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”

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”

Germany Concerned as Russia’s Balkan Influence Grows

Vladimir Putin Angela Merkel
Russian president Vladimir Putin and German chancellor Angela Merkel attend a conference in Moscow, November 16, 2012 (Bundesregierung)

Germany fears Russia intends to block further European Union expansion into the Balkans, according to a confidential Foreign Ministry analysis seen by weekly Der Spiegel.

The magazine reports that German diplomats worry Russia is levering its influence in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Serbia with an eye toward preventing both countries from fully joining the West. Read more “Germany Concerned as Russia’s Balkan Influence Grows”

Prospects for Increased Balkan Security Cooperation Dim

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”

Milošević Loyalists Form Pro-Russian Coalition in Serbia

Once the fiery spokesman for Serbian president Slobodan Milošević during the breakup of Yugoslavia, Socialist Party leader Ivica Dačić is set to become the Balkan nation’s next prime minister.

After the election of former deputy prime minister Tomislav Nikolić to the presidency last month, Serbia would have two Milošević loyalists heading a government of nationalists and Socialists — the very coalition that supported Milošević in the 1990s. Read more “Milošević Loyalists Form Pro-Russian Coalition in Serbia”

Serbia’s Nikolić Sees “Uncertain” Path to Joining Europe

During his first foreign trip as president, Tomislav Nikolić told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Saturday that Serbia is on a “long and uncertain” path to joining the European Union and will not surrender its claim to breakaway province Kosovo for the sake of membership.

The nationalist Nikolić was elected earlier this month in a runoff election against liberal leader Boris Tadić. Tadić could yet become prime minister because his pro-European Democratic Party did win a parliamentary majority.

On the campaign trail, Nikolić proclaimed himself in favor of membership. “The European Union is our goal,” he said. “We want the EU if the EU wants us.” Members of his populist Serbian Progressive Party were loyal to President Slobodan Milošević during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s however, sparking fears in the West that he will take the country in a more pro-Russian direction.

Although recognition of Kosovo, which has a majority ethnic Albanian population, as an independent state is not a condition for Serbian membership, Brussels does urge Belgrade to “normalize relations” with its former southern province. Serbia considers the region the cradle of Serb civilization. Even Tadić ruled out ever giving it up.

Russia as well as five European Union members do not recognize Kosovo as a sovereign country. Most European states, Turkey and the United States do.

Kosovo tried to assert independence in the late 1990s which prompted the Milošević government in Belgrade to send in military forces to suppress the uprising. NATO responded by bombing the Serbs which compelled them to withdraw their troops and accept a ten year period of United Nations administration in the territory.

Russia criticized NATO’s bombing campaign of Serbia in 1999 and shares an ethnic and religious heritage with the country. “We see Serbia as our spiritual brothers,” is how Putin put it on Saturday.