Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party pushed through more changes to the court system on Wednesday:
One bill takes power to appoint members to the National Judicial Council, which is responsible for appointing lower-level judges, away from the judiciary itself and gives it to parliament, where Law and Justice has a majority.
The same law removes fifteen of the 25 judges currently serving on the National Judicial Council.
The European Parliament has opened an investigation into the state of democracy and rule of law in Hungary, which is ruled by the self-described illiberal democrat Viktor Orbán.
The resolution, introduced by liberal and left-wing groups, passed on Wednesday with the support of 68 members of the conservative European People’s Party, to which Orbán’s Fidesz belongs.
The mainstream right has long shielded Budapest from scrutiny, despite Orbán’s years of attacks on the courts, the central bank and the media, the removal of checks on his parliamentary majority and his pursuing of economic and migration policies that defy the European mainstream. Read more “Recalcitrant Hungary and Poland Exhaust Europe’s Patience”
The first thing Poland’s Law and Justice party did when it returned to power a year ago was pick a fight with Germany.
Jarosław Kaczyński’s national-conservative party, which controls both the presidency and parliament, has yet to forgive Germany for what it did to Poland seventy years ago.
When Martin Schulz, then president of the European Parliament, accused the Poles of hypocrisy for expecting European solidarity in the face of Russian threats but refusing to help the rest of Europe cope with a refugee crisis, Mariusz Błaszczak, the interior minister, felt it necessary to invoke World War II. He called Schulz’ comments “another example of German arrogance” and pointed out, “We are talking in Warsaw. Warsaw was destroyed by the Germans.”
Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party backed away from controversial press reforms on Tuesday after several nights of street demonstrations in the capital Warsaw.
The concession is a rare victory for the liberal-minded opposition, which has otherwise been unable to stop Law and Justice from reversing the last twenty years of Poland’s democratization and liberalization.
Last week, the nationalist-conservative party proposed a law that would ban all recordings of parliamentary sessions except by a select few broadcasters. It also called for a limit on the number of journalists who are allowed in the building at all.
Die Presse, Austria’s center-right newspaper, reports that many of the cleavages of what the Atlantic Sentinel calls Europe’s blue-red culture war appeared in the Alpine nation’s presidential election on Sunday.
Norbert Hofer, the nationalist Freedom Party candidate, was more popular with men and workers without a college education. Alexander Van der Bellen, a former Green party leader who rallied the Austrian mainstream behind his candidacy, received more votes from women and college graduates.
Similar divides came to light in the American presidential election last month, although there the outcome was reversed: Donald Trump, Norbert’s Republican counterpart, defeated Hillary Clinton, a center-left pragmatists not unlike Van der Bellen.
Alexander Van der Bellen told a news conference on Sunday night he will be an “openminded, liberal-minded and above all a pro-European president” of Austria, adding that his triumph over the Freedom Party’s Norbert Hofer sent a “message to the capitals of the EU that one can win elections with high European positions.”
Clearly — but this is no time for those of us who are openminded, liberal-minded and pro-European to get complacent.
Van der Bellen nearly lost the first time around, in May, when the result of the election was invalidated because absentee votes had been counted too early.
Donald Trump’s unexpected presidential election in the United States has delighted his ideological counterparts in Europe. Brexiteers in the United Kingdom think he will give them a better deal than Hillary Clinton. Populists in France and the Netherlands have responded to Trump’s victory with glee. So have ultraconservatives in Central Europe.