Last Monday, Hungary and Poland blocked the EU’s historic financial package of 1.82 trillion euros. The right-wing nationalist governments of the two countries want to prevent the rule of law compliance conditionality in the distribution of EU funds. Meanwhile, the recently declared “State of Danger” in Hungary is being used by the government to amend the constitution again under the pretext of the Corona pandemic and to govern by decree. The new draft laws restrict the rights of LGBTI persons, undermine the transparency of expenditure of state funds and reduce the influence of opposition parties in the next parliamentary elections.Continue reading
90 people were killed in the attacks at the concert hall in the 11th arrondissement in Paris on 13 November 2015. Although the scars of the survivors and relatives are slowly healing, the recent attacks on the teacher Samuel Paty in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine and on visitors to a church in Nice in the south of France are catapulting Islamist terror back onto the agenda of French politics. Once again, President Emmanuel Macron has to prove that France will not give in to the attacks of the Republic’s enemies.Continue reading
Donald Trump has not yet left the White House and votes continue to be (re-)counted in some US states. But all the signs point to it: the next president of the United States of America will be Democrat Joe Biden – with Vice-President Kamala Harris by his side. What does the Democratic duo’s victory mean for transatlantic relations?Continue reading
Besides Belgium, France has been hit particularly hard by the second wave of the corona pandemic. As a result, the government has imposed a strict curfew for the second time. All “non-essential” shops are closed until 1 December, with a high likelihood of extension. This concerns companies especially in the pre-Christmas period, which in some industries defines the annual revenu. Updates to the 2020 forecasts have shown that the second lockdown is expected to reduce France’s GDP by 11 instead of 10 percentage points. By way of comparison, the forecast for GDP decline in Germany is 5.5 percentage points for the entire year of 2020.Continue reading
Topic of the Month
Poland On Strike
On October 22nd Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that abortions for fetal abnormalities violate the Constitution, effectively imposing a near-total ban on abortion. Tribunal’s president Julia Przyłębska said that allowing abortions in cases of fetal abnormality legalized “eugenic practices with regard to an unborn child, thus denying it the respect and protection of human dignity”. She added that, because the Constitution guarantees a right to life, terminating a pregnancy based on the health of the fetus amounted to “a directly forbidden form of discrimination”. “The Tribunal maintains the position that human life is of value at every stage of development and should be protected,” said the court’s rapporteur, Justyn Piskorski. “A child in the prenatal period of life, as a human being who is entitled to inherent and inalienable dignity, is an entity having the right to life, and the legal system must guarantee the proper protection of this,” he added. The verdict cannot be appealed.Continue reading
In these days of skyrocketing COVID-19 infection rates, the image of the wave is rhetorically booming. Waves roll in, are supposed to break and the tsunami like ones sometimes even swallow any kind of defence efforts. Just like in March/April, there is no question that Europe remains under the influence of emergency response measures. Spain is imposing a state of emergency for several months, France is closing down completely, Germany is imposing a so-called lock-down light. And Brussels? What is happening in political Europe? The Commission, led by Ursula von der Leyen, is working to improve coordination of national measures during the pandemic. In the short term, this means cross-border optimisation of intensive care bed capacities, in the medium term, the procurement and roll-out of vaccine doses, and in the long term, improving the statistical basis for better decisions in the event of similar hazards in the future. In cooperation with the European Parliament, the German Council Presidency is endeavouring to implement the post-COVID development programme NextGenerationEU as quickly as possible. With difficulty, but with progress in sight, we hear from the Brussels engine room.
The European institutions are working. It is the Member States, and within them the provinces, federal states, departments, counties, municipalities and whatever the name of the local authorities, that impose and implement measures. These measures are often more differentiated than in the spring, but also more controversial in the national discourse than at the beginning of the crisis. This makes the picture of pandemic control more diffuse and the public opinion more diverse. This does, however, not have to be a disadvantage. In Europe, we live by diversity and public debate, the dispute about the better concept, the better solution. We are not a society that marches in silence behind the flag of a one-party government to wherever the Politburo has planted the target flag. But our openness can also become our open flank: The success of the test that Europe must now pass can be measured not only, but also in falling infection rates. The test result says something about whether our European and Western culture of the unique combination of individual freedom and public capacity for action will find effective answers to the pandemic. For Liberals, the matter is clear: it is not because we want to be free, but because we are free that we have the better ideas, the more powerful concept, the greater resources. This includes the tough political battles as well as the obvious cross-border cooperation in the small and big issues of the pandemic. In the spring, Europe began to shake and the first wave rolled over the European Union. Now the Member States, the European Parliament and the European Commission must ride the second wave. To do this, we need to be able to argue, to compromise, to act together and to be at home with each and every one of us.
Thomas Ilka is Regional Director of the FNF European Dialogue