The young and the restless: Serbian youth, EU visas, and the consequences of conditionality
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In this thesis, I investigate the historical roots of why for Serbians the freedom to travel has come to serve as a symbol of personal success, an indicator of political normalcy and a source of national pride and exceptionalism. Serbia’s decade of isolation under Milošević added new layers of painful meaning to the notion of travel – and the protests which overthrew him in 2000 were in some ways a triumph of internationalism. Given this historical background, I then analyze the current political factors which prevent Serbians from traveling. Focusing in particular on the relationship between Serbia and the EU, I investigate the origins of the EU’s strict visa regime towards Serbia in the wars of the 1990s, and explore how, due to the creation and expansion of the Schengen passport-free zone, this restrictive visa regime came to long outlive its original purpose – transforming from a means of controlling the wave of Yugoslav refugees which entered Europe during the nineties into both the basis of a buffer zone at the periphery of the EU and a tool of conditionality in the EU-Serbia bilateral relationship. Finally, I use original research to demonstrate that the EU’s continued closed-door policy, as it limits what Serbians perceive as a basic right and source of pride, has produced strong feelings of unfairness and resentment towards the EU among young people and students, with serious consequences for the future of Serbia-EU relations.