since it joined the EU in 2007. It lost half of its doctors between 2009 and 2015, the vast majority to better-paid employ in the richer hospitals and surgeries of Western Europe, leaving its health service poorly staffed and on the brink of collapse. High mortality (including infant mortality) and low birthrates are only accelerating the decline.

Large-scale migration of healthcare workers from East to West has been an uncomfortable reality for over a decade, and the young needn’t travel long distances to drastically increase their standard of living. One Estonian doctor who graduated from medical school in 2001 was able to quadruple his salary by moving only 200 kilometres to Finland. In 2018, Denmark enjoyed the EU’s highest average gross annual pay at nine times that of the continent’s lowest in Bulgaria. Who can blame those who head for the greener pastures on the other side?

One solution, that may seem obvious to many, is to increase inward migration from overseas. There is one big problem, however. Eastern European attitudes are  less favourable to immigration than they are in countries in the north and west. Cultural preferences, like sharing a religion, are also more important. According to 2017’s Gallup’s Migration Acceptance Index, all but two of the top 10 countries least accepting of immigration were from Eastern Europe (the others being Israel and the Czech Republic, which is considered Central Europe). Even Japan, a country that has also suffered from population decline—although for different reasons—and is reluctant to accept any large-scale immigration, has now begun to implement measures that will open itself up to labour from foreign countries.

The reasons people leave countries in the former Eastern bloc are numerous. Many are concerned about corruption and the limits it places on their country’s future. Others already have family living elsewhere on the continent. Most simply are looking for better prospects for themselves, their children, and their children’s children. Those taking part in the immigration debate in the West should be careful not to forget this fact. The drive to achieve a better life is the most human of instincts and we should not cast blame on those who act on it, lest we throw away our own humanity.

Equally, liberals and progressives in the West should stop viewing the immigration debate solely as an opportunity to flaunt their tolerance and “openness.” A welcoming nature and a desire to help those less fortunate than ourselves are admirable traits, but we mustn’t forget that by welcoming the world’s premier doctors, entrepreneurs, academics, and engineers—with few restrictions—we are depriving the places they come from of their potential; robbing them of the chance to make emigration an option, rather than a necessity—as many feel it is today.

On the liberal Left, acceptance of large-scale immigration is increasingly framed as a moral issue: are you a racist, or a xenophobe? If the answer is “neither,” what’s the problem? This forced dichotomy of good/bad or closed/open is unhelpful and obscures rather than illuminates. Ironically, while liberal immigration policies in general, and freedom of movement in particular, undoubtedly help those who leave, for the vast majority left behind, the result is a country that, in the long term, is measurably worse off. More often than not, those who frame the immigration debate in the starkest terms have little to say about this poaching of skills and talent from elsewhere.

In Europe, a conundrum we will increasingly have to confront is how to embrace openness whilst avoiding the erosion of another country’s social fabric. This may mean fundamentally reevaluating the freedom of movement, or at least restricting it to economies with comparable pay and conditions. Another solution may come in the form of increased cash transfers, and investment in smaller economies by bigger ones to try and level out standards of living. Something must be done soon, or populations in eastern Europe will continue to disappear.

History shows us that mass emigration can change a country forever. In an upstairs window of the Irish president’s official residence, one lamp flickers constantly. Lit by President Mary Robinson in 1990, it is a beacon to light the way home for the millions of descendants of the Irish who left their homeland over the centuries. (Ireland’s population peaked at more than eight million people in around 1840 and hasn’t yet recovered almost two centuries later.) One wonders whether the less prosperous countries of the European Union hit hardest by emigration may light their own lamps soon enough.


Josh Adams is a freelance writer from the UK whose work has recently appeared in Unherd, Areo and Arc Digital. He is currently writing a book about rare diseases and their impact on patients, families, healthcare systems and societies. You can follow him on Twitter @joshadz

CORRECTION: This article originally misidentified Mary Robinson as Mary Johnson. Quillette apologises for the error.


  1. John Lammi PhD, psychologist says

    “exploiting similar anxieties” perhaps “exploiting” is not an appropriate word here. How about “addressing real concerns about a lack of assimilation sufficient to have a workable society”

    • codadmin says

      I agree but this argument panders to the enemies of the our civilisation.

      How about: ‘mass third world immigration is bad and anyone who says otherwise is a racist’…?

      Defence or offence?

    • Out of Nowhere says

      @John Lammi: Great comment, thanks – that was my thought, too.
      That’s one of the reasons I like reading Quillette: If there is some bias or a logical error in an article, there are good commentators around ready to correct it. Many comments here really have a high quality and can be a pleasure to read, too.

    • Grant says

      People underestimate the energy, expertise and commitment it takes to sustain a thriving society. People do worry that mass immigration of people without that commitment is risky.
      It’s always been the main weakness of the EU, the wide difference in economic performance of its members and the common currency under which poorer countries have suffered mightily.

  2. codadmin says

    I hate to keep banging the same drum, but liberals don’t want open borders, leftists do, and they want open because of their hate and racism towards the people and civilisation they want destroyed,

    Every single living entity has a boundary, and we call the things that want to break that boundary down what, exactly?

    The irony is, the developed world ( including Eastern Europe ) doesn’t need poor immigrants, but the developing world needs rich immigrants from the developed world.

    Want to prove how racists leftists are, then see what they say when they that idea is tabled.

    • veen says

      “they want open because of their hate and racism towards the people and civilisation they want destroyed”

      Roger Scruton uses the work oikophobia for this: repudiation and hatred of the home, including the community and nation that gave you a home.

  3. Geary Johansen says

    The illusion is intervention. Because you only want what’s not yours.

  4. DrZ says

    “Equally, liberals and progressives in the West should stop viewing the immigration debate solely as an opportunity to flaunt their tolerance and “openness.””

    You forgot to add..and gain voters who want free stuff which is certainly the case here in the U.S.A. Watch the Democrats pander and out do each other with “vote for me and I will give you free stuff. Also vote for me and I will tear down borders. Who needs stinkin’ borders, we need new voters.

    • codadmin says

      The ‘new voter’ argument is another attempt by non-leftists to explain away the race hate of leftists.

      They don’t care. What matters is that ‘their people’ move into ‘those peoples’ areas. It’s a biological imperative…

  5. Peter says

    Josh…please please have a look at the map and come back again. Terrible article.

    • David George says

      Peter; what, specifically, are you talking about re the map and what makes it a “terrible” article?

  6. sociologist says

    inward migration is a solution to brain drain in poor countries?? are you shitting me? migration of whom and from where exactly?

    • Stephanie says

      Yea, the suggestion that the emigration of doctors and nurses means Eastern Europe should bring in masses of third world ditch diggers is strange to say the least.

      • Count Spatula says

        Agreed. That made no sense whatsoever.

        The article seems to assume that simply having a high population is the end goal and that’s why emigration needs to be offset by immigration. Sometimes less is more.

        It also fails to acknowledge the money sent home by East European ex pats.

  7. Peter says

    Ex communist countries need higher wages.. people will be coming back to their countries…wages go up but not fast enough. Higher wages= more economic migrants. Better economy= higher benefits/goverment support. Third world is coming sooner or later to poland hungary etc there is no way anyone can stop that and it all depends on how the economy is doing…end of. Israel is central europe? Czech Slovakia yes but israel?

    • David George says

      You still going on about that?
      This is what it says “all but two of the top 10 countries least accepting of immigration were from Eastern Europe (the others being Israel and the Czech Republic, which is considered Central Europe).”

    • Academy 23 says

      The author doesn’t suggest Israel in in Central Europe – they are making the point that the former communist country of the Czech Republic is considered to be in central, not eastern, Europe.

  8. neoteny says

    we mustn’t forget that by welcoming the world’s premier doctors, entrepreneurs, academics, and engineers — with few restrictions — we are depriving the places they come from of their potential; robbing them of the chance to make emigration an option, rather than a necessity—as many feel it is today.

    Nope: “the places” are depriving themselves of these (not necessarily) premier doctors, entrepreneurs, academics, and engineers.

    In Hungary, the governmental takeover of the National Academy of Sciences and its research institutes progresses apace since the last election (in April 2018). Plenty of Hungarian researchers arranged foreign employment for themselves and more will do so — people who wouldn’t have contemplated (at least not in these numbers) emigration otherwise.

