Tuesday, June 13, 2017

European Roundup: Romanian Revolution

Didn't they already have one where the guy lost his head?

"10,000 protest Romanian government plans to pardon prisoners" Associated Press  January 23, 2017

BUCHAREST — Thousands of people marched through the Romanian capital and other cities Sunday to protest a government proposal to pardon thousands of prisoners, which critics say could reverse the anticorruption fight.

More than 10,000 protesters massed in University Square, and later broke through police lines, before heading toward government headquarters. Thousands also protested in the cities of Cluj, Timisoara in western Romania, in Sibiu, and Iasi, a city in the north. The protest in Bucharest ended after nearly four hours.

There is a history there.

In the capital, protesters yelled: ‘‘We want democracy, with thieves in prison.’’ They cheered after President Klaus Iohannis, a government critic who supports the anticorruption drive, turned up at the protest.

‘‘A gang of politicians who have problems with the law want to change the legislation and weaken the state of law,’’ Iohannis said. ‘‘Romanians are rightly indignant.’’

So what side of the Russian divide are they on? That will help me gauge the sincerity of protest or whether it is another coup-pushing effort. The coverage kind of confirms it already, but I'm giving them a chance.

Some protesters were elderly, while others carried children on their shoulders or held them in their arms. Demonstrators called the ruling Social Democratic Party ‘‘the red plague’’ and marched several miles north to the party headquarters where they booed party leaders.

Premier Sorin Grindeanu wants to pass an emergency ordinance to pardon prisoners, which his government says would ease overcrowding in prisons. Critics say it would help government allies convicted of corruption. They also say the proposal should be debated in Parliament.

He hasn’t reacted to the protests, which first erupted Wednesday.

Donald Simionoiu, an art director, said that he believes that the proposal ‘‘hides other things,’’ noting that it would benefit Liviu Dragnea, Social Democrat chairman, who has a two-year suspended prison sentence for vote rigging, and media mogul Dan Voiculescu, who is serving a 10-year sentence for money laundering.

The justice ministry published a draft of the plan Wednesday, which was criticized by Romania’s top prosecutor, magistrates, and opposition politicians. The proposal could primarily affect primarily those with sentences under five years, except for those convicted of crimes of a sexual nature, violence, or corruption.

Prisoners over 60, pregnant women, and inmates with young children would see their sentences halved regardless of their convictions.

Prison authorities say 3,700 prisoners could be freed. The government said around 2,500 would be freed.


Same time next week:

"Thousands protest plan to pardon prisoners in Romania" Associated Press  January 29, 2017

BUCHAREST, Romania — About 10,000 people marched through Romania’s capital and other cities on Sunday to protest a government proposal to pardon thousands of prisoners, a move critics said would set back anticorruption efforts.

Protesters massed in Bucharest’s University Square called the ruling Social Democratic Party ‘‘the red plague.’’ They later marched to Victory Square, where the government has its main offices.

Premier Sorin Grindeanu has requested an emergency ordinance allowing the government to pardon prisoners to ease prison overcrowding. On Sunday, he said the protests had been ‘‘politicized’’ and criticized President Klaus Iohannis, who took part in a similar protest a week ago.

Critics say the proposal would benefit party allies convicted of corruption. Romania’s top prosecutor has criticized the plan.

It would primarily affect people serving sentences of fewer than five years, except those convicted of sexual or violent crimes.


"Weakened graft law ignites furor, criticism in Romania" New York Times  February 02, 2017

BUCHAREST, Romania — Huge protests, among the largest since the fall of communism, have rocked Romania after the government passed a law that would effectively allow official corruption.

More than 250,000 Romanians took to the streets, about half of them in the capital, Bucharest, where demonstrators clashed overnight with police officers.

The protests — which are expected to swell further over the weekend — erupted after the government adopted an emergency law Tuesday night that would make official misconduct punishable by prison time only in cases in which the financial damage is more than $47,000.

The law had been debated for several weeks, but the decision was made abruptly late Tuesday. The ostensible rationale — to help reduce prison crowding — has been widely ridiculed. Liviu Dragnea, leader of the governing Social Democratic Party, stands to benefit from the law: He faces charges of defrauding the state of about $24,000.

Romania’s top judicial watchdog, the Superior Magistrates’ Council, on Wednesday issued a constitutional court challenge to the decree. Another body, the Higher Judicial Council, which helps oversee the court system, has also challenged the law.

