Eastern Europe Top 10 February 15

Compiled by Eva Jovanova and Hristo Voynov


1. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met with his Croatian counterpart Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic in Croatia this Monday. The visit lasted for two days and it was the first official meeting between the Serbian and Croatian heads of state in five years. The two presidents aimed at improving strained bilateral ties by pledging to intensify work on border issues, minority rights and searching for missing persons from the 1990s war. According to Croatian media, however, the meeting only worsened the relations between the country, and sharply criticized the Croatian President. The Croatian President, on the other hand, made very lauding remarks for the whole meeting. Another very criticized aspect of the meeting by media in the Balkans was sweeping the war questions under the carpet by both presidents throughout the visit.


2. Mikheil Saakashvili, former Georgian President and Ukrainian politician, has been deported from Ukraine to Poland. This was after 5 months of political tension between him and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko when he originally stormed past the Ukrainian/Polish border. The official reason for the deportation is because his entry into the country was deemed improper, though the real reason is likely to stop his activism within Ukraine. This is the safest way for Poroshenko to rid himself of the man who has routinely called him corrupt and demanded his resignation. Were Saakashvili to be arrested and tried in Ukraine or extradited to Georgia where he is wanted under charges that he claims are bogus, he might become a martyr for his cause.


3. Last week, the Bosnian Serb Minister of Defense Dragan Mektic gave an interview for Vecerni List, one of the most followed media in Croatia. According to the newspaper, the minister had said that the massacres in Srebrenica were genocide and that the Serbs must undergo catharsis and confess that. After this interview provoked a storm among Serbs who deny the term ‘genocide’ about Srebrenica, the minister stated that he had been misquoted by the newspaper. In late July 1995 around 8.000 Bosniaks were slaughtered by the Bosnian Serb forces. Yet, the term ‘genocide’ remains highly disputed by all Bosnian Serb and Serbian public officials.


4. Russia has threatened to ban Youtube and Instagram after Alexei Navalny put up a video that uses video footage to connect Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska and Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Prikhodko discussing politics while on a boat with escorts using footage from Instagram that unintentionally revealed the meeting. Navalny claims that the video is proof of corruption between the two, though Deripaska says that it is part of a smear campaign against him. Deripaska won a court order for the video to be taken down, which has yet to come into effect. Navalny has made the news many times with such videos which he claims show corruption within Russia.


5. Macedonia made it to the 10 Countries to Watch in 2018 list by Freedom House, published this Monday. The country’s new government made its decisiveness in resolving the 25-year long name dispute known to the world. This Tuesday, at the UN offices in Vienna, the special envoy Matthew Nimetz met with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs from Greece and Macedonia. However, no concrete proposals were officially unfolded to the public. Solving the name issue was recently challenged due to the aggressive protests in Greece when tens of thousands of people went on the streets and chanted against a new name for their neighbor, which would include the term “Macedonia”.


6. The Hungarian “Stop Soros” bills have been released and they have become stricter compared to their previous format, which according to the government is due to the suggestions in the ‘social consultation’ sent out to the country regarding the issue. Under the new law, licensing will be required for any organization that deals with refugees, and an extra 25% tax on foreign income for refugee-related projects. With recent revelations that nearly three thousand refugees were allowed in the country the last three years, this might be the ruling FIDESZ’ way of trying to regain any credibility it lost to the widespread nativism sentiment around the country.


7. Kosovo Police had arrested and then the next day released two police officers over the Oliver Ivanovic investigation. On Saturday, the two policemen were first arrested on the suspicion that they had manipulated evidence at the scene of the murder. Even though the suspicions were supported by video footages of the crime scene, the Kosovo court ruled against custody for the policemen and they were then released. The murder of the prominent Serb politician in the northern part of Kosovo still remains unsolved.


8. Moldovan Parliament speaker Andrian Candu stated that Russia is already meddling in the upcoming March elections. This has become a joke for some around the world who believe that these accusations are trying to excuse poor electoral turnout, while others see Russia as expanding its cyber capabilities and engaging in hybrid warfare. The last few months have seen high levels of domestic infighting between the Europhiles and Russophiles within the Moldovan government, including suspending the pro-Russia president and banning Russian media. The pro-Russian camp claims that this is all a ploy to prevent the pro-Russia PSRM from winning the elections as current opinion polls predict them to.


9. “Croatia is already ready to preside with the Council of the European Union” were the words of European Commission’s President Jean-Claude Juncker during his meeting with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic in Brussels this Wednesday. Croatia is scheduled to preside over the Council of the EU between January and June 2020. This is not the first time the Commission President is lauding Croatia; In his State of the Union Address, Juncker stressed that he expects to see Croatia as part of the Schengen before 2025.


10. A plane crash in Moscow took the lives of 71 people. While the cause of the incident is still unclear, it is believed to have happened because of a mechanical error due to icing. President Vladimir Putin has set up a special commission to determine what caused the incident. This marks a bloody week for Russia as in an unrelated event, US airstrikes against Syrian government forces are believed to have killed roughly 20 members of the Russia “ISIS Hunters”. The Russian government has released a statement saying that no Russian military servicemen were killed, though this is a technicality as the group is not under direct Russian military command.


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