by Madalin Necsutu

“What must be done for Russian forces to leave Transnistria” by Madalin Necsutu was originally published on Balkan Insight

subjectio.org

As Moldova and Russia spar again over Moscow’s military presence in the breakaway region of Transnistria, BIRN looks at what it would take to end this decades-long dispute.

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Moldova, Transnistria (Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic), Bender: A man lifts weights during a contest in the fortress of Bender as Transnistria celebrates the day of the Russian flag. © Pierre Crom

Relations between Moldova’s new elected pro-European president, Maia Sandu, and Russia started off on the wrong foot when Sandu immediately vowed to ensure Russia finally withdraws its troops from the Transnistria region that broke away from Moldova with Russian support in the early-1990s.

“I am sure we will find a format for resolving the [Transnistrian] conflict, and this should include the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova. I have always said that, and we will say it in the future,” Sandu told Evropeyskaya Pravda in an interview. …


by Aidan Hehir

(This article was originally published on Prishtina Insight, republished on Subjectio with the permission of Prishtina Insight)

Events in Washington DC on Wednesday night saw many commentators reaching for cliches about Kosovo and the Balkans, perpetuating stereotypes that are inaccurate, unfair and fundamentally colonial.

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Kosovo, Mitrovica: Kosovo Albanians drink coffee in Mitrovica. © Pierre Crom

As observers scrambled to contrive ever more creative ways to express their amazement at images of mobs storming the Capitol building in Washington DC, many expressed their outrage by arguing that these were scenes usually reserved for “banana republics”, or “the 3rd world.” In particular, some reached for a now familiar trope — this was like something you’d see in the Balkans!

This sentiment was most succinctly expressed by Balkans correspondent for The Economist [and Chairman of the BIRN Network board] Tim Judah who tweeted: “USA has gone full Balkans now.” Exactly what “full Balkans” meant required no further elaboration, and the analogy struck a chord with many for whom “the Balkans” is simply a byword for chaos. …


By Daniel Serwer

subjectio.org

A retired Foreign Service Officer and veteran of the Balkan crisis offers a clear-eyed assessment of Bosnia and Herzegovina a quarter-century after Dayton.

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Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpska: Srebrenica covered in fresh snow. © Pierre Crom

Twenty-five years ago, the United States brought forth on the European continent a new state dedicated to the proposition that citizens are not equal as individuals but rather endowed with group rights. Those three groups (Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats), denominated as “constituent peoples,” are entitled to block numerical majority decisions. We have tested whether that state — Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) — or any state so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

The answer is now clear: It can endure, but it cannot function effectively to enable its citizens to prosper and enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. B&H is trapped in a scheme of governance that permanently empowers those who appeal to group ethnic identity and disempowers those who try to appeal across ethnic lines to people as individuals or groups that include more than one ethnicity. …


By Dr. Radosveta Vassileva

neweasterneurope.eu | subjectio.org

Bulgaria’s decision to block North Macedonian accession talks with the EU is being portrayed as a result of how the two neighbours view their history and language. A Friendship Treaty between the two is being used to raise tensions rather than alleviate them.

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An official commemoration at the Grave of Goce Delchev, a disputed hero between Bulgaria and North Macedonia. © Pierre Crom

Bulgaria recently opposed the start of accession talks with North Macedonia because of a dispute over language, history and heritage. Boyko Borissov’s government blames North Macedonia for not complying with the Friendship Treaty signed in 2017 which was supposed to promote cooperation and alleviate disagreements. …


By Nikola Burazer

subjectio.org

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Serbia, Belgrade, October 2020: A Serbian nationalist wearing a t-shirt depicting Russian president Vladimir Putin during a rally aimed at disturbing the festival promoting Kosovo Albanian culture Miredita, Dobar Dan!
© Pierre Crom

Russia can be considered Serbia’s long-term international ally, especially with regard to the sensitive case of Kosovo. A year-long media research looking for pro-Russian territorial narratives and their effects on local political discourses — in Serbia, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Ukraine — has revealed, however, that Serbian domestic media plays the most important part in the dissemination of the Kremlin’s messages. Russian leverage over Serbia and its politics is rather cemented by a significant pan-Slavic electorate and diplomatic ties than direct influence by the Kremlin’s media.

It is a dominant discourse among Western experts that Russia is meddling in domestic political arenas, influencing elections and promoting anti-liberal, anti-EU or anti-Western narratives. Within this discourse, Kremlin-controlled or Kremlin-influenced media are an important source of these narratives and a threat to liberal democracy and Euro-Atlantic orientation of the countries in which they operate. At first glance, Serbia is a perfect example of this logic, as dominant media narratives are indeed pro-Russian and anti-Western, often bordering blatant propaganda. …


By Dionis Cenuşa

Subjectio.org @subjectio2020

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Belarus, Minsk: Theater students follow a course with Russian teachers at the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts. © Pierre Crom

“The diversity of realities in Eastern Europe requires from the EU a “differentiated diplomacy” which emerges from the dynamics of local and external factors, dominant in the region …”

The European strategy for the Eastern Neighborhood is losing ground to the ever-changing reality. The ability of the European institutions to forecast rapid change, many of which are imminent and therefore predictable, is questionable. In some cases, the EU has shown a lack of preparation for scenarios that follow the disappearing of the initial status quo, as shows the situation in Belarus and around Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Predicting and anticipating the steps of political actors in the Eastern Neighborhood is a weakness for the EU, which has to be yet addressed. Several causes may underlie this deficit of observation and anticipation. …


