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Andrew Macdowall

Beograd, Serbia
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About Andrew
Andrew MacDowall is a experienced correspondent, analyst, and consultant covering Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans. He has also done substantial work in the MENA region and South-East Asia as a business journalist and analyst. He has written for publications including the Guardian, Financial Times, Politico Europe, and New York Times. He has been based in South-East Europe since 2006. He also works as a consultant and risk analyst for investors in emerging markets.
Andrew also regularly speaks and moderates at conferences.
News Gathering Feature Stories Content Writing
Business Finance Politics

The Banker's Top 100 CIS Banks ranking: reaping the rewards of recovery

13 May 2024  |  www.thebanker.com
Banks in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) experienced growth in assets and Tier 1 capital in 2017, indicating economic recovery. Kazakhstan and Ukraine's banks showed significant improvements, with Halyk Bank leading the rankings. The region's recovery was aided by rising oil prices and domestic reforms. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) supported Ukraine's Oschadbank, and PrivatBank was nationalized following a fraud scandal. The banking sector in Belarus is recovering, with Belarusbank maintaining its position despite challenges.

Lazard delivers highly tailored but tough advice

12 May 2024  |  www.thebanker.com
Lazard, celebrating its 175th anniversary, has evolved significantly since its inception in New Orleans. Currently, it is navigating a period of transition amid changing global financial markets. Nick Fowler, a managing director at Lazard, plays a key role in the company's equity advisory team, offering a range of advisory services including IPOs and capital-raising activities.

MUFG ups its game in EMEA

13 Apr 2024  |  www.thebanker.com
MUFG's capital markets team, led by co-heads Fabianna Del Canto and Antoine Baudron, is experiencing a strong start to 2023, benefiting from groundwork laid in the previous year. The team oversees a range of products and has a significant presence in London, with operations for EU clients executed through the Paris branch. They have been involved in key transactions, such as a €1bn green hybrid bond issue by Iberdrola and a €600m hybrid bond by Eurofins Scientific. MUFG is focusing on growing its hybrid business and sees opportunities in project finance, particularly in renewables and digital infrastructure. The co-heads are optimistic about the recovery of capital markets and MUFG's prospects in the EMEA region.

The Center Holds in Romania, but a New Far-Right Party Spells Trouble

01 Oct 2023  |  World Politics Review
Romania's parliamentary elections saw an unexpected outcome with the Social Democratic Party (PSD) securing 30 percent of the vote, surpassing the ruling National Liberal Party (PNL) which garnered 25 percent. Despite this, the PNL will form a governing coalition with two smaller parties. Prime Minister Ludovic Orban resigned following the results, and Finance Minister Florin Citu has been named the new prime minister-designate. The low voter turnout of 32 percent reflects both the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread political disengagement. The PSD, known for its motivated base and controversial past, remains a significant force in Romanian politics.

MUFG ups its game in EMEA

01 Apr 2023  |  www.thebanker.com
MUFG's capital markets team, led by co-heads Fabianna Del Canto and Antoine Baudron, is capitalizing on market stabilization post-inflation and interest rate hikes. The team has executed numerous successful transactions, particularly in the hybrid bond market, with notable deals including a €1bn green hybrid bond for Iberdrola and a €600m hybrid bond for Eurofins Scientific. MUFG's strategic focus on hybrid finance and project finance, especially in renewable energy and digital infrastructure, positions it well for future growth in the EMEA region. The bank's strong team and diverse product offerings are key to navigating the volatile market environment.

Estonia’s Election Was More Than Just a Win for Kallas

05 Mar 2023  |  World Politics Review
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas' center-right coalition achieved a significant victory in the parliamentary election on March 5, reflecting her popularity and strong domestic support for her stance on Ukraine. Under Kallas' leadership, Estonia has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine within the EU and NATO, advocating for increased support for Kyiv. Her victory is seen as a positive sign for European solidarity and support for Ukraine, positioning her to form Estonia's next government.

