Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Wed Jun 16th, 2021 at 12:26:38 AM EST
Last year Hungary ended legal recognition of trans people and banned gay people from adopting children. Now, they've followed that up with a Russian-style "propaganda law", banning "promotion" of homosexuality in schools or on TV:
Hungary's parliament has passed a law banning gay people from featuring in school educational materials or TV shows for under-18s, as Viktor Orbán's ruling party intensified its campaign against LGBT rights.
The national assembly passed the legislation by 157 votes to one, after MPs in the ruling Fidesz party ignored a last-minute plea by one of Europe's leading human rights officials to abandon the plan as "an affront against the rights and identities of LGBTI persons".
The Hungarian legislation outlaws sharing information with under-18s that the government considers to be promoting homosexuality or gender change.
There's an obvious parallel with the UK's infamous and now-repealed Section 28. While it was never tested in court, one of the reasons for its repeal (besides basic decency) was that it was believed to be inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Council of Europe seems to think Hungary's law is the same, describing it as "run[ning] counter to international and European human rights standards". Hopefully this time there will be a legal challenge, and this institutional homophobia will be outlawed forever in Europe.
Fri Jun 4th, 2021 at 12:12:40 AM EST
We all know multinational corporations cheat on their taxes, using complicated legal arrangements to funnel money through different jurisdictions to avoid paying anything to support the societies that host them. How obscene are such arrangements? This obscene:
An Irish subsidiary of Microsoft made a profit of $315bn (£222bn) last year but paid no corporation tax as it is "resident" for tax purposes in Bermuda.
The profit generated by Microsoft Round Island One is equal to nearly three-quarters of Ireland's gross domestic product - even though the company has no employees.
The subsidiary, which collects licence fees for the use of copyrighted Microsoft software around the world, recorded an annual profit of $314.7bn in the year to the end of June 2020, according to accounts filed at the Irish Companies Registration Office.
The company's profits jumped from just under $10bn in the previous year and compare with Ireland's 2020 GDP of 357bn ($433bn).
Sun May 30th, 2021 at 11:24:01 PM EST
Denmark has been spying on Germany for the NSA:
Denmark's secret service helped the US National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a European media investigation published on Sunday revealed.
The disclosure that the US had been spying on its allies first started coming to light in 2013, but it is only now that journalists have gained access to reports detailing the support given to the NSA by the Danish Defense Intelligence Service (FE).
The report showed that Germany's close ally and neighbor cooperated with US spying operations that targeted the chancellor and president.
The then chancellor candidate for the German center-left socialist party (SPD), Peer Steinbrück, was also a target, the new report disclosed.
As the article notes, we'd known they were cooperating with the Americans to spy within the EU since 2013. What's new is the targets, which are explosive. And its not just Germany that was targetted: the article says they also spied on politicians in Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and France.
The good news is that the Danish government sacked the entire leadership of the FE last year over this. But the fact it even happened is highly disturbing, and really makes you wonder who the EU's spy agencies are really loyal to: their own European governments, or their American "allies".
Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger
Sun Feb 28th, 2021 at 10:47:59 PM EST
Since the pandemic began, the UK government has restricted protests in an effort to contain the plague. But of course, they're plotting to make these restrictions permanent:
Concern over the government's limitation of the right to protest during lockdown continues to mount after it emerged that the home secretary, Priti Patel, is eager to grant police greater powers to control demonstrations once the Covid restrictions are lifted.
In a letter to HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) Patel wrote that although she appreciates protest is "a cornerstone of our democracy" she wanted to know how the Home Office could help police ensure protests in the future do not impact on "the rights of others to go about their daily business".
The point of protest is to tell people something they don't want to hear. Naturally, the targets feel inconvenienced by this. But that is part of living in a free society. Unfortunately, it is now crystal clear that the British establishment (and the Tories in particular) do not want to live in such a society anymore. But if they'd like to live in a society like Hong Kong, maybe they should just move there instead?
Sat Jan 30th, 2021 at 06:23:26 AM EST
Following a court decision that elections could not be delayed despite the pandemic, Catalonia is going to the polls on February 14th. Currently the polls show the ERC, JxCAT (both pro-independence) and Socialists (anti-independence) all roughly on 20% and battling for the lead (the latest one puts the ERC ahead). The anti-independence, authoritarian Citizens, who were the largest party at the last election, have bled over half their support and are going to be relegated to a distant fourth. As for the Spanish People's Party, they're dueling with the misogynist Nazis in Vox down in the minor ranks.
