Films and exhibitions
Using the Western Balkan experience and ESI's Schengen White Project as an example, a number of networks of think-tanks and NGOs have come together to help the EU's Eastern Partners (Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus) achieve visa liberalisation:
Since its creation in 2008, the Ukrainian NGO "Europe without Barriers" (EWB) promotes efforts towards the abolition of visa restrictions between the European Union and Ukraine. Initially created as a consortium of nine Ukrainian NGOs, it became a full-fledged independent NGO in 2009.
In November 2010 the Stefan Batory Foundation in Poland launched the "Coalition for a European Continent Undivided by Visa-Barriers". It comprises more than 30 NGOs coming from all over Europe. By its own description, the "coalition takes joint actions to speed up the process of EU visa liberalization with the countries of the Eastern Partnership (Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) and Russia. We want to make ourselves better heard by decision-makers and make a stronger stand for a visa-free Europe."
In March 2011, a new multi-NGO project "No Visa" was launched by PASOS (Policy Association for an Open Society), with the support of the OSI- Local Government and Public Service Reform Initiative. As a consortium of 8 different NGOs, the project advocates for establishing visa-free travel regimes between the EU and the six Eastern Partnership countries.
The projects have generated a lot of worthwhile studies, among them:
NGOs in the Western Balkans and the EU monitored the efforts of their governments to implement the visa roadmaps and qualify for visa-free travel. They acquired expertise and played a crucial role in promoting reforms in their countries.
Some had also taken a hard look at the visa facilitation agreements.
Examining the levels of crime in the Balkans in 2008, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime came to the surprising conclusion that most of the region is safer than Western Europe with regard to conventional crime, and that organised crime activity is diminishing.
Based on a survey of 28,000 people in 2010, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime produced a report on corruption in the Western Balkans. It came to the conclusion that corruption is of major concern for citizens of the region, ranking third in the list of most pressing issues, after unemployment and poverty, but well ahead of security and education.
United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, Corruption in the Western Balkans: Bribery as experiences by the population, May 2011
The Balkan Monitor of Gallup, one of the world's leading polling institutes, analysed attitudes towards migration in the Western Balkans in 2006 and 2008. The data shows that, unlike widely believed, relatively few people have concrete plans to leave their home countries.
Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, president of the Romania's largest think-tank SAR (Romanian Academic Society), examined in 2005 how many people from the Balkans would be willing to emigrate to the EU:
The Secretariat of the EU Council publishes annually detailed statistical information about Schengen visa applications, approvals and denials.
A number of foundations and NGOs are trying to work against the isolation of the citizens of the Western Balkans, in particular the young generation. In collaboration with the Balkan Trust for Democracy, the Robert Bosch Stiftung annually organises a one-month trip in Europe for several hundred students from the Western Balkans, helping them to get a visa and the mandatory health insurance, and providing them with train tickets and some pocket money.
Please let us know if you think that other core texts and essential reading should be added here, by contacting Alexandra Stiglmayer, ESI Senior Analyst in Brussels.