Regional Press Review (15 – 21 Oct.)
Russia and China gain more seats in the UNHRC.
- China, Russia and Cuba gained seats in the UN ‘s premier human rights body on Tuesday amid resistance from advocacy organizations over their atrocious human rights abuses, yet another goal, Saudi Arabia, has lost. Russia and Cuba ran unchallenged, but China and Saudi Arabia were in a five-way race in the only contest for seats on the Human Rights Council. Pakistan won 169 votes in secret ballot at the 193-member UN General Assembly, 164 in Uzbekistan, 150 in Nepal, 139 in China and 90 in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis secured a seat in 2016 with 152 votes. (Euronews, October 14)
Norway blames Russia of initiating a cyber-attack on the Parliament.
- Norway charged Russia of conducting a cyber-attack on its Parliament earlier this year. On 24 August, the Storting-Norway ‘s unicameral parliament-was the victim of a “great” technological attack, although Parliament did not indicate the source of the assault. The cyber-attack authorized the perpetrators to access and download emails and information of a “small number of MPs and employees”. “On the basis of intelligence kept by the government, we conclude that Russia is the head of this operation,” stated FM Ine Eriksen Søreide. (Euronews, October 14)
EU imposes sanctions on Russia over poisoning of Navalny.
- The European Union and Britain have acted swiftly to place financial sanctions and travel restrictions on six senior Russian officials and one organization for the “attempt assassination” of Russian Kremlin critic, Navalny. The EU Official Journal published a list of the targeted persons suspected to be accountable for the poisoning that almost killed Navalny, as well as the organization involved in the operation that created a batch of military-grade nerve agents known as Novichok. (Radio Free Europe, October 15)
Russia withdraws from MH17 talks with Netherlands, Australia.
- Moscow blamed The Netherlands and Australia of “viciously” seeking to frame Russia. The Russian FM declared that it will remain involved in the investigation of the collision but “in a separate way.” “Hostile acts by the Netherlands have made any continuation of the trilateral consultations and our participation senseless,” the ministry said in a statement. “Australia and the Netherlands have obviously not tried to understand what really happened in summer 2014, but rather just wanted to secure a confession from Russia and compensation for the victims’ relatives,” it added. (Deutsche Welle, October 15)
Syria/Russia: Strategy Targeted Civilian Infrastructure.
- The continued assaults by the Syrian and Russian armed forces on civilian facilities in Idlib in northwest Syria have been direct crimes of war and may amount to crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said in a report published today. Dozens of illegal air and ground attacks in hospitals, schools and markets killed hundreds of civilians between April 2019 and March 2020. Attacks have severely impaired the rights to health, schooling, food, water and housing, contributing to widespread displacement. (Human Rights Watch, October 15)
The U.S. refuses Putin’s proposal to expand the nuclear weapons deal.
- The Trump administration has rejected President Putin’s offer for a one-year extension of the New Start nuclear treaty with Washington without preconditions, describing it as a “non-starter.” This is the second time the Trump administration has rejected an offer from Russia, asking for a more expansive deal as well as the inclusion of China in the nuclear accords. (Financial Times, October 16)
Navalny willing to return to Russia amid the Kremlin’s attempts to drive him away.
- Russian opposition leader Navalny declared that the Russian Government is doing everything in its power to prevent him from returning to Russia, but that he still plans to return. In an interview broadcast from October 18, Navalny told U.S. network CBS that he was ready to go back in a couple of months and pick up his work in the war against corruption where he left off. (Radio Free Europe, October 19)
Moscow to start large coronavirus vaccination.
- The Mayor of Moscow declared that the city will launch massive vaccines against the coronavirus disease “in December–January” as it sets out to open two more hospitals to cope with an increase in cases. Sobyanin announced the news in a statement on his website on October 19, without providing information as to how the city will go about implementing the vaccinations. In August, Russia authorized Sputnik-V coronavirus vaccine for national use—the first state to do so—which sparked outrage among the global scientific community on the grounds that it was not thoroughly vetted. Russian health experts have firmly endorsed the vaccine. (Radio Free Europe, October 19)
Six Russian intelligence officers charged of hacking by the U.S.