MUFG ups its game in EMEA

01 Feb 2023  |  www.thebanker.com
MUFG's capital markets team in EMEA, led by co-heads Fabianna Del Canto and Antoine Baudron, is capitalizing on market stabilization post-inflation and interest rate hikes. The team has executed numerous successful transactions, particularly in hybrid bonds, and is leveraging its expertise in investment grade and sub-investment grade products. Key transactions include a €1bn green hybrid bond for Iberdrola and a €600m hybrid bond for Eurofins Scientific. MUFG is strategically focusing on hybrid finance, project finance, and diversifying its product offerings to navigate the volatile market environment. The bank anticipates a brighter macroeconomic outlook in 2024, with continued growth in capital markets and project finance, particularly in renewable energy and digital infrastructure.

MUFG ups its game in EMEA

01 Feb 2023  |  www.thebanker.com
MUFG's capital markets team in EMEA, led by Fabianna Del Canto and Antoine Baudron, is capitalizing on market stabilization post-inflation and interest rate hikes. The team has executed significant transactions, including a €1bn green hybrid bond for Iberdrola and a €600m hybrid bond for Eurofins Scientific. MUFG's strategic focus on hybrid finance and project finance, particularly in renewables and digital infrastructure, positions it well for future growth. The bank's presence in the EU and Middle East, coupled with its diverse product offerings and collaborative culture, underpins its optimistic outlook for 2023 and beyond.

Like It or Not, Orban and the EU Are Stuck With Each Other

03 Apr 2022  |  World Politics Review
Viktor Orban has secured a fourth consecutive term as Hungarian prime minister with his Fidesz party and its ally KDNP winning over 50% of the vote in the April 3 parliamentary elections. The opposition coalition United for Hungary garnered just 35%, while the far-right Our Homeland Movement entered parliament with around 6%. This victory grants the Fidesz-KDNP coalition a constitutional supermajority, enabling further marginalization of the opposition. Orban's win underscores his contentious relationship with EU institutions over issues like the rule of law and media freedoms.

Europe Isn’t Ready for a Reckoning on Roma Rights

09 Aug 2021  |  World Politics Review
A Roma man named Stanislav Tomas died after a police officer knelt on his neck in Teplice, Czech Republic, drawing parallels to the death of George Floyd in the U.S. The incident has sparked protests and highlighted issues of police brutality and systemic injustice against the Roma community in Europe.

Czech Republic confident of rebound despite looming inflation and election

21 Jun 2021  |  www.thebanker.com
The Czech Republic, one of the most affluent countries in central and eastern Europe, has managed the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic relatively well, with a shallower recession than the EU average. The government and central bank's rapid response helped support incomes and jobs, though some measures attracted criticism. The economy is expected to rebound strongly, driven by domestic consumption and global trade recovery. Challenges include inflation, industrial transition, and upcoming elections, which may influence fiscal policies and eurozone membership discussions. The country will benefit from substantial EU funding, aiding digital transformation and green transition efforts.

Czech central bank governor prepares for interest rate hikes

16 Jun 2021  |  marketscreener.com
Jiri Rusnok, governor of the Czech National Bank, discusses the Czech banking sector's strong performance despite the Covid-19 crisis, with high capital adequacy and solid profits. The CNB, known for its focus on price stability, is preparing for interest rate hikes to manage inflation. Rusnok also addresses the political nature of Czech Republic's potential eurozone membership, stating the CNB's technical readiness but political neutrality. He anticipates no specific challenges for Czech banks with the implementation of the full Basel framework and notes the push for technological development in the banking sector.

Bulgaria’s Fractured Politics Marks the End of the Borissov Era

10 May 2021  |  World Politics Review
Bulgaria, a strategically significant EU and NATO member, has seen a major political shift with the potential end of Boyko Borissov's era. Borissov's GERB party, despite winning the most votes in the recent elections, experienced its worst performance, securing only 75 of 240 seats. The elections resulted in a fragmented parliament with the rise of new political entities like Slavi Trifonov's ITN party, which campaigned on anti-corruption and anti-establishment platforms. The Bulgarian Socialist Party also saw a significant decline, losing almost half its seats.

The Uncertain Future of Slovakia's Reformists

28 Apr 2021  |  www.realclearworld.com
Slovakian Prime Minister Igor Matovic's display of hubris over a controversial Russian coronavirus vaccine has led to his resignation, destabilizing a reformist government that had garnered significant public hope.

