Since the veteran sailing champion broke her silence, dozens followed. Many crusaded against the allegations, wondering why it took them so long to talk about it and questioned the nature of the assault along with the motives of the victim. Support by the state is crucial. The revelations by Bekatorou, who said the perpetrator was an official of the Hellenic Sailing Federation, have led to an avalanche of reactions condemning sexual violence, from Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to ministers, party leaders and representatives, and fellow athletes. Following the powerful testimony on the assault that occurred during preparations for the 2000 Sydney Olympics in the federation official’s hotel room, the Athens public prosecutor’s office launched a preliminary investigation and when the official’s name was revealed, his Hellenic Sailing Federation (HSF) membership was suspended. Several members of the federation resigned out of respect to Bekatorou, and Greece’s Stavros Niarchos Foundation froze all payments to HSF. For many of them, their “condition of infamosity” would not make the same media fuss, rendering it doubtful that they would ever dare to share their personal experience, without the audience questioning their morals and consent. Following the example of Bekatorou, former university students spoke out against one of their professors, who was systematically exploiting his academic status to harass his female students. President of Greece Katerina Sakellaropoulou meets Olympic sailing athlete Sophia Bekatorou after she reported that she had been sexually abused by a Sailing Federation official in 1998. Sexual assault cases will keep coming up, as objectification still prevails both towards women and men. Back then, though, the case wasn’t the same and that was one of the main reasons why the Veteran Olympic champion and now mother of two, did not break her silence earlier. The perpetrator has denied any allegations, labelling Bekatorou’s comments as “false and slanderous”. Shortly after the former Olympic gold medallist revealed the assault earlier in January during an online event organised by the Ministry of Culture and Sports about the protection of children in sport, dozens of other cases emerged, as a domino effect that exposed the dark side of sports in Greece. Although the case has been referred to a prosecutor, the procedure is considered rather a formality, as under Greek Criminal Law the crime is prescribed after 15 years. EPA-EFE/ALKIS KONSTANTINIDISL / POOL

Veteran Olympic champion Sophia Bekatorou listens to the President of Greece Katerina Sakellaropoulou (not pictured) during their meeting at the Presidential Mansion, Athens, Greece, 18 January 2021. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Greece’s #MeToo movement

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

epa08945979 Veteran Olympic champion Sophia Bekatorou listens to the President of Greece Katerina Sakellaropoulou (not pictured) during their meeting at the Presidential Mansion, Athens, Greece, 18 January 2021. New Democracy has suspended the membership of a man named in reports as a Hellenic Sailing Federation official. “I hope…that other women and people who have experienced sexual abuse will come forward so that our society will be more healthy, and we’ll no longer be afraid”
The case is not the same for many women that had the same experience but lacked the publicity of Bekatorou. Given that the mentality change saying “no” means “no” is a long-term struggle, governments should first start with the basics; by releasing victims from the moral need to first prove that they are not guilty of being sexually abused, by forming the mechanisms to protect and heal them and by holding perpetrators accountable. When authorities and societies stop turning a blind eye, then no one will ever be alone. This sceptic reaction by a big number of the Greek population only demonstrated the pathogenies of the society, proving that speaking out against sexual assaults -“even after so many years”-, is way more problematic than the incident itself. EPA-EFE/ALKIS KONSTANTINIDISL / POOL

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Greece’s Olympic sailing champion Sofia Bekatorou’s decision to speak out over an alleged sexual assault by a high-ranking federation official in 1998 has set off the country’s #MeToo movement. Faced with prejudice and accused of provocation, the sexual assault victims still find themselves trapped in a situation where they have to justify themselves for daring to have a voice about the incident(s) that stigmatised their lives thereafter. Unless there is a collective action and mobilisation, as in the case of Aristotle University in Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki. Today Bekatorou may be lucky enough to enjoy the benefits of institutions’ evolution, the judiciary’s progressiveness, society’s solidarity and the community’s ways of psychological support.

have supported the nascent democracies of Europe with financing, education, and a security umbrella. epa03927912 Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili speaks during a joint news conference with new elect-president Giorgi Margvelashvili (not pictured) in Tbilisi, Georgia, 28 October 2013. In this context, Ivanishvili’s retirement shows a path forward for emerging European democracies. For so long, it was the United States – the “shining city on the hill” – to which Western Europe looked for democratic inspiration. As President Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is a fragile thing and it’s never more than one generation away from extinction … it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation”. What is really needed though, is leadership within the nations themselves. 10,000 km away, in the country of Georgia, a less-heralded but even more impressive democratic transition is taking place. EPA/ZURAB KURTSIKIDZE

Former Georgian Prime Minister and ex-head of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, speaks during a news conference in Tbilisi. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>A tale of two Georgias

By Ryszard Czarnecki
Polish European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Member of the European Parliament. President who refused to leave office after losing an election, and instead be inspired by the Georgian billionaire in their own neighborhood, who voluntarily transferred power after winning an election. The country currently sits 7th in the World Bank’s global ‘Doing Business’ rankings, ahead of 26 of the 27 EU Member States; the Index of Economic Freedom places Georgia 12th globally, again ahead of almost all EU countries; the Fraser Institute’s freedom rankings place Georgia in 8th position just behind the United States. leaders – in deeds as well as words. Few European democracies are as well-established or long-lasting as the US. It was the state of Georgia that sealed the end of the Trump presidency, as the voters of that state rejected the President’s efforts to undermine the democratic process of a free American. and the U.S. Like Trump, Ivanishvili is a billionaire businessman-turned-politician who won an against-the-odds electoral victory back in 2012. A more muscular approach to the threat of China was both welcome and long-overdue, as was the exhortation to European nations to increase defense spending. That application deserves to be supported. It was heartening, in this context, to see an announcement this week from former Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili that he will retire from public life and renounce all of his political positions. Today, our friends and partners would be better served ignoring the billionaire now ex-U.S. For many conservatives in Europe, Trump was a mixed blessing. Since the end of the Cold War, the E.U. Ivanishvili has been the driving force in Georgian politics since 2012, serving first as Prime Minister and later as head of the governing Georgian Dream party. His tax cuts also turbo-charged the U.S. economy. It is a remarkable story for a country so recently living under dictatorship and oppression, and one that deserves to be recognized by E.U. Facebook

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After the end of the Trump presidency, it remains to be seen if the Republican Party establishment will break with Trump. Those of us who grew up behind the Iron Curtain know only too well the fragility of these freedoms. A number of conservative parties, but not all of them, around the world will hope that the Republican Party of old – the pro-market, pro-freedom and fully committed to Western democratic institutions – will reestablish itself. Democracy is not a perfect system of government – not in Georgia, not in the European Union, not even in the United States. His party won a comfortable re-election victory in November of last year. Despite his opponents’ Trump-esque claims of electoral fraud, the EU and other international observers declared that the Georgian elections met international standards and that the results were accurate. It is there, fortunately, that the similarities end. This support should, and doubtless will, continue. A question posed regularly in recent days is: could the same happen here? election. Alongside his difficult rhetoric, some important conservative principles have been enacted. The voluntary giving-up of power by one of Georgia’s most powerful and most wealthy men demonstrates a civic and democratic maturity that bodes extremely well for the new Georgian Dream government’s planned application to join the EU in 2024. Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili consolidated his power over the South Caucasus republic after his candidate was declared the clear winner of a presidential election on 27 October. Georgia has long been a shining light of progress in the region, and its acceleration in recent years under Ivanishvili has outstripped all expectations. The Eastern Partnership countries, in particular, remain vulnerable to internal and external shocks that could destabilize the progress made in recent decades.

