Eastern and Central Europe
Coverage regarding recent developments in Central and Eastern Europe. Our writers Grace Kuang, Natasha Williams, and Yun Da Tsai produce weekly. Our section editor is Daphne Schermer.
As the Bundeswehr continues to languish and Berlin prepares to join larger European defense initiatives, the issue of defense spending will undoubtedly continue to test the unity of the CDU-SPD coalition government.
The Russian Patriarch Kirill, the highest ranking Bishop in the Russian Orthodox Church, made the first official visit to Albania on April 28. The visit lasted three days and was a symbol of solidarity and respect.
Overstepping his Constitutional responsibilities, leading member of the dominant Romanian Social Democratic Party (SDP) and top Romanian politician, Liviu Dragnea, recently announced the Balkan nation’s intentions to transfer its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. In an effort to follow American steps, Dragnea has sparked deep internal discord with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis in recognizing Jerusalem as the capital.
After 11 days of street protests by anti-government demonstrators, Prime Minister of Armenia Serzh Sarksyan has announced his resignation. President of Armenia Armen Sarkysan (of no relation to the embattled prime minister) accepted the resignation on Apr. 23 while the governing coalition named Karen Karapetyan — First Deputy Prime Minister and a close ally of Serzh Sarkysan — the acting prime minister until a new candidate is elected by the Armenian parliament.
Serbia has banned Croatia’s Defense Minister, Damir Krsticevic, from entering the country in response to Croatia’s announcement last week that effectively barred Serbia’s Defense Minister, Aleksandar Vulin, from entering the country to attend a Serb-organized World War Two commemoration ceremony held in Croatia. This tit-for-tat move signals a new low-point in relations between the two former Yugoslav republics, who fought one another during the implosion of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
In January of 2017, Finland ventured into a largely unexplored welfare policy realm - universal basic income. Praised as cutting edge, this program was the first national government-supported experiment in universal basic income. The world has waited to see the results. However, on Monday, Finland’s government refused to extend or expand the program. The experiment will come to an end in January 2019.
After a striking hit to the global aluminum and metal markets, the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Control is considering loosening the sanctions it imposed earlier this April on Russian aluminum conglomerate Rusal, suggesting that easing of sanctions is attached to the stipulation that the company’s head, Oleg Deripaska, a Putin-entangled Russian oligarch, would cede control of the organization before it may be reintegrated into conducting complete business transactions with the U.S.
Prime Minister of Armenia Serzh Sarksyan announced his resignation after 11 days of street protests by anti-government demonstrators.
Armenia faces a deepening political crisis as demonstrators and opposition leaders take to the streets to protest the election of former President Serzh Sarksyan as Prime Minister of Armenia.
On Tuesday April 17, 2018, the European Commission proposed to open European Union membership talks with Albania and Macedonia.This comes after growing concerns about the influence of non-EU countries, primarily China and Russia, in the Western Balkans.
After an alleged chemical weapons strike on April 7th in the Syrian city of Douma, Russian forces will finally permit inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to visit the site of attack this week. After online claims and confusion surrounding possible fabrication and staging, the delay in admittance aroused international concern that this time lapse alludes to possible Russian tampering and interference with the scene of the incident.
The future of a new gas pipeline project linking Russia to Germany appears to be in jeopardy after Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, stated that the “Nord Stream 2 project is not possible without clarity on the future transit role of Ukraine” for natural gas shipped between Russia and Europe. Chancellor Merkel’s statement, delivered at a joint news conference with President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko on Apr. 10, 2018, is a reversal from her earlier position on the pipeline, which portrayed the project as “primarily a business venture driven by private investors.”
Following the April 8th Hungarian national election, incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Orban secured a surprising majority victory for himself in reclaiming his seat as the head of the government under the banner of his party Fidesz. Ringing in his third consecutive term, Orban posits himself as another steadfast figure in the sweeping trend of nationalistic populism overtaking many democracies across the North Atlantic region.
