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#Newsletter Exclusive / True Story Project

Regional Press Review (19 – 25 Nov)

RUSSIA

Former US Army Officer Pleads Guilty of Spying for Russia. 

  • A former U.S. Army Special Forces Officer pled guilty to allegations of supplying classified military intelligence to Russian secret services. Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, pleaded guilty of supplying intelligence on security to a foreign state. According to court records, Debbins, who operated in the Green Berets unit, flew regularly to Russia between 1996 and 2011, exchanging important US intelligence data with Russian intelligence officers. In 1997, he was assigned the code name “Ikar Lesnikov” and signed a statement saying that he wished to “serve Russia,” U.S. prosecutors reported. “Debbins confirmed that he breached the utmost trust of his government by passing on sensitive national security information to the Russians,” added John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. (Voice of America, November 18)

State Duma supports a bill to shield President Putin from prosecution after he leaves office. 

  • Russian deputies endorsed a bill granting past presidents’ protection from prosecution, a development that is generally believed would favour President Putin. The bill will mean that presidents who were no longer in office and members of their families “cannot be placed under criminal or disciplinary responsibility, as well as held, seized, scanned, interrogated or searched.” “The protection of the ex-president applies to the home and office premises where he lives, his cars, correspondence, papers and baggage related to him. The lower house ratified the change in its first reading and there is no likelihood that it will not be completely implemented, as President Putin’s supporters control both chambers. (Euronews, November 18)

Russian lawmaker is considering legislation to further limit the rights of protesters. 

  • Russian lawmaker of the ruling United Russia Party has introduced two pieces of legislation that will further limit citizens’ access to association. The bills introduced in the lower house of Parliament aim to prohibit the funding of rallying from international sources, would make it illegal for citizens to organise and remove participants of single-picket rallies, and would impose limits on journalists attending such demonstrations. The b ills will also ban mass gatherings and demonstrations in the proximity of buildings holding emergency facilities, such as the police or other security services. The move to the single-picket rule, one of the few remaining forms to demonstrate without a permit in Russia, quickly prompted outrage from opposition lawmakers. (Radio Free Europe, November 18)

The U.S. officially withdraws from the Open Skies Treaty. 

  • On November 22, the United States officially withdrew from the Open Skies Treaties, an 18-year-old arms control and monitoring deal that Washington frequently criticized Moscow of breaching. The exit is the biggest blow to the U.S. network of global arms control. President Trump has consistently ridiculed the deal, arguing that Washington was either misled or wrongly limited by its defense capabilities. (Radio Free Europe, November 22)

Russian authorities detained Daghestan police colonel following the Moscow metro attack of 2010. 

  • The Russian authorities have detained a police colonel on suspicion of terrorism in 2010 Moscow Metro blast. Gazi Isaev, head of the Russian Ministry of the Interior of the Kizlyar District of Daghestan, was arrested on Monday. The law enforcement colonel is convicted of personally helping a suicide bomber who detonated a bomb at one of the two metro stations in the city center during rush hour in March 2010. (Euronews, November 23)

New law would expand Internet censorship in Russia

  • On November 19, a bill was sent to the Russian Parliament to grant the authorities the right to ban websites that have blocked Russian state content online. The bill argues that these websites infringe Russian rights of access to information. As per the explanatory note of the law, since April 2020, the Russian authorities have reported at least 20 cases in which websites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have blocked material from state-owned Russian media outlets such as RT and RiaNovosti. Earlier this month, the officials alleged that Google deliberately omitted videos of a reporter from Russia’s largest state TV network from the Trending YouTube section. (Human Rights Watch, November 23)

Russia’s media regulator is launching a lawsuit against Google over dangerous content. 

  • Russia’s media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, has filed a lawsuit against Google for reportedly failing to delete prohibited material from its search engine. Roskomnadzor claimed that Google had not deleted almost 30 percent of “dangerous content” from its search engine. “The company is accused of failing to comply with the requirements of Russian legislation on the removal of Internet resources containing information banned in Russia from search results,” Roskomnadzor stated. (Radio Free Europe, November 24)

ARMENIA

Dozens prosecuted over Yerevan riots. 