    • Jack B. Nimble says


      Not surprisingly, workers who remain in Hungary are the biggest victims of the government’s policy on immigration and emigration:

      “Hungary’s Workers Are the Victims of a Policy That Limits Migration by Carol Schaeffer
      Jan 15, 2019 The Atlantic

      BUDAPEST—Viktor Orbán has found himself in something of a bind: Hungary’s growing economy has given him cover to dismiss his detractors, who rail against his moves to weaken the country’s institutions and his anti-immigrant rhetoric. But that same economic boom, paired with a dearth of workers—both homegrown and from abroad—is counterintuitively uniting a political opposition against him….. The country’s gross domestic product has been growing at an annual rate of more than 4 percent for most of the past two years, unemployment has fallen to a low of 3.6 percent from 11 percent in 2010, and Orbán has enticed foreign companies such as BMW, Daimler, Samsung, and others to build factories here.

      At the same time, though, Hungarian workers have continued to move out of the country in search of higher wages abroad. As many as 600,000 Hungarians—equivalent to around 9 percent of the working-age population—work outside of Hungary, and Orbán’s refusal to countenance immigrants filling the void has only made this shortfall more acute. In December, the government rushed legislation through Parliament to try to address this shortage. The new measures give businesses the right to require employees to work up to 400 hours of overtime a year, nearly twice as much as was previously allowed, and demand only that employers pay for that overtime at some point within three years. Simply put, employers can make their employees work more, and not have to pay them until later. The government maintains that these overtime hours remain voluntary and at the discretion of the employee, but many workers and trade unions argue that they have little choice in the matter.”

      Bottom Line: Hungarians are being screwed by their own government.

      • neoteny says

        Hungarians are also being screwed by their own government.


      • Serenity says

        Jack B. Nimble: “Hungarians are being screwed by their own government.”


        Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced in February 2019 that the government will offer financial aid and subsidies for families to boost the birth rate. The policy was “Hungary’s answer” to population decline, “not immigration.”

        “‘There are fewer and fewer children born in Europe. For the West, the answer (to that challenge) is immigration. For every missing child there should be one coming in and then the numbers will be fine,’ he said.
        ‘But we do not need numbers. We need Hungarian children,’ he added.

        In 2016, Hungary’s birth rate was 1.45 births per women, below the 2.1 replacement rate.

        The seven-point program includes a loan of 10 million Forint (€31,352/$35,540) to women under 40 who marry for the first time. A third of the loan would be waived after a second child and the entire sum waived after a third child.

        Another plank of the program would absolve any woman who has four or more children from paying income tax for life.

        The new measures would also provide housing subsidies to families depending on the number of children they have and state support for the purchase of any seven-seat vehicle.”

        • E. Olson says

          Serenity – I like Orban’s policies to increase the native birth rates, but I am shocked that the media hasn’t pointed out how similar they are to what Hitler implemented in 1930s Germany since they otherwise aren’t shy about making Hitler comparisons about any politician to the Right of Stalin.

          • Serenity says

            E. Olson,

            Why are you shocked? A key principle of propaganda is KISS – keep it simple, stupid – catchphrases and symbols are easy to spread,
            to bring all public thinking into line. Hitler is a symbol of hatred towards minorities.

            Left-wing and right-wing radicalism are two sides of the same coin. For example, in Germany progressive radicals denounce German culture expressed in national identity, patriotism and national consciousness as akin to nazism and thus follow suit and reinforce neo-nazis who propagate psychopathic ideology of the Third Reich as the quintessence of German identity to recruit young supporters, to gang up people based on their ethnical identity – and lead the struggle to gain political power.

          • Jack B. Nimble says

            @E. Olson

            Speaking of Hitler comparisons:

            “….The Hungarian government’s anti-migrant rhetoric endangers all minorities, including Jews, and its comparisons with the 1930s are unmistakable. ….It has inflated Hungary’s role in “saving” the Jews of Budapest and minimized discourse on their own complicity in deporting and killing Jews. State-appointed “historians” have relativized the horrors of the Holocaust, and often depict their own people as victims of what they say was Jewish-supported communism.

            After Orbán came to power in 2010, he appointed András Levente Gál to direct the Holocaust Memorial and Documentation Center in Budapest. According to Paul Shapiro of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, “Gal’s first proposal was to eliminate mention of [wartime Hungarian leader] Miklós Horthy’s alliance with Adolf Hitler and participation in the dismemberment of three neighboring states — Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia — as ‘irrelevant’ to the Holocaust.”

            Gal’s second proposal, Shapiro recounted, “was to sanitize the record of Hungarian participation in the ghettoization and deportation of the country’s Jews and place full blame for the destruction of Hungarian Jewry on Germany.” Even though the resulting international outcry led to Gál’s dismissal, Orbán’s government went ahead anyhow and built a “Memorial to the Victims of German Occupation” with the same message……”


            Bottom Line: Orbán used Jewish financing to start his political career. Then, as Hungary’s economy took off and he could obtaining financing from right-wing industrialists, Orbán turned against Jews in general and against Soros in particular. Read the above article for info on how Orbán has denied to some Jewish congregations the governmental benefits that are routinely provided to other religious groups.

          • Dave Bowman says

            Relax… That would be simply because we have a “media” and press industry whose educational level, IQ level and general knowledge of recent history (200 years min.) is in real terms orders of magnitude below what would have been minimum requirements for the job and work a few generations ago.

            That’s what happens when the schools and universities bail out on their obligations by telling idle, drunken, drugged-out, molly-coddled students that they don’t have to sweat, because everything they need is on google and wikipedia. We are doomed.

            However since you mention it, Hitler’s social and birthing policies were absolutely right and correct for his one and only proper priority – the health and longevity of the German people, nation and race.

            You’re welcome.

          • Stephanie says

            Not allowing mass Muslim immigration is the best possible thing you can do for your country’s Jews. Quibbles over who is to blame for WWII crimes in addition to the Nazis is less important than protecting today’s Jews from the closest thing the world currently has to Nazis.

        • Jack B. Nimble says


          Orbán deserves credit for being opportunistic, and I don’t mean that negatively. Most successful politicians have a gift for recognizing and seizing opportunities. Orbán, for example, was a protege of G. Soros before turning against him and against liberalism [see article excerpt below].

          But some of Orbán’s recent moves smell of desperation. How desperate? Well, the supposed labor-force benefits of the marriage and pregnancy subsidies will only occur 20+ years in the future, if they happen at all. By then, Hungary may be out of the EU or the EU may no longer exist–in which case central Europe will be faced with a whole different slate of problems.

          To be clear, I like the idea of governmental family subsidies–particularly for health care and education–and wish the US did more of that sort of thing. But the subsidy in Hungary (USD 12000 per child) seems small and unlikely by itself to remove the need for the mother to work outside the home. And remember that the father will be busy working overtime for no pay and thus less able to help with child care.

          Here’s the story of Soros vs. Orbán:

          “…Orbán, the future prime minister, attended Oxford on a Soros-financed scholarship. Soros was a major financial backer of Fidesz (the name stands for the Alliance for Young Democrats), which Orbán founded with other pro-democracy student leaders in 1988. Soros even provided financing for a group called Black Box that made the documentary about Orbán, which was part of a series on current affairs….Their once common path split sharply when Orbán transformed Fidesz into a center-right conservative party in the mid-1990s, a move that helped catapult him into the prime minister’s office for the first time in 1998. He was forced out by subsequent electoral defeats only to win back the job in 2010….”


          • Lydia says


            Soros is a Jew that worked against Jews. the Jews even had a name for it but I can’t recall what it is right now.

          • Jack B. Nimble says


            Sounds like you have been reading too many conspiracy theorists:

            “…….As the years passed, [conspiracy theorist Lyndon] LaRouche and his followers intensified their invective—for instance, maligning Soros in 2004 as “a Nazi beast-man seizing Jewish properties.” Around this time, the false accusation began getting picked up and expanded by right-wing talk show hosts on radio and television who opposed Soros’s political views. Glenn Beck was not the first to bring it up, but in November 2010, he falsely claimed on his Fox News show that Soros “had to help the government confiscate the land of his fellow Jewish friends and neighbors.” The Nazi canard has also been circulated by extreme right-wingers such as commentator Ann Coulter, InfoWars founder Alex Jones, and author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza.

            Even some Jews who don’t like Soros’s liberal ideas—and what he funds—have taken up the Nazi trope. In their 2006 book, The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party, David Horowitz and his coauthor Richard Poe claimed that Soros was a Nazi “collaborator in fascist Hungary” and “survived [the Holocaust] by assimilating to Nazism.” Israeli pundit Caroline Glick has also spread the tale. In a September 14, 2017 column in The Jerusalem Post, Glick brought up the 60 Minutes interview, in which, she asserted, “Soros proudly admitted that he collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust.” …. In May, Jewish comedian and actor Roseanne Barr tweeted to Chelsea Clinton: “By the way, George Soros is a nazi who turned in his fellow Jews 2 be murdered in German concentration camps & stole their wealth…” Barr later apologized………”


          • Serenity says

            Jack B. Nimble: “Orbán’s recent moves smell of desperation… the supposed labor-force benefits of the marriage and pregnancy subsidies will only occur 20+ years in the future”

            Any public policy proposed by a democratically elected leader to be implemented in “20+ years in the future” is absurd. I wonder why the link to the credible source of information is missing.

