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Res Publica announces: Tales from the Region #5

"Epidemic of Disinformation"

Acting on wrong information can be lethal. According to some research, in the first 3 months of 2020, nearly 6,000 people worldwide were hospitalized for coronavirus-related misinformation. During this period, it is believed that at least 800 people may have died due to COVID-19-related misinformation.

Overwhelming amounts of information - some accurate, some not - that are spread at an extremely fast pace, might easily lead to a tragic outcome. The World Health Organization has called this phenomenon "Infodemic". False information is diverse. Ever since the early days of the pandemic, a good chunk of information put into question the severity of COVID-19 as an illness. Doubt was also cast on the effectiveness of wearing masks, and drugs and treatments were recommended without scientific and medical evidence as support. The effectiveness of vaccines is also discredited, by claiming that vaccines can alter human DNA.

Disinformation creates fertile ground for uncertainty. Uncertainty, on the other hand, fuels scepticism and distrust in institutions and the media. This creates an environment dominated by fear, anxiety, aggression, finger-pointing and rejecting proven public health protection measures.

Bottom line, all of this leads to loss of human lives.

In "Tales from the Region #5" we will find out how the Balkan countries have coped with the so-called "infodemic". Fake news knows no borders. Through the experiences so far, we can learn how to protect ourselves from the epidemic of disinformation.

We start on Friday (June 25th) with the first piece.

The fifth edition of "Tales from the Region" is brought to you by Res Publica and ICS, in cooperation with our partners from Croatia (Lupiga), Kosovo (Sbunker), Serbia (Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Analiziraj.ba), Montenegro (PCNEN), and Greece (Macropolis).

"Tales from the Region" is an initiative implemented by Res Publica and the Institute of Communication Studies within the project "Connecting the Dots: Improved Policies through Civic Engagement", led by ICS with the support of the British Embassy Skopje.

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At the Bottom of the Balkans: Kosovo’s Bumpy Road in Securing Vaccines

Arber Fetahu

Arber Fetahu 400x500The pandemic marked its first anniversary a few weeks ago. Covid-19 exposed systemic problems in the health system of Kosovo and other institutional branches. While the high number of positive cases and deaths made the headlines, the government declarations that they have secured hundreds of thousands dozes of vaccines were full of hope, if it were to be true.

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Political wrangling instead of vaccines

Vanja Stokić

Vanja Stokic 400x500Apart from a few isolated attempts, most people are not filing complaints to institutions and are not asking for accountability. They do not even accept the opportunities for inoculation they are offered, as rare as they may be. It's as if they want to hold on and see who is right, anti-vaxxers or doctors, and how the whole procurement drama will play out. In all likelihood, it will be too late then.

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Bulgaria’s COVID-19 vaccination fiasco: excessive risks, mediocre results

Vladimir Atanasov

Naum Kajcev 400x500Bulgaria’s vaccination program can only be deemed a fiasco. It can be attributed to a number of factors — poor organization, incompetence, and potential conflict of interest. In turn, the drama, which unravels now, is not surprising. Bulgaria is second in the EU in deaths per capita on a seven-day rolling basis and last in the EU by number of administered vaccines per capita.

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The unbearably slow vaccination process in Croatia

Vedrana Simičević

Naum Kajcev 400x500Favoritism, weak strategy and poor communication with the public were the features of the first months of vaccination and they are the reasons that Croatia is currently at the bottom of the EU scale in terms of percentage of vaccinated population. As the third wave of the pandemic rages, the citizens are frustrated to see healthy middle-aged people already vaccinated in some cities, while elsewhere those over 70 are still waiting for a call.

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It will happen when it happens! – The vaccination entanglement in North Macedonia

Stefan Ristovski, Angel Mojsovski

Ristovski MojsovskiThe number of people who are infected and have passed has increased significantly in the past period, while the epidemiological situation in the country is critical. The way the authorities are handling the crisis raises the dilemma of whether the health of citizens is truly the number one priority in this pandemic.

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Greece hopes that beaches won’t be empty again this summer, but vaccination numbers say otherwise

Georgia Nakou

Georgia Nakou 400x500The hope in government circles is that increased vaccination rates and warmer weather will bring infections down to manageable levels and make it safe to welcome visitors for the sake of the economy. The numbers suggest that this will be a higher-risk strategy than is publicly acknowledged.

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Excess of vaccines in Serbia will go to waste. Literally.

