HOT TOPICS IN JANUARY: Šarec’s government increases in popularity; Putin visits BelgradeAdriatic Journal 30 January 2019
Šarec’s government increases in popularity
Slovenia’s new prime minister and his party LMŠ seem to be increasing in its popularity since coming to power. In last December’s poll conducted by Ninamedia for the daily Dnevnik, Marjan Šarec’s LMŠ has overtaken the leading opposition party SDS led by Janez Janša. At the same time, Šarec’s popularity also surpassed Slovenia’s president Borut Pahor, who’s been topping the list of most popular politicians for a number of years.
Šarec’s government also enjoys more support than any other government in the last ten years. Favourable view of the government’s work thus far had 56.1 % of respondents, 6.2% more than in December. 29.1% of respondents found the government’s work unsuccessful, while 14.8% where undecided.
Šarec’s government success is assessed as approximately the same as Janez Drnovšek’s government and the first government of Janez Janša were at the beginning of their mandates. The two were considered the most successful and most effective governments since the country’s independence, the poll showed.
According to Dnevnik’s poll, if early elections were to be held now, LMŠ would win 18% of the votes, while Janša’s SDS would get 16.9%. But due to the results of other parties and fragmented votes, it would again be difficult to put together a ruling coalition.
Putin visits Belgrade
Last month Vladimir Putin made his first official trip to Serbia since 2014 and fourth since coming to power. Serbia’s president Aleksander Vučić prepared the Russian president a lavish welcome in Belgrade with more than 120.000 people holding banners with messages of gratitude to Putin in both Serbian and Russian, confirming Putin’s popularity in the country.
During the visit, Putin awarded Vučić with the Russian order of Alexander Nevsky, making him the only state leader outside the former Soviet Union to which this decoration was awarded. At the joint press conference, the Russian president emphasised that Russia supports a mutually acceptable agreement between Belgrade and Prishtina and condemned the formation of the Kosovo army.
“The Resolution 1244 does not allow the existence of any armed formations in Kosovo except for the United Nations contingency. We share the concerns of Serbia, because we know that these steps lead to instability in the Balkans. Our support will continue”, he said.
One day trip was marked by the signing of more than 20 agreements, includingareas covering nuclear energy and space exploration. Other contracts cover digital technology, innovation and investments in high-tech and strategic areas. However, the key discussion was held around energy issues since Serbia is keen on becoming a key regional player in the transit system of Russian gas towards Central Europe via Turkish stream pipeline. Putin pledged USD 1.4bn in investments in gas transportation infrastructure in Serbia. The visit confirms increasing trade between the two countries which amounted to around USD 2bn in 2017, making Russia Serbia’s fifth biggest trading partner.
The visit was largely viewed as the confirmation of Serbian government’s attempt to balance between its desire to join its largest trade partner, the EU, and its historical ties with Russia, with which it shares Orthodox Christian faith and which gave it diplomatic support during NATO bombing in 1999.
Corruption perception index 2018: negative trends
The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), recently published by NGO Transparency International shows a concerning negative trend for Croatia. The country achieved a score of 48 points, which is considerably worse than the average for Western Europe and the European Union (66 points). Corruption in Croatia and its public administration is considered widespread and deep-rooted, according to the report. The report notes there is currently no serious will to appropriately address the issue and make improvements. In order to reverse the negative trend, Croatia must improve transparency of public administration and restore citizens’ confidence in its work. Slovenia did better on the index than Croatia (60 points), but also scored slightly worse than the previous year. According to the report, general negative trends on corruption contribute to the global crisis of democracy. “Given the vulnerability of various democratic institutions around the world – often threatened by authoritarian or populist leaders – we need to do more to strengthen the mechanisms of control and protect the rights of citizens”, said Patricia Moreira, the managing director of the international secretariat of Transparency International.
Last year average unemployment rate in Croatia was below 10%
In December, the registered unemployment rate in Croatia rose slightly on a monthly basis to 9.6%, while the average unemployment rate for the year 2018 was 9.9%. This was the first time the annual registered unemployment rate in Croatia was below 10%, according to a new analysis conducted by Raiffeisenbank Austria (RBA). In 2018, the number of unemployed decreased by 20.8% from the previous year. An analyist from RBa siad that the “decreased annual unemployment rate is a reflection of a bigger decline in the number of unemployed in relation to the decline in the number of active working force”, Seebiz reports.