Central Europe

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.

Podcast: Donbas = Sudetenland

In Episode 143 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the all too telling irony that Putin's annexation of Ukraine's Donbas region came on exactly the same day as the 1938 Munich Agreement, which approved Hitler's annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland region. Russian annexation of the Donbas was preceded by that of Crimea, just as the Nazi annexation of Sudetenland was preceded by that of Austria. This is the same pattern of escalation toward world war—only this time Putin's overt nuclear threats make the stakes even higher. Signs of hope include the anti-draft uprising in Russia and mass exodus of Russian youth, which undermine Putin's war effort and threaten his very regime. War Resisters International has issued a petition demanding that European states offer asylum to all Russian deserters and conscientious objectors to military service. Alas, much of the Western "left" continues to cover up for Putin's criminal aggression. Dissident websites such as CounterVortex and Balkan Witness debunk the Russian war propaganda being recycled by Putin's internet partisans on the pro-fascist pseudo-left.

German court rejects climate suit against Mercedes-Benz

A German court on Sept. 13 rejected a lawsuit filed by environmental group Deutsche Umwelthilfe (Environmental Action Germany) seeking to bar Mercedes-Benz from selling cars with combustion engines that emit greenhouse gases after 2030. Deutsche Umwelthilfe asserted that Mercedes-Benz must comply with the Paris Climate Protection Agreement and the German Climate Protection Act regarding reduction in its vehicles' CO2 emissions. Deutsche Umwelthilfe charged that the "new vehicles from Mercedes have the highest CO2 emissions of all manufacturers in Europe," and "German car manufacturers have been preventing effective climate protection laws for decades."

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.

Russia 'weaponizing' gas supplies to Europe

Russian energy giant Gazprom cut off the flow of natural gas to Germany and other European markets via the Nord Stream pipeline on Aug. 31, calling it a three-day shut-down for maintenance purposes. But Western governments charge that Russia is "weaponizing" gas supplies amid the Ukraine war. (EuroNews) Days earlier, Germany's government broached allowing the blocked Nord Stream 2 pipeline to begin pumping Russian gas. Wolfgang Kubicki, vice president of the Bundestag, said the move is necessary so "people do not have to freeze in winter and that our industry does not suffer serious damage." His comment prompted a harsh response from Kyiv, where Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that "addiction to Russian gas kills." (Politico)

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.

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