The impact of coronavirus on the superyacht industry

01 Jan 2021  |  www.boatinternational.com
The superyacht industry has faced significant challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to a global economic downturn and impacting segments like charter. Despite this, industry leaders remain optimistic about a recovery in 2021, driven by economic forecasts and the development of a Covid-19 vaccine. Companies have adapted by becoming leaner and more efficient, with some reporting strong sales and new clients. The crisis has also accelerated digital transformation and highlighted the importance of sustainability. While some areas like charter have been hit hard, the overall outlook for the superyacht market remains positive.

Can Cyprus's economy recover from the coronavirus crisis?

11 May 2020  |  thebanker.com
Cyprus has faced numerous challenges over the past decades, including the 1974 Turkish invasion and the 2013 banking crisis. The country is now confronting the economic fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic, with projections suggesting a contraction between 3.5% and 9.2% in 2020. The tourism sector, a significant contributor to GDP, is expected to be particularly affected. Despite this, Cyprus has demonstrated resilience and fiscal prudence, having recovered robustly from the 2013 financial crash. The government has implemented a job-retention program and is planning to raise funds through international bond markets and domestic Treasury bills to support the economy. Cyprus's sovereign credit rating has been upgraded due to fiscal discipline, but the country still faces challenges such as a high public debt and a banking sector with a significant ratio of non-performing loans. The Aphrodite gas field's potential economic benefits are also uncertain due to plummeting oil and gas prices and geopolitical tensions.

Albin Kurti Believes Kosovo Is ‘Ready to Turn a New Page’

18 Mar 2020  |  World Politics Review
Albin Kurti, Kosovo's newly installed prime minister, asserts that the country is poised for change and ready to turn a new page. He acknowledges the challenges of overcoming the past while building the future in the Balkans. Kurti, once nicknamed 'Kosovo's Che Guevara' for his role in student protests, now faces the task of leading Kosovo's push for international recognition, managing relations with Serbia, and tackling domestic issues such as corruption, poverty, and weak public services.

We built this city: the 90-year-olds who made a metropolis

09 Jul 2019  |  the Guardian
In Dimitrovgrad, Bulgaria, 90-year-old Maria Oteva reflects on the city's foundation during the early communist era, built by 50,000 volunteers. The city, named after communist leader Georgi Dimitrov, symbolized the shift from a rural to an industrial society. While some, like poet Penyo Penev, became disillusioned, others like Peter Sharkov, despite initial resistance, contributed to its construction. Today, Dimitrovgrad has transitioned to capitalist consumerism, with a bustling market and casinos. Younger residents, like Ivo and Viktoriya Ivanov, seek a future aligned with EU values, distancing themselves from the communist past.

Populists Have Their Sights on the European Parliament, Despite Their Own Divisions

17 May 2019  |  World Politics Review
Next week's European Parliament elections could lead to a significant shift in European politics, with populist right-wing leaders like Hungary's Viktor Orban, Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and Italy's Matteo Salvini aiming for increased influence. Despite predictions of far-right and euroskeptic parties winning a substantial number of seats, it remains uncertain whether these diverse populist forces can unite to implement their agenda.

The end of history could look like Hungary

Serbia’s Protests and the Growing Discontent With Western Priorities in the Balkans

05 Mar 2019  |  World Politics Review
Anti-government protests in Serbia, now in their third month, reflect growing discontent with what is perceived as increasingly authoritarian rule. A statement by EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic dismissing the possibility of a 'Balkan spring' has further angered protesters in Serbia, Montenegro, and Albania. The EU's support for autocratic governments in the region, despite their failure to address corruption and crime, is seen as prioritizing regional stability over democratic reforms.

Poland maintains dominance in The Banker's Top 100 Central and Eastern Europe EU ranking

01 Jan 2019  |  www.thebanker.com
Polish banks dominate The Banker’s 2019 rankings for central and eastern European EU member states, with PKO Bank Polski leading by Tier 1 capital. Despite expectations of consolidation in the Polish banking market, major mergers have stalled. Hungary’s OTP has been actively acquiring regional subsidiaries, while Czech banks have shown significant asset and profit growth. Foreign-owned subsidiaries continue to dominate the region, with notable growth in Romania and the Baltic states. The acquisition of Luminor Bank by Blackstone is highlighted as a positive development for the Baltic banking market.

