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#Newsletter Exclusive / True Story Project

Regional Press Review (21-27 Jan)

RUSSIA

Trump authorizes DOJ to declassify Russia probe documents. 

  • On Tuesday, President Trump approved the declassification of a series of records relating to the investigation of his 2016 campaign and its connections with Russia. President Trump has long stated his willingness to make public more of the classified materials beneath the investigation, which he has maligned as a “witch hunt,” amid finding the revelations that his campaign against Hillary Clinton pursued and relied on Russian support. (Politico, January 19)

Six suspected militants killed in Russia’s Chechnya. 

  • Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed leader announced on Wednesday that his troops killed six alleged rebels, including a warlord convicted of coordinating a terror attack on Moscow airport in 2011. Chechnya’s regional leader reported that the troops under his authority had managed to track down the terrorists in the village of Katar-Yurt and killed all of them on the spot. Kadyrov stated that the operation represented the expulsion of the last group of militants remaining in the region. (Associated Press, January 20) 

Russia rounds up allies of Kremlin foe Navalny in protest warning. 

  • The Moscow police arrested several associates of the imprisoned Kremlin opponent, Navalny, including his spokeswoman. The reason behind these arrests are the online calls made by them to Russian citizens to join illegal street demonstrations to demand Navalny’s release. Navalny, President Putin’s most vocal opponent, was detained and jailed for alleged violations of probation after traveling back to Russia for the first time since being poisoned by a military-grade nerve agent. (Reuters, January 21)

Biden Administration to seek five-year extension on key nuclear arms treaty in first foray with Russia. 

  • President Biden is pursuing a five-year extension with Russia of the last existing deal restricting the world’s two largest nuclear powers’ arsenals just moments before it ends, two senior U.S. officials confirmed. At about the same time, the Biden Administration is aiming to place additional costs on Russia, following a recently demanded intelligence review of its recent operations. Officials stated that President Biden is declining a “reset” of diplomatic ties with Moscow as many U.S. leaders have done since the end of the Cold War. (The Washington Post, January 21)

3,000 arrested at protests demanding Navalny’s release. 

  • Russian police arrested more than 3,000 people Saturday at nationwide protests demanding the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The protests stretched across Russia’s territory, from the island city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk north of Japan to Russia’s more populous European cities, with 15,000 demonstrators gathering in Moscow alone. The political arrest watchdog OVD-Info announced that overall, 3,068 people had been arrested in 90 cities; Russian police did not provide arrest figures. Navalny’s wife Yulia and three top Navalny associates were among those arrested. Navalny’s supporters called for protests again next weekend. (Associated Press. January 23)

EU to wait on Russia sanctions until Navalny’s fate is clear. 

  • The EU will wait to see if Russia releases Aleksei Navalny after the scheduled 30 days and will discuss the matter at a March 25–26 summit before deciding to impose fresh sanctions on RussiaNavalny was detained a week ago upon returning to Russia from Germany, and a court is expected to decide in early February whether to imprison himEU Foreign Policy Chief Borrell will go to Moscow next week to urge Moscow to free Navalny, as well as the protesters who were detained last weekendThe Foreign Ministers of multiple EU countries are already demanding expanded sanctions against Russian officials responsible for the recent arrests. (Radio Free Europe January 25)

Lawyer for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation forcibly kicked out of Russia. 

  • Uladzlen Los, a lawyer and Belarusian citizen who works for the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) stated that he was handcuffed, forced into a car with a sack over his head, taken to the border and handed over to Belarusian authorities by plainclothes police on January 22. Several of Navalny’s associates were detained the same day and sentenced to days in jail or fined. Russian police informed Los that he was barred from entering Russia for five years; the Belarusian police allowed Los to leave the country for a “safe” undisclosed location. (Radio Free Europe January 26)

Russian ship begins work on Nord Stream 2 pipeline in Danish waters. 

  • The Russian vessel Fortuna, tapped to build the remaining 150 kilometers of pipeline needed to complete the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, has begun work in Danish waters just days after the U.S. sanctioned its parent company. Even if the pipeline is completed, hurdles remain before gas can start flowing through it, as the U.S. in December 2020 passed legislation sanctioning any company that certifies or insures the pipeline. (Radio Free Europe January 25)

ARMENIA

Kocharian’s Trial Resumes. 