  • The National Security Service (NSS) has launched criminal proceedings against those who attacked and ransacked state buildings in Yerevan on November 10, identifying more than 70 riot organizers and participants and arresting 15. Supporters of some opposition politicians were accused of playing an “active role” in the violence, after security camera footage of the ransacking of the Prime Minister’s Office identified several supporters of former Presidents Sarkisian and Kocharian, as well as people related the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK). The BHK angrily denied their involvement during a heated session of the National Assembly. (Azatutyun November 18)

Armenian PM vows Cabinet shakeup. 

  • PM Pashinyan has pledged to reshuffle his Government, giving no indications that he would resign or hold snap general elections. Pashinyan presented a 15-point plan of government actions and objectives for the next six months that includes the return of ethnic Armenian refugees to Karabakh, the reconstruction of homes damaged during hostilities, the resumption of Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks mediated by the Minsk Group, and the repatriation of all Armenian prisoners of war and civilian captives. Pashinyan’s “roadmap” also envisages a major reform of Armenia’s armed forces, continued fight against corruption, and efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus and stimulate economic activity. The PM concluded by announcing that he will report on the roadmap’s implementation in June 2021. (Azatutyun November 18)

Russian ministers visit Armenia, discuss Karabakh. 

  • Two high-level Russian government delegations visited Yerevan on Saturday to discuss bilateral ties and the implementation of the ceasefire. Defense Minister Shoigu, FM Lavrov, and other visiting Russian officials met separately with their Armenian counterparts and with PM Pashinyan to discuss the ceasefire, Russian-Armenian military cooperation, as well as plans to deepen their cooperation in the security and military-technical areas. The Russian officials are due to proceed to Baku for similar negotiations with the Azerbaijani leadership. (Azatutyun November 21)

Another Armenian Minister Replaced

  • Armenia’s Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Youth Affairs Harutiunian was dismissed on November 23 and replaced by Yerevan State University Dean Dumanian, in an ongoing cabinet shakeup announced by PM Pashinyan last weekOn November 20, PM Pashinyan replaced Defense Minister Tonoyan and Labor and Social Affairs Ministers Batoyan with two of Pashinyan’s advisers, Vagharshak Harutiunian and Mesrop Arakelian. Last week, General Piloyan was appointed the new Minister of Emergency Situations and career diplomat Ara Ayvazyan was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs after their predecessors had stepped down.  (Azatutyun November 23)

Land mine kills officer as search continues for Armenian, Azerbaijani Missing. 

  • A land mine reportedly killed an Azerbaijani officer and wounded several ethnic Armenian officials and a Russian peacekeeper in Nagorno-Karabakh on November 23, in the latest reminder of lingering obstacles to identifying the dead, two weeks after the cease-fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan was agreed upon. Families on both sides of the conflict have complained of a lack of information about soldiers who are missing or believed to have been killed in combat, with family members gathering outside the Armenian Defense Ministry demanding information about their whereabouts on November 23. Yerevan has announced the discovery or handover of the bodies of around 350 soldiers in the last several days. (Radio Free Europe November 23)

 AZERBAIJAN

Azerbaijani FM, UN secretary-general mull Nagorno-Karabakh peace deal. 

  • FM Bayramov and UN Secretary-General Guterres have discussed the implementation of the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace agreement. Bayramov briefed Guterres on the fulfilment of the joint statement, as well as on the complete destruction in the region, including damage to the environment, deforestation, burning of houses, looting of cultural monuments, etc., expressing desire to cooperate with the relevant international organizations for the necessary large-scale restoration work. Guterres welcomed the cessation of hostilities, noted the role that the UN could play in the rehabilitation of the territories, and stressed the importance of providing appropriate support for the return of IDPs to their homes. (Today.az November 18)

EU offers support to further reconstruction in Nagorno-Karabakh. 

