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An influential German MEP has claimed that Russia will not keep its promise to continue sending gas through Ukraine after the contested Nord Stream 2 pipeline is completed, according to a report.
The lawmaker, Elmar Brok, was on Friday quoted as saying by a Polish website that the Russians will not keep their commitments and instead terminate transit via Ukraine as soon as the new gas link to Germany is up and running.
The 1,200-kilometre Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is scheduled for completion this year, is expected to supply around 55 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, circumventing Poland, the Baltic states and Ukraine.
Poland’s wgospodarce.pl website cited Brok as saying—in an interview published by German tabloid Bild on Friday—that the project “must and can be stopped.”
“It is enough to apply EU law,” the MEP said, as quoted by the website.
The European Parliament this month approved an amendment to a gas directive that is expected to give the European Commission a bigger say in regulations governing the Nord Stream 2 link.
EPP’s Weber cited as opposing Nord Stream 2
Brok’s remarks published on Friday echoed a view voiced earlier by fellow German politician Manfred Weber, who is running for head of the European Commission with the support of the European People’s Party’s (EPP), wgospodarce.pl reported.
Weber was cited by Poland’s Polska The Times newspaper as saying in an interview that he opposed Nord Stream 2 and that the project was not in line with the interests of the European Union.
Weber said in the interview, which Polska The Times published in Polish on Tuesday, that, if elected as European Commission head, he would use all available laws to block the pipeline.
Project under fire
Several dozen MEPs from different European countries late last year appealed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel to halt the controversial pipeline project, which is opposed by Poland.
In a joint open letter, the MEPs said that “Germany’s position on Nord Stream 2 runs counter to the goals of the European Energy Union.”
The Eurodeputies said in their letter—as posted by one of the signatories, German MEP Rebecca Harms, on her website—that Nord Stream 2 “gives Russia additional strategic leverage over the EU because it increases the EU’s energy dependency” on that country.
A commentator for a German newspaper warned last year that the contested Nord Stream 2 gas link to Western Europe is not a business project, but a Russian “weapon against Ukraine.”
A US diplomat was cited as saying in December that Russia was seeking to increase its power in Europe and its grip over Ukraine with a new gas pipeline to Germany.
US Vice President Mike Pence in early April warned that America “cannot ensure the defence of the West” if its allies grow dependent on Moscow as a result of projects such as Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Washington was preparing to impose sanctions on EU firms that help finance Nord Stream 2.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said last May that Nord Stream 2 was “a new hybrid weapon” aimed at the European Union and NATO.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said in October that the construction of the pipeline despite a lack of approval from all EU members showed a lack of solidarity within the bloc.
(26. 4. 2019 via thenews.pl)
Yesterday Ukraine’s parliament approved a controversial law that makes the Ukrainian language compulsory for the public sector. As a result, minority languages can only be spoken at home or during religious events.
Backers of the law claim it would strengthen Ukraine’s national identity and language, something the country – which finds itself in a delicate position as a result of an increasing pressure from Russia – could possibly benefit from. Hungarian organizations, and those of other minorities, have protested against the legislation by saying it eliminates the right minorities have to speak their own languages.
According to Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, the law is “unacceptable.” He expressed hope that the situation concerning the rights of the Hungarian community in Ukraine could be “clarified in a dialogue with the country’s new president (…) in pursuit of finding a solution to the issue.”
In addition, as Index noted, the law’s text states that the languages of Crimean Tatars and other indigenous peoples – potentially including Hungarian – will be covered by an amendment. It is expected to be presented within half a year by a new parliament as President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky’s Servant of the People party is not yet present in the Parliament due to the particularities of the Ukrainian electoral system. However, the party will likely have a majority after the October elections.
As a native Russian speaker, Zelensky’s stance is of great interest to many. However, for now it remains unclear how he feels about the language law. Nevertheless, he does appear to be less of a nationalist than the current president, Petro Poroshenko. According to karpatalja.ma, he said on Thursday that when sworn in he plans to carefully analyze “this law to ensure that it respects the constitutional rights and interests of all the citizens of Ukraine.”
For now, the law is yet to be signed by outgoing President Poroshenko, but given his previous statements, it is highly likely he will sign it before handing over the presidency.
The law has generated tension not only between the two countries but also in diplomacy. For example, Hungarian diplomats blocked discussions between Ukraine and NATO. This led to criticism from the US: At a conference organized by the conservative Danube Institute yesterday, U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker insisted that “the issue of national minority languages is important and needs to be resolved between Hungary and Ukraine, but it doesn’t provide justification for blocking NATO discussions.” Founding member of Fidesz and Chairman of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Zsolt Németh retorted by declaring easing up out of the question for the time being. In the same vein, Transcarpathian Hungarian Cultural Association (KMKSZ) leader László Brenzovics warned the US “not to confuse Westernism with Ukrainian nationalism oppressing minorities.”
