Eastern Europe Geopolitical Watch – From November 12 to November 18, 2022

Eastern Europe Watch Team : Matisse Grenier, Séverine Ly, Olivier Husson

11/15/2022 : The Kosovo Serb political party announces that it will boycott the upcoming elections. -Matisse Grenier-

According to Balkan Insight, the Kosovo Serb party, Srpska Lista, announced on 15 November that it will not participate in the “extraordinary” local elections to be held on 18 December in four Serb-majority municipalities in northern Kosovo.

The head of the Serbian office for Kosovo, Petar Petkovic, reaffirmed Belgrade’s support for Srpska Lista, before declaring that “choices for Serbian municipalities without Serbs and the Serbian people are meaningless and, as such, doomed to failure“.

These early elections are being organised following a wave of Serb resignations from Kosovo’s institutions. Indeed, the reform of the harmonization of license plates, supported by Brussels, is causing tension between the government in Pristina and the Serbian minority that does not recognize it.

11/16/2022 : Serbia reiterates its determination to fully integrate the International Organisation of the Francophonie. -Matisse Grenier-

According to Cord, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has expressed his determination for Serbia to become “a full member of the International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF)“. This statement came during a meeting with representatives of the Group of Francophone Ambassadors (GAF).

Ivica Dacic is said to have focused his objectives on “improving Serbia’s cooperation with the Francophonie“, notably through “commitment to the values of the organisation“, which are the promotion of peace, democracy, human rights, intercultural cooperation, dialogue and solidarity.

Serbia is already an associate member of the OIF and can therefore participate in OIF summits. Ivica Ducic reportedly took advantage of the recent interview to announce that he will personally lead the Serbian delegation at the next Francophonie summit, from 18 to 20 November. In return, GAF representatives reportedly proposed initiatives to ensure better visibility for Serbia within the organisation.

11/16/2022: Inauguration of the new Presidential College of the Federal State of Bosnia and Herzegovina -Séverine Ly-

According to the authorities, on 16 November, the three new members of the triumvirate at the Presidency of the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina officially took office after their elections on 2 October. On this occasion, Denis Bećirović, Željko Komšić and Željka Cvijanović spoke about their respective commitments for the next four years, shared on the official website of the Presidency

Although elected by different ethnicities, they all shared their priority of becoming a member of the European Union (EU) and NATO. In his speech, the Bosnian representative, Denis Bećirović, stated that “Our strategic goals are full membership in the EU and NATO“. The members of the College are aware of the mandatory changes. Thus, a necessary “upgrading to a system of complete democracy and all its values” in order to fulfil the conditions of the European Commission, according to Željko Komšić, Croatian candidate for the fourth time. For Željka Cvijanović, elected by the Serbian Republic and president of the college for the first eight months, to “strengthen regional cooperation (…) and coordination of the different levels of government” will facilitate thoses changes. 

With two out of three members coming from non-ethnonationalist parties, a real desire to build “country’s unity” has emerged, in a context of identity crisis. This new college wants to be “optimistic” and “opened to positive changes“.

11/17/2022 Investigation proves Ikea used forced labour in Belarusian prisons -Olivier Husson-

The investigative newspaper Disclose has unveiled on 17th November that ten of Ikea’s Belarusian suppliers have exploited prisoners. This prison labour is reportedly accompanied by torture, food and health care deprivation . 

Since 1999, Belarus has been supplying wood to Ikea, and in 2021 Ikea ordered 300 million euros from Belarusian suppliers, according to the state news agency.

A Mogotex company has, according to an accounting document of July 2021 released by the prison, employed prison labourers from the IK-15 prison factory. 

The testimony of Tsikhan Kliukach, a 19-year-old man in jail for ten months for participating in the anti-Lukashenko protests confirms the torture and forced labour in the prison:

Many of us were beaten. We were deprived of parcels, the right to write letters, visits. We were put in solitary confinement… I spent a total of 55 days there.”

According to the Lithuanian NGO, Our House, the inmates of IK-2 were paid “2 to 5 rubles per month”, which is less than two euros. 

Correctional Centre No. 5 has a web page and even an Instagram account where you can buy furniture or wooden panels. The supplier Ivatsevichdrev then exported these products throughout Europe, with a certificate attesting to the fact that his products are in accordance to Swedish standards. Now this supplier is on sanction list.

Ikea broke off contracts with its suppliers in Belarus after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to the company. In the past, Ikea has been accused of using forced labour in the GDR in the 1970s and 1980s.

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