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#Newsletter Exclusive / True Story Project

Regional Press Review (25 Feb – 3 Mar)

RUSSIA

Russia hosts new Kyrgyzstan leader on his 1st foreign trip. 

  • The Russian President welcomed the newly elected President of Kyrgyzstan, expressing optimism for political prosperity in the Central Asian nation, which has recently undergone a violent change of government for the third time in 15 years. President Zhaparov won 79% in the presidential vote in Kyrgyzstan, a victory that came just over three months after he was released from prison by thousands of protesters. Speaking at the outset of the Kremlin talks, President Putin expressed the expectation that the constitutional reforms initiated by President Zhaparov would help “normalize the domestic political situation.” (Associated Press, February 24)

President Putin warns of unnamed foreign efforts to destabilize Russia. 

  • President Putin instructed his nation’s highest counter-intelligence agency to refocus its efforts to resolve what he identified as Western initiatives to disrupt Russia. Speaking at the meeting of the top officials of the FSB, President Putin referred to the so-called strategy of containment of Russia, arguing that it involves attempts to “derail our development, slow it down, create problems alongside our borders, provoke internal instability and undermine the values that unite the Russian society.” (Associated PressFebruary 24)

Russia jails man for eight years for handing over secrets to China.

  • A Russian court sentenced a man to eight years in jail after charging him of national treason for reportedly handing over information to China, the TASS news agency reported. Vladimir Vasilyevwas detained in the eastern Siberian Zabaykal region of Russia, bordering Mongolia and China, in August 2019. He pled guilty to the charges of treason, TASS reported. His hearing was conducted behind closed doors and his facts were not made public by way of its secret existence. (Reuters, February 25)

Man charged with passing Bundestag details to Russia

  • Federal prosecutors have charged a German citizen of transferring the blueprints and plans of the Bundestag Parliament to an alleged GRU officer in the Russian Embassy. The German Federal Prosecutor’s Office stated that the suspect worked for a firm contracted by the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of Parliament, to carry out checks on electrical equipment. In that position, the German national allegedly used his access to collect data and forward it to “an employee at the Russian Embassy in Berlin who mainly works for the Russian GRU military intelligence service.” (Deutsche Welle, February 25)

Russian opposition leader Navalny sent to prison outside Moscow. 

  • Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalnysentenced to two and a half years in prison, has been transferred to a prison outside Moscow, according to his lawyer. Navalny’s detention has led to international demands for his immediate release, including from the European Court of Human Rights. His counsel did not immediately state what prison he was being transferred to, although Russian news sources earlier suggested that he was likely to be sent to a jail in western Russia. (Euronews, February 26)

Russia’s coronavirus vaccine makes inroads in conflict territories. 

  • Lately, Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova have seen officials in breakaway regions ask Moscow to provide Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to the territories in question. In certain instances, these inquiries have already been authorized. In the rebel-held areas of the Donbass in Ukraine, which have been controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces since 2014, people have been vaccinated with Sputnik since early February. The vaccine has been arriving from Russia in regular vehicle convoys carrying humanitarian aid. (Politico, February 26)

Thousands mark sixth anniversary of slain Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov. 

  • Hundreds of Russians and Western diplomats observed the sixth anniversary of the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. He was a ferocious opponent of President Putin and was shot dead on a bridge in close proximity to the Kremlin. Usually, a march takes place in central Moscow on the anniversary, but this year it was not held due to the pandemic. (Euronews, February 27)

Navalny to serve sentence in penal colony near Moscow. 

  • The Russian opposition leader is reportedly serving his sentence in prison near Moscow, according to Russian news outlets, while Kremlin critics’ supporters claim they are still uncertain of his whereabouts. The TASS news agency announced that Navalny had been taken to the Vladimir region, where he would kept in a penal colony in the town of Pokrov, east of Moscow. TASS declared that Navalny will first undergo quarantine, but did not mention whether he was already in the penal colony. (Radio Free Europe, February 28)

U.N. rights experts blame Russia for attempt to kill Navalny. 