We don’t care about the biography of single MP’s. It seems apparent that this issue is not important in the actual ongoing crisis, but someone is strategically putting the light on other issues. Then, for sure, Italy has to push Europe to be more of a protagonist at a global level, not only about foreign policy issues. NE: What sort of priority does Italy have to put forward in its relationship with the US after the inauguration of President Joe Biden? NF: It is simple. His party has confirmed their support for Conte after his government lost its absolute majority in the Senate. Our Prime Minister (Conte) will have a number of meetings with trade unions, entrepreneurs, and civil society in order to improve the text so that, thanks to the majority contribution, it is significantly improved. Is this going to be a problem? When Renzi was prime minister, he made some decisions which had nothing to do with the political Left’s traditions. If someone says that the Stability Mechanism is a key point in order to come back to a governmental majority, this means that he doesn’t want to reach an agreement. Nicola Fratoianni (NF): It is possible to rule now only with parliamentarians sharing and supporting the program of this government. The last issue left open is that in order to solve this crisis the actual Prime Minister should be substituted, but now this issue is unacceptable. I think it is too complicated to understand the nature of this break and any way that we could imagine to rebuild a new alliance. His popularity is, despite the difficulties, still very high and this could create a different balance in Italian politics. NE: What’s your feeling about the issue of the two senators from Forza Italia who surprisingly voted in favor of the Conte government? There was a crystal clear majority in the Chamber, while in the Senate the majority was insufficient. We care about the decisions taken by the government. of trust with Matteo Renzi gone? During this difficult period, he did a good job and there are no reasons to remove him. Lega, the Brothers of Italy and the Five-Star Movement are clearly against it. Do you think it is good to latch on to majority prime ministers from very different political backgrounds? NF: This possibility, that Conte could build up a new party, is clearly provoking some concerns at many levels in Italian politics. This is the key point, Renzi started a “blind ante“ crisis, first on the supposed unsuitableness of the recovery plan. After the election, there wasn’t a majority coming from an organic political proposal. New Europe spoke with Nicola Fratoianni, a member of parliament from Sinistra Italiana, about the current political crisis. Well, yesterday the Council of Ministers appointed to that role, Undersecretary Ambassador Piero Benassi, who is highly respected by everybody and he will follow our intelligence. Therefore, the problematic issues were solved, but now we still have two points – the possibility to use the European Stability Mechanism to upgrade our health care system, but this issue is non-existent because everybody knows that in this parliament there is no majority opinion on this topic. EPA-EFE//ROBERTO MONALDO

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Italy’s embattled Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has managed to cling to power, but he faces leading an even more unstable coalition after the exit of ruling partner Matteo Renzi’s party. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Another dramatic turn of events in Italian politics

By Federico Grandesso
Italian Editor, Journalist

epa08946533 Deputy Nicola Fratoianni speaks in the Lower House of the Parliament in Rome, Italy, 18 January 2021. EPA-EFE//ROBERTO MONALDO
NE: There are some rumors about the possibility of a new political movement being founded by Conte? New Europe (NE): What do you expect in terms of a positive outcome for this political crisis? Prime Minister Conte is the key element of the majority. In the next days, I expect that responsibility towards our country could prevail, and in this context, if we want to go on with this government, the program and the objectives must be clear because everyone will have to bear the responsibility. The second issue Renzi put on the table was the mandate for the secret services. It seems that Conte had a good relationship with former President Trump. I expect, at this very moment, clarity and wisdom. If there could be the creation of a new political group that could undermine the very advances political plan of the government, everybody will decide accordingly to the interests of the Conte executive coalition. Could this be a problem for the government? In this regard, we had in the parliament the birth of the Italia Viva political group, which was created after a split from the Democratic Party. The labor law, the way he wanted to reform the constitution, the electoral and the school laws, all of these were measures that were not part of our Leftist traditions. Is the level. Like many other MP’s, I also have lots of doubts about the possibility of using this measure as, until now, the Stability Mechanism was not activated by any EU country and this could raise some worries on how it is built. I think it was right to go into the parliament to present a proposal and see if there was a majority. That text was modified many times with the valuable contribution of the parliament and of the stakeholders. NF: The trust with Renzi is gone, that is a clear fact. I have to stress that I was against the first Conte Government now we have a new scenario with another majority and I will try to stick to the concrete measures and actions taken by the current administration. Italian Premier Conte appealed to the Lower House for support in order to keep his government alive after Matteo Renzi’s Italia Viva (IV) party triggered a crisis last week by pulling his party’s ministers from the cabinet. NE: Is it possible, according to you, that there could again be a political majority with the Italia Viva group? During this year the government was supported by a majority which underwent some modifications. It will further go, in the next days, for additional modifications. EPA-EFE/ROBERTO MONALDO / POOL

Deputy Nicola Fratoianni speaks in the Lower House of the Parliament in Rome. NF: We clearly have to strengthen our cooperation with the US. Italian Justice Minister Alfonso Bonafede (L) and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during a debate in the Senate in Rome. We took important decisions, clearly with a “Leftist” accent, like the canceling of the Salvini decrees on immigration.

For many years, Moorburg was the site of a gas-fired power plant operated by Hamburgische Electricitäts-Werke, and Vattenfall had been operating a coal-fired power plant here since 2015. To this end, the four companies have now signed a letter of intent. EPA-EFE/MAURITZ ANTIN

A wind turbine and Hamburg port installations in Germany. “We keep an eye on the development of the entire value chain for hydrogen; from the entry into electricity production from offshore wind to the expansion of capacities for green hydrogen production as well as to the supply for mobility or transport applications and other industries. “I always believed in the project at the Moorburg site. In addition, overseas ships can call at the location directly and use the quay and port facilities as an import terminal. Andreas Regnell, senior vice President and head of strategic evelopment, Vattenfall, said the production of fossil free hydrogen is one key to the decarbonisation of the industry and the transport sectors. With this announcement, a big step will be taken towards a long-term decarbonisation of the port and a competitive hydrogen economy in the metropolitan region of Hamburg and I congratulate the partners on this forward-looking project,” he added. The municipal gas network company also intends to expand a hydrogen network in the port within ten years and is already working on the necessary distribution infrastructure. In this context, concepts for the necessary logistics chains and storage options for hydrogen will also be considered. “Vattenfall wants to enable fossil free living within one generation and we have high ambitions to grow within renewable energy production in the markets where we operate. The partners intend to apply for funding under the EU program “Important Projects of Common European Interest” (IPCEI). We consider this project of the consortium of four together with the city of Hamburg to be exemplary,” Ziegler said. It is connected to both the national 380,000 volt transmission network and the 110,000 volt network of the City of Hamburg. A decision by the transmission system operator on the system relevance of the plant is expected in March 2021. This should take place in the first quarter of 2021 with the submission of a first outline of the project. Subject to final investment decision and according to the current state of planning, once the site has been cleared, the production of green hydrogen is anticipated in the course of 2025 – making the electrolyser one of the largest plants in Europe. In addition to the construction of a scalable electrolyser, the further development of the site into a so-called “Green Energy Hub” is planned. There is no better location in Hamburg for a scalable electrolyser of this size,” said Michael Westhagemann, minister for economy and innovation of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. EPA-EFE/MAURITZ ANTIN/FILE PICTURE

