Regional Press Review (7-13 Iulie)
Estonia decries detention of diplomat in Russia “espionage” set-up.
- Estonia has accused Russia of detaining “setting up” one of its diplomats, claiming the incident showed Russia was choosing confrontation in its relations with Europe. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) detained Estonia’s consul to St. Petersburg Mart Latte after he was allegedly “caught red handed” receiving confidential information from a Russian citizen, accusation that Estonia’s MFA declared to be groundless. On July 7, the Russian MFA declared Latte a persona non grata and gave him 48 hours to leave the country. (Euractiv July 7; Meduza July 7)
U.S. RNC breach traced to Russia-linked hacking group.
- Last week’s cyberattack targeting the U.S. Republican National Committee appears to have originated with APT29, also known as Cozy Bear, a hacker group that is widely believed to be linked to Russia’s intelligence agencies and was previously accused of the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee. It’s unclear what information, if any, the hackers were able to view or steal. (The Moscow Times July 7)
Russia ready to activate Tajik military base amid U.S. pullout, Taliban advance in Afghanistan.
- Russia is prepared to activate a military base in Tajikistan against advancing Taliban forces as U.S. troops finalize their pullout from neighboring Afghanistan. More than 1,000 Afghan government troops were reported to have fled into Tajikistan this week as the Taliban seized dozens of districts in the past two months. Russia declared that the Taliban controls about two-thirds of the Afghan-Tajik border and urged all sides in Afghanistan to show restraint. (The Moscow Times July 7; The Moscow Times July 9)
U.S., Russian officials to meet on cybersecurity amid latest massive hack.
- U.S. officials will host a meeting with their Russian counterparts next week to discuss cybersecurity issues after another massive attack by criminals believed to be based in Russia. President Biden convened a meeting of security officials on July 7 to discuss ransomware attacks after hundreds of U.S. companies were impacted by in the largest ransomware case in history, carried out on July 2. (Radio Free Europe July 6)
Whelan’s legal team reportedly seeking transfer from Russia to U.S. prison.
- Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan’s legal team will request his transfer from a Russian prison to the U.S. to serve out the remainder of his sentence. Whelan was arrested in Moscow in December 2018 on espionage charges and sentenced to 16 years in prison in May 2020 following a trial that was condemned by the United States as a “mockery of justice.” (Radio Free Europe July 7)
Russia’s “foreign agent” amendments “seriously violate” human rights: Venice Commission.
- A Council of Europe legal advisory body has sharply criticized recent Russian amendments to laws regulating so-called “foreign agents,” stating that they constitute “serious violations” of basic human rights and will have a “chilling effect” on political life. (Radio Free Europe July 7)
Biden tells Putin Russia must crack down on cybercriminals.
- President Biden has told President Putin that he must “take action” against cybercriminals acting in his country and that the U.S. reserves the right to “defend its people and its critical infrastructure” from future attacks. During the call, the two heads of state also established a U.S.–Russian agreement that will allow humanitarian aid to flow into Syria. (APnews July 10)
U.S., Russia say cooperation on climate change positive for relations.
- U.S. climate change envoy John Kerry is in Moscow on a four-day visit that includes talks with FM Lavrov, President Putin’s climate envoy. Kerry informed Lavrov on July 12 that Washington wants to work with Moscow ahead of the U.N. climate change conference taking place in November. Lavrov assessed the visit as a positive signal for bilateral relations and called for closer cooperation on the matter. Climate change was singled out as one of the few issues where Washington and Moscow could cooperate during the two countries’ presidents’ summit in Geneva last month. (Radio Free Europe July 13)
On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians: Vladimir Putin goes over “Ukrainian” history in new essay.
- During his annual call-in show on June 30, President Putin promised to write an article to back up a claim that Ukrainians and Russians are “one people.” On July 12, the Kremlin published Putin’s take in an essay that spans the Middle Ages to the present day, touching on everything from the Mongol invasion to the collapse of the Soviet Union. In addition to claiming that modern Ukraine is the “brainchild” of the Soviet era, Putin blames the West and Ukrainian elites for allegedly working to turn the country into an “anti-Russia.” Despite Putin’s repeated claims about Russian and Ukrainian being “almost identical,” the Kremlin chose to publish his essay in both languages. (Meduza July 12)
U.A.E. firm to build large solar power plant in Armenia.