  • The trial of former President Kocharian and three other former senior Armenian officials facing coup charges resumed on TuesdayThe hearing was originally scheduled for last month, but did not take place after the defendants’ lawyers joined a nationwide strike demanding PM Pashinyan to resign. The defendants are accused of overthrowing the “constitutional order” in the wake of a disputed presidential election held in 2008. Kocharian was arrested and indicted in July 2018, and was freed in June 2020 after paying a $4.1 million bailreportedly with money provided by four Russian businessmen. (Azatutyun January 19)

Blinken backs U.S. security assistance to Armenia. 

  • U.S. President Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State has declared that the U.S. should boost Armenia’s security and step up its involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiating process to help prevent another war in the region, adding that the Biden administration will “review” security assistance to Azerbaijan due to the recent war in Karabakh. Biden complained about a lack of such engagement last year, when he stated that thenU.S. President Trump must “get involved personally” and freeze U.S. aid to Azerbaijan. The Trump administration had significantly increased the security aid to Baku, reportedly providing over $100 million worth of equipment and other assistance to Azerbaijan’s State Border Guard Service in 20182019. (Azatutyun January 22)

 AZERBAIJAN

Azerbaijani soldiers’ fund marred by forced donation allegations. 

  • Azerbaijan’s state-backed YASHAT fund for supporting the families of those wounded and killed during the war in Nagorno-Karabakh has been marred by a number of allegations of forced donations. Employees of the Regional Water Department were allegedly forced to transfer 1% of their salary to the fund on a monthly basisand all state-owned oil company SOCAR’s employees had 10% of their salary redirected to the fund. (OC Media January 19)

Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan finally reach deal on lucrative Caspian Sea energy field. 

  • Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have reached a preliminary agreement on the joint exploration of an undersea hydrocarbons field in the Caspian Sea believed to hold natural gas and at least 50 million tons of oil. The undersea field was discovered by Soviet explorers in 1986 and Baku and Ashgabat were at odds over its ownership after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The settlement of the issue will help pave the way for a trans-Caspian pipeline to link Turkmenistan’s giant gas fields to Europe via Azerbaijan. (Radio Free Europe January 21)

Russian MP included in Azerbaijan’s “blacklist”. 

  • Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry has criticized Russian MP Milonov’s comments in Armenian media, firmly condemning the official and his “ardent pro-Armenian position” and including him in the list of foreign citizens who are prohibited from entering Azerbaijani territory for having “illegally visited the territories of Azerbaijan liberated from the occupation by violating the legislation of Azerbaijan.” The Azeri MFA declared that Milonov’s actions are contradictory to the high-level relations existing between Azerbaijan and Russia. (Azernews January 25)

BULGARIA

Serbia: Selaković speaks about new beginning in diplomatic relations with Bulgaria. 

  • Serbian FM Selaković went on an official visit to Bulgaria to discuss the improvement of infrastructure and economic co-operation between the two countries. Selaković assessed the visit to Bulgaria as a “new beginning” of diplomatic relations between the two countries, given that a Serbian Foreign Minister had not paid an official visit to Bulgaria since 2014. (IBNA January 20)

Bulgarian Ambassador to U.S.: I hope new president will waiver visas for Bulgarians. 

  • Bulgarian Ambassador to the U.S. Stoytchev has expressed hope that the new U.S. Administration will proceed with the implementation of the visa waiver program for Bulgarians, as “we believe that Bulgaria has met all the criteria except the percentage of declined visa applications, which is already on a positive trend. Some years ago 18% of visa applications were turned down, while in 2019 it was only 9,75%.” The diplomat stated that “it is inadmissible to divide European citizens in two categories. The fact is that for many years now Bulgaria does not pose a risk to the U.S.” (Novinite January 21)

EU top diplomats ask North Macedonia’s Prime Minister about dispute with Bulgaria. 

  • The heads of EU Member State diplomatic missions in North Macedonia have held their regular annual meeting with PM Zaev, focusing especially on resolving open issues with BulgariaVMRO-DPMNE President Mickoski and Vice-president Nikoloski also met in Budapest with PM Orbán and FM Szijjártó to ask Hungary for assistance, based on the friendly relations that exist between VMRO-DPMNE and Fidesz. (Novinite January 20)

Protest in Bulgaria, day 200: Protesters tried to enter the Council of Ministers. 

