Comment 19 May 17

The Fates of Balkan and Western Democracy are Inseparable

An assault on democratic norms in the Balkans should be treated with the same urgency as such a crisis would precipitate within the core of the EU.

Jasmin Mujanovic
Serbian capital of Belgrade. Photo: Simone Brunozzi/Flickr

The crisis of democratic governance in the Balkans is obvious. But the overt turn towards authoritarianism in countries like Macedonia and Serbia is being accelerated by the still more significant crisis of democratic norms and constitutional government in the West. These two dynamics are intrinsically linked – as is any hope of resolving them.   

Take the recent assault on the Macedonian parliament by VRMO-DPMNE-backed insurgents and US President Donald Trump’s sudden dismissal of FBI director James Comey. Both events share an uncanny similarity. In each case, powerful elites - Trump and the VMRO-DPMNE leadership, respectively – are obstructing the rule of law and sabotaging constitutional norms.

Then there is the news that Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s Foreign Minister, is determined to bring about the collapse of Austria’s coalition government in order to advance his own career. The result of Kurz’s scheming, however, may be the long-brewing triumph of the far-right FPO. No one should be surprised that the man who stumped for Gruevski’s authoritarian team in Macedonia would have a reckless disregard for Austria’s own democratic stability.

Indeed, the far right is now a credible electoral force across the West. Emmanuel Macron’s decisive win in the French presidential election aside, National Front leader Marine Le Pen doubled her father’s performance from 2002. And even where the far right appears a marginal electoral factor, as in the UK, it still manages to shape the public discourse in a reactionary fashion.

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