Aska Global News - Balkan Insight

Balkan Insight

Protesters, Peacekeepers, Injured as Violence Erupts in North Kosovo

Dozens of protesters and NATO peacekeepers were injured on Monday in northern Kosovo as local Serbs protested against the installment of a Kosovo Albanian mayor.

Bulgaria Opposition Receives Mandate as Coalition Talks Stall

The 'We Continue the Change' party has received a mandate to form a government – as a leaked recording undermines its negotiations with a key ally.

Journalists’ Vehicles Attacked in Serb-Dominated North Kosovo

The vehicles of BIRN and other Kosovo media were vandalised on Monday in mainly Serb northern Kosovo, where locals are engaged in a tense standoff with the police over recent disputed elections.

Bosnia Arrests Serb Ex-Soldier for Wartime Rape of Prisoners

Borislav Gligorevic, a former Territorial Defence fighter and Bosnian Serb Army soldier who is suspected of raping two Bosniak women prisoners in Liplje in 1992, was arrested at a border crossing with Serbia.

Poland’s President Signs into Law New Political Commission to Investigate Russian Influence

Donald Tusk, the former prime minister and leader of the opposition for the autumn general election, is thought to be a main target of the new law.

Albania PM Accused of Plotting ‘Takeover’ of Illustrious Academy

Reported plan to place Albania’s Academy of Albanological Studies under the control of the Academy of Science – which is led by a pro-government politician – has drawn angry protests.

Kosovo Serbs Continue Protests Against New Mayors in North

Kosovo Serbs in the mainly Serb north protested against their newly elected mayors on Monday, as the EU and US called on Kosovo's authorities not to use force to secure disputed municipal premises.

Moldova To Create ‘Anti-Propaganda Centre’ to Counter Russian Disinformation

President says new 'informational defence centre' will address Kremlin propaganda aimed at sowing divisions in society and 'weakening trust in our state'.

Erdogan Election Victory in Turkey Celebrated Across Balkans

Ethnic Turkish and Muslim communities all over the Balkans have greeted Erdogan’s victory in Turkey's presidential elections with euphoria, reflecting his high profile in the region.

The ‘Big Brother’ Factor: How Reality TV Winner Aided Albanian Socialists’ Election Victory

The winner of the popular reality show gave ruling Socialist politicians vital visibility just ahead of the country’s local elections.

Slovak Court’s Verdict in Kuciak Case Leaves ‘Bitter Taste’

Zsuzsová was found guilty of masterminding the journalist's murder, but the judges could not find any direct evidence linking Kočner, a subject of Kuciak’s stories, to the crime.

Ex-Minister’s Complaint Lifts Lid on North Macedonia Prison Discrimination

It took a high-profile prisoner’s public complaint to lift the lid on the discrimination suffered by female inmates in North Macedonia.

Erdogan Declares Victory in Turkey’s Presidential Run-Off

Despite a deepening economic crisis and concerns about his authoritarianism, President Erdogan has secured another five-year mandate to rule Turkey, leaving the opposition in despair.

Live Blog: Turkish Presidential Run-off 2023

Stay tuned for all the latest developments, results and reactions as Turkish voters head to the polls to elect the country’s president in its first-ever presidential run-off between incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

Slain Kosovo Serb Politician’s Widow Testifies in Murder Trial

Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic's widow testified that her husband, who led an opposition party, didn’t express any concerns to her about his safety before he was gunned down in 2018.

US Blames Kosovo for Violence in North as Disputed Mayors Enter Offices

As Serbs in northern Kosovo clashed with police escorting disputed new mayors into their municipal offices, the US laid the blame squarely at the feet of the Kosovo authorities.

Ukrainian Mothers at War: ‘Safeguarding Normality While the World Collapses’

As Poles prepared to celebrate Mother’s Day, BIRN spoke to three Ukrainian mothers about how the extreme experience of war impacts motherhood.

Hungary Announces Millions More in Grants for Bosnia’s Republika Srpska

The 17 million euros of new grants to the Serb-dominated entity is part of the 35-million-euro package announced last summer.

