Messages in the Media 2021

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IN THE

MESSAGES MEDIA VOL. 08 / ISSUE 01

european studies' student association

United in Diversity


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

CONTENTS

TABLE OF

ITALY

Anna Lysenko

Taiylor Wiebes

CZECHIA

14

Vlada Taits

DENMARK

22

Lara Hovagimian

ESTONIA

102

Brandon Yih

30

AUSTRIA Yana Sadeghi

FINLAND

114

Aimé Saldias

38

AZERBAIJAN Varisha Naeem

FRANCE

126

Tea Vasha

44

BELARUS Karina Melendez

GEORGIA

132

Avigail Rucker

52

BELGIUM

GERMANY

Gurleen Mann

Tessa Di Vizio

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA 62

GREECE

Omar Abdellatif

Anjali Roy

72

BULGARIA Aimé Saldias

HUNGARY

138 144 150

Ninar Fawal

80

CROATIA Peter Bury

ICELAND

158

Mostafa El Sharkawy

86

CYPRUS Nghi Ngo

IRELAND

168

Jai Singh

KOSOVO

186

Sara Teme

182

96

Basima Qadri

ARMENIA

178

92

Alex Liu

ANDORRA

Bianca Costatino

KAZAKHSTAN

6

ALBANIA

LATVIA Panagiotis Fotiadis 2

LIECHTENSTEIN 198 Katherine Haberl

192

LITHUANIA Faustine Luo

202


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

LUXEMBOURG Natasha Lee

MALTA David Polisuk

MOLDOVA Saarah Khan

MONACO Faadil Butt

210 MONTENEGRO 238 Divya Jagpal

POLAND

266

Katherine Yuran

218 NETHERLANDS 242 Stuart Jones

PORTUGAL

272

Demetre Kanargelidis

224 NORTH MACEDONIA 252 Ema Marcheska

ROMANIA

278

Jonathan Katz

234 NORWAY

260

Bianca Costatino

RUSSIA

286

Madison Skoblo

SAN MARINO

292

Lolita Vorobyeva

SERBIA

296

Ana Djordjijevic

SLOVAKIA Aida Zarghami

20 21 SWEDEN Katie Kinross

SLOVENIA Eisha Khan

SPAIN

312 324

Kiya Amos-Flom

332 TURKEY

348

Shahd Fares

UNITED KINGDOM 360 Muhanna Al Lawati

SWITZERLAND 338 UKRAINE Sofia Shatrova

304

354

Steven Hu

VATICAN CITY 368 Benedek Gulyas

3


PROFESSOR

forewords from Robert C. Austin I was so delighted when the Journal Team asked me to write a few sentences about this year’s Messages in the Media. I have been involved with the journal since its inception and it is one of the great pleasures of my role as Coordinator of the Undergraduate Program in European Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. It is such fun to watch the team come together and see the students work so diligently to produce this exceptional publication. The journal project has the hallmarks of what a great undergraduate university education should look like. This year’s edition is different for a number of reasons. A major achievement for the Editorial Team is that this year it covers 51 countries of Eurasia. This is a first and something that shows us where teamwork can lead. In addition to such comprehensive regional coverage, 2020 was indeed a complicated year to say the least. Here are a few of just some of the big European issues: the conclusion of what appeared to be the never-ending Brexit negotiations; the European Union’s Budget crisis; rule of law in Hungary and Poland; an investment deal with China; the fate of the trans-Atlantic alliance under Trump and the contested elections in the US, Russia; Alexei Navalny; Nord Stream 2 and more. That is before I even mention COVID-19 and its impact. Indeed, by bringing in all of Eurasia for the first time, the students have done us all a great service as we look back on a really tough year. I hope you enjoy what follows. On behalf of all of us at CERES, we say thanks to the students and thank you for your interest in what our students do. When I observe what they are capable of I feel confident about the certainty of a bright future. After 2020, which brought so much uncertainty, this is really good news. Robert C. Austin Professor and Associate Director, CERES Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy University of Toronto


TEAM

meet the

Editorial Board Foti Vito

Editor in Chief

Oya Darici Erik Mastalerz Sofia Shatrova Tea Vasha Editors

Larissa Eland Design Editor

ESSA Executive Team Ericsson Sing President

Ema Marcheska Vice-President

Stuart Jones Treasurer

Livia Strasser Secretary

Michael Levinson

Second Year Representative:

Megan Keli

First Year Representative


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

Country Inf

Population: World Factbook1 Unemployme Bank Data2 GDP Per Cap Data3

1 “Albania - The World Fa Intelligence Agency), https albania/. 2 “Unemployment, Total (% - Albania,” The World Ban 2021, https://data.worldban tions=AL. 3 “GDP per Capita, PPP (C Bank Data (The World Ban bank.org/indicator/NY.GD

T

here is no doubt that 2020 was a difficult year for Albania and the world. The coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic, which began in early January,

had completely transformed the social and political landscape in a matter of months. Albania’s underdeveloped health systems, lack of health personnel and equipment, and lack of funds for either made the year harder still. However, amidst the pandemic, Albania made significant progress in its European Union (EU) accession plans. Seizing the newfound spirits of unity and hope that were unexpected positive byproducts of the pandemic, Albania was able to receive a green light of consideration of accession negotiations in early March. 6


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

formation

3.1 million (July 2021 est.) - CIA

ent rate: 11.47% (2019 est.) - World

pita: 14,495.1 (2019 est.) - World Bank

Albania 2020 Report

actbook,” Central Intelligence Agency (Central s://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/

Anna Lysenko

% of Total Labor Force) (National Estimate) nk Data (The World Bank ), accessed June 21, nk.org/indicator/SL.UEM.TOTL.NE.ZS?loca-

Current International $) - Albania,” The World nk), accessed June 21, 2021, https://data.worldDP.PCAP.PP.CD?locations=AL.

Some levels of

NEGOTIATIONS OF EU

success were clear in both

ACCESSION TALKS

regards. Towards the end

Albania has been

of 2020, Albania was set

working towards EU

to receive shipments of

membership since 2014.

vaccinations in partnership In 2020, Albania made

A

fterwards, Albania was given a series

of judicial and electoral conditions which had to be met before talks began. The Albanian government had a busy year, as they attempted to both mitigate the effects of the pandemic and meet the EU-outlined standards.

with the COVAX initiative

significant strides towards

of the EU in early 2021.

this goal. On January 29,

A report published by

EU Ambassador Luigi

the EU in October also

Soreca declared that the

stated that Albania had

European Commission

demonstrated considerable is devoted to opening effort in meeting their

accession negotiations

conditions. Despite the

with Albania.1 Ambassador

EU’s delay of the accession

Soreca stated that the key

talks to 2021, Albania had a relatively productive, albeit challenging, year. 7

1 “Soreca: EU Commission Will Keep Pushing to Open Negotiations with Albania and N.Macedonia,” Top Channel, January 29, 2020, https://top-channel.tv/english/ soreca-eu-commission-will-keeppushing-to-open-negotiations-withalbania-and-n-macedonia/.


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

would be to increase momentum for the

of law.7 Although these concerns were

accession process, to clarify the processes

acknowledged, other EU members, such as

by which EU enlargement should occur,

Germany, were largely in favor of enlarging

and to refocus on investment into Albania,

the EU and were content with the proposed

and other Balkan states looking to become

plan.8 On March 5, an official report by

members.2 This sounded promising, and

the Commissioner for Neighborhood and

mainstream and left-leaning Albanian media

Enlargement of the EU stated that Albania

looked upon the statement favorably.3 On

has made tangible changes to their state that

February 5, the EU Commission presented

permitted further consideration of accession

a new enlargement plan, meant to smoothly

talks.9 The report noted that Albania has

integrate Albania and North Macedonia as

significantly reformed its economy and

full members.4 The plan proposed a series of

judicial system and made strides in its fight

conditions Albania had to meet to become

against corruption and organized crime

an EU member.5 These included more rigid

since the setting of the conditions.10 Despite

law practices and standards to underpin

this promising announcement, there was

Albania’s credibility, changes in electoral

still some frustration in Albania. On May

code, and more economic interconnection

18, European Fund for the Balkans (EFB)

between Albania and the EU.6 The plan also

Director Aleksandra Tomanic expressed

recommended more investment from EU

her disappointment at the slow accession

states into Albania’s development. Despite

mechanisms of the EU.11 She highlighted a

7 Jamieson, Alastair. “Sceptical Macron Hints at Change of Heart on EU Enlargement,” euronews, February 15, 2020, https://www.euronews.com/2020/02/15/macron-hints-atprogress-on-eu-enlargement-for-albania-and-north-macedonia. 8 Sandrine Amiel, “EU Commission Presents New Enlargement Strategy amid Divisions,” euronews, February 5, 2020, https://www.euronews.com/2020/02/05/eu-commissionpresents-new-enlargement-strategy-amid-divisions-over-albania-and-north-mace.) 9 Jamieson, Alastair. “Albania and North Macedonia ‘Ready for EU Enlargement Talks’.” euronews, March 2, 2020. https://www.euronews.com/2020/03/02/albania-and-northmacedonia-ready-for-eu-enlargement-talks. 10 Ibid. 11 Genc Mlloja, “EFB’s Director Aleksandra Tomanic in an Interview for Albanian Daily News: Enlargement Pro-

the cohesion of the plan, EU members were still divided. France, the Netherlands, and Denmark demanded a reversible enlargement process, and a heavier focus on the rule 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid. 4 Jamieson, Alastair. “Albania and North Macedonia ‘Ready for EU Enlargement Talks’.” euronews, March 2, 2020. https://www.euronews.com/2020/03/02/albania-and-northmacedonia-ready-for-eu-enlargement-talks. 5 Ibid. 6 Ibid. 8


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

lack of momentum and clear integration steps pointed out how countries that advanced in as two main issues preventing Albania from

EU accession negotiations have fewer media

accelerating the accession process.12

freedom.14 A report published by Reporters

An important milestone for Albania’s

Without Borders showed Albania to be 84th

EU goal was reached on March 24. That

on the Media Freedom Index, out of 180 other

afternoon the EU Council of Ministers

countries.15

decided in a video conference that they

On May 6, the President of the

were ready to begin opening negotiations

European Commission Ursula von der Leyen

of accession talks with Albania. The

stated that the Western Balkan countries

German Minister of Europe announced

“belong in the EU” and reaffirmed the

this decision via Twitter and said it was

progress the EU had made towards smooth

“good news in these gloomy times”.13 With

accessions.16 Overall, there were clear efforts

this announcement, the EU affirmed that

made by the EU to promote unity in Europe,

Albania’s progress was being closely watched as well as an agreement to clarify the process and expressed hope for a smooth and steady

by which accession should occur.17 In early

accession process that would strengthen and

June, an EU spokesperson states that the

unite Europe. Although most Albanian media EU was working on the framework of presented this announcement as a major

Albania’s negotiations.18 On October 28, the

14 “Liria e Medias, Bushati: Koinçidencë e Keqe! Vendet Që Kanë Avancuar Me Integrimin Në BE Kanë Më Pak Liri Të Medias,” Balkanweb.com - News24, April 21, 2020, https://www.balkanweb.com/liria-e-medias-bushatikoincidence-e-keqe-vendet-qe-kane-avancuar-me-integrimin-ne-be-kane-me-pak-liri-te-medias/. 15 Ibid. 16 Alice Tidey, “‘The Western Balkans Belong in the EU’, Says Ursula Von Der Leyen,” euronews, May 6, 2020, https://www.euronews.com/2020/05/06/the-western-balkansbelong-in-the-eu-says-ursula-von-der-leyen. 17 “Çelja e Negociatave/ Soreca Takim Online Me Rudina Hajdarin: Duhet Proces Me Sa Më Shumë Pjesëmarrje Për Të Zbatuar Vendimin e BE,” Balkanweb. com - News24, May 9, 2020, https://www.balkanweb.com/ celja-e-negociatave-soreca-takim-online-me-rudina-hajdarin-duhet-proces-me-sa-me-shume-pjesemarrje-per-te-zbatuar-vendimin-e-be/. 18 “Zëdhënësja e BE: Javën Tjetër KE Paraqet ‘Kornizat’ e Negociatave Të Shqipërisë Në Këshillin Europian, Calavera: Po Punojmë Për Detajet e Fundit.” Balkanweb.

step forward for Albania towards Europe, other reports were more skeptical. Some cess Doesn’t Prevent State Capture,” EFB’s Director Aleksandra Tomanic in an interview for Albanian Daily News: Enlargement Process doesn’t Prevent State Capture, May 18, 2020, https://www.balkanfund.org/general-news/efbs-director-aleksandra-tomanic-in-an-interview-for-albanian-daily-news-enlargement-process-doesnt-prevent-state-capture. 12 Ibid. 13 Ana Pisonero-Hernandez, “Commission Welcomes the Green Light to Opening of Accession Talks with Albania and North Macedonia,” European Commission - European Commission, March 25, 2020, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_20_519; “Lajm i Mirë Në Kohë Të Zymta’! Ministrat e BE-Së Thonë ‘Po’ Për Negociatat,” Balkanweb.com - News24, March 24, 2020, https:// www.balkanweb.com/lajm-i-mire-ne-kohe-te-zymta-ministrat-e-be-se-thone-po-per-negociatat/; 9


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

German foreign minister of affairs reaffirmed

the EU’s announcement, there was tangible

the commitment of the EU to discuss the

strong support for Albanian accession was

accession of Albania if they met their terms

shown by over 20 EU members, who signed a

before the end of the year or made significant

joint statement urging the European Council

progress towards their targets.19 France, the

to stop delaying accession talks.24

Netherlands, Denmark, and Spain remained skeptical about Albania’s place in the EU and demanded to see more evidence of benchmarks being met before dates for discussion were set.20 Thus, on December 1, the EU delayed accession talks with Albania, claiming that the conditions set in March were not yet met to a satisfactory extent.21 It was speculated that the negotiations could be approved in March of 2021.22 Following this announcement, the German Minister of State for Europe expressed his disappointment with the negotiation frameworks for the accession of Albania to the EU.23 Still, despite com - News24, June 3, 2020. https://www.balkanweb.com/ zedhenesja-e-be-javen-tjeter-ke-paraqet-kornizat-e-negociatave-te-shqiperise-ne-keshillin-europian-calavera-po-punojme-per-detajet-e-fundit/. 19 Euronews Albania, “First IGC for North Macedonia to Take Place This Year, Albania’s Pending on Conditions, Says German MFA,” Euronews Albania, October 28, 2020, https://euronews.al/en/albania/2020/10/28/first-igcfor-north-macedonia-to-take-place-this-year-albania-s-pending-on-conditions-says-german-mfa/. 20 Ibid. 21 EWB Archives, “EU Ambassadors Agree to Delay EU Talks with Albania and North Macedonia,” European Western Balkans, December 1, 2020, https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2020/12/01/eu-ambassadors-agree-to-delayeu-talks-with-albania-and-north-macedonia/. 22 Ibid. 23 Ibid.

24 10

Ibid.


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Electoral Reform.” European Western Balkans, July 23, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2020/07/23/ Erebara, Gjergj. “Rights Groups Urge Albania to 'Rethink' albanian-parliament-adopts-june-5-agreement-onDisputed Media Law.” Balkan Insight, September 16, electoral-reform/. 2020. https://balkaninsight.com/2020/09/16/rightsorganizations-concerned-by-plans-to-reinstall-albania- EWB. “Judiciary under Reconstruction. Albania's EUanti-media-law/. Orientated Reforms in Progress.” European Western Balkans, March 9, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans. Euronews Albania. “EU Ambassador Luigi Soreca on com/2020/03/03/judiciary-under-reconstructionEuronews Albania on the Constitutional Court, Imperfect albanias-eu-orientated-reforms-in-progress/. Justice Reform and Reconstruction Funds.” Euronews Albania, October 21, 2020. https://euronews.al/en/ EWB. “President of Albania Presents a Platform on Crucial albania/2020/10/21/eu-ambassador-luigi-soreca-onReforms and Resolution of Crisis.” European Western euronews-albania-on-constitutional-court-imperfectBalkans, May 22, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans. justice-reform-and-reconstruction-funds/ com/2020/05/22/president-of-albania-presents-aplatform-on-crucial-reforms-and-resolution-of-crisis/. Euronews Albania. “Euronews Albania Goes inside the COVID-19 Hospital in Tirana amid Surge in New Cases.” Exit Staff. “Exit Explains: What the Changes to the Electoral Euronews Albania, November 15, 2020. https://euronews. Code Mean for Voters - Exit - Explaining Albania.” Exit al/en/albania/2020/11/15/euronews-albania-goesNews , October 7, 2020. https://exit.al/en/2020/10/07/ inside-the-covid-19-hospital-in-tirana-amid-surge-in-newexit-explains-what-the-changes-to-the-electoral-codecases/. mean-for-voters/. Euronews Albania. “First IGC for North Macedonia to Take Holroyd, Matthew. “Albania's Interior Minister Resigns over Place This Year, Albania’s Pending on Conditions, Says Fatal Police Shooting.” euronews, December 10, 2020. German MFA.” Euronews Albania, October 28, 2020. https://www.euronews.com/2020/12/09/albanianhttps://euronews.al/en/albania/2020/10/28/first-igcinterior-minister-under-pressure-to-resign-over-policefor-north-macedonia-to-take-place-this-year-albania-sshooting. pending-on-conditions-says-german-mfa/. Hoxha, Mario. “'Do Të Kemi Post Koronavirus, Masat Euronews Albania. “Tirana’s Central Hospital Opening New Katastrofike'/ Kryemadhi: Në Dy Muaj 60 Mijë Shqiptarë Coronavirus Lab to Test Patients.” Euronews Albania, July Humbën Punën, Do Kemi Depresion Ekonomik.” 55 17, 2020. https://euronews.al/en/albania/2020/07/17/ NEWS. 55 NEWS, May 6, 2020. https://www.55news. tirana-s-central-hospital-opening-new-coronavirus-lab-toal/aktualitet/item/244955-do-te-kemi-post-koronavirustest-patients/. masat-katastrofike-kryemadhi-ne-dy-muaj-60-mijeshqiptare-humben-punen-do-kemi-depresion-ekonomik. Euronews Albania. “Venice Commission Conclusions on Media Law and Parts to Be Amended.” Euronews Albania, June Hoxha, Mario. “Presidenca Ngre Task Force Për Koronavirusin, 19, 2020. https://euronews.al/en/albania/2020/06/19/ Zëdhënësi i Kreut Të Shtetit Jep Detaje Dhe Fton Qytetarët venice-commission-conclusions-on-media-law-and-partsTë...” 55 NEWS. 55 NEWS, March 9, 2020. https:// to-be-amended/. www.55news.al/politike/item/239656-presidenca-ngretask-force-per-koronavirusin-zedhenesi-i-kreut-te-shtetitEuronews with AFP. “COVID-19: Albania Sends 30 Doctors jep-detaje-dhe-fton-qytetaret-te. and Nurses to Italy.” euronews, March 28, 2020. https:// www.euronews.com/2020/03/28/albania-sends-30- Ivković, Aleksandar. “How Electoral Reform in Albania Got doctors-and-nurses-to-italy-to-help-fight-the-covid-19Complicated Again.” European Western Balkans, July 24, pandemic. 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2020/07/24/ how-electoral-reform-in-albania-got-complicated-again/. EWB Archives. “EU Ambassadors Agree to Delay EU Talks with Albania and North Macedonia.” European Western Balkans, Jamieson, Alastair. “Albania and North Macedonia 'Ready December 1, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans. for EU Enlargement Talks'.” euronews, March 2, 2020. com/2020/12/01/eu-ambassadors-agree-to-delay-euhttps://www.euronews.com/2020/03/02/albania-andtalks-with-albania-and-north-macedonia/. north-macedonia-ready-for-eu-enlargement-talks.

12


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA Jamieson, Alastair. “Sceptical Macron Hints at Change of Heart on EU Enlargement.” euronews, February 15, 2020. https://www.euronews.com/2020/02/15/macron-hintsat-progress-on-eu-enlargement-for-albania-and-northmacedonia. Koleka, Benet. “Albania Budgets $370 Mln to Fight Coronavirus and Help Economy.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, March 20, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/healthcoronavirus-albania-idUSL8N2BD5VH. Koleka, Benet. “Albania Extends Lockdown till End of Coronavirus Outbreak.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, April 1, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-healthcoronavirus-albania-idUSKBN21J6AZ. Koleka, Benet. “Albania Halves 2020 GDP Growth to 2% amid Coronavirus Slowdown.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, March 22, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/ushealth-coronavirus-albania-economy-idUSKBN2190YH. Madhi, Gentiola. “Albania: Delayed Justice, Diluting Hopes.” European Western Balkans, July 3, 2020. https:// europeanwesternbalkans.com/2020/07/03/albaniadelayed-justice-diluting-hopes/. Mlloja, Genc. “EFB’s Director Aleksandra Tomanic in an Interview for Albanian Daily News: Enlargement Process Doesn’t Prevent State Capture.” EFB's Director Aleksandra Tomanic in an interview for Albanian Daily News: Enlargement Process doesn't Prevent State Capture, May 18, 2020. https://www.balkanfund.org/generalnews/efbs-director-aleksandra-tomanic-in-an-interviewfor-albanian-daily-news-enlargement-process-doesntprevent-state-capture. Pisonero-Hernandez, Ana. “Commission Welcomes the Green Light to Opening of Accession Talks with Albania and North Macedonia.” European Commission - European Commission, March 25, 2020. https://ec.europa.eu/ commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_20_519. Tidey, Alice. “'The Western Balkans Belong in the EU', Says Ursula Von Der Leyen.” euronews, May 6, 2020. https:// www.euronews.com/2020/05/06/the-western-balkansbelong-in-the-eu-says-ursula-von-der-leyen.

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MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

AND O R R A Vlada Taits

2

0

2

COUNTRY INFORMATION ● Population: 77,000 (July

(2017 est.) - CIA

2019 est.) - CIA

● GDP Per Capita:

● Unemployment Rate: 3.7%

$40,886.391 (2019 est. in

14

0


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

T

his year has been nothing short of tumul-

Economy and increasing inequality throughout the

tuous and full of new surprises, especially

small nation. The close proximity to Spain where

for small countries such as Andorra. Andorra is

there were bad outbreaks of COVID-19 in March,

a small country located in Western Europe, bor-

the pandemic heavily affected the nation with the

dering Spain and France. Catalan is the official

effects seeping into other sectors of the nation.

language of Andorra and the autonomous region of

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Catalonia in Spain. The naturally occurring prox-

The first case of COVID-19 in Andorra was

imity to Spain and France also means that Spanish,

discovered on 2 March, 2020 after a man returned

French and some Portugese are also spoken by res-

on a business trip from Milan.4 As the country is

idents of Andorra. As one of the smallest countries

so small, in November, their rate of infection was

in the world, it has a population of 77,0001 and a

about 1.28.5 On March 16, the Andorran govern-

land area of 468 square kilometres. 2 Although Andorra is located in Europe, it is not a member of the European Union or the Schengen Area. That being said, their official currency is the Euro. Andorra’s economy is mostly sustained by tourism due to its natural geography and elevation which creates the ability to host tourists in both the summer and winter months. Winter tourism is most popular due to the alpine climate perfect for skiing and

ment signed a ‘stay at home order’ and closed all businesses except grocery stores and pharmacies.6 The country enforced social distancing by having people walk on the right side of the road.7 In addition, the police delivered meals to the elderly and entertained infants and families from the streets. There were several viral videos of Andorran police staff dancing in the streets.8Also, the government

4 “Andorra: First case of COVID-19 confirmed March 2”, GARDAWORLD, https://www.garda.com/crisnowboarding. The Andorran GDP per capita is sis24/news-alerts/319391/andorra-first-case-of-covid-19-con$40,886.391 (2019 est. in USD).3 Nonetheless, An- firmed-march-2 5 “Covid-19 Dashboard”, Govern D’Andorra, https:// www.govern.ad/covid19/en/ dorra came across several issues this year, most im6 Kate Ng, “Coronavirus: Police play Baby Shark to thank people for staying off the streets” Independent, https:// portantly the COVID-19 Pandemic, the European www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/coronavirus-police-baby-shark-dance-andorra-lockdown-a9427941.html Union Association Agreement, and the declining 7 Cristina Giner, “Orderly Andorra has an unusual 1 “The World Factbook-Andorra” CIA, https://www. system for easing lockdown restrictions”, EuroNews, https:// www.euronews.com/2020/04/21/orderly-andorra-has-an-uncia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/andorra/ 2 “The World Factbook-Andorra” CIA, https://www. usual-system-for-easing-lockdown-restrictions 8 Kate Ng, “Coronavirus: Police play Baby Shark to cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/andorra/ thank people for staying off the streets” Independent, https:// 3 “GDP per capita (current US$) - Andorra”, The www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/coronavirus-poWorld Bank, https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP. lice-baby-shark-dance-andorra-lockdown-a9427941.html PCAP.CD?locations=AD 15


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

ordered on March 23rd, that the salaries of staff

number then, names starting with A-M went out

continue to be paid throughout the lockdown and

on even days and N-Z went on odd days. People

that rent prices be reduced during the health cri-

were allowed to exercise between 6 am and 9 am

sis.9 Plus, families with children under the age of 14 or from 6 pm to 9 pm.14 Andorrans were allowed or with disabilities were able to receive additional

to go shopping or relax between 9 am and 11 am

funding as well.10 In April, the country flew out 39

or between 2 pm and 7 pm. The time between 11

doctors from Cuba to help in the hospitals as many am and 2 pm was given to vulnerable and elderly of their staff fell ill.11 To prepare for recovery, the

populations to reduce their abilities to fall ill.15

Principality also ordered 150,000 Antibody tests

As the restrictions started loosening up, Andorra

from South Korea.12 As the nation began recover-

slowly opened the border with France and Spain in

ing, they began loosening their COVID-19 precau- late May/early June, allowing residents within 100 tions and were able to regulate the population. The kilometers to enter the country.16 In October, the country took a different approach by saying that

government gave out 2,000 Euros to travel agen-

houses with even numbers were allowed to go out

cies, bars, and several companies to help cover rent

on even calendar days and the same process fol-

costs. As of December, seatings at restaurants are

lowed for odd numbered homes and odd number

limited to four people per table, alcohol can only

calendar dates.13 Thus, if the home did not have a

be served from 9pm to 8am and restaurants have

9 “Law 3/2020, of 23 March, on exceptional and urgent measures due to the health emergency situation caused by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic”, Butlletí Oficial del Principat D’Andorra, https://www.bopa.ad/bopa/032042/Pagines/ CGL20200331_10_31_33.aspx 10 “Law 3/2020, of 23 March, on exceptional and urgent measures due to the health emergency situation caused by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic”, Butlletí Oficial del Principat D’Andorra, https://www.bopa.ad/bopa/032042/Pagines/ CGL20200331_10_31_33.aspx 11 Tim Stickings, “Andorra (population 77,000) orders 150,000 antibody tests from South Korea - enough to test the entire population twice”, Daily Mail, https://www.dailymail. co.uk/news/article-8180695/Andorra-orders-150-000-antibody-tests-South-Korea.html 12 Tim Stickings, “Andorra (population 77,000) orders 150,000 antibody tests from South Korea - enough to test the entire population twice”, Daily Mail, https://www.dailymail. co.uk/news/article-8180695/Andorra-orders-150-000-antibody-tests-South-Korea.html 13 Cristina Giner, “Orderly Andorra has an unusual

specific operating hours.17 December 17, 2020, the government approved 300,000 Euros to be allocatsystem for easing lockdown restrictions”, EuroNews, https:// www.euronews.com/2020/04/21/orderly-andorra-has-an-unusual-system-for-easing-lockdown-restrictions 14 Cristina Giner, “Orderly Andorra has an unusual system for easing lockdown restrictions”, EuroNews, https:// www.euronews.com/2020/04/21/orderly-andorra-has-an-unusual-system-for-easing-lockdown-restrictions 15 Cristina Giner, “Orderly Andorra has an unusual system for easing lockdown restrictions”, EuroNews, https:// www.euronews.com/2020/04/21/orderly-andorra-has-an-unusual-system-for-easing-lockdown-restrictions 16 “French-Andorran border to start reopening”, The Connexion, https://www.connexionfrance.com/French-news/ French-Andorran-border-to-start-reopening-deconfinement-travel 17 “NOVES MESURES PER FRENAR LA PROPAGACIÓ DE LA COVID-19” Govern D’Andorra, https:// www.govern.ad/images/stories/Coronavirus/PDFs/Evitar_ propagacio_Covid19.pdf

16


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

ed to businesses affected by the pandemic.18 Finally, environment, etc.21At the end of 2014, the Associas of December 21, there were 493 active cases of

ation Agreement talks were put in place between

COVID-19 in the small state, with hopes to begin

Andorra and the other microstates with the EU. In

vaccination in January and to have a large portion

February 2020, progress was made in the Associ-

of the population vaccinated by Summer 2021.19

ation Agreement. On February 24, the Andorran Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maria Ubach Font

European Union Association Agreement & As-

went to Geneva to the EFTA (European Free Trade

sociations With Spain and France

Association) Secretariat. They discussed the cur-

Andorra’s geographical location between

rent state of the agreement and the results of the

Spain and France, places them in a unique geopo-

trip Andorran diplomats took to Brussels in the fall

litical spot. Although they are not part of the Euro-

of 2019.22

pean Union, Andorra has agreements which grants them certain benefits. The Customs Union provides movement of goods without paying taxes and there are no taxes on goods or services imported from

Andorra’s main goal is to create a legal relationship that will lead to economic growth in varied sectors which will expand the Andorran economy.23 There are three steps in the process:

parts of the EU.20 As previously mentioned, An-

framework agreement, Protocol Andorram and

dorra is not fully part of the Schengen Zone except

Annexes which are EU specific regulations and

in air space; this is because travelers to Andorra

their utilization in Andorra.24 After the conclusion

have to pass through either Spain or France. Many

of the agreements there will be a public referendum

Andorran citizens want to have a closer relationship to the EU and with Spain and France. Andorra and the EU also have a cooperation agreement which lets them collaborate on transportation, 18 Anna Mata, “Andorra la Vella will allocate 300,000 euros in aid to businesses most affected by Covid-19”, Andorra Difusio, https://www.andorradifusio.ad/noticies/andorra-vella-destinara-300000-euros-ajudes 19 Pere Moliné, “Martínez Benazet: “It is very likely that we will have a large part of the population vaccinated in the summer”, Andorra Difusio, https://www.andorradifusio. ad/noticies/martinez-benazet-probable-tinguem-gran-part 20 MICHAEL EMERSON, “Part A. The Future of Andorran-EU Relations” in ANDORRA AND THE EUROPEAN UNION, 2007, 1-28

to decide if EU membership will take place; this process is long ways away.25 That being said, even

21 Georges Baur, “Andorra, Monaco and San Marino in the EU’s Internal Market: the one-pillar system standard”, Information and Debate on the EFTA countries, https://www. efta-studies.org/post/andorra-monaco-san-marino 22 “Andorran Minister visits the EFTA Secretariat”, European Free Trade Association Public Journal, https:// www.efta.int/About-EFTA/news/Andorran-Minister-visits-EFTA-Secretariat-517101 23 RANKRE, “Association Agreement with the European Union” Go 2 Andorra, http://www.go2andorra.com/ en/2020/02/association-agreement-with-the-european-union/ 24 RANKRE, “Association Agreement with the European Union” Go 2 Andorra, http://www.go2andorra.com/ en/2020/02/association-agreement-with-the-european-union/ 25 RANKRE, “Association Agreement with the Eu-

17


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

during a pandemic, meetings have been taking

Andorran Increasing Poverty, Economy, Gen-

place. The Secretary of State for European Affairs ,

der Equality

Landry Bank met with Secretary of State in charge

Although a small nation, Andorra did not

of European affairs French, Clement Beaune in

escape the problems many countries faced this year

October to discuss Association Agreement and

due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. As the Andor-

Andorra European Union. They focused on the 26

ran economy is heavily dependent on tourism and

French-Andorran relationship as well as the Hori-

the Spanish and French economies, it was heavily

zon 23 Governmental Project which is a move-

affected by the global shut down. Andorra plans to

ment to add funding from varied sectors to the

reopen skiing resorts to international skiers only in

Andorran economy. Prior to this meeting, the 27

February 2021.29 Andorra did not qualify for Euro-

Andorran Business Confederation discussed with

pean Union aide like its neighbours30 which im-

the Andorran government in February their ideas

pacted their economy, causing the unemployment

for improving the economy and how to increase

rate to rise to 4%.31 Due to Andorra’s size and land

the benefits from the EU. The Confederation put

locked status, their poverty and unemployment

significant emphasis on improving communication infrastructures with the outside world, meaning

comes from immigrant labour unemployment as well as the housing crisis.32 Another thing that has

the EU.28 By improving the business and economic

been slowing the economy is the decreasing movie

relationships with Spain and France, it could ex-

theatre rates. Movie theaters were closed due to

pose Andorran goods to larger parts of the EU.

the pandemic and many people are now turning

ropean Union” Go 2 Andorra, http://www.go2andorra.com/ en/2020/02/association-agreement-with-the-european-union/ 26 “Landry Riba discusses the state of negotiations of the Association Agreement with his French counterpart”, Forum.AD, https://forum.ad/landry-riba-tracta-lestat-de-les-negociacions-de-lacord-dassociacio-amb-el-seu-homoleg-frances/ 27 “Landry Riba discusses the state of negotiations of the Association Agreement with his French counterpart”, Forum.AD, https://forum.ad/landry-riba-tracta-lestat-de-les-negociacions-de-lacord-dassociacio-amb-el-seu-homoleg-frances/ 28 Confederació Empresarial Andorrana, “Andorran entrepreneurship before the EU’s association agreement”, Rosemont International, https://rosemont-int.com/en/article/ news/andorran-entrepreneurship-before-the-eus-association-agreement

to streaming platforms. Large countries such as the UK or Belgium will not feel these effects as much. But as the Principality only has a popula-

29 Lorena Giménez,”The slopes await tourists in February”, Diari D’Andorra, https://www.diariandorra.ad/ noticies/nacional/2021/01/06/les_pistes_confien_tenir_turistes_partir_del_febrer_172645_1125.html 30 Rory Davis, “ANDORRA STRUGGLES WITH COVID-19 RESPONSE”, The Borgen Project, https://borgenproject.org/andorra-struggles-with-covid-19-response/ 31 Rory Davis, “ANDORRA STRUGGLES WITH COVID-19 RESPONSE”, The Borgen Project, https://borgenproject.org/andorra-struggles-with-covid-19-response/ 32 Rory Davis, “ANDORRA STRUGGLES WITH COVID-19 RESPONSE”, The Borgen Project, https://borgenproject.org/andorra-struggles-with-covid-19-response/

18


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

tion of 77,000 with a 65% decrease in movie ticket

get around the law there will be fines in three cate-

sales it heavily affects the economy.33 Andorra has

gories: minor, serious and very serious. This legis-

low public debt (35% of GDP) which allows the

lation targets public offices, labour, media, private

country flexibility.34 It is important to note that the companies, and advertising agencies.38 In addition, Andorran bank loans out between 36% and 46%

Andorra is making a significant effort to close

percent of assets and makes most of their revenue

the gender wage gap. This legislation will include

from private investment.35

companies of 50 employees or more requiring to submit four-year equality plans that will detail their

A side effect of the pandemic has been the

future actions39. This is also in action to combat

changes in gender equality. There has been an

harassment because as said by Pons, if there is no

increase in gender based domestic violence, specif-

legislation then “ the victim does not know what

ically towards women. There were over a hundred

their rights are in the company”40. This bill also

cases from March 14 to September 15 and 818

promotes the creation of the Andorran Women’s

in 2020.36 To remedy this, the Ministry of Social

Institute to fully develop the female inactive in

Affairs signed agreements with feminist inistutions

the country41. Looking ahead to 2021, Andorra is

in Andorra to give people the tools needed to deal

increasing the federal minimum wage beginning

with victims.37 In addition, The Secretary of State

on January 1, 2021. It will now be: € 1121.47 will be

for Equality, Marc Pons, presented a bill on Oc-

paid per month / € 6.47 per hour42. This is being

tober 28 that would almost guarantee equality for men and women. If companies are caught trying to 33 Pere Moliné, “Cinema revenue has dropped by 65% ​​by 2020”,Andorra Difusio, https://www.andorradifusio. ad/noticies/recaptacio-cinemes-ha-baixat-65-2020 34 Fitch Takes Rating Action on Andorran Banks on Coronavirus Risks, Fitch Ratings, https://www.fitchratings. com/research/banks/fitch-takes-rating-action-on-andorranbanks-on-coronavirus-risks-20-04-2020 35 Fitch Takes Rating Action on Andorran Banks on Coronavirus Risks, Fitch Ratings, https://www.fitchratings. com/research/banks/fitch-takes-rating-action-on-andorranbanks-on-coronavirus-risks-20-04-2020 36 Sílvia Mestre, “More than a hundred new victims of gender-based violence during the pandemic”, Andorra Difusio, https://www.andorradifusio.ad/noticies/mes-centenar-noves-victimes-violencia-genere 37 Sílvia Mestre, “More than a hundred new victims of gender-based violence during the pandemic”, Andorra Difusio, https://www.andorradifusio.ad/noticies/mes-centenar-noves-victimes-violencia-genere

done to decrease the poverty in the nation and to 38 Judith Saez, “ The Executive proposes to create an agent to ensure gender equality”, El Periodic, https://www. elperiodic.ad/noticia/81919/lexecutiu-proposa-crear-unagent-que-vetlli-per-la-igualtat-de-genere 39 Judith Saez, “ The Executive proposes to create an agent to ensure gender equality”, El Periodic, https://www. elperiodic.ad/noticia/81919/lexecutiu-proposa-crear-unagent-que-vetlli-per-la-igualtat-de-genere 40 Judith Saez, “ The Executive proposes to create an agent to ensure gender equality”, El Periodic, https://www. elperiodic.ad/noticia/81919/lexecutiu-proposa-crear-unagent-que-vetlli-per-la-igualtat-de-genere 41 Judith Saez, “ The Executive proposes to create an agent to ensure gender equality”, El Periodic, https://www. elperiodic.ad/noticia/81919/lexecutiu-proposa-crear-unagent-que-vetlli-per-la-igualtat-de-genere 42 “Andorra increases the minimum wage for 2021” ,Andorra Solutions, https://www.andorra-solutions.com/ blog/2020/10/27/andorra-increases-minimum-wage-2021/

19


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

reflect the real cost of living.43 The Council of Europe also recommends that the minimum wage is at least 60% of the average wage 44 and by respecting the European standards it could help Andorra in relation to the EU admission. Year in review 2020 has brought change to the whole world from economically, to socially, and most important in terms of health legislation. The Covid-19 pandemic especially affected the nation economically and in policy. Andorra was able to set up effective social distancing and lockdown measures to curb the spread of the virus. They are now giving out free antigen testing to citizens and visitors.45 They have only had 84 deaths through over eight thousand infected. In regards to the European Union, progress was made on their association agreements with the full support of their neighbours Spain and France. The unemployment rate increased the 4% due to the decrease in tourism. Finally, they had an increase in gender based domestic violence with effort being made by the federal government to stop this and promote gender equality. 43 “Andorra increases the minimum wage for 2021” ,Andorra Solutions, https://www.andorra-solutions.com/ blog/2020/10/27/andorra-increases-minimum-wage-2021/ 44 “Andorra increases the minimum wage for 2021” ,Andorra Solutions, https://www.andorra-solutions.com/ blog/2020/10/27/andorra-increases-minimum-wage-2021/ 45 “Covid-19 Dashboard”, Govern D’Andorra, https:// www.govern.ad/covid19/en/ 20


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

21


Armenia

A

rmenia is a landlocked former Soviet republic in the South Caucasus. Over 98 percent of its population consists of ethnic Armenians. Armenia’s population is 97.9 percent Christian, with

almost all citizens belonging to the Armenian Apostolic Church.1 1 “The Most Heavily Christian Countries on Earth,” CBS News, accessed December 31, 2020, https:// www.cbsnews.com/pictures/themost-heavily-christian-countries-on-


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

Lara Hovagimian

A

bout one-third of Armenia’s population of 3,021,324 lives in its capital, Yerevan.1 The state is bordered by Georgia in the north, Turkey to the west, Azerbaijan to the east, the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (an Azerbaijani exclave) to the southwest, and Iran to the southeast. Since the beginning of the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, Armenia has been heavily involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) conflict with Azerbaijan. The conflict’s roots can be traced to 1923, when the Soviet government recognized Nagorno-Karabakh, a region with a 90 percent ethnic Armenian population at the time, as an autonomous oblast within the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic. Under Soviet rule, fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan was kept in check. However, as the USSR began to collapse, a separatist movement developed among the ethnic Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast that sought to end Azerbaijani control over the region. Ethnic infighting between Azerbaijanis and Armenians broke out across both republics. These include events such as the infamous Sumgait pogrom, which saw ethnic Armenians targeted and violently expelled from a town near Baku.2 The pogroms were immediately linked to the Armenian Genocide of 1915 in the Armenian national consciousness.

1 “The World Factbook: Armenia,” Central Intelligence Agency, accessed December 31, 2020, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/am.html. 2 Neil Hauer, “Armenia and Azerbaijan Are At War Again-and Not in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Foreign Policy, August 24, 2020, https://foreignpolicy. com/2020/08/24/armenia-and-azerbaijan-are-at-war-again-and-not-in-nagorno-karabakh/.

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In 1988, the Nagorno-Karabakh legislature passed a resolution to join Armenia. War erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region. The war escalated in 1991 when Nagorno-Karabakh declared its independence as the Republic of Artsakh. By 1993, Armenian forces controlled NagornoKarabakh and occupied seven surrounding districts.3 Approximately 230,000 Armenians and 800,000 Azerbaijanis were displaced as a result of the conflict.4 In 1994, Russia brokered a ceasefire, which led to a period of relative stability. While the conflict became termed a “frozen conflict,” the front lines of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remained anything but quiet.5 Artillery shelling and periodic skirmishes continued to occur after 1994, causing hundreds of deaths on both sides. April 2016 saw the most intense fighting since 1994, resulting in more than three hundred casualties. The two sides agreed on a ceasefire after four days of fighting. The situation remained extremely volatile in the lead-up to the NagornoKarabakh War of 2020.6

Armenia for launching an assault against the frontline troops of Azerbaijan, while Armenia accused the Azerbaijani army of a breakthrough attempt on the border.7 Olesya Vartanyan, Crisis Group’s senior analyst for the South Caucasus, does not believe it was premeditated. “If anyone was preparing for this, they did a bad job,” she said.8 These clashes stood out in a multitude of ways. The fighting occurred not along the NagornoKarabakh front line, but along the borders of Armenia and Azerbaijan. This is an area full of civilian infrastructure, as well as a strategic route that serves as an energy corridor for Azerbaijan. On July 16, Azerbaijan threatened to strike Armenia’s Metsamor nuclear power plant if Armenian forces launched an attack on a strategic water reservoir in Azerbaijan.9 Armenian military spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan responded by saying that Armenian officials never made threats to strike civilian facilities in Azerbaijan. Armenia’s Foreign Ministry denounced the threat as “genocidal”. On July 15, the cochairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Russia, the United States, and France, urged both parties to “make every effort to continue deescalation.”10

July 2020 Armenian-Azerbaijani Clashes

On July 12, 2020, skirmishes broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan claiming at least 16 lives. This was the most serious outbreak of hostilities since the 2016 Four Day War. It remains unclear how the clashes began. Azerbaijan blamed

The 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War

3 Ibid. 4 Isa Burak Gonca, “Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenia’s Claims, Azerbaijan’s Position, and the Peace Efforts,” E-International Relations, June 4, 2016, https://www.e-ir. info/2016/06/04/nagorno-karabakh-armenias-claims-azerbaijans-position-and-the-peace-efforts/. 5 Neil Hauer, “Armenia and Azerbaijan Are At War Again-and Not in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Foreign Policy, August 24, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/08/24/armenia-and-azerbaijan-are-at-war-again-and-not-in-nagornokarabakh/. 6 “Global Conflict Tracker: Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict,” Council on Foreign Relations, accessed December 31, 2020, https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/ nagorno-karabakh-conflict.

Nagorno-Karabakh was

7 Paul Stronski, “Behind the Flare-Up Along Armenia-Azerbaijan Border,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 22, 2020, https://carnegieendowment. org/2020/07/22/behind-flare-up-along-armenia-azerbaijanborder-pub-82345. 8 Neil Hauer, “Armenia and Azerbaijan Are At War Again-and Not in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Foreign Policy, August 24, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/08/24/armenia-and-azerbaijan-are-at-war-again-and-not-in-nagornokarabakh/. 9 RFE/RL, “Tensions High Along Armenia-Azerbaijan Border After Days of Skirmishes,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, July 17, 2020, https://www.rferl. org/a/armenia-azerbaijan-tensions-border-skirmishes-nuclear-plant/30733038.html. 10 Ibid.

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ripe for a renewed conflict. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan perceived the region to be an indivisible part of their respective homelands. Neither party was willing to compromise, as each state constructed its national identity around its historical claim to Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia justified the independence of the Republic of Artsakh by arguing for the local Armenians’ right to self-determination. Azerbaijan countered this claim, asserting that this encroached upon its territorial integrity.

drones, supplied by Turkey, which were more technologically advanced than Armenia’s older military technology. Its drone-led assault allowed it to score a decisive military victory over Armenian forces in NagornoKarabakh. As analyst Samuel Bendett told Forbes, “The Azeri drones were indeed a ‘magic bullet’ insofar as they were able to take out Armenian air defenses and ground assets.”14

in=smartlock&auth=login-smartlock. 12 Ron Synovitz, “Are Syrian Mercenaries Helping Azerbaijan Fight For Nagorno-Karabakh?” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, October 15, 2020, https:// www.rferl.org/a/are-syrian-mercenaries-helping-azerbaijan-fight-for-nagorno-karabakh-/30895331.html. 13 Carlotta Gall, “Roots of War: When Armenia Talked Tough, Azerbaijan Took Action,” The New York Times, October 27, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/27/ world/europe/armenia-azerbaijan-nagorno-karabakh.html.

14 David Hambling, “The ‘Magic Bullet’ Drones Behind Azerbaijan’s Victory Over Armenia,” Forbes, November 10, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidhambling/2020/11/10/the-magic-bullet-drones-behind--azerbaijans-victory-over-armenia/?sh=11de4be05e57. 15 “Azerbaijan Strikes Armenian Missile Site Amid Shaky Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire,” DW News, October 14, 2020, https://www.dw.com/en/azerbaijan-strikes-armenian-missile-site-amid-shaky-nagorno-karabakh-ceasefire/a-55270695.

The war ended with a Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement signed on November The outbreak of war on September 27, 10, 2020.15 The conditions of the agreement 2020 was different from all previous wars in allowed Azerbaijan to retain control over Nagorno-Karabakh. The balance of power in the territories it gained in the war, including the region had clearly tilted in Azerbaijan’s the seven districts surrounding Nagornofavour. First of all, Turkey offered more direct Karabakh and some parts of Nagornoand active support to Azerbaijan than it had Karabakh itself, including the city of Shusha/ 11 in previous wars. The Azerbaijani military Shushi. The deal made no mention of the was supplied, trained, and supported by the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. The agreement Turkish army. By October, the BBC, Reuters, also made Russia, rather than Armenia, The Guardian, and The Independent reported Nagorno-Karabakh’s security patron. that Turkey recruited Syrian mercenaries, Azerbaijan also called for the deployment of many of them former ISIS fighters, to fight for Turkish peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan in the war. Multiple sources from The war allowed for Russia and, to a lesser the Free Syrian Army (SNA) told Western extent, Turkey, to further consolidate their news organizations that they were promised positions in the South Caucasus region. payment from $1200 to $2000 per month for Russia and Turkey evidently exploited the “work” in Azerbaijan.12 Ankara and Baku Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as an opportunity denied such reports. Secondly, Azerbaijan’s to impose their geopolitical plans in the increasing oil and gas wealth helped allow Caucasus. Neither the European Union nor Baku to purchase expensive and advanced EU members were able to determine the weapons.13 These include the Bayraktar TB-2 course of politics in the Caucasus region during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The 11 Andrew E. Kramer, “Armenia and Azerbaijan: What Sparked War and Will Peace Prevail?” The New York OSCE Minsk Group, which was supported Times, December 1, 2020 https://www.nytimes.com/article/ by the European Union to facilitate the armenian-azerbaijan-conflict.html?auth=login-email&logresolution of the conflict, played no role in in=email&login=smartlock&auth=login-smartlock&log-

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shaping the peace following the 2020 war.16 The November deal was incredibly unpopular in Armenia. Protestors besieged the Armenian Parliament, while thousands took to the streets to demand Prime Minister Pashinyan’s resignation.17 Many Armenians felt betrayed by Pashinyan for signing the deal. They accused him of lying to the nation, as he downplayed the extent of Armenian losses throughout the course of the war. Antigovernment protests in Armenia continued daily until the end of 2020. The people of Armenia remain concerned about the fate of the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh (Nagorno-Karabakh has been populated almost entirely by ethnic Armenians since the end of the 1988-1994 war). While President Aliyev paid lip service to the idea of Armenian-Azerbaijani equality in the regained territory, his troops have been sending another message. In a PBS NewsHour broadcast, Azerbaijani troops were seen chanting that they “will destroy Armenians.”18 Armenians are also worried that Nagorno-Karabakh’s rich Armenian cultural and archaeological heritage will be destroyed. As archaeology Professor Adam Smith of Cornell University stated in a recent interview, “Azerbaijan has a welldocumented record of destroying Armenian heritage sites under its jurisdiction.”19 The

16 RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, “Interview: Thomas De Waal On What’s Next For Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenian-Azerbaijani Relations,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, December 7, 2020, https://www.rferl.org/a/interview-thomas-de-waal-on-what-s-next-for-nagorno-karabakh-armenian-azerbaijani-relations/30988513.html. 17 Avet Demourian, “Protestors in Armenia Besiege Parliament, Demand PM Nikol Pashinyan Resigns,” The Globe and Mail, December 9, 2020, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-protesters-in-armenia-besiege-parliament-demand-pm-nikol-pashinyan/. 18 “Brutal War Between Azerbaijan, Armenia Makes Peace A Hard Bargain,” PBS News Hour, accessed December 31, 2020, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/brutalwar-between-azerbaijan-armenia-makes-peace-a-hard-bargain#transcript. 19 Milana Nikolova, “Concerns Grow For the Fate of

heritage sites in question, believed to number at around 4,000, range from “centuries-old artifacts of religious and civil importance to the Armenian people to memorials of historical figures and art, as well as remains of ancient settlements.”20

Source: https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/976/cpsprodpb/ A16C/production/_115342314_nk_peace_deal_base_map_640-nc. png

COVID-19 in Armenia Armenia was hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Armenia ended its lockdown in May 2020, which many analysts argue was too early. For a period after reopening, Armenia had one of the world’s worst infection rates. In June, Armenia’s economy declined by 7.5 percent. The Armenian economy continues to suffer. Armenia’s Central Bank has recently reaffirmed its prediction that the economy will contract by 4 percent in 2020.21 Relations between the EU and

Nagorno-Karabakh’s Cultural Heritage,” Emerging Europe, November 23, 2020 https://emerging-europe.com/after-hours/concerns-grow-for-the-fate-of-nagorno-karabakhscultural-heritage/. 20 Ibid. 21 Ani Mejlumyan, “After Reopening, Armenian Economy Continues to Struggle,” Eurasianet, July 30, 2020, https://eurasianet.org/after-reopening-armenian-economy-continues-to-struggle. 26


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

Armenia are based on the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) which was signed on November 24, 2017. It entered into provisional application on June 1, 2018. Following the “Velvet Revolution” of 2018, the EU increased its annual allocation of grants to Armenia to 65 million EUR in 2019. The EU responded to the needs of countries in the Eastern Partnership, such as Armenia, during the COVID-19 pandemic. It mobilized a support package for Armenia worth 92 million EUR to support the Armenian health sector and vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly.22 Year in Review

2020 was an incredibly difficult year for Armenians. 2,425 young Armenian men and women died fighting for Armenia and the de facto Republic of Artsakh in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Several dozen civilians were also killed in the war, while tens of thousands were displaced.23 The future of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh remains precarious. Some Karabakh Armenians immigrated to Armenia, straining an economy that was already suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of them are receiving aid from the Armenian diaspora, which numbers at about 7 million from the Middle East to Europe to North America. It mobilized and unified to send millions of dollars and supplies to aid Armenia and the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.24 22 “Facts and Figures About EU-Armenia Relations,” Eastern Partnership, accessed December 31, 2020, https:// ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/ eap_factsheet_armenia.pdf. 23 “Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Killed 5,000 Soldiers,” BBC News, accessed December 31, 2020 https:// www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-55174211. 24 Rebecca Collard, “The Diaspora May Be Armenia’s Biggest Asset in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Foreign Policy, October 17, 2020 https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/10/17/ armenia-diaspora-nagorno-karabakh-azerbaijan/. 27


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA Bibliography

n=email&login=smartlock&auth=login-smartlock&login= smartlock&auth=login-smartlock.

“Azerbaijan Strikes Armenian Missile Site Amid Shaky Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire.” DW News, accessed Mejlumyan, Ani. “After Reopening, Armenian Economy December 31, 2020, https://www.dw.com/en/azerbaijanContinues to Struggle.” Eurasianet, July 30, 2020, https:// strikes-armenian-missile-site-amid-shaky-nagornoeurasianet.org/after-reopening-armenian-economykarabakh-cease-fire/a-55270695. continues-to-struggle.

“Brutal War Between Azerbaijan, Armenia Makes Peace A “Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Killed 5,000 Soldiers.” BBC Hard Bargain.” PBS News Hour, accessed December 31, News, accessed December 31, 2020 https://www.bbc. 2020, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/brutalcom/news/world-europe-55174211. war-between-azerbaijan-armenia-makes-peace-a-hardNikolova, Milana. “Concerns Grow For the Fate of Nagornobargain#transcript. Karabakh’s Cultural Heritage.” Emerging Europe, Collard, Rebecca. “The Diaspora May Be Armenia’s Biggest November 23, 2020 https://emerging-europe.com/afterAsset in Nagorno-Karabakh.” Foreign Policy, October 17, hours/concerns-grow-for-the-fate-of-nagorno-karabakhs2020 https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/10/17/armeniacultural-heritage/. diaspora-nagorno-karabakh-azerbaijan/. RFE/RL. “Tensions High Along Armenia-Azerbaijan Demourian, Avet. “Protestors in Armenia Besiege Parliament, Border After Days of Skirmishes.” Radio Free Europe/ Demand PM Nikol Pashinyan Resigns.” The Globe and Radio Liberty, July 17, 2020, https://www.rferl.org/a/ Mail, December 9, 2020, https://www.theglobeandmail. armenia-azerbaijan-tensions-border-skirmishes-nuclearcom/world/article-protesters-in-armenia-besiegeplant/30733038.html. parliament-demand-pm-nikol-pashinyan/. RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “Interview: Thomas De Waal “Facts and Figures About EU-Armenia Relations.” Eastern On What’s Next For Nagorno-Karabakh, ArmenianPartnership, accessed December 31, 2020, https:// Azerbaijani Relations.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/ December 7, 2020, https://www.rferl.org/a/interviewfiles/eap_factsheet_armenia.pdf. thomas-de-waal-on-what-s-next-for-nagorno-karabakharmenian-azerbaijani-relations/30988513.html. Gall, Carlotta. “Roots of War: When Armenia Talked Tough, Azerbaijan Took Action.” The New York Times, October Stronski, Paul. “Behind the Flare-Up Along Armenia27, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/27/world/ Azerbaijan Border.” Carnegie Endowment for International europe/armenia-azerbaijan-nagorno-karabakh.html. Peace, July 22, 2020, https://carnegieendowment. org/2020/07/22/behind-flare-up-along-armenia“Global Conflict Tracker: Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict.” azerbaijan-border-pub-82345. Council on Foreign Relations, accessed December 31, 2020, https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/ Synovitz, Ron. “Are Syrian Mercenaries Helping Azerbaijan nagorno-karabakh-conflict. Fight For Nagorno-Karabakh?” Radio Free Europe, October 15, 2020, https://www.rferl.org/a/are-syrianGonca, Isa Burak. “Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenia’s mercenaries-helping-azerbaijan-fight-for-nagornoClaims, Azerbaijan’s Position, and the Peace Efforts.” karabakh-/30895331.html. E-International Relations, June 4, 2016, https://www.e-ir. info/2016/06/04/nagorno-karabakh-armenias-claims- “The Most Heavily Christian Countries on Earth.” CBS News, azerbaijans-position-and-the-peace-efforts/. accessed December 31, 2020, https://www.cbsnews. com/pictures/the-most-heavily-christian-countries-onHambling, David. “The ‘Magic Bullet’ Drones Behind earth/59/. Azerbaijan’s Victory Over Armenia.” Forbes, November 10, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/ “The World Factbook: Armenia.” Central Intelligence Agency, s i t e s / d a v i d h a m b l i n g / 2 0 2 0 / 11 / 1 0 / t h e - m a g i c accessed December 31, 2020, https://www.cia.gov/ b u l l e t - d ro n e s - b e h i n d - - a z e r b a i j a n s - v i c t o r y - o v e rlibrary/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/am.html. armenia/?sh=11de4be05e57. Hauer, Neil. “Armenia and Azerbaijan Are At War Again-and Not in Nagorno-Karabakh.” Foreign Policy, August 24, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/08/24/armeniaand-azerbaijan-are-at-war-again-and-not-in-nagornokarabakh/. Kramer, Andrew E. “Armenia and Azerbaijan: What Sparked War and Will Peace Prevail?” The New York Times, December 1, 2020 https://www.nytimes.com/article/ armenian-azerbaijan-conflict.html?auth=login-email&logi

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MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

2020

AU S T RIA Yana Sadeghi

A

ustria’s parliamentary

earning the country a reputation

term has ushered in a

as a trailblazer for a greener fu-

new era that strives to balance

ture. It has been difficult, howev-

the needs of the environment

er, to transform this vision into a

and the economy in a coali-

reality as the two parties funda-

tion between the People’s Party

mentally have different views on

(ÖVP) and the Green Party,

governing: the Greens

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MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

31


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

believe that drastic measures are necessary to pro-

agreed to resolve disagreements using a “coali-

tect the environment whereas the ÖVP holds that

tion-free” space which would allow other parties to

moderation, especially with respect to the econ-

cast their votes; it should be noted that this mecha-

omy, yields the best results. The friction between

nism is designed for the ÖVP to maintain its “tough

the two parties was evident in their disputes over

stance towards refugees.”5 In addition, the Greens

the EU-Mercosur trade agreement, crisis budget

caved on the headscarf ban in the coalition agree-

plans, and headscarf ban. With the onset of the

ment, allowing the ÖVP to extend the ban from

COVID-19 pandemic, it became imperative for

girls aged 10 up to 14.6 With that said, the Greens

those in government to subside their differences to

managed to get the ÖVP to agree to stricter climate

mobilize against the health crisis.

targets and eco-oriented tax reforms, striving for Austria to use 100% renewable energy by 2030 and

Second Kurz Government

to become completely climate neutral by 2040.7 On January 7th, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz In order to meet these goals, the government

and Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler were sworn into

has ushered in a slew of reforms, the most substan-

office, forming a coalition government between the

tial being the Renewable Expansion Law proposed

People’s Party (ÖVP) and Green Party respectively.1

by Green Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler

This has been widely regarded as an unprecedented

and ÖVP State Secretary Magnus Brunner.8 The

government, as it is not only the first female-major-

policy sets out to distribute 1 billion EUR to green

ity cabinet2 but also the first time that the Greens

electricity producers annually for 10 consecutive

have been elected federally.3 What is even more

years and offers market premiums to larger systems

surprising is that the two parties have clashed in the past over policies, especially with regards to handling refugee crises in Austria.4 Both parties, however, 1 AFP International. First Conservative and Green government in Vienna takes office: 33-year-old Kurz sworn in as Federal Chancellor. 2 Röder, Matthias. New government in Austria now officially in office. 3 AFP. International. First Conservative and Green government in Vienna takes office: 33-year-old Kurz sworn in as Federal Chancellor. 4 Zappei, Julia. New government wants to make Austria climate-neutral by 2040: In the event of a new refugee crisis, “coalition-free space” agreed.

effective January 2021.9 It has been praised by the renewables industry and referred to as an “unbelievable economic engine,” but the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) criticized Leonore for being too gen5 Ibid. 6 Ibid. 7 Nitschmann, Fabian and Matthias Röder. 2020. “Black-Green Experiment in Austria - Taxes And Climate In Focus.” 8 Auer, Matthias. “The green electricity boom ordered can begin.” 9 Ibid.

