PC Press Digest

Weekly Press Digest – December 4

Political Critique's weekly selection from the Eastern European press.

Michal Chmela’s selection

Over the last week, the shock of just what kind of geniuses we have elected into the Parliament has slowly started setting in, to the point where even the media noticed it: exhibit one, MP Radek Koten, part of the fabulously fascist SPD: ex-border guard and a firm believer in chemtrails, prophecies, alternative media, 9/11 conspiracies and the claim that microwave ovens are out to kill us all. Oh, and he is going to be in charge of the Parliamentary Committee for Security. Murderous kitchen appliances better watch out.

Distaste is being used to mask disaster: our colleagues at A2larm published an analysis of the housing situation in the country prompted by an EU report released last month. The more fun bits include blocks of flats being bought out by monopoly-seeking investors, rents increased on a yearly basis by amounts dictated solely by the owners and Airbnb forcing the (ex-)tenants in their buildings out, further increasing the demand for housing and in the end rents in Prague getting higher than rents in Berlin. Which does not seem that bad until you remember the difference between average wages in Czechia and Germany. Oops.

And then there was the very inconspicuous restarting of a judiciary farce that has been quietly going on for more than two years and would have easily dissipated without much public awareness were the state representatives not utter morons. In 2015, a demonstration took place in Prague –  a small, subdued, tasteful affair, just a mob of neo-Nazis shouting and waving paper gallows while marching through the city. Protesting against that was a small group of activists who tried to block the prick parade and were justly rewarded by being violently subdued by the police. One of the activists, a rather small, fifty-kilo woman, tried to defend her partner by latching onto a policeman’s back. What followed was a real comedy of terrors: activists claimed police brutality (rather obviously, since there were broken teeth involved) so in turn, the policeman claimed that he was wounded by the woman half his size and weight. The result was a farcical case that ended up with the activist serving a suspended sentence and police brutality conveniently forgotten.

Except that apparently was not enough and the state plaintiff is now trying to take the whole thing to the Supreme Court. The interesting part here is the plaintiff’s motivation – one would expect they would want to keep an obvious police screw-up under lids, but he seems hellbent on making an exemplar case out of a woman who merely tried to defend her partner against undue violence and protested against fascism. Says something about the values of our society, doesn’t it.

Michal Chmela is a translator and journalist.


Anna Azarova’s selection

An odd case has resurfaced in several outlets after a formerly hyper-pro government TV station reported on the curious 150% population increase in some villages in eastern Hungary. An agreement between the Soviet Union and Hungary from more than 50 years ago enables Russian and Ukrainian retirees to receive their pensions from Hungary if they abandon it in their home country and register in Hungary. Now, a handful of villages near the Ukrainian border has seen a huge increase of population, most notably, in one case, from 536 to 1347 within 5 years in one case. The new residents of course include not only the elderly, but also many seeking better healthcare, avoiding conscription, or dual citizens wanting to vote (the Zakarpattia region of Ukraine is home to roughly 150K Hungarians). But the “pension business” itself is lucrative indeed: compared to the Ukrainian average pension of about €65, the Hungarian is €225 – and Ukrainian citizens in these villages allegedly receive between €480-630.

Good news is, Krisztina Morvai, the anti-EU and antisemitic but “pro-women’s rights” (whatever that means on the right) militant MEP of the far-right Jobbik is probably not going to be endorsed by her decreasingly militant, increasingly bourgeois party anymore. Morvai’s “independence” is becoming uncomfortable for Jobbik, and, the bad news is, apparently there are rumours she is courting Fidesz. If they won’t want her either though, her career is “over,” and she’ll be back to university lecturing.

Every once in a while a couple rural governmental officers get sworn in as military officers. Now it turned out that these new soldiers not only do not receive any training whatsoever, they don’t actually have to do anything except for posing for photos in uniforms. These “media soldiers” are not even in the reserve force and can’t be drafted, they can’t give orders (despite receiving ranks as high as colonel), and their only task seems to be to stand around and “promote” reservism. On the other hand, local municipality workers are expected to “volunteer” into the reserve force – also without training. Increasing military capacity, is after all, a national policy, and the main thing is that the numbers match.

Anna Azarova is a graduate student in Budapest and a freelance translator.


Featured photo by Lovro Rumiha via Flickr.