- On Monday, the Justice Department reported charges against Russian intelligence officers in a string of international cyberattacks targeting French presidential elections, South Korea’s Winter Olympics and American companies. The situation involves the same Kremlin unit that interacted with the 2016 U.S. election, but is not linked to the November elections. (Euronews, October 20)
Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital shelled after brief lull in fighting.
- Stepanakert came under fire again on October 15 after a shaky pause, further eroding hopes for an early stop to the heavy fighting. Armenia’s Defense Ministry claims Azerbaijani forces resumed “intense artillery fire” targeting sections of the Line of Contact. The emergency services arm of the de facto leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh announced that their forces had lost 555 fighters so far, and that Azerbaijani forces had struck “civilian targets” in Stepanakert. President Aliyev announced that his military already controlled two of Nagorno-Karabakh’s five major regions and that they would take them all unless Yerevan agreed to withdraw from the area under a specific timeline. (Radio Free Europe October 15)
Russia ready to deploy “military observers” for Karabakh truce.
- Russian FM Lavrov declared that the warring sides in Nagorno-Karabakh should urgently work out a “ceasefire verification mechanism,” offering to deploy “military observers” to the conflict zone to that purpose. Lavrov insisted that a peaceful resolution of the conflict is still “possible” despite the large-scale hostilities, reiterating the proposals made by the OSCE Minsk Group. Lavrov also chided Turkey and Azerbaijan for supporting a “military solution”, calling it neither possible nor admissible. (Azatutyun October 14)
Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenia-Azerbaijan truce broken minutes after deal.
- Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused one another of violating the humanitarian ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. Russian FM Lavrov had spoken to counterparts in both countries on Saturday and asked them to “strictly follow” the truce, which was to begin on October 18 at midnight. Both sides have accused the other of breaking the ceasefire less than five minutes after it began, with casualties and wounded reported on both sides next morning. (BBC October 19).
Erdoğan slams Karabakh mediators.
- President Erdoğan criticized U.S., Russia, and France on Sunday, alleging that they are supplying weapons to Armenia and reiterating his strong criticism of their long-running efforts to resolve the conflict. Erdoğan reaffirmed Turkey’s strong support for Azerbaijan’s military operations in the conflict zone. Russia rejected and criticized the allegations, stating that “Minsk Group co-chair countries do not support any party and are doing everything to stop the bloodshed.” (Azatutyun October 18)
Yerevan reports more Russian efforts to halt Karabakh war.
- Armenia announced on Saturday that Russia has tried unsuccessfully to organize a meeting between Armenian and Azerbaijani military officials. Armenian Defense Ministry representatives claim to have accepted the invitation and flown to Moscow, but their Azerbaijani counterparts did not show up. Armenians officials added that Turkish interference was responsible for the situation. Russian and Azeri officials have not commented on the alleged meeting and accusation. (Azatutyun October 17)
Azerbaijani peace activists called for questioning.
- Two Azerbaijani peace activists have reported that they have been called to the Prosecutor’s Office for questioning. The two were among hundreds of signatories of a statement calling for peace from Armenia, Azerbaijan, and around the world. One of the activists, Giyas Ibrahimov, was previously detained briefly in the initial days of the war for “criticizing an anchor on public TV,” and claims to have been receiving threats ever since. Several other activists who signed the peace statement have reported receiving pressure and threats online, with at least one person asking that their signature be removed in response. (OC Media October 13)
Russia, Turkey hold more talks on Karabakh de-escalation.
- The Foreign Ministers of Russia and Turkey again spoke by phone on Thursday as the two countries continued high-level consultations on ways of stopping hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh. The phone call came one day after a conversation between Presidents Putin and Erdoğan. The Kremlin declared that the two leaders “confirmed the importance” of the conflicting parties’ compliance with the ceasefire agreement, with the conversation between Foreign Ministers ending on a similar note. (Azatutyun October 15)
Pompeo criticizes Turkey’s involvement in Karabakh conflict.
