Enlargement countries - statistics on migration, residence permits, citizenship and asylum
Data extracted in April 2022.
Planned article update: May 2023.
The number of citizens of Albania receiving citizenship in the EU in 2020 was 146 % higher than in 2010, while for citizens of Turkey the number declined by 49 %.
In 2020, 40 867 Serbians were granted first residence permits of an EU Member State, principally in Germany (38 %), Croatia (18 %) and Austria (8 %).
The number of first-time asylum applicants in the EU from Turkey was multiplied by 5 between 2014 and 2020, from 4 100 to 20 300.
Persons acquiring citizenship of an EU Member State, 2010 and 2020
This article is part of an online publication for the European Union (EU) candidate countries and potential candidates, in other words the enlargement countries. Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Serbia and Turkey currently have candidate status, while Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Kosovo* are potential candidates.
The article starts with an overview of the size of and changes in the population in each of the candidate countries and potential candidates and examines the two factors of change: natural change from births and deaths on the one hand and international migration on the other. It then focuses on citizens of candidate countries and potential candidates living within the EU, presenting information for the number having had residence permits issued to them and their acquisition of citizenship of an EU Member State. It concludes with information concerning citizens of candidate countries and potential candidates having applied for asylum in the EU Member States.
Population change: natural change and net migration
Population change in a given year is the difference between the population size measured on 1 January of the year in question and the size on the same day the following year. It consists of two components: natural population change and net migration, plus statistical adjustment. Natural population change is the difference between the number of live births and the number of deaths. Net migration figures are calculated by Eurostat by taking the difference between total (overall) population change and natural change: the difference is referred to as net migration plus statistical adjustment. The statistics on net migration plus statistical adjustment are therefore affected by any statistical inaccuracies in the two components (total and natural population change).
Data on the population, natural change, and net migration and statistical adjustment of the candidate countries and potential candidates, as well as the EU, are shown in Table 1 for the period 2010-2020. To place the data in context, at the beginning of 2020, Turkey was by far the most populous candidate country or potential candidate, with 83.2 million inhabitants. Montenegro was the smallest candidate country or potential candidate in population terms, with 622 thousand inhabitants in 2020. The population of Turkey was almost 5 times as large as the population of all the other candidate countries or potential candidates combined; 12 times as large as that of the next largest candidate country or potential candidate, Serbia (6.9 million inhabitants), and almost 134 times as large as that of Montenegro. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, there were 3.5 million inhabitants in 2019 (2020 data is not available); in Albania, 2.8 million inhabitants; in North Macedonia, 2.1 million inhabitants and in Kosovo, 1.8 million inhabitants. In comparison, the number of inhabitants was estimated at 447.5 million in the EU in 2020.
Changes in the number of inhabitants over the period 2010-2020 showed different trends among the candidate countries and potential candidates. The population of Turkey grew by an annual average of 1.4 %, while the number of inhabitants in North Macedonia grew by an annual average of 0.1 %. The population in Montenegro remained almost constant (annual average growth of 0.05 %). Elsewhere among the candidate countries and potential candidates, the population declined by an annual average of -0.3 % in Albania; -0.5 % in Serbia (break in series); -1.1 % in Bosnia and Herzegovina (2010-2019); and -2.1 % in Kosovo (break in series). In the EU, the population grew on average by 0.2 % annually over the period 2010-2020.
Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were the only candidate countries and potential candidates that had a negative natural population change during the whole period 2010-2020 (or for which data is available), meaning that they had a higher number of deaths than births. The annual average natural population change for Serbia 2010-2020 was -0.6 %. It cannot be calculated for Bosnia and Herzegovina due to missing observations. For the other candidate countries and potential candidates, the annual average natural population change 2010-2020 was: North Macedonia, 0.1 %; Montenegro, 0.2 %; Albania 0.4 %; Kosovo 0.9 % (2010-2019) and Turkey 1.3 % (2010-2019). The European Union has seen a decline in the natural population since 2012; its annual average natural rate of change over 2010-2020 was -0.1 %.
