Oct 16th, 2016
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER BELGRADE, Serbia — The tens of thousands of migrants who have flooded into the Balkans in recent weeks need food, water and shelter, just like the millions displaced by war the world over. But there is also one other thing they swear they cannot live without: a smartphone charging station. “Every time I go to a new country, I buy a SIM card and activate the Internet and download the map to locate myself,” Osama Aljasem, a 32-year-old music teacher from Deir al-Zour, Syria, explained as he sat on a broken park bench in Belgrade, staring at his smartphone and plotting his next move into northern Europe.
Jul 23rd, 2013
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER More than 100 legislators, government ministers, journalists and officials were blockaded inside the Bulgarian Parliament building late Tuesday night and into Wednesday, as the 40th day of largely peaceful street protests in Sofia, the capital, turned confrontational.
Jun 28th, 2013
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER SOFIA, Bulgaria — Delyan Peevski’s mother used to head the national lottery and leads a growing media empire with strong political and economic connections in this small, impoverished and notoriously corrupt Balkan nation. So perhaps it was not surprising that the appointment of Mr. Peevski, 32, to head the powerful State Agency for National Security sparked protests that have been attended by thousands every day over the past two weeks and show no sign of losing steam.
Jun 14th, 2013
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER VIDIN, Bulgaria — The European Union hardly basks in popular favor these days. But in this isolated corner of the bloc’s poorest periphery, leaders and locals on Friday celebrated a tangible benefit of membership — a $340 million bridge spanning the Danube that should help strengthen trade and ties between two impoverished members, Romania and Bulgaria.
May 10th, 2013
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER VARNA, Bulgaria — Early one morning this past winter, Plamen Goranov, a 36-year-old photographer, stood on the steps of City Hall in this once grand and now crumbling port city on the Black Sea and held up a sign demanding that the mayor and City Council resign. He then took a bottle of gasoline from his backpack, poured it over himself and set himself on fire. He died 11 days later in a hospital.
Jan 5th, 2013
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER PRISTINA, Kosovo — Prime Minister Hashim Thaci is in a bind. His country’s largest and most lucrative enterprise, the state telecommunications company, is up for sale. The jostling among buyers is intense. Narrowing the bidders has hardly helped. One bid is from a fund founded by former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. Lobbying for another was James W. Pardew, the Clinton-era special envoy to the Balkans. Both former diplomats are among the Americans who hold the status of heroes here for their roles in the 1999 intervention that separated Kosovo from Serbia and created one of the world’s newest states.
Nov 29th, 2011
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER PRISTINA, KOSOVO — She cut her journalistic teeth with the BBC as a 22-year-old fixer, helping television crews film in and around Kosovo during the 1999 NATO bombing war against Serbia. Now 33, Jeta Xharra has continued the punchy public interest journalism she says she learned from the likes of Jeremy Paxman, the British broadcaster known as host of the television news program “Newsnight.” In 1999, exposing wrongdoing seemed like an ideal common to most if not all Kosovo Albanians, united as they were by their fight against the authoritarian rule of Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia.
Oct 13th, 2011
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER SKOPJE, MACEDONIA — The ambitious retooling of this small nation’s identity — a Balkan brand of hyper-patriotism accompanied by the trumpeting of Macedonia’s ancient roots — is raising concerns internationally about growing authoritarianism, the silencing of dissent and accusations of abuse of power by the governing party here. The European Commission released its annual report this week on the country’s progress toward E.U. membership, and found that the country was backtracking on protecting media freedoms and that it was making insufficient progress on protecting the rule of law.
Sep 26th, 2011
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER MITROVICA, Kosovo — After years of impasse between the national government of Kosovo and ethnic Serbs demanding autonomy within their northern enclave in the new country, international pressure has intensified on the Serbs. And while the immediate result has been minor clashes, there is new hope for some movement toward a resolution for the last geopolitically unsettled chunk of the former Yugoslavia.
Jun 23rd, 2011
By MATTHEW BRUNWASSER SKOPJE, Macedonia — In the view of many here, the neighbors have been bullying this little Balkan country for a long time. Bulgarians see its people as Bulgarians with accents. Serbia used to consider the land Southern Serbia and refuses to recognize its church. Greece accuses the country of nothing less than stealing its name, history and national symbols. This week, Macedonia pushed back. In a precisely calibrated display of political and civil engineering, workers lifted a 14.5-meter, or 47-foot, bronze statue of Alexander the Great, weighing 30 tons, and placed it on a 15-meter-high pedestal in the central square of Skopje, the capital.