Misjo Yuzmeski 1966 | 2021

R.I.P. Misjo Yuzmeski

Wie langer dan een uurtje in het idyllische stadje Ohrid verblijft, aan het gelijknamige meer, ontkomt niet aan de Nederlander A. den Doolaard, pseudoniem van Cornelis ‘Bob’ Spoelstra. In de eeuwenoude Noord-Macedonische stad staat een monument voor deze schrijver-avonturier en zelfs een museum op een bijzonder centraal gelegen plek. Of eigenlijk een herdenkingskamer met foto’s en tientallen boeken in bijna evenveel talen.

In de eerste decennia na de oorlog genoot Den Doolaard, die vijfentwintig jaar geleden in Hoenderloo overleed, ook in Nederland grote bekendheid. Door zijn werk als omroeper voor Radio Oranje, de verzetszender uit Londen, maar ook door de romans die hij schreef tijdens zijn omzwervingen over de wereld in de jaren voor de oorlog. Een bijzonder populaire roman, Herberg met het hoefijzer (een dunnetje) speelt zich af in Albanië. Een andere hit, Bruiloft der zeven zigeuners (ook geen baksteen) speelt zich net over de grens van dat land af, in Ohrid.

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Ederlezi

Camélia Jordana (chant), les Glotte-Trotters (choeurs)

The song owes its name from Ederlezi, which is a Spring festival, celebrating the return of springtime especially by Romani people in the Balkans, and elsewhere around the world. Ederlezi is the Romani name for the BulgarianMacedonian, Albanian and Serbian Feast of Saint George. It is celebrated on 6 May [O.S. 23 April] (occurring approximately 40 days after the spring equinox). The various Balkan spellings (Herdeljez, Erdelezi) are variants of the Turkish Hıdırellez, a holiday signaling the beginning of spring, occurring on the same day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ederlezi_(song)

http://singtheworld.fr
Camélia Jordana (chant), les Glotte-Trotters (choeurs)

Bosnia has a problem with its national TV and it’s getting worse

Bosnia and Herzegovina ・ Journalism under threat

Bosnian national TV is going through its darkest chapter since its inception. On 7 May, the national broadcasting company BHRT revoked all permits to the federal TV RTVFBiH. With only a few hours’ notice, all transmissions ceased. According to BHRT, the debts piled up by RTVFBiH are not allowing the correct functioning of the transmissions, but the reality is that the entire public TV is on its knees because of financial distress. TV in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a complex mix of names and companies: there’s BHRT, which broadcasts throughout the country; RTVFBiH which is the main public channel in the Federation; and RTRS which is the main public channel in Republika Srpska.

On top of this, there’s an endemic problem of corruption and mismanagement of public resources that is pushing the entire system toward collapse. In February, BHRT failed to reach a deal with the national electric company, Elektroprivreda, to collect the money from the TV licence directly in the electrical bills, providing at least a minimal source of income to the television, and today the situation is desperate. The European Federation of Journalists sent President Maja Sever to mediate between managers, and the local authorities to find a possible solution to this ongoing crisis, which threatens the jobs of hundreds of workers and media freedom in BiH.

Alessandro Cinciripini The national Bosnian TV has been a real mess for ages. The entire system has been a playground for managers and politicians to expand their influence. This has resulted in scandals, mismanagement of funds, and corruption. In the latest report from Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Bosnia dropped 17 positions in the rankings for press freedom. The Bosnian government doesn’t have a clue how to save the television. This is complicating the relationship with the EU, which is already concerned about Bosnia’s low standards for media. Finally, there are hundreds of professionals who are not being paid regularly, and they are unable to work properly, compromising the quality of service for their audience.

North Macedonia’s scientist makes the Times 100 list

European ROYALS

Good morning,

Did you know that one of the developers of Ozempic, the groundbreaking diabetes drug that has also become a weight-loss craze, is a scientist from North Macedonia called Svetlana Mojsov? If not, it is probably due to the fact that women often get pushed aside in the scientific community and their contributions get sidelined by those of their male counterparts. Well, this morning we – as well as Time Magazine – celebrate this fantastic scientist and her latest recognitions.

Across the Balkans, it has been another colourful week. Kosovo and Serbia engage in a new round of antics, Croatia and Montenegro are suffering from a shortage of seasonal tourism staff, while Bulgaria is dealing with endemic corruption. Montenegro has, it seems, also joined the crime and corruption club.

Editor’s note
Marko Milikić

North Macedonia ・ Science

Macedonian scientist among 100 most influential people in the world

Svetlana Mojsov, a Macedonian chemist and associate professor at Rockefeller University, is among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people for 2024.

She played a major role in creating the famous drug for treating diabetes, Ozempic, which many celebrities have been promoting as a perfect drug for weight loss. This has resulted in its massive usage and a shortage for the patients that truly need it for health reasons.

Mojsov also received the prestigious Pearl Meister Greengard Award for this revolutionary discovery in treating diabetes. This is a distinguished international award that recognises outstanding female scientists.

correspondent imageBoban Ilijevski
Mojsov hadn’t gotten any recognition for her research and contribution to the field for decades. She raised her voice when her colleagues at the Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Bruce Merrifield’s lab, where Mojsov’s career began in 1972, encouraged her to speak up.As women continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields, especially in the Balkans, and their contributions often go uncredited, Mojsov’s story is a good example of recognition long overdue.

