There are indications that Turkey’s AKP is utilising the private security sector to reinforce their influence over state security institutions. The desire to exert influence throughout Turkey’s security apparatus is ostensibly driven by the emerging paranoia that the AKP is being faced with internal challengers. Manipulating private security to monitor and/or control state security structures will erode democratic accountability.
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.
Although the current economic standing of Belgrade’s Airport is good, the Vučić government is - yet again - close to endangering one of the most important state assets. Previous regional examples reveal how governments, for political purposes, have privatised state assets to the detriment of public coffers, and the case of Belgrade Airport could easily follow this path.
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.
The Balkan region is witnessing changes within state structures. These changes are empowering the ruling elite; and, ultimately, affecting the informal mechanisms used by the government to suppress oppositional voices. As evidenced in Serbia as an illustrative case, violence is steadily being substituted by subtle intimidation methods, previously legalised under the hope of EU accession, and utilised so as not to negatively impact their international image.
Ties between Turkey and Israel have been frayed by recent history but are simply too important for both states to ignore. As the East Mediterranean’s vast energy reserves begin to reap rewards for Ankara and Tel Aviv, staunch ideological differences held by their respective political elites will battle against lucrative financial returns. Investors must brace for volatility in the face of profitability.
The fight against corruption in Romania has been applauded by the West as a model worth emulating throughout the region. Both the country’s main anti-corruption body, the DNA, and its head, Laura Kövesi, have attained notable influence as power players. Recent allegations about questionable practices, and the personalisation of anti-corruption, however, threaten to unravel the progress made.
Bulgaria’s energy sector is currently in the midst of a power struggle, with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov seeking to diminish the influence of independent businessmen with energy interests. One of the main consequences of this is that the sector is becoming increasingly politicised. Despite the involvement of international actors (Russia-EU), trends suggest that the sector will ultimately be shaped by internal power dynamics.
The Romanian maritime sector is characterised by its lack of an efficient and transparent legal framework, and the absence of public bodies to oversee and regulate who benefits from the sector. These legal gaps have been used by a group of Romanian Members of Parliament, ostensibly with the view to secure decision-making powers over the future development (and associated privatisation) of this sector.