Meeting people beats prejudice: lessons from a frozen conflict

24 Dec 2018  |  the Guardian
In Jajce, Bosnia-Herzegovina, students successfully protested against a plan to create separate schools for Croats and Bosniaks, a move seen as deepening ethnic divisions. The Nansen Dialogue Centre (NDC) Sarajevo played a crucial role in fostering inter-ethnic cooperation and communication, influencing the protests. The NDC operates in other war-affected towns, promoting understanding and reconciliation through various activities. The Nansen Centre for Peace and Dialogue in Norway supports these efforts by facilitating open discussions and cultural exchanges. The article highlights the importance of meeting people from different ethnic backgrounds to overcome prejudice and build a multi-ethnic society.

An Ideal Muddy Wine to Pair with Stubby Meatballs

30 Nov 2018  |  roadsandkingdoms.com
Blatina wine, despite its 'muddy' reputation, is appreciated for its unique taste and is a traditional pairing with cevapi, a local meatball dish in the Balkans. The wine's future is uncertain due to vineyard changes. Mostar, still divided after the 1992-95 war, reacts to the suicide of Slobodan Praljak, a Croat convicted of war crimes, with mixed feelings of injustice and heroism. The author reflects on the complexity of the region's history and expresses a desire to cover stories beyond the war.

Herzegovina gears up for vote amid political anger

07 Oct 2018  |  www.taipeitimes.com
Bosnia-Herzegovina is preparing for elections amid widespread political and economic frustration. Ethnic-nationalist parties are expected to dominate, continuing a trend since the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement. Economic hardship and high unemployment drive emigration, while political disillusionment grows. The Party of Democratic Action faces criticism for corruption and vote theft. Concerns about Russian influence and potential secession of Republika Srpska add to the tension. Efforts to reform the political system have stalled, and international attempts to address Bosnia's issues are seen as ineffective.

Convicted trafficker leaves Bulgaria's Celebrity Big Brother after protests

26 Sep 2018  |  the Guardian
Ivan Glavchev, a Bulgarian rapper known as Vanko 1, left Bulgaria’s Celebrity Big Brother after protests from women’s rights campaigners. Glavchev, who was convicted in 2003 for trafficking women and a child into prostitution, had his appearance on the show criticized by viewers and the group Ne Si Sama. Modern Times Group, owner of Nova TV which airs the show, stated they would revise contestant selection criteria. Glavchev's early release from a 12-year sentence to three years due to penal code amendments has been linked to judicial corruption. The controversy highlights issues with media standards in Bulgaria and the country's status as a primary source of human trafficking in the EU.

US-backed Kosovo land-swap border plan under fire from all sides

03 Sep 2018  |  theguardian.com
A US-supported proposal for a land-swap between Kosovo and Serbia is facing criticism from various parties, including Kosovo's president Hashim Thaçi and Serbia's president Aleksandar Vučić, who have discussed the possibility as part of a broader settlement. The plan, which could involve exchanging ethnically concentrated territories, has received a tentative nod from the US, with John Bolton indicating no opposition. However, it has sparked concerns about regional stability and opposition from figures such as Kosovo's prime minister Ramush Haradinaj and Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel. The potential for a deal also raises questions about Russia's position, with its support contingent on the interests of the Serb people.

Kosovo detains Serbian politician after 'illegal entry' into region

26 Mar 2018  |  the Guardian
Air raid sirens sounded in northern Kosovo as special police detained Serbian official Marko Đurić, raising tensions in the region. Đurić was arrested for entering Kosovo without permission, leading to diplomatic lockdowns and calls for calm. Kosovo's president defended the police action, while Serbian sources criticized it as an exercise of power. The incident challenges EU efforts to normalize relations between Belgrade and Pristina, highlighting the fragility of the security situation in Kosovo.

Kosovo’s Thaci says nothing will undermine relations with EU, US and Nato

17 Feb 2018  |  www.intellinews.com
Kosovo marks ten years of independence with President Hashim Thaci emphasizing the country's successes in institution-building and international relations despite challenges like UN membership. Thaci highlights ongoing dialogue with Serbia and external challenges from Russia and China. He defends Kosovo's vital relationship with the US and EU, despite controversies over a specialist court for former KLA members. Thaci rejects comparisons with other disputed territories and insists on Kosovo's unique situation. Despite progress, issues like corruption and youth unemployment persist, with calls for new leadership growing.

