Strategic Analysis Balkan Brief

First half of May 2024

Petra Bošková, Dominik Boris, Štefan Talarovič, Zuzana Šmilňáková, Simona Škríbová


Some of Albania’s Opposition Rejects Offer to Participate in Anti-Corruption Commission

Several opposition factions have declined Prime Minister Edi Rama’s proposal to rejoin a parliamentary commission tasked with a more systematic approach to combating corruption, citing Rama’s lack of credibility in the matter. On May 8, some opposition leaders in Albania dismissed Prime Minister Edi Rama’s offer to cooperate on a parliamentary commission to tackle corruption.

However, Gazmend Bardhi of the Refoundation Democratic Party, the largest opposition faction, hinted at potential cooperation without providing details. Rama, eyeing a fourth term in next year’s parliamentary elections, which would make him the second-longest-serving PM in Albania’s history, faces a divided opposition and a declining reputation due to numerous corruption scandals.

On May 7, in a speech lasting over two hours, Rama emphasised that corruption scandals weren’t his responsibility and lamented “efforts to poison public opinion,” arguing that he was being unfairly criticised.

He rejected suggestions that he should resign as a matter of moral responsibility for the corruption scandals, deeming it impractical and claiming Albania lacked the administrative capacity to handle a political deadlock.

Towards the end of his lengthy speech, Rama shifted focus, proposing a parliamentary resolution for the establishment of a commission dedicated to fighting corruption. “My call to all those opposed to us is simple […] let’s create a space, […], a common ground alongside allies, […] to identify necessary steps and measures,” Rama stated. The proposed resolution, already drafted by his Socialist parliamentary group, advocates for a special parliamentary committee to investigate measures needed to combat corruption.

Rama specified that the commission would operate for three years. One of its aims is to “strengthen” parliamentary oversight of the government and independent institutions to fulfil its constitutional role.

Critics, however, view the initiative as an indirect attack on the special prosecution, which has so far arrested dozens of officials on corruption charges, further damaging Rama’s government’s reputation as systematically corrupt, a claim Rama denies.

Enkelejd Alibeaj, an MP from the official opposition Democratic Party, stated that his party would oppose the resolution. “An anti-corruption initiative proposed by the PM of the most corrupt government in the country’s history is inherently absurd,” Alibeaj told reporters. “They intend to establish a control mechanism through a parliamentary commission, which, although presented as ad-hoc, will last for three years,” he added.

Ilir Meta, another opposition leader, argued that Rama lacked credibility for anti-corruption reforms. “No one expects anything meaningful from him now,” Meta commented. However, Gazmend Bardhi, head of the Refoundation Democratic Party, hinted at a potential compromise.

“While we believe that Edi Rama cannot and will not create a democratic and European state, we will contribute nonetheless,” Bardhi stated. When asked for specifics by a journalist, Bardhi declined to elaborate. His faction has previously engaged in compromise with the ruling majority, a move viewed sceptically by many.

One such compromise involved dropping charges or reducing sentences for around 100 individuals, including high-ranking officials suspected, charged, or convicted of corruption or abuse of power.

This initiative, part of a broader amnesty to alleviate prison overcrowding, was seen as sending the wrong signal in the fight against corruption. However, the US embassy in Tirana responded by calling the initiative “promising.” “The United States supports efforts to build upon previous successful reforms … to advance reforms necessary for Albania’s EU and Euro-Atlantic integration,” it stated.

This isn’t the first such initiative. In 2022, a group of experts convened by Socialist-controlled Parliamentary Committees proposed changes to nearly all laws governing the justice system, changes criticised as a “wrong turn” by EU and US experts.

In 2020, Albania’s Western allies warned against “a backroom deal to kill justice reform.”

Bosnia and Herzegovina
Leaders Of Republika Srpska React On Prepared Un Srebrenica Resolution  

On April 17 2024, a draft of a United Nations (UN) resolution was presented at a closed meeting held in New York, which should, in future, declare July 11 as the International Day of Remembrance of the Genocide in Srebrenica. Chairman of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) Presidency Denis Bećirović and member of the BiH Presidency Željko Komšić were present at the meeting.

