Freedom 2010 in Balkans and Eastwards

May 1, 2010

“Freedom of the press, freedom of association, the inviolability of domicile, and all the rest of the rights of man are respected so long as no one tries to use them against the privileged class. On the day they are launched against the privileged they are overthrown.” (Prince Peter Kropotkin)

diagram by David Nolan

diagram by David Nolan

Different aspects of freedom are globally fundamental value of human rights, civil liberties or human development in general. Human development has been described in UNDP as “a process of enlarging people’s choices”. This in turn requires the freedom of people to make their choices and the opportunities to realize them. Rankings or ratings are one kind of (process) benchmarking in which organizations or in this case states evaluate various aspects of their processes in relation to best practice.

In this article I make a short update about political rights and civil liberties, freedom of press and some economical aspects in mostly Balkans and Black Sea regions. As sources (described next paragraph) I have used last reports available. Besides regions mentioned I have included to table also top and worst scores, U.S. as old superpower and BRIC countries as rising superpowers.

Sources of this story:

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is is the UN’s global development network. Since 1990, annual Human Development Reports have explored challenges including poverty, gender, democracy, human rights, cultural liberty, globalization, water scarcity and climate change. The Human Development Index (HDI)Table HDR 2009 measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living. More: UNDP http://hdr.undp.org/en/

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports the expansion of freedom around the world. Freedom House supports democratic change, monitors freedom, and advocates for democracy and human rights. Founded in 1941 by prominent Americans organization’s viewpoint is mostly Anglo-American. Freedom House has been publishing its Freedom in the World reports since 1972 and it publishes also Freedom in the Press report since 1980. More: Freedom House

Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Together with The Wall Street Journal they publish e.g. “Economic freedom index”. More: The Heritage Foundation.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an independent, international organization incorporated as a Swiss not-for-profit foundation. WEF believes that economic progress without social development is not sustainable, while social development without economic progress is not feasible. WEF aims to be: the foremost organization which builds and energizes leading global communities; the creative force shaping global, regional and industry strategies; the catalyst of choice for its communities when undertaking global initiatives to improve the state of the world. WEF defines competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country. World Economic Forum has published “The Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010” which gives an other viewpoint to economic freedom.

Reporters Without Borders is registered in France as a non-profit organisation and has consultant status at the United Nations. Reporters Without Borders is present in all five continents through its national branches. Reporters Without Borders: defends journalists and media assistants imprisoned or persecuted for doing their job, fights against censorship, gives financial aid to journalists in difficulty and works to improve the safety of journalists, especially those reporting in war zones. Reporters Without Borders has fought for press freedom on a daily basis since it was founded in 1985.

Summary table of Freedom in Balkans, Black Sea and some comparison data

(Note: the order below is made according UNDP’s “Human development index”, in other categories order can be checked from ranks)

Human development index

(UNDP)

Freedom Status

(Freedom House) Political Rights/ Civil Liberties

Economic Freedom (WSJ/THF) & Competitiveness (WEB) Press Freedom (Reporters w. borders/Freedom House)
Rank

(↑..↓

2006)

Country ///

Name & Score

P R C L Status HF/WSJ Rank/Scr

WEB Rank/

Trend

RWB

Rank/ Score

FH Rank
1. Norway (0.971) 1 1 Free 37./69.4 14 +

1./0,00

1
13. ↓ U.S.A. (0.956) 1 1 Free 8./78.0 2 - 20./4.00 24
25. Greece (0.942) 1 2 Free 73./62.7 71 – 35./ 9,00 29
29. Slovenia (0.929) 1 1 Free 61./64.7 37 ++ 37./ 9,50 25
45. Croatia (0.871) 1 2 Free 92./59.2 72 – 78./ 17,17 85
61. ↓ Bulgaria (0.840) 2 2 Free 75./62.3 76 68./15,61 76
63. ↑ Romania (0.837) 2 2 Free 63./64.2 64 + 50./12,50 88
65. Montenegro (0.834) 3 2 Free 68./ 63.6 62 + 77./17,00 80
67. Serbia (0.826) 2 2 Free 104./56.9 93 – 62./ 15,50 78
70. Albania (0.818) 3 3 Partly Free 53./66.0 96 + 82./21,75 102
71. ↑ Russia (0.817) 6 5 Not Free 143./50.3 63 - 153./60,88 175
72. Macedonia FYR (0.817) 3 3 Partly Free 56./65.7 84 + 34./ 8,75 94
75. Brazil (0.813) 2 2 Free 113./ 55.6 56 ++ 71./15,88 88
76. Bosnia-Herzegovina (0.812) 4 3 Partly Free 110./56.2 109 - 39./ 10,50 97
79. ↓ Turkey (0.806) 3 3 Partly Free 67./63.8 61 + 122./ 38,25 106
NA Kosovo (under UN 1244) 5 4 Partly Free NA NA 75./ 16,58 108
84. ↑ Armenia (0.798) 6 4 Partly Free 38./69.2 97 111./31,13 146
85. ↓ Ukraine (0.796) 3 2 Free 162./46.4 82 – 89./ 22,00 108
86. ↑ Azerbaijan (0.787) 6 5 Not Free 96./58.8 51 + 146./53,50 172
88. ↓ Iran (0.782) 6 6 Not Free 168./43.4 NA 172./104,14 187
89. ↑ Georgia (0.778) 4 4 Partly Free 26./70.4 90 81./18,83 126
92. ↑ China (0.772) 7 6 Not Free 140./51.0 29 + 168./84,50 181
117. Moldova (0.720) 3 4 Partly Free 125./53.7 NA 114./33,75 144
134. India (0.612) 2 3 Free 124./53.8 49 + 105./29,33 72
182. Niger (0.340) 5 4 Partly Free 129./52.9 NA 139./ 48,50 151

Full reports and country analysis from each category can be found from related organizations – see sources above.

Some remarks

UNDP’s methodology includes besides data collection a serial of background seminars and regional and thematic events. Due heavy preparation process the report 2009 is based to oldest data mostly from years 2006-2008. The UNDP 2010 report will launch around the world this autumn and will have three parts. First, a systematic assessment of progress and setbacks in human development since the 1970s, in which we discuss what has been achieved, what seems to work, and what are the key gaps and constraints. The second part will revisit the concept of human development – and its measurement (including the Human Development Index) – and propose the enhancements needed to help policy-makers ensure that people are at the centre of development. In this light, the third and final part would highlight concrete implications for policy and development strategies, and outline recommendations for a new development agenda.

Freedom House’s report “Freedom in the World 2010” reflects developments that took place in the calendar year 2009. The full survey, including the individual country reports, will be available in late spring 2010. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions and 15 civil liberties questions. The political rights questions are grouped into three subcategories: Electoral Process (3 questions), Political Pluralism and Participation (4), and Functioning of Government (3). The civil liberties questions are grouped into four subcategories: Freedom of Expression and Belief (4 questions), Associational and Organizational Rights (3), Rule of Law (4), and Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights (4).

Related to some disputed regions Freedom House ranks status of Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh as Partly Free, but South Ossetia and Transdnistria as Not Free.

WEF defines competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country. The level of productivity, in turn, sets the sustainable level of prosperity that can be earned by an economy. In other words, more-competitive economies tend to be able to produce higher levels of income for their citizens. The productivity level also determines the rates of return obtained by investments in an economy.

Freedom House’s examination of the level of press freedom in each country currently comprises 23 methodology questions and 109 indicators divided into three broad categories: the legal environment, the political environment, and the economic environment. The 2010 report did note some changes in the region that includes Western Balkan countries. Improvements were noted in several countries, including Bulgaria and Ukraine, primarily due to fewer cases of physical attacks and harassment, as well as greater editorial and ownership diversity. Meanwhile, Armenia and Moldova both saw numerical gains as a result of reduced censorship and restrictions on news coverage. The score improvement for Serbia in 2009 reflected the fact that Kosovo was scored separately for the first time in this edition of the survey. Croatia’s score “fell from 38 to 40 due to the removal of and legal action against journalists covering war crimes, organized crime, and corruption. There was also less diversity due to rising concentration of private media ownership.”

Because freedom is so highly valued factor, there is constant debate over exactly what the word means. Disputes are often politically charged, and they are not likely ever to be completely resolved. James P.Young summarizes following:

Analysis of the idea is also complicated because it is impossible to consider freedom without taking into account related concepts such as democracy and constitutionalism, problems such as majority rule and minority rights, and the tension between liberty and equality. The American Declaration of Independence represents one of the climactic moments in the long development of the idea of freedom and arguably achieves universality, despite having grown out of the specific revolutionary situation in the colonies. Yet throughout their history, Americans have argued about how the principles found in the Declaration should be applied. For example, does the right to life rule out the death penalty?

