Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

A European periphery roundup

It’s not just in Ukraine that things are happening. All around Europe’s eastern fringe, people seem to have become a tad unsettled by the onset of Spring.

In fact, the most stable country on Europe’s eastern edge seems to be Turkey, where the economy is booming and EU accession talks are still going on despite all the setbacks last year. The South East European Times has a tip-top overview of the issues and state of play.

A bit north, and Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu is expected to form a new coalition, having dissolved his unstable government – Edward Lucas is good on how, why, and what the chances are that the new government will be stable, and notes

The government crisis has come just before Romania reports to the EU on its progress. The European Commission will publish its own assessment in June. It is unlikely to trigger the safeguard clauses that allow Brussels to cut aid and stop co-operation with Bulgaria and Romania if either starts backsliding. But it will make uncomfortable reading.

Further north, Estonia’s also just got a new coalition – albeit a a rather more stable one – this year’s elections are the first time since Estonia gained independence in 1991 that voters have seen fit to grant a Prime Minister a second term in office. Britain, take note…

Further north again, it seems Lithuania could soon be following, as the ruling party looks set to dissolve parliament and call elections 15 months early.

Meanwhile, Latvia is also looking a bit unstable, with referenda on the cards following the government’s attempts to introduce somewhat dodgily authoritarian-sounding “emergency security measures”, which would, according to a leading opponent, “open the door to very serious political manipulation… and, ultimately, influence by the so-called oligarchs, which would be very dangerous”. Fun fun fun… (Sounds rather like the UK – which is actually worse off, as it’s now illegal to dispute government policy even within parliament…)

Poland, too, is looking increasingly odd, as Jon Worth notes (with more at the Economist’s excellent new Europe blog). And that’s before you even get started on the highly controversial new law (which came into effect a couple of weeks ago) requiring the best part of 700,000 civil servants, teachers and journalists to sign an oath stating whether or not they collaborated with the secret services prior to the collapse of communism back in 1989. Anyone who lies is set to be fired – a bizarre, McCarthyite step for a country in which the question “are you or have you ever been a member of the communist party” is going to be met with a “yes” from just about everyone over the age of 35…

And in Bulgaria there are likewise signs that all is not right, as the recent arrest of Turkmen dissident Annadurdy Hadjiev seems to show. Hardly the sort of support for free speech and democracy we’d all like to see… There are also ongoing concerns about Bulgarian attitudes to the Roma minority, and Brussels is not at all happy about the progress being made in the fight against corruption and organised crime. Still, that at least plays well for the Bulgarian eurosceptics, who are trying to build support – but Bulgarians all seem to hate their politicians anyway, so I doubt they’ll get far…

Thankfully, Hungary at least is looking a bit more promising, with a new coalition just about to settle into place following recent internal party elections to help stabilise the government, following last year’s riots and unrest caused by the surprising admission from Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany that he deliberately lied to the electorate.

And while all this is going on, Europe’s nuttiest country – the dotty dictatorship of Belarus – is still refusing to meet the conditions required for it to rejoin the Council of Europe – you know, like commitments to basic levels of human rights, democracy, not beating up your political opponents, that kind of thing. But hell – why bother sucking up to Europe when Vladimir Putin’s more than happy to be friends with you? In fact, going by the talk of Russia and Belarus “forming a common economic space, customs union, free labour market, common information, educational and cultural environment”, it sounds almost like a new-style, EU-inspired USSR may be on the cards in the East. Intriguing – and potentially very dangerous to the EU’s economic stability…

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