489

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Serbia at risk of authoritarianism?

02-05-2019

Among the Western Balkan countries aspiring to EU membership, Serbia is seen as a frontrunner in terms of its democratic institutions, level of economic development and overall readiness for accession. However, in November 2018 opposition politician, Borko Stefanović, was beaten up by thugs, triggering a wave of protests that has spread across the country. Week after week, thousands have taken to the streets, accusing Serbian president, Aleksandar Vučić, and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) of ...

Among the Western Balkan countries aspiring to EU membership, Serbia is seen as a frontrunner in terms of its democratic institutions, level of economic development and overall readiness for accession. However, in November 2018 opposition politician, Borko Stefanović, was beaten up by thugs, triggering a wave of protests that has spread across the country. Week after week, thousands have taken to the streets, accusing Serbian president, Aleksandar Vučić, and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) of authoritarian rule, attacks on independent media, electoral fraud and corruption. Although the protests only started recently, they highlight worrying longer-term trends. Press freedom has been in decline for several years, particularly since Vučić became prime minister in 2014. A large part of the media is now controlled either directly by the state or by pro-SNS figures. Independent journalists face threats and even violence, and perpetrators are rarely convicted. In the National Assembly, the governing coalition uses its parliamentary majority to systematically block meaningful discussions of legislative proposals. In protest, the opposition started a boycott of plenary debates in February 2019. The tone of verbal attacks by SNS politicians and their allies on independent media, the political opposition and civil society is often virulent. Criticising government policy is framed as betrayal of Serbian interests. The aim seems to be to marginalise critical voices while concentrating power in the hands of the SNS-led government. Elected to the mainly ceremonial role of president in 2017, Vučić nevertheless remains the dominant figure. If Serbia's drift towards authoritarianism continues, it could become a major obstacle to EU accession, for which 2025 has been mentioned as a possible date.

EU-Eastern Partnership people-to-people contacts

25-03-2019

In 2009, the EU launched its Eastern Partnership (EaP) initiative with the ambition to promote closer cooperation with six of its eastern neighbours: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Support for people-to-people contacts is a key element of the EU's EaP strategy, and is extended through programmes in the areas of movement of persons, education and peace-building.

In 2009, the EU launched its Eastern Partnership (EaP) initiative with the ambition to promote closer cooperation with six of its eastern neighbours: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Support for people-to-people contacts is a key element of the EU's EaP strategy, and is extended through programmes in the areas of movement of persons, education and peace-building.

EU-Belarus people-to-people contacts

25-03-2019

The autocratic policies pursued by Belarus's long-standing president, Alexander Lukashenko, have strained EU-Belarus ties over the years. Against this backdrop, the EU has geared its support towards the Belarusian people at large. The crisis in Ukraine slowly rekindled EU-Belarus relations, but the backbone of cooperation remains civil society support and people-to-people contacts.

The autocratic policies pursued by Belarus's long-standing president, Alexander Lukashenko, have strained EU-Belarus ties over the years. Against this backdrop, the EU has geared its support towards the Belarusian people at large. The crisis in Ukraine slowly rekindled EU-Belarus relations, but the backbone of cooperation remains civil society support and people-to-people contacts.

Parliamentary scrutiny of trade policies across the western world

25-03-2019

The Lisbon Treaty increased the European Parliament’s powers over EU trade policy. Ten years after its entry into force it is timely to take stock of how the EP has made use of this leverage in shaping the EU’s trade negotiations. Such an exercise benefits from a comparison with other well-established parliamentary democracies, particularly the key partners with whom the EU has recently negotiated or has started to negotiate a comprehensive trade agreement. This study compares parliamentary scrutiny ...

The Lisbon Treaty increased the European Parliament’s powers over EU trade policy. Ten years after its entry into force it is timely to take stock of how the EP has made use of this leverage in shaping the EU’s trade negotiations. Such an exercise benefits from a comparison with other well-established parliamentary democracies, particularly the key partners with whom the EU has recently negotiated or has started to negotiate a comprehensive trade agreement. This study compares parliamentary scrutiny of trade policy in the EU with the United States, Canada and Australia. It concludes that the European Parliament has become powerful and active in trade policy, on a comparable level to the US Congress. Its powers exceed those of other Western democracies, such as Australia and Canada. From the latter the European Parliament may conclude that it is important to codify some of its informal oversight practices, before they may get lost over time again. This may also help to encourage its trading partners to increase their parliamentary involvement during negotiations with the EU. As regards the implementation of trade agreements however, the EU has very few competences in comparison to all other three countries analysed.

External author

Bart KERREMANS, Johan ADRIAENSEN, Francesca COLLI, Evelyn COREMANS

Turkey: 2018 country report

06-03-2019

In March 2019, the European Parliament is due to vote on a motion for a resolution on Turkey's 2018 country report. Both the Commission's report and that of the Foreign Affairs Committee point to backsliding in key areas. The Foreign Affairs Committee calls for improvement, and for the suspension of accession negotiations.

In March 2019, the European Parliament is due to vote on a motion for a resolution on Turkey's 2018 country report. Both the Commission's report and that of the Foreign Affairs Committee point to backsliding in key areas. The Foreign Affairs Committee calls for improvement, and for the suspension of accession negotiations.

