Democracy ebbing in the Western Balkans



A meeting of international donors, foundations, and multilateral funders opened in the Serbian capital Belgrade on September 21 amid growing concern from young grassroots and philanthropic organizations that the Western Balkans are drifting backward. And in a dangerous way, notes the Carnegie Endowment’s Judy Dempsey:

It is a backwardness characterized by growing corruption, increasing intimidation of the media, and political elites across the region who pay lip service to reform.

With the EU now focused on ensuring security, controlling its external borders, and stemming the flow of migrants reaching Europe, the union is paying little attention to the negative trends taking place in its immediate backyard. The emerging message from the Balkan Donors Forum, spearheaded by the European Fund for the Balkans and the Open Society Foundations, was that donors and NGOs need to rethink their role in this part of Europe.

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) has compiled a report on Serbia’s political landscape following snap parliamentary elections and scheduled municipal elections in April:

The government of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic won re-election handily, while new, and not so new, political alternatives produced notable results as well. The election outcome positions Serbia to take on important tasks related to European Union integration, governance reform, economic development, and regional stabilization. The election process itself highlights areas of needed democratic reform.

NDI’s Serbia program portfolio includes nonpartisan citizen election observation, public policy research and discourse, parliamentary and political party strengthening, and LGBT and Roma political participation. The Institute has been supported in these efforts by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Open Society Foundation/Serbia.

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