  • Top U.N. human rights experts declared that Russia was responsible for trying to kill Kremlin critic Navalny and called for an official inquiry into his “signature compound” poisoning from last year. The effort to kill Navalny was allegedly part of the pattern of attacks on opponents at home and abroad and was meant to send a “sinister message” against opposition, informed the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Summary Killings and U.N. expert on freedom of opinion and expression. (Reuters, March 1)

ARMENIA

Armenian military demands Government’s resignation.

  • The Armenian military’s top brass demanded him and his government to resign on Thursday, declaring that “the incumbent authorities’ inefficient governance and very serious foreign policy mistakes have put the country on the brink of destruction.” Pashinyan was quick to condemn the statement as a coup attempt and urged supporters to gather at Yerevan’s Republic Square to “decide our further actions.” (Azatutyun February 25)

Putin urges calm in Armenia. 

  • President Putin spoke with PM Pashinyan to express concern at the political crisis in Armenia deepened by the Armenian military’s demands for the Government’s resignation, calling “on all parties to show restraint.” Kremlin spokesman Peskov likewise urged Armenian state and political actors to ease mounting tensions and avoid unconstitutional actions, but would not be drawn on a possible Russian mediation in ending the crisis. The Russian Defense and Foreign Ministers have also contacted their Armenian counterparts. (Azatutyun February 25)

Thousands rally for, against Armenian PM. 

  • Thousands of people rallied in Yerevan on Thursday in rival demonstrations. PM Pashinyan accused the military of attempting to stage a coup and demanded the removal of Armenia’s top general“Mind your business: the defense of Armenia’s territorial integrity and borders. This is my order and nobody can disobey it,” Pashinyan told supporters, adding that President Sarkissian should approve his motion to fire the chief of the Army’s General Staff or tender his resignation. Sarkissian seemed in no rush to sign the decree and urged state bodies, political actors, and ordinary citizens to show “restraint and common sense.” Meanwhile, an alliance more than a dozen opposition parties rallied supporters in another Yerevan square to voice support for the military. (Azatutyun February 25)

EU–Armenia Partnership Pact enters into force. 

  • The European Union-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA), designed to strengthen ties on economy, transport, digitalization, green energy, and the judicial system, entered into force on March 1. EU Foreign Policy Chief Borrell stated that the agreement “sends a strong signal” that the EU and Armenia are committed to supporting democratic principles, the rule of law, and a broad reform agenda. CEPA does not include the removal of tariff barriers between Armenia and the EU due to Armenia’s membership in the EEU. (Radio Free Europe March 1)

Armenian President refuses to sack army chief. 

  • President Sarkissian has refused to fire Armenia’s top army general for demanding PM Pashinyan to resign, stating that it would be unconstitutional and would not address the “unprecedented” political crisis in the country. Sarkissian insisted that he “does not support any political force.” (Azatutyun February 27)

Pro-government majority blocks Parliament debate on political crisis. 

  • Armenia’s ruling party blocked on February 26 an emergency debate on the deepening political crisis in the country that was demanded by the opposition Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Bright Armenia (LHK) parties. As well as ruling out his resignation on February 25PM Pashinyan offered to start “political consultations” with the opposition to end the crisis, but opposition parties report receiving no negotiation offers. (Azatutyun February 26)

 AZERBAIJAN

Health workers in Azerbaijan protest exploitation

  • Health workers held a protest in Baku demanding unpaid salaries as well as remuneration for days-off they claim to have been deprived of, declaring that they had been forced to work 60 hours a week with no insurance, days off, or food for the past 9 monthsthat salaries had not been paid since December, and that money was unofficially deducted from their wages to cover the labor fund and clothing for work. The Ministry of Emergency Situations declared that there were minor challenges with the budget and assured that salaries would be paid soon. (OC Media February 25)

N!DA activist imprisoned “for post targeting Aliyev”. 