- U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo declared that Turkey’s involvement in the Karabakh conflict has increased the risk in the region. “The resolution of that conflict ought to be done through negotiation and peaceful discussions, not through armed conflict, and certainly not with third party countries coming in to lend their firepower to what is already a powder keg of a situation,” Pompeo stated. “We’re hopeful that the Armenians will be able to defend against what the Azerbaijanis are doing, and that they will all, before that takes place, get the ceasefire right, and then sit down at the table and try and sort through this,” the official added. Rebuffing criticism from NATO allies, Turkey has accused Armenia of occupying Azeri territory and vowed full support for Azerbaijan. (Foreign Brief October 16)
Evidence mounts of war crimes in Nagorno-Karabakh.
- A video circulating online is the latest evidence of war crimes occurring in Nagorno-Karabakh. In the video, which Bellingcat and Digital Forensic Research Lab investigators believe to be genuine, two men bound and draped in Nagorno-Karabakh flags are gunned down by soldiers who appear to be members of the Azeri Special Forces. The Armenian Prosecutor’s Office identified the victims as Hadrut civilians, not combatants, and has opened an investigation. Azeri officials have dismissed the video as fake. (OC Media October 16)
UN Security Council calls on Armenia, Azerbaijan to respect cease-fire.
- The UN Security Council called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to respect the new ceasefire after closed consultations on October 19 on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, reiterating Secretary-General Guterres’ plea to respect the truce. The Council members discussed the need to ensure verification of the ceasefire, possibly implemented by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). (Radio Free Europe October 20)
Armenian, Azeri leaders claim that they are ready to meet.
- PM Pashinian and President Aliyev expressed readiness on Monday to meet in Moscow for urgent talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In their respective statements regarding their openness on the matter, Aliyev supported the proposed settlement that calls for Armenian withdrawal from districts around Karabakh before an agreement on the disputed territory’s status, whereas Pashinian called for Azerbaijan’s recognition of the Karabakh Armenians’ right to self-determination. (Azatutyun October 19)
Russia, Bulgaria, Hungary “doing next to nothing” to fight foreign bribery.
- Berlin-based Transparency International has ranked Russia, Bulgaria, and Hungary among 19 leading global exporters that are doing little to enforce rules meant to prohibit companies from paying bribes in foreign markets, adding that only four of 47 leading exporters—the U.S., Britain, Switzerland, and Israel—actively enforced legislation against foreign bribery in 2019. Countries accounting for 16.5% of global exports were ranked in the “little or no enforcement” category, including India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Finland, Peru, and Bulgaria. The report notes that Bulgaria’s Supreme Judicial Council “specifically mandated in 2016 separate reporting of foreign bribery data by the courts, but in practice it is difficult to extract this data from public sources.” (Radio Free Europe October 13)
Bulgaria calls for EU help to phase out coal.
- PM Borissov has asked EC President von der Leyen for a “plan” to support the country coal phase-out, stating that Bulgaria’s own capacity was insufficient to achieve the bloc’s 2030 climate goals. The EC has proposed an EU-wide emissions reduction target of at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, while the European Parliament has recently called for a 60% cut. Borrisov expressed support for the fight against climate change, but at the same time demanded that the EC come up with a plan for CEE countries, where the vast majority of their energy is coal. (Euractiv October 16)
Radev: Bulgaria and Greece embody peace, good neighborliness and fruitful co-operation.
- President Radev paid an official visit to Greece on Wednesday, where he met with his President Sakellaropoulou and PM Mitsotakis. Radev congratulated his Greek counterpart on assuming her duties, expressing Bulgaria’s desire to further deepen dialogue and develop friendly bilateral relations. The momentum of the Three Seas Initiative for transport, energy and digital connectivity in Eastern Europe was also one of the highlights of the meeting. Radev and Mitsotakis discussed prospects for the strategic partnership between the two countries, the promotion of mutual investments, and cooperation in the field of security. (IBNA October 14)
Bulgaria: Borissov and Merkel express support for Western Balkan countries’ EU path.
