Crisis for Hungary’s Viktor Orban as President and Minister resign | explained

The story so far: Five-term Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is facing his biggest backlash since taking office in 2010, as the nation’s President Katalin Novák resigned on February 10 over pardoning a man involved in child sex abuse. Along with Ms. Novak, former Justice Minister Judit Varga, who had also signed off on the pardon, resigned from Parliament, taking responsibility for the act.

With the exit of both Ms. Varga and Ms. Novak — the only two high-ranking women officials in Mr. Orban’s government — resentment against the Hungarian Prime Minister has increased, with several critics accusing him of shielding himself with the two women. Protestors have taken to the streets demanding Mr. Orban’s resignation as well.

After several days of silence, Mr. Orban issued a statement on February 17, promising several new laws cracking down on child abuse. He has accepted both Ms. Vagra and Ms. Novak’s resignations, stating that there is no room for clemency to child abusers. He also urged party MPs to urgently vote for a new President.

 Why has the President resigned?

46-year-old President Novak has come under fire for granting clemency to Endre Konya, former deputy director of a state orphanage who was jailed for helping to cover up sexual abuse of children. Mr. Konya had persuaded children to withdraw their testimony of sexual abuse against the orphanage’s director and was sentenced to a three-year prison sentence in 2022. He was also barred for a further five years from all activities and occupations involving minors.

In April 2023, Ms. Novak pardoned twenty-five people during a visit by Pope Francis, including Mr. Konya. The names of the pardoned individuals were made public on February 2, leading to an outcry. Around a thousand people took to the streets of Budapest on February 9, demanding Ms. Novak’s resignation. The call for her ouster was backed by Opposition parties, who pointed out that Ms. Novak’s ‘family-centric’ beliefs were in conflict with her actions.

A handout picture shows Hungary’s President Katalin Novak as she announces her resignation in the presidential palace of Budapest on February 10, 2024. Hungary’s President Katalin Novak announced her resignation on February 10, 2024 following outrage sparked in the central European country by a decision to pardon a man implicated in child sexual abuse case.

Ms. Novak, a mother of three, has staunchly advocated for a ‘family friendly’ Hungary, supporting traditional roles for men and women. As Mr. Orban’s Minister of Family Affairs, she had introduced several financial regulations aimed at mothers, large families and grandparents, highlighting the woman’s primary role as ‘child-bearers and caregivers.’

A practising conservative Christian, Ms. Novak has supported Mr. Orban’s anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion views, backing ‘traditional families’ (with male-female couples). After being elected as the first woman President of Hungary in 2022, Ms. Novak vowed to rule by ‘values predicated on Christianity’ and to ‘protect human life from conception.’

She stepped down as President on February 10, issuing a statement on state television. “I made a mistake … Today is the last day that I address you as a President,” she said, adding she had thought the pardoned individual had not abused the vulnerability of children under his care. “I made a mistake as the pardon and the lack of reasoning was suitable to trigger doubts over the zero tolerance that applies to paedophilia,” she said.

 Political backlash following Novak’s resignation

Immediately after Ms. Novak’s resignation, her fellow Fidesz member and former Minister of Justice Judit Vagra, who had signed off on the presidential pardon, resigned an an MP and retired from public life.

In a Facebook post, Ms. Vagra took political responsibility for her actions and wrote that she was ‘”resigning my seat as a member of parliament and also as leader of the European Parliament list.” The 43-year-old Fidesz MP was on the top of the list of leaders from her party to lead Hungary in the 2024 European Parliament election scheduled in June.

Both Ms Novak and Ms Vagra are long-time allies of Mr. Orban and have been at the forefront of pushing his conservative agenda. While Ms. Novak has been responsible for ‘softening’ Mr. Orban’s image domestically by pushing a family-focused, Christian agenda, Ms. Vagra is the face of the Fidesz party’s battle against left of centre European Union (EU) lawmakers.

Prior to being elected to the highest office, Ms. Novak had worked in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Human Capacities and Family and Youth Affairs and was later elected as Vice President of Fidesz. She also served as Mr. Orban’s Minster of Families between 2020-21 before being his pick for President. Touted as a motherly figure, Ms. Novak was picked in a bid to woo female voters ahead of Mr. Orban’s re-election in 2022.

Judit Varga with Viktor Orban

Judit Varga with Viktor Orban

Meanwhile, Ms. Vagra, who speaks Hungarian, English, German, French, and Spanish, is known as a Orban loyalist with the necessary foreign experience to deal with Brussels. Apart from being Mr. Orban’s ally, Ms. Vagra has previously worked as an adviser for Hungarian members in the European Parliament (MEP) between 2009 and 2018, before being appointed as Minister for Justice in 2019. A vocal critic of the EU, she has taken the lead in defending Mr. Orban’s policies and negotiating with the EU to unfreeze funds marked for Hungary.

The departure of both women has created a vacuum in Mr. Orban’s all-male cabinet — the only such one in Europe — as criticism of Mr. Orban’s autocratic governing increases. Apart from the two women, Mr. Orban’s communications chief Antal Rogan and his personal adviser Zoltan Balog too are under fire for their role in the controversial pardon. Mr. Balog had allegedly lobbied for Mr. Konya’s clemency — a charge he has denied. Both men are still in office and are yet to comment on the issue.

Accusing Mr. Orban of shirking accountability, Hungarian MEP Anna Donath said, “Viktor Orbán was not ashamed to hide behind the skirts of two women instead of taking responsibility. That is why this matter cannot be allowed to close like this.” The Democratic Coalition, Hungary’s largest Opposition party, has called for direct presidential elections to replace Ms. Novak, instead of a replacement being appointed by the Fidesz lawmakers.

 What has Orban done in response?

To limit political damage, Mr. Orban has tabled a constitutional amendment which prohibits the President from pardoning crimes committed against children. However, according to analyst Dániel Hegedus of the German Marshall Fund, core supporters of the Fidesz were shocked by the resignations, questioning why the two senior politicians were made scapegoats in the scandal, despite their steadfast loyalty to Mr. Orban.

Mr. Hegedus claims that an internal polling by the party had revealed that the pardon did not sit well with conservative voters, threatening to alienate them. According to him, the two women leaders were made to step down, at the behest of Mr. Orban, to appease these voters. However, the move has not gone down well among Fidesz members, several of whom have criticised the callousness with which Ms. Novak and Ms. Vagra were discarded.

