Below find the highlights from the week as well as stories that will be developing in the near future.
Slovak PM survives no-confidence vote: Opposition parties tried to push out Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, after his slow handling of a recent affair that resulted in the resignation of Monika Jankovská. Former State Secretary Jankovská came under scrutiny for her communication with a controversial businessman – who is accused of ordering the murder of the investigative journalist Ján Kuciak. After a long debate, however, the opposition did not muster a majority in favour of the prime minister’s dismissal.
Planned media sector reforms in Poland: The governing party PiS has plans to create a “self-governing body” to uphold ethical standards for journalists. The planned reform is part of a new act on the status of the journalistic profession although the exact proposal still leaves open important questions concerning the powers of such a body and the evaluation mechanism for journalists. While some sector regulation would be useful, the proposal creates the perception of a planned limitation of the profession.
In related media news, TVP has begun with a new channel aimed at the Polish minority in Lithuania. “TVP Wilno” aims to discourage locals from relying on Russian language media, after reports of Russia’s growing media propaganda. The channel will comprise a team of local Polish journalists and produce its own information programmes on local, Lithuanian and Polish matters.
Preliminary hearing Article 7 process Hungary: The recently appointed Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga was interrogated at the first hearing of EU affairs ministers, with regard to the Article 7 procedure against the country. The preliminary hearing is likely to be followed by several more meetings, to determine whether Hungary is in breach of European Union values. Although the prospect of sanctions is far off, the Hungarian government has criticised the process as politically motivated.
Czech cabinet approves draft budget: The cabinet of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has given its blessing for the 2020 draft budget. The government foresees an increase in expenditure on pensions, social services, teachers’ wages, parental benefits as well as research, sport and investments, while remaining just within the deficit ceiling of 40 billion crowns. The Supreme Audit Office has warned that the draft budget does not leave much leeway for worse times or unexpected decreases of state revenues.
Polish National Foundation under scrutiny: Founded in 2016, the Polish National Foundation (PNF) aims to improve Poland’s image abroad but in reality the PNF has been marred by repeated scandals. Although the foundation is well-funded, in large part by state-run corporations, until now it has made questionable use of its large budget. There have been reports of millions of Polish zlotys spent on the acquisition of a yacht, that is not being used, as well as bill-board campaigns that supported the current government’s controversial judicial reforms. It is highly doubtful the PNF is having a desired impact abroad, with limited followers on social media and wrongly used stock images that accompany advertisements of Poland.