Kosovo’s government is in disarray after revelations of “secret and urgent” deportations of six Turkish nationals, unauthorized by the Prime Minister of Kosovo, led to the sacking of Kosovo’s Interior Minister and the head of the Kosovo Intelligence Agency.
On Tuesday, April 4, US President Donald Trump hosted a US-Baltic Presidential Summit. Latvia’s President Raimonds Vejonis, Estonia’s President Kersti Kaljulaid, and Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaite met with Trump to recognize 100 years of Baltic independence and discuss three major points: energy independence from Russia, economic cooperation, and defense spending. Their meeting was followed by a joint press conference.
In retaliation against the recent expulsion of Russian diplomats from numerous Western countries, the Kremlin has announced the closure of the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg and the expulsion of 60 U.S. diplomats from the country by April 5th. Following this statement, 59 diplomats from 23 other nations were also expelled from Russia in disavowal by the Kremlin of their collaborative action taken to remove Russian diplomats from their nations.
The Russian Federation has announced plans to test naval-launched missiles in the Republic of Latvia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Baltic Sea. The “sudden” announcement by Moscow on Mar. 29, 2018, has drawn protest from the highest levels of Latvia’s government, with President of Latvia Raimonds Vejonis calling the move likely to “worsen the security situation in the region.”
Poland signed a deal with the U.S. Wednesday to buy a Patriot anti-missile system for $4.75 billion.
Polls now indicate that 92% of Greeks believe Turkey is their largest threat. This comes after centuries of disagreements, a decade of rising tensions, and a year of disputes which have incited questions about the consequences of the hostilities.
Over tens of thousands of protestors reportedly marched in the streets of Moldova’s capital, Chişinău, on March 25th, 2018, in favor of the country’s reunification with Romania. Historically bound to Romania during the interwar period of the twentieth century, calls for political reunification highlight emerging separatist trends between Moldovan pro-Russian and pro-Western factions.
As the diplomatic fallout from a suspicious nerve gas poisoning, on British soil, of a UK spy who was a Russian national, continues to reverberate throughout Europe and beyond, the Czech Republic has announced its intent to expel a number of Russian diplomats.
Warsaw is developing a new plan by exploring options: to cut greenhouse gas emissions, to save money, and to save lives.
A sweeping victory was achieved by Russian President Vladimir Putin in his recent reelection this past Sunday, March 18th, 2018. The win does not come as a surprise to many who understand the corrupt and biased nature of Russian elections, and who more specifically understand the notorious role that President Putin has played in prescribing the path to his own success. Due to the orchestration of the Russian government, Putin continues to serve at its stern as the longest reigning Russian leader since the time of Joseph Stalin.
Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico has resigned amid a deepening crisis over the apparent murder of a journalist investigating links between the mafia and top officials of the government of Slovakia.
Angela Merkel has been re-elected Chancellor of Germany by the German parliament, ending months of uncertainty after indecisive Sept. 2017 federal election results and floundering coalition talks pointed to a fresh election to resolve the electoral deadlock.
To many Czechs, the appointment of Ondracek represents an affront to the freedoms they have come to value.
On Thursday, March 1st, Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled a strategic nuclear development plan for Russian defense in his Presidential Address. The Russian nuclear defense arsenal now extends to include four new weapons, claimed to be beyond the current U.S. capabilities of its nuclear defense arsenal. As an initiator of Russian nuclear build-up, President Putin cited the early United States’ withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 as a main catalyst for continued Russian nuclear efforts.
The Baltic state of Latvia has been rocked by a series of scandals plaguing its financial sector, ranging from bribery charges against the country’s top banking official to accusations of money laundering, numbering in the tens of billions of dollars, by a leading Latvian private bank.
In January, Bulgaria ramped up its campaign to adopt the Euro as its currency. The country is determined to submit a formal application to join the Eurozone in June. Since joining the European Union in 2007, Bulgaria is ready for this step-toward greater economic and fiscal convergence.
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