Currently the pro-independence parties - ERC, JxCAT, CUP and EnComu - are expected to get over 50% of the vote and retain power for another term. But the pandemic is likely to affect turnout, so who knows what will happen.
Fri Jan 29th, 2021 at 05:44:25 AM EST
Back in October, Poland's constitutional tribunal (stacked by the ruling "Law and Justice" party) banned abortion. After huge public protests, the ban was not implemented. But now, at the height of the pandemic, they've decided to bring it into force:
Although the ruling was handed down by Poland's constitutional tribunal in October and should have come into force swiftly, there was a three-month delay, apparently prompted by fears over the size of the protests that ensued. More than 400,000 people came out to protest in towns and cities across the country, leading some government figures to suggest a compromise was required.
Ultra-conservative elements of Poland's ruling coalition have long sought to tighten abortion laws further, even though polls show there is minimal support in Polish society at large for the move. Past attempts to change the law led to huge protests, leading to parliament stepping away from the move.
Instead, the law has been changed through the constitutional tribunal, which is mainly made up of those appointed by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party and has become politicised during the party's five years in power. On Wednesday, the tribunal issued a justification of its ruling, and the government later published the ruling, the formal requirements for the law to enter into force.
There have already been small protests. The question is whether there will be the massive ones seen in October (and in response to previous Law and Justice misogyny). If not, the next elections aren't until 2023, which is a long time to wait to fix this.
Fri Jan 15th, 2021 at 12:56:46 AM EST
A minor party has withdrawn from the Italian government, leaving it without a majority in the Senate and on the verge of collapse:
Italy has been plunged into chaos after former prime minister Matteo Renzi withdrew his Italia Viva party from the country's ruling coalition in a largely unpopular move that could end in fresh elections.
The political meltdown, which leaves the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, without a parliamentary majority, comes at the worst possible time for Italy as it struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic and emerge from economic quagmire.
Renzi announced the resignation of his two ministers, Teresa Bellanova and Elena Bonetti, following weeks of clashes over a variety of issues including Italy's post-Covid economic recovery plan.
Conte could now either offer his resignation to the president, Sergio Mattarella, who could give him a mandate to try and forge a new alliance, or go to parliament for a vote of confidence.
Sat Oct 31st, 2020 at 02:49:20 AM EST
The Polsih government's latest attempt to ban abortion (using a stacked supreme court, in a pandemic) is being rejected by the street, just like last time:
About one hundred thousand protesters took to the streets of the Polish capital, Warsaw, on Friday, in the largest demonstration of popular anger directed against Poland's ruling rightwing Law and Justice party (PiS) since it assumed office in 2015.
Protests have been held across the country since Poland's constitutional tribunal declared earlier this month that abortions in instances where a foetus is diagnosed with a serious and irreversible birth defect were unconstitutional. Such procedures constitute about 96% of legal abortions in Poland, which already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe.
On Wednesday, pro-choice activists called a "women's strike" that attracted over 400,000 people to protests in over 400 towns and cities across the central European nation.
Mass protests during a pandemic are... not good. But clearly this is something Polish women think is worth risking death over.
Mon Sep 28th, 2020 at 11:53:08 PM EST
The list of Spanish abuses of Catalonia's democracy is long. When Catalans voted for independence, Spanish riot police seized ballot boxes and beat them in the streets. When they elected leaders to represent their views, Spain refused to allow them to take their seats, or jailed them for "sedition". And now, their supreme court has deposed Catalonia's elected president and barred him from office. His crime? Allowing a banner calling for freedom for political prisoners - the official policy of the Catalan government - to be hung on a government building:
Spain's Supreme Court confirmed on Monday that Catalan president Quim Torra should be removed from office as he is guilty of disobedience for displaying signs in solidarity with the jailed pro-independence leaders on public buildings during an electoral period last year.
In dismissing Torra's appeal, the top court upholds a previous verdict banning the Catalan head of government from holding public office for 18 months -- the second time in three years that a Catalan president is sacked.
Later in the afternoon, the Catalan High Court enforced Torra's disqualification and ordered vice president Pere Aragonès to move forward in replacing him. By 5 pm, Torra had been personally notified of the ruling.
The decision is set to anger pro-independence supporters in Catalonia, who will all but certainly see the ruling as Spain's umpteenth attempt to undermine their political aspirations by prosecuting their leaders.