Sources: Nova Makedonija, The Rockefeller University, and Racin

Kosovo ・ Kosovo-Serbia conflict

Vučić and Osmani continue their confrontations

On Monday, the UN Security Council convened in New York for the biannual session on Kosovo, mainly to discuss a recently published report on the UN Mission in Kosovo’s efforts. In attendance were the Presidents of Serbia and of Kosovo, Aleksandar Vučić and Vjosa Osmani, respectively.

This led to a display of visible tension between the two parties, posing the question of how far each side will go to accuse the other for misdoings.

Osmani invited four Kosovo Albanian women who are survivors of Slobodan Milošević’s ethnic cleansing of Kosovo Albanians in the 1990s. In the session, she asked Vučić “whether he regrets” his involvement in the regime, recounting the suffering of the women present.

Vučić, in turn, responded by calling Kosovo’s treatment of its Serb minority an “ethnically motivated campaign.”

correspondent imageJakob Weizman
Aleksandar Vučić was an active member of parliament and served as minister of information during the 1990’s, under Slobodan Milošević’s leadership as president of Serbia and Yugoslavia.Vučić actively implemented strict media control during the Kosovo War, and supported Milošević’s ultra-nationalist policies which Kosovo Albanians were victims of. Osmani highlighted his complicity by publicly asking him if he regrets having done so.

Sources: Radio Free Europe, UNMIK, and X

Albania ・ Albanian Socialist Party

Who is Erion Veliaj, PM Rama’s rumoured successor?

As the 2025 elections are nearing and PM Edi Rama is expected to win the public vote again, some are starting to ponder: what is the future of the ruling and dominant Socialist Party without Rama? Rumours say, Erion Veliaj might be the answer. Having had a very similar career in politics, and enjoying high levels of popularity among voters, it is his name most often being mentioned in the media as a potential successor.

Erion Veliaj has been the Mayor of Tirana since 2015, now serving his third and, legally, final term. Before this, Veliaj had worked as the minister for youth and social welfare. As mayor, he has focused on implementing Rama’s Tirana 2030 urbanism plan. His sometimes authoritarian methods of rule, as well as his strategies for attracting investments, have been broadly criticised, but he has stood firm.

correspondent imageAriadna Mañé
However, Veliaj’s current role and possible promotion as the next SP leader are in jeopardy, as three different corruption scandals involving some of his council’s officials, arrested by the anti-corruption body, are splashing onto him and, indirectly, the Socialist Party.

Sources: The Guardian and Politiko.al

Europe visualised

Cost of the Crown

No European royal family is the same. Each government has a different way of funding them and each budget is spent on different assets. However, they all have a multi-million euro price tag!

Created by Meike Eijsberg.

Bulgaria, Montenegro ・ Deep issues

Bulgaria and Montenegro’s problematic routes

Gabriela Belichovska & Marko Milikić

Besides the joyous Balkan spirit and the wonderful natural scenery, what else may be common between Bulgaria, an EU member state since 2007, and Montenegro, an EU candidate state since 2012?

Corruption, violence, repression against journalists, and NGOs may be some of the answers, according to the US State Department’s latest annual report on human rights practices.

Bulgaria’s colourful 2023

For Bulgaria, the report underlines the lack of significant progress. One of the reasons behind this is once again police violence – both during protests, and in instances relating to detention. Data from the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, quoted by the State Department, shows that 24% of prison inmates were physically assaulted while in police precincts.

The local LGBTQ+ community, women, and migrants are also pointed out as victims and groups that are being targeted.

The judicial system, which has also been grasping for foreign attention for years, is the probable cause for all other matters malfunctioning in the system. The Bulgarian constitution and legal changes helped its independence, but the “serious problems” in this field remain: “corruption, inefficiency, and lack of accountability.”

The report also warns of harassment and threats to journalists, including through strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs), as the judicial system is not resilient enough to set clear standards with regards to this.

Not much different in the neighbourhood

Montenegro, as the leading candidate to be the next EU member state, has not improved much in fundamental fields according to the respective US State Department report.

Torture, inhumane treatment, and violence towards the LGBTQ+ community, as well as widespread gender-based violence, are just some of the issues that Montenegro was struggling with.

Additionally, the unreformed judicial system that we have reported on previously, alongside endemic corruption in all spheres of life, continue to hinder access to justice. The report rightfully questions the extent to which Montenegrin authorities are dealing with serious corruption cases, but also with cases in which public officials engaged in human rights violations.

Another big problem, that Bulgaria also struggles with, is deep political polarisation and a lack of consensus among the politicians on various issues. This in turn makes it difficult to deal with any other issue.

EU as a road to reforms?

If Bulgaria, as an EU member state, struggles with so many of the things that haunt Montenegro, one might wonder just how much EU conditionality and the accession process can truly reform the candidate states.

Perhaps the answer lies in the true political will to reform one’s country; although, that will seems to be missing across the Balkans.

Bosnia and Herzegovina ・ Migration

Tales of Women at Sea exhibition in Sarajevo

The MESS Theater Festival, which works to preserve the memories of Bosnia’s difficult past, has also set out on a mission to highlight the stories of brave women who risked their lives in search of a better future.

The Memory Module of the theatre festival, through a newly opened gallery exhibition, captures the journey of Bintou, a woman from the Ivory Coast, whose life has seen many dangers, including a perilous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea where she was fortunately saved by a rescue crew. Christelle, a Cameroonian, is another woman who was saved from the Mediterranean Sea. The mother of three fled her violent husband, and many other women fled from similar situations, dealing with malnutrition, underpayment for hard work, genital mutilation, and many other atrocities.

