Saturday, 12 March 2022

Šuica: EU, Conference on Future of Europe Incomplete Without Western Balkans

ZAGREB, 12 March 2022 - Western Balkan citizens have been participating in the Conference on the Future of Europe on Friday and Saturday, and European Commission Vice President Dubravka Šuica said on Saturday that neither Europe nor the Conference could be complete without them.

The Executive Board of the Conference decided that during the Conference member states should work with Western Balkan countries, whose citizens could leave their proposals on a digital platform. Also, six Western Balkan countries were invited to participate in plenaries.

This was done, Šuica told Hina, because "Europe is not complete without the Western Balkans."

North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina responded to the invitation, she said, adding that their contribution is important, although less than that of the other countries "since their citizens could not participate in panels."

EU with Ukraine

Ukrainian citizens took part in a plenary in Strasbourg whereby, Šuica said, the EU wanted to send a strong message to Ukraine.

"The set of sanctions we adopted is unprecedented. Today there will be a fourth set, which means that the EU is doing everything within our remit and possibilities."

However, this is not just the about the EU because cooperation with the US, Japan, Canada and Australia is also important, Šuica said, adding that the EU and those partners are "aligning sanctions for Russia, which is the aggressor in Ukraine."

"We are also sending a message of solidarity and we are sure that Ukraine is part of the European Union, but reforms can't take place during a war. It would be illusory at this moment to say that they will become a member state, but we are sure that they belong to this part of the world, we are sure that they share our values."

Šuica went on to say that the Conference on the Future of Europe would end on 9 May, after which the proposals that have been made will be incorporated into clusters and submitted to the relevant institutions.

She said this was the first time that the Commission, the Council and the Parliament "are working together on such a big project with which we want to change the functioning of the EU for the better."

She said the Conference would continue in some form and that her proposal was to leave at least the digital platform as a permanent instrument.

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Sunday, 10 October 2021

Research Debunks Stereotype of Balkans As Violent Region

ZAGREB, 10 Oct, 2021 - The century-old stereotype that the Balkans is a region of omnipresent violence was recently debunked in a book showing that violence in the Balkans is a little more present than in northern, western and central Europe, but less present than in eastern Europe, America and Asia.

The book by Croatian criminologist Anna-Marie Getoš Kalac, published by Springer, researches homicides in six Balkan countries.

"Violence in the Balkans - First findings from the Balkan Homicide Study" contains empirical data from 2,073 case files in Croatia, Hungary, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Romania and Slovenia, analysing information on 2,416 perpetrators and 2,379 victims.

The book says homicides mostly occur in towns and least in cities, including the capitals of those six countries.

Murders generally occur between intimate partners and family members, while in attempted murders the victim and the perpetrator most often are not family relations.

In the Balkans, as in all of Europe, homicides between total strangers occur in less than 15% of cases, Getoš Kalac, a professor at the Zagreb Faculty of Law, says in her research.

Homicide perpetrators are most frequently men and the victims are mostly other men. As for violence between intimate partners, men are the perpetrators in 15% of cases and women in 39%. Although they are less frequently homicide perpetrators, when they commit it, 72% of them kill men.

As for motive, more violence is premeditated than committed in the heat of the moment and about half the motives remain unclear, followed by violence out of revenge or greed.

Despite easier access to firearms due to the 1990s wars, only 13% of perpetrators use firearms, whereas 62% use cold steel and 21% use no weapon at all, says Getoš Kalac.

She says she could not establish a link between violence and organised crime and that only 1.6% of all perpetrators can be at least somewhat linked to the criminal underworld. The reason is that in those cases the perpetrators are often unknown and are not entered into case files.

In two out of three particularly brutal cases, the victims are women, and in those cases it is rarely established that the perpetrators were mentally unstable or had diminished responsibility. Women make up 28.5% and men 71.5% of victims in less brutal homicides.

The book reveals a picture of homicides that greatly contrasts with popular preconceptions about the Balkans according to which the region is inclined towards violence due to a tradition of robbery and the legacy of weak states, which is ascribed to long foreign rule, Hans-Jörg Albrecht, a leading German criminologist, says in the preface.

The book shows that homicides in the Balkans don't happen in the streets or between strangers, and that they are rarely a consequence of a conflict in the grey economy or of violent retaliation, Albrecht adds.

He says criminological research interests in Europe increasingly focus on some subgroups of victims and perpetrators, and that this could reflect political agendas. As an example, he mentions debates on femicides which call for stricter punishment for murders of women, although a global homicide study by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime shows that four in five victims are men.

Getoš Kalac says that in the Balkans as well as elsewhere in Europe quite a large number of murders remains hidden among natural deaths.

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Monday, 17 May 2021

Brdo-Brijuni Summit on Western Balkans starts

May 17, 2021 -  An initiative of the heads of state of Western Balkan countries as part of the Brdo-Brijuni summit started in Brdo Pri Kranju, Slovenia, on Monday morning intending to bring countries in Southeast Europe closer to their integration into the European Union.

In addition to the presidents of Croatia and Slovenia, Zoran Milanović and Borut Pahor respectively, Albanian President Ilir Meta, Montenegro's Milo Đukanović, North Macedonia's Stevo Pendarovski, Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić, Kosovo's Vjosa Osmani, and the three members of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency - Milorad Dodik, Šefik Džaferović, and Željko Komšić - are attending the meeting.

The Brdo-Brijuni initiative was launched in 2010 by Slovenia and Croatia to strengthen regional trust and cooperation and encourage the EU membership aspirants to continue the necessary reforms to join the European Union.

Ahead of the plenary session, President Zoran Milanović met for bilateral talks with Kosovo President Osmani and North Macedonia's President Pendarovski.

Milanović and Pahor met on Sunday, saying that they expected today's summit to make a big step toward bringing the region closer to the EU.

Slovenia will chair the Council of the EU in the second half of this year when it intends to boost the region's faster integration as one of its presidency priorities, with Pahor saying that this was just as important for the EU as a whole for geopolitical reasons.

Slovenia is advocating a faster EU accession of Western Balkan countries "in a package," despite them being in different positions regarding the phase of their accession process.

One of the important achievements of the Brdo-Brijuni initiative so far is communication between leaders, considering that ten years ago, it had not existed.

"We are here to help our neighbors in the Western Balkans join the EU as soon and as simply as possible," Milanović said on Sunday after meeting with Pahor.

In addition to the plenary session, the presidents are expected to conduct bilateral meetings and issue a joint statement expressing their strong commitment to the EU enlargement process towards the southeast neighbors.

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