  • The N!DA youth movement has stated that one of their activists, Elmir Abbasov, was arrested and tortured at the Sumgayit City Police Department over a Facebook post criticizing President Aliyev. Abbasov was detained by police in the city of Sumgayit on February 19 and was reportedly beaten several times by police and threatened that he would be “raped on a beach” if he would not delete the Facebook postAbbasov was found guilty of using illegal drugs and sentenced to 30 days of administrative detention, four days after criticizing Aliyev on Facebook. (OC Media February 25)

Azerbaijan warns Armenia against illegal force deployments. 

  • Azerbaijan on February 28 warned Armenia not to deploy new troops to its territories, stating that that deploying its forces in internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan was contradicting international law and the basic principles of international human rights, as well as “a gross violation of the joint statement of the leaders of Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia dated November 10, 2020.” (Hurriyet Daily News March 1)

BULGARIA

Bulgaria’s President: discrimination against ethnic Bulgarians in North Macedonia must be done with. 

  • President Radev has called on the responsible institutions in Bulgaria and the North Macedonia to address issues faced by Bulgarians in North Macedonia. Radev argued that respect for their free right to self-determination is a key step in the promotion of good neighborly relations between the two countries, and expects measures against anti-Bulgarian hate speech and changes to Bulgarian citizenship acquisition procedures. (Novinite February 23)

Gallup: Bulgarians view Russia, U.S., and China as superpowers, the U.S. as destabilizing factor.

  • Gallup International Association’s new global survey on perceptions of global superpowers and their policies found significant deviations between perceptions in Bulgaria and world trends. Bulgarian respondents considered Russia the leading world power, followed by China and the U.S, with the EU not expected to be a major player in international politics in 10 years. 55% of Bulgarians consider that U.S. policies are destabilizing the world, while 19% believe it is a stabilizing factor. As for Russia, 42% believe its policies stabilizing, while a quarter of respondents disagree. China’s policies are still unknown to Bulgarians, with more than half of the respondents unable to assess it. (IBNA February 24)

GEORGIA

The Head of Government Administration resigns. 

  • The Head of the Government of Georgia since 4 February confirmed his resignation six days after the resignation of PM Gakharia. “After 10 years of dynamic work in Security and Civil service, it’s time to leave! Thankful to all brilliant minds, men and women with whom I worked,” the official wrote on Twitter, expressing special gratitude to PM Gakharia for his leadership and opportunity. (Civil.ge, February 24)

Opposition holds ‘’March for Freedom’’ in Tbilisi. 

  • Before the protest rally scheduled for February 26 in front of the Parliament, opposition parties and their supporters organized March for Freedom in Tiblisi. The leader of the “Lelo for Georgia” opposition declared they were anticipating more supporters from the regions to attend. (Georgia Today, February 26)

Massive rally held in Kutaisi against Namakhvani HPP. 

  • Thousands gathered in downtown Kutaisi, a major western Georgian area, to demonstrate against the development of the Namakhvani Hydropower Plant in the Imereti and Racha-Lechkhumi districts. Speaking to a crowd, a 28-year-old protester at the frontline of the Save the Rioni Gorge campaign, urged the Government to revoke the project’s “illegal, wrong, anti-state” authorization. (Civil.ge, February 28)

EU Mediation: PM Garibashvili, opposition agree to continue dialogue. 

  • The political dialog in Georgia is re-launched tonight,” the President of the European Council declared after a discussion with PM Garibashvili and opposition leaders. “In this country, there are many difficult and complex challenges: economic development, social cohesion, COVID-19, security, stability. These are very essential challenges that need to be tackled and that is why it is urgent to solve this political crisis,” the European Council President highlighted. (Civil.ge, March 1)

MOLDOVA

Charles Michel: We expect all political players in Moldova to act in interests of citizens. 