100 MW capacity to be installed in the Port of Hamburg from 2025 onwards

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Boosting Hamburg’s energy transition, Vattenfall, Shell, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Hamburg’s municipal heat supplier Hamburg Wärme are planning to build one of the world’s largest electrolysers in the Port of Hamburg, Hamburg’s Ministry of Economy and Innovation said in a press release on January 22. The new electrolyser is to have a capacity of 100 megawatts and be built on the site of the former Moorburg coal-fired power plant. To achieve this, we need to and we want to collaborate with strong partners. Its commercial operation was terminated after the power plant won a bid in the auction for the nationwide coal phase-out in December 2020. In this project we can contribute with our expertise and experience and the unique Moorburg site that has the infrastructure that is necessary for large scale production of hydrogen,” he said, adding, “We are therefore pleased that we can support the city and the industrial location of Hamburg in implementing their ambitious climate goals”. Numerous potential customers for green hydrogen are located near the site, thus enabling the project to cover the entire hydrogen value chain – from generation to storage, transport and utilization in various sectors. Kentaro Hosomi, president and CEO Energy Systems, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries noted that the establishment of a green hydrogen hub that is fully integrated into Hamburg’s industrial infrastructure would show Europe and the world that the hydrogen economy is real and can make a significant contribution to the decarbonization of the energy system and heavy industry. With these prerequisites, the Moorburg location is optimal for the German federal state of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and Northern Germany and can become a potential starting point for the development of a hydrogen economy. Shell, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Vattenfall and Wärme Hamburg are planning how they can jointly produce hydrogen from wind and solar power at the Hamburg-Moorburg power plant site and utilize it in its vicinity, Hamburg’s Ministry of Economy and Innovation said. The four partner companies view the energy location as having ideal conditions for further use. This includes the exploration of the extent to which the existing infrastructure of the Moorburg location can be used for the production of energy from renewable sources. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Shell, MHI, Vattenfall to covert Hamburg coal plant to green hydrogen

By New Europe Online/KG

epa07419376 The setting sun colours the sky red with a wind turbine and Hamburg port installations on the background 16 September 2019, Hamburg, Germany. The City of Hamburg and Vattenfall are striving to clear [partial] areas of the site as soon as possible for the project to produce green hydrogen and the development of a Green Energy Hub. “Via the 380 kV connection and the connection to Brunsbüttel, we have direct access to the supply of green electricity from wind power – and thus the possibility of actually producing green hydrogen in relevant quantities. Shell in Germany CEO Fabian Ziegler noted that in the future, green hydrogen will play a very important role in the energy system and therefore also for his company.

Despite this space to act, important questions remain. They have already shown a level of consistency before arriving into their positions. If Navalny’s poisoning had the effect of boosting his stature further, a response in his name risks empowering those most paranoid about his rise. The U.S. EPA-EFE/ANATOLY MALTSEV

A pro-democracy activist protests in support of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny in St. Alexei Navalny was detained after his arrival to Moscow from Germany on 17 January 2021. For President Biden, Navalny’s arrest is an early test for his administration to distinguish itself on Russia from its predecessor. The activist pointed to legislation like the Global Magnitsky Act as tools to enforce these norms and insisted “all that’s needed is political will.”
Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin speak during talks in Moscow in March 2011 when the former served as vice president and the latter as prime minister of their respective countries. epaselect epa08946362 A participant of a single protest in support of Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny holds a poster ‘Freedom for Navalny, Putin on trial’ in St.Petersburg, Russia, 18 January 2021. Appeals to respect civil society from the U.S. His tone shifted somewhat at his annual press conference in December when he described Biden as an “experienced person” and said Russia will “wait and see” how they could work with his team, particularly on arms control. In both the House and Senate, members of Congress drafted bipartisan resolutions while issuing appeals to act that went ignored by Trump. Any willingness to consider cooperation could end up being short-lived if Biden mounts a serious stand over Navalny. Before congratulating the new president, Putin described U.S.-Russia relations as “already ruined” so he saw no difference in Biden’s victory after being asked why he refused to congratulate him. “The truth is siloviki thugs are already fully in power, on the security council and in other key places,” he said. “The mode of attack leaves no doubt as to where the responsibility lies — the Russian state,” read a statement released by Biden’s campaign the day the Novichok report emerged. In Russia, there has been a tepid openness to work with the new administration based on low expectations. until the last day of his presidency. She then announced that Biden ordered an assessment into several serious Russian actions including “its use of chemical weapons against opposition leader Alexey Navalny”. Vladimir Kara-Murza, who himself was poisoned twice by Russian agents and who testified alongside Navalny at the European Parliament, said the U.S. Asked whether this reflected the view of the then-incoming Biden administration, transition spokesman Ned Price said it stood by Sullivan’s tweet in an email to New Europe. The administration did take several strong actions against Russia. Even if other members of his elite may question whether the current approach to the “non-systemic opposition” actually contributes to stability, they have little room to challenge it. “The only language this mafia circle understands is genuine strength.” This follows months of tightening the space for civil society through expanding the definition of who is considered a “foreign agent”, cracking down on social media before scheduled protests, and shielding the identity of security officers. The most immediate ones are how far Biden is ready to go and how much will Putin retaliate. should remain firm in protecting democratic norms. government response towards its aggressive behavior. Congress has also built-up an appetite for responding to Navalny’s poisoning. “Respect international law, do not encroach on national legislation of sovereign states and address problems in your own country,” she wrote on Facebook. It was during Biden’s last stint in government during the Obama administration when Putin famously accused then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of instigating the Bolotnaya Square protests after she criticized election irregularities in his 2011 re-election. based nonprofit Free Russia Foundation, said that by being sent abroad for treatment, Navalny was catapulted into the international arena and came home with more recognition as the face of the anti-Putin opposition. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Georgia, suggested that the strength of the Biden team in forging a Russia policy will come through a coherent foreign policy apparatus. On January 19, Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, echoed the new president’s view on Navalny’s poisoning when he remarked that it was “extraordinary how frightened Vladimir Putin seems to be of one man.”
“The attempts to silence that voice by silencing Mr. EPA-EFE//MAXIM SHIPENKOV
So far, the Kremlin has waved off Western demarches as unjust interference in domestic affairs. “Navalny also embodies a collective Western threat; an intention to destroy Russia that deserves a demonstrative response,” said Stanovaya. Prior to his return to Russia, Navalny shared through a colleague a list of wealthy Russians who should be targeted. After Sullivan called for Navalny’s release, Maria Zakharova, the foreign ministry spokeswoman, shot back. Navalny is something that we strongly condemn,” Blinken declared at his nomination hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, adding that a response to the attack would be “very high” on Biden’s agenda. Regardless, Trump was always reluctant and consistently downplayed any Russian threat against the U.S. EPA-EFE//KIRA YARMYSH
In an ironic twist, the attempt on Navalny’s life may have proved their point by boosting his stature as the lead resistor against Putin. It lifted the ban on lethal military aid to Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed separatists in its east, took numerous Russian hackers online, and Russian intelligence officers and oligarchs were hit with sanctions or indictments without Trump interfering. “It’s only for Russians to bring democracy to Russia,” Kara-Murza told TIME. He insists that past American resolve has been key in taming Putin’s aggression at home and abroad. Navalny had spent the last five months in Germany where he was recovering from being poisoned with the military-grade nerve agent Novichok. Tatiana Stanovaya, CEO of Moscow-based analysis firm R.Politik, suggested that doing so would play into the fears of Putin and his circle of spies who would see this as tantamount to interference in Russian domestic affairs. On his second day in office, the Biden administration made its first official statement that showed its readiness to confront and work with Russia where interests align. Stanovaya highlighted that the special service leaders, known as the siloviki, maintain Putin’s trust and share his wariness of the West’s championing of the Russian oppositionist. A Moscow judge on 18 January ruled that Navalny remains in custody for 30 days after his airport arrest. “The Kremlin’s attacks on Mr. Shortly after Navalny was arrested on January 17, Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called for his release and for the perpetrators of his poisoning to be held accountable. “Undoubtedly, he is recognized as the Russian opposition leader,” said Zaslavsky. Trump’s instinctive bristling at any mention of Russia was on full display when reporters needled him on whether he believed Moscow had poisoned Navalny. “If you judge by their track record in government, the national security appointees, I think what you’ll see is kind of a marriage of the White House and the policy of the national security apparatus,” Kelly said in a phone call with New Europe. Trump was eventually cleared of any criminal collusion, but the idea was implanted in his mind that any association Russia was just a pretext for his opponents to sabotage him politically. “The response will be different but the question is how substantive or deep it will be,” said Zaslavsky. Almost immediately after he returned to Russia, Navalny was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after being redirected inexplicably from his original destination of Vnukovo Airport where supporters and journalists gathered to greet him. “The more severe the West responds, the more beneficial it becomes [for the siloviki].”
Zaslavsky disagrees that empowering the siloviki should be seen as any deterrence to Biden and that any watered-down response will only serve as appeasement. This came only two days after his own State Department called German lab reports on the use of Novichok “very credible.”
In comparison, Biden already struck a much emphatic tone by accusing Russia and Vladimir Putin of being behind the attempted assassination. Kelly, who served into the Trump administration until 2018 and is now a diplomat-in-residence at Northwestern University, described Trump’s silence on Russia as disconnected from a unified U.S. take on a tone of encouraging a so-called colour revolution in Putin’s ears and those of his conspiratorial-minded siloviki. EPA-EFE//ANATOLY MALTSEV

