02 Nov 17 Weekly Roundup for October 27-November 2

Maintaining Control

With current events in Spain showing how quickly a situation can slip out of control, internal and external political players in the Balkans have been working to keep their own issues in the region in check, knowing full well that, like Spain, the Balkans still has its own ghosts it hasn’t fully put to bed. 

Emma Krstic

Presidential Palace of Suriname. Photo: Wikimedia/Ian Mackenzie

Risky backtracking

The oddest story of the week actually comes from well outside the Balkans. The small South American nation of Suriname apparently decided to revoke its recognition of Kosovo on Monday. Whether this is even possible is explored in our comment piece by James Ker-Lindsay, but as he explains, the greater question is not whether it can happen, but whether it will mark the start of a wider trend.

Did Suriname just start a new phase of the Kosovo recognition battle? With Catalonia’s declaration of independence happening just days before, Suriname’s decision comes at a pivotal moment in the debate on secession and shows that even after declaring sovereignty, Kosovo’s status remains a diplomatic struggle.

Read more: Suriname Triggers New Phase in Kosovo Recognition Battle [November 1, 2017]

Activists march waving Catalan and Spanish flags during a mass rally against Catalonia's declaration of independence, in Barcelona on October 29. Photo: Emilio Morenatti/AP

Separatist threats

Kosovo isn’t the only country in the Balkans for which Spain’s secessionist troubles have raised debate. Across the region, five other provinces are calling for autonomy. Casting the net wider, another seven regions across the continent also have independence movements, some of which have a history of violent struggle. But what are the chances of their success? In his analysis, Marcus Tanner considers the threat each poses to established states and the EU.

Read more: Restive Provinces Replace Communism as ‘Spectre Haunting Europe’ [October 31, 2017]

Hoyt Brian Yee, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, responsible for US relations with the countries of Central Europe and South Central Europe speaks during a meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Belgrade. Photo: Darko Vojinovic/AP

Time to choose

Serbia’s continued fence-sitting between the EU and Russia caused top US diplomat Hoyt Brian Yee to snap last week, when he delivered a harsh message to Belgrade that it cannot “sit on two chairs at the same time” – a statement that Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin claimed was “the greatest pressure against Serbia yet.”

While Serbia is formally advancing towards the EU, its Russian ties have long irked its Western friends, and now the US wants Belgrade to choose a side. Knowing the unrest in Catalonia could have geopolitical implications across the continent, is the US official also stepping in to help out the EU while its focus is elsewhere? Milan Misic explores the possibilities for Yee’s assertion in his comment piece.

Read more: Why is the US probing Serbian loyalties? [October 27, 2017]

Protest organised to mark the one-year anniversary of the Savamala demolitions of April 25, 2017. It is still unknown whether the initiative will be able to present a candidate for the Belgrade mayoral election. Photo: Facebook/Ne Davimo Beograd

Clasping power

Aside from clever manoeuvring with external players, Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vucic, is also considering how best to play the local elections - which need to take place in 2018 - to secure the all-important post of Mayor of Belgrade for his party.

If the rumours are true, his plan could entail another general election for Serbia. Analysts are surmising that Vucic may choose to hold the two polls in tandem in the spring to capitalise on his personal popularity when it comes to general elections in an effort to secure more gains in the local vote.

Vucic has been using this tactic of calling early elections since he assumed power in 2012 as an effective way to advance his position. However, if he loses in the capital this time, it could spell the steady decline of his regime. Now all the opposition has to do is put up an attractive candidate. What are their options? Filip Rudic explores them in his latest analysis.

Read more: Vucic’s Fears for Belgrade ‘Pushing Serbia into Elections’ [November 2, 2017]

Edi Rama, Albanian Prime Minister. Photo: Malton Dibra/LSA

Internal issues

While outside influence is the focus of discussion in Serbia, Albania is looking internally. This week, inquisitive journalists asking about the parliament’s controversial decision to support the immunity of former interior minister Saimir Tahiri, who is wanted over alleged links to drug trafficking, were met with a barrage of verbal abuse from the country’s Prime Minister, Edi Rama, who claimed the media were “part of the bigger problem” facing the Albania in general.

As journalist Gjergj Erebara writes in his comment piece, reporters in Albania are used to insults, but this latest top-level onslaught was enough to inspire keyboard warriors to bring their abuse into the real world, launching tirades on journalists on the streets.

While is raises serious questions about press freedom in the country, the Prime Minister is clearly trying to divert the public’s attention away from the real issue, Erebara writes.

Read more: Media Abuse Becomes Strategy of Choice in Albanian Politics [October 27, 2017]

Disputed waters in the Piran Gulf. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/AnonMoos

Legal Nightmare

Meanwhile, Croatia is dealing with an entirely different series of problems. Lawsuits. Cases against the country are mounting up in relation to border disputes, construction projects and important companies – and they don’t come cheap.

It has already lost two, but according to the state attorney’s office, Croatia has ten arbitration procedures pending or potentially opening before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes totalling around 1.4 billion euros.

Read more: International Lawsuits Pile Up Against Croatia [October 31, 2017]

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