- “We support the countries of the Western Balkans on their path to the EU,” PM Borissov stated at the regular European Council meeting in Brussels. Borissov stressed that “Bulgaria will continue to work actively in this direction during our joint Presidency with North Macedonia for the Berlin Process” and expressed appreciation for the German Presidency of the EU Council’s efforts. (IBNA October 16)
President Radev is taking part in Three Seas Summit in Estonia.
- President Radev is in Estonia to take part in the Three Seas Summit. The Three Seas Initiative, launched five years ago, brings together 12 European countries between the Adriatic, Baltic and Black Seas. The aim is create joint projects to promote cooperation for infrastructure, digital, and energy connectivity, and to achieve sustainability and economic growth. (Novinite October 19)
FM Szijjártó: Hungary and Bulgaria have similar views on rule of law debate.
- Hungarian FM Szijjártó met with FM Zakharieva to celebrate Hungarian-Bulgarian Friendship Day. Szijjártó praised the Bulgarian ethnic minority in the country and reviewed the myriad ways in which the two countries cooperate. The officials reaffirmed their mutual commitment to EU enlargement in the Western Balkans, and Szijjártó added that they share similar views on the need to protect the bloc’s external borders and on the debate on the rule of law, which he described as a “hypocritical blackmailing mechanism.” The Ministers signed a declaration of intent on development cooperation, and a commemoration document marking the centenary of diplomatic ties between Bulgaria and Hungary. (Hungary Today October 19)
EU special representative visits Tbilisi, Sokhumi.
- EU Special Representative Klaar, who co-chairs the Geneva International Discussions (GID), met with Georgian Deputy FM Darsalia, and with Abkhaz “FM” Kove and leader Bzhania, respectively, between October 12-14. The visit came after the 51st round of Geneva Talks was disrupted by Russia’s refusal to participate. In Tbilisi, the officials discussed deteriorating human rights, security and humanitarian situations in the occupied territories. In Sokhumi, the officials discussed the epidemiological situation in Abkhazia, the GID, and regional security. Bzhania named the signing of a document on the non-use of force as the main focus of their GID agenda, calling on the EU to facilitate the agreement; in response Klaar noted that the EU “looks forward to providing further assistance to Abkhazia.” (civil.ge October 14)
Turkish Ambassador: Georgia has right position in Karabakh conflict.
- Turkish Ambassador to Georgia Yazgan has analyzed Georgia’s position in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, concluding that “Georgia has the right position.” The diplomat explained that “Georgia has the right policy on this issue: 1. It always maintains a principled position; 2. It seeks to work with international partners to end the conflict and establish lasting peace in the region. 3. It is a fair position that Georgia does not want to use its territory to buy and send weapons with the money collected.” The diplomat criticized recent “false and ugly propaganda” that is “spread by third parties” and the importance of combating it to maintain the “excellent relations” between Turkey and Georgia. (Georgia Today October 19)
Right to free movement in Security Zone is most often violated.
- Between the illegal placing of checkpoints by the Transnistrian administration in the Security Zone, the illegal checking of documents and the refusal of passage to people who want to cross the administrative line, the Promo-LEX Association observed unprecedented “dramatic involution” in 2020 in the Security Zone. According to Promo-LEX, the Government should initiate consultations with the EU to reintroduce nominal sanctions against Transnistrian officials who are responsible for the limitation of free movement and for abusive arrests and detentions, for the persecution of the political opponents and civic activists, and for other violations of human rights. (IPN October 13)
Deputy Premier, Moldova’s delegation to Joint Control Commission meet OSCE Mission in Moldova.