(More e.g. in “A Short Historical Sketch on the Idea of Freedom” by James P. Young)

The bottom line

Democracy is a form of government that cannot long survive, for as soon as the people learn that they have a voice in the fiscal policies of the government, they will move to vote for themselves all the money in the treasury, and bankrupt the nation.”(Karl Marx)

While comparing different data it seems that there is some conflict between economic freedom and especially competitiveness and other political rights, civil liberties and press freedom. It remains to be seen whether present global and regional financial turmoil and environmental challenges will change the balance one way or the other.

We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.”(Sir Karl Popper)

Related articles:

Balkans and Failed States Index (Jan. 2009/failed state index based on social, economical and political inducators)

Competitiveness of Balkans (Oct. 2008)

Freedom in Balkans (Jan. 2009/political rights and civil liberties. Democracy, economy, poverty, movement)


Kosovo – an captured independence

November 26, 2009

Free movement is one fundamental human rights not only in one’s own country but also abroad. While speaking about Balkans I earlier have highlighted (e.g. “Forgotten Refugees – West Balkans“) the situation of Serb refugees or IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) who can not return to their original homes in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina or Kosovo. The fear is restricting also movement of Serbs living behind barbed wire in Kosovo enclaves. Besides refugees and IDPs also ordinary citizens can have restricted movement depending which passport they hold.
Visa restrictions play an important role in controlling the movement of foreign nationals across borders. They are also an expression of the relationships between individual nations, and generally reflect the relations and status of a country within the international community of nations.



Now a discussion paper made by European Stability Initiative (ESI) poppet to my eyes describing visa regulations in Kosovo with quite surprising outcome – people from all ethnic groups living in province can go visa free only to five countries while even people with Afghanistan passport (ranked as country which has the least travel freedom in the world) can go to 22 countries visa free. And this happens in Europe, in region which is on the road to EU membership, in province where EU has squandered billions of Euro to build international standards.

 

On the table below I have collected data from Henley & Partners ‘Visa Restriction Index’ 2008. I included rankings of top and lowest three ranks, ranks of Balkan and BRIC countries. From ESI paper I added Kosovo province (Kosovo is part of Serbia according UNSC resolution 1244/99, the current status can be described as international protectorate).

Rank Passport of country Visa free access no
1 Denmark 157
2 Finland, Ireland, Portugal 156
3 Belgium, Germany, Sweden, USA 155
14 Slovenia 139
23 Brazil 122
25 Bulgaria 116
26 Romania 115
29 Croatia 108
53 Russia 60
62 Serbia, Montenegro 50
72 Bosnia-Herzegovina 40
75 India 37
76 Albania 36
79 China 33
87 Iran 25
88 Iraq 23
89 Afghanistan 22
90 Kosovo 5

In February 2008 Kosovo declared independence. France was the first EU member state to recognize the new state, followed by Germany, Great Britain, and all but five other EU member states (Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain). The new Kosovo passport, first issued by the Kosovo Government in July 2008, is currently one of the least useful travel documents ever designed. Its holders can travel to only 5 countries visa free: neighbouring Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia, Turkey, and Haiti.

Latest developments

In my earlier article “EU’s visa freedom dividing Balkans” I described how “European perspective” is applied different ways in West Balkans. Briefly of the five regional states involved in the visa-liberalisation process, Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro have been approved for visa-free travel within the EU, as of January 2010. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania have been told that they might receive EU visa-free status later. Kosovo, on the other hand, has not been included in the process, as five of the 27 members of the EU have not recognised Kosovo’s independence.

In December 2008 the EU dispatched a Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) to Kosovo. It currently fields more than 1,622 EU and 1,021 local staff (total: 2,643). With an annual budget of over Euro 200 million it is the biggest EU mission of its kind ever launched. Its objective is to assist the development of Kosovo’s security and judicial institutions.
Schengen process, unilateral declaration of independence and EULEX raised expectations among Kosovo Albanians. However after civil war and these events Kosovo anyway remains one of the most isolated places on earth. While looking backwards the near history of region the change is quite drastic – some 20 years ago citizens of Yugoslavia could travel relatively free anywhere.
In August 2008 Serbia started issuing biometric passports, an EU roadmap requirement. A lucky 7,141 Kosovars received one. But in 2009 the European Commission asked Serbia to stop the issuance to Kosovars until a specific ‘Coordination Directorate’ at the Ministry of the Interior in Belgrade would be set up as the only body authorised to provide Kosovo residents with passports. Since the issuing authority is always mentioned in passports, this would make the passports of Kosovo residents distinguishable – and exclude their holders from visa free travel. In June 2009 Serbia thus stopped issuing biometric passports to Kosovo residents (including Kosovo Serbs).

Today’s outcome is the Commission proposal to add Kosovo to the Schengen ‘Black List’ as a territory on whose status the EU cannot yet agree (i.e. under UN Security Council resolution 1244), next to the Palestinian Authority and Taiwan. And the Commission did not even mention the possibility of a visa liberalisation process for Kosovo.

More from my main source ESI document.

Some other peculiarities

The wording of the European Commission proposal of 15 July 2009 stresses that visa free travel for Kosovars constitutes an overwhelming security risk. In the words of the Commission:

Kosovo under UNSCR 1244/99 shall be added to Annex I of Regulation so that persons residing in Kosovo shall be submitted to the visa requirement. This proposal is motivated exclusively by objectively determined security concerns regarding in particular the potential for illegal migration stemming from and transiting through Kosovo under UNSCR 1244/1999. This is without prejudice to the current status of Kosovo under UNSCR 1244/1999.

This ‘security risk’ idea, supported by some influential member states, would explain the Commission’s insistence on withholding visa free travel even from those Kosovo citizens equipped with new biometric Serbian passports – as opposed to withholding it from holders of Serbian biometric passports from any other country in the world (such as Bosnia and Herzegovina).
One other peculiarity related to country status visa freedom connection is the case of Taiwan. At this very moment, a serious visa dialogue between the European Commission and the Republic of Taiwan is under way. Taiwan has not been recognized by so much as a single EU member state. And yet, this is not seen as an obstacle. In mentioned Henley & Partners ‘Visa Restriction Index’ 2008 Taiwan has rank 54 and county’s passport holders can travel visa free to 59 countries.

Bosnia-Herzegovina is another strange example in Balkans. While most Bosnian Croats already have Croatian passports (with access to 108 countries) and since Republika Srpska residents can apply for and obtain Serbian passports (with access to 50 countries now and more 2010 after White list implementation), the Bosniaks with passport of Bosnia-Herzegovina can travel visa free only to 40 countries and will so far stay in Black list.

In Europe Pridnestrovie – aka Transnistria aka Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublica (PMR) – may be a country which passport has less use abroad than Kosovo passport as no country has recognised its independence. The region has practically been independent – if not recognized – state already over 17 years. Transdnistria has all statehood elements, more developed than e.g. Kosovo’s, its economy is relatively good with export to over 100 countries and it can manage without UN seat. The bright side of story is the fact that people living in Pridnestrovie however can use their Russian or Moldovan passports for travels abroad. More about Kosovo-Pridnestrovie comparison one may find from my article “Transnistria follow-up”.

Bottom line

In my earlier article “EU’s visa freedom dividing Balkans” I concluded following:

There is also well based arguments that the EU is isolating three mainly Muslim European states/regions – Albania, BiH and Kosovo – and Turkey as some in the EU fear the presence of such a large, Muslim community inside traditionally Christian Europe. Of course EU denies political aspects and highlights only the technical ones but from Balkan perspective the impression can differ.

Visa restrictions also are reflecting the political situation of the time e.g. some 20 years ago citizens of Yugoslavia could travel relatively free, but the breakup wars changed situation completely.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina the EU’s message now weakens already non-existent national identity and opposes EU’s earlier multi-ethnic ideals. In Kosovo some NGOs send a letter to EU where they state that Kosovo`s exclusion from the visa-liberalisation process threatens to transform Kosovo “into a ghetto without any way out”.
EU and international community have guided and supervised these regions towards “European standards”. So has EU failed with this task as those countries without outside supervision are getting visa-freedom earlier?

Sources of this article:

ESI Discussion Paper: Isolating Kosovo? Kosovo vs Afghanistan 5:22


European Stability Initiative (ESI) is a non-profit research and policy institute, created in recognition of the need for independent, in-depth analysis of the complex issues involved in promoting stability and prosperity in Europe. ESI was founded in June 1999 by a multi-national group of practitioners and analysts with extensive experience in the regions it studied.


