PMCG’s Research Director Discusses Major Migration Challenges from EU Candidate Member State Perspective


On June 13-14, PMCG’s Dr. Giorgi Khishtovani partook in the “Changes and Challenges in the European Union” conference in Budapest, co-organized by the Trans European Policy Studies Association (TEPSA) and the HUN-REN Centre for Economics and Regional Studies – Institute of World Economics.

Conducted under the EU’s Citizens, Equality, Rights, and Values Programme, the conference aimed to strengthen the cohesion of the “European project,” inform more prudent policymaking, bolster cooperation among EU member states and partners, and address pressing EU and EU-related issues.

Taking place just weeks before Hungary assumed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, this timely event brought together key policymakers (including those from the Hungarian government), researchers from the TEPSA network, students, and civil society representatives.

Migration Challenges Amid Russia’s War on Ukraine and Georgia’s Unique Dynamics

Dr. Khishtovani was one of the speakers during the “Migration, demography” panel session, where he provided an in-depth look at Georgia’s unique migration dynamics, arguing that candidate countries like Georgia might face more severe challenges than EU member states.

“Georgia has a population of 3.7 million, and in the last 12 years, approximately 300,000 Georgian citizens left the country, which is about 9% of the population. Simultaneously, around 260,000 foreigners emigrated to Georgia, which amounts to about 7% of the population. These simultaneous trends make migration issues in Georgia both peculiar and challenging,”

he noted.

He also highlighted that the war in Ukraine and Russian aggression spurred mass migration, with around 110,000 persons emigrating to Georgia after 2022, primarily from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Dr. Khishtovani also highlighted a concerning trend, namely a rise in the number of families emigrating from Georgia. Previously, migration was mainly labor-related with individuals going abroad to work and then returning. Now, an increasing number of pupils are leaving schools in Georgia, indicating that entire families are relocating permanently.

Dr. Khishtovani outlined:

“We are facing more migration challenges, with a significant number of people both emigrating and immigrating. Of course, Russia’s war on Ukraine has played a massive role in this.”

Economic Impact and National Security Concerns

Discussing the economic impact of such migration patterns, Dr. Khishtovani emphasized the severe labor shortages in Georgia and the country’s heavy reliance on remittances, which account for 10-13% of GDP. He also pointed out that immigration has led to increased property and living costs, particularly in the capital city Tbilisi, due to the influx of relatively well-educated and high-earning migrants from Russia and Belarus. In the short term, immigration has positively impacted Georgia’s economic growth, with the Ministry of Finance estimating that around 3% of growth in both 2022 and 2023 was attributable to such immigration.

However, he also raised concerns about the growing number of Russians in Georgia, who now make up an estimated 3% of the population. This newly-increased minority could potentially pose a national security issue in the future, similar to situations in nearby countries where Russia has leveraged such demographics to pursue its (geo)political interests. In addition, he highlighted the issue of a brain drain, with highly-qualified individuals emigrating from Georgia, thus posing long-term challenges for the economy. Looking ahead, he warned that this problem would worsen if democratic backsliding in Georgia leads to further emigration of skilled individuals.

Solidity Among EU Stakeholders in a Year of Elections

Ultimately, the conference and its participants placed an emphasis on tightening cooperation among policymakers, academics, and citizens, particularly in the aftermath of the European parliamentary elections held in late May 2024.

Notably, keeping up a long-held tradition of engaging with Council Presidencies, TEPSA’s recommendations were prepared, to be presented to the incoming Hungarian Presidency.

In addition to the aforementioned “Migration, demography” session, other topics covered in a similar format were “Competitiveness of the EU and Member States,” “Results of the EP elections, evaluation,” and “The Future of the EU’s Enlargement Policy.”

Meanwhile, contributing to the event as partners were the Hungarian Economic Association, Videoton Holding, the Budapest Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Grawe Insurance.

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