Net migration and statistical adjustment trends also differed among the candidate countries and potential candidates over the period 2010-2020. Note that the annual averages for net migration plus those for natural population change may not add up to the total population change due to rounding. Turkey recorded an increase due to migration (and statistical adjustment) in each year, leading to an annual average growth of 0.3 % over the period 2010-2019. North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania recorded a population decrease due to net migration and statistical adjustment in every year from 2010 to 2020, except in 2017 and 2018 in North Macedonia; annual average changes due to migration and statistical adjustment over the period 2010-2020 for these three candidate countries were -0.02 % for North Macedonia, -0.2 % for Montenegro and -0.7 % for Albania. Kosovo recorded a negative value for net migration and statistical adjustment most years, with positive values in 2012 and 2017; note that there are breaks in series in 2010 and 2011 and the particularly large negative value recorded for 2010 probably reflects a large statistical adjustment. Its annual average over 2010-2019 was -3.5 %. The net migration of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia is difficult to estimate as the values are reported as zero for several years. The European Union had a consistently positive figure for net migration and an annual average increase in population due to net migration and statistical adjustment over 2010-2020 of 0.2 %.
Some of the people who emigrate from candidate countries and potential candidates move to EU Member States and are issued with residence permits. Statistics are compiled by the EU on both flows and stocks of residence permits.
Statistics are compiled on the number of new residents in the Member States who have been issued with their first residence permit during a calendar year. In general, this figure excludes renewals of existing permits, but a residence permit is also considered to be a first permit if the time gap between the expiry of an old permit and the start of validity of the new permit issued for the same reason is at least six months. This concept represents the ‘flow’ of persons establishing residency.
The number of persons with valid residence permits at the end of each year is a measure of the stock of all people with residence permits. It is not limited to first residence permits. Figure 1 summarises both statistics: the number of people with residence permits is inevitably much greater than the number of first residence permits.
More than 223 thousand citizens of candidate countries and potential candidates were issued with first residence permits in 2020 by EU Member States, an increase of 22 % compared with 2010 (183 thousand first residence permits). The citizens of Turkey represented 26 % of the citizens of candidate countries and potential candidates issued with first residence permits by EU Member States in 2020; 18 % were citizens of Serbia; 17 % were Albanians; 16 % were citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina; 14 % were citizens of Kosovo; 7 % were citizens of North Macedonia; and 1 % of Montenegro.
Comparing the situation in 2020 with that in 2010, the number of Albanians issued with first residence permits fell by 49 %, while elsewhere it had risen. The number of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina who received first residence permits more than trebled (+226 %) between 2010 and 2020; the number of Montenegrins having received a first permit in 2020 almost trebled (+183 %) compared with 2010; while for citizens of Kosovo and of Serbia, the number almost doubled (+91 % and +89 %, respectively). Citizens of North Macedonia and Turkey received 29 % and 26 %, respectively, more first residence permits in 2020 than in 2010.
As of the end of 2020, there were 3.8 million citizens of the candidate countries and potential candidates with valid permits to reside in the EU Member States. This was 6 % less than at the end of 2010. Around two fifths, 41 %, of the citizens of candidate countries and potential candidates who held valid permits at the end of 2020 were held by citizens of Turkey; more than one fifth, 22 % by Albanians; 11 % by citizens of Serbia as well as by citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina; 9 % by citizens of Kosovo; 5 % by those of North Macedonia; and less than 1 % of those of Montenegro.
Comparing the situation at the end of 2020 with that at the end of 2010, the number of Serbian, Turkish and Albanian citizens holding valid permits had fallen by 24 %, 19 % and 5 %, respectively, while the number of citizens of other candidate countries and potential candidates holding valid permits had risen. Citizens of North Macedonia holding valid EU residence permits at the end of 2020 increased in number by 17 % compared with 2010; and those of Bosnia and Herzegovina by 32 %. The number of Montenegrins holding valid residence permits at the end of 2020 was 53 % higher than at the end of 2010, while for citizens of Kosovo the number doubled (+101 %).
Among the citizens of candidate countries and potential candidates issued with first residence permits in 2020, 42 % were for family reasons, down from 53 % in 2010; 29 % were for employment, up from 28 % in 2010; 5 % for education, down from 8 % in 2010; and 24 % for other reasons, having been 11 % in 2010. These include international protection, residence without the right to work, for example pensioners, or people in the intermediate stages of a regularisation process. Figure 2 presents the corresponding numbers by country.
The reasons for which first permits were issued in 2020 varied among the candidate countries and potential candidates. The most common reason was family for citizens of Albania, accounting for 52 % of the total; those of Kosovo, 49 %; North Macedonia, 47 %; Turkey, 40 %; and Montenegro, 36 %. More people were issued with first permits for employment reasons than for other specified reasons for citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 52 % of the total and for Serbians 40 %.
Table 2 shows the numbers of first residence permits issued to citizens of the candidate countries and potential candidates by the EU Member States issuing the largest number of these permits in 2020.
