The last time an Albanian prime minister visited Belgrade, the Iron Curtain was just descending across Europe, rock and roll had yet to be invented and Pelé was just six years old.

In this context, the decision of current Albanian premier Edi Rama to delay his planned trip to Serbia by a mere two and a half weeks may not seem hugely significant. But Rama’s postponement comes after a spat triggered by an episode bizarre even by Balkan standards and in the wake of subsequent attacks on Albanian property in Serbia. Continue reading »

Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, arrived in India on Wednesday for a visit expected to showcase significant investment deals and make progress toward resolving a decades-old border dispute.

But beyond the official bonhomie, the shallow foundations of an uneasy bilateral relationship are readily evident. Nowhere are they more obvious than with tourism. China’s outbound tourism boom appears to have largely bypassed India, which took only 2.5 per cent of its tourist arrivals from its northern neighbour in 2013.

This put Chinese arrivals behind those both from Malaysia – at 3.5 per cent of the total – and Russia – at 3.7 per cent. Continue reading »

In another unhappy turn for Pakistan, China’s president Xi Jinping postponed a state visit to the country on Saturday after three weeks of anti-government protests. Moody’s, one of the three big international credit rating agencies, warned this was a credit negative for the country because it would delay “Chinese aid and a host of deals between the countries”.

Such deals with China, Pakistan’s largest trading partner, are reported to be worth $34bnContinue reading »

It’s a common trick to make yourself look bigger than you are to win a fight. Rather rarer is for one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies frantically and consistently to try to hide its size. China, the 500kg panda in the global economic room, is trying an increasingly unconvincing tactic of squeezing itself into a corner and hoping no-one notices it is there.

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Russian lawmakers are debating measures to restrict the distribution of foreign films shown at domestic cinemas in a move that reflects growing anti-western sentiment. The threat of a new Cold War is giving Hollywood the shivers.

Robert Schlegel, a member of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, has tabled a parliamentary bill that would place a 50 per cent cap on the share of foreign-made films distributed at Russian cinemas. Deputies are expected to debate the proposals in the next couple of weeks. Continue reading »

By Kinga Dudzińska and Anna Maria Dyner of PISM

To the west, relations between Poland and Russia are often perceived as negative, mainly due to their history. However, one evident success of their bilateral cooperation in small border traffic (SBT) between northern Poland and Kaliningrad Oblast, with almost a year and a half of evidence showing it’s working well. Continue reading »

Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s president elect, might well be excused for thinking she’s under fire from a new Triple Alliance.

In the next few days she can expect a binding court ruling that threatens to extend Peru’s maritime border into Chilean territorial waters. Meanwhile, landlocked Bolivia hasn’t given up its dream of a corridor through the Atacama Desert to the Pacific (though it must now do without the late Hugo Chávez’s boisterous support). And Argentina is suddenly making noise about wanting its own door to the world’s biggest ocean. Continue reading »

A bar, a cinema, a bowling alley: all the essentials for an embassy?

Maybe so, but the Indian government has asked the US embassy in New Delhi to close down its onsite entertainments on the grounds that, as elements in a “commercial facility”, they are deemed to be illegal. It’s the latest move in a catty to and fro that has followed last month’s arrest and strip search of Devyani Khobragade (pictured), an Indian consular official, in New York. Continue reading »

By Rodrigo Tavares of the São Paulo State Government

Although France was the first European country to recognize the independence of Brazil, in 1825, only three French presidents have since visited the country – de Gaulle, Chirac and Sarkozy. François Hollande’s visit to Brazil on December 12 and 13 aims to fill some of the empty space and to capitalise on a relationship that has brought good results recently on trade and investment, military contracts and education. But the most innovative outcome from his visit will be something to which few people are likely to pay attention. Continue reading »

Tight relationship

Russia and Vietnam signed a raft of economic agreements on Tuesday that will strengthen their strategic partnership and counter rising Chinese influence in southeast Asia.

The deals, signed during a visit by Vladimir Putin to Vietnam, will see Russia step up involvement in Vietnamese energy markets and help boost security in the country that has been a close Kremlin ally since Soviet times. “Vietnam has been a long-term, trustworthy partner for Russia and the political dialogue between the two countries is at a high level,” Putin told reporters after talks with Truong Tan Sang, his Vietnamese counterpart. Continue reading »

It was not exactly spying on presidents, but revelations in Folha de S. Paulo, a Brazilian newspaper, that Brasília spied on the diplomats of some would-be close friends are a bit embarrassing. Of course everyone does it and of course, the Russians, Iranians and Iraqis – the alleged victims of Brazilian spying in the Folha report – were probably doing it to Brazil at the time when the incidents occurred back in 2003 and 2004.

But the problem here is that Brazil has been taking pains to appear shocked and violated by accusations this year that the US was spying not only on Petrobras and other state-owned companies but on President Dilma Rousseff and her staff. Continue reading »

Can North Korea’s Kaesong become an internationally competitive industrial park on the back of its ultra-cheap labour? Probably not. But at least its backers are trying. Seoul’s unification ministry in charge of inter-Korean relations said on Wednesday the two Koreas will hold a business fair at the North Korean border town in October to attract foreign investment, after they agreed to reopen the complex next Monday. Continue reading »

Xi Jinping of China and Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan in Astana, Sept 7, 2013.

By Usen Suleimen of the Kazakh foreign ministry and Xiaojiang Yu of Hong Kong Baptist University

The visit of Xi Jinping, China’s president, to Kazakhstan last weekend and the signing of $30bn of new agreements is another symbol of the growing closeness between two of the world’s largest countries. It is a relationship built on mutual challenges, geographic proximity and energy, as China increasingly looks to central Asia to power its growing economy.

But these links have also raised alarm bells in the west. Continue reading »

By Ben Aris of bne

Armenia’s announcement this week that it will join the Russia-led Customs Union trade club is yet another jolt in a tug of war over the loyalties of nations in central and eastern Europe. It is a boost to Russian President Vladimir Putin – whose relations with his near neighbours have chilled in recent weeks – and has wrong-footed officials in Brussels, who had hoped to bring Armenia closer to the European Union. Continue reading »

Panama, with a reputation as a Latin American growth superstar, suddenly has a diplomatic hot potato on its hands.

The country knows a lot about international shipping – 4 per cent of international trade passes through the Panama Canal. But after intercepting a North Korean-flagged vessel carrying arms from Cuba to Pyongyang, the government has called in the (pardon the pun), big guns: the UN. Continue reading »