02 Feb 17 WEEKLY ROUNDUP FOR JANUARY 27 – FEBRUARY 2

Twists and Turns, Good and Bad

From Macedonia’s ever-evolving political crisis, via Bosnia’s ethno-political machinations, to the battle against corruption in Romania, this week’s collection of articles from Balkan Insight once again highlights the unpredictability of twists and turns, good and bad, in political life. 

Milos Damnjanovic
DUI leadership. Archive photo MIA

From Crisis to Crisis

Macedonia’s drawn-out political crisis moved into a new phase last weekend. On January 29th, the deadline for the PM-designate, Nikola Gruevski, to form a new government lapsed – President Ivanov must now hand the mandate to try to form Macedonia’s next government to someone else.

Our analysis suggests that the talks collapsed because DUI, the main ethnic Albanian party which had previously been in coalition with Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE, was too bitterly divided over the idea of re-entering government with the VMRO-DPMNE. This leaves open the question of what will happen next? President Ivanov has suggested that he will give the mandate to form the government to whoever appears capable of assembling a majority. But who this might be is extremely unclear and all options still appear to be on the table. DUI could agree to form a government with the opposition SDSM, or with VMRO-DPMNE as long as Gruevski is not the PM. Or, the country could go to yet another parliamentary election in an attempt to break the deadlock.

Read more: DUI Split Stopped Macedonia’s Gruevski Forming Govt (Jan. 31, 2017)


Guoli Tian, chairman of the Bank of China shakes hands with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic. Photo: Beta

Bank of China

The Bank of China, one of the five largest banks in the world, opened a branch in Belgrade on January 21st. Given the modest size and strategic importance of the Serbian market to China, the move raised some eyebrows.

We look at China’s recent investments in Serbia, as well as its political and diplomatic engagement with Serbia. Our conclusion is that the move should be understood within the context of China’s wider strategy of expanding into the Balkans and Eastern Europe, all within the context of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative.

Read more: China Sees Belgrade Bank as Route into Europe (Jan. 27, 2017)


 

Online Safe Haven

Authorities across the Balkans have made progress in tackling jihadist groups and recruiters within their territories, as well as stemming the flow of young men travelling to the Middle East to become ISIS fighters. Since 2014, an estimated 200 people have been put on trial across the Balkans, suspected of being part of terrorist groups fighting in the Middle East or recruiting for them.

Yet the online world is one where such groups still remain relatively safe in the Balkans and which the authorities are failing to monitor. Indeed, even some extremists convicted by the courts and serving prison sentences still appear to be able to post online. We look in greater detail at the online world of Islamic extremism in the Balkans, what is being done to tackle it and what problems the authorities face in doing so. 

Read more: Balkan Jihadi Warriors Remain Safe on the Net (Feb. 2, 2017)


Dragan Covic, leader of the main Bosnian Croat party, the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ [left] and Milorad Dodik, the President of Republika Srpska. Photo: Anadolu

Unnerving Alliance

Increasing cooperation between Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik and his Bosnian Croat counterpart Dragan Covic is making many, particularly in the Bosniak camp, very nervous.

The alliance between the two men and their parties is being driven by mutual interests, as our analysis explains, which are largely directed towards reordering – and unravelling – the post-Dayton Bosnian state. Both men are also driven by a very strong desire to retain power. But how far can they go and how strong is their alliance? We dig beneath the surface to explain the underlying web of deals and interests.

Read more: Bosnian Croat-Serb Alliance Makes Bosniaks Nervous (Jan. 31, 2017) 


Romania's House of Parliament in Bucharest. Photo: Wikimedia

A Bad Twist

The twists and turns of Romania’s efforts to battle top level corruption took a bad turn over the last couple of weeks, as the new Romanian government attempted to pass two decrees which would decriminalize certain corruption-related offences and allow some of those already convicted of abuse of office to be pardoned.

These attempts have provoked the largest protests since the fall of Communism in Romania, pouring oil onto the fires of ordinary Romanians angered by numerous cases of top level corruption. The government’s attempts to pass the decrees in question will clearly not pass smoothly. We look at what is at stake and how this battle of wills could play out.

Read more: Politicians Act to Curb Anti-Graft Drive in Romania (Jan. 27, 2017)

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