Josh Friedman in front of the Republika Srpska presidency in Banja Luka, Bosnia

Report on the Republika Srpska referendum:

The following is the first post of a hopefully regularly published blog on the Balkans.


Summer has ended, but tensions are simmering in the Balkans. Talk of war has erupted for the first time in a while, with Bosniaks threatening to grab territory from Serbs and Serbia vowing to come to the defense of its ethnic kin in Bosnia.

To kick off the fall, Republika Srpska, Bosnia’s Serb region, is holding a referendum on whether or not the entity can continue to celebrate its annual holiday, Republika Srpska Day (Jan. 9). It may sound trivial, but the vote is what prompted a few loose cannons to beat their Balkan war drums this week.

FreeManPost will be reporting from Banja Luka, by the way, on referendum day (Sept. 25).

Elsewhere in the region, asylum seekers are still passing through the Balkans (primarily Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia) on their way to Western Europe, albeit in much smaller numbers than in 2015, when more than 1 million migrants made their way across the peninsula.

What is seemingly keeping the migrant flows down is a shaky deal between the EU and Turkey, in which Ankara is supposed to serve as Europe’s gatekeeper. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to cut off the deal and flood the Balkans with refugees. The establishment of a new EU border force, though, may deter Erdogan from massing migrants next to Bulgaria and Greece.

Across the Pannonian Plain, Budapest, which is leading the anti-refugee charge in the EU, will hold its own referendum on Oct. 2. The Hungarian referendum takes aim at Brussels’ decision to forcibly relocate refugees in EU member states. In addition to turning to the ballot box, Hungary has reinforced its anti-migrant fences on its borders with Serbia and Croatia, causing further concerns about the Balkans becoming a refugee parking lot.

Violence has broken out in Kosovo this year. As recently as last month, rocket-propelled grenades have been fired at state institutions. The violence has not been inter-ethnic. Albanians have been attacking (tear-gassing, Molotov cocktailing etc.) Albanians, but the source of the anger is planned concessions to Serbia and Montenegro.

Montenegro will hold parliamentary elections in October, though there is little doubt who the next prime minister will be. Milo Djukanovic has held power in Podgorica (as premier or president) almost continuously since the early 90s, or well before Montenegro was even a country.

The Bulgarian presidency is up for grabs this fall, and Russia appears to have a horse in the race. There isn’t much of a race, though, because the ruling party wants to wait until the 11th hour to nominate a candidate.

Macedonia could finally hold “early” parliamentary elections. A vote is scheduled for December, but the elections have twice been postponed this year. Thus far, Macedonia’s opposition has failed to show its western backers that it can win, and Skopje’s ruling party has failed to show it can shake its corrupt ways.

Serbia and Croatia have already held early parliamentary elections this year. The focus of at least one of the election cycles was mutual anger between Belgrade and Zagreb. Both elections created spikes in nationalist rhetoric, but resulted in little change in the respective governments. Serbia, however, did see nationalists return to its parliament.

Despite all the talk, don’t expect war this fall. But, if for whatever reason war breaks out, expect FreeManPost to be there.

Also, feel free to comment or request coverage of certain events.