Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
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.
Tue Sep 24th, 2019 at 10:24:29 AM EST
The UK Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that Boris Johnson's suspension of parliament was unlawful:
In a unanimous verdict, the court has ruled that Johnson's decision to prorogue parliament can be examined by judges, overturning the ruling of the high court in London.
Then, giving the court's judgment on whether the decision to suspend parliament was legal, Hale said: "This court has ... concluded that the prime minister's advice to Her Majesty [ to suspend parliament] was unlawful, void and of no effect. This means that the Order in Council to which it led was also unlawful, void and of no effect should be quashed.
"This means that when the royal commissioners walked into the House of Lords [to prorogue parliament] it was as if they walked in with a blank sheet of paper. The prorogation was also void and of no effect. Parliament has not been prorogued."
Thu Jul 25th, 2019 at 10:07:49 PM EST
Back in April, Spanish voters went to the polls to elect a new parliament. The Socialists emerged as the largest party, with 28.7% of the vote. But despite being the only party with the possibility of forming a government, they have failed to do so:
Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger
Thu Jun 20th, 2019 at 10:00:39 PM EST
Last month, Catalans elected three exiled and jailed pro-independence politicians to the European Parliament. Unfortunately, Spain no longer seems to respect the results of democratic elections, and the Spanish Electoral Commission today declared their seats vacant. The reason? None of them had made the required oath to uphold the Spanish constitution before the Electoral Commission. But in all three cases, it is because the Spanish state did not permit them to.
Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger
Wed May 29th, 2019 at 11:37:38 PM EST
Twelve Catalan politicians are currently on trial in Madrid on charges of "sedition" and "rebellion" over Catalonia's 2017 independence referendum. Many of them have been held without bail since their arrest almost two years ago. But now, a UN working group has concluded that their detention is arbitrary:
Wed May 15th, 2019 at 03:35:07 AM EST
That's the only conclusion that can be drawn from its "vow" to introduce an amnesty for crimes committed by soldiers and to derogate from the ECHR:
The new defence secretary has promised to introduce an amnesty on historical prosecutions for military veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and anywhere else around the world - with the exception of Northern Ireland.
Penny Mordaunt will consult on proposals for a presumption against prosecution for offences committed more than 10 years ago and will say she supports plans to opt out of the European convention on human rights (ECHR) in future armed conflicts.
But the minister risks courting conflict with some on the right of her party, who want Northern Ireland to be included within any amnesty, following the prosecution of a former paratrooper for the murder of two people on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972.
Front paged - Frank Schnittger
Thu Mar 14th, 2019 at 12:21:15 PM EST
On 30 January 1972, British soldiers shot 28 unarmed civilians in Derry in Northern Ireland, killing thirteen people. The usual official whitewash followed, and the leader of the murderers was awarded an OBE for his services. But a second inquiry in the 2000's called the crime what it was: murder. The Police Service of Northern Ireland finally began a murder investigation, and now one former soldier has been charged with murder. But only one. As for the rest, the men who pumped bullets into a crowd, shot those trying to flee, and murdered those trying to help the wounded, they all get away with it. But it gets worse - because the reaction of the British government to this was not an acknowledgement of its past crimes and a desire that a prosecution might finally bring some justice, however imperfect, to its victims, but this:
Responding to the PPS decisions, the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, said: "We are indebted to those soldiers who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland. The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance and we will offer full legal and pastoral support to the individual affected by today's decision. This includes funding all his legal costs and providing welfare support.
"The Ministry of Defence is working across government to drive through a new package of safeguards to ensure our armed forces are not unfairly treated.
"And the government will urgently reform the system for dealing with legacy issues. Our serving and former personnel cannot live in constant fear of prosecution."
No, Cthulhu forbid murderers living in fear that they might finally face justice! Won't someone think of the poor, oppressed killers?
In case anyone needs reminding, the dead of Bloody Sunday were UK citizens, killed by their own government for daring to demand human rights. They deserve justice. But they will never get it from Britain.
Tue Mar 12th, 2019 at 09:06:44 PM EST
So, having rejected Theresa May's shit Brexit deal, UK MP's were told to vote until they got it right - and rejected it again. Which means that the UK is now just 16 days from Brexit and has no plan whatsoever.
Tomorrow the UK parliament will vote on whether to leave the EU without a deal. They will reject that (again). The day after they will vote on asking the EU for an extension, so they can flail around and fail to make up their minds some more. But with no prospect of any change to the deadlock, there is little point to an extension. The EU may grant it, simply to give the UK every possible chance, but ultimately the deal they have offered is the only deal on the table, and the UK can take it or leave it.
The real problem here is the dysfunction and delusion of the UK political class. Faced with the biggest political crisis in a century, they are unable to agree on anything, unable to even accept their negotiating position. So we have delusional absurdities like the EU just giving them whatever they want if they whine loudly enough, or that they can ignore their binding international legal commitments to the Irish peace agreement because they're Britain and they Rule The Waves. Or their imperialist delusions that Ireland would leave the EU and "re"-join their colonial oppressors for the convenience of the latter - or that threatening them with food shortages would change their minds (I guess they don't teach about the potato famine at Eton or Oxford...)
Given this utter failure, there is really only one solution: parliament can't make up its mind, so kick it back to the people in a second referendum. But that would involve the UK political class admitting its failures and yielding a smidgen of power (not to mention the risk that the people might then want to address the fundamental causes of an unfair electoral system and an intellectually inbred elite which produced this clusterfuck), so it will never happen. So instead they'll just continue the cannibalistic orgy all the way to the bottom of the cliff.
Thu Feb 14th, 2019 at 12:41:14 AM EST
Twelve Catalan political leaders went on trial in Madrid yesterday. Their crime? Advocating peacefully for an independent Catalonia and organising a referendum on the issue. The Spanish government calls this "sedition" and "rebellion". But what it really is is democracy. In a democratic state with freedom of expression, people can and should be allowed to advocate for independence. And in a democratic state, when people peacefully demand independence, it is entirely right and proper for them to vote on it. Spain attempted to crush that vote with brute force - and failed. Now they are attempting to crush its advocates. But in a democratic state, democracy should not be a crime. If Spain thinks it is, then it shows that that country is not a democracy, and not a fit member of the civilised world. Democratic countries should condemn this political trial, and demand that Catalans get what they have demanded all along: a free, fair and binding referendum on their independence.
Tue Jan 15th, 2019 at 09:29:39 PM EST
This morning the UK parliament voted on Theresa may's Brexit deal - and as expected voted it down in the biggest defeat for a UK government in the democratic era. So what happens now? The problem is that no-one can tell. The UK has passed into political singularity, and no-one knows what might come out the other side.
Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger
Wed Oct 10th, 2018 at 01:47:47 AM EST
Romanians went to the polls over the weekend to vote in a constitutional referendum to ban same-sex marriage. Or rather, they didn't - because the referendum failed due to miserably low turnout:
by Oui - Jul 12
by Oui - Jul 7
by Oui - Jul 12
by Oui - Jul 11
by Oui - Jul 7
by Oui - Jul 5
by Oui - Jun 27
by Oui - Jun 25
by Oui - Jun 17
by Oui - Jun 15
by Oui - Jun 12
by Oui - Jun 7