On 2 April 2013, the Prime Ministers of Serbia and Kosovo will announce the latest and most challenging deal reached between the two nations within the EU-mediated dialogue. Over the past two years, major agreements have been reached in an effort to normalise relations between Serbia and its former province, currently recognised as an independent state by 98 countries. While history is being written, it is important to revisit what has been agreed upon and implemented to date while also reflecting on the way forward to reach a lasting solution for the Kosovo conflict.
As the EU-mediated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina scores tangible results so is the enlargement process. Both processes are inextricably linked. While Serbia is expected to open EU accession negotiations during the Irish presidency (first half of 2013), Kosovo could only be given a pat on the shoulder and fail short of receiving a green light for the start of negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA).
Hot debates about immigration, economic crises or international issues often posit that Eastern Europe is a coherent whole, despite the diversity of countries it denotes. True, their common soviet past and its aftermath easily come to mind when we think about this particular half of Europe. Yet “Eastern Europe” as a political term (and no mere geography) is no longer relevant, argues journalist Anne Applebaum at the London School of Economics (LSE).
Anil Markandya has worked as an environmental economist for over thirty years. He has held academic positions at the universities of Princeton, Berkeley and Harvard in the USA and at University College London and Bath University in the UK. He has served as an advisor to several governments and international organisations.
The most common expression to describe the status of the European Union enlargement in the times of the Eurozone crisis is “enlargement fatigue”. But besides being more or less willing to accept new members, is the EU still as attractive, in a moment when it seems shaken by centrifugal forces?
2012 has been an election year in the European Union’s Eastern neighborhood. The year started with presidential elections in Russia, followed by parliamentary elections in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, and Ukraine. Even though the electoral saga continues in 2013 with presidential elections in the South Caucasus, the most critical elections are now behind us. What are the outcomes? Have elections brought the Eastern neighborhood closer to substantive, if not procedural, democracy?
The Ukrainian parliamentary elections’ day turned out to be calm and the voting process peaceful, mainly because the main actors played their winning cards well in advance.
Elections in Georgia surpassed expectations. The climate of polarisation that preceded election day laid the foundation for contested results and a prolonged stalemate. None of this happened. On the contrary, the ruling party admitted defeat and did not call demonstrations. Georgia’s parliamentary elections were won by the opposition (55% of votes, 84 out of 150 seats), incarnated by the Georgian Dream coalition. This came without violence, which is indeed unprecedented in Georgia since its independence. The de facto one-party rule in Georgia and the worrying authoritarian inclinations of the Saakashvili era came to an end. As such, elections in Georgia sent an important signal elsewhere in the Post-Soviet space and came to the great satisfaction of international organisations promoting democratic standards.
It is no news that elections in Belarus follow a well-written scenario designed by President Aleksander Lukashenko’s administration. In a state completely submitted to the ruling power, with the two main opposing parties boycotting the race, the September parliamentary elections were anything but competitive from the start. As usually in Belarus, it is not just the lack of competition that led the OSCE/ODIHR and other international observers to qualify the recent elections as contrary to many fundamental democratic standards.
Hopes that Dmitry Medvedev could constitute a more liberal and Western-oriented alternative to Vladimir Putin were dissolved ou dissipated in September 2011 when Medvedev announced his unconditional support to Putin’s candidacy. The predicted switch sowed disillusion. The re-election of Vladimir Putin for a 6-year term in March 2012 took place in an unprecedented context for Russia and constituted a nightmare for its leaders. Demonstrators in Russia’s cities massively protested against the system’s unaccountability, pervasive corruption and deteriorating socio-economic climate.