Raids Across Western Balkans, Europe, Crack ‘Violent’ Drug-Trafficking Gang

Europol says 37 members of an international cocaine cartel were arrested as a result of a coordinated international operation on May 24, taking down a Bosnian national as a ring leader.

Kurdish Politicians Renew Support for Kilicdaroglu in Turkish Run-off

Jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP, have declared support for Kilicdaroglu – despite his nationalist turn ahead of Sunday’s presidential run-off.

Serbian Church Protests Banned Event at Contested Church in Kosovo

Serbian Orthodox Church says Kosovo's police have no legal basis for banning a planned service at an unfinished church in Pristina – whose legal status is hotly disputed.

Romania’s PM Postpones Rotation Until Teachers’ Strike is Solved

Planned rotation of power within the governing coalition has been put on hold until a strike in the education sector is solved.

This Week in Central Europe | 26 May 2023

In this week’s podcast, the TWiCE team talks to Miroslava Sirotnikova, BIRN's former Slovak correspondent, about the fallout from the acquittal, for a second time, of businessman Marian Kocner in the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée.

Democracy Digest: Slovakia Processes Shock Acquittal Again of Kocner in Kuciak Murder

Elsewhere, the European Parliament threatens to take away Hungary’s EU presidency next year; Poland moves to set up controversial commission to investigate Russian lobbying; and Czech TV finally to get a bit more money.

Archive Documents Reveal Dissent Did Exist in Communist Albania

Reports written by Albanian academics who were allowed to travel abroad and official documents detailing students’ nonconformist tendencies show that some citizens were critical of the country’s authoritarian communist-era regime.

Turks Get Ready to Decide on Renewing Erdogan’s Mandate

Turkish voters are gearing up for the country’s first-ever presidential run-off on Sunday, with the incumbent, Erdogan, seemingly on course for victory and another five years in office.

Bosnians Commemorate Tuzla Massacre, Demanding Justice for Victims

Hundreds gathered in Tuzla to commemorate 71 young people who were killed in an artillery strike that hit the city while they were celebrating the ‘Youth Day’ public holiday on May 25, 1995.

Jailed Ex-Golden Dawn Member Announces Greek Election Candidacy

Jailed former Golden Dawn member Ilias Kasidiaris – whose far-right party was excluded from the May 21 elections – says he intends to run in the June 25 elections as an independent candidate.

Moldova’s Pro-Russians Protest Against Rebranding of Victory Day

Move by parliament to scrap day celebrating the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in 1945 sparks protests among pro-Russians in Moldova.

Serbia’s Jovan Ginic Wins Cannes Rising Star Award

Ginic received this year's best young actor award – the first Cannes prize for a Serbian film in years – for his role as a teenage demonstrator against the autocratic Milosevic regime.

Kosovo Ruling Party Criticised for Electing Supporter to Media Regulator Board

Kosovo's ruling Vetevendosje party has been accused of trying to ‘recapture’ the Independent Media Commission after its MPs elected a known supporter to serve on the board.

Albanian TV Election Coverage Unfairly Favoured Big Parties, Monitoring Shows

Data from media monitoring shows that during the recent local election campaign, TV networks gave little airtime to smaller parties and so violated the legal requirements on balanced reporting.

Experts, Opposition in Serbia Alarmed by Leaked Hungarian Energy ‘Offer’

A leaked proposal by Hungary’s MVM Group that would see Serbia cede much of its hydropower resources has been seized on by the Serbian opposition and energy experts as another damaging consequence of the close ties between the countries’ leaders.

Croatia’s Catholic Church Goes Public on Child Abuse Cases

As Church goes public on clerical child abuse cases for the first time, Ombudsperson expresses concern about the protection of children and prosecution of alleged perpetrators.

Albania Agrees to Host 200 Albanian Prisoners From UK

Albania says it has agreed to take back 200 prisoners from the UK, which will cover the entire cost of their remaining sentences in Albanian jails.

Greece Heads Towards Second General Election

As no political party has assumed the task of forming a government, the Greek President will ask the courts to appoint a temporary cabinet to preside over another round of elections.

Why Is Hungary Inundating Europe with Freed People Smugglers?

Hungary is releasing hundreds of convicted people smugglers on condition they leave the country within 72 hours. Neighbouring countries are furious over an issue seen as another attempt to blackmail the EU over the freezing of billions in funds.

