Eastern Europe Top 10 September 28th

Ljublja, Slovenia, by Janez Kotar

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

Compiled by: Eva Jovanova and Hristo Voynov


1.More than ten people have announced their candidacies for the Presidential race in Slovenia, scheduled for October 22. At least four of them are women. According to some polls, the incumbent President Borut Pahor, who stated earlier that he will run as an independent candidate, has the highest chances of winning. Whether Mr. Pahor will face the popular political satirist Mr. Marjan Sharec in a potential run-off, remains to be seen.


2. Ukraine and Romania are both stepping up their rhetoric regarding Ukraine as Kiev officially signs its controversial language bill. This bill would force students to learn in Ukrainian instead of their native language after the first four years of their education. Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó stated that “we can guarantee that all of this will hurt Ukraine in the future” while Romania’s president cancelled a visit to Kiev. The fear that minority rights would be violated was one of the important sentiments that the pro-Russian separatists used in drawing up support for the war in Donbas. But today, this law can be used by Hungary who threatened to block any move that Ukraine makes towards the West, leaving it locked outside of the EU for the long term.


3. In Serbia, after the newspaper Vranjske Novine was forced to close last week, around 150 Serbian websites and NGOs expressed their revolt. The protest for media freedom began last week with Vukasin Obradovic, the founder of Vranjske Novosti, who went on a hunger strike. It now continues with 150 websites and NGOs from Serbia who are ‘blacking’ their sites in order to illustrate how no media freedom looks like. The so-called ‘blackout’ campaign was not supported by any of the state owned media.


4. The two conflicting camps of the Moldovan government are doubling down their rhetoric with conflicting ideas on how to fix their current political system. The Socialists, who are the party of President Igor Dodon, wish to change the country’s political system from the current parliamentary system and turn it into a presidential one. The multiple different liberal parties however wish to suspend Dodon and attempt to later dismiss him. Both sides have enough support to propose such changes, but neither side appears to have enough to pass them, leaving the political situation in the country at a tense standoff.


5. Macedonia’s NATO perspective seems bright after the Wednesday meeting between NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller and Macedonia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Radmila Shekerinska, together with Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov. Ms. Goettemoeller expressed her gratitude to Macedonia for being a NATO partner and stressed that the NATO will continue to support Macedonia on its path toward accession. Macedonia’s NATO accession perspective was checked in 2008 at a NATO Summit in Bucharest due to a Greek veto because of the name issue. One of the main promises the new government made was to reinvigorate the NATO membership attempts of Macedonia.


6. Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban met to discuss their current political ties that have come about as a response to what they see as too much centralized rule in the EU. They claim that Poland and Hungary are actually the ones keeping the original idea the EU, which is of strong states working together instead of following directions from Brussels. A few days later, French President Emmanuel Marcon said that Europe should actually tighten as a unite to respond to issues more effectively. They also boasted of Poland’s position in the EU, which furthers the claim that the reason that the EU is targeting Poland is because it feels threatened by its strong economic growth and development.


7. The Dutch government tried to overturn a decision made by the Dutch appeals court in the Hague that the Netherlands was partially liable for the death of 300 Bosniaks in Srebrenica. The appeals court in the Hague, with the help of the lawyers of the victims’ families, came to the conclusion that the Dutch UN peacekeeping force failed to inform the UN of the violation of human rights in Srebrenica. Moreover, the lawyers blamed the Dutch UN peacekeeping force for expelling 300 Bosniaks from their base, which led to their death.


8. The pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine have lost their Revenue and Duties minister in a car bomb in the separatists’ capital city of Donetsk. This is only the latest in a long series of assassinations. Kiev claims that these are done by the Russians to remove their assets that they can no longer control, while the separatists claim that it is Ukraine, continuing the conflict through covert means because the conflict has largely frozen. This comes around the same time that the separatists open up a representative office in France. The benefits of such an office are uncertain as it holds no real diplomatic value, but it is one step in promoting their cause outside of Ukraine and Russia. Like other such attempts, it is likely that it will close down soon.


9. As the centrist moderate parties in Germany underwent a fiasco, the Serbian right wing parties rushed to send their greeting to the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD). Goran Davidovic, the leader of the Serbian National Machine, a neo-Nazi party, who is being tried in absentia in Serbia for instigating national hatred, as well as the right-wing leader from the Dveri party, Bosko Obradovic, who sits in the opposition in the Serbian Parliament, did not contain themselves in congratulating the AfD for winning 94 seats in the German Bundestag.


10. Putin claims that Russia has destroyed all of its chemical weapons, ranging back from the soviet era, 3 years ahead of schedule. This has clear significance in the fact that such weapons are banned as being indiscriminate and capable of much destruction, both to the environment and to living beings. Their use is considered a war crime and can be subject to massive international sanctions, so unless they are used as a last resort or dirty trick (which Russia can still do with its massive nuclear arsenal, should the need arise) their use is highly unlikely anyway. However, it is a good signal to the world that Russia is seeking peace, and should be involved in the Syrian civil war peace process, in which the Syrian government, who Russia has helped tremendously in the war, has been accused of using such weapons multiple times.


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