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.


Freedom in Balkans

December 9, 2008

Political freedom is usually described as the absence of interference with the sovereignty of an individual by the use of coercion or aggression.  Often word “Liberty” – the condition in which an individual has the ability to act according to his or her own will –  has been connected to freedom and social anarchists see negative and positive liberty as complementary concepts of freedom.

Freedom House is an independent nongovernmental organization based in USA that supports the expansion of freedom in the world. Freedom House’s definition of freedom is derived in large measure from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The Declaration includes freedom of religion, expression, and assembly; freedom from torture; and the right to take part in the government of his or her country.

With these limitations – US organisation and definition of freedom – the survey anyway tells something also about Balkans.

Global perspective

The Freedom in the World survey provides an annual evaluation of the state of global freedom as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom—the opportunity to act spontaneously in a variety of fields outside the control of the government according to two broad categories:

  • Political rights enable people to participate freely in the political process, including the right to vote freely for distinct alternatives in legitimate elections, compete for public office, join political parties and organizations, and elect representatives who have a decisive impact on public policies and are accountable to the electorate.
  • Civil liberties allow for the freedoms of expression and belief, associational and organizational rights, rule of law, and personal autonomy without interference from the state.

The Center for Religious Freedom was a division of Freedom House for 11 years. In December 2006, the Center moved to the Hudson Institute so data over this aspect will be found from there.  (http://www.hudson.org)

As an outcome of Freedom House’s survey is e.g. country reports, tables and charts and especially “Map of Freedom” which also can act as interactive tool to reach data collected.

Map of Freedom by Freedom House

Balkans

The results of last survey vary quite a lot by country.  Below I collected a table of results in Balkans from Freedom House’s 2008 publication adding to last column the score from religious survey 2007 of Hudson Institute.  Each pair of political rights and civil liberties ratings is averaged to determine an overall status of “Free,” “Partly Free,” or “Not Free.” Those whose ratings average 1.0 to 2.5 are considered Free, 3.0 to 5.0 Partly Free, and 5.5 to 7.0 Not Free.

Country Status Political Rights Civil Liberties Religious freedom
Kosovo (province under UNSC 1244) Not free

6

5

4

Albania Partly free

3

3

na

Macedonia (FRY) Partly free

3

3

4

Bosnia-Herzegovina Partly free

3

3

na

Montenegro Partly free

3

3

na

Serbia Free

3

2

4

Romania Free

2

2

3

Croatia Free

2

2

na

Bulgaria Free

1

2

3

Slovenia Free

1

1

na

Freedom of the Press in Balkans

A free press plays a key role in sustaining and monitoring a healthy democracy, as well as in contributing to greater accountability, good government, and economic development. Freedom House has been monitoring threats to media independence and their annual survey tracks trends in global press freedom and draws attention to countries or regions where such freedom is under threat.

I collected data related to Balkans from the 2008 edition of Freedom of the Press published by Freedom House and the situation is as follows (Rank among 194 countries):

Country Rating Rank
Slovenia 23 46
Bulgaria 33 76
Croatia 36 78
Montenegro 38 81
Serbia 39 84
Romania 44 94
Bosnia-Herzegovina 45 97
Macedonia (FRY) 47 100
Albania 50 105
Kosovo na na

The country status related freedom of press was in Slovenia free, all the others got status partly free.

Some conclusions

The Freedom House’s ratings are maybe giving too good picture about freedom in anglo-american-West European countries.  Despite there undoubtedly is wide formal freedom e.g. in media the business “laws” are guiding the mainstream media to uncritical approach so that profits and advertisement incomes are not in danger.

The freedom ratings with political rights, civil liberties, religious and press freedom were not so bad in Balkans especially against the turbulent background of modern history.  Naturally there is challenges ahead and work to do.  The only peculiarity was 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. Odd because UNMIK was send Kosovo to introduce democratic standards and human rights in its protectorate.  If the result is this so the mission must have failed disastrously and lessons learned should fast to be applied in future missions of crisis management.