Spy scandals and affairs are a staple of Balkan politics, whether domestic or regional, as several of our chosen stories from the region this week illustrate. 

Milos Damnjanovic
 Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev met delegation of the Serbian oppostion Democratic Party led by its president Dragan Sutanovac on August 31 in Skopje. Photo: DS.

Spy Games

Relations between Macedonia and Serbia are slowly returning to a normal, if markedly cool, state following the abrupt withdrawal of Serbia’s diplomatic staff from the neighbouring country in late August.

The whole episode has left most observers bemused as to what was behind the allegations of spying, seasoned with a dash of foreign power involvement. Was someone in Macedonia really spying on Serbia’s diplomats? Was it all about Macedonia’s support for Kosovo’s supposed UNESCO membership bid? Why have relations between Belgrade and Skopje soured so much? In his comment for Balkan Insight this week, Milan Misic analyses these questions and tries to solve this riddle of what is going on in the Balkan’s Casablanca.

Read more: Macedonia Has Become the Casablanca of the Balkans (September 5, 2017)

Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo Anadolu Agency Kayhan Ozer

League of Authoritarians

Relations between the EU and Turkey, in particular Germany and Turkey, are deteriorating, particularly with the approach of parliamentary elections in Germany, where Turkey has, inevitably, become a topic.

In this situation, we look at what the impact of this deteriorating relationship could be on the Balkans. While some experts argue that the countries of the Balkans have no alternative to the EU, others warn that, while this may be true, Turkey at the very least has the power to act as spoiler in the EU’s efforts to stabilise and reform the Balkans. Some even warn of the risk of the emergence of a ‘League of Authoritarians’, committed to maintaining power through less than democratic means.

Read more: German-Turkish Feud Threatens EU Role in Balkans (September 5, 2017)


Staying Power

The government formation soap opera seems to be coming to an end in Kosovo. This week, Behgjet Pacolli and his New Alliance announced that they had ditched their coalition partner, the LDK, for a coalition with the PDK-led PAN coalition.

The development clears the way for a government led by the PAN coalition of parties which grew out of the KLA to form a new government in Kosovo, with Ramush Haradinaj at the helm as Prime Minister. Yet with a majority of only a few MPs, of which a significant proportion come from Kosovo’s Serb and other minorities, there are serious questions over the new government’s durability or, indeed, its ability to make any difficult decisions.

Read more: Staying Power of Kosovo’s New Government Doubted (September 6, 2017)

Moldova's Parliament is expected to vote this fall on a bill that bans Russian propaganda in Moldova. Photo: Glutorm Flatabo/Flikr.

Media Wars

Aside from cold relations between Russia and the West, one of the lasting legacies of the conflict in Ukraine seems to be the on-going information war in which Russia and the West are pitted, along with numerous countries on whose media turf this ‘war’ is being played out.

This week, we look at Moldova, which is feeling the squeeze in Russia’s information war. Its media are weak and politically engaged, leaving them particularly vulnerable to Russian influence. We look in more detail at how Moldova is struggling to protect its media in an ever more divided region.

Read more: Moldova Feels Squeezed in Russia’s Information War (September 7, 2017)

 Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic(left) and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Photo: Beta.


Coincidentally or not, this week Bosnia saw official visits by both the Croatian Prime Minister and Serbian President. Yet the visits come amidst heightened political tensions within the country.

Political conflicts are escalating both between parties within certain ethnic blocks, particularly those representing Bosniaks and Bosnian Serbs, but also across the ethno-political divide. Faced with such a quagmire, the two leaders must strike a delicate balance between maintaining good-neighbourly relations but also catering to the needs – and expectations – of their ethnic kin.

Read more: Bosnia’s Political Turmoil Creates Dilemmas for Its Neighbours (September 6, 2017)

Moldova only prosecuted two high-profile corruption cases in the past two years, despite scores of investitagions and arrests. Photo: Damian Gadal/Flikr


Across much of the Balkans, newspapers are frequently full of stories regarding corruption affairs. However, while arrests and investigations may be relatively numerous, actual successful prosecutions are few and far between.

Much the same holds true in Moldova, ranked as one of Europe’s most corrupt countries. Corruption investigations and stories may be numerous, but few senior figures ever seem to get prosecuted, let alone punished. We examine in more detail.

Read more: Moldova Big Fish Avoid Corruption Trials, Report (September 4, 2017)

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