Calls for calm as Serbia and Macedonia act out Balkan thriller

Alleged espionage, artificially created tensions and a lot of hot air are standard elements in a Balkan drama. But what the Serbian government did last Sunday is still highly unusual: it ordered embassy staff in the Macedonian capital of Skopje to leave for “urgent consultations” in Belgrade. Apparently, there was evidence of “offensive intelligence activities” against Belgrade, according to the brief statement issued by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. Since Vučić could not or did not want to say more, the media rumor mill started buzzing.

“Scandal: The Macedonians have even spied on Vučić?” was the headline in the scandal rag Informer, the unofficial mouthpiece of the Serbian government. The rest of the popular tabloids attacked the new Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and came up with headlines like, “Zaev declares war on Serbia” or, “Zaev backstabs us.”

The two leaders later spoke on the phone and agreed to improve relations.

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