  • “Corruption and bank frauds should not exist in the future of the Republic of Moldova. We appreciate Maia Sandu’s personal efforts concerning the investigation of the bank fraud and the fight against corruption, but we expect all the political players in the Republic of a Moldova to act in the interests of the citizens, while the EU will offer all the necessary support in this regard,” the European Council President stated in a press briefing held together with the Moldovan President. The European Council President reiterated that the EU is a reliable partner of the Republic of Moldova. During the past ten years, the European Union offered the Republic of Moldova grants to the value of over €1 billion. (IPN, February 28)

Experts about Charles Michel’s visit to Chișinău: EU works only with credible partners. 

  • The Executive Director of the Foreign Policy Association stated that the visit made to Chișinău by the President of the European Council is a strong sign that the EU sees a credible collaborator only in the person of President Sandu. Political commentator Negru indicated that the EU official declined meeting with other officials in Chișinău to indicate that the EU only partners with trustworthy collaborators who are sponsored by citizens. (IPN, March 2)

ROMANIA

Moldova receives first COVID-19 shots from Romania. 

  • Romania has delivered the first batch of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shots to Moldova, enabling it to begin its vaccination campaign. During his first visit in six years to Chișinău in December 2020, President Iohannis pledged 200,000 vaccine doses from its quota allotted by the EU to support the country’s President Sandu. President Sandu announced that the first shots would go to doctors, health-care professionals, and front-line workers in the pandemic, declaring “Thank you, Romania! Thank you, European Union!” on her official social media page. (Radio Free Europe February 28)

TURKEY

Turkey is an important partner and must remain in the West, Blinken tells EU FMs. 

  • On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Blinken held his first contacts with his EU counterparts at the EU Foreign Affairs Council (FAC). The Council exchanged views on EU–U.S. cooperation on key global, foreign, and security policy issues. Blinken stressed his country’s commitment to repairing, revitalizing, and increasing the level of ambition in the U.S.–EU relationship to address global challenges based on common values such as democracy, human rights, and pluralism. Turkey’s relations with the EU and the U.S. were also discussed, with Blinken stressing that Turkey is an important partner that must remain in the West “and not be tied to the chariot of Moscow,” despite provoking “multiple crises in its foreign policy and many issues of human rights and democracy are being raised within it.” (IBNA February 23)

Turkey accuses Greece of harassing vessel in the Aegean Sea. 

  • Turkey has accused the Greek military of “harassing” a Turkish research vessel in the Aegean Sea, stating that four Greek F-16 fighters had flown close to a Turkish ship carrying out technical and scientific research in international waters. “This is unfortunately one of the frequent acts of harassment by our Greek neighbors,” Defense Minister Akar declared, adding that Turkey had made an “adequate response” to the action. Greece’s Ministry of Defense has denied that any such “harassment” took place, stating that no Greek fighter aircraft approached the vessel. (Euronews February 23)

FM Szijjártó warns EU politicians not to criticize Turkey. 

  • “It is in the interest of Hungarian security policy, health care, the economy and energy policy to strengthen ties with Turkey,” Hungarian FM Szijjártó declared, following talks with Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu. Szijjártó noted that Turkey currently hosts four million migrants and that “if they all broke out for Europe at the same time, we would all be in serious trouble,” as he called on European politicians to “consider that when they decide to criticize Turkey.” Szijjártó also mentioned significant collaborations between the two countries, including a plan for vaccine development and distribution, trade, humanitarian aid to Ghana, gas distribution and a joint cultural season in 2023–2024. (Hungary Today February 25)

Turkey: New accusations against Greece for pushbacks. 

  • The Turkish Foreign Ministry called on Greece on Sunday to stop the pushbacks of asylum seekers back to Turkey. Turkey declared that in two separate incidents in February, it “rescued from death” foreigners who came to Greece via Serbia and Bulgaria and were pushed back to Turkey after they were “were battered by Greek Security Forces and left to die in despair after they were taken to an islet on the Meriç/Evros river via boats upon stealing their phones, money, valuables and shoes.” Turkey also called on the EU to observe the implementation of the EU law and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in Member States. There has been no reaction from the Greek side to Turkey’s allegations so far. (IBNA March 1)

Turkish seismographic ship to conclude Aegean exploration amid tensions with Greece. 