The exhibition brings their stories and perspectives to the public. It is one of the first such initiatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

correspondent imageMarko Milikić
In a world where thousands of people die in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach a safe future, exhibitions like these make people realise the cost of dehumanising treatments of immigrants.In the Balkans, where the vast majority of people are completely detached from stories like these, the work of the creative team of the MESS theatre is incredibly valuable and might inspire people to be more compassionate.According to the International Organisation for Migration (IMO), 2023 “marked the deadliest year for migrants in the last decade, with 8,541 recorded deaths” – a lot of these deaths take place on the open sea, and so, many more are left unrecorded.

Sources: Radio Free Europe

North Macedonia ・ Labour

On the brink of extreme poverty

“I lend money from my friends and close relatives to buy food and pay the bills,” said Daniel (name altered due to fears of getting fired). He is one of the 1,800 employees in the public enterprise “National Forestry” in North Macedonia  who haven’t received salaries or health insurance for two months.

The workers have been on strike since 1 April and all they got are empty promises.

Daniel works for a minimum wage of €365. “Our [the family’s] monthly expenses are from €600 to €700, so you can imagine how much more we need to cover them. My wife works seasonally and she doesn’t have a regular wage. It is a difficult life,” Daniel added. His job as a mechanic is crucial for the enterprise’s functionality because without him there won’t be anyone to fix the gear. Yet, his work is far from being adequately compensated.

What is more, this enterprise has a very important role, as it works on preserving North Macedonia’s more than two million hectares of forests, while also implementing the regulations on the exploitation of forests.

correspondent imageBoban Ilijevski
TEC asked the enterprise’s manager why they haven’t paid their worker’s salaries yet. The reason he gave was the company’s financial crisis from last year. He hopes that the wages for February will be paid this month as they are waiting for a financial injection from the government.The workers will have to wait a while for the March wages. According to the manager, they will be paid during the autumn-summer season. The season for the company has started this month and will end in August.This is one of the many publicly owned enterprises in the Balkans that has been underpaying its staff or withholding payment completely, often citing external financial pressures and restructuring as the reasons.

Sources: Rabotnik

Montenegro, Croatia ・ Tourism and trouble

Seasonal staff scarce as demand surges

Milica Lipovac

As the summer approaches, so do Montenegro and Croatia’s continuous struggles with seasonal staff. Lack of proper wages, low interest from locals, and overall systemic hurdles are still here, after so many years. Therefore, panic mode is on – again.

Staff shortages in Montenegro

There is no official data on how many seasonal workers are needed in Montenegro, but it is estimated that the number exceeds 30,000, which is about 20% more than last year.

While the demand for seasonal staff is increasing due to new tourist facilities, the state does not have a systemic solution to the long-standing problem for the economic branch that brings more than a fifth of the income to the state vault.

Out of all European countries, the Montenegrin economy is the most dependent on tourism, according to data from the “World Travel and Tourism Council” research for 2021. As stated in the research, Montenegrin tourism accounts for 25.5% of Montenegro’s GDP. Just below Montenegro, in terms of the proportion of GDP accounted for by the tourism sector, is Albania with 17.4%, and Croatia with 16.1%.

Although there are over 37,000 unemployed people in Montenegro, which is about 14% of the population, most of the seasonal workers come from the region – BiH, Serbia, North Macedonia, and even Moldova. The greater demand for seasonal workers has increased their salaries, with which they usually have free accommodation and food. However, driven by the desire to make even more money, often they decide to go to Croatia, where the tourism season is twice as long, and with twice as much occupancy on the annual level compared to Montenegro, so it is possible to earn more.

Outflow of domestic labour force

The historically best pre-season in Croatia is underway, according to the country’s government. However, employers are still on the hunt for seasonal workers.

Contrary to the regional trend where Montenegrins, Bosnians, and Serbs come to work in Croatia, young Croats go abroad. Croatia hires workers from neighbouring countries, as well as from more distant countries such as the Philippines, Nepal, Mexico, etc.

However, the need for seasonal workers is growing, so that number is now estimated to be as high as 100,000. In some parts of Croatia, such as Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, catering schools cannot meet all the needs of catering and tourism, given the number of hotels and restaurants that are opening.

The Tourism and Hospitality Trade Union of Croatia states that the constant growth in the need for seasonal workers is the fault of the tourism sector. They believe that it does not change its bad practices and therefore, loses quality workforce. The main problems are salary and job security, that is, the insufficient number of contracts for an indefinite period. According to some estimates, the salaries of waiters who work the season in Croatia are twice as low as those in other competitive EU countries.

Permanent seasonal

Also, following the example of Croatia, some hoteliers and restaurateurs in Montenegro try to keep seasonal workers by paying them wages in the winter as well, reduced by 60 to 70%. This is similar to the “permanent seasonal” status, which has been systematically applied in Croatia for several years, where workers’ wages are provided by the state during the winter, and the employer is obliged to hire them again the following year.

The measure is available to employers from all industries who have periods of reduced workload during the year, due to the seasonal nature of business, and is mostly used by employers in tourism and agriculture. Although there was talk about it, something like this has not yet been institutionally applied in Montenegro, but remains a practice for a handful of businesses.

Problems with foreign workers

Employers need to obtain a work permit for foreign workers and spend at least a month stuck in the process. At the same time, the seasonal worker cannot work until they receive a work permit, and this waiting period is funded by the employer, paying for their accommodation and food.

