Slovak cabinet is dismissed after losing a vote of no confidence and the country may join Bulgaria in seeing snap elections next year, and the 18 billion euro aid package for Ukraine approved.
This week on Visegrad Insight:
- Alina Bârgăoanu breaks down the demographic focus of various disinformation campaigns.
- Matej Kandrik offers insight into what Central Europe’s role can be in the next stage of Russia’s war with Ukraine.
- Bohdan Bernatskyi gives an up-to-date assessment of the impact of EU sanctions.
- G7 finance ministers and central bank governors will hold an online meeting on 22 December.
- Today, Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu visited Minsk where Vladimir Putin is supposed to be meeting Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his lieutenants amid fears of fresh attacks against Ukraine.
- EU member states approved the 18 billion euro package of financial aid for Ukraine after complicated negotiations with Hungary and Poland. Hungary was vetoing the aid and Poland had objections over the corporate tax.
- First carbon border tariff agreed on by the EU and EP. Imports into the EU will be required to buy certificates to cover its CO2 emissions. It will apply to overseas as well as EU companies.
- Qatargate. The European Parliament is pursuing a set of measures in response to the corruption scandal involving lobbying on behalf of Qatar. This includes reviewing the EU’s lobby register, submitting a proposal for an independent EU ethics body, MEPs disclosing assets and a mandatory “cooling” period for MEPs leaving the parliament.
- European future of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. EU Council confirms expansion policy, as stated in the document, is a strategic priority of the European Union. Candidate status was also granted to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- On 20 December the environmental council meets. EU environmental ministers will hold a discussion over a proposal for a nature restoration regulation helping to restore European habitats 80 per cent of which are in a poor condition.
- EU’s 9th round of sanctions involves several media personalities such as the owner of National Media Group Yuri Kovalchuk with family or Russian governors reported to be involved in kidnapping Ukrainian children.
Ukraine under a wave of air attacks on Friday, Russian torture chambers for children found in Kherson
- All EU countries supported the provision of 18 billion euros in aid to Ukraine. Hungary’s veto was withdrawn in exchange for the unfreezing of some EU funds. (Read more about the funds here.)
- Italy will supply weapons to Ukraine in 2023 after the resolution on stopping the supply of weapons to Kyiv, introduced by the left and “greens”, was rejected.
- The European Parliament presented the Sakharov Prize to representatives of the Ukrainian government and society “who are already fighting hard and have sacrificed so much for their freedom and our values.”.
- The Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) changes the procedure for electing candidates to the Constitutional Court. It is proposed to involve a new ad hoc body – the Consultative Group of Experts. It will assist in assessing the moral character and level of competence of candidates. The adoption of this bill is one of the seven requirements for Ukraine on its way to EU membership.
- The Verkhovna Rada adopted all the laws necessary to start negotiations on Ukraine’s accession to the EU which may begin as early as 2023.
- Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the participants of the conference “In solidarity with the Ukrainian people” in Paris. In his main statements, he expressed the need for electricity supplies from EU countries before the end of the heating season: this could cost about 800 million euros, due to damage to power plants, Ukraine is forced to use more gas in winter than planned, so it needs help with the purchase of about 2 billion cubic metres of gas. He also asked to transfer to Ukraine the necessary equipment for the restoration of power grids, as well as to help finance the purchase of 50 million LED lamps, and called on the European Union to send special missions to critical energy infrastructure facilities, similar to the IAEA missions at Ukrainian nuclear power plants. (Read more about the conference and Ukraine’s civilian resistance here.)
- On the occupied territories, the Russians have torture chambers for children, – the ombudsman. Children were given water every other day, food was not given, and they were told that their parents had abandoned them.
- Russian occupiers began to mobilise women in the Donetsk region; according to the General Staff, 28 women have already been drafted and sent to training..
- Russians are robbing agricultural enterprises in the temporarily occupied Kherson region.
- Russians are turning sanatoriums and maternity hospitals into military hospitals in the occupied territories.
- 85 per cent of Ukrainians consider the liberation of all territories, including Crimea and Donbas, a victory in the war in a new November poll. 53 per cent of Ukrainians support the restoration of Ukraine’s status as a nuclear state.
- OECD embarks on opening a regional office in Ukraine to support the reconstruction and recovery process.
- Odesa received another humanitarian shipment from the Japanese city of Yokohama.
EU calls Poland’s bluff on Ukrainian funds and Czech presidential candidates’ campaign in Hungary
- Outgoing president Miloš Zeman said he would like to visit Serbia and set up a Czech House in Belgrade. The nationalist, populist politician also told CNN Prima News that he would like to join premier Petr Fiala on a trip to Israel and that he would like to see controversial billionaire and ex-PM Andrej Babiš succeed him.
- Two rival presidential candidates campaigned in Hungary. Babiš met with Hungarian President Katalin Novak and her Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vučić at the Hungarian-Serbian border where he praised Hungarian authorities for “all Hungary does” to protect Europe. Former army chief of staff and NATO commander gen. Petr Pavel met with Hungarian NGOs, journalists and opposition in Budapest to highlight the dangers of populism which Pavel warns against. Together with former Mendel University chancellor Danuše Nerudová, the three are favourites of the first round voting on 13-14 January.
- Czechia will recruit thousands of experts from Ukraine to work in its arms factories to manufacture military materiel for Ukraine.
- New US ambassador Bijan Sabet confirmed by the US Senate. Former technology start-up executive and venture capitalist Sabet said his priorities are to follow Václav Havel’s legacy of human rights, media freedom and develop Czech-US security cooperation including negotiations with Czechia to purchase F-35 fighter jets.
- Almost three months after the elections some of the municipalities (obce) have no executive authorities elected by councils, including Prague.
- According to press reports, Hungary has frozen Russian assets worth about 870 million EUR by 25 November. It is a rather surprising and quick increase as previous estimates put the total at 3 000 euros.
- US Congress-approved programmes aimed at strengthening democratic institutions, civil societies and independent press in the countries in Central Europe. The programmes were announced by the US embassy in Budapest and will be implemented with USAID by local partners well familiar with the region.