  • Turkish seismographic research vessel TCG Cesme concluded its Aegean Sea voyage on March 2. Ostensibly launched to conduct scientific and technical research on earthquakes that are frequent in the area, Greece argues that the voyage is an attempt by Turkey to prepare for maritime drilling, undermining recently renewed dialogues between Ankara and Athens aimed at ending the long-running dispute over maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions were further raised after four Greek fighter jets allegedly intercepted the vessel last week, performing fly-bys and dropping flares within 2 miles of the ship. (Foreign Brief March 2)

UKRAINE

Slovak government supports Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO. 

  • The Slovak government has implemented a foreign policy plan for 2021 that calls for cooperation with Ukraine and support for its efforts to join NATO. “A stable, democratic and prosperous Ukraine remains a strategic interest of the Slovak Republic. Following President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit in September 2020, Slovakia continues to deepen political dialogue and practical cooperation with Ukraine, assisting it in the reform process and transformations at all levels of government. We will continue to support Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations and advance its priority on the EU and NATO agenda,” the strategy reads. (Ukrinform, February 25)

Ukraine at OSCE: Nord Stream 2 to finance Russia’s military machine. 

  • The head of the delegation of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has criticized the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project of “fueling Russia’s military machine, which continues its hostility against Ukraine. “Nord Stream 2 is not about economic cooperation. It’s about supporting Russia’s military machine. This money will not be spent on the needs of the Russian people, this money will be spent on new tanks, missiles and artillery. And thousands of such units of weapons and equipment are currently deployed along our border and in the occupied territories, the official declared during the 20th Winter Meeting of the OSCE PA. (Ukrinform, February 26)

Zelensky takes on Ukraine’s oligarchs in bid to court Biden. 

  • President Zelensky’s decision to shut down three media networks belonging to a multi-millionaire politician loyal to the Kremlin has boosted expectations that the Ukrainan President is planning for a larger crackdown on the country’s influential oligarchs. The pro-Moscow television channels have been taken off-air for distributing Russian “disinformation.” The outlets were owned by Viktor Medvedchukan oligarch who claims that the Russian president is the godfather to one of his children. Days after the broadcasters were shut down, the properties of Medvechuk and an oil pipeline operated by another affiliate were frozen. (Financial Times, March 2)

Emine Dzheppar presents Crimean Platform at OSCE.

  • First Deputy MFA of Ukraine Dzheppar presented the Crimean Platform at the OSCE. “On March 1, Dzheppar took part in an online briefing for delegations of OSCE participating States in the context of the seventh anniversary of the temporary occupation of Crimea,” the press service of the MFA of Ukraine reports. “It is very important to jointly seek answers to the whole complex of consequences of the temporary occupation of Crimea and maintain this problem in the constant focus of the international community,” Dzheppar stressed. (Ukrinform, March 2)

CZECH REPUBLIC

Czech Republic to sue Poland over Turów coal mine expansion. 

  • The Czech Republic will sue Poland over the expansion of the Turów brown coal mine, located close to the border, that would threaten water sources and increase noise and dust pollution for villages on the Czech side. The Czech Republic first criticized the plan in 2016After bilateral talks in Warsaw failed to make headway, the Czech government announced that it would file a complaint with the European Court of Justice and seek an injunction that would halt operations at the mine, but that it would remain open to negotiations with Poland in the hope of reaching an out-of-court agreement. (Radio Prague International February 23)

Israel donates vaccines to Cezch Republic in exchange for diplomatic support. 

  • The Czech Republic received 5,000 jabs of the Moderna vaccine as a donation from Israel on Tuesday, a day after the opening of a new Czech diplomatic office in Jerusalem. Honduras and Guatemala also received a limited amount of jabs: Honduras intends to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem soon, and Guatemala did so last year.  (Euractiv February 24)

PM says he will not resign over worsening coronavirus crisis. 