Kosovo at 10: challenges overshadow independence celebrations

16 Feb 2018  |  the Guardian
Kosovo celebrates its 10th independence anniversary amid pride and enthusiasm, with events and international guests like Rita Ora. Despite the festive mood, Kosovo faces challenges such as migration, unemployment, corruption, and international recognition. Kosovo's accomplishments include institutional development and recognition by 115 countries. The EU and US's role in Kosovo's stability is significant, but the country's future in international politics remains uncertain, with Serbia not recognizing its independence and Kosovo not being a UN member. Discussions about Kosovo's territorial integrity continue, with fears that changes could lead to conflict in the Balkans.

Local media are simply disappearing: how financial pressures are killing independent media

30 Nov 2017  |  the Guardian
The article discusses the financial and political pressures leading to the decline of independent media, focusing on the closure of Hungary's Nepszabadsag newspaper. It highlights how falling newspaper circulations and ad revenues have weakened media outlets, making them vulnerable to political and corporate pressures. Examples from Hungary, Poland, and the Western Balkans illustrate the use of economic means by governments to control media. The article also addresses the global decline in newspaper revenues and the shift towards digital advertising dominated by Google and Facebook. Despite the grim outlook, some experts see potential in new user-centric business models for journalism.

Romania plans sovereign fund to bolster privatisations

19 Sep 2017  |  ft.com
Romania's privatisation efforts have faced political and economic challenges since the fall of communism. The Social Democratic party proposed a moratorium on privatisations, but it's unclear if it's a serious proposal or for public consumption. Successful privatisations include Sidex steel mill, Petrom, and BCR. The Bucharest Stock Exchange facilitated a second wave of privatisations through IPOs. The government plans to create a sovereign wealth fund to finance infrastructure investments, with Hidroelectrica's IPO being a potential future listing. However, the quality of remaining state enterprises and political instability are challenges to the privatisation process. Investors are watching for the government's actions regarding the Sovereign Development Fund and the privatisation of companies like Hidroelectrica.

FT Wealth feature on Romania

FT beyondbrics author page

POLITICO Europe author page

Guardian author page

US-linked top university fears new rules will force it out of Hungary

29 Mar 2017  |  the Guardian
The Central European University (CEU) in Hungary faces potential closure due to new legislation proposed by the hard-right Hungarian government, which claims that several foreign-linked universities, including CEU, are operating unlawfully. The legislation is seen as targeting CEU specifically, potentially forcing it to open a campus in the US and barring it from issuing degrees in Hungary. The move is part of a broader crackdown on organizations linked to George Soros, who founded CEU. The US embassy in Budapest has expressed concern, and CEU's rector, Michael Ignatieff, has vowed to fight the legislation. Critics argue that the attack on CEU is an attack on academic freedom and liberal education.

Rumbling Balkans threaten foreign policy headache for Trump

27 Feb 2017  |  theguardian.com
The Balkans are facing renewed tensions with questions over borders, ethnic strife, and potential land swaps, posing a potential foreign policy challenge for U.S. President Donald Trump. The region, still grappling with the aftermath of the Yugoslav wars, is witnessing a Serbian train incident escalating tensions in Kosovo, political instability in Bosnia, alleged Russian involvement in a Montenegrin coup attempt, and ethnic Albanian unrest in Macedonia. The EU's waning interest in expansion and the unclear stance of the Trump administration further complicate the situation. Despite nationalist posturing, there is little desire for conflict among the populace, who feel powerless against larger geopolitical forces. Diplomats downplay the likelihood of conflict but acknowledge the risks of political manipulation. Discussions of land swaps, particularly involving North Mitrovica and the Preševo valley, have resurfaced, though local leaders like Preševo's mayor Shqiprim Arifi reject border changes, emphasizing the need for regional cooperation within the EU framework.

