Balkan Insight (77)

Gruevski Will 'Take Responsibility' for Macedonia Poll Defeat

Amid questions over his continued leadership, former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has insisted he will 'bear responsibility' if his former ruling party loses the October local elections.

Croatia, Slovenia Leaders To Discuss Gulf Dispute

Andrej Plenkovic and Mirko Cerar have agreed to meet late in September to discuss their border dispute, after Croatia rejected an international court ruling on the sea border in the Piran Gulf in Istria.

Haradinaj Has Been Useful Enemy for Serbia's Leader

Only Aleksandar Vucic could pull off the trick of making political capital out of denouncing Ramush Haradinaj's 'crimes' – before then instructing his clients in Kosovo to make him Prime Minister.

Scientists Reveal Black Sea's Underwater Treasures

А team of maritime scientists has conducted a three-year expedition to investigate nearly 2,500 years of seafaring in the Black Sea, uncovering shipwrecks from the Classical, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods.

Refugee Experts Downplay Romania's Migrant 'Crisis'

Despite reports of a new migration route opening up on the Black Sea, Romanian authorities and international organizations say scare stories have no basis in reality.

Bosnian Serbs to Protest Over Officials' Luxury Limos

 A civic group has announced a protest in the capital of the Bosnian Serb entity, where they will call for a cap on the purchase of costly official cars for politicians.

Macedonia's Ruling Parties Boost Ties for Local Polls

After striking a deal to form a government, Macedonia's two main ruling parties now aim to deepen cooperation by supporting each other's candidates for the October 15 local elections.

In Pictures: Serbian Journalists Rally for Hunger-Striking Editor

Serbian journalists gathered on Tuesday in front of the government building in Belgrade to show support for Vukasin Obradovic, founder of independent weekly Vranjske novine, who has gone on a hunger strike.

Serbia's 'Red Berets' Accused of Croatia Crimes

A witness told the retrial of former Serbian State Security Service chiefs Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic that the Red Berets unit, allegedly controlled by the defendants, committed crimes against non-Serb civilians in Croatia.

Serbian Newspaper Owner Goes on Hunger Strike

Vukasin Obradovic, the founder of Vranjske novine and former head of the Serbian journalists' association, went on hunger strike after being forced to close his newspaper after more than two decades.

Bosnian Official Sacked for Criticising Serbia's Vucic

The speaker of the East Sarajevo municipal assembly in Bosnia's Serb-dominated Republika Srpska entity was sacked for accusing Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic of 'betrayal' over Kosovo.

Serbian Minister's Party Vilifies Editor as 'Drug Addict'

After Serbia's Crime and Corruption Reporting Network, KRIK, investigated the origin of money which Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin used to buy an apartment, his party called KRIK's editor a drug addict'.

Montenegro Asks Libya to Return Detained Sailors

After the seizure in Libya of a cargo ship with Montenegrin sailors aboard, Podgorica asked Tripoli to ensure the safe return of the crew of the vessel, which is suspected of involvement in smuggling.

Suspected Kosovo War Victim Exhumed in Albania

The Pristina authorities exhumed the body of an unidentified person in an Albanian village near the border with Kosovo, believed to have been buried there during the war 1999.

Albania Police Seek Vetting Process That is 'Fair'

After the new Interior Minister announced ambitious plans to vet the whole police force next year, police organisations have urged PM Rama not to turn the process into a show.

Managing the Last Days of Milorad Dodik

The regime in the Bosnian Serb entity is fast imploding – but whether anyone in the West has the will to mediate this process remains unclear.

Albanians Query Wisdom of Slimmed-Down Government

Edi Rama has honoured pledges to cut bureaucracy by radically trimming the size of the cabinet – but some fear the new 'super-ministries are taking on more than they can handle.

New Killing in Troubled Kotor Rattles Montenegro

The ability of the police in Montenegro to deal with gangster-style assassinations in the crime-hit resort of Kotor is again in question after another killing last weekend.

Albanian Opposition Seeks to Outlaw Communism Symbols

After children were seen waving pictures of the late Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha, Albania's main opposition party said it will submit a draft law outlawing the displays of such symbols.

More Macedonians Feel Country is Stable, Survey Shows

Since the new government was formed, Macedonians feel significantly more optimistic about their political situation and EU membership prospects, a new survey reveals.

Bosnian Serb Soldier 'Shot at Roma Villagers in Prijedor'

A prosecution witness at the trial of former Bosnian Serb soldier Boro Milojica said he watched the defendant open fire at around ten Roma civilians in the village of Volarici in 1992.

Serbia's Seselj Mocks Hague Tribunal in Reality Show

After Serbian nationalist politician Vojsilav Seselj mocked the Hague Tribunal by posing as a judge on a reality TV show, the UN war crimes court issued a new warning over his upcoming appeal hearings.

Russian Prosecutor's Bulgarian Visit Sparks Controversy

News that Russia's Prosecutor General, Yury Chayka, is visiting his Bulgarian colleague, Sotir Tsatsarov, this week, has caused controversy in Sofia.

Kosovo Slates Serbian Film Attacking its UNESCO Bid

The Kosovo prime minister's office has condemned a Serbian documentary film that attacks Pristina's bid to join the UN cutural body UNESCO as offensive.