- Deputy PM for Reintegration Lesnic had an official meeting with Moldova’s delegation to the Joint Control Commission (JCC) and with the head of the OSCE Mission in Moldova. The officials discussed the illegal posts in the Security Zone and their impact on freedom of movement, infrastructure, organization, and the upcoming elections, as well as the cases of kidnapping by Transnistrian structures. Lesnic noted that Tiraspol had refused to organize the sub-group for human rights on October 15-16, when Moldova condemned Tiraspol’s actions and the degradation of the human rights situation in the region to the OSCE Permanent Council. (Moldpres October 16)
Moldovan FM has meeting with Ambassador of the Czech Republic.
- FM Tulea met with Czech Ambassador to Moldova Krejčí to discuss the evolution of the Czech-Moldovan bilateral relations, the resumption of the intergovernmental joint commission for economic cooperation, as well as the further development of cooperation in the economic, cultural, and social sectors. The two sides reaffirmed the mutual will to boost their political and diplomatic dialogue. The Minister thanked Czech partners for constantly supporting Moldova’s European integration efforts and providing the country with assistance for development. (Moldpres October 16)
Romania passes law to confiscate prisoners’ ill-gotten gains.
- The Lower Chamber of Parliament has unanimously adopted an amendment allowing the state to seize illegitimately obtained wealth from those who have received prison terms of at least four years. The measure affects goods or wealth obtained in a period of five years before or after the crime was committed, and also applies to goods transferred to a third party. The legislation will now go to President Iohannis for promulgation. The legal change has been widely hailed as a milestone in Romania’s efforts to combat corruption. (Balkan Insight October 14)
President Iohannis to attend European Council meeting in Brussels.
- President Iohannis will be attending a European Council meeting in Brussels on October 15-16. The summit’s agenda includes the COVID-19 pandemic, future EU-UK relations, and the fight against climate change. President Iohannis pronounced himself in favor of the restoration of freedom of movement within EU’s internal market and of the EU-UK Partnership Agreement, and asked for a more comprehensive analysis of “less prosperous” EU member states and their ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by the end of 2030. (Actmedia October 15)
ECHR condemns Romania for expelling two alleged terrorists.
- The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) condemned Romania for not following the procedures and breaching two Pakistani nationals’ rights when expelling them in 2012. At that time, the Romanian authorities invoked “sound indications that they intended to engage in activities that endangered national security.” ECHR established that the applicants had received very general information and had not been able to consult the specific documents relating to their charges. (Romania Insider October 16)
Three Seas Initiative Virtual Summit: FM Aurescu highlights Romania’s commitment.
- Speaking at the Three Seas Initiative Virtual Summit (I3M), FM Aurescu highlighted Romania’s commitment to Three Seas Initiative objectives and to its future development, recalling the importance of connectivity to ensure adequate pandemic responses and post-crisis recovery measures. The official welcomed the U.S. announcement to allocate up to $1 billion for projects in I3M participating states, as well as the decision of several states to join the Three Seas Initiative Investment Fund. (Actmedia October 20)
Maas: Oruc Reis activity within disputed maritime areas contradicts Confidence Building Measures.
- German FM Maas met with his Cypriot counterpart Christodoulides, where they discussed the importance of direct dialogue and called on Turkey to make it possible. Maas reaffirmed Germany and the EU’s solidarity and support for Cyprus and Greece. The official called the latest moves by Oruc Reis “just the opposite of a Confidence Building Measure,” and worried that it “will be a really serious blow to the de-escalation efforts in the Eastern Mediterranean by Germany as well, and to the further developments in Euro-Turkish relations.” Regarding the opening of Varosha beach in Northern Cyprus, Mass called it “a completely unnecessary and provocative step that contradicts the current efforts for defusion.”(IBNA October 13)
Erdoğan vows to replace Turkey’s critically minded medical association.
- President Erdoğan told Parliament to get rid of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), even suggesting it was linked to terrorism. “They are absolutely working against the constitution. Can you imagine someone from a terrorist organization leading this organization? This is not a democracy,” Erdoğan declared, adding that their right to bear the name of Turkey should be taken away as they do not deserve it. For months, the TTB has been accusing the Government of not releasing the real numbers of COVID-19 cases and related deaths, and of not caring for medical workers, organizing several protests in September with the motto “You cannot govern, we are dying.” On September 30, Health Minister Koca admitted that the Government had not published the full number of COVID-19 cases, but only symptomatic cases. (Balkan Insight October 14)
Turkey to conclude testing of Russian S-400 missile defense system.
