In this 4th and
final Bulletin before the summer, we focus on the latest developments with
regard to the Covid-19 pandemic in the region, and the impact it has had on the
overall political environment within each country, many of whom are facing
impending electoral challenges.
deterioration in democratic standards and delays in EU related reforms as the
pandemic unfolded throughout the region, in countries where institutions were
already weak, should be a cause for concern for the EU as it pursues its
postponement of the European Commission’s annual enlargement communication with
accompanying country reports to the autumn, this deterioration is likely to
continue unchecked without more rigorous monitoring and enforcement actions
from the European Union. In this respect, the forthcoming rule of law
monitoring reports from the European Commission will be a useful indicator.
There has been a
marked increase in the infection rate in almost all the countries of the
region, with the most alarming being in North Macedonia, where testing capacity
also remains limited. The main exception is Montenegro where the situation
remains stable despite two new cases of infection after some weeks without any.
increase in infections, the restrictions and other exit strategy measures
continue to be eased or lifted. However, increasing criticism has being leveled
at governments for failing to exercise proper controls in social distancing and
hygiene rules, and in some cases allowing large gatherings to take place, such
as a football match in Serbia attended by 25,000 people. Undue speed in lifting
restrictions such as in Kosovo and in Turkey has also been the subject of
There is no
doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has had dramatic consequences for the
countries of the region, not only in terms of devastating economic impact but
also in relation to a serious deterioration in proper functioning of the
institutions and democratic standards.
for the weak institutional system in place in most of the countries prior to
the pandemic, as reflected in international indicators such as Freedom House,
with Turkey being the worst case, the unfolding pandemic has seen a further
decline in democratic standards and an increase in authoritarian behaviour of
the political leadership.
exception of North Macedonia where a technical government is in place and
Parliament suspended due to early elections, decision making in relation to the
pandemic lacked transparency and democratic accountability. Parliament was
often ignored as was predictably the case in Turkey, or only consulted after decisions
were made, as was the case in Serbia. In Albania, a worrying practice of
adopting tailor-made laws continued.
transparency in public procurement of medical equipment and other expenditure
relating to the pandemic has increased the potential for corruption in a number
Both media and
civil society organisations have suffered from this deteriorating climate, with
harassment and even detention of journalists in Serbia, fines against an
opposition figure in Bosnia and Herzegovina for publicly speaking out on the
lack of personal protective equipment, and the withdrawing of funds already
allocated to civil society organisations in the case of North Macedonia.
elections in several countries (Serbia on 21 June, North Macedonia on 15 July,
Montenegro in early autumn), not to mention the political uncertainty in Kosovo
following another change in government, have also played their part in
exacerbating domestic politic tensions with governments being criticized for
prioritising electoral considerations instead of managing the health crisis.
Progress in EU related reforms has inevitably suffered. However this rather bleak picture is brightened somewhat by success in Bosnia and Herzegovina in finally resolving the long standing dispute over elections in Mostar, thanks to EU/US mediation, and the appointment in Albania of the chief negotiator and the negotiating team for the future EU accession negotiations.
Read the full bulletin here.
This publication is prepared within the framework of the CEPS-led ‘3dCFTAs’ project, enabled by financial support from Sweden.