EU doubles down on asylum double standards
More than 1.1 million refugees and asylum seekers have entered Germany this year—outpacing the 890,000 that arrived during the Mediterranean migration crisis in 2015. Back then, the vast majority were Syrians. This year, around one million of those who have entered are Ukrainians, although Syrians, Afghans, and others continue to arrive. For Ukrainians, the EU Commission this week extended the Temporary Protection Directive—first activated in March, and allowing them to live, work, and access services throughout the EU. Some 4.2 million Ukrainians have registered under the directive, which is now valid until March 2024. Meanwhile, the EU is pursuing much less welcoming policies for asylum seekers and migrants from other parts of the world. These include the the Dublin Regulation, that since 2003 has required asylum seekers to apply for protection in the member state they first entered—often prolonging perilous journeys to reach sanctuary beyond countries with harsh immigration policies, such as Poland and Hungary.
EuroParliament: Hungary no longer a democracy
The European Parliament on Sept. 15 voted to adopt an interim report finding that Hungary is no longer a democracy, but is becoming a "hybrid regime of electoral autocracy"—a constitutional system in which elections occur, but respect for democratic norms and standards are absent. The report was mandated in 2018, when EuroParliament passed a resolution asking European Union member states to determine whether Hungary is at risk of breaching the EU's founding values, in accordance with Article 7(1) of the Treaty on the European Union. EuroParliament raised concerns about judicial independence, freedom of speech and religion, and the rights of migrants and LGBTQ persons.
European Commission sues Hungary over civil rights
The European Commission on July 15 announced that it will sue Hungary in the EU's Court of Justice over an anti-LGBT law and Hungary's refusal to allow a dissident radio station to broadcast. Hungary adopted a law in June 2021 that prevents companies from featuring LGBTQ couples in educational or advertising content intended for children. The legislation was swiftly condemned by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who later initiated infringement proceedings against Hungary. The Commission's case also concerns Hungary's refusal to renew broadcaster Klubradio's license, taking them off the air. Infringement proceedings were also launched against Hungary in that matter. The Commission charges that "the decisions of the Hungarian Media Council to refuse renewal of Klubradio's rights were disproportionate and non-transparent and thus in breach of EU law." Klubradio is highly critical of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government. Hungary is being sued on the basis of violating the EU's Audiovisual Media Services Directive, e-Commerce Directive and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Hungary dictatorship consolidates; Putin pleased
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Órban on May 24 declared a state of emergency, citing threats originating from the war in Ukraine. The declaration, allowing him to rule by decree, came days after his Fidesz party used its supermajority in parliament to pass a constitutional amendment allowing the government to impose a state of emergency in the event of a war in a neighboring country. Órban declared a similar emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and those assumed special powers, having been extended by the National Assembly multiple times, were set to expire just days before the new declaration.
Ukraine war portends new oil shock
Long-depressed oil prices are suddenly soaring in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with impacts already being felt globally. Kazakhstan, recently wracked by internal instability, is facing economic crisis as its crude exports are threatened. Most of these exports pass through a pipeline linking Kazakhstan's western oil-fields to Russia's Black Sea terminal at Novorossiysk. That terminal, owned by the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), lies within 250 kilometers of the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, now besieged by Russian forces. This proximity is sufficient for tankers loading at the Novorossiysk terminal to incur a "war risk insurance premium." According to S&P Global Platts, the premium has been high enough to deter buyers since the Russian invasion of Ukraine was launched late last month.
Growing police-state measures in face of COVID-19
As nations across the globe remain under lockdown, more sweeping powers are being assumed by governments in the name of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Facing demands for relief from poor barrios running out of resources under his lockdown orders, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to shoot protesters in the streets. Particularly naming the popular organization Kadamay as planning protests, Duterte said April 1: "Remember, you leftists: You are not the government. Do not go around causing trouble and riots because I will order you detained until this COVID [outbreak ends]. I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police and military...that if there is trouble... shoot them dead. Do you understand? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I'll send you to the grave." (Rappler)
EU court rules three countries violated asylum deal
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled April 2 that Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic failed to uphold their obligations regarding refugee quotas as required by law. The countries could face financial penalties for their actions. In 2015 EU leaders established a refugee relocation program in response to the large numbers of asylum-seekers from war-torn Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. EU countries were supposed to apportion a share of asylum-seekers among those that arrived in Greece and Italy. Poland and the Czech Republic, according to the ECJ, "failed to fulfill their obligations under European Union law" by not accepting the number of refugees they had promised.
Worldwide police-state measures in face of COVID-19
With whole nations under lockdown, sweeping powers are being assumed by governments across the world in the name of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Hungary's parliament on March 30 voted to allow Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree, without a set time limit. While the emergency legislation remains in place, all elections are suspended, as are several government regulations including (ironically) some concerned with protecting public health. Individuals who spread what is deemed false or distorted information may face up to five years in prison. Other measures include up to three years in prison for anyone who disregards quarantine orders. (Jurist, Politico)
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