          • Serenity says

            Jack B. Nimble: “Orbán used Jewish financing to start his political career.”

            “Jewish financing”? Ha! Playing both ends against the middle?

            George Soros is one of the mega-donors to the radical progressive causes worldwide – globalisation, open borders policies, opposition to government efforts to end the flow of illegal immigration, undermining the ability of national authorities in Western democracies to uphold and defend the laws, traditions and values of their nations and communities.

            He sponsored BLM, J Street, EIRIS Foundation, etc.

            As far as Israel is concerned, Soros-backed groups work to delegitimize every aspect of Israeli society as racist and illegitimate. The Palestinians are focal point of his attacks. He uses them to claim that Israel is a racist state.

          • ga gamba says

            But the subsidy in Hungary (USD 12000 per child) seems small and unlikely by itself to remove the need for the mother to work outside the home.

            I suppose how one defines small influences one’s analysis of the programme and its potential effectiveness. According to Hungary’s Central Statistical Office, presently Hungary’s average gross earnings amounts to HUF 356,900, which is about $1253 per month. Is 79.8% of gross average monthly income, which is 1/12 of the $12,000 annual subsidy, per child too little? Given what one pays in income tax, transportation, child care, and many other costs associated with work and family, plus the hours and stress of it all, I reckon many may find this sum enticing. This is not to say rearing a child is easy, but many may find it preferable to work, especially if work is a job, which is what most people have, and not a career, which is what few people have.

          • Jack B. Nimble says


            ‘Any public policy…. to be implemented in “20+ years in the future” is absurd.’

            I said that the benefits would mostly accrue 20+ years in the future. It takes about that many years for an offspring to enter the labor force, and more if they decide to pursue higher education. The only way to boost the labor force this year or next is to ‘import’ workers, which is the path that Orbán has rejected. You misunderstood my meaning.

            @ga gamba

            ‘….Is 79.8% of gross average monthly income, which is 1/12 of the $12,000 annual subsidy, per child too little? …..’

            It is not an annual subsidy, as far as I can tell. The article that @Serenity linked to said this:

            “…..The seven-point program includes a loan of 10 million Forint (€31,352/$35,540) to women under 40 who marry for the first time. A third of the loan would be waived after a second child and the entire sum waived after a third child. ….”

            This ‘loan’ of USD 35,540 sounds like a one time grant of funds that is paid to certain married couples and that only has to be repaid if the woman enters menopause without having produced children. Adoptions presumably don’t count toward the total. Over a typical childhood, the subsidy amounts to about USD 60 per month.

            In any case, paying couples to marry and procreate, instead of letting ‘nature take its course,’ still sounds like desperation to me.

        • Klaus C. says

          As the article pointed out, what’s particularly damaging to these countries is that those leaving include a high proportion of the educated elite – the professional classes needed to help build a society that will be less likely to shed citizens.

          Not surprisingly, a high proportion of the educated elite – including scientists, doctors, engineers, technical staff, teachers etc – are liberal-minded people who don’t warm to the kind of authoritarian and explicitly illiberal society Orbán is attempting to construct.

          It’s not just about money. Many Eastern European governments (and populations) are hostile to ordinary middle class Western values. If the powers-that-be in these places want a society that’s only fit for conservative peasants, they can’t really complain about the more resourceful and modern-minded citizens deciding to move West.

        • Malek al Kuffar says

          Subsidizing children sounds like a good way to raise birth rates, but South Korea tried subsidies but they didn’t work. There are other policy instruments that might be effective as flanking measures. For example reducing female unemployment. In Spain it was found that women refrain from having children because it reduces their employment prospects. The metric that determined fertility was the difference between the male unemployment rate and the female unemployment rate. The Spanish cities of Pontevedra and Vitoria sharply reduced motor traffic and found that people were having more children as a result, because streets are safe for children to play in.

          • persimon says

            Sorry, but this is silly. Nobody decides not to have children because there is too much traffic in the area. People often move when they have children, anyway. And women just say they don’t have children, because they want better employment prospects. The reality is much more complicated. When they are employed, they say it reduces career advancement prospects, etc. Or that there is no day-care. Having no job can be seen as a perfect opportunity to have children. Because, you know, work and caring for children don’t mix so easily. It’s like having two full time jobs at once. I know, I did it…

      • NeverReady says

        “…Bottom Line: Hungarians are being screwed by their own government…”

        But why? Think back a few more years and you have your answer

        Bottom bottom line: The EU screwed Hungary long before the Orban government was forced to screw their own workers.

        • Jack B. Nimble says


          The EU–unlike the US–lets member states leave if they want. So why does Hungary remain in the EU?

      • Count Spatula says

        That article is from the Atlantic so it’s guaranteed to be wrong. And it is. The fact employers need overtime just means there is a high demand for labor and that wages have to rise.

        Higher wages are not a “problem” for Hungarian workers that needs to be “solved” with immigration. That’s how the Atlantic and NYT think. But it’s just wrong, wrong, wrong.

    • HungarianKnight says

      I think you will find the “academics” in question are of the ideological ‘woke’ kind. No one is shedding a tear for them but commiserations to those countries that receive them. Our gain is your loss.

      • neoteny says

        I think you will find the “academics” in question are of the ideological ‘woke’ kind.

        Like József Pálinkás? Admittedly he haven’t found foreign employment (yet), but it is rather hard to pin the ‘woke’ ideological label on him.

        However it is, we seem to agree that there’s no brain drain going on: you don’t miss the expatriate Hungarians, and I agree that it is only their business where and how they emigrate.

  9. Pingback: Eastern Europe’s Emigration Crisis | The American Tory

  10. Morgan Foster says

    @Josh Adams

    “Most famously, Trump has overturned the wisdom of the American political establishment by saying the unsayable on immigration.”

    Unsayable for you, perhaps. Let me say it: “shit hole countries”.

    Trump was saying that immigration from shit hole countries is not good for America, because the reason why the countries are shit holes is because the people of those countries made them shit holes, and letting them emigrate here has not made America “stronger”.

  11. Francis Urq says

    Poland experienced such an exodus when it first joined the EU. Poland today has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe and continues to record impressive wage growth. A tighter labour market isn’t necessarily a problem, especially not for incumbent workers.

    As the Polish economy continues to improve, there is anecdotal evidence that a growing number of Poles are now returning home from Western Europe.

    Can more ‘eastern’ countries like Romania follow a similar course? It really depends on whether the Romanian government can get its act together, enact the necessary reforms and stamp out corruption. The Polish example shows that it is indeed possible.

    • Dave Bowman says

      The Polish example shows that it is indeed possible

      … but the Albanian example proves that it is very unlikely.

      • Malek al Kuffar says

        The Albanian example proves nothing. Albania is an exception, because its Communist period was so devastating, far worse than in other east European countries. The paranoid dictatorship of Enver Hodja invested millions in bomb shelters but very little in highways and industry. The upshot was a generalized anomie that still prevails.

  12. Farris says

    Immigration flows from east to west, in other words into Western style democracies.
    “Why do you rob banks?” “Because that’s where the money is.”
    Why do people immigrate to Western democracies? Because that’s where the prosperity is. Yet leftist seek to reverse the unfair progress of Western economies. There is lesson in there but amazingly it won’t be learned.

  13. Captainpants says

    The president of Ireland in 1990 was Mary Robinson not Johnson.

  14. Jean Levant says

    This piece is a good argument against the way the European Union was built, its in a hurry timing and its extension. How To Destroy A Good Basic Idea In Three Lessons could be the nickname of EU from the 90s on. There are winners as always – some of the emigrants and some of the western employers – but the losers are far more numerous, it seems, even in the western part of Europe.
    As often, the original flaw is the lack of cohesion (in this case the obviously huge gap between the standards of living). It’s so obvious in fact and there were so many warnings about that you could think it’s an intentional sabotage from the inside (but it’s not).

  15. Shadevar says

    How can one write an article on the topic of Eastern European (im)migration, without mentioning the 1 million+ Ukrainians working in Poland?

  16. Pingback: Elsewhere in emerging Europe - Emerging Europe | News, Intelligence, Community

  17. E. Olson says

    “One solution, that may seem obvious to many, is to increase inward migration from overseas.”

