Regional Press Review (21-27 Iulie)
U.S., Germany reach deal on Nord Stream Pipeline.
- The U.S and Germany have reached a deal to allow the completion of Nord Stream 2 on July 21, agreeing on a package of measures—including the possible implementation of sanctions against Russia—that will aim to soften any impact on Ukraine’s budget and national security from the completion of the project (Radio Free Europe July 21).
Kremlin critics are fleeing Russia.
- A growing number of Kremlin critics have fled Russia in recent weeks, citing fears of prosecution in the wake of nationwide protests and ahead of high-stakes parliamentary elections. Those who have left include Alexei Navalny’s allies, opposition politicians, and intellectuals. (The Moscow Times July 20)
Putin oversees crowded Russian naval parade despite pandemic.
- President Putin praised Russia’s naval capabilities during a large warship parade in St. Petersburg that drew throngs of spectators despite high infection rates and record deaths from the coronavirus. “The Russian Navy today has everything it needs to guarantee the protection of our country and our national interests,” Putin stated on the sidelines of the annual parade, assuring that Russia “can detect underwater, surface, or aerial enemies and target them unpreventably if a lethal strike is necessary.” Another naval parade was held in the annexed Crimean city of Sevastopol. (Radio Free Europe July 25)
U.S., Russian diplomats to hold arms control talks.
- U.S. and Russian diplomats will hold the first round of nuclear arms control talks of the Biden Administration in Geneva on July 28, as agreed upon during last month’s summit between the two countries’ presidents. Deputy Secretary of State Sherman will lead the U.S. delegation, whereas Russia’s team will be headed by Deputy FM Ryabkov. (Radio Free Europe July 24)
EU condemns Russia’s “unabated crackdown” on independent media, NGOs.
- The EU has urged Russia to stop its “unabated crackdown” on independent media outlets, journalists, and civil-society organizations, calling the clampdown ahead of parliamentary elections in September “particularly worrisome.” (Radio Free Europe July 23)
Russia on track to deliver fighter jets to Myanmar.
- Russia is going ahead with plans to deliver Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets to Myanmar’s increasingly isolated military regime. Myanmar has spent $807 million on Russian arms imports over the past decade, making Russia the country’s No. 2 military exporter after China. The EU has accused Russia of blocking a coordinated international response to the February coup in Myanmar and the turmoil it has faced since. (The Moscow Times July 23)
Azerbaijan imprisons 13 Armenian military personnel for six years.
- An Azerbaijani court has sentenced 13 members of Armenia’s armed forces to six years in prison on charges of illegally crossing the border and weapons possession. The men will be deported after serving their prison terms. The 13 men were among more than 60 members of Armenia’s military who were captured by Azerbaijani forces in December 2020 in the Hadrut district following the November cease-fire; half of them have since been handed over to Yerevan in exchange for maps showing the location of land mines in the area. (Radio Free Europe July 23)
Russian jailed for fighting Azerbaijani forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.
- A court in Baku has sentenced a Russian citizen to 10 years in prison on charges of fighting on the Armenian side against Azerbaijan’s armed forces last year, finding him guilty of terrorism, participation in a criminal group, and illegal border crossing. (Radio Free Europe July 22)
Aliyev rules out talks on Karabakh Settlement.
- President Aliyev has again claimed that Azerbaijan resolved the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh during last year’s war and will not hold talks with Armenia on the territory’s status, calling instead on Yerevan to recognize instead Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh through a proposed “peace treaty.” Speaking one day after meeting with President Putin in Moscow, Aliyev claimed that Moscow agrees with his stance. The Azerbaijani MFA has added that there is no “status” issue as “there is no ‘Nagorno-Karabakh.’” (Azatutyun July 23; Today.az July 25)
In rule of law report, EC reiterates concerns about Bulgaria’s Prosecutor-General.
- The second rule of law report by the European Commission released on July 20 reiterated concerns about the composition and functioning of the Supreme Judicial Council and the extensive influence, lack of accountability, and effective invulnerability of the country’s Prosecutor-General. Additionally, the reported noted continuing concerns related to the transparency, ownership, regulation, political and state control, pluralism of the media in the country, as well as the protection of journalists. The report also mentioned the limited use of impact assessment and public consultation in the legislative process and the practice of introducing important changes through amendments to other unrelated legal acts, bypassing public consultation and impacting assessment requirements. (Sofia Globe July 20)
Bulgarian Parliament meets for first session after razor-thin election result.
- Bulgaria’s parliament met for the first time since the elections on July 21, with President Radev expected to formally hand the There Is Such a People (ITN) Party a mandate to form a government. Lawmakers approved Iva Miteva of ITN as speaker by a vote of 137 to 1, with 99 abstentions. (Radio Free Europe July 21)
Bulgarian Recovery Plan published for discussion.