(26. 4. 2019 via hungarytoday.hu)
The weekend’s party conventions in the run up to the European elections this May and a new opinion poll
After Saturday’s meet in the mid-western city of Poznań, on Sunday ruling Law and Justice leader Jarosław Kaczyński and PM Mateusz Morawiecki led the convention in Białystok, north-east Poland.
PM Morawiecki promised efforts to channel more EU funds to this part of Poland, and spoke of hopes that the Podlasie region would become “not only the geographic but also the economic centre of Europe”.
Jarosław Kaczyński spoke of the Via Carpatia transport route linking ten countries from the Baltic to the Black Sea, saying that it would “change European geopolitics”.
The opposition’s European Coalition met on Sunday in Opole. At Saturday’s regional convention of the Coalition in Poznań, Civic Platform leader Grzegorz Schetyna announced that on May 18, a week before the elections to the European parliament, the Coalition will be heading a march under the heading “Poland in Europe”, as he said for all those who want “a free, European Poland”.
Saturday was also a convention day for the new “Wiosna” (Spring) party spearheaded by Robert Biedroń. Speaking in Wrocław, he likened Poland to “a grounded plane. After 15 years in the EU we should be steering this plane but instead we are scraping the ground and not taking advantage of the opportunity awarded by EU membership”. He declared that his party was “ready to take matters into its hands”.
Sunday also saw the convention of the opposition Kukiz ’15 party, meeting in Warsaw.
Meanwhile an opinion poll done by IBRIS for commercial radio RMF FM and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna daily gives ruling Law and Justice 38,7 % of votes in the elections to the European Parliament, and 33 % to the opposition’s European coalition, which brings together the Civic Platform, the People’s Party, Nowoczesna and Green parties. Robert Biedroń’s “Spring” was third with 8.2 %. 49 per cent of respondents said they intended to take part in the elections.
(28. 4. 2019 via thenews.pl)
The Eastern Partnership was established in May 2009 thanks to an initiative by Poland and Sweden. Ten years since its founding is therefore a good moment to sum up the partner countries’ views of this policy and to analyse the direction in which this programme should develop. This report’s purpose is to formulate proposals on how the EU can develop its relations with the EaP countries in the medium and long term. The recommendations were developed based on the analysis of the partner countries’ expectations, as well as political restrictions within the EU. The possibilities of using EU integration models involving third countries, such as Turkey (customs union) or Norway in the scope of the European Economic Area (EEA), were also analysed. The experience of the Western Balkans in integration with the Union was also an inspiration for the presented proposals.
(10. 4. 2019 via pism.pl)
The Hungarian government will offer 9 million forints (EUR 28,100) in emergency aid to people gravely injured and children orphaned in Sunday’s bomb attacks in Sri Lanka, the state secretary in charge of helping persecuted Christians said on Monday.
Speaking to public current affairs channel M1, Tristan Azbej said the government would then look into providing other, larger-scale forms of assistance.
The state secretary said the primary task after such an attack was expressing condolences to the families of the victims. He added, however, that “there were some who tried to conceal that this was an attack against Christianity and the West.”
Azbej said Christianity was “the most persecuted religion in the world”. The persecution of Christians claims more than 4,000 victims a year, he said, adding that major international organisations and Western governments were still not devoting enough attention to this issue.
This was why, he said, the government launched its Hungary Helps humanitarian scheme in 2016, focused on, among other things, aiding persecuted Christians.
(22. 4. 2019 via hungarytoday.hu)
Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comedian who played a fictional president on a popular TV show, will become Ukraine’s next president after winning the election by a landslide.
Official results show the entertainer, who has no real previous experience in politics, has won 73% of the vote – with 95% of votes counted, according to the central election commission.
This surpasses his rival, incumbent Petro Poroshenko, who got just 25% of the vote.
Declaring victory at his campaign headquarters to emotional supporters on Sunday night, Zelenskiy promised he would not let the Ukrainian people down.
“I’m not yet officially the president, but as a citizen of Ukraine, I can say to all countries in the post-Soviet Union look at us. Anything is possible!”
Zelenskiy and Poroshenko battled in a run-off vote to decide the country’s next president on Sunday.
Accepting defeat, Poroshenko hailed the election as a victory for democracy in Ukraine. He told his supporters he would not be leaving politics.