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Alexey Navalny’s arrest upon his return to Russia on Sunday has handed newly-inaugurated President Joe Biden his first challenge from the Kremlin in office. Navalny are not just a violation of human rights, but an affront to the Russian people who want their voices heard,” Sullivan tweeted. Petersburg. Given the chance to condemn Russia, Trump denied there was any evidence that linked the Russian security services to Navalny’s hospitalization. “It is the mark of a Russian regime that is so paranoid that it is unwilling to tolerate any criticism or dissent.”
Ian Kelly, a retired U.S. To them, Navalny represents not only a political challenge but an enemy that needs to be crushed. “They’re going to have to look for initiatives that will be bipartisan and this should be a fairly easy one,” he said. “If they do anything to him, the stakes are higher now.”
While recovering in Germany, Navalny was visited by Chancellor Angela Merkel in his hospital and later testified at the European Parliament where he called for sanctions against Russia’s oligarchs. After being detained, Navalny was tried not in court, but in a hastily converted police station where the presiding judge ordered him to be held for 30 days. He does not believe the authorities will try again any time soon to seriously harm Navalny, but insists that if it does so again it will “force America’s hand.”
Members of the Russian opposition say that they would like to see the U.S. From the start, it was under investigation for possibly colluding with the Kremlin to win in November 2016 and later for abetting Moscow by firing FBI Director James Comey for refusing to end the probe. The sign reads, 'Freedom for Navalny, Putin on trial'. Ilya Zaslavsky, a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>With Navalny’s arrest, Russia hands Biden his first test on human rights

By Nicholas Morgan
A New York-based freelance journalist focusing on Russia and Eurasia. “For Putin, internal affairs are the question of sovereignty – it must be protected from any foreign influence or interference,”  Stanovaya told New Europe. Throughout Donald Trump’s term in office, Russia has been something of a phantom haunting the administration from the beginning. “Even as we work with Russia to advance US interests, so too we work to hold Russia to account for its reckless and adversarial actions,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on January 21. Kelly, the retired ambassador, said this is an area where Biden could score a quick bipartisan victory. Since his re-arrest, European leaders echoed Navalny’s call and the EU parliament adopted a resolution calling for tougher sanctions against Russia and its elites. A still image taken from a handout video posted by Kira Yarmysh, the press-secretary of Alexey Navalny, on Twitter shows Russian opposition leader during his detention by officers of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service at the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow, January 17, 2021. He suggested that the Biden administration may be more in-sync in carving out a consistent position vis-a-vis Moscow. It did not take long after Navalny was arrested for Russian authorities to begin detaining some of his allies. R.Politik’s Stanovaya cautions that the war-like lens through which Putin’s trusted circle would interpret any major American action may be bitterly resisted. go after the Putin regime’s riches.

