Comeback, Controversy and Comedy

Our selection of stories this week includes the case of an unlikely comeback, some difficult choices and controversies, seasoned with a pinch of comedy. 

Milos Damnjanovic
LDK supporters rally in October. Photo: LDK Facebook

Comeback Party?

The results of the local elections in Kosovo on October 22 saw a remarkable comeback by the LDK, contrary to most analysts expectations. Kosovo’s oldest political party had seemed in constant decline ever since the death of its long-time leader, Ibarhim Rugova, in 2006.

LDK officials are buoyant, arguing that this is the beginning of the party’s return to its rightful place on Kosovo’s political scene. While some analysts agree that this could well happen, others are far more cautious, even sceptical, arguing that the party has a long way to go in terms of internal reforms, before it can truly expect to lead in Kosovo again. The first signs of who is right will come with the second round of local elections, due on November  19.

Read more: Kosovo's Oldest Party Hails Local Election Comeback (November 8, 2017)

Central Chisinau, capital of Moldova. Photo: Babak Fakhamzadeh/Flikr


There are few analysts to be found who are particularly upbeat about Moldova’s future and prospects. The country is afflicted by a ‘frozen’ separatist conflict, while the geopolitical struggle between East and West over Moldova – as well as within Moldova - has become more intense than ever.

Yet perhaps the biggest problem facing the country are its own corrupt and incompetent political elites. Back in 2014, when the country signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU, Brussels thought it might be onto a positive story. Yet successive governments, while good at playing the ‘European card’ have squandered both EU support and support for the European idea inside Moldova.

Read more: EU Wises up to Moldova’s Geopolitical Games (November 9, 2017)

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan poses for a photograph at the Presidential Palace on Republic Day in Ankara on October 29. Photo: AP

Difficult Choice

Kosovo is in a tricky spot. A Turkish teacher at a school in the town of Prizren was arrested on a Turkish extradition warrant on October 27 – Turkey alleges that he is a Gulenist leader and was, among other things, gathering funds for the movement in Kosovo.

The man now awaits an extradition hearing. Yet many observers argue that the case is more political than legal. As they also note, Kosovo will, in the end, either upset Turkey by refusing to extradite its national, or its key partners in the EU, who have refused to act on similar extradition requests. Kosovo finds itself in a non-envious position.

Read more: Kosovo Faces Dilemma Over Turkish Extradition Demand (November 4, 2017)

Full moon is captured above Plaza Hotel in Tirana, Albania on 14 November 2016. The Government of Albania had proposed many tax cuts for luxury hotels and adding more taxes on small shops. Photo: Gent Shkullaku/LSA

Reform Controversy

Plans by Albania’s government to impose tax reforms are running into considerable – and growing – resistance. According to the government, the reforms would help to curb the informal and grey economy in Albania, something that would normally be a welcome thing. The key reform among them is a plan to significantly increase the number of small businesses which will be required to pay VAT.

Yet even in quarters which usually support such initiatives – such as the IMF – there is resistance to these proposals. Among other things, critics argue that it is impractical and that the huge increase in businesses included in the VAT system will overburden the tax administration, perhaps helping expand the grey economy. Other, more cynical voices are arguing that the aim of the reforms is to boost big business by squeezing small ones.

Read more: Resistance Grows in Albania to Rama’s Tax Reforms (November 8, 2017)

MediaSind Journalists' Trade Union president Cristi Godinac. Photo: George Calin/Inquam Photos

Turning up the Pressure

Romania seems to be no exception to the wider Balkan trend of curtailing media freedoms. Moves are afoot to give the Romanian Parliament greater control over the public news agency, Agerpres. In particular, proposals winding their way through Parliament would leave the agency’s management vulnerable to dismissal for political reasons.

Journalists’ unions have mobilized to oppose the move. They argue that increasing political pressure is undermining public trust in the media in general. However, it remains to be seen how much they will be able to do.

Read more: Romania Media ‘Must Defend its Independence’, Union Says (November 7, 2017)

24 Minutes with Zoran Kesic. Photo: Facebook/ 24 minuta sa Zoranom Kesicem

King of Comedy

On a lighter note, we bring our readers an interview with Zoran Kesic, Serbia’s uncrowned King of TV comedy, whose satirical show – 24 minutes – pokes fun at Serbia’s political life.

Kesic tells us that he finds Serbian politics to be an endless source of inspiration, which is good for his show, though not so good for him as a Serbian citizen. He talks about critics who make ridiculous accusation that he criticizes his country because he does not like it, as well as those who argue that his show has become an alibi for those denying the lack of media freedom, particularly in the electronic media realm.

Read more: The Show Always has to be Edgy (November 8, 2017)

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