PC Press Digest

Weekly Press Digest – February 26

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

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Michal Chmela’s selection

The week before, the Slovakian church surprised absolutely no one by being a bunch of bigoted bastards boldly claiming that domestic violence was a traditional value. Not one to be easily outdone in this particular discipline, the Czech cardinal and Archbishop of Prague gave an extremely entertaining exclusive interview last week to a – what else – Christian-oriented conspiracy website. Do not click that link.

Anyway, the highest-ranking church official in the Czech Republic managed to propose how to fix modern society by doing away with the murderous gender ideology, openly admitting Other Religions are Bad while at the same time warning against groups that claim to have a monopoly on truth. And while we are talking contradictions, humanities and social sciences are not based on reason anymore, they are becoming the death of our society and ought to be canceled. By the way, how about that perfectly rational theology?

Amnesty International has released its annual report on human rights and the bit about the Czech Republic is a sadder read than usual. As even mainstream news point out, the usual racism and religious intolerance have been complemented by such political masterstrokes as the government proclaiming parts of Afghanistan to be safe areas – despite plentiful evidence to the contrary – simply in order to weasel out of accepting refugees or city councils declaring areas inhabited by the Romani “zones of socially pathological behavior” exempt from social security benefits pertaining to housing. One city in particular, Kladno, went as far as declaring its entirety a socially pathological zone – and they might just be right about that one, albeit not quite in the intended way.

Oh, and there was a gold medal or something. She brought her own snowboard this time and it is apparently a big deal since no one ever managed to obtain it in the vastly different disciplines of moving downhill on one and two pieces of wood at the same Olympics. Most important event of week, if Czech media is to be believed.

Michal Chmela is a translator and journalist.


Hana Grgić’s selection

Oops, a scandal. During the press conference at the Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy last week, State Secretary Marin Strmota theatrically resigned. Strmota said that he “thinks that the government’s demographic policy is just a folklore and flippant” leaving his boss and the Minister Nada Murganić pretty much speechless.

The aforementioned Ministry is one of the most damaging products of the current government that, together with the Minister Nada Murganić on the top, makes the perfect match for numerous scandals. So, after Murganić proudly presented the conclusions of the 4th meeting of the Council for the Demographic Revitalisation in Croatia, a media reporter simply noted that the very same measurements were presented just a couple of months earlier. Strmota then responded: “I agree with you and this is a big folklore. After a year and four months in this government, as a demographer and a young man, I think this is isn’t serious enough.” He resigned and left the room. Murganić was standing next to him thinking, “what the f*** just happened?” Then, with the blush on her cheeks, she described everything as “a young man’s impatience.”

Nobody was actually surprised; the Minister is, after all, well known as a “Minister of goofs,” a Minister without any vision, competence and knowledge. The question is indeed, how and why is she still there? Just a couple of months ago she described a domestic violence case simply as “how things are in the marriage.” In December on St. Nicholas’ day, the Minister invited journalists to capture the Minister’s activity of distributing the presents to children in a kindergarten. But the presents were funded by the European Social Fund and were supposed to be given to children in need. The problem was that they ended up in a private, Catholic kindergarten. Journalists spotted the labels of the European Social Fund and raised the question. Then the Minister and her State Secretary Margareta Mađerić ran away from the cameras through the back doors. Still, probably the most notable outrage was the draft of the new Family Law which suggested that families without children are not recognised as family at all.

But if we get back to Strmota, intentionally or not, eventually he did promote himself as a martyr. Another Croatian demographer, the right wing icon Stjepan Šterc, once brought up the number of 1,7 millions of uterus in Croatia and diaspora that, according to Šterc, are ready to be impregnated and save the Croatian nation from the extinction. So, while we are waiting for some kind of indisputable collaboration between Strmota and Šterc, the Minister Nada Murganić is continuing to work on the topics she knows best: demography, family, youth and social policy. Let’s hope* not.  

*The female name Nada translates to hope in English.

Hana Grgić is a feminist with a cat. Studied political science and journalism in Zagreb. Left Croatia, now based in Berlin.


Roman Broszkowski’s selection

Poland finds itself this week in the midst of one diplomatic crisis, on the way out of another, and potentially at the start of a third.

The recent Holocaust libel bill passed in Poland has sparked a row between the right-wing government in Poland and its right-wing counterpart in Israel. The argument around the new law has sparked a series of denunciations from Israel and Jewish communities which in turn has been met with anti-semitic remarks vandalism by members of Polish society and government. In the last week, the PiS voted to suspend a senate member for an antisemitic video and related posts. The video was Nazi war propaganda dubbed over with Klezmer (Ashkenazi Jewish) music in an attempt to support the Prime Minister’s claim that the Holocaust had Jewish perpetrators. Party leader Jarosław Kaczyński, made a speech recently denouncing anti-semitism, however he also immediately pivoted to saying that the party didn’t have to agree with people who offended their own country. PiS seems to be trying to save face in the face of international pressure by fending off charges of Jew hatred, but is penned in by its own nationalist platform. The party cannot back down and remove the law since, in addition to it not wanting to, doing so would alienate its nationalist base. Similarly it cannot simply ignore all exterior criticism and pressure as it becomes clearer that punishment from the EU is forthcoming.

One way out might be to placate just the EU enough so as to avoid any penalties such as a reduction in Poland’s aid disbursements and voting rights. This coming week, Polish and European representatives will meet in Brussels. The goal of the meeting is to de-escalate tensions between Poland and the EU over PiS’s proposed judicial reforms. A proposal tying bloc aid to rule of law has been gaining support among Western European members and Poland may be trying to head such deal off by playing nice now.  However, the EU remains just as steadfast in preventing the judicial changes as PiS insists on staying course. Such an impasse cannot be resolved by half-measures and one party will need to cave in.

Finally this week, the European Court of Justice ruled against Poland, saying that the country had surpassed EU air pollution limits between 2007 and 2015. Poland will need to drastically improve its air quality or could possibly face billions in fines. Were Poland to forced to pay, the country could further solidify an image as the EU’s problem child. As of now whether it is with the Holocaust, the courts, or smog, Poland is on thin ice.

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 Pank Seelen via Flickr.