EPA/KERIM OKTEN

British army soldiers check bags at the entry of London's Olympic Park. If the writer of The Guardian article is seen as being fairly representative of the Met’s officers, it could be advised that a section (or squad – ie. Also, it would obviously not require the deployment of the entirety of the Armed Forces. In fact, knife crime has become such an issue that, as one anonymous police officer told The Guardian: ‘I can expect, at the very least, to respond to at least two to three crimes involving knives a month, and that is being generous. Police being given a briefing at Trafalgar Square in London. Much is made of the figure of 20,000, alternately cited as the number of officers reduced and the number of officers needed to tackle Britain’s crime problem. That statement, I admit, comes across as being a little abrasive – the sort of thing Pinochet or Putin might use to justify using live rounds to disperse pro-democracy protestors. The 2012 Olympic precedent could be made use of and expanded. EPA-EFE//FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA
However, while any soldiers or Marines assisting police officers should perhaps not be armed with their standard-issue L85A3 rifles and instead take non-lethal weapons, it would perhaps be advisable to maintain an armed QRF (Quick Reaction Force) of armed soldiers in the (apparently likely) event that the police are called to deal with firearm-related criminal activity. I’ve found myself many times kneeling on the pavement holding parts of bodies together. Again, this would necessitate close cooperation with CO19 armed police officers and cross-training in how armed policing is different from military combat. Knowing that the police are not an inexorable force of justice, that officers can be hurt or even killed and the perpetrators escape justice or be given a light sentence is not going to deter anyone from raising their hands against the authorities. The London 2012 Olympic Games will start on 27 July 2012. Both France and Italy maintain national law enforcement forces composed of soldiers who carry out a policing role (the French Gendarmerie and Italian Carabinieri); although policing within their home borders is their primary role, their military status means that they have also deployed on NATO missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, their special operations units in particular. It would be important to stress that the military would be under police authority – hopefully, this would dispel any accusation of the government ‘militarizing’ the police, a charge often (fairly) leveled at some law enforcement agencies in the US. EPA-EFE//ANDY RAIN
Also, the policemen I’ve come into contact with in the UK were not, in truth, all that inspiring: when the windows of our home were smashed (because if drunk hooligans don’t have nice things, nobody else can either), a lone young policeman came to talk to us. The Armed Forces do run riot control programs, so arming soldiers with weapons more suited for law enforcement purposes (batons, tasers, riot shields etc.) would be an option. My colleagues – friends – have been stabbed in front of me. However, this suggestion is not as radical as it might seem at first glance. The quoted article from The Guardian is dated May 2019, but 2020 statistics support the rising trend in violence against the police. It also appears unlikely that this will subside, particularly as assaulting police officers seems to have had repercussions which are, arguably, somewhat less than severe; the BBC reports that a man named Jamie Williams was convicted of assaulting PC Nick Morley and handed a suspended sentence of 18 months and banned from driving for two years (the incident involved a car). We are simply not equipped: most of the time when a violent crime comes in, it’s only hope that we can depend on.’
Shocking stuff, but it gets worse, for the officer goes on to write ‘I don’t mind admitting I’m scared going out on these jobs. The point is, these Frenchmen looked as though they’d rather tear criminals limb from limb than eat their dinners, which is what I want in a country’s police force. What my suggested solution to the UK’s crime problem would look like would entirely depend on how severe UK police commanders feel the problem is. Naturally, any military personnel assigned to this role would have to undergo something akin to the pre-deployment training undertaken before operations overseas, principally helping them learn how they can best serve with their police counterparts. However, with the substantial operational deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq now over, the Armed Forces do not currently have a war to prepare for; it is not as though this proposal would be as damaging to the military as it would have been in the period of 2006-2012, taking away troops getting ready to rotate into Helmand Province during the height of operations. Yet COVID-19 has brought with it a host of economic woes, so it is unlikely that the government are going to be able to suddenly reinvest a substantial sum into policing any time soon. One might also argue that attempting to understand rather than punish criminal behaviour absolves the perpetrator from blame and is, in fact, an insult to the police officers who have been hurt or killed in the line of duty. The true conservative perspective is that the armed criminal prepared to maim or kill does not deserve excessive, or censorious understanding: the country does not need more outreach programmes for ‘young offenders’, it needs some harsher punishments. It is not a negative reflection on any police officer that they are struggling to deal with extreme violence, since this is simply not in their remit; therefore it may be prudent to bring in people under whose jurisdiction this comes. Admittedly, the proposal brings to mind images of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, with rifle-toting British troops patrolling the streets of Derry and Belfast – yet this would not necessarily need to be the case. EPA-EFE//KERIM OKTEN

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In the event that anyone reading this lives in a cave, or is the descendant of a Japanese soldier still fighting World War II, you may not know that Britain has something of a problem with violent crime. He was a nice lad, but tall and lanky, and I’d not have given him much chance confronting intoxicated louts spoiling for a fight. This proposal may seem somewhat drastic – but if the reports and statistics are to be believed, it could be argued that desperate times call for desperate measures. The UK government is calling upon an extra 3,500 military personnel to work as security at the London Olympics, following private security firm G4S acknowledgment that they cannot make up the numbers. I have recorded elsewhere on these pages Britain’s problem with violence, but I have hit upon rather a novel solution – send in the troops. Attackers have pulled knives on me. The UK police, being demonstrably overwhelmed as they are, have called for another 20,000 officers to be recruited, but it is an increasingly unattractive career: the police have never enjoyed the universal respect given to the Armed Forces, but now that officers are openly admitting to the media how much they’re struggling, it’s hard to imagine police recruiters being inundated with applications. It is, in my view, worth trying – at this point, it probably can’t make things any worse. British Army soldiers, along with armed police, patrol the streets near the Houses of Parliament in London. It may also be an effective deterrent: with reports of such damaging blows to police morale and effectiveness being reported on Sky News, the BBC, and in The Guardian, it could well be the case that those who would have previously hesitated to assault police officers will now be emboldened, knowing that the officers will be frightened, in small numbers, and (by their own admission) unable to respond effectively. Members of the Armed Forces (principally the Army, if memory serves) routinely took over from firemen during their strikes of the early 2000s, and during the security measures for the 2012 Olympics games, 17,000 members of the Armed Forces assisted in providing security (4,000 more people than the number provided by the police). To begin with, there is precedent for this, though not on the scale that I envisage. Further precedence for military personnel working within law enforcement structures can also be found abroad. ten men) of soldiers or Marines accompany any police patrols dispatched to deal with any reports of trouble. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Draconian dream 2: Send in the troops

By Timothy Ogden
A UK-born freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, focusing on defence matters

epa03310039 British army soldiers check a bag at the entry of the Olympic Park in Stratford in London, Britain on 12 July 2012. I realise it’s part of my duty as a police officer, but the trouble is, I no longer feel we’re in control…our duties are being stretched beyond our capabilities…the service that we’re actually able to provide to the public, in terms of reporting your crime, is shocking.’
It isn’t, admittedly, a great indictment of the safety of the UK’s streets, which have certainly been places to be wary of in my lifetime, which they apparently weren’t in the two generations preceding it. I’m mentally comparing him with some French police officers I once watched close in around a fleeing thief: it wasn’t just that the Frenchmen had weapons, it was the fact that their combined weight looked as though it came to about a metric tonne in muscle; one of them had a tattoo of the rope and anchor of the French Marines, which didn’t surprise me. One wonders if any potential attacker would be as brave knowing the police will be accompanied by a squad of paratroopers or Marines.