- The revised Plan for Recovery and Sustainability of Bulgaria has been published for public discussion. The new version of the Plan allocates more funds for education, healthcare, and the social sphere, and strengthened the focus on the energy sector. In discussions with the EC, a full consensus has not yet been reached on a faster green transition, as Deputy PM Pekanov has stated that “it is not right for a caretaker Cabinet to make significant commitments such as the long-term development of the coal regions.” (Novinite July 21)
PM Garibashvili to journalists: “you are simple abusers”.
- PM Garibashvili told journalists that they were “abusers” over the recent media protests, threatening to have the entire government team stop communicating with them “if [they] do not stop this destruction.” In a separate statement, Garibashvili assured that the state safely stopped “whatever street fight” took place on July 5 as it was its duty. (Georgia Today July 23; civil.ge July 23)
Parliament again fails to elect CEC chair, members.
- The Parliament has failed, for the second time, to elect the Central Election Commission Chair and two members with a 2/3 majority vote, thus the candidates will only serve a temporary six-month term if appointed in subsequent votings. The previous vote failed on July 18. The 2/3 majority threshold and the anti-deadlock mechanism were introduced under the new election legislation, amended in June per the EU-mediated April 19 agreement. (civil.ge July 22)
Alarms raised as homophobic ads open election campaign.
- Derogatory political posters appeared in Tbilisi on July 24 targeting the United National Movement Party, the media, and LGBT+ rights activists. The posters showed ex-President Saakashvili, Giga Makarashvili of the Shame Movement NGO, Tbilisi Pride Director Giorgi Tabagari, and government-critical TV channel representatives under a rainbow’s arch. Giorgi Iakobashvili, founder of anti-UNM Davasrulot [Let’s end them] movement and For.ge editor, assumed responsibility for the development. Though the Georgian Dream has assured that the poster was not part of its campaign, Tbilisi Pride has accused the governing party of “instrumentalizing” homophobia prior to the elections after it was shared widely in its social media bubble. (civil.ge July 26)
Romania relaunches strategic partnership with Moldova.
- Romanian FM Aurescu paid a visit to Chișinău on July 23 to relaunch the strategic partnership between the two countries. Aurescu assured that Romania will not only continue supporting the country, but will also accelerate its aid. (Romania Insider July 26)
Moldovan parliament to be summoned on 26 July.
- President Sandu on July 23 signed the Decree on the summoning of the Moldovan Parliament for the 11th legislative period. The first parliament meeting was held on July 26. (Moldpres July 23)
EU’s 2021 Rule of Law Report: Justice laws amended in 2017–2019 are still in force in Romania.
- In its 2021 Rule of Law Report on Romania, the European Commission remains confident the new ruling coalition will remove the obstacles but notes that “the amendments to the justice laws, still in force, had a serious impact on the independence, quality and efficiency of the justice system,” noting that increased institutional cooperation in the context of the elections in 2020 could mark a change of approach on the integrity of elected officials. On the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, the Commission concludes that “there is progress across all the remaining recommendations and many are on the path to being fulfilled if progress remains steady,” but avoids mentioning any time horizon for the expected lifting of the Mechanism. (Romania Insider July 21)
President Iohannis decorates the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church.
- President Iohannis awarded Patriarch Daniel, the head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, with the National Order of the Star of Romania for his 70th birthday. The President pointed out Patriarch Daniel’s role in ensuring that the Church has a “positive and well-defined place,” mentioning the debates on religious freedom and the relationship between states and cults and his essential contribution “to the affirmation of the Romanian Orthodox Church as an important dialogue partner of the Romanian state for the consolidation of our democratic society.” (Romania Insider July 23)
President Iohannis among potential candidates for NATO top seat.
- Romania is among the NATO countries that have fulfilled their obligations, including the allocation of 2% of GDP for defense, and although appointing a candidate from Romania at the top of the alliance could be viewed as “a bit too hawkish toward Russia,” the option of President Iohannis to become the future Secretary General of NATO is not excluded. Other shortlisted candidates include former presidents Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović of Croatia and Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania, as well as Estonian President Kaljulaid. (Romania Insider July 20)
EU, U.S. reject Erdoğan’s plans for a two-state solution in Cyprus.
- Brussels and Washington have reacted strongly to President Erdoğan’s decision to partially reopen Varosha, a coastal resort town emptied of its original Greek Cypriot residents, and to his proposal for a two-state solution on the island of Cyprus in defiance of U.N. resolutions. Secretary of Foreign Affairs Blinken and EU top diplomat Borrell called on Erdoğan to stop provocations and return to a dialogue over the Cyprus issue based on the basis of a “bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality.” (Euractiv July 21)
Concern over proposals to introduce new regulation of “fake” and “foreign-funded” news.