Turkish Anti-Migrant Party Supports Kilicdaroglu in Presidential Run-off

The ultra-nationalist anti-migrant Victory Party has declared it will support Kemal Kilicdaroglu in the presidential run-off on May 28, after the latter shifted his campaign to focus on attacking migrants and refugees.

Bulgarian Writer Georgi Gospodinov Wins International Booker Prize

Prestigious award for 'Time Shelter', hailed as striking 'a complex balance between the intimate and the universal', is seen as giving a major boost to the global visibility of Bulgaria's literary scene.

Germany’s Unique Opportunity to Locate Kosovo War Mass Graves

Former Serbian police chief Vlastimir Djordjevic is serving a sentence in a German jail for helping cover up the wartime mass killings of Kosovo Albanians. Can the authorities convince him to reveal where the remaining bodies are buried?

Ukraine’s EU Integration Shows Where There’s a Will There’s a Way, Say Experts

As a rushed reaction to the war, the EU began integrating Ukraine in several important aspects, but will this approach translate to the Western Balkans?

Kosovo Ex-Guerrilla Leaders’ Trial Hears Allegations of Assault

The latest witness in the Hague war crimes trial of former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and three co-defendants claimed he suffered physical and psychological consequences after an assault by Kosovo Liberation Army fighters.

Romania Discriminates Against Same-Sex Couples: Strasbourg Court

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Romania is breaching the rights of same-sex couples by refusing to legally recognise their relationships.

Pro-Russian’s Governorship Win in Moldova’s Gagauzia Upheld

A local court confirmed that Evghenia Gutul, a pro-Russian candidate from a party headed by a fugitive oligarch, won the election to become the new governor of Moldova’s southern region of Gagauzia.

Accomplices to Crime? North Macedonia’s Domestic Violence Victims Feel Betrayed by Institutions

Reports of cases of domestic violence increase year on year – but too many women victims are left alone in their struggle, with a system that fails to protect them.

War Highlights Urgency of Strengthening Europe’s Own Democracies, Experts Say

The war in Ukraine – regarded by some as a war of values, a confrontation between democracy and authoritarianism – has put into sharp focus the need for Western democracies to find remedies to their own internal crises.

Bosnia Data Contradicts Croatian Claim about Migrant, Refugee ‘Readmissions’

Croatia says that a big jump in migrants and refugees being returned to Bosnia is thanks to Sarajevo finally implementing a bilateral ‘readmissions’ deal. Data from Bosnia suggests otherwise.

Witness at Thaci Trial ‘Found Body of Victim of Kosovo Guerrillas’

A witness at the trial of former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and three co-defendants told the court in The Hague that he found the body of a man who was killed after being seized by masked men with Kosovo Liberation Army insignia.

Turkish Nationalist Presidential Candidate Ogan Backs Erdogan in Run-off

The ultra-nationalist candidate, Sinan Ogan – who won 5.17 per cent of the votes in the first round of Turkey's presidential election – has declared for Erdogan in Sunday's run-off.

Bulgaria’s Long Stalemate Ends as Opposing Leaders Agree Cabinet

In a dramatic twist, the opposing alliances of GERB/United Democratic Forces and 'We Continue the Change' plus Democratic Bulgaria have agreed to form a government with rotating prime ministers.

Pro-Russia Protesters Vandalise European Commission HQ in Bulgaria

Government officials and pro-EU politicians and intellectuals have condemned the vandalism of Sofia's 'Europe House' at a 'peace march' organised by far-right and far-left pro-Russian parties.

Balkan Countries Host ‘Immediate Response’ NATO Exercise

Several Balkan countries, joined by US forces in Europe, are taking part in this year’s 'Immediate Response 23' military exercise, which is designed in part to showcase NATO's ability to resist Russian aggression.

Greek Left Licks its Wounds After Conservative Election Victory

After the main opposition SYRIZA party won only 20.07 per cent of the votes on Sunday, its leader has called for radical changes ahead of the second round, likely due on June 25.

Romanian Teachers Start Strike for Higher Pay

Most Romanian teachers went on strike on Monday, demanding higher wages and a clear timeline about when pay rises will be implemented.