  • PM Babiš has explained that he sees no reason to resign over the worsening coronavirus crisis in the Czech Republic, stating that while the Cabinet had made a number of mistakes in fighting the epidemic, he was working night and day to turn the situation around and save lives. The PM also rejected speculations that he would replace Health Minister Blatnýdespite President Zeman affirming that Blatný was burnt out and should go. (Radio Prague International February 28)

PM says he and his family received death threats. 

  • PM Babiš revealed on Sunday that he and his family had received death threats and had been under police protection for several weeks. On January 8, the police had informed that someone was threatening to shoot him and members of his family; the official sent his wife to Dubai to get her away from the scene. Pictures of his wife later appeared in tabloids press and were heavily criticizedBabiš claims he could not defend himself on the matter as his wife was unaware of the gravity of the situation. The police later arrested the culprit in Spain. (Radio Prague International February 28)

HUNGARY

Deutsche Welle resumes Hungarian service amid free press fears. 

  • German broadcaster Deutsche Welle has begun producing material in Hungarian for the first time in decades, driven by concerns over declining media plurality and press freedom in Hungary“We are seeing that media diversity and press freedom are getting worse all the time in Hungary,” declared Deutsche Welle’s Director General. The country has fallen 33 spots in Reporters without Borders’ Press Freedom ranking over the past seven years. (Euractiv February 25)

State Secretary suspects cultural imperialism behind German DW broadcasting in Hungary. 

  • The Hungarian government coldly received Deutsche Welle’s recent announcement to begin broadcasting to Hungarian audiences, with Secretary of State for International Communication and Relations Kovács suspecting political motivations and cultural imperialism. “What kind of content will Deutsche Welle produce in Hungarian? Programs on European 20th Century history, perhaps? No. A look back at the era of colonialism in Africa? No. Profiles of Marx, Engels and other modern German disruptors?” Kovács commented. (Hungary Today February 24)

Orbán threatens to leave EPP if change in rules goes through. 

  • PM Orbán has declared that Fidesz will leave the European People’s Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament, should it pass a planned amendment to make the suspension of an entire group of lawmakers by a simple majority possibleFidesz MEP Trócsányi has also threatened to turn to EU’s Court of Justice over the matter. Fidesz’s membership has been suspended in the EPP since 2019 following a joint proposal from the European People’s Party Presidency and Fidesz. (Hungary Today March 1)

POLAND

”A very meaningless penalty: Polish MEP slams new Russia sanctions. 

  • MEPs have mixed feelings over EU foreign affairs ministers deciding to impose new individual sanctions on close allies of President Putin in the wake of Alexei Navalny’s jailing. If approved by the European Council, it will be the first time the EU has used a new mechanism to facilitate punitive measures against human rights abuses. Polish MEP Waszczykowski called the sanctions a “joke,” dismissing their limited impact as a “meaningless penalty.” (Euronews February 23)

EU criticizes Poland’s abortion ban as it reminds Member States to “respect fundamental rights”. 

  • EU Equality Commissioner Dalli has criticized the Polish government’s decision to ban almost all circumstances of abortion, reminding a European Parliament hearing on Wednesday that Member States “must respect fundamental rights.” The Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner and a group of UN human rights special mechanisms have also opined that substantial restriction to legal access to abortion goes against Poland’s international human rights obligations. The Polish side has defended its decision, citing the “exclusive responsibility” of a state to regulate what constitutes a legal termination. (Euronews February 25)

Polish human rights activists acquitted of offending religious feelings. 

  • Amnesty International has welcomed the acquittal of three LGBT+ activists who drew attention to homophobia by pasting images of the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo across the town of Płock. The activists were acquitted of charges of “offending religious feelings by insulting an object of religious worship” by a court in Płock, in a case that has been viewed as a test of Poland’s commitment to the protection of free speech. (Emerging Europe March 2)

Lithuania to start supplying LNG to Poland next year. 