Peter Magyar, a top Fidesz leader and Ms. Vagra’s ex-husband has openly criticised the government and resigned from several state-owned companies. In a series of social media posts, he has questioned Mr. Rogan’s silence and accused several high-ranking officials, including Mr. Orban’s son-in-law Istvan Tiborcz, of being power-hungry and corrupt. Denouncing the Orban regime, he claimed, “I do not want to be part of a system for a minute longer where the real culprits hide behind women’s skirts,” adding that the regime was “a political product to conceal the operation of the power factory and to acquire enormous wealth.”

 EU elections in mind?

With the twin ousters, Mr. Orban seems to be refocusing his party’s efforts on the European Parliament elections in June. According to the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), with the rise in right-wing leaders across Europe, Fidesz is expected to retain a majority of the 21 seats in the European Parliament while the Opposition is likely to settle for one or two seats.

By consolidating his power in the EU, Mr. Orban is hoping that anti-EU groups will gain more votes, allowing him to push his pro-Russia agenda and obstruct EU sanctions against Moscow. He had also single-handedly delayed EU’s €50 billion aid to Ukraine before backtracking in February, and is holding up Sweden’s bid to join the military bloc NATO. Mr. Orban has batted for closer ties with Russia and China and projected Hungary as a ‘bridge’ between the East and the West, rather than being a faithful member of the European bloc.

As per BIRN estimates, groupings like the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), with a fading liberal Renew Europe, are set to retain power.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, right, talks to Finland’s Prime Minister Petteri Orpo, center, next to Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, left, during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, right, talks to Finland’s Prime Minister Petteri Orpo, center, next to Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, left, during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024.
| Photo Credit:
Geert Vanden Wijngaert

Mr. Orban’s party Fidesz, which was part of EPP till 2020, is currently part of the non-aligned group Non-Inscrits, which is barred from holding office and granted limited speaking time. BIRN claims that Mr. Orban is hoping for a strong shift to the right in the EU (several European nations have elected right-wing governments) and may join the far-right Identity and Democracy group or the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament.

Moreover, Hungary will also hold the rotating presidency of the EU Council from July 1 to end of 2024, allowing Mr. Orban to spearhead the bloc’s policy-making process for six months. With Hungary being deemed an ‘elected autocracy’ by EU, and considering Mr. Orban’s strong anti-EU views, several member nations have questioned his ability to chair the council democratically.

Despite Mr. Orban’s efforts to douse the domestic fire, hundreds of protestors took to the streets in Budapest on February 15, demanding his resignation over the pardon.

In response, Mr. Orban made a statement at his annual state address inside the Castle Garden building, where only pro-government media were allowed. Promising a new package of laws, he informed that the government would also review staff appointments at state orphanages, where 7,000 children live, according to a BBC report. He has also relented on Sweden’s NATO membership, urging party MPs to elect a President soon to facilitate green-lighting Sweden’s NATO entry on February 26.

However, calls for his resignation remain strong among the people, signalling no end to Mr. Orban’s biggest political crisis till date.

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Why is Turkey finally getting behind Sweden’s NATO bid?

The last Nordic country to join the alliance is still waiting for Turkey and Hungary to clear its path.


Sweden edged closer toward joining NATO on Tuesday after the Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs committee greenlit a protocol for the Nordic country’s accession to the military alliance.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dropped his objection to Sweden’s membership during a NATO summit in July, but it took him several months to send the bill to parliament for ratification and weeks for the parliamentary committee to give its consent.

The long-delayed protocol now needs to be approved by the full general assembly and it remains to be seen how quickly the issue will be taken up by the floor.

Sweden and Finland abandoned their decades-long neutrality and sought membership in NATO amid heightened security concerns following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. 

Finland became NATO’s 31st member earlier this year, after Turkey’s parliament ratified its bid.

Why the delay?

Turkey’s opposition to Swedish membership in NATO stemmed from its belief that the Nordic country has been too soft toward supporters of Kurdish militants and other groups in Sweden that Ankara views as security threats.

These include people associated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK, which has waged a 39-year insurgency in Turkey and people with alleged links to a coup attempt in 2016 against Erdoğan. Others are critics of the Turkish leader. 

Some observers have warned giving in to Ankara’s demands could undermine Sweden’s sovereignty, as well as the rights of those Erdoğan wants extradited to Turkey. 

Turkey, Sweden and Finland reached an agreement last year to tackle Ankara’s security concerns and Stockholm subsequently took steps to tighten its anti-terrorism laws, making support for extremist organisations punishable by up to eight years in prison.

But a series of anti-Turkey and anti-Islam protests in Stockholm, some of which involved the burning of the Quran, angered Erdoğan’s government and the Turkish public.

While the demonstrations were condemned by the Swedish government, Turkey criticised Sweden – which has strict laws protecting free speech – for allowing displays of anti-Muslim sentiment.

What’s changed?

While Sweden strengthened its antiterrorism laws to address Ankara’s security concerns, NATO agreed to establish a special coordinator for counterterrorism and appointed Assistant Secretary-General Tom Goffus to the position.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the alliance’s summit in July that Sweden had agreed “to support actively the efforts to reinvigorate Turkey’s EU accession process.” 

Stockholm announced it would seek improved customs arrangements and take steps to implement visa-free European travel for Turkish citizens.

Turkey’s EU membership talks came to a standstill in 2018 because of the country’s democratic backsliding and poor record on human rights.

Earlier this month, Erdoğan openly linked Sweden’s NATO membership to Ankara’s efforts to purchase US-made F-16 fighter jets. He also called on Canada and other NATO allies to lift arms embargoes on Turkey.

Some Western states banned arms exports to Turkey in 2019, following its military incursion into northern Syria against Kurdish militias. 

During Tuesday’s debate at the parliamentary committee, opposition legislator Oguz Kaan Salici questioned whether the government had received assurances from the United States concerning the sale of the F-16s.


US President Joe Biden’s administration backs Turkey’s F-16 request, but many in the US Congress strongly oppose selling arms to Turkey, which wants to buy 40 new F-16 fighter jets and modernisation kits for its existing fleet.

What happens next?

The approval by the parliamentary committee paves the way for Sweden’s accession protocol to be debated and ratified by the general assembly. It would then have to be signed off by Erdoğan to come into effect.

