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Archive for avgust 2017

NATO’s Balkan Dream: ‘Gaining Access to Key Strategic Facilities’

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sputniknews.com

NATO’s Balkan Dream: ‘Gaining Access to Key Strategic Facilities’

Sputnik

3-4 minutes

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Written by Mika

20. avgusta 2017. at 12:00

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In Serbian Refugee Center, a ‘Little Picasso’ Dreams of Art and Asylum

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nytimes.com

In Serbian Refugee Center, a ‘Little Picasso’ Dreams of Art and Asylum

Matthew Brunwasser

7-9 minutes

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20. avgusta 2017. at 10:04

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The EU must show the Balkans they still have a chance of joining

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Charlemagne

The EU must show the Balkans they still have a chance of joining

Europe’s inner courtyard is drifting towards crime and authoritarianism

Jul 13th 2017

SQUINT, and you can just make it out. In a quiet suburb of Belgrade, a small European Union flag flutters from the seventh floor of a concrete tower block. Almost 20 years ago, during the dark days of Slobodan Milosevic, an engineer-turned-journalist called Zoran Cvijic hung the standard from his balcony to express his hope that Serbia might one day join the club whose values he so admired. Soon afterwards NATO jets pounded Belgrade to halt Serbian atrocities in Kosovo. Gordana, Cvijic’s wife, feared the flag would bring the family unwelcome attention, yet it stayed in place. Cvijic died in 2015, still optimistic that his country would eventually take its seat at the EU table.

In 2003 the Balkan countries were told that their future lay inside the EU. Yet these days the hopes of Serbia and five other aspirants—Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro—are as faded as the yellow stars on Cvijic’s flag. Weary of the endless rows that pass for politics in the Balkans, and burned by what looks like the premature accession of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, the Europeans have little appetite to expand their club further, especially as Brexit obliges them to manage its contraction. In 2014 Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said there would be no enlargement during his five-year term, a pointless gesture that weakened the hands of Balkan reformers. Today, just 43% of Serbs say they want to join the EU, down from 67% in 2009. Young people are notably hostile.

What has gone wrong? Accession would force the region’s corrupt elites to allow media freedom, strengthen the rule of law and liberalise their economies, thus diluting their powers of patronage. Few want to do any of these good things. And their countries lack the strong bureaucracies that could drive through change. Of the six, only Serbia and Montenegro have begun accession talks. Albania hopes to start soon, Macedonia is hamstrung by its dispute with Greece about its name, Bosnia is mired in inter-ethnic squabbling, and Kosovo is not even recognised by five EU members. “They don’t believe it any more when we lie to them about accession, and we don’t believe them when they lie to us that they will commit” to EU rules, says Vessela Tcherneva of the European Council on Foreign Relations, a think-tank.

In place of hope, there is insecurity and even a fear of returning to bloodshed. The past year has provided several jumpy moments, from a political crisis in Macedonia that, with help from provocateurs in the Russian media, threatened to spill into violence, to tensions between Serbia and Kosovo that terrified European diplomats at the start of the year. If the region has lately calmed down (partly owing to the efforts of American diplomats), Germany in particular fears fresh conflagrations. Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign-policy chief, has been furiously working the Balkan diplomatic treadmill.

That means dealing with leaders like Aleksandar Vucic, who has run Serbia since 2014, first as prime minister and now president. Mr Vucic, a minister under Mr Milosevic, today paints himself as a pro-EU reformer and a credible economic manager. European officials say they have no choice but to work with him. Angela Merkel met Mr Vucic a few weeks before the presidential election in April. This infuriates liberal Serbs, who say the Europeans are indulging an authoritarian who engages in anti-democratic practices. Civil-society groups talk of an increase in mafia crime, the crushing of independent institutions and campaigns of harassment in state-controlled tabloids.

Where Europeans once pinned their hopes for transforming this region of 20m people on the accession process, today they place their trust in trade and investment. The Balkans are blighted by low growth and sky-high youth unemployment, and citizens vote with their feet. One-fifth of Macedonia’s population lives abroad, and skilled Serbs are pouring into the EU. A summit in Trieste this week attended by the leaders of France, Germany and Italy sought to tackle these trends with plans for a regional common market and EU funds for infrastructure. As ever, lip-service was paid to the Balkans’ “European perspective”. But the EU’s appetite for bringing about political change has evaporated.

Don’t give up

The Balkan states are tiresome partners, beset by political bickering, crony economies and border quarrels over slivers of water or rocky mountain tops. But the EU should not give up on its dishevelled inner courtyard, if only because of the risks inaction poses. Parts of the Balkans are already established routes for human and drugs-trafficking into the EU, and weapons from the wars of the 1990s were used in the Paris terrorist attacks of 2015. Islamist extremism is popping up in parts of Bosnia and Kosovo. In this environment, the cynical games of local leaders, who often stoke crises in order to play peacemaker, could easily spin out of control.

Europeans often talk up the malign influence of external powers in the western Balkans. But the region’s economic, political and cultural ties to the rest of Europe put Russia, Turkey and the like in the shade. Most leaders know they have no destiny outside the EU. That calls for a two-track approach: leaning harder on governments that tolerate lawlessness or illiberalism, and renewing the commitment to enlargement. But all this requires suspending the scepticism that has become ingrained after years of disappointment. Perhaps, if she wins re-election in September, Mrs Merkel could spend a bit of diplomatic capital on the Balkans.

At Trieste there was much talk of the Balkans at a “crossroads”. In truth the region is on a never-ending roundabout of unfulfilled promises and bureaucratic wheel-spinning. Like most of her compatriots, Ms Cvijic is sceptical that Serbia will ever join the EU. She distrusts Mr Vucic’s government and decries the dishonesty of Europeans who provide it with succour. But she has vowed to keep the tatty flag flying from her apartment’s balcony. Her husband never gave up hope. Why should she?

This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the headline "Acceding expectations"

https://www.economist.com/news/europe/21725020-europes-inner-courtyard-drifting-towards-crime-and-authoritarianism-eu-must-show?zid=307&ah=5e80419d1bc9821ebe173f4f0f060a07

Written by Mika

19. avgusta 2017. at 10:12

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US State Department Warns About Pro-Ustasha and Anti-Serb Sentiments in Croatia

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total-croatia-news.com

US State Department Warns About Pro-Ustasha and Anti-Serb Sentiments in Croatia

Vedran Pavlic Share this:

4-5 minutes

Written by Mika

16. avgusta 2017. at 19:16

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Book Review: The Balkans in the Cold War

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blogs.lse.ac.uk

Book Review: The Balkans in the Cold War edited by Svetozar Rajak, Konstantina E. Botsiou, Eirini Karamouzi and Evanthis Hatzivassiliou

8-10 minutes

Written by Mika

10. avgusta 2017. at 13:04

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Ukraine Mulls Repetition of Croatia’s ‘Reintegration’ of Serb Krajina in Donbass

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sputniknews.com

Ukraine Mulls Repetition of Croatia’s ‘Reintegration’ of Serb Krajina in Donbass

Sputnik

4-5 minutes

Written by Mika

6. avgusta 2017. at 10:15

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