- On October 16, Turkey concludes a four-day testing of its Russian-produced S-400 missile defense system near the Black Sea coast. Turkey had delayed the testing following backlash from the U.S., which is concerned that it will provide Russia with access to valuable information on NATO’s defense system. Washington forced Ankara out of the F-35 program and threatened sanctions in retaliation to the purchase last July, but President Trump’s relationship with President Erdoğan has sidelined efforts to that matter. (Foreign Brief October 16)
Northern Cyprus: Right-wing nationalist Tatar elected President.
- Right-wing nationalist Tatar has won the presidential election in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, with 52% of the vote. In his victory speech, Tatar thanked President Erdoğan, who in return congratulated him on his victory. Outgoing President Akinci also congratulated Tatar, adding that “we went through an election contest that wasn’t normal… These results mark the end of my 45-year political career. I wish good luck to our people.” (BBC October 19)
EU: European Council deplores Turkish actions.
- In the conclusions of the October 15-16 European Council meeting, the Council expressed its regret regarding Turkey’s unilateral and provocative actions in the Eastern Mediterranean. In addition, it urged Turkey to respect UN Security Council Resolutions 550 and 789 on the Varosha status and to put an end to these actions. The European Council urged Turkey to reverse these actions and work for the easing of tensions in a consistent and sustained manner. (IBNA October 16)
Canadian embargo hailed by Armenia, criticized by Turkey.
- Armenia has praised Canada for suspending drone technology exports to Turkey after Canadian arms control group Project Ploughshares found that air strikes carried out by Azerbaijani army drones in Nagorno-Karabakh indicates that they are equipped with imaging and targeting systems made by a Canada-based firm. President Erdoğan discussed the ban with PM Trudeau on Friday, calling it “against the spirit of [the NATO] alliance.” Turkey’s military exports to Azerbaijan have risen six-fold this year, with sales of drones and other military equipment rising to $77 million last month alone. (Azatutyun October 17)
Ukraine mulls free economic area in Donbas.
- Ukraine may consider declaring a free economic area in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions to encourage investment to revive territories crippled by the war. To see if the idea gets support from the people, the authorities will run a plebiscite-like poll during local elections on October 25, and will proceed with the plan if the idea gets the green light. President Zelensky called the idea “fundamental for the state’s multifaceted peace plan.” (Ukrainian Journal October 15)
Ukraine stands for NATO’s permanent presence in Black Sea—Dzheppar.
- Ukraine’s Deputy FM Dzheppar met with NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy Ildem and with a team of experts of the NATO 2030 reflection process to discuss security issues. According to Dzheppar, the Alliance sees the Azov, Black and Mediterranean Seas as “one security belt,” and NATO’s leading role in the region could hinder Russia’s actions and encroachments. Stating that “NATO must play a leading role, including through its permanent presence in the Black Sea,” Dzheppar reaffirmed Ukraine’s ambitions and progress on becoming a full NATO member. (Ukrinform October 15)
Ukraine submits prisoner swap list to Trilateral Contact Group.
- The regular meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group took place on October 14 with the participation of the delegations of Ukraine and Russia, moderated by OSCE. The Ukrainian side has submitted a list of four categories of captives for the mutual prisoner swap, but so far no information was provided from Donetsk and Luhansk. The two parties were ready to open new entry-exit checkpoints in Luhansk. The ceasefire regime in Donbas was praised by the OSCE and hoped to be sustained despite “political issues.” The updated mine action plan was defined, and the Ukrainian delegation inquired about forming a group of experts under the auspices of the IAEA to monitor the storage of radioactive materials in Donbas. (Ukrinform October 15)
Zelensky, Erdogan make joint statement following meeting in Turkey.
