We wish You, all our friends and Partners a very merry Christmas and a happy, successful New Year!
György Odze and the Team of the TCPA
Romania’s government is set to face a motion of no confidence from the country’s opposition parties on Thursday.
The official motion will be presented in front of parliament on Monday to challenge the ruling coalition headed by the Social Democratic Party (PSD).
The government is headed by Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, who was appointed earlier this year.
Romania’s National Liberal Party (PNL) is leading a coalition of 163 MPs from PNL, Save Romania Union (USR) and Pro Romanian (PMP) parties to sign and back a no confidence motion against the Dancila’s government.
The opposition accuses the ruling PSD-ALDE coalition of proposing recent amendments that they say endangers judicial independence.
The opposition parties also criticised Interior Minister Carmen Dan of violently repressing anti-government protests in Bucharest on August 10.
“Carmen Dan, a minister who at midnight guided water cannons, batons and tear gas against peaceful Romanian citizens, against children and mothers, which the police and gendarmerie were supposed to protect, not gas and brutalise, is a commendable minister in your opinion,” the opposition parties told Romanian Insider.
The opposition has also attacked agriculture minister Petre Daea of poorly handling an epidemic of African swine fever from earlier in the year which led to the slaughter of thousands of pigs.
The ethnic Hungarians’ party (UDMR) will most likely not back the motion, giving Prime Minister Dancila a chance to remain in power.
UDMR president Kelemen Hunor told Mediafax that “there is no alternative” to the incumbent ruling coalition.
According to Romanian law, one no confidence motion can be filed per parliamentary session. A previous no confidence motion against the Dancila government failed to gain the necessary support in July.
Romania has been a member of the European Union since 2007.
(17. 12. 2018 via euronews.com)
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has survived a vote of confidence in his PiS (Law and Justice) government.
Morawiecki called for the vote of confidence himself on Wednesday to ensure he had a mandate for reforms he hopes to push through, including higher welfare spending, ahead of Thursday’s summit of European Union leaders.
The vote was held on Wednesday evening and Morawiecki’s government won it easily, with a result of 231 to 181.
Since coming to power three years ago, PiS has grown increasingly isolated in the EU amid accusations at home and abroad of a tilt towards authoritarianism.
The party has seen its popularity ratings edge slightly down following a corruption scandal in the financial regulator.
Jakub Krupa, UK correspondent for The Polish Press Agency (PAP), suggested the move was a preemptive strike by Morawiecki, as opposition parties were planning for a no confidence vote on Friday
(13. 12. 2018 via euronews.com)
Civil organisations and opposition parties held a demonstration against a recent law on extending voluntary overtime in Budapest on Sunday. The amendments to the labour code approved on Wednesday raise the upper threshold for annual overtime from 250 hours to 400 hours and extend the period employers may account overtime for the purpose of calculating wages and rest days from twelve months to three years.
Demonstrators marched from Heroes Square along Andrássy Boulevard, Teréz Boulevard and Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Street to Kossuth Square.
Addressing protesters, Tamás Székely, deputy head of the Hungarian Trade Union Confederation, said the government does not protect workers, adding that the unions would organise strikes and fight against this law in every workplace because they “will not allow slavery to be introduced in Hungary”.
Ildikó Borbély Bangó, a lawmaker of the Socialists, said the government had “turned Hungary into the poorhouse of Europe over the past eight years”.
Independent liberal MP Anett Bősz said “we are fed up with the government’s oppressive measures” because no government can restrict people’s fundamental rights.
Co-leader of the green LMP party Márta Demeter demanded fair wages instead of “slave work”. She spoke out against politicians “serving the interests of multinationals”.
Tímea Szabó, co-leader of the Párbeszéd party, said the prime minister “betrays his own people because the slave law will tear millions of families apart”. She called for resistance, which “should continue until the government withdraws the slave law”.
Independent MP Bernadett Szél said the only way to end oppression is to fight against it in unity.
Ágnes Vadai, a lawmaker of the Democratic Coalition, said she is “fed up with the government riding roughshod over everyone while tolerating fraudsters and robbers”.
Jobbik MP Andrea Varga-Damm said they are demonstrating because “the government had turned against its own country and people”.
A message was read out to the crowd from Catholic Bishop Miklós Beer, who called on demonstrators to refrain from violence. He expressed his respect for the protesters’ determination, but warned that arson and violence undermine their intention of achieving peaceful goals.
The crowd completely filled Kossuth Square, where the parliament building was protected by police lines.
Similar demonstrations were held in seven other cities of the country, the police website police.hu said. There was no need for police intervention anywhere.
(17. 12. 2018 via hungarytoday.hu)
Poland’s president has signed into law a plan to reinstate retired Supreme Court judges, an aide said on Monday.
The country’s parliamentarians last month approved legislation aiming to reinstate retired justices and reverse a move that had triggered a row between Warsaw and Brussels.
