Three Seas Initiative Breathes New Life into Central Europe

Central and Eastern European leaders meet in Bucharest, Romania for the Three Seas Initiative summit, September 18
Central and Eastern European leaders meet in Bucharest, Romania for the Three Seas Initiative summit, September 18 (Three Seas Initiative)

The Financial Times reports that Central and Eastern European countries are putting flesh on the bones of the Three Seas Initiative, a forum dreamed up by Croatia and Poland to promote regional integration. Read more “Three Seas Initiative Breathes New Life into Central Europe”

Poland Launches Legal Challenge to Nord Stream 2

Skyline of Warsaw, Poland
Skyline of Warsaw, Poland (Unsplash/Alexey Topolyanskiy)

Poland’s antitrust watchdog has begun legal proceedings against Gazprom and the five European companies that are its partners in Nord Stream 2. The regulator alleges that completion of the Baltic Sea pipeline would inhibit competition.

EurActiv reports that the companies — Anglo-Dutch Shell, Austria’s OMV, Switzerland’s Engie and Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall — face fines of up to 10 percent of their annual turnover. Read more “Poland Launches Legal Challenge to Nord Stream 2”

Europe’s Blue-Red Culture War Comes to Czech Republic

Prague Czech Republic
View of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, from the Charles Bridge (Unsplash/Jay Dantinne)

Europe’s blue-red culture war has come to the Czech Republic, writes Jan Rovny at the London School of Economics’ EUROPP blog.

This weekend’s presidential election pitted the incumbent Miloš Zeman, “a self-styled representative of the common folk,” against the centrist, pro-European Jiří Drahoš.

The outcome — Zeman prevailed with 51 percent support — suggests that Czech politics have taken another step closer to Hungary and Poland.

This will revolve around a deepening, identity-infused contest between traditionalists touting their newfound patriotism and cosmopolitans seeking to maintain the country’s westward orientation.

Read more “Europe’s Blue-Red Culture War Comes to Czech Republic”

Nationalism May Be Down, But It’s Not Out

Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States pose for photos in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16, 2017
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States pose for photos in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16, 2017 (Turkish Presidency)

Nationalism may be down, but it’s not out, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The nationalist insurgency is both growing and metamorphosing. It is not just eating away at relations between countries on issues such as free trade; it is also eroding the institutions and norms that prevail within countries.

With economies growing on both sides of the Atlantic, populists now draw on cultural grievances to undermine the stable, rules-based environment businesses crave. Read more “Nationalism May Be Down, But It’s Not Out”

Polish Ruling Party Forces Through Reforms to Defang Supreme Court

Frans Timmermans Beata Szydło
Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the European Commission, listens as Prime Minister Beata Szydło of Poland answers a question from a reporter in Warsaw, May 24, 2016 (KPRM)

Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice party is forcing through judicial reforms that the Supreme Court’s president, Małgorzata Gesdorf, has said would “end” the Supreme Court and “break” the Constitution.

The changes are expected to be enacted next week after a parliamentary committee voted for the legislation on Thursday.

During a hearing, lawmakers from the ruling party rejected all amendments from the opposition, refused to hear independent legal counsel and ignored warnings from parliament’s own lawyers, who said the reforms might be unconstitutional.

Grzegorz Schetyna, the leader of the opposition Civic Platform, has called for demonstrations in the streets.

“This is no longer a creeping coup,” he told Polish television. “This coup begins to strike.” Read more “Polish Ruling Party Forces Through Reforms to Defang Supreme Court”

How Law and Justice Stays Popular in Poland

Polish Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński gives a speech in Białystok, October 23, 2015
Polish Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński gives a speech in Białystok, October 23, 2015 (PiS)

Remi Adekoya explains in Foreign Affairs how Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has been able to remain popular despite truncating democratic norms and institutions and antagonizing the EU:

  • It has raised social spending, specifically for poor rural families with children.
  • It portrays its domestic opponents as corrupt elites fighting to preserve their influence.
  • It portrays its European critics as fanatical multiculturalists and militant secularists who are so obsessed with political correctness they have lost all sense of self-preservation. Read more “How Law and Justice Stays Popular in Poland”

Macron Wins Central European Support for Posted-Workers Reform

Austrian chancellor Christian Kern and French president Emmanuel Macron visit Salzburg, August 23
Austrian chancellor Christian Kern and French president Emmanuel Macron visit Salzburg, August 23 (BKA/Andy Wenzel)

French president Emmanuel Macron has won support from the leaders of Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia for reform of the EU’s posted-workers regime.

“We are prepared work with all our partners on a technical level to agree an adjustment of the Posted Workers Directive so that we can overcome the split in the EU,” Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka said following a four-nation summit in Salzburg.

Robert Fico, his Slovak counterpart, suggested a deal could be reached by October. Read more “Macron Wins Central European Support for Posted-Workers Reform”

Duda Hasn’t Stopped Law and Justice from Subjugating Poland’s Courts

Polish president Andrzej Duda answers questions from reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, January 18, 2016
Polish president Andrzej Duda answers questions from reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, January 18, 2016 (NATO)

Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, has surprised observers by vetoing legislation from his own Law and Justice party that would have defanged the judiciary.

Closer scrutiny suggests Duda’s opposition is less meaningful than it is made out to be, though.

The president has said he will sign the bills if they are amended and Leonid Bershidsky argues at Bloomberg View that his proposed changes don’t deviate from the legislation’s objective: “to put the judiciary, which the party argues has turned into an elitist caste, under more political control.” Read more “Duda Hasn’t Stopped Law and Justice from Subjugating Poland’s Courts”