It was not clear when the full assembly would debate the bill.

Erdoğan’s ruling AK party and its allies command a majority in the 600-seat parliament. 

However, the Turkish president has said the decision rests with lawmakers. His ruling party’s nationalist allies remain uneasy with Sweden’s membership and accuse NATO members of indifference toward the PKK threat to Turkey.


This week, Kurdish militants attempted to infiltrate a Turkish base in northern Iraq, killing 12 soldiers in two days of clashes.

Islamist parties, frustrated by what they perceive to be Western nations’ silence toward Israel’s military actions in Gaza, may vote against the bill.

The Hungarian factor

Hungary, the only other NATO holdout on Sweden, has not announced when the country’s ratification may occur.

Hungary’s governing Fidesz party – led by populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who is widely considered one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s only allies in the EU – has stalled Sweden’s NATO bid since July 2022, alleging that Swedish politicians have told “blatant lies” about the condition of Hungary’s democracy.

Yet neither Orbán nor his senior officials have indicated what kind of redress they require from Stockholm to allay their reservations over Sweden joining the military alliance.


Some critics have alleged that Hungary is using its potential veto power over Sweden’s accession as a tool to leverage concessions from the European Union, which has frozen billions in funds to Budapest over concerns over minority rights and the rule of law.

Hungarian officials have said repeatedly that their country will not be the last NATO member to endorse Sweden’s bid. But Ankara’s move toward ratification suggests that the time for further holdups may be running out.

Some opposition politicians in Hungary – who have argued for immediate approval of Sweden’s bid – believe that Orbán’s party is following Ankara’s timetable and will vote to approve once it seems clear that Turkey will imminently do the same.

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Transforming HIV prevention in Europe

This article is part of POLITICO Telescope: The New AIDS Epidemic, an ongoing exploration of the disease today.

The world’s battle to end the HIV epidemic is being fought on two fronts. The first involves getting as many people as possible who are living with the virus diagnosed and rapidly onto antiretroviral medication. This reduces the virus inside their bodies to such a low level that it is undetectable and therefore cannot be passed to others. The approach is known as “undetectable = untransmittable” or “U=U*.”

The second front is focused on protecting people from contracting the virus in the first place, even if they have been exposed to it — an approach known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. Taken as prescribed, PrEP makes a person’s body almost entirely resistant to HIV infection.

There is a critical need to bring forward new PrEP options that are informed by and designed for the communities that could benefit from PrEP in Europe.

Jared Baeten MD, PhD, vice president for HIV clinical development at Gilead Sciences

PrEP comprises antiretroviral drugs that can be taken intermittently, around the time someone expects to be sexually active. They protect against the virus in two ways: by increasing the production of antibodies in the cells in the rectal or vaginal lining, making them less receptive to HIV in the first place, and by interfering with the ability of HIV to replicate in the body.

Nearly 5 million people around the world have taken PrEP at least once — including about 2.8 million in Europe — and it has been shown to reduce the incidence of HIV infection during sex by 99 percent. In the European Union, new HIV infections have fallen by about 45 percent since PrEP was licensed in 2016, although this decline is also partly due to U=U.

PrEP as part of combination prevention strategies

Missing doses or running out of PrEP can mean becoming susceptible to HIV again. I via Shutterstock

Today, PrEP comes primarily in the form of an oral tablet, which has the advantage of being cheap to produce and easy to store. But it is not a universal solution. Because it needs to be taken regularly while someone is sexually active, missing doses or running out can mean becoming susceptible to HIV again. What’s more, in the same way that some bacteria are developing resistance to antibiotics, the HIV that does enter the bodies of people who have paused or discontinued their use of PrEP has a greater chance of being resistant to subsequent antiretroviral medications they may then need.

PrEP taken in tablet form is also an issue for people who need to keep their use of PrEP private, perhaps from family members or partners. Having to take a pill once a day or two or three times a week is something that may be hard to hide from others. And some people, such as migrants, who may not be fully integrated with a country’s health care system, may find it hard to access regular supplies of daily medication. Limitations such as these have prompted the development of alternative, innovative ways for people to protect themselves that are more tailored to their needs and life situations. These include longer-acting drugs that can be injected.

Like existing oral medications, injectable PrEP works by preventing HIV from replicating in a person’s body, but its effect lasts much longer. In September, the EU approved the use of the first intramuscular injectable that can be given every two months. Gilead is, until 2027, running trials of another injectable option, which, once the required efficacy and safety have been demonstrated, could be administered subcutaneously just once every six months. This would be more convenient for many people and more adapted to the circumstances of certain populations, such as migrants, and may therefore lead to better adherence and health outcomes.

HIV continues to be a public health threat across Europe, where in 2022 more than 100,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV.

Jared Baeten MD, PhD, vice president for HIV Clinical Development at Gilead Sciences

Further ahead — but still in the early stages of development and testing — are patches and implants, which would provide a continuous supply of antiretroviral drugs, and immunotherapies. Immunotherapies would comprise a broad spectrum of naturally produced or manufactured antibodies against HIV, which, in theory, would pre-arm their bodies to resist infection.

As more types of PrEP become available, we will see a greater awareness of its benefits, as more people are able to find the version of PrEP that best suits their living conditions and personal requirements. This is a fundamental principle of “combination prevention,” or innovative interventions that reflect the specific needs of the people they are trying to reach.

Preparing for the future

Despite clear scientific evidence of the benefits of PrEP, there are still some hurdles we need to overcome to make it a powerful tool to end HIV altogether. These include investments and funding in prevention and availability, and programs to combat stigma.

Although the EU licensed PrEP in 2016, availability varies across the bloc. In France, the U.K., Spain, Germany and, more recently, Italy, oral PrEP is available at no cost to those who would benefit from it. In Romania, although PrEP is included in the country’s new HIV National Strategy, it is not yet funded, and it is only available via non-governmental organizations that rely on external funding sources. And in Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria, PrEP is not state funded and there are no current plans to make it so. In many member states, even though PrEP is technically licensed, in practice it can be hard to get hold of, in particular for specific communities, such as women, migrants or trans people. Potential users may find it hard, for example, to access testing or even doctors who are willing to prescribe it.