Germany issued the largest numbers of first residence permits for citizens of five of the candidate countries and potential candidates in 2020, the two exceptions being for citizens of Albania who were more likely to have received a first residence permit from Italy; and for citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who received more permits from Croatia. Germany was the second country to issue first residence permits for these two countries. More than half of Montenegrins and Kosovars received their permit from Germany. Germany, Croatia and Slovenia were the top three EU Member states issuing first resident permits to four candidate countries and potential candidates: Bosnia and Herzegovina (83 % of the EU total), Kosovo (77 %), North Macedonia (71 %), and Montenegro (70 %). Albanian citizens received 77 % of their EU first residence permits from Italy, Germany and Greece. Serbian citizens received 64 % of their EU first residence permits from Germany, Croatia and Austria. Turkish citizens received 54 % of their EU first residence permits from Germany, the Netherlands and Poland.
Table 3 shows the numbers of citizens of the candidate countries and potential candidates holding residence permits by the EU Member States issuing the largest number of these permits in 2020.
For six of the candidate countries and potential candidates, the largest number of their citizens holding valid residence permits at the end of 2020 was recorded in Germany, the exception being for citizens of Albania who were more likely to hold a valid residence permit from Italy or Greece. More than half of EU residence permits to citizens of Turkey (65 % of the EU total), Montenegro (59 %) and Kosovo (57 %), valid at the end of 2020, were provided by Germany. In addition to Italy being the largest provider of residence permits valid at the end of 2020 to Albanians, at 46 % of the total, Italy was also the second largest EU provider of these residence permits to citizens of North Macedonia (28 %) and Kosovars (13 %); and the third largest EU provider to citizens of Serbia (8 %) and Montenegro (6 %).
Italy, Greece and Germany together accounted for 95 % of Albanians holding valid residence permits in the EU at the end of 2020, the highest share accounted for by the top three Member States recorded by any of the candidate countries and potential candidates. Turkish citizens holding valid permits from Germany, France and Austria at the end of 2020 accounted for 85 % of all Turkish citizens holding EU residence permits at that time. Germany, Austria and Slovenia accounted for 81 % of all valid residence permits in the EU for citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the end of 2020.
Acquisition of citizenship
Citizenship of an EU Member State brings new rights and opportunities, such as the rights to move, live and work freely within the EU.
In 2020, 93 thousand citizens of candidate countries and potential candidates acquired the citizenship of an EU Member State (Figure 3). Albanians made up 43 % of all citizens of candidate countries and potential candidates who acquired the citizenship of an EU Member State in that year; while 25 % were citizens of Turkey, 10 % were citizens of Serbia; 9 % were from Kosovo; 7 % were citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina; 5 % were from North Macedonia; and 1 % were citizens of Montenegro.
The number of citizens from Albania acquiring the citizenship of an EU Member State more than doubled from 2010 to 2020 (+146 %), while the number of citizens from North Macedonia and Montenegro acquiring EU Member State citizenship increased by 52 % and 49 %, respectively. A decrease of 18 % in the number of citizens from Bosnia and Herzegovina acquiring EU citizenship was recorded in 2020 compared with 2010. The number of people acquiring citizenship of an EU Member State in 2020 was also lower than in 2010 for citizens of Serbia, down 20 %, and for citizens of Turkey, down 49 %. There was no comparable data for Kosovo in 2010.
Asylum applicants and first instance decisions in the EU
This section describes recent developments in relation to the number of asylum applicants in the EU from citizens of candidate countries and potential candidates as well as decisions on applications for international protection.
Asylum is a form of international protection given by a state on its territory. It is granted to a person who is unable to seek protection in his/her country of citizenship and/or residence, in particular for fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.
An asylum applicant or asylum seeker is recorded in statistics as a person who has applied for international protection during the reference period or having been included in such an application as a family member. A first time asylum applicant for international protection in the statistics published by Eurostat is a person who has applied for international protection for the first time in an EU Member State. The term ‘first time’ implies no time limits and therefore a person can be recorded as a first time applicant only if he or she had never applied for international protection in the reporting country in the past, irrespective of whether or not he or she is found to have applied in another EU Member State. An individual may apply for international protection in more than one Member State in a given reference year. Consequently, the EU total may include such multiple applications by a single person.
Data for each Member State refer to the number of persons applying for asylum for the first time in that Member State. The EU total is calculated as the sum of data for the EU Member States. Figure 4 shows first time asylum applicants to EU countries by citizens of candidate countries and potential candidates for the years 2014 (first year for which data is available) and 2021. The number of first-time asylum applicants in the EU in 2021 who were citizens of candidate countries and potential candidates was 37.6 thousand. This was 57 % lower than in 2014.