The United States, the United Kingdom, and France are co-authors of the resolution, which enjoys much support worldwide, such as Sweden, Germany, Rwanda, and Croatia. China, Iran, and Russia, on the other hand, will not support the resolution. The families of the victims, as well as the Srebrenica genocide commemoration organisations, welcome the resolution and their support for it. They hope that the Serbian people will have the courage to accept the truth after almost 30 years since the genocide and thus create space for lasting peace. President of the “Srebrenica Mothers” Association, Fadila Efendić, said: “I believe in people of goodwill, in normal people; I do not need anyone to be good, just let them be true”. The resolution itself speaks of the fact that there was genocide in Srebrenica in 1995, but nowhere in the resolution does it state that the entire Serbian people are responsible for this act. However, Serbia’s political leaders have adopted the resolution as an attack on the Serbs, whom the international community wants to brand as a genocidal people.

The forthcoming resolution did not meet with a positive response in the Republika Srpska (RS). On April 18 2024, at a special session of the National Assembly of the RS, the President of the RS, Milorad Dodik, repeatedly denied the genocide at Srebrenica.

During his speech, he stated: „Can you find me a single person from Srebrenica who died in Srebrenica itself? Soldiers who fought through died; that is a soldier’s job. Of course, some civilians were there with them, so they also died. Undoubtedly, there were crimes from the Serbian side. I reject all those who committed crimes. Nevertheless, what you do is that you want to label a whole nation.“

President Dodik also threatened that if the resolution is adopted, the RS is ready to initiate a process of independence from Bosnia and Herzegovina and join Serbia. Before the discussion on the resolution, the Serbian member of the BiH Presidency, Željka Cvijanović, sent a letter to the representatives of the international community through the Russian Mission to the UN.

The letter stated that the BiH Presidency had not discussed the UN resolution or issued an official position. It described the actions of the Permanent Mission of BiH to the UN, which is in favour of the adoption of the resolution, as a violation of the prescribed procedure laid down in the Dayton Peace Treaty. “Lobbying for the adoption of the act is an illegal act that reflects the will of only one ethnic group in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Cvijanovic said.

A draft UN resolution to declare July 11 as the International Day of Remembrance of the Genocide in Srebrenica was on May 2, 2024, sent to the UN General Assembly



UN Srebrenica Resolution fuels political dispute in Montenegro as it faces growing international pressure

On May 7, Montenegrin Prime Minister Milojko Spajić announced that Montenegro would vote in the UN General Assembly for the resolution on the genocide against Bosniaks in Srebrenica. Local NGOs such as the Action for Human Rights call for unequivocal support for the resolution still hoping to symbolically co-sponsor the vote along with Slovenia, Albania, and North Macedonia.

Montenegro supports all resolutions condemning genocide and fully aligns with the EU’s foreign policy. The cabinet of Milojko Spajić will insist on strict compliance with the Dayton Peace Agreement. However, Podgorica plans to submit two amendments to the resolution, emphasising that guilt for genocide is individual and not attributable to any ethnic, religious, or other group. The ruling coalition led by the Europe Now Movement is cautious not to stir anger among the Serbian population, showcased by a heated debate between pro-Serbian and pro-Western MPs.

Serbia strongly opposes the resolution seeking to convince UN member states to abstain from voting, citing the unjust collective guilt of all Serbs. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and leader of Bosnia’s Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik deny the Srebrenica genocide, despite Hague Tribunal verdicts confirming individual responsibility for the coordinated genocidal crimes. Serbia’s Foreign Minister Marko Djuric accused Spajić’s government of playing political games to appease both ethnic Serbs and the EU, although the Montenegrin legislative body had already passed a law against denial of the Srebrenica genocide back in 2021 and led to the sacking of former Justice Minister Vladimir Leposavic.

The resolution aims to establish July 11 as the International Day of Remembrance for the Genocide in Srebrenica, to be first observed on the 30th anniversary next year. It condemns actions glorifying convicted war criminals and perpetrators of crimes against humanity and genocide. The resolution emphasises completing the search for the remains of victims and continuing the prosecution of perpetrators and calls for teaching court-established facts in educational systems.

Kosovo’s government websites reportedly faced Russian-backed cyberattacks

Russian hackers reportedly conducted several cyberattacks against Kosovo government websites on May 7 and 8. According to a government spokesperson, the attacks temporarily disabled the sites and were allegedly carried out in retaliation for Kosovo’s announced military aid to Ukraine.

Media reports state that the DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks targeted multiple government websites, including those of the President and Prime Minister’s office. The attacks appear to be Russian retaliation against Kosovo, which is aligning with the West in supporting Ukraine amid the ongoing invasion. According to RTK, Kosovo public broadcaster, one hacked government website was even altered to warn Kosovo to “think more” about supporting Ukraine’s defence.