    Yes, lets replace our home-grown doctors, nurses, engineers, and professors who have fled to Western Europe for higher wages, with unskilled and culturally incompatible “refugees” from Africa and the Middle-East. And of course Economic theory fully supports the idea that bringing in a flood of unskilled workers will dramatically increase the local wage levels that have led to the native exodus from their own country.

    But you say you don’t want the unskilled, you only want the smart doctors, engineers, and professors from the Middle East and Africa. In other words, you think the smart/trained professional from the developing countries will want to go to Eastern Europe where the pay is terrible, where they speak strange languages, and often have corrupt governments instead of the Western Europe where the pay is much higher, they speak mainstream languages, and the governments are a bit less corrupt? And of course you don’t care about the poor people of the Middle East and Africa who are suppose to develop their country without their own doctors, nurse, engineers, and professors?

    Sadly, the Eastern European problem is a hangover from 50 years of Marxist rule by corrupt Communist politicians under the thumb of the corrupt USSR, where doctors and professors earned the same low wages as garbage collectors and farm workers (equality for everyone!!!), and where the scientific/technological output that would allow for economic growth and prosperity consisted entirely of what they could steal from the West. Thus these places have poor universities, weak companies, and lousy medical facilities (but they are “free”!!!), and hence unattractive for any “go-getters” with above average intelligence and skill (and hence mobility).

    And within the medical fields specifically, the government run medical systems of Western Europe vastly underpay their medical professionals, which means they fail to attract sufficient home-grown citizens to the professions, because most bright people don’t wish to train for years to become lowly paid federal bureaucrat doctor or nurse. Hence the whole premise of “single payer” or “free medical” care that the Democrats in the US are running on is entirely dependent on stealing medical professionals for their staffing needs from less developed markets whether they are Eastern Europe or Africa.

    • Lydia says

      In the 1990s we befriended some immigrants from the Ukraine that the Temple here sponsored. She was a medical doctor and he was a physical therapist. neither one of them had practiced their profession in the Ukraine for many years. Both made twice the money as a hairdresser and a DJ. That was my first introduction into how that system really worked.

      • E. Olson says

        Lydia – and the 137 Democrat candidates for 2020 are all promising to bring it to the USA!!!

        • LR says

          More accurately it’s the ‘Democratic’ candidates…It’s the Democratic party…

    • Lydia says

      “culturally incompatible “refugees” from Africa and the Middle-East.”

      It’s the culturally incompatible part that concerns me the most. Especially as a female. (Gasp! I know how Politically Incorrect it is to say such)

      • Dave Bowman says

        Gotta love a woman with a working brain – AND the courage to speak out.

        Screw political correctness.

    • Joana George says

      E., you wrote: Communist politicians under the thumb of the corrupt USSR, where doctors and professors earned the same low wages as garbage collectors and farm workers (equality for everyone!!!),

      That was more the official party line than the reality. Bribes were a much more considerable source of income for doctors and professors than their actual wages. These bribes continued long after 1989. They ended up being very, very well off compared to the rest of the population. (Oddly enough, shopkeepers where right up there with them before ’89.) This side income has become quite threatened lately, but for the longest time it was just the norm. It was also normal to be denied medical treatment unless you provide the necessary “gifts” to the medical staff.

      My experience is just with the Romanian system, but I’d be surprised if the other Eastern European countries didn’t have similar issues. It just seems logical that inequality would find a way to manifest itself. For example, if you had a good reputation as a doctor you would make a lot more money because you could demand bigger bribes. People would also consider themselves lucky for having the privelage to be treated by you so additional gifts were common (the classic was a carton of Kent cigarettes).

      • E. Olson says

        Joana – thanks for sharing your personal experience, which simply reinforces to idea that trying to go against market forces only means corruption takes its place.

      • Nicky says

        Good point. I arrived in Hungary in the early nineties, and bribes (so called ‘gratitiude money) to doctors were pretty common back then. Even when I gave birth in 2004, our gynaecologist was given a nice sum of money by my husband. He was a brilliant doctor, and at the time, I didn’t mind, knowing how low the salaries were (apparently, until recently, one tenth of the UK average) Bribes of this kind are forbidden now, and as far as I know doctors have to sign an agreement that they will not accept gratitide money.

        • JA says

          Unfortunately you’re wrong about the bribes being forbidden now. If something, they were made semi-legal a few years ago under the name ‘paraszolvencia’.

      • LR says

        Dang – I forgot all about ‘Kent’ cigarettes…haven’t heard anyone mention Kent cigarettes for ages…Decades…

    • State funded medical facilities in the UK pay well for the medical staff. The services are generally very good. Of course it varies a lot. Anyone can give you good and bad stories. Everyone has access, not dependent on money or insurance. I haven’t had to ever use facilities in other European countries, but I guess health in general is better in most places in Europe than many places in the USA. I’m a regular visitor to Ukraine and the situation there is complex. Healthcare standards vary greatly and it is the lack of pay, free access, and investment now which is the problem. Privatisation will be a disaster. My strong impression from numerous conversations with ordinary Ukrainians is that health care was relatively better in Soviet Union times. Except dentistry which is high quality. Ukraine (like North Macedonia) is a popular destination for dental tourism now.

      I know of similar examples to Lydia and Joana.

      Kiron Reid, Liverpool UK.

      • Bob Neumann says

        I agree with your statement that “health in general is better in most places in Europe than many places in the USA” but it has zero to do with healthcare. Americans have unlimited access to fat-filled, sugar-filled, low nutrition food. –pretty much anyone can afford as much junk food as they want — and most Americans drive everywhere, so they never have any real exercise forced on them. Few people walk more than about 50 meters per day. Few people ever climb a single flight of stairs in a day.

        American healthcare is outstanding, on par or better than anything on the planet. But nothing can counteract continual poor nutrition and lack of exercise.

        To be clear, as I write this, I’m heavier than I ought to be, and haven’t gotten any meaningful exercise in the last month. Understanding the problem in your brain does little to overcome the inertia of ease and convenience.

        • LR says

          @Bob…”Americans have unlimited access to fat-filled, sugar-filled, low nutrition food. –pretty much anyone can afford as much junk food as they want.”…

          Thanks to the ‘great’ idea of Earl Butz, (remember the big AG guy from the 70’s?)…to subsidize cheap corn for the masses. One of those big ideas that sounded great in theory – but not so great for the reality of actual practice regarding human nature, health, soil, and biodiversity.

          For an overall doc on the food system in the U.S. I recommend “King Corn.”

          Another factor of course, was the pathetic move to reduce PE classes in schools, and not make kids run their little buts off – thus reinforcing the human tendency for laziness early on.

          • LR says

            P.S. One of the most tragic consequences of our big AG system was farmer suicides, being under reported, and not really cared about.

  18. Rev. Wazoo! says

    Interesting article if a bit half-baked. Notably missing are differentials in living costs, higher education costs and (as @Shadever notes) inward migration from further east etc.

    Wage arbitration is a major driver when even unskilled labor from Poland working in eg the UK can support a whole family back home handsomely plus paying off the mortgage in 5 years. Imagine what a doctor could do. This also means all emigrant labor isn’t lost income; much comes back in remittances, driving increased purchasing and general GDP growth back home as well as putting upward pressure on wages there.

    They should consider a UK measure where cost of studying eg nursing is forgiven if you go on to work for the National Health Service. Similarly, Latvia et al could attach a putative education bill forgiven if you stay and work there for 10 years but payable over 10 years if you leave.

    A harsher version would have the amount due be equal to the cost of the same degree in the country the student subsequently works in.

    • Lydia says

      “Wage arbitration is a major driver when even unskilled labor from Poland working in eg the UK can support a whole family back home handsomely plus paying off the mortgage in 5 years. ”

      There is a similar situation in the US with Central American migrants and illegals. Trump floated a large tax on remittances for illegals early on and Republicans said no. Remittances to Mexico and Central America are about 30 billion a year. It’s a huge incentive for illegals. More tax on that would build the wall.

  19. GeorgeQTyrebyter says

    We were just in Romania. We rode the train from Timisuara to Oradea. About 1 hr from Oradea, the young man in our compartment asked us “Where are you from?” He is a border guard trainee, and had lived for 5 years in England doing ag labor (picking strawberries). He returned home when he found that he could not get a girlfriend in England. He also showed us an infra-red video of illegals crossing from Serbia into Romania, which is one of the hot borders in the control of illegals in Europe. Romania is EU, Serbia is not.

    • Rev. Wazoo! says

      . @GeorgeQTyrebyter

      Indeed and one would expect Bulgaria to be a similar border but the word got out that if you get caught crossing that border, the guards or police would simply take anything of value the illegal border crosses had then beat them and dump them back on the other side of the border. Hence the longer trek to Hungary, Croatia or from Serbia into Hungary or Romania.

