The Capitals brings you the latest news from across Europe, through on-the-ground reporting by EURACTIV’s media network. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.
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BUDAPEST. The anti-migration rhetoric of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán intends to kill the humanity in humans, newly elected Mayor of Budapest Gergely Karácsony told EURACTIV’s Network Editor Sarantis Michalopoulos in an interview.
“The way the government treats people in transit zones is unacceptable,” he said, adding that Hungary is culturally a somewhat “closed country” that hasn’t really experienced migration in the past. This, he said, can cause fears and concerns among the population, which is something the prime minister abuses.
Hungary’s opposition scored its biggest election victory in a decade on 13 October when liberal challenger Gergely Karácsony ousted ruling-party incumbent István Tarlós as mayor of Budapest and opposition parties made gains in other major cities as well.
Drawing parallels with recent the recent elections in Istanbul, where Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suffered a severe setback as his ruling AK Party lost control of the capital Ankara for the first time, Budapest’s new mayor said these victories took place in countries where governments try to limit democracy. “But voters in big cities like democracy and insist on participating in the decision-making process to take back their cities,” Karácsony said.
Unlike Orbán, Karácsony said he wants to introduce a modern way of exercising politics in Hungary, which would focus on compromise and cooperation. “I think our politics today is not so much a question about political ideologies but a division between pro-democracy and authoritarian politics,” he said.
He slammed the propaganda through Hungarian media saying the Budapest victory shows that “voters don’t care about what they read in the government’s propaganda outlets”.
The victory in Budapest shows that Hungary does not equal to the Hungarian government and that the government is not the only one that represents the national interest. There is a large segment of the society which doesn’t approve of Mr Orbán’s policies,” he said, adding that this is also a message for Europe.
He also projected that following the Budapest defeat, the ruling Fidesz party would probably seek a more constructive way of doing politics.
However, just yesterday, Orbán said that “only Hungarians can replace Hungarians”. “A country affected by population decline must not live under the illusion that it can solve demographic issues without making its own efforts,” the PM said, adding that the fight against migration will be stepped up.
Serious allegations. Police officers from North Rhine-Westphalia have raised serious accusations against the Ministry of the Interior, the Criminal Police Office and the Berlin police. Speaking at an investigative committee about the terrorist attack on the Christmas market in Berlin in 2016, a chief detective on Thursday (14 November) accused a member of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) of having tried to hinder the investigations.
According to the police officer, a BKA official had told him during a meeting with the Federal Attorney General on 23 February 2016 that the informant of the North Rhine-Westphalian State Criminal Police Office, who at that time had pointed out the danger of later-found-out-to-be-attacker Anis Amri, was causing “too much work”.
His department had made it clear to the BKA and the Berlin police that the informant was absolutely credible and had been working for the BKA for many years, the policeman said.
Amri had captured a truck in Berlin on 19 December 2016 and used it to drive over a Berlin Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz, killing twelve people. After the attack, he fled to Italy, where he was eventually shot by the police. (Florence Schulz | EURACTIV.de)
Seeking Catalan separatists’ abstention. Spain’s socialist party (PSOE) continued on Thursday its difficult negotiations to obtain, before Christmas, clear support for the investiture of acting socialist PM Pedro Sánchez, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.
The negotiation of a “progressive coalition” between PSOE and leftist Unidas Podemos after the election of 10 November ended up being complicated on Wednesday (14 November) following the “no” of Catalan separatist leftist party “Esquerra Republicana Cataluña” (ERC) and liberal-centrist Ciudadanos (Citizens). PSOE will keep negotiating with ERC, and with other small leftist formations, to find a solution for the current political deadlock. ERC’s abstention -or vote for Sánchez- is essential to allow the investiture of the socialist PM. (EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)
Social unrest. Thousands of people working for hospitals demonstrated on Thursday (14 November) against a tight budget and lack of workers calling on the government to come up with an emergency plan. The hospitals’ emergency services have gone on partial strikes lately, saying that the public hospital “is dying in France”.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced a wide plan including funds to help save the situation, due to be presented next week by Prime Minister Édouard Philippe and may weigh on the 2020 budget, as planned. Social unrest is getting stronger with students joining the ‘yellow vest’ movement to protest against living costs and inequalities. A ‘yellow vest’ protest is expected to take place on Saturday (16 November) for the one-year birthday of the movement. (EURACTIV.FR)
Brexit frustration. The European Commission has launched a formal infringement procedure against the UK over its failure to nominate a Commissioner, in the latest sign of increasing frustration between Brussels and London. In a statement on Thursday (14 November), the Commission said that it “considers that the UK is in breach of its EU Treaty obligations”.
Former MEP in trouble. Lara Comi, once a rising political star and a former MEP for Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, was put under house arrest by the Italian police on Thursday (14 November) for alleged illegal financing and corruption. In the last mandate, Comi was also vice-chair of the European People’s Party (EPP) group. Two of the four charges concern fraud against the European Parliament.
‘Good accounts make for good friends’. At a meeting with North Macedonia PM Zoran Zaev on the sidelines of the 4th Thessaloniki Summit on Thursday (14 November), Greek Pm Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that although he disagreed with the Prespa Agreement, both countries were committed to respecting it and, as a prerequisite for North Macedonia’s accession to the EU, it should be applied in full, and actions creating tension should be avoided. EURACTIV’s partner Athens-Macedonian News Agency has the story.