  • Day 200 of anti-government protests in Sofia drew thousands of dissatisfied with Borissov’s Cabinet and Chief Prosecutor Geshev. Representatives of the “System Kills Us” initiative blocked traffic in the “Triangle of Power” and protesters tried to break into the Council of Ministers, where clashes broke out. A different demonstration was held by employees of businesses closed due to the coronavirus who did not receive compensation promised by the “Save Me” measure for December last year. Protests and unrest continue. (Novinite January 25)

GEORGIA

Secretary-designate Blinken declares NATO door shall remain open to Georgia. 

  • Antony Blinken, the U.S. President-elect’s choice for State Secretary, reaffirmed his support for keeping NATO’s door open for Georgia. “If a country like Georgia is able to meet the requirements of membership and if it can contribute to our collective security, yes, the [NATO’s] door should remain open,” Blinken stated during U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. (Civil.ge, January 20)

European court finds Russia violated human rights in Georgia conflict. 

  • Russia performed numerous human rights abuses after its brief war in 2008 with the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, Europe’s top rights court held Thursday. The ruling represents the second occasion that the human rights judges decided against Russia in the 2008 war. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Russian army was in charge of the Georgian breakaway region and allowed torture, arbitrary imprisonment and pillaging by militia groups operating in the city. (Courthouse News Service, January 21)

FM Lavrov hosts Medoev in Moscow. 

  • Russian FM Lavrov hosted the acting South Ossetia/Tskhinvali region “Foreign Minister” Medoev in Moscow, where the parties signed the Consultation Plan 2021–2022 aimed at “further enhancement of [bilateral] coordination” in foreign affairs. FM Lavrov hailed the “intensive political dialogue” between Moscow and Tskhinvali and spoke of growing bilateral ties in trade, culture, and humanitarian areas. Lavrov then awarded Medoev with the Russian Foreign Ministry’s badge “For Cooperation” for his contribution to the development of MoscowTskhinvali relations. (Civil.ge January 25)

EU Special Representative Klaar visits Tbilisi. 

  • EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Klaar met on January 25 with PM Gakharia and discussed “the latest regional security shifts,” security situation in Kremlin-backed regions and adjacent Tbilisi-controlled territories, as well as humanitarian and socio-economic challenges in the conflict-affected areas. The parties also spoke of movement restrictions imposed by Moscow-backed separatist authorities”, as well as the recent verdict by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that held Russia responsible for the breach of six articles of the European Convention of Human Rights in the aftermath of the 2008 RussoGeorgia war. (Civil.ge January 25)

President Zurabishvili concludes Brussels visit. 

  • President Zurabishvili concluded her the three-day working trip to Brussels on January 23. Along with other high-level EU and NATO officials, Zurabishvili met with European Commission President von der Leyen, Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Várhelyi, and European Commissioner for Justice Reynders. The officials discussed furthering EU–Georgia ties through sectoral integration, as well as COVID vaccine allocation. Commissioner Várhely referred to Georgia as “one of Europe’s closest partners” as officials vouched support for the country to overcome the health and economic crisis. The rule of law in Georgia and further justice reform were also discussed during the meetings. (Civil.ge January 25)

MOLDOVA

Cyber incident response capability established in the Republic of Moldova with NATO support. 

  • NATO inaugurated a new Cyber Incident Response Capability for the Moldovan Armed Forces. This capability was established with support from the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme and in cooperation with the NATO Information and Communication Agency (NCIA) through a multi-year project. It will assist in reducing the danger emerging from cyber incidents, provide swift and effective rehabilitation and deter such incidents in the future. The inauguration was marked by a virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony. (NATO, January 21)

Moldovan Supreme Security Council holds meeting in new composition. 

  • The Supreme Security Council (CSS) has held its first meeting in its new composition, chaired by President Sandu. Sandu urged the leaders of the law-enforcement institutions to finish files on corruption and money laundering and declared that she had certain ‘’reservations as to the leaders of some state institutions, members of this Council” due to which she reserved the right not to invite them to some meetings. Sandu also urged civil servants who do not do their job efficiently to quit and let their posts be held by others. (Moldpres January 26)

OSCE Special Representative for Transnistrian settlement process to visit Moldova. 