Internationally China has been investing “cheap” money into many developing nations’ infrastructure, as can be seen in Africa and now increasingly in the Caribbean. To most of us, that would normally be regarded as good manners and I am afraid it only served to highlight, especially at the recent inauguration ceremony, what a vulgar “little” man Trump was. This is not just for issues relating to the Uyghurs and Tibetans, but also for mainstream Chinese, whose behaviour is increasingly being managed under the control of greater technological systems. Three especially are already causing issues and unless managed carefully could quite easily become the catalyst for a greater conflagration. And they should both raise a glass together to celebrate it and with it the Year of the Ox – “Gong Xi Fa Cai”. EPA-EFE//ALEX PLAVEVSKI

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With Trump now booted out of the White House, we now have a chance to reboot some key relationships around the world. However let’s be clear, the Chinese should not be seen as a perfect partner for us all. Add to that the dispute over the international maritime waters and the economic-related zones of the South China Sea, which has brought the ire of six regional nations, none of whom, however, have anywhere near either the political or naval strength of its neighbouring Behemoth. According to media reports, current US President Donald J. So does China have all the cards and a growing strength to back it up? style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Learning to live with the dragon in the Year of the Ox

By Justin Urquhart Stewart
Co-founder of Regionally (a UK Regional Investment Platform)

epa08817288 A man walks in front of a China Mobile office in Shanghai, China, 13 November 2020. Its economic value per head is tiny compared to that of the US, and its ability to properly feed its population over the next few decades is going to provide far greater pressures. These issues though are managed by way of firm negotiation and diplomacy, although there will no doubt be a need for assertive action on occasion in areas where the wrong behaviour is deemed totally unacceptable. Trump signed an executive order on 12 November, blocking American investment to Chinese hi-tech companies linked to the Chinese military, such as China Mobile, China Telecom and Hikvision. It is now for Biden to reverse that view and prove that despite its inherent faults, democratic capitalism has the considerable benefits of creating and sustaining wealth in the face of major disruptions and disasters. The answer is actually no. The stupidity and inconsistency of the Trump regime just underlined the frankly amateurish way in which Trump attempted to manage foreign policy and especially with the People’s Republic. The cultural effects resulted in a far greater number of males. Trump’s method of communication was pathetic with public ranting and raving at anyone with whom he disagreed or could not support his populist program of personal vanity. They may have huge disagreements over certain issues but they also need each other. EPA-EFE/ALEX PLAVEVSKI

A Shanghai resident walks in front of a China Mobile outlet selling American-designed Apple iPhones. The Party under President Xi has moved to effectively make him leader for life and some of the more enlightened policy areas seem to have been pushed back to be replaced by greater state and party control. In terms of trade its abuse of intellectual property rights and on occasions the price dumping of goods are valuable and important issues that have to be addressed. Shouting at most enemies achieves little, especially with the Chinese. The past four years has provided for the Chinese Communist policy the best advert for their authoritarian regime as against the weak and floundering American system of democracy. From the treatment of their Muslim and other minorities, through to the authoritarian control of the Communist Party in all aspects of both corporate and personal life, China has questions to answer. Equally though one should not be seeing to “kow-tow” (if I may mix my popular Oriental terms) either. The reality is that China and the United States are in a symbiotic relationship. Although this has been welcomed initially, it has often resulted in a not unexpected backlash from local governments when the next generation of investors turn into colonialists and take on a form of neo-colonial behavior. This is where the Biden administration needs to restart the bipartisan developments with the Chinese, and in my view, they should be managed firmly. The border issues with India both in Kashmir and the North East have rumbled on for years, but have taken on a greater friction more recently. At a very simplistic level, China needs the purchasing power of the US citizen and its corporates, and the States needs the funding for its huge government debt and deficit. President Joe Biden and his team have a long list to manage their way through from mismanagement of the pandemic through to climate change and possibly the most important international issue, the United States’ relationship with China. So now is the time for a celebration of a re-setting of a vital relationship between China and America. There are also other issues which the international community has to address with China. The one that concerns me most though is the dispute between the two economic giants of the region, namely the People’s Republic of China and Japan over some tiny rocks in the East China Sea. One negotiates fairly, firmly and on occasion even forcefully, but that is very different from being rude and offensive. Never underestimate the importance of “face” in the Orient and thus attempts at public humiliation only serve to worsen relationships. Biden should thus be celebrating with President Xi the Lunar New Year of the Ox – seen as solid, strong and usually reliable, although dangerous when finally roused  Not a perfect simile for either of them but worth bearing in mind when negotiating with such a power. On the last count, I found some seventeen border disputes the PRC has with its numerous neighbours. The recent spat with Australia has been a case in point, in which criticism from that nation prompted a reaction stretching from the abuse of national journalists through to punishing import tariffs on Australian wines. The Biden administration has greater experience with more depth and knows far better how to manage the relationship with China. China has a dreadful age demographic to manage, with an ageing population and a huge mismatch of the sexes as a result of the previous birth control laws.

If inspiration were needed, look no further than Germany. Ukrainians commemorated the 73th anniversary of the Nazi massacre of Jews in the Babi Yar ravine, where some 34,000 Jews were murdered over two days in September 1941. The challenge is not straightforward. epa04422494 People hold candles as they attend a mourning ceremony for Babi Yar victims in Kiev, Ukraine, 28 September 2014. Consequently, they metaphorically and physically buried the history of Babyn Yar, building roads and housing over the haunting site where multitudes were murdered. The need to educate against discrimination and to accept difference regardless of color, race, religion or belief has not diminished. Furthermore, as the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, there is no time to lose. Moreover, the country is clearly better off for it, having learnt crucial lessons. In short, local residents became witnesses to evil. By bringing the story alive, not only will Babyn Yar finally take its rightful place in the annals of history, but crucially we can help ensure that the next generation is morally equipped to face the challenges of a rapidly changing world. The enormity of the tragedy, the six million individual worlds that were obliterated, demand that we do more. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Learning the lessons of the Holocaust means telling the whole story

By Ambassador Ron Prosor
Head of the Abba Eban Institute for International Diplomacy at IDC Herzliya. He served as Director-General of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs when the UN declared January 27th as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Fortunately, the tide of memory is beginning to turn in Ukraine and beyond. Some may have watched with horror; others may have applauded. Yet, what sets the likes of Babyn Yar aside is that mass murder was committed on its victims’ doorsteps. At the same time, the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center is establishing a world-class Holocaust museum at the very place where so many perished. For so many Ukrainians, the reality of Soviet oppression and the distorted Communist worldview remains well within living memory, part of everyday existence just three decades ago. Already, the Center is spearheading numerous educational and research projects, finally shining a light on a tragedy which has been hidden in the shadows for too long and breathing new life into a lost world. 68 per cent of Ukrainians acknowledge that awareness of the Holocaust is fading. However, if this is to be anything more than lip service, then Holocaust remembrance must extend beyond an annual 24-hour event. At least 34,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis over two days in the Babyn Yar ravine on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital in September 1941. According to a recent survey, just 16 per cent of Ukrainians know that more than one million Jews were shot by the Nazis in the killing fields of Ukraine and Eastern Europe. Clearly, there is much work to be done. As the Holocaust begins to drift beyond living memory, we must find new ways to remember and we must discover new stories to tell. The result is a society which is an example of freedom, tolerance and respect. Kiev’s Jews weren’t ‘sent to the East’ for euphemistic ‘work.’ Instead, they were cut down in the very place they had called home for generations. That would truly give renewed, sincere meaning to the promise of ‘Never Again’ on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The very country which plunged the ultimate depths of inhumanity has largely come to terms with its past in a mature, responsible fashion. As a result, the dark past of the country’s Nazi occupation remains entirely unfamiliar to many. If young people can internalize the lessons of Babyn Yar – the need to recognize evil, to love your neighbor and to respect difference – then they can develop the moral backbone required to build a much better tomorrow. And none more so than Babyn Yar. As such, Babyn Yar had a profound local impact. The Abba Eban Institute of International Diplomacy at IDC Herzliya, with the University of Kyiv and the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, will hold a special online academic seminar which will bring together historians and experts from across the world to discuss the significance of Babyn Yar. Babyn Yar became a prototype for the Nazis, who then carried out similar massacres across Eastern Europe. EPA-EFE//ROMAN PILIPEY