The planned change in rules then went to President Andrzej Duda for signature.
The new Polish law, written by the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, repeals provisions under which judges above the age of 65, including the chief justice, were forced into retirement earlier this year.
The Court of Justice of the European Union in October issued an interim injunction ruling that the contested reforms to Poland’s Supreme Court should be suspended.
In July, the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, launched a procedure against Warsaw over the reform, arguing that it undermined “the principle of judicial independence, including the irremovability of judges.”
That move followed the European Commission last December taking the unprecedented step of triggering Article 7 of the EU Treaty against Poland, stepping up pressure on Warsaw over judicial reforms and possibly paving the way for sanctions being imposed on Poland.
Poland’s governing Law and Justice party, which came to power in late 2015, has said that sweeping changes are needed to reform an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system tainted by the communist past.
(18. 12. 2018 via thenews.pl)
The Christian Democratic Union has elected Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as leader, marking the start of a new era for Germany’s ruling party.
Kramp-Karrenbauer succeeds Angela Merkel, 64, who will step down as leader of the CDU but stay on as chancellor for the remainder of the parliamentary term.
CDU delegates, made up of 1,001 career politicians, lawmakers, mayors and councilors, voted to decide the new leader on Friday.
Kramp-Karrenbauer won most support in the first round, but a final round was needed to determine an outright winner.
She faced onetime rival of the Chancellor and former parliamentary leader, Friedrich Merz, winning with 517 votes from 999 votes cast by delegates.
“We need to get rid of what’s slowing us down,” the new leader said in the run-up to the vote.
“And for many entrepreneurs in this country, that means too few trained professionals, too much bureaucracy and too high costs. Here, too, we have no problem with knowledge, we must finally do it. And we want to tackle that together.”
Sometimes dubbed ‘mini Merkel’ or AKK, Kramp-Karrenbauer, 56, is the former premier of the small western state of Saarland.
The new leader does not automatically become the German Chancellor, but is tipped to take office when Merkel either steps down or is forced out.
The next federal election in Germany is due by 24 October 2021
(7. 12. 2018 via euronews.com)
Trade unions mounted a protest on Saturday in central Budapest against the planned change to the labour code that envisages increasing annual overtime from 250 hours to 400 hours, among other measures.
The demonstrators gathered at the Jászai Mari Square on the Pest side of the city and proceeded to Nyugati Railway Station. The crowd’s final destination is Kossuth Lajos Square in front of Parliament.
A representative of the Hungarian Trade Union Confederation, the demonstration’s organiser, told the crowd: We are against the slavery law!”
Demonstrators carried trade union banners and blew whistles.
Last week, the bill’s proponents inserted changes to their original proposals, namely any overtime per year up to 150 hours above the 250 hour threshold “voluntarily entered into” must be concluded with a written agreement between employers and employee. The bill amendments proposed by Fidesz MPs Lajos Kósa, Kristóf Szatmáry and Gábor Bányai also state that collective bargaining covers 300 hours of overtime, and 100 hours above that is possible only if there’s a written agreement between the employer and employee. Also, another change proposed to be written into Hungary’s labour code is that an employer will not have the right to fire an employee if they are unwilling to agree to extra overtime.
The Socialist Party’s leader, Bertalan Tóth, told a press conference last week that the bill’s aim was to address the country’s labour shortage by forcing Hungarians to work more. He accused the government of making a “secret pact” with multinational companies to this end. He dismissed the ruling party’s insistence that overtime would be voluntary, adding that vulnerable workers would be forced to serve their employer’s interests. “The Socialist-Párbeszéd alliance will take all necessary steps to mobilise worker resistance,” he said, adding that its members planned to attend the Saturday demonstration.
If the bill is accepted, the parties will turn to President János Áder and ask him to initiate a constitutional review, he said.
Párbeszéd co-leader Tímea Szabó said a popular vote may be needed to thwart the “slave law”. The bill would open the door to a six-day week “without payment”, she said.
Szabó said the shortage of skilled labour was due to hundreds of thousands of young Hungarians leaving the country during Fidesz rule.
Kordás said “a strange kind of authoritarian capitalism” had emerged in the country, which had taken away the “savings, rights and even the lives” of employees.
József Szilágyi, co-head of the Liga unions group, castigated the government for legislating unilaterally without any meaningful social dialogue beforehand. He called for effective dialogue between government, employers and unions.
Tibor Mezei, head of the union representing employees of the foreign ministry, said that Hungary now had a labour shortage and the government was addressing this problem by increasing working hours and overtime. “But this is not a good solution,” he said.
Tamás Székely, deputy head of the trade union confederation VDSZ, chastised lawmakers for showing a lack of care for families. “They think 400 hours of overtime is fine and it’s okay to pay three years afterwards,” he said.