Comparing the situation in 2021 with that in 2014, the number of first time asylum applicants in the EU from Kosovo fell by 95 %, from North Macedonia by 90 %, from Montenegro by 83 % and from Bosnia and Herzegovina by 80 %. First time asylum applications by citizens from Serbia fell by 55 % and from those of Albania by 38 %. In contrast, the number of applicants from citizens of Turkey was almost multiplied by 5 (+393 %) compared with 2014.
Of the citizens of candidate countries and potential candidates who were first time asylum applicants in the EU in 2021, 54 % were Turkish citizens and 24 % were Albanians. The share for citizens of Serbia was 8 %; North Macedonia, 5 %; Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, 4 % each; and Montenegro less than 1 %.
Data on first instance decisions on asylum applications are shown in Figure 5. Some applications rejected at first instance may subsequently be accepted in a final decision after an appeal or review.
In 2021, 36.4 thousand first instance decisions on asylum applications from citizens of candidate countries and potential candidates were made in the EU Member States (data from Lithuania are not included). Of these applications, 79 % were rejected. The largest number of first instance decisions was issued for applications from Turkish and Albanian citizens, 46 % and 23 %, respectively, of the total number of applications in the EU from citizens of the candidate countries and potential candidates. The share of first instance decisions for applications from citizens of North Macedonia was 9 %; from Serbia 8 %; from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo 6 % for each; and from Montenegro less than 1 %.
The proportion of positive first instance decisions was 21 % over the whole region. Applications from Turkish citizens resulted in positive decisions in 38 % of the cases. Concerning Kosovo citizens, 12 % of their applications had a positive decision. As a consequence of the high proportion of positive first instance decisions, applications from Turkish citizens accounted for 83 % of all positive first instance decisions on applications from citizens of the candidate countries and potential candidates.
Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)
Eurostat provides a wide range of demographic data, including statistics on populations at national and regional level, as well as for various demographic factors influencing the size, the structure and the specific characteristics of these populations. The population data presented in this article were collected from enlargement countries alongside Eurostat’s regular collection of population data from EU Member States and EFTA countries. The data on residence permits, the acquisition of citizenship, asylum and first instance decisions form part of a regular collection of data from Member States and EFTA countries.
Eurostat collects data in its demography data collection exercise in relation to the population as of 1 January each year. The recommended definition is the ‘usual resident population’ and represents the number of inhabitants of a given area on 1 January of the year in question (or, in some cases, on 31 December of the previous year).
Data related to residence permits are generally based on administrative sources. Commission Regulation (EU) No 216/2010 on Community statistics on migration and international protection, as regards the definitions of categories of the reasons for the residence permits provides the list and definition of reasons for permits being issued.
It should be noted that certain methodological aspects are not fully harmonised between the reporting countries due to different legal or information technology systems. See a general article on first residence permits for more information.
Since 2008 data on acquisitions of citizenship have been collected by Eurostat under the provisions of Regulation (EC) No 862/2007 on migration statistics. Citizenship is the particular legal bond between an individual and his or her State, acquired by birth or naturalisation, whether by declaration, choice, marriage or other means according to the national legislation. International law does not provide detailed rules, but it recognises the competence of every state in cases like: spouses of citizens, minors adopted by citizens, descendants of citizens born abroad returning to the country of origin of their ancestors. Countries differ considerably in terms of the conditions to be fulfilled to acquire citizenship: in general, a period of legally registered residence is required, combined with other factors such as evidence of social and economic integration and knowledge of national languages. Different conditions may apply for persons who were born in the country concerned (jus soli), or who have parents or other relatives with that country’s citizenship (jus sanguinis). Detailed information on the different modes of acquisition of citizenship in force in different countries can be found at the Global Citizenship Observatory (GLOBALCIT).
Equally, data related to asylum have also been provided to Eurostat since 2008, again under the provisions of Regulation (EC) 862/2007. Data are provided with a monthly frequency for asylum application statistics and a quarterly frequency for first instance decisions; data are also collected with an annual frequency for final decisions based on appeal or review, resettlement and unaccompanied minors. These statistics are based on administrative sources and are supplied to Eurostat by statistical authorities, home office ministries/ministries of the interior or related immigration agencies.
First instance decisions are decisions granted by the respective authority acting as a first instance of the administrative/judicial asylum procedure in the receiving country.
The United Nations publishes estimates on migration which can be found on their website.