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MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

erous with handouts.10 Support for the reform had

tensive negotiations.”15

been reinforced by the EU’s desire to tighten climate targets which had also been announced in Septem-

Community (IGGÖ) filed complaints against the

ber, but the parties were still reluctant to implement

headscarf ban that had been instituted by the ÖVP.16

such drastic measures.11 In fact, the ÖVP abstained

The Austrian Constitutional Court ruled in favour

from a motion in EU Parliament to reduce emissions by 60% by 2030, contrary to the Greens. Green Thomas Waitz stated that the Party’s [ÖVP] lack of political will reflected “the short-term interests of the old fossil industry.”

12

The issue of money became more conten-

In the months that ensued, the Islamic Faith

of the IGGÖ and lifted the ban in December as it “violates both the principle of equality and the right to religious freedom”.17 Education Minister Heinz Faßmann, a member of the ÖVP, had remarked that it is “regrettable” that young girls will not be able to receive an education free of “coercion,” but accept-

tious once Finance Minister Blümel submitted his

ed the court’s ruling.18 The law included a clause

crisis budget for 2021 to Parliament in October.

for the state to develop more legislation to prevent

Under this scheme, Blümel allotted 97.4 billion EUR discrimination in education on the basis of gender — most of which was directed towards security and or religion.19 climate policy — and was estimated to earn 76.4

EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement

billion EUR in income, placing the government in Despite ongoing negotiations, a trade agree-

a deficit.13 The SPÖ and NEOS Party criticized the budget plan for Blümel funneling money into the private sector without addressing the “economic and labor market crisis.”14 The Greens had also revealed that the ÖVP did not include an eco-social tax reform in its budget as promised in the coalition

ment was unable to come to fruition between the European Union and Mercosur as “several EU countries, including Austria, [were] blocking ratification” with the hopes of furthering their political interests.20 According to Agriculture Minister Elisa-

15 Die Presse.”Three-way battle” until “everything is missing”: reactions to the budget speech. 10 Ibid. 16 Reibenwein, Michaela and Konstantin Auer. Head11 European Parliament. EU climate law: MEPs want to scarf ban in elementary schools is lifted. increase emission reductions target to 60% by 2030. 17 Ibid. 12 Salzburger Nachrichten. EU Parliament gives the 18 Der Standard.VfGH overturns headscarf ban in green light for a higher climate target by 2030. elementary schools. 13 Salzburger Nachrichten. Finance Minister Blümel 19 BBC. Austria court overturns primary school headpresents crisis budget for 2021. scarf ban. 14 Der Standard. For Hannes Androsch the stimulus 20 Böhm, Wolfgang. Mercosur: The slow death of a package is a “mega-flop.” contract.

agreement to which Gewessler responded with “in-

33


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

beth Köstinger, an EU-Mercosur agreement would

Merkel expressed her concern with the agreement

compromise domestic agricultural production as

after consulting with Greta Thunberg.26 To follow

cheap imports would dominate the market.21 Köst-

suit, the Austrian government rejected the Mercos-

inger also contended that local production would

ur agreement on September 19th.27 Michael Löwy,

be more sustainable as goods would have to trav-

Head of International Relations at the Federation of

el across long transport routes if it were to enter

Industrialists, conceded that the Mercosur agreement

the Mercosur Agreement.22 However, the Austrian

was very appealing to the government but assured

Chamber of Commerce pushed the federal gov-

that “individual interests [do] not outweigh strategic

ernment to reconsider the trade deal, stating that

interests.”28

it would provide an opportunity to expand export sectors such as the “automotive suppliers, machine manufacturers and [...] service providers.” The 23

Chamber of Commerce also made the case that the Mercosur agreement would increase jobs as 32,000 workers and 1,100 corporations rely on exports to South America.

24

The federal government remained in a

The government’s announcement, however, did not solicit a positive reaction. Economists Harald Oberhofer and Harald Badinger remarked that “the expansion of regional production at the expense of imports will narrow the choice and be at the expense of the consumers, also because they lose the price advantage of cheaper imports.”29 These effects will be felt even more acutely by consumers as they have

political stalemate until other EU member states,

already faced rising prices due to COVID-19.30 Aus-

namely Germany and France, had openly criticized

trians also fear that industrial jobs in export sectors,

the Mercosur agreement for being environmentally

a major driver of the economy, will decline.31 Based

irresponsible. To elaborate, French President Ma-

on these concerns, the Chamber of Commerce has

cron had vowed only to trade with countries part of

urged the federal government to rethink the Mercos-

the Paris Climate Agreement and was wary of the

ur agreement at a meeting on December 21st.32

26 Kurier. After meeting Greta: Merkel questions the Mercosur agreement. 27 Der Standard. Government rejects Mercosur agreearo’s leadership.25 Similarly, German Chancellor ment. 21 Ibid. 28 Ibid. 22 Bauernzeitung. Köstinger: Agriculture opposes Mer- 29 Felber, Christian. Mercosur agreement: bread, meat cosur. and capital. 23 Ibid. 30 Badinger, Harald and Harald Oberhofer. The slogan 24 Ibid. “Austria first” and its consequences. 25 Forbes. Macron’s Mercosur Veto - Are Amazon Fires 31 Ibid. Being Used As A Smokescreen for Protectionism? 32 Kurier. Chamber of Commerce advocates controver-

Amazonian fires under Brazilian President Bolson-

34


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

Handling of the COVID-19 Pandemic

on workers in the public sector.38 On numerous occasions, workers at emergency hotlines reported

Ischgl, a popular ski resort among tourists,

calls where patients provided false information and

became a hotbed for the outbreak of COVID-19

cited misinformation from the media.39 Educators

and was the first district to enter lockdown in

have also assumed more responsibility over students

Austria.33 The government has been criticized for acting too late as thousands of tourists fled the town right before the government had imposed quarantine measures.34 Since then, over 10,000 cases have been

through a reform giving schools more autonomy.40 School Director Manfred Horvath, however, argues that “a uniform approach is required.”

traced back to the resort, some of which have been

The government has since attempted to

fatal.35 The government responded by establishing

compensate for its shortcoming by spending rough-

the Tyrolean Expert Commission to investigate the

ly 5.5 billion EUR in unemployment benefits and

matters further.36 The results of the Tyrolean Expert 6.4 billion EUR for tax reductions and deferrals for Commission were announced in October and found COVID-19 aid.41 Some have argued that unemployChancellor Kurz responsible for the poor handling

ment benefits are inadequate, remarking that the

of the crisis. Chairman Ronald Rohrer emphasized

average EU country provided 65% of the net salary

that “local authorities were poorly prepared for an

in funds whereas Austria only gave 55%.42 Clemens

evacuation” which is part of the reason why local

Martin Auer, Austria’s special representative in the

authorities failed to act sooner.

Federal Ministry of Health, also worked with the

Vienna was another centre for outbreaks, reporting double the cases of Tyrol and Vorarlberg in Lower Austria.37 Journalists Lara Hagen and Gabriele Scherndl attributed the Viennese outbreak to discrepancies between the federal and local government and noted that it put considerable strain sial trade agreement. 33 Lorenz, Laurin and Fabian Sommavilla. Ischgl Commission charges Chancellor Kurz and local authorities. 34 Ibid. 35 Ibid. 36 Ibid. 37 Hagen, Lara and Gabriele Scherndl. Hotline 1450 employees complain of overload.

EU and private developers to procure a vaccine, securing 1.5 billion for the 27 EU member states, 2% of which were dedicated for Austria.43 Auer also assured that the vaccine “will cost the citizens nothing.”44 The government also made antigen tests free

38 Ibid. 39 Ibid. 40 Kogelnik, Lisa. Covid in schools: Directors have a lot of responsibility. 41 Der Standard. To date, a fixed cost grant of 174 million euros has been granted. 42 Kontrast. In Austria, twice as many people have lost their jobs compared to Germany. 43 Salzburger Nachrichten. Covid vaccination “will not cost citizens anything.” 44 Ibid. 35


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA References

to the public before Christmas to limit the spread

After meeting Greta: Merkel questions the Mercosur

during the holiday season.45

agreement. Kurier, Aug 21, 2020. https://kurier.at/ wirtschaft/nach-treffen-mit-greta-merkel-stellt-mercosur-

Year in Review

abkommen-infrage/401007656 Auer, Matthias. “The green electricity boom ordered can begin.” Die Presse, Sep 17, 2020. http://myaccess.library.utoronto. c a / l o g i n ? q u r l = h t t p s % 3 A % 2 F % 2 F w w w. p ro q u e s t . com%2Fnewspapers%2Fder-bestellung-%C3%B6kostromboom-kann-start% 2Fdocview% 2F2444110646% 2Fse-2% 3Faccountid% 3D14771.

Austria’s coalition government has struggled to reconcile its differences but has made considerable strides for its first year in office. The Greens

Austria court overturns primary school headscarf ban. BBC, Dec 11, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/worldeurope-55277840

were able to push for higher climate targets, distinguishing itself within the EU, while simultaneously stimulating the economy. The Constitutional Court had also deemed the headscarf ban illegal — a ruling which tipped in favour of the Greens. However, the government was unable to ratify the EU-Mercosur trade deal for fear of hurting the domestic economy and the environment, both locally and abroad. In the coming years, Austria is likely to negotiate a trade deal with stricter standards as urged by the Chamber of Commerce and may consider reforms for taxes and education.

AFP International. First Conservative and Green government in Vienna takes office: 33-year-old Kurz sworn in as Federal Chancellor. 2020. http://myaccess.library. u t o ro n t o . c a / l o g i n ? q u r l = h t t p s % 3 A % 2 F % 2 F w w w. proquest.com%2Fwire-feeds%2Ferste-regierungfromconservative-und-gr% C3% BCnen-wien% 2Fdocview% 2F2333898942% 2Fse-2% 3Faccountid% 3D14771 (accessed December 29, 2020). Badinger, Harald and Harald Oberhofer. The slogan “Austria first” and its consequences. Der Standard, Sep 29, 2020. https://www.derstandard.at/story/2000120317958/dielosung-austria-first-und-ihre-konsequenzen Bohm, Wolfgang. Mercosur: The slow death of a contract. Die Presse, Sep 03, 2020. http://myaccess.library.utoronto. c a / l o g i n ? q u r l = h t t p s % 3 A % 2 F % 2 F w w w. p ro q u e s t . com%2Fnewspapers%2Fmercosur-der-langsame-todeines-vertrags%2Fdocview% 2F2440496923%2Fse-2% 3Faccountid% 3D14771 (accessed December 28, 2020). Covid vaccination “will not cost citizens anything.” Salzburger Nachrichten, Oct 13, 2020. h t t p s : / / w w w. s n . a t / panorama/oesterreich/covid-impfung-wird-buergernichts-kosten-94160737 Chamber of Commerce advocates controversial trade agreement. Kurier, Dec 21, 2020. https://kurier.at/ wirtschaft/wirtschaftskammer-spricht-sich-fuerumstrittenes-handelsabkommen-aus/401136513 EU climate law: MEPs want to increase emission reductions target to 60% by 2030. European Parliament, Sep 11 2020. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/pressroom/20200907IPR86512/eu-climate-law-meps-want-toincrease-emission-reductions-target-to-60-by-2030 EU Parliament gives the green light for a higher climate target by 2030. Salzburger Nachrichten, Oct 8, 2020. https:// www.sn.at/politik/weltpolitik/eu-parlament-gibtgruenes-licht-fuer-hoeheres-klimaziel-bis-2030-93909421

45 Imlinger, Christine. Free antigen testing for everyone Felber, Christian. Mercosur agreement: bread, meat and capital. Der Standard, Oct 22, 2020. h t t p s : / / before Christmas. 36


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA www.derstandard.at/story/2000121104869/mercosurabkommen-brot-fleisch-und-kapital

proquest.com%2Fwire-feeds%2Fschwarz-gr%C3%BCnesexperiment -% C3% B6sterreich-taxes-and% 2Fdocview% 2F2331809304% 2Fse-2% 3Faccountid% 3D14771.

Finance Minister Blümel presents crisis budget for 2021. Salzburger Nachrichten, Oct 4, 2020.https://www. Röder, Matthias. New era in Austria perfect: black-green can rule. sn.at/politik/innenpolitik/finanzminister-bluemel-legtDPA International (German), Jan 05, 2020. http://myaccess. krisenbudget-2021-vor-94170967 library.utoronto.ca/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww. proquest.com%2Fwire-feeds%2Fneue-%C3%A4ra% For Hannes Androsch the stimulus package is a “megaC3% B6sterreich-perfect-black-gr% C3% BCn-kann% flop.” Der Standard, Aug 19, 2020. https://www. 2Fdocview% 2F2333250886% 2Fse-2% 3Faccountid% derstandard.at/story/2000119453368/fuer-hannes3D14771 (accessed December 29, 2020). androsch-ist-das-konjunkturpaket-ein-mega-plumps Röder, Matthias. New government in Austria now Government rejects Mercosur agreement. Der Standard, officially in office. DPA International (German) , Sep 19, 2020. https://www.derstandard.at/ Jan 07, 2020. http://myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/ story/2000120122801/bundesregierung-erteilt-mercosurlogin?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com% abkommen-absage 2Fwire-feeds% 2Fneue-government-% C3% B6sterreichHagen, Lara and Gabriele Scherndl. Hotline 1450 employees nun-official-im-amt% 2Fdocview% 2F2333846959% 2Fsecomplain of overload. Der Standard, Sep 27, 2020. https:// 2% 3Faccountid% 3D14771 (accessed December 29, 2020). www.derstandard.at/story/2000120291999/mitarbeiterReibenwein, Michaela and Konstantin Auer. Headscarf ban der-hotline-1450-klagen-ueber-ueberlastung in elementary schools is lifted. Kurier, Dec. 11, 2020. In Austria, twice as many people have lost their jobs compared https://kurier.at/chronik/oesterreich/kopftuchverbotto Germany. Kontrast, Oct 14 2020. https://kontrast.at/ in-volksschulen-wird-aufgehoben/401126733 arbeitslosigkeit-oesterreich-deutschland-corona/ “Three-way battle” until “everything is missing”: reactions Imlinger, Christine. Before Christmas, free antigen tests to the budget speech. Die Presse, Oct 14, 2020.https:// for everyone. Die Presse, Dec 05. http://myaccess. www.diepresse.com/5882183/dreikampf-bis-alles-fehltlibrary.utoronto.ca/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww. reaktionen-auf-die-budgetrede?from=rss proquest.com%2F newspapers%2Fvor-besuchenTo date, a fixed cost grant of 174 million euros has been granted. zu-weihnachten-gratis-antigentests% 2Fdocview% Der Standard, Oct 1, 2020. https://www.derstandard. 2F2468396008% 2Fse-2% 3Faccountid% 3D14771 (accessed at/story/2000120399222/bereits-174-millionen-euro-anDecember 31, 2020). fixkostenzuschuss-gewaehrtVfGH overturns headscarf Keating, Dave. Macron’s Mercosur Veto - Are Amazon Fires ban in elementary schools. Der Standard, Dec. 11, 2020. Being Used As A Smokescreen for https://www.derstandard.de/story/2000122426702/ vfgh-kippt-kopftuchverbot-in-volksschulen Protectionism? Forbes, Aug 23 2020. https://www.forbes. com/sites/davekeating/2019/08/23/macrons-mercosur- Zappei, Julia. New government wants to make Austria veto-are-amazon-fires-being-used-as-a-smokescreen-forclimate-neutral by 2040: In the event of a new refugee protectionism/?sh=cefc0cd50fd3 crisis, “coalition-free space” agreed. AFP International Text Wire in German , Jan 02, 2020. http://myaccess. Kogelnik, Lisa. Covid in schools: Directors have a lot of library.utoronto.ca/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww. responsibility. Der Standard, Oct 23, 2020. h ttps://www. proquest.com%2Fwire-feeds%2Fneue-regierung-will- % derstandard.at/story/2000120397326/covid-an-schulenC3% B6sterreich-bis-2040% 2Fdocview% 2F2331814351% die-direktoren-tragen-viel-verantwortung 2Fse-2% 3Faccountid% 3D14771 (accessed December 29, Köstinger: Agriculture opposes Mercosur. Bauernzeitung., 2020). Aug 6 2020.

https://bauernzeitung.at/koestinger-oesterreichslandwirtschaft-stellt-sich-gegen-mercosur/

Lorenz, Laurin and Fabian Sommavilla. Ischgl Commission charges Chancellor Kurz and local authorities. Der Standard, Oct 12, 2020. h ttps://www.derstandard.at/ story/2000120858908/ischgl-kommission-attestiertfolgenschwere-fehleinschaetzungen Nitschmann, Fabian and Matthias Röder.”Black-Green Experiment in Austria - Taxes And Climate In Focus.” DPA International (German) , Jan 02. http://myaccess. library.utoronto.ca/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.

37


Varisha Naeem

202 0 R EP O R T

A Z ER BAI JAN


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

Population: • 10,205,810 (July 2020 est.) - CIA World Factbook Unemployment Rate: • 4.8 (2019) - World Bank Data GDP Per Capita: • $17,500 (2017 est.) CIA World Bank Fact Book EU Status: • EU Candidate since 25 January 2001

2020

brought a series of challenges and developments for Azerbaijan in regards to trade relations with the European Union, the handling of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the pandemic. Azerbaijan has formed stronger ties with the European Union (EU) to excel its economy through further developing their trade relations. With the Eastern Partnership in place, Azerbaijan has taken a step forward in advancing its role in attaining stability and security through cooperation. However, not all conflicts find a peaceful resolution and such is the case with the persisting Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. A ceasefire was called to prevent Armenia and Azerbaijan from engaging in further violent exchange. Another major challenge that Azerbaijan dealt with during 2020 was the global pandemic. The government took active measures to limit the spread of the virus and ensure the safety of the population. Azerbaijan and EU: Strengthening of Ties and Economic Prosperity The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Azerbaijan and the EU has been in place since 1999 and facilitates

39

their trade relations.1 The aim of this accord is to formulate a comprehensive trade policy between the EU and Azerbaijan. The latest developments to the agreement came full circle in 2017 when new amendments were made, leading to the expansion of EU-Azerbaijan trade cooperation. The new deal includes a section on trade and sustainable development which came as an effort to progress the trade relations between the EU and Azerbaijan, as well as to support Azerbaijan’s future World Trade Organization (WTO) membership.2 It is important to note that Azerbaijan and the EU’s long-standing trading partnership accounts for 36.7 percent of Azerbaijan’s total trade. Amongst the imports to EU countries, Azerbaijan provides mineral fuels, lubricants and related minerals, as well as food, live animals, chemicals and related products together with manufactured goods. Machinery and transport equipment are 1 “Azerbaijan,” Countries and Regions, European Commission, Last Updated May 20, 2020, https://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/countries/azerbaijan/. 2 “Azerbaijan,” Countries and Regions, European Commission, Last Updated May 20, 2020, https://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/countries/azerbaijan/.


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

dominantly exported from EU countries to Azerbaijan, including chemicals and manufactured goods.3 The economic ties between EU countries and Azerbaijan have been further strengthened due to the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and its Eastern Partnership Policy.4 The European Neighbourhood Policy works with its Southern and Eastern neighbours to bring stability, security and prosperity inclusive of the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy.5 Through this policy, eastern and southern neighbour countries are enabled to work cohesively and in a joint effort on matters relating to human rights, democracy, rule of law and social cohesion. Additionally, this policy aims to build effective partnerships based on socio-economic and security terms.

EU-Azerbaijan relations.7 A Continued Fight: The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a long-standing ethnic and territorial conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which has its roots in the 1990s when both Azerbaijan and Armenia were part of the Soviet Union. This region was inhabited by ethnic Armenians and surrounding districts inhabited by Azerbaijanis until they were removed during the First Nagorno-Karabakh War. The region itself is situated within the borders of Azerbaijan. The war started back in 1988 and came to a temporary halt in 1994. Both Azerbaijan and Armenia have been using military warfare on one another, exacerbating the issue and resulting in the loss of thousands of lives. After fighting two wars, one in the 1980s and the other in the 1990s, the issue was at a standstill, but not yet over.8 Azerbaijan, a Muslim majority state, has the support of Turkey and Armenia, a Christian country has Russia as an ally. With several thousand deaths, many were also displaced amid the ethnic cleansing and massacres.9 Since the last ceasefire in 1994, Nagorno-Karabakh has remained a part of Azerbaijan. This territory was governed by a separatist, self-declared republic, run by ethnic Armenians who were backed by the Armenian government. They also established the Nagorno-Karabakh Line of Contact in order to separate the two forces.10 Currently, the ongoing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia led to the

In 2018, a Partnership Priorities agreement was between EU and Azerbaijan for the purpose of enhancing trade relations in the future. The Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) manages the progress in annual reports. The goal of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement is to eradicate trade barriers such as quotas, while aiming to gradually increase the status of Azerbaijan’s standards in trade compared to the rest of the EU countries.6 As of 2019, Azerbaijan’s fuel exports to the EU add up to 98.4% of the country’s total exports. Additionally, the EU is one of the biggest foreign investors for Azerbaijan in the oil and non-oil sector. The Subcommittee on Trade, Economic and Related Legal Issues and the Subcommittee on Justice, Freedom, Security and Human Rights and Democracy took place in February and March, respectively, to further advance 7

“Cooperation Implementation Report on Azerbaijan,” High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, European Commission, December 16, 3 “Azerbaijan,” Countries and Regions, European Commission, Last Updated May 20, 2020, https://ec.europa. 2020, https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/azerbaijan_coopeu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/countries/azerbaijan/. eration_implementation_report_2020.pdf. 8 “Armenia-Azerbaijan: Why did Nagorno-Karabakh 4 “Azerbaijan,” Countries and Regions, European Commission, Last Updated May 20, 2020, https://ec.europa. spark a conflict,” BBC World, November 12, 2020, https:// eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/countries/azerbaijan/. www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54324772. 9 “Armenia-Azerbaijan: Why did Nagorno-Karabakh 5 “European Neighbourhood Policy,” European Union, 2020, https://eeas.europa.eu/diplomatic-network/eu- spark a conflict,” BBC World, November 12, 2020, https:// www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54324772. ropean-neighbourhood-policy-enp_en?page=2. 10 “Armenia-Azerbaijan: Why did Nagorno-Karabakh 6 “Azerbaijan,” Countries and Regions, European Commission, Last Updated May 20, 2020, https://ec.europa. spark a conflict,” BBC World, November 12, 2020, https:// eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/countries/azerbaijan/. www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54324772. 40


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

EU calling for a ceasefire. News outlets depict an imminent war at the brinks of this conflict as each side continues to escalate the dispute with the use of their military powers. Peace talks are organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, which is a body set up in 1992 after many lives were lost and chaired by France, Russia and the United States.11 In 2018, Armenia initiated a peaceful revolution and post a free election, under the new prime minister, agreed with the president of Azerbaijan to de-escalate tension and launch military hotlines between the two countries.12 Fighting broke out in July 2020 and then again in September the same year. In November the fighting ceased upon the Russian peacekeepers’ arrival and monitoring to maintain peace.13 In total, more than 4,600 people, mostly soldiers, died on both sides from.14 Concerns remain that tensions may reignite if a permanent solution to this military conflict is not resorted to, which could cause destabilization in the region of Caucasus.15 COVID-19: Fighting Another Battle The novel Coronavirus has taken over the world, sparking panic and fear as it has become a global health crisis. It has impacted all nations around the world. Azerbaijan too has come un11 “Armenia-Azerbaijan: Why did Nagorno-Karabakh spark a conflict,” BBC World, November 12, 2020, https:// www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54324772. 12 “Armenia-Azerbaijan: Why did Nagorno-Karabakh spark a conflict,” BBC World, November 12, 2020, https:// www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54324772. 13 “Armenia-Azerbaijan: Why did Nagorno-Karabakh spark a conflict,” BBC World, November 12, 2020, https:// www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54324772. 14 “Armenia’s leader backs early vote next year after mass protests,” Al-Jazeera, Last Updated: December 25, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/12/25/armeniasleader-backs-early-vote-next-year-after-mass-protests. 15 “Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict,” Council on Foreign Relations, Last Updated: December 25, 2020, https:// www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/nagorno-karabakh-conflict.

der the effects of this pandemic. The Council of Europe continues to assist members in efforts to combat this virus with the meaningful resources in order to cater the emergencies it has caused.16 Azerbaijan has implemented quarantine as part of the healthcare measures it is taking in order to lower if not completely stop the rapid spreading of the virus. The Council of Europe made a second donation of necessary protective equipment to the Penitentiary Service and Main Medical Department of the Ministry of Justice of Azerbaijan. While quarantine continues in Azerbaijan, the Council of Europe made donations of necessary protective equipment to the Penitentiary Service and Main Medical Department of the Ministry of Justice of Azerbaijan.17 Amidst the constant diminishing and rising cases, the government of Azerbaijan is continuously reviewing the intensity of health care measures the country requires to take in order to reduce the case count. For the same purpose, the government has looked into travel guidance and entry restrictions.18 The advice projected by the Foreign Ministry is to avoid non-essential travel, like most countries.19 The same guidelines given 16 “Support to the Azerbaijani prison system to combat the COVID-19 pandemic continues”, Council of Baku Office News, Last Updated: August 27, 2020, https://www. coe.int/en/web/baku/-/support-to-the-azerbaijani-prison-system-to-combat-the-covid-19-pandemic-continues. 17 “Support to the Azerbaijani prison system to combat the COVID-19 pandemic continues”, Council of Baku Office News, Last Updated: August 27, 2020, https://www. coe.int/en/web/baku/-/support-to-the-azerbaijani-prison-system-to-combat-the-covid-19-pandemic-continues. 18 “Azerbaijani”, Finland Abroad, Last Updated: November 9, 2020, https://finlandabroad.fi/web/aze/ current-affairs/-/asset_publisher/h5w4iTUJhNne/content/ matkustamiseen-ja-maahantulorajoituksiin-muutoksia-koronatilanteen-perusteella-1/35732?_com_liferay_asset_publisher_web_portlet_AssetPublisherPortlet_INSTANCE_ h5w4iTUJhNne_assetEntryId=28845098. 19 “Azerbaijani”, Finland Abroad, Last Updated: November 9, 2020, https://finlandabroad.fi/web/aze/ current-affairs/-/asset_publisher/h5w4iTUJhNne/content/ matkustamiseen-ja-maahantulorajoituksiin-muutoksia-koronatilanteen-perusteella-1/35732?_com_liferay_asset_publisher_web_portlet_AssetPublisherPortlet_INSTANCE_

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MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

by the World Health Organization are listed: wash hands often, maintain one to two meters of physical distance, observe good hygiene and to wear a mask.20 Finland is no longer on the restrictions list, thus residents can travel to Finland for recreational purposes without facing any limitations.21 Other countries for which the restrictions have been lifted are Germany, Cyprus, Iceland, Norway, Poland, and Sweden, as well as Canada, Australia and Japan in the case the residents are travelling from their home countries.22

from the virus and were presented with opportunities for temporary exemption of tax payments.24 Year in Review

Azerbaijan experienced a number of challenges during 2020, emerging from both past conflicts and the recent global pandemic. The EU and Azerbaijan have developed an appreciable relationship since 1999. With increased efforts, they have worked to expand their trade agreements that serve as a mechanism to strengthen their overall relationship. In 2020, Azerbaijan not only became With the initial hit Azerbaijan took from part of an elaborate new trade deal, which deals the global pandemic, the country went into strict with sustainable development, but also achieved lockdown. The government of Azerbaijan has ada reinforced relation within the EU through the opted an Action Plan in order to provide the utmost European Neighbourhood Policy, advancing the care with abundance of resources for the citizens.23 stability, security, social and democratic practice. The country created a State Fund to fight Covid-19 Azerbaijan has taken positive steps forward to based on private and corporate dimensions. There grow its financial state and bring economic proswere financial care packages and emergency perity through closure with the EU. In addition, response benefits for the citizens to aid in their Azerbaijan’s conflict with Armenia has spurred financial hardship caused by the virus. These bensecurity concerns. After a ceasefire had been called efits were directed and available to the vulnerable in regard to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it population that had taken a severe financial hit is necessary that Azerbaijan settles the dispute h5w4iTUJhNne_assetEntryId=28845098. without the use of arms and avoids further engage20 “Azerbaijani”, Finland Abroad, Last Updatment in warfare to maintain stability and national ed: November 9, 2020, https://finlandabroad.fi/web/aze/ security. However, this conflict is not the only current-affairs/-/asset_publisher/h5w4iTUJhNne/content/ matkustamiseen-ja-maahantulorajoituksiin-muutoksia-korbattle Azerbaijan is combating as the pandemic has onatilanteen-perusteella-1/35732?_com_liferay_asset_pubrequired the Azerbaijani government to take serilisher_web_portlet_AssetPublisherPortlet_INSTANCE_ ous measures to reduce the case-count and increase h5w4iTUJhNne_assetEntryId=28845098. public health safety. Efforts to mitigate Covid-19 21 “Azerbaijani”, Finland Abroad, Last Updated: November 9, 2020, https://finlandabroad.fi/web/aze/ include care packages arranged by the government current-affairs/-/asset_publisher/h5w4iTUJhNne/content/ as well as revised travel restrictions. While 2020 matkustamiseen-ja-maahantulorajoituksiin-muutoksia-korbrought many developments in relation to trade, onatilanteen-perusteella-1/35732?_com_liferay_asset_puband challenges due to the Nagorno-Karabakh lisher_web_portlet_AssetPublisherPortlet_INSTANCE_ h5w4iTUJhNne_assetEntryId=28845098. conflict and the pandemic, it is important to closely 22 “Azerbaijani”, Finland Abroad, Last Updated: follow how these topics will further progress in November 9, 2020, https://finlandabroad.fi/web/aze/cur2021. rent-affairs/-/asset_publisher/h5w4iTUJhNne/content/ matkustamiseen-ja-maahantulorajoituksiin-muutoksia-koronatilanteen-perusteella/35732?_com_liferay_asset_publisher_web_portlet_AssetPublisherPortlet_INSTANCE_ h5w4iTUJhNne_assetEntryId=28184291. 23 “Cooperation Implementation Report on Azerbaijan,”, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, European Commission, December 16, 2020, https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/azerbaijan_cooperation_implementation_report_2020.pdf.

24 “Cooperation Implementation Report on Azerbaijan,”, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, European Commission, December 16, 2020, https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/azerbaijan_cooperation_implementation_report_2020.pdf. 42


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43


BELARUS

MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

Karina Melendez

44


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

2020

has held several defining moments for Belarus. One of the most prominent events was the presidential election, which was held on August 9th. Although the results of the elections played an important role in determining the events to follow, the actions of the government preceding the election were also crucial. Major protests and the treatment of protestors by Belarusian authorities have raised international concern. The European Union (EU) has taken decisive action regarding the election results, ensuing protests, and obstructions of liberty in the form of sanctions, impacting the relationship between Belarus and Europe.1 As a result of the EU’s stance on the election and the sanctions imposed on Belarus, the visa facilitation and readmission agreements that in early 2020 passed through not only Belarusian but European Parliament, to be signed and formalized later in the year, met tension. Complete visa liberation for Belarus became conditional on the rectification of the election situation. The EU affirms its willingness to support Belarus make the reforms it needs in order to ensure its

Russian: Александр Григорьевич Лукашенко) refused to implement a lockdown unlike most of the country’s European counterparts.3 Business was, for the large part, carried on as usual, much to the disdain of the country’s doctors, some of which came together to film a video in order to voice their opinion on the matter. The doctors highlighted some of the major flaws of Belarus’ response to the pandemic, which were echoed by the World Health Organization (WHO). Focusing on these three main topics: the presidential election, visa facilitation and readmission agreements with the EU, and the COVID-19 response, this report presents Belarus as depicted through Belarusian media in 2020. Presidential Election

The presidential election presented several events which would serve to distinguish the 2020 political life in Belarus. In May, notable opposition figures to Belarus incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has led the country since 1994, were detained. The first to meet this fate was Siarhei Tsikhanouski, who announced his intentions to launch a presidential campaign in early democratic process and its integrity. Even May through his YouTube channel, Country for so, the EU will not continue to move forwards Life (Страна Для Жизни).4 However, after being with complete visa liberalization until reforms are denied candidacy by the Central Election Commade.2 mission (CEC), Tsikhanouski’s wife, Sviatlana, Perhaps one of the greatest challenges began her own bid for presidency.5 On May 29th, faced by Belarus was the one felt around the globe: while obtaining signatures that Sviatlana needed to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the governregister for candidacy, Tsikhanouski was detained. ment was quick to begin screening in airports and 3 “COVID-19: Moscow Introduces ‘Digital Passes’; along borders, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka WHO Says Belarus Must Do More,” RadioFreeEurope/ RadioLiberty, April 11, 2020, https://www.rferl.org/a/covid(Belarusian: Аляксандр Рыгоравіч Лукашэнка; 1 “EU Relations with Belarus.” Consilium. European Council/Council of the European Union, October 12, 2020, https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/eastern-partnership/belarus/. 2 Rikard Jozwiak, “EU Mulls Adding Lukashenka To Blacklist Over Belarusian Election, Crackdown,” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, October 8, 2020, https://www.rferl. org/a/belarus-eu-mulls-lukashenka--blacklist-election-crackdown/30883118.html.

19--rusia-belarus--iran-digital-permits-who-businesses-reopen/30547557.html. 4 Сергей Тихановский, “Сергей Тихановский Намерен Стать Кандидатом в Президенты Беларуси,” YouTube, May 6, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCX-YGwJK54. 5 Елена Толкачеваm, “ЦИК Отказал Блогеру Тихановскому в Регистрации Инициативной Группы. Лукашенко Зарегистрировали,” TUT.BY, May 15, 2020, https://news.tut.by/elections/684683.html.

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Then, on May 31st, opposition leader Mikalai Stat- August, September, October, and only intensified kevich was detained. when authorities detained 280 people on October 19th.12 Despite threats of the use of force from the In June, two months prior to the presigovernment, protests continued.13 Radio Svabodential election, Lukashenka dismissed the govda estimates that over 12,000 people have been ernment. Another opposition candidate, Viktar detained by Belarusian authorities over the course Barbaryka, was detained on tax evasion charges.6 of the protests.14 On election day, August 9th, police wagons, water cannons, and vans filled with security officials Tsikhanouskaya was vocal about the results filled the streets of Belarus before polls had even of the election from the beginning. Her attempt to closed.7 Then, Alyaksandr Lukashenka was elected challenge the election results, however, led to her for a sixth presidential term. An official exit poll exile.15 Nonetheless, even from afar Tsikhanouskaconducted by the Youth Laboratory (Молодежной ya continues to lead the opposition. She called for лабораторией социологических исследований Lukashenka’s resignation in late October in what РСОО «БКМО») attributes to Lukashenka 79.7% has come to be referred to as the “People’s Ultimaof the vote, whereas Tsikhanouskaya only mertum”,16 a sentiment quickly picked up by protesits 6.8%.8 The CEC reports a voter turnout of tors, and has pursued the matter ever since. 9 84.05%. In late August, the European Council met Immediately following the results of the in a video conference in order to discuss the situaelection, protests erupted throughout Belarus. On tion in Belarus. Following the meeting, it was forthe night of the election, Tut.by reported that select mally announced that the EU would not recognize metro stations were closed down.10 Gradually, the Lukashenka as the legitimate president of Belarus; center of Minsk was closed off and security forc- the election process and results did not conform to es lined the city.11 Protests carried on throughout democratic standards outlined by the Organization 6 RFE/RL’s Belarus, “Belarusian Would-Be Presifor Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), dential Candidate Targeted In Tax-Evasion Case,” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, Belarusian Would-Be Presidential Candidate Targeted In Tax-Evasion Case, June 12, 2020. https://www.rferl.org/a/belarusian-would-be-presidential-candidate-targeted-in-tax-evasion-case/30667937.html. 7 “Огромные Очереди На Участках и Силовой Разгон Протестов. Как в Шестой Раз Прошли Выборы Президента Беларуси,” TUT.BY, August 10, 2020, https:// news.tut.by/society/696071.html Tut.b, “Совет Европы Выступил с Заявлением в Отношении Беларуси,” TUT.BY, October 14, 2020, https:// news.tut.by/economics/703980.html. 8 “Госагентство Опубликовало Результаты Национального Exit Poll. Александр Лукашенко Набирает 79,7%,” TUT.BY, August 9, 2020, https://news.tut.by/economics/696050.html. 9 “ЦИК Сообщил Итоговую Явку На Выборах Президента Беларуси,” TUT.BY, August 9, 2020, https://news.tut.by/economics/696063.html. 10 Tut.by. “Силовики Перекрывают Центр Минска. Транспорт Останавливается Не На Всех Остановках.” TUT.BY, August 9, 2020. https://news.tut.by/ society/696046.html. 11 Ibid.

12 RFE/RL’s Belarus, “Marchers Keep Up Pressure For Lukashenka’s Resignation As Hundreds Detained,” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, October 19, 2020, https:// www.rferl.org/a/marchers-keep-up-pressure-for-lukashenkas-resignation-as-hundreds-detained/30900397.html. 13 Ibid. 14 Ibid. 15 Ганна Соўсь, “‘Усіх Ня Вывезеш, Усіх Не Пасадзіш’. Ціханоўская Расказала Свабодзе Пра Ўльтыматум, Каманду, Гвалт і Размову з Мужам.” Радыё Свабода. “Усіх ня вывезеш, усіх не пасадзіш,” Ціханоўская расказала Свабодзе пра ўльтыматум, каманду, гвалт і размову з мужам, October 16, 2020, https://www.svaboda.org/a/30895407.html.

16 RFE/RL’s Belarus, “Marchers Keep Up Pressure For Lukashenka’s Resignation As Hundreds Detained,” RadioFreeEurope/ RadioLiberty, October 19, 2020, https://www.rferl.org/a/marcherskeep-up-pressure-for-lukashenka-s-resignation-as-hundreds-detained/30900397.html.

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of which Belarus is a participating state.17,18,19 In early October, the EU officially condemned the response of Belarusian authorities towards protestors, citing apprehensible behavior in the detainment of citizens and failure to protect press freedoms.20 Under these conditions, Lukashenka and fourteen other Belarusian figures were added to a list of sanctions, which include a travel ban and asset freeze.21 Throughout the process, the EU has made it clear that it is ready and willing to help Belarus undertake necessary reforms in order to ensure certain rights and freedoms are observed within the country.22

Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements with the European Union

In January, Belarus and the EU signed visa facilitation and readmission agreements that needed to pass through both Belarusian and European Parliaments respectively before they could take effect. These agreements would lessen restrictions concerning visa acquisition for Belarus nationals hoping to travel to the EU, while also preparing Belarus to readmit nationals that had arrived in EU member states as irregular migrants.23 Visa applications would see fees reduced to €35, fewer papers for determining grounds of travel could After a long and tumultuous election year, be provided, and the general waiting period for 2020 ends with Tsikhanouskaya remaining firm on visa approval would drop.24 Additionally, Belarus her stance regarding Lukashenka, the election, and would receive financial support from the EU in the call for his resignation. The EU maintains its order to readmit Belarusian nationals under a new decision to condemn Lukashenka and the way in two year transitional period. In May, the European which the election was conducted, refusing to rec- Parliament, in addition to the European Council, ognize him as president. Lukashenka still remains approved the agreements.25 Then in July, the visa in power, with the government continuing to take and readmission agreements became effective. action against domestic dissidence. Yet, even at the While the visa facilitation and readmission year’s close, protestors are still taking to the streets agreements have been approved, due to the naand unrest persists. ture of the presidential election which occurred in August, with sanctions coming into effect in early 17 Rikard Jozwiak, “EU Mulls Adding Lukashenka To October, complete visa liberation for Belarus beBlacklist Over Belarusian Election, Crackdown,” RadioFcame tentative and conditional. The EU has stated reeEurope/RadioLiberty, October 8, 2020, https://www.rferl. that it will not pursue further steps until democraorg/a/belarus-eu-mulls-lukashenka--blacklist-election-crackcy is reinstated and the results of the election are down/30883118.html. 18 “EU Relations with Belarus,” Consilium, European Council/Council of the European Union, October 12, 2020, https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/eastern-partnership/belarus/. 19 OSCE/ODIHR. Rep, Existing Commitments for Democratic Elections in OSCE Participating States, Warsaw: OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), 2003, https://www.osce.org/files/f/documents/0/d/13956.pdf. 20 “EU Relations with Belarus,” Consilium, European Council/Council of the European Union, October 12, 2020, https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/eastern-partnership/belarus/. 21 Ibid. 22 Tut.by, “Совет Европы Выступил с Заявлением в Отношении Беларуси,” TUT.BY, October 14, 2020, https:// news.tut.by/economics/703980.html.

23 “Belarus-EU Visa Facilitation Agreement Comes into Force on 1 July,” BelTa, Belarusian Telegraph Agency, July 1, 2020, https://eng.belta.by/politics/view/belarus-eu-visa-facilitation-agreement-comes-into-force-on-1-july-131422-2020/. 24 Ibid. 25 Rikard Jozwiak, “EU Mulls Adding Lukashenka To Blacklist Over Belarusian Election, Crackdown,” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, October 8, 2020 https://www.rferl. org/a/belarus-eu-mulls-lukashenka--blacklist-election-crackdown/30883118.html.

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reflctive of a free and fair electoral process.26,27

into Belarus from another country, as asymptomatic cases posed a significant concern.31 By April, self-isolation and quarantine periods were strictly enforced and failure to comply could result in criminal charges.32

The sanctions which have been placed on Lukashenko and fourteen other authority figures are a reflection of the EU’s intentions to aid Belarus while condemning the election results. The agreements which took effect in July still stand while the halting of the process of complete visa liberalization is merely reflective of EU conditionality. As 2020 comes to a close, Lukashenka remains in power, while sanctions also remain effective. COVID-19 Response Belarus sent a plane filled with COVID relief aid to China in late January. On the home front, screening for COVID-19 cases began in airports and land borders as early as February.28 Belarus received aid throughout the spring and summer from surrounding regions, including countries such as Poland, Russia, China, and Uzbekistan.29 Measures such as social distancing, self-isolation periods, and mask-wearing were introduced early, and contact tracing was employed.30 In late March, the government imposed a mandatory fourteen-day isolation period for any person coming 26 European Commission, “Visa Facilitation and Readmission: the Agreements between the European Union and Belarus Enter into Force,” Migration and Home Affairs - European Commission, July 1, 2020, https://ec.europa. eu/home-affairs/news/20200701_visa-facilitation-readmission-agreements-between-european-union-belarus-enter-into-force_en. 27 Rikard Jozwiak, “EU Mulls Adding Lukashenka To Blacklist Over Belarusian Election, Crackdown,” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, October 8, 2020, https://www.rferl. org/a/belarus-eu-mulls-lukashenka--blacklist-election-crackdown/30883118.html. 28 Tut.by, “Польша Пришлет в Беларусь Гуманитарный Конвой Для Борьбы с Пандемией,” TUT. BY, April 23, 2020, https://news.tut.by/economics/682013. html. 29 Ibid. 30 Famenka Andrei and Berdyklychev Batyr, “Policy Responses,” COVID-19 Healthy System Response Monitor, World Health Organization, October 9, 2020, https://www. covid19healthsystem.org/countries/belarus/livinghit.aspx?Section=1.5+Testing.

With the rise of the August protests came accusations from the government that protestors were responsible for the spread of COVID-19 cases in Belarus.33 While it is true that cases were rising, it is important to note that no lockdown measures or significant restrictions were put into place by the government. Even when community spread was confirmed in April, no restrictions appeared beyond those detailed in the prior paragraph.34 In mid-October, a group of Belarusian doctors came together to film a video expressing their discontent with the handling of COVID-19 by the authorities. More specifically, the video was directed towards the government, which had placed blame with the protestors for the increase in COVID-19 cases. The doctors were quick to point out that even in smaller cities, where protests did not take place, cases also witnessed growth.35 Rather, the doctors alleged that authorities had not taken necessary COVID-19 protection measures, 31 Ibid. 32 Ibid. 33 “‘Мы Возмущены Лицемерием Минздрава’. Группа Медиков Опровергает Чиновников, Что Причиной Роста Заболеваемости COVID-19 Являются Протестующие,” naviny.by, BelaPAN, October 15, 2020, https://naviny.media/new/20201015/1602775718-myvozmushcheny-ocherednoy-porciey-licemeriya-ot-minzdrava-gruppa-medikov. 34 Rfe/rl, “COVID-19: Moscow Introduces ‘Digital Passes’; WHO Says Belarus Must Do More,” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, April 11, 2020, https://www.rferl.org/a/ covid-19--rusia-belarus--iran-digital-permits-who-businesses-reopen/30547557.html. 35 “‘Мы Возмущены Лицемерием Минздрава’. Группа Медиков Опровергает Чиновников, Что Причиной Роста Заболеваемости COVID-19 Являются Протестующие,” naviny.by, BelaPAN, October 15, 2020, https://naviny.media/new/20201015/1602775718-myvozmushcheny-ocherednoy-porciey-licemeriya-ot-minzdrava-gruppa-medikov.

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detailing concerts where audience members were allowed to sit next to one another, football matches, and the annual May 9 parade that drew in large crowds as major contributing factors to the increase in cases.36 Despite the growing number of cases and warnings from the WHO and Belarus’ Minister of Health about an increase in COVID-19 cases, Lukashenka did not put the country under lockdown.37 Moreover, the protests that erupted following the election while contributing to the rise in cases were not the sole perpetrator, and the failure of Lukashenka to address the spread of COVID-19 on all other accounts demonstrates a prejudice against the protestors. Further, the information provided by the doctors in their video counters the evidence alleged by the government. All the same, the government did enforce self-isolation and quarantine periods, provided contact tracing, encouraged mask-wearing, and took action against those who choose to violate these measures. Whether or not this was effective is controversial, as given by the testimony of the doctors. While measures were in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for suspected or confirmed cases, this does not mean there was as much support for measures to be taken against the spread of the virus in the general population, as in the case of community spread. After all, in the end, no lockdown was implemented in contrast to the neighboring EU states, where mandatory lockdowns were commonplace.38 Year in Review While the year has certainly been eventful, significant challenges were posed and responses catalogued as Belarus progressed through 2020. Belarus faced an unprecedented pandemic 36 Ibid. 37 Rfe/rl, “COVID-19: Moscow Introduces ‘Digital Passes’; WHO Says Belarus Must Do More,” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, April 11, 2020, https://www.rferl.org/a/ covid-19--rusia-belarus--iran-digital-permits-who-businesses-reopen/30547557.html. 38 Ibid.

during a challenging year. Relations with the EU were significantly affected as a result of the presidential election. On the one hand, a travel ban and asset freeze was introduced as a response to the controversial election and subsequent protests, which were plagued by violations on the part of the Belarusian authorities on rights and freedoms of citizens. On the other hand, the long awaited signed visa facilitation and readmission agreements, while formally brought into effect once signed in July, did not move on to progress towards complete visa liberalization due to the nature of the election. Unsatisfied with the failure of the election to meet democratic standards characteristic of participating OSCE states, the EU has decided to withhold progression towards visa liberation until a stable democratic process can be realized in Belarus. Due to the fact that Lukashenka remains in power for the duration of 2020, no further progress will be seen on this front. Lastly, in dealing with the pandemic, Belarus raised concerns from both domestic and international agencies when the government refused to initiate a lockdown. Although measures such as social distancing, self-isolating, quarantining, and mask-wearing were introduced early and eventually enforced, on account of a video released by Belarusian doctors, Belarus did not take sufficient action against the virus. Events such as concerts, football matches, and the May 9 military parade continued on despite the urgency of the pandemic. Ultimately, the failure to enact a lockdown differentiated Belarus’ handling of the pandemic from that of Europe’s and brought a rise in cases for the country. This report has explored the three topic areas of the presidential election, visa facilitation and readmission agreements, and the COVID-19 response for the year of 2020 in Belarus. While some situations remain at a standstill at the year’s close, such as the outcome of the presidential election and the case of visa liberalization, it is important to note that these situations are dynamic and

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will continue to progress in the months to follow. This is perhaps best illustrated in the COVID-19 pandemic, which has necessitated monitoring at all times in order for the appropriate measures to be taken.

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B

elgium had a tumultuous 2020 as they struggled to form a federal government amid a global pandemic. While COVID-19 posed a significant challenge to the EU, Belgium’s struggle to form a government following elections in 2019 has made a coherent pandemic response particularly difficult. This has highlighted rifts between parties and the regions of Flanders and Wallonia. Domestic issues have been dominated by division, highlighted by problems with governmental discord and allocation of responsibility. This prompted the De Croo government to plan for state reform in 2024 to better organize federal emergency and disaster response.1 1 Stefan Grommen, “Hogere Minimumpensioenen, Meer Geld Voor Gezondheidszorg, 11 Juli Mag Betaalde Feestdag Worden: Dit Staat in Het Akkoord,” VRT Nieuws, September 30, 2020, https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/ nl/2020/09/30/7-partijen-hebben-eeninhoudelijk-akkoord-om-samen-te-regeren-d/.

POPULATION: • 11,720,716 (JULY 2020 EST.) - CIA WORLD FACTBOOK UNEMPLOYMENT RATE: • 5.36% (2019 EST.) - WORLD BANK DATA GDP PER CAPITA: • $54,545.2 (2019 EST.) - WORLD BANK DATA EU STATUS: • EU MEMBER SINCE 1958

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Belgium’s relations with the EU have been strong throughout the pandemic, particularly motivated by the prospect of post-pandemic emergency funding.2 The European Commission has also negotiated favourable vaccine prices for Belgium, setting a precedent for strong relations with 2 “EU Leaders Agree on a Massive, €750bn COVID-19 Recovery Deal,” The Economist, July 21, 2020, https://www.economist.com/europe/2020/07/21/eu-leadersagree-on-a-massive-eu750bn-covid-19-recovery-deal.

Europe.3 In addressing the Black Lives Matter movement, the government has organized a special commission on the Congo to examine 3 Eurogroup, “Report on the Comprehensive Economic Policy Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic.” European Council of the European Union, April 9, 2020, https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2020/04/09/report-on-the-comprehensive-economic-policy-response-to-the-covid-19-pandemic/#; “Secretary of State Discloses Vaccine Prices on Twitter Despite Secrecy Clause,” VRT Nieuws, December 18, 2020, https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/ en/2020/12/18/secretary-of-state-discloses-vaccine-prices-on-twitter-despite-s/.

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Belgium’s colonial history.4

Formation of the De Croo Government— Better late than never? Forming a federal government in Belgium has become a notoriously difficult process. The current De Croo government was formed in October 2020, over a year after federal elections.5 Also known as the Vivaldi Coalition, the De Croo Government spans four political spheres, like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, with Alexandre De Croo (Flemish) as Prime Minister to balance Francophone influence.6 This replaced the emergency Wilmès II government, led by Sophie Wilmès (Belgium’s first female prime minister), created in March 2020 to face COVID-19 challenges. The Wilmès II government was a continuation of the Wilmès I caretaker government, but with full legislative powers granted by Parliament due to the emergency situation.7

Wallonia (Francophone) regions, which constantly fuels political and public tensions.8 Flemish voters predominantly choose right-wing parties, while Walloons favour left-wing parties. This polarization resulted in a 500-day wait following the May election.9 The De Croo government, or Vivaldi Coalition, was formed as a coalition between seven different parties, notably excluding both major right-wing Flemish parties which won 24% of the vote in the 2019 election.10 This led to criticism and outrage from the Vlaams Belang and New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) parties.11 In September 2020, Vlaams Belang chairman, Tom Van Greeks, organized a protest of the Vivaldi government at a parking garage to follow social distancing guidelines and display their discontent with the “anti-Flemish” government. Separatist and far-right movements, on the rise in Flanders, have been boosted by the exclusion of Vlaams Belang and N-VA from the De Croo government, presenting a major challenge for the Vivaldi Coalition.12

The main challenge to forming a Despite challenges from the right, the De government comes from the entrenched voting Croo government has set ambitious priorities. 3.2 divide between the Flanders (Dutch-speaking) and billion Euros have been allocated for new policy 4 “Congo Special Committee - Colonial Past,” De Kamer, 2020, https://www.dekamer.be/kvvcr/showpage. cfm?language=nl&section=/pri/congo&story=commission. xml. 5 Pauline Bock, “Belgium’s New Government: Why did The ‘Vivaldi’ Coalition Take so Long to Form?,” Euronews, October 7, 2020, https://www.euronews.com/2020/10/07/ belgium-s-new-government-why-did-the-vivaldi-coalitiontake-so-long-to-form. 6 Alan Hope, “Government: De Croo Obtains the Confidence of Parliament,” The Brussels Times, October 2, 2020, https://www.brusselstimes.com/news/belgiumall-news/134082/government-de-croo-obtains-the-confidence-of-parliament/; Colin Clapson, “Seven Parties Strike Deal on New Belgian Government,” VRT Nieuws, September 30, 2020, https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/en/2020/09/30/sevenparties-strike-deal-on-new-belgian-government/. 7 Jeroen Van Horenbeek, “Regering-Wilmès Wordt Volwaardig Minderheidskabinet,” De Morgen, March 16, 2020, https://www.demorgen.be/nieuws/ regering-wilmes-wordt-volwaardig-minderheidskabinet~b1522967; Aubry Touriel, “Le gouvernement Wilmès va être doté de pouvoirs spéciaux pendant 6 mois,” RTBF, March 15, 2020, https://www.rtbf.be/info/belgique/detail_enroute-vers-un-gouvernement-wilmes-2-0-suivez-la-conference-de-presse-en-direct?id=10458538.

8 Sandra Cardoen, Floor Bruggeman, Zico Saerens, “Komt er Een Regering Met Volmacht Van Andere Partijen? “Richting Doorbraak Aan Het Gaan,”” VRT Nieuws, March 15, 2020, https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/nl/2020/03/15/onderhandelingen-noodregering-15-maart/. 9 Pauline Bock, “Belgium’s New Government: Why did The ‘Vivaldi’ Coalition Take so Long to Form?” 10 Tony Van de Calseyde,“Waarom een Vivaldi-coalitie (met Vlaamse Minderheid) Niet Ondemocratisch Is,” VRT Nieuws, September 7, 2020, https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/ nl/2020/09/07/is-een-vivaldi-coalitie-ondemocratisch/. 11 Belga, “Vivaldi : Premières Salves entre Majorité et Opposition au Parlement, la N-VA a du Mal à Avaler la Pilule,” RTBF, October 2, 2020, https://www.rtbf.be/info/ belgique/detail_vivaldi-premieres-salves-entre-majorite-etopposition-au-parlement-la-n-va-a-du-mal-a-avaler-la-pilule?id=10599176. 12 Sandra Cardoen, “Heizelparking Kleurt Zwartgeel: Protestrit Van Vlaams Belang Met Duizenden Auto’s Tegen Vivaldi-regering,” VRT Nieuws. September 27, 2020, https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/nl/2020/09/27/van-grieken-optocht-heizel; “Hang Uit Protest Vlaamse Leeuw Uit”: Oppositie Reageert Op Vivaldi-Regering,” Het Laatste Nieuws, September 30, 2020, https://www.hln.be/binnenland/hanguit-protest-vlaamse-leeuw-uit-oppositie-reageert-op-vivaldiregering~a5273d93/.