Henley & Partners has analyzed the visa regulations of all the countries and territories in the world. It has created an index which ranks countries according to the visa-free access its citizens enjoy to other countries.


My earlier article Visa rank and the western Balkans


Forgotten Refugees – West Balkans

November 10, 2009

The refugee question is of paramount importance in Balkans – still. Beginning 1991, political upheavals – such as the breakup of Yugoslavia – displaced millions of people. Officially one part of these people are refugees meaning that they have escaped to other country, one part is “internally displaced persons” (IDPs) meaning that they have escaped from their home village/-town but still are in the same country than before.

In contrast to the other regions, in Europe the refugee population increased slightly (+2%). This raise can partly be attributed to the figures from Montenegro in which 16,000 people from Kosovo (Serbia), previously reported as IDPs, were reclassified as refugees. Similarly, armed conflict in Georgia forced some 135,000 people to flee their homes in 2008; by the end of the year, an estimated 293,000 were considered internally displaced persons in Georgia, including 49,200 people in an IDP-like situation.

Statistics

As source I have used UNHCR report 16th June 2009 and “Internal Displacement in Europe and Central Asia” report made by UNCHR and The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), established in 1998 by the Norwegian Refugee Council. To table below I have collected the numbers of refugees and IDPs in western Balkans; the sum total includes also asylum-seekers, stateless etc. persons.

Country Refugees IDPs Total
Albania 65 0 87
Bosnia-Herzegovina 7257 124529 194448
Croatia 1597 2497 33943
(FRY) Macedonia 1672 0 2823
Montenegro 24741 0 26242
Serbia 96739 225879 341083

Most of Montenegro refugees – 16259 – fled from Kosovo. Nearly all of Serbia’s IDPs fled also from Albanian mayority parts of Kosovo province.

The table above is maybe surprising to those who have the picture – made by western mainstream media – in their minds, that (only) Serbs were making ethnic cleansing. In reality today the Serbs are the biggest victims of Balkan wars.


Behind of the numbers

Bosnian war (1992-95) included massive transfer of populations so it was possible to draw new boundaries according ethnic groups. Armed conflict between Yugoslav, Croatian and Bosnian forces and militias, accompanied by massive human rights abuses and violations, led to the displacement of over a million people and the creation of ethnically homogeneous areas within the newly independent Bosnia and Herzegovina. By 2008, almost 600,000 people had returned to their places of origin, and the government reported that 124,600 people remained as IDPs.

Dayton Agreement 1995 created federation like Bosnia with entities according these lines so situation with IDPs in Bosnia-Herzegovina is quite stable.Under Annex VII of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, support to durable solutions has focused almost exclusively on the return of displaced people to their places of origin to the exclusion of other durable solutions, as any support to local integration was perceived as cementing the effect of the war and the “ethnic cleansing” which motivated the displacement.

In 2003, the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees took over from the international community the responsibility to implement Annex VII , and elaborated a National Strategy for Implementation of Annex VII which still focused mainly on return. In 2008 however, the Ministry revised this strategy, and from 2009, though the emphasis remains on return, it recognizes the need to compensate people for lost property (instead of a sole focus on restitution) and to assist the most vulnerable who cannot or do not want to return, thereby providing de facto support to local integration.

Between 1991 and 1995, 220,000 ethnic Croats and subsequently up to 300,000 ethnic Serbs were displaced by armed conflict in Croatia. Since then almost all the Croat IDPs have returned to their homes, while most of the Serbs displaced have resettled in Serbia or in the majority-Serb Danube region of Croatia.Since the end of the confl ict, only one third of Croatian Serb IDPs and refugees have been able to return.

In Serbia the refugee problem came when Serbs were expelled from East Croatia and Croatian Krajina. The IDP problem is a follow-up of Kosovo conflict when some 200.000 Serbs and some thousands of Roma were expelled from there to northern Serb-dominated part of province or to Serbia. During Nato bombings also Kosovo Albanians – about 700.000 – escaped from the province but most of them have returned back.

While new displacement was avoided, the rate of return decreased significantly in 2008 from an already low level, as most IDPs waited to evaluate the approach of Kosovo authorities towards Kosovo Serbs and other non-Albanian communities. Those who already returned to Kosovo struggle to find livelihood opportunities, notably because of widespread discrimination against Serbs and Roma. Local integration opportunities for Kosovo Serb IDPs are scarce since they live in complete isolation from Kosovo institutions. Most of them reside in enclaves relying on a parallel system of education, policing, and health care supported by Serbia. Security concerns have prevented them from returning to their repossessed property. Because of their limited freedom of movement and the discrimination they have faced, IDPs’ access to land and employment has been very limited. The most vulnerable IDPs are Roma people in both Serbia and Kosovo, who have specific protection needs because of their social marginalisation and lack of civil documentation, which prevents them from registering as IDPs and limits their access to housing assistance and other social benefits.

Tensions in Macedonia between ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians culminated in violent confl ict in 2001 which displaced over 171,000 people, 74,000 of them within the country. Since then, over 99 per cent have returned and only around 770 people remained displaced. Most of those still displaced in 2008 were ethnic Macedonians or Serbs who did not feel safe to return to the Albanian-dominated Lipkovo-Aracinovo area.

Some remarks from my point of view

  • International administration and sackful of money does not guarantee better living conditions for refugees nor other vulnerable groups. One of the cruellest example I earlier described in my article UN Death camps, EU money, local negligence
  • Some 5 % of IDPs in Serbia is planning to return to their original hometowns partly because their property is occupied by Albanians. In Bosnia-Herzegovina property issues have mostly solved and refugees/IDPs have got rights to their original flats/houses, but in Croatia the Serbs lost their homes without rights nor compensation.
  • While in Kosovo the situation is frozen like the overall situation in province too elsewhere there is fears that the progress may go backwards. In Bosnia-Herzegovina ethnic tensions for some reasons are rising e.g. between Croats and Bosnian Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina, while earlier these tensions were mostly between Serbs and other ethnic groups. This may be related to rising of conservative Wahhabism in region and tendency of total collapse of state as it is today. More about this in my article “Bosnia Collapsing?
  • To solve refugee and IDP problem in western Balkans there is a need of massive housing programme especially in Serbia and this can probably be implemented with help of international donors. Housing activities should also be supported by economical development programmes to decrease unemployment figures and social problems common in locations with big share of refugees/IDPs.
  • I think that the revised strategy implemented in Bosnia-Herzegovina from 2008 has better change to be successful than the earlier attempts. The new approach recognizes the need to compensate people for lost property (instead of a sole focus on restitution) and to assist the most vulnerable who cannot or do not want to return, thereby providing de facto support to local integration. This strategy should be copied to Serbia/Kosovo too. For example since 2003, the European Commission has allocated over €30 million for minority communities throughout Kosovo and still the return numbers are quite modest; the same money invested to housing in Serbia could achieve better results.

Global fact box


2008 IN REVIEW – WORLD STATISTICS AT A GLANCE

There were some 42 million forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2008.

This includes 15.2 million refugees, 827,000 asylum-seekers (pending cases) and 26

million internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Nearly 25 million people – 10.5 million refugees and 14.4 million IDPs – were

receiving protection or assistance from UNHCR at the end of 2008. These numbers

are similar to 2007.

In 2008, UNHCR identified some 6.6 million stateless persons in 58 countries. The

Office estimated that the overall number of stateless persons worldwide was far

higher, about 12 million people.

Some 604,000 refugees repatriated voluntarily during 2008. Repatriation figures have

continued to decrease since 2004. The 2008 figure is the second-lowest in 15 years.

More than 839,000 people submitted an individual application for asylum or refugee

status in 2008. UNHCR offices registered nine per cent of those claims. More than

16,300 asylum applications were lodged by unaccompanied and separated children in

68 countries. With one quarter of applications globally, South Africa is the largest

recipient of individual applications in the world.

UNHCR presented 121,000 refugees for resettlement consideration by States. More

than 67,000 refugees were resettled with UNHCR’s assistance during 2008.

According to Government statistics, 16 countries reported the admission of 88,800

resettled refugees during 2008 (with or without UNHCR assistance). The United

States of America accepted the highest number (60,200 during its Fiscal Year).

Women and girls represent on average 49 per cent of persons of concern to UNHCR.

They constitute 47 per cent of refugees and asylum-seekers, and half of all IDPs and

returnees (refugees). Forty-four per cent of refugees and asylum-seekers are children

below 18 years of age.

Developing countries are host to four fifths of the world’s refugees. Based on the data

available for 8.8 million refugees, UNHCR estimates that half of the world’s refugees

reside in urban areas and one third in camps. However, seven out of ten refugees in

sub-Saharan Africa reside in camps.

