Strategic Analysis Balkan Brief

First half of September 2023

Petra Bošková, Lýdia Chobotová,, Victoria Valová, Victoria Mária Širocká, Matej Jadroň, Zuzana Šmilňáková, Chiara Mihlačatinová

Durmitor Mountains, Montenegro. Photo:

Albanian government undergoes significant cabinet reshuffle

Following the summer break, Albania’s Prime Minister, Edi Rama, announced a significant cabinet reshuffle, said to be one of the largest since the Socialist Party (PS) came to power ten years ago. The reshuffle included the resignation of five ministers, the appointment of seven new ones, the dissolution of one ministry, and the formation of a new one, all as part of the major shake-up announced by Rama. This ministerial reorganisation was prompted by several corruption scandals.

The following ministers will no longer serve in the government: Minister of State for Entrepreneurs Edona Bilali, Minister of State for Standards and Services Milva Ekonomi, Minister of State for Agriculture Frida Krifca, Foreign Minister Olta Xhacka, and Minister of State for Education Evis Kushi. Health Minister Ogerta Manastirliu and Finance Minister Delina Ibrahimaj have taken on new ministerial roles.

Edona Bilali has been replaced by Ibrahimaj at the State Ministry for Entrepreneurship and Business Climate. The Ministry for Standards and Services has been disbanded. Anila Denaj, an MP and former finance minister, has taken over the Ministry of Agriculture, succeeding Frida Krifca. Igli Hasani, who previously worked as the Coordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, has assumed the position of Xhacka. Ogerta Manastirliu, previously the Minister of Health, has been appointed as the Minister of Education and Sports. Ervin Mete has been appointed as the Minister of Finance.

In a speech to parliament, Rama pledged that neither his government nor his political party would obstruct justice. He insisted that neither the administration nor his party would hinder SPAK, Albania’s Special Prosecution Against Corruption and Organized Crime, in its fight against corruption.

Political experts have stated that the rearrangement of the ministerial lineup is primarily for cosmetic purposes and does not signal any real changes. According to Lufti Dervishi, a political journalist and analyst, “the changes in the government do not indicate that there will be a proactive approach towards corruption.” Political expert Afrim Krasniqi, who runs the Institute for Political Studies in Tirana, remarked that while changing the cabinet every two years has been a routine practice in Albania, it is not done to improve the quality of government.

Bosnia and Herzegovina
European Court of Human Rights Rules against Bosnia’s Constitution

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled against Bosnia’s Constitution in its latest verdict, issued on August 28. The court found that the current constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina violates human rights. The initial complaint in the case was brought to the court by Slaven Kovačević, a political scientist working as an advisor to the current member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, Željko Komšić. This marks the latest in a series of verdicts against the country’s constitutional setup.

BIH constitution resulted from peace negotiations following the Bosnian War in the 1990s. As one of the annexes of the Dayton Peace Agreement, it divided the former republic into two entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska. These entities share institutions, including the tripartite presidency. In his complaint, Kovačević claimed that it is discriminatory that he cannot vote for the Serb member of the tripartite presidency since he lives in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Only citizens living in Republika Srpska can vote for Serb candidates. The court ruled in favour of Kovačević, stating that ethnic identification must not prevail over political representation.

Furthermore, the court argued that the same problem also applies to the House of Peoples, one of Bosnia’s two parliamentary chambers. There, the election law also requires people to vote according to their ethnic identity ascribed to them by their place of residence. The election law thus discriminates against the constituent peoples who do not reside in the entity where they form a majority, as it bars them from voting based on their political identity rather than their ethnic identity.

This is the sixth time since 2009 that the European Court of Human Rights has acknowledged that the constitution and the election law violate the European Convention on Human Rights. However, none of the verdicts has led to the implementation of legislative changes or constitutional amendments due to the political stalemate. This is partly a result of strong support for ethnic parties that are unwilling to change their modus operandi by relinquishing some of their power.


Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photo:

Persistent Discrimination: Challenges Faced by Croatia’s Roma and Serbian Minority

The Roma community in Croatia faces significant challenges, including ghettoisation and discrimination in schools, while the Serbian minority continues to experience employment discrimination, even three decades after the civil war.

In a recent incident, a nine-member Roma family attempted to purchase a home in the village of Hlebine in northern Croatia but faced opposition solely due to their ethnicity. Villagers in Hlebine even threatened to protest outside the mayor’s house in a neighbouring municipality, suspecting that the family had been persuaded to leave the area. The situation reflects the broader challenges Croatia’s Roma population faces, particularly in Medjimurje, which hosts the largest Roma community in the country.

