Emerging Europe This Week

NATO urged to be bold on Ukraine: Emerging Europe this week

You can read all of our coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including explainers and articles offering context and background information here.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Lithuania’s president urged NATO leaders to be bolder in addressing Ukraine’s push for membership at a summit in his country next week, saying this would boost Kyiv’s battlefield performance while Moscow would see any caution as weakness. 

President Gitanas Nausėda advised NATO allies to disregard fears that bringing Ukraine into the Western military alliance would provoke Russia. Ukraine has been pressing NATO to declare at the summit that Kyiv would join the alliance soon after the end of the war and to set out a roadmap to membership, but other members such as the United States and Germany have been more cautious, wary of any moves they fear could take the alliance closer to an active war with Russia, which has long seen NATO’s expansion as evidence of Western hostility. 

“We all understand that right now, in the midst of the war, Ukraine is not able to join NATO immediately. We understand that. Ukrainians understand that,” said Nausėda. “But we need to create procedures, how to proceed … so there is no wasting of time if the war is over and victory is on Ukrainian side”. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country’s counteroffensive has been “slowed down” by entrenched Russian defences and that he wished that Western weapons deliveries had allowed it to begin “much earlier”. 

“I wanted our counteroffensive to happen much earlier, because everyone understood that if the counteroffensive unfolds later, then a bigger part of our territory will be mined. We give our enemy the time and possibility to place more mines and prepare their defensive lines,” Zelensky told CNN on Wednesday. 

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly said that while the counteroffensive is under way, the main push is yet to come. 

At least four people, including two women aged 21 and 95, were killed after a Russian rocket hit an apartment building in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Thursday. 

Another 34 people were injured in what the mayor of Lviv described as “one of the biggest attacks” on the city’s civilian infrastructure. Lviv regional head Maksym Kozytskyi said more than 30 houses had been destroyed. 

Zelensky vowed a “tangible” response to the overnight assault by “Russian terrorists”. 

Russian state TV this week slammed exiled Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin as a “traitor” in a programme broadcast even as Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko said Prigozhin was no longer in Belarus and has returned to Russia. 

Wagner started a “March of Justice” on June 23, capturing Russia’s southern cities of Rostov-on-Don and Voronezh before ceasing en route to Moscow, following a deal brokered by Lukashenko. The deal dropped criminal charges against Prigozhin, allowing him and Wagner mercenaries to move to Belarus.  

Lukashenko told reporters that Wagner militants were still in their respective bases to the best of his knowledge, adding the relocation issue had not been resolved but his offer to accommodate some of Wagner’s mercenaries still stands as they are not a risk for Belarus. 

Other news from the region

Romanian energy producer Hidroelectrica’s IPO has been priced at 104 lei (22.87 US dollars) per share, it said on Wednesday, implying a market capitalisation of 10.3 billion US dollars in what a government minister described as a “historic success”. The pricing of the initial public offering, Europe’s largest so far this year, was around the middle of an indicated range of 94-112 lei. “We are happy to see the strong investor interest which has driven a successful outcome,” said Chief Executive Bogdan Badea. The stock will start trading on July 12 on the Bucharest bourse.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has submitted legislation that would allow it to call a referendum on the EU’s proposed migration pact – which has already been approved by EU member states with only Warsaw and Budapest in opposition – on the same day as parliamentary election this autumn. PiS argues that holding the two votes simultaneously will be more cost-effective, but opponents have accused it of seeking to exploit the issue to boost turnout from its supporters on election day.

On Wednesday the EU chided Poland and Hungary for democratic deficiencies that have been accerbated by measures taken or left unaddressed by the current governments. While the European Commission’s annual rule of law report noted a smattering of improvements in the two nations, it also underscored many remaining shortcomings that highlight the standoff between the Brussels-based EU institutions and the two nations.

Bulgaria’s former chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev – who was ousted in a trade-off between the current government’s coalition partners – has started his own political party, Justice for Bulgaria. His party will target nationalist voters and oppose the centre-right GERB party of former prime minister Boyko Borissov. Geshev was previously close to Borissov, and his controversial 2019 appointment as chief prosecutor was widely viewed at the time as protecting Borissov, then acting PM. Bulgaria has had five parliamentary elections in two years. 

The Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Coordinating Bureau convened in Baku this week. Azerbaijan holds the rotating presidency of the NAM, and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev addressed representatives from over 70 countries in attendance about French colonialism and neocolonialismrecurring themes of the meeting. Outgoing Montenegrin prime minister Dritan Abazovic also attended the summit and announced that Montenegro, an observer to NAM but not a full member, will seek the organisation’s support for its application for non-permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council. 

The EU will not lift political and economic sanctions on Kosovo unless the government de-escalates tensions with ethnic Serbs, EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak said on Tuesday during a visit in Prishtina. EU countries imposed punitive measures on Kosovo after prime minister Albin Kurti’s government failed to heed EU and US requests to defuse strife in the country’s north following the worst clashes in over a decade. The measures include halting visits by Kosovo officials to the EU and a suspension of a large part of EU economic aid to the small Balkan republic, which could lose some 500 million euros in EU funds by the end of 2023. 

Moldova’s pro-EU government is mulling a “de-oligarchisation” law whose primary purpose will be to curb the influence of fugitive oligarchs in key sectors such as politics, economy or mass media. The draft law will likely define oligarchs as persons who have excessive economic and political influence in public life, have been involved in politics for the past five years, and have a significant impact on the media. These persons also must have been previously convicted of corruption offences and are subject to international sanctions. 

A Tajikistan citizen who fatally shot two security officers at the airport in Moldova’s capital last week died Monday from injuries he sustained when officers subdued him. The attacker, who Tajikistan prosecutors later identified as Rustam Ashurov, 43, was hospitalised last Friday after being seriously injured by security forces who apprehended him after the shooting at Chisinau International Airport. Ashurov had just opened fire on two airport staff after being denied entry into the country.

To stop newly qualified doctors from leaving the country, medical students will now have to work for five years in Albania before getting their diplomas. The decision came as a measure to prevent the migration of medical students from the public university, who for years have left to work in Europe, especially Germany, soon after getting their degrees. The plan has been public for some months, but was only passed on Wednesday and Prime Minister Edi Rama delivered the decision himself, wanting to send a “message”, while presenting it.

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