Multiple proposals by businesses to allow seasonal workers to work from the moment they submit documents for a work permit remain unanswered by the authorities. Another widespread issue is the fact that these workers are extremely exploited, underpaid, taken advantage of, and represent a possibility to not hire local staff, who would have to be paid with living wages.

Kosovo ・ Kosovo-Serbia, once again

European Parliament approves Serbian-issued passports for Kosovo Serbs

The European Parliament has approved a regulation granting visa exemption to Serbian passport holders issued by the Serbian Coordination Directorate, aligning them with other Western Balkan citizens regarding visa-free travel to EU member states.

Considered as a parallel structure by the Kosovo Government, Serbian-issued passports for Serbs residing in Kosovo will “negatively affect the integration process of Kosovo Serbs,” according to Kosovo authorities. By Kosovo law, they are still deemed illegal, meaning that Kosovo Serbs are unable to travel abroad from the Pristina airport.

The decision comes at the same time as Kosovo’s accession to Council of Europe membership is reaching its final stages, signifying a discrepancy in European policy towards Kosovo’s sovereignty. Furthermore, Kosovo’s government declared it as a “violation” of Kosovo’s territorial integrity.

correspondent imageJakob Weizman
Given that Serbia still considers Kosovo as a part of its territory, in addition to the Kosovo passport not being recognised by almost half of UN member states, some may deem it logical for Kosovo Serbs to seek out Serbian passports rather than Kosovo’s.Five EU member states also do not recognise Kosovo’s passport or sovereignty – Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus, Romania, and Greece, often due to the fact that they themselves have issues with regions seeking autonomy..Matjaž Nemec, a Slovene MEP,  maintained that this issue does not affect the Kosovo-Serbia situation, it only aims to ensure free movement and treatment for all Western Balkan citizens. However, concerns from the Kosovar side are piling up, and this decision by the EP does not seem to help resolve the overall conflict.

Sources: Radio Free Europe

Music recommendation from Bosnia and Herzegovina

Every day, our correspondents recommend one song to you. Today, Sara Čurić chose this one. We hope you enjoy!

Korake ti znam

Maya Sar

Maya Sar is one of the most underrated artists in the Balkans. Her angelic voice and emotional lyrics gave Europe major goosebumps when she graced the Eurovision stage back in 2012.

Listen on YoutubeListen on Spotify

〉Recommend a song for our next edition

Thank you for being with us on yet another Saturday. Stay informed, and see you in the next newsletter. Have a lovely weekend!

Take care

Marko Milikić
Leading Editor
for The Balkans

Listen Oh Serbs

This film completes the portrait of Archibald Reiss and his mission as one of the most important founders of modern forensics and a man who dedicated most of his life to Serbia, leaving a permanent mark in the history of the Serbian people.

This film completes the portrait of Archibald Reiss and his mission as one of the most important founders of modern forensics and a man who dedicated most of his life to Serbia, leaving a permanent mark in the history of the serbian people. His portrait is given with special details given to the period after his arrival in Serbia, his work as an investigator and international correspondent on war crimes that had been committed throughout Serbia, as well as the circumstances of his life while he was traveling with the Serbian army during the most dramatic moments of the Great War. The film was shot on location in Serbia, Greece and Switzerland.

