Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister and interior minister, at a press conference after the European Parliament elections, Milan, May 27, 2019 (ANSA photo by Daniel Dal Zennaro via AP).

Last week’s European Parliament elections were expected to propel the far right to new heights, auguring a shiny future for a populist agenda that sends fears across much of the continent. But although far-right nationalists did score their best performance to date, the election results fell far short of expectations. Just as importantly, there are major internal contradictions in the nationalists’ plans to take over the European Union from within, suggesting that the road ahead will bring mostly headaches and disappointment for them and their supporters. The results revealed troubling polarization and the steadily eroding power of centrist parties, the […]

A protester amid smoke from tear gas during clashes at the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, Sept. 8, 2018 (AP photo by Dimitris Tosidis).

ATHENS—Last September, a story consumed Greek media outlets. A fatal altercation had taken place near Omonoia Square, a neglected plaza in downtown Athens known primarily for its small shops, markets and Middle Eastern restaurants. According to initial reports, a knife-wielding drug user had attempted to rob a jewelry store, only to be apprehended by the owner and killed during the fight that ensued. Within hours, the story became a sensation, a fact that had less to do with its details, which were scant, than with Greece’s current political climate. It presented a prime opportunity for New Democracy, the center-right opposition […]

Mart Helme, chairman of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party, or EKRE, after parliamentary elections in Tallinn, Estonia, March 4, 2019 (AP photo by Tanel Meos).

After doubling its support in parliamentary elections that were held in March, Estonia’s far-right, populist Conservative People’s Party, known as EKRE, is now part of a three-party coalition government. EKRE’s emergence reflects rising political discontent in Estonia, but its euroskeptic and anti-immigrant positions are likely to be tempered by its coalition partners, which include incumbent Prime Minister Juri Ratas’ Center Party and the conservative Fatherland party. In an email interview with WPR, Martin Mölder, a researcher at the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies at the University of Tartu, in Estonia, discusses the recent election results and what to expect […]

Members of the Serbian gendarmerie stand guard in front of the Serbian presidency building in Belgrade, Serbia, March 17, 2019 (AP photo by Darko Vojinovic).

Anti-government protests have been taking place every week in Serbia since late last year, underscoring widespread frustrations with the government and concerns about President Aleksandar Vucic’s consolidated hold on power. Vucic and his political party, the Serbian Progressive Party, have been content to shrug off the protests and cite them as evidence that, contrary to what his critics may say, dissent is alive and well in the country. Yet as Aleks Eror points out in this week’s in-depth report, the president can respond dismissively to the protests precisely because of the strength of his political position and his ability to […]

A supporter of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic waves Serbian flags and shouts slogans during a rally to counter months of anti-government protests in Belgrade, Serbia, April 19, 2019 (AP photo by Darko Vojinovic).

BELGRADE, Serbia—The night in mid-March when protesters stormed the headquarters of Serbia’s public broadcaster began like many recent Saturday nights in the Serbian capital. Weekly protests against the government of President Aleksandar Vucic had entered their fourth month, and several thousand people turned out for a mile-long march across the city. They planned to vent their frustrations over escalating political violence and democratic backsliding in the country. The previous 14 protests had largely unfolded without incident, and there was no reason to believe this one would be any different. But as protesters made a pit stop in front of Radio […]

A Ukrainian serviceman guards a position near the frontline of the conflict in Mariinka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, April 20, 2019 (AP photo by Evgeniy Maloletka).

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree late last month to expedite the process of applying for Russian citizenship for people living in separatist regions of eastern Ukraine. The move came only days after the second round of Ukraine’s presidential election, which was won by former actor and comedian Volodymyr Zelensky. The decree poses challenges for Zelensky’s agenda and could exacerbate divisions that worsened due to the nationalist policies of outgoing President Petro Poroshenko, says Gordon Hahn, a senior researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies and the author of “Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West and […]

The trade port in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Dec. 2, 2018 (AP photo by Efrem Lukatsky).

The World Trade Organization recently released a decision that it surely would have preferred to avoid. Ukraine had challenged restrictions on its exports imposed by Russia in the wake of its 2014 takeover of Crimea. The Russian government claimed that an exception to international trade rules allowed it alone to decide when trade restrictions are “necessary” for national security reasons. Moscow argued that the WTO should have no role in adjudicating the dispute. Since the WTO had never previously ruled on the national security justifications for trade restrictions, the Russia-Ukraine case is important in its own right. But lurking behind […]

People protest against the parliamentary election results in Chisinau, Moldova, March 21, 2019 (Photo by Dmitrij Osmatesko for Sputnik via AP).

Parliamentary elections were held in Moldova in late February, but the country has yet to form a government. The opposition Socialist Party, which favors closer ties with Russia, gained 35 out of 101 seats in Parliament, while the ruling Democratic Party took 30 seats. A pro-European Union opposition coalition called the ACUM campaigned on an anti-corruption platform and came in third, with 26 seats. Any two of these three parties could form a governing coalition, but wide gaps in their platforms have so far precluded any agreements, says Denis Cenusa, a researcher at Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany. In […]

Hundreds of demonstrators hold candles to protest against proposed changes to Poland’s justice system, in Warsaw, Poland, Aug. 3, 2018 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

The European Commission announced new legal measures last month aimed at curbing the erosion of judicial independence and the rule of law in member states. While several Central and Eastern European governments have sought to exert political influence over their judiciaries, the European Union’s latest actions were primarily directed at Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, known by its Polish acronym PiS, which has intervened in the country’s justice system since winning an outright majority in parliament in 2015. In an email interview with WPR, Artur Wolek, the public policy and administration professor at the Jesuit University Ignatianum in Krakow […]