Jared Baeten MD, PhD, vice president for HIV clinical development at Gilead Sciences

Another key challenge that health systems and providers face is communicating the importance of PrEP to those who would most benefit, and thereby increase uptake. Many respondents in multiple studies have indicated that they don’t feel HIV is something that affects them, or they have indicated that there is a general stigma in their communities associated with sexual health matters. And some groups that are already discriminated against, such as sex workers, people who inject drugs, and migrants, may be hesitant to engage with health care systems for fear of reprisals. Again, injectable PrEP could help reach such key populations as it will offer a more discreet way of accessing the preventive treatment.

“There is a critical need to bring forward new PrEP options that are informed by and designed for the communities that could benefit from PrEP in Europe,” says Jared Baeten MD, PhD, vice president for HIV clinical development at Gilead Sciences. “At Gilead, we are excited to engage with communities and broader stakeholders to inform our trials efforts and partner with them in our goal to develop person-centered innovations that can help end the HIV epidemic in Europe.”

Europe is leading the world’s efforts toward ending HIV, but, even in the bloc, PrEP usage and availability varies from country to country and demographic to demographic. If the region is to become the first to end the HIV epidemic entirely, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the governments of member states will need to lead the way in fighting stigma, promoting and prioritizing HIV prevention in all its aspects including innovation in therapeutics strengthening the financing and funding of healthcare systems, and establishing effective pathways to zero transmission to end HIV entirely.

“HIV continues to be a public health threat across Europe, where in 2022 more than 100,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV,” says Baeten. “HIV prevention is critical and has the potential to change the trajectory of the epidemic, but stigma and other barriers limit the impact that PrEP medications can have on reducing HIV infections in Europe. We all have a responsibility to collaboratively partner to make this work.”

*U=U is true on two premises: taking HIV medicines as prescribed and getting to and staying undetectable for at least six months prevents transmitting HIV to partners through sex. Undetectable means that the virus cannot be measured by a viral load test (viral load <200 copies/mL)

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Energy could be the spark the EU’s democratic future needs

By Benedek Jávor, Head of the Representation of Budapest to the EU, and Taube Van Melkebeke, GEF Policy Manager

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

If they want to take the wind out of the sails of their populist competitors in the upcoming European electoral campaign, democratic parties should propose a future European energy project that convinces citizens, Benedek Jávor and Taube Van Melkebeke write.


We risk an extension of the anti-EU, populist fog polluting the eastern European member states. The nucleus of this cloud remains, of course, the regime of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. 

But recent developments in Hungary’s neighbouring countries show that we should be very wary of exceptionalism. 

The Slovakian election put the pro-Russian SMER in the driver’s seat of their new government, and the Polish PiS party — although not entirely successfully — firmly pulled the EU-is-the-villain card in its bets to secure continuation in power.

It is of course not just the east. In most EU member states, extreme right and populist parties have been creeping closer to power. 

In some, most recently Italy, that move crescendoed into delivering the head of state. 

In the run-up to June 2024, when Europeans will cast their votes, EU actors must go full speed ahead attempting to nip this trend in the bud and swing back the pendulum. The clock is ticking.

Fresh European energy is needed

One critical channel to (re)build and maintain sustainable democracies — that would be able to resist populism — is the European Energy Project. 

It is with energy that we light our streets, universities, and hospitals; that we produce and fuel our means of transport; and that we simply power our stoves with to eat, our tablets to work, and our lamps to read, talk or unwind. 

The way the EU designs energy policy also has far-reaching consequences on its energy security and security more broadly, on its democracy, environmental sustainability, and social justice. 

In fact, the whole European project is rooted in energy policy, starting with the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community. Now, in high need of a fresh European breath, energy — again — can emerge as the foundation for the EU’s future.

Energy policy in the EU — and internationally — is often guided by the energy trilemma: equity, energy security, and sustainability. The current EU mandate’s track record on these dimensions is a mixed — and at the same time very full — bag. 

On the sustainability dimension, we of course have seen the European Climate Law, the Green Deal and Fit for 55. On energy security, we had the REPowerEU-response to the effects of Putin’s war in Ukraine. 

On the equity dimension, finally, there was the further development of the Just Transition Mechanism, the Social Climate Fund and some EU guidance on Member States’ policies to shield households from bearing the brunt of the energy crisis.

Involving citizens, a solution to existing obstacles

This overview clearly exposes the two main obstacles for the EU Energy Project to become a lever of EU cohesion and well-being in the member states. 

Firstly, the three dimensions are managed and deployed separately, resulting frequently in unexpected and undesirable effects on the other two dimensions. 

The design of the Green Deal package, for example, is essential for sustainability but left quite some gaps in the equity dimension of energy. It didn’t propose a fully-fledged script to put people  including the most vulnerable ones — central to the green transition and thereby kept the doors to social backlash open.

Secondly, the link between the EU energy project and democracy is completely underlit. Energy policy carries enormous potential to strengthen the participation and ownership of citizens in the EU and member states’ political processes. 

Citizen involvement in energy planning and decision-making can turn consumers depending strongly on big energy corporations into prosumers with access to data and knowledge, granting them much higher levels of autonomy. 


It gives them ownership over their energy, strengthens their negotiating positions and ultimately the resilience and well-being of European societies. 

Most EU governments have missed this link. Citizen consultation processes in both the National Energy and Climate Plans and the Just Transition Plans haven’t been conducted properly, with studies showing poor information flows to local communities, as well as insufficient time for citizens to engage if they were informed of that possibility.

A convincing energy plan could take the wind out of populists’ sails

This fragmentation of the different energy trilemma pillars, as well as the energy-democracy blind spot, are in themselves problematic. 

But in the face of (geo)political turmoil, fluctuating energy costs and a general cost-of-living crisis, they become bread and butter to populists. 

If it addresses these stumbling blocks however, the EU can create a huge opportunity to turn its energy project from an arena for divisive politics to a common European flagship that strengthens the cohesion and resilience of the EU — both within and among its member states.


This approach must not remain a solely theoretical proposal to inform narratives and politics but has to find its way into practice. 

The easiest way to kickstart this process is to adopt what we have called a “Four Dimensions of Energy Check” to policymaking, as discussed at last week’s Budapest Forum on Building Sustainable Democracies, which gathered EU and CEE decision-makers and experts. 

Such a check should be applied to new energy proposals and used to evaluate the current policy framework. It should prevent new and adapt existing measures that neglect or even harm one or more of the four dimensions.

