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Antidemocratic leaders in Balkans further undermine institutions defending rule of law - Freedom House

Author Radomir Ralev
Antidemocratic leaders in Balkans further undermine institutions defending rule of law - Freedom House Aleksandar Vucic; Source: Serbia's President's Office

BELGRADE (Serbia), February 5 (SeeNews) - Leaders in the Balkans last year continued to weaken institutions protecting the freedom of expression and the rule of law, independent watchdog organisation Freedom House said.

"Antidemocratic leaders in Central Europe and the Balkans - including some who have brazenly consolidated power beyond constitutional limits - continued undermining institutions that protect freedoms of expression and association and the rule of law," Freedom House said in its Freedom in the World 2019 report issued on Monday.

In the Balkans, President Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia and President Milo Dukanovic of Montenegro continued to consolidate state power around themselves and their cliques, subverting basic standards of good governance and exceeding their assigned constitutional roles, the watchdog organisation said.

Serbia saw the largest deterioration in political rights and civil liberties conditions among the countries in Southeastern Europe (SEE) in 2018, it added

The country lost six points in its aggregate political rights and civil liberties score, the fourth largest decline globally, and its status declined from Free to Partly Free, the watchdog organisation said. 

"Serbia’s status declined due to deterioration in the conduct of elections, continued attempts by the government and allied media outlets to undermine independent journalists through legal harassment and smear campaigns, and President Aleksandar Vucic’s de facto accumulation of executive powers that conflict with his constitutional role," Freedom House said.

Romania posted the second largest loss in aggregate score among the SEE countries, of three points, but kept its Free status, the report shows.

In SEE, Slovenia is the highest-ranked country by political rights and civil liberties conditions score, followed by Croatia and Romania, while Bosnia and Herzegovina has the lowest score.

The global ranking is led by Finland, while Syria ranks last.