News from the Balkans is never short on the unexpected. Why are Chinese police patrolling Serbian streets, a Romanian president seeking Trump’s endorsement, or the Serbian opposition planning to boycott upcoming elections in its bid for power? Read on!
China has been deepening its footprint in Serbia for years, primarily through infrastructure loans and construction projects, all packaged as part of the Belt and Road Initiative. There have also been some major investments, such as the Smederevo Steel Plant, or in the Bor mining complex.
Now, the two countries are expanding cooperation into the security sector. A small number of Chinese police officers will engage in joint patrols with their Serbian colleagues. The news is somewhat bizarre, but probably harmless enough. More worrying to some observers are the less visible ways in which this security cooperation is expanding – Serbia will be importing Chinese face recognition technology for the security sector, while joint military exercises are also being mooted. Has Belgrade thought through what the Trump administration, much courted by Belgrade, might have to say about this?
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis went on an official visit to the US this Tuesday, where he was received by President Donald Trump. Key topics of the meeting were defence and security related issues, as well as energy regulations which had upset US investors in the recent past.
Yet the visit was about more than just the usual collection of bilateral issues. Iohannis is running for re-election in November, and the visit was clearly a pilgrimage of sorts to show that he, rather than his rivals, was the anointed choice of the US. In many other European countries, Trump’s support would perhaps be more damaging than helpful, but in pro-American Romania, it counts.
The Serbian opposition parties seem more and more set on boycotting the next Parliamentary elections, due in the spring of 2020. But what can an electoral boycott achieve?
Not a lot, going by recent Serbian political history. In the 1990s, the Serbian opposition experimented with boycott and protests in an effort to unseat Milosevic. All of this led to one conclusion – if they were going to beat Milosevic, it had to be done at the ballot box. As our comment piece this week notes, this fundamental lesson still seems to hold true. Surprising, then, that some of the veterans of 1990s opposition politics seem not to have taken this lesson on board.
Kosovo is going to yet another early election this autumn, although its exact timing remains unknown still. This small detail, however, is not stopping Kosovo’s political parties from forming election coalitions.
Indeed, some very unlikely alliances are being formed, bringing together parties and politicians that had, until recently, been bitter rivals. The AAK of Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj has struck a deal with the PSD, a recent breakaway from Vetevendosje (Selfdetermination). Meanwhile, the LDK and Vetevendosje are mooting a coalition of their own. Only the PDK, a veteran of successive Kosovo governments, seems to be out in the cold.
Man Behind the Name
Many political analysts and observers of Moldova, particularly on the pro-European spectrum, are worried about the increasing dominance of pro-Russian President Igor Dodon and his appointees, particularly in the realm of security.
Among the latest appointments is that of Victor Gaiciuc, a Moscow-educated former air force general, to the post of presidential adviser on national defence and security and secretary of Moldova’s Supreme Security Council. We look at the man behind the name and his rise to prominence.
It may seem paradoxical at first sight, but while tourists flock to Balkan coasts for their summer holidays, particularly in Croatia and Montenegro, many from the Balkans are going further easy, to Turkey, in search of their holiday destinations.
Though this might seem surprising at first sight, on closer scrutiny it is not that surprising at all. Successive political and security crises have dented Turkey’s image and appeal, but for Balkan holiday makers, the depreciating lira and resulting cheaper holiday prices make a compelling argument.