  • Lithuanian state-controlled energy company Ignitis Group will start supplying liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Poland next year via a new pipeline between the two countries. The GIPL pipeline is due to be completed by December 2021 and will also give Finland, Estonia, and Latvia access to pipeline gas from continental Europe. The region currently imports pipeline gas from Russia and LNG via an import terminal at Lithuania’s Klaipeda port. (Euractiv March 2)

SLOVAKIA

Former general prosecutor banned from entering the U.S. 

  • The U.S. has banned former General Prosecutor Trnka and his son from entering the country due to “his involvement in significant corruption.” U.S Secretary of State Blinken declared that this designation reaffirms U.S. commitment to combating corruption in Slovakia.” The former general prosecutor is the first person from Slovakia against whom the U.S. has imposed such measures. (Slovak Spectator February 25)

PM welcoming Russian vaccines was inappropriate. 

  • PM Matovič’s presence during the delivery of the Sputnik V vaccines in Slovakia is not considered appropriate, declared FM Korčok, after PM Matovič and Health Minister Krajčí travelled to Košice airport with a batch of Sputnik V vaccines behind them. “We could have been there during the arrival of the American, German, British-Swedish [vaccines] but we did not do that, because it does not make sense,” Korčok explained, adding that the origin does not matter if the vaccine is properly registered in the EU, but that Sputnik V has not requested registration. Junior coalition party leaders have also criticized the move, as well as the overall vaccine procurement process. (Slovak Spectator March 2)

Another MP quits coalition after Sputnik landing. 

  • Tomáš Valášek, who has served as an MP of the Za Ľudí coalition party and led the European Affairs Committee, has quit the ruling coalition, calling the purchase of the Russian vaccine the last straw. Valášek is the second Za Ľudí MP to quit the Matovič Government and remains in Parliament as an independent MP. (Slovak Spectator March 1) 

SLOVENIA

Slovenia joins Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania to end post-Brexit U.K. work visa discrimination. 

  • Nationals of Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovenia are not entitled to a 55-pound discount on work visa fees that other EU nationals are eligible for. Slovenia is working with Member States whose nationals must pay higher fees for U.K. work visas to end this discrimination, according to Foreign Ministry State Secretary DovžanSlovenian MEPs have stated that the EU must insist on equal treatment of all EU nationals. (Total Slovenia News February 23)

EP Democracy Group hearing on Slovenian media scheduled for next week. 

  • PM Janša and other Slovenian officials have been invited for a virtual exchange of views on the media in the country with the European Parliament’s Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group on March 5. Last week, after Janša accused Politico’s journalist Lili Bayer of lying in a story about the media in Slovenia, Dutch MEP in ‘t Veld stated she believed there was sufficient ground for the group to start monitoring the situation in the country. Janša has also been called on by the leaders of junior government coalition partners to invite an EU mission to Slovenia to investigate the state of freedom of the press. (The Slovenia Times February 25)

STA financing suspended again. 

  • The Government Communication Office (UKOM) has suspended the financing of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) again, declining to pay it for the services provided as a public service in January on the ground that the parties have not yet signed a contract for the year. In response, STA Director Veselinovič noted that a provision in the 7th Coronavirus Relief Package set forth that budget funds be provided to the STA for performing a public service for 2021 in line with the STA business plan regardless of whether a contract had been signed.  (The Slovenia Times February 25)

C5 ministers discuss Slovenia’s EU presidency, pandemic.

  • FM Logar hosted a meeting of Central 5 Foreign Ministers on Monday. Logar and his counterparts from Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia discussed Slovenia’s EU Council Presidency priorities, focusing on the Western Balkans and efforts to strengthen resilience, plans regarding coronavirus measures, as well as other European and international issues, including transatlantic relations, the EU’s relations with third countries, and future relations between the bloc and the U.K. (The Slovenia Times March 2)

STA cuts off Government Administration in funding row. 

  • Two months after the expiration of public and commercial news service contracts between the STA and the Government, the STA restricted access to its news items for the Administration on Monday. Parliament Speaker Zorčič believes the time has come for the matter to be resolved in court, noting that ” the STA probably has no other option.” (The Slovenia Times March 2)

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