Torra is the second Catalan president in a row to be removed from office by Spain - his predecessor Carles Puigdemont was overthrown by the imposition of a state of emergency and the imposition of direct, colonial rule. It is clear that Spain will not allow Catalans to rule themselves, or to peacefully and democraticly express their views, and will remove any elected leader who represents them. Which makes it crystal clear that Catalonia needs to be independent, simply in order to enjoy basic democratic rights. By denying those rights, Spain makes it clear that it is not a democracy.
Mon Sep 28th, 2020 at 03:29:44 AM EST
Over in Switzerland, the racist "People's Party" tried to have a Brexit-style referendum on ending freedom of movement with the EU, so they could stop the "flood" of foreigners. But the Swiss people said No:
Swiss voters have resoundingly rejected an attempt to tear up the country's agreement with the EU on the free movement of people, in a referendum that echoed the Brexit vote.
The largest party in the Swiss parliament, the rightwing, anti-immigration Swiss People's party (SVP), called the referendum, arguing that the country must be allowed to set its own limit on the number of foreigners coming in to work.
However, the initiative - opposed by government, parliament, unions, employer organisations and all other political parties because it would put Switzerland's overall relations with the EU in jeopardy - was rejected by 61.7% of voters, final results showed.
The EU had made it clear that freedom of movement was indivisible from the rest of their relationship, and that ending it would also mean ending trade, research and transport treaties, just as for the UK. Swiss voters clearly value those. And hopefully, it'll mean a fall in the fortunes of the People's Party as well.
Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger
Wed Apr 1st, 2020 at 03:19:55 AM EST
Hungary has been a virtual dictatorship for a decade now, as Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has gradually eroded its democracy. But now, its official, with the passage of an indefinite emergency law allowing rule by decree:
Hungary's parliament has passed a new set of coronavirus measures that includes jail terms for spreading misinformation and gives no clear time limit to a state of emergency that allows the nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orbán, to rule by decree.
Parliament voted by 137 to 53 to pass the measures on Monday afternoon, with the two-thirds majority enjoyed by Orbán's Fidesz party enough to push them through in spite of opposition from other parties, which had demanded a time limit or sunset clause on the legislation.
The bill introduces jail terms of up to five years for intentionally spreading misinformation that hinders the government response to the pandemic, leading to fears that it could be used to censor or self-censor criticism of the government response.
No parliament, no elections, no oversight, and no criticism. There are obvious parallels with the Enabling Act of 1933 - except that that law had a sunset clause, and German MPs had to go through the charade of renewing it twice. There are no such limits on Hungary's dictatorship. Will the EU permit this? Unfortunately, its permitted everything else: the suppression of the opposition and the media, the attacks on judicial independence, the establishment of concentration camps for refugees. But if the EU will permit one of its members to become a dictatorship, then what is the point of it?
Fri Feb 7th, 2020 at 02:20:09 AM EST
Part of the story of the Nazis' rise to power in Germany was the willingness of mainstream right-wing parties to work with them to keep out the left. Because of this, one of the fundamental rules of postwar German politics has been "do not work with Nazis". As a result, successive far-right parties have found themselves isolated, unable to get anywhere. Until yesterday, when the "mainstream" Christian Democrats and Free Democrats colluded with (neo-Nazi) Alternative für Deutschland to roll the left-wing Thuringian state premier. But it hasn't worked out like they expected:
Frontpaged with minor edit - Frank Schnittger
Mon Jan 6th, 2020 at 10:59:24 PM EST
Back in December, the European Court of Justice ruled that jailed Catalan politician Oriol Junqueras was a Member of the European Parliament and therefore had immunity from prosecution. In a democratic state under the rule of law, he would have been immediately released from prison (and compensated for his illegal detention), as his "conviction" occurred after his election. Instead, Spain continued to detain him. And now, Spain's Central Electoral Commission has declared that he is no longer an MEP, on the basis of that purported conviction.
But it doesn't stop there. The Central Electoral Commission has also purported to unseat Catalan President Quim Torra, using anti-terrorist law, and in explicit violation of Catalonia's statute of autonomy (which places that power solely in the hands of the Catalan Parliament). The Catalan Parliament isn't going to accept this, and is going to assert its rights, which will set it up for another direct collision with the Spanish judiciary.
