The EU’s rule-of-law mission in Kosovo is failing to prosecute key figures accused of corruption and organised crime because of political interference and fears that putting too much pressure on Pristina could spark inter-ethnic violence, say campaigners.
Across the Balkans many survivors of the bloody conflicts of the 1990s still don’t know what happened to their missing loved ones. In Kosovo, even discussing the suffering of other ethnic communities is strictly taboo. What hope for lasting peace and reconciliation?
Just one year ago no Balkan country extradited their own nationals, allowing criminals with multiple passports to hide out in neighbouring countries. But as states are now signing extradition treaties, lawbreakers will find they have fewer safe havens.
Thousands of older Balkan workers are trapped in poverty as they struggle to find work but cannot retire - a fate they share with their western European counterparts. In Macedonia, dozens of desperate over 50s have been driven to commit suicide.
The release of a convicted murderer-turned-police informer prompts fears Serbia has returned to practices of the past, such as shielding criminals from justice, when it serves Belgrade’s interests.
Bosnia is grappling with rising and persistent youth crime but, unlike European countries such as Hungary, the federation is yet to develop a range of rehabilitation programmes that could stop young offenders graduating into hardened criminals.
Convicted rapists in Montenegro and Serbia routinely receive minimal jail terms of around three years, while their victims face years of trauma and distress. Yet in other European countries like the UK, the average sentence is eight years.
Bulgaria fails to integrate its refugees and routinely locks up asylum seekers, despite EU and national laws banning the use of detention centres, forcing even those who might otherwise stay to try their luck in western Europe.
Eleven years after embracing capitalism, Belgrade has cancelled almost 30 per cent of all privatisation deals because of corruption or mismanagement. Yet the system remains open to abuse.
Employers across Europe have read workers’ private emails and chat conversations by illegally using secret computer surveillance software; in Romania employees claim bosses have used information gained to blackmail and bully them.
The topic for this year’s programme is justice and fellows are investigating subjects as diverse as privatisation, organised crime, employment law, rape convictions and extradition treaties.