A film by the Bertelsmann Foundation’s Emily Hruban
It’s been over a decade since the EU almost doubled in size, adding 10 central and eastern European countries between 2004 and 2007. And it’s been six years since Croatia became the newest member state. But now, another wave of EU enlargement seems like a longshot, with several Balkan countries in different stages of the accession process but going nowhere fast.
What are people in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina saying about EU accession? And how does it affect how they view issues like unemployment, migration, corruption, and political division in their countries? Watch now as we go inside these countries and hear first-hand what’s at stake.
[Applause] [Applause] across the Western Balkans the frustration is palpable people want more more accountability from their governments more security more opportunities install a free democracy personality his country once why do you want to join the European Union because it's the only way that we can integrate with whole Europe and live without border and live in the free world yeah that's why I'm here held together for nearly four decades by the dictator Tito with the slogan Brotherhood and unity Yugoslavia dissolved in the 1990s in a series of wars that killed tens of thousands and left millions displaced internationally brokered peace deals ended the wars in Slovenia Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina ana NATO bombing campaign halted fighting in Kosovo the socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was no more and the region broke into seven new countries each grappling with the legacy of war since then these countries have taken different paths pulled by ties to both east and west crowds for the most part are definitely more aligned with Croatia and European Union everything that is west Serbs are more more aligned with Serbia and Russia Bosniaks are most mostly aligned with Turkey and the Muslim world world and it's all wait I mean it's okay but the problem there is that when they're not using any of those influences or any of those Khan contacts diplomatic contacts and so so on so forth for the collective good for the greater good the region is at a crossroads Croatia joined the European Union in 2013 and now its neighbors in the region are trying to follow suit we traveled to the Balkans to Croatia Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia to understand what the future of the European Union might look like in the region for many the EU goes beyond having a seat at the table in Brussels in Strasbourg it's an opportunity for economic growth security and for meaningful and important reform at home she posted a sophisticate Boston and she witnessed a know destroy his voice constant Douglas Mortimer blizzards you me routine coach does not is Mei Villopoto Shana veterans like nozzle village returned home to bleak economic prospects and an unemployment rate that has rarely dipped below 25 percent in the year since many faced serious physical and mental health issues like PTSD me mama Saturn otoko here sister Buddhist Eugenia she's posted with us to Virginia vote research ethics Laura equates universally avocados you know it means bra the government disperses financial support for veterans through a network of independently organized associations which village claims are rife with corruption he and his fellow veterans are protesting the corruption in a makeshift camp they built in the center of Sarajevo much it was about sex is good enough our last New Year's really Lazarus he did say problema honest Onaga Malawi Christa party taco estimate oxen awkward party not you know wastage goodness no not so 9 were talk was the understand amongst to us well browse to our t-mobile stood orders of the Selena mr. dodo make a pan-seared on a killer today Igor generic Bosnia's foreign minister acknowledges that the problem of corruption is serious people here hate it that they see that not everybody is treated the same by the institutions by the judiciary system that there is no real rule of law that institutions are not strong that you have to find some back alley ways to get to anything you need today to all the group theorem Romania still to revoke with the regulator not she understand whether a certain tone opposed to it Madonna rava so we would have a bit no be like a beautiful whoever obscure moon in the top post name across the country in Republic of Srpska Bosnia Serb entity the death of 21 year old David Durkee Javitch in March of 2018 has intensified concern about rule of law the situation in which young man was obviously murder and just just shortly to introduce you to this issue that March last year after this young man was found dead in a couple of hours we had a press conference by the police of Republica Srpska in which they said basically that this young man was drunk that he was under narcotics that he robbed a house nearby and after that kill himself which is crazy David's family has been actively advocating for truth and justice for over a year I don't trust my police and that's sad part like I think that is the saddest part ever that we I actually as citizen of serve public I can't trust my police that I will be safe in my city why many believes that David's murderers may have had connections high up in Republic of Srpska government and police do not have a single clue on what happened and there is a very strong perception that part of institutions not whole institutions but some of people in the key institutions were doing their best not to resolve this case and when you have this then you can feel you can understand why people feel that there is no justice not only for David but for everybody here citizens started gathering for weekly demonstrations asking for answers and justice for young David the protests grew with tens of thousands participated the police attempted to suppress the movement sometimes violent well in the beginning they just let us be there and gather and everything but every time we have some new proof that they're hiding murder it was a really big pressure from them to us they're arresting with no reason you can