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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Bulgaria has recently become one of the targets of the ongoing Kremlin influence campaign, evidenced by pivots made by Russia’s propaganda war machine – “Russia Today” and “Sputnik International”.   Until recently, Sofia had been spared the ‘’benevolence’’ of Putin’s media spearheads, as Moscow had been concentrating its chief hybrid efforts on the main battlefronts – first Greece, then Brexit and finally the citadel of the West – the US and the presidential race. A quick comparison between RT’s and Sputnik’s coverage of events in Bulgaria during 2014, 2015 and 2016, and at present will suffice to reach a conclusion – Bulgaria has entered the final and decisive leg of the Kremlin’s hybrid operation. In the rare instances in the past when news from Sofia appeared on their newswire, the coverage


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

Photo: @PartiaZmianaPL

  In recent months in almost all countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Russian networks of influence have come under heavy public scrutiny. Moscow’s networks of influence in many ways fit into one and the same pattern, albeit with some national specifics.   The main differences reflect the mix of state and non-state actors recruited by the Russian side through official and semi-official channels, including diplomatic channels, governmental institutions, oligarch-led business networks, media, the Orthodox church, intelligence services — the foreign intelligence service and its his civilian offshoots and the military intelligence agency, GRU — and cultural and information channels. The degree and nature of participation of indigenous sources — political parties, media, individual politicians and companies — also affect the varying natures of Russian networks of influence.   Where


Several events during the past three weeks related to a failed coup attempt in Montenegro, which went largely underreported and not analyzed, give fresh ground for revisiting the strategy and policy script of Moscow in the Western Balkans, and in particular to Montenegro and Serbia.   The news story covered the arrest of 20 Serbian citizens in Montenegro on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks and an armed assault on the parliament building in Podgorica on the evening after the election.   According to the head of the Montenegrin police Slavko Stojanovic, the investigation traced down a criminal terrorist organization that had all the resources needed to carry out the attacks – a large amount of cash (€ 125,000); the latest communication and surveillance equipment, including satellite photos and sophisticated mobile