In both cases, the message is clear: elected Catalans will not be allowed to advocate for independence, no matter what the law says. Hopefully, higher levels of the Spanish judiciary will correct these decisions. If not, the European courts will. But its just another example of Spanish repression, and another reminder that if Catalans want to be free of it, they need to be free of Spain.
(And meanwhile, Spain's parliament is debating a new government, on which the abstention of the Catalan Republican Left is vital. They've extracted promises of direct government-to-government negotiations on independence, with a public vote in Catalonia on the outcome, and they've made it clear that they will pull the plug and topple the government if those promises aren't kept. But with repression continuing, and political prisoners still in jail, its an awful risk for the ERC, and they may be punished by their voters for it).
Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger
Thu Dec 19th, 2019 at 11:47:47 AM EST
Back in May, jailed Catalan politician Oriol Junqueras ran in the European parliamentary elections as head of the Ahora Repúblicas. AR won 5.6% of the Spanish vote, enough for three MEPs. But Junqueras was not allowed to take his seat, after Spanish authorities refused to release him temporarily from pre-trial detention to complete the post-election formalities. In effect, like the British government before it, the Spanish government was claiming a right of veto over who the people could elect. And now, the European Court of Justice has said that that is not allowed.
The EU Court of Justice has ruled that jailed Catalan politician Oriol Junqueras had immunity from the moment he was officially elected to the European Parliament on June 13th, after Spain's electoral commission proclaimed the final election results. Thus, the European Court states that he should have been able to leave jail at that time and travel to Brussels to take office.
In a hearing of the Luxembourg court this Thursday morning, it was also ruled that if the Spanish Supreme Court believed that pro-independence leader Junqueras should have been kept in jail, it had to tell the European Parliament and ask for the suspension of his immunity.
The ruling is clear in its assessment of the facts at the time that they occurred and represents a slap in the face for Spanish justice whose correct course of action in the spring was to have either allowed Junqueras to travel to take up his office or to have asked for the removal of his immunity. But the EU court does not clarify in its ruling if the decision can be applied now, that is, if Junqueras should now be able to go free to perform his duties as an MEP in the European Parliament.
The question now is whether Spain will respect the ruling, or whether it will try and impede an elected MEP from going about his business. And if they want to do the latter, then the Socialists can kiss goodbye to any hope of Catalan cooperation in their attempt to form a government.
Meanwhile, Spain also blocked two other Catalan politicians, Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín, from taking office. The ruling will also apply to them, and should allow them to immediately take their seats. Because it is voters, not governments, who choose MEPs, and if governments don't like the choices voters make, tough shit for them.
Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger
Wed Dec 18th, 2019 at 01:58:04 AM EST
Poland's Supreme Court has warned that proposed judicial reforms are inconsistent with EU treaties and may lead to Poland being forced out of the EU:
Poland could have to leave the EU over its judicial reform proposals, the country's Supreme Court has warned.
The proposals would allow judges to be dismissed if they questioned the government's judicial reforms.
Judges say the proposals threaten the primacy of EU law and could be an attempt to gag the judiciary.
The Supreme Court said the party was undermining the principle of the primacy of EU law over national law. It said in a statement: "Contradictions between Polish and EU law.... will in all likelihood lead to an intervention by EU institutions regarding an infringement of EU treaties, and in the longer run [will lead to] the need to leave the European Union."
It also said the proposed bill was "evidently" designed to allow President Andrzej Duda to pick a new head of the court before a presidential election which is expected in May.
The court's chief justice, Professor Malgorzata Gersdorf, likened the governing party's proposals to the days of martial law in 1981 in communist Poland.
This is part of a wider campaign by the authoritarian Law and Justice party against anything which threatens their power, similar to that waged by Orban in Hungary. The question is whether the EU actually has the spine to hold its members to account, and suspend them if they start violating the fundamental obligations of membership.
Fri Nov 8th, 2019 at 06:17:20 AM EST
Spain will go to the polls on Sunday, November 10. Its the second election this year; an earlier one in April saw the Socialists - who had gained power in a confidence vote - gain an easy plurality, then refuse to negotiate a coalition with the left-wing Podemos (which would have allowed them, with the support of a few minor parties and the offered abstention of the Catalan Republican Left, to form a government). Instead, they gambled on new elections and winning a greater share of the vote.
Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger
Fri Oct 25th, 2019 at 12:20:13 AM EST
The fundamental rule of democracy is that we settle issues by voting (and if you don't get your way, you just keep pushing for another vote). But thanks to Brexit, a large majority of the UK population is now willing to accept political violence:
Voters on both sides of the Brexit divide believe that violence against MPs and members of the public is a "price worth paying" to secure their favoured outcome, a new study has found.
A majority of both Leave and Remain voters would be happy to accept attacks on politicians and violent protests in which members of the public are badly injured if it meant they got Brexit outcome they want, according to a new polls.
Researchers said they were "genuinely shocked" by the findings, which come amid concerns about threats against MPs.
71% of English Leave voters and 58% of Remainers think violence against MPs is now acceptable. They've already had one MP murdered over this, and you'd think that would be a red light. Instead, it seems to have incited public bloodlust. Meanwhile, 69% of Leavers and 59% of Remainers think injuring members of the public is a worthwhile price to pay (it is unclear if they asked the natural followup of "what about a member of your family?")
This is not a sign of a healthy democracy. Instead, it is a sign of own spiralling down into violence and authoritarianism. And no matter which way Brexit goes - and does anybody outside the UK even really care anymore? - the damage to the political system is going to last a long, long time.
So this is what its coming to... Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger
Tue Oct 15th, 2019 at 01:47:13 AM EST
For the past week, Extinction Rebellion has been peacefully protesting in London to demand action on climate change. The British government's response? Ban their protests:
Police have banned Extinction Rebellion protests from continuing anywhere in London, as they moved in almost without warning to clear protesters who remained at the movement's camp in Trafalgar Square.
The Metropolitan police issued a revised section 14 order on Monday night that said "any assembly linked to the Extinction Rebellion `Autumn Uprising' ... must now cease their protests within London (MPS and City of London Police Areas)" by 9pm.
Almost immediately, officers moved into Trafalgar Square and demanded that protesters remove their tents. Most XR activists staying at the site had already decamped to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, south of the river, and only a few dozen tents, along with gazebos and other infrastructure, remained on the square.
Mon Oct 14th, 2019 at 09:49:49 AM EST
Two years ago Catalans braved police batons and rubber bullets to vote overwhelmingly for independence in a referendum. Today, Spain jailed nine politicians who organised and supported that referendum process for a combined total of a hundred years for "sedition", after a trial that was little more than a judicial lynching. Protests against the verdicts are already breaking out across Catalonia, but Spain has invaded with 1500 riot police to "keep order". So we'll probably see more scenes of peaceful protesters being beaten, gassed and shot for daring to express the view that a democratic society should resolve questions democratically.
Because that, fundamentally, is what this is about. While Catalans are divided on independence, there has always been overwhelming support for the idea that as a democratic society they should be allowed to vote on it. Spain has responded to that idea with violence and brutality. It has treated Catalonia like a colonial possession, whose people must be kept in line by force, rather than as citizens of a democratic state. It has not behaved like a democracy, but like the fascist dictatorship it supposedly ended 40 years ago.
That treatment has unsurprisingly strengthened the desire for independence, as people seek to leave the country which mistreats them. When this mess began, Spain could have allowed a vote, and probably won it, and that result would have been accepted for a decade or more. Now, there's really only one outcome: independence. The question is how long it takes, and how many people Spain murders trying to stop it.
Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger
Mon Oct 14th, 2019 at 02:04:13 AM EST
Over the past decade, Hungary has become an increasingly authoritarian "illiberal democracy", as Prime Minister Victor Orbán has used his political dominance to stifle opposition. But they had local body elections today, and the tide may be turning:
The candidate backed by several opposition parties has been elected mayor of Budapest, in a blow to nationalist prime minister Viktor Orbán's Fidesz party.
With 74% of the votes counted in Budapest, Gergely Karacsony was leading Istvan Tarlos by 50.1% to 44.8%. Shortly after, Tarlos, the ruling party incumbent, conceded defeat on Sunday night.
"On the national level the result is nice but in Budapest, there is thinking to be done," Tarlos told a news conference flanked by Orbán, the prime minister. "Budapest made the decision to elect Gergely Karacsony today."
Despite Tarlos's reference to the national picture, opposition parties were also projected to win mayoral races in around 10 of the country's 23 largest cities in nationwide local elections. In 2014, they won just three of those races.
Local body elections aren't the same as national ones, but it suggests Hungarian voters are finally sick of Orbán. Hopefully they'll get a proper chance to throw him out in 2022.
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