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initiatives, including pension increases, health care wages, and social benefits. Police reform, migration policy and climate change have also been prioritized. To combat the impacts of COVID-19, the role of coronavirus commissioner was created, and approximately one billion Euros were allocated to relaunch the economy.13 The De Croo and Wilmès governments have been criticized for inefficiencies which lead to late or inadequate action in response to COVID-19.14 Regional differences and bureaucratic inefficiencies in Belgium’s COVID-19 response have brought underlying health system issues to light.15 The De Croo government has addressed concerns by proposing a 2024 state reform plan to improve functionality, particularly with respect to healthcare.16 COVID-19 Crisis As the novel coronavirus arrived in Europe, then-Federal Health Minister Maggie De Block reassured Belgians that all precautionary measures had been taken, but the country would be affected.17 Steven Van Gucht, a virologist and government public health expert, stated in early March that Belgium may expect coronavirus to act as a severe flu, based 13 Colin Clapson, “Seven Parties Strike Deal on New Belgian Government”; Grommen, Stefan, “Hogere Minimumpensioenen, Meer Geld Voor Gezondheidszorg, 11 Juli Mag Betaalde Feestdag Worden: Dit Staat in Het Akkoord.” 14 Jasper D’Hoore, “‘het Versnipperde Beleid Heeft Mensenlevens Gekost,’” De Tijd, June 13, 2020, https://www. tijd.be/politiek-economie/belgie/federaal/het-versnipperde-beleid-heeft-mensenlevens-gekost/10232910.html. 15 Rik Arnoudt, “Kafka in de Zorg: Wie Zijn Onze 9 Ministers Van Gezondheid en Waarvoor Zijn ze Precies Bevoegd?,” VRT Nieuws, May 26, 2020, https://www.vrt.be/ vrtnws/nl/2020/05/26/kafka-in-de-gezondheidszorg-wie-zijn-de-9-ministers-en-waarvoor/. 16 Stefan Grommen, “Hogere Minimumpensioenen, Meer Geld Voor Gezondheidszorg, 11 Juli Mag Betaalde Feestdag Worden: Dit Staat in het Akkoord.” 17 JCV avec Agences, “Coronavirus: la Belgique est très bien préparée, selon Maggie De Block,” RTBF, January 26, 2020, https://www.rtbf.be/info/monde/detail_coronavirus-la-chine-lancee-dans-une-course-contre-la-montre?id=10416923; Jasper D’Hoore, “Maggie De Block: ‘er Is Veel Paniekzaaierij’,” De Tijd, March 2, 2020, https://www. tijd.be/politiek-economie/belgie/federaal/maggie-de-blocker-is-veel-paniekzaaierij/10211960.html.

on reporting from China.18 Three months later, De Block admitted to having underestimated the virus, as Belgium reported much higher mortality rates than neighbouring countries.19 Belgium closed its borders to non-essential travel by the end of March and increased its testing capacity to 10,000 tests per day by early April.20 According to Sciensano, Belgium’s national public health institute, by early 2021, there had been 650,887 total cases, 19,750 deaths, and seven million tests administered. The peak of the “first wave” of the pandemic occurred in late March to early April, shortly after the federal government began its official virus response. A second wave of the virus struck at the end of October, with the death toll peaking in November.21 On October 30th, the De Croo government re-imposed lockdown due to increased cases and deaths, which remained in place until December 13th. These measures included a ban on indoor gatherings, in-person closure of non-essential businesses, and mandatory teleworking.22 New quarantine requirements apply to those who have travelled internationally for 18 Belga, “Expert Volksgezondheid Tempert Paniek: ‘Worstcasescenario Vergelijkbaar Met Zware Seizoensgriep,’” Het Laatste Nieuws, March 3, 2020, https://www.hln.be/ binnenland/expert-volksgezondheid-tempert-paniek-worstcasescenario-vergelijkbaar-met-zware-seizoensgriep~a94d020a/. 19 Jasper D’Hoore, “‘het Versnipperde Beleid Heeft Mensenlevens Gekost’”; M. Apelblat, “Coronavirus: Belgium Tops the World in Number of Deaths in Relation to Population,” The Brussels Times, April 19, 2020, https://www. brusselstimes.com/news/belgium-all-news/107068/coronavirus-belgium-tops-the-world-in-number-of-deaths-in-relation-to-population/. 20 “Borders Closed to Non-Essential Travel,” VRT Nieuws, March 20, 2020, https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/ en/2020/03/20/borders-closed-to-non-essential-travel/; “Belgium Increases COVID-19 Testing Capacity to 10,000 Test a Day,” VRT Nieuws, April 5, 2020, https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/ en/2020/04/05/belgium-increases-covid-19-testing-capacityto-10-000-test-a-day/. 21 “Belgium COVID-19 Epidemiological Situation: Summary,” Sciensano, January 4, 2020, https://epistat.wiv-isp. be/covid/covid-19.html. 22

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over 48 hours.23 Prime Minister De Croo has emphasized that international travel, while not banned outright, is highly discouraged. The federal government’s website has detailed information concerning current guidelines and regulations across all sectors.24 Government inefficiency has dominated headlines throughout the crisis. In 2017, six million masks were discarded after expiring. Before developing a rotating stock, the Michel 1 government was dissolved in late 2018. As a result, proper steps could not be taken to address the stocking issue, leaving Belgium unprepared.25 Federal, regional, and community power allocation has also presented a major challenge. Belgium’s sixth state reform in 2013 granted regional and community governments more power, causing jurisdictional issues during the COVID-19 crisis. Former Minister of Health Maggie De Block highlighted this, explaining that the federal government is responsible for ambulance services in emergencies, but if the ambulance is deemed to be a non-urgent 23 Maïthé Chini,“Belgium Goes Back Into Lockdown,” The Brussels Times, October 30, 2020, https:// www.brusselstimes.com/news/belgium-all-news/138408/ consultative-committee-new-measures-alexander-de-croo-covid-19-commissioner-lockdown-frank-vandenbroucke-jan-jambon-elio-di-rupo-hospitals-limit-contacts-non-essential-shops-supermarkets-autumn-holida/; “Retours de L’Etranger : Quarantaine et Tests PCR Deviennent Obligatoires pour les Voyageurs de Retour de “Zone Rouge,”” RTBF, December 30, 2020, https://www.rtbf.be/ info/belgique/detail_retours-de-l-etranger-quarantaine-ettests-pcr-deviennent-obligatoires-pour-les-voyageurs-de-retour-de-zone-rouge?id=10663493. 24 “Coronavirus COVID-19: What Are the Current Measures?,” Belgian Federal Authorities, January 3, 2020, https://www.info-coronavirus.be/en/faq/. 25 Gabriela Galdino, “Wilmès Sworn in to Lead Emergency Coronavirus Government,” The Brussels Times, March 17, 2020, https://www.brusselstimes.com/belgium/100904/ wilmes-sworn-in-to-lead-emergency-coronavirus-government-sophie-wilmes-covid19-coronavirus-vote-confidence; Belga, “België Vernietigde Stock Uit 2009 Van Zowat Zes Miljoen FFP2-Maskers, Zonder ze te Vervangen,” HLN, March 23, 2020, https://www.hln.be/binnenland/belgie-vernietigde-stock-uit-2009-van-zowat-zes-miljoen-ffp2-maskers-zonder-ze-te-vervangen~a58fea2c/.

transfer, responsibility is passed to regional governments.26 Disjointed organization has proved to be inefficient and has required court rulings to settle disputes between levels of government.27 Phillipe De Backer, a Wilmès II cabinet minister, expressed his frustrations saying, “Welcome to complex Belgium. Instead of doing anything, we are still discussing.”28 De Block and De Backer have advocated for more centralized decision-making in emergency cases claiming inefficiencies have resulted in unnecessary deaths.29 Belgium was among the most severely impacted countries by COVID-19, although their case reporting methods partially explain this. Cases are recorded from care homes based on physician’s suspicions and observed symptoms, even if tests have not been administered. Virologist Marc Van Ranst called this system “dumb,” but Sciensano, who reports the data, claim they are more concerned with keeping good records than international reputation. De Block and former prime minister Sophie Wilmès have defended Sciensano’s reporting, affirming the Belgian government has opted for transparency.30 In a survey conducted by the Free

26 Jasper D’Hoore, “‘Het Versnipperde Beleid Heeft Mensenlevens Gekost.’” 27 David Stevens, “Contact¬onderzoek op wankele benen,” De Standaard, May 28, 2020, https://www.standaard. be/cnt/dmf20200527_04973726. 28 Andries, Simon, “‘Ik Heb Te Veel Absurditeiten Gezien. Ons Systeem Werkt Niet,’” De Standaard, May 30, 2020, https://www.standaard.be/cnt/dmf20200529_04976164?&articlehash=ED2C14BFF3754D476BBC56F43C3015608C87209B153D86F08D294DB240E0174267B4067A51F46A30720FAD9F10848BAD6BD19D159DDB5339EA3E19E9937173B5. 29 Jasper D’Hoore, “‘Het Versnipperde Beleid Heeft Mensenlevens Gekost’”; Andries, Simon, “‘Ik Heb Te Veel Absurditeiten Gezien. Ons Systeem Werkt Niet.’” 30 Maïthé Chini, “Why Does Belgium Have so Many Coronavirus Deaths?”; Maïthé Chini, “Coronavirus: Counting All Deaths in Care Centres is ‘Dumb,’” The Brussels Times, April 15, 2020, https://www.brusselstimes.com/news/ belgium-all-news/106411/coronavirus-counting-all-deathsin-care-centres-is-dumb/.

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University of Belgium for VRT NWS and De Standaard in April 2020, 58% of respondents characterized government support as “very bad” or “somewhat bad.”31 De Block and Wilmès also suffered major drops in approval rating, to 30% and 27%, respectively. Despite this disapproval, 75-80% of respondents approved of most initial actions, including the closure of non-essential businesses and travel restrictions.32 In August 2020, a survey from the Pew Research Centre indicated a positive turn, with 61% of respondents approving of the government response to COVID-19.33 Colonialism Addressed: Belgium’s “Congo Commission”

In the wake of the death of George Floyd in the United States, protests sprang up in Belgium directed towards the country’s colonial past in the Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda. In May and June, property was damaged in Brussels and statues of King Leopold II were defaced in protest of his role in the Congo.34 A study by the University of Antwerp and the Museum of Central Africa revealed that while half of Belgians believe the colonial past accomplished good, 75% of respondents agreed that Belgium should 31 Alan Hope, “VRT Poll: Coronavirus Measures Losing Support,” The Brussels Times, May 20, 2020, https:// www.brusselstimes.com/news/belgium-all-news/112566/ vrt-poll-coronavirus-measures-losing-support/. 32 Gianni Paelinck, “De Stemming: Grote Steun voor Coronamaatregelen Brokkelt af, Wilmès en Co Konden Niet Overtuigen,” VRT Nieuws, May 20, 2020, https://www.vrt. be/vrtnws/nl/2020/05/19/stemming-corona/. 33 Kat Devlin and Aidan Connaughton, “Most Approve of National Response to COVID-19 in 14 Advanced Economies,” The Pew Research Center, August 27, 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2020/08/27/most-approve-of-national-response-to-covid-19-in-14-advancedeconomies/. 34 Anouk Torbeyns, “‘België is Amerika niet? Met die Dooddoener Ontloop je je Verantwoordelijkheid’,” De Standaard, December 26, 2020, https:// www.standaard.be/cnt/dmf20201225_97446185?&articlehash=DF8ADC323E45D476D86B7AD6F6D7063F377C753663908A9495B39986591578D87A32247BA27A 47521B1BBBFF656E02915AC2B8CBEF8E8F9A13CB5D2C41E7DCD2.

apologize to the Congo. Respondents were also quizzed on Belgium’s history in the Congo, with an average score of 7.5 of 20, revealing an important flaw in the education system.35 The special commission will examine Belgium’s colonial past and make recommendations to parliament regarding reconciliation.36 The commission was wellreceived by all parties aside from, Vlaams Belang, objecting on the grounds they do not feel the need for Flemish and Belgian populations to feel guilty for historical acts.37 Extreme claims even call for the Congo to apologize to Belgium for violence during decolonization.38 Other objections are tied to the potential economic cost of reparations; if they are suggested by the commission. The commission’s findings are not yet publicly available and expected in mid-2021.39 Year in Review

2020 has been an unusual and challenging year for Belgium. Given the difficulties in establishing a cohesive government, the COVID-19 response has 35 Alan Hope, “50% Think Belgian Colonists did More Good Than Harm in Congo,” The Brussels Times, July 12, 2020, https://www.brusselstimes.com/news/belgium-allnews/121215/50-think-belgian-colonists-did-more-goodthan-harm-in-congo/. 36 Yannick Verberckmoes, “Wouter De Vriendt (Groen) voorzitter Congocommissie: ‘Deze Commissie Kan Geschiedenis Schrijven’,” De Morgen, July 16, 2020, https:// www.demorgen.be/politiek/wouter-de-vriendt-groen-voorzitter-congocommissie-deze-commissie-kan-geschiedenis-schrijven~b2931d3f/. 37 Philippe Walkowiak, “La Chambre réexaminera la Colonisation du Congo,” RTBF, June 17, 2020, https://www. rtbf.be/info/belgique/detail_la-chambre-reexaminera-la-colonisation-du-congo?id=10524021; HAA and ARA, “Parlement Wil Congo-Commissie Oprichten.” 38 Katrien Vanderschoot, “Belgische Excuses aan Congo? VRT NWS Polste bij Betrokken Congolezen en Belgen en Botste op Oude Scherpe Tegenstellingen,” VRT Nieuws, June 12, 2020, https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/nl/2020/06/12/ suggestie-voor-excuses-aan-congo-zet-oude-tegenstellingenop-sch/. 39 Rik Van Cauwelaert, “Betalen Voor het Verleden,” De Tijd, October 23, 2020, https://www.tijd.be/opinie/paleis/ betalen-voor-het-verleden/10260186.html.

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been admirable, but flawed. Domestic issues were amplified due to regional election polarization. Pandemic impacts highlighted the need for a seventh state reform in 2024 in order to streamline government action and bureaucratic divisions for more efficient disaster response. Lessons learned by the De Croo government during 2020 will hopefully result in a better COVID-19 response strategy in the future. Positive steps included the introduction of a “light” system of international travel, with various risk protocols applied to locations abroad.40 Belgium engaged in a range of international cooperation in response to COVID-19, benefiting from EU-negotiated vaccine prices and €750 billion aid package.41 It also pledged four million Euros to vaccinations for developing countries, through the WHO, in recognition of the borderless nature of the virus. The conversation surrounding Belgium’s colonial past will continue over the coming years, but the organization of a special commission is a strong step, and an example for other European countries.42

40 “Coronavirus COVID-19: What Are the Current Measures?,” Belgian Federal Authorities, January 3, 2020. 41 “Secretary of State Discloses Vaccine Prices on Twitter Despite Secrecy Clause,” VRT Nieuws, December 18, 2020; “EU Leaders Agree on a Massive, €750bn COVID-19 Recovery Deal.” 42 “Belgium to Spend 4 Million Euro on Coronavirus Vaccines for Developing Countries,” VRT Nieuws, December 22, 2020, https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/en/2020/12/22/belgiumto-spend-4-million-euro-on-coronavirus-vaccines-for-deve/; Stijn Vercruysse, “Congolese President Verwelkomt Commissie over Koloniaal Verleden in Brief aan Koning Filip,” VRT Nieuws, July 22, 2020, https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/ nl/2020/07/22/congolese-president-verwelkomt-commissie-over-koloniaal-verleden/. 58


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA Bibliography Andries, Simon. “‘Ik Heb Te Veel Absurditeiten Gezien. Ons Systeem Werkt Niet’." De Standaard, May 30, 2020. https://www.standaard.be/cnt/dmf20200529_04976164?&articlehash=ED2C14BFF3754D476BBC56F43C3015608C87209B153D86F08D294DB240E0174267B4067A51F46A3 0720FAD9F10848BAD6BD19D159DDB5339EA3E19E9937173B5. Andries, Simon. “Clash Beke-De Backer Legt Diepe Malaise Bloot." De Standaard, June 3, 2020. https://www.standaard.be/ cnt/dmf20200602_04978907?&articlehash=F0BC39D01AAF D32798D5A57C3CD082D6A0D7310E0C7B297D6F34804312B3B8DA8C3484A51F12 1A9DC6DADBA0E0E932DFD8B9253C21BDB440823C4E6692B4DB69. Apelblat, M. “Coronavirus: Belgium Tops the World in Number of Deaths in Relation to Population." The Brussels Times, April 19, 2020. https://www.brusselstimes.com/news/belgium-all-news/107068/coronavirus-belgium- tops-theworld-in-number-of-deaths-in-relation-to-population/. Arnoudt, Rik. “Kafka in de Zorg: Wie Zijn Onze 9 Ministers Van Gezondheid en Waarvoor Zijn ze Precies Bevoegd?.” VRT Nieuws, May 26, 2020. https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/nl/2020/05/26/kafka-in-de-gezondheidszorg-wie-zijn-de-9- ministers-en-waarvoor/. Belga. “Vivaldi : Premières Salves entre Majorité et Opposition au Parlement, la N-VA a du mal à Avaler la Pilule." RTBF, October 2, 2020. https://www.rtbf.be/info/belgique/detail_vivaldi-premieres-salves-entre-majorite-et- opposition-auparlement-la-n-va-a-du-mal-a-avaler-la-pilule?id=10599176. Belga. “Expert Volksgezondheid Tempert Paniek: “Worstcasescenario Vergelijkbaar met Zware Seizoensgriep." Het Laatste Nieuws, March 3, 2020. https://www.hln.be/binnenland/expert-volksgezondheid-tempert-paniek- worstcasescenario-vergelijkbaar-met-zware-seizoensgriep~a94d020a/. Belga. “België Vernietigde Stock Uit 2009 Van Zowat Zes Miljoen FFP2-Maskers, Zonder ze te Vervangen." HLN, March 23, 2020. https://www.hln.be/binnenland/belgie-vernietigde- stock-uit-2009-van-zowat-zes-miljoen-ffp2-maskers-zonder-ze-te-vervangen~a58fea2c/. Belgian Federal Authorities. “Coronavirus COVID-19: What Are the Current Measures?." January 3, 2020. https://www. info-coronavirus.be/en/faq/. Bock, Pauline. “Belgium's New Government: Why did the 'Vivaldi' Coalition Take So Long to Form?." Euronews, October 7, 2020. https://www.euronews.com/2020/10/07/belgium-s- new-government-why-did-the-vivaldi-coalition-takeso-long-to-form. Cardoen, Sandra, Floor Bruggeman, and Zico Saerens. “Komt er een Regering met Volmacht Van Andere Partijen? "Richting Doorbraak Aan Het Gaan."” VRT Nieuws, March 15, 2020. https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/nl/2020/03/15/onderhandelingen-noodregering-15-maart/. Cardoen, Sandra. “Heizelparking Kleurt Zwart-geel: Protestrit Van Vlaams Belang Met Duizenden Auto's Tegen Vivaldi-Regering." VRT Nieuws, September 27, 2020. https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/nl/2020/09/27/ van-grieken-optocht-heizel/. Chini, Maïthé. “Coronavirus: Belgium’s Excess Mortality is 80%." The Brussels Times, April 23, 2020. https://www.brusselstimes.com/news/belgium-all-news/107719/coronavirus- belgiums-excess-mortality-is-80/. Chini, Maïthé. “Belgium Boasts Coronavirus Death Count Accuracy." The Brussels Times, May 15, 2020. https:// www.brusselstimes.com/news/belgium-all-news/111815/coronavirus- belgiums-death-count-matches-reality-for-almost-100/. Chini, Maïthé. “Coronavirus: Counting All Deaths in Care Centres is ‘Dumb’." The Brussels Times, April 15, 2020. https://www.brusselstimes.com/news/belgium-all- news/106411/coronavirus-counting-all-deaths-in-care-centres-is-dumb/. Chini, Maïthé. “Why Does Belgium Have so Many Coronavirus Deaths?." The Brussels Times, April 20, 2020. https:// www.brusselstimes.com/news/belgium-all- news/107216/coronavirus-how-did-belgium-get-the-highest-mortality-rate/. Chini, Maïthé. “Belgium Goes Back Into Lockdown." The Brussels Times, October 30, 2020. https://www.brusselstimes. com/news/belgium-all-news/138408/consultative-committee- new-measures-alexander-de-croo-covid-19-commissioner-lockdown-frank- vandenbroucke-jan-jambon-elio-di-rupo-hospitals-limit-contacts-non-essential-shops- supermarkets-autumn-holida/. Clapson, Colin. “Seven Parties Strike Deal on New Belgian Government." VRT Nieuws, September 30, 2020. https:// www.vrt.be/vrtnws/en/2020/09/30/seven-parties-strike-deal- on-new-belgian-government/. De Kamer. “Congo Special Committee - Colonial Past." 2020. https://www.dekamer.be/kvvcr/showpage.cfm?language=nl&section=/pri/congo&story=c ommission.xml. Devlin Kat and Aidan Connaughton. “Most Approve of National Response to COVID-19 in 14 Advanced Economies." The Pew Research Center, August 27, 2020. https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2020/08/27/most-approve-of-natio-

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MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA nal-response-to- covid-19-in-14-advanced-economies/. De Zevende Dag. “Parlementsvoorzitter Patrick Dewael over Congo-Commissie: “Er Moet Meer Komen dan Gratuite Excuses." HLN, June 21, 2020. https://www.hln.be/binnenland/parlementsvoorzitter-patrick-dewael-over-congocommissie-er- moet-meer-komen-dan-gratuite-excuses~af65677f/. D’Hoore, Jasper. “Maggie De Block: ‘Er is Veel Paniekzaaierij'." De Tijd, March 2, 2020. https://www.tijd.be/politiek-economie/belgie/federaal/maggie-de-block-er-is-veel- paniekzaaierij/10211960.html. D’Hoore, Jasper. “‘Het Versnipperde Beleid Heeft Mensenlevens Gekost'." De Tijd, June 13, 2020. https://www.tijd.be/ politiek-economie/belgie/federaal/het-versnipperde-beleid-heeft- mensenlevens-gekost/10232910.html. Eurogroup. “Report on the Comprehensive Economic Policy Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic." European Council of the European Union, April 9, 2020. https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2020/04/09/report-onthe- comprehensive-economic-policy-response-to-the-covid-19-pandemic/#. Galdino, Gabriela. “Wilmès Sworn in to Lead Emergency Coronavirus Government." The Brussels Times, March 17, 2020. https://www.brusselstimes.com/belgium/100904/wilmes-sworn-in-to-lead-emergency-coronavirus-government-sophie-wilmes-covid19-coronavirus-vote-confidence/. Grommen, Stefan. “Hogere Minimumpensioenen, Meer Geld voor Gezondheidszorg, 11 Juli Mag Betaalde Feestdag Worden: Dit Staat in het Akkoord." VRT Nieuws, September 30, 2020. https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/nl/2020/09/30/7-partijen-hebben-een-inhoudelijk-akkoord-om- samen-te-regeren-d/. HAA and ARA. “Parlement Wil Congo-Commissie Oprichten." De Morgen, June 17, 2020. https://www.demorgen.be/ politiek/parlement-wil-congo-commissie-oprichten~bc64dbc1/. HLN. “Hang Uit Protest Vlaamse Leeuw Uit”: Oppositie Reageert op VivaldiRegering." September 30, 2020. https://www.hln.be/binnenland/hang-uit-protest- vlaamse-leeuw-uit-oppositie-reageert-op-vivaldi-regering~a5273d93/. Hodge, Leslie. “Bijzondere Kamercommissie Duidt Tien Experten Koloniaal Verleden Aan." VRT Nieuws, August 6, 2020. https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/nl/2020/08/06/bijzondere- kamercommissie-duidt-tien-experten-koloniaal-verleden/. Hope, Alan. “Government: De Croo Obtains the Confidence of Parliament." The Brussels Times, October 2, 2020. https:// www.brusselstimes.com/news/belgium-all-news/134082/government-de-croo-obtains-the-confidence-of-parliament/. Hope, Alan. “VRT Poll: Coronavirus Measures Losing Support." The Brussels Times, May 20, 2020. https://www.brusselstimes.com/news/belgium-all-news/112566/vrt-poll- coronavirus-measures-losing-support/. Hope, Alan. “50% Think Belgian Colonists did More Good Than Harm in Congo." The Brussels Times, July 12, 2020. https://www.brusselstimes.com/news/belgium-all-news/121215/50- think-belgian-colonists-did-more-good-than-harmin-congo/. JCV avec agences. “Coronavirus: la Belgique est très bien Préparée, Selon Maggie De Block." RTBF, January 26, 2020. https://www.rtbf.be/info/monde/detail_coronavirus-la-chine- lancee-dans-une-course-contre-la-montre?id=10416923. MF. “Le but de L'Isolement en Retour de Zone Rouge est D'Eviter "Un Scénario qu'on a vu lors des Vacances de Printemps," Justifie De Croo." RTBF, December 30, 2020. https://www.rtbf.be/info/belgique/detail_le-but-de-l-isolement-en-retour-de-zone-rouge- est-d-eviter-un-scenario-qu-on-a-vu-lors-des-vacances-de-printemps-justifie-decroo?id=10663687. Paelinck, Gianni. “De Stemming: Grote Steun voor Coronamaatregelen Brokkelt af, Wilmès en Co Konden Niet Overtuigen." VRT Nieuws, May 20, 2020. https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/nl/2020/05/19/stemming-corona/. RTBF. “Retours de L’Etranger: Quarantaine et tests PCR Deviennent Obligatoires pour les Voyageurs de Retour de "Zone Rouge."” December 30, 2020. https://www.rtbf.be/info/belgique/detail_retours-de-l-etranger-quarantaine-et-tests-pcrdeviennent-obligatoires-pour-les-voyageurs-de-retour-de-zone-rouge?id=10663493. Schulmeister, Philipp, et al. “Uncertainty/EU/Hope: Public Opinion in Times of COVID-19." European Parliament. June 2020. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/at-your-service/files/be- heard/eurobarometer/2020/public_opinion_in_the_eu_ in_time_of_coronavirus_crisis/rep ort/en-covid19-survey-report.pdf. Sciensano. “Belgium COVID-19 Epidemiological Situation: Summary." January 4, 2020. https://epistat.wiv-isp.be/covid/ covid-19.html. Stevens, David. “Contactonderzoek op Wankele Benen." De Standaard, May 28, 2020. https://www.standaard.be/cnt/ dmf20200527_04973726. The Brussels Times. “Coronavirus: Belgium’s High Death Toll Will Deter Tourists." April 21, 2020. https://www.brusselstimes.com/news/business/107423/coronavirus-belgiums-high-death- toll-will-deter-tourists/. The Economist. “EU Leaders Agree on a Massive, €750bn COVID-19 Recovery Deal." July 21, 2020. https://www.economist.com/europe/2020/07/21/eu-leaders- agree-on-a-massive-eu750bn-covid-19-recovery-deal. Torbeyns, Anouk. “‘België is Amerika Niet? Met die Dooddoener Ontloop je je Verantwoordelijkheid’." De Standaard, December 26, 2020. https://www.standaard.be/cnt/dmf20201225_97446185?&articlehash=DF8ADC323E45D 476D86B7AD6F6D7063F377C753663908A9495B39986591578D87A32247BA27A475 21B1BBBFF656E02915A-

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MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA C2B8CBEF8E8F9A13CB5D2C41E7DCD2. Touriel, Aubry. “Le Gouvernement Wilmès va être Doté de Pouvoirs Spéciaux Pendant 6 Mois." RTBF, March 15, 2020. https://www.rtbf.be/info/belgique/detail_en-route-vers-un- gouvernement-wilmes-2-0-suivez-la-conference-de-presse-en-direct?id=10458538. Van Cauwelaert, Rik. “Betalen Voor het Verleden." De Tijd, October 23, 2020. https://www.tijd.be/opinie/paleis/betalen-voor-het-verleden/10260186.html. Van de Calseyde, Tony. “Waarom een Vivaldi-coalitie (met Vlaamse Minderheid) Niet Ondemocratisch is." VRT Nieuws, September 7, 2020. https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/nl/2020/09/07/is-een-vivaldi-coaltie-ondemocratisch/. Vanderschoot, Katrien. “Belgische Excuses aan Congo? VRT NWS Polste bij Betrokken Congolezen en Belgen en Botste op Oude Scherpe Tegenstellingen." VRT Nieuws, June 12, 2020. https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/nl/2020/06/12/suggestie-voor-excuses-aan-congo- zet-oude-tegenstellingen-op-sch/. Van Horenbeek, Jeroen. “Regering-Wilmès Wordt Volwaardig Minderheidskabinet." De Morgen, March 16, 2020. https:// www.demorgen.be/nieuws/regering-wilmes-wordt-volwaardig- minderheidskabinet~b1522967/. Verberckmoes, Yannick. “Wouter De Vriendt (Groen) voorzitter Congocommissie: ‘Deze Commissie Kan Geschiedenis Schrijven’." De Morgen, July 16, 2020. https://www.demorgen.be/politiek/wouter-de-vriendt-groen-voorzitter-congocommissie- deze-commissie-kan-geschiedenis-schrijven~b2931d3f/. Vercruysse, Stijn. “Congolese President Verwelkomt Commissie over Koloniaal Verleden in Brief aan Koning Filip." VRT Nieuws, July 22, 2020. https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/nl/2020/07/22/congolese-presdent-verwelkomt-commissieover-koloniaal-verleden/. VRT Nieuws. “Secretary of State Discloses Vaccine Prices on Twitter Despite Secrecy Clause." December 18, 2020. https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/en/2020/12/18/secretary- of-state-discloses-vaccine-prices-on-twitter-depte-s/. VRT Nieuws. “Borders Closed to Non-Essential Travel." March 20, 2020. https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/en/2020/03/20/borders-closed-to-non-essential-travel/. VRT Nieuws. “Belgium Increases COVID-19 Testing Capacity to 10,000 Test a Day.” April 5, 2020. https://www.vrt.be/ vrtnws/en/2020/04/05/belgium-increases- covid-19-testing-capacity-to-10-000-test-a-day/. VRT Nieuws. “Belgium to Spend 4 Million Euro on Coronavirus Vaccines for Developing Countries.” December 22, 2020. https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/en/2020/12/22/belgium-to-spend-4-million-euro-on- coronavirus-vaccines-for-deve/. Walkowiak, Philippe. “La Chambre réexaminera la Colonisation du Congo." June 17, 2020. https://www.rtbf.be/info/belgique/detail_la-chambre-reexaminera-la-colonisation-du- congo?id=10524021.

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2020

Omar Abdellatif

BO S NI A & HER Z E G O VI NA 2

0

COUNTRY INFORMATION Population: 3,835,586 (July 2020 est.) - CIA World Factbook Unemployment Rate: 15.7% (2019 est.) - World Bank Data GDP Per Capita: $15,791.7 (2019 est.) - World Bank Data EU Status: Potential Candidate (Since 2003) - European Commission

2

0

FOCUS TOPICS 1. Fulfilling priorities of the EU integration path 2. Economic Crisis 3. Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic


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B

osnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has experienced its most challenging year since the end of the Bosnian War in 1995. In 2020, Saravejo witnessed tumultuous crises at the political, economic, and public health levels. These fundamental issues can be summarized in fulfilling the priorities of the European Union (EU) integration plan, the national economic crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Local media sources initially perceived the past year as the kickoff for Bosnia’s endeavour to fulfill the 14 key priorities set by the EU as a prerequisite for BiH gaining membership. In fact, BiH was off to a good start in fulfilling some of the EU key priorities. However, the European Commission’s October report on the country’s progress was disappointing, describing BiH progress as minimal and close to non-existent. The economic status was another source of distress for the Balkan state, which faced the worst economic recession in two decades. The COVID-19 outbreak facilitated a 5% decline in BiH’s economic growth, accompanied by a massive deterioration in foreign investments and international tourism, which are the economy’s backbone. BiH was left in an unenviable position, under a severe economic crisis pushing the country’s poverty and unemployment rates to skyrocket. The COVID-19 pandemic established an unprecedented health disaster for BiH and the rest of the world. The slow government response, lack of medical equipment, limited testing and treatment capacity has sparked great controversy among the public and the media milieu in BiH. Yet, the greatest controversy was sparked by ‘the respirators affair,’ which the BalkanInsight terms as ‘the scandal which rocked the Bosnian Federation’. Although, BiH will continue to be affected

by the setback of the 2020 crises for years to come. For now, a review of the key events in the Bosnian state and their ramifications on relations with the EU is detailed below.

Fulfilling priorities of the EU integration path

Since the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) was signed in 1995, and the integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the EU has been a priority for the nation, aiming for long-term peace, stability, and a sustainable future. During the last 25 years, confirmed support was offered from EU states to BiH integration, beginning with the EU granting Bosnia the status of a potential candidate at the 2003 Thessaloniki summit. In subsequent, Bosnia and Herzegovina officially submitted its application for EU membership in February 2016.1 Although the EU has supported the democratization process in BiH in many ways, EU leaders expected that the BiH federal government takes necessary appropriate reforms if the country wants the formal status of an EU member. The EC issued its opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU membership application on 29 May 2019, setting 14 key priorities for the country to fulfill to launch EU accession negotiations.2 The fact that the EU council’s endorsement of the commission’s opinion came only in December 2019, coinciding with a new Council of Ministers assuming office in BiH in the same month, allowed for the media to view 2020 as a new start towards BiH fulfilling the key priorities. The process which the newly-appointed Chairman of Council of Ministers Zoran Tegeltija promised to accelerate.3 Tegeltija’s promise was in doubt when 1 “Bosnia and Herzegovina.” European Neighbourhood Policy And Enlargement Negotiations - European Commission, October 1, 2020. https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/countries/detailed-country-information/bosnia-herzegovina_en. 2 Ibid. 3 Ewb. “Tegeltija Confirmed as the New Chairman of the BiH Council of Ministers.” European Western Balkans, December 5, 2019. https://europeanwesternbalkans. com/2019/12/05/tegeltija-confirmed-as-the-new-chairmainof-the-bih-council-of-ministers/. 63


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the EC threatened to suspend its funding of the BiH judiciary in June due to limited progress in adopting reforms in the key area of integrity.4 The EU’s support to BiH in achieving the key priorities and integration reforms is limited to providing financial support and advisory, while implementing the desired reforms on the ground is the responsibility of Bosnian policymakers. As such, the EC has supported the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HJPC) with more than 30 million EUR over the past 15 years to promote the integrity, independence, and accountability of the judiciary in BiH.5 The European Commission expressed their concerns regarding reforms in the judicial system taking too long in a letter to the HJPC President Milan Tageltija. The EC stressed that their recommendations urging the HJPS to take urgent measures to establish a special integrity unit within the HJPS Secretariat, in their letter dated 11 February 2020, were not implemented.6 The HJPC president expressed that the COVID-19 pandemic was responsible for the delay in establishing the Unit.7

The EU delegation to BiH welcomed the two agreements and stressed their significance for fulfilling the 14 key priorities.10

4 Ewb. “EU Is Considering Suspending Support to the BiH Judiciary.” European Western Balkans, June 8, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2020/06/08/eu-is-considering-denying-support-to-the-bih-judiciary/. 5 Ibid. 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid. 8 Ewb. “EU Welcomes the Adoption of Election Law in BiH Allowing Mostar Municipal Election.” European Western Balkans, July 9, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans. com/2020/07/09/eu-welcomes-the-adoption-of-election-lawin-bih-allowing-mostar-municipal-election/. 9 Ewb. “Bosnia Fulfilled One of 14 Priorities from the European Commission’s Opinion.” European Western

ties-from-the-european-commissions-opinion/. 10 “Várhelyi: Meeting with Bosnia’s Presidency Members Was Promising.” European Western Balkans, September 30, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2020/09/30/ varhelyi-meeting-with-bosnias-presidency-members-was-promising/. 11 Dragojlovic, Mladen. “BiH: Presidency Members Meet with EU Leaders in Brussels.” Independent Balkan News Agency, September 30, 2020. https://balkaneu.com/bih-presidency-members-meet-with-eu-leaders-in-brussels/. 12 Y.z. “EU Publishes Report on Bosnia and Herzegovina: No or Limited Progress Has Been Made.” Sarajevo Times, October 7, 2020. http://www.sarajevotimes.com/169528-2/. 13 Ibid.

The progress made by BiH in fulfilling the EU’s 14 key priorities has been a topic of great controversy in both local and regional media and political circles in Europe. This controversy arises from the Presidency Chairman Sefik Dzaferovic declaring to reporters that under the current steady progress in fulfilling the key priorities, BiH can expect the EU candidate status by 2021.11 However, the EC 2020 Report on BiH, published in October 2020, concluded that no or very limited progress has been made by the country in fulfilling the key priorities since its last report in May 2019.12 According to the report, BiH is in an early stage with limited progress made in the areas of reforming public administration, the judicial sector, the combat and prevention of organized crime and corruption, freedom of media and expression, freedom of assembly in Republika Srpska, migration management, establishing a functioning market economy, improving the quality of education, July 2020 has witnessed significant progress transport, and infrastructure.13 As per the report by the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina recommendations, BiH is urged to take rapid and towards achieving the EU key priorities. Early effective measures to fulfill the key priorities. in the month, the BiH Parliamentary Assembly Moving forward, the Directorate of adopted amendments to the Election Law, European Integration of the BiH Council of permitting municipal elections to be held in Minister has incorporated the national programme Mostar for the first time since 2008.8 On 22 July for the EU acquis adoption as part of its 2021 2020, the Parliamentary Assembly approved the annual programme for the first time. BiH’s rules of procedure for the EU-Bosnia Stabilisation Balkans, July 23, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans. and Association Parliamentary Committee.9 com/2020/07/23/bosnia-fulfilled-one-of-14-priori-

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planning of the national programme for the EU acquis began since it signed the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU in June 2008.14 In November 2020, the EU announced during the Sofia Western Balkan Summit that it will continue its support to its partners in the region, including BiH. As such, the EU has designed a new immigration plan, which aims to reduce the number of illegal migrants in BiH during the upcoming years.15 The EU has also granted the Bosnian government a 20 million EUR assistance package to aid BiH in managing the flow of migrants.16 Moreover, the EU has recently introduced the ‘mini-Schengen’ initiative, which aims to ease the movement of capital, persons, goods, and services between the EU and potential candidate states in preparation for their full membership.17

COVID-19 pandemic and its related disruption of supply chains and fall of foreign and domestic demands have intensified the economic decline in BiH, leading to a deep recession in the national economy and an increase in poverty rates.19 In 2020, the BiH government initially expected a 3.4% GDP growth. As a result of the pandemic, however, the economy witnessed between a -3.2% and -5% decline in GDP growth.20 The unemployment rates in BiH increased by 5.8% between March and July 2020, reaching a total of 34.2%.21 According to the Croatian news agency Hina quoting the Bosnia’s Statistical agency, more than 30,000 people lost their job in the same four months period.22 However, Hina warned that the actual data could be more immense, as employers in BiH tend not to report a substantial number of their workers to avoid paying large contributions.23

Economic Crisis

The slowing rates of economic performances in the Euro Area in 20182019 have resulted in the Bosnian economy witnessing slow economic growth rates, which made the national economy vulnerable before the COVID-19 outbreak. According to a press release by the UNDP Resident Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina Steliana Nedera, “The Coronavirus pandemic came on top of the country’s structural weaknesses, including low competitiveness and the weak business environment”.24

In 2020, Bosnia and Herzegovina experienced its worst economic recession in 25 years.18 Similar to all Western Balkan states, the 14 Ewb. “Bosnia and Herzegovina to Start Drafting EU Acquis Adoption Programme.” European Western Balkans, August 11, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans. com/2020/08/11/bosnia-and-herzegovina-to-start-drafting-eu-acquis-adoption-programme/. 15 “Western Balkans Summit in Sofia: Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell.” EEAS, November 10, 2020. https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/ headquarters-homepage/88442/western-balkans-summit-sofia-remarks-high-representativevice-president-josep-borrell_en. 16 “EU Supports Bosnia and Herzegovina in Managing Migration Flows with Additional €20 Million.” European Neighbourhood Policy And Enlargement Negotiations - European Commission, June 4, 2020. https://ec.europa. eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/news_corner/news/eu-supports-bosnia-and-herzegovina-managing-migration-flows-additional-%E2%82%AC20-million_en. 17 “Western Balkans Summit in Sofia: Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell.” EEAS, November 10, 2020. https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/ headquarters-homepage/88442/western-balkans-summit-sofia-remarks-high-representativevice-president-josep-borrell_en. 18 “Recession Deepens in Bosnia and Herzegovina as COVID-19 Pandemic Threatens Jobs and Poverty Reduction in Western Balkans.” World Bank, October 22, 2020. https:// www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/10/22/recession-deepens-in-bosnia-and-herzegovina-as-covid-19-pandemic-threatens-jobs-and-poverty-reduction-in-western-bal-

kans. 19 Ibid. 20 Ibid. 21 “Nadera: The Unemployment Rate in Bosnia and Herzegovina Rose by 5.8 Percent from March to July.” Sarajevo Times, October 5, 2020. https://www.sarajevotimes.com/ nadera-the-unemployment-rate-in-bosnia-and-herzegovinarose-by-5-8-percent-from-march-to-july/. 22 “Covid-19: More than 30,000 New Unemployed in Bosnia - Business - Nuova Europa.” ANSA.it. ANSA.it, August 10, 2020. https://www.ansa.it/nuova_europa/en/ news/sections/business/2020/08/10/covid-19-more-than30000-new-unemployed-in-bosnia_0f886cee-9fac-45a1-b03cad712752bd97.html. 23 Ibid. 24 “Nadera: The Unemployment Rate in Bosnia and Herzegovina Rose by 5.8 Percent from March to July.” Sarajevo Times, October 5, 2020. https://www.sarajevotimes.com/ nadera-the-unemployment-rate-in-bosnia-and-herzegovina-

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Moreover, BiH’s economy lacks the flexibility to conduct economic adjustments needed for weathering economic shocks. This is primarily due to the majority of the economy being dominated by small, medium, and micro-enterprises who have limited resources to mitigate the financial losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.25 Thus, a large portion of businesses in BiH are severely hit financially. Moreover, sectors that are potential drivers of the Bosnian economy and generate a large portion of state revenues, such as tourism, have been severely harmed by the pandemic. In comparison to the same period in 2019, BiH witnessed a 71% decline in the number of international tourists between January and June 2020.26 Consequently, BiH revenues from tourism declined by 80% in 2020.27 While in comparison to previous years, BiH in 2020 experienced an estimate of a 40% decrease in direct foreign investments. ANSA reports on behalf of the World Bank that BiH could witness the fall of between 35,000 and 85,000 people below the poverty line due to the COVID-19 pandemic.28 The IMF granted BiH an emergency package worth 361 million USD to support the country in achieving an urgent balanceof-payments needed to mitigate the economic rose-by-5-8-percent-from-march-to-july/. 25 “Nadera: The Unemployment Rate in Bosnia and Herzegovina Rose by 5.8 Percent from March to July.” Sarajevo Times, October 5, 2020. https://www.sarajevotimes.com/ nadera-the-unemployment-rate-in-bosnia-and-herzegovinarose-by-5-8-percent-from-march-to-july/. 26 Replication-Receiver. “Can Tourism Survive in a Post-COVID World?: UNDP in Europe and Central Asia.” UNDP. UNDP, August 27, 2020. https://www.eurasia.undp. org/content/rbec/en/home/stories/tourism-survive-postcovid-world.html. 27 Ibid. 28 “Covid-19: More than 30,000 New Unemployed in Bosnia - Business - Nuova Europa.” ANSA.it. ANSA.it, August 10, 2020. https://www.ansa.it/nuova_europa/en/ news/sections/business/2020/08/10/covid-19-more-than30000-new-unemployed-in-bosnia_0f886cee-9fac-45a1-b03cad712752bd97.html.

harms of the COVID-19 pandemic.29 The EU also announced that it will grant BiH a total of 73.5 million EUR to support the country’s economic and social recovery after the pandemic.30 The EU aid aims to ensure a quick transition back to normal economic and social conditions in BiH once the virus outbreak is overcome. In this respect, the EU assistance package aims to support the Bosnian government in protecting social benefits, small and medium-sized businesses, and jobs.31 In light of the EU-BiH partnership, the Bosnian government announced its approval of a 250 million EUR credit line, under a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the EU on 17 December.32 This macroeconomic assistance will be used for supporting the national budget under the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to economic reform programmes and financial stabilization.33 The EU will finance the loan divided into two equal tranches of 125 million EUR each, with the first one immediately delivered to BiH after the MoU’s entered into force.34 The second tranche is subject to BiH’s achievement of EU-defined economic policy objectives.35 As such, the IMF

29 “IMF Executive Board Approves US$361 Million in Emergency Support to Bosnia and Herzegovina to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic.” International Monetary Fund, April 20, 2020. https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2020/04/20/pr20176-bosnia-and-herzegovina-imf-executive-board-approves-usd361-million-in-emergency-support. 30 “EU Allocates 81 Million Euros for Economic and Health Recovery of Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Sarajevo Times, March 30, 2020. https://www.sarajevotimes.com/eu-allocates81-million-euros-for-economic-and-health-recovery-of-bosniaand-herzegovina/. 31 Ibid. 32 Radulovikj, Stefan. Bosnia’s govt approves 250 mln euro EU credit line for macroeconomic assistance, December 17, 2020. https://seenews.com/news/bosnias-govt-approves-250-mln-euro-eu-credit-line-for-macroeconomic-assistance-724998. 33 Ibid. 34 Radulovikj, Stefan. Bosnia’s govt approves 250 mln euro EU credit line for macroeconomic assistance, December 17, 2020. https://seenews.com/news/bosnias-govt-approves-250-mln-euro-eu-credit-line-for-macroeconomic-assistance-724998. 35 Ibid. 66


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expects that with the rollout of the vaccine and EU financial support to BiH, the country’s economic growth would recover to 3.5% in the upcoming 2021.36

10, despite the virus’s second wave.41 The COVID-19 pandemic brought a massive controversy in BiH regarding the efficiency of the government response. The controversy began with opposition parties, public figures, and social and health activists raising their concerns about the preparedness of the health system in BiH to combat the pandemic and the government’s ability to carry out sufficient testing and contact tracing. In August 2020, more than 500 public figures in Sarajevo demanded in an open letter the government to adopt an urgent response and tighten measures, among an alarming spike in cases.42 The Daily Sabah reports as per the text of the letter by public figures, “we are frightened by the lack of an even minimal necessary institutional response to the resurgence of the epidemic”.43 The letter came under a time in which COVID-19 facilities at major hospitals in BiH were reaching full capacity and days after the 37-year-old citizen Belma Soljanin died of the virus after giving birth in a Sarajevo hospital.44

COVID-19 Pandemic Bosnia and Herzegovina’s 2020, similar to the rest of the world, was significantly dominated by the novel coronavirus pandemic. As of December 29, 2020, the number of COVID-19 cumulative confirmed cases in BiH exceeded 109,000, and the death toll transcended 3,900 persons.37 BiH confirmed the arrival of the coronavirus on March 5, 2020, recording its first positive case after a citizen returning from Italy was tested positive. The country entered a national state of emergency, followed by the implementation of various strict lockdown measures, including an overnight curfew, the closure of educational institutions and nonessential businesses, and the suspension of international flights.38 But the initial lockdown measures in BiH were short-lived and were lifted in April due to the country’s incapability to bear with the social and economic pressures of lockdown for a long time.39 The relaxation of the lockdown measures, however, was accompanied by a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths nationwide.40 As such, the Bosnian Federation reintroduced an overnight curfew on November 36 Đorđević, Nikola. “Economic Problems Mount for Bosnia and Herzegovina While the Number of Covid-19 Cases Remains Low .” Emerging Europe | Intelligence, Community, News, April 23, 2020. https://emerging-europe.com/ news/economic-problems-mount-for-bosnia-and-herzegovinawhile-the-number-of-covid-19-cases-remains-low/. 37 World Health Organization. “Coronavirus disease (‎ COVID-19)‎: Weekly epidemiological update, 29 December 2020. https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/weekly-epidemiological-update---29-december-2020 38 “Curfew Introduced in Bosnia and Herzegovina Because of Coronavirus.” Sarajevo Times, March 22, 2020. https://www.sarajevotimes.com/curfew-introduced-in-bosnia-and-herzegovina-because-of-coronavirus/. 39 Sito-Sucic, Daria. “Bosnia Reports Sharp Rise in Coronavirus Cases after Relaxing Lockdown.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, April 29, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/ us-health-coronavirus-bosnia-cases-idUSKBN22B2D. 40 Ibid.

The public disapproval of the government’s response to the virus outbreak began at the start of the pandemic. The spark was brought by the death of the citizen Advija Kanlic, who despite carrying severe COVID-19 symptoms, was denied from getting tested for six days by health officials,

41 “Bosnian Federation Introduces Curfew as COVID-19 Cases Rise.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, November 10, 2020. https://fr.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-bosnia-serbia/bosnian-federation-introduces-curfew-as-covid-19-cases-rise-idUKKBN27Q2GL. 42 French Press Agency -APF. “Sarajevans Ask for ‘Urgent’ Response amid Record Virus Tolls.” Daily Sabah. Daily Sabah, August 11, 2020. https://www.dailysabah.com/world/ europe/sarajevans-ask-for-urgent-response-amid-record-virus-tolls. 43 French Press Agency -APF. “Sarajevans Ask for ‘Urgent’ Response amid Record Virus Tolls.” Daily Sabah. Daily Sabah, August 11, 2020. https://www.dailysabah.com/world/ europe/sarajevans-ask-for-urgent-response-amid-record-virus-tolls. 44 Ibid.

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arguing that tests are only conducted for those who have recently returned from abroad.45 It was only after her death when the Ministry of Health agreed to perform her COVID-19 test, which came back positive.46 Limited testing capacity and restrictive criteria were not the only matters behind the public concerns. Bosnian media also reported long delays in testing results nationwide, some discrepancies between the results of PCR tests conducted in public and private laboratories, and reports on favouritism of politicians and members of the elite class, regarding testing and receiving medical treatment.47

While the EU played a vital role in supporting the BiH healthcare sector in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, providing a total of 7 million EUR of assistance.51 The European aid included providing hospitals across BiH with medical ventilators for anesthesia and intensive care units, X-ray machines, personal protective equipment, and more than 40,000 highquality testing kits for COVID-19.52 The EU has also supported the BiH federal government in the repatriation of its citizens from abroad during the pandemic. BiH citizens stranded in Morocco returned to Sarajevo onboard EU repatriation flights.53

Moreover, BiH witnessed a resounding scandal known as ‘the respirators affair’ amid its COVID-19 response.48 The Bosnian federation government purchased 100 damaged ventilators worth 5.25 million EUR from an agricultural company that lacks the legal license and experience to trade medical equipment.49 In the wake of this case and local media reporting the role of government officials in acts of corruption and fraud, the federation’s Prime Minister, Fadil Novalic, was temporarily detained after an indictment against him was filed by Bosnia’s State prosecution.50

Hope is on the horizon, as the COVID-19 vaccine began rollout in countries across the world, BiH expects to receive 1,230,000 doses of the vaccine in the first quarter of 2021 through the World Health Organization’s COVAX program.54 The challenges, impacts, and controversy posed by the coronavirus, in addition to the federal government’s response to the pandemic, will remain a topic of discussion in Bosnia and Herzegovina for years to come.

45 Gadzo, Mersiha. “Public Anger Grows as Bosnian Mother Denied Test Dies of COVID-19.” Europe | Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, April 2, 2020. https://www.aljazeera.com/ news/2020/4/1/public-anger-grows-as-bosnian-mother-denied-test-dies-of-covid-19. 46 Ibid. 47 Ibid. 48 Sorguc, Albina. “Bosnia Federation PM Novalic Indicted in ‘Respirators’ Case.” Balkan Insight, December 4, 2020. https://balkaninsight.com/2020/12/04/bosnia-federation-pm-novalic-indicted-in-respirators-case/. 49 The Associated Press. “Bosnia: Imported Ventilators from China Useless for COVID-19.” ABC News. ABC News Network, May 11, 2020. https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/bosnia-imported-ventilators-china-useless-covid-19-70620155. 50 Dervisbegovic, Nedim. “Bosnia Federation Prime Minister Detained in ‘Respirators’ Affair’.” Balkan Insight, October 14, 2020. https://balkaninsight.com/2020/05/29/bosnia-federation-prime-minister-detained-in-respirators-affair/.

Year in Review For Bosnia and Herzegovina, the year 2020 has exposed appalling weaknesses in

51 “EU Has Provided 7 Million Euros for Procurement of High-Quality Medical Equipment in Hospitals across BiH.” Sarajevo Times, October 13, 2020. https://www.sarajevotimes. com/eu-has-provided-7-million-euros-for-procurement-ofhigh-quality-medical-equipment-in-hospitals-across-bih/. 52 “EU Donates 40,000 High Quality Control Material for Coronavirus Tests to Bosnia and Herzegovina.” EU Info Centar, April 24, 2020. https://euinfo.ba/en/ eu-donates-40000-high-quality-control-material-for-coronavirus-tests-to-bosnia-and-herzegovina/. 53 “EU Allocates 81 Million Euros for Economic and Health Recovery of Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Sarajevo Times, March 30, 2020. https://www.sarajevotimes.com/eu-allocates81-million-euros-for-economic-and-health-recovery-of-bosniaand-herzegovina/. 54 Birn. “Serbia Leads Region in Expecting COVID-19 Vaccines Within Days.” Balkan Insight, December 21, 2020. https://balkaninsight.com/2020/12/21/serbia-leads-regionin-expecting-covid-19-vaccines-within-days/. 68


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the state’s political, economic and health systems. Although, some may excuse BiH, since the problems it faced this year were unprecedented and represented a great burden on the state, especially the novel pandemic and severe economic crisis. However, it is worth considering that these problems were coupled with government failures that led to their exacerbation. Politically wise, there was a clear gap between the BiH Presidency perspective on the country’s progress in fulfilling the EU key priorities and the EC perspective on the progress made. In addition to the existence of a lack of transparency and a systemic financial and administrative corruption within government circles, which was highlighted through the ‘Respirator Affair’ scandal. On the economic side, it was evident that the BiH economy is heavily servicebased, lacking the flexibility and diversity important for weathering economic shocks. Finally, the dynamics of BiH’s government response to the COVID-19 pandemic was alarming. The healthcare system in BiH appeared to be in a dilapidated position to deal with a public health emergency. Which explains the limited health response to the epidemic in BiH. Yet with many looming threats, BiH’s 2020 experience sent a message on the importance of its partnership with the EU. The EU has provided Sarajevo with assistance and support to overcome all three political, economic, and health challenges, beginning with offering advisory on policy reforms, setting plans of actions towards Europeanization, supporting social programs and providing large economic aid and medical equipment. Hence, the strength of the EU- Bosnia partnership in upcoming years is what will determine the extent to which BiH will enjoy sustainability and development in the future.

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MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA Bibliography Birn. “Serbia Leads Region in Expecting COVID-19 Vaccines Within Days.” Balkan Insight, December 21, 2020. https:// balkaninsight.com/2020/12/21/serbia-leads-region-in-expecting-covid-19-vaccines-within-days/. “Border Regime with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia Likely to Be Changed.” Croatia Week, June 23, 2020. https://www. croatiaweek.com/border-regime-with-bosnia-and-herzegovina-and-serbia-likely-to-be-changed/. “Bosnia and Herzegovina.” European Neighbourhood Policy And Enlargement Negotiations - European Commission, October 1, 2020. https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/countries/detailed-country-informati on/bosnia-herzegovina_en. “Bosnian Federation Introduces Curfew as COVID-19 Cases Rise.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, November 10, 2020. https:// fr.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-bosnia-serbia/bosnian-federation-introduces-curfew-as-covid-19-cases-riseidUKKBN27Q2GL. “Covid-19: More than 30,000 New Unemployed in Bosnia - Business - Nuova Europa.” ANSA.it. ANSA.it, August 10, 2020. https://www.ansa.it/nuova_europa/en/news/sections/business/2020/08/10/covid-19-more-than-30000-newunemployed-in-bosnia_0f886cee-9fac-45a1-b03c-ad712752bd97.html. “Covid-19: More than 30,000 New Unemployed in Bosnia.” Central European Initiative, August 10, 2020. https://www.cei. int/ansa/89198. Cuckić, Nikola. “‘Ventilators’ Affair in BiH – Fight against Corruption or Another Political Quarrel?” European Western Balkans, June 5, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2020/06/05/ventilators-affair-in-bih-fight-against-corruption-oranother-political-quarrel/. “Curfew Introduced in Bosnia and Herzegovina Because of Coronavirus.” Sarajevo Times, March 22, 2020. https://www. sarajevotimes.com/curfew-introduced-in-bosnia-and-herzegovina-because-of-coronavirus/. Dervisbegovic, Nedim. “Bosnia Federation Prime Minister Detained in 'Respirators' Affair'.” Balkan Insight, October 14, 2020. https://balkaninsight.com/2020/05/29/bosnia-federation-prime-minister-detained-in-respirators-affair/. Đorđević, Nikola. “Economic Problems Mount for Bosnia and Herzegovina While the Number of Covid-19 Cases Remains Low .” Emerging Europe | Intelligence, Community, News, April 23, 2020. https://emerging-europe.com/news/economicproblems-mount-for-bosnia-and-herzegovina-while-the-number-of-covid-19-cases-remains-low/. Dragojlovic, Mladen. “BiH: Presidency Members Meet with EU Leaders in Brussels.” Independent Balkan News Agency, September 30, 2020. https://balkaneu.com/bih-presidency-members-meet-with-eu-leaders-in-brussels/. “EU Allocates 81 Million Euros for Economic and Health Recovery of Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Sarajevo Times, March 30, 2020. https://www.sarajevotimes.com/eu-allocates-81-million-euros-for-economic-and-health-recovery-of-bosnia-andherzegovina/. “EU Donates 40,000 High Quality Control Material for Coronavirus Tests to Bosnia and Herzegovina.” EU Info Centar, April 24, 2020. https://euinfo.ba/en/eu-donates-40000-high-quality-control-material-for-coronavirus-tests-to-bosnia-andherzegovina/. “EU Has Provided 7 Million Euros for Procurement of High-Quality Medical Equipment in Hospitals across BiH.” Sarajevo Times, October 13, 2020. https://www.sarajevotimes.com/eu-has-provided-7-million-euros-for-procurement-of-highquality-medical-equipment-in-hospitals-across-bih/. “EU Supports Bosnia and Herzegovina in Managing Migration Flows with Additional €20 Million.” European Neighbourhood Policy And Enlargement Negotiations - European Commission, June 4, 2020. https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhoodenlargement/news_corner/news/eu-supports-bosnia-and-herzegovina-managing-migration-flows-additional%E2%82%AC20-million_en. Ewb. “Bosnia and Herzegovina to Start Drafting EU Acquis Adoption Programme.” European Western Balkans, August 11, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2020/08/11/bosnia-and-herzegovina-to-start-drafting-eu-acquis-adoptionprogramme/. Ewb. “Bosnia Fulfilled One of 14 Priorities from the European Commission's Opinion.” European Western Balkans, July 23, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2020/07/23/bosnia-fulfilled-one-of-14-priorities-from-the-europeancommissions-opinion/. Ewb. “EU Is Considering Suspending Support to the BiH Judiciary.” European Western

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MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA Balkans, June 8, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2020/06/08/eu-is-considering-denying-support-t o-the-bih-judiciary/. Ewb. “EU Welcomes the Adoption of Election Law in BiH Allowing Mostar Municipal Election.” European Western Balkans, July 9, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2020/07/09/eu-welcomes-the-adoption-of-electio n-law-in-bih-allowing-mostar-municipal-election Ewb. “Tegeltija Confirmed as the New Chairman of the BiH Council of Ministers.” European Western Balkans, December 5, 2019. https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2019/12/05/tegeltija-confirmed-as-the-new-chairmain-of-the-bih-councilof-ministers/. French Press Agency -APF. “Sarajevans Ask for 'Urgent' Response amid Record Virus Tolls.” Daily Sabah. Daily Sabah, August 11, 2020. https://www.dailysabah.com/world/europe/sarajevans-ask-for-urgent-response-amid-record-virus-tolls. Gadzo, Mersiha. “Public Anger Grows as Bosnian Mother Denied Test Dies of COVID-19.” Europe | Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, April 2, 2020. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/4/1/public-anger-grows-as-bosnian-mother-denied-test-dies-ofcovid-19. “IMF Executive Board Approves US$361 Million in Emergency Support to Bosnia and Herzegovina to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic.” International Monetary Fund, April 20, 2020.https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2020/04/20/pr20176bosnia-and-herzegovina-imf-executive-board-approves-usd361-million-in-emergency-support. “Nadera: The Unemployment Rate in Bosnia and Herzegovina Rose by 5.8 Percent from March to July.” Sarajevo Times, October 5, 2020. https://www.sarajevotimes.com/nadera-the-unemployment-rate-in-bosnia-and-herzegovina-rose-by-58-percent-from-march-to-july/.N1 Sarajevo. “Bosnia's Economy Facing Deep Recession, Foreign Investments Authority Warns.” N1 BA. N1 BA, August 8, 2020. http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a453747/Bosnia-s-economy-facing-deeprecession-foreign-investments-authority-warns.html. “Policy Responses.” Bosnia and Herzegovina. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.covid19healthsystem.org/countries/ bosniaandherzegovina/livinghit.aspx?Section=1.2+Physical+distancing.Radulovikj, Stefan. Bosnia's govt approves 250 mln euro EU credit line for macroeconomic assistance, December 17, 2020. https://seenews.com/news/bosnias-govtapproves-250-mln-euro-eu-credit-line-for-macroeconomic-assistance-724998. “Recession Deepens in Bosnia and Herzegovina as COVID-19 Pandemic Threatens Jobs and Poverty Reduction in Western Balkans.” World Bank, October 22, 2020. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/10/22/recessiondeepens-in-bosnia-and-herzegovina-as-covid-19-pandemic-threatens-jobs-and-poverty-reduction-in-western-balkans. Replication-Receiver. “Can Tourism Survive in a Post-COVID World?: UNDP in Europe and Central Asia.” UNDP. UNDP, August 27, 2020. https://www.eurasia.undp.org/content/rbec/en/home/stories/tourism-survive-post-covid-world. html. Sito-Sucic, Daria. “Bosnia Reports Sharp Rise in Coronavirus Cases after Relaxing Lockdown.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, April 29, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-bosnia-cases-idUSKBN22B2D Sorguc, Albina. “Bosnia Federation PM Novalic Indicted in 'Respirators' Case.” Balkan Insight, December 4, 2020. https:// balkaninsight.com/2020/12/04/bosnia-federation-pm-novalic-indicted-in-respirators-case/. The Associated Press. “Bosnia: Imported Ventilators from China Useless for COVID-19.” ABC News. ABC News Network, May 11, 2020. https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/bosnia-imported-ventilators-china-useless-covid-19-70620155. “Várhelyi: Meeting with Bosnia's Presidency Members Was Promising.” European Western Balkans, September 30, 2020. https:// europeanwesternbalkans.com/2020/09/30/varhelyi-meeting-with-bosnias-presidency-members-was-promising/. Veselinovic, Gojko, Andy Heil, and Lejla Omeragic-Catic. “In The Balkans' Most Divided Country, COVID Vaccine Cuts Both Ways.” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. In The Balkans' Most Divided Country, COVID Vaccine Cuts Both Ways, December 15, 2020. https://www.rferl.org/a/bosnia-covid-vaccine-cuts-both-ways/30998431.html. “Western Balkans Summit in Sofia: Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell.” EEAS, November 10, 2020. https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/88442/western-balkans-summit-sofia-remarks-highrepresentativevice-president-josep-borrell_en. World Health Organization. "Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Weekly epidemiological update, 29 December 2020. https:// www.who.int/publications/m/item/weekly-epidemiological-update---29-december-2020 Y.z. “EU Publishes Report on Bosnia and Herzegovina: No or Limited Progress Has Been Made.” Sarajevo Times, October 7, 2020. http://www.sarajevotimes.com/169528-2/.