Pakistan is host to the largest number of refugees worldwide (1.8 million), followed

by the Syrian Arab Republic (1.1 million) and the Islamic Republic of Iran (980,000).

Afghan and Iraqi refugees account for almost half of all refugees under UNHCR’s

responsibility worldwide. One out of four refugees in the world is from Afghanistan

(2.8 million) and Afghans are located in 69 different asylum countries. Iraqis are the

second largest refugee group, with 1.9 million having sought refuge mainly in

neighbouring countries.

Pakistan hosted the largest number of refugees in relation to its economic capacity.

The country hosted 733 refugees per 1 USD GDP (PPP) per capita. It was followed by

the Democratic Republic of the Congo (496 refugees per 1 USD GDP (PPP) per

capita) and the United Republic of Tanzania (262). The first developed country is

Germany at 26th place with 16 refugees per 1 USD GDP (PPP) per capita.

Source and more: UNHCR

Note

Bloggers Unite is an attempt to harness the power of the blogosphere to make the world a better place. By asking bloggers to write about a particular subject on 1 day of the month, a single voice can be joined with thousands to help make a difference. A year ago I participated to Refugee event, this year I organized it again and one may find few other bloggers too writing today about different aspects of problem.


West Balkans soon ready for EU – at least part of it

October 24, 2009

As Lisbon Treaty seems to come into force also the enlargement process in the Western Balkans got new boost. On 14 October 2009 the Commission adopted its annual strategy document explaining its policy on EU enlargement.The document includes also a summary of the progress made over the last twelve months by each candidate and potential candidate: Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, as well as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo (under UN resolution 1244).

In addition of strategy paper the Commission published the 2009 progress reports of each of the candidate and potential candidates. Below is a summary related to the countries of Western Balkans. My source has been European Commission Enlargement pages from where one can find the strategy, country reports and also other key documents related to enlargement.

EC’s country conclusions


  • Croatia has made good progress in meeting the benchmarks set in the accession negotiations and negotiations have now formally resumed following the political agreement between Slovenia and Croatia over handling the border issue. Croatia will need to pursue its reform efforts, in particular on the judiciary and public administration, the fight against and organised crime, and minority rights. If Croatia meets all outstanding benchmarks in time, the accession negotiations could be concluded next year.
  • Montenegro applied for EU membership in December 2008 and the Commission is currently preparing an Opinion as requested by the Council. Parliamentary elections met almost all international standards. Strengthening administrative capacity and consolidating the rule of law remain major challenges.
  • Albania applied for EU membership in April. The Commission stands ready to prepare its Opinion, once invited to do so by the Council. Parliamentary elections met most international standards. Strengthening the rule of law and ensuring the proper functioning of State institutions remain major challenges.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina urgently needs to speed up key reforms. The country’s European future requires a shared vision on the overall direction of the country by its leadership, the political will to meet European integration requirements and to meet the conditions which have been set for the closure of the OHR.
  • The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has made important progress and has substantially addressed the key accession partnership priorities. The Commission considers that the country sufficiently fulfils the political criteria set by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993 and the Stabilisation and Association Process and therefore has decided to recommend the opening of accession negotiations.
  • Serbia has demonstrated its commitment to moving closer to the EU by building up a track record in implementing the provisions of the Interim Agreement with the EU and by undertaking key reforms. In light of sustained cooperation with ICTY, the Commission considers that the Interim Agreement should now be implemented by the EU. Serbia needs to demonstrate a more constructive attitude on issues related to Kosovo.
  • In Kosovo, stability has been maintained but remains fragile. The EU’s rule of law mission EULEX has been deployed throughout Kosovo and is fully operational. Kosovo faces major challenges, including ensuring the rule of law, the fight against corruption and organised crime, the strengthening of administrative capacity, and the protection of the Serb and other minorities.

Some latest developments

On 23rd October 2009 European Commission representative gave (FYR)Macedonia six weeks and a day to Macedonia, till the EU Council meets, to promote its name talks with Greece and secure a date for the start of EU accession talks. The change in power in Greece can create some positive atmosphere for the name negotiations.

According to the 2009 European Commission progress report, judicial reform in Albania remains in its early stages, with little progress made thereon in the last year. Now the General Prosecutor’s Office seeks the authorisation to investigate a judge on corruption-related charges. A constitutional amendment that would restrict the immunity of judges is needed for implementation of this task.

The second round of crucial high-level talks, aimed at ending Bosnia-Herzegovina’s convoluted political impasse, ended on Wednesday without concrete results.The talks on last week ended after only a couple of hours, with all Bosnian Serb and Croat leaders and some Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) representatives rejecting some or all of the proffered package.

During President Medvedev’s state visit in Serbia a number of bilateral agreements were signed, including one to establish a joint company (South Stream Serbia) to plan, build, and manage the section of the South Stream gas pipeline, which will pass through Serbia. A second deal saw the foundation of the Banatski Dvor UGS Joint Venture, which will construct and manage a gas storage facility in northern Serbia.

The International Court of Justice, ICJ, has set the agenda for a hearing on Kosovo’s independence declaration. More over background in my article “UN is sending Kosovo case to ICJ

Albania’s press freedom was recently reconfirmed as the worst in the Balkans, by the Reporters Without Borders’ Freedom of the Press Index. Albania is ranked 88 of 179 countries polled for the index, squeezed in between the United Arab Emirates and Senegal. Macedonia ranks 34, Bosnia 39, Romania 50, Serbia 62, Bulgaria 68, Kosovo 75, Croatia 77 and Montenegro 78. A wave of bombings against the political and media spheres during 2008 tarnished the image of Croatia within the EU at a time when the country was hoping to join the bloc as quickly as possible.

On a positive note, citizens of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia (excluding residents of Kosovo) are on course to benefit from eventual visa liberalization to Schengen countries from 1 January 2010. The Commission plans to table proposals by the middle of next year to extend this right to Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, provided they meet the necessary conditions. A dialogue with Kosovo, with the perspective of visa liberalization once key conditions have been met, has also been proposed.

EU also has free-trade arrangements in place with the rest of the Western Balkans – the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.

Bottom line

When Ireland said yes to Lisbon and President Klaus is tired alone to resist the Treaty the way seems open for Croatia, (FYR) Macedonia to join EU. Albania, Montenegro and Serbia can follow soon if they want. Bosnia-Herzegovina is collapsing as state (more e.g. In my article “Bosnia collapsing“)

Kosovo may get some progress if EU is ready to squander more billions of euros for its capacity building efforts, but my overall view about Kosovo is quite pessimistic (More e.g in my article “Kosovo update”)

One question is what is the added value for part of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia to be a EU member state; most important pragmatic benefits can be achieved through visa-liberalization and free-trade agreements.

Technically EU can absorb the whole region as well Iceland in near future. The big question is Turkey as the opinions against its membership is still relatively high. However during next few years Turkey will come an energy through implementation of Blue Stream pipeline from Russia and South Stream, possible implementation of Nabucco and planned import of gas from Iraq and Iran. So in energy game Turkey will have some aces; if not membership EU must offer very attractive “third way” solution for Turkey, why not do the same with some states of the Western Balkans if needed.

The situation can change fast if the main players change. E.g next Summer the Conservatives may enter into power in UK and even without delayed referendum over Lisbon Treaty the approach towards EU enlargement and other EU issues can differ from today’s situation.

2009 progress reports of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, (FYR) Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo province can be found as pdf from my Document library.


What’s up in West-Balkans 2009

February 10, 2009

This post was first published in TH!NK ABOUT IT site 9th February 2009.

A lot of interesting marches of progress will take or not take place in West Balkans during 2009. I try to keep my finger on the pulse of developments at least in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia (including Kosovo) where the most interesting events will occur, I suppose. The today’s topics are mostly related to historical past of the region, its different approaches towards EU, its role as playground of international politics and its various domestic tensions. Here I shortly describe few of these issues and their background.

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Last year top level European politicians have awaken to reality concerning the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina, namely that this artificial creature made by Dayton agreement is starting to collapse. This in spite of hundreds of millions of euros which e.g. EU has thrown away to build some kind of multi-ethnical ideal.

Dayton Agreement was made 1995 after bloody war (1992-95) had almost finished ethnic cleansings/transfer of populations so that it was possible to draw administrative boundaries according ethnic groups. The agreement split Bosnia into two semi-independent entities – the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat Federation and three ethnic groups – Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks – are trying to lead state together and separately. Entities are united by weak central institutions, administration is quite heavy loaded with some 170 ministers and whole system is supervised by international presence.