      Btw, Hungary did a cunning thing: asylum seekers must be held in the country so they put the Razor wire some distance from the border and the processing centers beyong the wire but before the border. No fences around the center; leave anytime you like but to another country, not into (the rest of) Hungary.

      Leaving cancels your asylum application so take your choice: stay and hope for the best or leave and try your chances somewhere else.

      Not saying any of the above is as it should be, just reporting.

    • Cassandra says

      So what was he doing for the rest of the Year? The strawberry season is about two months…..

      Many east European ‘workers’ in the UK work at a recognised job with a tax paying employer just long enough to get a National insurance number , which is the portal to free medical care and , hurray, employment benefits, housing subsidy etc etc.

      The EU insists that child benefit is paid to the children of these claimants who are themselves resident in other EU countries ,even if the children have never set foot in the UK. The State is effectively paying or subsiding these unskilled and temporary workers, and their families.

      And where does the State get the subsidy from? The permanent, tax paying residents, of course.

      Very expensive strawberries.

  20. Dave Bowman says

    Important, timely and beautifully-written article Thank you.

  21. Barney Doran says

    When the Dems have socialized our country with ‘free university’ in addition to mortally wounding our capitalistic economy, let us see how happy we will be when doctors, etc take their free educations and go to more economically attractive (read capitalistic) countries. That is one of the the reasons communism had to achieve worldwide domination in order to survive. And when it didn’t, it failed. It cannot live as long as there is a possible capitalistic comparison in the world.

    • Malek al Kuffar says

      What rubbush! Germany has had free tuition at universities for many decades and its capitalism is doing fine.

  22. Anonymous says

    Why don’t you actually ask us about how we feel about those prospects instead of trying to force multiculturalism like the imperialist of yesterday.

    I am fine with less economic growth, even though the migrants have been shown to take more than they give in terms of economics. I am fine with my society the way it is right now. I can read news stories of rape gangs and de facto sharia law in the west, even in places like Norway. I do not want that for my society and want my future but also the future of my family to be secure and not premised on some promise of immigrants integrating. You’ve had your opportunity to show how disastrous it is. Being from Poland I’ve read other stories that show a complete and unacceptable view of history and a hatred of our culture has ensued. The most applicable example would be with the migrants from Turkey to Vienna.

    A short while ago an artist in Krakow attempted to send a statue of a famous king of Poland, Sobieski, who lifted the siege of Vienna from the Ottoman turks. Now Vienna has a sizable Turkish population and declined the gift on account of how it might be seen as a slight against the turks. In this case, the turks were very much the worst of the worst with their genocides and imperialism, but it is somehow acceptable since it is against Europeans. Perhaps those turks should have grown up and accepted that their history is not one of niceness and has some dark parts like destroying the Eastern Roman empire or invading the Balkans and subjugating its people. I don’t want this in Poland and I don’t need a cultural imperialist like these multiculturalists to tell me I’m wrong when I can provide example after example of how these migrants and immigrants are a strain not just on our budgets but on our culture.

    I should be able to create and send a statue of Sobieski to Vienna since it was the city he saved from being subjugated by the Ottoman empire and I don’t need an newly imperialist turk or multiculturalist to tell me know because you are no different than those people in the past who also said no and sought to subjugate others.

  23. meerkat says

    Free movement of peoples was inevitably going to be the death knell of some countries. You might argue that it’s the responsibility of former communist countries to create the conditions necessary for their young people to stay and pursue lives there rather than being dysfunctional basket-cases. That’s a definitely a criticism you could make about Russia and Ukraine, but from what I understand, Estonia has done everything humanely possible to create a dynamic economy conducive to business growth. And it’s worked. It’s just that after the fall of the Soviet Union it started from so far back that no realistic growth could make up the gulf between Estonia and the UK(or even Finland). So Estonia will essentially cease to exist not because it was swallowed up by an expansionist Russia/Soviet Union, but because even though it did all the things it was told to do by western economists, it can’t compete with countries that had a huge head start due to accidents of geography.

  24. meerkat says

    One possible way of getting more(and more importantly, culturally compatible) immigrants to these countries would be to campaign among lower-middle and low class whites western countries whose lives are made more difficult by a combination of Muslim immigration, cultural marxism, and the erosion of manufacturing jobs.

    Since the traditional neighbourhoods of such whites are the first stop for Muslim immigrants, such people feel most keenly the loss of identity, the threat of physical/sexual violence, and the feeling of being a stranger in one’s ancestral homeland.

    At the same time, high class whites direct their vitriol from on high against such low-class whites, blaming them for racism, violence, dysfunction, and generally holding them to standards to which they would never hold low-class blacks or Muslims. All this even though low-class whites are among the most powerless and voiceless communities in their countries, with the media only asking their opinion when they want to show how racist and backward they are.

    All this has happens as low-skilled manufacturing jobs(this group’s traditional path to a better life), decline, even as they flourish in places like Slovakia and Hungary.

    There are already millions of poor white refugees throughout the western world who have fled black and Muslim violence, but since they generally stay within their national borders and have no friends in the media, their displacement has gone unnoticed. The above three factors are currently not enough to induce much immigration to the Visegrad Four, but as things get worse, taken together, they could spur emigration, as well as send central Europeans back to their native lands.

    In the next few decades, the percentage of whites among the fighting-age population will decline to the point of becoming minorities. Such transitions often cause civil strife in other nations. Personally I’d rather be a minority among Hungarians in 2050 than a minority among Pakistanis in my ancestral homeland.

    • Zozabird says

      There are already millions of poor white refugees throughout the western world who have fled black and Muslim violence

      I would very much like to see figures that back this up, because I’ve never heard it.

      I can only speak from my experience in the UK, so apologies if you are more knowledgeable in this area.

      I’m what you would label a lefty libtard, or however you want to put it. As a lefty, I’m WELL aware of how talent is being drained from 3rd world countries & the Eastern block, and also how governments are failing the white working classes.

      I’ve also lived in Stepney for nearly 15 years. If you don’t know it, it’s the heart of the east end. Cockney land. It’s also now 50% Muslim. I’m a pretty, blue eyed blond with a big butt (prime sharia gang rape material!) who’s worked in bars and clubs all her life, so I’m always walking the dark streets at 2-4am, getting home then promptly taking my dogs out for a walk and a ball play in Stepney Green, a big, dark, open park. And there’s more than a few drug dealers in the shadows, there’s kids listening to music smoking weed & drinking, sometimes there’s a dick on a scooter tearing the place up. Kids being kids, who happen to be brown. And I’m nearly 15 years of doing this, the most I’ve been “harassed” is being asked if I can spare a cigarette, or being told “I like your dog”.

      As a lefty libtard, I’m disgusted by our conservative, right wing, supposedly “fiscally responsible” bunch of elitist Etonians who have deliberately impoverished the white working class. It was Tories who took away bursaries, it was Tories who made education prohibitively expensive, who broke up the technical colleges where white working class learnt their skills (although that was started by New Labour Tony Blair – known as “Thatcher’s child”) who have deliberately defunded any and all programs helping native poor find jobs, who’ve allowed companies to offer only unpaid apprenticeships (so only rich kid’s can afford to get work experience & network) and who have consistently and deliberately kept the borders open, because Capitalists WANT cheap labour and they DON’T want to pay taxes that fund the skills of the next generation. And they do everything in their power to not pay for your health, your homes or your future. And yet, you guys still vote for them.

      My friends are creatives in various fields, mostly from blue-white collar backgrounds. Many are raising their kids in the council flat they were born in. Some are extremely successful, some are barely making it.

      I literally live and breath the Cultural Marxist horror show that terrifies everyone. I’m drowning in it. My friends are all passionate about equal opportunities and a just society. We just don’t spend a lot of time obsessed with flags.

      I’m not crazy about Stepney being 50% Muslim. Not because I’m scared but because it’s dull. I prefer multicultural to monocultural so I wish there was more of a mix. Better music & better food. And the working class weren’t “refugees driven from their homes by the hordes “. They just did well for themselves & moved to Essex – ie the suburbs. And when the UK needed cheap labour, they imported black and brown people to do it and gave them the shit empty housing that was left in the poor areas- like the East End. The docks have been the refugee dumping ground for centuries.

      My father was 7 when he and his family were taken to Stalin’s gulags. His father was taken to the front lines for cannon fodder. His sisters died in the camps, only he and his mum escaped. And he doesn’t say much about it, but it’s enough that the posts here gleefully fawning over Orbán & his razor wire sicken me. You want them to go back to Syria? Have you SEEN it? And – you know that Bashar is still in charge, too, right? The guy who was bombing his own people in the first place?