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2020

B U LG ARI A Population: 6,966,899 (July 2020) – CIA World Factbook Unemployment Rate: 4.2% (2019 est) – World Bank Data GDP Per Capita: 24,561.2 (2019 est) – World Bank Data EU Status: EU member since January 1, 2007 – Europa

B

ulgaria’s 2020 has largely shaken the country with violent national conflicts expressing government opposition, combating the rapidly consuming COVID-19 pandemic, as well as intercession in EU affairs with neighbouring countries. The country of Bulgaria lies in the south east of Europe as well as in the Balkan peninsula and joined NATO in 20041 followed by joining the EU in 2007,2 one of the first Balkan countries to do so. Questions of the way the country is run and a call for reform both domestically and from other European states have emerged as the country’s government has been at the centre of continuous protests by the citizens. These protests have occurred in years prior and claimed the presence of deep corruption within the government as well as coordination 1 “Member Countries.” NATO, March 30, 2020, Accessed December 22, 2020. https://www.nato. int/cps/en/natohq/topics_52044.htm. 2 “Bulgaria.” European Union, February 13, 2020, Accessed October 10, 2020, https://europa.eu/ european-union/about-eu/countries/member-countries/bulgaria_en.

with powerful Bulgarian oligarchs, only growing in fervour in 2020.

In terms of demographics, among the population of Bulgaria are the main ethnic minorities of Turks and Romas making up a fourth of the population.3 However, it is the minority group of Macedonians that remains disputed as they self-identify as a minority but are usually classified as Bulgarian within the state due to their shared history. Coupled with disputes over Ottoman-era revolutionary Goce Delce’s ethnicity being Bulgarian or Macedonian,4 as well as if the Macedonian language, although recognized by the UN in 1977, is its own or a dialect of Bulgarian,5 has led to the creation of a 3 “Bulgaria - People.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Accessed December 27, 2020, https://www. britannica.com/place/Bulgaria/People. 4 Sinisa Jakov Marusic, “In Pictures: North Macedonia Protesters Accuse Govt of Betraying Hero’s Legacy” Balkan Insight, September 16, 2020, https://balkaninsight.com/2020/09/16/in-pictures-north-macedonia-protesters-accuse-govt-of-betraying-heros-legacy/. 5 Sinisa Jakov Marusic, “Bulgaria Blocks Start of North Macedonia’s EU Accession Talks”

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joint historical committee of Bulgarian and North Macedonian representatives in 2017. This was done to discuss conflicts over perspectives of certain historical events, language, and people, largely from the past when Macedonian territory was claimed under Bulgaria. Despite the tumultuous political climate within the country, the Bulgarian media continues to report often with a more neutral stance on the country’s affairs. This is in large part due to the fact that the central news agencies are independent of the state and experience no specific restrictions on printed media6 but simultaneously face no specific laws to protect media sources and reporters.7 Government Protests:

A fundamental shift to the relationship between the Bulgarian government and the citizens has emerged in 2020 with the breakout of violent protests repeatedly conducted by citizens. Starting early April, strong organized government protests have broken out across Bulgaria with weekly presentations in larger cities and the capital of Sofia. These protests address the huge corruption present within the Bulgarian government with the main target being the cabinet of the country’s current Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, a part of the GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) political party under which he has notably been Prime Minister two times prior since 2009.8 On July 7, President Rumen Radev’s offices were raided by armoured police investigating for disclosure of state secrets and influence peddling.9 Balkan Insight, November 17, 2020, https://balkaninsight. com/2020/11/17/bulgaria-blocks-start-of-north-macedoniaseu-accession-talks/. 6 “Media Landscape - Bulgaria.” European Journalism Centre, July 22, 2010, Accessed December 26, 2020, https://web.archive.org/web/20100722014211/http://www. ejc.net/media_landscape/article/bulgaria/. 7 “Media Landscape - Bulgaria.” European Journalism Centre, July 22, 2010, Accessed December 26, 2020, https://web.archive.org/web/20100722014211/http://www. ejc.net/media_landscape/article/bulgaria/. 8 “BOYKO BORISSOV.” Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria, Accessed December 3, 2020, https://www.gov.bg/en/Cabinet/Prime-Minister/ BOYKO-BORISSOV. 9 Pacales Davies, “Explainer: Why Is Bulgaria Engulfed in Daily Anti-government Protests?” Euronews, July

The Chief prosecutor of the investigation, Ivan Geshev who is connected to Prime Minister Borissov, was accused of delaying the investigation of local oligarchs connected to the corruption under the wishes of the Prime Minister.10 With these accusations by July 12, public protests began with both the protestors and President Radev demanding that the Chief prosecutor and Prime Minister resign.11 On August 5, Prime Minister Borissov made the bold proposition to step down as Prime Minister on the condition that his majority government would remain in power until the next election in 2021.12 While his offer garnered the support of many politicians, the civilian protesters would continue protesting for the wish to have the whole parliamentary cabinet resign and be rebuilt through fair elections.13 These protests quickly became more violent and in response, the government issued strong police retaliation which spurred on hostility as civilians were being aggressively detained.14 Between September and October, five major organized protests called the “Great People’s Uprisings” have occurred with the goals of expelling corrupt politicians from their positions and an end to the recent police brutality towards fellow protestors during what many deem as “peaceful protests”.15 With the continuation of 24, 2020, https://www.euronews.com/2020/07/18/explainer-why-is-bulgaria-engulfed-in-daily-anti-government-protests. 10 Davies, “Explainer: Why Is Bulgaria Engulfed in Daily Anti-government Protests?”, July 24, 2020. 11 Ibid 12 Damian Vodenitcharov, Mary Colombel, “Bulgarian PM Borissov’s offer to step down fails to deter protesters” Euronews, August 6, 2020, https://www.euronews. com/2020/08/06/bulgarian-pm-borissov-s-offer-to-stepdown-fails-to-deter-protesters. 13 Vodenitcharov, Colombel, “Bulgarian PM Borissov’s offer to step down fails to deter protesters”, August 6, 2020. 14 The Sofia Globe Staff, “Media bodies in Bulgaria condemn police violence against journalists at anti-government protests” The Sofia Globe, September 3, 2020, https:// sofiaglobe.com/2020/09/03/media-bodies-in-bulgaria-condemn-police-violence-against-journalists-at-anti-government-protests/. 15 “100 Days of Protests, Fifth Great People’s Uprising in Bulgaria” Novinite.com, October 16, 2020, https:// www.novinite.com/articles/206211/100+Days+of+Protests%2C+Fifth+Great+People%E2%80%99s+Uprising+in+Bulgaria.

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this strong national conflict, the significance of the issues soon became recognized by other European nations. On October 8, the European Parliament approved a resolution that condemned Bulgaria for corruption in high levels of government, as well as tighter control over the Bulgarian use of EU funds designed to aid in the pandemic to ensure it would not be misused.16 While this resolution does not possess any legal traction, it was strongly supported by protesters and the main political opposition, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, while being disregarded by the pro-government parliamentarians who deemed the resolution over-exaggerated.17 On October 20, Bulgaria’s Independence Day, thousands once again protested with the new demand for the prospective March 2021 parliamentary elections to be pushed forward.18 By this point in the longstanding protests, opinion polls of Bulgarians suggested that up to two-thirds of the population were now in favour of the protesters and what they were demanding of the government.19 With the rise of the pandemic in the state, the protests have died down from the prominent fervour they possessed in the summer months, but organized groups have made it clear that the anti-government sentiments are still alive and strong.20 Overall, regardless of the great opposition and call for the resignation of

Borissov and the chief prosecutor to be replaced in new fair elections, Prime Minister Borissov had refused to step down before his end of term in March 2021.21

Resolution Embarrasses Bulgaria’s Leaders” Balkan Insight, October 9, 2020, https://balkaninsight.com/2020/10/09/ critical-european-parliament-resolution-embarrasses-bulgarias-leaders/. 18 The Sofia Globe Staff, “Bulgaria’s ‘Poison Trio’ ends public anti-government protests, citing Covid-19 crisis” The Sofia Globe, November 1, 2020, https://sofiaglobe. com/2020/11/01/bulgarias-poison-trio-ends-public-anti-government-protests-citing-covid-19-crisis/. 19 “Bulgaria: Thousands urge Borissov government to resign in Independence Day protests” Euro News, September 22, 2020, https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/22/bulgaria-thousands-urge-borissov-government-to-resign-in-independence-day-protests. 20 The Sofia Globe Staff, “Bulgaria’s ‘Poison Trio’ ends public anti-government protests, citing Covid-19 crisis”, November 1, 2020.

21 Davies, “Explainer: Why Is Bulgaria Engulfed in Daily Anti-government Protests?”, July 24, 2020. 22 “Bulgaria’s PM fined after breaking his own government’s COVID-19 rules” Euro News, June 24, 2020, https://www.euronews.com/2020/06/23/bulgaria-s-primeminister-borissov-fined-for-not-wearing-a-mask. 23 “Bulgaria’s PM fined after breaking his own government’s COVID-19 rules”, June 24, 2020 24 The Sofia Globe Staff,“Covid-19 outbreak among cops cuts deployment at Bulgaria’s anti-government protests” The Sofia Globe, August 1, 2020, https://sofiaglobe. com/2020/08/01/covid-19-outbreak-among-cops-cuts-deployment-at-bulgarias-anti-government-protests/. 25 “Bulgaria Hopes to Get EU-Approved COVID-19 Vaccine in 2021” Balkan Insight, August 24, 2020, https:// balkaninsight.com/2020/08/24/bulgaria-hopes-to-get-eu-approved-covid-19-vaccine-in-2021/.

COVID-19:

With the global COVID-19 pandemic plaguing several countries since the start of 2020, Bulgaria has faced a strong outbreak since the country’s first case in early March. With the rise of the first wave of Covid-19 in the country in late June, the Bulgarian Prime Minister and several of his staff and journalists were fined for failing to comply with mask guidelines made by the government.22 Prime Minister Borissov has previously refused to wear a mask and his government has already faced a fine of 1500 EUR/1820 USD, along with a similar fine to the opposing socialist party, both for instances of conducting crowded meetings.23 On August 1, the effect of the protests on the pandemic was shown with orders given to reduce the number of police officers deployed to protect the protests due to a noticeable increase in positive cases among the police force.24 This was largely due to both police officers and protesters not wearing masks and failing to social distance for weeks prior.

By August 24, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov signed an advance purchase agreement for 16 The Sofia Globe Staff, “European Parliament adopts resolution slamming Bulgaria over rule of law a possible future EU-approved Covid-19 vaccine.25 shortcomings” The Sofia Globe, October 8, 2020, https:// Health Minister Kostadin Angelov declared that the sofiaglobe.com/2020/10/08/european-parliament-adopts-resvaccine would be strongly suggested to the country’s olution-slamming-bulgaria-over-rule-of-law-shortcomings/. high-risk groups but would not be made mandatory. 17 Svetoslav Todorov, “Critical European Parliament

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Despite huge surges in cases with over 15 000 Bulgarians having been diagnosed with Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic,26 the announcement of this possible vaccine deal has already spurred public opposition. With government protests continuing, protesters and government opposition have claimed this deal was a strategy done to keep the Borissov government in power despite demands for their resignation.27 This reaction to a possible vaccine is not unexpected as the European Commission has previously identified Bulgarians as the most distrustful of vaccinations in the EU in a report they made in 2018.28 In October, Sofia regional health inspectorate announced an order for the increase of Covid-19 bed allocations would be prepared after the main hospital in the capital city was completely maxed out of space.29 Big cities like Targovishte and Blagoevgrad experienced harsher restrictions as well as hospitals meeting capacity, and public workers and civilians were found to have not been wearing masks properly or at all. In just two days health officials in Targovishte identified over 40 COVID restriction violations in local businesses, restaurants, and public transport.30 Both Targovishte and Blagoevgrad were deemed under the “red zone” meaning no unnecessary travel in or out of these areas.31 On October 19, the governor of Plovdiv, one of the main cities experiencing a sharp increase in cases, ordered that health inspectors would be sent to public places and fining people who failed to either wear masks or properly social distance beginning at around 154-514 EUR/18626 “Bulgaria Hopes to Get EU-Approved COVID-19 Vaccine in 2021”, August 24, 2020 27 Ibid 28 Ibid 29 The Sofia Globe Staff, “Covid-19: If rules are kept to, incidence will drop by 30%, Health Minister says” The Sofia Globe, October 17, 2020, https://sofiaglobe. com/2020/10/17/covid-19-if-rules-are-kept-to-incidencewill-drop-by-30-health-minister-says/. 30 The Sofia Globe Staff,“Covid-19: Bulgaria’s Blagoevgrad and Turgovishte tighten measures as cases spike” The Sofia Globe, October 16, 2020, https://sofiaglobe. com/2020/10/16/covid-19-bulgarias-turgovishte-postponeslarge-scale-events-calls-on-residents-to-stay-indoors/. 31 The Sofia Globe Staff, “Covid-19: If rules are kept to, incidence will drop by 30%, Health Minister says”, October 17, 2020.

623 USD for first offenses and 257-1028 EUR/3111247 USD to first offenses by business owners for not posting signs for customers of the anti-epidemic measures.32 With these measures for indoor public areas, on October 22 it became mandatory for people to wear masks outdoors as well, mirroring similar measures that were instated in April and May and then revoked.33 A significant moment in Bulgaria’s Covid-19 crisis was when Prime Minister Boyko Borissov tested positive for Covid-19 in late October.34 In a health ministry’s briefing on November 19, the Health Minister announced that for Covid-19 mortality, Bulgaria was ranked third in the European Union Economic area. With the infection rate in Bulgaria now at 658 per 100 000 population, the situation worsens. Yet many citizens oppose their rights being restricted due to antiepidemic measures or deny the virus altogether.35 This sentiment was emphasized with the European Parliament report on November 20 that cited Bulgarians as some of the least supportive of Covid-19 restrictions, believing that the economic implications of the restrictions were greater than the prospective health benefits.36 The Bulgarian public was also ranked the second lowest in the 32 The Sofia Globe Staff, “Covid-19 in Bulgaria: Plovdiv steps up anti-epidemic measures compliance checks” The Sofia Globe, October 19, 2020, https://sofiaglobe. com/2020/10/19/covid-19-in-bulgaria-plovdiv-steps-up-antiepidemic-measures-compliance-checks/. 33 The Sofia Globe Staff,“Covid-19: Bulgaria makes wearing masks outdoors compulsory from October 22” The Sofia Globe, October 20, 2020, https:// sofiaglobe.com/2020/10/20/covid-19-bulgaria-makes-wearing-masks-outdoors-compulsory-from-october-22/. 34 “Bulgaria PM Boyko Borissov tests positive for COVID-19 as protests against him continue” Euro News, October 26, 2020, https://www.euronews.com/2020/10/26/ bulgaria-pm-boyko-borissov-tests-positive-for-covid-19-asprotests-against-him-continue. 35 The Sofia Globe Staff ,“Bulgaria in third place in EU-EEA in Covid-19 mortality” The Sofia Globe, November 10, 2020, https://sofiaglobe.com/2020/11/19/bulgaria-inthird-place-in-eu-eea-in-covid-19-mortality/. 36 The Sofa Globe Staff, “Covid-19: Bulgarians among least supportive of restrictions in EU, survey shows” The Sofia Globe, November 20, 2020, https://sofiaglobe. com/2020/11/20/covid-19-bulgarians-among-least-supportive-of-restrictions-in-eu-survey-shows/.

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EU in regards to support for government national measures with only a 28% support rate.37 Bulgarian Health Minister said that the greatest pressure on the healthcare system is in the districts of Blagoevgrad, Bourgas, Varna, Gabrovo, Pazardzhik, Pernik, Plovdiv, Razgrad, Rousse, Targovishte, and Shoumen. With hospitals nearing capacity, crisis headquarters in Bourgas are working to establish “clean” hospitals, where Covid-19 patients will not be admitted and instead tend to other medical issues that are often being put to a lower priority than the care of Covid positive patients,38 causing worsening health for other citizens. December 27 began Bulgaria’s vaccination efforts, which the health ministry has assured are voluntary and free of charge. Political Blockade in EU:

Bulgaria possesses an interesting relationship with the other Balkan nations, particularly its neighbour the Republic of North Macedonia. In late March, the foreign ministry in Bulgaria announced their support of the Republic of North Macedonia becoming an official member of NATO, along with the progression of their negotiations to join the EU.39 This support was expressed with the sentiment that North Macedonia would represent the expansion and legitimization of shared ideals and security among Bulgaria and its allies within the Balkan realm. Despite these initial claims of clear Bulgarian support, in late August Bulgaria released an explanatory referendum of their boundaries regarding North Macedonia’s EU accession bid to the other EU member states,40

initiating a negative reaction in North Macedonia and the precursor to several more conflicts over this bid. Early September brought the claims from the Bulgarian government, mainly from Deputy Prime Minister Krassimir Karakachanov and the ultra nationalist VMRO party leader, that they would be willing to block North Macedonia’s EU ascension talks by responding at the first intergovernmental conference between North Macedonia and the EU, over their unresolved historical disputes.41 The previously established joint commission was brought up with this threat of interceding in EU talks with the accusation by Bulgarian Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov that North Macedonia was only pretending to cooperate and work towards rectifying these areas of common dispute.42 These growing historical tensions threaten the previous support between the two nations as was exemplified in their previous landmark Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation that was signed on August 1, 2017 when the historical commission was established.43

On October 9, North Macedonian Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani met with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva. Borissov re-emphasized Bulgaria’s wish for Balkan integration into the EU under Bulgaria’s own Euro-Atlantic integration policies. At this meeting, the Bulgarian Prime Minister brought up worries of further tension emerging from the recent European Parliament resolution on October 8 regarding the Bulgarian rule of law for Bulgarian authorities to reach out to better protect the rights and voices of minorities. 37 The Sofa Globe Staff, “Covid-19: Bulgarians While it was not explicitly said, the main minority among least supportive of restrictions in EU, survey shows”, in question was the North Macedonian minority November 20, 2020. 38 The Sofia Globe Staff, “Bulgaria’s Deputy Health Minister denies health care system is in chaos” The Sofia Globe, November 22, 2020, https://sofiaglobe. com/2020/11/22/bulgarias-deputy-health-minister-denieshealth-care-system-is-in-chaos/. 39 The Sofia Globe Staff, “Bulgaria welcomes North Macedonia’s accession to Nato” The Sofia Globe, March 28, 2020, https://sofiaglobe.com/2020/03/28/bulgaria-welcomes-north-macedonias-accession-to-nato/. 40 “North Macedonia’s Top Diplomat Discusses His Country’s EU Integration with Bulgarian PM, Foreign

Minister” Bulgarian News Network, October 9, 2020, http:// www.bta.bg/en/c/DF/id/2291358. 41 Sinisa Jakov Marusic, “Bulgaria Repeats Threat to Block North Macedonia Over History Feud” Balkan Insight, September 14, 2020, https://balkaninsight.com/2020/09/14/ bulgaria-repeats-threat-to-block-north-macedonia-over-history-feud/. 42 Sinisa Jakov Marusic, “Bulgaria Repeats Threat to Block North Macedonia Over History Feud”, September 14, 2020. 43 Ibid 76


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

in Bulgaria and certain separatist groups that are largely silenced by Bulgarian authorities due to Bulgaria recognizing “Macedonians” as Bulgarian due to shared history. The following week on October 15 and 16, the joint historical commission met together again after having taken a year-long break.44 Prime Minister Borissov emphasized the need to resume talks so that the two countries may reach a compromise before they would lead the Berlin Process Summit as co-chairs which took place on November 10.45 He recognized that failing to compromise would not only break relations with the Republic of North Macedonia but also damage the image of Bulgaria to the international order and more notably the EU. Despite these wishes for a quick resolution, the joint commission met on October 15 and 16 in Skopje,46 the capital of North Macedonia, and yielded little to no results. Bulgaria presented 14 changes to Macedonian history books but agreements were stunted once again by the differing perspectives of the national hero Goce Delcev and the Macedonian language.47

at a videoconference of EU affairs ministers, citing the inability to establish an acceptable negotiating framework that included the strong Bulgarian demands of “adherence to the 1999 formula about the language dispute… confirmed by the Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighborliness and Cooperation signed between Sofia and Skopje in 2017; a roadmap for the implementation of the 2017 Treaty; and a clear commitment to give up any claims about a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria.”.49 The failure of finding a compromise meant that the North Macedonian candidate state cannot start accession talks while it still has unresolved issues with an EU member state.50 Because of this blockade, North Macedonia has claimed that Bulgaria is acting against the second article of their 2017 Friendship treaty that stated both nations would cooperate for North Macedonia’s entrance into the EU.51 The next meeting of the general affairs council was set for early December, which once again yielded no results as Bulgaria still did not approve the negotiating framework, making European leaders unable to approve of the negotiating framework at the December 10 summit. The joint historical committee has planned for five more meetings in 2021 if Covid-19 allows, which will be suspended until May due to the North Macedonian elections in April.52

44 The Sofia Globe Staff, “Bulgaria-North Macedonia joint commission on historical issues to resume work” The Sofia Globe, October 9, 2020, https://sofiaglobe. com/2020/10/09/bulgaria-north-macedonia-joint-commission-on-historical-issues-to-resume-work/. 45 The Sofia Globe Staff, “Bulgaria-North Macedonia joint commission on historical issues to resume work”, October 9, 2020. 46 Sinisa Jakov Marusic, “Bulgaria, North Macedonia Fail to Move History Dispute Forward” Balkan Insight, October 16, 2020, https://balkaninsight.com/2020/10/16/ bulgaria-north-macedonia-fail-to-move-history-dispute-forward/. 47 Sinisa Jakov Marusic, “Bulgaria, North Macedonia Fail to Move History Dispute Forward”, October 16, 2020. 48 “Defence Minister Briefs Parliament on Talks with North Macedonia, Says Nobody Pressures Bulgaria to Give Green Light to Skopje’s EU Accession Talks” Bulgarian News Agency, November 13, 2020, http://www.bta.bg/en/c/ DF/id/2310483.

The tumultuous political climate within Bulgaria this year has demonstrated that the

November 13 had the Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov state that the most the EU was willing to interfere in the conflict was to have the German Presidency of the EU help negotiate talks between the two to solve the issues.48 On November 17, Bulgaria officially blocked the accession talks Year in Review:

49 “Foreign Minister: Bulgaria Can Approve EU Negotiating Framework with Albania, but Not with North Macedonia” Bulgarian News Agency, November 17, 2020, http://www.bta.bg/en/c/DF/id/2312511. 50 Sinisa Jakov Marusic, “Bulgaria Blocks Start of North Macedonia’s EU Accession Talks”, November 17, 2020. 51 Sinisa Jakov Marusic, “North Macedonia Hopes Talks will End Bulgaria’s EU Blockade” Balkan Insight, November 18, 2020, https://balkaninsight.com/2020/11/18/ north-macedonia-hopes-talks-will-end-bulgarias-eu-blockade/. 52 The Sofia Globe Staff, “Bulgaria - North Macedonia commission on historical issues reports no progress” The Sofia Globe, December 1, 2019, https://sofiaglobe. com/2019/12/01/bulgaria-north-macedonia-commission-on-historical-issues-reports-no-progress/. 77


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

conflicts occurring both within and outside of the and Portugal,54 and inBibliography Europe of 2021. “100 Days of Protests, Fifth Great People’s Uprising in Bulgaria” country will most likely continue well into 2021. Novinite.com, October 16, 2020. https://www.novinite.com/ The various national issues feed into each other and articles/206211/100+Days+of+Protests%2C+Fifth+Great+focus on the approach of the government towards People%E2%80%99s+Uprising+in+Bulgaria. the steep loss of confidence from the population, “BOYKO BORISSOV." Council of Ministers of the Republic of an overwhelmed health care system, and standing Bulgaria, Accessed December 3, 2020. https://www.gov.bg/en/ Cabinet/Prime-Minister/BOYKO-BORISSOV. between candidate nations and the EU. Despite “Bulgaria Hopes to Get EU-Approved COVID-19 Vaccine in many not agreeing with the officials in office and 2021” Balkan Insight, August 24, 2020. https://balkaninsight. after five votes of non-confidence, Borissov still com/2020/08/24/bulgaria-hopes-to-get-eu-approved-covid-19retains his position as Prime Minister and does vaccine-in-2021/. not appear open to honouring the wish of the “Bulgaria PM Boyko Borissov tests positive for COVID-19 as several protests for earlier elections than his end protests against him continue” Euro News, October 26, 2020. https://www.euronews.com/2020/10/26/bulgaria-pm-boykoof term in March 2021.53 Additionally, despite the borissov-tests-positive-for-covid-19-as-protests-against-himbeginning of vaccinations in late December, the continue. country and its citizens still face harsh restrictions “Bulgaria." European Union, February 13, 2020, Accessed Octo avoid overexerting the healthcare system while tober 10, 2020. https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/ combating the notable lack of favorable public countries/member-countries/bulgaria_en. opinion for adhering to the measures put into place “Bulgaria: Thousands urge Borissov government to resign in by the Borissov government and the Ministry of Independence Day protests” Euro News, September 22, 2020. https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/22/bulgaria-thousands-urHealth. ge-borissov-government-to-resign-in-independence-day-pro-

Regarding Bulgaria’s international affairs, tests. it is the Bulgarian blockade of North Macedonia’s "Bulgaria - People." Encyclopædia Britannica. Accessed DecemEU accession which has placed a spotlight upon ber 27, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/place/Bulgaria/ People. Bulgaria’s position within the EU. Despite the “Bulgaria’s PM fined after breaking his own government’s hope for compromise by December, more meetings COVID-19 rules” Euro News, June 24, 2020. https://www. of the joint historical commission are set for the euronews.com/2020/06/23/bulgaria-s-prime-minister-borisnew year to address the strong Bulgarian demands sov-fined-for-not-wearing-a-mask. that have yet to be included in the negotiating Davies, Pacales. "Explainer: Why Is Bulgaria Engulfed in Daily framework. The main motive appears to be the Anti-government Protests?" Euronews, July 24, 2020. https:// www.euronews.com/2020/07/18/explainer-why-is-bulgahope that success in resolving such conflicts would ria-engulfed-in-daily-anti-government-protests. instill more confidence in the government for “Defence Minister Briefs Parliament on Talks with North Maceachieving concessions most Bulgarians believe in; donia, Says Nobody Pressures Bulgaria to Give Green Light a confidence that is needed especially with the EU to Skopje's EU Accession Talks” Bulgarian News Agency, taking note of Bulgaria in regards to their rule of law November 13, 2020. http://www.bta.bg/en/c/DF/id/2310483. and how the government will choose to contain the “Foreign Minister: Bulgaria Can Approve EU Negotiating protests. Nonetheless, the public image of Bulgaria Framework with Albania, but Not with North Macedonia” Bulgarian News Agency, November 17, 2020. http://www.bta. in the EU is likely to take a hit, especially with bg/en/c/DF/id/2312511. the continued push for concessions to be added to Marusic, Sinisa Jakov. “Bulgaria Blocks Start of North Macenegotiations that many believe may have not been donia’s EU Accession Talks” Balkan Insight, November 17, considered under regular, less delicate situations. 2020. https://balkaninsight.com/2020/11/17/bulgaria-blocAs a whole, such resolutions are up to the future ks-start-of-north-macedonias-eu-accession-talks/. under the new joined EU presidency of Slovenia 54 SinisaJakov. Jakov“Bulgaria Marusic,Repeats “NorthThreat Macedonia Hopes Marusic, Sinisa to Block North 53 Svetoslav Todorov, “Protest-Hit Bulgarian Govt Survives No-Confidence Vote” Balkan Insight, July 21, 2020, https://balkaninsight.com/2020/07/21/protest-hit-bulgarian-govt-survives-no-confidence-vote/.

TalksMacedonia will End Over Bulgaria’s Blockade” BalkanSeptember Insight, 14, HistoryEU Feud” Balkan Insight, November 18, 2020, https://balkaninsight.com/2020/11/18/ 2020. https://balkaninsight.com/2020/09/14/bulgaria-repeatsnorth-macedonia-hopes-talks-will-end-bulgarias-eu-blockthreat-to-block-north-macedonia-over-history-feud/. ade/.

78


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA Marusic, Sinisa Jakov. “Bulgaria, North Macedonia Fail to Move History Dispute Forward” Balkan Insight, October 16, 2020. https:// balkaninsight.com/2020/10/16/bulgaria-north-macedonia-fail-to-move-history-dispute-forward/. Marusic, Sinisa Jakov. “In Pictures: North Macedonia Protesters Accuse Govt of Betraying Hero’s Legacy” Balkan Insight, September 16, 2020. https://balkaninsight.com/2020/09/16/in-pictures-north-macedonia-protesters-accuse-govt-of-betraying-heros-legacy/. Marusic, Sinisa Jakov. “North Macedonia Hopes Talks will End Bulgaria’s EU Blockade” Balkan Insight, November 18, 2020. https:// balkaninsight.com/2020/11/18/north-macedonia-hopes-talks-will-end-bulgarias-eu-blockade/. Marusic, Sinisa Jakov. “North Macedonia Hopes Talks will End Bulgaria’s EU Blockade” Balkan Insight, November 18, 2020. https:// balkaninsight.com/2020/11/18/north-macedonia-hopes-talks-will-end-bulgarias-eu-blockade/. Media Landscape - Bulgaria." European Journalism Centre, July 22, 2010, Accessed December 26, 2020. https://web.archive.org/ web/20100722014211/http://www.ejc.net/media_landscape/article/bulgaria/. “Member Countries." NATO, March 30, 2020, Accessed December 22, 2020. https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_52044.htm. “North Macedonia's Top Diplomat Discusses His Country's EU Integration with Bulgarian PM, Foreign Minister” Bulgarian News Network, October 9, 2020. http://www.bta.bg/en/c/DF/id/2291358. The Sofa Globe Staff. “Covid-19: Bulgarians among least supportive of restrictions in EU, survey shows” The Sofia Globe, November 20, 2020. https://sofiaglobe.com/2020/11/20/covid-19-bulgarians-among-least-supportive-of-restrictions-in-eu-survey-shows/. The Sofia Globe Staff. “Bulgaria’s ‘Justice for All’ initiative says its protests continue” The Sofia Globe, November 3, 2020. https://sofiaglobe.com/2020/11/03/bulgarias-justice-for-all-initiative-says-its-protests-continue/. The Sofia Globe Staff. “Bulgaria in third place in EU-EEA in Covid-19 mortality” The Sofia Globe, November 10, 2020. https://sofiaglobe.com/2020/11/19/bulgaria-in-third-place-in-eu-eea-in-covid-19-mortality/. The Sofia Globe Staff. “Bulgaria - North Macedonia commission on historical issues reports no progress” The Sofia Globe, December 1, 2019. https://sofiaglobe.com/2019/12/01/bulgaria-north-macedonia-commission-on-historical-issues-reports-no-progress/. The Sofia Globe Staff. “Bulgaria welcomes North Macedonia’s accession to Nato” The Sofia Globe, March 28, 2020. https://sofiaglobe. com/2020/03/28/bulgaria-welcomes-north-macedonias-accession-to-nato/. The Sofia Globe Staff. “Bulgaria’s Deputy Health Minister denies health care system is in chaos” The Sofia Globe, November 22, 2020. https://sofiaglobe.com/2020/11/22/bulgarias-deputy-health-minister-denies-health-care-system-is-in-chaos/. The Sofia Globe Staff. “Bulgaria-North Macedonia joint commission on historical issues to resume work” The Sofia Globe, October 9, 2020. https://sofiaglobe.com/2020/10/09/bulgaria-north-macedonia-joint-commission-on-historical-issues-to-resume-work/. The Sofia Globe Staff. “Covid-19 in Bulgaria: Plovdiv steps up anti-epidemic measures compliance checks” The Sofia Globe, October 19, 2020. https://sofiaglobe.com/2020/10/19/covid-19-in-bulgaria-plovdiv-steps-up-anti-epidemic-measures-compliance-checks/. The Sofia Globe Staff. “Covid-19: If rules are kept to, incidence will drop by 30%, Health Minister says” The Sofia Globe, October 17, 2020. https://sofiaglobe.com/2020/10/17/covid-19-if-rules-are-kept-to-incidence-will-drop-by-30-health-minister-says/. The Sofia Globe Staff. “European Parliament adopts resolution slamming Bulgaria over rule of law shortcomings” The Sofia Globe, October 8, 2020. https://sofiaglobe.com/2020/10/08/european-parliament-adopts-resolution-slamming-bulgaria-over-rule-of-law-shortcomings/. The Sofia Globe Staff. “Media bodies in Bulgaria condemn police violence against journalists at anti-government protests” The Sofia Globe, September 3, 2020. https://sofiaglobe.com/2020/09/03/media-bodies-in-bulgaria-condemn-police-violence-against-journalists-at-anti-government-protests/. The Sofia Globe Staff. “Covid-19 outbreak among cops cuts deployment at Bulgaria’s anti-government protests” The Sofia Globe, August 1, 2020. https://sofiaglobe.com/2020/08/01/covid-19-outbreak-among-cops-cuts-deployment-at-bulgarias-anti-government-protests/. The Sofia Globe Staff. “Covid-19: Bulgaria makes wearing masks outdoors compulsory from October 22” The Sofia Globe, October 20, 2020. https://sofiaglobe.com/2020/10/20/covid-19-bulgaria-makes-wearing-masks-outdoors-compulsory-from-october-22/. The Sofia Globe Staff. “Covid-19: Bulgaria’s Blagoevgrad and Turgovishte tighten measures as cases spike” The Sofia Globe, October 16, 2020. https://sofiaglobe.com/2020/10/16/covid-19-bulgarias-turgovishte-postpones-large-scale-events-calls-on-residents-to-stay-indoors/. Todorov, Svetoslav. “Critical European Parliament Resolution Embarrasses Bulgaria’s Leaders” Balkan Insight, October 9, 2020. https:// balkaninsight.com/2020/10/09/critical-european-parliament-resolution-embarrasses-bulgarias-leaders/. Todorov, Svetoslav. “Protest-Hit Bulgarian Govt Survives No-Confidence Vote” Balkan Insight, July 21, 2020. https://balkaninsight. com/2020/07/21/protest-hit-bulgarian-govt-survives-no-confidence-vote/. Vodenitcharov, Damian and Mary Colombel. “Bulgarian PM Borissov's offer to step down fails to deter protesters” Euronews, August 6, 2020. https://www.euronews.com/2020/08/06/bulgarian-pm-borissov-s-offer-to-step-down-fails-to-deter-protesters.

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2020

In

2020, the most unorthodox year experienced anywhere in decades, Croatia has been through a Presidential election, a Parliamentary election, held its first-ever rotating Presidency of the European Union, and has made strides in the spheres of business and education. While politics was upended in the first days of the year, when vote splitting on the political right produced a socialist former Prime Minister as President,

the parliamentary election which came in the middle of a pandemic, yielded the incumbent centre-right party an astounding number of seats despite the addition of a new and capable right-wing party into the fold. In the midst of that period domestic political fluctuation, Croatia held the rotating Presidency of the European Union from January through June, setting a pandemic precedent for managing the role, which was highlighted by

CR O ATIA Peter Bury


a collaborative Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb, outlining the European strategy to integrate the Western Balkan nations into the EU. All the while, 2020 has been a year of steady innovation, growth, and investment for Croatia. Consistent attention given to developing education and technology in Croatia has proven to be very worthwhile, as its youth is being regularly recognized as one of the most skilled in all of Europe. Politics – Presidency and Parliament

least secure a favourable political direction, being the centre-right incumbent, Grabar-Kitarović, his voters more or less stayed home, diminishing their movement’s leverage to a rather negligible degree.2 As a result, Zoran Milanović, a socialist, was elected as President, contradicting the clear majority of Croatians who identify with some kind of centreright ideology. This notion that the majority of Croatians take a centre-right political stance was reinforced in the Parliamentary elections later in July. The ruling centre-right party, HDZ, with which former President Kolinda-Grabar Kitarović is aligned, won a decisive mandate, taking 66 of the 151 seats in parliament outright while garnering the support of the 8 national minority representatives and several other lawmakers to form a decisive legislative power.3 Led by incumbent Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković, the party was now able to govern on a true centre-right platform without having to round up support from opposition parties.

Going into 2020, Croatia already had a big task at hand in electing a President through a runoff election which took place on January 5th after the December 2019 first round did not result in a majority support for any one candidate.1 Thenincumbent President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, was aligned with the ruling centre-right government, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). Her main challenger, and the eventual winner, former Prime Minister Zoran Milanović, represented the Social Democratic Party. However, the most significant complication for Grabar-Kitarović came not from Leading up to the election, HDZ was the political left, but from the right. the subject of some criticism both domestically Miroslav Škoro, a popular Croatian folk and internationally regarding the fact that the singer, former politician with a brief stint as party put out an advertisement showing several Member of Parliament under HDZ, and with a high-profile European politicians and EU figures doctorate in economics, proved to cripple the pledging their support for the party with the slogan, incumbent President’s campaign for a second term. “Safe Croatia”. These European leaders included In missing out on the runoff election by just about Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European a 2% margin, the way in which Škoro’s voters would Commission, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, redistribute themselves in the second round became leader of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union, decisive in which way the runoff would swing. In Sebastien Kurz, Chancellor of Austria, Manfred the end, because he ran on an anti-establishment Weber, leader of the European People’s Party, Arturs platform and reasserted that neither the centre-right Krišjānis Kariņš, Prime Minister of Latvia, Donald nor centre-left candidates would have anything Tusk, President of the European People’s Party, beneficial to add to the development of the country, Škoro’s voters had little impact on the outcome of the election. Without any prompt from Škoro to at 1 Jutarnji List, “Milanović Pobijedio u većini gradova Pogledajte rezultate iz Zagreba, Splita… U ‘biseru Jadrana’ bilo je najnapetije, ondje je razlika bila najmanja,” Jutarnji List, January 6, 2020. https://www.jutarnji.hr/naslovnica/milanovic-pobijedio-u-vecini-gradova-pogledajte-rezultate-iz-zagreba- splita-u-biseru-jadrana-bilo-je-najnapetije-ondje-je-razlika-bila-najmanja-9823180.

2 Marinko Jurasić, “Što je odlučilo izbore? Škorini birači su autentični, a ne oteti Grabar-Kitarović,” Večernji List, January 20, 2020. https://www.vecernji.hr/vijesti/ sto-je-odlucilo-izbore-skorini-biraci-su-autenticni-a-ne- oteti-grabar-kitarovic-1373559

3 Jasmina Kuzmanović, “Surprise Election Win to Keep Croatian Ruling Party in Power,” Bloomberg, July 6, 2020. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-05/croat-ruling-party-wins-most-seats-in-election-exit poll-shows.


Bojko Borisov, Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Janez Janša, Prime Minister of Slovenia, and Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece.4 Because of the wide international involvement in this specific advertisement, some began to question the ethical considerations of HDZ’s leadership and if the ad would qualify as foreign interference in a domestic election process. The difficulty here is that the nature of the European Union binds the domestic politics of member states, so despite the fact that each state still has domestic legislative jurisdiction, cooperation between states in domestic elections is not unheard of and although it may be frowned upon in some instances, the European structure allows for it and rather encourages it.

not prevail in the Presidential election, his party’s leap to third place in parliament speaks volumes to the fact that national and religious identity is unconditionally a priority for very many Croatians. European Union Presidency, Eurozone and Schengen Future

For the first half of 2020, Croatia held the rotating Presidency of the European Union for the first time in history, and despite the organizational complications arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the national leadership has been praised for its handling of the Presidency. In May, the Western Balkans Zagreb Summit rounded out Croatia’s European leadership, bringing the integration of the Western Balkans to the forefront Beyond the big win for HDZ, there is still a of the European agenda.7 lot to unpack from this election. While the race was Although the Zagreb Summit did not put predicted to be tight between HDZ and the social out much of a concrete plan to invest in and integrate democrats, SDP, the social democrats suffered their biggest defeat since the early years of Croatian the Western Balkans, the unified European gesture eased the growing sentiment of some central independence, falling to a total of 41 seats.5 powers, indicating that the EU should slow down Since placing third as an independent on expansion and focus on consolidating itself in the Presidential election, populist Miroslav for the time being. Still, the Croatian Presidency Škoro had founded a party of his own, The did achieve the concrete outcome of having the Homeland Movement, which champions Christian European Union begin accession talks with North conservative values while framing itself as a Macedonia and Albania, in addition to Montenegro bold new nationalist voice against the political entering the next stage of their respective accession establishment. With several high profile candidates, talks. some of whom joined the new party from HDZ, Aside from the Zagreb Summit, the Croatian and others who came from military and academic backgrounds, the movement picked up 16 seats in Presidency was also tasked with addressing the its first-ever election.6 While Škoro’s populism did precarious relationship with Hungary and Poland, who’s domestic strategies of governance have come 4 Hina, “EK za HDZ: Ursula von der Leyen trpi under fire for threatening the European view of velike kritike zbog podrške HDZ-u. Gdje je tu politička neutralnost?” Novi List, July 6, 2020. https://www.novilist.hr/ democracy. Both countries have faced criticism novosti/svijet/ek-za-hdz-ursula-von-der- leyen-trpi-vefor chipping away at independent judiciaries, like-kritike-zbog-podrske-hdz-u-gdje-je-tu-politicka-neulacking government transparency, and repressing tralnost/?meta_refresh=true. 5 Ljubica Gatarić and Josip Bohutinski, “Plenkovićeva velika pobjeda: HDZ sastavlja Vladu, potop Restarta,” Večernji List, July 6, 2020. https://www.vecernji.hr/ vijesti/plenkoviceva-velika-pobjeda-hdz -sastavlja-vladu-potop-restarta-1415052. 6 Većernji.hr, “Škoro: U 50 dana postojanja napravili smo treći rezultat u Hrvatskoj,” Večernji List, July 5, 2020. https://www.vecernji.hr/vijesti/kampanja-je-bila-vrlo-krat-

ka-i-prljava-smatram-da-je-ovo-pobjeda- domovinskog-pokreta-1415022.

7 Hina, “Usvojena Zagrebačka deklaracija: EU pripremila paket od 3,3 milijarde eura potpore zapadnom Balkanu,” Slobodna Dalmacija, May 6, 2020. https:// slobodnadalmacija.hr/vijesti/hrvatska/usvojena-zagrebacka- deklaracija-eu-pripremila-paket-od-3-3-milijarde-eura-potpore-zapadnom-balkanu-1019951.


minorities. For these reasons, Hungary and Poland are being investigated by the European Commission under Article 7 of its treaty for repeatedly violating fundamental EU values, which could possibly result in suspending a member state’s voting rights.8 However, continuing throughout Croatia’s EU Presidency, these punitive efforts have failed. For a member state to be punished under Article 7, a unanimous vote has to be taken against it, and considering that Hungary and Poland both have similar domestic strategies, neither will vote to suspend the other, especially since that would leave the remaining state vulnerable as well. During its time at the head of the EU, Croatia refused to support the sanctioning of Hungary and Poland. Presidency spokesman Bruno Lopandić wrote that the Croatian position on Article 7 emphasizes that its use and outcome “should not be the sanctioning of countries where such weaknesses [in democracy] exist, but their elimination and finding satisfactory, mutually acceptable solutions through reasonable dialogue and mutual respect.”9 Because Croatia and Hungary share a long history of productive cooperation through similar values and goals, they share such a close bond, enough to defy significant pressure from the rest of Europe. Shifting to Croatia’s own ambitions within the European Union, the country was accepted into the European Exchange Rate Mechanism II (ERM II) this July.10 Any European member state wishing to adopt the euro must spend at least two years in the 8 Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Benjamin Novak, “Hungary and Poland Threaten E.U. Stimulus Over Rule of Law Links,” The New York Times, November 16, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/16/world/europe/eu- stimulus-poland-hungary.html. 9 Sandor Zsiros, “Croatian EU presidency: ‘we don’t believe in sanctions on Hungary and Poland’,” Euronews, January 20, 2020. https://www.euronews.com/2020/01/20/ croatian-eu-presidency-we-don-t-believe-in- sanctions-on-hungary-and-poland. 10 Hina, “Eurozona spremna za ulazak Bugarske i Hrvatske u ERM-2,” Večernji List, July 10, 2020. https://www. vecernji.hr/vijesti/eurozona-spremna-za-ulazak-bugarske-ihrvatske-u-erm-2-1416113.

ERM II mechanism, while maintaining exchange rate stability between their non-euro currency and the euro. The exchange rate mechanism is one of the final steps to be taken before adopting the euro officially, and so long as Croatia can maintain economic stability, it is likely that it will finally be able to adopt the euro as early as 2023. In addition to these stability measures, Croatia must also fulfill additional criteria, known as the Maastricht criteria, as the final steps before adopting the euro. Once being admitted into the mechanism, Croatian Finance Minister, Zdravko Marić, told a news conference that, “in the past three years, Croatia has managed to reduce the public debt to GDP ratio by three percentage points annually, which was four times faster than what the Maastricht criteria stipulate.” Also, despite a rise in public deficit this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Marić believes that it will only make “a one-off increase in the public debt”, something which wouldn’t derail their path to the euro.11 Similarly, this year has also seen Croatia make strides toward entering the Schengen Area of free movement. In 2019, then-President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker officially recognized Croatia for meeting all the criteria required to enter the Schengen Area.12 Still, representing the European frontier with the Western Balkans, Croatia must work to win the support of member states in its effort to take over a significant portion of the union’s exterior border. Currently, Slovenia is tasked with guarding the exterior of the Schengen border to Croatia’s north. Even despite relevant and ongoing border disputes between Slovenia and Croatia, Slovenia’s Prime Minister, Janez Janša, has repeatedly endorsed 11 CroatiaWeek, “PM: It’s realistic to promise entry into euro area in next four years,” CroatiaWeek, July 10, 2020. https://www.croatiaweek.com/pm-its-realistic-to-promisecroatias-entry-into-euro-area-in-next-four-years/. 12 Georgi Gotev, “Croatia highlights its Schengen and Eurozone ambitions,” Euractiv, January 9, 2020. https://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/ croatia-highlights-its-schengen-and-eurozone- ambitions/.


Croatia’s accession to Schengen. Following the Bled Strategic Forum in Slovenia, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković reaffirmed his Slovenian counterpart’s sentiments. “Prime Minister Janez Janša was very clear. Slovenia supports Croatia’s membership in the eurozone as well as of the Schengen area”, said Plenković.13 By strengthening these ties to the central powers within the European Union, Croatia has significantly grown its European prospects looking forward to the next four or so years while Plenković and his HDZ serve their latest domestic mandate.

already held several high-quality annual summits, bringing together leading professionals across a diverse range of industries to share their thoughts and ideas for integrating the Croatian diaspora with domestic affairs.

all dedicated to bringing a positive future to the country they love. Crodiaspora’s President, Mate Pavković, a returnee to Croatia from Canada, says that, “Crodiaspora’s primary goals concern helping Croatia do more business with its diaspora, and Crodiaspora’s ultimate goal is to find economically feasible ways for Croats to return to their homeland.”14 Since its founding, Crodiaspora has

Already, several companies that have garnered international recognition have been established in Croatia, and provided that the government allows these rising stars to thrive financially, Croatia could be one of the best places

As initiatives like Crodiaspora sprout around the world, the path toward modernization and growth for Croatia attracts more and more eager engagement domestically. Recent years have seen Croatia’s social and political spheres overwhelmed with frustration caused by complications in education reforms which were finally instituted in Economic and Innovative Priorities January 2019.15 Now, about two years removed from Despite being one of the smallest member the implementation of a modernized education states by population in the European Union, system, it is becoming evident that Croatia’s youth Croatians have contributed immensely to the are benefiting greatly. advancement of European innovation and reform. This year, the European Commission Often going unnoticed are the Croatian diaspora Statistical Office published the ranking of member that have been playing an increasingly critical role states where the highest shares of youth have basic in contributing to economic and social policy on a or above basic digital skills based on the previous domestic scale, as well as bringing investment and year, 2019. Croatia topped this category, boasting technological expertise to the country. basic or above basic digital skills among 97% of This past year has seen significant growth its youth aged sixteen to twenty-four. With the in productive diaspora involvement in domestic European average in this category being a mere Croatian politics, but also in economic and social 80%, Croatia has shown to be well on its way toward policy discussions. Leading the charge, a non-profit establishing a highly skilled and highly productive 16 organization, Crodiaspora, held a very constructive work force. So long as Croatia is able to maintain and engaging online summit in November, bringing a growing and innovative private sector, it has all together hundreds of professionals of Croatian the tools to propel itself into one of Europe’s most descent from all over the world on a virtual platform, integrated economies.

13 Hina, “Plenković: Slovenija podržava članstvo RH u eurozoni i Schengenu,” Novi List, September 1, 2020. https://www.novilist.hr/novosti/hrvatska/plenkovic-slovenija-podrzava-clanstvo-rh-u-eurozoni-i- schengenu/. 14 Mate Pavković, Whatsapp message to author, December 21, 2020.

15 Hina, “Plenković: Obrazovna reforma ide dalje, analiza radne skupine kurikularne reforme je ‘ljetna tema koja će se brzo prebroditi’,” Večernji List, August 20, 2017. https://www.vecernji.hr/vijesti/plenkovic-obrazovna- reforma-ide-dalje-analiza-radne-skupine-kurikularne-reforme-jeljetna-tema-koja-ce-se-brzo-prebroditi- 1189522. 16 CroatiaWeek, “Croatia no.1 for digital skills among youth in EU,” CroatiaWeek, July 16, 2020. https://www. croatiaweek.com/croatia-no-1-for-digital-skills-amongyouth-in-eu/.


for them to do so. Perhaps the most well known and frankly most successful success story out of Croatia in recent memory is the automotive company, Rimac Automobili. Rimac, a cutting edge innovator in electric vehicles and components, has attracted significant investment from a broad range of countries around the world including the Middle East, China, and the United States. Additionally, Rimac prides itself on being an entirely verticallyintegrated company, meaning that all of its operations are done in-house, providing for a highly concentrated working environment which encourages on-the-job learning and diversifies the company’s capabilities.17 Rimac Automobili is only a single example of the many high-end innovating companies that are budding as a result of recent reforms in education. As such, Croatia’s youth, equipped with first-rate skills in technology and science, have shown promising results for a country only twenty years removed from independence, and continue to show concrete potential for the country moving into the future. A Year in Review The year of 2020 has undoubtedly been one of the most challenging and unorthodox in generations. For Croatia, having to go to the polls for two elections to go along with holding the rotating Presidency of the European Union for the first six months of the year, the year has been fraught with political, economic, and social complications. Despite all of this, this year has seen Croatia grow more integrated with its European counterparts, making strides toward joining the Eurozone and the Schengen Area of free movement. Building upon this, Croatia used its time at the helm of the EU to strengthen ties with the Western Balkan nations and to promote their continuous efforts on the path to European integration. In a year where so many businesses and public institutions were pushed to the brink, Croatia’s technology expertise has been the bedrock 17 “Making the Future Exciting,” About us, Rimac Automobili, accessed December 18, 2020. https://www.rimac- automobili.com/about-us/.

reinforcing the continuity of both the public and private sectors. If Croatia keeps on this path by maintaining such high level education while supporting entrepreneurship and innovation, the relatively young country has exactly the right tools to establish itself as a major European player.


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

2020

Report

CYPR US

Nghi Ngo 86


C

yprus is an island nation composed mainly of people of Turkish and Greek descent1. With the former population residing primarily in the northeast while the latter residing mainly in the southwest, they are geographically separated by a U.N. buffer region1,2. It has been a member of the European Union (EU) since 2004. As of 2020, Cyprus’s population neared 1.3 million, with CO2 emissions from energy consumption of 7.72 million Mt. As of 2014, Cyprus had proved reserves of natural gas of roughly 141.6 billion cu m. Cyprus’ GDP per capita was estimated in 2019 to be $23 948 and a net migration rate estimated in 2020 to be 7.6 migrants per 1000 population. of $23 9483.

ensure a greater concentration of legitimate claims and hopes to achieve that goal by restricting the number of asylum applicants the country receives6. In late February, a video was circulated in which a young man was killed in a downtown Nicosia stabbing. The incident was quickly used as justification for the government’s heavy-handed stance on immigration7. The Interior Minister of Cyprus, Nicos Nouris came to the defense of the government’s intention to build an asylumseeker detention facility, pledging support from the Ministry of the Interior and claiming the importance of monitoring the whereabouts of asylum applicants7,8.

In 2020, Cyprus experienced developments in various areas of governance. What follows is a summation of the progression of Cypriot migration policy changes, energy and climate change plans and targets, and Cyprus’ relations with other Eastern Mediterranean nations.

In March, Nouris revealed the development of a plan to streamline the processes of deportation and asylum application adjudication in order to reduce the number of incoming economic immigrants, with a preference for refugees8. Subsequently in June, he emphasized the need for an EU policy necessitating an intake of asylum seekers that is proportional to the country’s population at risk of reduced funding from the EU. On the heels of recent migration policy changes, he further outlined the importance of striking deals with countries like Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan and India to take back their citizens who have had their refugee claims to other countries rejected. Should the EU be unable to produce such a policy, Nouris claimed that Cyprus may move forward with forming such agreements on their own5.