On June 16th 2008 Bosnia-Herzegovina made a significant step forward with EU by signing a key pre-membership deal called the Stabilisation and Association Agreement. The deal was a sign that progress can be achieved and crises overcome, when the political will exists. However, this consensus has since collapsed and reforms halted, nationalist rhetoric ahead of the October 2008 local elections was a factor in this deterioration. 5th November 2008 EU Commission published its “Progress report” about the road of western Balkan countries towards European integration/enlargement and was not very favorable to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The recent past of Bosnia-Herzegovina is violent and there was not only one brutal side – there was three of them. This past has its impact today and real truth behind successful propaganda about events of war 1992-95 is still unclear. This year I expect that the trial of war crime suspect Radovan Karadzic will clarify a bit of this bloody past when both prosecutor and defense are making their case.

The developments last year showed that it is not anymore dispute between Serbs and Bosniaks, there was also serious dissension between Bosniaks and Croats which may be related to rise of radical Islam in Balkans. Lack of national identity and multi-ethnic ideals and dispute between ethnic groups are main reason for possible collapse of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Can any country survive without some minimal mutual self-identification across its citizens as a whole? If the shared non-ethnic Bosnian identity is taking steps backwards does this not mean that this artificial western desk-drawer plan is doomed to fail? I am afraid so but maybe it is loss only for those top level designers not for local population.

Croatia

Croatia is now badly lagging behind its northern Slovene neighbour due to massive political corruption. The official aim is to lead country into the European Union by 2011. Instead Croatia is transforming itself into a mafia state; ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) have presided over a creeping authoritarian kleptocracy, bribery, kickbacks and cronyism are ubiquitous. Protesters took to the streets in December demanding early elections.

Government is also cracking down on the independent media. The regime controls state television and radio, suppressing dissent – especially, any investigations into high-level HDZ corruption – and also recently some journalists have been killed and physically assaulted.

One very alarming trend is (over)emphasizing Croatia’s Nazi past. During WWII Croatia was created and supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. It thus adopted their racial and political doctrines as well practices. Jasenovac was Croatia’s largest concentration and extermination camp. From total 600,000 murdered ones some 25,000 were Gypsies, some 25,000 Jews and over half a million Serbs. From time to time some symptoms of this past are occurring also today ad even with support of government (More e.g. in my article “Nazi’s funeral shadows Croatians past )

Serbia

On Spring 2008 Serbia signed two strategic agreement. The one was a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with European Union and the second one was a preliminary energy deal with Russia. The first is since then suspended by Netherlands due the lack of arresting war crime fugitive Gen. Mladic but the second one got some flesh on the bones on Xmas-week when Serbia and Russia finalized the deal. Both deals are implementing Serbia’s European perspective although from different angels.

Serbia however started to implement SAA unilaterally, but the progress could have been better. According to the latest report from the European Integration Office adopted by the government, the ineffective work of the national parliament has meant that only a third of the laws in the European packet have been adopted, while the government has accomplished two-thirds of the necessary work.

Same time anti-European feeling is growing in Serbia and e.g. for the first time in a long time polls are showing that the number of those against cooperation with the Tribunal is on the rise again. While Serbia is not closing the door to the EU it is parallel with the idea of a European prospective searching a couple of other alternatives. Serbia’s FM Vuk Jeremić recently said that “At this point we have closer ties with Russia than with the U.S., since there is not a single open issue between us and Russia, while there is disagreement with Washington when it comes to the future status of Kosovo and Metohija.” (Source B 92 Feb. 8th 2009)

The bloody past will again be on table during 2009 when genocides and ethnic cleansing during 1990s Balkan Wars is going on tables of international courtrooms. Croatia made lawsuit against Serbia and Serbia’s countersuit will be heard in Haague. (More in my article “Croatia’s and Serbia’s ‘Genocide’ Case to Proceed”)

Kosovo province

The UN General Assembly is backing Serbia’s draft to request an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) about the legality of the unilaterally declared independence (Feb. 2009) of Kosovo. October 8th UNGA, by a recorded vote of 77 in favor to 6 against (Albania, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 74 abstentions, adopted a resolution drafted by Serbia.

The Kosovo case is dividing international community – less than 60 countries have recognized Kosovo’s independence and 130 not – as well EU. EU started its huge rule & law mission late 2008 under UN umbrella. Besides UN/UNMIK and EU/EULEX there is also other players twisting arms who is leading the international protectorate. There is European Union High Representative who simultaneously leads International Community Office wondering his role, same time Nato-troops (KFOR) tries to keep ethnic tensions moderate, OSCE do not know its role nor length of its mission’s mandate in Kosovo, EU delegation office, few influential foreign liaison representatives and of course sc. Kosovo government based to local tribes.

It shows amazing creativity to establish this kind organizational nightmare in one tiny province and more amazing is that after nearly nine years of international administration and capacity building and squandered billions of Euros both the administration and the situation on the ground are beneath all criticism.

So in many levels Kosovo is some kind of test laboratory but its effect does not remain inside the borders of province. As hub of famous Balkan route Kosovo Albanian mafia is distributing majority of heroin sold in western and centre Europe and is now also testing cooperation with Columbian cartels to start distribution more cocaine as well. Earlier (Kosovo) Albanian mafia based its logistics to help of al-Qaida because the heroin is coming from Afghanistan.

The rest of W-Balkans

At present I do not have anything special in mind about special issues in rest of West Balkans. All countries have their more or less problems with organized crime, corruption and managing reflections of global financial crisis. One curiosity related to finances in West Balkans is that outside official euro-zone Montenegro and Kosovo province are already using Euro as their currency.

In Albania elections will be held in June 2009. At the end of November 2008 the Democratic Party (PD) and the Socialist Party (PS) agreed on amendments to the election law. In late 2008 Albanian parliament passed the law on lustration without the participation of the opposition, which was strongly condemned by the international community. Small parties have accused the Democratic Party and the Socialist Party of planning an election fraud Analysts have pointed to the possibility that the Democratic Party may prepare an election fraud at the forthcoming elections in Albania. At the last elections (2005) the election fraud planned by the Socialist Party was prevented. We shall see if and by who the next fraud is implemented.

Related to EU enlargement (FYR) Macedonia is trying to develop its modest performance. The name dispute with Greece will probably also be solved. In interior policy ethnic tensions between Albanians and Macedonians are bubbling under today’s stability and eruptions are possible.

Slovenia and Croatia have also small border dispute which solution should not create any problems. Slovenia will be the pioneer and enviable example for the rest of Balkans. One small detail to follow up in Slovenia is the claim if a Finnish arms factory Patria bribed previous Slovenian government to order their armed vehicles. It is ironical if the state-owned firm of Worlds most anti-corrupted state is bribing the top pupil of EU.

What ever – interesting year has again started in Balkans and what really happens will be seen.

This graph below shows the relations between the European nations in the Balkans before WWI;  now new great powers – EU, Nato, Russia – are again making new alliances.


Balkans and Failed States Rank

January 25, 2009

Different aspects of freedom, wider human rights and civil liberties, democracy, economical, social and other kind of development are hard to implement if the state is failing or already failed. If an outstanding problem occurs, such as food crisis or a devastating hurricane, the world’s weakest states are the most exposed when crisis strikes. In the Failed States Index, FOREIGN POLICY and The Fund for Peace rank the countries where state collapse may be just one disaster away.

Founded in 1970 and now published by the Slate Group, a division of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, LLC, in Washington, D.C., FOREIGN POLICY is the premier, award-winning magazine of global politics, economics, and ideas. Their challenging “mission is to explain how the world works—in particular, how the process of globalization is reshaping nations, institutions, cultures, and, more fundamentally, our daily lives.” (More here)

Failing State?

Failing state is defined by authors of index as follows:

A state that is failing has several attributes. One of the most common is the loss of physical control of its territory or a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Other attributes of state failure include the erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions, an inability to provide reasonable public services, and the inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.

The 12 indicators (used in Index/AR) cover a wide range of elements of the risk of state failure, such as extensive corruption and criminal behaviour, inability to collect taxes or otherwise draw on citizen support, large-scale involuntary dislocation of the population, sharp economic decline, group-based inequality, institutionalized persecution or discrimination, severe demographic pressures, brain drain, and environmental decay. States can fail at varying rates through explosion, implosion, erosion, or invasion over different time periods.

