The PSD is assessed to be among the most influential actors in state-owned military companies. Not only are there indications that it can influence the appointment of directors, but it has a hand in shaping decisions made throughout the defence sector itself. Although Romania remains somewhat accountable to international defence organisations of which it is a member-state, such as NATO, this has not precluded the amount of influence it has secured over national players.
The fear of losing power and being politically betrayed is motivating President Erdoğan to continue to accumulate influence, now beyond Ankara. After purging key government institutions in the aftermath of the failed 2016 coup, Erdoğan has now set his sites on municipalities, ensuring that loyalty extends beyond the borders of the capital.
Romania has been the target of public allegations suggesting that members of the government have illicitly benefited from EU funds through opaque schemes involving county councils and the Ministry of European Funds. Recent developments have further reinforced these concerns - often driven by the opacity that surrounds the distribution of EU funding.
The ongoing Turkish military operation in Afrin is elevating nationalist feelings in Turkey, spurred by its fight against Kurdish armed groups. Behind this rhetoric, President Erdoğan is further legitimising legal reforms; arguably reinforcing his ability to exert influence - and ostensibly control - the country' defence industry. As his fingerprint is established over the defence sector, this industry joins the many others that are being utilised to distribute resources to loyalists.
A series of anti-terrorist laws proposed by Romania’s President Iohannis appear to be empowering the already controversial and powerful SRI, in part by making it even less accountable to the judiciary. While terrorism has been a national security concern since the 1990s, these reforms are officially being driven by concerns about ISIS and an emerging refugee phenomena.
Several international factors could plausibly directly impact the security and political stability of Emerging Europe in 2018. International interference of new state actors, and the possibility of a “return effect” of ISIS militants to the Balkans, can further destabilise a region already seen to have the seeds of instability.
2018 will see Russia and China further consolidate their presence and influence in the government offices and markets of Emerging Europe. Beijing and Moscow have marked clear goals for the next year – filling the void left by a retreating EU. As a result, we will continue to see the erosion of democratic institutions and accountability, and a further rise in quasi-autocratic leadership not afraid to use informal tools of influence to consolidate their power.
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Authoritarianism, corruption, human rights violations, and political repression are elements that characterise political trends in Emerging Europe over the next year. Indeed, countries in the region will continue to move away from democratic reforms, while their ruling elite continue to secure their political power by leveraging informal mechanisms of influence.
The Romanian secret services hold significant political influence; in theory, a remnant of the Communist era. Information possessed by the various intelligence agencies – a de facto equivalent of Russia’s infamous ‘compromat’ - has been utilised to exert influence over the elite. Their rather unaccountable role has an impact on the country’s democratic institutions, including the judiciary, which is believed to be under the control of the secret services through the infiltrations of its agents.
The Bulgarian media sector appears to be controlled by individuals with strong links to political parties and the ruling elite, as is the case with Delyan Peevski. Central to influencing political and public opinion, the media sector has become an important tool through which elements of the status quo have sought to hide corruption, and other questionable practices that continue to undermine Bulgaria.
Russia and Turkey have found partners in the Balkans who are accepting of their illiberal democracies, and money from their business elite. While both countries use this leverage to gain increased influence in the Balkans; in all reality, their real economic impact is minimum. In fact, despite indications that Russian and Turkish influence is expanding in the Balkans, the EU remains the most dominant economic actor.
The ruling political elite in the TRNC can be directly linked to Turkey’s position on the “Cyprus Issue”. Ankara’s current state of affairs is re-empowering pro-Turkey ruling families, many of whom were involved in establishing the TRNC. These families, dependent on Turkey, also have a legacy of manipulating the TNRC’s early state structures to their benefit. Back in the political driver’s seat, their return has opened the doors to energy resources for Ankara’s elite.