The Balkans

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Good morning,Albania and Greece are beefing, again. In a conflict which is interpreted as an ethnic, political, and legal one, all at the same time, the sentencing of a mayor of a small town has stirred up quite a heated debate. Our correspondents Gramos and Ariadna bring you a great recap.In other news, Croatia’s elections have opened many questions, with an unclear road to creating a government. Although shaken, the ruling party did not lose too much support, despite countless corruption scandals. Another scandalous thing is Serbia’s political offensive against the UN Srebrenica resolution. In Bosnia, football hooliganism is causing a stir, and Kosovo is mourning victims of femicide.Finally, some espionage in Romania, and some arrests in Montenegro, round up the thriller feel of this Saturday morning.Editor’s note
Marko Milikić
Bosnia and Herzegovina ・ The opposite of sports behaviorA story of hooligans ruining Bosnian footballFootball hooliganism, rooted in violence based on ethnic divisions and deep social traumas, is haunting Bosnia and Herzegovina.Last weekend, derbies took place in the Bosnian football league: one in Sarajevo between FC Željezničar and FC Sarajevo, and another in Mostar between FC Zrinjski and FC Velez. Tensions ran high on the pitch over championship points, but outside the stadiums, the police were prepared for war.Nowadays, almost all football matches in BiH and the Balkans are marred by clashes among hooligan groups. Better known as “Ultras,” hundreds of young men are prepared to fight both each other and the police, resulting in burned cars, injuries, demolished city neighborhoods and sometimes deaths. This truly affects the entire Balkans: just a few weeks ago, 51 people were arrested in Split, Croatia after more civil unrest caused by football hooliganism.In BiH, hooligans are also caught up in ethnic divisions and social unrest, serving as muscle for political extremists during rallies and protests.correspondent imageAlessandro Cinciripini
Football turned dark in a region where matches were once a charming Sunday tradition for many families and children.Today, hooliganism is also an outcry of a generation lost in transition, facing unemployment and a lack of prospects for their future, living in a polarised society where true post-war reconciliation is yet to take place.Sources: Balkan InsightNorth Macedonia ・ TourismNorth Macedonia falling short of its tourism potentialAlthough it’s a beautiful country with a rich historical heritage, an interesting blend of different influences and stunning natural sights, North Macedonia has failed to brand itself properly and has not reached its full touristic potential.With some of the most peculiar sights you can experience in the Balkans (such as the region’s biggest and best-preserved Ottoman Bazaar, Lake Ohrid, the ancient amphitheater in Stobi), it would be beneficial if the country started seeing some more serious income from the tourism industry. However, systemic issues have not allowed that to happen.correspondent imageSara Čurić
Unlike Montenegro and Albania, who have been seeing massive income from tourism and have in the past years established themselves as top tourist destinations, the situation is not as bright in their neighborhood. Unfortunately, it is far too common for Balkan countries to not capitalise on their countless potential in different spheres.Low investment in tourism, lack of branding and promotion, sketchy infrastructure across the board, and a lot of short-stay, small-spending tourists are just some of the reasons for North Macedonia’s lack of progress.However, it has to be noted that the situation is very slowly improving, so there is hope that more of the world will get to see North Macedonia and its beauties.Sources: Radio Free EuropeSerbia ・ Genocide denialSerbia’s relentless offensive against the UN Srebrenica resolutionDecades have passed, and Serbia is still refusing to recognise the 1995 Srebrenica genocide. At the moment, the country is engaging in an aggressive political offensive against the proposed UN resolution seeking to declare 11 July “The International Day of Reflection and Remembrance of the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide”.The resolution is being promoted by several countries, including Rwanda, Germany, France and the USA, and it seeks to finally recognise, through a UN-wide resolution, the grave suffering of Bosnian Muslims, more than 8,000 of whom were killed that July in one of the most heinous crimes since WWII. The killings were perpetrated by units of the Bosnian Serb Army of Republika Srpska under the command of Ratko Mladic, who is serving a life sentence after being found guilty of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.In response to the proposed resolution, which in no way implies the collective responsibility of Serbian people, the Bosnian Serb separatist leader Milorad Dodik, Belgrade’s most useful proxy, threatened secession once again, claiming that Bosnia and Herzegovina might not “survive” the UN vote.The official Belgrade policy has not been different. The country’s authoritarian president, alongside the foreign minister, have spent weeks trying to lobby against the resolution. Even the former FM and UN General Assembly President Vuk Jeremić, a self-described opposition politician, offered his assistance to the government in order to ‘defend’ the Serbian people. From what exactly the country requires such relentless defence, remains unknown.correspondent imageMarko Milikić
Although the resolution in no way damages the Serbian people, the country’s national media propaganda machine has launched vicious attacks on all the sponsor countries, intellectuals and politicians who support it, destabilising the region yet again and showing that it has not learned a single thing  from the past.It is truly shocking that the country’s president, government, many public intellectuals, various media outlets, and opposition politicians, are so detached from reality and so consumed by genocide denial that they cannot face the fact that every country has its historical blemish, and Srebrenica is one of theirs.Yet another episode of Serbia’s genocide denial showcases the damages of uncompleted reconciliation. The region cannot move on from the gloomy spirit of the ’90s without all of the actors taking accountability for their actions. Without Serbia’s recognition of its past crimes, cycles of nationalism will just keep going until there is another bloody episode.Serbia should turn to its civil society in learning how to deal with reconciliation. Many associations, such as “Women in Black” have spent decades advocating for the recognition of the Srebrenica genocide, holding annual commemorations. They became known, amongst other things, for their slogan “We will never forget the genocide in Srebrenica”, which they regularly display across Serbia.Sources: EuronewsEurope visualisedEuropeans on strikeEuropean countries have experienced varying levels of strikes linked to different industries in the past years. Based on the most recent available data, France tops the European ranking in terms of days not worked. The pension reform strikes which started in 2019 and continued into 2020 have been one of the longest strikes in France’s modern history. However, other countries have had a strong presence on the picket lines, such as the United Kingdom  and  Finland.Created by Pauline Baudry.