- 23 international and local press freedom organizations have raised concerns over “new social media regulations” targeting independent media in Turkey. On July 21, President Erdoğan announced that a study will be carried out in Parliament in October that will build on the social media law that was passed last year to address fake news, which he called a threat on par with terrorism in which opposition parties are implicated. The same day, the Presidential Communications Directorate announced that Parliament will take new legal steps against foreign funding of local media outlets “to ensure the people’s access to accurate news.” The statements were followed by a social media campaign targeting specific independent outlets such as Medyascope for receiving funds from the U.S.-based Chrest Foundation. (International Press Institute July 23)
Several journalists seriously injured by rubber bullets shot by police while covering protests in Turkey.
- At least 20 reporters and photojournalists were beaten by the police and injured by rubber bullets while covering protests on July 20 in Istanbul and İzmir commemorating the 33 people killed in a suicide bomb attack by the Islamic State in Suruç in 2015. Local journalists noted that it felt like the first all-out attack by the police targeting journalists since the Gezi Park protests in 2013. (Free Turkey Journalists July 21)
Russia files case against Ukraine at European Court over MH17, alleged rights abuses.
- Russia has filed a complaint against Ukraine with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) claiming that Kyiv is responsible for the 2014 crash of a Malaysian airliner—due to not closing its airspace, water shortage in Crimea, and civilian deaths and human rights abuses in Russia and Ukraine. The filing appears to be part of an effort by Russia to flood the ECHR with cases against Ukraine, with lawyers based in Russia and in parts of eastern Ukraine held by Moscow-backed separatists having filed around 6,000 claims related to the conflict in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. (Radio Free Europe July 22)
Ukrainian MFA protests over Russian CEC’s decision to engage ORDLO population in parliamentary elections.
- Ukraine’s MFA expressed its resolute protest over the adoption by the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation of the decision to engage the population of the temporarily occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the elections to the Russian State Duma of the Federal Assembly scheduled for September. (Interfax July 23)
Investigation finds evidence equipment sent by Lithuania-based company used at Crimean power plants.
- Equipment delivered to Russia by Run Engineering ended up being used at power stations in Crimea despite EU sanctions prohibiting it, the same two plants that were found in 2017 to have installed Siemens power turbines without the company’s knowledge. Run Engineering, which was denied an export license over possible trade in Crimea in 2018, is owned through a Cypriot-registered company by Cypriot citizen Marina Karmysheva, whose other business interests link her to Russian state oil giant Rosneft. (Radio Free Europe July 20)
EC’s Rule of Law report identifies shortcomings in implementing Czech anti-corruption strategy.
- Over the past year, the Czech Republic has made advances in reforming its judicial system, but is still struggling to effectively deal with conflicts of interest on the level of government, according to the European Commission’s Rule of Law Report published on July 20. The report also identifies shortcomings in implementing the government’s anti-corruption strategy, which is dependent on new legislation in the areas of lobbying and whistle-blower protection. (Radio Prague International July 20)
Czech Senate approves compensation for illegally sterilized women.
- Women who were illegally sterilized between 1966—2012 will receive CZK 300,000 under a bill approved by the Czech Senate on July 23; It must be signed by President Zeman before it can take effect. The possibility of compensation applies to women who were sterilized under the Public Health Act, in which women—especially Roma women—were forced to be sterilized on the threat of having their children taken away or losing social benefits. (expats.cz July 22)
Senate committee declares President Zeman fit for office.
- The Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs of the Czech Senate has not recommended that the Chamber discuss whether President Zeman is unfit to continue in his office. The proposal to declare Zeman unfit to continue as president was originally put forward in June by the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Security. (Radio Prague International July 20)
Government neither denies nor confirms use of Pegasus spyware.
- The government comes off as both willing and unwilling to cooperate on the issue of Hungary’s Pegasus surveillance case: Justice Minister Varga emphasized Hungary’s adherence to the National Security Committee and Interior Minister Pintér stated that he is willing to speak at a closed meeting of the Committee; however, Fidesz effectively boycotted the investigation by calling the topic “unjustified” and founded on the “bias of left-wing media.” The Budapest Regional Investigation Prosecutor’s Office on July 22 launched an investigation following allegations that local journalists and businessmen were spied on. The Pegasus Project found that 300 Hungarian phone numbers had been targeted with surveillance attacks. About 1,000 Hungarians took to the streets on July 26 to protest over the allegations. (Hungary Today July 20; Radio Free Europe July 22; Radio Free Europe July 27)
Orbán calls for referendum amid outrage over controversial “anti-LGBT” law.
