Unbalanced Vucic-Rama Double Act Benefits Only Serbia

Both understand that bad moves at the local level are more tolerable to the West than those at the regional level, as long as you play nice with the neighbours; both rule their countries with an iron fist - Vucic overtly, Rama's hidden behind a velvet glove.

Vucic's cronies have resorted to extreme violence against opposition leaders, protestors, and critical journalists and embraced widespread corruption. The US State Department has also criticised Serbia's weak judiciary and lack of media freedom.

Under Rama's tenure - as the second longest ruler in Albanian history - domestic and international watchdogs have accused his government of corruption, cronyism, and intimidation of journalists and critics alike. The most recent country reports from the US State Department and the EU fault his government for undermining the judiciary, exerting political and economic pressure to silence critics, and doing little to rein in pervasive corruption.

These shared proclivities have earned their countries a common accolade from Freedom House - the rank of 'hybrid regime', slipping from democracy towards autocracy.

Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama (R), President of Serbia Aleksander Vucic (L) and Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev (C) pose for a family photo in Tirana, Albania, 21 December 2019. Photo: EPA-EFE/MALTON DIBRA

Rama as Vucic's pawn

Unfortunately, shady dealings and toothless reports have had little impact on their hold on power or their relationships with Washington and Brussels, where the dynamic duo has received high praise for efforts to 'stabilise' the region, primarily in the shape of the Open Balkan Initiative that calls for a border-free economic and political zone dubbed a 'mini...

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