By Dionis Cenuşa

Subjectio.org @subjectio2020

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Calfa, Moldova: Polling staff wait to register voters at a polling station. © Pierre Crom

General introduction[1]

On November 1, 2020, Moldova will hold its 4th direct presidential elections since the country’s independence in August 1991. The date of the elections was set by Parliament on May 21, shortly after the country had emerged from a 2-month COVID-19-related state of emergency. It is worth mentioning that these direct presidential elections are a result of the 2016 Constitutional Court Ruling[2] that cancelled the president’s appointment by Parliament, bringing back the pre-2000 procedure of direct voting by citizens. The electoral period started on August 25, when the Central Electoral Committee (CEC) published the list of 48 political parties eligible to put forward candidates. At the beginning of the electoral campaign in early October, the CEC registered 8 candidates in the following order: 1) Renato Usatîi; 2) Andrei Năstase; 3) Tudor Deliu; 4) Igor Dodon; 5) Violeta Ivanov; 6) Maia Sandu; 7) Octavian Țîcu; 8) Dorin Chirtoacă. …


by Teuta Kukleci

subjectio.org

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Kosovo, Pristina: Teenagers walk past the Newborn monument. © Pierre Crom

On September 4, Kosovo and Serbia signed a deal on ‘Economic Normalization’ in the White House. Not unlike Trump’s other foreign policy endeavors, the deal was ridiculed by pundits. It also received political backlash from the international community. The EU, which has facilitated the dialog between Belgrade and Pristina for the past nine years, was quick to warn the parties against parts of the deal. …


By Dionis Cenuşa

Subjectio.org @subjectio2020

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Belarus, Minsk: Underground party in an abandoned factory. Photo © Pierre Crom

“Given that the political crisis is already geopolitical, the Belarusian opposition must capitalize on geopolitical factors in its favor, just as Lukashenko does…”

The regularity of the peaceful protests engages the Belarusian population in a synergy of democratizing the “social contract” with the state. The aggressive pressures continuously applied by the authorities — sequestrations, arrests, criminal investigations, political cases — produce the opposite effect of intimidating and stopping the democratic revolution, respectively (IPN, August 28, 2020). In addition to the perpetuation of the protests, they spread across new age categories, due to the involvement of youth and overall younger social strata — students and pupils. Attempts by the protest movement, led by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya — who embodies the essence of the newly emerging citizenry attitude among the protesters — to negotiate with the authorities continue to fail. Using the prohibitive legislation in force, Aleksandr Lukashenko’s regime criminalized the work of the Coordinating Council. The latter is accused of mulling a coup, though the Council has given itself no other mission than to establish a political dialogue with the government. The aggressiveness and total lack of compassion of the Belarusian authorities deepen dissident thinking within Belarusian society. The critique of the authorities’ brutality crossed the walls of universities and the church. Earlier, the anti-government criticism has mobilized the strikes of public sector workers.

The manifestations of the democratic revolution in Belarus show no severe signs of fatigue, entering the second month of protests. Thus, the deepening of the political crisis seems imminent and lasting. Broad political legitimacy at home is impossible because of the falsified presidential elections, which have also blocked Western external recognition. Alexander Lukashenko is still able to govern state institutions and even the public sector, but not the outraged population. De facto, the pyramid of authoritarian government, at the top of which Lukashenko stands, co-exists in a confrontational relationship with the civic sector, which through protests challenges the regime’s authority.

While the regime exploits external relations to improve its positions, the protest movement is undetermined about the permissiveness of the involvement of external actors. Opposition leaders accept external involvement, but strictly for “showing solidarity” with the Belarusian population. Even after a month of protests (August 10 — September 7, 2020), Belarusian opposition leaders reject the idea of ​​individual sanctions and even more so economic ones. Regardless of the permission of Belarusian political actors, the geopolitical powers have tailored, depending on their interests, their involvement in resolving the political crisis in Belarus. As a result of the integrationist framework of the Russian-Belarusian relationship and Lukashenko’s isolation internally and externally, Moscow was allowed to intervene on Belarusian soil, if the need arises. A more silent diplomatic support comes from China, which regularly shows solidarity with other authoritarian regimes. Lukashenko’s resistance to Western pressure also corresponds to China’s ongoing effort to stifle EU-US criticism of interference in domestic affairs over Hong Kong’s anti-democratic crackdowns. In the case of the EU, there is no other manner left than trying to influence the behavior of the authorities and the protest movement in Belarus. On the one hand, the Europeans warn of the developing system of sanctions and, on the other hand, they provide financial assistance to the independent media and civil society, which are anti-governmental players. …


By Vesko Garcevic

subjectio.org

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Montenegro, Podgorica: Serbian nationalists and worshippers of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) march from mountain villages to Podgorica. © Pierre Crom

In a tight and bitterly contested parliamentary election, described by many as historic for Montenegro, the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists lost the majority in the Parliament, for the first time in the last 30 years.

Election day witnessed a high turnout with more 76% of the country’s citizens casting a vote, the highest since the referendum on independence in 2006.

Given its rhetoric, iconography, symbols, flags, and public discourse for those of us who remember former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic’s “Serbian awakening”, it is not difficult to draw a parallel between this “happening of the people” or the “meetings of the truth” with an event 30 years ago that changed the history of Yugoslavia and plunged it into a decade of conflict. …

About

Subjectio

Subjectio is an experimental online storytelling project by digital designer David Veneman and multimedia journalist Pierre Crom www.subjectio.org

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