UK’s Johnson Faces Criticism Over Serbia Trip


By Marcus Tanner

The British government’s code of conduct declares ministers must ensure “that no conflict arises, or appears to rise, between their public duties and their private interests”.

Labour MPs say Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson used a visit to the Geca Kon Belgrade bookstore, held officially to discuss press freedom, to promote “The Churchill Factor,” his book on Britain’s wartime premier.

The left-leaning UK Guardian broke the story when it reported that Johnson’s Serbian publicist was present at the event and that he was photographed in front of a cutout poster of the book’s front cover.

Labour MPs have demanded that Prime Minister Theresa May investigate whether the code was breached. Shadow foreign minister Clive Lewis said: “Boris Johnson’s conduct has raised questions on his ability to represent Britain internationally, let alone hold the office of Foreign Secretary. It is not acceptable that on Armistice Day, Boris used a state visit as an opportunity for self-promotion.”

Johnson’s office has shrugged off the idea that the wealthy minister – a prolific author – could have had any interest in selling his book in Serbia, which is not known as a lucrative market for English-language authors.

Johnson has had a difficult time in office managing the transition from MP and mischief-making journalist to government minister. A recent speech criticising Saudi Arabia for waging proxy wars in the region angered the Prime Minister’s office, which prizes good relations with the Gulf kingdom.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (formerly the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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