  • The EU has voiced support for further reconstruction and construction work in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The EU Commission for Humanitarian Aid Operations and European Civil Protection met with the Azerbaijani State Committee for Refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDP) to discuss their humanitarian cooperation and to define the form of EU assistance and support. The EU mission will examine the needs of IDPs and civilians affected by the war and determine how to support them. (Today.az November 18)

Azerbaijan army enters Agdam as Armenians flee. 

  • Azerbaijani troops have entered a district bordering Nagorno-Karabakh as part of the Russian-brokered peace agreement. As Azerbaijani troops moved into Agdam a day after Armenian forces rolled out of the territory, Armenia’s Defense Minister Tonoyan tendered his resignation. Armenian villagers in Agdam were given just days to leave their homes, scrambling to pack their belongings into vehicles and emptying homes before setting structures on fire. In addition to Agdam, Armenians must leave the districts of Kalbacar by November 25 and Lachin by December 1. (Radio Free Europe November 20)

Russia remains Azerbaijan’s main trade partner among CIS countries. 

  • Russia was Azerbaijan’s largest trade partner among Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries in January–October 2020, with a trade turnover of $2.1 billion, followed by Ukraine with $659.8 million and Belarus with $252.5 million. Overall, Russia was Azerbaijan’s third largest trade partner during the reported period, after Italy with $4.2 billion and Turkey with $3.5 billion. The total volume of Azerbaijan’s foreign trade amounted to $17.8 billion in January–September 2020. (Today.az November 23)

Turkish troops ready for deployment to Azerbaijan: Turkish Defense Ministry

  • The Turkish Defense Ministry declared on November 22 that talks about the technical details and duty principles of the joint center to monitor the ceasefire in Nagorno Karabakh to be established with Russia were still ongoing, but that Turkish soldiers will work for one year in the joint center, and that preparations for their deployment have been completed. The Ministry also reiterated that Turkey would continue to stand with Azerbaijan for its “rightful case.” (Hurriyet Daily News November 22)

Concerns grow for the fate of Nagorno-Karabakh’s cultural heritage. 

  • International scholars raise the alarm over the future of the region’s Armenian heritage, as the timeframe for withdrawal does not leave time for Armenians to document and safeguard the roughly 4,000 heritage sites in the region, such as historic churches and monasteries, artifacts of religious and civil importancememorialsart, as well as remains of ancient settlements. Doubts as to whether Azeri institutions will be willing to look after Armenian historical sites in the region have arisen ever since the country’s museums publicly supported the war between the two nations. (Emerging Europe November 23)

BULGARIA

Zaharieva: Bulgaria does not approve the negotiating framework with North Macedonia. 

  • A meeting between the EU27 Foreign Ministers took place on November 17 to discuss EU enlargement, where Bulgarian FM Zaharieva concluded that “Bulgaria cannot support a negotiating framework with the Republic of North Macedonia and the organization of the first intergovernmental conference in this context,” as ”the proposed plan for adoption does not reflect the Bulgarian requirements.” Zaharieva added that there are no problems with the framework for the Republic of Albania. (IBNA November 17)

Bulgaria’s Premier Boyko Borissov broke silence on North Macedonia accession talks. 

  • PM Borissov commented on relations with Skopje at a Cabinet sitting taking place a day after Sofia blocked North Macedonia’s EU accession talks owing to bilateral controversies. Accusing North Macedonia of relying on “pressure and lobbyism” to make Bulgaria change its stand, Borrisov stated that Bulgaria is ready to continue with the talks, but is strongly against the use of “anti-Bulgarian rhetoric.” (Novinite November 18)

Bulgarian Ombudsman will go to the Constitutional Court, absolutely “stunned” by law adopted by the Parliament. 

