Citizens in Western Balkans ready to take it to the streets?

Wed 15 Feb 2017

Citizens in Western Balkans ready to take it to the streets?

In response to the large-scale protest in Bucharest, citizens in some Balkan countries are calling for the same. These countries struggle with corruption as well, and have been home to protests in the last few years.

The protests in Bucharest and other Romanian cities started after the government wanted to implement a decree on January the 31st , which would effectively allow officials to get away with power abuse as long as the sums involved did not include more than 2000,000 lei (44,000 euros). The decree was repealed five days later, but this did not put a hold to the protests and the widespread feeling of dissatisfaction with the government’s policy.

Calls for protests in the Western Balkans

In Albania too the opposition is planning to hold protests. The government is not the only one being scrutinized, analysts in the country are focusing on corruption in the judicial branch. This comes amid the planned implementation of a law re-evaluating judges and prosecutors. In this law current justice officials are allowed to resign, without consequences, if they do not want to be assessed thoroughly. It is feared that a considerable amount of judges will resign, skipping checks and the publication of their financial and professional data, to avoid being confronted with corruption charges.

In Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia there were also calls for holding rallies against corruption. These calls don’t come unexpectedly, data from Transparency International shows that the countries still have serious issues with corruption. All four are ranked outside of the top-60 of the Corruption Perceptions Index 2016, and much lower than most EU-countries.

The most recent outburst, known as the Colourful Revolution, was in Macedonia in 2016. It started after President Ivanov pardoned all politicians facing criminal investigations in a wiretapping and corruption scandal. In 2015 it was the Montenegrins demonstrating against their governments by organizing large-scale protests in the capital. The Serbians on their turn showed a lot of resistance in 2014 to the so-called Belgrade Waterfront project. Opponents accused the government of failing to respect legal procedures, censoring critics and deterring protesters. Lastly, violent protests arose in Bosnia and Herzegovina in February 2014 as a response to a bad economic situation, corruption and unemployment.

It is to be seen if citizens in Western Balkans will take to the calls and take it to the streets in great numbers. The main ingredients – corruption and high unemployment – are there.

Sources: Balkaninsight1, Balkaninsight2, Balkaninsight3, The Guardian1, The Guardian2