“Dear Ukrainian, this month I will leave the post of the head of state. This is how the majority of Ukrainians have decided and I accept this decision. I will leave the office but I want to announce firmly: I will not leave politics, ” he said.
Zelenskiy told a crowd of supporters on Sunday “we did it together. Thanks to everyone. Now there will be no pathetic speeches, I just want to say – thank you.”
The 41-year-old comedian led the first round of voting three weeks ago which listed 39 candidates on the ballot paper.
Zelenskiy and Poroshenko met in an unconventional debate at a football stadium in Kyiv on Friday after the comedian challenged the incumbent president to a debate on social media. Both have pledged to keep Ukraine on a pro-Western course.
The actor is best known for playing an ordinary teacher who is unexpectedly elected to the presidency after an angry rant about corruption was posted online by his students.
However, Poroshenko, who has been the leader since 2014, has warned his opponent’s lack of experience would leave Ukraine vulnerable to Russia.
The country has been fighting a war against Russian-backed forces in the east and whoever is confirmed as the next president will also inherit the West’s standoff with Russia following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.
Zelenskiy has proved popular with his campaign to end corruption, ramp up living standards, and end the war in the eastern Donbass region but he has not overtly specified how he intends to do so in the election campaign.
However, on Sunday he said he planned to continue European-backed talks with Russia on a largely unimplemented peace deal and would try to free Ukrainians imprisoned in Russia, which is holding 24 Ukrainian sailors among others
European leaders Emmanuel Macron and British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt congratulated the comedian. European Council President Donald Tusk also welcomed the apparent victory in a tweet.
(23. 4. 2019 via euronews.com)
Poland’s president has congratulated Volodymyr Zelensky, who according to an exit poll on Sunday won Ukraine’s presidential race by landslide.
Poland’s Andrzej Duda said in a message to Zelensky: “I would like to assure you that Poland is ready for further comprehensive assistance to Ukraine in terms of security and state reforms.”
Duda added that Zelensky’s victory was “an expression of the expectations of Ukrainian society for a significant acceleration of action by state authorities in reforming the political and economic sphere of the country and ensuring security and stability in Ukraine.”
Duda also invited Zelensky to visit Poland, state news agency PAP reported.
(4. 22. 2019 vis thenews.pl)
We would like to announce that the Tihany Center and its team are going to organise its annual seminar in Balatonfüred (Tihany) again. This year’s topic is the following: Elections to the European Parliament and the future of the EU.
Here are the most important information:
Proposed date: 29 August – 1 September, 2019
Location: Balatonfüred-Tihany, Hungary
Number of participants: 35-40
Invited speakers: Géza Jeszenszky, former minister of foreign affairs (Hungary); Stefan Drexler, expert (EPP-CSU); Gábor Szentiványi, former ambassador of the Republic of Hungary, Jonny Daniels, advisor, PR-expert (Poland)
Detailed program: (TBA)
Link for registration: https://forms.gle/xgRGNcGcJDbvNwm77
Requirements of participation: Registration, creating an essays in connection with the main topic, active participation during the seminar
Fees: All expenses (accommodation, food,) during your stay at the Lake Balaton are covered by the TCPA, if you fulfilled the requirements. That means you only have to pay for your travel costs.
The Tihany Centre for Political Analysis was established in 2013 as an independent research institute. György Odze, a retired diplomat is the owner and the director of the organisation. It is located in Tihany at the Lake Balaton (Hungary) in one of the most beautiful part of the country. The TCPA has a wide-range of activities which deal with issues important to Hungary’s sphere of interest and political environment. The Center’s primary area is Central Europe, Visegrad countries, but we also pay attention to the changes in Europe, the transatlantic ties and security issues. We offer practical solutions and keep an eye on how our theories work in practice. Link: http://www.tihanypolitics.eu/en/
The Italian language does not want for colorful insults. There are curses upon a person’s dead relatives, ample anatomical exclamations and countless ways to call someone a moron.
But these days, it seems, one of the biggest put-downs of all is to call someone a do-gooder.
And on the lips of Matteo Salvini, the leader of the anti-immigrant League Party and Italy’s most powerful politician, the word “buonista,” or do-gooder, is a dangerous weapon.
“The European dream is being buried by the bureaucrats, the do-gooders and the bankers who are governing Europe for too much time,” Mr. Salvini said this past week at the introduction of a new alliance of far-right and populist parties before European parliamentary elections in May.
Or early this year, when he spoke scornfully of “the hotshot do-gooders,” those he equates with hypocritical limousine liberals or Pollyannish bleeding hearts, who “condemned to death thousands” by urging migrants to “come, come, come.”