Tables in this article use the following notation:
|Value in italics||data value is forecasted, provisional or estimated and is therefore likely to change;|
|:||not available, confidential or unreliable value.|
Statistics on population change and the structure of population are increasingly used to support policymaking and provide an opportunity to monitor demographic behaviour within an economic, social and cultural context. Indeed, the EU’s population is ageing as consistently low birth rates and higher life expectancy transform the shape of its age pyramid.
Migration policies within the EU are built upon solidarity and responsibility, taking account of the contribution that immigrants make to the EU’s economic development and performance. Within the European Commission, the Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs is responsible for immigration policy. EU policy measures on legal immigration cover the conditions of entry and residence for certain categories of immigrants, such as highly qualified workers subject to the ‘EU Blue Card Directive’, students and researchers, as well as family reunification and long-term residents: see New Pact on Migration and Asylum for more information.
In May 2013, the European Commission published the EU Citizenship Report 2013 (COM(2013) 269 final). The report noted that EU citizenship brings new rights and opportunities. Moving and living freely within the EU is the right most closely associated with EU citizenship. Given modern technology and the fact that it is now easier to travel, freedom of movement allows EU citizens to expand their horizons beyond national borders, to leave their country for shorter or longer periods, to come and go between EU Member States to work, study and train, to travel for business or for leisure, or to shop across borders. Free movement potentially increases social and cultural interactions within the EU and closer bonds between EU citizens. In addition, it may generate mutual economic benefits for businesses and consumers.
The 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees (as amended by the 1967 New York Protocol) has, for around 70 years, defined who is a refugee, and laid down a common approach towards refugees that has been one of the cornerstones for the development of a common asylum system within the EU. Since 1999, the EU has worked towards creating a common European asylum regime in accordance with the Geneva Convention and other applicable international instruments. More information is available in an article on asylum statistics.
Information concerning the current statistical legislation on population, migration and asylum statistics can be found here:
Eurostat has the responsibility to monitor that statistical production of the candidate countries and potential candidates complies with the EU acquis in the field of statistics. To do so, Eurostat supports the national statistical offices and other producers of official statistics through a range of initiatives, such as pilot surveys, training courses, traineeships, study visits, workshops and seminars, and participation in meetings within the European Statistical System (ESS). The ultimate goal is the provision of harmonised, high-quality data that conforms to European and international standards.
Additional information on statistical cooperation with the enlargement countries is provided here.
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.
Direct access to
- Online publications
- Statistical books/pocketbooks
- Key figures on enlargement countries — 2019 edition
- Key figures on enlargement countries — 2017 edition
- Key figures on the enlargement countries — 2014 edition
- Basic figures on enlargement countries — Factsheets — 2021 edition
- Basic figures on enlargement countries — 2020 edition
- Basic figures on enlargement countries — 2019 edition
- Basic figures on enlargement countries — 2018 edition
- Basic figures on enlargement countries — 2016 edition
- Enlargement countries — Demographic statistics — 2015 edition
- Key figures on the enlargement countries — Population and social conditions — 2013 edition
- Population change - Demographic balance and crude rates at national level (demo_gind)
- Acquisition and loss of citizenship (migr_acqn)
- Acquisition of citizenship by age group, sex and former citizenship (migr_acq)
- Asylum and Dublin statistics (migr_asy)
- Applications (migr_asyapp)
- Decisions on applications and resettlement (migr_asydec)
- Residence permits (migr_res)
- Residence permits by reason, length of validity and citizenship (migr_resval)
Methodology / Metadata
- Acquisition and loss of citizenship (migr_acqn) (ESMS metadata file — migr_acqn_esms)
- Applications (migr_asyapp) (ESMS metadata file — migr_asyapp_esms)
- Decisions on applications and resettlement (migr_asydec) (ESMS metadata file — migr_asydec_esms)
- Population change - Demographic balance and crude rates at national level (demo_gind) (ESMS metadata file — demo_gind_esms)
- Residence permits (migr_res) (ESMS metadata file — migr_res_esms)
- Regulation (EU) No 216/2010 of 15 March 2010 implementing Regulation (EC) No 862/2007 on Community statistics on migration and international protection, as regards the definitions of categories of the reasons for the residence permits
- Regulation (EC) No 862/2007 of 11 July 2007 on Community statistics on migration and international protection and repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No 311/76 on the compilation of statistics on foreign workers
- Summaries of EU legislation: Migration statistics
- (COM(2013) 269 final) Citizenship Report 2013 EU citizens: your rights, your future.