Migration

In January of 2020, the Cyprus Ministry of the Interior announced that it would be revising its Migration and Asylum policy4. Further details of the upcoming changes were revealed the following month. Relative to its population, Cyprus leads the EU in number of asylum seekers5. The Ministry wanted to 1 Daniel Markind, “Political Tensions Rise Over Rights To Mediterranean Natural Gas Bonanza,” Forbes, February 7, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielmarkind/2020/02/07/will-natural-gas-tensions-in-the-easternmediterranean-lead-to-armed-conflict/. 2 Jacopo Barigazzi, “Cypriot President: ‘Aggressive’ Turkey Should Be Stripped of EU Candidate Status,” POLITICO, June 6, 2020, https://www.politico.eu/article/ cypriot-president-nicos-anastasiades-aggressive-turkey-should-be-stripped-of-eu-candidate-status/. 3 CIA, “Cyprus,” The World Factbook, February 5, 2021, https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/ cyprus/. 4 Hadjioannou, Bouli. “Cyprus to launch a new migration and asylum policy.” Cyprus News Agency. January 25, 2020. 5 “Cyprus says common EU migration deal ‘imperative.’” AP News. June 18, 2020. https://apnews.com/arti-

The new policy revamp will reduce the processing time of refugee applications from in certain cases years to a maximum of 50 days and the window for appeals from 75 days to cle/30a086113d449fb9a98df88d99e96449 6 “Cyprus gets tough on economic migrants.” Kathimerini Cyprus. February 17, 2020. 7 “Nicosia Stabbing Sparks Migration Debate,”KNews, February 25, 2020, https://knews.kathimerini. com.cy/en/news/nicosia-stabbing-sparks-migration-debate. 8 “Cyprus says it cannot cope with migrant influx.” Kathimerini Cyprus. March 4, 2020.


15 days. It will also designate 21 countries that asylum applications will be considered baseless unless the applicants can provide proof that they would be endangered should they be forced to return. To further reduce the number of asylum seekers, Cyprus introduced guidelines to reduce international students from applying for asylum by requiring prospective international students to provide proof that they are able to pay a year’s tuition as well as sign a statement declaring that they’re not in danger in their home country. These policy changes were set to be voted on in July9. By July, further policy changes were announced to limit economic immigrants. The education ministry has implemented a maximum number of students for each college and, as previously mentioned, prospective students must demonstrate the ability to pay tuition for a year9,10. The employment rights within the country for these students once they graduate will be further restricted to pertaining only to their vocational training. The window for appealing application decisions was additionally reduced to 10 days from 4210.

Earlier in February, the EU announced it will invest $110 million USD towards reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, with projects taking place in various countries including Cyprus. The various foci of said projects include but are not limited to conservation, waste management, air quality and water14. Furthermore, on December 11, the EU came to an agreement on setting more ambitious climate targets for attaining net-zero emissions by 2050 and becoming a world leader in the fight against climate change. These targets included reducing GHG emissions by a minimum of 55% compared to by 2030 and will require a more rapid switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy, including electric vehicles, which is estimated to cost 350 billion euros/year. The EU is currently on track to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, with Cyprus having met its 2020 target of reducing GHG emissions (compared to 2005) by 13%15.

perative.’” 10 “Hazou, Elias “Tough new tools to curb immigration.” Cyprus Mail. July 5, 2020. 11 “Cyprus government approves national plan on climate and energy 2020-2030.” Cyprus News Agency. January 15, 2020. 12 Rosenbaum, Andrew. “Cyprus energy project, awaiting approval, now challenged.” Cyprus Mail. June 11, 2020. 13 “Cyprus ready to implement its National Energy and Climate Plan, stresses Energy Minister” Cyprus News Agency. October 6, 2020.

Eastern Mediterranean relations

Despite the positive strides, in comparison to 1990, emissions from Cyprus have increased by 50%. As such, as reported by the Cyprus Mail, Cyprus will likely need to increase its relatively modest targets during Energy and Climate Change the next formal review of National Energy and 15 In January 2020, Cyprus’ Council of Climate Plans in 2023 . Ministers approved a national climate and With an expected decline of 20%-25% energy plan for lowering GHG emissions by 2030 in gas demand, East Mediterranean for 2020-203011. Despite a key element being countries, including Cyprus, should maximize challenged by the EIB in June, as of October and invest in renewables as a growing decline 2020, Cyprus’s energy and climate plan has in demand for gas and, consequently, large gas been ready for implementation12,13. import pipelines will have an impact on the EastMed gas pipeline15. 9 “Cyprus Says Common EU Migration Deal ‘ImThe geographical divide between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots is 14 Holger, Dieter. “EU Invests $110 Million in Environmental Projects.” Dow Jones Institutional News. February 17, 2020. 15 Dr Charles Ellinas, “Tougher Climate Goals Require New Energy Models,” Cyprus Mail, December 13, 2020, https://cyprus-mail.com/2020/12/13/tougher-climate-goals-require-new-energy-models/.


upheld by a U.N. buffer zone separating the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots, following the events of a Greek-Cypriot coup and a Turkish invasion in 197416. The CypriotTurkish conflict originated fourteen years after Cyprus achieved independence from Great Britain in 1960. Turkey invaded Cyprus following the Greek government ordering the deposition of Archbishop Makarios III, the then ruler of Cyprus, to be replaced by a pro-Greek government. Turkey was able to gain control of 37% of the island and declare an independent state. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, as it was named, however, remains unrecognized internationally, except by Turkey17. Despite the conflicts, in June 2020, President Anastasiades was hopeful that, pending the October Turkish Cypriot elections, reunification talks would resume with Mustafa Akinci, who was running for a second term16. However, by the time the election season began, election candidates began expressing concerns that Turkey was interfering in the election. According to Akinci, the Turkish embassy in North Cyprus established a campaign team, opposing his candidacy, with various Turkish politicians with AKP and MHP affiliations going as far as touring North Cyprus villages to campaign against him. Turkey, in his claims, is supposedly pushing for the election of Ersin Tatar, whom they considered to be more compliant compared to Akinci who is in favour of North Cypriot independence from Turkey18,19.

In 2019, Turkey started drilling near Cyprus for oil and gas, ignoring warnings from the EU. The act increased tensions with Greece and Cyprus, both member states of the EU18. Conflict between the states of Cyprus and Turkey has long been an outstanding issue for the EU and according to Peter Stano, EU foreign affairs spokesperson, Turkey’s attempts to continue drilling and exploring in the Eastern Mediterranean region is going against EU attempts at facilitating dialogue between Turkey and Cyprus20. Earlier in 2011, the Cyprus government discovered offshore gas but have since been in dispute with Turkey over the maritime zones within which these resources are found. That same year, according to Hami Aksoy, spokesperson for the Turkish Foreign Ministry, the area in which their Turkish drill ships are breaching are within the purview of a 2011 exploration license given to a Turkish company by Turkish Cypriot authorities21.

Cyprus reported in January 2020 that Turkish exploration ships were sent into Cypriot waters that were leased for mineral drilling to Eni and Total, an Italian and a French company, respectively. President Erdogan’s decision to send in these ships puts him in direct conflict with Cyprus, Israel and Greece. He, however, described this move as one for Turkish Cypriot rights and well-within the rights afforded to him by the Turkish Libyan economic agreement, in which the two countries outlined and declared a certain portion of the eastern Mediterranean as their 16 Barigazzi, “Cypriot President: ‘Aggressive’ Turkey economic zone. These three nations have a Should Be Stripped of EU Candidate Status” history of conflict with Erdogan and have 17 Markind, “Political Tensions Rise Over Rights To all recently entered and signed a deal for the Mediterranean Natural Gas Bonanza.” construction of a gas pipeline from Israel and 18 Evie Andreou, “Candidates in North Accusing passing through Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Turkey of Meddling in Elections,” Cyprus Mail, October 5, 2020, https://cyprus-mail.com/2020/10/05/candidates-innorth-accusing-turkey-of-meddling-in-elections/. 19 Psaropoulos, John. “Greece, Cyprus Threaten EU Sanctions against Turkey over Varosha,” Al Jazeera, October 8, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/8/greececyprus-to-seek-eu-action-against-turkey-over-varosha.

20 Barigazzi, “Cypriot President: ‘Aggressive’ Turkey Should Be Stripped of EU Candidate Status” 21 Reuters Staff, “Turkey Spars with EU over Fresh Drilling off Cyprus,” Reuters, January 19, 2020, https:// www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-cyprus-idUSKBN1ZI0G0.


central Europe20.

During the aforementioned events of the 1974 war in Cyprus, the town of Varosha was abandoned. In early October, Turkey began occupying it, a response to moves made by Greece and Cyprus for EU sanctions against Turkey for its exploration within the Cyprus EEZ. The reopening of Varosha, according to the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Matsotakis, would be in violation of resolutions passed by the UN Security Council. The EU announced its condemnation of Turkey’s “violations of the sovereign rights of the Republic Cyprus…” however have not issued any sanctions as of October 223.

Erdogan’s actions were not unnoticed by the EU, who declared them illegal. No additional action, however, according to a February article released by Forbes, has been taken by the EU. In response to the EU’s comments, Erdogan stated that any investigation into the natural gas resources of the Eastern Mediterranean would not be legal without the consent of Turkey or Libya22. Despite pressure from the Greek government, the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government and the EU, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced that Turkey would continue Also in October, Turkey deployed drilling in the Cyprus economic zone. another search vessel into the disputed waters A week later, in April, Cyprus reported of the eastern Mediterranean. This vessel that Turkey sent out a NavTex reserving was also escorted by the Turkish Navy. The additional areas of Cyprus’ exclusive economic Turkish government cited this move to be in zone until July 18, 2020 and sent out the Navy- response to inflammatory action by the Greek escorted drillship, the Yavuz, according to government. Erdogan further dismissed Cyprus. The Yavuz has been previously sent and opposed criticism of the reopening of to Cyprus waters in 2019 between the months Varosha, claiming it to be the rightful land 25 of July and September and October 2019 to of the Turkish Cypriots . Varosha remains January 2020. It is the third of such ships to contested, with both Turkish and Greek 25,26 be deployed by Turkey since 2014. Turkey, via Cypriots claiming it . Later that month, its ministry of defence, continues to justify Egypt joined Greece and Cyprus in issuing its actions as moves for the protections of a joint statement condemning the energy Turkish and Turkish-Cypriot interests, but the exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, EU continues to stand behind Cyprus on the which the Turkish Foreign Ministry dismissed. matter, threatening the Turkish governments This statement further contained an invitation of additional sanctions should they not end from Cyprus to enter discussion on maritime what they declare to be illegal drilling in the delimiminations. Egypt, Cyprus and Greece East Mediterranean23. By July, Greece reported have reached agreements on this matter and that Turkey had 19 ships in 19 ships in the are awaiting Turkey. The Turkish Foreign Ministry interpreted the declaration as an Aegean24. 22 Barigazzi, “Cypriot President: ‘Aggressive’ Turkey attack, reaffirming their stance that cooperation will only occur with the inclusion of Turkish Should Be Stripped of EU Candidate Status” “ 23 Turkey Sends Another Drillship to Cypriot WaCypriots in governance and resource sharing27. ters,” Argus, April 20, 2020, https://www.argusmedia.com/ en/news/2097831-turkey-sends-another-drillship-to-cypriot-waters. 24 Nick Theodoulou, “‘Turkey Does Not Need Anyone’s Permission to Drill in the East Mediterranean’,” Cyprus Mail, July 21, 2020, https://cyprus-mail. com/2020/07/21/turkey-does-not-need-anyones-permissionto-drill-in-the-east-mediterranean/.

25 “East Med Crisis: Erdogan Ramps up Rhetoric against Greece, Cyprus,” Al Jazeera, October 14, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/14/east-med-crisis-erdogan-ramps-rhetoric-against-greece-cyprus. 26 Psaropoulos. “Greece, Cyprus Threaten EU Sanctions against Turkey over Varosha.” 27 “Turkey Irked over Joint Declaration by Cyprus,


Bibliography Despite this, in a visit to North Cyprus, however, President Erdogan called for a two- Andreou, Evie. “Candidates in North Accusing Turkey of Meddling in Elections.” Cyprus Mail, October 5, 2020. https://cyprusmail.com/2020/10/05/candidates-in-north-accusing-turkey-ofstate resolution to the conflict with Cyprus meddling-in-elections/ and accused the Greek Cyprus government of Barigazzi, Jacopo. “Cypriot President: ‘Aggressive’ Turkey Should Be Stripped of EU Candidate Status.” POLITICO, June 6, 2020. https:// not being willing to engage in discussion28.

In December, Greece pushed for an arms embargo on Turkey following its actions throughout 2020 in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean. Following a summit, 27 leaders agreed to implement sanctions on Turkey. EU member states have previously been hesitant to harden their stance, punitive measures and sanctions on Turkey, a NATO ally, EU member candidate and Syrian refugee host; however, there was growing awareness of and frustration with Turkey’s actions over the previous years, including its decision to send oil and gas drilling ships into Cypriot waters, exploration rights for which had been awarded exclusively to the aforementioned Italian and French companies29.

Greece and Egypt,” Arab News, October 23, 2020, https:// www.arabnews.com/node/1752791/middle-east. 28 Staff, “Turkey’s Erdogan Says It’s Time for Two-State Solution in Cyprus,” Reuters, October 26, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-turkey-cyprus-erdogan-idUKKBN27B28D. 29 “Europe’s Stance on Turkey Toughens with Sanctions, Weapons Talk,” Al Jazeera, December 11, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/12/11/europes-stanceon-turkey-toughens-with-sanctions-weapons-talk.

www.politico.eu/article/cypriot-president-nicos-anastasiadesaggressive-turkey-should-be-stripped-of-eu-candidate-status/ CIA. “Cyprus.” The World Factbook, February 5, 2021. https://www. cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/cyprus/. Kathimerini Cyprus. “Cyprus gets tough on economic migrants,” February 17, 2020. Cyprus New Agency. “Cyprus government approves national plan on climate and energy 2020-2030,” January 15, 2020. Cyprus News Agency. “Cyprus ready to implement its National Energy and Climate Plan, stresses Energy Minister,” October 6, 2020. AP News. “Cyprus Says Common EU Migration Deal ‘Imperative,’” June 18, 2020. https://apnews.com/ article/30a086113d449fb9a98df88d99e96449 Kathimerini Cyprus. “Cyprus says it cannot cope with migrant influx,” March 4, 2020. Al Jazeera. “East Med Crisis: Erdogan Ramps up Rhetoric against Greece, Cyprus,” October 14, 2020. https://www.aljazeera.com/ news/2020/10/14/east-med-crisis-erdogan-ramps-rhetoric-againstgreece-cyprus Ellinas, Dr Charles. “Tougher Climate Goals Require New Energy Models.” Cyprus Mail, December 13, 2020. https://cyprus-mail. com/2020/12/13/tougher-climate-goals-require-new-energymodels/ Al Jazeera. “Europe’s Stance on Turkey Toughens with Sanctions, Weapons Talk,” December 11, 2020. https://www.aljazeera. com/news/2020/12/11/europes-stance-on-turkey-toughens-withsanctions-weapons-talk Hadjioannou, Bouli. “Cyprus to launch a new migration and asylum policy.” Cyprus News Agency. January 25, 2020. Hazou, Elias “Tough new tools to curb immigration.” Cyprus Mail. July 5, 2020. Holger, Dieter. “EU Invests $110 Million in Environmental Projects.” Dow Jones Institutional News. February 17, 2020. Markind, Daniel. “Political Tensions Rise Over Rights To Mediterranean Natural Gas Bonanza.” Forbes, February 7, 2020. https://www. forbes.com/sites/danielmarkind/2020/02/07/will-natural-gastensions-in-the-eastern-mediterranean-lead-to-armed-conflict/ K News. “Nicosia Stabbing Sparks Migration Debate,” February 25, 2020. https://knews.kathimerini.com.cy/en/news/nicosia-stabbingsparks-migration-debate Psaropoulos, John. “Greece, Cyprus Threaten EU Sanctions against Turkey over Varosha.” Al Jazeera, October 8, 2020. https://www. aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/8/greece-cyprus-to-seek-eu-actionagainst-turkey-over-varosha Reuters Staff. “Turkey Spars with EU over Fresh Drilling off Cyprus.” Reuters, January 19, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/usturkey-cyprus-idUSKBN1ZI0G0 Reuters Staff. “Turkey’s Erdogan Says It’s Time for Two-State Solution in Cyprus.” Reuters, October 26, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/ article/uk-turkey-cyprus-erdogan-idUKKBN27B28D Rosenbaum, Andrew. “Cyprus energy project, awaiting approval, now challenged.” Cyprus Mail. June 11, 2020. Theodoulou, Nick. “‘Turkey Does Not Need Anyone’s Permission to Drill in the East Mediterranean’.” Cyprus Mail, July 21, 2020. https://cyprus-mail.com/2020/07/21/turkey-does-not-needanyones-permission-to-drill-in-the-east-mediterranean/ Arab News. “Turkey Irked over Joint Declaration by Cyprus, Greece and Egyp,” October 23, 2020. https://www.arabnews.com/ node/1752791/middle-east Argus. “Turkey Sends Another Drillship to Cypriot Waters,” April 20, 2020. https://www.argusmedia.com/en/news/2097831-turkeysends-another-drillship-to-cypriot-waters


I

n 2020, Czechia displayed both solidarity and independence as a 16-year member of the European Union (EU). One of the first countries to implement strict COVID-19 prevention measures, Czechia was initially able to control the spread and maintain low numbers, providing a model for the rest of Europe. Due to uniform EU border policy, Czechia experienced a second COVID-19 peak after lifting travel restrictions. As travellers were partially to blame for this second peak, Czechia took a distinct stance against a proposed EU migration pact. The Czech objection was based on their priority to expel illegal migrants before accepting more migrants and refugees. Their struggle to deal with refugees and migrants was clearly

CZECHIA

Alex Liu


reflected in their stance against all-encompassing EU policy. In domestic politics, October Senate elections resulted in the opposition winning a majority over the current party in power. How the newly recomposed government will continue to tackle the pandemic and EU relations will become more clear in 2021. In 2020, Czechia demonstrated their commitment to being a member of the European community while also affirming its independence. Czechia and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Early Response and What Went Wrong Czechia was one of the first countries to instate a lockdown, close borders, and make masks mandatory in public places during the early spread of the novel Coronavirus.1 Both generally favourable views reported across media outlets and a decline in cases reflect compliance from the population. National unity was also exhibited during the initial spike in cases, as mass efforts were made to ensure personal protective equipment (PPE) was widely available and the vulnerable would be protected. By early June, cases declined and many restrictions were lifted, including opening of borders and the allowance of events of up to five-hundred participants.2 The early struggle and subsequent success were widely reported as Czechia led the way for the rest of Europe in terms of instating widespread safety measures and lockdowns. Cases climbed again in the fall with loose restrictions. The EU reopened borders in the Summer, resulting in case rises across Europe. News outlets reported opposition to safety measures not

1 “Measures Adopted by the Czech Government Against the Coronavirus,” Government of the Czech Republic, accessed January 5, 2020, https://www.vlada.cz/en/media-centrum/aktualne/measures-adopted-by-the-czech-government-against-coronavirus-180545/. 2 “Measures Adopted by the Czech Government Against the Coronavirus.”

seen at the beginning of the pandemic, such as most people not working from home, refusals to wear masks, and protests against lockdown measures in October.3 Overall, the more relaxed approach of government “recommendations” proved to be ineffective in inspiring unity as exhibited in the spring, resulting in a much larger second wave. By October 15, cases had climbed to a record 9,500 daily increase. Since October 22, non-essential stores have been closed, and a state of emergency was declared until December 12.4 However, some reports suggest these measures were taken too late to change the general attitude. Frustrations increased when Health Minister Roman Prymula was spotted without a mask at a restaurant after new mask policies had been imposed.5 Czechia hit a new infection record at the end of December with 16,420 new infections reported on the thirtieth and a lockdown implemented on the twenty-seventh.6 To combat COVID-19, vaccine roll-out is set to begin in Czechia as the government purchased five-and-a-half million doses in December and plans to purchase 10.6 million more.7 The vaccination campaign is expected to 3 “Anti-lockdown Demonstration Turns Violent in Prague,” Euronews, October 18, 2020; Vratislav Dostal, “Vláda Ztrácí Důvěru. Češi Podceňují Koronavirus a Omezují se Méně než na Jaře,” Info.cz, October 20, 2020, https:// www.euronews.com/2020/10/18/anti-lockdown-demonstration-turns-violent-in-pr ague. 4 Vratislav Dostal, “Nouzový Stav se Prodlouží do 12.Prosince. Vládu Opět Podrželi Komunisté,” Info.cz, November 19, 2020, https://www.info.cz/zpravodajstvi/cesko/ nouzovy-stav-se-prodlouzi-do-12-prosince-vlad u-opet-podrzeli-komuniste. 5 “Prymula Prozradil, kdy Skončí. A dál se Hájí: „Roušku Jsem Neměl dvě Sekundy”,” Blesk, October 25, 2019, https://www.blesk.cz/clanek/zpravy-koronavirus/659222/prymula-prozradil-kdy-skonci-a -dal-se-haji-rousku-jsem-nemel-dve-sekundy.html. 6 “Measures Adopted by the Czech Government Against the Coronavirus.” 7 Klára Beranová, “Česko Nakoupí Vakcínu pro 5,5


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

begin in early 2021, as well as further lockdown re- two years, giving senators a six-year term. This strictions. The success of these measures is depen- year’s elections saw the Mayors and Independents dent on EU border policy and public compliance. party (STAN) gain the most, and the Czech Social Democratic Party lost the most seats. STAN, the Opposition to the EU Migration Pact current opposition party, is considered centre to On September 23, the European Commis- centre-right and emphasizes localism and municsion proposed changing EU-wide migration policy. ipal power. The Czech Social Democratic Party, Main points include the removal of intake quotas centre-left, were reaffirmed as the strongest faction and continued mandatory solidarity of members in in the Czech government.10 Gains from STAN were aiding migrants. Czechia has opposed a quota on widely noted along with the Euroskeptic Civic the intake of migrants since 2015, so their oppoDemocratic Party winning two seats, suggesting sition to parts of this new pact was not unprecdiscontent with the Social Democratic Party.11 edented. President Babis said on Twitter that he In the media, election results were largebelieves the EU-wide goal should be to stop illegal ly interpreted as a progressive failure against the immigration and the protection of European borCzech Social Democratic Party and the rise of ders rather than the intake of new migrants.8 He, STAN, following a similar trend with other Euroand the Czech government, are reported to have pean countries.12 Jan Hamáček, a member of the approved dropping migrant quotas for EU MemSocial Democratic Party, attributed the loss of seats ber States but made no clear comment accepting to a lower voter turnout due to a lack of enthusiasm migrants who fail to gain asylum in their country from incumbent voters.13 Only 17% of registered of origin. Czechia has also taken steps to repatriate voters cast votes, attributed to COVID-19 and genillegal immigrants showing their opposition to unieral discontent with the electoral system. However, form EU policy on the issue.9 They are, however, in there was a slightly higher turnout in the capital, support of collective EU border protection showing with about 20% of eligible voters casting their votes commitment to the European community, suggestin Prague.14 The future of Czechia’s political scene ing a “Europe first” attitude, aiming to strengthen 10 Vratislav Dostal, “Česká Politika v Roce KoroEuropean security and identity. naviru. Pandemický otřes Hodnotí Politologové,” Info.cz, December 24, 2020. https://www.info.cz/zpravodajstvi/cesSenate Elections ko/politika-v-roce-koronaviru-pandemicky-otres-ho On October 2 and 3 of this year, senatorial dnoti-politologove. 11 “Starostové Ovládli Senát, Vládní Strany Propadelections took place in Czechia. In Czechia, onely, ČSSD Přišla o Klub,” Idnes, October 10, 2020, https:// www.idnes.cz/zpravy/domaci/volby-do-senatu-druhe-kolo. third of the 81-member Senate is elected every A201010_133937_dom aci_knn. Milionu Iidí,” Novinky, November 23, 2020, https://www. 12 Dostal, “Česká Politika v Roce Koronaviru. Paninfo.cz/eu/praha-se-stavi-na-zadni-ohledne-klimatu-i-midemický Otřes Hodnotí Politologové.” grace. 13 “Starostové Ovládli Senát, Vládní Strany Propad8 Karel Bartak, “Praha se Staví na Zadní Ohledně ly, ČSSD Přišla o Klub,” Idnes, October 10, 2020, https:// Klimatu i Migrace,” Info.cz, September 24, 2020, https:// www.info.cz/eu/praha-se-stavi-na-zadni-ohledne-klimatu-i- www.idnes.cz/zpravy/domaci/volby-do-senatu-druhe-kolo. A201010_133937_domaci_knn. migrace. “Starostové Ovládli Senát, Vládní Strany Propadly, 9 Bartak, “Praha se Staví na Zadní Ohledně Klimatu i 14 ČSSD Přišla o Klub.” Migrace.” 94


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will become more clear in the 2021 parliamentary elections. Year in Review

Bibliography Barak, Karel. “Nebezpečný rok Covidu a Nesoudržnosti: Jak se Evropská unie Vypořádala s Výzvami Roku 2020?” Info.cz, December 25, 2020. https://www.info.cz/eu/ nebezpecny-rok-covidu-a-nesoudrznosti-jak-se-evropska-unie-vyporadala-s-vyzvami-roku-2020.

The events of 2020 in Czechia reveal indeBarak, Karel.“Praha se Staví na Zadní Ohledně Klimatu i pendence and individuality within Europe. CzeMigrace.” Info.cz, September 24, 2020. https://www. info.cz/eu/praha-se-stavi-na-zadni-ohledne-klimatuchia’s COVID-19 showed an example for Europe i-migrace. and the rest of the world however it deteriorated as Beranová, Klara. “Česko Nakoupí Vakcínu pro 5,5 Milionu the pandemic continued. Increasing European soliIidí.” Novinky, November 23, 2020. https://www. novinky.cz/domaci/clanek/cesko-nakoupi-vakcidarity was shown, and Czechia, who both benefited nu-pro-55-milionu-lidi-40343043. from, and contributed to, EU efforts. Czechia’s vigiBlesk. “Prymula Prozradil, kdy Skončí. A dál se Hájí: „Roušku Jsem Neměl dvě Sekundy’.” October 25, 2019. https:// lance and compliance with EU pandemic measures www.blesk.cz/clanek/zpravy-koronavirus/659222/ are likely to strengthen their stance as a committed prymula-prozradil-kdy-skonci-a-dal-se-haji-rouskujsem-nemel-dve-sekundy.html.

member.

Dostal, Vratislav. “Česká Politika v Roce Koronaviru. Pan-

The migration pact is one area where demický otřes Hodnotí Politologové.” Info.cz, December 24, 2020. https://www.info.cz/zpravodajstvi/cesko/ Czechia and the EU clashed however, Czechia’s politika-v-roce-koronaviru-pandemicky-otres-hodnoti-politologove. response was not necessarily anti-EU. The advocacy of “Europe first” policy towards migration is not Dostal, Vratislav. 2020. “Nouzový Stav se Prodlouží do 12. Prosince. Vládu Opět Podrželi Komunisté.” Info.cz, inconsistent with Czechia’s stance since the beginNovember 19, 2020. https://www.info.cz/zpravodajstvi/cesko/nouzovy-stav-se-prodlouzi-do-12-prosning of the refugee crisis. Czechia’s prioritizing of ince-vladu-opet-podrzeli-komuniste. its own citizens was also reflected in the results of Dostal, Vratislav. “Vláda Ztrácí Důvěru. Češi Podceňují the senate elections, which showed a public attitude Koronavirus a Omezují se Méně než na Jaře.” Info.cz, October 20, 2020. https://www.info.cz/zpravodajstvi/ that is shifting towards regionalism and nationalcesko/vlada-ztraci-duveru-cesi-podcenuji-koronavirus-a-omezuji-se-mene-nez-na-jare. ism, as well as a small, but perhaps growing, sentiEuronews. “Anti-lockdown Demonstration Turns Violent ment of independence from the EU. in Prague.” October 18, 2020. https://www.euronews.com/2020/10/18/anti-lockdown-demonstration-turns-violent-in-prague.

Idnes. “Starostové Ovládli Senát, Vládní Strany Propadly, ČSSD Přišla o Klub.” October 10, 2020. https://www. idnes.cz/zpravy/domaci/volby-do-senatu-druhe-kolo. A201010_133937_domaci_knn. “Measures Adopted by the Czech Government Against the Coronavirus.” Government of the Czech Republic. https://www.vlada.cz/en/media-centrum/ aktualne/measures-adopted-by-the-czech-government-against-coronavirus-180545/.

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Denmark’s ‘Ghetto’ Housing Plan A sweeping number of antiimmigration and xenophobic laws have been enforced in the last two decades placing national identity and migration at the center of Danish politics. The Danish government started off the year with an announcement for their most recent infrastructure policy that proposes a nation wide mass eviction and reconstructing of the 28 most ‘run down’ neighborhoods.1 Two years prior, Denmark’s right-wing government introduced a policy dubbed as the ‘ghetto plan’, that sought to rid of ‘parallel societies’ with low income rates, high crime rates and low levels of education.2 Most controversially however,

Basima Qadri

1 O’Sullivan Feargus, “How Denmark’s ‘ghetto list’ is ripping apart migrant communities,” The Guardian, March 11th, 2020. 2 Osgard Anton and Jonas Algers, “Denmark’s Shameful Ghetto Plan,” JacobinMag, December 22, 2019.

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reminiscence of Denmark’s history with populist politics began the turbulent yet victorious year 2020. The Danish government ravelled with migrant politics, women’s rights and a global pandemic. Although pockets of Danish society, particularly Danish women, saw a landmark victory with reformed rape laws, immigrant based neighborhoods battled yet another round of xenephobic policies with Denmark’s ongoing ‘Ghetto’ housing plan. The global pandemic did not grace any favours, instead a crippled fur industry and a political resignation followed the year to its end. Clear party lines were drawn in Danish media, particularly with regards to the housing policy, but the support and awareness raised by the majority of Danish news agencies with regard to the economic injustices and women’s rights did not fall short.


more than half of the neighborhood populations constitute first or second generation migrants.3 Initially, the policy enacted harsher penalties for any crime committed by a resident of a ‘ghetto’ neighborhood, which would often result in “collective punishments” where entire families would be evicted from their homes if one member committed a crime.4 The most rigid measures however were taken in January 2020, where a goal of limiting public housing in the ‘ghetto’ neighborhoods to only constituting 40% of the total housing by 2030 was enforced.5 In effect, more than 11,000 social housing tenants will be set to leave their homes.6 Lisbeth Saugmann, an elderly resident and a former kindergarten teacher has been living in the Nørrebro public housing district for almost a decade. Whilst expressing her dismay of the infrastructure policy, she stated that “there are other ‘ghettos’ in the country where they [the government] want to tear down healthy houses just because they don’t like the people living there.”7 Saugmann suggested that the policy is in fact xenophobic as she stated that “in the other housing associations where [she] lived, [they] had the same [social] problems, but everyone was white. They [the authorities] went in and they gave more opportunities for jobs and that helped.”8 Although the housing minister, Kaare Dybvad Bek stated that the plan was “to ensure we create mixed cities and don’t park the weakest citizens in one neighbourhood,”9 Berlingske, NRP

and other Danish news outlets began publishing a counter-narrative that shed light on an alternative government agenda. A story on Asif Mehmood, a Danish resident of the Norrebo district, who is part of a determined group of citizens filing a lawsuit against the Danish government gained national and international attention. The residents claim that the mass sweep out specifically targets immigrant based neighborhoods and that the infrastructure policy is but another anti-immigration scheme that is looking to narrow the path towards citizenship and integration.10 European media agencies picked up Mehmood’s story, and ran parallel headlines questioning whether integration can be achieved through eviction.11 International news outlets have written along similar lines, suggesting that the infrastructure policies are simply “Harsh New Laws for Immigrant ‘Ghettos,’”12 that are masked in an attempt to uplift impoverished neighborhoods. The residents of Mjølnerparken in Copenhagen claim that the plan is unlawful as it is discriminatory under EU law and the European Convention on Human Rights as the policy violates their fundamental rights, including their right to respect for their homes.13 Given the pressure and outcry, in September the right-wing Dansk Folkeparti decided to delay any action regarding the eviction and movement of residents in the ‘ghetto’ areas till December. In light of the domestic lawsuit and outcry, the United Nations Human Rights Experts (UNHRE) issued a statement in O’Sullivan Feargus, “How Denmark’s ‘ghetto list’ October urging that Denmark suspend the sale

3 is ripping apart migrant communities,” The Guardian, March 11th, 2020. 4 David Keyton, “Denmark’s residents sue over laws for dismantling ‘ghettos’,” AP News, May 27, 2020, https:// apnews.com/article/4c8b59b2493a45f1567dccd417545685. 5 Sidsel Overgaard, “Facing Eviction, Residents Of Denmark’s ‘Ghettos’ Are Suing The Government,” NPR, August 15, 2020. 6 Ibid. 7 Versi Jamila, “Denmark’s ‘ghetto plan’ and the communities it targets,” Al-Jazeera, January 15th, 2020. https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2020/1/15/denmarksghetto-plan-and-the-communities-it-targets 8 Ibid. 9 Michael Barret, “Danish government reduces the number of areas officially termed ‘ghetto’,” The Local DK, December 1st, 2020, https://www.thelocal.dk/20201201/

danish-government-reduces-number-of-areas-officially-termed-ghetto. 10 David Keyton, “Denmark’s residents sue over laws for dismantling ‘ghettos’,” AP News, May 27, 2020, https:// apnews.com/article/4c8b59b2493a45f1567dccd417545685. 11 M. Apelblat, “Danish ghettos: Can integration be achieved by evictions?” The Brussel Time, May 31st, 2020, https://www.brusselstimes.com/news/world-all-news/114434/ danish-ghettos-can-integration-be-achieved-by-evictions/ 12 Barry Ellen and Martin S. Sorensen, “In Denmark, Harsh New Laws for Immigrant ‘Ghettos’,” The Times. July 1, 2018. 13 M. Apelblat, “Danish ghettos: Can integration be achieved by evictions?” The Brussel Time, May 31st, 2020. https://www.brusselstimes.com/news/world-all-news/114434/ danish-ghettos-can-integration-be-achieved-by-evictions/


of apartments in its “ghetto” locations until its courts can determine whether laws permitting the sale violate residents’ human rights.14 If the legal remedies of the lawsuit are exhausted in domestic danish courts, the next step will be to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. Following international pressure, the Danish housing ministry was prompted to reassess the list of ‘ghetto’ neighborhoods, and in December the former list of 28 was halved to 15 areas instead.15

Denmark has been subject to immense criticism by European agencies and reports from non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International for having a pervasive problem for sexual assault.16 Gender related violence is said to have a strikingly high percentage in Denmark. According to the Danish Ministry of Justice, 11,400 women are subjected to rape or attempted rape every year.17 The University of Southern Denmark’s research estimates this figure to be as high as 24,000 in 2017. In 2019 only 79 rape reports out of 1,017 actually resulted in convictions.18 The unreported cases are due to fundamental flaws in the Danish legal system whereby the legal language used to define rape does not account for consent. In September of this year, the Danish government

announced that it will be making reforms to the legal language of the law concerning rape, making consent the basis for the law as opposed to violence.19 In the past, the Danish government has been largely unsuccessful in their attempts to secure legal reforms. In 2018, the left-wing Red Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) party failed to gather a parliamentary majority to re-new the laws on sexual assault.20 In fact, the right-ofcenter parties instead were more supportive of the legal changes that their neighboring country Sweden had made the year before. In 2019, there were gradual changes in the social fabric of both the conservative and liberal party. The former consrvative party leader and Minister of Justice Søren Pape Poulsen stated that he was willing to support a new definition of rape as sex without explicit consent.21 Along the same lines, Eva Kjer Hansen of the Liberal (Venstre) party and minister for equal opportunities also showed support for legal reform. The bill was presented in parliament in October 2020 and was received with open arms.22 A parliamentary majority was reached to enact the new law that made consent the basis of determining rape in legal trials. The law is said to come into effect on January 1st, 2021.23 The Federation of Danish Women mentioned earlier this year that the law would be a “historic victory for legality and the right to take sexual decisions.”

14 UN Human Rights Experts, “UN human rights experts urge Denmark to halt contentious sale of “ghetto” buildings” UN Office of the High Commissioner, https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/12/denmark-ghetto-plan-social-democrats-mette-frederiksen 15 Michael Barret, “Danish government reduces the number of areas officially termed ‘ghetto’,” The Local DK, December 1st, 2020, https://www.thelocal.dk/20201201/ danish-government-reduces-number-of-areas-officially-termed-ghetto 16 Blake Reilly, “Danish Disgrace? Pervasive rape culture or unfair rap?” CPH Post Online, March 29th, 2019, http://cphpost.dk/?p=111001. 17 Amnesty International, “Denmark: Historic victory for women as law changes to recognise that sex without consent is rape,” Amnesty International, December 17th, 2020, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/12/denmarkhistoric-victory-for-women-as-law-changes-to-recognisethat-sex-without-consent-is-rape/. 18 Ibid.

19 Editors of Euronews, “Denmark proposes change to sexual violence laws to include consent,” Euronews, September 2nd, 2020. 20 Kaukab T. Shairani, “Majority Backs New Rape Law,” CPH Post Online, September 2nd, 2020, https://cphpost.dk/?p=117963. 21 Jet Cuthbertson, “Denmark has pervasive rape culture, says human rights group Amnesty,” Euronews, December 3rd, 2019, https://www.euronews.com/2019/03/12/ denmark-has-pervasive-rape-culture-despite-reputation-for-gender-equality-says-amnesty. 22 Editors of Euronews, “Denmark proposes change to sexual violence laws to include consent,” Euronews, September 2nd, 2020, https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/02/ denmark-proposes-change-to-sexual-violence-laws-to-include-consent. 23 Ritzau The Local, “Danish parliament passes landmark bill to reform law around rape,” The Local DK, December 17th, 2020, https://www.thelocal.dk/20201217/ danish-parliament-passes-rape-law-requiring-sexual-consent.

Judicial Reforms: Denmark reforms for Rape Law


Handling the COVID-19 Pandemic Countries around the world pursued a variety of avenues to deal with the Coronavirus Pandemic (Covid-19), and Denmark was amongst those nations who pursued a rather strict and rigid approach on the onset of the crisis. Denmark was among the first European countries to have implemented self-isolation measures as early as March for all citizens who travelled from the then highly infected countries: China, Iran, parts of South Korea and all four regions in Italy.24 After the WHO declared the virus as a worldwide pandemic on March 11th, the Danish government imposed a nation-wide lockdown on March 13th and closed its borders on the 14th.25 Denmark was one of the first European countries to re-open schools as early as April 7th, for which specific guidelines were published. Having confidence in their own economic situation, Denmark also sent several aid packages to developing countries around the globe for corona control.26 Just as the government was gaining control over the situation, outbreaks of the virus on fur farms shocked the economy and particularly mink farmers. Amidst the fear of a coronavirus mutation, the government called for a nation-wide extermination plan for all Danish mink.27 The Copenhagen Post reported around 17 million mink extermination in the first week of the order.28 This has caused a devastating blow 24 Karsten Vrangbæk, Smith J. Signe., Krasnik, Allan., Okkels, Hans, “Policy Responses for Denmark,” World Health Organization, November 20, 2020, https://www. covid19healthsystem.org/countries/denmark/livinghit.aspx?Section=1.2%20Physical%20distancing&Type=Section. 25 Ibid. 26 Ministry of Foreign Affairs Denmark, “New emergency package: The Minister for Development Aid gives DKK 100 million for corona control,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, March 2020, https://um.dk/da/nyheder-fra-udenrigsministeriet/newsdisplaypage/?newsID=122B A01F-3DFB-481E-AE5A-194C95CC4F59 27 AFP, “Denmark to exhume millions of minks culled over virus,” The Local DK, December 21st, 2020, https:// www.thelocal.dk/20201221/denmark-to-exhume-millions-ofminks-culled-over-virus. 28 Jones Helen, “Danish Mink Farmers Stand to Lose Billions,” CPH Post Online, November 12th, 2020, https:// cphpost.dk/?p=120271

on Mink farmers and the overall Mink industry which Danish mink farmer, Mads Sørensen, claims will take 15 years to fully recover.29 This brought a massive outcry among Danish mink farmers who appeared on Danish TV in tears, as their generational work was suddenly put to rest. Denmark however was not alone. Coronavirus cases in mink farms were also detected in the Netherlands and Spain but the rates were spreading much higher in Denmark.30 Denmark is also the world’s biggest producer of mink fur and its main export markets are China and Hong Kong.31 The industry brought in a total of 4.9 billion kroner (around USD 580 million) in exports just last year, and now it is clear that the prices will skyrocket.32 With the fur industry in trouble, a gap in the Danish market will likely be filled by Chinese, Russian and Eastern European farms, hurting their financial position on the international market. The industry crisis led to immense political unrest with calls for minister Mogens Jensen to resign after ordering the cull without any legal jurisdiction.33 European media too picked up on Denmark’s major governmental controversy as France 24 reports that the Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen apologised to Parliament, stating that “Even if we were in a rush, it should have been completely clear to us that new legislation was required, and it was not. I apologise for that.”34 New emergency regulations are being put in place to compensate the farmers for the loss they have 29 Helen Jones, “Danish Mink Farmers Stand to Lose Billions,” CPH Post Online, November 12th, 2020, https:// cphpost.dk/?p=120271 30 BBC Editors, “Denmark to cull up to 17 million mink amid coronavirus fears,” BBC News, November 5th, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54818615. 31 BBC Editors, “Denmark to cull up to 17 million mink amid coronavirus fears,” BBC News, November 5th, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54818615. 32 Helen Jones, “Danish Mink Farmers Stand to Lose Billions,” CPH Post Online, November 12th, 2020, https:// cphpost.dk/?p=120271 33 Euronews, “Coronavirus: Denmark’s agriculture minister resigns over illegal order to cull mink,” Euronews, November 18th, 2020. 34 Copenhagen (AFP), “Denmark sorry for legal bungle behind mink virus cull,” France 24, November 10th, 2020.


incurred thus far. Year in Review Beginning with Denmark’s controversial ‘ghetto’ plan, this year unfolded with the displacement of migrants and ethnic minorities. Considering the pandemic, Denmark followed a downward path that began at a strong high with controlled numbers and strict social measures, but ended with a tarnished fur industry and a number of policy mistakes. However, the new years is set to begin a brighter year for Danish women, as 2020 ended with successful judicial reform for Danish rape laws. The Danish media largely supported minority rights by defending key social activists in the sight of the new housing policies. European and international media too ran bold headlines directed at the Danish government - questioning their policies. There was no surprise that Austrian nor French media supported the claims made by the Danish immigrants, instead British and American news outlets brought the issue on the international stage. European media did however cover and comment on much of Denmark’s pandemic policies, particularly their failure to address the mink virus and its effects on one of Denmark’s largest industries.



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ocated in Northern Europe, Estonia is the least populated of the three Baltic states, but one of the world’s most digitally adept societies.1 In fact, the World Economic Forum ranked Estonia first in Europe as an entrepreneurial hotspot.2 Due to decades of technological developments of digital infrastructure, Estonia’s government and civil society faced little disruption when the country entered into a full lockdown in March 2020 to limit the transmission of COVID-19.3 In 2020, Estonia’s digital society and technological capabilities have made it the ideal leader to spearhead European and international digital transformations. The current COVID-19 pandemic has enabled Estonia to lead and collaborate with European Union (EU) members and other international actors to find e-solutions to modern issues, though concurrently, Estonia has also needed to consider and prioritize its own national interests. As such, this report will look at three key issues prominent in Estonian media headlines in 2020 – the COVID-19 pandemic, European digital divides, and the question of immigration and refugees – to consider how Estonia has managed its individual interests in tandem with EU relations and global issues. 1 Jana Silaškova and Masao Takahashi, “How Estonia’s Digital Society Became a Lifeline during COVID-19,” World Economic Forum (World Economic Forum, July 1, 2020), https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/07/estonia-advanced-digital-society-here-s-how-that-helped-it-during-covid-19/. 2 Silaškova and Takahashi, “How Estonia’s Digital Society Became a Lifeline during COVID-19”. 3 Silaškova and Takahashi, “How Estonia’s Digital Society Became a Lifeline during COVID-19”.


Estonia Brandon Yih

Estonia confirmed its first 4 COVID-19 case on 27 February 2020. On 16 March 2020, the European Commission granted 295 million EUR to Estonia for the rapid mobilization of coronavirusrelated measures.5 On 17 March 2020, Estonia restricted movement across the Schengen internal and external borders by reintroducing border controls.6 This measure meant that only citizens of

Estonia, holders of an Estonian residency permit or right of residence, and foreign citizens with family members residing in Estonia may be permitted to enter with a requirement to self-isolate for two weeks.7 On 12 May 2020, Estonia requested support from the EU Solidarity Fund to cover the costs of procuring personal protective equipment.8 As details of the coronavirus crisis became clearer throughout the Spring 2020 season, Estonian national media has taken a precautious tone towards border reopening strategies as talks began between Estonia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu and his counterparts in Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania.9 Nevertheless, when a “[Baltic] travel bubble” was formed on 15 May

4 Reuters, “Estonia Reports First Confirmed Coronavirus Case,” Reuters (Thomson Reuters, February 27, 2020), https://www.reuters.com/article/ us-china-health-estonia-case-idUSKCN20L0L6. 5 Andrew Whyte, ed., “Estonia to Get €295 Million from EU to Combat Coronavirus,” ERR (ERR News, March 16, 2020), https://news.err.ee/1064696/ estonia-to-get-295-million-from-eu-to-combat-coronavirus. 6 Helen Wright, ed., “Estonia to Close Borders to Foreign Nationals from March 17,” ERR (ERR News, March 15, 2020), https://news.err.ee/1064173/ estonia-to-close-borders-to-foreign-nationals-frommarch-17.

7 Wright, “Estonia to Close Borders to Foreign Nationals from March 17”. 8 Government Communication Unit, “Estonia Turns to EU Solidarity Fund in Order to Request Support for Covering COVID-19 Costs,” Government of the Republic of Estonia (Government of the Republic of Estonia, May 12, 2020), https://www.valitsus.ee/ en/news/estonia-turns-eu-solidarity-fund-order-request-support-covering-covid-19-costs. 9 Andrew Whyte, ed., “Reinsalu: Estonia Is Cautious about Opening Its Borders,” ERR (ERR News, April 29, 2020), https://news.err.ee/1083529/ reinsalu-estonia-is-cautious-about-opening-its-borders.

624 ( Ju ly 2020 es t . ) – CIA Worl d F a c t b ook

ate: 4 . 4 5 % ( 201 9 es t . ) – World Ba nk Da t a

$38,8 1 1 .1 ( 2019 es t . ) – World B a nk Da t a

er S ta te si nce 2004

The COVID-19 Pandemic


2020, again allowing the free movement of citizens and legal residents between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Estonian national media and European Union officials applauded the effort.10 On 21 July 2020, EU leaders reached an agreement on a 750 billion EUR Next Generation EU (NGEU) recovery fund to support EU members affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.11 Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas noted that Estonia was granted 6.8 billion EUR from the EU’s long-term budget and more than 1.5 billion EUR in subsidies from the NGEU.12 In contrast to early 2020, Estonian national media has shifted towards a more pessimistic perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the Fall 2020 season, especially after Latvia broke the travel bubble by reimposing travel restrictions on Estonia in early September 2020.13 While Foreign Minister Reinsalu wished to reinstate the Baltic travel bubble in early October 2020 as infection rates among the three Baltic nations converged, Latvian officials have not discussed the idea and moved towards imposing stricter regulations.14 Estonian officials originally hoped to establish a common model for approaching the coronavirus crisis among the Baltic states, but the current trajectory threatens the Baltic unity seen earlier in 2020.15 10 BBC, “Coronavirus: Baltic States Open a Pandemic ‘Travel Bubble’,” BBC News (BBC, May 15, 2020), https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-52673373. 11 bne IntelliNews, “EU Leaders Strike Deal on Post-Coronavirus Stimulus Plan,” bne IntelliNews (bne IntelliNews, July 21, 2020), https://www.intellinews. com/eu-leaders-strike-deal-on-post-coronavirus-stimulusplan-187900/. 12 bne IntelliNews, “EU Leaders Strike Deal on Post-Coronavirus Stimulus Plan”. 13 Marcus Turovski, ed., “Latvia Imposes Travel Restrictions on Estonia,” ERR (ERR News, September 11, 2020), https://news.err.ee/1134133/latvia-imposes-travel-restrictions-on-estonia. 14 Kristjan Kallaste, ed., “Latvian Foreign Minister: The ‘Baltic Bubble’ Is Not Just for Numbers,” ERR (ERR News, October 13, 2020), https://news.err.ee/1146266/latvian-foreign-minister-the-baltic-bubble-is-not-just-for-numbers. 15 Viljar Veebel, “Bubble Trouble: Estonia and the

On 9 November 2020, Latvia announced an emergency situation vis-à-vis the COVID-19 pandemic, while Estonia did not.16 Moving into December 2020, the Estonian government began to discuss further coronavirus-related measures and restrictions on restaurants, entertainment venues and schools.17 Estonian media outlets noted how new restrictions seemed inevitable given rapidly increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases.18 In the medical sector, managers of Estonia’s largest hospitals predict struggles with hitting peak patient capacity limits and lack of staffing by January 2021.19 These predictions are based on the belief that many Estonians will not follow social distancing rules during the holiday season.20 This sentiment is shared by the Director General of the Estonian Health Board Ullar Lanno, who says that coronavirus infections and deaths are increasing and that January 2021 will be the “moment of truth.”21 Furthermore, Estonian media outlets have reported that the Estonian government’s Coronavirus Crisis,” European Council on Foreign Relations (European Council on Foreign Relations, November 19, 2020), https://ecfr.eu/article/bubble-trouble-estonia-and-the-coronavirus-crisis/. 16 Carl-Robert Puhm and Aarne Seppel, “Coronavirus Forecasts Pessimistic,” Postimees (Postimees, November 20, 2020), https://news.postimees.ee/7116346/coronavirus-forecasts-pessimistic. 17 Baltic News Service, “Estonian Govt to Impose New Restrictions Thursday,” Postimees (Postimees, December 9, 2020), https://news.postimees.ee/7129280/estonian-govt-to-impose-new-restrictions-thursday. 18 Loora-Elisabet Lomp, “New Restrictions Seem Unavoidable,” Postimees (Postimees, December 3, 2020), https://news.postimees.ee/7124902/new-restrictions-seem-unavoidable. 19 Helen Wright, ed., “Hospitals Predict Patient Capacity, Staffing Problems by Start of 2021,” ERR (ERR News, December 22, 2020), https://news.err. ee/1216237/hospitals-predict-patient-capacity-staffing-problems-by-start-of-2021. 20 Wright, “Hospitals Predict Patient Capacity, Staffing Problems by Start of 2021”. 21 Baltic News Service, “Health Board Director: Coronavirus Infection Rate Is Increasing,” ERR (ERR News, December 30, 2020), https://news.err.ee/1223266/ health-board-director-coronavirus-infection-rate-is-increasing.


COVID-19 immunization targets are unrealistic due to the current lack of vaccine quantities.22 Estonia’s immunization plan aims to make COVID-19 vaccination available to all by June 2021, which would require at least 13,500 front-line workers be vaccinated weekly even though current Pfizer/BioNTech supplies are only delivering 10,000 weekly vaccine doses.23 Apart from the joint EU vaccine procurement framework, Estonia has purchased an additional 50,000 vaccine doses from Pfizer/ BioNTech in order to build confidence among those in the health sector.24 On 30 December 2020, Estonia reported 968 new COVID-19 positive tests, breaking the national record since the pandemic’s onset.25 Even so, Social Affairs Minister Tanel Kiik asserted that there are currently no plans to further impose new restrictions, specifically comparing Estonia against Latvia and Lithuania.26 Minister Kiik feels that the stricter restrictions taken on by the other two Baltic States like Latvia’s curfew from 10pm-5am and Lithuania’s road checks with regional restrictions, are not justified for Estonia’s current situation due to fears of intense negative public backlash.27 22 Henry-Laur Allik, “Greater Quantities Needed to Hit Vaccination Target,” Postimees (Postimees, December 29, 2020), https://news.postimees.ee/7143648/greater-quantities-needed-to-hit-vaccination-target. 23 Allik, “Greater Quantities Needed to Hit Vaccination Target”. 24 Helen Wright, ed., “Estonia to Buy 50,000 Additional Doses of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine,” ERR (ERR News, December 28, 2020), https://news.err. ee/1221226/estonia-to-buy-50-000-additional-doses-of-pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine. 25 Terviseamet, “COVID-19 Blog, 30 December: 968 New Positive Test Results Have Been Added in the Past 24 Hours,” Republic of Estonia Health Board (Republic of Estonia Health Board, December 30, 2020), https://www. terviseamet.ee/en/news/covid-19-blog-30-december-968new-positive-test-results-have-been-added-past-24-hours. 26 Andrew Whyte, ed., “Minister: Harsher COVID-19 Restrictions Would Provoke Backlash,” ERR (ERR News, December 30, 2020), https://news.err.ee/1223296/minister-harsher-covid-19-restrictions-would-provoke-backlash. 27 Whyte, “Minister: Harsher COVID-19 Restrictions Would Provoke Backlash”.