- Abu Dhabi-based company Masdar will invest $174 million to build Armenia’s first massive solar power plant in accordance with a “joint development agreement” signed in Abu Dhabi in November 2019. The Emirati firm competed with Russia’s Gazprom and China’s Hydro Power for the right to build the plant by end of the 2023. (Azatutyun July 6)
Armenian opposition bloc condemns fresh arrests.
- The National Security Service (NSS) reportedly raided the offices of Armenia’s largest mining company and detained the mayor of a nearby town on Thursday in what the Hayastan Alliance condemned as a continuing government crackdown on its members. Mayor Paramazian’s lawyer is unaware of his client’s whereabouts or the reason for his detention. Paramazian was already briefly arrested last December on kidnapping and assault charges denied by him, with his trial scheduled to start on Monday. (Azatutyun July 8)
EU plans large-scale aid, investments for Armenia.
- The EU pledged on Friday to provide Armenia with up to €2.6 billion in economic assistance and investments over the next five years as part of the European Commission’s Economic and Investment Plan for the Eastern Partnership program. The Commission is seeking €1.6 billion in EU grants, loans, and loan guarantees for five “flagship initiatives” in Armenia, including €500 million for 30,000 SMEs and €600 million for capital investments in transport infrastructure. (Azatutyun July 9)
Constitutional Court opens hearings on election appeals.
- Armenia’s Constitutional Court began on Friday public hearings on opposition demands to overturn official results of last month’s parliamentary elections. The opposition appealed to the Constitutional Court after the Central Election Commission (CEC) refused to annul the vote results, stating that they have not substantiated their allegations of widespread fraud. (Azatutyun July 9)
More opposition mayors arrested in Armenia.
- The heads of two more communities in the Syunik province were arrested in a continuing crackdown on the Hayastan alliance. Mkhitar Zakarian was formally charged with abuse of power and fraud and taken into custody three days after resigning as mayor, and Vorotan Mayor Suren Ohanjanian was prosecuted in connection with financial aid allocated to 31 residents from the community budget in early June. Lusine Avetian, the head of another nearby village, was arrested a week ago over similar cash handouts. The mayor of another Syunik town, Manvel Paramazian, was arrested on Thursday and charged with vote buying and fraud. (Azatutyun July 12)
Senior EU official arrives in Azerbaijan.
- EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Varhelyi arrived in Azerbaijan on July 8 as part of his July 6–9 official trip to the South Caucasus region. Varhelyi’s visit is aimed at presenting the Economic and Investment Plan for Eastern Partnership Region and its flagship initiatives, while also discussing key issues of bilateral relations and fight against the pandemic. (Today.az July 8)
Azerbaijan, Russia ink deal on healthcare cooperation.
- Azerbaijan and Russia have signed an updated agreement on cooperation in the field of healthcare and medical science. The Roadmap For Development Of Priority Areas Of Cooperation In The Health Sector Between Azerbaijani And Russian Health Ministries For 2021–2024 was developed in order to implement the protocol of the 19th meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan, signed on April 27. (Today.az July 7)
Foreign diplomats visit Shusha.
- Over 100 foreign diplomats accredited in Azerbaijan and members of international organizations are on a visit in Shusha to be informed about the restoration and reconstruction work carried out in the city and Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh. (Today.az July 9)
Oppositionist Yagublu claims he was banned from leaving Azerbaijan for political reasons.
- Tofig Yagublu, a member of the Coordination Centre for the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF), was banned from flying from Azerbaijan to Georgia to attend his mother’s funeral; his son was also not allowed to go to Georgia due to his military ID lacking a stamp to confirm the return of his service weapon. Yagublu, a former deputy chairman of the “Musavat” Party, has been repeatedly detained and imprisoned; Amnesty International recognized him as a prisoner of conscience. (Caucasian Knot July 12)
“Rise Up! Mobsters Out!” coalition drops candidate alleged to have tried to buy votes.
- The “Rise Up! Mobsters Out!” electoral coalition has withdrawn Tsvetelin Georgiev from its candidate list and his immunity was lifted after prosecutors alleged that he was involved in vote-buying. On July 7, the Prosecutor’s Office opened five pre-trial proceedings in connection with pre-election crimes, bringing the total to 29. (Sofia Globe July 7)
Bulgaria’s new anti-elite faction tied with GERB ahead of Sunday snap polls.
