Eastern Europe monitoring team: Matisse Grenier, Séverine Ly, Olivier Husson
06/12/2022: An EU-Western Balkans summit is held in Tirana, Albania. A joint declaration is adopted. -Matisse Grenier-
On 6 December, Albania hosted a summit between representatives of the 27 EU member states and leaders of the six non-EU Western Balkan countries. According to Balkan Insight, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic finally gave up his original idea of not attending the summit in protest at what he saw as international support for Kosovo. The summit aimed to discuss and reiterate the prospects for EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, but also to strengthen cooperation in a number of areas, including security.
The Tirana Declaration, which was issued jointly by the different actors and published on the official website of the Council of the EU, confirms “the full commitment [of the EU] to the perspective of the accession of the Western Balkans to the European Union and calls for the acceleration of the accession process” in the light of the new geopolitical context. The Declaration notes the many efforts made by the Western Balkan partners and encourages them to step up their efforts, particularly in the areas of rule of law, foreign policy, protection of minorities, regional stability, corruption and the fight against organised crime.
Secondly, the Tirana Declaration reviews the various financing and cooperation measures between the European Union and the Western Balkan partners that are already active or planned to meet the new challenges. These measures will allow for a progressive integration of the region into European structures. More strikingly, the Declaration states that the candidate countries will undertake internal campaigns to promote the values and benefits of the EU, in order to convince sometimes sceptical populations.
Finally, the President of the European Council Charles Michel gave a speech at the end of the Tirana summit. He stressed the “historic” nature of this meeting, which is taking place for the first time in the Western Balkans. Charles Michel referred to the “concrete commitments and further steps on the road to integration” set out in the Declaration.
7/12/2022: Analysts wonder if Belarus will join Russia in the war. -Olivier Husson-
The Security Council of Belarus, an ally of Russia, announced on 7 December, according to the state news agency BelTA, a move of troops and military equipment to counter what it calls a terrorist threat. Furthermore on 3 December Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu made a visit to the capital Minsk. He signed an amendment with Belarusian Defence Minister Viktor Khrenin to the 1997 security cooperation agreement, according to the BelTa agency.
According to Belarusian military analyst Aleksandr Alesin, this could involve the resumption of production and transfer to Russia of the Belarusian-Chinese MLRS Polonez, which has similar characteristics to the US HIMARS. Russia badly needs them and it allows China to circumvent sanctions.
In September, a major mobilisation exercise began. The exercise is a test for potential mobilisation and by the end of the year all 1.5 million eligible Belarusians will have gone to military registration offices to update their records.
As for the participation of Belarus directly in the war, the think tank Institute for the Study of War has stated that it is an “information operation aimed at fixing Ukrainian forces on the border“. But Konrad Muzyka, an expert at Rochan Consulting, told Reuters that “Belarus has actually been preparing for some months to join the war on the Russian side. All the capabilities they would need to enter the war have been tested.”
07/12/2022 : Ukraine’s minister of culture calls for boycott of Russian culture – Séverine Ly-
In an article published on December 7 in The Guardian, the Ukraine’s minister of culture, Oleksandr Tkatchenko, called for a “boycott of Russian culture” until the end of the invasion. Specifically, he asked all countries to “suspend performances” of Russian composers such as Tchaikovsky, to refuse to “cooperate with Russian artists supporting the war” and to prefer Ukrainian culture.
According to Oleksandr Tkatchenko, in the territories conquered by Moscow, “bookstores have been liquidated, the word Ukraine has been removed and Ukrainian museums destroyed”. In total, Kiev has recorded more than 800 cases of destruction of historical, cultural and artistic monuments. These destructions are justified by the idea that Ukrainians do not really form a nation but that they belong to the Russian world. That is why Russian government wants to wipe out all Ukrainian culture.
Thus, beyond a military war, culture is an important issue. On September 5, Vladimir Putin signed a decree about “Russian Peace” making culture “a weapon in the hands of the government” according to Oleksandr Tkatchenko. The protection of Russian artists and their spokespersons abroad is a priority of the Kremlin.
However, the war in Ukraine has allowed to put forward its literature, its composers, its singers, its history to the detriment of the Russian ones. Thus, the singers of the Kiev National Opera have been invited to London, New York and Milan and have performed Ukrainian works.