The transition from the 20th to the 21st century marked a pivotal moment in the Western Balkans. By the end of 2000, the three leaders—Franjo Tuđman of Croatia, Alija Izetbegović of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), and Slobodan Milošević of Serbia—who had presided over the most destructive crisis in Europe since the end of the Second World War were no longer on the political scene. Moreover, the electoral success of democratic coalitions in Croatia and Serbia, the progress toward democratic standards recognized in Albanian local elections, and electoral reforms introduced in BiH all aroused a sense of optimism for democratization in the region. Thirteen years later, where do these countries stand on the path toward democracy? Has their performance fulfilled expectations?
Mounting domestic pressure for democratic change in Eurasia was met with increasingly repressive policies by the region’s autocratic governments in 2012, according to the newly released edition of Nations in Transit, Freedom House’s annual analysis of democratic development from Central Europe to Central Asia. The year’s events show that the entrenchment of authoritarian rule has come at the cost of increased corruption, censorship of the media, suppression of civil society, and in some cases violence against the political opposition.
Freedom House applauds international efforts to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity exemplified by global events on May 17 marking the International Day to End Homophobia (IDAHO). The coordination of events in more than 100 countries worldwide, including countries with poor human rights records like Burma, Algeria, Iran and the United Arab Emirates, is a positive step forward in the struggle for equal rights for LGBTI. Despite these positive events, a number of troubling attacks on the day’s supporters illustrates the continuing need for vigilance in acknowledging rights abuses and ending discrimination.