Defence Minister Ejup Maqedonci claimed the cyberattacks were retaliation for his pro-Ukraine statement at a Defence24 conference in Poland, where he denounced the Russian aggression and called Serbia a Kremlin’s “appendage” in the Balkans. He also recently announced that he and Lithuanian deputy defence minister Zilvinas Tomkus are considering new forms of cooperation between the two countries, and also the continuation of collaboration within the framework of the Ukraine Defence Group as part of the demining coalition.

Similarly, Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla-Schwarz wrote on X that “Russia is attacking Kosovo in a hybrid attack, following our [Kosovo’s] announcement of support in military equipment for Ukraine in its justified defence against Russian genocidal aggression”. Pristina has previously pledged “unconditional” support to Ukraine in its war against Russia, even though Kyiv has not yet recognised Kosovo’s independence.

The latest cyberattack against Kosovo fits into a pattern where Russia targets countries that back Ukraine or give military assistance to the war-torn nation. Another ally of Ukraine, Moldova, has also reported an increase in pro-Russian hackers’ cyberattacks on its websites. According to Moldovan officials, these strikes are a component of Russia’s larger “hybrid warfare” strategy, which combines the use of conventional military force with non-conventional strategies like disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks.



Serbia and Ukraine Enhance Trade Discussions 

The two nations have agreed to strengthen economic ties during talks between Serbian and Ukrainian officials, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba announced plans to convene a bilateral commission to promote trade, technology, and scientific cooperation.

Between May 13 and May 14, Kuleba visited Belgrade and met with Serbian leaders, including Prime Minister Milos Vucevic, President Aleksandar Vucic, and other officials. Vucic expressed optimism about improving bilateral relations and proposed organising an economic forum for businesses from both countries.

Ukraine is seeking support from various allies as Russia advances in the northern Kharkiv region. While most Balkan countries have supported Ukraine, Serbia, due to its ties with Russia, has not imposed sanctions. However, there have been reports of Serbian weapons reaching Ukraine, although Serbia denies these claims. President Vucic acknowledged the possibility of Serbian arms being used in Ukraine.

Kuleba visited Serbia with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s wife, Olena Zelenska. They participated in mental health conferences and discussed cultural cooperation, strengthening ties between the two countries. Zelenska visited the “Ukrainian Shelf” in Belgrade’s City Library, a project she supported, and discussed cooperation between Belgrade University and Kyiv’s National Shevchenko University. Zelenska also met President Vucic, who thanked her for strengthening ties between Serbia and Ukraine.


North Macedonia
Major Victories for the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party

The parliamentary and the second round of the presidential elections were held in North Macedonia on May 8, 2024. The right-wing opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, which often echoes nationalist rhetoric, won by a landslide in both. The incumbent President of the republic, Stevo Pendarovski, endorsed by the Social-Democratic party, will be replaced in the office by a 71-year-old professor of constitutional law, Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, who will be the country’s first female President. Siljanovska-Davkova received nearly 65 per cent of the votes.

In the parliamentary elections, the coalition “Your Macedonia”, led by the VMRO-DPMNE’s Hristijan Mickoski, gained 44 per cent of the votes. This election represents a significant loss for the center-left SDSM party that has led the governmental coalition until the elections. Its political ally, “For the European Future,” was able to secure only 15 per cent of the votes. The party of the ethnic Albanian minority, DUI, gained 14 per cent of the votes, making it the third-largest political grouping in the next parliament.

The VMRO-DPMNE needs to negotiate with potential coalition partners, as their gain in polls secured them 58 seats in the 120-seat parliament. Their victory signals a shift from a left-leaning government to a right-leaning one. Whereas the SDSM-led government tried to progress with the country’s accession talks with the European Union, the VMRO-DPMNE-led government could mean a shift in North Macedonia’s position vis-à-vis negotiations.

The President Siljanovska-Davkova managed to get a strong reaction from the leader of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, already on her first day in office. During the inauguration ceremony, which was held in Skopje on Sunday, May 12, Siljanovska-Davkova refused to call the country “North Macedonia” and opted rather for the former name “Macedonia” in her inaugural speech. This is directly violating the Prespa agreement signed between North Macedonia and Greece in 2018. The agreement, brokered by the UN, ended a long dispute over the territorial names between the two countries. Immediately after Siljanovska-Davkova’s inauguration ceremony, Ursula von der Leyen posted the following statement on the social network X: “For North Macedonia to continue its successful path on EU accession, it is paramount that the country continues on the path of reforms and full respect for its binding agreements, including the Prespa Agreement.”


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