  • Ombudsman Kovacheva is determined to refer to the Constitutional Court, should an amendment to the Consumers Credit Act be promulgated. The amendment allows fast loan companies to demand larger amounts of interest from debtors, and was adopted in the transitional and final provisions for an unrelated act, voted alongside the different issue and with no debate being held for itKovacheva points out that the text arouses “absolute bewilderment,” as there have been numerous complaints from the people about unfair clauses in contracts with companies for fast loans. (Novinite November 21)

GEORGIA

Georgian lawmakers comment on the visit of Secretary Pompeo. 

  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Georgian officials, President Salome Zurabishvili, PM Giorgi Gakharia, FM Davit Zalkaliani, members of civil society and Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II. After Secretary Pompeo’s departure from Tbilisi, lawmakers from the governing Georgian Dream and political groups made comments on the U.S. diplomat’s top tour. At the November 19 Government conference, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said he addressed the improvement of Georgia’s democratic institutions, the expansion of the strategic relationship between the United States and Georgia, and the positions of Tbilisi and Washington in current regional developments with Secretary Pompeo. (Civil.ge, November 19)

Georgian Dream wins the vast majority following runoff elections boycotted by opponents. 

  • Early results show that Georgia’s ruling party Georgian Dream  will retain a broad parliamentary majority, following a crushing second-round referendum on November 21, which was initially rejected by the opposition. Opposition leaders called for a replay of the October 31 parliamentary elections, organizing daily demonstrations against an outcome that they viewed as unconstitutional and unjust. (Radio Free Europe, November 21)

MOLDOVA

The President-elect of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu, pushed for the defrosting of bilateral ties with Ukraine. 

  • Throughout a conversation with Ambassador of Ukraine Marko Shevchenko, Sandu thanked Ukraine President Zelensky for his welcome. The Parties addressed the present situation in the Republic of Moldova and the need for strong collaboration between the two states. “We have many common problems, as well as many opportunities that we can realize together. We must bring Moldova out of isolation and immediately thaw bilateral relations with Ukraine. At the same time, we discussed the synchronization of activities in the context of the European integration process,” Sandu declared. (Ukrinform, November 19)

ROMANIA

FM Aurescu and Georgian counterpart discuss Black Sea security. 

  • FM Aurescu called Georgian FM Zalkaliani to discuss developments and prospects for bilateral relations, Georgia’s relations with the EU and NATO, international cooperation, and the Black Sea regional security agenda. The two diplomats agreed on the importance of implementing the Black SeaCaspian Sea Freight Corridor. Aurescu reiterated Romania’s support for Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations, and mentioned his initiative to propose putting on the agenda of a future meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council of a debate on these protracted conflicts. The Georgian FM thanked Romania for its substantial participation in the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM), which monitors the developments in separatist regions. (Actmedia November 18)

The resolution “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization” adopted by UN General Assembly. 

  • On November 23, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted, by consensus, the biennial resolution entitled “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC).” The draft resolution was introduced to the 75th session of the UNGA by Romania, in its capacity as Chairman-in-Office of the BSEC. The document comprises substantive as well as technical updates, including references to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to deliver a global response to this crisis, while presenting the concrete activities and initiatives undertaken by the BSEC to promote the principles of the UN Charter over the past two years. (Actmedia November 24)

TURKEY

Turkey approves sending troops to joint Russian monitoring center in Azerbaijan. 

  • The Turkish Parliament has passed a resolution to send Turkish soldiers and civilian support to Azerbaijan, after Turkey signed a memorandum last week with Russia to create a joint monitoring center of the November 10 peace deal. Russian officials state that Turkish peacekeepers would not enter Nagorno-Karabakh, where the joint monitoring center will rely on drone surveillance. French FM Le Drian has criticized “ambiguities” in the peace deal agreement regarding refugees, the delimitation of the cease-fire, the presence of Turkey, the return of foreign fighters, and negotiations over the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh. (Radio Free Europe November 17)

Turkey issues detention warrants for 101 people on alleged terrorism links. 

