June 15, 2010: Bulgarian officials and police have stepped up counter-corruption efforts. Prime Minister Boyko Borisov is a former police officer and he made it clear he would not tolerate what Bulgarians cynically called a “culture of impunity” surrounding corrupt police, politicians, businesses, and gangsters. In the last year the counter-corruption effort has netted some fairly big fish, including a former defense minister. A lot of Bulgarians like it; they never thought they would see the bribe-takers taken down. Borisov, however, has attracted critics as well. Pro-democracy advocates, who want a clean government, also point out a risk one new policy poses. The counter-corruption program includes having law enforcement agents investigate candidates for higher office (primarily looking into bribes and connections). The democracy advocates say that could give a (heaven forbid) corrupt investigator a lot of power over the selection of candidates. Who polices the police? It's an old question, and one that Balkanites have asked for centuries.
June 9, 2010: Many in the U.S. believe Turkey has been pushed away from Europe, the US, and the rest of the West because the European Union has rejected Turkey's efforts to join the organization. This is one explanation for Turkey's attempts to develop better ties with Iran, Turkey's opposition to new sanctions on Iran's nuclear program, and Turkey's recent hostility towards Israel. This puts the blame on Europe, for forcing Turkey to look east because they had no support to the west.
June 7, 2010: The government of Moldova said it is encouraged by a new German-Russian diplomatic effort to resolve the standoff in Transdniestr. Attempts by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to end the confrontation between Moldova and the Transdniestr state-let have been ineffective.
June 6, 2010: By a slender margin (52 to 48 percent), Slovenian voters approved the government's decision to use international arbitration to resolve a border dispute with Croatia. There has been a long-standing dispute between Croatia and Slovenia over a sea and land corridor around Piran Bay. Slovenia claims it has the right to direct access to the Adriatic Sea through the bay.
June 2, 2010: The EU once again said it intends to eventually admit western Balkan countries to the organization. The statement comes at a time that many Germans and Frenchmen believe the EU has become too large. The EU currently has 27 members. The western Balkan states have fragile economies and suffer from varying degrees of corruption – in other words, Western European citizens fear they will suffer from the problems Greece exhibits. Bosnia's stability, in particular, is a huge concern.
May 26, 2010: Turkey's Republican Peoples Party (CHP) has suffered numerous political setbacks in the last two decades, and especially since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) took control of the government in a 2002 landslide. CHP power was already waning in the 1990s because of a series of corruption scandals Early last month another scandal –this time a sex scandal-- brought down the senior CHP leader, Deniz Baykal. The CHP is Turkey's Kemalist party, founded by Kemal Ataturk himself in 1923. Many Turks look to the CHP to reign in the AKP, which is acting increasingly Islamist and less moderate. The AKP has also recently suffered several corruption scandals. The CHP is preparing to challenge the AKP in next year's elections, but Turkish and regional political analysts aren't sure the CHP can do it. On May 22 the CHP hurriedly elected a new leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. His election was all but unanimous. Kilicdaroglu, however, is something of an enigma for the CHP and the Turkish electorate. He is an ethnic Kurd (from Tunceli province, in eastern Turkey) and also a Turkish Shia (an Alevi). But he has the reputation of a reformer and strong nationalist credentials. He is also going after the state-run TV channel, TRT, calling it an arm of the AKP. Specifically, he called it the “Tayyip Radio Television Association” (after Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the current Prime Minister and head of the AKP). As for the European Union and the common Turkish belief that Turkey has been ill-treated in the EU accession process, in his speech to the CHP party congress in May, Kilicdaroglu said the European Union is very important but (quote) “...they should stop treating Turkey like a second-class country. Of course we would like to be at the same level as modern countries and reach the level of modern civilization. We would like to be one of the special countries in the world. Of course we say yes to cooperation and investment. But the double standards they apply to Turkey bother us.” Expect to hear more speeches on this theme as the CHP and AKP begin their campaigns for the parliamentary elections in November 2011.
May 25, 2010: The Turkish government remains upset with what it regards as a sellout by the US and western Europe of its attempts (along with Brazil) to negotiate a uranium-enrichment swap deal with Iran. Turkey argues the deal it negotiated was modeled on a proposal made by the west in the fall of 2009. For its part, the U.S. contends that the deal Turkey and Brazil negotiated would have allowed Iran to recover its uranium at any time it chose-- in other words, the deal was a sham.