Josh Friedman

Josh Friedman is an American journalist currently based in Sofia, Bulgaria. He is the English editor and Balkan correspondent for BulgariaAnalytica.org. View his reports from the region at youtube.com/user/joshfriedman11.
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Protest in Banja Luka 1

  Election snapshot   Late in a campaign dominated by typical ethnic divisions and nationalist rhetoric arose a rather touching story of Bosnians of different ethnicities uniting against abuse of power. But when the votes were counted, nationalist politics prevailed, with one notable exception. And in the case of the nationalist leader who lost, there may be an unintended consequence of even more divisiveness and gridlock in Bosnia. Meanwhile, with Bosnia’s Euro-Atlantic integration progressing at a snail’s pace, other geopolitical actors, including the Russian and Turkish governments, can exploit these tensions, leaving the country in a volatile situation.   The drama and complexity   At least several thousand and possibly tens of thousands of people gathered in the center of Banja Luka Friday night, the final night for rallies ahead

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Erdogan Supporters Taksim2

Istanbul’s Taksim Square has a new feel. A giant mosque — not yet completed — now towers over a monument to the Turkish Republic in the center of the square. The monument glorifies Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the secular Turkish Republic.   On Sunday night, supporters of Erdogan celebrated the president’s election victory, gathering around the busts of Ataturk, screaming “Allahu akbar” (God is great), Palestine is for Arabs and other chants, including singing a song glorifying Erdogan. They paused their celebration briefly during the call to prayer.   Down the street on Istiklal Avenue — a hub for bar and entertainment venues — the tourist contingent is dominated by people from the Middle East and the Muslim world. While tourism appears to be picking up in Turkey,

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Yevstratiy

Editor’s note: The full audio recording of the interview with Archbishop Yevstratiy Zoria is available at the end of the article.   In an interview with Bulgaria Analytica, Ukrainian Archbishop Yevstratiy Zoria of the Kyiv Patriarchate states his case as to why Ukraine should and will have an independent Orthodox church. Zoria also predicts a subsequent sequence of events that will tip the balance of power in the Orthodox world, giving New Rome (Constantinople), not the theoretical Third Rome (Moscow), the undisputed status of leader among global Orthodoxy. However, it appears Constantinople (the Orthodox church based in modern-day Istanbul) is reluctant to embrace this scenario, fearing that Moscow will make a break and further divide the Orthodox world.   Ukraine’s Orthodox church is currently divided, with the primary fault line

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photo round table

  A gap exists in Russian politics, former opposition politician and energy expert Vladimir Milov said at a round table discussion in Sofia, Bulgaria. According to Milov, the Vladimir Putin regime is straddling a gap between the administration’s desire to focus on geopolitical conflicts and the demands of the Russian people to address deteriorating economic conditions.   “That gap is really what matters right now in Russian politics,” Milov said. “There is no such thing as a forever in Russian politics.”   The Oct. 2 event, hosted by Bulgaria Analytica and the Center for Balkan and Black Sea Studies, featured Milov and doctoral student Yulia Zhuchkova on a panel alongside Bulgarian experts on energy and geopolitics, Vasko Nachev, Alex Alexiev and Ilian Vassilev. Zhuchkova followed Milov’s speech with a breakdown

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freedom

  Three to four years following the Euromaidan protests and Russia’s incursions in Ukraine, Kiev is progressing slightly fiscally and economically, but the country remains poor and mired in corruption, and another backlash against the Ukrainian political elite is brewing. For Ukraine to significantly progress as a country, this political tide must usher in major economic reforms, rather than just ushering out a corrupt, oligarchic class.   Ukraine has made strides in its struggle to break free from Russian control. Since the ouster of the Yanukovych regime in 2014, Kiev has established a clearer western orientation, even as it remains at war with Moscow-backed militants in Ukraine’s east. Kiev has won major financial support from the International Monetary Fund and western governments, while reducing debt and deficits. Socially, Kiev has

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IMG_makedonia

  Following an eventful June, Montenegro is in NATO, Macedonia is out Brussels’ doghouse and Albania’s pro-EU government has a new-mandate. Kosovo’s government is more of a mystery. And Serbia’s government is now being led by an openly gay woman — a development seen by many as a mere facelift.   While the Western Balkans made significant steps toward Euro-Atlantic integration, major ethnic-related issues remain unresolved and largely unaddressed. One such issue is the future of Albanians living outside of Albania.   The rosy picture is that the entire Western Balkans will integrate into the EU and possibly NATO. Borders will be abolished and rival ethnic groups will live peacefully and prosperously together, enjoying freedom of movement across the region and beyond.   That vision is coming into fruition very slowly,

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new1

  On Sunday, France elected a 39-year-old man married to his high school drama teacher who was running for president as an independent candidate. But, it was not so much the election of Emmanuel Macron — an establishment candidate cast as a political outsider — as it was the entire election cycle that threw a wrench in French politics.   Likewise, while Macron’s defeat of nationalist Marine Le Pen in the presidential runoff marked a big win for Brussels, the French election also indicates the European Union will continue to face existential threats.   Macron was painted by major western media as a “maverick centrist outsider,” but he was arguably the consummate insider candidate. Prior to running for president, Macron attended the elite civil service institution Ecole nationale d’administration; he

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Erdogan SPQR_

      Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cemented his control over Turkey Sunday, establishing a new political order out of the chaos that has gripped the country over the last couple of years.   With a narrow victory in Turkey’s constitutional referendum, Erdogan will now become head of government, in addition to being head of state. He will have the legal ground to rule largely by executive decree, something he has already been doing under a state of emergency.   Erdogan also said he plans to parlay Sunday’s victory into a referendum on bringing back the death penalty. Additionally, if twice reelected as president, Erdogan could serve as Turkey’s executive leader until 2029.   On Sunday, Erdogan’s “yes” campaign received about 51.4% of the vote. The “no” campaign received

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macedonia

  About a month ago, it looked like the European Union had finally come up with a winning hand in the Western Balkans. The EU’s preferred choice for Macedonian prime minister, Zoran Zaev, managed to come up with the support needed to form a government, despite falling slightly short of victory in Macedonia’s December parliamentary elections.   But more than three months after the election, Macedonia still does not have a government; the country’s two-year-old political crisis is ongoing; and ethnic tension is prompting talk of civil war and the breakup of the country. On top of that, tens of thousands took to the streets of Skopje Tuesday in what amounted to a protest of the EU, the very organization Macedonia aspires to join.   In general, the EU prioritizes

This entry was posted in Europe, The Region by Josh Friedman.

About Josh Friedman

Josh Friedman is an American journalist currently based in Sofia, Bulgaria. He is the English editor and Balkan correspondent for BulgariaAnalytica.org. View his reports from the region at youtube.com/user/joshfriedman11.
Views:1413
WBalkans

Early in 2017, headlines speculating about the possible outbreak of renewed war in the Balkans have popped up in the international press. Tensions that have been simmering in the Western Balkans in recent years are now gaining increasing attention in the sphere of geopolitics, particularly as they relate to the battle between the West and Russia for influence in the region. The West is now becoming increasingly concerned that Russia will stoke nationalism in the Balkans in order to ignite conflict, cause destabilization and consequentially halt Euro-Atlantic expansion.   While ethnic tensions are a core and explosive issue in the region, economic productivity, or lack thereof, may be as responsible if not more for the instability that exists in the Western Balkans. The region’s poor economic prospects have much to