Slogans of banners held aloft by protesters read: Together against the slavery law!”; “When dictatorship is a fact, revolution is a duty! “;” We won’t be Europe’s China!”
According to the organisers, the demonstrators filled the whole of Alkotmany Street leading to the square in front of Parliament.
At the end of the demonstration, which was accompanied by a strong police presence, MTI reporters witnessed a man run to the stage and shout: “Occupy Kossuth Square!”
The crowd managed to break through the police lines and stormed Kossuth Square. The police then formed a line of defence at the steps of Parliament. The protesters continued their chants there, but no violence occurred and about 20-30 minutes later crowd gathered in Kossuth Square started to disperse.
(9. 12. 2018 via hungarytoday.hu)
Over 61 percent of Poles believe the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union will have a negative impact on their country, a new poll has found.
The survey by pollster IBRiS showed that respondents with liberal and leftist views overwhelmingly subscribed to this opinion.
According to the survey, 10 percent of respondents said Brexit could be beneficial for Poland. Over 15 percent said Brexit would have no effect on the country, while 13 percent were undecided.
Ninety-nine percent of respondents declared they knew about Brexit.
In November, EU leaders unanimously backed a Brexit agreement with British Prime Minister Theresa May, sealing the UK’s divorce from the bloc.
According to Polish Radio’s IAR news agency, the deal includes the two most important points for Poland: guarantees of EU citizens’ rights in the UK after Brexit, and a pledge by London that it will continue to contribute to the EU budget after Britain leaves the bloc.
(10. 12. 2018 via thenews.pl)
Immigrants in Austria without a good level of German are set to see their social benefits cut under new government plans.
The proposals could see monthly payouts for the unemployed cut by €300 if they do not meet language requirements.
“Those who are unwilling to integrate, those who do not want to learn the German language … will receive less in the future,” Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Twitter.
“First justice for Austrians, foreigners will have to wait,” said social affairs minister Beate Hartinger-Klein, of the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), part of the governing coalition.
The government also wants to cut family benefits for workers whose children live abroad, a move that could hit migrant families.
The plan has been criticised by the Caritas charity.
“We must fight poverty, not the people who suffer,” its president Michael Landau said, reported AFP news agency.
Caritas also criticised the government’s emphasis on claimants’ language level at a time when it was reducing funding for some integration programmes, including the organisation of German courses.
The new measures still have to be passed by parliament.
Under current laws, according to the European Commission’s website, families may be entitled to child benefit if their children live in another member state – or in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.
All parents who are entitled to child benefit receive a child tax credit. This benefit is paid in cash, currently provided for under Austrian tax legislation.
The European Commission is reportedly examining the laws to see if the plans are compatible with EU law.
(4. 12. 2018 via euronews.com)
Never before has a single European issue defined a European parliamentary election campaign almost everywhere in the bloc, Gergely Gulyás, the head of the prime minister’s office, said in a briefing to MPs on Tuesday.
At a meeting of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Gulyás said Hungary accepted the principle of solidarity but rejected migrant quotas, “as there is no legal basis for this”.
Referring to the EP election, he said similar political developments to those seen in Germany would be repeated elsewhere in Europe. In Germany, he said, grand coalitions had become the norm in recent times, but this situation has changed. “The issue of migration has shifted the balance of power,” he added.
It had once seemed inconceivable that coalitions of the big parties would not amass a large majority. And yet it seems that will be the case when it comes to the EP, he said, adding that the left wing was likely to weaken since it had never been quite so weak in large European states as it is now.
Germany, he said, is Hungary’s most stable and important political and economic ally, and despite disagreement on many issues, there is a mutual interest is pursuing good cooperation.
“Our interests are bound together, and yet Europe is more divided than ever,” he said. “For the EU to succeed, we need to make clear those areas where we need to work together and those areas where, due to the differences between societies, we disagree,” he said, adding that differences must be accepted on certain issues, and migration was one of them.
Commenting on the EU budget, Gulyás said agreement is needed between net contributor countries and cohesion fund recipients, as well as countries benefiting from farm subsidies. “Hungary’s standpoint is clear,” he said. If the global figure is reduced due to Brexit, then everyone else should pay proportionally more into the budget, he said. Hungary is ready to do so, but there is great resistance elsewhere, so it is likely that everyone will have less, he added.
Gulyás noted that the aim of the cohesion fund is to reduce disparities in the standard of living between EU member states. But the European Commission wants to divert funding to countries experiencing slower growth, seeing the issue of living standard disparities as secondary, he said. Yet those countries with a high rate of economic growth that have complied with the Maastricht criteria would be penalised for obeying the rules, he said.
Responding to opposition criticism regarding Hungary’s geopolitical orientation, Gulyás said Hungary’s EU membership was a national interest and NATO guaranteed its security to the highest level, so it was the right decision to join these integrations.
(5. 12. 2018 via hungarytoday.hu)