Balkan news from the week of 24th – 31st of March.

A British Member of the European Parliament (MEP) has said he thinks Serbia should not seek European Union membership. William Dartmouth is a member of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which campaigns for the UK to leave the EU. Sympathising with Kosovo Serbs, Dartmouth expressed his admiration of Serbian culture, something he believes would be better preserved as a country independent of the EU. He also claims that Serbian unemployment, currently at a high 25%, would double with EU membership.

The European Commission has approved Croatia’s accession to the EU. A Commission report stressed that before Croatia’s membership is granted it must try harder to address corruption and crime in the country, and particularly criticised its low level of sentencing. Croatia will become the 28th member state of the EU on July 1st. This week a survey found that 45% of Croatians are in favour of EU accession, with 25.5% opposing its membership.

Two Bosnian Serbs have been sentenced to 22 years in prison for committing crimes against humanity. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) found Mićo Stanišić and Stojan Župljanin, both former top officials, guilty of ‘joint criminal enterprise with the objective to permanently remove non-Serbs from the territory of a planned Serbian state’.

Albania has been voted Europe’s most homophobic country by the European Social Survey. The survey found that 53% of Albanians do not believe that gay and lesbian people should be free to live as homosexuals. However, not all European countries were included in the survey. The only other country in the Western Balkans that was assessed was Croatia, despite the fact that countries such as Serbia are known to be widely homophobic.

A New York Times writer recounted the fascinating story of his trek across the Balkans on a 120-mile route designed both for tourists and to encourage cooperation among the traditionally antagonistic countries of the region. He describes the trail as linking ‘Muslim, Catholic and Orthodox enclaves, as well as Slavs and numerous Albanian tribes in three adjoining national parks, each showcasing the border region’s inestimable beauty.’ The article tells of his appreciation of the rawness of the mountain journey, describing disappointment in the arrival to the ‘too polished’ streets of Dubrovnik.

Photo courtesy of Andreas Welch.

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