Apr 24th, 2017
BELGRADE, Serbia — When he was Serbia’s information minister in the late 1990s, Aleksandar Vucic censored journalists, forced media critics out of business and served as chief propagandist for the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian strongman reviled for the atrocities that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia. Today Mr. Vucic is the prime minister of Serbia, having been elected in 2014 as a reformer on promises to lead Serbia into a democratic future and membership in the European Union. He has renounced the extreme nationalist views of his past.
Apr 24th, 2017
BELGRADE, Serbia — Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic appeared headed toward a first-round victory in Serbia’s presidential election on Sunday, winning more than 50 percent of the vote among a field of 11 candidates, according to exit polls and early results. If the preliminary vote count holds and Mr. Vucic passes the 50 percent threshold, he would avoid a riskier two-way runoff on April 16. While Serbia is a parliamentary republic and the presidency is intended as a largely symbolic position, the actual effect of the election result is seen as removing the last check on Mr. Vucic’s power and as a further erosion of Serbia’s nascent democratic institutions.
Feb 26th, 2017
TIRANA, Albania — When the Rev. Shtjefen Kurti, a 73-year-old Catholic priest, was executed in 1971 for performing a baptism, the Communist authorities didn’t bother to inform his family. Only when his brother tried to take food to him in prison did he learn the priest’s fate. “Don’t come back,” a guard told the brother. “He won’t be needing it anymore.”
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.