      Agh… I don’t get it. I don’t get why there’s so much fear. Mostly, us lefties just watch the right running about pissing their star spangled panties at everything and just shake our heads. The fear and paranoia is off the scales. It’s just such a sad, unhappy way to live. We all love our country. We’d defend it if necessary. We just don’t feel we need to defend it against a few starving Africans in a rubber dinghy.

      I’d much rather focus on poor kids getting school lunches and the same education opportunities as the silver spoon brigade in their boarding schools. Preventative healthcare for the poor saves billions in the future. Social housing means that any taxpayer money going on rent goes right back into society rather than to an offshore company in the Cayman Islands. I don’t get why you’re foaming at the mouth over seasonal fruit pickers and cleaning ladies when you don’t make a peep about CEOs being paid 375x more than their workers when in the 70s it was more like 30x. I don’t get why you’re happy to pay more tax than a multi-billion dollar global corporation.

      • Photondancer says


        I’m sure the hundreds of girls who were raped by Muslims in Rotherham, Birmingham, Oxford etc would be thrilled to hear that nothing has happened to you. I guess they must have just imagined what happened to them.

        You may have overlooked that the left was violently opposed to the USA supporting Bashar’s opponents while remaining silent on Russia’s support of him but I haven’t.

        • Zazabird says

          Looks like my reply didn’t make it so I’ll try again. First, they were raped and abused by 25 Muslim paedophiles. I am absolutely in agreement that there are some twisted conservative Muslims who think white girls are easy prey and deserve it for being slutty, or what have you. There’s a decent sized bunch of evangelical Christians who are very similar, and let’s not get into the Catholic priesthood, or paedophilea and incest issues found in Catholic countries.
          The left has some responsibility regarding addressing what happened indeed and the PC whitewashing issues that were behind several decisions.
          I assume you’re aware that all those girls came from care homes and/or deeply abusive families? If you look into some of their stories, these white mums and dads were equally as disgusting, hateful and manipulative.
          There’s a FB page that updates with names and photos of each convicted kiddy fiddler in the uk as it happens. That page is 95% white men, possibly more. Just saying.

          And re the left being violently opposed to the Syrian war? Wikipedia has the voting record from when Obama passed it through the house. Helluva more Republicans against that war.

          And presumably you remember that Bashar’s main opponent was ISIS? There were at least 7 factions involved, all of them complicated, and delicate. This wasn’t a Captain America moment.

          • Photondancer says


            Those 23 rapists sure got around, seeing as Muslim rape gangs have been caught operating not only in a number of British cities but also in the Nordic countries and Australia. Maybe there’s a few more than 23? No, couldn’t be. After all, nothing has happened to you.

            The family background of the girls is irrelevant. Your victim-blaming is disgusting, your whataboutery tiresome.

            I have no idea why you’re talking about Obama, or indeed why you dragged Syria into this thread in the first place. But you may as well learn that the civil war there wasn’t started by ISIS.

      • Joana George says

        Zozabird, I might be naive to engage, but you seem to genuinely want to understand how conservatives think. If you haven’t come across it yet, I’d like to suggest Jonathan Haidt’s Ted talk on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives (

        It’s TED not TEDx so I hope you can trust that it’s not just random conservative propaganda.

        • Zozabird says

          Thanks Joana. I’ll definitely take a look at it. There’s a lot of overlap in policy (look at all the similarities there were btwn Trump and Sanders),

      • Cassandra says

        The grammar schools, for boys and girls, were the single most important engine of social mobility in Britain. Intelligent children who were prepared to work hard at their studies, and were encouraged by their families, could go onto the most elite universities, and the private school educated they met there were quite often daunted by their intelligence and will to succeed. I know, I was lucky enough to be one of those grammar school girls.

        The grammar school system was destroyed by the Labour Party, following socialist principles . They gloried in the new equality ( whilst sending their own children to private schools).

        And it’s no good pretending that Tony Blair, with his disastrous transformation of a free university system awarded on merit , to a paying bun fest for all, was a Tory. New Labour: that’s a clue.

  25. BorisBadinov says

    Bravo for the Eastern Euro countries! They are willing to maintain their cultures rather than submitting to a cultural invasion.

    • Zanga says

      People leave their countries when they can’t find jobs. Its almost impossible to get a job in Poland with a PhD or with certain masters so they can’t go home.

      Same with Italy and science. Many would love to go back and get a decent salary at home!

      • cc says

        There’s a lack of PhD jobs in the USA as well, especially in the humanities, which will only get worse as colleges continue to close due to changing demographics (just today, the WSJ wrote up the difficulties that Hampshire College is having staying open). Ditto the loss of journalist jobs with the closure of newspapers…..

  26. Stephanie says

    I wonder if it’s not time to rethink the wisdom of mass immigration in general. The receiving country loses out because of wage suppression and cultural transformation tearing apart the social fabric. The sending country loses out on their most skilled and motivated people. Yes, businesses benefit from the wage suppression and larger talent pool, but is it really worth it? Perhaps it should be made much harder to immigrate to a country of a different economic class.

  27. Michael Bowler says

    The most important solution the author fails to offer is economic policy. What steps are being taken to improve economic activity in these nations? Are they incentivizing businesses to move there, with low taxes, even handed regulation/ Long term, are they encouraging better education to provide a more productive workforce?

    Out migration is a function of opportunity. Make opportunities, and they will not leave.

  28. Marty says

    I’ve spent the last couple of weeks in Ukraine, will be here 3 weeks total.

    Spent a couple of days in Kiev where I saw Moslems and POC. Very few, but they’re there. There are also people from the other Caucasus regions, so not like there is no immigration.

    IMHO, their biggest problem isn’t immigration – they have more than enough people to fill jobs. The problems are not enough jobs and truly lousy roads that make it impossible for businesses to move their wares. Immigration won’t help that.

    Add in gov’t corruption, which dampens the business environment and creates infrastructure problems like roads, and you’ve got the trifecta for a under-performing country.

    Immigration is NOT the cure for this country’s ills.

  29. MBari says

    First, to understand the Eastern Europe politics you need to first understand the terminology as it’s very different to the US. Right-wing in e.g. Poland is culturally conservative, but economically pro-social(-ist).

    Second, as much as I hate the current “right-wing” government in Poland, they do some things very well. Here’s what worked well:

    Eliminate some radical poverty not only by social transfers, but by strongly and consistently raising the minimum wage (7-10% per year), whenever inflation hits a period of low levels. It creates inflationary pressure, but much much less than my economic studies would have me believe. Once people stop seeing radical poverty (minimum wage) in their families, neighbours and friends, they see a brighter future and rethink whether it makes sense to leave the country.
    Radically fight corruption and make everyone respect the law – Poland seems to have a tight grip on the problem with e.g. Central Anticorruption Office with very strong powers (think “undercover agents”/prison terms/wiretapping) as well as programs to fight tax evasion (e.g. digital accounting & reporting, government-level big data/analytics teams to look for tax scams). Radical, but it worked. Keep it for long enough (10+ years) and the culture/mentality will adjust.
    Firm stance against SOME immigration: culturally incompatible, non-assimilating. But they are supportive of the other type (e.g. 1-1,5 million Ukrainians who come to Poland to work) – they have similar values, work ethics, assimilate easily.
    Strong female rights (this was implemented by the communist regime, but remained so) – very high employment % of women, “glass-ceiling” less of a problem than i Western Europe and US.

    Here’s what’s terrible and made people leave (beside economic circumstances):
    1. Cultural conservatism (anti-abortion, not friendly towards LGBT, etc.), overton seen as “backwardness”
    2. Religious ties – government loves to show their catholic background and morality – possibly as a way to rally supporters against muslim immigration

    • Gerard Barry says

      “Here’s what’s terrible and made people leave (beside economic circumstances):
      1. Cultural conservatism (anti-abortion, not friendly towards LGBT, etc.), overton seen as “backwardness”
      2. Religious ties – government loves to show their catholic background and morality – possibly as a way to rally supporters against muslim immigration”

      Sorry but I don’t think this is true. Most Poles emigrate for economic reasons and I see little evidence that those who leave are more socially liberal than those who stay. Any by the way, there is nothing “backward” about being anti-abortion or being Catholic and it’s a little bigoted to suggest that there is.

      • tonynoboloney says

        Although this is anecdotal, here in Michigan (USA) we have a few large E. European enclaves. The vast majority of immigrants to these areas are H1B Caucasians from Poland moving for economic reasons. They are far and away Catholic and more conservative than most of their relatives here.

