Exit festival backs visa abolishment campaign in South East Europe

As well as being one of the biggest music festival's in South East Europe, Exit also has an has an enormous influence on society. Founded as an alternative to Milosevic's dictatorship in 2000, EXIT continues to involve itself in social campaigns that are important for Serbian and Balkan youth.

The 'Visa Abolishment Campaign' is against the complicated and hard Schengen visa regime that has kept young people from Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Albania in isolation for years. For most of them it's virtually impossible to visit the EU: they are required to prove that they own some real estate or that they have regular high incomes. Bearing in mind that these countries are surrounded by EU member states, it's no wonder that many Balkan youngsters feel like they are living in a ghetto.

More than two thirds of the youth in Serbia have never been abroad – the Schengen VISA regime for them became the 'Large Schengen Wall', an impassable hurdle for the countries they wish to visit. Complicated procedures, high costs, excessive and sometimes bizarre documentation which is necessary to submit are impossible tasks for most of the youths from Serbia (as well as from Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Albania).

At this years festival there will be a stage called 'Serbia in Action' which will host representatives of non-governmental organisations, experts on the VISA issue and representatives of the Serbian Government, among who will be the Vice President, Božidar Đelić.

In 2006, EXIT instigated a "NOT60EUROS!" campaign, where people from all around the EU were invited to record the phrase "NOT60EUROS!" in their own language and to send it to the campaigners. The plan was to make the song using all the samples and to distribute it all over Europe as protest against the announced rise in visa fee from 35 to 60 EUR. The campaign gained a lot of publicity and as a result the visa fee for Western Balkan countries was frozen at 35 Euros for the next two years.

However, the visa fee is just one part of the costs for those applying for an EU visa, which can mount up to 200 – 250 EUR, the equivalent of an average monthly salary in Serbia. During the festival, organizers erected a large billboard with a picture of the Eiffel tower and words "GREETENGS FROM EUROPE" written on it. Visitors were invited to have their picture taken in front of it so that the image could be sent to them as an e-card together with the e-mail addresses of EU institutions and media, as well as the addresses of Western Balkan governments. The point of this was to show that these people are the same as tourists in the front of the real Eiffel tower – the only difference being that they are not allowed to travel there.

In November 2006 EXIT were invited to present the importance of this problem for young people from the Western Balkans at a seminar in the European Parliament. The seminar was organised by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament (ALDE) who have constantly been fighting for liberalisation and for the abolishment of the schengen visa regime. Franco Frattini, the European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security was one of the speakers and EXIT was presented by the General Manager of the festival Bojan Bošković.

Exit festival backs visa abolishment campaign in South East Europe
PUBLISHED

July 5, 2007 at 9:50 PM CEST

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