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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WB Summit 1

  The ratification of the Macedonia name deal between Athens and Skopje on Friday capped a year in which the West renewed its focus on integrating the Western Balkans into the Euro-Atlantic community.   Bulgaria factored into the renewed push to integrate the region into NATO and the EU because Sofia made Western Balkan integration a focal point of its European Council presidency that spanned the first half of 2018. Sofia capped its EU presidency by hosting the EU-Western Balkans summit last May. The summit was a high-level gathering of EU and Western Balkan leaders, the first of its kind in 15 years.   Now that 2018 is complete and the Macedonia name dispute has been settled, one can have a clearer look at the fruits of Bulgaria’s push to

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Serbia’s Presevo Valley with the city of Presevo in the foreground

  2018 was supposed to be a year in which Serbia and Kosovo made progress in resolving their longstanding territorial dispute. This year, the European Union moderated more dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, or at least tried to, and set a target date of 2025 for Serbia to join the bloc, an accession that hinges on Serbia striking a deal with Kosovo on normalizing relations. Additionally, a major breakthrough occurred in the middle of the year in another longstanding dispute in the region, the Macedonia name dispute, giving hope that similar progress may occur in Serbia-Kosovo relations.   Yet, 2018 is concluding with Pristina imposing and hiking tariffs on imports from Serbia (and from Bosnia) and voting to turn the Kosovo Security Force into a regular army. Meanwhile, Belgrade is

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minds

  A battle is on for what is read, watched and listened to on the internet.  Authoritarian regimes are devising systems of internet censorship, while hackers and technological innovators are devising ways to get around these virtual barriers. In the West, some legislation poses threats to internet freedom, but at the moment, social media is the major battlefield in the fight for and against free expression online. At present, major social media platforms are becoming increasingly hostile toward free speech. Meanwhile, disillusionment with what appears to be a big tech crackdown on free expression is giving rise to competition. As competing social media platforms roll out, the battle for market share will have implications on future political discourse. Major players in tech and media are already taking sides.   The

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Social Media Purge Article

  With no apparent warning, Facebook purged a total of more than 800 pages and accounts last week, targeting western alternative media publications and anti-establishment journalists and activists, particularly in the United States. Unnoticed to some, Twitter followed suit by banning certain journalists and activists caught up in the Facebook purge.   Facebook released a detailed statement explaining the purge as a removal of pages and accounts that were blasting out massive amounts of content, including spam or clickbait, in order to drive traffic to websites and profit, largely off of ad revenue. There may be some truth to the allegations, at least in the case of some of the accounts purged. And Facebook has numerous rules — which most of its users do not keep track of — that

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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,