Balkan Democracy & Political Corruption – BALKAN NEWS MAGAZINE

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Geert Wilders Dutch MHR

It is 2017 and the whole of Europe is talking politics. Each country is either looking over its shoulder at France, Germany or even Great Britain, having experienced a somewhat unexpected result in the Dutch election. The Netherlands has proved that ‘middle of the road’ is best, despite the machinations of Geert Wilders and the extreme right wing views of the Peoples Party for Freedom & Democracy, of which he is the leader. During this period, the Balkans has also had profound right wing views expressed, in the various countries of South Eastern Europe, where elections are shortly due, notwithstanding the ranting, and raving of President Erdogan of Turkey.

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Turkish President Erdogan

Last year Bulgaria elected a Socialist President, and General Rumen Radev – having already had an outstanding  career in the Bulgarian Air Force and NATO – has now turned his attention to overseeing Sundays forthcoming Bulgarian parliamentary elections. Despite the fact that the election result looks like ‘more of the same,’ it seems that Bulgaria now has a strong man as president. Instead of some waffling academic, disenfranchised lawyer, or one of the usual brand of ineffectual and harmless party hacks – destined to agree with everything placed before them – Radev, although it is early days yet, looks like a hand’s on country President.

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Bulgarian President Rumen Radev

But is this the beginning? Because, twenty five years on, we can now see the gradual disappearance of secretive and grey faced Soviet style politico’s, who have engendered Balkan politics since the alleged arrival of democracy in the Balkan region. After twenty  five years of political and financial corruption, is it now time for the citizens of SE Europe, to put put their faith in their respective parliaments, and elected members who supposedly represent their interests?

Well, no! I am afraid that the exception proves the rule, and although we can happily endorse people like President Rumen Radev of Bulgaria and Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania, there are clear doubts about the existence of viable democracy, in places like Moldova, Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo and FROM. That, and the constant political meddling in the region by old allies, Russia and Serbia – during the most recent election in Montenegro – cause one to wonder about the Balkan political class’s, and their true objectives. This is because most seem to act, and even appear like a bunch of spivs – ‘Baldy’s with BMW’s’ – out for what they can get, which is usually money.

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Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama & John Kerry

When one talks about the ex communist countries of South Eastern Europe, we forget how close they were, in the past, to Turkey, and even to Greece during the post WW2, Soviet period. This meant that both of these countries must certainly have had some influence on their democratized neighbours, when their newly spun democracy appeared in the Balkans. But change was also a time for the ‘old brigade’ to mark its territory, and to decide what it was they personally wanted from the remnants of communism.

I was there before and after these changes, and I can assure you that there were few surprises from survivors of the old regimes that I came across, who knew exactly what they wanted, and how to get it. What they were unsure of, was how to present themselves to their electorate – whilst all this was going on – public relations being virtually an unknown profession at the time.

Balkans, political map

Nevertheless, there remained good old fashioned propaganda, bare faced denials, and frequent claims of political witch hunts, which continues to this day. By pandering to the many idealistic and often naive Westerners, who descended on the many Balkan capitals – replete with their countless MBA’s and endless platitudes – there was little else to do, but to keep their mouths shut.

What the ‘Denizens’ of the old regime were really up to, was another matter, confirming that in twenty five years, very little has changed at all.  Although, Bulgaria and Romania, seem finally to be edging towards the true EU norms, lets hope Sundays Bulgarian election will not be blighted by vote-rigging.

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European Turkey is about one man. President Erdogan has stopped being Mr Nice Guy – if he ever was – and is in the process of developing a tyrannical dictatorship. One cannot imagine Turkey ever truly being a full member of the EU, not in the next 100 years at least, nor can it coalesce with other Balkan countries, especially since illegal immigration has affected them so much. Migrant presence in the South East of Europe is, and has always been, the result of Turkish non intervention and criminal collusion.

Erdogan, by suppressing the media, and locking up most of the competent managerial classes,  citizens in Turkey – who will in future be able to look forward to regular four hour rants from this horrible man – will watch their country fall into decline. As to whether the level of corruption in Turkey will decrease, is another matter, although Erdogan himself – rather like Auther Daily – might claim some legitimate expenses, and vast palaces in which to live.

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Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras

Greece is the enigma. Undoubtedly corrupt in the past, it is now so under the control of Brussels, it is hard to see how any substantial fraud could occur-  perhaps just the occasional cash on contract deal – with Europe wide scrutiny being so intense. In any case, Greece’s Byzantine ways have largely been eradicated by austerity, leaving Greece impoverished but intact, a nation which seems to be climbing out of the precipice. Having said this, why is corruption such a major obstacle to democracy in the rest of Eastern Europe?

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We have all got to remember what Communism really was, so put ‘Dr, Zhivago,’ and Bolshevism  out of the discussion. Communism by the late 20th Century was about graft, lying, stealing and improving one’s lot, by climbing the tall greasy pole of communist society. Arriving at either the ‘Ministry of The Interior,’ or at least heading some government owned enterprise, the rest of communist society was left in the doldrums. There was once a Balkan saying  – ‘The government pretended to pay you, you pretended to work, and everyone stole the rest.’

So, it is hardly surprising when Balkan headlines announce a major fraud, that a politician – or even a Prime Minister – is under arrest. Nor is the announcement of vast amounts of cash, disappearing into the City of London banking system, and then being turned into posh houses next door to Bucking Palace. Or, is it?

BY PATRICK BRIGHAM