Returning expats bring skills to rebuild Balkans

Thu Feb 12, 2009 7:40pm EST
 
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By Adam Tanner

BELGRADE (Reuters) - When Nina Ivancev, 38, left Serbia for Australia in 1993, she was convinced she would never return to what was then a pariah state embroiled in Balkan wars. Now she is back, and finds it more stable than richer places.

Ivancev was one of millions who left Yugoslavia in the 1990s while it was breaking apart in Europe's worst fighting since World War Two.

Many have returned to the successor states in recent years, encouraged by their growing stability and lured by family, the chance to help rebuild their country and the hope of getting rich. Some brought valuable skills and experience.

Ivancev, an Atlas Group vice-president running its investment bank in Montenegro, had an investment banking career in Australia and Japan and, after separating from her partner, resettled in 2007 in Belgrade where her parents could help with her three-year-old son.

"It worked out pretty well for me," said Ivancev. "I am doing a very similar job in a much more stable environment than London or Tokyo.

"When I left I was probably reaching the peak of my career there and some people thought I was mad to leave. A year after I left, the same people called and asked me if there were any jobs going."

More people are still leaving Serbia, the most populous former Yugoslav state, than returning. Although numbers remain vague, officials say the gap has shrunk and at a time of global recession, more are considering coming home.

"We have seen an increase in inquiries about returning in recent months because of the world economic crisis," said Djordjo Prstojevic, Serbia's assistant diaspora minister.   Continued...

 
<p>Serbia's ex-deputy central bank Governor Nikola Zivanovic gestures during an interview with Reuters in Belgrade, February 6, 2009. REUTERS/Djordje Kojadinovic</p>