PC Press Digest

Weekly Press Digest – February 19

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

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Michal Chmela’s selection

The Czech media reflected primarily on rather banal issue this week: an athlete scored a perfectly Czech Olympic victory by competing in a sport that she only signed up for as an aside, using skis that were not hers. Add that to the fact she never won an event of this kind before and we have a winning strategy for all the aspiring Czech sportsmen to come: forget expensive preparation, the only way we are winning anything ever is by pure bloody miracle. Maybe we should start sending out priests instead of athletes.

If only because that way they would cause less harm at home – Slovakia could tell: of all the things to protest against, Slovak hardline Catholics decided to organize a march for domestic violence. You read that right. See, Slovakia did sign the Istanbul Convention (on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence) back in 2011, it just never got around to ratifying it. And it probably will not since there is constant pressure – and preaching – against a document that openly denounces gender stereotypes. Clearly God intended all men to be equal and all women to shut up and cook.

And then there is what remains of the Czech Social Democrats, once the most powerful party in the country. Their party congress promised some entertainment from the start since the questions of whether they will be capable of reflecting on just how much of a disaster the last elections were (despite them valiantly trying to embrace the populist rhetoric) and if they manage turn the party agenda towards actual social issues hung in the air: any doubts were shattered when it turned out they did invite our beloved President (may his speaker stand experience a case of spontaneous combustion) as a guest speaker. They did elect a new chairman though, although whether this means the party will actually stop being left-wing in name only and turn away from nationalist and populist agenda remains to be seen. I would not put too much hope in them.

Michal Chmela is a translator and journalist.


Anna Azarova’s selection

On Sunday, Budapest’s 7th district – about a third of which is the “nightlife district” – held a referendum on whether clubs, bars, pubs, and shops should close at midnight. It didn’t go through, as less than 16% showed up, but the decision to give up mediation between the stakeholders can be pretty damaging in itself. Some of the residents, some of the entrepreneurs, and the municipality have been trying to reach some sort of compromise during the last year, when the latter decided they’d had enough and called for the referendum. A referendum, where only residents could vote, even those living on the outskirts of the district, unaffected by the noise and piss; whereas people living, for example, on the wrong side of the district boundary street could not.

Of course, it’s more complicated than old ladies being annoyed with the partying youth; some streets are indeed unbearable as even the existing legislation is not being enforced, and there’s no stopping to Airbnb and the western stag parties. It’s hard to have fun in Budapest as it is and the nightlife district is a pretty mediocre one as these things go, but closing everything at 12 would’ve been a mega loss not only for the clubs, but also the little galleries and restaurants which proliferated around them – in a district which, in comparison to similar ones elsewhere, apparently hosts a much larger proportion of locals than tourists; as well as contributing to a post-1990s repopulation which can offer more than streetloads of identical overpriced bio shops like the almost-neighbouring post-gentrification13th district.


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


Roman Broszkowski’s selection

Polish feminists associated with Manifa, the yearly women’s right demonstration in Poland, announced this week the slogan for its upcoming March 8 action. The rallying cry this year, “Abortion, not police. Mutual help, not systemic violence,” places the march into the larger reproductive rights fight going on in Poland.

Meanwhile, Polish-Ukrainian relations continue to strain. The nationalist government in Poland recently enacted an anti-defamation law which in addition to criminalizing usage of the term Polish death camps, also punishes denial of Ukrainian partisan atrocities during World War Two with fines and legal action. Representatives of Ukraine and Poland met to discuss the new law as well as Ukraine disallowing the exhuming of Polish wartime victims.

Lastly, Poland has stepped up its fight against Russia’s Nord Stream 2. This week, Prime Minister Morawiecki met with Chancellor Merkel to discuss the proposed pipeline. The meeting didn’t resolve the impasse and Morawiecki maintains that NS2 is a danger to European security; even going so far as to say that the pipeline’s completion could enlarge the Donbas crisis into a full-scale war between Russia and Ukraine. In case the EU goes through with Nord Stream, Poland has a been building a counter pipeline to Denmark in order to access Norwegian gas. Although Poland currently receives most of its gas from Russia, its current deal expires in 2022. The government remains confident that its Baltic Pipe plan will come to fruition and is seeking to divorce itself from Russian liquified natural gas.

Roman Broszkowski is an undergraduate International Politics student from New Jersey. His area of study is Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Featured photo by Giuseppe Milo via Flickr.