In another distressing incident, several families who had evacuated their homes during floods returned to find their properties vandalised. Such acts of discrimination and hostility are not uncommon in this region.

A United Nations report issued in August highlighted the plight of both the Roma and Serbian minority communities in Croatia. The report revealed that both groups face stigmatisation, undermining their rights to education and employment. The Roma community, in particular, experiences ghettoisation.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called on Croatia to take specific measures to eliminate structural discrimination against both communities and to ensure their economic, social, and cultural rights are upheld.

The executive director of the Centre for Peace, Nonviolence, and Human Rights emphasised that approximately 92.3% of Roma in Croatia are classified as poor, with around 70% living in extreme poverty. She stressed that the state must fulfil its obligations to protect its citizens and groups.

The discrimination faced by the Serbian minority in Croatia has deep roots in the 1991-95 Croatian war. The UN report expressed concerns over racial discrimination, especially in employment and education. Public sector employment for Serbs remains a significant challenge, with severe underrepresentation in key ministries.

The lack of Serbian-language primary schools, inadequate teacher training for minority communities, and issues related to hate speech and refugee returns are further concerns. Street names and public institutions in many areas are yet to be written in Cyrillic script, causing further frustration.

Moreover, the prosecution of war crimes and the recognition of civilian victims of the conflict have been criticised for being discriminatory. The UN report has shed light on these issues, urging Croatia to address these longstanding challenges.

In contrast, there are some positive examples of integration efforts, such as a school in Baranja where Roma children are integrated into classes. Encouragingly, more Roma children are enrolling in high school and even pursuing higher education.

Despite these bright spots, much work remains to ensure equality, inclusion, and the protection of minority rights in Croatia. Efforts to address discrimination and promote integration are essential for building a more equitable society for all citizens.


Romanian Fans Interrupt Football Game by Chanting „Kosovo is Serbia“

The Euro 2024 qualifying match between Kosovo and Romania, held in Bucharest on September 12, was suspended for 50 minutes due to provocative chanting from some of the host team’s supporters.

In the 18th minute, the game was halted when Romanian fans started chanting “Serbia Serbia” and unfurling a flag that read “Kosovo is Serbia.” They also ignited firecrackers and lit torches behind Kosovar goalkeeper Arijanet Muric. Subsequently, both Kosovar and Romanian football players were instructed to leave the field for 45 minutes. During this pause in the game, Nicolae Stanciu, Romania’s captain, attempted to reason with the fans, as abandoning the match would have resulted in a 3-0 defeat for Romania, potentially harming their chances of qualifying for the Euro 2024 competition in Germany. Eventually, the match resumed, and Romania won 2-0; however, the incident raised geopolitical concerns.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 and gained recognition from over 100 countries, including the majority of European Union members, but not from Romania. One reason for Romania’s non-recognition of Kosovo is its significant ethnic minority. Of the 19.5 million people comprising Romania’s population, around 7% are ethnically Hungarian. Many Romanians are concerned that recognising Kosovo’s independence might inspire the Hungarian minority in Transylvania to pursue similar goals. Another factor is related to Bessarabia, which was part of Romania from 1918 to 1940 and is now divided between Moldova and parts of Ukraine. This was further emphasised by the fact that fans also displayed a banner carrying the message, “Bessarabia is Romania.”

Just one day after the incident occurred, the Romanian Football Federation, FRF, condemned the far-right fans, stating, “Revisionism is not accepted in football, and the FRF firmly condemns provocative messages of a political, ideological, religious, or insulting nature, which are categorically prohibited in stadiums.” It was revealed that the fans were members of “United under the Tricoloured Flag,” a Romanian group well-known for expressing extreme right-wing political views and nationalist attitudes.


Prishtina, Kosovo. Photo: OPIS/

The head of the Montenegrin Anti-Corruption Agency – Jelena Perovic, is accused of leaking officials‘ data

Nikola Angelovski, a Montenegrin attorney, has accused Jelena Perovic, the director of the nation’s anti-corruption agency, of disclosing the personal information of government employees in a criminal complaint submitted to the Supreme State Prosecutor on Thursday. According to Angelovski, Perovic broke the law when she allowed a Serbian software business, Prozone, access to the private information of thousands of government officials. The lawyer claims that it is still unknown where that personal data ended up and who, apart from the employees of the Prozone company, had access to that data.

