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Why Hungary and Poland are turning “illiberal”

Viktor Orbán, prime minister of Hungary, speaks at a political party conference in October 2012. Photo credit: European People’s Party

Viktor Orbán, prime minister of Hungary, speaks at a political party conference in October 2012. Photo credit: European People’s Party

Analysis: Western Europe has looked on with mounting bewilderment and exasperation over the past few years at the political trajectory of Hungary, Poland and several other former communist states. Countries that, since 1989, were committed to common European values, including liberal democracy, respect for human rights a nd the rule of law, are now implementing an altogether different political model. The perceived interests of the “nation” are taking centre stage and governments are subject to far fewer checks and balances.

Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, was once a fiery student leader and champion of liberalism. Now he preaches the virtues of “illiberal democracy”. Orbán routinely portrays himself as the defender of “Christian values” that, in his view, are threatened by globalisation, mass immigration and the supposedly sinister machinations of international business leaders. George Soros, the Hungarian-born financier and philanthropist has become a particular target of baseless attacks.

In Poland, the ruling Law and Justice Party has assumed political control over state-funded radio and television. By July 2016, 164 journalists and news anchors had either resigned or been dismissed. In December 2017, the government’s continuing efforts to curb the indep endence of the judiciary prompted the EU Commission to formally declare that there is “a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law in Poland”.

In the same month, the EU launched infringement proceedings against the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary for failing to take appropriate steps to resettle limited numbers of asylum seekers, in accordance with decisions previously taken by member states.

Some months earlier, the European Court of Justice dismissed cases brought by Slovakia and Hungary in which the latter had sought to argue that the EU’s scheme for the mandatory relocation of asylum seekers was unlawful. In characteristically robust language, Hungary’s serially undiplomatic foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, described the judgement as “outrageous and irresponsible”.

A number of ex-communist states, particularly Hungary and Poland, have rejected an ideology founded on individualism, human rights, economic transparency and multicultu ralism. They are turning instead towards an alternative social, political and economic model in which the cultivation of “traditional values” and distinct national identities is of paramount ideological importance. The new model is also frequently characterised by widespread, often systematic corruption and an increasingly authoritarian political culture.

Winners and losers

The reasons for this shift lie both in the communist and pre-communist past. Following the collapse of communist governments in 1989, little thought seems to have been given to the troublesome historical baggage that these societies would have to contend with in effecting a successful transition to liberal democracy. There seems to have been an unspoken assumption that the removal of the communist apparatus of repression would be largely sufficient to allow western values, such as liberal democracy and respect for human rights, to flourish.

Yet, with the exception of the former Czechosl ovakia, there had been little sustained experience of genuine democracy in the region prior to the establishment of communist regimes following World War II. Even before the imposition of communism, Poland, Hungary and Romania, along with most other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, were heirs to a repressive and overwhelmingly authoritarian political culture.

This may go some way towards explaining the relative ease with which Hungary’s Fidesz government, for example, has been able to undermine democratic checks and balances without eliciting more vigorous or sustained opposition from the general public. As the powers of Hungary’s constitutional court were drastically curtailed and public broadcasting increasingly treated as a government mouthpiece, there was little real sense among ordinary voters of anything important having been lost.

Central and Eastern Europe’s predominant historical experience as victims, rather than beneficiaries, of colonialism m ay help to explain the region’s resistance to admitting non-European asylum seekers. As identified by István Bibó in The Misery of the Small States of Eastern Europe, published shortly after World War II, there is an enduring sense among the peoples of the region of having had to fight for independence and even for the preservation of national identities during a succession of alien occupations, whether Ottoman, Hapsburg, Russian or Prussian.

This overwhelmingly traumatic historical experience has been compounded by almost a half century of Soviet domination as well as subjection to Nazi German tyranny during the Second World War. None of this has helped to foster openness to other cultures, let alone a willingness to embrace multiculturalism as experienced in many countries in Western Europe.

Economic factors, particularly the plight of many pensioners and of other economically vulnerable sections of central and eastern European societies, have also contributed t o the current political climate. The establishment of market economies in the region created clear winners and losers in countries such as Poland.

These societies are now far less egalitarian than under communism. While a new class of businessmen, lawyers and media personalities can indulge their taste for expensive foreign holidays and luxurious German automobiles, there is widespread poverty. In particular, residents of many rural areas and of towns and cities that have been ravaged by deindustrialisation are struggling.

As Jacques Rupnik, a former adviser to Czech president Vaclav Havel, recently observed: “the ‘decoupling’ of liberalism and democracy in Central and Eastern Europe has a lot to do with the post-1989 confusion, and indeed collusion, between political and economic liberalism”. Rupnik poses the question: “Does this explain why Central Europe travelled from (economic) neo-liberalism to (political) illiberalism?”