President Klaus Iohannis, whose role as head of state is largely ceremonial, asked the constitutional court to strike it down.

Iohannis called Tuesday a “day of mourning for the rule of law.”

In the city of Cluj, Raluca Sandor, a 30-year-old pharmacist, braved cold weather to participate in demonstrations.

“This decree will drag Romania back in time. The Social Democratic Party is the most corrupt party, and they are trying to save themselves from prosecution,” she said.

Until recently, Romania, which joined the European Union in 2007, along with Bulgaria, was seen as making progress on corruption. The new law threatens to create a problem for the bloc’s executives in Brussels, who are troubled by problems like the Greek debt crisis, sluggish growth among the countries that use the euro currency, and Britain’s plans for withdrawing from the bloc. 


Analysts feared the government could further reverse the country’s progress and an open conflict between the government and the president could create a lasting deadlock.


Time to punt:

"Amid protests, Romania repeals decree that eased penalties for corruption" by Gregory Katz Associated Press  February 05, 2017

BUCHAREST — The late-night introduction last week of an emergency ordinance to turn a blind eye toward abuse in office by officials if the amount involved was less than about $48,500 provoked a lightning response from Romania’s civil society.

Nightly throngs in Bucharest and other major cities pit angry citizens who believe a modern, pro-European Romania must not condone corruption in high places against a moneyed elite that stands to benefit if the law passes.

‘‘We want all people to be equal before the law, and no privileges for the people in Parliament,’’ said retired engineer Profira Popo, protesting in crowded Victory Square. ‘‘This government is organized from the high level to the low like a mafia, and we don’t want something like this.’’

True of all of them no matter what the name or $y$tem.

Opponents see it as legitimizing criminal activity — if it’s done by people with influence. It would not only go lightly on future offenses, but take some politicians off the hook for cases pending against them.

I call it AmeriKan JU$TU$. Think too big to jail bankers or lying war criminals.

‘‘The law protects a layer of ex-Communist politicians who kept stealing for years,’’ said software engineer Dorin Popa, 36, who was carrying a somewhat vulgar sign about the government. He said the tough anticorruption drive that began in 2008 had ‘‘panicked’’ the ruling elite. ‘‘The rule of law is kind of working, so the only thing they can do is change the law,’’ he said. ‘‘They think the Romanian people are fools.’’

Well, now you are talking the Massachusetts Legislature.

The protests so far have been largely peaceful, even festive. Parents brought young children and pets, while volunteers distributed fresh-baked sweets to kids bundled up in wool hats and winter wear.

Here we go! Once again my pre$$ covers only pre approved, agenda-pushing protest. 

So what has Romania's leadership done wrong because we know corruption is not the excuse here. That they can tolerate as long as you toe the line.

Even after the repeal, tens of thousands packed the Victory Square outside the government offices Sunday evening, waving Romanian flags, blowing horns, and carrying giant puppets of politicians dressed as convicts. They yelled, ‘‘You thieves!’’ and ‘‘Resign!’’

I'm for 'em anyway. I'm nonpartisan when it comes to political pukes.

There was also a pro-government demonstration Sunday as several hundred people gathered around the presidential palace to protest President Klaus Iohannis’ decision to side with the protesters seeking repeal of the measure.

One part of the ordinance that gained less attention also would weaken human rights protections and ease penalties for related crimes.

It would have substantially reduced the sentences for officials who violated or restricted the rights of people based on race, religion, disability, or HIV status.

It would also, in some cases, decriminalize discrimination committed by officials.

Cluj Court Judge Cristi Danilet, a former member of the Supreme Council of Magistrates, said the changes would open the door to future abuses and ‘‘creates the possibility of issuing racist legislation.’’

Things are certainly becoming black and white.

Amid the sounds of the Romanian national anthem and the red, yellow and blue colors of the national flags waving at Victory Square, gymnasium owner Cornel Sain, 53, carried an American flag. Sain said he wanted to thank US officials for calling for a repeal of the law.


He said the huge crowds of the last six days reminded him of the 1989 revolt, which ushered in the post-communist era as Soviet rule collapsed in Romania and much of Eastern Europe.

‘‘This fight is different than 1989 — no bullets, no casualties. It’s a moral fight. But it’s almost as important,’’ Sain said....