If they want to take the wind out of the sails of their populist competitors, democratic parties will have to be very clear on their offer in the upcoming European electoral campaign. 

They can do so by proposing a future European energy project that convinces citizens. The Four Dimensions of Energy Check, tackling the current energy blind spots, can be their starting point.


Benedek Jávor serves as Head of the Representation of Budapest to the European Union, and Taube Van Melkebeke is Policy Manager at the Green European Foundation (GEF).

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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In fact, this is why Sweden should ultimately join NATO

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

One does not need to be a master strategist to realise that due to the country’s geographic position, Sweden’s accession to NATO would significantly strengthen the alliance in the entire Baltic Sea region, Dr András Rácz writes.


On 6 October, Euronews published an op-ed by Dr Gladden Pappin, president of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs, about why Sweden may not join NATO

Some of Dr Pappin’s arguments are indeed worth attention, though certainly not endorsement, while others, unfortunately, require factual corrections.

For one, Russia definitely is a threat.

Dr Pappin, known more as a political philosopher than a security expert, argues that there is not much urgency to get Sweden into the alliance. 

According to him, with its forces bogged down in Ukraine, Russia is not going to launch incursions into NATO territory anytime soon and “claims about Russia’s imperial ambitions seem hardly credible.” 

This assessment is indeed surprising taking into account that Russia’s aggressive war against Ukraine is raging in the direct neighbourhood of Hungary, while also claiming the lives of ethnic Hungarian soldiers in the Ukrainian army.

What makes Dr Pappin’s line particularly noteworthy is that it directly contradicts the newest assessment of NATO. 

According to the final communique of the Vilnius Summit, released on 11 July, “the Russian Federation is the most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area.” 

In other words, while all members of the alliance agreed in Vilnius that Russia is the most important threat NATO needs to face, for some reason Dr Pappin tried to convince his readers about the opposite. 

By doing so, he implicitly contradicted even the Hungarian government, which also approved the Vilnius summit communique.

Sweden would make NATO considerably stronger

Another surprising element of Dr Pappin’s article is that according to him, “Sweden’s military contribution to NATO would be rather slender.” 

However, the opposite is true, even according to Hungarian officials. Only a few days after his opinion article, Hungary’s Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Gábor Böröndi gave an interview in which he explicitly stated that the Swedish armed forces are suitably ready for NATO accession, adding that that the question of Sweden’s accession is primarily a political matter.

General Böröndi is certainly right. According to The Military Balance 2023, Sweden’s defence budget was slightly above $8 billion (€7.5bn) in 2022, thus nearly 2,5 times bigger than Hungary’s $2,99bn (€2.8bn).

Sweden has a small, but well-trained, very well-equipped armed force configured for territorial defence. Just to give one example: the country’s air force possesses nearly a hundred JAS-39 Gripen fighters. 

Somewhat ironically, the sole jet fighter operated by the Hungarian Air Force happens to be the same Gripen: approximately a dozen of them were leased from Sweden. Budapest is in the process of extending the lease contract that is about the expire in 2026.

A key element of Dr Pappin’s argument for the delayed accession ratification is that there is a deficit of trust in Budapest vis-à-vis Stockholm, meaning that Sweden shall not join until disagreements are resolved. 

However, had there been a real loss of trust, it is highly unlikely that Hungary would strive to maintain its military technological dependence on Sweden by extending the Gripen lease contract.

Putting cold steel aside, one does not need to be a master strategist to realise that due to the country’s geographic position, Sweden’s accession to NATO would significantly strengthen the alliance in the entire Baltic Sea region. 


Sweden’s membership would decisively help improve the collective defence provided to our Finnish, Polish and Baltic allies on all levels, ranging from strategic planning to military logistics.

Concerted ambiguity in Hungary’s communication

Dr Pappin’s article appears to be part of a wider Hungarian communication manoeuvre aimed at creating ambiguity about Budapest’s position on Sweden’s accession, thus probably buying it time. 

The Hungarian Institute of International Affairs, presided by him, is an integral part of the Hungarian government. The HIIA is directly subordinated to the Office of the Prime Minister, and so is Dr Pappin. 

Generally speaking, no employee of any government would be allowed to publish opinion pieces on the policies of the given government without prior coordination and approval. 

Hence, the article of Dr Pappin is certainly not independent of the official policy of the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.


Interestingly enough, in terms of content, the article appears to contradict the official Hungarian explanations of why Sweden’s accession has not yet been ratified. 

Earlier, the government claimed that it already endorsed and supported Sweden in joining NATO; it is only the parliament that is unwilling to ratify the accession. 

However, this article casts some doubt on the credibility of this argument: had the Hungarian government been really in favour of Stockholm’s accession, no government officials would have published critical articles about Sweden’s readiness.

Contradictions aplenty

The Hungarian parliament, which is officially delaying the ratification of Sweden’s NATO accession, is dominated by the constitutional majority of the ruling coalition led by Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party. 

Their parliamentary supermajority has been serving the government with impeccable obedience since 2010: in the Hungarian parliament, it is fairly normal that core numbers of the budget get modified literally overnight or that the parliament amends the constitution in a few days’ time, without any meaningful debate. 


This parliament is unlikely to suddenly stand up against the government, particularly in a question of such strategic importance as the expansion of NATO.

Still, on the very same day when Dr Pappin’s article came out, an interview came out with Zsolt Németh, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Hungarian parliament, a veteran Fidesz politician and known foreign policy expert. 

Németh, who is as independent of the government as the rest of his parliamentary fraction, argued that Hungary would certainly support Sweden’s accession and the alliance would be stronger with Stockholm joining. 

In other words, two Hungarian officials voiced their opinions directly contradicting each other and did so exactly at the same time. The interview of General Böröndi may well be part of the same communication effort.

Who profits?

While discussing in detail why Sweden is supposedly not ready for NATO, Dr Pappin elegantly avoids even mentioning a key question: who does the Hungarian policy line actually benefit? 


Németh was more open in his interview: he admitted that Hungary closely coordinates with Turkey on when the Swedish accession should be ratified.

Turkey is certainly benefiting from the Hungarian policy, as Ankara does not need to be alone in delaying Sweden’s accession. 

Turkey has been conducting a tough, but entirely rational, calculated policy: it has set a number of demands both vis-à-vis Sweden and the US. Once Ankara’s requests can be agreed upon, Turkey is highly likely to approve Sweden’s accession.