Albania ・ Drama and tensionsConvicted Himarë mayor becomes new table tennis ball in increasing tension between Albania and GreeceGramos Sejdiu, Ariadna MañéBesides amazing beaches, clear waters, and renowned seafood, Himarë, in stereotypical fashion for Albania, offers political drama as well. As local elections came in May 2023, Fredi Beleri, an ethnic Greek, was elected as mayor of the city, mostly inhabited by ethnic Greeks.However, his victory cheers ran short as he was arrested before being sworn in and later convicted to two years in prison for vote buying. The Beleri case has only worsened the relationship between the two European countries. But is it a political, ethnic, or a judicial matter? – it depends on which side you ask.Greece is callingGreece has repeatedly asked for Fredi Beleri’s release, calling this a new attack on the Greek minority of Albania, who want to be “masters of their own land”, as Greece claims, after a convoluted unresolved case of state expropriation and acquisition of private property of ethnic Greeks to exploit for tourism.Greece has retaliated and successfully blocked all EU accession processes for Albania. The European Parliament agrees with Beleri’s team that his arrest and investigation into the case were wrongful, and calls out the rejection of appeals by the Albanian courts.However, they have not welcomed Greece’s actions, stating that “the bilateralisation of the accession process is not acceptable.” Nevertheless, taking a defying step further, Greece’s ruling party has announced that Beleri will be one of their candidates at the European Parliament elections.Albania is not picking upOn the other side, Albania claims that this case is a judicial matter, and it has nothing to do with the ethnic background of the individual. An investigation was conducted and revealed an instance of vote buying, which must lead to some consequences, regardless of who the perpetrator is.PM Edi Rama, insisting that his government has not and will not get involved in judicial matters, commented that this situation “could fit the script of a sarcastic film about interstate relations in the Balkans, worthy of its old stereotype of ‘who am I and who are you!?’, but not the democratic reality of the European neighborhood.”It is worth pointing out that the person who took over the city’s mayoral duties after Beleri’s arrest was Gergie Goro, also ethnically Greek, but from the ruling Socialist Party. Ironically, he was also arrested later by the anti-corruption body in March 2023 after a report made by Beleri himself.Without a resolution in sightWithout a clear way out, as neither Albania nor Greece can overrule a supposedly independent and proper judicial system that has issued a firm sentence, the only thing left to fight about is the accession to the EU.As Greece continues to block the path, Albania has little to do. However, it is not Beleri nor PM Rama, and it is not the Greek government that are at a loss here.Those who have the most to lose from these battles are all Albanian citizens with zero prospect of their country moving towards EU integration, despite reforms and promises made to them, all due to an eternal, almost unsolvable, historic border and ethnic divide.Romania ・ War in UkraineRussia’s cat and mouse destabilisation game in South-Eastern EuropeA report from the Supreme Defence Council of Romania mentioned that the spies from the Russian intelligence agency have infiltrated the country, disguised as Ukrainian refugees. Their main goals include gathering intelligence on Romania’s military exercises, and aid routes to Ukraine.They also sought to spread disinformation about Romania’s military capabilities and destabilise public opinion about national leaders.While no information is available on whether anyone was detained, the report mentions that recent cyber attacks on Romania, as well as ambushes on aid transportation to Ukraine, are based on information gained through the espionage campaign.correspondent imageAlexandra Drugescu-Radulescu
Russia’s campaign in Romania may illustrate a desire to move more towards the West, compared to previous targets like Moldova. With the largest NATO base placed in Romania, and the pivotal role played by the country in the security of the Black Sea, strengthening information security becomes a priority for the entirety of Europe.Sources: Digi24Slovenia ・ Diplomacy and inclusionThe UK’s first blind ambassador to join Slovenia’s diplomatic communityThe UK has made a significant step for inclusion of people with disabilities by appointing its first ever blind ambassador, as the new ambassador to Slovenia.Victoria Harrison, who was also the first person with a declared disability to be recruited by the Foreign Office, is set to begin her mission in Slovenia shortly. For Slovenia, a country with high, but insufficient standards of inclusion, this is quite a novelty, as its own diplomatic teams are not the most open for people with disabilities.correspondent imageSara Čurić
So many professions remain stereotypically out of reach for people with disabilities. The UK’s step thus makes a small crack in the glass ceiling for people with disabilities, who have traditionally been excluded from the diplomatic world.It remains to be seen which steps Slovenia will take to make its own diplomatic service more inclusive, and accepting.Sources: Slovenia Times and BBCCroatia ・ Drama galoreCroatian parliamentary elections turn into a constitutional crisisAnđela ŠikićThis Wednesday, Croatian parliamentary elections were held, and as always they were an exciting event for the nation. Even if the winner and runner-up are somewhat easy to predict in Croatia, there is always that naïve glimmer of hope that this time things could change.That those elected would truly work for the benefit of their country instead of their own pockets.The 2024 Croatian parliamentary elections were especially marked by this intangible sense of hope and were highly anticipated, with the largest turnout since the 1990 elections. However, real change will have to wait.HDZ (seemingly) wins againCroatia’s longest serving ruling party (and the only criminally charged party via court verdicts) HDZ, has won parliamentary elections for the third consecutive time, although with fewer seats than four years before and without a majority. Center-right HDZ, led by Andrej Plenković who has served two consecutive terms as PM, have won with 61 seats in the 151-seat parliament.The Rijeke pravde coalition (Rivers of justice), headed by the opposition SDP, and unofficially by the current President Zoran Milanović, came in second with 42 seats. The right-wing Domovinski pokret (Homeland Movement) finished third with 13 seats and will probably play the role of kingmaker. This is a party fully opposed to the Istanbul Convention, women’s right to bodily autonomy and working with the Serb minority, which is all against HDZ’s politics. Minority representatives have secured eight mandates in total.Horse tradingSince neither HDZ nor SDP secured the absolute majority of 76 seats needed for constituting the parliament, a period of political