Orban at war with the EU (or with Juncker)?
Last week the European Parliament (EP) voted to launch sanctions against Hungary according to Article 7 of the Lisbon treaty, as the country may have acted in the breach with the core values of the EU. Among the accusations against Hungary were the erosion of democratic state and negative attitude towards migration and the EU mandatory quota system.
Hungary was not the only European country refusing the quota system. It seems more likely that the problem for the EU is Viktor Orban himself. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker considered the membership of Orban’s Fidesz party in the European People’s Party group within the EP problematic way before the voting. He famously called Orban a dictator and stated, that he had given up on trying to discuss with him.
— StickyTrickyLaw (@stickytrickylaw) September 19, 2018
Orban has tried to defend his policy in the EP in Strasbourg in his 7 minutes long speech. He accused the EU of blackmailing Hungary for their simple and democratic decision – not to be a country of immigrants. Further, he called the EU report on his government a misinterpretation.
The vote on sanctions was passed with the two-thirds majority and it might lead to the next step –either Hungary loses its voting rights, or, in a worse case scenario, the EU can suspend their finances from the EU according to the new MFF framework.
Can we avoid humanitarian disaster in Idlib?
The trilateral summit between the leaders of Turkey, Iran, and Russia held on September 7 failed to halt the upcoming assault on the last rebel stronghold at Idlib in north-west Syria. Calls of the Turkish president Erdogan for a ceasefire were rejected because opposition groups were not present at the meeting. On the other hand, Russia insisted on the removal of terrorists from the province. From the Russian and Syrian perspective, nearly all opposition groups are labeled as terrorists.
As of now, Russian air forces intensified bombing of the province, while Syrian president Assad seeks to regain control of the territory lost in the bloody civil war by preparing his ground troops.
Nevertheless, an agreement to halt plans for an offensive was announced after a meeting on Monday between the Russian President Putin and his Turkish counterpart. The leaders have agreed to establish a 15-20km de-militarised zone by October 15, which would entail the withdrawal of all radical fighters and all opposition-held heavy weaponry. Following the meeting, Erdogan stated that the deal “will prevent a humanitarian tragedy which could happen as a result of military action,” eliminating the fear of millions of refugees fleeing towards Turkey if a major attack against rebels took place.
— Suriye Gündemi English (@suriyegundemiEN) September 17, 2018
Western diplomats are persuading the Russian president to use his influence over Assad to avoid yet another humanitarian disaster. Nearly 3.5 million people live in the Idlib region, almost half of them displaced from other already recaptured Syrian areas. “Idlib has the potential to create a humanitarian emergency on a scale not yet seen in this crisis,” said John Ging, UN’s senior humanitarian official. Analysts in Washington remain sceptical and doubt Putin’s ability to influence Assad.
U.S. closes PLO office in Washington, stepping up its pressure on Palestinians
Just months after the controversial decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the Trump Administration continues its pressure campaign on Palestine by shutting down the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) office in Washington.
The U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton hinted at two possible reasons behind the push to close the PLO office. Firstly, he accused the Palestinians of not contributing to the ongoing negotiations with Israel indicating “no evidence that the PLO office in Washington contributed to diplomacy”. Secondly, he spent a substantial amount of time criticising the International Criminal Court (ICC), which Palestine recently urged to open ‘‘immediate investigation into Israeli crimes’’.
The move was condemned by the Palestinian authorities, which recently saw the U.S. siding with Israel on several critical issues. Alongside Trump’s cuts for humanitarian services in Palestine and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), some see this move as a part of ’’blackmail’’ by the U.S. in order to push forwards its Middle East peace plan soon to be released by Jared Kushner.
While the U.S. believes the decision will have ‘‘a positive impact’’ on future negotiations, it will more likely decrease their already slim chances for an Israel-Palestinian deal. With the PLO’s secretary-general calling this move a ‘‘dangerous escalation’’, current US tactics are more likely to push the Palestinians into a continuous boycott of the negotiations and fail to deter them from undermining Israel at the ICC.
Image: Meeting of the presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran | President of Russia
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a bi-weekly basis provides a short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into broader context.
Responsible editor Ondřej Zacha.
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