The twelve Indicators

The rank order of the states is based on the total scores of the 12 indicators. For each indicator, the ratings are placed on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being the lowest intensity (most stable) and 10 being the highest intensity (least stable). The total score is the sum of the 12 indicators and is on a scale of 0–120. Countries that have scores lower than 30 are categorized as Most Stable, countries that have scores more than 90 are considered as Critical, the scores between them indicates that a state is In Danger, Borderline or Stable.
The 12 indicators are divided into three groups and are following:

Social Indicators
1. Mounting Demographic Pressures
2. Massive Movement of Refugees or Internally Displaced Persons creating
Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
3. Legacy of Vengeance-Seeking Group Grievance or Group Paranoia
4. Chronic and Sustained Human Flight

Economic Indicators
5. Uneven Economic Development along Group Lines
6. Sharp and/or Severe Economic Decline

Political Indicators
7. Criminalization and/or Delegitimization of the State
8. Progressive Deterioration of Public Services
9. Suspension or Arbitrary Application of the Rule of Law and Widespread
Violation of Human Rights
10. Security Apparatus Operates as a “State Within a State”
11. Rise of Factionalized Elites
12. Intervention of Other States or External Political Actors

The numbers above are correlating with columns in Failing State Index table below.

The Index

From original Failed State Index (more in original story ) I have selected following countries to my modified table:

  • Balkan states
  • Top 3 and Worst 3 in the world
  • U.S. as old superpower
  • BRIC countries as rising superpowers

An finally here is the Index:

Rank

State

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

Total

177

Nor- way

2.0

1.6

1.0

1.1

2.0

1.8

1.0

1.3

1.5

1.0

1.0

1.5

16.8

176

Fin- land

2.6

1.6

1.0

2.1

1.9

2.0

0.9

1.2

1.5

0.9

0.7

2.0

18.4

175

Swe- den

3.2

3.0

1.3

2.0

2.1

1.2

1.0

1.2

1.4

0.9

1.0

1.5

19.8

161

U.S.A.

3.5

4.0

3.2

1.0

5.5

2.3

3.0

1.8

4.2

1.3

2.0

1.0

32.8

156

Slove- nia

4.0

1.7

3.4

3.5

5.2

3.0

3.2

3.5

3.5

3.0

1.1

2.0

37.1

135

Monte- negro

5.4

4.1

6.1

2.5

4.3

4.0

4.3

3.6

5.6

4.6

6.0

5.3

55.8

131

Bulga- ria

5.1

4.1

4.0

5.7

6.0

4.3

5.4

4.6

4.7

5.2

3.9

5.5

58.5

129

Croa- tia

5.1

6.3

5.7

5.0

5.5

5.3

4.4

4.1

4.5

3.9

3.9

5.7

59.4

128

Roma- nia

5.3

3.5

5.2

5.2

6.1

5.2

5.9

5.2

4.8

3.4

4.7

5.4

59.9

117

Brazil

6.3

3.3

6.1

5.0

8.8

3.7

6.2

6.0

5.6

7.1

4.9

4.6

67.6

112

Alba- nia

6.2

2.7

5.4

7.5

6.1

6.3

7.2

5.9

5.4

5.5

5.7

5.8

69.7

108

India

8.0

3.2

7.0

6.9

8.9

4.6

4.8

6.7

6.0

6.6

6.0

4.2

72.9

95

Mace- donia

5.4

4.6

7.4

7.0

7.4

6.0

7.6

5.1

5.3

5.8

6.6

6.4

74.6

72

Russia

7.0

5.4

7.5

6.5

7.9

3.7

7.9

5.9

8.7

7.0

8.0

4.2

79.7

70

Serbia

6.0

7.3

7.9

5.5

7.5

6.5

7.4

5.0

6.1

6.3

8.0

6.6

80.1

68

China

8.8

5.1

7.8

6.3

9.0

4.0

8.3

6.6

8.9

5.2

7.0

3.3

80.3

54

Bosnia

6.1

8.0

8.5

6.0

7.2

5.5

7.9

5.4

5.3

7.3

8.6

8.5

84.3

3

Zim- babwe

9.7

9.0

9.5

10.0

9.6

10.0

9.5

9.6

9.8

9.5

9.3

7.0

112.5

2

Sudan

9.0

9.6

10.0

8.8

9.3

7.3

10.0

9.5

9.9

9.8

9.9

9.9

113.0

1

Soma- lia

9.8

9.8

9.5

8.3

7.5

9.4

10.0

10.0

9.9

10.0

10.0

10.0

114.2

Final notice

This article – and statistics behind it – and my earlier article “Freedom in Balkans” are complementary to each other – same problems are viewed from different perspectives. However in general all rankings which I have quoted are representing more or less anglo-american point of view – its values and research methods. If rankings were made e.g. by some byzantine institute the results could be differ – the viewpoint and tradition for example regarding democracy are not one to one with western views. If these limitations are noted so I anyway think that discussion about findings in different countries could be valuable material for further development.


Freedom in Balkans

January 18, 2009

Different aspects of freedom are fundamental value of human rights in Balkans as well globally. While starting of a year it’s good time to check the near past and make some benchmarking. Rankings or ratings are one kind of (process) benchmarking in which organizations or in this case states evaluate various aspects of their processes in relation to best practice.

In 1st part of my “Freedom in Balkans” serial I make a short update about political rights and civil liberties.

Part 1 – Political Rights and Civil liberties

In my article “Freedom in Balkans” On September 2008 I wrote about the freedom ratings with political rights, civil liberties, religious and press freedom in Balkans. Now Freedom House released the findings from the latest edition of Freedom in the World 2009, the annual survey of global political rights and civil liberties.The ratings reflect an overall judgment based on survey results and global events from Jan. 1st through Dec. 31st 2008.  In my earlier article I had one year older survey.  

The survey a year ago showed that only Kosovo province (as UN protectorate) fell to category not free;Albania, Macedonia (FRY), Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro were partly free category and Serbia, Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria and Slovenia were in the best free category.

The situation remained the same during year 2008 so no state changed category.Inside the category occurred following two changes:

  • Bulgaria’s political rights rating declined from 1 to 2 (1 represents the most free and 7 the least free rating) due to backsliding in the government’s efforts to combat corruption and organized crime, which prompted the European Union to suspend substantial aid payments in July.
  • Macedonia had a downward trend –without number decline – due to increased harassment of and violence against political party members during the country’s June parliamentary elections, which domestic and international observers deemed the worst since independence.

So nothing radical happened during last year. The only peculiarity still is the result of Kosovo which is ranked as ‘not free’ and received scores the same as Sudan, Chad and Egypt in terms of political rights and civil liberties despite the fact that international community has been building democratic standards and human rights in its protectorate now over eight years.  If the result is this I hope that new EULEX mission will apply some lessons learned in this case.

More about methodology and global results from web sites of Freedom House.

Part 2 – Democracy

World Audit Org has been conducting sc. Democracy Audit since 1997.Their survey is concerned only with the criteria of democracy – which they hold to be Human Rights; Political Rights; Free Speech and Absence of Corruption. 150 nations, all those with populations in excess of one million are included.  Related to 1st part of my article serial Freedom in Balkans Democracy Audit gives an other point of view to the same topic.

World Audit brings together statistics and reports from respected agencies such as Freedom House, Transparency International, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and The International Commission of Jurists. From their work and data WorldAudit.Org present and update the World Democracy Audit.

With this background it is understandable that the results are quite comparable with those in my earlier articles – Part 1 and its earlier more comprehensive version .

As source I have used latest Democracy Audit of WorldAudit.Org.  From there I have selected following countries:

  • Balkan states
  • Top 3 and Worst 3 in the world
  • U.S. as old superpower
  • BRIC countries as rising superpowers

And here is the table (more compact version here)

Country/

Rank

Democracy

Press Freedom

Corruption

Overall Category

Denmark

1

2

1

1

Sweden

2

4

1

1

Finland

3

1

5

1

United States

15

14

15

1

Slovenia

19

28

21

1

Bulgaria

36

45

56

2

Croatia

45

47

47

3

India

48

46

67

3

Serbia

50

50

67

3

Romania

52

59

54

3

Brazil

53

56

62

3

Macedonia

59

65

56

3

Albania

64

70

67

3

Bosnia and Herzegovina

81

62

73

4

China

120

138

56

4

Russia

133

127

117

4

Uzbekistan

147

144

136

4

Turkmenistan

149

148

136

4

Myanmar

150

149

147

4

In Balkans Slovenia is again on its own top class, Bosnia-Herzegovina is in the last shake of the bag – alone because disputed territories such as Kosovo were not included. The rest of the Balkan countries are between them. Of course one should remember limitations like overvaluation of western perspective with these kind of surveys but anyway from my point of view these survyes are good tools for benchmarking, future planning and debate.