  • OSCE Special Representative for the Transnistrian Settlement Process Mayr-Harting will visit Moldova on January 26–29 to consider the current situation in the settlement process and identify priorities for 2021. Mayr-Harting will hold meetings with President Sandu, acting Prime Minister and FM Ciocoi, Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration Cebotari, as well as with political party leaders, resident ambassadors of mediators, observers in the 5 + 2 format, and civil society members. In Tiraspol, Mayr-Harting will meet with regional leader Krasnoselski and political representative Ignatiev. (Moldpres January 26)

ROMANIA

European Human Rights Court fines Romania for transgender rights violations. 

  • The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Romania violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning respect for one’s private and family lifeand ordered the country to pay 26,000 in moral and nonpecuniary damage to two transgender complainantsThe ECHR declared that Romanian national courts “presented the applicants who did not wish to undergo gender reassignment surgery with an impossible dilemma: either forcefully undergo the surgery…or forego recognition of their gender identity, placing them in a situation of “vulnerability, humiliation, and anxiety.” (Radio Free Europe January 19)

Romania’s new ruling coalition plans to mend justice laws by June. 

  • Romania’s center-right Government drafted and passed a memorandum to meet the European Commission’s requirements under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM)The European Commission’s experts will evaluate the planned judicial reforms on January 2526, and the Government hopes to implement the reforms by June 2021The CVM was imposed on Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 to monitor progress in justice reform and fight against corruption and organized crime. In October 2019, the European Commission assessed that Bulgaria had made sufficient progress and criticized Romania for backsliding. (Romania Insider January 21)

FM Aurescu advocates stronger U.S. economic presence in Romania. 

  • FM Aurescu met on Thursday with representatives of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), advocating on this occasion a stronger American economic presence in Romania and also requesting the AJC’s support for Romania’s inclusion in the visa waiver program. FM Aurescu tackled Romania’s foreign policy priorities, the perspectives of the Romania–U.S. Strategic Partnership, RomaniaIsrael and EU–Israel strategic relations, as well as Romania’s commitment to combating anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and discrimination to preserve the memory of the Holocaust. Aurescu informed that the Romanian Government is in the final stage of approving the first National Strategy for preventing and combating anti-Semitism, xenophobia, radicalization, and hate speech. AJC Executive Director Harris expressed his appreciation for Romania as a valuable strategic partner of the U.S. and one of the strongest pro-transatlantic and pro-American voices in the EU. (Actmedia January 22)

Prosecutors move fast and indict former PM Tariceanu

  • One week after President Iohannis greenlighted the prosecution of former PM Tariceanu, the Romanian National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) decided to indict him and will soon submit the file to the court. “The prosecutors’ report shows that data and evidence support the assertion that the defendant allegedly claimed and received, indirectly, in the period 20072008, from the representatives of an Austrian company, material benefits amounting to $800,000, consisting in the payment of consultancy services, in exchange for exercising his attributions in such a way as to adopt a series of decisions favorable to the company,” a DNA statement reads. (Romania Insider January 26)

FM Aurescu: Romania has condemned Navalny’s arrest as unacceptable. 

  • FM Aurescu has condemned the arrest of Russian opponent Alexei Navalny and noted the repression of the latter’s support demonstrations on Russian territory, stressing that freedom of assembly and freedom of expression cannot be annulled. The Romanian minister discussed the possibility of sanctions in this case. (Actmedia January 26)

TURKEY

Turkey bans advertising on Twitter and Pinterest under social media law. 

  • Turkey has banned several social networks from advertising , including Twitter and Pinterest, after they failed to establish a representative in the country. The ban follows the passing of a new law in Turkey in October that forced social networks to remove content at the request of the authorities and maintain a legal presence in the country. (Euronews January 19)

New law threatens future of Turkish NGOs. 

  • Nearly 680 Turkish NGOs have condemned a controversial law that took effect three weeks ago, which ostensibly seeks to comply with a United Nations Security Council demand on preventing the financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  Human Rights Watch has pointed out that only six of the law’s 43 articles concern the financing of terrorism. Under the new law, government permission is now required for projects receiving overseas funding, including from the EU, and if any NGO board member or employee is put on trial on terrorism offenses, the Interior Ministry or a judge can appoint a “trustee” to run the NGO for the duration of the court case.   (VoA News January 20)

Çavuşoĝlu: Turkey–EU relations are important for prosperity in our region. 

  • EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Borrell met on January 22 in Brussels with Turkish FM Çavuşoĝlu to evaluate EU–Turkey relations and discuss how they can move forward. Acknowledging the troubles that EU–Turkey relations faced in 2020, the two officials expressed hope and desire to resume talks of setting long-term issues regarding the eastern Meditteranean and Cyprus, and work to to create a positive atmosphere and develop better ties. Çavuşoĝlu and Borrel also prepared the ground for European Council President Michel’s and the European Commission President von der Leyen’s future visits Turkey. (IBNA January 21)

Stoltenberg, Çavuşoğlu discuss situation in eastern Mediterranean, Libya and Afghanistan. 

  • On January 22, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg met with FM Çavuşoğlu and discussed the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, Afghanistan, Libya, and the planned expansion of the NATO Training Mission in IraqThe Secretary General welcomed the continuation of NATO negotiations between Turkey and Greece on a military de-escalation mechanism in the Eastern Mediterranean. The future of the NATO training mission for Afghanistan will be decided at the next meeting of NATO Defense Ministers in February.  (IBNA January 22)

Turkish government lays the groundwork for implementation of extradition treaty with China. 

  • Uyghurs who are facing deportation from Turkey to China due to pressure from the Chinese Communist Party were called criminals by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesman Ömer Çelik, hinting that the Turkish government is laying the groundwork for ratifying the Turkey–China extradition treaty signed in 2017. Turkish opposition parties claim that China withheld shipment of its coronavirus vaccine to pressure Turkey to ratify of the treaty. Turkish police raided the homes of some Uyghur refugees on January 18 and detained between 10 and 15 people. 50,000 Uyghurs are believed to reside in Turkey, constituting the largest Uyghur refugee community in the world. (Nordic Monitor January 26)

European Parliament condemns Turkey’s role in Karabakh War. 

  • The European Parliament has strongly condemned Turkey’s “destabilizing role” in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, accused Ankara of sending “terrorist fighters” to the conflict zone, and called for an end to Turkish military aid to Azerbaijan. In a different resolution adopted last week, the EU’s legislative body also welcomed the Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped the Armenian-Azerbaijani war on November 10, but cautioned that the conflict remains unresolved and called for a Karabakh settlement based on the Basic Principles, a framework peace accord that has long been jointly advanced by the OSCE Minsk Group. (Azatutyun January 22)

UKRAINE

Ukraine welcomes U.S. sanctions against Russian pipe-layer building Nord Stream 2.  

  • Ukraine supports the implementation of U.S. sanctions imposed on the Russian pipe-laying vesselFortuna and its owner, KVT-RUS, for its participation in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline program. “Ukraine welcomes new U.S. move against Nord Stream 2. Sanctions on Moscow-based KVT-RUS & Fortuna vessel will further complicate construction. We will continue working closely together with our strategic partner U.S. to protect the energy independence of Ukraine and entire Europe,” the Ukrainian FM Twitted. (Ukrinform, January 20)

U.S. at OSCE: Russia’s attempts to freeze conflict in Donbas must be prevented. 

  • Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Mission of the OSCE Courtney Austrian declared that OSCE participating States should consider ways to prevent the conflict in Donbas from becoming another frozen conflict in Europe. “Russia denied its involvement in eastern Ukraine to force a stalemate and create a frozen conflict. This is not a frozen conflict, however, but rather an active fight that threatens lives and livelihoods,” she noted. (Ukrinform, January 22)

Rights court condemns Ukraine over violence against Maidan protesters. 

  • Seven years after Ukraine’s pro-Russia Government was toppled during the Maidan protests, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that police and hired mercenaries committed a wide range of abuses against protesters. The verdict condemns the crackdown on protests by Ukrainian forces as inhuman and a violation of international human rights laws, declared that protesters were brutally beaten, unlawfully arrested, dispersed, and kidnapped by police and hired mercenaries, and found the state guilty for killing a protester. The court declared the brutality against protesters a “strategy on the part of the authorities,” and also charged that Ukraine failed to properly investigate the alleged abuses. (Courthouse News Service January 21)

PACE urges Ukraine to refrain from any actions detrimental to rule of law. 

