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Exit Festival

international news _ 24th April, 2006

Last Exit From Serbia- Exit Organiser Protests EU Visa Rise

Text by Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)

Serbian organisation the Citizens Pact for South-East Europe and the Exit Festival (CPEE) have launched a campaign against EU plans to raise visa fees from 35 euros to 60 euros, asking people to record and email them the message 'Not 60 Euros' in their own language.

The grassroots group plan to add some of the samples to an electro-breaks style track they're producing which they'll be broadcasting and distributing to DJs and performers at this year's Exit Festival, which includes headline acts the Pet Shop Boys, Dave Clarke and Franz Ferdinand.

"We've launched the campaign because many young people in the EU are not aware that people of their age from many Western Balkan countries can't travel as freely as they can," CPEE chief Rajko Bozic told Skrufff.

When they found out about the situation they are usually supportive so we want to mobilize public opinion in EU countries against the counterproductive Schengen visa system, at least amongst socially aware people," he said.

Rajko pointed out that the heavily bureaucratic often humiliating procedures in place already make obtaining a visa extremely difficult and costly (up to ?200 with documents) and warned that the planned price rise could spark more resentment.

"A price rise in visas for our citizens goes directly against the messages given at the last meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Ministers, who continue to state that they see the future of the West Balkans as being within the EU," he told local independent news group B92.

"Endorsing this price rise will be a slap in the face to all citizens of Serbia-Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Albania who believe in European integration."

Chatting to the BBC, he said Serbia's continuing isolation was prompting increasing apathy and cynicism amongst young people, declaring "We are full of self-pity and we have no initiative because we're left behind - and we're left behind because we have no initiative and we're full of self-pity. We want to break this cycle."

Rajko also warned that keeping the region isolated is making matters worse,

"Ethnic separation between young people in Serbia is higher then the average in Europe, and higher than in Serbia before.," he told Skrufff.

"By having no interaction with other cultures young people are becoming perfect targets for nationalistic forces whose politics are based on ethnic prejudices and conspiracy theories."

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