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NEWS ROUNDUP 29 Jan 2018

Freedom House: Balkans are still "partly free"

Lidija Pisker recommended by Lidija Pisker NewsMavens, Southern Europe

The Balkan countries suffer from corruption, weak institutions and a lack of media freedom, according to a recent report from a U.S. watchdog group.

Southern Europe Smoke signals

Why this story matters:

With little evidence of progress, Balkan countries are not moving forward on the path toward democracy. And the European Union doesn't seem to care. 

Indecisive mediation in the exhausting Macedonian political crisis, for example, demonstrated a need for stronger engagement of the EU in the region. And it served as a warning of how fragile peace is. 

Even longer and more dreadful has been the Bosnian deadlock, which has paralyzed the country and driven its citizens to madness or immigration. It will take substantial outside intervention to break through this dam. 

Sorry, EU, but sporadic press statements that express your "concerns" and "warnings" do us no good. The EU's weak responses to blatant human rights violations and crimes allow unaccountable politicians to multiply and corruption to grow. 

In the meantime, the EU accession process is going nowhere. And so is the region's stability. 

politics,corruption,EU

Details from the story:

  • Watchdog organization Freedom House released its findings about the Balkans earlier this month in its annual global assessment of political and civil rights published.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania have been labelled as "partly free“ countries.
  • Serbia fell in the group's freedom ranking due to President Aleksandar Vučić's continued consolidation of power, politicization of law enforcement, and attempts to undermine critical journalists with financial investigations and smears in government-friendly media. 
  • Macedonia is considered one of the "countries to watch" in 2018. A new government came to power after years-long political and institutional crises that polarized the country and threatened its fragile inter-ethnic relations.
  • The report noted that Macedonia's "democratically elected, ethnically inclusive government is seeking to root out corruption and other systemic abuses that grew worse under its scandal-plagued predecessor."
  • The so-called "Bosnian deadlock" results from the Dayton agreement, which ended the war by creating a state divided between Serbs (Republika Srpska) and Bosnians and Croats (the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina).
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina has a rotating presidency alternating between ethnic groups.
  • It is nowhere near political unification because of paralyzing conflicts between its leading factions.

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