Instead of increasing cross-border cooperation, the enlargement of the European Union has resulted in an exodus of human capital from the eastern member states to the west of the continent, according to a new study. EURACTIV Spain reports.
An article published in Science Advances focused on the 2004 enlargement of the EU, when the club increased from 15 to 25 countries.
“In principle, this enlargement increased the number of researchers that could, through various European programmes, collaborate with EU partners,” explained the University of California’s Alexander Petersen, during the presentation of the study on Wednesday (12 April).
But despite efforts, the so-called ‘big enlargement’ has not increased remote collaboration between researchers that were already EU-based with their newly-arrived counterparts.
On the contrary, integration of the new members was a one-way steet, with researchers relocating from the new EU nations to the established ones.
2007’s smaller enlargement, when Bulgaria and Romania were admitted to the bloc, did not manage to promote cross-border cooperation either.
According to the study, one of the reasons for this low rate of international cooperation between researchers was a “brain drain” from the newest member states, as academics decided to migrate as soon as the borders fell.
“We can invest money in research and in infrastructure, as well as redirecting EU money to support the process of convergence. But how can we avoid what we already seen and make sure we retain human capital in those countries?” asked Fabio Pammolli from the Polytechnic University of Milan.
Pammolli, who also participated in the study, warned that the EU risks missing out on “real integration” by neglecting the tools at its disposal.
The study’s researchers combined data from different research projects, as well as using information from the World Bank.
They analysed cross-border investigations published between 1996 and 2012, government investments, movements of qualified, skilled professionals and migration statistics.
“With this framework, we can try and figure out what we happen after Brexit or what would happen to Mexicans if a wall was built between the United States and Mexico. These issues are of particular relevance to the younger generation,” concluded the study’s other author, Omar Doria Arrieta.