  • Turkish authorities have issued detention warrants for 101 people, including lawyers and doctors, as part of what they called terrorism-related investigations, with 74 suspects already detained. The suspects were believed to be connected to the Democratic Society Congress, which Government security sources define as the legislative arm of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group. Amnesty International, as well as Erdoğan’s close ally and former deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc have declared that the lawyers’ detentions clashed with recent talks of judicial reforms. (Reuters November 20)

Turkey’s behavior widening separation with EU: Borrell. 

  • Referring to recent statements made by President Erdoğan, who called for a two-state solution in Cyprus earlier this week, EU Foreign Policy Chief Borrell declared that “Turkey must understand its behavior is widening its separation with the EU,” and that “a fundamental change in attitude” from Ankara is necessary to get relations back on track. The EU has threatened to impose sanctions on Ankara over its gas exploration at a meeting of EU leaders next month. (Euronews November 19)

France says Turkey’s soothing declarations not good enough

  • France has declared that it expects Turkey to de-escalate international tension ahead of an EU decision on possible further sanctions against Ankara. FM Le Drian stated that it would be “easy” for President Erdoğan to defuse standoffs in the eastern Mediterranean, in Libya and in Nagorno-Karabakh, adding that “the soothing declarations by Erdoğan  are not enough, we need acts.” Le Drian’s comments come a day after Erdoğan reached out to the EU to warn the bloc not to be manipulated during escalating tensions over the eastern Mediterranean. (Euractiv November 23)

Turkish diplomats in North Macedonia spied on residents in breach of Vienna conventions. 

  • Turkish government documents obtained by the Nordic Monitor have confirmed that critics of President Erdoğan were spied on by Turkish diplomats in Skopje. The documents show that the Turkish Embassy gathered information on Turkish and North Macedonian citizens believed to be affiliated with the Gülen/Hizmet movement, and profiled Turkish educators, representatives of local associations, businessmen, and their family members. The information was reported to the MFA in Ankara and was later used for criminal indictments on charges of terrorism by Turkish Prosecutor Akıncı. (Nordic Monitor November 21)

Turkey summons EU, Italian, German envoys over attempt to search ship for weapons. 

  • Turkey summoned the EU, Italy and Germany envoys to Ankara on Monday to protest over a German attempt to search a Turkish cargo ship for a suspected arms shipment to Libya. Earlier, Germany had accused Turkey of preventing German forces belonging to an EU military mission from fully searching the ship, as Ankara called the search a violation of international law. (Reuters November 23)

UKRAINE

Ukraine begins the unblocking of checkpoints in Donbas, the exchange of inmates. 

  • Ukraine’s delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group suggested that Russian peers in the TCG should scale up the progress of the TCG, including its defence, political and humanitarian subgroups, in order to unblock the function of the entry-exit checkpoints in Donbas and swap detainees. “We propose convening extraordinary meetings of the TCG working subgroup on security, the TCG working subgroup on political affairs and the TCG working subgroup on humanitarian affairs. We assure you of our readiness to work 24/7 to expedite the consideration of issues that have been on the agenda of the relevant working subgroups of the TCG for many months, and to make sure that the Trilateral Contact Group could take respective decisions, including on unblocking the work of entry-exit checkpoints and the detainee exchange,” the statement reads. (Ukrinform, November 19)

Russian armed groups have twice broken the truce in the area of responsibility of the organisational and tactical group “East” in Donbas. 

  • “In the area of Avdiivka, the enemy employed a grenade machine gun and small arms, and the operation of an enemy sniper was recorded near Marinka,” according to reports of the JFO Headquarters press centreOne Ukrainian soldier was injured in the shooting in the outskirts of Avdiivka. The soldier was immediately rushed to a treatment hospital. His state of health is adequate. (Ukrinform, November 20)

Ukraine will not change its path to European integration. 

