Eastern Europe Top 10 January 11th

Compiled by: Eva Jovanova and Hristo Voynov


  1. In Serbia, this year began with ambivalence. Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic gave a radio interview for The Economist in which both negative and positive momentous statements proliferated. She emphasized that 2018 offers a historic chance for finding a lasting solution between Kosovo and Serbia. She decried the metaphor of Serbia sitting on two chairs – between EU and Russia, and claimed that there were no abuses of media freedom in Serbia. She also played the victim card when asked about the International Court decisions, lamenting Serb exodus from Croatia and denying there was genocide in Srebrenica.


  1. After Moldovan President Igor Dodon was suspended from office for the third time in recent history, the Moldovan parliament took the window of opportunity to pass anti-Russian propaganda laws without his input. These laws prevent the re-broadcasting of Russian media in the Moldovan republic. Dodon was suspended for not approving government ministers, so the passage of this law has been controversial, being seen by Dodon and his followers as an overstepping of the parliament’s powers, though the Supreme Court decided that Dodon’s approval was not needed for the new law. Dodon stated that the law is anti-democratic and violates the principles of free speech, though it appears that his options of challenging the law are none.


  1. The Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU had a stressful beginning. Yesterday, two terminals were evacuated at Sofia Airport, the main airport in Bulgaria’s capital. Police teams blocked the area, after the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior reported a malicious call. At the time of the call, Lilyana Pavlova, the Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency, together with former delegates, was near the second terminal of the airport.


  1. New rounds of changes have occurred in Poland’s government. Mateusz Morawiecki became Prime Minister in December, but it appears that he has moved around his administration to better match his goals and not his predecessors. The most significant change has been the promotion of Jacek Czaputowicz from Deputy Foreign Minister to Foreign Minister. The changes come at a time of unprecedented tension between Poland and its V4 allies and the rest of the EU, so they may signal a fresh approach to resolving the outstanding disputes.


  1. Hoyt Brian Yee, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs  responsible for U.S. relations with the countries of Central Europe and South Central Europe at the US State Department according to Radio Free Europe handed in his resignation two days ago. Among many things, Yee was involved in Macedonia’s political crisis, visiting President Ivanov in April 2017. There are many speculation about who his successor might be (according to EWB, an option might be the former head of OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina), and there are also speculations on where he will continue his career (an option is as an ambassador to BiH).


  1. In response to Hungary and Poland (as well as their less vocal allies Czechia and Slovakia) refusing to pay their share of the determined migrant quota, Martin Schulz, an important German politician has threatened to cut off funding to the EU budget. European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has denounced this idea, and Poland will add it to its list of reasons why Brussels has grown too strong and is dictating the policies of its member states. In this light, Poland’s new PM, Mateusz Morawiecki, is looking to meet with various EU politicians to try and find a solution to the multi-faceted issue, including Poland’s deteriorating rule of law in the face of its ruling party changing the government’s judicial structure. So far, Morawiecki and Juncker have had a “constructive” talk, which sounds positive for the union.


  1.  Macedonia’s name negotiations might be entering a more delicate phase. Bujar Osmani, Macedonia’s Deputy PM for European Affairs, visited Athens on January and met with Greek officials. After the meeting, in an interview for a Macedonian news channel, he suggested a concrete proposal is expected to be made by the end of this month. Next week, on January 17, Macedonian negotiator Vasko Naumovski is meeting with his Greek counterpart Adamantios Vasilakis in New York. They will be accompanied by the long time UN meditor, Matthew Nemitz. Protests against including the term “Macedonia” in the new name are scheduled in Thessaloniki for January 21.


  1. The avenue at the backend of the Russian embassy in Washington DC will be changing its name to honor the assassinated Russian politician Boris Nemtsov. This is functionally a harmless jab at Russia, as it has no effect on bilateral relations between the two countries, but it did its job of upsetting some in Moscow. Controversial politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky claimed that this was intentionally done to spite Russia and that the US should have looked into Nemtsov’s history of corruption before honoring him. However, the official Moscow stance seems to be that this is a purely DC decision while maintaining that relations between the two countries have much room for improvement.


  1. Serbia’s President and leader of the SNS party Aleksandar Vucic after yesterday’s meeting of the SNS’ leadership stated that there will be no early parliamentary elections this spring. Allegedly, Vucic was against early elections in Serbia from the very beginning. However, in 2016, he used a similar strategy – claimed to be against early elections, but accused the international community for their scheduling. This spring election will only take place in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade.


  1. Ukraine’s most controversial figure, Mikheil Saakashvili, was detained and questioned by Ukraine’s internal intelligence agency, the SBU. He told reporters that he was questioned because of his political activism, which is highly critical of current President, Petro Poroshenko. However, the state has accused him of working with groups that have ties to former disgracefully ousted president Viktor Yanukovich. This is a confusing claim as Saakashivili was brought into Ukraine by Poroshenko and the two were originally strong allies. Saakashvili appears to be worried (and appears to be preparing for the possibility) that Ukrainian authorities will take the easy way out of the political crisis, and simply extradite Saakashvili to Georgia to remove him out of the picture.


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