Ukraine's presidential election 2019

19-02-2019

Ukrainians will be heading to the polls twice in 2019, five years after Ukrainians toppled the pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovich, demanding a functioning democracy and an end to kleptocracy. On 31 March, Ukrainians will cast their ballot in the first round of the first presidential election since the Euromaidan revolution. In October, they will elect a new parliament. Amid Russia's ongoing hybrid war against Ukraine, the elections are a test case for the country's democracy, its unprecedented ...

Ukrainians will be heading to the polls twice in 2019, five years after Ukrainians toppled the pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovich, demanding a functioning democracy and an end to kleptocracy. On 31 March, Ukrainians will cast their ballot in the first round of the first presidential election since the Euromaidan revolution. In October, they will elect a new parliament. Amid Russia's ongoing hybrid war against Ukraine, the elections are a test case for the country's democracy, its unprecedented reform process and its European path.

Ukraine: Religion and (geo-)politics: Orthodox split weakens Russia's influence

18-02-2019

Five years after the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople – widely seen as the spiritual leader (primus inter pares) of the Eastern Orthodox world – granted the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) 'autocephaly' on 5 January 2019, formalising a split from the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). The move follows an intensified Ukrainian campaign to obtain religious independence and thereby reduce the influence of the ROC, which plays a key role in the Kremlin's identity ...

Five years after the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople – widely seen as the spiritual leader (primus inter pares) of the Eastern Orthodox world – granted the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) 'autocephaly' on 5 January 2019, formalising a split from the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). The move follows an intensified Ukrainian campaign to obtain religious independence and thereby reduce the influence of the ROC, which plays a key role in the Kremlin's identity politics in the region. This development could have wide-reaching implications. Such a blow to the ROC undermines the Kremlin's 'soft' spiritual influence. The Kremlin views the development as a question of national security and is unlikely to accept the defeat without resistance. The issue is expected to play a prominent role in the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine. In a wider context — reflecting Moscow's nexus between geopolitics and religion — the decision of the ROC to sever ties with Constantinople in response to the decision to grant the OCU autocephaly could mark the beginning of a wider rift in the Orthodox world. Moscow appears to be exerting pressure on other Orthodox patriarchates to sever ties with Constantinople.

The meaning of 'association' under EU law - A study on the law and practice of EU association agreements

18-02-2019

This study, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the AFCO Committee, analyses the law and practice of EU association agreements. It maps out different types of association agreements concluded on the legal basis of Article 217 TFEU and identifies the key features characterising the nature of association under EU law.

This study, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the AFCO Committee, analyses the law and practice of EU association agreements. It maps out different types of association agreements concluded on the legal basis of Article 217 TFEU and identifies the key features characterising the nature of association under EU law.

External author

Peter VAN ELSUWEGE,Merijn CHAMON

EU-Ukraine people-to-people contacts

15-02-2019

The 2014 Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine began as a grassroots movement, channelling public calls for a functioning democracy, a European outlook and an end to corruption. Since then, the European Union (EU) has been unrelenting in its support for Kyiv's ambitious reform process as well as for Ukraine's vibrant civil society.

The 2014 Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine began as a grassroots movement, channelling public calls for a functioning democracy, a European outlook and an end to corruption. Since then, the European Union (EU) has been unrelenting in its support for Kyiv's ambitious reform process as well as for Ukraine's vibrant civil society.

Serbia-Kosovo relations: Confrontation or normalisation?

12-02-2019

After fighting broke out between government forces and separatists, the formerly Serbian province of Kosovo was transferred to United Nations administration in 1999. In 2008, Kosovo declared independence. However, Belgrade continues to view its former province as Serbian territory. Over 100 countries, including 23 EU Member States, have recognised Kosovar independence, but full recognition and membership of most international organisations are still a long way off. Both Serbia and Kosovo aspire to ...

After fighting broke out between government forces and separatists, the formerly Serbian province of Kosovo was transferred to United Nations administration in 1999. In 2008, Kosovo declared independence. However, Belgrade continues to view its former province as Serbian territory. Over 100 countries, including 23 EU Member States, have recognised Kosovar independence, but full recognition and membership of most international organisations are still a long way off. Both Serbia and Kosovo aspire to EU membership – Serbia as a candidate country and Kosovo as a potential candidate. The EU insists that Serbia must normalise its relations with Kosovo before joining. Since 2011, with the help of EU mediation, the two neighbours have resolved some of the technical issues, but disagreements prevent normal day-to-day interaction between them in areas such as trade, energy supplies and cross-border travel. One of the main stumbling blocks is the situation of Kosovo's Serb minority. Around one in 12 Kosovars is an ethnic Serb, and nearly half of these are concentrated in the north. Despite efforts to integrate Serb-majority northern Kosovo into the rest of the country, Pristina still struggles to control the region. In 2013 and 2015, it agreed to establish an Association of Serb-majority Municipalities, but progress on this is now deadlocked. In 2018, the Kosovar and Serbian presidents floated the idea of a 'border correction', possibly involving the exchange of northern Kosovo for Albanian-majority Serbian districts. However, the proposal has been criticised by Germany, which fears that any territorial exchange risks sparking instability by calling into question other Western Balkan borders. There is also strong domestic opposition to the move in both Kosovo and Serbia. Despite growing pressure on both sides to finally reach a deal that could unlock the door to EU membership, relations remain tense and progress towards normalisation is currently at a standstill.

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