Regional Press Review (21-28 September)
Russian Communists protest online vote results as Putin declares State Duma elections “free And fair”.
- More than 1,000 Russian demonstrators, angered by the official tally from online voting during last week’s Parliamentary elections, defied warnings from authorities on September 25 to protest in central Moscow. The protest was organized by several Russian politicians, most of them Communists, who said they were cheated of victory by an online voting system. Despite widespread accusations of fraud and voting irregularities, and despite a harsh crackdown and bans against candidates who oppose Putin and the ruling United Russia party, the President declared that last week’s elections were “free and fair.” (Radio Free Europe, September 25)
Russia declares organizations linked to the Church of Scientology as “Undesirable”.
- Russia has declared two organizations linked to the U.S.-based Church of Scientology “undesirable,” in a move that is likely to lead to the group being banned. The issue will now be taken up by the Ministry of Justice, which could ban the group under laws governing “undesirable” foreign non-governmental organizations. The “undesirable” organization law, adopted in May 2015 and since updated, was part of a series of regulations pushed by the Kremlin that squeezed many nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations that received funding from foreign sources, mainly from Europe and the United States. (Radio Free Europe, September 24)
Kremlin says it will respond to any new U.S. sanction.
- The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes bills that call for new sanctions against Russia to punish it for what lawmakers say is its malign activities. However, Biden is seeking to stabilize the tense U.S. relationship with Russia and has opposed some new sanctions pushed by Congress. The Kremlin has said it would respond if the United States imposes new sanctions against Russia. (Radio Free Europe, September 26)
Bill allowing more than two consecutive terms for regional leaders proposed in Russia.
- The bill, proposed by Nikolai Klishas, a member of the State Duma, would allow Kremlin-backed leaders such as Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin to run for a third term when his current term ends in 2023. (Radio Free Europe, September 27)
Russia warns over NATO infrastructure in Ukraine.
- The Kremlin has reiterated that any expansion of NATO military infrastructure in Ukraine would cross one of President Putin’s “red lines”. Ukraine, which is not a NATO member but has long sought closer ties with the West, immediately rejected the statements saying it would determine its security policy and that Moscow should worry only about issues inside of Russia’s borders. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba sharply rejected the notion of a Russian “red line” outside of Russia’s own borders. (Radio Free Europe, September 27)
U.S. House passes Cardenas-Schiff-Sherman Amendment, demands Azerbaijan’s immediate release of Armenian POWs.
- The U.S. House passed the Cardenas-Schiff-Sherman Amendment, demanding Azerbaijan’s immediate release of Armenian POWs, and calling for a report on Azerbaijani war crimes, including the use of illegal munitions and white phosphorus against Armenian civilians. The amendment also requests an investigation into the use of U.S. technology in Turkish drones used to target Armenian civilians during the 2020 Artsakh war, ANCA reports. (Armenpress, September 23)
Armenia, Azerbaijan mark one-year anniversary of start of Karabakh War.
- People in Azerbaijan and Armenia have marked the first anniversary of the start of the six-week war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region in which more than 6,600 people died and which ended with Azerbaijan regaining control of large swaths of territory. Soldiers carrying photographs of comrades killed in the war marched through the center of the Azerbaijani capital, Baku. In Yerevan, the Armenian capital, thousands of people, including Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, went to the Yerablur military cemetery to pay respects to soldiers buried there. (Radio Free Europe, September 27)
Azerbaijani president warns local officials against corruption.
- Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has warned newly appointed local leaders to avoid graft, while other former officials arrested in a highly publicized crackdown on corruption have gone on trial in recent days. On September 14 Aliyev held an online video meeting with the new regional heads of the Shamkir and Jalilabad districts, whose predecessors were fired within the last year and accused of various crimes. In the meeting, Aliyev alluded to the ongoing trials of the many former senior officials who have lost their positions to an anti-corruption campaign over roughly the last two years. (Eurasianet, September 21)
Before the election, GERB’s Party electorate is the most mobilized, according to survey.
- GERB’s party electorate is most mobilized before the November 11th elections, with 82% supporting the party. This is shown by the results of a sociological survey of “Market Links” commissioned by BTV. It was conducted among 1076 people in the period 14-20 September 2021 by the methods of direct personal interview and online survey. (Novinite, September 23)
Ahead of elections, Bulgaria urged to improve press freedom.
- Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is urging Bulgaria to take concrete action to support local media outlets that disseminate reliable news and information, saying the country “combines all of the problems for press freedom that exist in various parts of Europe.” Bulgaria is ranked 112th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index. (Radio Free Europe, September 27)
Present at the UN, President Sandu reiterates call for Russian troops’ withdrawal.
- In a speech before the UN General Assembly in New York, President Maia Sandu again called or the departure of Russian troops from Moldova’s breakaway Transdniester region. Some 1,400 Russian troops are still stationed in Transdniester, which declared independence from Moldova in 1990, ostensibly to protect Soviet-era arms depots. “I’d like to reiterate that our position with regard to the complete and unconditional withdrawal of the the Russian forces [from Transdniester] remains unchanged,” President Sandu stated to the General Assembly on September 22. (Radio Free Europe, September 22)
Communist and Socialists MPs challenge amendments to law on prosecution service.
- The MPs of the Bloc of Communists and Socialists challenged in the Constitutional Court the amendments to the law on the prosecution service that were earlier adopted by the PAS parliamentary majority, IPN reports, quoting a press release of the Party of Socialists. (IPN, September 21)
Romanian PM declares that political turmoil has no impact on fiscal policy.
- PM Citu stated that the Government is sticking with the ruling strategy as endorsed last year, including in terms of reforms and investments. Neither the recent political developments nor the fourth Covid wave is hindering the public deficit trajectory, he stressed. He once again promised that the Government would pursue the reforms of state-owned companies, of the pension system, of public sector wages, of the public administration. (Romania-Insider, September 23)
McKinsey study shows that Romania’s economy could gain up to 8.75 p.a. from gender equality.
- Romania’s economy would gain up to EUR 24 bln per year until 2030, the equivalent of an average incremental annual growth rate of 8.7pp, by eliminating the gender inequalities, according to a report published by the consulting company McKinsey&Company. In essence, the gains would be derived from the activity of more active women (550,000), more paid weekly hours worked by the female employees (+1.5 hours per week on average) and from the higher productivity of the companies as a result of hiring more female top managers (CEOs mainly). (Romania-Insider, September 23)
The European Commission has backed Romania’s nearly 30 billion euro ($35.1 billion) recovery and resilience plan.
- The commission on September 27 adopted a proposal to provide 14.2 billion euros ($16.6 billion) in grants and 14.9 billion euros ($17.4 billion) in loans to Romania under the RRF to help it “emerge stronger” from the COVID-19 pandemic, it said in a statement. The official announcement came on Monday, September 27, when EC president Ursula von der Leyen made an official visit to Bucharest. (Radio Free Europe & Romania-Insider, September 27)
President Erdoğan calls on U.S. businesspeople to believe in Turkey’s potential.
- The Turkish President used his U.N. speech in order to attract more investors, as Ankara develops locally-focused trade policies for 50 states of America with different sectoral priorities. Turkey expects businesspeople to take initiatives before American authorities to remove the barriers in bilateral trade, President Erdoğan stated. (Hurriyet, September 21)
As tensions ease, Turkey and UAE discuss on energy investment.
- Turkey is in talks with the United Arab Emirates over investment in its energy sector, Turkey’s deputy energy minister said on Tuesday, after the sides called a truce on their bitter rivalry. After contacts between intelligence and government officials eased tensions, the UAE this month said it was seeking deeper trade and economic ties with Turkey and seven other countries as it looks to defend its global business hub status after the pandemic. Turkish deputy energy minister Alparslan Bayraktar told reporters in Dubai on Tuesday there had been talks with the UAE about investment in Turkish energy projects. He did not disclose which specific projects, but said the Emiratis had previously considered power generation. (Reuters, September 21)
Top adviser to Ukrainian President is targeted in an assassination attempt.
