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Central Europe: The most important news from 20 to 26 September

Hungary

  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán spoke in the Budapest parliament on Monday, September 20, about the importance of vaccinations in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic: “Thanks to the success of the vaccination program, we had a free summer again. We had one of the fastest vaccination programs in Europe and the world. So we were able to lift the restrictions earlier than others and get the economy back on track. The vaccination rate for Covid (2 doses) has stagnated in Hungary since July (57.0% on 18 July) at 57.6% of the general population. Since the beginning of July, the wearing of a mask is only mandatory in hospitals and medical facilities. For events with more than 500 people, a health passport is required.
  • In his opening speech at the 4th Demography Summit in Budapest on Thursday, 23 September, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán made a plea for the family and children in society. Heads of state and government of several Central European countries (Czech Republic, Serbia, Republika Serbska, …) were present, as was the French publicist and polemicist Éric Zemmour and Marion Maréchal.
  • The Hungarian opposition’s primaries to nominate joint candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections on Saturday, September 18, resulted in some IT outages, likely due to a cyberattack on the computer system.

Poland

  • The multi-week migration crisis at the Polish-Belarusian border took a tragic turn when, on Sunday, September 19, the bodies of four migrants were discovered who were probably frozen to death – three on the Polish side and one on the Belarusian side of the border. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki reacted: “The authorities and the public prosecutor’s office are working on the ground to clarify the circumstances of this tragic event. It is necessary to examine a possible connection between these dramatic events and the earlier provocative actions of Belarus on our eastern border.
  • However, Polish opinion on immigration has not been shaken by these events, as shown by a poll by pollster on Tuesday, September 21, by the conservative magazine Do Rzeczy, according to which 72% of Poles do not want to let the migrants currently cavorting at the Belarusian border into the country.
  • Belarus, for its part, is pouring oil on the fire. As Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński stated on Tuesday, September 21, last week the Belarusian authorities decided to activate visa-free travel with countries such as Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt and South Africa, and Grodno has become an international airport. Poland therefore fears that tens or even hundreds of thousands of migrants will cross the border, as was the case at the Serbian-Hungarian border in 2015.
  • MEP Patryk Jaki (Solidarna Polska) presented to the press on 21st September “the first complete list of the gains and losses […] resulting from EU membership”. According to their estimates, the country has lost up to 981 billion zlotys (213 billion euros) and only recovered 593 billion zlotys (129 billion euros). The daily Rzeczpospolita refers to analyses by the National Bank of Poland, which show that the balance sheet has been in surplus in favour of Poland since 2013, and believes that the Jaki report ignores some important factors, such as the investments of foreign companies in Poland or the wages paid. Logically, the Rzeczpospolita also draws completely different conclusions.
  • The Marshal of Lesser Poland, Witold Kozłowski, announced on Wednesday, September 22, that the Parliament of this southern Polish voivodeship (Krakow region) was preparing to repeal the decision declaring the region free of LBGT ideology because the European Union is extortioning subsidies on this issue. On 24 September, the Parliament of the neighbouring Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship announced that it had voted in favour. This brings the number of Polish regions that are reluctant to lose financially significant EU funding on this issue to two. In the statement, the representatives of the voivodeship had expressed their “deep disapproval and rejection of the attempts to promote the LGBT ideology represented by liberal social and political movements. These attempts are [clearly] at odds with the cultural heritage and secular Christian traditions of our region, Poland and Europe. For his part, Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro (Solidarna Polska) called on the regional councils in the Łódź Voivodeship not to follow their colleagues in Lesser Poland and Yaval: “As Solidarity Poland, we do not agree with this type of action by the European Commission […] We call on the deputies of the Łódź Regional Council and the other Regional Councils not to submit to this kind of blackmail. […] The European Union has today been taken over by left-wing circles that are trying to use the mechanisms of political blackmail by the EU institutions to force Poland to adopt regulations that contradict our culture and impose them on citizens against their will.”
  • The chairman of the Civic Platform (PO), Donald Tusk, is reportedly against his two vice-presidents, Borys Budka and Tomasz Siemoniak, who preferred to attend the birthday party of journalist Robert Mazurek instead of attending the presentation of the Court of Auditors’ report to MEPs, as the magazine Fakt had revealed with photos. However, this is not the image Donald Tusk wants of his party.
  • The president of the Solidarność trade union, Piotr Duda, announced on Friday 24 September that the Polish trade union organisation will hold a demonstration on 22 October in front of the seat of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg to protest the recent decision of the Court of Justice in the dispute between Poland and the Czech Republic over the Turów mine (Lower Silesia). This unprecedented crisis between Poland and the Czech Republic could have a negative impact on the functioning of the V4.
  • In an interview with the tabloid Super Express, Polish Finance Minister Tadeusz Kościński defended the measures taken by the Polish government under the New Polish Order: “Over the last 30 years, the rich have benefited from the development of our economy and have become even richer […] Now we perform a reset in favor of those who earn less […] Those who earn less should not pay more in percentage terms […] It is important that society is not stratified.” Jarosław Gowin, leader of the Porozumienie party and former deputy prime minister who joined the opposition in August, described the same measures as a “major blow to the middle class” and a “socialist fraud” that “hard-working, entrepreneurial and creative people […] under the guise of a small tax cut for the lower strata of society”.