Meanwhile, there are simply no demands from the Hungarian side. Unlike Ankara, Budapest is not asking for anything at all from Stockholm, focusing solely on making critical remarks. 

This renders it unclear what Hungary would actually gain from delaying Sweden’s accession. It is at least questionable whether paying lip service to Ankara would be worth the damage inflicted upon the credibility of Budapest as a NATO ally.


Meanwhile, Russia is applauding the delay

Meanwhile, there is another player that certainly does not mind the delayed Swedish NATO accession: Russia. 

Moscow has long been opposed to any enlargement of NATO. From the Kremlin’s perspective, Sweden’s NATO membership would mean that the Baltic Sea became “Lake NATO”, limiting the power of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, as well as of the other assets deployed to Kaliningrad. 

This forces Moscow to adjust its entire military posture in the Baltic Sea region. This is already happening, as Russia is in the process of recreating the old Leningrad Military District. 

As the process is at least cumbersome, Moscow certainly applauds the extra time granted by the delayed Swedish NATO accession. And from this perspective, Hungary is serving not only Turkish but also Russian interests.

Dr András Rácz is a Senior Fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).


At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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This is why Sweden might not join NATO after all

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

Joining NATO is not like joining the Schengen Zone — it is a commitment to shed blood for one another in the event of any invasion, Dr Gladden Pappin writes.


Fifteen months after Sweden was invited to join NATO, its accession to the joint defence alliance is at a clear inflexion point. 

Until this summer, Sweden’s accession looked like a fait accompli, pending what everyone assumed would be an eventual, pro forma approval by Hungary and Turkey. 

But as Ukraine’s defensive efforts have run aground and attention has turned elsewhere even in the most hawkish corners of the Western alliance, the Swedish candidacy is firmly on the rocks.

It is worth asking why. 

‘Rapid shedding of historical neutrality’

In the weeks after the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, fundamental assumptions about the structure of the Western alliance were thrown out the window. 

Age-old policies of neutrality suddenly looked “immoral,” and pressure was duly brought on Sweden and Finland to step away from the sidelines and join NATO. 

During the spring of 2022, Swedes themselves expressed concern at the rapid shedding of their historical neutrality. Yet international frustration is currently directed at Turkey and Hungary for not yet ratifying Sweden’s accession.

Hungary and Turkey aren’t stalling arbitrarily. The core problem with Sweden’s accession is that treating it as an inevitable expansion has undermined trust within the alliance. 

Resolving potential points of dispute prior to expansion is essential for a defensive alliance. 

Unlike a mere security alliance where military norms and methods are harmonised, a mutual defensive alliance demands a far higher level of commitment. 

Joining NATO is not like joining the Schengen Zone; it is a commitment to shed blood for one another in the event of any invasion.

Risks that need to be resolved beforehand

In the days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, NATO’s senior members and international influencers decided to push hard for its expansion — on an expedited basis, sidestepping typical NATO procedures. 

But when diplomats describe Hungary’s hesitations about ratifying Sweden as an “annoying sideshow,” they stir bad blood which does not contribute to the strengthening of a defensive alliance. 

While Hungary and Turkey have agreed to NATO’s expansion at a political and diplomatic level, the decision ultimately rests with the parliaments of both countries.

There are other reasons that Sweden’s accession has stalled, as well. In recent months, Sweden has been undergoing a series of violent public incidents surrounding the burning of the Quran that have angered Turkey and prompted disappointment from the Hungarian foreign ministry as well. 

Just recently, Sweden’s police chief Anders Thornberg noted that the country has experienced an “unprecedented” wave of violence.

NATO’s founding documents imply that internal stability and security, as well as mutual compatibility, are preconditions for accession and that internal strife shouldn’t be imported into NATO. 

According to Article 4, parties to the treaty “will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.” 


Allowing a new member to join NATO while it undergoes internal turmoil, or is in political tension with an existing member, brings with it obvious risks that should be resolved beforehand.

Engaging in careful diplomatic cultivation

Some level of cultural compatibility is also assumed by accession. Article 2 of the North Atlantic Treaty insists that “the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations” among the parties result from the treaty. Both Hungary and Turkey have complaints on these grounds. 

In April, Sweden joined the European Commission’s case against Hungary at the European Court of Justice — part of the EU-level actions that are holding up billions of euros of funds to which Hungary is otherwise entitled.

As a diplomatic strategy for paving the way to accession, decisions like these are strange, to say the least.

Second, state educational programming in Sweden has characterised Hungary as a backsliding democracy — drawing outrage from Hungarian parliamentarians. 


While some have sought to pooh-pooh the anti-Hungarian educational material, noting that it was several years old, these issues are precisely the type that should be sorted out prior to accession. 

Instead of engaging in careful diplomatic cultivation of Hungary, Sweden has assumed that Budapest will follow Ankara and hence does not require much direct attention. Such an approach is hardly good preparation for a defensive alliance.

Periodic Quran burnings need to be resolved in satisfactory manner

Similarly, an important part of Turkey’s international image is as a guardian of Islamic culture and civilisation. 

The periodic burnings of the Quran that occur in Sweden are not only offensive to Turkey but also indicate the presence of a difficult internal situation. 

Although Hungary comes from a different cultural background, it enjoys good relations with Turkey and is able to understand the perspective that has caused Ankara to take a cautious approach toward the Swedish accession. 


Currently, it is an open question whether these matters can be resolved in a manner satisfactory to Turkey as well as to the parliamentary representatives of Hungary’s voters.

From a security standpoint, the urgency of the early days of the war has also faded. With Russia bogged down in Ukraine, it is not going to be launching incursions into NATO territory anytime soon, and claims about Russia’s imperial ambitions seem hardly credible. 

Arguments for NATO’s expansion now have to be made in a more specific and strategic, not broad-brush manner. 

Sweden’s accession is on hold precisely because Turkey and Hungary understand the nature of the alliance and want to proceed only when the diplomatic, strategic and political elements have been fully resolved.

Urgency to join NATO subsided

The larger reason, then, is that Sweden’s accession to NATO no longer looks like an urgent military imperative for key NATO members. 


Sweden’s military contribution to NATO would be rather slender, and the scenarios for mutual defence are likelier to involve committing American troops to protect Sweden than vice versa. 