go and just stand over there right now five of you and police will gather around you and say oh you you are not allowed to stay to stay here more than 10 minutes why why I'm not allowed this is my city I'm this is free country [Applause] the problem extends beyond david story as furs are zero and zero to the questions how many indictments for corruption did you have and how many verdicts how many processes that are finished and i think we need political will we need more pressure I'm speaking about positive pressure not negative positive pressure from public from your international representatives here positive pressure on our judicial system to be more more efficient on this for slack cooker hood such a student and talented musician in Sarajevo the legacy of socialist Yugoslavia often puts the region's difficult economic situation in a frustrating perspective a lot of people here mmm like the generation of my parents they are there used to like the fact okay when you finish your education you will be given a job because it's in a socialist country it's not the case anymore we are living in a you know democracy and that's also a question mark there but job is not current guaranteed so-called you go nostalgia can make today's economic challenges all the more painful my generation was thought that there were it was better here before the war and I've grown up in a country surrounded by people who were mostly telling me it was better before I was born and it's kind of depressing and imagine how how it affects the next generation Bosnia's youth unemployment rate of 55 percent has caused many young people to leave in search of better prospects in the European Union MIDI ha are no studies economics at the University of Sarajevo oh if we would join European Union I think that would had a great impact because we wouldn't you know have to think of living the country we would have created opportunities in terms of I don't know in terms of trade in terms in terms of February because joining the European Union brings the mobility labor and in also the people mobility people honestly just want to live their lives they want to work they want to work jobs they were educated for and the main reason why so many young people are leaving Bosnia right now is because everything that is going on politically and economically is pretty much destroying chances of employment people are not leaving because life here is bad in any way they're leaving because there is no work support for EU accession however goes far beyond the economic people think that job by joining EU we will stop the wars in this country because here you don't have a single generation in last I don't know how many years that have not been fighting at least one war so as one young man told me two years ago I will never forget that if you membership will bring us hundred of years in front of us without a single bullet fired we don't need another benefit it's enough EU accession is often seen as closely tied with NATO membership several is Bosnia's neighbors from Montenegro to North Macedonia EU NATO accession as a stepping stone on the path to EU membership together proponents argue membership in these institutions will preserve the peace in the Western Balkans and beyond however the debate is complicated by the region's wartime history so I mean Mueller's camus they all rose kuehni will not talk to Sonakshi to inertia political put Irina actually public ourselves got protein who was kanata well compare of Madrid here is always a cannot talk that you understand mo good to go but you only say you understand unnecessary to go but started college in a that she only great to you that's a no-go area alone oppressor vegetable destined at the Burberry like in Bosnia Serb majority Republican Scott NATO is a controversial topic in Serbia as well it is based in the real unfortunately not quite a pleasant memory from the NATO intervention not making any comments on whether it was needed or not but the truth is that country was seriously devastated during that period and there were certain casualties even those in the capital many of them really being being everything else but not the military targets Serbian proponents of EU accession are working to untangle the two processes of euro-atlantic integration in order to ensure stability in the region of course security is also a major concern for the European Union this is perhaps most palpable in Serbia given its historic ties to Russia journalist Maria ristic leads the Belgrade Bureau and vulcan inside an independent news outlet now it's more a strategic question and a question of foreign policy because if you don't get Serbia into the EU then knowing Serbian close ties with Russia you will basically get like an island that is not stable and can really affect the neighboring countries Susanna Krupa Shh served as Serbia's Deputy Prime Minister before taking the helm at the European movement Serbia a non-profit founded in 1993 to promote Serbia's accession process there is no vacuum in international relations if you are idle uninterested there always somebody who is more interested and who will jump and fill the gap we'll have one country which is in the middle and the biggest one who still didn't decide whether it's pro-eu or not pro-eu and knowing what happened in Ukraine and in general Russian tendencies in the Middle East I think for EU this is a question of security of the European Union project so I think that citizens perceived an EU as a institution that always demanded something from Serbia and it was never happy with what Serbia basically delivered in Bosnia and Herzegovina's Republic of Srpska ethnic Serbs feel a similar connection to the Russian Federation Sir John Mazel Itza a member of Republika Srpska National Assembly explains the relationship we have never been in war with Russia and that Russian supported our risings during the turkish era that the Russia supported Serbia in first world war that Russia also supported and deliberated Yugoslavia Slava from Germans in the Second World War and that both the people are also those that they share same Christianity the connection however goes beyond their historical