Eastern Europe Top 10 August 17th

Macedonia's city of Ohrid, where the 2001 Framework Agreement was signed

Each week we bring you the ten most important pieces of news from Eastern Europe.

Compiled by: Eva Jovanova and Hristo Voynov

  1. The upcoming elections in Hungary just became more complicated. With Fidesz leaning closer to authoritarianism, the right has splintered, resulting in multiple right wing groups looking to pick up voters that have lost faith with Hungary’s Viktor Orban. Jobbik, an ideological brother to Fidesz, decided to focus on economic issues, such as their European Wage Union initiative which opened the door for the far-right Force and Determination. Similarly, new moderate parties have popped up, though this probably means that the opposition will be ununified and their votes split, which spells success for Fidesz.
  2. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic suggests a compromise for Kosovo. He published an article in Vecernje Novosti, stating that a solution to the Serbian-Albanian conflict can only be reached through an agreement between the two sides, in which everyone will gain and lose something. Dacic promised establishing an Association for Serbian Municipalities in the south of Kosovo, creating  “independent monastic communities” for the Orthodox churches in Kosovo, and suggested there will be financial compensation for the usurped private and state property.
  1. Russia has decided to cut its defense spending at a time of historically high tensions with the West. This is following the Ukrainian Conflict, the Crimean annexation, alleged election hacking in multiple states, and the upcoming Zapad 2017 military drills that have provoked fear in NATO’s Eastern flank. It has been stated that the cuts won’t hurt the ongoing modernization projects, which could mean that less funding will be used on Russian efforts in Syria and Ukraine. Putin also made an appearance after being out of the public eye for a week, refusing to acknowledge the many theories that always surface when he vanishes.
  1. In Macedonia, the opposition VMRO-DPMNE has been blocking the newly constituted Parliament for a month and half. The parliamentary speaker Talat Xhaferi and the governing majority are urged to take action against the stalling tactics by VMRO-DPMNE and end the parliamentary deadlock. VMRO-DPMNE is impeding the country’s path towards judiciary reforms by blocking the dismissal of the chief Public Prosecutor Marko Zvrlevski who is criticized for ignoring major corruption cases in the past. Last week, VMRO-DPMNE started spreading fear by publishing false claims that the country is going to accept more refugees, a claim that the governing majority refuted.
  1. Former Finance Minister Babis and current leader of the ANO party could be under police investigation for corruption charges. This is while he is the likely winner in the upcoming election, but there is little reason to believe that this alone will change the outcome of the election. However, much like Hungary, the upcoming Czech election will now include a record 31 parties that have made the election a fascinating event to follow. Recently, one of the leader parties, the Christian Democrats decided to fire their US advisors in an attempt to win back votes that they expect to lose to ANO.
  1. Kosovo remains without government for two months after holding the general elections, as the Kosovo Assembly failed five times to appoint a parliamentary speaker. The EU urges Kosovo to end the political deadlock and proceed for reforms related to the rule of law and the economy, visa liberalisation and constructive dialogue with Serbia.  
  1. The investigation of former Ukrainian President  Viktor Yanukovich resumes after a brief delay, leading to the high profile testimony of Ukraine’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Yuriy Serheyev. The court case is suffering from many issues, most notably the fact that the defendant himself is in Russia, safe from any verdict. Pro-Russian critics deem it to be a show trial in which the new government will justify its existence by finding the former leader guilty. While it may be hard to ignore the political and move past the events that led to the current conflict, it is important that the country creates a truth commission to help establish an undisputed narrative of events, starting from Euromaidan. Such efforts help ease tension in post war societies, and this trial is a perfect place to start, as long as it is honest and engages with the many complex nuances in Ukraine’s current political landscape.
  1. As Montenegro recently joins NATO, statistics show that almost a third of the companies in the country are Russian-owned. Moscow strongly opposed Montenegro joining NATO, which resulted in deteriorated relations between them, which hit an all-time bottom last year with the alleged Russian coup d’etat plot. The US Vice-President Mike Pence commented last week during his visit in Podgorica: “(Montenegrin) courage, particularly in the face of Russian pressure, inspires the world and I commend you for that”.
  1. In his strongest statement yet, the Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski complained that the European Union is harassing Poland over various legal complaints issues recently by the EU. The most recent of which is a law which would allow women to retire at 60 and men at 65 that the EU deems to be gender discrimination. He made further claims that the Western European countries are trying to limit Poland’s economic strength as to limit competition, a claim that goes against the principles of EU unity, though both sides have valid points. The EU’s demands for Poland (such as limiting logging in Poland’s ancient Białowieża forest) would limit its economic output, but its requests are not limited to Poland and so it is not discriminatory in any direct way.
  2. Macedonia celebrates the 16th anniversary of the Ohrid Framework Agreement. The Agreement put an end to insurgencies between the ethnic Macedonian population and the ethnic Albanians in 2001 and established a framework for peaceful co-existence of all ethnicities in Macedonia. The agreement, among other things, officialized the Albanian language in municipalities with predominantly ethnic Albanian population. In the present, a language law which was one of the cornerstones for Zaev to form a coalition with ethnic Albanian parties, is expected to finally be adopted by the parliament. The law will further promote the Albanian language, but has sparked heavy debate on its constitutionality and relative necessity.

 

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