horse-trading will ensue. Coalitions with both right-wing and left-wing parties, as well as with minorities that passed the threshold, will be needed.With 61 seats already won, in theory it would be easier for HDZ to find those 15 seats needed for a definitive win. However, almost every party that met the threshold on Wednesday has stated that they will not be forming a coalition with HDZ.That is, all except the aforementioned Domovinski pokret (DP), who on Thursday stated they “are open for negotiations”. For context, in a leaked audio tape on April 13, Plenković can be heard describing DP’s politicians as “evil people who they will not have any business with”.Political calculationsBefore the elections and during the campaign, almost every political party in Croatia was inviting the citizens to vote for anybody else except HDZ and Plenković.It appears HDZ’s numerous corruption affairs (that we have extensively reported on ), have united all Croatian political parties in their agenda to overthrow Plenković and HDZ, to abolish the notorious “Lex AP” and remove the equally notorious, freshly appointed attorney general, who was basically put in place to protect corrupt HDZ officials.At the same time, Croatia under Plenković has improved its credit rating, entered the Schengen zone and introduced the Euro instead of the old currency, the Kuna.The parties that want to see HDZ gone now have the opportunity to do just that by forming a coalition with SDP. With 42 seats, SDP needs a significantly bigger support. The right-wing party Most have stated they would not enter any coalition that would imply President Zoran Milanović as the new PM, and left-wing Možemo! stated they will not enter a coalition with any of the right-wing options. If neither HDZ nor SDP manage to obtain 76 seats in total, the elections will have to be repeated.Election irregularitiesOn election day, GONG (a non-governmental organisation that oversees elections in Croatia) received dozens of inquiries from citizens who stated that they did not find themselves on the voter lists at their polling stations, under the excuse of their identity cards being ‘expired’.Until then, these citizens had used their identity cards as normal and even travelled abroad using those same IDs. What is more, all of the valid ID cards that were not found on the voter list, allegedly expired on the same date.The ministry of internal affairs claims that the fault lies with the citizens who did not pick up new identity cards. The exact number of citizens who were not able to exercise their voting right remains unknown. Constitutional Court’s “coup d’état”?Two days after the elections, another breaking news have rocked Croatia. At a press conference on Friday, president of the Constitutional Court has declared that President Zoran Milanović cannot be PM or PM designate, even if he manages to gather the majority of 76 seats.The decision was adopted by nine votes to three. The Constitutional Court is justifying this decision by saying Milanović had breached the previous Constitutional Court’s warning from 18 March of not participating in the electoral process as a candidate, as he repeatedly implied he will be the next PM.Legal experts as well as the public were divided back then, and they are divided right now. In March, some were accusing the President of breaching the Constitution, saying he cannot possibly wear ‘two hats’ (that of President and PM candidate) or ‘sit in two chairs’.This time, the Constitutional Court is being heavily criticised for interfering in the election results, post festum. During his press conference Milanović referred to their decision as “the preparation for a coup d’état”. Three constitutional judges that voted against this decision have publicly declared their dissent, calling this turn of events a deeply unconstitutional threat to the new Parliament.Kosovo ・ Patriarchy still rulesMourning day for the victims of femicideKosovo and the Balkans continue to be plagued by femicide, largely due to an insufficient judicial system coverage, a patriarchal mindset, and a lack of proper judicial standards on femicide and its definition, as well as protection of victims of domestic abuse and proper sentences for the abusers. Just recently, yet another tragic murder of a woman triggered a day of mourning in Kosovo, and there have been so many other cases across the region.Institutions throughout the Balkans are establishing task forces and national strategies on countering femicide. However, they focus on prevention rather than on the actual cure.These efforts take into account that the root of femicide comes from gender discrimination and unequal power relations based in male domination. While the steps to break through the male-dominated narratives may seem small for the world outside of the Western Balkans, they will certainly be monumental in contributing to female security in the region.correspondent imageGramos Sejdiu
As we join the day of mourning in Kosovo, we take a look back to reflect on the substantial changes needed to structurally fight discrimination against women, and the crime of femicide, alongside the steps we must take to create an environment that fosters a better and safer society, particularly for women, and not just in Kosovo but across the Balkans and Europe.Sources: Prishtina Insight and Barron’sMontenegro ・ Crime and corruptionMontenegrins longing for fair access to justiceFormer head of the supreme court for three terms and and on the highest judicial positions for almost 20 years; former police director; former deputy police director and high-ranked operative of national security; former special state prosecutor; current head of the national anti-corruption agency. What brings all of these people together? Well, they have all been arrested on serious charges of organised crime and/or corruption over the past few years, with the latter three being arrested just recently.These arrests, although yet to be concluded with official verdicts, point to a system of corruption, crime, and manipulation embedded in the foundations of the justice system and the police.In front of the eyes of the EU, its frontrunner candidate state has been turning into a decadent criminal state for decades. It is only now, with the special prosecutor office’s activities, that we can see the extent of these criminal schemes.correspondent imageMarko Milikić
As thousands of court cases are piling up, the judiciary is unreformed, underpaid, and infrastructurally deprived, grappled by corruption and conflicts of interest, and all the while as citizens are longing for justice and for an impartial judiciary, these arrests come as the cherry on top of a state failing its duties to its citizens.One might wonder how any Montenegrin, myself included, can expect to see any kind of justice served, and to seek protection from the state in cases of need, when the very system designed to provide that has failed so badly.Sources: Balkan InsightMusic recommendation from MontenegroEvery day, our correspondents recommend one song to you. Today, Marko Milikić chose this one. We hope you enjoy!
LučeMilena VučićShe’s not naïve and she will not give in to the loverboy. Montenegro’s 2000s Jenny from the Block used to be a musical sensation, and “Luče” was one of her signature hits.

