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“Together” or separate? The Belarusian political elite after the elections

The ruling elite in Belarus is no longer the monolith that it portrayed itself as a few months ago. There are more and more splits and cracks in its structure, which in the long run may lead to a serious internal crisis. This group is losing its grip on control and even reality.

September 17, 2020 - Maxim Rust

Diplomacy is not The Apprentice: Serbia-Kosovo issue requires a long-term commitment

The Trump Administration’s Serbia-Kosovo agreement may achieve short-term successes, but it could also result in long-term negative consequences for the two adversaries.

September 15, 2020 - Leon Hartwell

Solidarity with Belarus. What can we do?

Belarusians have broken through decades of fear, and the demonstrations will continue against all odds. What can Europe do to help them end the authoritarian regime?

September 15, 2020 - Anastasiia Starchenko New Eastern Europe

Kosovo-Serbia Summit at the White House: What was it all about?

The so-called "economic normalisation deal" between Kosovo and Serbia was exploited by President Trump to further his foreign policy objectives in the Middle East.

September 14, 2020 - Visar Xhambazi

Belarusians have created a new sense of self-identity

An Interview with Anaïs Marin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus (OHCHR). Interviewer: Anastasiia Starchenko.

September 14, 2020 - Anaïs Marin Anastasiia Starchenko

Navalny’s poisoning disrupts Russian “smart voting” process

Navalny’s defeat, at least for some time, seems to be a necessary and timely measure in the run up to Russia’s regional elections from September 11th to 13th: the ruling United Russia would likely need to undermine ‘smart voting’ by targeting the concept’s key ideologist with a substantial national network and strong media influence.

September 7, 2020 - Anastasiia Starchenko

The election that changed Belarus

The August 9th presidential election has become a critical event for both the Belarusian society and the ruling elite. The election saw the breakdown of traditional divides between the government and a decades-old political opposition. New players have presented themselves as an alternative to the existing system and have shown themselves to be capable of amassing an unprecedented level of public support.

On August 9th, a consequential presidential election took place in Belarus. A few months prior, there was no indication that this year's campaign would be radically different from any previous one. Everyone had assumed that the regime would simply register a few opposition candidates with no chance. After a typically uneventful campaign, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka would then claim another "elegant victory". Perhaps a few protests were expected, alongside expressions of “deep concern” from the European Union and the United States. Belarusian political life would soon return to “normal” following the announcement of the results.

September 7, 2020 - Maxim Rust

Russian digital authoritarianism at the time of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly accelerated the use of digital surveillance technologies in Russia which had been planned earlier but tested only on a limited scale. Their increased use by the state will not end with the pandemic, but will determine the “new normal” where civil liberties are restricted more than ever before.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is a classic example of an extraordinary situation which adds to the discussion regarding the ideal balance between public security and civil liberties. As expected, in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, security has been treated as a pretext to expand the state’s authority at the cost of individuals’ rights. The pandemic has been a catalyst which accelerates and expands implementation of advanced digital technologies that are aimed to tighten the authoritarian hold over society. The authorities use them to monitor the citizens, manipulate behaviour, coerce people into political loyalty and to repress the opposition.

September 7, 2020 - Maria Domańska

Hardly a Georgian dream. Confronting COVID-19 in the midst of an election year

Like much of the world, Georgia has experienced the first half of 2020 in a way that could not have been predicted. The ruling Georgian Dream party faced the difficult choice of sparing economic losses or imposing strict regulations to maintain public health. The COVID-19 virus, while largely curtailed in Georgia by decisive action, has left many economic woes in a country that will only be intensified by an imminent election.

This year is shaping up to be unlike anything that could have been anticipated. This was a year that many expected to see dominated by Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, the Summer Olympics in Tokyo and a highly-contested US presidential election in the autumn. Instead, the first six months saw a global shutdown and subsequent economic and health crisis caused by COVID-19. The country of Georgia, which anticipated ten months of mud-slinging and campaign promises in the run up to its October parliamentary elections, quickly found itself as pre-occupied as the rest of the world with mitigating the effects of the virus.

September 7, 2020 - Mackenzie Baldinger

Will China’s facemask diplomacy pay off?

China has recently engaged itself in Central and Eastern Europe. Its influence in the region may become even stronger as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Central and Eastern Europe’s location is strategically very attractive – geopolitically and economically. That is why Washington has often called this region a pivot area, a term popularised by the late Zbigniew Brzeziński. With a large part of the region now part of western integration structures (especially NATO), the Kremlin sees it as a threat to its spheres of influence. Thus, the language of Russian strategists includes phrases such as the “American cordon sanitaire” or (alternatively) the “Western Limitrophe”.

September 7, 2020 - Jakub Bornio

The art of constitutional seduction. The 2020 case of Russia

On July 3rd 2020 Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on the official publication of the revised version of the Russian constitution, based on the Russian-wide voting on amending the constitution. The motivation of the process was clear – to allow Putin to stay in power almost indefinitely. Yet it also reveals the legal tricks and manipulation Russian authorities have used to make significant changes to the country’s legal order.

Imagine you are a skilled autocrat ruling over a nation for a long time. Unlike your dim, obsolete neighbours, you have successfully developed a personalist regime without any flagrant constitutional violations or manipulations. Even if you ever engaged in a constitutional modification process, you have always been careful and attentive, even to the tiniest technical issues of such an enterprise. No one can ever question the legitimacy of your previous endeavours because you are the master of legal disguise.

September 7, 2020 - Oleksandr Marusiak

A triumphant referendum?

Russian officials and state media outlets have called Russia’s recent vote on constitutional amendments a “triumph”. What does the result tell us about the state of Russian society? How did Russians living abroad vote? According to official data, Russians living in the Baltic states voted in favour of the amendments to the constitution at a higher rate to Russians living in Russia or Russians living in other EU countries. Why was this?

On July 1st Russia’s nationwide voting on constitutional amendments – designed primarily to give the current Russian president, Vladimir Putin the opportunity to remain in power until 2036 – came to an end. According to Russia’s Central Electoral Commission, more than 57.7 million voters, or 77.92 per cent of those who voted, supported the amendments, while 15.7 million, or 21.27 per cent, voted against it. The turnout, according to official reports, reached almost 68 per cent.

September 7, 2020 - Olga Irisova

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