Poland’s Ruling Nationalist Party Steps Up Assault on Judiciary

Prime Minister Beata Szydło of Poland listens to a reporter's question in Warsaw, June 28
Prime Minister Beata Szydło of Poland listens to a reporter’s question in Warsaw, June 28 (KPRM)

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.
  • A second bill gives the justice minister the power to unilaterally replace court presidents. Read more “Poland’s Ruling Nationalist Party Steps Up Assault on Judiciary”

EU Threatens Sanctions Against Central European States

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán enters the European Parliament in Brussels for a debate, April 26
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán enters the European Parliament in Brussels for a debate, April 26 (European Parliament)

The European Union is clamping down on its recalcitrant Central European member states.

The European Commission has opened what is called an infringement procedure against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland for failing to take in their share of refugees.

This comes on the heels of several probes into Hungary’s and Poland’s right-wing governments. Read more “EU Threatens Sanctions Against Central European States”

Recalcitrant Hungary and Poland Exhaust Europe’s Patience

President Jean-Claude Juncker and other members of the European Commission listen to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 14, 2016
President Jean-Claude Juncker and other members of the European Commission listen to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 14, 2016 (European Parliament)

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”

Poland’s Opposition to Multispeed Europe Is Ill-Considered

Jarosław Kaczyński
Polish Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński gives a speech in Zakopane, October 19, 2015 (PiS)

Poland’s ruling party has come out against a proposal for more flexible integration in Europe that is supported by the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

“We cannot accept any announcements of a two-speed Europe,” Jarosław Kaczyński, the head of the conservative Law and Justice party, told the weekly W Sieci.

This would mean either pushing us out of the European Union or downgrading us to an inferior category of members.

This is hyperbole. Read more “Poland’s Opposition to Multispeed Europe Is Ill-Considered”

Brexit and Trump Force Poles to Shelve Suspicions of Germany

Polish Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński gives a speech in Zakopane, October 19, 2015
Polish Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński gives a speech in Zakopane, October 19, 2015 (PiS)

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.”

Now the prospect of Schulz coming to power in Berlin has Błaszczak’s party scrambling to repair Polish relations with his rival, Angela Merkel. Read more “Brexit and Trump Force Poles to Shelve Suspicions of Germany”

Poland’s Law and Justice Party Finally Went Too Far

Polish prime minister Beata Szydło and Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński attend a remembrance ceremony for the 2010 airline crash near Smolensk, April 10
Polish prime minister Beata Szydło and Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński attend a remembrance ceremony for the 2010 airline crash near Smolensk, April 10 (PiS)

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.

The bill became a focal point of protest against Law and Justice’s illiberal agenda, prompting even Lech Wałęsa to speak out. Read more “Poland’s Law and Justice Party Finally Went Too Far”

Blue-Red Culture War in the Alps

Hohenwerfen Castle in Werfen, Austria, near the German border, August 14, 2015
Hohenwerfen Castle in Werfen, Austria, near the German border, August 14, 2015 (Daniel Parks)

Die Presse, Austria’s center-right newspaper, reports that many of the cleavages of what the Atlantic Sentinel calls 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.

How do we heal these divisions? Read more “Blue-Red Culture War in the Alps”

Van der Bellen’s Victory Sends Message to Other Countries

Austrian presidential candidate Alexander Van der Bellen speaks with voters in Klagenfurt, April 6
Austrian presidential candidate Alexander Van der Bellen speaks with voters in Klagenfurt, April 6 (Facebook)

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.

He only won the second election on Sunday by mobilizing the whole Austrian center and left. Read more “Van der Bellen’s Victory Sends Message to Other Countries”

Austrians Elect Left-Wing President, Italians Vote Renzi Out

  • Austrians elected the Green party’s Alexander Van der Bellen as their next president on Sunday. He defeated the far right’s Norbert Hofer with 54 to 46 percent support.
  • Italians rejected constitutional reforms in a referendum on the same day, prompting the center-left prime minister, Matteo Renzi, to resign. Read more “Austrians Elect Left-Wing President, Italians Vote Renzi Out”

Trump’s European Admirers Are Deluding Themselves

United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 29, 2015
United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 29, 2015 (European Parliament)

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.

They should think again. Trump may be a kindred spirit. His triumph is a setback for the liberal consensus that nationalists in Europe and North America are trying to tear down. But he is no friend of European nations. Read more “Trump’s European Admirers Are Deluding Themselves”