They did it because the six days of street protests were reminiscent of the violent 1989 revolution that toppled dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.


The danger is it spills over into Hungary:

Soros groups risk purge after Trump’s win emboldens Hungary
Soros group to stay in Hungary amid Trump-inspired crackdown
70,000 rally in support of Soros-founded school
Hungary’s attack on academic freedom
Low turnout invalidates Hungarian vote on EU refugee quota
Hungary’s lawmakers reject plan to block resettlement of refugees

And look who then comes swaggering into town:

"Putin swaggers into Hungary for meeting" New York Times  February 02, 2017

BUDAPEST — When President Vladimir Putin of Russia last paid a visit to Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban was under siege for his autocratic style, Russia was isolated for its seizure of Crimea, and both men were called xenophobes for their hard-line stance on immigration.

Two years later, as Putin landed Thursday for his first foray into Europe in the Trump era, it was a different story. Both men feel vindicated. There is talk of lifting the economic sanctions placed on Russia for its land grab in Ukraine. Their brand of nationalism has moved from the fringe to the mainstream.

Nothing wrong with Zionist nationalism in my pre$$ though. Heck, they support it.

There was a note of triumph, even a bit of swagger, in the air.

Who wrote th.... oh.

“We all sense, it’s in the air, that the world is in the process of a substantial realignment,” Orban said in a news conference after Thursday’s meeting. “We believe this will create favorable conditions for stronger Russian-Hungarian relations.”

Even so, beneath the triumph lies a strain of uneasiness. The visit is expected to be fairly low-key, an indication of the uncertainty surrounding the new Trump administration, analysts say. President Trump’s intentions remain unclear, and the prospects of a grand bargain between Washington and the Kremlin are highly uncertain."

I would say they are certain -- not.

Calls for Hungary to be kicked out of the EU now. 

I say break up with them first.

What if it spreads to the Balkans?

"The long-awaited Srebrenica trial at the War Crimes Court in Belgrade is seen as a test of Serbia’s pledge to deal with its wartime past and an important step in Balkan reconciliation efforts more than two decades after the Bosnian war ended...."

Or what, NATO will drop tons of DU on them like last time?

\While they be saying the same regarding the EUSraeli Empire in 20 years?

"Leaders of anti-Serb war win Kosovo election" Associated Press  June 12, 2017

PRISTINA, Kosovo — A coalition of ethnic Albanian former leaders of a war of independence against Serbian troops in 1998-1999 won Kosovo’s national election with a third of the vote, according to nearly complete results.

The Central Election Commission reported Monday that the ex-rebels’ coalition came in first, at about 34 percent. With more than 99 percent of votes counted, the nationalist Movement for Self-determination had about 27 percent, more than a point ahead of a coalition led by former prime minister Isa Mustafa.

In this case, it's okay.

No group can govern alone and a coalition is likely.

Final results for the new 120-seat Parliament are expected later in the week. Twenty seats in Parliament are reserved for ethnic Serbs and other minorities.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said the victory of hard-liners in the Kosovo elections will create ‘‘a lot of difficulties and problems,’’ but added that the European Union-mediated dialogue with Kosovo must continue.

Commission head Valdete Daka said that, due to ‘‘heavy traffic of more than 2 million clicks,’’ the institution’s webpage was temporarily blocked Monday morning. She added that officials are working to produce final results, likely this week.

Ramush Haradinaj, 48, the leading coalition’s nominee to be prime minister, told supporters at a midnight rally in Pristina that ‘‘we know that there is a lot of work ahead of us. But we are going to achieve it together.’’

The Movement for Self-determination also celebrated the results, which saw the party double its share of the vote. The party has been a disruptive force, releasing tear gas in the previous Parliament while its supporters threw firebombs outside to protest contentious deals with Montenegro and Serbia.

The party has nominated its former leader, 42-year-old Albin Kurti, as candidate for prime minister.

The Serbian leaders consider Haradinaj a war criminal and failed to get him extradited earlier this year from France where he was detained on a Serbian arrest warrant.

Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said he hopes that Kosovo’s representatives understand that ‘‘a future perspective, in terms of more and better living conditions, is only achievable embedded into the European Union.’’

‘‘It’s now the responsibility of political leaders in the country to form — very fast hopefully — a new government ... it’s so important for this country to stay committed to the reforms.’’