Digital Divide Years before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Estonia was already well-prepared with a strong digital society in place with electronic voting, digital health records, e-prescription services, and digital classrooms.28 In fact, during the COVID-19 lockdown, 99% of all Estonian public services remained accessible online.29 Estonia’s embrace of digital society is most evident as on 12 March 2020, the same day Estonia declared a state of emergency, a statesponsored digital hackathon was launched called “Hack the Crisis.”30 This hackathon created e-solutions such as the Koroona Card online information hub, self-assessment questionnaires and a national chatbot for questions about the lockdown called SUVE.31 In May 2020, Estonia began testing one of the world’s first digital immunity passports with temporary QR-codes to allow for safer returns to workplaces after COVID-19 lockdowns.32 On 1 July 2020, Estonia and Singapore co-sponsored a Global Declaration on the Digital Response to COVID-19 with the aim of aiding countries affected by the COVID-19 crisis with adaptive digital solutions.33 This declaration focuses on several strategic areas such as healthcare, education, 28 Silaškova and Takahashi, “How Estonia’s Digital Society Became a Lifeline during COVID-19”. 29 Silaškova and Takahashi, “How Estonia’s Digital Society Became a Lifeline during COVID-19”. 30 e-Estonia, “Estonia Organized a Public-Private e-Hackathon to Hack the Crisis,” Estonia.ee (Republic of Estonia, March 2020), https://estonia.ee/estonia-organized-apublic-private-e-hackatlon-to-hack-the-crisis/. 31 Morgan Meaker, “Estonia’s Digital Strategy in the Fight against Corona,” Vontobel (Vontobel, May 8, 2020), https://www.vontobel.com/en-int/impact/estonias-digital-strategies-in-the-fight-against-the-coronavirus-21306/. 32 Tarmo Virki, “Estonia Starts Testing Digital Immunity Passport for Workplaces,” Reuters (Thomson Reuters, May 23, 2020), https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-estonia-digital/estonia-starts-testing-digital-immunity-passport-for-workplaces-idUSKBN22W0GE. 33 Välisministeerium, “Close the Digital Divides: the Digital Response to COVID-19,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, July 1, 2020), https:// vm.ee/en/close-digital-divides-digital-response-covid-19.


cybersecurity, e-governance, e-commerce and global cooperation.34 On 20 August 2020, Estonia launched its own COVID-19 exposure notification and contact tracing app called “HOIA.”35 Overall, Estonian media outlets tended to focus on domestic e-solutions earlier in 2020.

involvement starts with a project to develop a “yellow vaccination card” allowing for reliable transnational exchanges of vaccination data as well as introducing the X-Road data exchange system, the backbone of Estonia’s e-state, to other countries.39 Also in October 2020, Estonia began working on a global coronavirus testing app called SimplyGO, which allows individuals to digitally provide evidence if they’ve been tested or vaccinated against COVID-19 elsewhere.40 This initiative supports the EU’s attempts to implement a unified coronavirus policy and responds to calls for help by Estonia to implement the EU Testing Protocol for Travel (EU-TPT), which aims to replace the current jumble of differing local self-isolation measures.41 Apart from initiatives addressing COVID-19, Estonia has also embarked on research projects in October 2020 for the operationalization of a central bank digital currency through the Bank of Estonia in support of decisions by the European Central Bank.42 This complements the European Commission’s launch of the ‘Digital Development Hub’ focused on promoting digital economies worldwide.43

As the Fall 2020 season arrives, Estonian media outlets began to highlight Estonia’s ability to aid the global community, specifically working with other EU members. On 24 September 2020, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid spoke at the 75th United Nations General Assembly about how the current pandemic provides the global community an opportunity for technological leaps and how Estonia’s own experiences with upscaling e-education and distance working are strategies they can share with other nations.36 On 25 September 2020, Estonian Foreign Minister Reinsalu spoke at the Alliance for Multilateralism about the need to bridge the global digital divide in order to confront the pandemic’s impacts and how Estonia can help.37 On 5 October 2020, Estonian Prime Minister Ratas signed a memorandum of understanding with the Interestingly, Estonian media World Health Organization to help bolster outlets have remained relatively quiet on the global digital health sector.38 Estonia’s bridging the digital divide on education. 34 Tõnis Nirk, “Close the Digital Divides: The Digital While the European Parliament has called Response to COVID-19 - e-Estonia,” e-Estonia (e-Estonia, July 10, 2020), https://e-estonia.com/close-the-digital-divides-the-digital-response-to-covid-19/. 35 Helen Wright, ed., “Feature: Estonia Launches Coronavirus Exposure Notification App ‘HOIA’,” ERR (ERR News, August 20, 2020), https://news.err.ee/1125119/ feature-estonia-launches-coronavirus-exposure-notification-app-hoia. 36 Baltic Course, “Estonian President at UN: Pandemic Offers Opportunity for Technological Leap,” The Baltic Course (The Baltic Course, September 25, 2020), http://www.baltic-course.com/eng/legislation/?doc=159471. 37 Baltic News Service, “Foreign Minister at the UN: Heal the Digital Divide,” ERR (ERR News, September 27, 2020), https://news.err.ee/1139918/foreign-minister-at-theun-heal-the-digital-divide. 38 Andrew Whyte and Helen Wright, eds., “Estonia to Sign Digital Health Cooperation Deal with WHO,” ERR (ERR News, October 2, 2020), https://news.err.ee/1142077/

estonia-to-sign-digital-health-cooperation-deal-with-who. 39 Whyte and Wright, “Estonia to Sign Digital Health Cooperation Deal with WHO”. 40 Krister Kivi, “Estonia to Participate in Developing Global Coronavirus Testing App,” Postimees (Postimees, October 12, 2020), https://news.postimees.ee/7083914/ estonia-to-participate-in-developing-global-coronavirus-testing-app. 41 Kivi, “Estonia to Participate in Developing Global Coronavirus Testing App”. 42 Baltic News Service, “Bank of Estonia Launching Research Project into Digital Currency,” ERR (ERR News, October 3, 2020), https://news.err.ee/1142740/bank-of-estonia-launching-research-project-into-digital-currency. 43 Johannes Bahrke et al., “Team Europe: Digital4Development Hub Launched to Help Shape a Fair Digital Future across the Globe,” European Commission (European Commission, December 8, 2020), https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_20_2321.


on measures to close the digital gap in Europe on education, especially due to the pandemic’s disproportionate effects, Estonian media have not often highlighted the issue.44 Instead, international media outlets such as The Guardian have been actively promoting Estonia’s successes in e-education.45 Nevertheless, Estonia did announce in March 2020 that it would support other countries by sharing its e-education tools.46 Immigration and Refugees

Immigration and refugees to Estonia has been a contentious issue in 2020 with purposeful limits imposed upon international students and non-EU workers as well as general political opposition. In early 2020, the Tartu city government launched a project to integrate new immigrants, and on 15 May 2020, the Central Tallinn city district government also began to develop local action plans for similar integration efforts with the Ministry of the Interior and funding from the EU through the European Social Fund.47 Partly guided by the EU’s migration plans, Estonia has granted international protection to a meagre 544 people over 23 years, and has not received any individuals for the resettlement and relocation program in 2020.48 In fact, asylum applications 44 Agnese Krivade, “COVID-19: MEPs Call for Measures to Close the Digital Gap in Education,” European Parliament (European Parliament, October 22, 2020), https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/pressroom/20201016IPR89550/covid-19-meps-call-for-measuresto-close-the-digital-gap-in-education. 45 Sally Weale, “Lessons from Estonia: Why It Excels at Digital Learning during Covid,” The Guardian (Guardian News and Media, October 30, 2020), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/30/lessons-from-estonia-why-excels-digital-learning-during-covid. 46 Arnaud Terrisse, “How Has the Pandemic Changed the Face of Edtech?,” EU-Startups (EU-Startups, September 28, 2020), https://www.eu-startups.com/2020/09/how-hasthe-pandemic-changed-the-face-of-edtech/. 47 Baltic News Service, “Central Tallinn, Interior Ministry to Support Integration of New Immigrants,” ERR (ERR News, May 15, 2020), https://news.err.ee/1090520/ central-tallinn-interior-ministry-to-support-integration-of-new-immigrants. 48 Baltic News Service, “Estonia Granted Internation-

in 2020 were almost half the number compared to 2019 and Estonia’s Head of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) Kristiina RaidlaPuhm has argued that it is evident that many do not perceive Estonia as an appealing destination country, especially from Africa or the Middle East.49 This decrease in numbers of refugees is also noted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and there has been acknowledgement that Estonia needs to do better in welcoming and integrating refugees.50 Although Estonia will be allocating 200 thousand EUR to the UNHCR in 2021 and 2022 and aiding the UNHCR with developing digital services, Estonian media outlets have more often highlighted negative opinions on refugees and immigration by Estonian politicians.51 Foreign Minister Reinsalu has asserted that Estonia would not take in any displaced persons due to a fire at the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, and that Estonia should not engage in any migrant redistribution mechanisms although planned by the European Commission.52 Around the same time in September 2020, then-Minister of the Interior Mart Helme asserted that Estonia does not support mandatory relocation of al Protection to 544 People in 23 Years,” ERR (ERR News, July 10, 2020), https://news.err.ee/1111592/estonia-granted-international-protection-to-544-people-in-23-years. 49 Andrew Whyte, ed., “Asylum Applications in 2020 Nearly Half That of Previous Year,” ERR (ERR News, December 21, 2020), https://news.err.ee/1214830/asylumapplications-in-2020-nearly-half-that-of-previous-year. 50 Kari Käsper and Karolis Žibas, “Estonia: Where Do Refugees Belong?,” UNHCR Nordic and Baltic Countries (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, August 14, 2020), https://www.unhcr.org/neu/41751-estonia-where-do-refugees-belong.html. 51 Helen Wright, ed., “Estonia Supports UNHCR with €200,000 and Digitalization Advice,” ERR (ERR News, December 3, 2020), https://news.err.ee/1194547/estonia-supports-unhcr-with-200-000-and-digitalization-advice. 52 Andrew Whyte, ed., “Reinsalu: No Plans to Take Moria Camp Migrants, May Grant Financial Aid,” ERR (ERR News, September 17, 2020), https://news.err. ee/1136051/reinsalu-no-plans-to-take-moria-camp-migrantsmay-grant-financial-aid.


asylum seekers, which counters the EU’s new Pact on Migration and Asylum.53 Furthermore, Foreign Minister Reinsalu has also said that Estonia would not be readily accepting refugees from Belarus, although Belarusian IT companies were welcome to move, which contrasts from Latvia and Lithuania which have both been accepting of Belarusian refugees and entrepreneurs.54 This priority for business interests aligns with Estonia’s launch of a new visa program for “digital nomads” on 1 August 2020 to attract foreign professionals.55

as she finds it to be detrimental to Estonian interests.57 Furthermore, Estonia’s new Minister of the Interior Alar Laneman has also openly explained that he is “not a fan of immigration.”58 These governmental actions against immigration seem aligned with study findings published in an article on 12 June 2020 that found over half of Estonians believe the state should not permit any or limit the number of people of different races and ethnicities to move to Estonia.59 While Estonians greatly supported the EU policy of free movement of Concurrently, Estonia has moved to EU citizens, Estonians also found immigration 60 make immigration more challenging for non- to be the greatest threat to the EU. EU international students and foreign workers. Year in Review New amendments to existing legislation like In conclusion, Estonia has aligned the Aliens Act include barring spouses of its interests and worked well with the EU non-EU nationals studying in Estonia from towards developing common frameworks coming to live in the country until after two for handling the COVID-19 pandemic and years of study, reducing duration of time sharing its technical expertise to bridge considered as seasonal work, and no longer regional digital divides. Nevertheless, Estonia counting time spent for studies as part of has taken a more conservative approach on the residency period needed for permanent the question of immigration and refugees, residence applications.56 In September 2020, which may conflict with the new EU migration draft legislation was proposed by the Estonian plans. While the globally shared burden of the Conservative People’s Party to prohibit tuition coronavirus pandemic has allowed Estonia waivers for non-EU students, and Vice-Rector to take a leadership role in the international for Academic Affairs at the University of Tartu community, the concurrent need to prioritize Aune Valk argued against such legislation national interests such as Estonia’s healthcare 53 SchengenVisaInfo, “EU Member States Show Mixed Reactions to New Migration Pact,” SchengenVisaInfo (SchengenVisaInfo, September 30, 2020), https://www. schengenvisainfo.com/news/eu-member-states-show-mixedreactions-to-new-migration-pact/. 54 Kristjan Kallaste and Helen Wright, eds., “Reinsalu: Estonia Ready to Accept IT Firms from Belarus, but Not Refugees,” ERR (ERR News, September 17, 2020), https:// news.err.ee/1136031/reinsalu-estonia-ready-to-accept-itfirms-from-belarus-but-not-refugees. 55 Associated Press, “Estonia Launches New Visa Programme for Wealthy ‘Digital Nomads’,” euronews (euronews, September 9, 2020), https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/09/estonia-launches-new-visa-programme-for-wealthy-digital-nomads-. 56 Baltic News Service, “Government Approves Stricter Third Country National Residence Bill,” ERR (ERR News, September 10, 2020), https://news.err.ee/1133195/ government-approves-stricter-third-country-national-residence-bill.

system and domestic labor market has created Baltic disunity and tensions with the EU. Earlier in Spring and Summer 2020, Estonian 57 Aune Valk, “Aune Valk: Why on Earth Are They Coming to Study in Estonia?,” Estonian World (Estonian World, September 29, 2020), https://estonianworld.com/ opinion/aune-valk-why-on-earth-are-they-coming-to-studyin-estonia/. 58 Anna Põld, “‘I Have Never Been a Fan of Publicity,’” Postimees (Postimees, November 16, 2020), https:// news.postimees.ee/7111843/i-have-never-been-a-fan-of-publicity. 59 Allan Padar, “Study: Half of Estonians against People of Other Races Moving to Estonia,” ERR (ERR News, June 12, 2020), https://news.err.ee/1101124/studyhalf-of-estonians-against-people-of-other-races-moving-toestonia. 60 Padar, “Study: Half of Estonians against People of Other Races Moving to Estonia”.


national media tended to be more hopeful in terms of addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, while prioritizing domestic concerns on the digital sphere. Interestingly, later in Fall and Winter 2020, Estonian national media focused more on Estonia’s ability to help the global community with digital solutions and technological development but headlines also grew more pessimistic and conservative when reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic and immigration issues. As COVID-19 infection rates in Estonia continue to rise into 2021, it would be unsurprising to continue to see the same trends in Estonian media headlines as found in the latter half of 2020.


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Kallaste, Kristjan, ed. “Latvian Foreign Puhm, Carl-Robert, and Aarne Seppel. Minister: The ‘Baltic Bubble’ Is Not Just “Coronavirus Forecasts Pessimistic.” for Numbers.” ERR. ERR News, October Postimees. Postimees, November 20, 2020. 13, 2020. https://news.err.ee/1146266/ https://news.postimees.ee/7116346/ latvian-foreign-minister-the-baltic-bubblecoronavirus-forecasts-pessimistic. is-not-just-for-numbers. Põld, Anna. “‘I Have Never Been a Fan Kivi, Krister. “Estonia to Participate in of Publicity.’” Postimees. Postimees, Developing Global Coronavirus Testing November 16, 2020. https://news. App.” Postimees. Postimees, October 12, postimees.ee/7111843/i-have-never-been2020. https://news.postimees.ee/7083914/ a-fan-of-publicity. estonia-to-participate-in-developingReuters. “Estonia Reports First Confirmed global-coronavirus-testing-app. Coronavirus Case.” Reuters. Thomson Krivade, Agnese. “COVID-19: MEPs Call Reuters, February 27, 2020. https://www. for Measures to Close the Digital Gap reuters.com/article/us-china-healthin Education.” European Parliament. estonia-case-idUSKCN20L0L6. European Parliament, October 22, 2020. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/ SchengenVisaInfo. “EU Member States Show Mixed Reactions to New Migration Pact.” en/press-room/20201016IPR89550/covidSchengenVisaInfo. SchengenVisaInfo, 19-meps-call-for-measures-to-close-theSeptember 30, 2020. https://www. digital-gap-in-education. schengenvisainfo.com/news/eu-memberKäsper, Kari, and Karolis Žibas. “Estonia: states-show-mixed-reactions-to-newWhere Do Refugees Belong?” UNHCR migration-pact/. Nordic and Baltic Countries. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Silaškova, Jana, and Masao Takahashi. “How Estonia’s Digital Society Became a Lifeline August 14, 2020. https://www.unhcr.org/ during COVID-19.” World Economic neu/41751-estonia-where-do-refugeesForum. World Economic Forum, July belong.html. 1, 2020. https://www.weforum.org/ Lomp, Loora-Elisabet. “New Restrictions agenda/2020/07/estonia-advanced-


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Foreign Affairs, July 1, 2020. https:// vm.ee/en/close-digital-divides-digitalresponse-covid-19.

Terrisse, Arnaud. “How Has the Pandemic Changed the Face of Edtech?” EU-Startups. Weale, Sally. “Lessons from Estonia: Why It EU-Startups, September 28, 2020. https:// Excels at Digital Learning during Covid.” www.eu-startups.com/2020/09/howThe Guardian. Guardian News and has-the-pandemic-changed-the-face-ofMedia, October 30, 2020. https://www. edtech/. theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/30/ lessons-from-estonia-why-excels-digitalTerviseamet. “COVID-19 Blog, 30 December: learning-during-covid. 968 New Positive Test Results Have Been Added in the Past 24 Hours.” Republic of Whyte, Andrew, and Helen Wright, eds. Estonia Health Board. Republic of Estonia “Estonia to Sign Digital Health Cooperation Health Board, December 30, 2020. https:// Deal with WHO.” ERR. ERR News, October www.terviseamet.ee/en/news/covid-192, 2020. https://news.err.ee/1142077/ blog-30-december-968-new-positive-testestonia-to-sign-digital-health-cooperationresults-have-been-added-past-24-hours. deal-with-who.

Turovski, Marcus, ed. “Latvia Imposes Whyte, Andrew, ed. “Asylum Applications in Travel Restrictions on Estonia.” ERR. ERR 2020 Nearly Half That of Previous Year.” News, September 11, 2020. https://news. ERR. ERR News, December 21, 2020. err.ee/1134133/latvia-imposes-travelhttps://news.err.ee/1214830/asylumrestrictions-on-estonia. applications-in-2020-nearly-half-that-ofprevious-year. Valk, Aune. “Aune Valk: Why on Earth Are

They Coming to Study in Estonia?” Estonian Whyte, Andrew, ed. “Estonia to Get €295 World. Estonian World, September 29, 2020. Million from EU to Combat Coronavirus.” https://estonianworld.com/opinion/ ERR. Eesti Rahvusringhääling, March aune-valk-why-on-earth-are-they-coming16, 2020. https://news.err.ee/1064696/ to-study-in-estonia/. estonia-to-get-295-million-from-eu-tocombat-coronavirus. Veebel, Viljar. “Bubble Trouble: Estonia and

the Coronavirus Crisis.” European Council Whyte, Andrew, ed. “Minister: Harsher on Foreign Relations. European Council COVID-19 Restrictions Would Provoke on Foreign Relations, November 19, 2020. Backlash.” ERR. ERR News, December https://ecfr.eu/article/bubble-trouble30, 2020. https://news.err.ee/1223296/ estonia-and-the-coronavirus-crisis/. minister-harsher-covid-19-restrictionswould-provoke-backlash. Virki, Tarmo. “Estonia Starts Testing Digital Immunity Passport for Workplaces.” Whyte, Andrew, ed. “Reinsalu: Estonia Is Reuters. Thomson Reuters, May 23, 2020. Cautious about Opening Its Borders.” ERR. https://www.reuters.com/article/healthERR News, April 29, 2020. https://news.err. coronavirus-estonia-digital/estonia-startsee/1083529/reinsalu-estonia-is-cautioustesting-digital-immunity-passport-forabout-opening-its-borders. workplaces-idUSKBN22W0GE. Whyte, Andrew, ed. “Reinsalu: No Plans to Välisministeerium. “Close the Digital Divides: Take Moria Camp Migrants, May Grant the Digital Response to COVID-19.” Financial Aid.” ERR. ERR News, September Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ministry of 17, 2020. https://news.err.ee/1136051/


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Population: 5,587,442 (July 2021 est.)1 [CIA World Factbook] Unemployment Rate: 6.7% (2019 est.)2 [World Bank] GDP per Capita: $51,619.8 (2019 est.)3 [World Bank] EU Status: EU member since January 1, 19954 [Europa.eu] 1 “Finland.” The World Factbook, June 14, 2021, accessed June 16, 2021, https:// www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/finland/. 2 “Unemployment, total – Finland.” The World Bank, January 29, 2021, accessed June 16, 2021, https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.UEM.TOTL.NE.ZS?locations=FI. 3 “GDP per capita, PPP – Finland.” The World Bank, accessed June 16, 2021, https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.PP.CD?locations=FI. 4 “Finland.” Europa.eu, accessed June 16, 2021, https://europa.eu/european-union/ about-eu/countries/member-countries/finland_en.


F

inland is a small northern European nation bordering Norway, Sweden, and Russia that became an independent nation in 19175. Remaining a relatively neutral country throughout the conflicts of the 20th century, Finland joined the United Nations in 1955 and later became an official member of the EU in 19956. The citizens, known as Finns, experience high quality living conditions and prosperity as Finland has consistently topped the list for happiest countries in the world for the past four years in a row7. In 2019 Finland announced its goal to be carbon neutral by 2035, one of the most ambitious goals of an EU country and one which it has shown to be serious in achieving with its various renewable energy developments in 20218. The country’s current Prime Minister Sanna Marin has been 5 “Finland.” Britannica, June 15, 2021, accessed June 16, 2021, https://www.britannica.com/place/Finland. 6 “Finland.” Britannica. 7 Laura Begley Bloom, “The 20 Happiest Countries In The World In 2021 (Guess Where the U.S Ranked?)” Forbes, March 19, 2021, accessed June 15, 2021, https:// www.forbes.com/sites/laurabegleybloom/2021/03/19/the-20happiest-countries-in-the-world-in-2021/?sh=21ce5bf470a0. 8 Sam Morgan, “Finland pledges carbon neutrality on eve of EU presidency” Euractiv, June 5, 2019, accessed June 16, 2021, https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/finland-pledges-carbon-neutrality-on-eve-of-eu-presidency/.

in office for 18 months beginning right before the pandemic and was also the youngest government leader in Europe at her election at only 35 years old9. Although she originally had great national and international popularity for her effective and controlled way of handling the pandemic, her party has faced steady loss of support with the growing political divide within the country. This growing divide has been supplemented with the continuing Covid-19 pandemic Finland has faced since its first case in January 202010. With new variants entering the country since the beginning of the year, Finland has taken to enforcing strict restrictions both within its borders and on foreigners entering the country which have proven effective in limiting active cases within the country. Overall, Finland’s 2021 has been presented in the media as being one of great development, with huge breakthroughs furthering the country’s climate change 9 “Finland’s local elections a test for nation’s young leader” Independent, June 13, 2021, accessed June 16, 2021, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/finlands-local-elections-a-test-for-nations-young-leader-sanna-marin-finlandhelsinki-democratic-europe-b1864934.html. 10 “Cumulative number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Finland since January 2020” Statista, June 17, 2021, accessed June 18, 2021, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1102255/cumulative-coronavirus-cases-in-finland/.

Finland Aimé Saldias


commitments, a growing political divide among the population leading up to new local elections, and the lasting effects of previous and new Covid-19 outbreaks. Sustainable Energy:

A development that has not ceased with the turbulent world situation in the past year has been Finland’s commitment of actively working to protect the environment. Beginning in early April, Finland made world headlines with the announcement of the Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) nuclear reactor in Eurajoki11. Having only recently finished construction since its start in 2005, this nuclear reactor will be the largest in Europe and is expected to begin operations in 2022 following its recent approval by the Nuclear Safety Authority12. The reactor is predicted to significantly reduce Finland’s greenhouse gas emissions and will contribute to Finland’s pledge to be carbon neutral by 2035 as well as the first in the world to be a “fossil-free welfare society”13. Another of Finland’s bold environmental commitments is the 15 million euro project for Clean Propulsion Technology being led by the University of Vaasa to develop efficient marine technology14. This project will aim to utilize 100% renewable bio-LNG fuel which also emits nearly no nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxide emissions for ships to utilize operating in the areas between the main EU ports and the Yamal Peninsula in northwestern Siberia15. Not only contributing to Finland’s plan to reduce 11 “Nuclear reactors, gun control and oat liqueur: Finland in the world press” Helsinki Times, April 3, 2021, https://www.helsinkitimes.fi/world-int/world-news/finlandin-the-world-press/18985-nuclear-reactors-gun-control-andoat-liqueur-finland-in-the-world-press.html. 12 “Nuclear reactors, gun control and oat liqueur: Finland in the world press”. 13 James O’Sullivan, “Finnish maritime industry propelled by clean solutions” Good News from Finland, May 20, 2021, https://www.goodnewsfinland.com/finnish-maritime-industry-propelled-by-clean-solutions/. 14 James O’Sullivan, “Finnish maritime industry propelled by clean solutions”. 15 Ibid

CO2 emissions, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has also declared that in response they will reduce their CO2 emissions by at least 40% per transport work before 2030, which will incite competition for compatible renewable solution on a global scale16. In late May it was announced that Finland’s total emissions of greenhouse gases in 2020 decreased by 9% compared to 2019, meaning based on current stats, Finland will meet its EU’s emissions promise not included in the EU Emissions Trading System for 2013202017. This success was followed by Posiva Oy, a waste management company from Finland, announcing a “deep geologic nuclear waste repository” to store their nuclear waste, the first in the world18. With an expected total cost of $3.4 billion, the operation has already been approved by the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland to begin expected construction in 202319. Finland’s four active nuclear reactors are already known as some of the most efficient in the world and fuel about 32% of the country’s energy usage20. Finland will soon complete constriction of its fifth nuclear reactor and be able to completely replace their coal generation by having 60% of their total energy usage be supplied by nuclear power, a notable feat not just in the European Union but in the world21. Similarly, in late May a hydrogen specialist company named P2X Solutions based in Helsinki announced that it was beginning 16 Ibid 17 “Greenhouse emission decreases by 9%” Daily Finland, May 21, 2021, accessed June 14, 2021, http://www. dailyfinland.fi/national/21778/Greenhouse-emission-decreases-by-9. 18 “Finland Breaks Ground On World’s First Deep Geologic Nuclear Waste Repository” Forbes, May 31, 2021, accessed June 14, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2021/05/31/finland-breaks-ground-on-its-deep-geologic-nuclear-waste-repository/?sh=6a40912f6103. 19 “Finland Breaks Ground On World’s First Deep Geologic Nuclear Waste Repository”. 20 Ibid 21 Ibid


the development of their first green hydrogen production plant to begin construction in 202222. With hydrogen energy being recognized as an essential element of Finland’s climate strategy, it is expected for the plant to be operational by 2024 and will be designed so it can be a prototype for replicas in other parts of world23. Before this announcement around 36 companies have already joined to support the future Finnish hydrogen-based economy as reported in April by the Technology Industries of Finland24. These companies will have access to billions of euros worth of investments to support the manufacturing of hydrogenbased solutions under the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility, with companies throughout Germany, Poland, Sweden, the Baltics and Finland have begun negotiating to built along the Gulf of Bothnia a “northern hydrogen hub” under a project called BotH2nia25. All of these efforts were proven effective when on June 14 the United Nations released the 2021 Sustainable Development Report, an index of UN member states and their progress towards their sustainable development goals26. Out of 165 countries Finland was placed at the top of the list for being the most successful in having “met or is close to meeting the UN’s targets of alleviating poverty, reducing inequality and advancing education, health, water, energy, peace and the rule of law”, a testament to Finland’s successful past efforts and a 22 Aleksi Teivainen, “Finland building hydrogen-based economy” Good News from Finland, June 3, 2021, accessed June 13, 2021, https://www.goodnewsfinland.com/ finland-building-hydrogen-based-economy/. 23 Aleksi Teivainen, “Finland building hydrogen-based economy”. 24 Aleksi Teivainen, “Finland building hydrogen-based economy”. 25 Ibid 26 “Finland ranks first in sustainable development according to international comparison by UN” Helsinki Times, June 14, 2021, accessed June 15, 2021, https://www. helsinkitimes.fi/finland/news-in-brief/19411-finland-ranksfirst-in-sustainable-development-in-international-comparison-by-un.html.

prediction for their future plans27. Local Elections:

This spring was supposed to mark the start of Finland’s municipal elections in April, however they were instead postponed because of the pandemic28. The later date of the local election was set for June 13 but in the time leading up to that has demonstrated the growing political polarization among campaigns and among the Finnish population29. On June 7, the Finns Party (also known as Perussuomalaiset) which is the main opposition, had their antiimmigrant election advertisements removed by the advertising company JCDecaux and the Transport Department of the City of Helsinki30. The advertisements received backlash on social media which claimed them as antiimmigrant and racist as the message of the advertisements was that immigrants get an unfair advantage in receiving rental housing in the capital Helsinki31. The Finns Party Helsinki chapter chair Johannes Nieminen claimed that the removal was “a restriction on political freedom of speech” as the city used the grounds that advertisements that do not follow ethical rules and elicits disapproval from the public are prohibited32. Rising levels of hate both in person and online especially became a central feature to this particular election with “Hundreds of local election 27 “Finland ranks first in sustainable development according to international comparison by UN”. 28 “Finland opens drive-in voting for a Covid-safe elections” France 24, May 28, 2021, accessed June 15, 2021, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210528-finlandopens-drive-in-voting-for-a-covid-safe-election. 29 “Finland heads to the polls and hopes for goals” YLE, June 10, 2021, accessed June 16, 2021, https://yle.fi/ uutiset/osasto/news/apn_podcast_finland_heads_to_the_ polls_and_hopes_for_goals/11975260. 30 “Helsinki removes Perussuomalaiset’s anti-immigrant poll ads” Daily Finland, June 7, 2021, accessed June 16, 2021, http://www.dailyfinland.fi/national/22027/Helsinki-removes-Perussuomalaiset%C2%B4s-anti-immigrant-poll-ads. 31 “Helsinki removes Perussuomalaiset’s anti-immigrant poll ads”. 32 “Helsinki removes Perussuomalaiset’s anti-immigrant poll ads”.


candidates say they have encountered various forms of harassment”33. This harassment had taken the form of representatives having their cars vandalized or their posters defaced as well as physical threats of violence including sexual harassment online and in person34. In spite of this, the Finns Party has utilized the municipal elections to highlight pressing national topics regarding not only immigration, but also Finnish-EU relations35. The party not only stands against immigration but also claims that Finland as a member of the EU needs to push back more often against unfavourable policies to exert more influence within the European Union system36. Their anti-immigrant and anti-EU campaigning has proven effective to where the Finns Party was expected to win 18% of municipal vote, only behind the centre-right National Coalition Party (NCP) with an expected 19.6% of votes37. The purpose of the election is to decide over 300 municipal councils but is also usually utilized to predict the current support of the political parties before the larger parliamentary election, the next of which is in 202338. While the two-month postponement of the election was chiefly due to the pandemic, it is also said that “tensions inside Marin’s center-left, five party governing coalition” was another 33 “Election candidates face vandalism, ridicule and sexual harassment, an Yle survey finds” YLE, June 12, 2021, accessed June 15, 2021, https://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/ election_candidates_face_vandalism_ridicule_and_sexual_harassment_an_yle_survey_finds/11978558. 34 “Election candidates face vandalism, ridicule and sexual harassment, an Yle survey finds”. 35 “Finnish far right hopes to use local election as national springboard” Politico, June 12, 2021, accessed June 16, 2021, https://www.politico.eu/article/finland-far-right-local-election-finns-party-immigration-eu/. 36 “Finnish far right hopes to use local election as national springboard”. 37 “Finnish far right hopes to use local election as national springboard”. 38 “Finland’s local elections a test for nation’s young leader” Independent, June 13, 2021, accessed June 16, 2021, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/finlands-local-elections-a-test-for-nations-young-leader-sanna-marin-finlandhelsinki-democratic-europe-b1864934.html.

contributing factor39. The current government coalition is made up by the Prime Minister’s own party, the Social Democratic Party, along with the Green League and the Centre Party. Despite Prime Minister Marin winning more votes during the advanced voting period than other candidates, her party and coalition partners are greatly behind in the polls while the opposing National Coalition Party is at the top of the polls40. On June 13 it was reported that the National Coalition Party had the lead in the capital Helsinki with 27.9% of the votes with the Green Party in second place with 21.2% of the votes, a decrease of popularity following a scandal right before the elections from candidate Anni Sinnemäki about zoning decisions41. The election on Sunday June 13 saw less than 1 million eligible voters casting their ballots with the total voter turnout at a historically low 55.1% compared to the 58.9% turnout in 201742. This low turnout particularly negatively impacted the success of the Green League, Social Democrats, and the Finns Party as explained by Elina Kestilä-Kekkonen, an associate professor from Tampere University43. Alternatively, the low turnout benefitted the Swedish People’s Party and the National Coalition based on their dedicated supporter base still coming to vote. The main concern facing analysts is not the result of the elections but the concern that the necessary 50% to be able to consider the election result as an 39 “Finland’s local elections a test for nation’s young leader”. 40 “Finns Party gains, NCP top as turnout dips in Finnish local elections” Helsinki Times, June 13, 2021, accessed June 16, 2021, https://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/ live_finlands_local_election_results/11979073. 41 “Finns Party gains, NCP top as turnout dips in Finnish local elections”. 42 “Analysts concerned about low turnout in Finland’s municipal elections” Helsinki Times, June 15, 2021, accessed June 16, 2021 https://www.helsinkitimes. fi/finland/finland-news/politics/19413-analysts-concerned-about-low-turnout-in-finland-s-municipal-elections. html. 43 “Analysts concerned about low turnout in Finland’s municipal elections”.


accurate representation of the opinions of the population is near to not being achieved. While it is unclear the total impact the pandemic, the delayed timing of the elections, and the cost of only being able to campaign online has had on voter turnout, the future election in 2023 will showcase whether the current sentiments of anti-immigration and against the EU will continue amongst the Finnish population. Covid-19 Pandemic:

The Covid-19 pandemic hit Finland and the rest of Europe in early 2020 and continues to plague the region in 2021. Despite Finland quickly and effectively controlling the spread of the virus with strong restrictions, the beginning of 2021 saw a resurgence of cases because of new variants of the virus spreading throughout Europe. On Monday January 11, 29 new coronavirus cases were reported and confirmed by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) to be caused from a new Covid variant coming from Britain and South Africa44. The new cases marked a total of 49 variant cases, 47 cases from a British variant and 2 from a South African variant, leading the Finnish government to suspend air travel from Ireland, South Africa, and the UK until January 18, 202145. As Finland gradually regained control of the new outbreaks, on April 27 it was announced that the Finnish government decided to send oxygen concentrators to India through the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism 46 . Piritta Asunmaa, Director General of the Department for the Americas and Asia at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs had said that “India is one of the EU’s strategic partners 44 “29 New Coronavirus Cases Caused by a Variant Confirmed in Finland” Finland Today, January 11, 2021, accessed June 13, 2021, https://finlandtoday.fi/29-new-coronavirus-cases-caused-by-a-variant-confirmed-in-finland/. 45 “29 New Coronavirus Cases Caused by a Variant Confirmed in Finland” 46 “Finland to send oxygen concentrators to India to fight coronavirus” Daily Finland, April 27, 2021, accessed June 15, 2021, http://www.dailyfinland.fi/national/21406/Finland-to-send-oxygen-concentrators-to-India-to-fight-coronavirus.

in Asia. The partnership involves solidarity at critical times. India helped other countries of the world by donating and exporting COVID-19 vaccines manufactured in the country. Finland and the EU are willing to help India”, showcasing Finland’s essential role in the EU’s global response and assistance when it comes to Covid-1947. Despite this earlier eagerness to contribute to the Covid-19 relief effort, the Finnish parliament later struggled to achieve the two-thirds majority vote to back the EU Recovery Fund proposal48. In order for the 27 country EU block to take out the necessary loan to create the facility, each country has to approve their own resource decisions on the national level beforehand49. This necessary two-thirds meant that support from the opposition, known to be against the proposal, would also be needed not just solely the current coalition government50. A survey in late April by a local newspaper also revealed that a majority of Finns disapproved of the recovery package as Finland’s contribution to the fund would be estimated 6.6 billion euros by 2058, but would receive only 3 billion euros themselves51. The ruling coalition and Prime Minister Marin dismissed the disagreement with a statement that it is imperative for Finland to see the rest of Europe recover as it is an export driven economy, backed by senior economist Sixten Korkman who commented on the problems the EU itself and EU policy with Finland would face if the recovery package proposal was defeated52. The vote was officially brought to Parliament after the Parliamentary Finance Committee supported 47 “Finland to send oxygen concentrators to India to fight coronavirus”. 48 “Why Finland has hard time approving EU’s recovery fund” Daily Finland, April 29, 2021, accessed June 15, 2021, http://www.dailyfinland.fi/national/21436/Why-Finland-has-hard-time-approving-EUs-recovery-fund. 49 “Why Finland has hard time approving EU’s recovery fund”. 50 Ibid 51 Ibid 52 Ibid


the proposal on May 5 after evaluating that the package would be of equal value to Finland just transferring resources directly to the EU53. On May 18, the recovery package was approved by 134 votes to 57, surpassing the needed two thirds agreement with the votes in favour of the proposal coming from the five-party alliance government, and the votes against proposal from main opposition Finns Party and the Christian Democratic Party54. Joining the other participating EU states, the Finnish government previously outlined in March that it would use half of its share of the fund towards climate projects, and parts for digitalization and speedier access to employment and healthcare resources55. With the January Covid variant outbreak controlled and Finland’s cases on the decline, on May 26, 80 new Covid cases in Kanta-Häme Finland were confirmed to be from a new Indian variant of the Coronavirus56. The Chief medical officer of the Kanta-Häme hospital district said that the employed protective measures were proven ineffective as the Indian variant is very easily transmissible and close to four-fifths of those infected has already received a covid vaccine57. These variant infections rose to around 100 new cases and 17 deaths reported on June 458. With concerns of the variant rising in the 53 “Parliament approves €750b EU coronavirus recovery package” Daily Finland, May 18, 2021, accessed June 16, 2021, http://www.dailyfinland.fi/national/21726/Parliament-approves-%E2%82%AC750b-EU-coronavirus-recovery-package. 54 “Parliament approves €750b EU coronavirus recovery package”. 55 “Why Finland has hard time approving EU’s recovery fund”. 56 “Indian coronavirus variant behind hospital outbreak in Kanta-Häme, Finland” Helsinki Times, May 26, 2021, accessed June 15, 2021, https://www.helsinkitimes. fi/finland/finland-news/domestic/19289-indian-coronavirus-variant-behind-hospital-outbreak-in-kanta-haeme-finland.html. 57 “Indian coronavirus variant behind hospital outbreak in Kanta-Häme, Finland”. 58 “Outbreak in Hämeenlinna hospital led to a hundred infections, dozen deaths” Helsinki Times, June 4, 2021,

nation, June 5 brought the announcement that borders to Finland would remain closed until at least June 27 for all Schengen countries excluding Malta and Iceland and countries deemed as low risk such as South Korea, Israel, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Rwanda, and New Zealand59. This announcement sparked tensions among Finland’s neighbours as the Estonian foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets stated to the European Commission that the travel restrictions imposed by Finland are disproportionate as they continue to impede work commuting60. These limitations of travel apply to both Finland’s neighbours, Estonia and Sweden, where cross-border workers were only later allowed via plane61. Foreign Minister Liimets wanted the European Commission to decided where the Finnish limitations are in line with European Union Law, particularly “Article 21… of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, which sets out the terms of the right of free movement within the Schengen Area… and also Article 45 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, which addresses freedom of movement and of residence”62. With Finland not easing any restrictions, on June 11 Prime Minister Kaja Kallas wrote a letter to Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin urging for the easing of Finnish restriction to allow for Estonians employed in Finland to be able to freely cross the Gulf of Finland as they have been unable to do63. accessed June 16, 2021, https://www.helsinkitimes.fi/finland/ finland-news/domestic/19340-outbreak-in-haemeenlinna-hospital-led-to-hundred-infections-dozen-deaths.html. 59 “Borders Stay Closed to Finland; At Least Until June 27” Finland Today, June 5, 2021, accessed June 15, 2021, https://finlandtoday.fi/borders-stay-closed-to-finland-atleast-until-june-27/. 60 “Foreign minister to European Commission: Finland entry regime unduly harsh” ERR.ee, June 10, 2021, accessed June 16, 2021, https://news.err.ee/1608241869/ foreign-minister-to-european-commission-finland-entry-regime-unduly-harsh. 61 “Foreign minister to European Commission: Finland entry regime unduly harsh”. 62 Ibid 63 “Prime minister issues open appeal to Finnish


Besides citing the fact that Covid cases in Estonia have fallen, also in the letter Kallas noted the reliance of Finnish trade on transit of supplies through Estonia and declared that “It is not right that Estonians working in Finland cannot travel from one country to another without the risk of losing their job” and reaffirming the restrictions were contrary to the rules of the EU64. While Estonia does not meet Finland’s exclusion of quarantine for countries where the rate of infection is under 25 cases per 100,000 residents, it was predicted that the continuing restrictions had a political element to it with how close the upcoming elections were and the Social Democrat Party’s declining popularity65. With no response from the Finnish Prime Minister, the European Commission began to look further into the issue along with similar restrictions that have also been imposed by Germany and other EU members and whether they impose upon the EU principle of free movement. Despite these conflicts, Finland maintains its EU presence as the current Covid-19 vaccination certificate used in Finland will be replaced with the EU Digital COVID Certificate that is widely accepted by EU member states, by June 2266. With the certificates free and available in Swedish, English, and Finnish, scanning to detect the accuracy of the digital certificate will be available to Finnish border authorities, health authorities, and police by July 167.

has experienced suggests that many more developments are expected to be faced by the small nation before the year is done. The various advances in national affairs have coalesced and displayed Finland’s inherent ability to adjust to challenges against its own national prosperity including past climate commitments, shifting political favour within the population, and foreign opposition to its chosen restrictions in light of the still present pandemic. Primarily, Finland’s recent commitments to developing new renewable energy and being the first in the world to follow through on the building of a deep geologic nuclear waste repository have put Finland in a position where the international community will be watching to see if the projects follow through. Having already been recognized by the UN Sustainable Development report as successfully pursuing their previous climate commitments, it is likely Finland will continue to successfully achieve their climate goals and provide an example for other nations to follow. Contrastingly, the results of the local elections are not yet known but the government coalition has greatly lost popularity in the polls and the opposing National Coalition Party is at the top of the polls. As the local elections are usually utilized to predict the parliamentary elections, similar results can be expected for the 2023 elections unless Prime Minister Marin can garner the same support for her party as she possessed at the beginning of her term.

The busy first half of the year Finland

What will be a future concern for Finland both domestically and as an EU member is the rising anti-immigration and anti-EU sentiments this local election has presented. While Finland’s strict restrictions in response to the still present Covid-19 pandemic have proven effective in limiting the rate of new cases, Finland is beginning to face external backlash for its restrictions on border passage especially from neighbour Estonia. If current restrictions imposed by Finland on its EU neighbours do not ease, then it can be

Year in Review:

counterpart over entry bar” ERR.ee, June 11, 2021, accessed June 15, 2021, https://news.err.ee/1608243393/prime-minister-issues-open-appeal-to-finnish-counterpart-over-entrybar. 64 “Prime minister issues open appeal to Finnish counterpart over entry bar”. 65 Ibid 66 “Finland to introduce EU Digital COVID Certificate on 22 June” Daily Finland, June 17, 2021, accessed June 17, 2021, http://www.dailyfinland.fi/national/22189/Finlandto-introduce-EU-Digital-COVID-Certificate-on-22-June. 67 “Finland to introduce EU Digital COVID Certificate on 22 June”.


expected that there will be a worsening of Finnish-Estonian relations and Finland’s EU position if the European Commission deems Finland’s restrictions against European Union Law. Whether Prime Minister Marin held off on alleviating restrictions to protect her party’s position in the recent elections as many predicted, if Finland is further pressured to lift their travel restrictions from the EU the already prominent anti-EU sentiments growing in the country can be expected to strengthen and possibly complicate future Finnish-EU affairs. As a whole, Finland appears to be on the cusp of a period of great change and development, although exactly what type of change is unknown as of now and will either become apparent in the latter half of 2021 or in the years to come.


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dailyfinland.fi/national/21406/Finlandto-send-oxygen-concentrators-to-India-tofight-coronavirus.

“Election candidates face vandalism, ridicule and sexual harassment, an Yle survey finds” YLE. June 12, 2021. Accessed June 15, “Finland.” Britannica. June 15, 2021. Accessed 2021. https://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/ June 16, 2021. https://www.britannica. election_candidates_face_vandalism_ com/place/Finland. ridicule_and_sexual_harassment_an_yle_ “Finland.” Europa.eu. Accessed June 16, 2021. survey_finds/11978558. https://europa.eu/european-union/ “Finland Breaks Ground On World’s First about-eu/countries/member-countries/ Deep Geologic Nuclear Waste Repository” finland_en. Forbes. May 31, 2021. Accessed June 14, “Finland.” The World Factbook. June 14, 2021. 2021. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www. jamesconca/2021/05/31/finland-breakscia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/ ground-on-its-deep-geologic-nuclearfinland/. waste-repository/?sh=6a40912f6103. “Finland’s local elections a test for nation’s


young leader” Independent. June 13, 2021. outbreak-in-kanta-haeme-finland.html. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www. Morgan, Sam. “Finland pledges carbon independent.co.uk/news/finlands-localneutrality on eve of EU presidency” elections-a-test-for-nations-young-leaderEuractiv. June 5, 2019. Accessed June 16, sanna-marin-finland-helsinki-democratic2021. https://www.euractiv.com/section/ europe-b1864934.html. climate-environment/news/finland“Finnish far right hopes to use local election pledges-carbon-neutrality-on-eve-of-euas national springboard” Politico. June 12, presidency/. 2021. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www. “Nuclear reactors, gun control and oat liqueur: politico.eu/article/finland-far-right-localFinland in the world press” Helsinki Times. election-finns-party-immigration-eu/. April 3, 2021. https://www.helsinkitimes.

“Finns Party gains, NCP top as turnout dips in fi/world-int/world-news/finland-in-theFinnish local elections” Helsinki Times. June world-press/18985-nuclear-reactors-gun13, 2021. Accessed June 16, 2021. https:// control-and-oat-liqueur-finland-in-theyle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/live_finlands_ world-press.html. local_election_results/11979073. O’Sullivan, James. “Finnish maritime industry “Foreign minister to European Commission: propelled by clean solutions” Good News Finland entry regime unduly harsh” ERR. from Finland. May 20, 2021. https://www. ee. June 10, 2021. Accessed June 16, 2021. goodnewsfinland.com/finnish-maritimehttps://news.err.ee/1608241869/foreignindustry-propelled-by-clean-solutions/. minister-to-european-commission-finland- “Outbreak in Hämeenlinna hospital led to a entry-regime-unduly-harsh. hundred infections, dozen deaths” Helsinki “GDP per capita, PPP – Finland.” The World Bank. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://data. worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP. PP.CD?locations=FI.

Times. June 4, 2021. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www.helsinkitimes.fi/finland/ finland-news/domestic/19340-outbreakin-haemeenlinna-hospital-led-to-hundredinfections-dozen-deaths.html.

“Greenhouse emission decreases by 9%” Daily Finland. May 21, 2021. Accessed “Parliament approves €750b EU coronavirus June 14, 2021. http://www.dailyfinland. recovery package” Daily Finland. May fi/national/21778/Greenhouse-emission18, 2021. Accessed June 16, 2021. http:// decreases-by-9. www.dailyfinland.fi/national/21726/ Parliament-approves-%E2%82%AC750b“Helsinki removes Perussuomalaiset’s antiEU-coronavirus-recovery-package. immigrant poll ads” Daily Finland. June 7, 2021. Accessed June 16, 2021. http://www. “Prime minister issues open appeal to Finnish dailyfinland.fi/national/22027/Helsinkicounterpart over entry bar” ERR.ee. June 11, removes-Perussuomalaiset%C2%B4s-anti2021. Accessed June 15, 2021. https://news. immigrant-poll-ads. err.ee/1608243393/prime-minister-issuesopen-appeal-to-finnish-counterpart-over“Indian coronavirus variant behind hospital entry-bar. outbreak in Kanta-Häme, Finland” Helsinki Times. May 26, 2021. Accessed June 15, 2021. Teivainen, Aleksi. “Finland building https://www.helsinkitimes.fi/finland/ hydrogen-based economy” Good News finland-news/domestic/19289-indianfrom Finland. June 3, 2021. Accessed June coronavirus-variant-behind-hospital13, 2021. https://www.goodnewsfinland.


com/finland-building-hydrogen-basedeconomy/ “29 New Coronavirus Cases Caused by a Variant Confirmed in Finland” Finland Today. January 11, 2021. Accessed June 13, 2021. https://finlandtoday.fi/29-newcoronavirus-cases-caused-by-a-variantconfirmed-in-finland/. “Unemployment, total – Finland.” The World Bank. January 29, 2021.Accessed June 16, 2021. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/ SL.UEM.TOTL.NE.ZS?locations=FI. “Why Finland has hard time approving EU’s recovery fund” Daily Finland. April 29, 2021. Accessed June 15, 2021. http://www. dailyfinland.fi/national/21436/WhyFinland-has-hard-time-approving-EUsrecovery-fund.


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

T

he spread of the novel coronavirus posed

French citizens took a flight from Wuhan, China

challenges for governments around the

landing in Bouches-du-Rhône where they were

world and required for them to provide a prompt

placed in quarantine for 14 days.2 This process

and adequate response. The French government

continued during the month of February as 300

introduced a series of measures to help contain

more French citizens were repatriated through four

the spread of the virus, including lockdown. As

flights.3 The first death due to the virus in France

the situation seemed to ameliorate in May, busi-

was recorded on February 14. The government’s

nesses started to reopen, however, it was necessary failure to impose restrictions allowed for the reto again introduce movement restrictions due to

ligious gathering of around 2,000 people in Mul-

the increasing number of cases. While seeking to

house a day later, which enabled the spread of the

provide a response to the pandemic, the French

virus in different

government also demonstrated its commitment

French provinces.4 COVID-19 also made its

to climate change policy. This is shown through

way within the French National Assembly as Jean-

the incorporation of climate change goals in the

Luc Reitzer from Les Républicains was hospitalized

pandemic recovery plan. Adding on to the many economic and social issues that emerged due to the pandemic, the last months of 2020 saw instability related to domestic security in France. In October, the beheading of a schoolteacher after sharing some caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad to his students led to protests within the country, as well as around the world after President Macron’s response in favour of secularism. Response to COVID-19 The first cases of COVID-19 appeared in

in intensive care on March 5th.5 As the situation became increasingly concerning, President Macron announced the closure of all nurseries, schools and universities in midMarch. Despite the rising number of cases, the first round of municipal elections still took place, even though less than 45 per cent of voters decided to exercise their right to vote.6 President Macron finally announced movement restrictions on March 17 declaring that France was “at war” against the virus.7 A state of health emergency was declared,

finement-la-chronologie-de-la-pandemie_6039448_4355770. html. 2 Ibid. Ibid. the end of the month, the French government took 3 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. rapid action to repatriate French citizens.1 200 6 François Briatte, Marie Neihouser, and Camille 1 William Audureau and Maxime Vaudano, “Corona- Kelbel, “France Held Elections Under Coronavirus. Here virus: Du Premier Cas Détecté De Covid-19 Au Déconfine- Are Four Takeaways,” The Washington Post, April 20, 2020, ment, La Chronologie D’une Crise Mondiale,” Le Monde. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/20/francefr, May 12, 2020, https://www.lemonde.fr/les-decodeurs/ar- held-elections-under-coronavirus-here-are-four-takeaways/. ticle/2020/05/12/coronavirus-de-la-chauve-souris-au-decon- 7 William Audureau and Maxime Vaudano, “Corona-

Paris and Bordeaux on January 24, 2020 and by

126


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

2020 Report

FRANCE Tea Vasha

Population: 67.8 million (July 2020 est.) – CIA World Factbook Unemployment Rate: 8.44% (2019 est.) – World Bank Data GDP per Capita: $49,435.2 (2019 est.) – World Bank Data EU Status: member since 1958 – European Union

widely spreading awareness on the necessary

already within France because the government

measures to be taken. There was a shortage on the

“trusts ‘the spirit of responsibility’ of the country.”10

supply of masks as 24 million masks were expected to be consumed per week.8 As more information

involved cooperation between the national and

became available about the virus, how to deal with

subnational through the new Economic Council

it, and the situation seemed to slightly improve,

Etats-Régions, which - among others - deals with

the French government announced that lockdown

the functioning of development banks dealing with

restrictions would be loosened in May, but health emergency status was to remain until July. This bill 9

involved travelling measures which included everyone entering French territory having to quarantine for 14 days. However, quarantine was not deemed mandatory for those who tested positive and were

The economic response to the pandemic

support for businesses. In terms of funds, subnational governments attributed EUR 250 million (USD 383 million) that provide support for small businesses, while the national government provided EUR 750 million (USD 910 million).11 The

virus: Du Premier Cas Détecté De Covid-19 Au Déconfinement, La Chronologie D’une Crise Mondiale,” Le Monde. fr, May 12, 2020, https://www.lemonde.fr/les-decodeurs/article/2020/05/12/coronavirus-de-la-chauve-souris-au-deconfinement-la-chronologie-de-la-pandemie_6039448_4355770. html. 8 Le Monde Avec AFP, “Coronavirus: Des Premiers Cas Au Premier Mois De Confinement, Les Principales étapes De L’évolution De l’épidémie En France,” Le Monde. fr, March 13, 2020, https://www.lemonde.fr/planete/article/2020/03/13/coronavirus-des-premiers-cas-aux-annoncesde-macron-les-principales-etapes-de-l-evolution-de-l-epidemie-en-france_6032967_3244.html. 9 “What Does France’s COVID-19 Health Emergency Extension Mean?” Euronews, May 03, 2020, Accessed October 23, 2020, https://www.euronews.com/2020/05/02/ what-does-france-s-covid-19-health-emergency-extensionmean.

government introduced an action plan12, while the number of cases continued to increase during the

10 “What Does France’s COVID-19 Health Emergency Extension Mean?” Euronews, May 03, 2020, Accessed October 23, 2020, https://www.euronews.com/2020/05/02/ what-does-france-s-covid-19-health-emergency-extensionmean. 11 “The Territorial Impact of COVID-19: Managing the Crisis across Levels of Government,” OECD, Accessed October 23, 2020, http://www.oecd.org/coronavirus/policy-responses/the-territorial-impact-of-covid-19-managingthe-crisis-across-levels-of-government-d3e314e1/. 12 “Plan de relance: les principales mesures dévoilées par le gouvernement,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I65yN59hdVA.

127


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

last months of 2020.13 The national and subnational reached 64,381.16 governments agreed on Un New Deal Industriel et Environnemental [A New Industrial and Environ-

France and Climate Change Climate change did not fail to receive atten-

mental Deal], a recovery plan, which is a response

to not only the pandemic but also challenges posed tion from the French government as it was a crucial part incorporated in the response plan for the by climate change. Thus, this plan “redefine[s] an pandemic. The French government has provided

economic and environmental strategy that forms

support for the environment through the Support

the backbone of a new and genuine industrial

Grant for Local investment which was increased

policy: clear choices, and the means to implement

from EUR 0.6 billion (USD 728 million) to around

them.”14 The first months of spring saw a decrease in the number of cases, which created the conditions for the reopening stage beginning on May 11, 2020 and the second phase on June 2. However, with the rising number of cases, France has put around 46

EUR 1.6 billion (USD 1.9 billion) supporting the green and health sectors.17 The New Industrial and Environmental Deal identifies “national strategies while relying on territorial ecosystems, conducive to the creation and development of businesses.”18 This is the first time that climate policy is so close-

million residents in curfew from 9pm to 6am. The

ly integrated in industrial policy, and therefore, it

number of cases reported had reached 1,041,075,

requires cooperation between national and subna-

while these changes are rapidly increasing every 14-day period.15 On December 30, 26,457 new cases were reported with the number of cases reaching 2.6 million as of December 31, 2020. The last day

tional governments.19 As part of the rebuilding plan by 2030, the French government has committed to attributing more resources to climate change, including EUR 9 billion (USD 10.6 billion) sup-

of 2020, the number of deaths due to COVID-19

porting the hydrogen and renewable energy and

13 Steve Tenré, “Coronavirus: 163 Morts En 24 Heures, plus De 12.000 Personnes Hospitalisées,” Le Figaro. fr, October 21, 2020, https://www.lefigaro.fr/sciences/coronavirus-162-morts-en-24-heures-plus-de-12-000-personneshospitalisees-20201020. 14 “Plan de relance de l’économie: les Régions proposent un new deal industriel et environnemental,” Regions de France, April 6, 2020, https://regions-france.org/wp-content/ uploads/2020/04/20200406-DP-relance.pdf. 15 Lauren Chadwick, “France Extends Curfew to 46 Million People amid Rising COVID-19 Cases,” Euronews, October 22, 2020, https://www.euronews.com/2020/10/22/ france-extends-curfew-to-46-million-people-amid-risingcovid-19-cases.

EUR 4.7 billion (USD 5.7 billion) for railways.20

16 “France Covid Map and Case Count,” The New York Times, April 24, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/world/europe/france-coronavirus-cases.html. 17 “The Territorial Impact of COVID-19: Managing the Crisis across Levels of Government,” OECD, Accessed October 23, 2020, http://www.oecd.org/coronavirus/policy-responses/the-territorial-impact-of-covid-19-managingthe-crisis-across-levels-of-government-d3e314e1/. 18 “Plan de relance de l’économie: les Régions proposent un new deal industriel et environnemental,” Regions de France, April 6, 2020, https://regions-france.org/wp-content/ uploads/2020/04/20200406-DP-relance.pdf. 19 Ibid. 20 Sarah El Gharib, “France Puts Climate Action at

128


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

This climate plan is in accordance with European

the Conseil d’État (Council of State) pointed out

Union strategy on climate action.21 France’s goal is

that France has been surpassing its yearly “car-

to maintain a temperature below 2 degrees, which

bon budget.”25 In November, the Council of State

means reducing emissions by 25 per cent by 2030

granted the French government “three months to

and zero by 2070. Moreover, it has been estimated

justify ‘how its refusal to take additional measures

that air pollution causes around 48,000 premature

is compatible with the respect of the reduction

deaths per year in France.22 As greenhouse gas

path chosen in order to achieve the targets set

emissions are largely due to the use of fossil fuels,

for 2030.’”26 The importance of this decision is

it is necessary to eliminate their use by introducing also shown through its labelling as “historical”27 new railways and increasingly using wind power.23

and “unprecedented”28 by lawyers and activists.

