This Week in Europe

, by Radu Dumitrescu

This Week in Europe

Members of the TNF team recount big events from Europe from the past week, and point attention to news that may have passed notice. What did we miss? Comment on our Facebook page at !

Hungarians march against Orbán

On Saturday night, around 100,000 people marched in protest against the government of Viktor Orbán in Budapest. A week after his definitive win in the elections, people condemned his grip on the media and the rigged electoral system, both favoring his party, Fidesz, which won 133 out of 199 seats with only 49% of the party list votes. The protest also marked the opposition between the pro-Orbán countryside and the oppositional capital, while the opposition parties refrained from officially taking part in the march. In the aftermath of the elections, international observers noted that government resources were used to help Fidesz in the campaign and that the lack of a free media hurt the democratic process.

Montenegro elects pro-EU president

This week, pro-EU candidate Milo Đukanović won the presidential election in Montenegro with 53.8% of the votes, in a result seen as monumental for the country’s EU accession. His main opponent, Mladen Bojanić, was backed by several pro-Russian groups but managed to gather only 33.5% of the votes. While the office of president in Montenegro is largely ceremonial, Đukanović has been a force bringing the country closer to the EU before, when he helped Montenegro join NATO in 2017. Moreover, in 2014, the small ex-Yugoslav country joined the sanctions against Russia and recently expelled a Russian diplomat after the poisoning of Sergei Skripal.

Turkey to hold early elections

On Wednesday, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that his country will hold presidential and parliamentary elections in June. Moved up from November 2019 to a couple of months from now, the elections are seen as a move to accelerate the shift to a presidential system of government, entrenching the rule of Erdogan. “Developments in Syria and elsewhere have made it urgent to switch to the new executive system in order to take steps for our country’s future”, said Erdogan. Following the statement, the weakened Turkish lira saw a small increase in value, with analysts linking Erdogan’s announcement with Turkey’s overheating economy, which saw a record law for the national currency, at 5.17 to the euro in April, coupled with double-digit inflation and a growing deficit. EP: Turkey must release Greek soldiers On Tuesday, the European Parliament voted with overwhelming majority to urge Turkey to release two Greek soldiers arrested last month after they accidentally crossed the border due to bad weather. Tensions have been escalating between the two countries, with Turkish fighter jets reportedly harassing a helicopter carrying Greek PM Alexis Tsipras. Every parliamentary group within the EP, except the nationalist Europe of Nations and Freedom group, or ENF, has supported the draft resolution, even though the ENF also criticized the detainment of the two soldiers previously.

Scandal hits Spanish ruling party

At a time when the grip of PM Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party is most fragile, one of his potential successors has been hit with a severe corruption scandal. The president of the Madrid region, Cristina Cifuentes, is accused of fraudulently obtaining her master’s degree in law from the King Juan Carlos University of Madrid, all part of a scheme to provide degrees to certain politicians. However, she is refusing to step down, leaving the Spanish PM in a tough spot, between losing credibility and handling yet another rebel local leader. The scandal holds the front pages of Spanish newspapers as the governing Popular Party is now relying on the opposition to pass legislation and has been overtaken in the polls by the liberal Ciudadanos. Nigel Farage admits to children having German passports Nigel Farage, former leader of the UK Independence Party and high-profile campaigner for Brexit, has admitted that his children have German passports and will therefore continue to enjoy the benefits of EU citizenship beyond the UK’s potential departure from the EU. He made the admission on the Anger Management podcast of Nick Clegg, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Armenian President becomes PM

Several thousand people protested in Armenia’s capital on Monday regarding former president Serzh Sargsyan’s campaign to become PM of the country. Opposition activists denounced the power grab by the former president and called upon the people to occupy the streets. As the center of Yerevan was blocked, a Reuters correspondent witnessed bloody clashes between police and protesters, resulting in several wounded. However, on Tuesday, the former president became PM, with the consent of the national assembly. Considering that back in the December 2015, the PM was granted all powers previously held by the president, with amendments that did away with direct elections for the presidency as well, Serzh hold absolute power again.

Simpler way to EU funds

On Thursday, the Council approved the agreement reached with the European Parliament on budget management. The new rules “extend the possibility of basing EU payments on the achievement of results or on pre-defined method rather than tracing every euro of expenditure”, reports EURACTIV. Moreover, the new method will make assessing costs easier and will reduce overall paperwork. Small beneficiaries will enjoy a simplified path to EU funding and volunteers within small organizations will have their work recognized towards the co-financing requirement.

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