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Monthly Digest

August 2021

Czech Republic

The ruling ANO party moved into the lead in polls ahead of October’s elections, as election manifestos were launched by the main political parties. The Czech Pirate Party pledged a trillion-crown investment into the Czech economy, funded mainly by private and EU money.

Czech politicians reacted to the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan by urging aid for Afghans in the region, preventing an influx of migrants to Europe. The Czech government was heavily criticised for its lax response to the fall of the Afghan government, failing to put in place plans to help interpreters and armed forces helpers in the country.

Multiple rescue flights were subsequently run to evacuate embassy staff, key Afghan helpers and their families from the country.

Slovakia

Changes were made to the country’s Covid alert tier system, allowing for the possibility of preferential treatment of people with vaccination to encourage greater vaccine up-take. It was agreed that school children would not be required to display a negative test result, unlike in the neighbouring Czech Republic.

After months of wrangling and a lack of public interest in the vaccine, Slovakia finally ceased stopped using the Russian Sputnik V vaccine at the end of the month. Only 18,500 Slovak citizens were said to have received both doses of the Sputnik jab.

A vaccine lottery organised by the government to encourage vaccine up-take turned out to be a humiliating let-down, as winners selected on live television failed to connect in order to claim their prizes.

Poland

Poland’s rule-of-law dispute with the EU seemed to have been partially resolved as the Polish government announced that the controversial disciplinary chamber for judges would be disbanded and reformed in line with EU expectations. At the start of the month, the activities of the chamber were partially frozen, with no new cases taken on.

Nonetheless, the country’s disputes with the EU rumbled on, including a pending judgement by its Constitutional Tribunal over the primacy of EU law. The country’s controversial law on foreign media ownership meanwhile provoked international ire as it passed through the Sejm.

A national scandal unfolded on the Polish border with Belarus at Usnarz Gorny, as a group of Afghan migrants were forced to camp in no-man’s land between the borders of the two countries without food and shelter for weeks on end. Poland argued a tough stance needed to be taken to Belarus’s alleged “hybrid warfare” against the country undertaken by shepherding migrants from the Middle East to the Polish border.

Hungary

Hungary reiterated its stance, familiar from the 2015 migrant crisis, that refugees from the Middle East should be helped in their own region, rather than being welcomed to Europe.

After almost vanishing earlier in the summer, Covid incidence in Hungary began to rise again at the end of the month.

The Fidesz government undertook a nationwide survey on its controversial Child Protection Law, asking questions about attitudes towards sex education for children.

Government-affiliated newspaper Magyar Nemzet ran an opinion piece urging a serious consideration of the country’s continued membership of the EU. The piece was characterised as the first sign of mainstream Hungarian media raising the notion of “Huxit” as a real possibility, in the wake of Hungary’s recent disputes with Brussels.