- Following the October 16 meeting between Presidents Zelensky and Erdoğan, Turkey welcomed cooperation within the Crimean Platform, as the two countries agreed to continue efforts to de-occupy Crimea and restore Ukraine’s control over certain areas in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, to continue to coordinate joint efforts to ensure the protection of human rights in the occupied areas, and work to release all illegally detained Ukrainian citizens. The two heads of state also noted the importance of concluding negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement and of intensifying cooperation within the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation. (Ukrinform October 17)
Iran, Ukraine in new round of talks over downed plane.
- Ukrainian Deputy FM Yenin and Iranian Deputy FM Baharvand met for a second round of talks over compensation for a Ukrainian passenger plane that was struck down in January, killing 176 people. Baharvand declared that Iran was ready to “honestly inform about the details” of the crash. Yenin welcomed Iran’s taking full responsibility and readiness to compensate all the victims’ relatives. Iranian forces accidentally shot down the plane due to a misaligned missile battery and miscommunication. (Radio Free Europe October 19)
Police in Prague clash with citizens protesting the Government’s COVID-19 restrictions.
- A Sunday demonstration against COVID-19 restrictions ended in clashes between protesters and the police. When Prague City Hall called on the organizers to end the demonstration—attended by 2,000 people who mostly did not wear face masks—, several protesters attempted to break through the police cordon. Armored police then used tear gas, bangers, and heavy vehicles to push protesters from the square. 20 people were injured, including police officers. Before the demonstration, the police had detained 50 people after finding dangerous items on them, such as firework rockets, batons, and a firearm. (Expats.cz October 18)
Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia launch joint energy investment project.
- Slovenian PM Janša, his Hungarian counterpart Orbán and Croatian FM Radman attended a ceremony launching the construction of an 80-kilometer power line that will establish a link between the three countries. PM Orbán labelled the event as a historic and vital moment between the nations, adding that “the EU is not just a German-French matter, it also links the countries that are gaining value, making them a site of geopolitical games and interests of the big ones,” underscoring energy policy and cooperation in the field as an important aspect that boosts the region’s position. (STA October 15)
Mayor Karácsony: Use of EU aid should be decided by referendum.
- Budapest Mayor Karácsony has stated that the way EU aid is used should be decided by local referendums, which could be held next spring. Calling the “local referendum movement” a “historic chance” to build a fairer, more democratic, and greener Hungary, Karácsony declared that local councils should receive at least half of the EU funding for handling the economic effects of the pandemic. The mayors of 36 European cities have formed an alliance to persuade European decision-makers to allow localities to apply for more EU funding directly. (Hungary Today October 17)
FM Szijjártó: Biden’s comments on Hungary “have nothing to do with reality”.
- U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Biden has recently categorized Poland and Hungary as “totalitarian regimes” in his wider criticism of President Trump’s foreign policy plan. In response, FM Szijjártó stated that U.S.–Hungary relations “are the best they have ever been” owing to the similar views held by President Trump and PM Orbán on illegal immigration, border protection, security, and the need to support families and protect Christian communities. The Minister insisted that Biden had “involved Hungary in the presidential election campaign” because of these policies, but that his comments “have nothing to do with reality.” (Hungary Today October 16)
Polish, French, German FMs to hold Weimar Triangle talks.
- The Polish, French, and German Foreign Ministers met for a Weimar Triangle meeting in Paris on Thursday. The meeting comes after the Polish and French top diplomats discussed a plan to revive the trilateral cooperation platform last month. Topics up for discussion include European cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and the situation in Belarus. PM Morawiecki had earlier stated that Weimar Triangle countries were like-minded on a number of issues, including the need to strengthen European industries and develop new technology. (Polskie Radio October 15)
15 EU countries raise alarm on Europe’s “anti-5G movement”.
- A Polish-led letter sent on October 19 calls for the EU Commission to address conspiracy theories that have led to arson attacks against telecommunications masts. 140 such attacks were reported across Europe between January and June, with the majority occurring in the UK and the Netherlands. The joint letter urges the EC to find a solution to the problem before it further impacts future network coverage. (Euractiv October 19)
Irish town terminates twinning agreement with Poland over “LGBT-free” zones.