- Top adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was shot at on Wednesday while being driven in his car outside Kyiv, in what the authorities said was an assassination attempt. The adviser, Serhiy Shefir, was not injured in the attack, but the driver of the car was wounded and hospitalized, Irina Venediktova, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, said in a statement that included a picture of the driver’s side of Mr. Shefir’s black Audi riddled with bullets. The Ukrainian President used his UN Assembly speech to denounce the attack and speak out against Russia’s military intervention in Eastern Ukraine. (The New York Times, September 22)
Ukraine’s Parliament passes bill banning anti-semitism
- Ukraine’s parliament has passed a law defining anti-Semitism and banning it in the country. The Verkhovna Rada on September 22 approved a second reading of the bill by 283 votes with the required minimum of 226, sending it to President Zelenskiy for his signature to become law. President Zelenskiy, who is Jewish, has opened on losing relatives in the Holocaust. An estimated 0.2 percent of Ukraine’s population of 41 million is Jewish. The legislation defines anti-Semitism as hatred of Jews, calling for or justifying attacks on the minority, making false or hateful statements about Jews, and denying the mass extermination of Jews during the Holocaust. (Radio Free Europe, September 22)
Students give the ruling ANO party thumbs down in mock vote, support opposition groupings.
- More than 40,000 Czech students cast their ballots in mock elections held at secondary schools across the country this week. The outcome of the vote held a fortnight ahead of regular elections, showed that the future generation of voters would end the rule of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and place its trust in the opposition coalitions running against him. Organized by the NGO People in Need, the mock elections are designed to increase students’ interest in politics and secure their participation in future elections. In that, they are proving highly successful, with the number of students taking part has doubled in the last decade. Jessika and Dominik took part in their school in Uherské Hradistě. (Radio Prague International, September 22
Fridays for Future protest against climate change in Prague.
- Over one hundred young people took part in a demonstration on Prague’s Malostranské náměstí on Friday to protest against what they say is insufficient government action to combat climate change. The demonstration took place within the international Fridays for Future Movement against climate change. (Radio Prague International, September 25)
Hungary to sign a new long-term gas supply deal with Russia.
- Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto and Russian gas giant Gazprom chief Aleksei Miller are expected to sign a new long-term gas supply deal for Hungary on September 27 in Budapest. Budapest officials declared last month that the Government had agreed with Moscow on all the conditions for a new long-term gas supply deal to take effect from October 1. (Radio Free Europe, September 27)
Polish PM cancels presence at Demographic Summit over Turow dispute.
- Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki will not attend the 4th Budapest Demographic Summit, which began on Thursday. In the two-day event, Poland will be represented by the Minister of Family, Labour, and Social Policy, Marlena Maląg. PM Morawiecki was to attend one of the panels together with Slovenian PM Janša, former US Vice President Mike Pence, and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. He also emphasized that at this stage, however, it is more important to resolve the issue related to the dispute over the Turów mine. (Polandin, September 23)
Most Poles want emergency state in eastern Poland extended, according to survey.
- The majority of Poles believe that the state of emergency declared in regions bordering Belarus should be extended till the problem of illegal migration on the border has been stopped, a new poll shows. The number of people trying to cross into Poland from Belarus in recent weeks has increased. Poland and the Baltic States have accused the Belarusian government of pushing migrants across their borders to destabilise both them and the EU as part of a “hybrid war.” (Polandin, September 27)
Slovak journalists stand behind their colleagues from Dennik N. after police brought charges against two journalists.
- Monika Tódová and Konštantín Čikovský are accused of revealing confidential and reserved information, and if found guilty, they could spend up to one year in prison. The police prosecutor pressed charges following the order of the Bratislava prosecutor’s office last week. Following the accusations, media trusts condemned the charges, considering them another attempt to threaten journalists who have been revealing the missteps of those in power. (Slovak Spectator, September 21; Slovak Spectator, September 21)
Eustream wants to transport hydrogen along with natual gas via Slovakia.
- Four gas infrastructure companies have joined forces to develop a hydrogen highway through central Europe. The focus of the joint initiative is on developing a hydrogen route that transports hydrogen from major hydrogen suppliers in Ukraine to Slovakia and the Czech Republic, which have the potential for large-scale green hydrogen production. The hydrogen produced would then be transported to Germany and the EU. (The Slovak Spectator, September 24)
Government raises funding provided for municipalities.
- The Slovenian Government adopted a decree on Sunday, raising the lump sum which municipalities receive per resident from the state. In 2022 the sum will rise from EUR 628 to EUR 645 and in 2023 to EUR 647, the Public Administration Ministry said on Twitter. The Government’s initial proposal envisaged raising the sum to EUR 638, which was backed by all three municipal associations. However, they raised concern whether this will suffice to cover the costs. (Slovenian Times, September 28)
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