US Embassy in Pristina congratulated ‘‘the people of Kosovo on their democratic elections’’ but also expressed concern on ‘‘some reports of outdated voter registries, double-voting, and other sporadic irregularities.’’ 

Yeah, right.

‘‘The voters of Kosovo have spoken, and now the critical process of forming a new government must begin. We look forward to working closely with whomever forms the new government,’’ a statement said.


Meanwhile, Poland is joining the global backlash of political forces seeking to overturn a world order decades in the making, meaning the Polish corridor could be cut off.

"European Union leaders confirmed Donald Tusk for a second term as council president Thursday, defeating strong opposition from his native Poland. ‘‘Be careful of the bridges you burn because once they are gone, you can never cross them again,’’ Tusk said in an apparent reference to the Polish government. Yet at the same time he vowed that he would keep his nation out of political isolation despite its obstructionist course. Warsaw’s government was totally isolated at the vote, a meeting participant said. The participant did not want to be identified because the summit was conducted privately. It left Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party bitter. Prime Minister Beata Szydlo of Poland said it was unheard of to confirm a president without the consent of his home nation and hinted that the most important east European nation in the European Union could run an opposition course in a bloc where much is decided by common consent...."

What, a Polexit? 

That some sort of Polish joke?

Deep freeze grips Europe, threatens homeless, migrants 

Made the babies cry.

The Swiss will take you in:

"Swiss ease citizenship for ‘third-generation’ foreigners" by Jamey Keaten Associated Press  February 13, 2017

BASEL, Switzerland — Voters in Switzerland decided Sunday to make it easier for young ‘‘third-generation foreigners’’ to get Swiss citizenship, agreeing to extend to about 25,000 people under age 25 access to the fast-track process now available to foreign spouses of Swiss nationals.

The national statistics office said the ‘‘naturalization of third-generation immigrants’’ initiative passed with 60.4 percent of the vote, paving the way to a simplified path to citizenship for young people whose parents and grandparents have lived in Switzerland for decades.

As in some other European countries, being born in Switzerland doesn’t automatically confer citizenship.

While 25,000 people are estimated to be eligible for the new process, the referendum’s passage ultimately could be far-reaching in a country where non-citizens make up one-fourth of the population.

The citizenship measure was one of three on the national ballot on Sunday. Another carried international implications: Voters handily rejected a corporate tax reform designed to harmonize taxes at a competitive, relatively low rate, a victory of sorts for the political left that had shunned alleged handouts to foreign businesses.

The statistics office said 59.1 percent of voters rejected the measure, which would have scrapped the two-track tax system that offers lower rates to foreign firms to lure investment — potentially at the expense of higher tax-countries of the neighboring European Union.

Experts say the tax initiative’s failure means that overall rates are likely to be set higher — which would be a disincentive to companies that bring in jobs and ultimately tax revenues.

Many domestic companies, meanwhile, could see their tax rates go down.

Critics including regional government leaders and much of the political left had said the initiative would deplete tax coffers for an uncertain payoff.

Proponents had countered that the reforms were needed to keep competitive a country that has few exportable natural resources and relies heavily on globalized industries such as finance and pharmaceuticals.

US-based machinery giant Caterpillar, which employs 600 people in Switzerland and has its Europe, Africa, and Middle East headquarters in Geneva, had vocally expressed support for the tax reform referendum, and expressed ‘‘respect’’ for the public’s will after it was rejected.

‘‘Though this vote creates additional uncertainty in a challenging business environment, we remain confident that Switzerland and the Cantons (regions) will find a consensus allowing to pass a new federal tax law that will support innovation and employment for all economic actors in Switzerland,’’ the company said in a statement Sunday.

Despite the rejection, Switzerland must still abolish its two-track system: Sunday’s measure would have kept future rates relatively low, and now policymakers will have to come up with a new plan — which could raise rates on foreign firms.

The ‘‘third-generation foreigners’’ initiative will mean less paperwork, fewer delays, and lower fees for anyone under 25 whose parents and grandparents have lived in Switzerland for years, but who did not go through the time-consuming, onerous naturalization process.


Also see:

Swiss reject plan to speed up exit from nuclear energy

Court says Swiss Muslim girls must attend swim classes with boys

You can swim up to Sweden if you want.