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Central Europe: The most important news from 11 to 17 October

V4

  • On Monday 11 October, the hearing before the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) began in Luxembourg on hungary and Poland’s complaint against the so-called conditionality mechanism, which is intended to protect the EU budget in the event of violations of the rule of law in the Member States. In an interview published by the Hungarian daily Magyar Nemzet, Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga expressed the hope that “a truly professional and substantive legal debate will be held in Luxembourg”: “We see that nothing is sacred to the pro-immigration majority in the European Parliament when it comes to punishing member states […] For them, it is only important to cut EU funds and thus interfere in next year’s parliamentary elections [in Hungary]; We were already used to these politically motivated show trials, but we would not have thought that the European institutions would put each other under such aggressive pressure. They do not see that they are cutting down the tree on which they are sitting and undermining confidence in European cooperation. After two days of hearings, the Court announced that the Advocate General would deliver his Opinion on 2 December. The Court’s ruling is expected in early 2022.
  • Eight Central European countries – Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic – as well as Finland have just signed a joint declaration in favour of nuclear energy in the fight against climate change, joining France in this area. “We have the same interests as France. Our two countries are committed to nuclear energy, which is why we have agreed on joint measures. We want Brussels to recognise nuclear energy and gas as sustainable activities,” said Czech Industry and Trade Minister Karel Havlíček.
  • A majority in the European Parliament seems to think that the European Commission is too lenient with these two recalcitrant Central European countries in the context of the EU’s conflicts with Hungary and Poland. On Friday, 15 October,… the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs decided to refer the European Commission to the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) for its slowness in applying the conditionality mechanism, as German Green MEP Sergey Lagodinsky said on Twitter: “We have decided to file a lawsuit against the EU Commission for inaction. We can no longer stand by and watch as fundamental rights, democracy and the rule of law are dismantled in the EU Member States. The conditionality mechanism must now be applied!”
  • The Chiefs of Staff of the four Visegrád Group countries met in Balatonakarattya, Hungary, on 13 and 14 October to discuss issues related to the new security challenges in Europe.

Hungary

  • The United Opposition primaries ended with the election of Péter Márki-Zay as the United Opposition candidate.
  • The Ministry of Health decided not to reintroduce the general wearing of masks after the mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karácsony (PM, progressive Europhile Greens), explicitly called for the reintroduction of the mask throughout the country. The Ministry considered that the coronavirus defence strategy should now be based solely on vaccination, as around 60% of the population is vaccinated against Covid. However, the ministry has stipulated that the masks in the health centers are still mandatory and that people can wear them anywhere if they wish. Wearing a mask is no longer mandatory in Hungary since 2 July.
  • As the Ukrainian website Sogodni reported on October 12, the European Parliament has examined the issue of the gas agreement between Hungary and Gazprom and found that the contract for the supply of gas from Russia to Hungary – without detour via Ukraine – does not violate European law. “As far as I know, the agreement between Hungary and Gazprom contains nothing illegal, nothing that would violate European law,” said Josep Borrel, Vice-President of the European Commission and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs.
  • A former soldier of the so-called “Islamic State” with Syrian citizenship, Hassan F., was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of a sentence in Budapest on Tuesday, October 12. This person was involved in two murders – including the public beheading of an imam – committed in Syria in May 2015. He was arrested at Budapest Airport in 2018 for possession of false documents.
  • On 11th October Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Slovak counterpart Eduard Heger celebrated the 20th anniversary of the inauguration of the Marie Valérie Bridge between Esztergom and the Slovakian neighbour Šturovo (Parkány).
  • After months of hesitation, Hungary has finally joined the globalist initiative for a minimum tax rate for companies.