        • mBari says

          Tony – this is the “old wave” of immigrants – mostly from the 20th century (up to ~1990), when it was still easy to immigrate to the US.

          The new wave went away after 2004 and mostly to the UK (up to 2 million), mostly young and somewhat educated people of which many have learnt some English at school. They are way more liberal than their ancestors.

          • Cassandra says

            Not necessarily. Several of the best publicised anti Muslim ‘hate crime’ incidents in the UK ( abusing headscarved women on public transport, attempting to tear off a hijab, beating up a Moslem male at a kebab shop) mysteriously vanished from the MSM when it was discovered that the perpetrators were recent immigrants from Eastern Europe.

        • Gerard Barry says

          Nothing wrong with being Catholic and/or conservative, is there? Here in Europe, there is a tremendous diouble standard at work with regard to social, political and religious conservatism. If you’re a native European who practices your faith and believe that abortion, for example, is wrong, you’ll be called “right-wing” or worse, yet if you’re a Muslim immigrant (or the child or grandchild of immigrants) and you follow the strict teachings of Islam (no pork, no alcohol, etc., you get a “free pass” so to speak. Doesn’t make sense, does it?

      • Sydney says

        @Gerard Barry


        Yes, it’s very advanced to allow male citizens ownership of their bodies but to prevent female citizens the same rights. Nothing backward at all about forcing women to carry pregnancies they don’t want, or to travel elsewhere to terminate pregnancies, or to die trying to terminate at home or in unsafe environments. Nothing backward about denying women self-determination.

        Loads of women are planning moves to nations and states that deny them the right to do what they wish with their own bodies! Sounds like a great life…if it’s 1700…

        • Gerard Barry says

          Ah, the decadence of it all. Pregnant and don’t want to be? Have an abortion! Want to sleep around and not take responsibility for your actions? Have an abortion! It would interesting if we applied to same logic to children post-birth, i.e. if we allowed women (and men) to kill their offspring simply because they don’t want them.

          “Loads of women are planning moves to nations and states that deny them the right to do what they wish with their own bodies!”

          I come from Ireland where our most recent census (2016) showed that 17% of our population was born abroad. In 2016, abortion was still illegal in this country so that kind of blows your theory out of the water, doesn’t it?

          And if you think that Catholicism is bad, wait until the Muslims are in the majority in Western countries…

  30. GeorgeQTyrebyter says

    Just returned from a trip to Greece, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, and Romania. In Greece, there are a ton of illegals. A lot are brown (Syrian, Lebanese, Afghan). They put out blankets and sell crap on the streets, depriving legit shops who pay taxes of trade. They also harass tourists. We were harassed by a group and threatened because I made the mistake of touching my camera while across the street from them. There are also a ton of Africans in tourist places. There are also illegals in Serbia. Hungary, Croatia, Romania are illegals-free. There are beggars certainly. But for every 1 beggar in Hungary there are 50 in Athens. And Athens has a huge problem with pickpockets and thieves in the metro, who are again illlegals.

    • Cassandra says

      I think you mean ‘refugees , fleeing persecution and danger).

  31. That’s President Mary Robinson of Ireland – not Johnson. The Irish are still emigrating – more so in the last decade, but immigration is also high, 1/8 are immigrants, mainly from Europe.

  32. Gabriel says

    The hypocrisy is unreal. People who are against immigration to Europe often use the argument that the migrants should stay in their own countries and build it up instead of coming here. Yet, here we have Eastern Europeans, whose countries are far richer than those in the MENA and Africa, yet they can’t be fussed to stay in their own countries and try to make it a better place. Instead they leave in droves to the richer parts of Europe to seek a better life. Exactly like other migrants who seek a better life. But the Eastern Europeans don’t let anyone outside of Europe come to their country.

    It reminds of South Korea and Japan who in the past have seen millions of their own people emigrate to North America and South America but doesn’t let anyone immigrate to their countries.

    One rule for me, another rule for you.

    • Shamrock says


      “The hypocrisy is unreal.” “South Korea and Japan who in the past have seen millions of their own people emigrate to North America and South America but doesn’t let anyone immigrate to their countries.”

      Who is being a hypocrite? Are the governments of Japan and S Korea not to allow their citizens to leave? I really don’t see hypocrisy here. It would be hypocritical if Japan ans S Korea forced other countries to take their citizens and then refused to take immigrants but as far as I’m aware, the emigrants left of their own free will.

      I agree people want a better life and millions currently are on the move or want to move to achieve this. This doesn’t mean the destination country should automatically accept everyone who wants to move there.

    • Event Horizon says

      Eastern Europeans relocate to other Western European countries, not the Middle East or Africa. Western Europeans are welcomed in Eastern Europe and many Westerners do live in Eastern Europe, mostly for business. You don’t notice them in the streets because they, well, look like Eastern Europeans.

      Eastern Europe has a rich and complicated history, with real and deep sensitivities regarding both Russia (via the Soviet Union) and Turkey (via the Ottoman Empire). Eastern Europeans didn’t have colonies and do not consider they have a moral obligation to accept any foreigner.

  33. das monde says

    “”Over the past six months, she has crisscrossed the region to meet citizens and gather support for a deeply divisive proposal she is spearheading: a quota for East Germans in top positions across academia, politics, business, media, and law.””

    Next, quotas for East Europeans in the Western EU, and for West Europeans in the Eastern EU? Free movement of goods, capital, services, people ought to be just as uniform within EU as within Germany.

  34. Victor Ghiga says

    “This may mean fundamentally reevaluating the freedom of movement, or at least restricting it to economies with comparable pay and conditions. ” What a fantastic idea, that way you won’t just have crappy countries – it would be crappy countries that people are permanently stuck in. It’s true that brain drain is an issue, but it’s also true that the economies of former Communist states benefit greatly from the money sent back home by workers abroad. Restricting movement would send these countries down in a spiral they might not recover from.

    • Gerard Barry says

      Nothing wrong with emigration/immigration. However, freedom of movement means that everyone in the EU is entitled to live wherever they want within the Union. I think this is a very bad idea, especially when so many countries within the EU (mainly those in Western Europe) have also had so much immigration from outside the EU in recent years as well.

  35. ms says

    There are a few solutions.

    Have the EU increase investment into these underdeveloped countries(UCs). There could be a mandate that businesses from the wealthier countries expand into these UCs.
    Have the EU subsidize salaries of the highly skilled in order to keep them in the UCs.
    The UCs, in order to grow, should adopt English as a common 2nd language to attract business and immigrants. Of course, they keep their own language, mandate it for citizenship, but who the heck want to learn difficult languages like Hungarian, in order to invest or work?
    Attract the descendants of emigrants from the UCs, the diaspora. For example, many immigrants in the US came from the Baltic countries. All my grandparents did. But many of these countries make it almost impossible to get citizenship such as Lithuania unless you fit very narrow criteria. They should follow a variation of Israel’s Aliyah policy. I don’t understand why Europe, with it’s falling birthrate, isn’t encouraging this instead of embracing 3rd world immigration.
    Address corruption. As someone else mentioned earlier, Poland has been successfully attacking corruption. You will not be able to maintain a successful society unless high levels of trust and social capital is built. Should there be a crack team of consultants like the Swiss hired to show the ropes for every country? Something needs to be done, the majority of countries are corrupt and the UN does nothing about it. They wallow in corruption.

    • Gerard Barry says

      The idea of trying to attrack back your own diaspora is indeed a very attractive one. The question is: would the people come? Would an American of Lithuanian, Polish or Hungarian descent be willing to up sticks and leave their home country (America) to return to the land of their forefathers where they would likely earn less money. I’m not convinced.

  36. Event Horizon says

    The bulk of the East to West migration within EU is done. Eastern European countries are growing faster than their Western counterparts and thus income differences are getting smaller. Italy and Spain have a GDP per capita of ~$38.5k. Czechia is within spitting distance with $35.5k, Slovakia $31k, Poland and Hungary $30k. Romania’s is lower at $25k, but it has the highest economic growth in Europe at 7% per year and thus catching up quickly. Bulgaria is the poorest with $22k but still growing well at 3.5%.

    One thing that is under appreciated is home ownership. In Eastern Europe home ownership is extremely high, Romania having the highest in the world at 96.4%:

    I’m quite optimistic about Eastern Europe’s future. Low unemployment, steady growth, low public debt in most countries, high home ownership rates and low taxes. Greece is a basket case but everywhere else things are getting better.

  37. dmm says

    First, a minor point: if you’re going to talk about differences in income in different places, you need to also talk about corresponding costs of living. I’m afraid this deficiency reveals your shallowness of thought.