- Bulgaria’s new anti-establishment party There Is Such a People (ITN) remains closely tied in popularity with the GERB Party ahead of a July 11 snap election, an opinion poll showed on Thursday. (Reuters July 8)
Slovenia, Bulgaria seek compromise on North Macedonia’s EU bid.
- Slovenia’s President Pahor met his Bulgarian counterpart on July 8 to discuss Bulgaria’s veto on North Macedonia’s bid to join the EU. Pahor and Radev sought a compromise solution acceptable to all sides during their meeting, agreeing that the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans is necessary and should happen as soon as possible before the Three Seas Initiative summit. (Euractiv July 9)
Bulgaria’s GERB, anti-elite group in tight battle as late votes counted.
- Slavi Trifonov’s ITN party appears set to win the largest number of votes in the July 11 parliamentary elections. With 98.9 percent of the ballots counted, ITN received 23.9 per cent of the votes, ahead of the GERB electoral coalition, which had 23.7 per cent. The partial results showed the same six parties and coalitions that were part of the short-lived 46th National Assembly surpassing the parliamentary representation threshold. (The Sofia Globe July 12)
Bulgaria’s Trifonov makes “take it or leave it” cabinet offer.
- The three “protest parties”—ITN, Democratic Bulgaria, and “Stand up! Mafia out!”—were widely expected to join forces in a future government, but Slavi Trifonov announced on July 12 that he would not enter any coalitions and instead tabled a minority government representing his force exclusively, led by a former minister in Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha’s Cabinet. The fragmented new parliament appears to have little choice but to accept it or risk new elections. Trifonov’s party would have only around 60 MPs in the 240-member Parliament; even with the support of the other “protest parties,” he would be short by 10 MPs of the necessary 121-seat majority. (Euractiv July 12)
Thousands rally in Georgia to denounce anti-LGBT violence.
- Thousands have rallied in the Georgian capital waving EU and rainbow flags to denounce violence against the LGBTQ community that shocked the nation and drew condemnation from Western diplomats. LGBT opponents attempted to disrupt the rally but were held off by the police, who detained 102 people. After the demonstration, the opponents were allowed into the area and tore down and burned an EU flag that was hanging in front of parliament; Parliament Speaker Kuchava raised the banner back again the following day. (Radio Free Europe July 7; civil.ge July 7)
EU Enlargement Commissioner visits Georgia.
- European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Várhelyi began his July 6–9 visit to South Caucasus in Georgia, where he has already met Parliament Speaker Kuchava, lawmakers, and Georgian Orthodox Church Patriarch Ilia II. Várhelyi discussed the July 5–6 events in the capital with the lawmakers, stressing that “violence and vandalism are utterly unacceptable” and that freedom of expression should be upheld, “unhindered by violence or any discrimination.” (civil.ge July 7)
Enguri crossing point re-opened.
- The Enguri crossing point has been re-opened by the Kremlin-backed authorities on July 5. The closure, imposed by Sokhumi in February 2020 citing coronavirus fears, was previously eased in February 2021 to enable only the elderly, pensioners and people with special needs to travel. The Enguri crossing point is the only functioning passage along the dividing line between Abkhazia and Georgia proper. (civil.ge July 7)
Protests erupt in Georgia after beaten journalist dies.
- Several thousand people protested in front of the Parliament on July 11–12, demanding that the Government resign over the death of cameraman Alexander Lashkarava, who was attacked and beaten by anti-LGBT protesters last week. Lashkarava was discharged from a hospital on Thursday; police state the cause of death was a chemical expertise narcotics overdose, including morphine for the severe pain following surgery undergone after the attack. Police detained 12 protesters on administrative offenses, including opposition party members, activists, and Georgian Public Broadcaster anchor Irakli Absnadze. (APnews July 11; civil.ge July 11; civil.ge July 12)
Fistfights erupt in Parliament as media blocked from entering.
- Fistfights broke out in the Georgian Parliament between Georgian Dream and opposition MPs on Monday after members of the media were prevented from entering the building to inquire about the homophobic riots of July 5. Female MPs sat in the tribune of the Speaker of the Parliament and refused to leave, hanging Georgia’s national flag alongside the EU flag and demanding PM Gharibashvili’s resignation. Several opposition figures have urged a parliament picket until the ruling party agrees to begin a no-confidence motion. (Reuters July 13; OC media July 12)
Garibashvili on LGBT Pride: “95% against propagandistic parade”.