Montenegro’s Prime Minister Resigns, Perhaps Bolstering Country’s E.U. Hopes

27 Oct 2016  |  www.nytimes.com
Montenegro's Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic has resigned from his position, a move that is anticipated to bolster Montenegro's prospects of joining the European Union. Djukanovic has been a dominant political figure in Montenegro for the last 25 years and oversaw the country's peaceful split from Serbia in 2006. However, he has faced allegations of fostering corruption and organized crime. His party, the Democratic Party of Socialists, won the most recent election but needs to form a coalition to govern. The resignation comes after the arrest of 20 Serbs on election day for allegedly planning an attack on the government, which Djukanovic states is unrelated to his resignation.

YUGOSLAVIA 25 YEARS ON: Companies rebuild Yugoslav market – and look beyond it

21 Jun 2016  |  www.intellinews.com
In the 25 years since Yugoslavia's split, regional companies have grown across redrawn borders, becoming regional giants and now seeking growth outside the 'Yugosphere'. Companies like Agrokor, Atlantic Grupa, and Krka have expanded beyond their home markets, with Krka achieving significant international success. Despite nationalism, consumers prioritize value over brand nationality, aiding regional brands' success. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development supports regional companies' international expansion. Recent acquisitions, such as Agrokor's purchase of Mercator and Podravka's acquisition of Zito, have strengthened companies' regional positions. However, the former Yugoslav markets are small and slow-growing, prompting companies to look for opportunities abroad. The article discusses the strategies and challenges faced by these companies as they navigate regional consolidation and international ambitions.

Croatian PM defends government as it dangles by a thread

06 Jun 2016  |  www.intellinews.com
Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic defends his government amidst internal conflicts and scandals, emphasizing economic reforms and debt reduction. Despite positive feedback from the European Commission on Croatia's reform program, the government faces criticism for alleged media suppression and tolerance of nationalist sentiments. Internal disputes, particularly involving Deputy Prime Ministers Tomislav Karamarko and Bozo Petrov, threaten the administration's stability, with a potential snap election looming. The article highlights the challenges Oreskovic faces, including accusations of authoritarianism and the struggle to maintain political cohesion.

Yugoslavia 25 Years On: Museum stirs mixture of nostalgia, disgust and indifference

25 May 2016  |  www.intellinews.com
The Museum of the History of Yugoslavia in Belgrade, Serbia, attracts a diverse range of visitors, reflecting the complex and contested memories of the former Yugoslavia. The museum, which includes Tito's mausoleum, is undergoing renovations and aims to present a balanced view of Yugoslav heritage. Nostalgia for the Yugoslav era is prevalent among some visitors, particularly the intelligentsia, while others view the period with disdain or indifference. The article highlights the ongoing 'war of memories' in the Balkans, with varying perspectives on Yugoslavia's legacy of peace, economic stability, and cultural integration versus its authoritarianism and eventual disintegration. The piece also touches on the political and social dynamics in the post-Yugoslav states, including the rise of nationalism and the challenges of post-communist transitions.

European Party Appears Headed for a Win

25 Apr 2016  |  www.nytimes.com
The Serbian Progressive Party, led by Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, is poised for a significant victory in Serbia's snap election, securing 49 percent of the vote with 82 percent of ballots counted. The Socialist Party of Serbia is expected to win 11 percent, while a pro-Russian party led by Vojislav Seselj, recently acquitted of war crimes, is set to enter Parliament with 8 percent. The election, which had a 55 percent voter turnout, was called by President Tomislav Nikolic after Vucic sought a new mandate to advance his economic agenda aimed at EU membership, amidst concerns of voting irregularities by the opposition.

Serbs in Kosovo reject independence, Pristina's governance

16 Feb 2012  |  The Christian Science Monitor
Serbs in Northern Kosovo overwhelmingly rejected Kosovo's independence in a recent vote, reflecting their frustration and alienation. Despite the clear result, the vote is unlikely to resolve the ongoing conflict. The Serbian government, aiming for EU membership, opposed the vote, drawing international criticism. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia, supported by Russia and China, has not recognized it. The predominantly Serbian north of Kosovo remains under Belgrade's influence. Political commentator Bratislav Grubacic suggests that normalization between Belgrade and Pristina will continue, though tensions remain high. The vote coincides with Serbia's efforts to restart negotiations with Kosovo, a prerequisite for EU candidacy, and upcoming Serbian elections where Kosovo and EU membership are key issues. President Boris Tadic faces the challenge of balancing EU aspirations with nationalist sentiments. Resolution for Northern Kosovo's Serbs remains distant.

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