Given that cultural differences among NATO members — and within countries — have already been increasing, it is important to ask whether each expansion strengthens overall defensive resilience or stretches mutual goodwill beyond the breaking point, by creating mutual obligations that eventually generate animosity.

In recent days, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has explained that Poland will not be transferring new arms acquisitions to Ukraine. 

Likewise, President Andrzej Duda has warned that Poland will not be pulled down along with Ukraine, as the latter continues to suffer. 

With NATO’s most hawkish members hesitant about their own arms transfers, while the alliance itself remains formally uninvolved, it is natural that overall sentiment toward expansion might also cool or slow.


NATO membership is a serious committment

Ultimately, it is crucial to understand what the commitment to NATO membership means both for an incoming member and for existing members of NATO. 

Decisions about expanding collective defence obligations can only be made clearly when that is evaluated frankly and democratically by each existing member. 

With the rush of spring 2022 now a fading memory, the opportunity for cooler heads to ask questions has now arisen.

Sweden may yet join NATO, or the difficulties that have arisen may block its path for the foreseeable future. 

Either way, the overall interests of the alliance are served only when each member — including the new one — is fully prepared for the mutual obligations such a step entails.


Dr Gladden Pappin is President of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs (HIIA). Since 2021, he has been living in Hungary and has been a senior guest lecturer at Mathias Corvinus Collegium.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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Blockaded on all fronts: Poland and Hungary threaten to cut Ukraine’s export route to the West

As Russia once again bombards and blockades Ukraine’s Black Sea ports — through which the country exports its vast agricultural produce — Poland and Hungary threaten to cut off the country’s western exit routes.

Poland will unilaterally block trade with Ukraine if the European Commission fails to extend temporary restrictions on grain imports at least until the end of the year, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told a meeting of agriculture ministers from five Eastern EU countries in Warsaw on Wednesday.

“I want to make it clear,” Morawiecki told reporters, “we will not open our border. Either the European Commission will agree to jointly work out regulations that will extend this ban, or we will do it ourselves.”

Hungarian Agriculture Minister István Nagy echoed Morawiecki, saying his country would “protect Hungarian farmers with all its means.”

Days after killing a deal to allow Ukraine to export grain across the Black Sea, Moscow unleashed a wave of attacks on the Ukrainian ports of Odesa and Chornomorsk — two vital export facilities — damaging the infrastructure of global and Ukrainian traders and destroying 60,000 tons of grain.

The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borell, called Russia’s escalating offensive “barbarian” on Thursday. “What we already know is that this is going to create a huge food crisis in the world,” he told reporters in Brussels, adding that EU countries needed to step up alternative export routes for Ukraine.

Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest exporters of corn, wheat and other grains. Following Russia’s invasion and blockade of its Black Sea ports last year, the EU set up land export routes through its territory.

In the year since, export corridors set up by the EU called ‘solidarity lanes’ have carried about 60 percent of Ukraine’s exports — mostly along the Danube to the Romanian port of Constanța. The remaining 40 percent has trickled through the country’s own ports under the now-defunct Black Sea Grain Initiative brokered by the U.N. and Turkey.

But the opening of the overland routes also led to an unprecedented influx of cheap Ukrainian grain into neighboring EU countries — Romania, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia — which was bought and resold by local traders instead of being exported further afield. The glut has put the solidarity of the bloc’s Eastern members with Ukraine in its war of defense sorely to the test.

With an election looming this fall, Poland sought to appease local farmers — a vital constituency for the right-wing government — by closing its border this spring to Ukrainian imports. Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria followed suit while Romania, which didn’t impose its own restrictions, joined the four in calling for restrictions at EU level.

In May, the five countries struck a deal with the Commission to drop their unilateral measures in exchange for €100 million in EU funding and assurances that Ukrainian shipments would only pass through the five countries on their way to other destinations. 

It’s these restrictions, which will expire on September 15, that the five countries want extended.

Other EU countries have criticized the Commission’s leniency towards the five Eastern troublemakers, saying the compromise undermined the integrity of the bloc’s internal market.

Open the borders

Borrell said that, instead of restricting trade, the EU should respond to Russia’s Black Sea escalation by opening its borders further.

“If the sea route is closed, we will have to increase the capacity of exporting Ukrainian grain through our ports, which means a bigger effort for the Ukrainian neighbors,” he said before a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

“They will have to contribute more, opening the borders and facilitating transport in order to take the grain of Ukraine from the Black Sea ports. This will require from Member States more engagement. We have done a lot, we have to do more.”

Separately on Thursday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called on the EU to make “maximum efforts” to facilitate grain exports from the country.

“While Russia destroys the Grain Initiative, attacks Ukrainian ports and tries to make money on rising food prices, Ukraine and the European Union should make maximum efforts to simplify food exports from Ukraine, particularly by increasing the capacity of alternative transport corridors ‘Solidarity Lanes’ as much as possible,” he said.

During Wednesday’s meeting in Warsaw, agriculture ministers from the five EU countries signed a declaration calling on Brussels to extend and expand the trade restrictions, amid concerns that Russia’s renewed Black Sea blockade could further pressure their domestic markets.

Only Poland and Hungary threatened to take unilateral action if the restrictions were lifted.


Despite the threat, a senior Commission official said on Thursday it was “premature” to say whether there was a need to extend the restrictions beyond the September 15 deadline.

In recent months, officials have stepped up surveillance and customs checks, and Romania and other countries have significantly increased investment in infrastructure and investment to facilitate the transit of grain through their countries and to other markets, the Commission official said.

But in the year since the land-based export routes were opened, Poland has taken no major steps to improve its own infrastructure or the capacity of its Baltic ports. Analysts say it is unlikely the country will be able to repeat the feat come this summer’s harvest. The Polish government has repeatedly blamed Brussels for not providing enough help.

Despite the ongoing trade dispute, officials in Kyiv have been careful not to openly criticize their counterparts in Warsaw.

That’s because Poland has played a leading role in supporting Ukraine since the war broke out, acting as the main transit point for Western weapons and sending plenty of its own. It has also taken in millions of Ukrainian refugees.

“We highly appreciate all the work done so far within the solidarity lanes by the European Commission and neighboring member states,” Ukraine’s ambassador to the EU, Vsevolod Chentsov, told POLITICO.

