This Week in Central Europe: 16-22 November

Democratic Security Outlook

16 November 2020

Every Monday Visegrad Insight releases a weekly update on key developments in Central Europe from the point of view of democratic security. Our team monitors for important political, civil society, economy and foreign policy updates and where possible hints at risks and developing scenarios. Currently, we monitor the situation the following 8 countries:

  • Baltics: A corruption watchdog (KNAB) suggests criminal charges against a former Latvian politician and university rector Baiba Broka; 3Q projections look dismal for Lithuania and Latvia, but tourism looks inwards to make back losses from the summer, planning for a domestic boom in 2021
  • Belarus: Lukashenko targets private, humanitarian funds aiding protestors; nearly 25,000 arrests since 9 August and some 1,000 last weekend on criminal charges; expect further crack-down as a mean to break stalemate after 100 days of protests
  • Bulgaria: a worsening economic outlook (a possible contraction of four per cent); COVID-19 cases are rising sharply, and Sophia protracts its language law diplomatic battle over North Macedonia’s ascension to the EU; expect a veto at EU MFAs summit on 17 Nov
  • Czechia: A 5G Auction has just started and will run until Christmas, with space for investors and newcomers to win frequency ranges
  • Hungary: PM Orbán threatens to veto the European Union’s €1.8tn budget; puts forward a constitution amendment to change the definition of public funds and definitions of gender, family; trials of Russia’s COVID19 vaccine samples on Hungarians expected to begin soon after laboratory tests approved by the government next week
  • Romania: Romania faces a challenging political landscape hindering its COVID-19 response
  • Poland: the government anti-LGBTIQ agenda will meet with the newly-formed EU strategy to promote equality just in time for EU summit on 19 Nov; PM Morawiecki warned Poland may veto EU budget following lines of PM Orbán but with softer undertones; new tensions in the ruling coalition overuse of police against far-right hooligans, corruption scandals and future strategy
  • Slovakia: the country’s aggressive testing scheme seems to be paying off with lower rates of infection; those who first tested positive (1% of the population) are leaving self-isolation next week.

EU/Hungary/Poland/Budget/Rule of Law:

Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán threatens to veto the European Union’s €1.8tn multiannual budget and recovery package cushioning the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic unless Brussels reverses an EU accord linking member states’ payouts to respect for the rule of law. The Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki sent a similar letter warning that the Polish parliament might reject the recovery package (750 billion euros part of the deal). New rule of law mechanism agreed between the EU Parliament and the German EU presidency directly targets primarily fraud schemes – mostly identified in Hungary – while only hints at judicial independence factor – a major concern in Poland.

Romania/Elections:

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