Part 3: Economy

Economic freedom is highly valued element especially in U.S. society and its imitators.Conservative politics claims that greater economic freedom generates opportunities for people, creates wealth and respect for human rights.In Nordic countries the approach is different and the economic freedom of one individual – human or company – can be limited if it limits other peoples freedom.However this study is based to traditional American conservative formula and everybody can value the output against that background.

The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institute – a think tank – whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defence.For over a decade this Washington’s preeminent think tank has tracked economic freedom around the world with its main publication The Index of Economic Freedom.

The Heritage Foundation defines economic freedom as follows:

The highest form of economic freedom provides an absolute right of property ownership, fully realized freedoms of movement for labour, capital, and goods, and an absolute absence of coercion or constraint of economic liberty beyond the extent necessary for citizens to protect and maintain liberty itself. In other words, individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please, and that freedom is both protected by the state and unconstrained by the state.

The 2009 Index of Economic Freedom covers 183 countries and measures 10 separate components of economic freedom.To table below I have picked the Balkan countries and their scores with each of those measures and the picture is following:

Name

World Rank

O-   ver- all  Sco-   re

Busi- ness Free- dom

Tra-   de Free- dom

Fis-  cal Free- dom

Go- vern- ment Size

Mone- tary Free- dom

In-   vest- ment Free- dom

Fi-    nan-  cial Free- dom

Pro- perty Ri-    ghts

Free- dom From Cor-  rup- tion

La-   bour Free- dom

Albania

62

63.7

67.0

75.8

92.8

75.6

79.6

70.0

70.0

30.0

29.0

47.2

Bosnia -Herze-govina

134

53.1

59.9

77.2

71.8

37.6

79.0

50.0

60.0

10.0

33.0

52.2

Bulgaria

56

64.6

73.5

85.8

86.2

58.7

72.8

60.0

60.0

30.0

41.0

78.4

Croatia

116

55.1

59.9

87.6

68.7

31.7

79.0

50.0

60.0

30.0

41.0

43.4

Greece

81

60.8

78.7

80.8

66.5

46.3

78.8

50.0

50.0

50.0

46.0

61.2

Macedo- nia FRY

78

61.2

58.2

81.6

89.4

65.1

85.4

50.0

60.0

30.0

33.0

59.8

Monte- negro

94

58.2

68.7

80.2

89.1

45.3

78.9

40.0

50.0

40.0

33.0

57.2

Romania

65

63.2

74.9

85.8

87.0

70.0

75.0

60.0

50.0

35.0

37.0

57.1

Serbia

109

56.6

56.0

78.0

85.9

46.3

65.8

40.0

50.0

40.0

34.0

70.0

Slovenia

68

62.9

84.4

85.8

62.9

38.4

78.6

60.0

50.0

60.0

66.0

42.8

If the Overall score were 100-80 the country was defined to be Free, countries with score 79.9-70 were Mostly free, countries with score 69.9-60 Moderately free, countries with score 59.9-50 Mostly unfree and countries with score between 49.9-0 were defined as Repressed.So according The 2009 Index of Economic FreedomAlbania, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania and Slovenia were Moderately free and the rest of Balkan countries were Mostly unfree.

Last autumn I wrote about competitiveness of Balkans referring “ Global Economic Competitiveness Report 2008-2009” of The World Economic Forum, which approaches economic freedom a bit wider angle. Their measures include e.g. health, education, public and private institutions, infrastructure and innovations so perspective is a bit more social than that of hard line conservatives. Anyway in report mentioned Slovenia was ranked as the most competitive economy in the Balkans with rank 42 out of 134 countries polled followed Croatia (61), Greece (67), Romania (68), Bulgaria (76), Serbia (85), Macedonia (89), Bosnia-Herzegovina (107) and Albania (108).

If compared the order between economic freedom and competitiveness the biggest difference are ranks of Croatia and Albania – almost opposite positions – so one could say that free economy does not necessary create high competitiveness and mostly unfree economy can sometimes be very competitive.

Part 4 – Poverty

Poverty stricken Bosnian Muslims search a garbage dump near their village of Visca.  The extreme winter low temperatures force people who live in poverty to resort to desperate measures to scrape a living Poverty stricken Bosnian Muslims search a garbage dump near their village of Visca. The extreme winter low temperatures force people who live in poverty to resort to desperate measures to scrape a living.

One can dispute which level of economic freedom can increase or decrease common welfare for all population but the fact is that poverty sure limits individuals political and human rights as well use of civil liberties.”Poverty” defined as an economic condition of lacking both money and basic necessities needed to successfully live, such as food, water, education, health care or shelter.The table lists countries by the percentage of the population living below the national poverty line — the poverty line deemed appropriate for a country by its authorities.

While studying poverty in Balkans I have used as source UNDP report accessed on Feb. 3rd 2008 and CIA’s The World Factbook, updated on July 24th 2008.  From there I have picked Balkan countries and Kosovo province figures and the outcome is here:

Country

UNDP

CIA

Year

Other

Year

Albania 25.4 25 2004 est. 25 2002
Bosnia-Herzegovina 19.5 25 2004 est. 20 2002
Bulgaria 12.8 14.1 2003 est. 13 2001
Croatia N/A 11 2003 N/A N/A
Macedonia FRY 21.7 29.8 2006 29.4 2007
Montenegro N/A 7 2007 est. N/A N/A
Romania 21.5 25 2005 est. N/A N/A
Serbia N/A 6.5 2007 est. N/A N/A
Province of Kosovo N/A 37 2007 est. N/A N/A
Slovenia N/A 12.9 2004 N/A N/A

National estimates are based on population-weighted subgroup estimates from household surveys. Definitions of the poverty line may vary considerably among nations. Thus, the numbers are not strictly comparable among countries.  However one could size up that poverty is serious problem in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Romania and Kosovo province (UNSC 1244 protectorate).

World of powerty

Bigger image from link

Part 5: Movement

Freedom of movement including traveling abroad or in one’s own country and selecting locations to live has also its own limitations in Balkans. If we exclude such restrictive factors as money, handicaps or imprisonment I could find three main categories for limited freedom of movement in Balkans. They are

  • Restricted moving back to original dwelling place
  • Restricted moving out from place of residence
  • Traveling abroad

Refugees and IDPs

This theme is of paramount importance in Balkans. Beginning 1991, political upheavals – such as the breakup of Yugoslavia – displaced millions of people. Officially one part of these people are refugees meaning that they have escaped to other country, one part is “internally displaced persons” (IDPs) meaning that they have escaped from their home village/-town but still are in the same country than before.

Movements

This kind of restricted moving back to original dwelling place is still – 10-16 years after Balkan Wars – biggest problem in Serbia with 326,853 refugees and IDPs. Bosnia-Herzegovina has 146,586 mostly IDPs, Greece 30,799 (mostly asylum seekers), Montenegro 24,822, Bulgaria 5,848, Croatia 7,826, Slovenia 4,408 (mostly stateless persons), Macedonia (FYR) 2,397, Romania 2,180 and Albania 101 (situation 31st March 2008).(Source UNCHR statistics 3rd June 2008).

From this link you can have full-scale of figure above.

Restricted moving out from place of residence

Limited moving out from home in one’s own country is usually not restricted by law or regulations – the limitations are real or fancied fears in one’s head. In Balkans this problem occurs most in Kosovo province.Albanians in Kosovo’s middle and southern parts are not familiar to travel northern Kosovo, Serbs in their enclaves are afraid to go outside of their enclave.

Outside Kosovo this kind of fears are in smaller scale and they maybe occur only when ethnic tensions for some reasons are rising e.g. between Croats and Bosnian Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina, between Albanians and Macedonians in Macedonia (FYROM) etc.

Travelling abroad

To travel from one country to other is a fundamental freedom restricted however more or less depending about which passport the traveller holds.Visa restrictions play an important role in controlling the movement of foreign nationals across borders. This topic I treated already in my previous article “Visa rank and the western Balkans” and to that I do not have anything new to add now as I do not have any new data available.


Montenegro and Serbia on the way to EU – maybe

December 17, 2008

Montenegro’s Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic has left Monday 15th Dec. 2008 for Paris to submit the country’s formal application for European Union membership to French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Same time Holland is still blocking implementation of suspended Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) agreement Serbia regardless of an   essentially positive report on Belgrade’s cooperation with ICTY as well almost fulfilled conditions for candidate status.