Still, he added: “Statements by some member states of the need to extend the ban on the export of Ukrainian agrarian production [cause] serious concerns.” Without naming Poland he said that this “politicizes” the practical reality of what is a logistical challenge “jeopardizes the effectiveness of the solidarity lanes.”

Jacopo Barigazzi contributed reporting

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NATO peacekeepers injured in clashes with ethnic Serb protesters in Kosovo

Over 30 peacekeepers deployed in a NATO-led mission in Kosovo were injured Monday in clashes with Serb protesters who demanded the removal of recently elected ethnic Albanian mayors, as tensions flare in the Balkan nation.

The KFOR mission said it had faced “unprovoked attacks” while countering a hostile crowd, after demonstrators clashed with police and tried to force their way into a government building in the northern town of Zvecan.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said 52 Serbs were hurt, three seriously, while one was “wounded with two gunshots by (ethnic) Albanian special forces”.

Hungary‘s defence minister said on Facebook that “more than 20 Hungarian soldiers” were among the wounded, with seven in a serious but stable condition.

Italy‘s foreign minister said three of its soldiers were seriously wounded, and the country’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni joined NATO in calling for “all parties to take a step back to lower tensions”.

Kosovo‘s Serbs had boycotted last month’s elections in northern towns, which allowed ethnic Albanians to take control of local councils despite a minuscule turnout of under 3.5 percent of voters.

Kosovan Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s government officially installed the mayors last week, defying calls to ease the tensions by the European Union and the United States, which have both championed the territory’s 2008 independence from Serbia.

Many Serbs are demanding the withdrawal of Kosovo police forces — whose presence in northern Kosovo has long sparked resistance — as well as the ethnic Albanian mayors they do not consider their true representatives.

Fractures and burns

Early Monday, groups of Serbs clashed with Kosovo police in front of the municipal building in Serb-majority Zvecan and tried to enter, after which law enforcers responded by firing tear gas, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.kf

NATO-led peacekeepers in the KFOR mission at first tried to separate protesters from the police, but later started to disperse the crowd using shields and batons, an AFP journalist saw.

Several protesters responded by hurling rocks, bottles and Molotov cocktails at the soldiers, but were quickly repelled a few hundred meters away from the Zvecan municipal building.

“While countering the most active fringes of the crowd, several soldiers of the Italian and Hungarian KFOR contingent were the subject of unprovoked attacks and sustained trauma wounds with fractures and burns due to the explosion of incendiary devices,” KFOR said in a statement.

Eleven Italian soldiers were injured with “three in a serious condition”, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said.

“We will not tolerate further attacks against KFOR,” said Meloni. “It is essential to avoid further unilateral actions by the Kosovo authorities and for all parties to take a step back to lower tensions”. 

NATO strongly condemned the “unprovoked” attacks against KFOR troops, adding that such actions were “totally unacceptable”.

“Violence must stop immediately. We call on all sides to refrain from actions that further inflame tensions, and to engage in dialogue,” NATO said in a statement.

The Commander of the KFOR Mission, Division General Angelo Michele Ristuccia, slammed the “unacceptable” attacks and underlined that KFOR will “continue to fulfil its mandate impartially”.

Kosovo police said “organised” demonstrators rallied in northern Kosovo towns, home to many ethnic Serbs who reject Kosovo’s independence from Serbia.

“The protesters, using violence and throwing tear gas, tried to cross the security cordons and make a forced entry into the municipality facility” in Zvecan, Kosovo police said in a statement.

“Police were forced to use legal means, such as (pepper) spray, to stop the protesters and bring the situation under control.”

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, and Belgrade and its key allies Russia and China have refused to recognise it, effectively preventing Kosovo from having a seat at the United Nations.

Serbs in Kosovo remained largely loyal to Belgrade, especially in the north, where they make up a majority and reject every move by Pristina to consolidate its control over the region.

International concern

KFOR said it had bolstered its presence in northern Kosovo following the latest developments and urged Belgrade and Pristina to engage in an EU-led dialogue to reduce tensions.

“We call on all sides to refrain from actions that could inflame tensions or cause escalation,” KFOR said in a statement.

Police had already used tear gas Friday to disperse Serbs in northern Kosovo who protested the installation of the mayors.

Belgrade responded by placing its army on high alert and ordered forces towards the Serbian border with Kosovo.

Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking on a visit to Kenya, said that “Serbs are fighting for their rights in northern Kosovo”.

“A big explosion is looming in the heart of Europe, where NATO in 1999 carried out an aggression against Yugoslavia,” Lavrov said, referring to the 1999 NATO intervention against Belgrade that effectively ended the war between Serb forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas.

The US ambassador and European Union envoy have summoned the ethnic Albanian mayors to a meeting in Pristina in a bid to ease tensions.

Two media teams from Pristina reported that protesters had slashed their tyres and spray-painted their vehicles, while a local journalists’ association called on law enforcers to provide a safe working environment for the media.

After his first-round victory at the French Open on Monday, Serbian tennis superstar Novak Djokovic penned the message “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence” on a television camera.

“Kosovo is our cradle, our stronghold, centre of the most important things for our country,” Djokovic told reporters.

“I am against war, violence and conflict of any kind and I have always publicly shown that. Of course I have sympathy for all people but what is happening with Kosovo is a precedent in international law.”


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Commission plans EU business tax overhaul

A planned reform of EU corporate taxation would substitute national business tax rules, EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said Monday.

The “Business in Europe Framework for Income Taxation,” or BEFIT, would “replace national corporate tax systems for the companies in scope, thus reducing compliance costs and barriers to cross-border investment,” he said at an EU tax event Monday.

It would draw on a global deal on a two-legged corporate tax that was agreed between more than 130 countries in 2021, and consists of the reallocation of taxable profits (known as Pillar One) and of a minimum corporate tax base of 15 percent (known as Pillar Two), the latter of which the EU is struggling to ratify due to subsequent vetoes first by Poland and now by Hungary.

But it would “go further,” Gentiloni said. It would have “the key features of a simplified common tax base and allocation of taxable profits between member states,” thus diminishing taxation policies within the bloc whereby countries seek to attract businesses by luring them with favorable tax regimes.

The reform is currently scheduled for the second quarter of 2023, according to the Commission’s own work program. A public consultation runs until January 26.

Taxation initiatives are always tricky as they require consent of all 27 EU countries.

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to correct the schedule for the reform.

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