The proliferation of the unlikely slur has become a profound marker of the topsy-turvy state of politics in Italy, where being too good is bad, expertise is disqualifying and hard economic data is subject to Dadaist analysis.
But the Italians are not alone. The far-right party Alternative for Germany has so often insulted opponents with “Gutmensch” — or do-gooder — that a jury of linguists and writers chose it as the worst word — or Unwort — of the year in 2015.
Its pejorative use for those “who oppose attacks on refugee homes,” the jury wrote, showed that “tolerance and helpfulness are generally defamed as naive, stupid and unworldly.”
More recently, supporters of the European Union, first among them President Emmanuel Macron of France, have expressed concerns that Italy’s populists have gone through the looking glass, and that they could plant the seeds of destruction in a bloc that has provided the Continent with 70 years of peace.
Mr. Macron has firsthand experience with the new up-is-down, down-is-up Italian political logic. In February, France recalled its ambassador after leaders of Italy’s Five Star Movement went to France to seek a political alliance with the sometimes violent Yellow Vest protesters in Paris.
“Some defend nationalism,” Mr. Macron said in an interview in March with Fabio Fazio, a popular Italian talk show host and one of Mr. Salvini’s favorite do-gooder targets. “But I will fight these people with force because I think they will make us lose 10 or 20 years by dragging us back to old divisions.”
Supporters of Mr. Salvini, who himself once lumped the French president in with the do-gooders, dismissed the interview as a mini do-gooder summit.
They also scorned the more than 200,000 people who demonstrated in Milan in March to protest what they believed were the racist policies of the populist government. “In Milan, A Carnival of Do-Gooders,” read the headline in the right-leaning Il Giornale.
Do-gooder owes its heavy rotation on Italy’s poisonous social media accounts, in political interviews and in Mr. Salvini’s speeches to a period of acute polarization and incivility.
But critics say that if Mr. Salvini’s League Party has made bad good, its coalition partner, the Five Star Movement, has elevated obliviousness to a professional credential.
The throw-the-elite-bums-out ethos of the populists, they say, has led to a government staffed with hapless amateurs who wear their inexperience as a badge, and transported Italy into a bizarro world that upends political logic.
“It’s like they are from another planet,” said Romano Prodi, a former prime minister of Italy and former European Commission president, who is himself a classic target of the do-gooder slight. “They are Martians.”
The founder of the Five Star Movement, the comedian Beppe Grillo, has also dabbled in insults of do-gooderism. Like the current polarization, the inverted invective seems to have roots in the era when Silvio Berlusconi was prime minister.
In 2002, the political commentator Luca Sofri, writing on his blog Wittgenstein, noted that the word “buonista” or do-gooder had become “an alibi for the bad guys to be bad: If you do good then you are a do-gooder.”
In 2008, La Repubblica, the liberal Rome daily, wrote that the center-right had redefined the positive word as “synonymous with softy” and that some politicians, especially when it came to the issue of migration, sprinkled do-gooder around “like parsley.”
But Mr. Salvini has made a meal of it.
In July 2016, after comparing Laura Boldrini, then the speaker of the Italian House, to a sex doll, he wrote under the hashtag “deflate Boldrini” that she was a “hypocrite, do-gooder, racist against the Italians.”
In December 2017, a group of neo-Nazi skinheads in black bomber jackets barged in on a meeting of pro-migrant volunteers to read a manifesto warning that Europeans risked being “replaced” by “non-people.”
Afterward, Mr. Salvini wrote on Facebook that “for the do-gooders” the “problem with Italy is 10 right-wing guys who read a pamphlet.’’ He said his problem was with illegal immigrants ‘‘who fight, steal, rape and deal drugs.’’
But there are real-world consequences to making good bad and bad good, not least a more permissive atmosphere to be downright mean, uncivil or even violent.
As Mr. Salvini has increasingly attacked migrants verbally, more Italians have done so physically, according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors hate crimes. Some liberals have embraced the redefinition as a reality, and have proudly worn “buonista” T-shirts. But others see it as a dangerous erosion of Italy’s values.
Mr. Fazio, the talk show host, declined to comment for this article. But as far back as 2014 he vented his rage at hearing the insult thrown his way. “I can’t hear the word ‘do-gooder’ anymore. I just can’t,” he said, adding, less than do-goodly, “It’s really pissing me off.”
In a country built on anger like Italy, he said, “to interpret good manners and banal civility as do-gooderism is an instigation.”
(13. 4. 2019 via nytimes.com)