Goran Sadikarijo: Dressing up as Hitler Shouldn’t be ‘Funny’ in North Macedonia

The Director of the Holocaust Fund in North Macedonia says the horrors of the Nazi genocide are in danger of being forgotten by younger generations.

Slovakia’s New Technocratic PM And ‘Cabinet of Experts’ Face Off Against Populists

Ľudovít Ódor, a renowned economist at the helm of a newly appointed interim technocratic government, has been labelled ‘Soros’s man’ by the opposition Smer party, but he intends to be his own man for the next five months.

New Democracy Claims Victory in First Round of Greek Elections

Greek conservatives claim election triumph in first round of Sunday's legislative elections, after winning over 40 per cent of the votes cast.

Live Blog: Greek Parliamentary Elections 2023

Stay tuned for all the latest developments, results, and reactions as Greek voters head to the polls to elect the Prime Minister and parliament members. Predictions cast that these elections will not show the winner but will crash-test candidates’ power.

Slovak Oligarch Kocner Acquitted for Second Time in Kuciak Murder

The special corruption court ruled that it had not been proven Kocner committed the crime, though his assistant Zsuzsova was found guilty of organising the reporter’s murder, as well as planning hits on two prosecutors.

This Week in Central Europe | 19 May 2023

In this week’s podcast, the TWiCE team talks to Edit Inotai, BIRN's Budapest correspondent, about the unsuccessful fact-finding visit by the European Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee, which left Hungary still concerned about the government's anti-corruption efforts.

Serb Ex-Policeman Charged with Wartime Rape of Kosovo Man

A Serbian former police force reservist has been indicted for the wartime rape of a Kosovo Albanian man – the latest in a series of Serbian war crime suspects that Kosovo prosecutors want to be tried in absentia.

Croatian Journalists Reject HRT’s ‘No Censorship’ Claims

Croatian journalists have disputed claims made by Croatia's Culture and Media Minister and the Director General of Croatian Radio and Television, HRT, denying the existence of censorship at the broadcaster.

Contested North Mitrovica Mayor Inaugurated Amid Serb Boycott

The new mayor of North Mitrovica, from Kosovo's ruling Vetevendosje party, assumed office on Friday in a tense atmosphere following a Kosovo Serb boycott of the April local elections.

US Senate: Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue Remains Key Issue in Western Balkans

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee was told on Thursday that neither Kosovo nor Serbia was making much effort to implement the EU-brokered deal on normalisation of relations.

Week in Review: Hopes and Expectations

The last weekend was one of high hopes for many and dashed expectations for some as Turkish, Albanian and some Moldovan citizens headed to the polls.

Democracy Digest: EU Mission to Hungary Sees No Reason to Unfreeze Funds

Elsewhere, Polish parties try to outdo each other over child handouts; the media is in the headlines in Czechia; and Slovakia’s new technocratic government gets to work.

‘Shame, Guilt’: Can North Macedonia Crack Down on Online Harassment?

More than a dozen women in the North Macedonia town of Kicevo were harassed by the same person via phone and social media, yet no one was ever arrested. Can a new law help the country get to grips with online harassment?

In Greece, Deep Uncertainty over Outcome of Election

An unusually low-key election campaign may yet end in high-stakes drama under a new electoral system that looks certain to produce a second-round.

Kosovo Court Jails Naser Kelmendi for Drug Trafficking

At the end of Naser Kelmendi's retrial, Pristina Basic Court on Thursday jailed him for four years and eight months for drug trafficking, which his lawyer said he will appeal.

Italy to Build First ‘Hotspot’ for Migrants and Refugees in North

Following a major surge in arrivals, the government has approved the first 'hotspot' for migrants and refugees in northern Italy, which is likely to be located in Trieste.

Erdogan Rival Kilicdaroglu Plays Anti-Migrant Card to Woo Nationalist Vote

Erdogan's rival in the presidential run-off, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has shifted to a strongly anti-migrant discourse – but experts doubts this abrupt change of focus will bring him victory.

Turkey’s New Parliament: More Parties and More Women

Turkey’s new parliament will host 16 parties, ranging from radical leftists to political Islamists – and the number of women MPs has reached its highest level ever.

