Eastern Europe Geopolitical Watch – From October 22 to October 28, 2022.

10/23/2022 : Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announces his new government, in an effort to balance East and West. -Matisse Grenier-

 According to local media Balkan Insight, on Sunday, October 23, a meeting of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party took place, following which President Vucic announced the composition of a new government.

Vuk Vuksanovic, a researcher at the Belgrade Center for Security Policy, says the changes «at first glance seem monumental», but points out that “one man will continue to make all the decisions, especially on foreign policy” .

The composition of the new government seems to lean slightly towards the West, while maintaining an East-West balance that reflects a certain continuity of Serbian foreign policy.

It is worth noting the presence of Ivica Dacic as Foreign Minister, having already held this position between 2014 and 2020, which does not allow for a total eviction of Russian influence. On the other hand, Tanja Miscevic, Serbia’s former chief negotiator with the European Union who was rather appreciated, has been appointed minister of integration at the EU. Perhaps the European Commission will be sensitive to these efforts.

10/25/2022 : The Council of Europe publishes a report denouncing the political and criminal influence on the police in Montenegro. -Matisse Grenier-

According to local media Balkan Insight, the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption monitoring body, GRECO, released a report on Tuesday, October 25, stating “major concerns about political and criminal influences on the Montenegrin police” .

The Council’s report suggests that Montenegro improve internal procedures for appointing police officers and for checking integrity throughout their careers. The European Commission will certainly be attentive to the conclusions of this report, as Montenegro is an EU candidate and is in the process of integration.

In its 2022 report on Montenegro’s progress towards EU membership, the Commission had already expressed the hope that the country would “step up its efforts to conduct effective and independent investigations into police violations” .

10/26/22: Kosovo faces an unprecedented energy crisis. -Elisabeth Nagy-

Since December 2021, Kosovo has been facing an unprecedented energy crisis. Indeed, the landlocked country produces 90% of its electricity from coal-fired power plants. However, the electricity company KEK, which has a monopoly on production, had to shut down half of its generators for maintenance before the winter. This forced the Kosovar government to adopt measures for domestic consumption last August. These measures included support for households to keep warm in winter, limiting energy-intensive cryptocurrency mining to reduce electricity consumption, support for the transmission system operator KOSTT, and reducing consumption in institutional buildings. Accompanied by frequent power cuts, these measures lasted 60 days before the Kosovo government returned to normal consumption.  

However, the cuts resumed as winter approached. With the price of energy resources rising, Kosovo is trying to find solutions with its neighbours, notably Albania. 

On 2 September 2022, the “Open Balkans” summit took place, during which the six Balkan countries were present. Aleksander Vucic, the Serbian president, asked the EU for help with the energy supply of their country, which has been hit hard by the war in Ukraine and the rise in the price of raw materials. 

On 26 October 2022, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced €500 million in financial aid to the Balkan countries to help them cope with the energy crisis and achieve energy independence. Kosovo should also benefit from this money and continue to expand its wind farms. 

10/26/2022: Fighting continues near the town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region. -Olga Chekhurska-

On October 26, in his daily address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that “extremely fierce fighting is taking place in the Donetsk region, near Bakhmut and Avdiivka”. For two weeks, the Ukrainian army has reported Russian offensives in the direction of Bakhmut and the town of Avdiïvka, about fifty kilometres further south.

According to Serhiy Cherevaty, a representative of the Eastern Forces Group of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the Russian army has gathered all possible military units near Bakhmut and are building a line of defence. “In recent months, especially in recent weeks, they have been extremely aggressive. This is the goal of their main efforts. All possible units are involved in it, including the so-called Wagner, which is trying to position itself as a separate unit,” Serhiy Cherevaty said.

According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the four localities in the Luhansk region have been liberated. The Ukrainian army also reported having succeeded in repelling Wagner from the town of Bakhmut. For the Ukrainian troops, this city is important to advance towards Donetsk. It is also the city which is at the crossroads of the main road connecting the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. According to the Ukrainian side, the losses of the Russian army near Bakhmut amounted to several thousand fighters. Among them are new recruits.

On October 28, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported that the Russian army continues to conduct offensive operations in the directions of Bakhmut and Avdiivka.

10/25/2022: Towards a gas supply agreement between Algeria and Slovenia? Elisabeth Nagy

 On 25 October 2022, the President of the National People’s Assembly (NPA), Brahim Boughali, travelled to Tunisia to meet the Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob. 

The discussion was based on future strategic cooperation between the two countries and a possible Algerian gas supply to Slovenia. 

Indeed, in order to reduce its dependence on Russian gas, the Slovenian gas trader Geoplin will sign in the next few days a contract with the Algerian public company Sonatrach for a supply via the Trans-Mediterranean pipeline which connects to Italy for a minimum period of three years. He also stressed that “the Slovenian side is also considering opening an embassy in Algeria. This would help to build confidence and increase investment in both directions. This cooperation is also a way for Slovenia to obtain Algeria’s support for its candidacy for the UN Security Council. 

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Russia Geopolitical Watch – from October 22 to October 28, 2022