Important speech. In a speech broadcasted by the public television, Tomasz Grodzki (PO), the newly elected Speaker of the Senate, said the Senate “will adopt laws passed by the Sejm”. “If we consider them good, we will adopt them. If they require amendments, we will correct them and send them back to the Sejm. If anyone is afraid that the Senate will be a tool to block the Sejm, he is completely wrong,”’ he added. However, the opposition hopes that the Senate, currently controlled by opposition forces, will be able to at least slow down what it considers to be bad legislation put forward by the PiS-controlled Sejm.
Grodzki pointed out that the parliament will have to cooperate for the public good. “In this term, the nation, in its collective wisdom, decided that the ruling party would have an advantage in the Sejm, and in the Senate the opposition. It restores some balance in the political struggle, but at the same time, imposes great responsibility for words, deeds and decisions on both sides”.
The speech is of high significance considering that for the last four years, public TV has been used by the ruling party almost exclusively to attack the opposition. However, the public broadcaster is obliged by law to show the Speaker of the Senate’s speech. (Łukasz Gadzała | EURACTIV.pl)
Troubles in far-right. Two Slovak MEPs elected on the lists of the far-right party ĽSNS have clashed over money. The party reportedly asked their MEPs to contribute €3,000 every month from their salary to a charity cause of their choice. Former judge Miroslav Radačovský, an MEP but not a party member, slammed this “party PR”, especially “if there is a risk that someone might label (the donation) with a wrong number”. He was referring to a past case when ĽSNS´s leader donated €1,488 euro to a charity cause, a sum with a clear reference to the 14/88 fourteen-word Nazi slogan “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”, against which the special prosecutor´s office brought charges last month.
High ambitions for the new rule of law monitoring mechanism. The newly appointed European Parliament’s rapporteur for the new rule of law mechanism, Slovak MEP Michal Šimečka (Renew Europe), says his ambition is to “reasonably integrate” the entire rule of law EU toolbox around the new independent annual monitoring of all members states. In an interview with EURACTIV Slovakia Šimečka also said he would like the monitoring to go beyond the rule of law and look into democracy, media freedom, human rights and respect of minorities. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk)
30 years of democracy. Thirty years ago, on 17 November 1989, students in Prague started the Velvet Revolution, the communist government of Czechoslovakia fell and the country set off on a journey to democracy. European Parliament President David Sassoli opened an exhibition on the revolution anniversary in the EU House in Brussels on Wednesday (13 November), noting that the revolution moved Czechs and Slovaks towards free Europe, of which they are now an integral part. (Ondřej Plevák | EURACTIV.cz)
Controversial nominee for chief prosecutor confirmed. The Supreme Judicial Council supported for a second time the sole candidate for the post of chief prosecutor, the Deputy Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev. In late October, the Council backed Geshev for a seven-year term, but at the beginning of November the President Rumen Radev refused to approve him, saying that “the appointment of chief prosecutor is an act of extremely high public importance and the procedure under which it is done must create trust in society and not raise doubts”.
After the Supreme Judicial Council backed Geshev by 20 votes in favour and 4 against, Radev had no choice but to approve him. Geshev’s nomination has prompted thousands of Bulgarians to take to the streets in protest in recent months. People were questioning the sole nominee’s professionalism and independence. (Dnevnik.bg)
Inflation due to new tolls. Food prices (up 1%) and bus transport (up 7.6%) are expected to rise due to the introduction of new road taxes in Bulgaria, which will affect heavy transport from 1 March 2020. The tariffs are different and depend on the weight of the trucks, emissions and the category of the road. The Bulgarian government expects to collect €300 million annually from the new tolls. (Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)
Financial headache for the government. Romania’s economic growth further slowed down in the third quarter, causing a new headache for the centre-right cabinet, which is already facing a big budget deficit. Romania’s GDP grew 3% in the third quarter, compared to the same period of 2018, representing a major slowdown from the 4.4% and 5% growth experienced in the previous quarters. At the same time, budget revenues are lower than expected, according to the new finance minister, while expenditure is continuing to grow. Florin Citu, the new finances chief, warned that the deficit could spiral out of control if no measures are taken quickly, saying the expansionist policies of the previous socialist government would push the budget gap to more than 4% of the GDP. (EURACTIV.ro)
ZAGREB | BELGRADE
No EPP meeting in Croatian parliament. Neither the presidency nor the political assembly of the European People’s Party (EPP), during its congress in Zagreb on 20-21 November, will hold a meeting in the premises of the Croatian Parliament (Sabor). Gordan Jandroković, the speaker of Sabor, said the “EPP probably saw that a technical matter had turned into a political issue.” The opposition claimed that its criticism over leasing Sabor to the EPP helped defend the dignity of the Sabor.
Meanwhile, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić told EPP chief Joseph Daul that he would not attend the EPP congress, the RTS public service reported. Vučić explained that although he had prepared “a serious analysis of developments in the region”, he decided not to attend the conference because of “a veritable witch-hunt” against his arrival in Zagreb led by almost all Croatian media. (EURACTIV.rs)
Intelligence chief had a fake diploma. The diploma that Osman Mehmedagić, director of the Intelligence-Security Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (OSA), received at a private university in Banja Luka, has been fake.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck]