Each week we bring you the ten most important pieces of news from Eastern Europe.
Compiled by: Hristo Voynov and Kristijan Fidanovski
1. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin met with Moldovan President Igor Dodon in Tehran, not in Transdniester as was planned until Rogozin was declared a persona non grata in Moldova. While Dodon is pro-Russia, the Moldovan government is comprised of mostly pro-EU parties, which has resulted in disputes such as this one. The content of the talks was not revealed, but this shows the internal EU/Russia split that Moldova, and many other Eastern European countries, are forced to deal with.
2. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is going to visit Serbia in September in what is going to be yet another recent Turkish attempt to extend its influence in the Balkans. Beside upgrading trade deals, Erdogan is likely to insist that Serbia shuts its “Gulenist” institutions. Like other EU candidate members from the Western Balkans, Serbia has so far largely resisted Erdogan’s similar requests.
3. The Czech Mayors and Independents party, also known as STAN, decided to withdraw from their coalition with the Christian Democrats. Instead, they will run on their own ballot in the October parliamentary elections, which makes it uncertain whether either party will cross the parliament threshold. This adds to the already numerous parties that will be running in the election, which is noteworthy because it is the first election following the major dispute that revolved around Prime Minister Sobotka and the Finance Minister Babiš. The latter of the two is one of the richest men in the country who is expected to become the next PM after said elections.
4. The controversial language bill that marked the election campaign in Macedonia last year has been presented in Parliament, sparking debates on its constitutionality and necessity. The bill will make the Albanian language official throughout the entire country, thus facilitating communication with state institutions tremendously for ethnic Albanians, but also burdening the country’s already fragile budget.
5. Various Polish politicians has started talking about seeking German reparations for the destruction Germany caused in Poland during WWII. This was attempted by Greece during their financial crisis. It didn’t work then and it is just as unlikely to work now. In both cases, it is presented more as a bargaining chip against Germany (and thus the EU) in response to internal EU issues, the current case being the potential court case against Poland and the rest of the Visegrad group who do not wish to resettle refugees within their territories.
6. On August 5, Croatia celebrated and Serbia mourned the 22nd anniversary of the operation Storm, a Croatian military victory which was instrumental in ending the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. Croatia has since made this day a major national holiday and celebrates it as “the event which prevented another Srebrenica”, while Serbia decries the brutality of the victory and the massive expulsions of Serbs that followed afterwards.
7. FIDESZ continues to slide further towards authoritarianism, refusing to participate in a special session of the National Assembly called forth by the Hungarian Socialist Party, the MSZP. MSZP called the assembly regarding the Central European University issue in an attempt to loosen laws that were set up to try and shut down the university. They claim that if the issue is not resolved and the university closes, the European Court of Justice would heavily fine Hungary. However, FIDESZ’s response is that MSZP are Soros’ local puppets and that the special assembly is therefore illegitimate, and that working with ‘Soros’ people’ will slowly empower Soros’ liberal agenda.
8. 1,850 new jobs are expected to be created in Bulgaria with the construction of the so-called “Smart City”, a Chinese-funded initiative. The government has awarded special priority status to this investment, which is meant to be a huge, high-tech entertainment, retail, hotel and office complex.
9. Waitergate, a scandal that rocked Poland in 2013-14 in which private conversations held in a popular restaurant were recorded and leaked makes a return. The audio of one conversation with former foreign minister Radosław Sikorski of the Civil Platform party was released, showing his disdain for Lithuanian authorities. Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite was reasonably unhappy with what she believes is Polish politicians not taking Lithuania seriously because of its tiny size. Civil Platform, now in opposition, believes that this leak is part of an attempt to revive an old controversy in order to tarnish the party’s image.
10. On August 8, Macedonia’s capital Skopje hosted one of the most important football games in the entire year: the Super Cup competition between Champions League winner Real Madrid and Europa League winner Manchester United. More than 20,000 people are expected to have visited Skopje for the game, which was won 2:1 by Real Madrid.