US-Sanctioned Politicians Help Albania’s Socialists to Victory

Presence on a US sanctions list did not stop two politicians from significantly aiding Edi Rama’s election triumph on Sunday.

Spring Remains on Hold for Turkey’s Opposition

The ‘springtime’ predicted by the opposition did not arrive in Turkey’s May 14 elections – and in the May 28 presidential run-off, the odds are stacked against them.

After Election Disaster, Albania’s Opposition Must ‘Open its Eyes’

Fatbardh Kadilli, from the Democratic Party, which won only seven municipalities in the May 14 Local elections, tells BIRN that both leaders of the divided party should quit and the party be completely reformed.

Kosovo Failing to Punish Violent Crime, BIRN Finds

Police and prosecutors in Kosovo are struggling to solve violent crimes, particularly when they occur in a northern pocket of the country populated mainly by Serbs, according to a BIRN analysis of crime data illustrated in an interactive map.

Torrential Rain Overflowing Rivers, Cause Chaos in Bosnia, Croatia

Heavy rain has caused the river Una to overflow in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina while the Korana and Kupa rivers threaten the Croatian town of Karlovac.

Moldova Police Storm Central Election Commission in Gagauzia

Police raid on election offices in autonomous region, seeking proof of voting fraud in Sunday's elections for a new governor, have drawn protests and accusations of heavyhandedness.

Too Early to Say Europe’s Energy Crisis Is Over, Experts Warn

Europe avoided the worst effects of the energy crisis, but future challenges such as a complete cessation of piped gas from Russia, a continued strong recovery in China and higher demand for LNG imports mean dangers still lie ahead.

Serbian Farmers to Block Roads in Struggle for Increased Subsidies

After negotiations with the government broke down, Serbian farmimg unions have decided to block roads until their demands for higher subsidies are met.

In Kosovo, Fake Online Accounts are Turbocharging Tensions

When crises erupt in Kosovo, fake accounts on Facebook and Twitter pour fuel on the fire.

Gagauzia’s New Governor, if Confirmed, Poses Headache for Moldovan Govt

Evghenia Gutul’s victory in the race for governor of autonomous Gagauzia has been dogged by allegations of irregularities. If confirmed, her pro-Russian party, bankrolled by a fugitive oligarch, will have a seat in Moldova’s pro-European cabinet.

Ataturk and the City in North Macedonia that Helped Form Him

Bitola, North Macedonia, holds a special place in the history of modern Turkey as the place where Ataturk attended high school.

EU Border Guards to Target Illegal Migration in Montenegro

Montenegrin Interior Minister Filip Adzic signed an agreement that allows EU border guards from the Frontex agency to be deployed to the Balkan state to help carry out border checks to deter illegal migration.

Turkish Citizens in Balkans Give Majority of Votes to Erdogan’s Rival

In most Balkan countries excluding Bosnia and Kosovo, where Turkish state influence is stronger, a majority of Turkish expatriate citizens voted for President Erdogan’s rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu and for opposition parties at the weekend’s elections.

Migrant Numbers Increase Despite Decline of ‘Balkan Route’ to EU

A report by European border security agency Frontex said that more migrants and refugees have arrived in Europe over the past year, although the numbers using the route across the Balkan region decreased.

Serbian Wartime State Security Chiefs’ Appeal Verdict Due on May 31

The UN court in The Hague will hand down its verdict in the war crimes retrial of Serbian State Security officials Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic after they appealed against their initial conviction.

Turkish Presidential Run-Off ‘Kingmaker’ Sets Conditions for His Support

Nationalist politician Sinan Ogan, who came third in Turkey’s presidential election, set various conditions for his support in the upcoming run-off vote as President Erdogan expressed confidence that he will beat his opposition rival.

BIRN Fact-Check: Russia’s Moldova Influence Waning, but Transnistria is Trump Card

Under a pro-European leadership, Moldova has sought to rid itself of Russian influence, but it won’t be easy, especially with Russian soldiers in Transnistria.

In Croatian Abortion Fight, Fear of Drift in Direction of Poland

On paper, Croatian women have the right to seek an abortion. In practice, it’s becoming increasingly difficult, pushing some to go abroad.