Slovakia

  • On Monday, September 20, a special court in the town of Pezinok (Bösing, Bratislava region) sentenced former prosecutor Dušan Kováčik to fourteen years in prison and to confiscate all his assets for corruption and abuse of power in a criminal organization. Kováčik, who has been in office since 2004, was arrested in October 2020 along with a senior Slovak police officer accused of supporting a criminal organization.
  • The Extraordinary Congress of the MKP (Magyar Közösség Pártja, Party of the Hungarian Community) decided on 19 September in Rimavská Sobota (Rimaszombat, Central Slovakia) to merge the party with the other two groups representing the Hungarian minority in Slovakia – Híd-Most (bridge) and Összefogás (cooperation). The merger had been approved by Híd-Most the day before. The new unity party is called Szövetség (Alliance).
  • Archbishop Jan Babjak, Greek Catholic Metropolitan of Prešov (Eperies), who met with Pope Francis on September 14 and celebrated Mass with him, tested positive for Covid-19 a few days later, despite having been doubly vaccinated. The cardinal was immediately quarantined.

Czech Republic

  • In an interview with Radio Impuls, Ivan Bartoš, leader of the Czech Pirate Party and opponent of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš in the upcoming parliamentary elections, said: “I have a problem with Muslim Europe […] No-go zones are created. We should not close our eyes to this.” In the Czech Republic, there is now a fairly broad political consensus against immigration, as a recent election debate confirmed this week.
  • Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who visited Hungary as part of the 4th Demography Summit in Budapest, travelled to Röszke on 22 September together with Viktor Orbán to inspect the anti-migrant border fence on the Serbian-Hungarian border. On this occasion, the Czech Prime Minister reaffirmed his opposition to the reception of migrants in the Czech Republic.

Slovenia

  • 24.9. The Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning (MoESP) organised an online presentation of the Maritime Spatial Plan – a strategic document that, for the first time in Slovenia since independence, introduces strategic planning for the sustainable development of activities and uses at sea. In his speech, Robert Rožac, State Secretary at the Ministry of the Interior, said that Slovenia was the first EU Member State in the Eastern Mediterranean to have drawn up and adopted a maritime spatial plan, for which it had also been praised by the European Commission. State Secretary Robert Rožac stressed that with the adoption of the Maritime Spatial Plan, Slovenia has created a legal basis to achieve sustainable growth of the maritime economy, sustainable development of the marine area and sustainable use of marine resources. Slovenia has also been awarded a prize by the European Commission for its work on the maritime spatial plan. The Maritime Spatial Plan of Slovenia was prepared by the Ministry of the Environment as a strategic, spatial development document that defines the objectives and orientations for the further development of activities at sea, defines the spatial and temporal distribution of the relevant existing and future activities and uses and provides a framework for their coordination with each other.
  • 23.9. The Government has adopted the text of the amendments to the Decree on the framework for the preparation of state sector budgets for the period 2020-2022 in the part relating to 2021. The amendments are necessary to continue the smooth financing of the measures taken to deal with the epidemic that were adopted following the adoption of the amendments to the 2021 budget. Two other laws were passed after the adoption of the amendments to the 2021 budget, namely the Law on Intervention Measures to Support the Economy and Tourism in Mitigating the Consequences of the Epidemic, COVID-19, and the Act on Emergency Measures for the Health Sector. Both relate to measures to alleviate the consequences of COVID-19 and additional immediate measures to support the initial recovery. The ceiling for general government expenditure will be raised to €25.80 billion and the deficit will be reduced to 7.5% of GDP. In 2021, the expenditure ceiling for the general government budget will be raised to €14.99 billion and the deficit will be reduced to 7.9% of GDP.
  • 22.9. In a press release, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Agriculture, Dr Jože Podgoršek, presented the Act on Amendments and Amendments to the Animal Welfare Act, which was adopted by the National Assembly on Wednesday 22 September. One of the most important changes is the restriction of the ownership of exotic animal species. The amendment introduces a list of prohibited species and a list of permitted species. Prohibited animal species may only be cared for by animal shelters, while individuals may own and care for animals that are on the list of permitted species. In order to prevent and curb the illegal trade in dogs, the amended law provides for the traceability of the dog’s origin by providing for the identification of puppies up to the age of 8 weeks. When displaying dogs, it is mandatory to provide the dog’s chip number if the advertised dog is older than 8 weeks. However, if the advertisementd dog is less than 8 weeks old, the mother’s chip number must be provided.
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