- PM Garibashvili lashed out on Monday at Tbilisi Pride activists, noting that “95% of our population are against holding propagandistic parade in a demonstrative manner” and assuring that the only parade that will be held in Georgia is that of the army. Garibashvili claimed that the Pride is controlled by ex-President Mikheil “Saakashvili’s organizations” and was held “aiming [to oblige] the state use [police] force against its citizens.” Regarding the July 11–12 protests, Garibashvili decided to not address “classic anti-state, anti-Church and thus, anti-national” messages, accusing the protesters of being under Saakashvili’s control. (civil.ge July 12; civil.ge July 12)
Parliament appoints six supreme court judges despite international condemnation.
- The Georgian Dream party has pushed through six judicial appointments for the Supreme Court on Monday, despite domestic criticism and international warnings the move would contradict the April 19 EU-brokered deal. The Public Defender’s Office did participate in the process “given the acute unresolved institutional problems in the judiciary.” (civil.ge July 12)
PAS suggests amendments to Constitution.
- PAS will submit two bills to amend the Constitution to the Constitutional Court. The first is a bill aimed at simplifying the mechanism for confiscating the property of government functionaries and public figures based on the reversal of the burden of proof. The second bill strips of immunity the MPs who are suspected of money laundering, passive corruption, influence peddling and unjust enrichment. (IPN July 7)
Moldova’s Pro-Europeans win decisive victory in “well-run” snap elections.
- President Sandu declared victory for the Action and Solidarity (PAS) Party, who is leading with nearly 53 percent of the vote after nearly all ballots were counted for the July 11 snap parliamentary elections. The Electoral Bloc of Communists and Socialists (BeCS) led by former President Dodon had about 27 percent, and nearly 20 parties and coalitions split the rest of the vote. Businessman Ilan Shor’s party also won seats in the Parliament with 5.7 percent of vote. The turnout stood at 48.4 percent. The OSCE/ODIHR/PACE/EP joint observation mission hailed the vote as “competitive and well-run” despite some shortcomings. (Radio Free Europe July 12)
ENEMO: The election campaign was competitive, but affected by a series of violations.
- The European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO) found that the electoral process was conducted mostly in line with international standards. Elections were administered efficiently and in a transparent manner, although some CEC decisions raised questions regarding its members’ impartiality. The campaign was competitive, but marred by a number of alleged violations including misuse of administrative resources, illegal financing, and vote-buying. The Mission’s report mentions that the polarized and largely biased media landscape and the dissemination of false information have limited the range of political views presented to voters by electoral candidates. (IPN July 12)
European Parliament recommends Romania, Bulgaria for full Schengen membership.
- The European Parliament has adopted an Annual Report on the functioning of the Schengen area which reiterates that Romania and Bulgaria must be fully integrated into the Schengen area, adding that Croatia also meets the technical requirements. The European Parliament thus calls for the full application of the provisions of the Schengen acquis in Bulgaria and Romania and urges the Council to immediately allow these countries as full members. (Romania Insider July 9)
Lithuania asks Turkey to help it identify migrants from Belarus.
- Lithuanian FM Landsbergis has asked his Turkish counterpart to help identify migrants coming into Lithuania from Belarus, stating that a large number of the migrants arrive there from Turkey or on Turkish airlines and that Turkey should knows their identities. Landsbergis summoned the head of Belarus’s embassy on Wednesday to demand that Minsk end the flow of illegal migrants across their common border. (Reuters July 7)
Exiled Turkish journalist assaulted at home in Germany.
- On July 7, Turkish journalist Erk Acarer, who is living in Germany, was attacked and beaten by three assailants armed with knives who broke into his residence shouting “you won’t write anymore!” Acarer, who works for BirGün, Artı TV and German outlet Taz.de, received medical treatment in hospital and he and his family are now under German police protection. (International Press Institute July 8)
Ukraine to sanction top Belarus security officials, Lukashenko’s son.
- Ukraine has proposed on Friday the introduction of personal sanctions against 52 Belarusian officials, including President Lukashenko’s son Viktor, over involvement in in “falsifying” the results of the 2020 presidential election and human rights violations. The sanctions will be imposed for a three-year period and include a ban on visits and transit through Ukraine and an asset freeze. Ukraine has also refused to purchase electricity from the Belarusian nuclear power plant, moving toward the European ENTSO-E electricity market instead. (Reuters July 9; Interfax Ukraine July 8)
NSDC imposes sanctions against 100 Ukrainians subject to U.S. Treasury sanctions.