  • The Ukrainian PM stated during a conference with leaders of civil society, active actors in the transformative events of 1990, 2004, 2013-2014, as well as state and cultural establishment supporters that the Ukrainian nation will not change its path to European integration. According to the PM, several people have changed the revolutionary activities and thus changed Ukraine. He reiterated that the nation would never leave the road of European integration, since this is a central point of the current social agreement. (Ukrinform, November 23)

CZECH REPUBLIC

Czechs to coordinate response to partial U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan with NATO allies. 

  • The Czech Republic will coordinate its response to the possible partial withdrawal of U.S. troops NATO allies from Afghanistan, after President Trump announced plans to reduce the number of American soldiers stationed there to around 2,500 by January 15. Noting that the fight against terrorism remains a priority, Czech Defense Minister Metnar declared that NATO allies came to Afghanistan together and would leave it together. (Radio Prague International November 18)

International Press Institute calls on Czech Government to open Covid-19 briefings to all media. 

  • The International Press Institute (IPI) has issued an open letter asking PM Babiš and Health Minister Blatný to improve their communication regarding the Covid-19 pandemic. The IPI called on all media to be given access to Czech Government news conferences, noting that media critical of the Government have been excluded from attending them(Radio Prague International November 18)

Activists demand end to coal, begin ten-day protest at Czech Environment Ministry. 

  • Environmental activists began a ten-day protest outside the Environment Ministry on Monday to pressure Czech Coal Commission members to agree on the soonest possible date to phase out coal. The Coal Commission is expected to recommend the coal end-date on November 26, and the Czech Government is to decide on it by the end of the year. The Coal Commission was set up last year as a consulting body of the Czech Government, headed by Environment Minister Brabec (ANO) and Industry and Trade Minister Havlicek (ANO) and includes mining companies’ representatives, academics, and environmentalists. Havlicek guaranteed that the commission would not yield to any ideological or economic lobbying in making the decision. (Expats.cz November 17)

HUNGARY

Hungarian PM Orbáaccuses EU of using budget to “blackmail” over immigration

  • PM Orbán has accused the EU of trying to use the bloc’s budget to “blackmail” countries that oppose its immigration policies, after Hungary and Poland vetoed the EU 2021-2027 budget and post-coronavirus recovery fund over a clause that makes access to funds conditional on respecting the rule of law. “In Brussels, they only view countries which let migrants in as those governed by the rule of law,” Orbán explained. (Radio Free Europe November 18)

FM Szijjártó praises Trump for raising issue of persecuted Christians to international political agenda

  • FM Szijjártó has praised the Trump Administration for raising the issue of persecuted Christians to the international political agenda, expressing hope that U.S.Hungary cooperation to protect Christian and other religious communities would continue. Szijjártó declared that the world was facing the great challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, terrorism, and migrationwith uncontrolled migration flows making it easier for terrorists to move freely. Citing recent terrorist attacks in France and Austria, Szijjártó criticized massive migratory flows and the enormous risks they involveas well as the “liberal mainstream” which he accused of accepting “anti-Christian ideologies and attacks.” (Hungary Today November 18)

POLAND

EU budget dispute puts Polish sovereignty at stake: PM

  • PM Morawiecki has declared that the aspect of the EU budget is a game for Polish sovereignty,” adding that Poland would veto the budget should its partners not understand that the country does not agree to “unequal treatment of states. Opposition representatives severely criticized the PM’s speech, and stated that they would submit a draft resolution on the obligation imposed on the PM to adopt the budget. (Poland.IN November 18)

Polish MPs back Government amid tensions over EU rule-of-law plan. 

