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Can the Centre hold? Is EU tough enough?

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by Otmar Lahodynsky, Hon. AEJ President

Vienna, September 14, 2023

And what happens in Polish elections in a month’s time?

The Vienna Burgtheater (Court Theare) season of panel discussions, co-organised with the Munich daily  Süddeutsche Zeitung, opened with a debate entitled Wake up before it gets dark again, on whether the Centre can hold in Europe. It will clearly preoccupy us at our 2023 Congress in Albania next month (October 26 – 29).

Court theatre discussion, Vienna – disturbing noises off

The shadows are growing or are already in power in much of Europe, and have taken over in Hungary, and in Poland, with ominous elections next month

It is an unusually pertinent issue here in Austria, where the populist right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) is not just gaining ground again, allying with the Conservative (ÖVP) People’s Party in Lower Austria:  it could well dominate next year’s federal elections.

Scene from Holland film, Red Secrets, 2019
Seeing the future  Agnieska Holland’s 2019 film Red Secrets – in Stalin’s footsteps

Clear warnings finally to take seriously anti-democratic policies in Poland and Hungary were voiced by our Polish colleague Bartosz Wielinski, a member of the editorial board of the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

Poland’s ruling right-wing nationalist government led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s Law and Justice Party (PiS) muzzled the independence of the judiciary and the media when it took over in 2015. The elections next month will be neither free nor fair, Wielinski said.

Opposition parties have had no access to Poland’s public television. Artists critical of the government such as the internationally famous film director Agnieszka Holland, are  defamed – the same tactics the Nazis used.

Wielinski said the Polish government was the most critical of Vladimir Putin in the EU, but at the same time imitated him, forming alliances with right/ radical right parties in Europe, including the Austrian FPÖ and Germany’s Alternativ für Deutschland. This would also have an impact on the European Parliament elections in June 2024.

EP Vice-President Othmar Karas, a veteran Austrian MEP, talked of the “failure of the centre”, including of his own ÖVP party, now again making deals with the far right. The EU had “looked the other way for long” when it came to Member States’ political aberrations. Its instruments, such as those under Article , dependent on unanimous votes, were plainly inadequate. But financial sanctions could be used, after all-

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