- PM Orbán has announced plans for a referendum on child-protection issues to gauge support for controversial legislation that the EU sees as discriminatory to LGBT people. Orbán accused the European Commission of abusing its powers and attacking Hungary, adding that “the future of our children is at stake, so we cannot cede ground in this issue.” It is uncertain when the planned referendum would be held, but it would include five questions, including, “Do you support the holding of sexual orientation classes for minor children in public education without parental consent?” and “Do you support the promotion of gender-reassignment treatments for minor children?” (Radio Free Europe July 21)
Thousands join Budapest Pride March to protest LGBT law.
- Thousands of people joined the annual Budapest Pride March on July 24 in a show of support for the LGBT community and to protest a Hungarian law banning the “promotion” of homosexuality or gender reassignment to minors. More than 40 embassies and foreign cultural institutions in Hungary issued a statement backing Budapest Pride. (Radio Free Europe July 24)
“Norway owes us,” says Hungary after Oslo suspends aid in NGO row.
- Norway announced on Friday that it will no longer provide the €220 million in financial aid allocated to Hungary through its EEA and Norway Grants Scheme after the two countries failed to reach an agreement over who should distribute the funds meant for civil society. The Prime Minister’s Office has condemned the decision, insisting that Norway “owes” them the money and has to repay its debt to the EU. (Euronews July 23)
EU warns Hungary, Poland over rule of law, media freedom.
- The European Commission has slammed Hungary and Poland in its new rule of law report for eroding media freedoms and judicial independence, adding that corruption remains a major challenge in both countries. The report found that Poland was lacking in the areas of justice systems, anti-corruption frameworks, media freedom, and checks and balances. The report also blasted Hungary for lack of proper anti-corruption measures, while warning that media freedom and pluralism “remain at risk.” (Radio Free Europe July 20)
EU threatens to fine Poland over judicial changes.
- Brussels has threatened to fine Warsaw for disregarding a ruling by the EU’s top court on Poland’s judicial reform being incompatible with EU law. “EU law has primacy over national law,” the European Commission reiterated on Tuesday as it gave Poland until August 16 to comply with a European Court of Justice ruling last week to suspend its system for disciplining judges, threatening financial sanctions if Poland does not do so. The Polish Justice Ministry has called the ruling “a political judgment” that “smacks of colonial thinking.” (Polskie Radio July 21)
Poland detains rights activist from Siberia on Russian red notice.
- Polish authorities detained Russian human rights activist Yevgeny Khasoyev on July 21, acting upon a red-notice request from Moscow via Interpol. Khasoyev, the leader of the Siberia Without Torture human rights group branch in Buryatia, was placed on the international wanted list in April. In late March, Khasoyev fled Russia after two criminal cases on charges of assaulting a court bailiff and libel were launched against him in what he calls politically motivated cases. (Radio Free Europe July 22)
Bratislava Pride took place online.
- The Rainbow Pride festival in Bratislava was streamed online on July 24 after anti-pandemic measures forced organizers to confine the festival to the virtual space for the second year in a row. The more than 30 Pride month events included a public debate organized by the NGO Otherness that included President Čaputová and the parents of LGBTI people. Justice Minister Kolíková (Za Ľudí), ombudswoman Patakyová, MEP Šimečka (Progressive Slovakia), mayor Vallo, chair of the region Juraj Droba, and State Secretary of the Culture Ministry Radoslav Kutaš are also gave speeches during the event, and dozens of embassies to Slovakia expressed their support. (Slovak Spectator July 22; Slovak Spectator July 24)
Rule of law report raises alarm over prosecutors, media situation.
- In its second Rule of Law Report, the European Commission’s raised concerns over delays in Slovenia in the appointment of state prosecutors and the country’s two European delegated prosecutors, as well as about deteriorating media freedom and pluralism—calling on the authorities to ensure a stable financing of the STA. The Commission pointed to potential measures over non-appointment of European delegated prosecutors come autumn, and overall declared that it has serious concerns about the rule of law in the country. (STA July 20)
Social partners and regions get greater say in conference on EU future.
- The executive board of the Conference on the Future of Europe decided to allocate more seats in the Conference Plenary to regional and local representatives and social partners. The changes mean that the current 534-strong plenary will become a body with 550 representatives. “Today’s update … aims to bring Europe further beyond its capitals and gives greater voice to citizens from every walk of life,” declared Foreign Ministry State Secretary Dovžan, who co-chairs the board. (STA July 20)
Report of Janša’s vacations with lobbyists in Mauritius raising dust.
- The web portal Necenzurirano reported that PM Janša had been holidaying in Mauritius for almost 20 years, playing golf and socializing with lobbyist Božo Dimnik and entrepreneur Andrej Marčič, representatives of the largest healthcare suppliers in Slovenia. Part of the opposition demanded a debate in Parliament. On the other hand, the Prime Minister’s Office noted that Janša had never been on the island while serving as PM. (STA July 23)
#Te-ar mai putea interesa și
#Buletin de știri
#Sondaj de Opinie
#Buletin de știri