The answer, at least in part, must be “yes”.

Stephen I Pogany, Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Warwick.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Philippines: Tropical Storm Tembin/Vinta - Rapid Assessment Report (January 2018)

08 Jan 2018 Philippines: Tropical Storm Tembin/Vinta - Rapid Assessment Report (January 2018) Reportfrom Save the Children Published on 05 Jan 2018 â€" View Original preview Download PDF (1.93 MB)

Date(s) of Assessment: 28-31 December 2017

Name and Location of Site(s) Assessed:

  • Lanao del Sur, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao

  • Lanao del Norte, Region X


On 20 December, the Low Pressure Area in northeast Mindanao, Philippines has developed into a Tropical Depression and was named by the Philippine state weather bureau as Vinta (with international name: Tembin). Vinta/Tembin intensified and has developed into a Tropical Storm category as it moved towards the landmass of Mindanao. It was reclassified into Severe Tropical Storm before making landfall in Cateel, Davao Oriental at around 1:45am on 22 December. It traversed Mindanao and crossed provinces westward and exited the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) at 8am on 24 December.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that a total of 161,628 families or 767,994 persons were affected in 1,131 barangays/villages in eight regions.(1) As of 30 December 2017, the government is still validating the 163 reported deaths (64 in Region IX, 75 in Region X, and 24 in ARMM) and another 163 persons missing. Most of the dead and missing were reported in the hardest-hit provinces of Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, and Zamboanga del Norte. The provincial provinces of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur declared the entire province under the state of calamity. Meanwhile, four municipalities in Zamboanga del Norte; one municipality in Zamboanga del Sur, one municipality in Zamboanga Sibugay, and three municipalities in Palawan declared their town under the state of calamity.

TS Tembin has dumped a massive amount of rainfall that triggered widespread flooding, flashfloods, and mudslide in provinces it crossed including the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, and Zamboanga del Norte. The flashflood and mudslide swept away houses and belongings including learning essentials; caused heavy damage to schools, barangay halls, child development centers, and health centers; damaged water pipelines and water intake boxes; washed out agricultural crops such as corn, coconut, and rice; and instantly killed livestock such as cows, horses, and goats. Children’s behavior changed after typhoon â€" they would cry after hearing heavy rainfall on the roof or howling winds, or ar e restless at night.

TS Tembin has triggered major needs on education, child protection, water, sanitation, and hygiene; food security and livelihood; and disaster preparedness at the school and community level. It is should be highlighted also that most of the schools affected in Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte are schools hosting internally displaced children due to the Marawi City Conflict and Displacement. The challenging situation created by the conflict and displacement has become more challenging now that school facilities and equipment were damaged by TS Tembin.

Providing immediate assistance to the severely-affected schools and community would be life-saving and would lessen the risk of families to negative coping mechanism such as pulling out the children from schooling due to lack or absence of money, trafficking, child labor, recruitment to armed groups, or violence against children and women.

Save the Children can build on our existing humanita rian response to the Marawi Conflict and Displacement to make sure that children have access to education, protection, and development. Partnerships built between the Department of Education and civil society organizations can optimize the work we do for children.


From the areas surveyed, Munai and Salvador in Lanao del Norte; and Madalum, Madamba, and Bacolod Kalawi in Lanao del Sur province are being recommended for interventions on education, child protection, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), non-food items (NFIs), and food security and livelihood.

The recommendation is made on the basis of lack of access to immediate support due to impassable bridge and roads, scale and extent of damaged to schools and houses, number of affected families, and long-term needs of the affected schools and community to build their capacity and mitigate the impact of hazards in the future.

Primary country

Philippines Tropical Cyclone Tembin - Dec 2017
  • Content format:

    • Assessment
  • Language:

    • English
  • Theme:

    • Agriculture
    • Education
    • Food and Nutrition
    • Health
    • Logistics and Telecommunications
    • Protection and Human Rights
    • Shelter and Non-Food Items
    • Water Sanitation Hygiene
  • Disaster type:

    • Flood
    • Land Slide
    • Tropical Cyclone
  • Vulnerable groups:

    • Children
Source: Google News Philippines | Netizen 24 Philippines


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ISL 2017-18: Delhi Dynamos' Miguel Angel Portugal rues individual mistakes and set-piece vulnerability

Delhi Dynamos FC coach Miguel çngel Portugal speaks during the press conference The coach of the beleaguered outfit felt that his system is working but individual mistakes have cost Delhi Dynamos...

Delhi Dynamos coach Miguel Angel Portugal feels that his team's struggles in the Indian Super League (ISL) season is down to vulnerability in set-pieces and individual mistakes from his players.

The former Real Madrid player asserted that his methods are working but errors have let the team down.