bond Russia is a guaranteed interests of the Serbs will not be violated in the Bosnian Saguna and Russia officially supports the territorial integrity of the boss the governor president Putin's never raised any issue neither that Bosnia Saguna should split or nor to be centralized in Bosnia's majority Bosnia and Croat Federation however some like professor Goran kabocha which view Russian influence as cause for concern everybody knows who are the Americas but Russian didn't come here that publicly they came on the back door whispering to these politicians promising things promising this gas pipelines through Boston are so Covina Republika Srpska and then they started coming here more more professional scale those from their Secret Intelligence Service actually those guys who know how to stabilize one can destabilize our country and they are doing it now so they will do everything to stop Bosnia from joining it European Union and NATO foreign minister chanak however cautions against hand-wringing about Russian influence we have made our choices and it is European Union so I think the trying to try to do to make it as some kind of a – – most observable you know that we are also working with China the United States with Turkey we have made our decisions we have done it unanimously although three constitutional people Republican serfs Confederation as both entities so everybody parties in power and parties in opposition everybody supports bosnia-herzegovina in you so this is our main our main course and parallel we we do want to develop the relations with others as well with almost 2,000 miles of shared borders the Western Balkans are a key route for migrants from the Middle East to the EU making the region strategically important for the Union although Croatia is now part of the EU it is not yet a part of the Schengen area Slovenia has even erected miles of barbed wire fencing along its internal EU border with Croatia placing extra pressure on the Croatians to secure the border Sonora Ximena svenska granite erupts Colonia nosotros comemos Schengen o re Pina emotions K standard Samira's are porous muqaddas small do franco prosperous to set each a standardised as a teacher technically Oprah me honesty borough a political slogan iike the migration situation has been a litmus test for those hoping to join the European Union I think the migrants crisis especially the one from 2014-2015 helped European Union understand that it cannot resolve problems on the continent without non-eu countries on European continent and that it's very important to have us inside as soon as possible of course in the small town of B hatch and Bosnia's border with Croatia hundreds wait hoping to cross into neighboring Croatia and on to Slovenia the European Union has provided over 31 million euros in aid in the region since 2015 still disorganization and limited resources have led to serious problems for the migrants and refugees so Boutros adesh ah de mas una – Treme Granato velco Claude issue Holly Mira Naomi ho capito said which is where who Thomas rumored to trapeze it comes to Cabo queasy Aras okay pala rust-oleum scale Audie Church dollarsí paulie trhe bros pasta / – Reba chase lead say Bob regional yet on is attribute HKDL is the poverty austell is luxury less than politics although Serbia's response has been more organized in Bosnians the situation is far from perfect soffit Rizal bigovich is a translator at the Kenyatta camp a few miles outside of Belgrade they're not perfect conditions they are far from perfect I really and we as a government we we agree but this is the best what we can afford currently they are forced to live here two years an extra so if we look from that point of view nothing is okay but if you see from from the another side that they are running from some bond attacks they are running because they are in live danger my name is Vinod I'm from Iraq so what do you want to be when you grow up with Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are placed in a difficult position wanting you membership but being forced to serve as a buffer to the Union without having a seat at the table to establish a common solution the Western Europe should resolve crises in the Middle East so unless you do it you will always have people willing or in North Africa you will always have people willing willing to come so fences and Asylum centers they don't resolve the issue but I guess nobody is willing to resolve the core core problems just to deal with consequences and migrants are consequences of wars fights poverty some argue that those in power are hesitant to undertake the necessary reforms to join the union lest they lose some of their own power that's the thing we were told almost 20 years that's our main goal to join European Union our petitions are just talking they say it will be next year next year next year but European Union is not coming here when immunocal billion is not at least a little is a lot read it with an assist to read it some other go Stalin lost even to the Sony Chuckie plushie talk nursing Nikko get the instruct it was a certain machine Dean stone it would be a funky so it was easy kudos eliminated wasted valina European Union is a very slow Union they able to discuss everything I understand the reason they are not accepting us a lot of referee forms to do but we are not interested in doing that so fast because many of our politicians are interested in European Union if there is the only guarantee from their politicians from a side of European Union petitions that they won't be prosecuted for the crimes they allegedly did some Bosnians argue that the EU is only dangling the possibility of membership in order to accomplish its own agenda in the region problem is the European Union they don't want in this moment Bosnia in this is situational what you have in this moment I think that European Union has to make some efforts to take both well according to the Dayton Accords and Dayton peace agreements was setting it ain't no higher in the United States with help of the American government and American presidents into 1995 these waters are gonna consist of two entities negotiators divided the