- Fermoy has suspended twinning ties with Nowa Dęba over its being an “LGBT-free zone,” in a move that was welcomed by the Irish Social Democrats party as a “firm stance against the discrimination and erasure of the LGBT+ community.” The Mayor of Nowa Dęba defended his community, adding that he had never experienced SOGI-based discrimination and that his town is “tolerant and non-discriminatory towards minorities” despite it being declared free of LGBT “ideology.” (Euronews October 17)
Polish–U.S. defense cooperation enters another, higher level.
- U.S. Ambassador to Poland Mosbacher announced that the V Corps Forward Command Post was officially reactivated in Fort Knox and will be established in Poznan “very soon,” with the first batch of soldiers due to arrive this month and deal with operational planning and command of the rotational forces in Europe. The V Corps Forward Command Post in Poland will facilitate the deployment of more U.S. troops to Poland, increasing their numbers from 1,000 to 5,500. (Polskie Radio October 17)
Minister Korčok with Slovenian FM Logar on bilateral and regional cooperation.
- FM Logar visited Bratislava at the invitation of FM Korčok. The two countries expressed their mutual values and appreciation, highlighting their connection in multiple international alliances. The two heads of diplomacy expressed optimism regarding the Western Balkans and EU enlargement. The agenda of the meeting also included Brexit and future EU-UK relations, the rule of law, and the future of the EU. FM Logar also briefed Korčok on the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2021. (Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic October 15)
Minister Korčok holds talks with his counterparts of the EU Member States.
- FM Korčok attended a meeting of the Council of the EU for Foreign Affairs on October 12. The Ministers discussed the situation in Belarus and relations with Russia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and a discussion was also held with the EU Special Representative on the state of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. Conclusions on Belarus were adopted, and the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue was reestablished with strong political support for the Union-led process of normalization of the Belgrade-Pristina relations to make European accession possible. Finally, the Ministers agreed to maintain a critical EU-Russia political dialogue without compromising on fundamental issues, as they approved restrictive measures over the case of Alexei Navalny. (Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic October 15)
Unauthorized protest against COVID-19 measures turns violent in Bratislava.
- Hundreds of “ultras” and People’s Party Our Slovakia supporters protested in Bratislava on October 17 against COVID-19 measures. The protesters—many of whom did not wear masks—threw lit signal flares over the Government Office fence, and started throwing stones, bottles, and firecrackers at the police, who used tear gas and water cannons in retaliation. Several people were injured, including police officers. Public assemblies with more than six people are currently banned in Slovakia, and wearing masks outdoors is mandatory. PM Matovič and Mayor Vallo have condemned the protest, while Interior Minister Mikulec promised that the participants will not escape justice. (Slovak Spectator October 18)
Minister Korčok in a telephone call with his North Macedonian counterpart.
- North Macedonia’s FM Osmani and FM Korčok inform one another about the current state of North Macedonia’s EU integration process on the telephone. Osmani thanked Korčok for supporting his country’s integration into Euro-Atlantic structures, and for the humanitarian aid received to help fight the spread of the new coronavirus. Korčok provided recommendations on the functioning of the National Convention and explained Slovakia’s position on the adoption of an EU accession negotiating framework. (Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic October 16)
MEPs press European Commission, Council, to ratify Istanbul Convention.
- Slovene MEP Brglez and Croatian MEP Matic have announced that 118 MEPs had co-signed a letter calling for the full ratification of the Convention on Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (the Istanbul Convention), which the EU and some of its member states have not yet ratified. Although Poland ratified the document in 2015, it has since launched a diplomatic drive for an alternative “family rights convention,” inviting Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Croatia to join it. The two MEPs from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats bloc have stated that ratifying the document would be a historic moment that would mark the Convention’s importance, secure commitment to gender equality and reducing violence against women, and discourage “some Member States” from withdrawing from it. (Balkan Insight October 16)