Listen on Youtube Listen on Spotify〉Recommend a song for our next editionThank you for being with us on yet another Saturday. Stay informed, and see you in the next newsletter. Have a lovely weekend!Take careMarko Milikić
Leading Editor
for The BalkansPS: Can you tell us what you think of today’s edition of the newsletter?Very interesting!
Quite good
Not interesting for meEvery day, as a small reward for your feedback, we will show you a cute animal picture.This newsletter was edited by Dylan Goodman, the visuals were created by Sara Čurić, and the executive producer was Klara Vlahčević Lisinski.You receive this email because you are signed up for the  newsletter of The European Correspondent .Do you get too many emails? Click here to only receive the weekly newsletter.  If you don’t want to receive any emails at all from us , you can unsubscribe here .

Unveiling the Hidden Gems: The Latest Cultural News from North Macedonia

North Macedonia, a small country in the Balkans, may not be on everyone’s radar when it comes to cultural news. However, this hidden gem is home to a rich and diverse cultural scene that is constantly evolving and making waves in the international art world.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the latest cultural news from North Macedonia, from its vibrant music scene to its thriving contemporary art scene.

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INSIDE THE MACEDONIAN FAKE-NEWS COMPLEX

by Samanth Subramanian | photographs by Guy Martin | © 2020 WIRED


The Macedonian Teens Who Mastered Fake News

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THE FIRST ARTICLE about Donald Trump that Boris ever published described how, during a campaign rally in North Carolina, the candidate slapped a man in the audience for disagreeing with him. This never happened, of course. Boris had found the article somewhere online, and he needed to feed his web­site, Daily Interesting Things, so he appropriated the text, down to its last mis­begotten comma. He posted the link on Facebook, seeding it within various groups devoted to American politics; to his astonish­ment, it was shared around 800 times. That month—February 2016—Boris made more than $150 off the Google ads on his website. Considering this to be the best possible use of his time, he stopped going to high school.

Boris isn’t his real name. He prefers the anonymity because he doesn’t want to break ranks with the other people in his town of Veles, in the Balkan nation of Macedonia. Nobody here wants to dwell on Trump anymore. Veles has the feel of a small community clamming up out of a suspicion that it’s being talked about for all the wrong reasons.

In the final weeks of the US presidential election, Veles attained a weird infamy in the most powerful nation on earth; stories in The Guardian and on BuzzFeed revealed that the Macedonian town of 55,000 was the registered home of at least 100 pro-Trump websites, many of them filled with sensationalist, utterly fake news. (The imminent criminal indictment of Hillary Clinton was a popular theme; another was the pope’s approval of Trump.) The sites’ ample traffic was rewarded handsomely by automated advertising engines, like Google’s AdSense. An article in The New Yorker described how President Barack Obama himself spent a day in the final week of the campaign talking “almost obsessively” about Veles and its “digital gold rush.”

Within Veles itself, the young entrepreneurs behind these websites became subjects of tantalizing intrigue. Between August and November, Boris earned nearly $16,000 off his two pro-Trump websites. The average monthly salary in Macedonia is $371.

https://www.wired.com/video/inside-the-fake-news-factory-of-macedonia

Boris is 18 years old, a lean, slouching youth with gray eyes, hair mowed close to his skull, and the rudiments of a beard. When he isn’t smoking a cigarette, he’s lighting one. He listens to a lot of gangsta rap: the Notorious B.I.G., Puff Daddy, Wu-Tang Clan; after watching Notorious, the 2009 biopic of B.I.G., he decided he would like to visit Brooklyn, a New York City borough he imagines overrun more by gangsters than hipsters. He is an affable raconteur, with a droll sense of humor and a clear-eyed view of himself and his town. Someday he wants to leave Veles, because of how little there is to do. You can live with your parents and have them pay for your evenings in a bar, or you can bus tables in a café. If you’re a gym rat, you might work security. A few factories on the outskirts of town still offer regular employment, but nothing lavish. “We can’t make money here with a real job,” Boris says. “This Google AdSense work is not a real job.”

At best, Boris’ English is halting and fractured—certainly not good enough to turn out five to 10 articles about Trump and Clinton every day for weeks on end. Fortunately for him, the election summoned forth the energies of countless alt-right websites in the US, which manufactured white-label falsehoods disguised as news on an industrial scale. Across the spectrum of right-wing media—from Trump’s own concise lies on Twitter to the organized prevarication of Breitbart News and NationalReport.net—ideology beat back the truth. What Veles produced, though, was something more extreme still: an enterprise of cool, pure amorality, free not only of ideology but of any concern or feeling about the substance of the election. These Macedonians on Facebook didn’t care if Trump won or lost the White House. They only wanted pocket money to pay for things—a car, watches, better cell phones, more drinks at the bar. This is the arrhythmic, disturbing heart of the affair: that the internet made it so simple for these young men to finance their material whims and that their actions helped deliver such momentous consequences.

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https://hello-macedonia.eu/inside-the-macedonian-complex

Over de stad Ohrid en zijn meer

Het Ohrid-meer, dat tussen 4 en 10 miljoen jaar geleden tektonisch werd gevormd, is het oudste meer van Europa en een van de oudste ter wereld.

Het Ohrid-meer is ook de naamgever van Ohrid Lacus, een koolwaterstofmeer op de Saturnusmaan Titan; dat meer bestaat uit vloeibaar methaan en ethaan. Ohrid is een van de oudste continu bewoonde steden van Europa.

Destijds bekend als Lychnidos, onder Romeinse heerschappij was Ohrid een ontwikkelde stad en een belangrijke buitenpost op de Via Egnatia, de route die Rome en Constantinopel met elkaar verbond.

Tijdens de Middeleeuwen was Ohrid een van de belangrijkste Europese centra voor religieuze kunst, zoals blijkt uit de vele fresco’s en iconen in de kerken die verspreid zijn over de stad en rond het meer. In de late 9e en vroege 10e eeuw was Ohrid, dankzij het onderwijswerk van St. Clement, het belangrijkste centrum van de Slavische geletterdheid.

Aan het einde van de 10e en het begin van de 11e eeuw was Ohrid de hoofdstad van Samuel, die de stad transformeerde tot een centrum van politieke en religieuze macht van het rijk dat het grondgebied van Macedonië, Albanië, Montenegro, Servië, Noord-Griekenland en Noord-Bulgarije omvatte.

Balkan Jeruzalem: Ohrid was de zetel van het Ohrid Aartsbisdom, dat het kerkelijk en sociaal leven van de orthodoxe christenen op de Balkan bestuurde gedurende ongeveer 750 jaar, d.w.z. tussen 1018 en 1767.