15 Dec 17 WEEKLY ROUNDUP FOR DECEMBER 8 - 15

Under Pressure

Across the region, rising pressure is visible, good and bad, from coercion against freedom of speech in Serbia and the media in Bulgaria to more constructive pressure to resolve old disputes between Greece and Macedonia. 

Milos Damnjanovic

Exhibition ‘Uncensored Lies’ included tweets in which Vucic and the Progressive Party had been criticized. Photo: Facebook/Serbian Progressive Party

The Twitter Threat

The scene of Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic bringing printed quotes from Twitter into a live TV studio and arguing with their contents becomes even more bizarre when one realizes that only Vucic and the host were in the program. What has led Serbia’s President to act in this way?

Having successfully brought most of Serbia’s mainstream media to heel, President Vucic increasingly seems to be turning his attention to Twitter, where comment and criticism remains uncensored. Unable to control the social media sphere, he is left with the option of denouncing his Twitter critics through the mainstream media. Yet the level of attention given to Twitter by the President is even stranger when one comes to the realization that only around 3.5% of Serbia’s citizens are even on Twitter.

Read more: Vucic Turns His Fire on Serbian Twitter Critics (December 11, 2017)


Photo: Pixabay

In Peril

Pressure on independent media and investigative journalists in the Balkans is nothing new. Yet the problem increasingly appears to be affecting even EU member states such as Bulgaria.

As our analysis reveals, an increasing number of attacks on, or threats to, independent journalists highlights well the perils faced by those working in the media. Another problem is the very opaque ownership structure of the Bulgarian media market.

Read more: Threats to Journalists Expose Bulgarian Media’s Growing Ills (December 8, 2017)


Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias [left] and his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Dimitrov [right]. Photo: BETA

Watershed

Hopes – and expectations – are rising that the ‘name dispute’ between Greece and Macedonia could be resolved next year, in what many see as a possible watershed year for relations between the two countries.

In his comment for Balkan Insight, David L. Phillips of Columbia University and director of the Dialogue Project in South East Europe examines the problems in relations between Greece and Macedonia, looks at recent efforts at confidence building and makes the case for the two countries to seize the moment in settling their differences.

Read more: Why Macedonians and Greeks Should Work Together (December 12, 2017) 


Luka Modric coming to Osijek county court to testify. Photo: Beta

Dark Clouds

Croatian football has had some notable successes in the country’s short history of independence. The Croatian national team made it to World Cup’s finals last month for the fourth time.

Yet for many fans, this, and other successes are overshadowed by the corruption and scandals that hang over the sport like a dark cloud, which our analysis explores in more detail. Many are beginning to lose hope that the problems can be rooted out.

Read more: Croatia's Corrupt Football World Thwarts Hope of Reform (December 13, 2017) 


 
 

Photo Caption: Independent Qualification Commission Head Genta Tafa, during a ceremony marking the opening of new offices where the three institutions will be based . LSA Photo

Transparency

Building stronger rule of law institutions is among the biggest challenges facing the countries of the Balkans, both in terms of improving the lives of ordinary citizens, improving the business environment and moving towards EU membership.

Albania is no exception in this sense. After several years of prolonged debate, three bodies established to reform the judicial system finally began work in November this year. Yet amid high public interest, a lack of transparency is threatening the work of these bodies.

Read more: Lack of Transparency Hampers Albania’s Judicial Vetting Reform (December 13, 2017) 


The road from Sarajevo to East Sarajevo. Photo: BIRN

Bridging Divides

There is no shortage of stories about ethnic and other divisions, ghosts of the past and burdens of history when it comes to news coming out of Bosnia. It is for this reason that positive stories of cooperation and bridging divides are all the more valuable.

One such story relates to the 2019 European Youth Olympics Festival, which is due to be co-hosted by Sarajevo and Eastern Sarajevo, the two parts of the once united Bosnian capital. Amidst the divide which complicates daily life in the city, the festival is a rare case of the city being brought together, reminding some of the glory days when Sarajevo hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics.

Read more: Youth Olympics Kindle Hopes of Unity for Sarajevo (December 14, 2017)

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