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I was privileged to witness the United Nations General Assembly mark the very first International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January 2006. People watched as their neighbors walked to their executions, children saw friends disappear overnight, tens of thousands of homes lay eerily empty before being looted. Sadly, there is no shortage. They regarded the particular suffering of Jews or indeed any other national, religious or ethnic minority as an affront to the Communist narrative. In fact, in the aftermath of the Second World War, the memory of Babyn Yar was deliberately suppressed by the Soviets. This ‘Holocaust by bullets’ killed 1.5 million Jews. What is certain is that the moral trauma was never dealt with. Around 34,000 Jews were shot dead in 48 hours. EPA/ROMAN PILIPEY

People hold candles as they attend a ceremony commemorating the victims of the Babyn Yar in Kiev, Ukraine. Therefore, on this day, the world will solemnly bow its head in remembrance and pledge never to forget. No single horrific episode during the Holocaust is more tragic than the next. Just days after occupying the Ukrainian capital of Kiev in September 1941, the Nazis ordered the city’s Jews to assemble and promptly marched them to their deaths at the Babyn Yar ravine. While the names of Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdanek and so many others are rightly etched into the public consciousness, there are many other lesser-known tragedies which have largely evaded the historical record. It is perhaps more pressing than ever.

During the more than one month of cohabitation, Djukanovic has blocked several crucial steps by the government, proceeding from the Law on Religious Freedoms, to allow changes in the military, police, judiciary, or diplomatic service. A prominent businessman, who fell afoul of Djukanovic and left the country for the safety of UK, assumed with the changing of the government he would victoriously return home. Instead of scrapping the flawed decision, the new Foreign Minister insists that the old protocol must be respected. However, sources close to his cabinet claim he will sign it and put the matter, which forced a hiatus in his unquestioned rule, to rest for a simple reason in that it actually suits him that someone else does the dirty work for him. EPA-EFE//BORIS PEJOVIC
Indeed, if Djukanovic really wants to infuriate his political opponents further, his nationalist DPS party – adamant opponents of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the law – has one recourse left open: to file a petition to the Constitutional court for final legal judgement. His initial idea, which cost him dearly, was to enact the law to strip the powerful Serbian Orthodox Church of its vast assets across the tiny Adriatic littoral country. Others are not identified. The church rose up and for the most of the last year held masses and processions across the country of some 630,000 people led by the late Archbishop Amfilohije, one of the most influential figures in the Serbian Orthodox Church, who paid with his life for snubbing the COVID-19 pandemic rules of social distancing and wearing protection masks during the protests and rites. In meetings with foreign diplomats in Podgorica, the Montenegrin capital, Radulovic uses this as an excuse to blame Serbia for not wanting to improve relations. Just days before the handover of power, Djukanovic’s outgoing Foreign Ministry accused Montenegro’s native son, Bozovic, of “interfering in Montenegro’s internal affairs” and ordered his expulsion on November 28 in contravention of the Vienna convention. Montenegrian patriotic organizations close to Milo Djukanovic and his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) staged rallies in support of Montenegrian sovereignty in September 2020. Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic speaks at the National Assembly in Podgorica. He is Djukanovic’s Trojan Horse”, Dalibor Kavaric, a prominent local lawyer said. In the meantime, those assurances are getting quieter, while the relations between Serbia and its erstwhile ally, Montenegro, are gradually worsening. EPA-EFE//BORIS PEJOVIC

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The Montenegrin parliament, in a repeat vote, passed on January 20 a crucial Law on Religious Freedoms which President Milo Djukanovic refused to sign a month ago, now forcing him to either concede and sign or violate the constitution. Insiders claim that Serbia will not recall Bozovic and still considers him its Ambassador to Montenegro for at least next three years. He lost by one seat. The answer, for now, is a resounding “no”. The new prime minister and his deputy seem powerless to rein in the civil servant they ostensibly appointed. The Serbian Orthodox Church then paid an even steeper price – the Patriarch of the Church, Irinej, followed him soon after by catching the virus at Amfilohije’s funeral. EPA-EFE/BORIS PEJOVIC

President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic gestures as Prime Minister-designate Zdravko Krivokapic presents his plans for a new government. By Jovan Kovacic
Political Affairs Editor, New Europe