  • The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Progress of the Assembly’s Monitoring Procedure 2020 annual report called on Kyiv officials to strengthen anti-corruption structures and refrain from actions that could adversely affect the rule the rights and independence of the judiciary in Ukraine. The Assembly expressed concern at the persistent shortcomings in the reform of the judiciary and justice systems, the limited results in the fight against corruption, and the periodic attacks on journalists, though it welcomed the authorities efforts to create and maintain institutions to combat corruption, as well as the ceasefire agreement in Donetsk and Luhansk. (Interfax January 26)

EU to fully support judicial reforms in Ukraine–Ambassador. 

  • After the ambassadors of the G7 countries presented a list of priority measures that will restore public confidence in the Ukrainian judiciary and anti-corruption infrastructure, EU Ambassador to Ukraine Maasikas assured that the EU will fully support the judicial reforms, adding that the key elements of success include integrity vetting of the High Council of Justice and transparent selection system for the Constitutional Court. (Interfax January 25)

Ukraine protests to BBC over map showing “Russian cities” in Crimea. 

  • Ukraine has protested against the BBC’s inclusion of Moscow-annexed Crimean cities Simferopol and Sevastopol on a list of Russian cities where demonstrators rallied to support jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny. The BBC marked the map with an explanation saying that “Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.” Despite the explanation, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry called on the BBC’s Russian service not to “promote Russian narratives.” (Radio Free Europe January 25)

CZECH REPUBLIC

Czech politicians congratulate U.S. President Biden, look forward to better relations. 

  • PM Babiš and President Zeman congratulated President Biden as he took office as the 46th U.S. President, stating that they looked forward to strengthening ties between the two countries, as well as within NATO and EU–U.S. cooperation. Other Czech politicians and ministers expressed congratulatory and optimistic sentiments, with FM Petříček declaring that the new president will “try to heal the U.S., change its populist image, and return to international cooperation.” (Expats.cz January 21)

HUNGARY

Foreign Minister urges permanent OSCE presence in Transcarpathia. 

  • FM Szijjártó has urged the OSCE special Ukraine mission to set up a permanent presence in Transcarpathia, declaring that “the European Commission has made it clear that supporting illegal migrants is much more important than promoting the cause of indigenous ethnic minorities in Europe,” after the Commission’s announcethat there would be no legal consequences for the Minority SafePack civil initiative.  (Hungary Today January 20)

Hungarian government orders disclaimers on books with gay content. 

  • Hungary’s government ordered the Labrisz publishing house on Tuesday to print disclaimers identifying books containing “behavior inconsistent with traditional gender roles,” declaring that the measure is necessary to protect consumers from being misled. Labrisz, a lesbian group, came under after it published a fairytale anthology that included stories with gay themes. (Reuters January 19)

Fidesz group abstains at EP vote on Gender Equality Report. 

  • The European parliamentary group of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz-Christian Democrats (KDNP) has abstained from voting on a report examining the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on women, calling the report “driven by ideological issues” and “infringing on member states’ competencies” because it called for the ratification of the Istanbul Agreement. The report was nevertheless adopted with 485 votes in favor, 86 against, and 108 abstentions on Thursday.  (Hungary Today January 23)

POLAND

Polish president, PM congratulate Biden on taking office. 

  • President Duda and Prime Minister Morawiecki have congratulated President Biden following his inauguration, stating that they were looking forward to working with him and further improving relations between Poland and the U.S., whom they referred to as a key economic partner and a military ally. (Polskie Radio January 21)

Poland considers legal steps against Pfizer. 

  • A government spokesman announced that Poland could take legal action against Pfizer next month if the American drug maker does not deliver all scheduled doses of its COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer, which developed the vaccine with its German partner BioNTech, has reduced the volume of the vaccine it will deliver to EU countries this week. (Poland.IN January 22)

Polish president urges EU to step up sanctions on Russia. 

  • President Duda has urged the EU to step up its sanctions on Russia in the wake of the summary arrest and jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, calling further sanctions “absolutely justified” given the situation revolving Navalny, as well as Russia’s continued involvement in unresolved conflicts in both Georgia and Ukraine. “There is no other peaceful tool for applying pressure to a state that breaks the rules of international law,” Duda declared. (Polskie Radio January 25)

Polish Foreign Minister states Borrell should visit Kyiv before his visit to Moscow. 

