The European Protests You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić listens to German chancellor Angela Merkel during a news conference in Berlin, March 15, 2017
Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić listens to German chancellor Angela Merkel during a news conference in Berlin, March 15, 2017 (Bundesregierung)

Large demonstrations have been taking place in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, every week since the end of November against the government of Aleksandar Vučić.

Vučić has been in power since 2014, first as prime minister and for the last two years as president. He leads the Serbian Progressive Party, which, despite its name, is right-wing. He started his career in the far-right Serbian Radical Party, which was founded by the convicted war criminal Vojislav Šešelj in 1991. Read more

Bush’s Ambivalent Yugoslavia Policy Shaped Transatlantic Relations for Decade

American president George H.W. Bush, Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, French president François Mitterand and German chancellor Helmut Kohl attend the G7 summit in Munich, July 6, 1992
American president George H.W. Bush, Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, French president François Mitterand and German chancellor Helmut Kohl attend the G7 summit in Munich, July 6, 1992 (Institut François Mitterand)

Reflections on George H.W. Bush’s legacy have generally emphasized his commitment to the transatlantic alliance and its benign consequences for Europe’s post-Cold War transition. Lost in the narrative is the former president’s ambivalence toward the restive movements on the outer edges the Soviet empire.

The result was a full-blown civil conflict in Yugoslavia that undermined America’s confidence in its European allies and fueled a unilateralist streak that would animate a decade of American-led interventions. Read more

EU Reluctant to Add Six Balkan States

EU and Balkan leaders pose for a group photo in Sofia, Bulgaria, May 17
EU and Balkan leaders pose for a group photo in Sofia, Bulgaria, May 17 (European Council)

EU leaders met with their counterparts from the six non-EU Balkan states today to discuss their possible accession to the bloc.

Central and Eastern European members are eager to include Albania and the former Yugoslav republics. Other countries are less sure:

  • Voters in France, Germany and the Netherlands are wary of EU expansion.
  • Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Spain and Slovakia have yet to recognize Kosovo’s independence from Serbia.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, who faces a separatist rebellion in Catalonia, even boycotted the summit. Read more

Merkel Praises Macedonia, EU Struggles to Influence Romania

German chancellor Angela Merkel receives Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev in Berlin, February 21
German chancellor Angela Merkel receives Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev in Berlin, February 21 (Bundesregierung)

German chancellor Angela Merkel has praised judicial reforms in Macedonia as well as steps to improve transparency and resolve the former Yugoslav republic’s name dispute with Greece.

“In the last ten years, the solution has not been as close as now and it would be wonderful if the remaining difficulties can be bridged,” she said during a news conference with her Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev.

It would, but the dispute with Greece is only one of the many obstacles to the Balkan nation’s EU accession.

The EU has nevertheless set a target date of 2025 for the remaining states of the Western Balkans to join, fearing that otherwise Russia might take advantage. Read more

EU Balkan Enlargement Is Hardly Too Slow. It May Be Too Fast

Johannes Hahn, the European commissioner for enlargement negotiations, gives a speech in the Montenegrin parliament in Podgorica, February 9
Johannes Hahn, the European commissioner for enlargement negotiations, gives a speech in the Montenegrin parliament in Podgorica, February 9 (European Commission)

Central and Eastern European countries want to speed up the EU accession of Western Balkans.

Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borisov warned this week, “If there’s no enlargement now, there’ll be no other time for enlargement… Otherwise what China, Russia, Turkey are planning for the region, they will start today.”

Hungarian foreign minister Péter Szijjártó agreed, calling the 2025 target date set by the European Commission for the accession of Montenegro and Serbia “very late”.

In fact, it is extremely ambitious, as an analysis by former Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt for the European Council on Foreign Relations makes clear. Read more

Macron Opens Door in Corsica, Rutte Pours Cold War in Sofia

French president Emmanuel Macron waits for the arrival of a guest outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, July 6, 2017
French president Emmanuel Macron waits for the arrival of a guest outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, July 6, 2017 (World Bank/Ibrahim Ajaja)

French president Emmanuel Macron has told Corsicans he will try to meet their demands for more autonomy while keeping the island in the “republican fold”.

Ainslie Noble has argued that will be difficult, though:

  1. The French Constitution seems to rule out equal status for the Corsican language.
  2. Barring foreigners from buying Corsican estates is impossible under EU law.
  3. Amnesty for violent separatists may be a bridge too far.

Nationalists won a majority of the seats in Corsica’s regional council in December. Given the island’s economic dependence on metropolitan France, a Catalonia-style rebellion is nevertheless unlikely. Read more

There Are Reason to Be Cautious About Breaking Up Bosnia

Map of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Map of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Pixabay/Stefano Ferrario)

Daniel Berman, who occasionally writes for the Atlantic Sentinel, poses an interesting question at his blog, The Restless Realist: Why not break up Bosnia?

The current situation seems untenable. Bosnia is divided in two: an autonomous Republika Srpska for the (mostly Orthodox Christian) ethnic Serbs and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the (Muslim) Bosniaks and (Catholic) Bosnian Croats.

The federation is itself divided into ten autonomous cantons, five of which are Bosniak-ruled, three Croat and two mixed. Read more