epa08857411 President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic gestures during Prime Minister-designate Zdravko Krivokapic’ presentation of his plans for a new government to the members of parliament in Podgorica, Montenegro, 02 December 2020. NATO membership and a non-withdrawal of Kosovo’s recognition. They were born in the same little central town and in the traditionalist and conservative Montenegro, that bond bears serious weight and mutual commitment. He has already stirred up a hornet’s nest with the inexplicable recall of several ambassadors on the unfounded grounds that they were working against the state, which resulted only in the further embarrassment of the government, especially when most of them refused to return home, Kavaric noted. EPA-EFE//BORIS PEJOVIC
In another, far more serious, example with far-reaching consequences, Foreign Minister Djordje Radulovic directly helped Djukanovic to show who is still the boss in Montenegro. In truth, however, they can’t. This, in turn, accounts for the fact that no visits were exchanged as yet despite the Montenegrin Prime Minister’s vow to first visit Serbia after he gets sworn in – because Serbia insists that any talks must be attended also by their Ambassador Bozovic. After losing by a single seat, he then stoically relinquished power to his opposition, enduring, albeit red-faced, the inaugural session in the Parliament which was an ordeal in character assassination by his political foes. But apart from words, there were no sticks or stones to break his bones – no criminal charges, no persecution of any kind that was so widely promised and cheered during the elections and the days that followed the inauguration of the new government, which strangely enough, for still-yet-unexplained reasons, took months to happen. Djukanovic failed to secure a majority seats in the autumn elections. An extremely savvy and cunning pro-Western politician, Djukanovic lost the elections in a wave of acrimony and allegations of corruption, nepotism and crime. Another indication that behind the scenes, Djukanovic still pulls the strings and his cronies in the government apparatus, police and judiciary he set up over the past 30 years have not all abandoned him, is the case of Serbian Ambassador to Montenegro, Vladimir Bozovic. It still has not happened, despite initial promises by the new authorities. “This law does not need to treat property issues, that was the error in the previous version of the Law. The 81-seat Montenegrin Parliament ushered in, last December, a new conservative, pro-Serb coalition government, which surprisingly stuck to the foreign policy course created and pursued by Djukanovic, i.e. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Montenegro’s parliament passes crucial religion law, but who’s really in charge? The only departure from Djukanovic’s path so far is the aforementioned Law on Religious Freedoms, which has now been amended to allay the fears of the Church, and passed before Christmas and which he then refused to sign and returned it to the Parliament for another vote. For Djukanovic, getting back that one seat in the parliament should be a walk in the park and it is up to the current government to show whether that would be good or bad for the region. Not wanting to make things worse, Serbia’s government did not follow suit expecting the new Montenegro government to rescind the decision. Montenegro’s Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic said that the adopted Law on Religious Freedoms means security for the Serbian Orthodox Church’s assets and property in Montenegro. The original law drafted by Djukanovic early last year triggered a wave of protests across Montenegro and ended his DPS party’s 30-year-old parliamentary rule, the longest in Europe. Indeed, there are now a lot of signs to see for those who know where and how to look for an answer whether Djukanovic’s power has genuinely diminished or not. After the parliamentary elections on 30 August 2020, the ruling pro-Serb alliance ‘For the Future of Montenegro’, Civic Movement United Reform Action and coalitions ‘Black or white’ won the political mandate by gaining 41 of the 81 seats in parliament. It did not happen, and in the meantime, he was stripped of all his assets in the country, worth millions. “There is no way he can be seen signing the law, which caused such a furor among the Montenegrin nationalists and the promoters of an independent Montenegrin Church,” a Western diplomat said. While many hoped or believed that Djukanovic after losing elections, would flee the country and his DPS party would dissipate, it is obvious that he is still calling the shots. Unfortunately, if the book is to be judged by its cover, expectations for a good read are pretty low, observers say. Some die-hard pro-government insiders still argue: “for the time being”. Radulovic’s claim to diplomatic fame stems for his recent position of DCM in the Montenegrin Embassy in Bucharest in contrast to scores of veteran diplomats with better schooling and many more years of experience. He, who transformed himself from Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic’s favorite prodigy to his arch-nemesis, survived the fallout of this close relationship, evaded criminal charges against him in Italian courts, made quiet deals to spare his country from serious bombardment in the 1999 NATO action against Serbia over Kosovo and reconfigured the country from a Russian semi-satellite to a NATO member that is on a solid track to become a member of the EU. The well-mannered and soft-spoken Bozovic is intensely disliked by Djukanovic, chiefly because he was very close to the latter’s nemesis – Archbishop Amfilohije. Everything and everybody else who matters, remain in their positions, as if Djukanovic’s DPS is still in power – the feared state prosecutor, the police, the army, the judiciary – all remain untouched. Djukanovic must sign it now after being passed twice”, he said. It also impairs the forming of the mini-Schengen area in the West Balkans which will enable free flow of trade, goods, people and services, an idea supported both by the EU and US, but opposed in the region by Pristina and its ally Djukanovic. With the only one rock he ever struck in the 30 years of navigating the treacherous waters of Balkan politics, the Law on Religious Freedom, out of the way, he now only has to wait for this coalition government to make one mistake and fall apart.

Sefcovic also said that the Commission is coordinating member states who want to donate vaccines from the joint EU procurement. The EU as usual has promised its support and relief funds but with the situation within many EU member states still deteriorating, those promises are understood to be hollow. Facebook

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With the COVID-19 pandemic steadily worsening across much of Europe, the citizens of the continent’s Southeast European region have been left out of much of the extremely slow distribution of available vaccine supplies. Although a candidate for EU membership, Serbia became the first European country to begin a mass inoculation campaign using China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine. In cooperation with the member states, we are also working on a mechanism for the allocation of vaccines outside the EU borders, before COVAX is fully operational,” Kyriakides is quoted as saying. Serbia began its mass vaccination against COVID-19 with elderly people and medical workers then moving on to members of the military and the police. A Serbian soldier receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a makeshift vaccination center in Belgrade, January 19, 2021. Serbia received one million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine last week. Serbia’s Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar said on January 19 as he became the first person to receive the Chinese vaccine in a live event broadcast on the country’s state television, “It is the only way to return to normal life.”  Loncar added from Belgrade’s virology institute “These are all very safe vaccines.”
Serbia began using the Russian Sputnik-V vaccine on January 6, with some top officials receiving the first jabs to boost public trust in the Russian vaccine. Serbia expects to receive another 250,000 doses of the Sputnik-V vaccine and 20,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the coming days; a small initial shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reached Serbia in December allowing the Prime Minister to receive a showcase vaccination. An additional 2,000 doses were expected to arrive in the period immediately after the launch week, leaving Albanian officials angry and frustrated. EU leaders conferring January 21 decided it was too early to approve the use of a vaccination certificate for anything more than a health record; if this issue remains unresolved the transport and tourism sectors of EU states and their close neighbors will likely face major new disruptions later this year. EPA-EFE//ANDREJ CUKIC
Most countries are not yet administering vaccinations
Across the Western Balkans region, vaccination programs have begun in Serbia and Albania, but Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, and North Macedonia have not yet reported receiving any vaccine supplies.  Albania’s government has contracted to purchase a total of 500,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, of which the first 10,000 should arrive sometime over January. Greece has frequently tried to cast itself in the role of helpful interlocutor and sponsor for aspiring EU members; when it comes to providing vaccines, the answer may not be so simple. He said at that session that the Commission is trying to secure coronavirus vaccines for the countries of the region through its member states individually and also through the WHO’s COVAX initiative. With the bulk of incoming vaccine supplies from approved producers directed towards the continent’s richest countries (mostly EU member states) who contracted for these early on, a number of countries in the region have been forced to turn to alternate suppliers such as China and Russia. EPA-EFE/ANDREJ CUKIC

Members of the Serbian Military wait to receive a COVID-19 vaccine during the vaccination at Belgrade Fair makeshift vaccination center, January 19, 2021. A number of EU member states, but especially Greece, have had senior officials from neighboring countries (Albania, North Macedonia) ask for urgent support during brief Athens visits earlier in January. Albania launched its vaccination program on January 11, using an initial supply of 975 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine secured via an EU supplier. Serbia began its mass vaccination against COVID-19 with elderly people and medical workers then moving on to members of the military and the police. EPA-EFE//ANDREJ CUKIC

Supplies from China, Russia trump promises from Brussels. European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides also announced the EU will provide €70 million in grants for the Western Balkans countries to provide coronavirus vaccines. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Out in the cold: SE Europe in dire need of vaccine supplies

By Alec Mally
Director for Global Economic Affairs at IPEDIS

epa08948362 Members of the Serbian Military wait to receive a COVID-19 vaccine during the vaccination at Belgrade Fair makeshift vaccination center in Belgrade, Serbia, 19 January 2021. Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama his country would be giving “a symbolic number of vaccines” to neighboring Kosovo for the “frontline medical personnel.” Serbia and Belarus are the only European countries now using the Russian vaccine even though it does not have WHO or EU approvals, with Hungary moving quickly to adopt the Sputnik-V and Sinopharm vaccines as well. The Commission has also ordered that work accelerate on the creation of an EU vaccine sharing mechanism. “We will award a grant of €70 million to the Western Balkans, for the purchase of vaccines from member countries. EU promises support, making plans for bold actions
European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic has been quoted as informing the first informal General Affairs Council meeting of 2021 (January 18) that the EU has been able to secure vaccines and the Commission should be able to share them with its Western Balkan partners.