  • Polish deputies on Thursday passed a resolution supporting the Government’s stance on negotiating the EU’s next budget, amid tensions over tying access to funds from Brussels with respect for the rule of law. The resolution voiced opposition to any mechanism that contains “unclear, imprecise” rules that could be “interpreted in a biased way,” and was passed with a vote of 236 to 209. (Polskie Radio November 19)

Poland makes case for new EU cyber center seat

  • PMMorawiecki has been attempting to make the case for his country to host the new European Cybersecurity Industrial, Technology and Research Competence Center (ECCC), which is to receive funding from the Digital Europe and Horizon Europe programs as part of the next EU long-term budget.The objective of the center is to centralize the European cybersecurity technological and industrial ecosystem and pool resources in the field, as a means to bolster the bloc’s resilience in the face of increasing cybersecurity threats.The procedure for the selection of the seat was launched on October 28, with applications to be assessedby December 2 and set to be presented to EU ambassadors on December9. (Euractiv November 18)

German cardinal states Poland is targeted in “de-Christianization campaign”. 

  • German Cardinal Müller has criticized Germany for treating its neighbors without respect and with an air of “know-it-all-ness,” stating that “Poland has long been the target of financial and political powers waging a de-Christianization campaign in Europe and America.” Müller accused the “de-Christianization campaign” of starting “a fight against the Roman Catholic Church and its priests as well as steps to promote abortion rights and homosexuality,” damaging churches, desecrating religious symbols, and attempting to destroy the legacy of Polish-born Pope John Paul II. (Polskie Radio November 23)

Protest outside Polish Education Ministry over abortion law, traffic blocked. 

  • A dozen demonstrators staged a protest in front of the Ministry of Education in Warsaw on Monday, calling for the resignation of Education Minister Czarnek, a conservative who declared that teachers should not take part in protests over Poland’s abortion laws. Several people have been detained. In defiance of a ban on mass gatherings, tens of thousands of demonstrators have been taking to the streets around the country since the Constitutional Tribunal ruled in favor of a near-total ban on abortion on October 22. (Polskie Radio November 23)

SLOVAKIA

Street protests as Slovakia marks the Velvet Revolution anniversary. 

  • Several thousand people took to the streets in Bratislava for the anniversary of the 1989 Velvet Revolution despite ban on mass gatherings. Former PM Fico spoke to a crowd in front of the Parliament building advising them to vote in the referendum for snap elections. Another protest was held by ultras, far-right groups, and the ĽSNS party, who clashed with police as they chanted nationalist slogans and calls for PM Matovič to be imprisoned. The various groups later united in one large gathering and were addressed by figures such as former PM Čarnogurský, the Communist Party (KSS) Chairman Hrdlička, and ĽSNS leader Kotleba. The police have detained ĽSNS MP Medvecký on unknown charges. Smaller protestwere reported in other cities, with some people gathering in front of PM Matovič’s house. (Slovak Spectator November 17)

Slovakia works to end the corrupt era of “our people”. 

  • Over the last year, dozens of law enforcement officials have been charged with corruption, with the past month seeing multiple high-profile corruption criminal cases involving police, prosecutors, and judges, complete with blackmail, threats, secret meetings with powerful businessmen, and hidden bundles of cash in limousines. Special Prosecutor Kovacik and all of the top police officials who left their posts since investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée were murdered in 2018 have been taken into custody, with a special criminal court finding that they had created their own criminal group. If the trials prove the charges against them, “it will mean that the top people in the prosecution service and police in Slovakia were controlled by organized crime,” the Let’s Stop the Corruption foundation explained. According to the latest Eurobarometer poll, 72% of Slovaks don’t trust the justice system and only 45% trust the police. (Balkan Insight November 24)

SLOVENIA

PM Janša writes to EU leaders on rule of law, triggers strong reactions

  • PM Janša addressed a letter to EU leaders in which he argued that the recent agreement to insert rule of law provisions in the EU budget and recovery facility undermined the July EU summit agreement on the funding package. Janša wrote that the rule of law should be respected across the EU, but that “politically motivated criteria cannot be called ‘the rule of law.‘” The European Commission would not comment the letter beyond confirming that they had received it, but mentioned that Slovenia had supported the mechanism on Monday. The letter triggered criticism from both the opposition and the ruling coalition in Slovenia, with the opposition urging coalition partners to reconsider their cooperation with Janša. (The Slovenia Times November 19)

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