  • FM Rau has suggested that EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Borrell should visit Kyiv before his visit to Moscow in early February, “given the situation with our eastern partners, half of which have suffered a loss of territorial integrity due to Russian policy.” Rau added that Borrell should also discuss the situation with U.S. Secretary of State Blinken in order to “make his position stronger.” (Interfax January 26)

SLOVAKIA

Slovakia ready to be a partner of the U.S. as Biden is inaugurated. 

  • Ruling politicians in Slovakia have expressed wishes for strong bilateral cooperation after President Biden’s inaugurationPresident Čaputo wrote that a new chapter of transatlantic partnership has begun with Biden as president, referring to their shared democratic values and environmental protection efforts. PM Matovič and other officials and party leaders have also issued supportive messages to President Biden. (Slovak Spectator January 21)

Conservative NGOs received gender equality subsidies despite experts’ recommendations. 

  • Leaked evaluation sheets have shown that Christian organizations associated with conservative MPs were favored in government subsidies for NGOs promoting gender equality, despite being ranked lower than other organizations advocating gender equality and women’s rights. Women’s rights advocates have been warning about a trend in the shift towards conservatism at the Labour Ministry under the leadership of Minister Krajniak, expressing concerns that Slovakia “is on the same path as Poland and Hungary, both of which have trouble accepting gender equality and LGBT rights.” (Slovak Spectator January 21)

SLOVENIA

Erjavec withdraws bid to become PM due to MPs with COVID. 

  • DeSUS leader Erjavec has withdrawn his bid to become PM-designate until all MPs will be able to work in normal conditions, after several MPs have been infected with coronavirus and became unable to vote in person. The ruling coalition criticized the move as an excuse to avoid a failure,” and PM Janša has commented that “the Slovenian caviar left is unfit to fight any fair political battle anywhere” as he accused the opposition of “seeking to cause trouble and spread coronavirus.” (STA January 19)

Slovenian officials congratulate new U.S. president.

  • Slovenian President Pahor and Defense Minister Tonin have congratulated President Biden following his inauguration. Pahor had already congratulated Biden after he won the election in November, when he voiced hope that Slovenia and the U.S. would remain friends and firm allies. Defense Minister Tonin pointed out that Slovenia and the U.S. are “friends and long-time allies,” and stated that  their political cooperation can grow even stronger under Biden and Vice President Harris. PM Janša announced that he had also sent congratulations to Biden, after being one of the few world leaders who had not yet congratulated him on his election victory.(The Slovenia Times January 21)

FM Logar paying first official visit to Croatia on Friday. 

  • FM Logar paid his first official visit to Croatia on Friday to enhance the relationship between Slovenia and Croatia and cooperation within the EU, and discuss the announced exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in the Adriatic Sea. The Croatian zone is expected to enter into force on February 1; Slovenia has no possibility of declaring such a zonein line with the decision of the arbitration tribunal for the SlovenianCroatian border dispute. Logar is going to Zagreb a month after trilateral meeting with his Croatian and Italian counterparts where a statement on joint cooperation in the protection of the Adriatic was agreed upon. The first meeting between the three countries at the expert level will be held in Rome on January 29(The Slovenia Times January 21)

Mayor Janković rejects criticism of Rog eviction. 

  • Several associations have expressed support to members of an autonomous social and cultural community who were evicted from the defunct Ljubljana bicycle factory Rog last weekcondemned the “brutal violence” and confiscation of personal items involved in the eviction. Mayor Janković rejected accusations, claiming that no one had been at the factory when workers entered the premises to start demolition after attempts of mediation failed and the courts ruled in favor of the municipality, and that the confiscated items can be collected from a waste collection center. (STA January 22)

FM Logar presents EU presidency priorities in Belgium. 

  • The priorities of Slovenia’s EU presidency in the second half of this year and bilateral cooperation were in the focus as Foreign Minister Logar held talks with his Belgian counterpart Wilmes. Logar stressed that Slovenia would place special emphasis on strengthening the EU’s capacity to address health and other crises. The ministers agreed on the importance of respecting European values and the rule of law, which represent the foundation of the EU. (The Slovenia Times January 26)

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