End Roaming Charges in EU Candidate Countries: Bring People Closer

As of yesterday, 15 June 2017, roaming charges in the European Union no longer apply. The President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani, the Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat (on behalf of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union), and the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker issued a triumphant joint statement, saying that the European Union is about bringing people together and making their lives easier

The theme of bringing people...

‘Berlin Plus’ will not change the game

On 31 May 2017 the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sigmar Gabriel, announced a “Berlin plus” agenda at a conference of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Western Balkans organised by the Aspen Institute in Berlin. The conference took place against the background of a number of political developments in the Western Balkan countries which seem to threaten the carefully crafted stability paradigm in the region. Political conflict was rife both inside and outside the political institutions. Following a visit to the region by the US Under-Secretary of State Brian Hoyt Yee and the...

What is a stabilitocracy?

In our latest BiEPAG policy brief, we use the term stabilitocracy to describe the semi-authoritarian regimes in the Western Balkans. We draw this term from Srdja Pavlović, who introduced this term in an LSE Blog on Montenegro in late 2016 to describe a regime where undemocratic practices persist and the "West has... turned a blind eye to this while simultaneously preaching the virtues of democracy and the rule of law."...

The Attack on MPs in Macedonia is Direct Attack on Democracy

On 27 April, 2017, after the parliamentary majority elected a speaker in Macedonia, the parliament was stormed by a mob.  Some were wearing ski masks. Members of parliament who had voted to elect the new speaker were attacked. The attackers injured several MPs: Zoran Zaev (SDSM), Radmila Sekerinska (SDSM), Zijadin Sela (Alliance for Albanians), Oliver Spasovski (SDSM), Damjan Manchevski (SDSM), and many others. Zoran Zaev, the president of SDSM, was badly injured, but appears to be all right; it seems that Zijadin Sela sustained the worst injuries. When the mob stormed parliament,...

Macedonia at the Crossroads – Is Peaceful Transfer of Power Possible in Authoritarianism?

On March 1, President Ivanov denied Mr. Zoran Zaev, the leader of the Social Democratic Union, the right to form a government, despite evidence that he had secured a majority in the Macedonian Parliament. In explaining his decision during a televised address to the public, Ivanov listed formal and ‘substantive’ reasons for not granting the government mandate to Zaev. Most importantly, he claimed that he could not entrust the mandate to a person or a political party “who advocate or have in their political program a platform for...

The Romanian protests: democratic progress or a ride on a rocking-horse?

Throughout February, the Romanian people received international accolades for vigorously flexing their civic muscle against the government’s attempt to roll back hard-won achievements in the fight against corruption. While other member states in the European Union (EU) are grappling with the threat of illiberal disorder, the decisiveness with which hundreds of thousands of Romanians took to the streets in defence of their country’s anti-graft effort seemed to light a beacon of hope for democratic resilience. But are the Romanian protests really the bearer of good tidings for democracy, or...

Poverty in the Balkans

Poverty is a very sensitive and challenging issue in many countries. In the post-war Balkans context, poverty is also a major problem for security and relations between communities. In this note, I briefly discuss the concept of poverty and overview poverty conditions in the region, underlining their complexity, some implications, and the role of international aid in the fight against poverty.

DEFINING POVERTY

Poverty is a rather complex phenomenon combining...

Stefanović Case Will Test Serbian Judiciary’s Real Independence

After several sites on the Belgrade riverbank in the Savamala district were illegally demolished on April 25 in a well-coordinated action by a group of masked men in order to pave the way for the controversial Belgrade Waterfront project, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić gave in to public pressure and promised that the state would investigate the incident, no matter how unpleasant the consequences might be for the ruling elite.

However, eight months after the incident, the only court action related to the case is not against the direct or indirect perpetrators of...

The elections in Macedonia brought political balance, but will they bring stability or restore democracy?

The early parliamentary elections, held on 11 December, had a very high turnout. In total, 1,191,521 voters (66.82% of the electorate) cast their ballot. In some electoral units the turnout was over 70%; however, it was lower in electoral unit six, where ethnic Albanians constitute a majority. There were a high number of invalid ballots (37,821). These were the most unpredictable elections Macedonia has had since its independence. The electoral competition was very close: pre-election polls showed that the VMRO-DPMNE, the incumbent party, led by two to four percent. SDSM, the opposition...

Macedonia: escape from the abyss or sinking even deeper?

The “most important” elections

On the 11th of December, the citizens of Macedonia will vote in yet another early election. Early elections have become the norm since 2006, when the last regular parliamentary elections were held. Many political and public personalities have described the current election cycle as Macedonia’s “most important” elections since its independence.  This election owes its importance to a two-year-long political crisis resulting from the revelation of a wire-tapping scandal by the main opposition party, SDSM. The scandalous content of the...

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