- The National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) of Ukraine has imposed sanctions against 100 Ukrainian citizens who are sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In total, 134 Ukrainian citizens are under U.S. sanctions, 130 by the Department of the Treasury, and four by the Department of State—three citizens are deceased, and the other 27 are still under consideration for NSDC sanctions. (Interfax Ukraine July 7)
Zelensky refuses to fire controversial deputy chief of staff despite petition.
- President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 6 declared he would not fire his Deputy Chief of Staff Oleh Tatarov, who had been charged with bribery, in response to a petition for his dismissal that gathered 25,000 signatures. (Kyiv Post July 6)
Ukraine seeks U.S. financial assistance.
- Ukraine is seeking long-term financial assistance from the U.S. ahead of the September maturity of $1 billion of 5-year Eurobonds which had been placed under U.S. guarantees. Ukraine’s Finance Minister Marchenko discussed the possibility with Deputy Treasury Secretary Adeyemo in Washington, and President Zelensky is due to visit Washington in late July. Marchenko was also in talks with the IMF to persuade it to release $700 million in loans to Ukraine before the end of the year. Bank of America concluded in a report last month that Ukraine may be tempted to borrow money from financial markets in order to avoid implementing painful economic reforms and anti-corruption measures. (Ukrainian Journal July 8)
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry condemns torture of Ukrainian citizen Rabeshko in Belarus.
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine strongly condemns the torture of Ukrainian citizen Pavlo Rabeshko by the Belarusian execution authorities during his detention on July 3 in Stolin. Ukrainian diplomats assured that they were in constant contact with Pavlo after his release and provided him with assistance to safely leave Belarus. (Interfax July 9)
Tikhanovskaya had informal meeting with Zelensky in Lithuania.
- Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya had an informal meeting with President Zelensky and FM Kuleba while the officials were on a working visit to Lithuania on July 6–7. “We had no official meetings, but you know how much we feel Ukraine’s support,” Tikhanovskaya stressed.(Interfax Ukraine July 10)
President Zeman to visit China in 2022.
- President Zeman announced that he will visit China in 2022, after a phone call with the Chinese president in which the heads of state discussed further economic cooperation between the two countries. This would be Zeman’s sixth visit to the country during his presidential tenure. (Expats.cz July 7)
Polish PM “disappointed” by Turów negotiations with Czechia.
- PM Morawiecki accused Czech negotiators of unwillingness to reach consensus on the lignite mine in Turów after a new round of negotiations started on Tuesday. (Euractiv July 9)
Biden: U.S. is unfailing partner to Three Seas Initiative.
- The U.S. will be an “unfailing partner” of the Three Seas Initiative, President Biden declared during the Three Seas Initiative summit in Bulgaria. The U.S. embassy in Poland has stressed that U.S. support for the Initiative is “cross-party,” adding that investments in strong economies and high-quality infrastructure could help the region beat the COVID-19 pandemic. The two-day summit of the Three Seas initiative began on Thursday in Sofia with the participation of Poland’s President Duda, attended by delegations from France, Germany, Greece, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. (Poland.IN July 9)
Babiš backs Orbán’s anti-LGBT law.
- PM Babiš will not sign a letter backed by 18 EU Member States in response to a controversial Hungarian law banning LGBT promotion among children. “They [members of sexual minorities] want to have some right. Not that I will sign some ‘jaw-jaw’ dictated to you by someone from Europe,” Babiš declared, reminding that Hungary and Czechia are sovereign countries and that he should not “meddle in Hungarians’ laws.” Babiš added that “parents and not some non-profit organization should raise children,” but assured that he “has no problems with homosexuals” and has a number of friends among them. (Euractiv July 12)
EU executive says Hungary must ditch anti-LGBT law.
- EU Chief Executive von der Leyen warned Hungary on Wednesday that it must repeal legislation that bans schools from using materials seen as promoting homosexuality or face the full force of EU law. The Venice Commission also called on the Hungarian government to reconsider recent amendments to its constitution to avoid possible discrimination. The Hungarian government has criticized the “series of international attacks against Hungary” that“recites the propaganda of the left wing and of George Soros.” (Hungary Today July 7; Reuters July 7)
Hungary rejects EU demand to ditch “shameful” anti-LGBT law.
