Trouble brewing in the Balkans: Kosovo and Serbia set to meet for talks
by Neo Allert
Once again the Balkans has turned into a powder keg, as tensions rise to a new high between Kosovo and Serbia. A controversy surrounding licence plates has sparked fears of a renewed armed conflict between the two nations: many ethnic Serbs living in northern Kosovo have refused to equip their vehicles with the standard licence plates issued by Pristina, stating that they don’t recognize Kosovo institutions. In this they are backed by Belgrade.
Under Western pressure Kosovo’s prime minister Albin Kurti has been persuaded to postpone the licence plate regulation until 1 September. With Jens Stoltenberg, NATO general secretary, calling for calm on both sides, Kurti and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic have agreed to meet in Brussels for EU-mediated talks on 18 August. This meeting is expected to bring little progress with Vucic stating ‘We do not agree almost on anything’.
Albania opens its doors to the highest bidders
by Rachael Ward
Brits have been known to get excited about blue passports quietly replacing the standard red. Well, how about Albania’s golden passports? Despite being more about granting privilege to wealthy overseas investors than a snazzy new shade for the front cover of one’s certification, they have, nonetheless, caused a great deal of excitement.
The idea behind such passports is a simple one: that of allowing foreign investors to enjoy Albanian citizenship. In North Macedonia and Montenegro, similar schemes have attracted overseas investment in underdeveloped regions. While the Albanian Prime Minister is rather pleased with this idea, officials in Brussels are not. Albania has been warned that if it continues with this initiative, it can bid its hopes of joining the EU farewell. It appears Albania will have to choose between handing out golden passports to the highest bidder and making it onto the list of EU member states.
by Connor Crout
Lithuania’s foreign ministry has called for China to reverse sanctions imposed against Lithuania’s deputy transport minister. A formal complaint has been made.
China’s foreign ministry has claimed that the sanctions were a reaction to Lithuania’s deputy transport minister visiting Taiwan. Moreover the Chinese government has revoked the cooperation in transport issues between Lithuania and China. China’s actions are in line with its One China policy that views Taiwan as Chinese territory, opposing any foreign politicians visiting the island. Taiwan refutes this claim.
This is not the first time this year that Chinese-Lithuanian relations have turned sour. Back in January, the EU launched a challenge against China claiming its discriminatory trade practices against Lithuania threatened the integrity of the single market.
The future of Chinese-Lithuanian and Chinese-Taiwanese relations seem uncertain and unlikely to improve soon.
Tensions sparked in Estonia as Soviet monument removed
by Aidan O’Connor
The Estonian government has announced plans to remove Soviet-era war monuments from the country. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas stated that the decision was necessary in order to ‘ensure public order and internal security’ due to increased confusion and hostility among citizens surrounding the issue.
One monument in particular, a Soviet tank, in the Russian-speaking city of Narva has sparked tensions between the national government and local authorities. Narva’s local government has contested the authority of the national government concerning the removal of the monument However, the Estonian government has decided to remove it, stating that Soviet war monuments ‘are no longer a local issue’. The divisions between Estonia’s national government and the Russian-speaking minority regions of the country reveal that much work is still needed to bring Estonian society together.