"We have had two problems so far - in defence and in attack. We have had a lot of opportunities to score but we have not done so. We play well in midfield but the defence has a problem," he said ahead of Delhi Dynamos' away tie against Chennaiyin FC.


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"The problem in defence is our setpiece defending. Chennaiyin FC will try to exploit that weakness. But we will try to defend well. The teams have been scoring from our own mistakes rather than their skill.

"We are trying to rectify this situation."

The 62-year-old went on to defend his methods at the capital-based club and pointed out that silly errors have let the team down.

"It is a bad Christmas for me. It is not nice when you lose six matches on a trot. But I think the team played well during these games.

"I think our system is good and if our players play well, we will win. The success of the system depends on the players. If all players played well, you will win," re-asserted Portugal.

Article continues below

He expressed hope that Delhi will put an end to their losing streak on Sunday against Chennaiyin FC and backed his players to come good.

"Chennaiyin are playing for the first position but we are going for a win. I think my team will play well and we have confidence in ourselves," he said. "Probably, we might bring in some different players (for the Sunday game).

"This game is a must-win for us after the losses. When you win five or six times, it is possible that you might win the next game. It is also possible that you might win the next game after losing five or six games."

Source: Google News Portugal | Netizen 24 Portugal


Diposting oleh On 02.14

Saudi Arabia, UAE claim some of the tallest skyscrapers completed in 2017

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Cities in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have featured among the top 144 for the tallest skyscrapers completed in 2017, according to a report filed by the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.
The report pl aced the UAE in fourth, fifth and sixth place, with Marina 101 tower (425m), the Address Boulevard hotel (370m), and Ahmed Abdul Rahim Al Attar Tower (325m) claiming their positions respectively.
“With the help of these tall beautiful structures, Dubai creates new records and these in turn give Dubai global recognition... These tall structures help boost the real estate and tourism economy too, the two factors that majorly drive and effect the country’s GDP,” Imrann Nawab, director of sales, Gulf Sotheby’s International Realty, told Khaleej Times.
Saudi Arabia was placed at 124 and 144 for Al Rajhi Bank Tower (205m) and Al-Obeikan Hilton Tower Hotel (200m) skyscrapers respectively.
Turkey also featured in the report with Istanbul’s Skyland Office Tower (284m), Skyland Residential Tower (284m) and Metropol Tower Istanbul (280m) claiming the 20th, 21st and 25th spots respectively.
The top spot was occupied by China’s Ping An Finance Center which looms over the city of Shenzhen at 599m.
In the UAE, Dubai Creek Tower is under construction, which once complete, will reach a height of 928m.
And Saudi Arabia is currently building the Jeddah Tower, previously known as the Kingdom Tower, which aims to become the world’s tallest building by hitting the one-kilometer mark.
Middle East's tallest towers completed in 2017
Regional rank Overall rank Tower name City Height (m)
1 4 Marina 101 Dubai, UAE 425
2 5 The Address Boulevard Dubai, UAE 370
3 6 Ahmed Abdul Rahim Al Attar Tower Dubai, UAE 325
4 20 Skyland Office Tower Istanbul, Turkey 284
5 21 Skyland Residential Tower Istanbul, Turkey 284
6 25 Metropol Tower Istanbul Istanbul, Turkey 280
7 124 Al Rajhi Bank Tower Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 205
8 144 Al-Obeikan Hilton Tower Hotel Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 200

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Source: Google News Saudi Arabia | Netizen 24 Saudi Arabia

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Diposting oleh On 02.14

President says Romania won't move embassy to Jerusalem

Romania won’t make any decision on moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem until progress in the Middle East peace process is achieved, Romanian president Klaus Iohannis told Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call on Friday.

The two state officials talked about the status of Jerusalem and the recent UN resolution on the United States’ decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

The Israeli PM thanked Iohannis for Romania’s “abstain” vote on the United Nations’ resolution calling on the US to withdraw its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The resolution says that any decisions regarding the status of the city are “null and void” and must be cancelled. It also urges UN member states to refrain from establishing diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.

The resolution was approved by 128 states, with 35 absta ining and nine others voting against. Romania was among the countries that abstained.

Romania’s official position is that Jerusalem is a central theme in the peace negotiations and the city’s status should be decided after a direct agreement is reached between the parties involved. Romania also considers that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict needs a durable solution by implementing the “two-state solution”, Israel and Palestine, which would coexist in peace. Palestine’s Embassy to Bucharest saluted the Romania’s position on this issue.

After US president Donald Trump decided to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, some Romanian politicians rushed to say that Romania should consider doing the same. Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), was one of them.

Media: Romania, among countries that could move embassies to Jerusalem

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Source: Google News Romania | Netizen 24 Romania