Setback for Montenegro’s Strongman

Milo Đukanović
Montenegrin president Milo Đukanović meets with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, June 9 (NATO)

The Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) has lost power in Montenegro after thirty years to an alliance of left- and right-wing parties, finally giving the Balkan country a chance at a free and more equal future.

Pro-Serbian opposition leader Zdravko Krivokapić announced, “The regime has fallen.”

Although DPS leader Milo Đukanović remains president until 2023, his party will be in opposition for the first time since the introduction of multiparty democracy in 1990.

It fell to 35 percent support in the election on Sunday, giving it thirty out of 81 seats in parliament. Krivokapić’s For the Future of Montenegro, Peace Is Our Nation and United Reform Action won a combined 51 percent and 41 seats. Read more “Setback for Montenegro’s Strongman”

Why Kosovo Is Lifting, But Will Likely Reinstate, Tariffs on Serbia

Edi Rama Albin Kurti
Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania receives his Kosovar counterpart, Albin Kurti, in Tirana, February 11 (Kancelarija Premijera)

Kosovo’s new prime minister, Albin Kurti, is partially lifting his predecessor’s 100 percent import tariff on Serbian goods. He has offered to lift the tariff completely if Serbia suspends its derecognition campaign. If it fails to reciprocate, the tariffs will be restored in June.

Since reciprocation would imply Serbian recognition of Kosovo’s independence, it seems inevitable the trade sanctions will be back soon. Read more “Why Kosovo Is Lifting, But Will Likely Reinstate, Tariffs on Serbia”

Balkans Propose Mini-Schengen

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Ministers Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, Boyko Borissov of Bulgaria and Zoran Zaev of North Macedonia deliver a news conference at the Western Balkans Summit in Poznań, July 5
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Ministers Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, Boyko Borissov of Bulgaria and Zoran Zaev of North Macedonia deliver a news conference at the Western Balkans Summit in Poznań, July 5 (Government of the Republic of Northern Macedonia)

Their EU accession blocked by France, Albania and North Macedonia are opting for a regional, if temporary, solution. Together with Serbia, the Balkan states are looking to create their own version of the EU’s passport-free Schengen Area.

  • Citizens of the three countries would no longer need a passport to cross the border, but only have to show an ID card.
  • Labor movement would be liberalized through the mutual recognition of diplomas and qualifications.
  • Students could go on exchange.
  • Capital flows would be smoothened.

The other non-EU countries in the region — Bosnia, Montenegro and Kosovo — have been given the green light to join. Read more “Balkans Propose Mini-Schengen”

EU Breaks Promise to Balkan States

German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron speak privately while entering a meeting with other European leaders in Brussels, March 22
German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron speak privately while entering a meeting with other European leaders in Brussels, March 22 (Bundesregierung)

Last week, French president Emmanuel Macron blocked the start of EU accession talks for Albania and North Macedonia, arguing that the Balkan states haven’t made enough progress to qualify and that the EU must reform internally before admitting new members.

His concerns were shared by the leaders of Denmark and the Netherlands.

They are not without merit. It would be naive to assume that decades of institutionalized corruption and crime, particularly in Albania, have been washed away over the course of a few years.

That said, progress has been made. North Macedonia’s name change is far from trivial. It represents a willingness to move on from the past. Albania has reformed its judicial system, encouraged by the prospect of membership.

If the French were so adamant about halting enlargement, they should never have made promises to Albania and North Macedonia in the first place.

Poland’s Andrzej Duda said it best: “Western Balkans states are taking part in a race that does not have a finishing line.” Read more “EU Breaks Promise to Balkan States”

Serbia Should Break with Russia

Vladimir Putin
Russian president Vladimir Putin attends negotiations in Minsk, Belarus, February 11, 2015 (Press Service of the President of Ukraine)

Russia and Serbia share a rich history of religious tradition and support. Russia has stood by what it considers its little brother for centuries and it continues to do so today. Just last week, Serbia received ten armored patrol vehicles from Russia. Thirty T-72B3 tanks are underway.

Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić has thanked Vladimir Putin for beefing up the Serbian military, but he should be wary of the implications. If Serbia wants to join the EU, it must avoid playing with fire. Read more “Serbia Should Break with Russia”

How Close Are Western Balkan States to Joining the EU?

European Council
The European Council meets in Brussels, November 25, 2018 (Bundesregierung)

Leaders of the six Western Balkan countries that remain outside the EU are meeting in Poland this week to discuss their possible accession to the bloc. Four — Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia — are candidates to become member states.

Last year, a similar summit was held where the existing member states expressed their concerns about corruption, weak governance and unfree markets in the region. What has changed since then? Read more “How Close Are Western Balkan States to Joining the EU?”

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 “The European Protests You’ve Probably Never Heard Of”

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 “Bush’s Ambivalent Yugoslavia Policy Shaped Transatlantic Relations for Decade”

EU Reluctant to Add Six Balkan States

Emmanuel Macron Alexis Tsipras Angela Merkel
French president Emmanuel Macron, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and German chancellor Angela Merkel speak at a NATO summit in Brussels, May 25, 2017 (NATO)

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 “EU Reluctant to Add Six Balkan States”