Wine Lovers' Paradise in Vibrant Zupa Region

Wine fountains, grape-stomping and open air concerts bring Serbia's main wine-producing region to life every September. 

Asylum Seekers in Serbia Face Rejection From Landlords

Asylum-seekers in Serbia are facing a new problem as many landlords are refusing to rent them apartments, says an NGO that helps asylum-seekers find homes.

Albanian Parties Face High Stakes in Macedonia Polls

The local elections in Macedonia will not only be an important test of strength for the two main Macedonian parties, but for the Albanian bloc as well.

Deadly Storm Kills Eight, Injures Dozens, in Romania

A violent storm hit western Romania on Sunday, leaving eight dead and scores wounded.

Deadly Storm Leaves Eight Killed, Dozens Injured in Romania

A violent storm hit western Romania on Sunday, leaving eight dead and scores wounded.

In Pictures: Serbia's PM Makes History, Joining Pride Parade

Several hundred LGBT activists gathered in Belgrade for the Pride Parade march, which the Prime Minister attended this year for the first time.

Serbian Pride March Awaits PM's Attendance

This year's Pride March in Belgrade on Sunday takes place amid high expectations that the new Prime Minister, as well as other government ministers, will attend for the first time.

World's Top Cliff Divers Take On Old Bosnian Tradition

Red Bull has been organizing cliff-diving competitions since 2009, but when it included Mostar on its list of venues two years ago, it came to a place with its own, centuries-old, tradition of diving.

Albania PM Pledges to Ease Kosovo Border Controls

Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama announced that Tirana and Pristina are working on easing the border system between the two countries to eradicate queues.

Croatia Mourns Slavko Goldstein – a Moral Giant

A survivor of the fascist terrors of the 1940s, Slavko Goldstein had a rich publishing career – but perhaps made a greater contribution to society through his stalwart defence of liberal, humane values.

Bosnian Serb Ex-Fighter Charged With Bosniaks' Killings

Former Bosnian Serb military police commander Nenad Bubalo was indicted for taking part in the killings of Bosniak men in Hrgar in the north-west of the country in 1992.

Three Romanian Troops Wounded in Afghanistan

Three Romanian troops serving in the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan were wounded on Friday by a car bomb in Kandahar province.

Germany Probes BIRN's US Weapons Transfer Revelations

A BIRN investigation has sparked an official probe into whether the Pentagon broke the law by sending weapons to Syrian rebels through its German airbases.

Serbian Army Hospitals 'Obstructing War Crime Trials'

Serbia's Humanitarian Law Centre accused two hospitals operated by the army of delaying war crime trials by certifying that the defendants cannot attend hearings because of health concerns.

Pentagon Hires Scandal-hit Brokers for Syria Arms Buy-up

The Pentagon's battle against ISIS relies on an Eastern European arms supply-line operated, in part, by firms and executives linked to fraud, foreign bribery, Bulgarian organised crime and the death of a contractor.

Discord Over Russia Widens Cracks in Eastern Europe

Experts say the Visegrad Group and Balkan countries need to put aside their growing differences on Russia – or migrants – and focus on pragmatic projects that benefit them all.

Massive City Revamp Tests Belgraders' Nerves

With no end in sight to the multiple reconstruction projects taking place in central Belgrade, some wonder whether politics – not traffic considerations – is behind all the disruption. 

Kosovo Police Stop 'Illegal' Serb Census Attempts

Kosovo police on Wednesday night raided branches of the Serbian Red Cross and detained several individuals amid claims they were undertaking an unauthorized census.

Serbian State Security Chief Denies Controlling Arkan

The lawyer for the former head of the Serbian State Security Service, Jovica Stanisic, told the UN court that a witness's claim that the security chief was paramilitary leader Arkan's boss was untrue.

Making a Killing

Our stories this week reveal the scale of the Pentagon's Syrian arms buying efforts, in which the Balkans are yet again a key plank, as well as more locally pressing issues, from Bosnia's turbulent politics to Croatia's far-right. 

Russia Backs Serb Party Joining Kosovo Govt

Vladimir Putin's United Russia party supports the decision of the Kosovo Serb party, Srpska lista, to enter the Kosovo Government, Belgrade announced on Thursday.

Croatian Serbs Tried for Burning Village Homes

Three former members of Croatian Serb rebel units went on trial in absentia in Zagreb for burning homes in the village of Nova Derencina in central Croatia in 1991.

Serbian Mortars Traced to Banned Kurdish Militia

Former US President Obama vowed not to arm Kurdish groups in Syria to appease Turkey, but reporters have traced Serbian mortar shells purchased by the Pentagon to a banned militia.

Balkan Citizens Still Trust 'Corrupt' Police, Survey Shows

Well over half of all citizens of the Western Balkans trust their police forces – despite feeling that they are corrupt institutions – a new survey shows.

Balkans Anchored to EU – Despite China's Growth, Report

China is making major economic inroads into the Balkans under its Belt and Road Initiative, but the EU remains their main political and economic anchor, a new report by the EBRD says.

Catholic Bishop Becomes Croatian Far-Right Champion

Croatia's far right, which has been on the march in recent months, has an unusual cheerleader - a controversial Catholic bishop who has even preached his nationalist message with a live band.