The government of Montenegro decided on previous Thursday 11th Dec. to officially submit the bid to France, current holder of the EU presidency. “By taking this step, Montenegro commits itself to the accession process and the building of a united Europe which is a strategic goal in which the founders of the European Community invested their vision and commitment,” the government press office said in a statement. (BalkanInsight.com 15.12.2008)

Serbia progressing

On 5 November 2008 the Commission adopted its annual strategy document explaining its policy on EU enlargement.  Same date EU released also the 2008 progress reports,  where the Commission services monitor and assess the achievements of each of the candidate and potential candidates over the last year.  As earlier Serbia’s administrative capacity can again match EU’s administrative challenges. (More http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2008/11/07/eu-squanders-aid-money-by-wrong-approach-in-western-balkans/, check also “Serbia’s National Programme for Integration of Serbia into EU from my Document library)

Few days ago a EU document   “Guaranteeing Security in a Changing World” says Serbia is close to fulfilling all conditions for establishing close relations with the EU. (Beta 12.12.2008)

…but blocked

Same time Holland will not change its position when it comes to Serbia’s EU integration. Holland sees Mladi?’s arrest and extradition as the best proof of cooperation.  Serbia and EU signed late April 2008 the temporary trade agreement which is part of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA)  and suspended immediately, pending Belgrade’s full cooperation with the Hague Tribunal. (B92 13.12.2008)

Serbia’s Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic told Tanjug news agency in an interview published 14th Nov. 2008 that EU candidate status and liberalization of the visa regime remain Serbia’s absolute foreign policy priority for 2009.  He added that the issue of Kosovo and EU integrations are separate processes, but repeated that should the two overlap, Serbia would choose to preserve her territorial integrity. (B92 14.12.2008)

4500 questions

The EU discussion in Serbia has been concentrated to question when Mr.Mladic will be delivered to Hague.  This is only one side-path of EU integration.  The road to membership is much more complicated both Montenegro and Serbia.

For example when a country wants to gain membership status the European Commission will at that point respond by sending a questionnaire to potential candidate countries, which includes some 4,500 question dealing with all institutions and sectors. Based on the answers, the European Commission will report on the situation in the country which has applied.  And then are starting negotiations where some 80.000 pages of EU regulations are applied to candidate country’s legislation.

Conditions, criteria, politics

I have no doubt that both Montenegro and Serbia can and will give satisfactory answers to EC questionnaire and have good ability to fulfill (pre) conditions.  Both countries have so good administrative capacity that they can match all criteria needed for membership.

EC can be also freeze the process if there is some unfinished border dispute with candidate country.  Montenegro’s way with towards EU seems clear but it is hard to believe that Serbia and EC will soon agree which are the borders of Serbia – are they including Kosovo or not?

After all the refined negotiation process however the climax will be political one – EU can take new members with any criteria and lower standards like it was case with Bulgaria and Romania.

Any alternatives?

The membership in EU should not be overestimated – non membership does not mean to be outside Europe.  Norway, Russia, young Caucasian republics all have achieved pragmatic relationship with EU without membership.  The new Eastern Partnership (EaP) program has recently been distributed to European capitals.  The new “belt of EU friends” at Russia’s eastern and southern borders would include Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Belarus. The European Neighborhood Policy, which the EU has pursued since 2004, is going to be replaced with the Eastern Partnership (EaP).

Similar arrangements one may wait from EU with Turkey in near future, EU-Mediterranean dimension is on the way, new negotiations with Russia are starting about future programs.  EU can be very creative finding out different forms for cooperation when needed.

From my point of view also Serbia should think if joining to EU is worth of time, money and bureaucracy it demands.  Visa arrangements, free trade and some EU programs are possible also for non-members.   Of course Serbia can develop its administration and legislation according EU standards but not because of fulfilling EU needs.  The primus motor should be the needs of  the beneficiaries aka Serbs not EU elite in Brussels.

The will and ability

Totally outside of framework described above is the question if EU has the will and ability to absorb new members and if yes which members.  Lisbon Treaty is still uncertain; some EU countries want strong federation some are satisfied to loose Union.  The big wannabees – Ukraine and Turkey – EU hardly could absorb due the budget limitations and due the power shift the new members could make.

As said earlier Montenegro probably can go the whole way to EU without any bigger problems but Serbia will be fighting long with EU’s – public or hidden – political conditions.  So my modest hope is that Serbia rethinks its priorities, makes new SWOT analysis according today’s situation,   makes a vision where the country wants be after 5-10-25 years, creates strategy, alliances and action plans to realize the vision – be it outside or inside EU is only secondary question.


Western Balkans and European perspective

June 23, 2008

All non-EU states in western Balkans have been sad to have European perspective e.g. that sooner or later BiH, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Albania and even Kosovo – inside or outside Serbia – would be future EU members. I can not avoid some questions, like

  • Can EU any more absorb new members and simultaneously keep alive some its ideas?
  • Are European perspective and EU membership the same?
  • Are benefits from joining to EU bigger or less than being outside it?
  • Is there any alternative strategic alliances to EU?

Today´s EU

EU was meant to be an association of independent regions that pursue their own policies and serve the interests of their people. Today´s EU has Parliament sitting and travelling between Strassbourg and Brussels with zero power and authority. Instead Commission, their army of bureaucrats, lobbyists from different interest groups are keeping EU as their playground. Due the high risk of corruption EU tries to limit damages with Auditors (In Brussels I once heard that there is more auditors in EU than people who are really implementing some practical task). The Parliament´s Puppet democracy is showed by interpreting all speeches/documents to all EU languages and verse, sad that no one is listening or reading them.

EU is today already so big that democracy and efficiency are in constant conflict. When Ireland last week said no to Lisbon Treaty in democratic referendum it same time paralysed EU structure. If EU is enlarging even more the decision making mechanisms and maybe the tasks of EU should be reconstructed again – it should find the core functions again and cut off extra branches, trim the budget and administration. Today EU member states are paying more or less their taxpayers money to common budget and are receiving more or less back through some 500 different EU programmes. When common bureaucracy, Puppet democracy and corruption are taking increasing share so on the field one sees less money and actions. The bottom line is that EU´s ability to absorb enlargement is questionable and even if it could come bigger what´s the idea to join to it.

European perspective vs. EU membership

One common custom is to equate European perspective and EU membership. I totally oppose this equivalence. Almost half of Europe´s territory and 30 % population is not EU members. Does anyone believe, hat e.g. Switzerland and Norway have less European perspective than member-states. Western Europe shows only one part of wholeness of our continent, eastern Europe and also Byzantium are part of continent´s history. Perspective can point East as well than West.

EU has brought many benefits to its citizens – visa-/passport-free traveling and healthy competition over borders, more market economy instead protectionism, comprehensive multidimensional standards numbers of public and private fields. EU has also offered a forum to manage conflicts with peaceful manner.

However some of these benefits can be applied also without EU. For instance one can travel from Finland or Sweden (EU) more easy to Norway (non-EU) than from Hungary to Romania (both EU). Some standards outside EU can be better than worse than inside but one should remember that those standards are decided closer in one state and are not some compromise made in Brussels.

Being outside EU does not mean to be outside EU financing. EU has e.g. its border programmes with neighbors to finance transnational projects and also some inside programmes are open to non member-states. Economically inside EU each member has different case if they have surplus or deficit and how much with their EU budget, the same is valid future new members.

With this article I have highlighted some negative aspects with EU. In case of my home-country Finland I must confess that I have enjoined about many positive things EU has brought to my country, many projects and wider view which could be impossible without membership. Critical questions I have arised to break simple black and white picture which is familiar in simplified mainstream media in western Balkans. The question is too important to let it only to join or not level.

Some options for strategic alliances

So big question is if there is any alternative strategy to joining EU? I would like to see following options to taken into consideration in all non-member-states of western Balkans :

  • Strategic linkages to the BRIC countries – Brazil , Russia , India , China. These countries are representing rising economical, cultural and political powers (and markets) in three continent while Western Europe and USA are more and more going towards stagnation or moderate development at most.
  • Association Agreement without goal to come member-state could be good alternative and realistic also. Because EU can not absorb Turkey this kind of arrangement can be the most used alternative to enlargement by membership. Every country can negotiate their own association and cooperation agreement and highlight those topics which are important each individual state. Cooperation can be very wide with most of EU member benefits, of course also EU gains its share about cooperation e.g. with logistics through trans-European transport (roads, railways, energy, telecommunication …) corridors.
  • European ‘Free Port Zone’ – models could be e.g. Kaliningrad, Singapore, Luxemburg, San Marino. This position can make non-member state popular with people who want to live in Europe but do not like high taxes and with businesses that engage in international manufacturing, trade and commerce.

EU is not miraculous power which brings economic and other development with membership status. More important is what people are doing in each western Balkan state. They can develop their societies with or without EU depending individual needs and priorities. If they can develop good country for themselves (not because EU) it can be good country also for outsiders and e.g. diaspora can start to invest back to their old home-country like one can see now for instance in Russia.


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