14 Jul 17 WEEKLY ROUNDUP JULY 7 - 13

Boom, Bust and Deadlock

A patchwork of premium articles from Balkan Insight reveals, among other things, that while the politics of the region are often deadlocked, some sectors of the economy are booming nonetheless. 

Milos Damnjanovic
Export figures published in April shows a growth in Serbia's export of IT services of 21 per cent, placing the sector near or above traditional agricultural exports for 2016. Photo: Flickr/Ignite New Zealand

Booming

Serbia’s IT sector is one of the fastest growing parts of the country’s economy. Data published by the National Bank of Serbia shows that the country’s exports of IT services grew by 21% in 2016. In parallel to this, Serbia is seeing both unprecedented interest in IT courses by prospective students and ever increasing demand for workers in the sector.

While the sector remains one of the most dynamic parts of the economy and developing start-ups has become a mainstream topic in the country, problems remain, not least an educational system in need of being updated and the need to cultivate an entrepreneurial environment and spirit among those in the sector.

Read more: Serbia Seeks to Boost Digital Start-Ups (July 7, 2017)


Vukota Govedarica. Photo: Serbian Democratic Party

Party Strife

The leadership of the main opposition Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) in Bosnia’s Republika Srpska entity seems to be caught between a rock and a hard place. A ‘constructive’, moderate and pro-EU faction is trying to pull the party in a more modern direction. Yet there is a real risk of the party losing its identity, particularly as much of its rank and file remains nationalist in outlook.

However, much more hangs on the internal reshuffles and reordering going on in the party than the fate of the SDS itself. Without a strong and coherent SDS, the RS opposition has little chance of making a credible bid at securing power. We look in more detail at the problems afflicting the party and its prospects for resolving them.

Read more: Main Bosnian Serb Opposition Party Faces Uncertain Future (July 7, 2017)


 
 Ramush Haradinaj, left, candidate for prime minister joined by Kadri Veseli, coalition partner, claiming victory in general elections, reacts to the crowd gathered to celebrate in Kosovo capital Pristina on June 12. Photo: Visar Kryeziu/AP

Deadlocked

One month on from Kosovo’s inconclusive Parliamentary elections, there is little additional clarity as to who will form the next government in Pristina. Albanian voters divided their votes almost equally between three rival political camps, none of which seem keen on working with each other.

Most commentators agree that PAN, the coalition led by the Democratic Party of Kosovo with 39 seats in the 120 seat Assembly, is the most likely to lead the next government. Yet even with the 20 minority MPs in the Parliament, it is still short of a majority. In this constellation, the formerly ruling LDK could play a decisive role in determining who forms the next government, assuming it does not decide to go into opposition. We look at the different dilemmas and scenarios facing Kosovo’s main political parties.

Read more: Elections Fail to Cure Kosovo’s Political Maladies (July 11, 2017)


Ivo Josipovic. Photo: courtesy of Ivo Josipovic

Reflections

Croatia’s former President, Ivo Josipovic, still has many interesting things to say about Croatia, its politics and the direction in which his country is heading, which he does in an interview to BIRN with all the candidness of a (more or less) retired politician.

In his interview, Josipovic reflects on Croatia’s current foreign policy – particularly its failings – but also warns that the country should not get too close to ‘ultra-conservative and not particularly democratic countries’ in Europe. He also reflects on his country’s past – both the distant and more recent – and how it affects politics and society in the present. Finally, he also looks back at his time in power, the presidential election he lost and the state of the political left in Croatia. Amidst all this, he also hints that he may not be quite done with politics.

Read more: Ivo Josipovic: Croatia Going in Wrong Direction (July 10, 2017)


Serbian Patriarch Irinej visted Kosovo on June 28. Photo: Beta/Armenija Zajmi Besevic.

Of Church and State

The Serbian Orthodox Church has moved from being on the margins of society during the Communist era to being an influential societal actor in modern Serbia. In parallel to this, the question of what role the Church should have in society has also become one of the most hotly debated issues in Serbia, not least for those who are not accustomed to it having any role.

In our analysis, we look at all the complexity of this relationship and how different commentators understand it. The inevitable conclusion appears to be that there is a union of interests between politicians keen to be seen to have the approval of church elders and the Church which is keen to preserve its privileges, accorded to it by those same politicians which court it.

Read more: Serbia's Church and Politicians Maintain Convenient 'Marriage' (July 11, 2017)


Volunteers from across Romania have been documenting illegal logging and alerting both environmental organizations and the authorities; Greenpeace says 42 percent of cases in 2016 have been reported by citizens. Photo: salvezpadurea.ro

Perilous Logging

Away from the high politics that traditionally dominates news from the region, we bring a story about the serious problem that illegal logging is creating in Romania. Not only are the country’s forests shrinking at an alarming rate, the illegal logging also leaves Romanian villages exposed to devastating landslides and flooding.

Tackling the problem is not easy, particularly because politics and illegal logging are often intertwined, with politicians – both at the local and national level – often deliberately turning a blind eye to the problem. We look at the scale of the problem and the damage that it is doing.

Read more: Romania’s Vanishing Forests Leave Villages in Peril (July 10, 2017)

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