Poland

  • Polish nationalist leader Krzysztof Bosak (Konfederacja) said on Monday, October 11, in the program Mówiąc Wprost, that Poland does not need the so-called NextGenerationEU economic stimulus fund and should withdraw from it, as the European Commission is withholding these funds in order to blackmail Poland politically and ideologically: “We could do without these funds […] Our point of view was that we should not enter these funds at all. But if the government of Mateusz Morawiecki has pursued this and announced a success, then they must now drink the beer they brewed. I think we will eventually get the money, but the government will be forced to make various political concessions,” he said, adding that “the current crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border is, among other things, the result of [Poland’s] presence in the EU. The vast majority of migrants do not want to stay in Poland. […] The lack of internal borders in the EU makes the migration crisis very easy. People who try to cross our eastern border by force would then have to deal with the German immigration authorities. But they are against us because we protect the EU’s external border.”
  • The Vice-President of the European Parliament, the German Social Democrat Katarina Barley – who some time ago made a name for herself by saying that Hungary and Poland should be “starved” financially in order to bring them into line politically – sticks to her statement on Sunday, 10 October, that after the ruling of the Polish Constitutional Court, which calls into question the right of the European institutions, extend their prerogatives beyond the treaties that EU funds for Poland should now be frozen: “The European Commission must launch an anti-fraud procedure in this case. I cannot imagine that in this situation money from the reconstruction fund would flow to Poland. […] The money from the reconstruction fund will simply not be paid out. […] And the sanctions imposed by the ECJ will be deducted from other grants.”
  • On Sunday, October 10, demonstrations were held in several cities in Poland (including Warsaw, Krakow and Poznan) to protest the decision of the Polish Constitutional Court, which recalled that European law takes precedence over Polish law only in areas where Poland has expressly delegated its sovereignty to the European Union. A section of the Polish opposition, as well as some leading politicians, want to see this verdict as the harbinger of a “Polexit” that the PiS would actively prepare, but which its leaders vehemently deny. The former liberal prime minister and leader of the main opposition party, Donald Tusk, declared on this occasion: “We have to save Poland, no one else will do it […] This pseudo-Constitutional Court, a group of people who disguised themselves as judges, has decided to release our country from the EU in violation of the Constitution. These handful of people don’t hesitate to use every lie at their disposal […] We want a European and democratic Poland. We want a legitimate Poland, an honest Poland. These five rules are now being trampled underfoot by the government, which has lost its conscience and morality.” According to observers, around 15,000 people gathered at the main demonstration in Warsaw.
  • The motto of the traditional Independence March, which will take place for the 12th time in Warsaw on 11 November, this year is: “Independence is not for sale” in order to take a clear position in the conflict between Poland and the European Union. “The motto of this year’s march is not only historical, but also current and in the near future. – Polish independence was won by many generations of Poles, it was regained in 1918 and we will invoke it,” said Robert Bąkiewicz, one of the organizers of the march.
  • The number of young men entering Catholic seminaries fell by 20% last year, reports the Catholic Information Agency (Katolicka Agencja Informacyjna, KAI), which notes that the number of new candidates for the priesthood in 2021 is 356 throughout Poland, compared to 441 in 2020, 498 in 2019… while in 2012 there were still 828. For example, four seminars (Bydgoszcz/Bromberg, Elbląg/Elbing, Łowicz/Lowitsch and Drohiczyn) could not accept new students, while the most popular seminars – those in Rzeszów/Reichshof and Łódź/Lodsch – accepted 12 and 11 students respectively.
  • According to a recent survey by the Kantar Institute, reported by Do Rzeczy on Thursday, October 14, the majority of Poles (81%) support their government’s actions in the face of the migration crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border.
  • On Thursday, October 14, the Polish parliament (by 274 votes to 174) passed a law that provides for strengthening the protection of the Polish-Belarusian border by building a real wall to more effectively prevent the transit of migrants from the Middle East who want to reach the EU via the channel now known as Belarusian.
  • The decision of the Polish Constitutional Court of 7 October on the primacy of Polish law in areas where Poland has not delegated its sovereignty to the European Union continues to provoke opposing reactions in European chancelleries.

Slovakia

  • Inflation reached 4.6% in September compared to September 2020.
  • National Assembly President Boris Kollár met polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw on Wednesday, as well as Senate Marshal Tomasz Grodzki and Sejm Marshal Elżbieta Witek. The talks focused on interpolan cooperation between Slovakia and Poland, Covid, the EU and border protection.
  • All sectors of the economy recorded an increase in average nominal wages in August compared to the previous year: 10% in housing, 14% in sales, 12.4% in the sale and repair of motor vehicles and 11.6% in catering.

Czech Republic

  • Following the investigation into the match between Rangers (Glasgow) and Spartak Prague, in which Finnish player of Sierra Leoneonic origin Glen Kamara (Rangers) was booed by Czech students, the UEFA investigation ended with a dismissal in favour of the Czechs: “The investigation revealed that there was insufficient evidence of racist or discriminatory behaviour during the match to initiate disciplinary proceedings. n to justify the AC Sparta Praha”.

Austria

  • The corruption investigations against the ruling Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) continue to make waves. After the searches on 6 October and the subsequent resignation of Chancellor Kurz, the head of the opinion research institute Research Affairs, Sabine Beinschab, was arrested on Tuesday, 12 October. She allegedly tried to erase her computer’s hard drive shortly before the arrival of investigators who wanted to search her premises, suggesting that she may have been warned of the impending action. Ms. Beinschab was released on October 14th.

Slovenia

  • On Wednesday, October 13, there were again unannounced protests in Ljubljana against the measures taken to contain the Covid-19 virus. The demonstrators again blocked the streets and several were arrested.
  • On Thursday 14 October, Prime Minister Janez Janša met with the President of the Slovak Republic, Zuzana Čaputová. They discussed bilateral cooperation, the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU and the situation of COVID.
  • On Friday 15 October, a press conference was held in Ljubljana with Sophie in ‘t Veld, head of the delegation of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), who was in Slovenia to get a “comprehensive and complete picture of both sides” on media freedom and other issues. The left-wing opposition complains that media freedom is under threat under the current government. Sophie in ‘t Veld met with NGO representatives such as Amnesty International, CNVOS, the Peace Institute, the Legal Network for the Protection of Democracy and Info Kolpa, as well as with left-wing journalists such as Blaž Zgaga and Marko Milosavljević. At the conference itself, she said that while Slovenia’s public institutions are functioning, she is concerned about the cessation of funding for the STA and the “tone of public debate”. She added that some members of the government used language that she felt was not appropriate for a civilized and democratic society. Given that Sophie in ‘t Veld, although the aim of her visit to Slovenia was to get a comprehensive picture of the events in which both sides were involved, met mainly with representatives of the left media and NGOs, Demokracija weekly asked her why she met only with representatives of the left media and NGOs, if she wanted to have a comprehensive picture. In her reply, she denied this, although she had not met with representatives of right-wing or conservative media: “We did not only invite “left” NGOs and journalists. We have heard different points of view. What I found most interesting was the meeting with three university professors from different camps, but it was a very interesting debate in which it turned out that there are more points of view than just left and right. We talked to both “left” and “right” journalists and got a pretty complete picture.
  • On Sunday, October 17, an opinion poll showed that in an election in October, the ruling Slovenian Democratic Party would receive 20.7% of the vote, while the Social Democrats would be in second place with 10.7%.
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