17 Feb 17 WEEKLY ROUNDUP FOR FEBRUARY 10-17

A Family Feud

As the power struggle between Aleksandar Vucic and Tomislav Nikolic which blew up this week spectacularly reminds us just how unpredictable politics can be even when it might seem otherwise, we look at this and many other issues which have left their mark on our region this week. 

Aleksandar Vucic and Tomislav Nikolic at the 5th anniversary of the Progressive Party I Photo: Facebook/SNS

Suspense

In the era of the Serbian Progressive Party’s rule, Serbian politics has been anything but short of high drama and theatrics. Yet this week broke all records.

Months of speculation regarding whether Vucic would run for the Serbian presidency, or whether he would support Nikolic, as well as whether Nikolic would roll over and accept this, came to a head as Vucic announced that he was running as the SNS candidate for the Presidency. Then, at the 11th hour, came an unconfirmed announcement that Nikolic would also run against his ‘political son’. Confusion reigned supreme all around, with rumours and counter-rumours proliferating. The suspense continues. Will Nikolic indeed run and will the SNS split?

Read more: Serbian Ruling Party Faces Vucic-Nikolic Showdown (February 17, 2017)


Hungarian fence on the border with Serbia. Photo by: Beta

Warzone Without War

It may look like a warzone, but there is no war. Instead, the tall barbed wire fences and armed guards on the Serbian-Hungarian border are part of what has helped close what is known as the Balkan migrant route.

Except that it is not entirely closed. What used to be a flood of migrants has been reduced to a trickle, but the obstacles erected along the route have made the life of those still managing to get through a misery. On top of everything, as our article explains, it has helped to create a migrant smuggling industry.

Read more: Hungary’s Harsh Laws Make Migrant Journeys an Ordeal (February 10, 2017)


Stolac. Photo: Igor Spaic

Tense Rerun

The residents of the small town of Stolac in southern Bosnia will be holding their breath this weekend, while the rest of the country looks on. October’s country-wide local elections are being repeated on February 19, following violent clashes between the towns Croats and Bosniaks in October, which led to their annulment.

Back in October, the violence briefly put Stolac in the focus of Bosnian, regional and even international attention, which has since all but evaporated. Yet the town’s tensions and divisions have certainly not gone away – if anything, our reporter finds that they have sharpened. While they may be ethnically divided, the towns Croats, Bosniaks and few remaining Serbs are united by one thing – poor living standards, lack of jobs and emigration that is gradually emptying the town out.

Read more: Bosnia’s Divided Stolac Braces for Disputed Poll Rerun (February 14, 2017)


Nexhemdin Spahiu, Photo courtesy of Nexhemdin Spahiu.

Bridges That Divide

For all the talk of normalizing relations between Serbia and Kosovo, in the town of Mitrovica life feels anything but normal most of the time. Including the town’s main bridge, which for more than a decade and a half had been a symbol of division rather than of unity between the towns two banks.

The division has deeply affected everyday life in Mitrovica. More ominously, as our interview with Nexhmedin Spahiu shows, even those who were once optimistic about prospects of reuniting the town are seeing their last hopes evaporate.

Read more: Mitrovica Bridge Still Dividing Instead of Uniting Kosovo (February 13, 2017)


Doctor Trpimir Goluza, decided not perform abortions due to conscientious objection. Photo: Croatian Chamber of Medicine

Dilemmas of Conscience

Abortion is a controversial topic across much of the world and Croatia is no exception. The country’s laws give doctors the right to refuse to carry out abortions on grounds of conscience – a recent survey found that in the capital Zagreb around two-thirds of doctors had exercised this right, while in the coastal town of Split the figure stood at 95%.

The issue of whether doctors should have the right to refuse medical procedures on grounds of conscience divides both medical professionals and the public at large. Meanwhile, the Croatian Constitutional Court is due to rule on a legal challenge to the right to abortion filed back in distant 1991 by a conservative Croatian NGO. We look at the debate surrounding these issues in Croatia.

Read more: Doctors’ Refusal to Perform Abortions Divides Croatia (February 14, 2017)


Rudina Hajdari. Photo: PD.

Political ‘Repat’

While a steady stream of young people leaves the Balkans and even more dream of doing so for the sake of a better and more predictable life in the West, a small number of ‘repats’ are returning for a variety of reasons.

One interesting example is Rudina Hajdari, the daughter of Azem Hajdari, who led student movements which helped overthrow the Communist regime in 1990 in Albania. Later on, he cofounded the Democratic Party and was assassinated under strange circumstances in 1998. Rudina Hajdari left the country two years later for the US, but has decided to return and give something back to her country. We bring her story.

Read more: Albanian Anti-Communist Leader’s Daughter Enters Politics (February 16, 2017)

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