Much of the world’s attention is fixed on the refugee crisis emanating from the warzones in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. It’s a simple enough narrative for journalists: fleeing the bombs and bullets of the Islamic State or the Taliban, refugees swarm peaceful Europe, hoping for humanitarian salvation.
But that narrative overlooks a key failure of European migration policy. This wave of migration is hardly new. On the continent itself are states that have long propelled their citizens to jump the borders for greener pastures in Western Europe.
Three of Germany’s top five asylum-seeking countries of origin are not in the wartorn Middle East but rather the overlooked Balkans: Albania, Kosovo and Serbia. Macedonia, another Balkan state, ranks seventh.
Bulgaria’s likely next prime minister said on Wednesday the country will push ahead with a Russian gas pipeline only if it complies with European Union laws, signaling a more defiant posture than the outgoing Socialists.
The conservative Boyko Borisov, who was prime minister between 2009 and 2013, also told the Reuters news agency he would scrap a tender awarded to a consortium led by the Russian construction company Stroytransgaz for the Bulgarian leg of the South Stream pipeline. The firm’s owner is on a list of Western sanctions targets imposed after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March.
Bulgaria is suspending work on a Russian pipeline that is supposed to connect its gasfields with a hub in Austria, the Balkan country’s prime minister, Plamen Oresharski, announced on Sunday.
“We have received a request from the European Commission, after which I ordered to suspend the works. Further actions will be clear after additional consultations with Brussels,” he said after a meeting with American legislators.
Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimea last month could have repercussions for its plans to lay a pipeline on the bottom of the Black Sea. Britain’s The Telegraph newspaper reports that the European Commission has warned Bulgaria not to intervene if it decides to block the project.
Bulgarian foreign minister Kristian Vigenin earlier insisted there was no long-term threat to the construction of the South Stream pipeline. But in Brussels, Günther Oettinger, the European energy commissioner, said talks with Russia about the project were on hold. Read more “Crimea Annexation Could Kill South Stream Pipeline”
Southeastern European countries that were once joined in Yugoslavia battle similar economic and security challenges yet prospects for enhanced cooperation in both areas seem dim.
Many of the West Balkan republics are coping with economic stagnation and high organized crime rates, the roots of which can often be traced to the political top, frustrating efforts to curb them. Regional cooperation to strengthen economies ties as well as the fight against organized crime promises improvement but chances of a true security community emerging are slim. Read more “Prospects for Increased Balkan Security Cooperation Dim”
Montenegro reelected incumbent president Filip Vujanović last week by less than 8,000 votes, the Balkan nation’s electoral committee announced on Monday. Both the ruling socialist party’s candidate and his conservative challenger Miodrag Lekić had claimed victory.
Vujanović has held the presidency since Montenegro seceded from Serbia in 2006. The post is largely ceremonial. Real power is held by the prime minister, Milo Đukanović, also a Social Democrat.
Whereas Lekić campaigned against corruption and the political status quo, accusing the ruling party of monopolizing power and comparing his opponent’s premature victory claim to a “coup d’état,” the incumbent promised a “European” Montenegro by intensifying negotiations for accession to the European Union which began last year. Montenegro is considered next in line to join the bloc.