country into these two parts or entities roughly along ethnic lines with Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic car Lots mainly in the Federation and Orthodox Serbs mainly in Republic of Srpska the role of head of state was divided into three positions by the Constitution in order to include one bosniak one car lot and one serve known collectively as the presidency we do have situation in which for the three member presidency people can be candidates only if they belong to one of three ethnic groups presidencies consistent of the one a Serb Croat and Bosnia member and that sadek Dara Salish who is aroma and occupancy who is a Jew they appealed and that the this constitution is discriminatory say ditch and fin see brought their case to the European Court of Human Rights and in 2009 the court ruled that the men's in eligibility to run in these elections violated the European Convention on Human Rights a decade later however minorities are still ineligible to be candidates for the presidency minority groups still organize actively fighting for their rights and holding on to their cultures like this Slovenian singing group the accession process could be the one opportunity the country has to make serious structural changes to its government but it could also disrupt a delicate balance in a region that is still recovering from more oh well we have one issue that differs us from our neighbors and other accession countries and that is coastal issues Kosovo declared independence from Serbia over a decade ago although much of the international community acknowledges Kosovo as an independent country Serbia and its key allies like Russia and China as well as EU members like Spain and Greece do not the EU is placing pressure on Belgrade and Pristina to normalize relations before they enter the union problem between Serbia and Kosovo we all know is not is not a new one but if I would alone be myself making comparisons compared to real life it would be like a lousy marriage that was ended in not quite well manner where both sides believe they were right and whichever side you listen you'll have a sympathy some see the Kosovo issue as a distraction from other serious reforms that are needed this is the issue that has hijacked our integration process to the EU and that all other parts of the integration process are mm put on side until we resolve the coastal issues so as one of the biggest or the biggest political issue that we need to resolve before we move forward in in the accession process despite the emotions complicating the issue many see it as the only way for Serbia and Kosovo to move forward on their own path – EU accession people are getting realistic that it is in our best interest to resolve it not only because of the you but because you cannot live forever in a frozen conflict or in a status quo with your former southern province now we have a new proposal coming from both Serbia and Kosovo it's that the Kosovo should be divided among ethnic lines the proposed land swap would involve redrawing Serbia's southern border with Kosovo to include area that is majority ethnic Serb well parts of Serbia that are predominantly ethnic albanian would become part of Kosovo in the meantime many Serbians are fed up with the long and complicated process oh well the percentage of people who support Serbia's accession to the EU has been declining of course you cannot keep the moment to me if you don't see the real progress we are faced with the process of as they call it in to you enlargement fatigue and we call it here accession fatigue so when these two processes meet which is the case here in Serbia you have the result that we are in a slow-motion some argue that the political will may not be there on the European side as well the EU has a lot of toolbox this is just the question whether it wants to use it or not the U is also not United that's also one of the issues you will have some countries of the EU who will say for us coercive is important but it's also important to have rule of law other countries will say look we can I don't know look on the other side because Serbia is doing a great thing and wants to resolve Costabile issue so it's really also depending on what he wants and whether EU wants Serbia as if members stay expect that we being part of this big family will have more input and income of the European economy and that will raise our living standards for our citizens which is very important for us so we also what is very important for us fulfilling the European standards it's not only important for the European Union it's also important for our citizens so much unions that can be able to grow school new a brewski standard which some people can you model import a lot this is very important to have this all standards and decisions implemented because it protects these are very good resolutions that protect our citizens very important our citizens also raise these issues they want to know what they are buying in your store they want to have air less polluted and we truly believe that many European values standards regulations are in favour of citizens Serbia has a chance to become normal modern European country so that is our only chance to progress it's not only about the money it's about creating a democratic sustainable system we need to see the reforms done we need to see better lives that's what people expect better life that's the EU for the people I have no idea and honestly I don't think anyone has any idea what joining the EU would mean for Bosnia you always hear people talking about joining the European Union be it politicians journalists anyone on the street and they're really talking about it but I most of them most of them don't really know what they're talking about joining European Union has become like the thing we are all waiting for like it's gonna happen and it's gonna solve everything and the truth is I think completely opposite I think everything needs to be solved before you joining the European Union at its heart EU accession in the Western Balkans is an opportunity for these countries to change not for Europe but for themselves and for their citizens [Applause] you