Prozone and the Anti-Corruption Agency agreed on a deal in February 2019. The Serbian software business from Novi Sad promised to provide the agency with software for handling information about the assets of public officials and updating its website. The agency made a total offer of 250,000 EUR to the business for this.

However, in December, the Anti-Corruption Agency was accused of breaking protocol by the watchdog MANS. It claimed that this was because the Agency for the Protection of Personal Data and Free Access to Information had not provided its consent prior to the contract’s signing.

Only with the approval of the Agency for the Protection of Personal Data is processed personal data permitted to be exported to another nation or made available for use by an international organisation under Montenegro’s Personal Data Protection Law. All Montenegrin officials are required to submit reports to this organisation regularly, detailing their personal assets, earnings, bank obligations, and assets owned by family members. These data are provided on the agency’s website after processing by the organisation.

Additionally, foreign businesses or organisations must have suitable data protection procedures. The Anti-Corruption Agency was accused of breaking the law by the Agency for the Protection of Personal Data, which prohibited the Prozone Company from processing personal data further. According to Perovic, the Justice Ministry suggested that Dragan Radonjic, the head of the Anti-corruption Agency at the time, sign the first contract with the Serbian company in December 2022.

The government of Montenegro announced in February 2022 that it would compensate those on a list ordered to self-isolate during the pandemics in 2020 with 300 EUR each, for a total of 816,000 EUR. The identities on the list were then made public. According to official statistics, 2,720 people sued the state for publicising their names on lists of those who were told to isolate themselves.


North Macedonia
Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani meets India’s Vice President Dhankhar in New Delhi

The meeting participants on September 1, expressed support for friendly relations between the two countries and reiterated their commitment to enhancing cooperation, especially in the fields of economics and business. Additionally, Osmani emphasised the importance of strengthening ties with Central and South Asian countries, notably India, in honour of Mother Teresa’s legacy, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ press release.

“North Macedonia attaches great importance to the development of relations with India. Although geographically distant, the image and work of Mother Teresa closely connect the two countries. Broad potentials for strengthening cooperation in many areas are opening up before us, especially in the IT industry, agribusiness, renewable energies, medicine, and tourism,” said Osmani.

Osmani emphasised that, in addition to the development of cooperation at the bilateral level, it is also necessary to cooperate on connecting the regions and start the project of organising the Western Balkans – India forum. The participants in the talks also discussed cooperation at the multilateral level, welcoming the important roles of both countries on the international stage, especially in addressing current global developments through North Macedonia’s chairmanship of the OSCE and India’s chairmanship of the G20.


Belgrade City Centre. Photo: Shutterstock. com

Disputes over early parliamentary elections

After the two mass shootings in May earlier this year, protesters at the “Serbia against violence” protests demanded early parliamentary elections. Serbian PM Brnabic was willing to resign and favoured early elections by the end of 2023 but left it to the President´s decision. President Vucic did not set any concrete date, only mentioned the elections could be held in “three or six months”.

This uncertainty over the elections has continued to this date. Majority of opposition parties, who are also behind the protests “Serbia against violence”, submitted on September 12 an official request to Vucic, demanding early elections by the end of the year, and threatened to block the parliament until the elections are called. One of the opposition parties stated: “we believe that early parliamentary and Belgrade elections to be held by the end of this year are the only way for our society to emerge from this significant crisis and demand an urgent response from Aleksandar Vučić.” In response to this demand, PM Brnabic again stated that she is willing to resign and hopes for elections to be held soon, however, she did not offer any specific timeline.

Meanwhile, the ruling Progressive Party proposed a revision to the 2023 budget, including increases in pensions, teachers´ salaries, and financial support for families with minors. This targeting is not accidental. Pensioners tend to support the ruling party, while the support of families and individuals is seen as an effort by the Progressive Party to attract voters disinterested in politics or voters who are likely to vote for the ruling party. Balkan Insight emphasises that such budget increases are a common practice for electoral campaigns in the Western Balkans.

  • Sasa Dragojlo, Balkan Insight, “New Elections Are no ‘Magic Wand’ for Serbia’s Divided Opposition”,
  • Jelena Jevtić, EURACTIV, “Serbian PM vows to resign, hold elections soon”,
  • Talha Ozturk, Anadolu Agency, “Serbia president says snap parliamentary elections to be held in 6 to 7 months”,
  • Dusan Pavlovic, Balkan Insight, “Serbia’s Revised Budget Hints at Early Elections”,

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