    Second, after reading so much nonsense about immigration and open borders, I appreciate the focus on emigration here. However, while the author presents views from various angles about the issue, he doesn’t succeed in recognizing his own biased assumptions. For example, the following quotes reveal an unexplained willingness to accept responsibility for other countries’ problems.

    “by welcoming the world’s premier doctors, entrepreneurs, academics, and engineers—with few restrictions—we are depriving the places they come from of their potential; robbing them of the chance to make emigration an option, rather than a necessity” and “this poaching of skills and talent from elsewhere” and “embrace openness whilst avoiding the erosion of another country’s social fabric”.

    In other words, the author blames the West for the East’s problems – we are too open, too accommodating, too successful, too appealing. Indeed, we are actively “depriving”, “robbing”, and “poaching”. God, we’re such awful people! This apparent self-loathing for being too successful naturally leads the author to suggest paternalistic, interventionist, elitist, nanny state, redistributionist, authoritarian solutions:

    “This may mean fundamentally reevaluating the freedom of movement, or at least restricting it to economies with comparable pay and conditions. Another solution may come in the form of increased cash transfers, and investment in smaller economies by bigger ones to try and level out standards of living. Something must be done soon, or populations in eastern Europe will continue to disappear.”

    If the political and economic environment of these countries were suitable for outside investment, combined with no governmental barriers on either side, don’t you think the West would be flooding them with investment, without the need for state coercion?

    Give people freedom; they will find solutions for the problems they care about.

  38. A Prendergast says

    The overall gist of the article (as I see it) – to think again on the progressive wisdom of free movement of people – is fair enough, but the overriding issue in this discussion is the inadequate, incompetent governance of the countries experiencing loss of their talented/ambitious workforce.

    Mr Adams refers to this, but maybe it’s more important than his conclusion. The mass exodus of people from Croatia, for example, is not surprising, given the profound disillusion younger people have with the perennial corruption in government. The Croatian authorities are becoming more bitter about it and want to punish its emigrants, seemingly failing to understand the greater bitterness this will create.

    The story of Ireland at the end of Mr Adams’s article is not entirely fitting: the Irish population ballooned between the 18th and 19th centuries, in a totally unsustainable and uncontrolled way; when the Great Famine hit in the 1840s, the drastic population depletion should not be seen as surprising. The population levels since then is not about recovery whatsoever – the 8 million population figure is simply an unjustified benchmark.

    And Ireland itself has benefited massively from free movement of people. When a country gets its act together (as Ireland did after the 1980s) and can attract workers from abroad, its influx of other nationalities has come to benefit the country, and not just caused downward pressure on wages, as some contrarians would like to shout about. Ireland now, thankfully, is not dominated by myopic, insular mindsets, and the gene pool can be enhanced, as people have stopped looking amorously at their second cousins.

    Ultimately and moreover: if you’re born into an Eastern country but see life might be better somewhere else, then can you fairly knock that impetus on the head?

    • Gerard Barry says

      What about the impact of immigration on rents in Ireland? Or would you suggest that our current housing shortage has nothing whatsoever to do with immigration? I’m not denying the benefits of immigration but there are some obvious drawbacks too. In any event, the problem with free movement is that it’s pretty much unlimited, making it impossible for the destination country to select the people it might actually need and instead being obliged to accept pretty much everybody who turns up. Insane.

  39. cc says

    I traveled to Ireland last year – was stunned to hear that the population is only 4.7 million – they said had the potato famine not occurred, resulting in many dying and millions emmigrating to the USA…the country’s population would be 28 million today.

  40. Geary Johansen says

    The nasty conundrum that governments need to confront when dealing with matters of immigration, lie not with the first generation of migrants, but with the second and subsequent generations integrating into society as a whole. The question you really need to ask is whether the children of the first generation will grow up to be psychological liberals or conservatives.

    Jonathan Haidt’s incredibly important work on Moral Foundations can help us answer this question. Because, if your parents migrated as a stable family, and had the skills or knowledge to launch you into a high socio-economic background, then there is every chance you will have the Western, Educated, Industralised, Rich & Developed (WEIRD) moral wiring, unique to psychological liberals in the US, Canada, NZ & Aus. and Western Europe. In these circumstances you will be fine, great even, given your lucky accident of birth. This is because you are immune to the normal human sense of belonging to nation, culture and community (unless said community, is a loose collection of like-minded individuals, with similar goals and pursuits).

    But if your parents were the hired help, not born into a Western country and the socio-economic circumstances of your birth do not predispose you to be a liberal psychology, then you will likely be at a cultural disadvantage as a psychological conservative. Because if your country has not had the good sense and courage, to redefine it’s own cultural identity as an overarching umbrella which distinctly unites all citizens with a common cultural identity and history, regardless of race or creed, then you will always feel rudderless, dislocated and at a disadvantage, This is because the psychological conservative yearns for a sense of belonging to the larger group. The biggest failure of multiculturalism is the failure of liberals to recognise that the most successful citizens from ethnically diverse backgrounds are those who embrace their new culture wholeheartedly, whilst maintaining interesting cuisines, wedding practices and music.

    This is why in Britain the most successful citizens from diverse backgrounds are often more British, than the British. The Barrister who religiously watches the cricket, cheers England and feels torn every time his grandfather’s team comes on. The Surgeon who always attends the home football matches, of her local town or city. The Entrepreneur who might even join a local choir, if their religion does not bar it. The failure of the Left’s obsession with multiculturalism, is that these misguided liberals seek to denigrate the Host Nations culture, with a litany of past sins and historical crimes, that are universal to every culture, at every time, in human history- apart from here and apart from now. They fail to understand that it is only they, with their rare psychology, who can feel comfortable in every group, every culture and with every food- and by carving out the heart of the host culture, to create a home for diverse cultures and identities- it will only ever be the socio-economically and culturally, privileged few who can ever enjoy a sense of unity, belonging and home.

    I’m no different- when younger, I just could not understand why Brits in Spain or Greece, would ever want to eat fish & chips abroad!!! Now I’ve read The Righteous Mind, I perhaps understand a little better. What I think the Left needs to know, if they want to really help the poor and underprivileged from diverse subcultures within society, is that they really need to find them a home and sense of belonging within the host culture. With an American father, an English mother and a last name like Johansen- I don’t really have a claim to call myself English. But I am British. I am fairly courteous, polite to a fault and believe in a somewhat old-fashioned sense of chivalry. Just because I’m not a Scot, it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy Braveheart. Re-crafting culture as multiculturalism potentially creates greater division, reinforces disadvantage and inculcates alienation- it never achieves what every liberal would naturally assume to be true. Countries like Britain, Sweden and the US need to re-affirm their sense of common cultural identity, history and ideals, whilst making sure that all their citizens are able to bask in this shared sense of heritage. Only then can those born into circumstances which invite psychological conservatism, truly enjoy that sense of belonging and home, which everyone should feel as a birthright.

    P.S. I am very interested in unique cultures like Singapore, and how they managed to create a sense of shared identity. Anyone with experience please share.

  41. ALAN WHITE says

    Liberals and academics love to hate them, but the former USSR colonies need entrepreneurs. Just those types that communists butchered on their way to power. So they are having to start from scratch and build up their privately owned business segment as China has done. It’s messy and sometimes ugly but it works. It’s not the fault of the working class unless they retain their former socialist contempt for successful entrepreneurial people.

    • JA says

      When you hear stories about the corrupt Hungarian government’s cronies forcing entrepreneurs to sell their successful business, that kind of kills the entrepreneurial spirit. One prime example is the trophy wife of the late producer Andy Vajna, buying a successful donut chain, only to make a loss.

  42. It appears these countries, 90% of them have one thing in common- they were tainted by the USSR and its brand of communism for 50 years………..recovering from that disease, may take longer than the illness itself.

  43. Håkon Tjeldnes says

    Shocked by the knowledge of some of you here. Here are two facts: 1. The net emigration rates are declining in most of these countries. Last year, more Polish people went back to Poland than the number that came to my country, Norway. Their total net migration is now only -0.4. 2. I’ve been to most countries in Europe, and Hungary is by far the most racist country I’ve been in, especially the northern parts that have larger minorities. Budapest is a very beautiful city though. You can read some of Amnisty’s reports on racial violence in Hungary.

    The question with all of this is, how do you want the borders of the world to look like in a 1000 years ?

    • codadmin says

      How do you want the borders of your house to look like in a 1000 years?

      The issues are now, not a 1000 years in the future.

    • dirk says

      What struck me especially touring through Hungary: the amount of obese people, there must be a special reason for that! Is it maybe the result of freedom?

Comments are closed.