Igor Todorovic

Igor Todorovic 400x500Serbia is the first country in Europe and the seventh in the world in terms of the full vaccination coverage rate! However, judging by the government’s latest moves, the rates are stagnating. Conflicting statements and actions since the beginning of the epidemic, especially coming from the crisis headquarters, gave rise to suspicions among the people and made way for conspiracy theorists. It is uncertain whether the demand for vaccination will bounce back.

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Montenegro’s vaccination adventure: Lord, bless us with good health

Daniela Vukcevic

Daniela Vukcevic 400x500Back in the day, the mega-popular regional star Lepa Brena sang the lyrics "Bless us, Lord, with health and joy" (“Daj, Bože, zdravlja i radosti”) in one of her songs. Although this hit is now over three decades old, the refrain is especially relevant today.

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(Dis)Integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the European Union

Mahir Sijamija

Mahir Sijamija 400x500We cannot expect Bosnia and Herzegovina, or any other candidate country, to join the EU until we develop antibodies to the virus of corruption, crime and nationalist policies that still paralyze Western Balkans.

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Eight years later: Is Croatia finally truly ready for Europe?

Bojana Guberac

Bojana Guberac 400x500Croatia joined the European Union on the first day of July, 2013. Many feared joining the EU for various reasons. One of the reasons for such fears related to what the EU would bring us. Yet, nearly eight years later, I have the impression that it is no longer a question of what Europe will bring us, but what we have brought to Europe. That is, who got the better end of the deal in that “arranged marriage”?

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Greece’s EU journey: Solidarity hard to come by, but two-way approach also lacking

Alexandra Voudouri

Alexandra Voudouri 200x250This year Greece will celebrate its 40th anniversary as a member of one of the strongest clubs in the world, the European Union. Greece’s European journey has been quite bumpy and brought the country to the edge of an exit from the Union. Learning the hard way, Greece may have secured its position in the Union, but it still cannot find a way to have a strong role in substantially helping or showing solidarity to aspiring EU member states.

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Some Sad Lessons the Western Balkans Can Learn from Bulgaria’s EU Journey

Radosveta Vassileva

Radosveta Vasileva 200x250In 2007, we were so happy and proud to be finally in that mythological space, this pretentious club for the chosen ones known as the EU. Thirteen years after accession, however, this European dream looks more like a nightmare.

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Running in the Wrong Direction: Rama’s Spat with the EU Over Vaccination Underlines Growing Frustration

Alfonc Rakaj

Alfonc Rakaj 200x250However tempting or justifiable it may be, Mr. Rama and his regional colleagues would do well not to bite on the hand that “feeds” their people, invest in their future and build their schools.

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‘Somewhere in the Middle’: Kosovo’s delicate relations with the European Union

Butrint Berisha

Butrint Berisha 200x250EU’s internal political developments, led to its inability to implement a consistent and cohesive policy towards Kosovo, which has been demonstrated in the case of the visa liberalization. Currently Kosovo is the only country in the region which is yet to submit the application for membership and is considered only a potential candidate for membership by the EU.

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The Macedonian Path to Brussels: Breaking the Vicious Cycle

Malinka Ristevska Jordanova

Malinka Ristevska Jordanova 200x250Ultimately, we should acknowledge that the EU cannot simply come up with a recipe that will grant us a better life. We must have our own vision and our own plan.

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EU enlargement - a moving target that is moving farther and farther away

Dina Bajramspahic

Dina Bajramspahic 200x250In 2020, none of the six countries of the Western Balkans has made progress in the process of European integration. It is true that they could have done more, but this still begs the question of whether the process itself "is working" if no one is making progress, and many countries have not been making progress for years, decades even. Bad moves on both sides have led to mutual mistrust, which is reflected in reforms.

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Who is left dreaming the European dream in Serbia?

Katarina Tadic

Katarina Tadic 200x250Serbia started negotiations back in 2014, yet today the country seems further from the EU than it was five years ago.

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The economic price of rigorous measures in BiH

Danijal Hadzovic

Danijal Hadzovic 200x250This pandemic might be a chance to implement more profound economic reforms that are much needed for the country, and for which the crisis could be a great opportunity.

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Hard times for Albania

Ornela Liperi

Ornela Liperi 200x250Economic recovery won’t be as easy as expected.

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Politicians in Kosovo are being obstinate, citizens are suffering

Lirim Gashi

Lirim Gashi 200x250Citizens and the economy are the victims of political wars in Kosovo.

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