- Hungary on July 7 rejected demands from the European Commission and many EU lawmakers to repeal new legislation banning schools from using materials deemed to promote homosexuality. The day before, PM Orbán accused EU leaders of acting like “colonialists.” The law entered into effect on July 8; in protest, Amnesty International and Háttér Society raised a ten-meter-long rainbow balloon in front of the building of the National Assembly. (Euractiv July 8 Euronews July 7; Hungary Today July 8)
Párbeszéd, three Polish peers ask for EC scrutiny of Hungary, Poland rule of law situation.
- Hungary’s opposition Párbeszéd and three peers in Poland have sent a joint letter to the European Commission asking it to initiate an EC scrutiny of the rule of law situation in Hungary and Poland and manage any allocation of future EU funding accordingly. In addition, the parties have also asked the EC to allow the final beneficiaries—including local and regional governments, civil organizations and SMEs—direct access to funds affected by cuts or other financial corrections. (Hungary Today July 7)
Article 7 hearings on Slovenian EU presidency agenda.
- Hearings under Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union regarding Poland and Hungary are on the agenda of Slovenia’s EU presidency after many MEPs were critical of the stalling of sanctions procedures in question in a July 7 session. It is expected an Article 7 hearing will be held as part of the December meeting of ministers in charge of EU affairs. (Euractiv July 8)
Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine signed declaration on support for Ukraine joining NATO and the EU.
- The foreign ministers of the Lublin Triangle countries—Ukraine, Lithuania and Poland—signed three joint documents on July 7, including on support for Ukraine’s membership in the EU and NATO. The foreign ministers had met in Vilnius for trilateral talks to discuss regional security, tighter cooperation, and combating disinformation. (Kyiv Post July 7)
Polish government prepares attack on major independent tv station.
- A draft law published on Wednesday could mean the end of Poland’s most important private TV station: TVN24 is a Polish TV station registered in the Netherlands, but owned by a U.S. company, and the law would prevent media companies whose owners are based outside the European Economic Area from getting licenses. (Balkan Insight July 8)
Half of young, educated Slovaks considering leaving the country, new survey shows.
- Every other young university student and university graduate (62% among respondents) are considering leaving Slovakia, according to an Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) and ESET Foundation study. The study also revealed that people in towns were more likely to consider leaving than those in villages, with most wanting to leave permanently. Only a few people who took the survey thought that young and educated people have a future in Slovakia. (Slovak Spectator July 8)
The court deems the question unconstitutional in the referendum on snap elections.
- The Constitutional Court has thwarted the opposition’s attempt to shorten the term of the current parliament by holding a referendum on snap elections, ruling that it would be at odds with the Constitution. A petition for the referendum was signed by more than 585,000 people and was widely supported by the opposition. (Slovak Spectator July 8)
Slovenian PM addressed European Parliament.
- PM Janša addressed the European Parliament to present the Slovenian EU presidency’s priorities, stating that the time had come for the EU to start acting more strategically, including in the Western Balkans. Slovenia’s first short-term priority was to prevent the fourth wave of the pandemic and convince people to get vaccinated. European Commission President von der Leyen meanwhile stressed the role of values and the rule of law. Janša did not wish to comment on the European political future of his Democrats (SDS) party during his address. (IBNA July 7; Euractiv July 7)
Slovenian voters reject new Waters Act in blow for Government.
- Slovenian voters overwhelmingly rejected the new Waters Act in a referendum, with more than 86% voting against it. Turnout was shy of 46%, the highest in a referendum since 2007. Environment Minister Vizjak believes “people have reacted emotionally,” accusing the referendum of being “stolen” and “misused” to achieve political goals. The opposition declared that the result would require the government to resign, but PM Janša and the ruling party have dismissed the notion. (Euractiv July 12)
Iranian ambassador summoned over PM Janša’s 1988 massacre statement.
- The Foreign Ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador to Slovenia over PM Janša’s recent statement about a 1988 massacre in Iran, which last week led to Iran summoning Slovenia’s ambassador. The Ministry explained that Slovenia always advocates human rights and fundamental freedoms. EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Borrell declared any EU Member can have its own stance on certain matters, but that the stance does not represent the EU’s position. (STA July 12)
Parliament could press charges over attack by anti-maskers.
- The National Assembly is considering pressing charges against a group who attacked several MPs in front of the parliament building after changes to the infectious diseases act were passed last week. (STA July 12)
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