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Catalan nationalists protest as their leaders are jailed for sedition

Čt, 10/17/2019 - 15:03

“THE WHOLE of one’s life is a dream, and dreams are nothing but dreams.” So says Prince Sigismondo in a play by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, the great dramatist of Spain’s Golden Age in the 17th century, currently being revived in Madrid. That, in effect, provided the question before Spain’s Supreme Court in the long-running trial of a dozen Catalan separatist leaders for their role in the referendum and declaration of independence in October 2017. Was their unilateral implementation of a democratic “right to decide” on independence for Catalonia, one of Spain’s largest and most prosperous regions, a mere pipe dream of political theatre; or was it a conspiracy to break up the country?

The court concluded that it was somewhere in between. Dismissing the more serious charge of rebellion, it found nine of the leaders guilty of sedition and four guilty of misuse of public funds. It sentenced Oriol Junqueras, who was vice-president of the Catalan regional government at the time, to 13 years in jail. Six other former officials were sentenced to terms of ten to 12 years; the leaders of two separatist mass movements each got nine years. The court found that they had “led the citizenry in a public and tumultuous rising” which prevented the application of law and court decisions. The court also issued a fresh European arrest warrant, for...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

Why Hungary’s ruling party lost Budapest

Čt, 10/17/2019 - 15:03

IN MARCH TURKEY’S authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, suffered the huge embarrassment of losing control at municipal elections of Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and commercial centre, as well as Ankara, the capital, and a clutch of other big cities. Now in Hungary something similar has happened to someone similar. On October 13th Gergely Karacsony, the 44-year-old candidate of the (mostly) united opposition, won the mayor’s race in Budapest, the capital, by 51% to 44%, over a 71-year-old incumbent backed by the ruling party, Fidesz. In the provinces, the opposition won ten out of 23 main cities, up from just three last time round. Most smaller towns and villages remain in ruling-party hands, just as they do in Turkey.

Mr Erdogan annulled the Istanbul vote, though much good it did him: his man lost even more heavily at a re-run in June. Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, is unlikely to try anything so crass. But the loss of Budapest is a major blow for him, puncturing his image as an invincible and almost unopposed leader for the past decade.

“The power people”, said Mr Karacsony in his victory speech on the night of October 13th, “have been defeated by the power of the people.” The quip was not lost on those in the cheering crowd old enough to remember the Communist era. “The power” was a synonym for...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

Ursula von der Leyen’s bumpy start

Čt, 10/17/2019 - 15:03

EMMANUEL MACRON was visibly angry. “I need to understand what was at play,” he told journalists on October 10th, chopping the air with his hands. “I need to understand what was at play. Resentment. Pettiness perhaps. But I need to understand.” The European Parliament had just rejected Sylvie Goulard, his nominee for the next European Commission. This had not been part of the plan. Mr Macron won a diplomatic triumph in the summer when he persuaded Angela Merkel and other leaders to help him manoeuvre Ursula von der Leyen, a German minister who shares his vision of a tougher and more thrusting EU, into the leadership of the union’s executive. Mrs von der Leyen duly lined up Ms Goulard, a long-standing Macroniste, for a new mega-job overseeing industrial policy and defence.

Sadly, the members of the three parliamentary committees charged with assessing Ms Goulard’s candidacy voted by 82 votes to 29, with one abstention, to reject it. Outside of her (and Mr Macron’s) liberal group she received just 12 votes; in other words, very few from the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) groups that Mrs von der Leyen will constantly have to rely on for majorities in the parliament. Both camps claimed afterwards that she had not contacted them to discuss the vote in advance. Mr Macron was not...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

Poland’s ruling populists win again

Čt, 10/17/2019 - 15:03

FOR THE past four years, the Law and Justice (PiS) party has seemed unstoppable. After coming to power in 2015, it set about reshaping Poland according to its nationalist and conservative vision, from the courts to the family. Despite a protracted conflict with the European Commission, which accused it of undermining the rule of law, the party remains remarkably popular. At parliamentary elections on October 13th it won a second term. But there are signs that second term will be more difficult than its first.

“We received a lot, but we deserve more,” said PiS’s chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the country’s unofficial leader, in his speech at party headquarters in Warsaw after exit polls were announced. His party received 43.6% of the vote, far ahead of its main rival, a centrist coalition led by Civic Platform, which ran Poland from 2007 to 2015. This time, the centrists got only 27.4%. With 235 out of the 460 seats in the Sejm, the lower chamber of parliament, PiS retains its majority, though only just. As the Polish economy starts to slow, that majority may be too narrow for comfort.

Given PiS’s focused campaign, its result will probably have come as a slight disappointment. In the run-up to the vote, PiS courted voters with a combination of big handouts and social conservatism. It extended its flagship payment of 500...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

A Nobel prize for a writer some call an apologist for genocide

Čt, 10/17/2019 - 15:03

IT SEEMS HARD to believe that the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel prize in literature, did not know that it would be fanning the flames of Europe’s culture wars. On October 10th Olga Tokarczuk, a dreadlocked vegetarian feminist, won the prize for 2018. At the same time the 2019 award was given to Peter Handke (pictured), an Austrian whom many see as an apologist for genocide.

Last year the academy failed to award its prize because it was engulfed in a sex scandal. This year the two awards caused controversy which had nothing to do with the literary merits of either. One of Mr Handke’s most notorious books is his 1996 “Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia”, which he published as part of his defence of Slobodan Milosevic and the wartime leaders of the Serbs. The award has sent shock waves through the former Yugoslavia and beyond.

Mr Handke has been a prolific and experimental writer since the 1960s. The Swedish Academy hailed him as “one of the most influential writers in Europe after the second world war”. But few wanted to discuss his literary merits in the wake of the award. Edi Rama, the prime minister of Albania, tweeted a vomit emoji before penning a full-scale denunciation of a man he said provided “an implicit amnesty and apology” for Milosevic’s “genocidal endeavour”.

In 2006 Mr Handke gave an...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

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