While this is a long-term plan, an effective and im- Therefore, it is important to keep track of how the mediate solution according to the Intergovernmen- situation will progress and how the incorporation tal Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is “reducing

of environmental policy in the pandemic response

the forest harvest.”24

plan will play out. Domestic Security: Terrorist Threats and Gov-

While France was the broker of the 2015

ernment Response

Paris Agreement and seems to be committed to combating climate change, in a recent case by the

The recent terrorist attacks in France and

coastal town of Grande-Synthe – a town which

the government response have captured the at-

is suffering the consequences of climate change –

tention of citizens living around the world and

the Heart of Its €100 Billion COVID-19 Recovery Plan,” Global Citizen, September 04, 2020, https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/france-climate-action-covid-recoveryplan/. 21 Pia Gralki and Sarah El Gharib, “EU Leaders Agree on Historic €750 Billion Post-COVID-19 Recovery Plan,” Global Citizen, July 21, 2020, https://www.globalcitizen.org/ en/content/european-leaders-covid-recovery-plan/. 22 “La Pollution De L’air Coûterait 1600 Euros Par an Et Par Habitant à Paris,” Leparisien.fr, October 21, 2020, https://www.leparisien.fr/environnement/la-pollution-del-air-couterait-1600-euros-par-an-et-par-habitant-a-paris-21-10-2020-8404224.php. 23 “Climat: ‘Nous Devons Réduire Simultanément Les émissions De Gaz à Effet De Serre Et Augmenter L’absorption De Dioxyde De Carbone’,” Le Monde.fr, October 21, 2020, https://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2020/10/21/ climat-nous-devons-reduire-simultanement-les-emissions-degaz-a-effet-de-serre-et-augmenter-l-absorption-de-dioxydede-carbone_6056852_3232.html. 24 Ibid.

involved the response of different countries’ leaders. These attacks come five years after the ones at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, once more bringing attention to the need for a debate to better understand and combat terrorism.29 French politi-

25 “Top Court Gives France Three Months to Fulfil Climate Change Commitments,” France24, November 19, 2020, https://www.france24.com/en/france/20201119-courtgives-france-three-months-to-fulfil-climate-change-commitments. 26 Ibid. 27 Ibid. 28 Frédérick Garot, “Unprecedent Decision of the French Council of State,” Climact, November 23, 2020, https://climact.com/en/decision-inedite-du-conseil-detat-francais/. 29 Jacques Follorou, “Face au Terrorism, l’Urgence

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MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

cians led by President Macron have put emphasis

basilica where three people were killed.34

on the secularism of the French Republic, as well

During one of his speeches, President

as expressed their commitment to fighting terror-

Macron noted that conditions within France led

ism domestically and internationally. Many Arab

to “misery and difficulties … [by concentrating]

countries are boycotting French goods after Pres-

populations according to origin and social mi-

ident Macron criticized Muslims and expressed

lieu.”35 French Muslims also experience racism

that cartoons are part of freedom of speech.30 The

when it comes to seeking employment. As studies

beheading of the schoolteacher Samuel Paty hap-

by sociologist Marie-Anne Valfort show, it is “at

pened after he showed some caricatures of the

least 50 per cent harder for young Muslims to get

Prophet Muhammad to his students during a les-

job interviews than for non-Muslims.”36 Moreover,

son on the freedom of expression, which offended many Muslims.31 The murder was committed by an 18-year-old Chechen refugee, Abdoullakh Anzo-

It is also important to note that many terrorists have prior criminal convictions. For instance, “ten

rov, who was reportedly aided by four students

of the 11 defendants accused of helping the three

to identify the teacher, three of who have been

killers prepare the attacks [at Charlie Hebdo] had

charged with “complicity in a terrorist murder.”32 Protests emerged within France in support of their freedom of speech despite the ongoing pandemic.33 However, the government’s response led to division within the country. In late October, another terrorist attack happened in Nice in the Notre-Dame

many Muslims experience racism from the police.

been in prison – for drug dealing, assaults, even kidnapping and murder,” where they met the killers.37 The emphasis on secularism or the laïcité which initially was meant to separate the state from the Catholic Church - seems to have taken a new

d’un Large Débat en France,” October 15, 2020, https:// www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2020/10/15/face-au-terrorismel-urgence-d-un-large-debat_6056066_3232.html. 30 “France Urges Arab Countries to Stop Boycott of French Products,” France24, October 25, 2020, https://www. france24.com/en/middle-east/20201025-france-calls-on-arabcountries-to-stop-boycott-of-french-products. 31 Lisa Bryant, “Latest Terror Attack in France Sparks Anger, Fear,” October 18, 2020, https://www.voanews.com/ europe/latest-terror-attack-france-sparks-anger-fear. 32 “French Authorities Charge Four More Students Over Beheading of Samuel Paty,” France24, November 26, 2020, https://www.france24.com/en/france/20201126-frenchauthorities-charge-four-more-students-over-beheading-ofsamuel-paty. 33 Lisa Bryant, “Latest Terror Attack in France Sparks Anger, Fear,” Voice of America News, October 18, 2020, https://www.voanews.com/europe/latest-terror-attack-francesparks-anger-fear.

form recently. According to Sciences Po professor Raphaël Liogier “the new ‘laïcité’ … is not a legal and philosophical principle anymore…[Instead,] it’s become a tool to target people we consider enemies of our culture.”38

34 Hugh Schofield, “France Attack: Three Killed in ‘Islam Terrorist’ Stabbing,” BBC, October 29, 2020, https:// www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54729957. 35 Don Murray, “As Terrorism Unfolds in Paris, France Confronts Its Problem with Islamist Extremism,” CBC, October 11, 2020, https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/ islamist-extremism-france-terrorism-trial-don-murray-1.5757771. 36 Ibid. 37 Ibid. 38 Matt Bradley, “France Has Long Embraced

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MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

The recent attacks in France and other

incorporates climate targets by 2030 in accordance

European countries have initiated talks for a re-

with European Union standards. It is interesting

consideration of the Schengen area, which enables

to keep track of France’s actions and how well it

people to freely move between European countries. complies with its commitments. Moreover, the Leaders such as President Macron and German

country has faced several terrorist attacks during

Chancellor Angela Merkel have emphasized the

2020, which have led to a strong response from

importance of “stricter controls along the external

President Macron. While many European countries

frontier of the Schengen area” in order to address

are facing terrorist threats, it is crucial to consider

national security concerns.39 However, this pos-

the difficulties that religious minorities face within

es a challenge related to migration. As European

these countries. As a response to combat terrorism,

Union Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johans-

European countries have suggested reconsidering

son points out, “migration by itself is not a security the Schengen area. However, this would lead to threat.”40 Therefore, it is important to find a balance implications related to migration. To conclude, between providing adequate help to immigrants

2020 in France has been characterized by many

while also ensuring that citizens within the country developments related to climate response, as well are safe. Year in Review

as national security issues. With all these changes, the situation in France is important to be closely followed in order to understand how it will impact

Responding to the pandemic was one of the life in France, as well as relations within the Euromajor challenges of 2020 for governments around pean Union. the world, including that of France. Having to

rapidly adapt to the changing situation while also ensuring the health and safety of citizens was one of the most important tasks that the French government had. Both national and subnational governments have agreed on a recovery plan, which Secularism. After Beheading, Will It Be Used to Oppress?” NBCNews, October 22, 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/ news/world/france-has-long-embraced-secularism-after-beheading-will-it-be-n1244159. 39 “France, Germany Push for Tighter European Union Borders After Attacks,” GlobalNews, November 12, 2020, https://globalnews.ca/news/7458055/france-germany-attacks-european-union-borders/. 40 Ibid. 131


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

GEORGIA Avigail Rucker

I

n recent years, Georgia has made significant progress in development and stability following its turbulent secession from the Soviet Union in 1991.1 The challenges of COVID-19 and Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in 2020 have tested this progress. As of December 29th, Georgia reported 224,155 COVID-19 cases and 2,443 deaths, with unemployment rising by 5 percent and wages decreasing by 11 percent.2 The NagornoKarabakh conflict has seen Georgia take a wider leadership role within the region, hoping its shared borders and large populations of peaceful ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijanis could help in peace negotiations.3 Instead, the conflict has exposed Georgia’s vulnerability to targeted online misinformation. These challenges have led the World Bank to predict Georgia will likely enter a

recession in the next one to two years.4 Georgia hopes to become a member of the European Union (EU) by 2023, which would improve economic and political stability prospects, though allegations of election interference and democratic backsliding present a major hurdle.5 Tourism Troubles On March 16, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakaharia closed the Georgian border to outside travel and requested elderly citizens self-isolate.6 Despite limiting the spread of COVID-19, lockdown restrictions threatened one of Georgia’s fastest-growing industries, tourism. Georgian tourism accounts for nearly 35 percent of total annual GDP and generates three billion dollars in revenue.7 Economic pressure led to relaxation

4 The World Bank in Georgia: Context,” The World Bank, last updated October 12, 2020, https://www.world1 “Human Development Report: Georgia,” United bank.org/en/country/georgia/overview#1. Nations Development Program, accessed December 25, 5 “Georgian Parliament Approves Resolution on EU, 2020, http://hdr.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/GEO. NATO Aspirations,” TASS, December 26, 2020, https://tass.com/world/1240011; Ani Chkhikvadze, “Democ2 “COVID-19 Georgia Live Blog,” United Nations racy in Georgia is Heading for a Crunch. Is the West Paying Association of Georgia, accessed December 29, https://civil. Attention,” The Washington Post, November 26, 2019, ge/archives/342486; “Employment and Unemployment,” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/11/26/ National Statistics Office of Georgia, accessed December 21, democracy-georgia-is-heading-crunch-is-west-paying-atten2020. https://www.geostat.ge/en/modules/categories/683/ tion/. ddu. 6 “Georgian Border is Temporarily Closed for For3 Giorgi Lombsadze, “Armenia and Azerbaijan to eign Citizens,” News.On.Ge, March 16, 2020, Georgian Mediation: Thanks, but No Thanks,” Eurasianet, http://go.on.ge/1gvb. October 6, 2020, https://eurasianet.org/armenia-and-azerbai- 7 Sofia Bochoidze, “Response of the Georgian Tourjan-to-georgian-mediation-thanks-but-no-thanks. ism Industry to COVID-19, & Post-Pandemic Forecasts,” 132


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

of restrictions, causing cases to spike in early Nagorno- Karabakh and Misinformation September. By December, Georgian hospitals Nagorno-Karabakh is a historically disputed recorded four thousand new infections and territory between a Christian, ethnic Armenian approximately forty deaths per day, the highest majority and a Muslim Azerbaijani minority. average globally.8 In 1994, Nagorno-Karabakh became Armenian Following elections in late November, territory after four years of fighting and had been the victorious Georgian Dream Party reneged on in a state of cold conflict until 2020.12 In September, election promises and quickly passed unpopular Armenia, backed by Russia, and Azerbaijan, backed lockdown legislation through Parliament.9 Under by Turkey, deployed troops to the region. After six the new restrictions, a nationwide curfew came weeks of fighting, Russian diplomats successfully into effect, closing restaurants, open markets, and negotiated a ceasefire which lasted until early sports centers. Essential businesses can continue to December when a brief skirmish broke out along operate, but schools have had to implement online the border.13 learning. Eighty percent of the workforce is to Georgia attempted to be a peacemaker move online, and travel accommodations are being during the conflict, but accusations of favouritism repurposed for isolating COVID-19 patients.10 from Azerbaijan and Armenia undermined their Given the severity of these restrictions, the EU has efforts. Supply routes to Armenia and Azerbaijan approved increased aid for Georgia, including a 25 pass directly through Georgian territory, and despite million Euro emergency credit and vaccine rollout official suspension of trans-Georgian routes, both plans.11 have accused Georgia of allowing arms and militias Georgia Today, December 28, 2020. http://georgiatoday.ge/ to pass through its borders.14 Georgia affirms the news/23467/Response-of-the-Georgian-Tourism-Industryaccusations are false, and while Yerevan and Baku to-COVID-19%2C-%26-Post-Pandemic-Forecasts; “Georgia - Contribution of Travel and Tourism to GDP as a Share of GDP,” Knoema, accessed December 21, 2020. https:// knoema.com/atlas/Georgia/topics/Tourism/Travel-and-Tourism-Total-Contribution-to-GDP/Contribution-of-traveland-tourism-to-GDP-percent-of-GDP; “Georgia Tourism Revenue,” CEIC Data, accessed December 29, 2020, https:// www.ceicdata.com/en/indicator/georgia/tourism-revenue. 8 Giorgi Lombsadze, “Georgia Experiences its First Wave of COVID-19,” Eurasianet, September 8, 2020, https://eurasianet.org/georgia-experiences-its-first-wave-ofcovid-19; Giorgi Lombsadze. “Georgia’s COVID Outbreak Grows from Molehill to ‘Everest,’” Eurasianet, December 7, 2020, https://eurasianet.org/georgias-covid-outbreak-growsfrom-molehill-to-everest. 9 Lombsadze, “COVID Outbreak Grows.” 10 Reuters Staff, “Georgia Introduces New Restrictions for Two months to Curb COVID-19,” Reuters, November 26, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-georgia/georgia-introduces-new-restrictions-for-twomonths-to-curb-covid-19-idUKKBN28613T. 11 Jona Tibor, “Georgia: Team Europe - EIB to Invest €25 million to Aid Recovery of Enterprises from COVID-19 Pandemic and Expand a Credit Line with TBC Bank JSC,” European Investment Bank, December 21, 2020. https:// www.eib.org/en/press/all/2020-396-team-europe-eib-to-invest-eur25-million-to-aid-recovery-of-georgian-enterprisesfrom-covid-19-pandemic-and-expand-a-credit-line-with-tbcbank-jsc; “EU, WHO Team Up to Help Georgian Healthcare System Cope with Pandemic,” Agenda.ge, December 20, 2020, https://agenda.ge/en/news/2020/3972.

12 “Nagorno-Karabakh Profile,” BBC News, November 18, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18270325. 13 Sam Ellis, “The Nagorno- Karabakh Conflict Explained,” Vox, December 3, 2020, https://www.vox. com/2020/12/3/22150110/armenia-azerbaijan-war-russia-nagorno-karabakh turkey#:~:text=On%20September%2027%2C%202020%2C%20explosions,conflict%20 between%20Armenia%20and%20Azerbaijan; Philip Breedlove, “Opinion: The U.S. Can’t Afford to Ignore The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict,” NPR, October 24, 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/10/24/927219056/opinion-theu-s-cant-afford-to-ignore-the-nagorno-karabakh-conflict; “Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia Sign Nagorno-Karabakh Peace Deal,” BBC News, November 20, 2020, https://www. bbc.com/news/world-europe-54882564; “Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire Breached with Fighting Under Way,” Al Jazeera, December 13, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/12/13/karabakhceasefire-breached-says-russian-army. 14 Emil Avdaliani, “Georgia & the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict,” Georgia Today, October 7, 2020, http://georgiatoday.ge/news/22607/Georgia-%26-the-Nagorno-Karabakh-Conflict; “Georgia Prohibits Transit of Military Cargo Amid Armenia, Azerbaijani Conflict,” Agenda.ge, October 30, 2020, https://agenda.ge/en/news/2020/3076; “Armenian Ambassador - Armenian Side Assesses Georgia’s Readiness to Become a Negotiating Ground, but the Addressee of the Prime Minister’s Statement is Baku, which is not Ready for Negotiations,” InterpressNews, May 10, 2020, https://www. interpressnews.ge/ka/article/621890-somxetis-elchi-somxuri-mxare-apasebs-sakartvelos-mzadqopnas-molaparakebis-moedani-gaxdes-magram-premieris-gancxadebis-adresati-aris-bako-romelic-ar-aris-mzad-molaparakebistvis.

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have withdrawn the accusations, the damage had than 20% of Georgian territory, including the already been done.15 contested territories of Abkhazia and Ossetia.21 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has inflamed Since 2008, Russia has deployed troops and supplies tensions between large emigre Azerbaijani and to the region, claiming they are independent from 22 Armenian populations in Georgia, exacerbated by Georgia. In 2020, the EU demanded an end to virtual misinformation.16 Attention-grabbing fake the Russian occupation of Abkhazia and Ossetia news stories, primarily on Facebook, have caused and have offered leverage to Georgia to resolve the 23 major problems. In October, ethnic Armenians dispute. blocked a major roadway after a pro-Armenian account claimed the roadway was being used to transport weapons to Azerbaijan.17 A motive is still unclear, with some claiming they are designed to play off fears for likes and shares, while many accuse Russia.18 Russian misinformation has been present in Georgia for years, and if true, the Russian brokered peace deal may present negative impactions for Georgia.19

Despite increased cooperation, Georgia’s democratic backslide may be a stumbling block on the road to EU membership. In 2019, government use of excessive force against peaceful protesters was widely condemned by human rights activists. The same year, an independent election review found members of the Georgian Dream Party to have cast illegal votes.24 In 2020, protests broke out in Tbilisi due to similar allegations, and eight opposition parties refused to assume their seats EU Ascension Talks within Parliament until a second election was Since 2002, Georgia has expressed a declared. Political issues and declining democracy consistent desire to become an EU member. It is have dominated recent discussions between the EU Georgia’s biggest trade partner, and in 2014, Georgia and Georgia concerning their membership.25 became an official associate state and free trade zone member. On December 26th, 2020, the Georgian Year in Review Parliament declared its intention to apply for EU Previous struggles have revealed Georgia’s 20 membership by 2024 as a “zero option priority.” economy will likely be its Achilles heel as it attempts Tensions with Russia have motivated increased to recover from COVID-19 impacts. Restrictions, bilateral cooperation. Russian troops occupy more 15 “Deputy FM Says Allegations of Weapons Transportation to Azerbaijan via Georgia are Disinformation,” Agenda.ge, October 4, 2020, https://agenda.ge/en/ news/2020/3085; “Armenian side assesses Georgia’s readiness.” 16 “Disinformation Related to Georgia’s Position on Karabakh Conflict in Armenian and Azerbaijani Media,” Institute for Development of Freedom of Information, October 6, 2020, https://idfi.ge/en/disinformation-karabakh_conflict. 17 Lombsadze, “Armenia and Azerbaijan to Georgian mediation.” 18 Christopher Giles and Upasana Bhat, “Nagorno-Karabakh: The Armenian-Azeri ‘Information Wars’,” BBC, October 26, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/ world-europe-54614392; “Disinformation Related to Georgia’s Position on Karabakh Conflict.” 19 “Georgian MFA: Russia Doubled its Illegal activities in Georgia Amid Pandemic,” Agenda.ge, May 22, 2020, https://agenda.ge/en/news/2020/1604. 20 “Parliament Approves Resolution on EU”; “European Parliament Adopts Resolution on Georgia,” Agenda. Ge, November 14, 2018, https://agenda.ge/en/news/2018/2403, “EU Relations with Georgia.” Council of the European Union. last updated August 20, 2020.https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/ eastern-partnership/georgia/#.

21 “Nations in Transit 2020: Georgia,” Freedom House, accessed January 5, 2021, https://freedomhouse.org/ country/georgia/nations-transit/2020#footnote5_5de1h13; Jack Deutsch, “12 Years After Russian Invasion, Georgia Sees No End in Sight,” August 10, 2020, Foreign Policy, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/08/10/russia-invasion-georgia-12-years-no-end-ambassador-david-bakradze-interview/. 22 Andre Gerrits and Max Bader, “Russian Patronage over Abkhazia and South Ossetia: Implications for Conflict Resolution,” East European Politics vol. 32, issue 3, July 19, 2016. 23 “The EU Delegation Speaks out About the Georgian-Russian War’s 12th Anniversary,” The Financial. August 7, 2020, https://www.finchannel.com/world/georgia/78177-the-eu-delegation-speaks-out-about-the-georgianrussian-war-s-12th-anniversary. 24 Chkhikvadze, “Democracy in Georgia is Heading for a Crunch”; “Nations in Transit: Georgia.” 25 “Thousands Rally in Georgia’s Tbilisi Against Election Results,” Al Jazeera, November 14, 2020, https:// www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/11/14/thousands-rally-intbilisi-to-protest-election-results; “EU Relations with Georgia.”

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which crippled the tourism industry, indicate that EU monetary aid will be essential for Georgia to weather a second lockdown. Whatever the case, Georgia must develop long-term solutions which balance the health of its economy and citizens in its recovery. Georgia’s involvement in the NagornoKarabakh conflict in 2020 demonstrates its desire to take a greater regional leadership role. In doing so, it may threaten existing power dynamics, placing resilience against Russian misinformation campaigns at the center of the stability of Georgian domestic and international relations. Increased EU aid and cooperation may be the key to offsetting Russian political and economic pressure. It is yet to be seen if the developments of 2020 will hurt or help Georgia’s effort to join the EU, leaving its path to membership unclear.

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Eurasianet, October 6, 2020. ”https://eurasianet.org/armenia-and-azerbaijan-to-georgian-mediation-thanks-but-nothanks.

Lombsadze, Giorgi. “Georgia’s COVID Outbreak Grows from Molehill to ‘Everest’.”

Eurasianet, December 7 2020. https://eurasianet.org/georgias-covid-outbreak-grows-from-molehill-to-everest.

Lombsadze, Giorgi. “Georgia Experiences its First Wave of COVID-19.” Eurasianet, September

8, 2020. https://eurasianet.org/georgia-experiences-its-firstwave-of-covid-19.

“Nations in Transit 2020: Georgia.” Freedom House. accessed January 5, 2020.

https://freedomhouse.org/country/georgia/nations-transit/2020#footnote5_5de1h13.

News.On.Ge. “Georgian Border is Temporarily Closed for For-

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GERMANY TESSA DI VIZIO

● Population: 80,159,662 (July 2020 est.) - CIA World Factbook

● GDP Per Capita: $56,052.4 (2019 est.) - World Bank Data ● EU Status: Founding Member

● Unemployment Rate: 3.139% (2019 est.) - World Bank Data

2020

was an important year in Germany, marking its thirtieth anniversary of reunification and role in the European integration project. At the same time, Chancellor Angela Merkel and regional German politicians dealt with the threats of domestic extremism and the COVID-19 pandemic, which threw the economy and society into disarray. For its thirteenth time, Germany held the Presidency of the Council of the EU between July and December 2020. Its “Together for Europe’s Recovery” motto reinforced messages of European unity amid issues of Brexit negotiations, migration, and the pandemic. Chancellor Merkel was key in negotiating the EU’s €1.8 trillion (USD 2.1 trillion) budget for 2021-2027, with a €750 billion (USD 909 billion) COVID-19 relief package. Furthermore, Germany’s contributions to this EU budget increased by 42% to roughly €44 billion (USD 53 billion).1 The COVID-19 pandemic

January 27 near Munich. By March, COVID became a high-level threat, with state governments shutting down schools, imposing curfews, and closing some of Germany’s borders. On June 29, the Bundestag passed the Coronavirus Tax Assistance Act, a €130 billion (USD 158 billion) stimulus package, including relief for businesses, lower sales taxes, and benefits for families.2 In July, Chancellor Merkel helped negotiate the EU’s COVID-19 recovery program. These efforts sought to offset some of the pandemic’s impacts and stabilize the economy; for instance, the German economy entered into a recession in the first quarter of 2020, contracting 2.2%—its worst numbers since the 2008 financial crisis.3 At the end of the year,

As in other countries around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic upended life in Germany; however, unlike its neighbours, Germany was generally praised for its handling of the pandemic, “Emerging from the crisis with full strength,” with robust testing and tracing and lower fatality 2 Federal Ministry of Finance, Accessed October 20, 2020, rates. The first COVID-19 case was reported on https://www.bundesfinanzministerium.de/Content/EN/Stan1 “Germany to contribute 42% more to EU budget: report,” DW, June 17, 2020, https://www.dw.com/en/germany-eu-coronavirus-budget-increase/a-53806800.

dardartikel/Topics/Public-Finances/Articles/2020-06-04-fiscal-package.html. 3 “Coronavirus lockdown pushes Germany into recession,” DW, May 15, 2020, https://www.dw.com/

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Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND) estimated that it will cost Germany €1.3 trillion (USD 1.6 trillion) to manage the pandemic and lockdowns and fund relief efforts, with the federal government footing the bulk of the costs.4

as well as anti-vaccination concerns; these protests also included general grievances against the government but largely centred on its handling of the pandemic. In August, the police quashed the efforts of tens of thousands of “anti-corona” and farFor most of the pandemic, Germany did not right extremists who tried to storm the Reichstag have a coordinated set of COVID-19 guidelines as in protest of the new mask and physical distancing 6 each region set its own restrictions; this uncertainty guidelines. caused uneven regulations between states. In Developments in Far-Right Extremism and March, schools shut down, borders closed, and Xenophobia people were urged to avoid non-essential travel. In Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19April, masks were required in most shops, malls, related protests, far-right politicians and extremists and public transportation; still, regional differences continued to gain traction—furthering dangerous meant that masks were only recommended in trends that developed over the past few years. Over Berlin, for example. On September 29, Chancellor the past few years, domestic terrorism has risen and Merkel expanded Germany’s pandemic restrictions, Nazi symbols are resurging, and these problems are moving from AHA, which focused on distancing, particularly acute in the East, where there are higher hygiene, and masks, to AHACL guidelines, now levels of unemployment and resentment against highlighting tracing apps and ventilation. Germany immigrants, especially since the 2015 migration experienced the second wave of the pandemic in crisis.7 Winning seats in 2017, the AfD (Alternative the fall and winter, surpassing COVID-related für Deutschland) is Germany’s first far-right party 10,000 deaths in October and nearing 40,000 at in parliament since the Second World War; it boasts the end of December. As cases were spiking in an anti-immigrant, anti-EU, and nationalist agenda October, reaching daily records for infection and and is mainly prominent in the East. Notably, in deaths, Chancellor Merkel warned citizens to stay February, despite winning only the second-most home and reduce contact with others to mitigate votes, the AfD joined with local Free Democrats the strain on hospitals.5 States set local restrictions and Christian Democrats to form the government for curfews and lockdowns, but there were no in Thuringia. This upset was regarded as a minicoordinated statewide guidelines until December. coup against the progressive-left coalition that was Accordingly, Germans celebrated the holiday season expected to govern. In February, protests against in a statewide lockdown, with bars, restaurants, and this renewed rise of the far-right broke out, with non-essential stores closed and limits on social critics specifically likening the AfD it to a revival of gatherings. the Third Reich—the Nazis first won local elections As early as April, protestors demonstrated in Thuringia.8 against the government’s COVID-19 restrictions, Within the AfD there are many problems. citing rights to free speech and not wearing masks en/coronavirus-lockdown-pushes-germany-into-recession/a-53446866. 4 “Coronavirus: Germany faces €1.3 trillion COVID bill,” DW, December 31, 2020, https:// www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-germany-faces-13-trillion-covid-bill/a-56103251. 5 “Coronavirus: Merkel in fresh plea to stay at home amid record infection tally,” DW, October 24, 2020, https:// www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-merkel-in-fresh-plea-to-stayat-home-amid-record-infection-tally/a-55384159 .

6 “‘Anti-corona’ extremists try to storm German parliament,” Guardian, August 29, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/29/berlin-braces-for-anti-coronavirus-protest-against-covid-19-restrictions. 7 Frank Gardner, “Germany shooting: ‘Far-right extremist’ carried out shisha bars attacks,” BBC, February 20, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-51567971. 8 Katrin Bennhold, “Germans Unnerved by Political Turmoil That Echoes Nazi Era,” New York Times, February 7, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/07/world/europe/germany-thuringia-afd.html.

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In February, journalists recorded AfD spokesman Christian Lüth saying that migrants can be “shot” or “gassed.”9 Lüth is a close friend of the AfD’s honorary chairman, Alexander Gauland, and selfidentifies as a fascist. In March, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution classified “Der Flügel,” a wing of the AfD, as a right-wing extremist group that is undermining the liberal democratic order.10 Der Flügel makes up approximately onefifth of the AfD, nearing 7000 members. German national intelligence is monitoring Der Flügel for its ties to neo-Nazism and far-right extremism; a recent court ruling declared that its leader, Björn Höcke, can legally be called a fascist based on his rhetoric and links to neo-Nazis.11

Peter Beuth, affirmed that xenophobia motivated the attacker, while Chancellor Merkel has pledged to combat these political divisions and extremist sentiments that have poisoned society. Moreover, in December, German courts sentenced the synagogue attacker to life in prison; he was convicted on two counts of murder and sixty counts of attempted murder for his attack in Halle in October 2019.13 While the German government is trying to crack down on far-right extremism, xenophobia continues to be a pressing issue. In July, BadenWürttemberg banned full-face coverings, such as burqas and niqabs, for students in primary and secondary schools; a similar ban already existed for teachers, judges, civil servants, and soldiers. The state premier, Winfried Kretschmann, claimed that “the burka did not belong in a free society.”14 Opponents denounce this decision as xenophobic, hindering the integration of Germany’s Muslim community while conservatives call for a nationwide ban on face coverings, following similar legislation in France, Austria, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Opponents denounce this decision as xenophobic, hindering the integration of Germany’s Muslim community.

On February 20, a far-right extremist killed eleven people and injured five in an act of domestic terrorism in Hanau, Frankfurt. He specifically targeted a shisha bar because it is a popular place for immigrants and went on a rampage, killing people from Turkey, Bulgaria, Bosnia, and Romania and ethnic Kurds. The shooter had previously published an online manifesto detailing his farright extremist beliefs and conspiracy theories, calling to exterminate and gas migrants in an act of genocide.12 Hesse’s Minister of the Interior, Celebrating Thirty 9 Christian Fuchs, “Je schlechter es Deutschland Reunification geht, desto besser für die AfD,” Zeit, September 28, 2020, https://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2020-09/christian-lueth-afd-alexander-gauland-menschenfeindlichkeit-migration. 10 Angela Pley, “AfD-Teilorganisation ‘Der Flügel’ als gesichert rechtsextremistische Bestrebung ein,” Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, March 12, 2020, https:// www.verfassungsschutz.de/de/oeffentlichkeitsarbeit/presse/pm-20200312-bfv-stuft-afd-teilorganisation-der-fluegel-als-gesichert-rechtsextremistische-bestrebung-ein. 11 Katrin Bennhold, “Germany Places Part of FarRight Party Under Surveillance,” New York Times, March 12, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/12/world/europe/germany-afd.html. 12 David McHugh, David Rising, and Frank Jordans, “German gunman calling for genocide kills 9 people,” Associated Press, February 20, 2020, https://apnews.com/ article/b5736c3dba1d677e89ef947bcf5ab213; Jörg Köpke and Jan Sternberg, “Terror in Hanau: Die kranke rassistische Gedankenwelt des Tobias R,” RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland, February 20, 2020, https://www.rnd.de/politik/terror-in-hanau-die-kranke-rassistische-gedankenwelt-des-tobias-r-UAIMXWG7Z5EG5MCJG5TXNYXG6A.html.

Years

of

German

October 3, 2020, marked three decades since the German Democratic Republic joined the Federal Republic of Germany to form a reunited German state. Since then, living standards in the east have steadily risen; moreover, Chancellor Merkel, who is from the East, has championed Germany’s liberal democracy for years. While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic dampened some festivities, Germany still commemorated this momentous anniversary. In Potsdam, there was a month of celebration and a “Unity Expo,” highlighting the strength of the federal 13 “Germany: Synagogue attacker sentenced to life in prison,” DW, December 21, 2020, https://www.dw.com/ en/germany-synagogue-attacker-sentenced-to-life-in-prison/a-56004932. 14 “German state bans burqas, niqabs in schools,” DW, July 21, 2020, .https://www.dw.com/en/german-statebans-burqas-niqabs-in-schools/a-54256541.

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states, the federal government, the Bundesrat, the Bundestag, and the Federal Constitutional Court in different pavilions.15 Throughout the country and abroad people celebrated thirty years of unity and development in Germany. Since 1990, Germany has been a guiding member of the EU and a dominant economic force in Europe. Despite efforts to close the gap between East and West, there are still stark differences in living standards, economic growth, and selfidentity. GDP per capita in the East has quadrupled since 1990, but wages have not equalized as eastern Germans make only 88.8% of a western German’s salary, on average.16 The East faces an aging population and depopulation as workers emigrated to the West, and it also lacks industrial centres and hubs of innovation and science.17 To counter this population drain and attract people to the East, the federal government created public-service jobs and incentives to lure entrepreneurs and start-ups to revitalize the region.18

feel like “second-class citizens.”20 While the wall is no longer physically dividing the East and West, psychological divisions persist. A Year in Review Overall, 2020 was an eventful year for Germany. COVID-19 dominated German-led budgetary negotiations at the EU as well as domestic policies in the Bundestag and regional governments. Despite having varying restrictions throughout the year, Germany ended 2020 in lockdown. Politics faced challenges from far-right groups, including the AfD, and extremist attacks; Chancellor Merkel pledged to root out political divisions and these extremist attacks. With the federal elections in 2021, Merkel steps down as leader of the CDU and the German state. Hopefully, her successor can rectify fragmented politics and steer Germany through this next phase of the pandemic and broader German relations to foster the same unified spirit as thirty years ago.

Populist far-right movements, such as the AfD, are more popular in eastern Germany; this phenomenon is worrying because it reflects people’s low trust in state institutions and democracy, which are legacies of its old system. For instance, in 2019, the AfD appealed to these divisions in the east, campaigning “Let’s complete the change” to meet the economic strength and living conditions in the West.19 A study found that 40% of eastern Germans 15 “Deutschland feiert die Einheit,” Welt, October 4, 2020, https://www.welt.de/regionales/berlin/article217104088/Deutschland-feiert-die-Einheit.html?cid=onsite.onsitesearch. 16 Kate Connolly, “‘Germany looks like it’s still divided’: stark gaps persist 30 years after reunification,” Guardian, September 16, 2020, https://www.theguardian. com/world/2020/sep/16/germany-east-west-gaps-persist-30-years-reunification. 17 “German reunification: Thirty years on, is the job done?,” Euronews, October 3, 2020, https://www.euronews. com/2020/10/03/german-reunification-thirty-years-on-is-thejob-done. 18 Melissa Eddy, “After 30 Years, East and West Germans Wonder: How United Are We?” New York Times, October 3, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/03/ world/europe/east-west-germany-30-anniversary.html. 19 German reunification: Thirty years on, is the job

done?” 20 Connolly, “‘Germany looks like it’s still divided’: stark gaps persist 30 years after reunification.”

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“Germany to contribute 42% more to EU budget: report.” DW, June 17, 2020. https:// www.dw.com/en/germany-eu-coronavirusbudget-increase/a-53806800.

“Germany: Synagogue attacker sentenced to life in prison.” DW, December “Coronavirus lockdown pushes 21, 2020. https://www.dw.com/en/germanyGermany into recession.” DW, May synagogue-attacker-sentenced-to-life-in15, 2020. https://www.dw.com/en/ prison/a-56004932. coronavirus-lockdown-pushes-germany-intoBennhold, Katrin. “Germans Unnerved recession/a-53446866. by Political Turmoil That Echoes Nazi Era.” “Coronavirus: Germany faces New York Times, February 7, 2020. https:// €1.3 trillion COVID bill.” DW, December www.nytimes.com/2020/02/07/world/ 31, 2020. https://www.dw.com/en/ europe/germany-thuringia-afd.html. coronavirus-germany-faces-13-trillion-covidBennhold, Katrin. “Germany Places bill/a-56103251. Part of Far-Right Party Under Surveillance.” “Coronavirus: Merkel in fresh plea New York Times, March 12, 2020. https:// to stay at home amid record infection www.nytimes.com/2020/03/12/world/ tally.” DW, October 24, 2020. https://www. europe/germany-afd.html. dw.com/en/coronavirus-merkel-in-freshConnolly, Kate. “‘Germany looks like plea-to-stay-at-home-amid-record-infection- it’s still divided’: stark gaps persist 30 years tally/a-55384159. after reunification.” Guardian, September “Deutschland feiert die Einheit.” 16, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/ Welt, October 4, 2020. https://www.welt. world/2020/sep/16/germany-east-westde/regionales/berlin/article217104088/ gaps-persist-30-years-reunification. Deutschland-feiert-die-Einheit. Eddy, Melissa. “After 30 Years, East and html?cid=onsite.onsitesearch. West Germans Wonder: How United Are We?” “Emerging from the crisis with full New York Times, October 3, 2020. https://www. strength.” Federal Ministry of Finance. nytimes.com/2020/10/03/world/europe/ Accessed October 20, 2020. https://www. east-west-germany-30-anniversary.html.

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Köpke, Jörg and Jan Sternberg. “Terror in Hanau: Die kranke rassistische Gedankenwelt des Tobias R.” RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland, February 20, 2020. https://www.rnd. de/politik/terror-in-hanau-die-krankerassistische-gedankenwelt-des-tobias-rUAIMXWG7Z5EG5MCJG5TXNYXG6A.html. McHugh, David, David Rising, and Frank Jordans. “German gunman calling for genocide kills 9 people.” Associated Press, February 20, 2020. https://apnews.com/ article/b5736c3dba1d677e89ef947bcf5ab213. Pley, Angela. “AfD-Teilorganisation ‘Der Flügel’ als gesichert rechtsextremistische Bestrebung ein.” Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz. March 12, 2020. https://www.verfassungsschutz.de/de/ oeffentlichkeitsarbeit/presse/pm-20200312bfv-stuft-afd-teilorganisation-der-fluegel-alsgesichert-rechtsextremistische-bestrebungein.

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GREECE ANJALI ROY

T

he spread of the coronavirus which turned into a pandemic posed challenges for governments all around the world in regard to containing the spread of the virus, reviving the economy, and ensuring the safety for their citizens without overwhelming hospitals. The government of Greece faced challenges throughout the pandemic in 2020. They imposed lockdowns, and as a result, the economy plummeted. Tourism provides 18% of Greece’s GDP.1 With travel restrictions throughout the world, Greece had almost no tourism which impacted their economy. Alongside the pandemic and its economic repercussions, Greece suffers from an ongoing refugee crisis with the Moriya community and the ongoing crisis with the European Union. This crisis became more drastic and uncontrollable with the possibility of COVID-19 outbreaks, and concerns regarding social distancing and

isolation. COVID-19 Response

Pandemic

and

The COVID-19 pandemic began with the coronavirus which initially appeared in December 2019 in Wuhan, China.2 The virus started spreading progressively from China to the rest of the world, and by the new year of 2020, many countries had started reporting their first cases of the novel coronavirus. The first case of the virus was found in Greece on February 26, 2020.3 On February 27, 2020, and within a day of the first case appearance, the Greek government announced the cancellation of all carnival events to stop the spread of the virus.4 There were gathering limitations on theatres, cinemas, athletic and art

2 Timokleia Kousi, Lefkothea-Christina Mitsi, and Jean Simos, “The Early Stage of COVID-19 Outbreak in Greece: A Review of the National Response and the Socioeconomic 1 “Greece Economy2020” 2020 CIA Impact”, International Journal of environmental World Factbook and Other Sources, January 27 Research and Public Health, January 4 2021 2020, https://theodora.com/wfbcurrent/greece/ 3 Ibid. greece_economy.html 4 Ibid. 144


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performances. However, despite the quick measures taken by the government of Greece, cases began to steadily rise. By March 8, 2020, the positive case load had reached 73, where the government banned all school trips.5 On March 12, the Ministry of Health confirmed the first COVID-19 related death in Greece.6 The patient was a 66-year-old Greek man in the city of Patras. A day before on March 11, Prime Minister Mitsotakis announced measures such as closing down educational intuitions for 14 days and a nationwide ban on mass gatherings, sports venues, museums, and celebrations.7 Starting March 23, Greece was put under a curfew and were only permitted to move for particular essential reasons.8 Greek was quick in its action to understand the severity of the virus and in its efforts to contain it. As Greece grappled with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the summer months, the second wave of the pandemic caused Greece to go into another nationwide lockdown. On Thursday, 4 November 2020, another lockdown was announced by Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis to stop the spread of the virus. On November 5, 2020, there were 46, 892 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Greece with 673 associated deaths.9 As a result of the lockdown measures to combat the pandemic, companies in the sector of tourism, air and sea transportation, restaurants, culture and ports 5 Ibid. 6 “Greece: First COVID-19 fatality confirmed march 12/update 6”, GARDAWORLD, March 12 2020, https:// www.garda.com/crisis24/news-alerts/322146/greece-firstcovid-19-fatality-confirmed-march-12-update-6 7 “Greece: Government orders nationwide lockdown March 23/update 11”, GARDAWORLD, March 22 2020, https://www.garda.com/crisis24/newsalerts/325466/greece-government-orders-nationwide-lockdown-march-23-update-11 8 “Greece: Nationwide COVID-19 lockdown to take effect from November 7/update 38”, GARDAWORLD, November 5 2020, https://www.garda.com/crisis24/newsalerts/396741/greece-nationwide-covid-19-lockdown-totake-effect-from-november-7-update-38 9 Ibid.

were heavily affected.10 Thus, many support measures are provided for certain categories of employers and employees.11 Through the quick and rapid action of the Greek government announcing lockdown measures and curfews, Greek was not as hard hit by the pandemic as other European countries. However, their economy, fueled by tourism, took a hit, which resulted in Greece losing a lot of its economy to the pandemic. Economy

From an economic perspective, Greece was recovering from a period of prolonged recession.12 In the beginning of 2020, Greek had corrected the principal macroeconomic and fiscal imbalances, and had highlighted by the positive performance.13 The economic decline of the economy of Greece in 2020 was largely influenced by the pandemic on European economies. According to the Bank of Greece, the outbreak affected a deceleration of exports of goods and services such as transport, shipping and tourism, as well as a decrease in national consumption.14 Second, through disturbances in the international supply chains, it is estimated that small businesses have been facing problemed with supplies.15 In contrast with previous years, the Bank of Greece predicted that the GDP growth is estimated to be zero in 2020 compared to 2.4% in previous estimations.16 It’s economy shrank 14.1% this year’s second quarter, the 10 “Government and Instition Measures in response to COVID-19”, KPMG, September 30 2020, https://home. kpmg/xx/en/home/insights/2020/04/greece-governmentand-institution-measures-in-response-to-covid.html 11 Ibid. 12 Timokleia Kousi, Lefkothea-Christina Mitsi, and Jean Simos, “The Early Stage of COVID-19 Outbreak in Greece: A Review of the National Response and the Socioeconomic Impact”, International Journal of environmental Research and Public Health, January 4 2021 13 Ibid. 14 Ibid. 15 Ibid. 16 Ibid.

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steepest quarterly decline in the last 25 years.17 The European Central Bank decided to include Greek bonds in the 750 billion EUR euro-assetpurchase scheme, whose objective is to aid the economy of the European Union during the pandemic.18 The economy of Greece showed that is shrunk at an annual 2.3% in the first quarter.19 The IMF officials said the economy should grow by 3.3% in the year and 5.4% in future years until 2022 fuelled by the European Recovery Fund investment.20 The unemployment rate which had been rising since the outbreak of the crisis in March dropped in July which retail sales declined at a softer pace in August. Manufacturing PMI rose in August and September as well.21 “Economic activity in Greece, Italy, Spain, Croatia and France are forecast to contract the most” said Paolo Gentiloni, the European Commissioner”.22 Tourism revenues which peak in the summer months of July and August were down by 75% compared to 2019. As a result, on October 5, 2020, the government unveiled a 63.9 billion EUR 2021 draft budget based on a 7.5% GDP growth rate.23 “The Covid situation comes

to derail the long-awaited recovery of the Greek economy,” Europeion Senior Analyst Kokkinogeni told CNBC via email. “The tourism and travel industry contributes 21% to the Greek economy. Due to the pandemic, Greece currently stays closed to non-EU and EU tourism … threatening a sharp recession for the indebted Greek economy and massive job losses in the tourism and services’ sectors,” Kokkinogeni said.24 Greece was one of the quickest countries in Europe to impose strict lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Two U.K.-based health experts told CNBC this approach has contributed to the relatively low number of cases in the Mediterranean nation.25 However, the confinement measures have brought the tourism industry to a halt. Greece and the Refugee Crisis

On 28 February 2020, the tensions regarding the refugee crisis in Greece reappeared.26 President of Turkey announced he would open the borders to Greece for the refugees, and as a result, thousands of people arrived at the borders with Greece trying to enter the European Union.27 In response, Greece 17 “Greek economy may contract 11 percent in 2020, declared a state of emergency on 3 March 2020, central bank says”, Economic Times, December 14 2020, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/ and decided to suspend the asylum procedures business/greek-economy-may-contract-11-percent-in-2020- for asylum seekers.28 The situation de-escalated central-bank-says/articleshow/79722875.cms?from=mdr due to fears for the possible pandemic. For 18 Timokleia Kousi, Lefkothea-Christina Mitsi, and years, Greece has hosted a large number of Jean Simos, “The Early Stage of COVID-19 Outbreak in asylum seekers and refugees from the middle Greece: A Review of the National Response and the Socioeconomic Impact”, International Journal of environmental Research and Public Health, January 4 2021 19 George Georgiopoulos, “Greek economy shows resilience in first quarter amid pandemic”, Reuters, June 4 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-greece-economygdp-idUSKCN2DG12L 20 Ibid. 21 “Greece economic outlook”, FocusEconomics, October 27 2020, https://www.focus-economics.com/countries/greece 22 GTP, “Coronavirus hits Greece’s economy the most in the EU”, Greek City Times, May 7 2020, https:// greekcitytimes.com/2020/05/07/coronavirus-hits-greeceseconomy-the-most-in-the-eu/ 23 “Greece economic outlook”, FocusEconomics, October 27 2020, https://www.focus-economics.com/coun-

tries/greece 24 Silvia Amaro, “Greece spent 10 years thinking that things couldn’t get any worse, then the coronavirus hit”, CNBC, April 28 2020, https://www.cnbc. com/2020/04/28/coronavirus-hits-greece-tourism-withmore-people-at-risk-of-unemployment.html 25 Ibid. 26 Timokleia Kousi, Lefkothea-Christina Mitsi, and Jean Simos, “The Early Stage of COVID-19 Outbreak in Greece: A Review of the National Response and the Socioeconomic Impact”, International Journal of environmental Research and Public Health, January 4 2021 27 Ibid. 28 Ibid.

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East, Africa, and Asia.29 Greece had a strong initial response to the pandemic which helped avert a humanitarian disseated in its refugee camps, however, Greece also had reports of authorities using aggressive and illegal tactics to keep asylum seekers and migrants away.30 The Moria camp, a refugee camp in Greece, where the coronavirus eventually reached, the government’s stringent response was met with protests f fire, and destroying the camp.31 The European Union had to get involved and delivered emergency relief, adding to more millions of euros and monetary support for Greece.32 The Commission of the European Union released a long awaited proposal to address migration in the EU Pact on Asylum and Migration.33 It was speculated that the developments of Greek response was hasty and an effort to deter, deny and disregard asylum seekers and refugees.34 The Reception and Identification Centers (RIC) on the Aegean Islands help more than 37,000 people – famous for their inhumane conditions.35 The Moria RIC – Europe’s largest and most notorious refugee camp was the most population dense.36 The European Union had long called on the Greek government to decongest the islands, and in March 2020, the European Commission launched a relocation scheme through which eleventh EU countries agreed to take about 1,6000 unaccompanied minors from Greece.37 Moria was a manifestation of the failure of asylum and migration policies in Greece and the European Union.38 The

European commission established a task force to implement and build new reception activities for asylum and migration processes.39 Moria became the emblem of an European Union deterrence policy.40 Human rights and humanitarian organizations said today that Greece’s government should immediately reduce congestion in the islands for RIC asylum seekers and migrants.41 Forcing asylum seekers to remain in conditions that violate their rights and are harmful to their well-being, health, and dignity cannot be justified on grounds of public health.42 Greece’s government should adopt measures to prevent an outbreak and prepare a response plan to be enacted said news outlets.43 There were concerns floating that should there be an outbreak of COIVD-19 in the RIC’s, how would people isolate, quarantine, and remain socially distanced in a confined space?

Relief web, November 24 2020, https://reliefweb.int/report/greece/issue-brief-blocked-every-pass-how-greece-spolicy-exclusion-harms-asylum-seekers-and 30 Ibid. 31 Ibid. 32 Ibid. 33 Ibid. 34 Ibid. 35 Ibid. 36 Ibid. 37 Ibid. 38 Ibid.

39 Ibid. 40 Daniel Howden, “Misery in Moria is Europe’s migration policy”, Politico, September 10 2020, https://www. politico.eu/article/europe-migration-policy-moria-fire-misery/ 41 “Greece: Move Asylum Seekers, Migrants to Safety”, Human Rights Watch, March 24 2020, https://www. hrw.org/news/2020/03/24/greece-move-asylum-seekersmigrants-safety 42 Ibid. 43 Ibid.

Year in Review

Greece, like countries all around the world grappled with the longstanding effects of the novel coronavirus which caused a worldwide pandemic. As a result of the pandemic, the economy of Greece plummeted through the destruction and haul of their tourism industry. Greece was one of the first countries to announce a full lockdown and take severe measures to curb the effects of COVID-19. As a result of these decisions, the summer months looked positive for Greece as reopening began. However, through the loss of the main economic industry of tourism, the 29 “Issue Brief: Blocked at Every Pass: How Greece’s GDP of Greece fell sharply. In order to heal Policy of Exlusion Harms Asylum Seekers and Refugees”,

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from the economic effects of the pandemic, Greece must continue to take fast action and revive the tourism industry in the years to come. Following closely to that, Greece and the European Union suffered scrutiny through media lenses with the way they handled the refugee crisis which unfolded in Greece through the Moria camp. There were talks and speculation regarding an outbreak in the camps, and how clusters of refugees will socially distance, and remain safe when Greece announced a full nationwide lockdown. Continued analysis on the Refugee crisis in Greece is of utmost importance to fully understand the relationship between Greece and the European Union. The months following the pandemic will be crucial in creating a pattern to revive Greece as a country.

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Bibliography Daniel Howden, “Misery in Moria is Europe’s migration policy”, Politico, 2020, https://www.politico.eu/article/ europe-migration-policy-moria-fire-misery/

couldn’t get any worse, then the coronavirus hit”, CNBC, 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/28/coronavirushits-greece-tourism-with-more-people-at-risk-ofunemployment.html

George Georgiopoulos, “Greek economy shows resilience in first quarter amid pandemic”, Reuters, 2021, https:// Timokleia Kousi, Lefkothea-Christina Mitsi, and Jean Simos, www.reuters.com/article/us-greece-economy-gdp“The Early Stage of COVID-19 Outbreak in Greece: A idUSKCN2DG12L Review of the National Response and the Socioeconomic Impact”, International Journal of environmental Research and “Government and Institution Measures in response to Public Health. 2021 COVID-19”, KPMG, 2020, https://home.kpmg/xx/ en/home/insights/2020/04/greece-government-andinstitution-measures-in-response-to-covid.html “Greek economy may contract 11 percent in 2020, central bank says”, Economic Times, 2020, https://economictimes. indiatimes.com/news/international/business/greekeconomy-may-contract-11-percent-in-2020-central-banksays/articleshow/79722875.cms?from=mdr “Greece Economy2020” 2020 CIA World Factbook and Other Sources, 2020, https://theodora.com/wfbcurrent/greece/ greece_economy.html “Greece economic outlook”, FocusEconomics, 2020, https:// www.focus-economics.com/countries/greece “Greece: First COVID-19 fatality confirmed march 12/update 6”, GARDAWORLD, March 12 2020, https://www.garda. com/crisis24/news-alerts/322146/greece-first-covid-19fatality-confirmed-march-12-update-6 “Greece: Government orders nationwide lockdown March 23/ update 11”, GARDAWORLD, 2020, https://www.garda. com/crisis24/news-alerts/325466/greece-governmentorders-nationwide-lockdown-march-23-update-11 “Greece: Move Asylum Seekers, Migrants to Safety”, Human Rights Watch, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/ news/2020/03/24/greece-move-asylum-seekersmigrants-safety “Greece: Nationwide COVID-19 lockdown to take effect from November 7/update 38”, GARDAWORLD, 2020, https:// www.garda.com/crisis24/news-alerts/396741/greecenationwide-covid-19-lockdown-to-take-effect-fromnovember-7-update-38 GTP, “Coronavirus hits Greece’s economy the most in the EU”, Greek City Times, 2020, https://greekcitytimes. com/2020/05/07/coronavirus-hits-greeces-economy-themost-in-the-eu/ “Issue Brief: Blocked at Every Pass: How Greece’s Policy of Exlusion Harms Asylum Seekers and Refugees”, Relief web, 2020, https://reliefweb.int/report/greece/issue-briefblocked-every-pass-how-greece-s-policy-exclusion-harmsasylum-seekers-and Silvia Amaro, “Greece spent 10 years thinking that things

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HUNGARY NINAR FAWAL

I

n 2020, Hungary witnessed a number of important developments in the political, economic, and public health sphere largely as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his government have implemented a number of undemocratic measures in response

to the pandemic, which have further consolidated political trends and democratic backsliding already present before this year. These measures, which included emergency power and an implementation of rule by decree, prompted widespread concern and condemnation from the European Union

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(EU). The EU’s new migration proposal has also been an issue of contention between the bloc and Hungary this year. With migration long being a source of tension between the two actors, the proposal has inspired a resurgence of fake news and rehashed anti-migrant rhetoric from the Hungarian government. Finally, the coronavirus crisis itself has also strained relations with the EU, with Orbán criticizing the bloc’s response and assistance policy. Hungary has increasingly shifted to China instead of Europe in its pandemic response, which could have a number of implications on the relationship between the country and the EU.

“disruptive to the government’s response,” as well as anyone that partakes in activities deemed to be “disturbing the peace,” could face jail time.5 Index, the largest independent news site in the country, has repeatedly condemned these developments and has published both analyses of the act as well as op-eds by opposition MPs criticizing the changes.6 The conservative newspaper Magyar Nemzet, commonly believed to be associated with Orbán’s Fidesz government, has similarly written about the law but has largely adopted a defensive tone, which has included a condemnation of the EU’s response to the act.7

Democratic Backsliding

In their analysis of the Hungarian government’s expanded power, both Index8 and Hvg.hu9, noted that the Fidesz government has passed a substantial number of laws unrelated to the pandemic during this period, including accelerating railway projects, changing adoption laws, and reducing transparency.

Hungary has undergone a number of politically significant developments this year, which has generated extensive discourse among its media outlets. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Hungarian government declared a state of emergency in the middle of March, which allowed the government to enact special government decrees that expire every 15 days and requiring extension only by Parliament.1 On March 30, the Hungarian National Assembly passed a special authorization law entitled the Coronavirus Act, which granted the government unprecedented emergency power and enabled Prime Minister Orbán to rule by decree.2 The decrees can also be extended by the government indefinitely, without needing the permission of Parliament.3 Specifically, the act allowed the decrees to go beyond the measures outlined in the Disaster Relief Act; suspended local and national elections and referendums; and amended the criminal code to include a new paragraph on the offence of “scaremongering” in relation to the pandemic.4 Along with the government ruling by decree, this effectively meant that anyone who publishes reports deemed as “fake news” or 1 Zoltán Kovács, “Hungarian Coronavirus Act passes, granting Viktor Orbán unprecedented emergency powers,” Index, March 30, 2020, https://index.hu/english/2020/03/30/hungary_coronavirus_act_parliament_viktor_orban_fidesz_sweeping_powers_indefinite_term/. 2 Kovács, “Hungarian Coronavirus Act passes.” 3 Ibid. 4 Ibid.

The European Union (EU) has repeatedly expressed concerns about these political developments as they progressed. Upon the parliament’s passing of the special authorization law, the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee immediately asserted that any extraordinary measure adopted by the Hungarian government must align with the EU’s founding 5 Orsolya Lehotai, “Hungary’s Democracy Is Still Under Threat,” Foreign Policy, July 17, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/07/17/hungary-democracy-still-under-threat-orban-state-public-health-emergency-decree/. 6 Zoltán Kovács, “Hungary’s Coronavirus Bill Orbán’s bid for absolute power?” Index, March 24, 2020, https://index.hu/english/2020/03/24/hungary_coronavirus_bill_viktor_orban_fidesz_sweeping_powers_indefinite_ term/. 7 Mateusz Morawiecki, “Our veto serves the interests of the EU,” Magyar Nemzet, December 8, 2020, https:// magyarnemzet.hu/in-english/our-veto-serves-the-interestsof-the-eu-9074711/. 8 Tamás Fábián, “Despite the pandemic, Fidesz shows no signs of slowing down,” Index, May 13, 2020, https://index.hu/english/2020/05/13/hungary_fidesz_coronavirus_parliament_legislation_politics/. 9 Judit Windisch, “Az év, amikor megszoktuk Orbán Viktor teljhatalmát,” Hvg.hu, December 28, 2020, https:// hvg.hu/itthon/20201228_Az_ev_amikor_megszoktuk_Orban_Viktor_teljhatalmat.

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values, as well as the rule of law, democratic principles, and fundamental rights.10 Moreover, the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović Burić expressed concerns about an “indefinite and uncontrolled” state of emergency and its impact on democracy.11 On June 18, the National Assembly lifted the special authorization law and replaced it with new legislation, stating that the government can reintroduce rule by decree by declaring a state of public health emergency without a parliamentary vote.12 The EU attempted to respond to these developments by incorporating rule of law conditionality in its seven-year budget and coronavirus recovery fund, with the mechanism spearheaded largely by the European Parliament and the German presidency of the EU.13 The mechanism links respect for the rule of law and democratic norms with the provision of funds.14 Hungary had initially vetoed this condition, arguing that it was legally vague and could be used to punish “political differences” such as attitudes towards migration and LGBTQ+ communities in the country.15 However, Hungary lifted its objections along with Poland in a Brussels summit on December 10, ultimately allowing its implementation. Migration

European Commission (EC) on September 23, the Pact on Migration and Asylum introduces new and improved procedures for the asylum and migration system, while also emphasizing responsibility sharing and solidarity among EU member states.16 Specifically, the pact contains a more efficient common system for returns, stricter screening for arrivals, and an integrated border procedure for migrants entering the EU.17 Moreover, the pact introduces a new mechanism called “sponsorship,” wherein a member state can choose to either take in refugees or help deport them if they are deemed illegal. If they are not deported within the designated time span, they would have to transfer the wouldbe returnees to their countries.18 Hungarian media sources including Magyar Nemzet, Napi, and the Hungary Times have reported extensively on the proposal and provided different analyses. On June 8, the Fidesz government published a national consultation on migration among other topics, which has been reported on by several media sources. Index reports that the survey sent to the Hungarian public mentioned a potential “open conflict with Brussels” regarding the issue of migration, and asked the public if they agree with the Hungarian government’s continued approach to ban immigration and maintain strict protection of the Hungarian border.19

The EU’s migration package has similarly Following a meeting with the President of caused controversy in Hungary, particularly after Prime Minister Orbán voiced his staunch opposition the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen to it and reiterated the government’s long- and the rest of the Visegrad Four on September established anti-migrant rhetoric. Presented by the 24, Orbán clearly voiced his opposition to the pact, although he acknowledged that it was better 10 Kovács, “Hungary’s Coronavirus Bill.” 11 Kovács, “Hungarian Coronavirus Act passes.” 12 Lehotai, “Hungary’s Democracy Is Still Under Threat.” 13 Daniel Boffey, “EU breaks stalemate on €1.8tn seven-year budget and recovery fund,” The Guardian, December 10, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/ dec/10/eu-breaks-stalemate-on-18tn-seven-year-budget-andrecovery-fund. 14 Daniel Boffey, “EU faces crisis as Hungary and Poland veto seven-year budget,” The Guardian, November 16, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/16/ eu-hungary-veto-budget-viktor-orban. 15 Boffey, “EU breaks stalemate on €1.8tn seven-year budget and recovery fund.”

16 Péter Cseresnyés, “Orbán against New EC Migration Pact Despite Proposal Lacking Mandatory Quotes,” Hungary Today, September 24, 2020, https://hungarytoday. hu/orban-ec-migration-pact-mandatory-quotas-hungary-von-der-leyen/. 17 Cseresnyés, “Orbán against New EC Migration Pact.” 18 Cseresnyés, “Orbán against New EC Migration Pact.” 19 “Itt vannak a kormány új nemzeti konzultációjának kérdései,” Index, June 8, 2020, https://index.hu/belfold/2020/06/08/itt_vannak_a_kormany_uj_nemzeti_konzultaciojanak_kerdesei/.

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than previous proposals.20 He stated that it still fundamentally opposed the Hungarian approach to migration, which consists of admitting migrants to EU territory only after the member state chooses and until the relevant legal procedures have been completed.21 Moreover, he stated that the pact still included a migrant quota, but under a “different term.”22 Hungarian media also reported that on October 21, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó again reaffirmed the government’s rejection of the pact, along with Poland.23 Migration continues to be an issue of contention between Hungary and the EU. Magyar Nemzet reported that on December 4, Orbán claimed that the EU was planning to accept 34 million migrants.24 Moreover, the conservative newspaper has emphasized that the EU is planning to provide more financial resources for migrants, in addition to housing and voting rights, derived from the taxes of EU citizens.25 In line with the government’s rhetoric, the newspaper has also accused the Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros of promoting these policy directions, and says that these initiatives will increase illegal immigration to the continent.26

is actually moving in a direction similar to Orbán’s own approach through emphasizing legal immigration and steering away from mandatory reception quotas. They have also argued that this may potentially undermine the Fidesz government’s anti-EU and anti-migrant rhetoric in the future.27 On December 17, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Hungary has broken EU laws by denying migrants and refugees the right to apply to asylum and forcibly deporting them to the Serbian border – a decision that further cemented the rift between the EU and the country.28 This follows the ECJ’s earlier decision in May, wherein they ruled that Hungary had illegally detained asylum-seekers in poor conditions in border camps, dubbed “transit zones.”29

Overall, Orbán has strictly rejected relocation mechanisms and denounced migration as a whole, stating that Hungary will not agree to anything that could lead to an obligation to take in people coming from the Middle East or Africa. He has maintained this position since the 2015 “refugee crisis” that saw unprecedented numbers of asylum seekers entering Europe. Orbán furthermore asserted that Hungary does not seek to have an Other media sources, such as Index, “open” or mixed society brought about as a result have published opinions that EU asylum policy of migration.30 20 Szabó Zsuzsanna, “Máris a V4-ek ellenállásába ütközött Brüsszel új terve,” Napi.hu, September 24, 2020, https://www.napi.hu/nemzetkozi_gazdasag/maris-a-v4-ekellenallasaba-utkozott-brusszel-uj-terve.714255.html. 21 Zsuzsanna, “Máris a V4-ek ellenállásába ütközött Brüsszel új terve.” 22 Cseresnyés, “Orbán against New EC Migration Pact.” 23 “Nem zsarolhatja az unió Lengyelországot és Magyarországot,” Hirado.hu, October 22, 2020, https://hirado.hu/kulfold/kulgazdasag/cikk/2020/10/22/nem-zsarolhatja-az-unio-lengyelorszagot-es-magyarorszagot. 24 Krisztina Kerékgyártó György-Kincses, “Orbán Viktor: Az EU be akar hozni 34 millió migránst,” Magyar Nemzet, December 4, 2020, https://magyarnemzet. hu/belfold/orban-viktor-a-jogallamisagot-es-a-koltsegvetest-szet-kell-valasztani-9054260/. 25 “Még több segélyt adna Brüsszel a migránsoknak,” Magyar Nemzet, December 13, 2020, https://magyarnemzet. hu/belfold/meg-tobb-segelyt-adna-brusszel-a-migransoknak-9095261/. 26 “Még több segélyt adna Brüsszel a migránsoknak.”

The COVID-19 Pandemic Hungary’s coronavirus response has also strained relations with the EU. On March 27, Prime 27 Ágnes Szűcs, “Épp olyan irányba halad az uniós menekültpolitika, mint Orbán szeretné,” Index, July 7, 2020, https://index.hu/kulfold/eurologus/2020/07/07/eu_migracios_csomag_szeptember_seehofer_johansson/. 28 Robin Emmott & Marton Dunai, “Top EU court finds Hungary guilty of breaking asylum rules,” Reuters, December 17, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-immigration-court-hungary/top-eu-court-finds-hungary-guiltyof-breaking-asylum-rules-idUSKBN28R1AN. 29 “Hungary asylum policies ‘failed’ to fulfill EU obligations,” DW, December 17, 2020, https://www.dw.com/ en/hungary-asylum-policies-failed-to-fulfill-eu-obligations/a-55970205. 30 Judi Tamara, “Itt az EU új migrációs stratégiája,” Magyar Nemzet, September 24, 2020, https://magyarnemzet. hu/kulfold/itt-az-eu-uj-migracios-strategiaja-brusszel-hivatalosan-is-eltemette-a-kvotat-8705343/.

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Minister Orbán stated that the coronavirus crisis has demonstrated that the EU has failed to help in times of need, stressing that the country has been buying protective gear and medical equipment from China instead.31 He maintained that the pandemic has exposed the EU’s “weaknesses.”32 Hungarian media sources have also been following the country’s coronavirus response and vaccination strategy. On November 20, Magyar Nemzet reported that Foreign and Economic Affairs Péter Szijjártó has emphasized the importance of cooperation with China during the pandemic, reemphasizing that early in the pandemic, Hungary bought 100 million masks, 15,000 ventilators, and other protective equipment from China.33 Hungary has been in close contact with the three Chinese vaccines developing vaccines for the coronavirus, with the Szijjártó stressing that “the policy of opening up to the East has been proven to be the right one.”34

countries36. On November 27, HVG analyzed the risk of continuing to block the funds, reporting that Hungary could potentially lose out on 38.8 billion EUR in EU support if Prime Minister Orbán vetoed the package.37 HVG reported that on December 10 – after twenty weeks of negotiations – EU members had agreed to the new terms, owing to a compromise drafted by Germany.38 The compromise guarantees that conditionality will only be applied in cases directly related to the grants and for funds awarded from 2021, among other conditions.39 Orbán is reported to have said that the passing of the financial package represented a victory for the “unity of the union” and that the whole affair was fundamentally about the future of the EU.40 Other EU figures, however, are wary that this compromise could potentially endanger the EU’s rule of law principle and empower Orbán’s increasingly undemocratic actions.41

Hungarian media sources have also reported extensively on the controversy surrounding the EU new seven-year budget and coronavirus recovery fund. The financial package, comprising a total of 1.8 trillion EUR, is meant to help alleviate the economic consequences of the pandemic.35 The governments of Hungary and Poland had previously refused to accept the rule of law conditionality mechanism tied to the funds, which was put in place to curb anti-corruption and democratic backsliding in EU

Year in Review

31 Lili Bayer, “Viktor Orbán criticizes EU’s coronavirus crisis response,” Politico, March 27, 2020, https://www. politico.eu/article/coronavirus-viktor-orban-criticizes-eu-crisis-response/. 32 Bayer, “Viktor Orbán criticizes EU’s coronavirus crisis response.” 33 “Újabb egymillió favipiravir érkezik Kínából a jövő héten,” Magyar Nemzet, November 20, 2020, https:// magyarnemzet.hu/kulfold/ujabb-egymillio-favipiravir-erkezik-kinabol-a-jovo-heten-8981276/. 34 “Újabb egymillió favipiravir érkezik Kínából a jövő héten.” 35 László Arató, “Magyarországnak 14 ezer milliárd forint uniós támogatás jutna, ha Orbán nem blokkolná a megegyezést,” Hvg.hu, November 27, 2020, https://hvg.hu/ gazdasag/20201127_388_milliard_eurora_jogosult_Magyarorszag__ezt_blokkolja_Orban.

36 Boffey, “EU faces crisis as Hungary and Poland veto seven-year budget.” 37 Arató, “Magyarországnak 14 ezer milliárd forint uniós támogatás jutna, ha Orbán nem blokkolná a megegyezést.” 38 “Megállapodtak az uniós költségvetésről az EU-csúcson,” Hvg.hu, December 10, 2020, https://hvg.hu/ gazdasag/20201210_Megallapodtak_az_unios_koltsegvetesrol_az_EUcsucson. 39 “Megállapodtak az uniós költségvetésről az EU-csúcson.” 40 Alice Tidey & Lauren Chadwick, “EU agrees €1.8 tr budget - but what brought Hungary & Poland onboard?” Euronews, December 10, 2020, https://www.euronews. com/2020/12/10/eu-s-1-8-trillion-budget-approved-afterhungary-and-poland-had-earlier-blocked-it. 41 Tiday & Chadwick, “EU agrees €1.8 tr budget.”

Overall, this year saw increasingly strained relations with the EU as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and disagreements over migration. It is clear that Prime Minister Orbán will continue his consolidation of political power, and that given this, he will also continue to be a catalyst of tension and marked conflict between the Visegrad Four and the EU. Orbán’s adamant opposition to a rule of law conditionality or other enforcement mechanisms in EU policies, moreover, will

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almost certainly be a source of further tension within the bloc, particularly as Hungary becomes increasingly illiberal and undemocratic. Moreover, although they are necessary for diplomatic cooperation and the continued efficacy of EU procedures, the instances of compromise as shown by this year’s financial package case are indeed concerning and could potentially undermine the bloc’s fundamental principles in the future. The increasing disagreements between Hungary and other EU member states over political values could also potentially undermine the bloc’s unity and soft power in the future, particularly if Hungary forms increasingly strong relationships with other countries and solidifies the rift between the two actors. Furthermore, Orbán’s continued use of fake news and misinformation as part of the discourse on migration should very much be a cause for concern within the EU, as it seems to fall in line with a global trend of far-right rhetoric and general populism in politics that has established itself this past decade, and could potentially normalize it further within the bloc. Still, this pandemic has made clear that both Hungarian officials and their EU counterparts are still willing to continue to cooperate over regional and global challenges. Moreover, the importance of the EU has been repeatedly reflected in several Hungarian media outlets, with a substantial portion of their coverage repudiating the misinformation peddled by Prime Minister Orbán and rather emphasizing the importance of maintaining good relations with the union. Whether the integrity of the EU and its institutions will continue to be tested or if a post-pandemic Europe will intensify cooperation among its members, only time can tell.

Bibliography

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Arató, László. “Magyarországnak 14 ezer milliárd forint Lehotai, Orsolya. “Hungary’s Democracy Is Still Under uniós támogatás jutna, ha Orbán nem blokkolná a Threat.” Foreign Policy, July 17, 2020. https://foreignpolicy. megegyezést.” Hvg.hu, November 27, 2020. https://hvg. com/2020/07/17/hungary-democracy-still-under-threathu/gazdasag/20201127_388_milliard_eurora_jogosult_ orban-state-public-health-emergency-decree/. Magyarorszag__ezt_blokkolja_Orban. “Még több segélyt adna Brüsszel a migránsoknak.” Magyar Bayer, Lili. “Viktor Orbán criticizes EU’s coronavirus crisis Nemzet, December 13, 2020. https://magyarnemzet. response.” Politico, March 27, 2020. https://www.politico. hu/belfold/meg-tobb-segelyt-adna-brusszel-aeu/article/coronavirus-viktor-orban-criticizes-eu-crisismigransoknak-9095261/. response/. “Megállapodtak az uniós költségvetésről az EUBoffey, Daniel. “EU breaks stalemate on €1.8tn seven-year csúcson.” Hvg.hu, December 10, 2020. https://hvg. budget and recovery fund.” The Guardian, December hu/gazdasag/20201210_Megallapodtak_az_unios_ 10, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/ koltsegvetesrol_az_EUcsucson. dec/10/eu-breaks-stalemate-on-18tn-seven-year-budgetMorawiecki, Mateusz. “Our veto serves the interests of the EU.” and-recovery-fund. Magyar Nemzet, December 8, 2020. https://magyarnemzet. Boffey, Daniel. “EU faces crisis as Hungary and Poland veto hu/in-english/our-veto-serves-the-interests-of-theseven-year budget.” The Guardian, November 16, 2020. eu-9074711/ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/16/eu“Nem zsarolhatja az unió Lengyelországot és Magyarországot.” hungary-veto-budget-viktor-orban. Hirado.hu, October 22, 2020. https://hirado.hu/kulfold/ Cseresnyés, Péter. “Orbán against New EC Migration Pact kulgazdasag/cikk/2020/10/22/nem-zsarolhatja-az-unioDespite Proposal Lacking Mandatory Quotes.” Hungary lengyelorszagot-es-magyarorszagot. Today, September 24, 2020. https://hungarytoday.hu/ Szűcs, Ágnes. “Épp olyan irányba halad az uniós orban-ec-migration-pact-mandatory-quotas-hungary-vonmenekültpolitika, mint Orbán szeretné.” Index, July 7, der-leyen/. 2020. https://index.hu/kulfold/eurologus/2020/07/07/ Emmott, Robin and Marton Dunai. “Top EU court finds eu_migracios_csomag_szeptember_seehofer_johansson/. Hungary guilty of breaking asylum rules.” Reuters, Tamara, Judi. “Itt az EU új migrációs stratégiája.” Magyar December 17, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/ Nemzet, September 24, 2020. https://magyarnemzet. article/us-eu-immigration-court-hungary/top-euhu/kulfold/itt-az-eu-uj-migracios-strategiaja-brusszelcourt-finds-hungary-guilty-of-breaking-asylum-ruleshivatalosan-is-eltemette-a-kvotat-8705343/. idUSKBN28R1AN. Tidey, Alice and Lauren Chadwick. “EU agrees €1.8 tr Fábián, Tamás. “Despite the pandemic, Fidesz shows no signs budget - but what brought Hungary & Poland onboard?” of slowing down.” Index, May 13, 2020. https://index. Euronews, December 10, 2020. https://www.euronews. hu/english/2020/05/13/hungary_fidesz_coronavirus_ com/2020/12/10/eu-s-1-8-trillion-budget-approvedparliament_legislation_politics/. after-hungary-and-poland-had-earlier-blocked-it. “Hungary asylum policies ‘failed’ to fulfill EU obligations.” “Újabb egymillió favipiravir érkezik Kínából a jövő héten.” Magyar DW, December 17, 2020. https://www.dw.com/ Nemzet, November 20, 2020. https://magyarnemzet.hu/ en/hungary-asylum-policies-failed-to-fulfill-eukulfold/ujabb-egymillio-favipiravir-erkezik-kinabol-a-jovoobligations/a-55970205. heten-8981276/. “Itt vannak a kormány új nemzeti konzultációjának kérdései.” Windisch, Judit. “Az év, amikor megszoktuk Orbán Viktor Index, June 8, 2020. https://index.hu/belfold/2020/06/08/ teljhatalmát.” Hvg.hu, December 28, 2020. https://hvg. itt_vannak_a_kormany_uj_nemzeti_konzultaciojanak_ hu/itthon/20201228_Az_ev_amikor_megszoktuk_Orban_ kerdesei/. Viktor_teljhatalmat. Kerékgyártó György-Kincses, Krisztina. “Orbán Viktor: Az Zsuzsanna, Szabó. “Máris a V4-ek ellenállásába ütközött EU be akar hozni 34 millió migránst.” Magyar Nemzet, Brüsszel új terve.” Napi.hu, September 24, 2020. https:// December 4, 2020. https://magyarnemzet.hu/belfold/ www.napi.hu/nemzetkozi_gazdasag/maris-a-v4-ekorban-viktor-a-jogallamisagot-es-a-koltsegvetest-szet-kellellenallasaba-utkozott-brusszel-uj-terve.714255.html. valasztani-9054260/. Kovács, Zoltán. “Hungarian Coronavirus Act passes, granting Viktor Orbán unprecedented emergency powers.” Index, March 30, 2020. https://index.hu/english/2020/03/30/ hungary_coronavirus_act_parliament_viktor_orban_ fidesz_sweeping_powers_indefinite_term/. Kovács, Zoltán. “Hungary’s Coronavirus Bill - Orbán’s bid for absolute power?” Index, March 24, 2020. https://index. hu/english/2020/03/24/hungary_coronavirus_bill_ viktor_orban_fidesz_sweeping_powers_indefinite_term/.

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ICELAND Mostafa El Sharkawy

01

02

03

Population: 350, 734 (July 2020 est.) - CIA Factbook

GDP Per Capita: $52,200 (2017 est.) - CIA Factbook

celand, the small island nation situated in the North Atlantic Ocean, famous for its natural wonders and geological sights, has emerged as the model for gender equality, peace, and democracy. While 2020 presented new challenges to Iceland, particularly COVID-19, the country continues to grapple with domestic reforms, climate change, and its relationship with the European Union. Iceland is not a member of the EU by choice – its government rejected EU membership because of long-standing economic issues, identity issues, and growing Euroscepticism in rural Iceland. The Iceland-EU relationship

is still strong, however, with Iceland being privy to the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the European Economic Area (EEA), and the Schengen Area. While a majority of Iceland rejects the prospect of EU membership, the two remain inextricably linked. Dependency on tourism, air travel, and fishing means that COVID-19 and climate change present the greatest threat to the Icelandic economy.

EU Status: Not a member, integrated in the EU through the EEA, the Schengen Area and the EFTA - European Commission

I

The coalition government of Iceland was elected in 2017 and is led by the Left-Green Movement, an eco-socialist party centered around democratic socialism, feminism,

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and environmentalism.1 LeftGreen Movement Leader and Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir attempted to form a left-wing coalition but was forced to settle for a broader coalition with the centre-right Progressive and Independence Party.2 The fragility of the coalition government has

1 Richard Martyn-Hemphill. “Iceland’s Independence Party Retains Most Seats After Election”. The New York Times, October 29, 2017 https:// www.nytimes.com/2017/10/29/world/ europe/iceland-election.html. 2 Kimiko De Freytas-Tamura. “Iceland Forms Coalition Government After Months of Talks”. The New York Times, January 11, 2017 https://www. nytimes.com/2017/01/11/world/europe/ iceland-new-government-independence-party.html.


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resulted in limited progress on environmental policy and overdue constitutional reform. The office of the Prime Minister itself is especially fragile – at the beginning of her term, Prime Minister Jakobsdóttir was the fourth Prime Minister in two years after a series of ethical and financial scandals.3 Prime Minister Jakobsdóttir had the task of restoring confidence in Icelandic politics, and while that is yet to be accomplished, the Prime Minister herself was named the most trusted Icelandic politician by numerous polls.4 Constitutional Dangerous?

Reform:

Democratic

or

Following the 2008 Financial Crisis, during which Iceland’s acting government resigned, the new government was tasked with reviving the economy and reforming the systems that had failed in 2008. One of the crucial and popular reforms was the need for a new constitution.5 It had been a longstanding promise of successive governments in Iceland since the formation of the republic in 1944.6 Beginning in 2010 and until 2012, Iceland’s citizens compiled a crowdsourced constitution which was approved in a referendum. This crowdsourced constitution was unprecedented in that it relied almost entirely on citizen participation – Icelanders were invited to propose their suggestions for a new constitution and at random, 1,200 citizens were selected to discuss and debate these suggestions and give their recommendations to the Constitutional Council. The crowdsourced constitution focused on reforming the role of the President, changes to the electoral system, and most importantly, setting 3 John Henley. “Iceland’s new leader: ‘People don’t

trust our politicians’”. The Guardian, February 9, 2018 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/09/icelands-new-leader-people-dont-trust-icelandic-politicians 4 Traci Tong. “Iceland’s most trusted politician is a feminist environmentalist who is the ‘anti-Trump’. The World, December 19, 2017https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-12-19/ icelands-most-trusted-politician-feminist-environmentalist-who-antitrump 5 Andie Sophia Fontaine. “Prime Minister Offers Concessions Over Iceland’s Constitution”. The Reykjavik Grapevine, October 8, 2020. https://grapevine.is/news/2020/10/08/ prime-minister-offers-concessions-over-icelands-constitution/ 6 Fontaine, “Prime Minister Offers Concessions Over Iceland’s Constitution”, 2020

rules about the use of natural resources in Iceland.7 Since then, governments have come and gone while the constitution has remained unchanged. In 2020, Prime Minister Jakobsdóttir called upon the Icelandic Parliament, the Alþingi, to consider new constitutional reforms concerning the issue of natural resources. The Prime Minister wrote that the Alþingi “owes it to society” to consider such reforms to protect the natural environment of the country from exploitative development and greed.8 To its credit, the Alþingi has begun, in a cross-party committee, discussion about what a new constitution would look like, and the Prime Minister herself is expected to submit constitutional amendments.9 It has yet to pass any constitutional amendments, much to the frustration of the general public.

A majority of Icelanders support a new constitution, particularly for the crowdsourced constitution. Critics and activists have pointed to the cross-party committee as being undemocratic since it does not rely on any public input. A recent poll found that 6 out of 10 Icelanders support a new constitution, a figure that has increased 8% since 2019.10 Some have taken to online petitions and social media activism to re-energize citizens for this cause, which has not been without success – one online petition received over 40,000 signatories following the removal of Graffiti in downtown Reykjavik that said, “Where is the new constitution?”.11 Organizations like the Women’s 7 Jelena Ciric. “In Focus: Where is Iceland’s Updated

Constitution”. Iceland Review, September 28, 2020 https:// www.icelandreview.com/politics/in-focus-where-is-icelands-updated-constitution/ 8 Jelena Ciric . “ Icelandic Parliament “Owes Society” an Updated Constitution, Says Prime Minister”. Iceland Review, October 8, 2020. https://www.icelandreview.com/ politics/icelandic-parliament-owes-society-an-updated-constitution-says-prime-minister/ 9 Katrin Jakobsdottir. “The Opportunity is with the Althingi”. Frettabladid Inspection, October 8, 2020 https://www. frettabladid.is/skodun/taekifaerid-er-hja-althingi/ 10 Atli Isleifsson. “Six out of ten consider it important to get a new constitution”. Visir , October 13, 2020 https://www. visir.is/g/20202024225d/sex-af-hverjum-tiu-telja-mikil-vaegtad-fa-nyja-stjornar-skra 11 Jelena Ciric. “Authorities Remove Graffiti Supporting

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Alliance for a New Constitutions have utilized social media to promote and educate Icelanders about the need for a new constitution, particularly the youth, through Instagram and TikTok.12 The hashtag #hvar (#where) is used by Icelanders around the country to post flippant pictures of themselves looking for the constitution in a way to express their frustration with the lack of government action.13

While Prime Minister Jakobsdóttir’s proposed constitutional reforms will address some of the original concerns of 2010-2012, they do not represent the ambitious reforms outlined in the crowdsourced constitution. The desire for constitutional reform is growing in Iceland, and as Iceland continues to control the spread of COVID-19, the government will soon run out of excuses not to listen to the constitutional authority of the country, its people. Icelandic Government’s COVID-19 Response

On February 28th, Iceland reported its first case of coronavirus. In the early weeks of COVID-19, the Icelandic government and general public, like most other countries, knew little about the nature of this virus. During March and April, Iceland was reporting nearly 100 cases per day, which as a proportion of the population, was a much faster spread than most countries.14 The government, in consultation with chief epidemiologists, enforced gathering restrictions, closed schools and universities, and began a contract tracing program starting on March 13th.15 New Constitution ‘’. Iceland Review, October 13, 2020 https:// www.icelandreview.com/society/authorities-remove-graffiti-supporting-new-constitution/ 12 Catherine Magnusdottir. “Constitution Petition Cracks 20,000 Signatures” . The Reykjavik Grapevine, September 15, 2020. https://grapevine.is/news/2020/09/15/constitution-petition-cracks-20000-signatures/ 13 Larissa Kyzer. “Women-Led Social Media Campaign for Constitutional Reform Asks #Hvar?”. Iceland Review, September 11, 2020 https://www.icelandreview.com/politics/ women-led-social-media-campaign-asks-hvar/ 14 Elizabeth Kolbert. “ How Iceland Beat the Coronavirus”. The New Yorker, June 1, 2020. https://www.newyorker. com/magazine/2020/06/08/how-iceland-beat-the-coronavirus 15 Kolbert, “How Iceland Beat the Coronavirus”, 2020.

The Icelandic genetic research institute, deCODE genetics, was essential in the country’s testing and contract tracing capabilities. deCODE genetics built a system wherein 4,000 tests per million could be processed daily – by May it had tested 15.5% of Iceland’s population.16 What differentiates deCODE’s methodology to control the spread is that it began sequencing the virus in infected Icelanders. It identified the random mutations that came from different places around the world, which made it much easier to understand how the virus had spread in Iceland.17 The data compiled by deCODE genetics was used by the Icelandic government to employ an aggressive contract tracing program wherein anyone who came into contact with a COVID-19 positive person would be required to quarantine.18 Iceland’s small population made this process both a nightmare and extremely efficient – the tightknit community meant that the spread was much faster but it was also easier to trace the spread of the virus in different regions of the country through the genealogical database at deCODE genetics.19 Travellers were subject to testing upon arrival, and if it came back negative, they were not required to quarantine. The Civil Administration worked extensively to penalize instances of quarantine violation, of which there were few.20 A small three-person team consisting of the country’s chief epidemiologist, director of health, and director of emergency management helped navigate the country through the crisis.21 They held daily briefings offering updates on cases, testing, and deaths resulting from the virus. The team also provided advice about the other consequences of the pandemic, like mental health and talking to children about the virus.22 Iceland never imposed a sweeping lockdown or a mask mandate, and only certain types of

16 Ibid. 17 Kolbert, “How Iceland Beat the Coronavirus”, 2020. 18 Ibid. 19 Ibid. 20 Ibid. 21 Ibid. 22 Ibid.

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businesses were required to close down. Most of its restrictions on gatherings and schools and universities had been lifted by June.23 The country has also reported one of the lowest death rates of any country in the world.24 This is a credit to its extensive testing and contract tracing strategy backed by a transparent and objective team of medical professionals and true country-wide recognition of the severity of the virus.

It would be short-sighted to suggest that Iceland has beaten the virus. In fact, in the fall season, the country reported its highest number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic, at a record 106 cases on October 8th.25 Prime Minister Jakobsdóttir is faced with a dilemma; keep the border open and risk further outbreaks or close the border and face a huge economic downturn. Critics of the Prime Minister have stressed the need for economic relief to the tourism and airline industries. The general cohesion of the political class hasn’t stopped some parliamentarians to go as far as saying that the recent restrictions are the most far-reaching intrusion on privacy and personal rights in the history of the republic.26 For its part, the government encouraged Icelanders to travel domestically to the country’s many geological attractions, but there is a recognition that it is not enough to revive the industry.27 The federal government also enacted a series of large economic stimulus packages that included closure subsidies, support loans, bridge loans, simpler financial restructuring rules, and increased unemployment benefits.28 23 Ibid. 24 “What’s the Status of COVID-19 in Iceland”. The

Iceland Review. Last Updated: October 7, 2020 https://www. icelandreview.com/ask-ir/whats-the-status-of-covid-19-in-iceland/ 25 Ibid. 26 Alexander Elliot. “Biggest intervention in lives Iceland has ever seen”. Ríkisútvarpið, November 6, 2020 https://www.ruv.is/frett/2020/11/06/biggest-intervention-inlives-iceland-has-ever-seen 27 Paige Mclanahan. “Iceland Tourism Prepares for a Comeback”. The New York Times, October 13, 2020. https:// www.nytimes.com/2020/10/13/travel/iceland-tourism-pandemic.html 28 KPMG. “Iceland - Measures in response to

Iceland lifted its restrictions on travel into its country from EU countries within the Schengen Area on June 15th.29 It had excluded EU, EEA, and EFTA members from its first wave of travel restrictions in March but reversed course after outbreaks in the UK, Italy, and Spain.30 It did so in accordance with its own medical advice but with the recognition that EU travellers make up a large share of its tourism revenue. These travel restrictions were enforced and removed in coordination with the European Commission.31 Since the beginning of the pandemic, Iceland has worked alongside the EU, particularly in the process of vaccine development. It has signed vaccine agreements with the EU through Sweden as an intermediary. Since the announcement of the Pfizer vaccine, Icelandic Health Minister has been hopeful that Iceland would secure vaccines in January of 2021. 32 Climate Change and Environmental Protections

As an island nation just south of the Arctic circle, Iceland suffers the most current and pressing effects of climate change. Icelandic waters are quickly acidifying, having adverse effects on marine life, Icelandic glaciers are melting and expected to vanish within 100-200 years, and sea levels are consistently rising.33 COVID-19”. September 30, 2020

https://home.kpmg/xx/en/home/insights/2020/04/iceland-government-and-institution-measures-in-response-to-covid.html

29 Vala Hafstad. “Why Iceland Adopted Stricter Mea-

sures on Border”. Iceland Monitor, August 24, 2020 https:// icelandmonitor.mbl.is/news/politics_and_society/2020/08/24/ why_iceland_adopted_stricter_measures_at_border/ 30 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice. “Iceland implements Schengen and EU Travel restrictions”. Government of Iceland, March 20, 2020 https://www.government.is/news/article/2020/03/20/Iceland-implements-Schengen-and-EU-travel-restrictions-/ 31 Hafstad, “Why Iceland Adopted Stricter Measures on Border”, 2020 32 Vala Hafstað. “ ‘Light at the End of the Tunnel’ States Health Minister”. Iceland Monitor, November 11, 2020 https:// icelandmonitor.mbl.is/news/news/2020/11/11/light_at_the_end_ of_the_tunnel_states_health_minist/ 33 “Climate Report”. Icelandic MET Office, Accessed: October 13, 2020 https://en.vedur.is/climatology/iceland/climate-report

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The geographic makeup of Iceland makes it particularly prone to volcanic eruptions, geothermal activity, and longer, hotter summers.34 For their part, Icelanders have recognized the importance of renewable energies and protecting the environment much earlier than other countries.

Environmental protection has been a central promise of the Left-Green Movement since their election in 2017. It has been crucial to Iceland’s economy because of its many geological and environmental sights and attractions which attract tourists from around the world. As of 2020, 25% of the country’s landmass is protected As of 2020, 85% of Iceland’s energy lands under the national parks or protected areas comes from domestic renewable energy sources 42 – 65% geothermal energy and 20% hydropower.35 categories. A select few national parks have also been recognized as UNESCO Heritage sights. 100% of electricity in Iceland comes from These protected lands are designated as such renewable energy sources, and fossil fuels only for vulnerability, accessibility, management, accounted for 15% of Iceland’s energy and are 43 steadily decreasing as Iceland continues to harness or scientific research purposes. In its effort to protect environmental landscapes and areas, its vast share of naturally-occurring geothermal Iceland has launched the NatNorth project – a activity.36 For comparison, the EU’s share of Nordic alliance aimed at formulating policy, renewable energy sources was just 18%.37 Prime investing in environmental infrastructure, and Minister Jakobsdóttir and her Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources, Guðmundur renewable energy transition in national parks across Nordic nations.44 In 2020, Iceland’s entry Ingi Guðbrandsson, who is also a member of the to the Council of Europe’s European Landscape Left-Green Movement, have set the goal to be Convention was enforced. Under this treaty, carbon neutral by 2040 – a more ambitious goal Iceland commits itself to the protection and than the Paris Agreement.38 To reach that feat, management of landscapes across Europe.45 the government updated the Parliament with its 48 point climate action plan.39 Among the most Iceland has been cooperating with ambitious goals in this climate action plan is to multinational organizations, including the EU decrease carbon emissions by 35% by 2030, which and the United Nations (UN) in the fight against Minister of the Environment Guðbrandsson has climate change. In addition to having been a said is crucial to reach the 2040 carbon neutrality participant in the Kyoto Protocol in the past goal.40 Iceland’s climate plan will cost 333 million and the Paris Agreement in the present, Iceland USD to reduce emissions and includes the cost of has joined the EU commitment to cut carbon carbon capture from industry, increasing domestic emissions by 40% by 2030.46 It has been a vegetation production, and subsidies for low participant in the EU’s emission trading program 41 emission and electric cars. since 2008 and recently adopted the EU climate 34 Ibid. 35 Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources. “Climate Change” Government of Iceland, Accessed: October 13, 2020 https://www.government.is/topics/environment-climate-and-nature-protection/climate-change/ 36 Ministry of Industries and Innovation. “Energy”. Government of Iceland, 2020 37 IEA. “European Union 2020”. IEA Paris, June 2020 https://www.iea.org/reports/european-union-2020 38 Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources. “Climate Change” Government of Iceland, 2020 39 Ibid. 40 Ibid. 41 Ibid.

42 Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.

“What is a protected area?” Government of Iceland, accessed: November 15, 2020 https://www.government.is/topics/environment-climate-and-nature-protection/national-parks-and-protected-areas/what-is-a-protected-area/

43 Ibid. 44 Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.

“International cooperation”. Government of Iceland, accessed: November 15, 2020 https://www.government.is/topics/environment-climate-and-nature-protection/national-parks-and-protected-areas/international-cooperation 45 Council of Europe. “European Landscape Convention”. 2020 https://www.coe.int/en/web/landscape 46 Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. “International cooperation”. Government of Iceland, 2020

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action cooperation which included applying two EU climate laws regarding effort sharing regulation and regulation on land, land-use, and forestry.47

The EU has cooperated with Iceland individually on several climate change initiatives in recent years. In September 2020, the EU awarded a grant of 700 million ISK for a climate change research project in Iceland called Future Arctic. The project aims to study the effect of climate and air quality on Iceland’s forests and grasslands.48 Iceland has also contributed to the EEA grant program wherein Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein provide grants to Southern and Eastern European states on several issues, namely environment, energy, climate change, and low carbon economy.49 Iceland provided 3% of the fundings 1.5 billion EUR total which went to 15 beneficiary states.50 Additionally, Iceland is a participant in the EU’s grant project, Nunataryuk, as part of the Horizon 2020 program. This project studies the effect of coastal and subsea permafrost and provides recommendations on adaptation measures for coastal population centres. Iceland has contributed 564, 650 EUR to the project thus far.51 Year in Review

In 2020, Iceland handled much of its issues and crises with multinational cooperation and diplomacy to varying degrees of success. The small island nation is prone to the more severe 47 Ibid. 48 Jess Distill. “EU Awards Grant To Climate Change

Project in Iceland” . The Reykjavik Grapevine, September 30, 2020 https://grapevine.is/news/2020/09/30/eu-awards-grant-toclimate-change-project-in-iceland/ 49 Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “EEA Grant”. Government of Iceland, accessed: November 15, 2020 https://www.government.is/topics/foreign-affairs/iceland-in-europe/eea-grants/ 50 EEA Grants. “About Us”. EEA Grants, accessed: November 15, 2020 https://eeagrants.org/about-us#:~:text=The%20EEA%20Grants%20are%20funded,amount%20 to%20%E2%82%AC1.5%20billion. 51 Cordis EU Research Results, “Permafrost thaw and the changing arctic coast: science for socio-economic adaptation”. European Commission, accessed: November 15, 2020 https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/773421

consequences of the international crises during these times, namely COVID-19 and climate change. However, through diplomacy and science, Iceland has had incremental success in its very personal fight against climate change and in its quest to contain the spread of COVID-19. The country’s independent streak from the EU has not been compromised through its many cooperation efforts with the Union. The country continues to tackle many of the same issues on its own – on COVID-19, the country’s own genetic research institute took on its testing and contract tracing efforts, and on the climate, the government has set its own climate action plan that is steps ahead of the internationally recognized Paris Agreement. That is not to say that Iceland has not benefited from its relationship with the EU. Iceland’s vaccine development is tied to that of the EU and the country will undoubtedly benefit from the multinational effort to secure COVID-19 vaccines. Similarly, climate change research and adaptability measures in Iceland are possible because of EU grants and funding. Iceland has taken a very proactive role on the climate front as seen in its involvement in the EEA grant program, Horizon 2020, and the NatNorth project. The strides Iceland has made towards reducing climate change is admirable, especially its nearly 100% renewable domestic energy sources. The Left-Green Movement’s position at the head of government policy influences the decision to tackle climate change, which has not been without success. Another term for Prime Minister Jakobsdóttir and the Left-Green Movement might see even more progress in this fight. On the other hand, domestic issues have been frustratingly slow and unaccomplished. A prime example is the desire for constitutional reform, which has gone undone for nearly a decade now. Icelanders are adamant on a new constitution, one that emulates the crowdsourced constitution of 2010, but there is little evidence to suggest that the current government will budge to fulfill that desire. Prime Minister Jakobsdóttir’s constitutional reforms fall short of the general

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public, and she will likely continue to face backlash for this unfulfilled promise. And while it doesn’t fall entirely on the current administration, successive governments will face the same criticism until constitutional reform is enacted in a way a majority of Icelanders approve of. Iceland and the EU have continued their healthy relationship with few impediments and even less opposition. Both entities have become comfortable with Iceland’s Euroscepticism while also recognizing the need to cooperate on major issues. This kind of status quo has worked since the Financial Crisis of 2008 and appears to be working even through straining crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. It would be unwise to suggest that Iceland will join the EU anytime soon, but the coordination and cooperation between them on issues like COVID-19 and climate change is a healthy sign of a functioning and mutually beneficial relationship.

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Bibliography

“Climate Report”. Icelandic MET Office, Accessed: October 13, 2020 https://en.vedur.is/ climatology/iceland/climate-report

Distill, Jess. “EU Awards Grant To Climate Change Project in Iceland” . The Reykjavik Grapevine, September 30, 2020

Cordis EU Research Results, “Permafrost thaw and the changing arctic coast: science for socio-economic adaptation”.

EEA Grants. “About Us”. EEA Grants, accessed: November 15, 2020 https://eeagrants. org/about-us#:~:text=The%20EEA%20 Grants%20are%20funded,amount%20to%20 %E2%82%AC1.5%20billion.

Council of Europe. “European Landscape Convention”. 2020 https://www.coe.int/en/web/ landscape

https://grapevine.is/news/2020/09/30/eu-awardsgrant-to-climate-change-project-in-iceland/

European Commission, accessed: November 15, 2020 https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/773421 Elliot, Alexander. “Biggest intervention in lives Iceland has ever seen”. Ríkisútvarpið, NovemCiric, Jelena. “ Icelandic Parliament “Owes ber 6, 2020https://www.ruv.is/frett/2020/11/06/ Society” an Updated Constitution, Says Prime biggest-intervention-in-lives-iceland-has-everMinister”. Iceland Review, seen October 8, 2020. https://www.icelandreview. Fontaine, Andie Sophia. “Prime Minister Offers com/politics/icelandic-parliament-owes-sociConcessions Over Iceland’s Constitution”. The ety-an-updated-constitution-says-prime-minisReykjavik Grapevine, October 8, 2020. https:// ter/ grapevine.is/news/2020/10/08/prime-minisCiric, Jelena. “In Focus: Where is Iceland’s ter-offers-concessions-over-icelands-constituUpdated Constitution”. Iceland Review, Seption/ tember 28, 2020 https://www.icelandreview. com/politics/in-focus-where-is-icelands-updat- Hafstað, Vala. “ ‘Light at the End of the Tunnel’ States Health Minister”. Iceland Monitor, ed-constitution November 11, 2020 https://icelandmonitor.mbl. Ciric, Jelena. “Authorities Remove Graffiti Supis/news/news/2020/11/11/light_at_the_end_of_ porting New Constitution ‘’. Iceland Review, the_tunnel_states_health_minist/ October 13, 2020 https://www.icelandreview. Hafstad, Vala. “Why Iceland Adopted Stricter com/society/authorities-remove-graffiti-supMeasures on Border”. Iceland Monitor, August porting-new-constitution/ 24, 2020 https://icelandmonitor.mbl.is/news/ Ciric, Jelena. “COVID-19 in Iceland: Hospital politics_and_society/2020/08/24/why_iceland_ Capacity Key to Third Wave Response” . The adopted_stricter_measures_at_border/ Iceland Review, October 1, Henley, John. “Iceland’s new leader: ‘People don’t 2020.https://www.icelandreview.com/society/ trust our politicians’”. The Guardian, Febcovid-19-in-iceland-national-hospital-capacityruary 9, 2018 https://www.theguardian.com/ key-to-third-wave-response/ world/2018/feb/09/icelands-new-leader-peoDe Freytas-Tamura, Kimiko. “Iceland Forms ple-dont-trust-icelandic-politicians Coalition Government After Months of Talks”. IEA. “European Union 2020”. IEA Paris, June The New York Times, January 11, 2017 https:// 2020 https://www.iea.org/reports/europewww.nytimes.com/2017/01/11/world/europe/ an-union-2020 iceland-new-government-independence-party. Isleifsson, Atli. “Six out of ten consider it importhtml. ant to get a new constitution” . Visir , October 165


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13, 2020 https://www.visir.is/g/20202024225d/ sex-af-hverjum-tiu-telja-mikil-vaegt-ad-fa-nyja-stjornar-skra

“Iceland implements Schengen and EU Travel restrictions”. Government of Iceland, March 20, 2020 https://www.government.is/news/ article/2020/03/20/Iceland-implements-Schengen-and-EU-travel-restrictions-/

Jakobsdottir, Katrin. “The Opportunity is with the Althingi”. Frettabladid Inspection, October 8, 2020 https://www.frettabladid.is/skodun/taekifaerid-er-hja-althingi/

Ministry of Industries and Innovation. “Energy”. Government of Iceland, accessed: November 15, 2020 https://www.government.is/ topics/business-and-industry/energy/#:~:text=About%2085%25%20of%20all%20houses,and%2027%25%20from%20geothermal%20 power.

Kolbert, Elizabeth. “ How Iceland Beat the Coronavirus”. The New Yorker, June 1, 2020. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/06/08/how-iceland-beat-the-coronavirus

Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “EEA Grant”. Government of Iceland, accessed: November 15, 2020 https://www.government.is/topics/foreign-affairs/iceland-in-europe/eea-grants/

KPMG. “Iceland - Measures in response to COVID-19”. September 30, 2020

https://home.kpmg/xx/en/home/insights/2020/04/ iceland-government-and-institution-measures-in-response-to-covid.html

Kyzer, Larissa. “Women-Led Social Media Campaign for Constitutional Reform Asks #Hvar?”. Iceland Review, September 11, 2020 https:// www.icelandreview.com/politics/women-ledsocial-media-campaign-asks-hvar/ Magnusdottir, Catherine. “Constitution Petition Cracks 20,000 Signatures” . The Reykjavik Grapevine, September 15, 2020. https://grapevine.is/news/2020/09/15/constitution-petition-cracks-20000-signatures/

Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. “What is a protected area?” Government of Iceland, accessed: November 15, 2020 https://www.government.is/topics/environment-climate-and-nature-protection/national-parks-and-protected-areas/what-is-a-protected-area/

Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. “International cooperation”. Government of Iceland, accessed: November 15, 2020 https://www.government.is/topics/environment-climate-and-nature-protection/nationMartyn-Hemphill, Richard. “Iceland’s Indepenal-parks-and-protected-areas/international-codence Party Retains Most Seats After Election”. operation The New York Times, October 29, 2017 https:// Tong, Traci. “Iceland’s most trusted politiwww.nytimes.com/2017/10/29/world/europe/ cian is a feminist environmentalist who is iceland-election.html. the ‘anti-Trump’. The World, December 19,

Mclanahan, Paige. “Iceland Tourism Prepares for a 2017https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-12-19/ Comeback”. The New York Times, October 13, icelands-most-trusted-politician-feminist-envi2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/13/ ronmentalist-who-antitrump travel/iceland-tourism-pandemic.html “What’s the Status of COVID-19 in Iceland”. The Ministry for the Environment and Natural ReIceland Review. Last Updated: October 7, 2020 sources. “Climate Change” Government of https://www.icelandreview.com/ask-ir/whatsIceland, Accessed: October 13, 2020 https:// the-status-of-covid-19-in-iceland/ www.government.is/topics/environment-climate-and-nature-protection/climate-change/ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice.

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IRELAND JAI SINGH

•POPULATION: 5 , 2 2 4 ,8 8 4 ( J ULY 2 0 2 1 EST. ) - C I A WOR LD FACTB OOK

•UNEMPLOYMENT RATE: 5 . 9 2% ( 2 0 2 0 EST.) WOR LD BA NK

•GDP PER CAPITA: $7 8,7 7 8 . 9 95 ( 2 0 1 9 EST.) WOR LD BA NK

•EU STATUS: M E M BE R S INCE 1 JA NUA RY 1 97 3 ( AS A M E M B E R O F T H E EUR OPE A N COMM U NI T I ES ) - E UR OPE A N U N I O N OFFICIA L S ITE

E

ven before the official inception of the European Union, the Republic of Ireland has found itself in a complex position within the larger European community, due in no small part to its relationship with the United Kingdom (UK). The long-standing challenges from Ireland’s history, such as relations with Great Britain and the political status of Northern Ireland, made themselves apparent again in 2020, as the nation held a historic general election, grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, and dealt with the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. Ireland’s 2020 ended with considerable changes to the Irish political order, a major UK-EU trade deal narrowly being agreed upon, and the country on the verge of another dangerous wave of the pandemic. All of these changes and events will present significant challenges to Ireland in 2021 and beyond. 2020 Irish General Election 168

On January 14th, Ireland’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar requested a dissolution of the Dáil (Irish Parliament), which was granted by President Michael Higgins, thus triggering a February 8th general election.1 In his public remarks confirming the election, Taoiseach Varadkar placed emphasis on the work his government made on Brexit negotiations, and urged voters to return him to government with a “strong mandate to focus on these negotiations into the summer and autumn.”2 Taoiseach Varadkar’s success on the Brexit file had been a boon for his government’s popularity - a well-received meeting with the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson 1 Christina Finn, “General election to be held on Saturday 8 February, says Taoiseach,” TheJournal.ie, January 14th, 2020, https://www.thejournal.ie/electionday-4965156-Jan2020/. 2 Leo Varadkar, “Speech by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D., Tuesday 14 January 2020,” MerrionStreet.ie, published on January 14th, 2020, https://merrionstreet.ie/ en/news-room/speeches/speech_by_an_taoiseach_leo_varadkar_t_d_tuesday_14_january_2020.html.


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in late 2019 catapulted the popularity of Taoiseach Varadkar and his political party, Fine Gael, by 15 and 11 percentage points respectively.3

change. The two most important issues to Irish voters on the day of the election were “Health” (32% saying it was the “most important” issue when voting) and “Housing/Homelessness” (26%).7 In contrast, The campaign itself, however, had a much more domestic focus, where issues such only 1% of voters said “Brexit” was the most 8 as healthcare and housing “entirely crowded important issue to them. The end result ended up bring the change that had been out international matters such as Brexit.”4 foretold - the two major political parties, Irish media, in addition to following the Taoiseach Varadkar’s Fine Gael and the public’s focus on local issues, also criticized largest opposition party, Fianna Fáil, both the direction of the country as a whole. The saw their share of the vote decline from the pre-election editorial from The Irish Times previous 2016 election.9 Instead, Sinn Féin, - entitled “Continuity is not an option” an Irish Republican party who prioritized a argued that the domestic challenges facing “United Ireland”, earned a slight plurality the country were emblematic of “a deeper of the vote share and the second-most seats problem of governance… we can choose to 10 deserve politicians who treat us, not as clients in the Dáil. The rise of Sinn Féin forced Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, two long-time to be pacified, but rather as citizens of a dignified republic of equals.”5 Writing in The political adversaries, to form a coalition Irish Independent, Kevin Doyle criticized the government where Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, beginning in June, uninspiring slogans and empty promises of alternated years as Taoiseach - an agreement the major parties, and argued that while the economy was well, the election had revealed considered “one of the most remarkable and unconventional political alliances in Irish that Ireland was deeply divided, with the 11 notion of “change” becoming most important history.” to voters.6 The nature of the election result and the tenuous alliance between Fine Gael and The election exit poll, released as Fianna Fáil, however, ensures that Sinn Féin, votes were being counted across the nation, while out of power, will play a major role in supported the argument of an electorate Irish politics for the next several years, which focused on domestic issues and on political could very well affect Irish-European affairs. 3 Naomi O’Leary, “Leo Varadkar struggles to reap Sinn Féin began its existence by opposing Brexit dividend,” Politco.eu, February 6th, 2020, https:// www.politico.eu/article/leo-varadkar-struggles-to-reap-brex- Ireland’s entry into the European Union, but the party has since dropped its ardent antiit-dividend/. 4 O’Leary, “Leo Varadkar struggles.” 5 Irish Times Editorial Team, “The Irish Times view on Election 2020: continuity is not an option,” The Irish Times, February 7th, 2020, https://www.irishtimes.com/ opinion/editorial/the-irish-times-view-on-election-2020continuity-is-not-an-option-1.4164652?mode=sample&authfailed=1&pw-origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.irishtimes. com%2Fopinion%2Feditorial%2Fthe-irish-times-view-on-election-2020-continuity-is-not-an-option-1.4164652. 6 Kevin Doyle, “Political stagnation is more likely than change in a nation divided,” The Irish Independent, February 8th, 2020, https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/ election-2020/political-stagnation-is-more-likely-thanchange-in-a-nation-divided-38938658.html.

7 Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, “Just 1% of voters concerned about Brexit, poll suggests,” RTÉ, February 9th, 2020, https://www.rte.ie/news/election-2020/2020/0209/1114111election-exit-poll/. 8 Cionnaith, “Just 1% of voters.” 9 Irish Times Election Team, “Election 2020 Results Hub,” The Irish Times, accessed June 11th, 2021, https:// www.irishtimes.com/election2020/results-hub. 10 Election Team, “Election 2020.” 11 Jonathan Gorvett, “The Latest Brexit Crisis May Save Ireland’s Shaky Coalition Government,” Foreign Policy, September 29th, 2020, https://foreignpolicy. com/2020/09/29/brexit-irish-coalition-government-micheal-martin/.

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EU stance in more contemporary times.12 Sinn Féin has also staked out a strongly antiBrexit position and opposes any hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, with the latter policy having significant support across EU leadership.13 However, Sinn Féin has argued in the past that the EU should take a stronger stand for Irish reunification - should they push this topic further and attempt to leverage their newfound political power, it could complicate Irish-EU relations.14

the government announced the “COVID-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme”, which ran until the end of August and “allowed employers to continue to pay their employees [and] aimed to keep employees registered with their employers, so that they could get back to work quickly after the pandemic.”18 A day later, on March 25th, Ireland joined eight other EU countries to pressure EU leadership into implementing “corona bonds… a common debt instrument issued by a European institution to raise funds on the market.”19

The dust had barely settled from the 2020 general election before Ireland was thrust into a global crisis - the COVID-19 pandemic. The first case of COVID-19 in Ireland was discovered on February 29th.15 From that day to the week of December 28th, 2020, Ireland recorded 91,779 cases and 2,237 deaths in total from COVID-19.16 Ireland’s COVID-19 policy during 2020 was, like many countries around the world, predicated on the multiple waves of infection that the country underwent, which required the loosening and tightening of restriction over the course of the year.

On March 27th, the government a stay-at-home order until April 12th, severely restricting all non-essential movement.20 On April 10th, these restrictions were later extended until May 5th.21 The day before, on April 9th, the government announced that these early restrictions had sent the unemployment rate skyrocketing to 16.5%

The COVID-19 Pandemic

The first major closure of 2020 came on March 12th, when the government announced that schools and daycare facilities would be closed until March 29th.17 On March 24th, 12 Mary C. Murphy, “What Sinn Féin’s election success means for Irish relations with the EU – and Brexit,” The Conversation, February 13th, 2020, https://theconversation. com/what-sinn-feins-election-success-means-for-irish-relations-with-the-eu-and-brexit-131507. 13 Murphy, “What Sinn Féin’s election success.” 14 Murphy, “What Sinn Féin’s election success.” 15 Fergal O’Brien, “First case of Covid-19 diagnosed in east of Ireland,” RTÉ, February 29th, 2020 (last updated March 1st, 2020), https://www.rte.ie/news/coronavirus/2020/0229/1119357-coronavirus-ireland/. 16 World Health Organization, “Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard - Ireland.” COVID-19 Data, accessed June 16th, 2021. https://covid19.who.int/region/euro/ country/ie. 17 Pat Leahy, Paul Cullen, Suzanne Lynch,

and Fiach Kelly, “Coronavirus: Schools, colleges and childcare facilities in Ireland to shut,” The Irish Times, March 12th, 2020, https://www.irishtimes.com/ news/health/coronavirus-schools-colleges-and-childcare-facilities-in-ireland-to-shut-1.4200977?mode=sample&auth-failed=1&pw-origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.irishtimes. com%2Fnews%2Fhealth%2Fcoronavirus-schools-colleges-and-childcare-facilities-in-ireland-to-shut-1.4200977. 18 Citizens Information Board, “Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme,” COVID-19 Unemployment and Redundancy Programs, accessed June 16th, 2021, https://www. citizensinformation.ie/en/employment/unemployment_and_ redundancy/covid19_temporary_wage_subsidy_scheme. html#. 19 Silvia Amaro, “Nine European countries say it is time for ‘corona bonds’ as virus death toll rises,” CNBC, March 25th, 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/25/nineeu-countries-say-its-time-for-corona-bonds-as-virus-deathsrise.html. 20 Pat Leahy, “Coronavirus: People must stay at home, with limited exceptions, until Easter Sunday,” The Irish Times, March 27th, 2020, https:// www.irishtimes.com/news/health/coronavirus-people-must-stay-at-home-with-limited-exceptions-until-easter-sunday-1.4214241. 21 Adam Daly, “Coronavirus restrictions to remain in place until at least Tuesday 5 May, Taoiseach announces,” TheJournal.ie, April 10th, 2020, https://www.thejournal.ie/restrictions-extended-coronavirus-ireland-5071098-Apr2020/.

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in the month of March, with over a third of young people in the country now receiving unemployment payments.22

medical experts and placed the country under full lockdown for six weeks, with few exceptions.27 The end of 2020 saw glimmers of hope and the fear of another, even deadlier By the beginning of May, cases were th beginning to decline for the first time, and the wave of the virus. On December 29 , the first Irish citizen was vaccinated with the Pfizer/ Irish government announced that beginning BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, with hundreds on May 18th, the first phase of Ireland’s five of frontline healthcare workers ready to be phase reopening would take place, with the vaccinated before the new year.28 However, goal of easing most major restrictions by the government announced the next day that August 10th.23 Ireland would return back to the highest-level On July 23rd, in a bid to boost the lockdown to curb the spread of the virus, and economic recovery of the country as it began such restrictions would remain in place until to reopen certain sectors of the economy, the end of January 2021.29 the government announced the “July Despite the repeated heightening Jobs Stimulus… a €7.4 billion package of and loosening of restrictions throughout the measures designed to stimulate a jobs-led year, major voices in Irish media seemed to recovery and build economic confidence generally praise the efforts of the government, while continuing to manage the impact the health sector, and Irish society as a whole. of COVID-19.”24 However, by August 5th, Writing in a 2020 end of year retrospective, rising cases forced the government to delay Paul Cullen of The Irish Times stated that reopening.25 By early October, the situation this was “the year in which Ireland’s muchhad again worsened to the point where the maligned health service stepped up to the Irish National Public Health Emergency plate…our hospitals and ICU never reached Team recommended full lockdowns again.26 capacity…our prisons remained virtually free The government heeded the advice of its of the virus… [and] after a messy spring in 22 Alan Healy, “Unemployment rate jumps to 16.5% education, we managed to open our schools with more than a third of young people receiving unemploysafely in the autumn.”30 Comparing Ireland’s ment payments,” The Irish Examiner, April 9th, 2020, https:// performance to other European countries, www.irishexaminer.com/business/arid-30993141.html. 23 RTÉ Newsdesk, “At a glance: What restrictions are likely to be lifted and when?” RTÉ, May 1st, 2020 (updated May 15th, 2020), https://www.rte.ie/ news/2020/0501/1136167-road-map-details/. 24 Department of the Taoiseach, “Government launches €7.4 billion Jobs Stimulus to help businesses reopen, get people back to work and promote confidence,” The Government of Ireland, July 23rd, 2020, https://www.gov.ie/ en/press-release/07aef-government-launches-74-billion-jobsstimulus-to-help-businesses-re-open-get-people-back-towork-and-promote-confidence/. 25 Aisling Kenny, “Move to Phase 4 delayed, review in three weeks’ time,” RTÉ, August 5th, 2020, https://www. rte.ie/news/2020/0804/1157163-covid-19-phase-3-decision/. 26 Senan Molony, “Nphet has recommended the highest level of restrictions for the entire country,” The Irish Independent, October 4th, 2020, https://www.independent.ie/ world-news/coronavirus/nphet-has-recommended-the-highest-level-of-restrictions-for-the-entire-country-39587101. html.

27 Department of the Taoiseach, “Ireland placed on Level 5 of the Plan for Living with COVID-19,” The Government of Ireland, October 19th, 2020, https://www.gov. ie/en/press-release/66269-ireland-placed-on-level-5-of-theplan-for-living-with-covid/. 28 Samantha Libreri, “Dublin grandmother feels ‘privileged’ to be first to receive Covid vaccine,” RTÉ, December 29th, 2020, https://www.rte.ie/ news/2020/1229/1186763-covid-vaccination/. 29 Philip Ryan, Fionnán Sheahan and Laura Lynott, “Covid restrictions Ireland: Micheál Martin confirms ‘fullscale’ Level 5 lockdown,” The Irish Independent, December 30th, 2020, https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/covid-restrictions-ireland-micheal-martin-confirms-full-scale-level5-lockdown-39914526.html. 30 Paul Cullen, “Ireland and COVID-19: What we got right, what we got wrong,” The Irish Times, December 26th, 2020, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/the-year-in-review/ ireland-and-covid-19-what-we-got-right-what-we-gotwrong-1.4432980?mode=amp.

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Cullen writes that “in the first [wave], our performance was mid-table overall; in the second, we had the lowest incidence in the EU and one of the lowest death rates. This was some achievement.”31 Yet the story of Ireland and COVID-19, in the eyes of the media, is not a story of victory, or even a story that is finished. In another Irish Times 2020 retrospective, Cliff Taylor writes that the economic damage of COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable - in his words, “the economic pain of the pandemic has not been evenly shared.”32 And the vaccine rollout, currently underway in Ireland, could affect the country’s relationship with the EU. Niamh Griffin of The Irish Examiner noted that while Ireland has signed up for five different vaccine procurement agreements, all run through the European Union, and as such, “Ireland’s vaccine plans are closely intertwined with Europe.”33 This could be an opportunity for Ireland and the EU as a whole to revitalize their relationship, which has been damaged by COVID-19. The early days of the pandemic saw the EU struggle to put together a unified response - as Irish Times correspondent Naomi O’Leary outlines, the beginning of 2020 saw fragmented health and border policies across the EU, and the significant unraveling of “some of the EU’s most treasured achievements.”34 And while the 31 Cullen, “Ireland and COVID-19.” 32 Cliff Taylor, “Ireland’s economic year: The pain has most definitely not been equally shared,” The Irish Times, December 26th, 2020, https://www.irishtimes.com/ news/the-year-in-review/ireland-s-economic-year-the-painhas-most-definitely-not-been-equally-shared-1.4437564?mode=amp. 33 Niamh Griffin, “Ireland’s Covid cases are rising, but we are still in a good position compared to our neighbours,” The Irish Examiner, December 16th, 2020, https:// www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/commentanalysis/arid40191819.html. 34 Naomi O’Leary, “The EU stared failure in the face – but survived,” The Irish Times, December 26th, 2020, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/the-year-in-review/

EU improved its response as the year went on, damage to EU credibility in Ireland had already occurred. In a 2020 poll by European Movement Ireland (a not-for-profit devoted to studying and developing EU-Ireland relations), Irish opinion was nearly split on the EU’s COVID-19 response - 47% said the EU had responded well to the pandemic, while 46% said they did not.35 Additionally, only 33% of respondents said that they felt heard as a citizen of the EU, while 48% said they disagreed.36 Such fractures, partially caused by the EU’s COVID-19 response, will be important to repair in the coming years. Brexit and the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement

The Brexit saga - which had been a focal point of the past several years in Ireland, the UK, and beyond - was pushed to the background in 2020. As The Irish Times’ Naomi O’Leary explains, Brexit negotiations “was sidelined from the EU’s main agenda… due to fatigue and more pressing priorities. A deal would be a relief, particularly to the countries closely to Britain. But it would be unlikely to be celebrated as a triumph.”37 Yet as arguably the most closely connected country to Britain, Ireland’s 2020 was still heavily affected by the end result of UKEU negotiations - the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed at the end of the year avoided a potential worst-case scenario but still left questions over the future of Northern Ireland. On January 31st, 2020, the UK left the EU and entered a transition period, during which negotiations were able to continue

the-eu-stared-failure-in-the-face-but-survived-1.4439755?mode=amp. 35 European Movement Ireland, “Ireland and the EU 2020 Poll,” EMI Publications, accessed June 17th, 2021, https://www.europeanmovement.ie/programmes/ireland-andthe-eu-poll/. 36 European Movement Ireland, “Ireland and the EU.” 37 O’Leary, “The EU stared failure in the face.” 172


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until December 31st, 2020, after which the UK would officially leave “the EU single market and customs union.”38 Prior to 2020, the UK and the EU agreed to The Northern Ireland Protocol, which ensured there were “no new checks on goods crossing the border between NI and the Republic of Ireland.”39 In doing so, the protocol sought to not only avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but also ensure that Northern Ireland would effectively stay in the EU single market, while the rest of the UK (Britain, Scotland, and Wales) would depart.40 However, while these important economic arrangement were agreed upon, they did little to assuage the “cultural war” in Northern Ireland that some media figures say has been aggravated by Brexit.41 As Jonathan Gorvett writes, Brexit has opened the way for serious discussion among those in Northern Ireland, on topics ranging from language, to cultural identity, to the “constitutional future of their country.”42 And according to Henry McDonald, Brexit has only further entrenched the attitudes of Irish Unionist (who wish to see Northern Ireland remain in the UK) and Irish Nationalists (who wish to see a united Ireland), while those who are “non-aligned” have gotten smaller in number.43

Across this backdrop, political figures in the Irish Republic began to weigh in on the status of Irish unification. Mary Lou McDonald, the leader of the newly powerful Sinn Féin party (whose main political goal is Irish unification), stated that “Ireland cannot trust an ‘erratic’ and ‘dangerous’ [UK PM] Boris Johnson on Brexit and needs to start pressuring Downing Street for a referendum on Irish unification.”44 In response, Taoiseach Micheál Martin (who took power first after the post-2020 general election agreement) stated in October 2020 that there would be no Irish unity referendum for at least the next five years; in the words of Martin himself -“I took a clear view once Brexit happened, it should not be a catalyst for something like a border poll. I thought that would be too divisive and would only exacerbate the tensions there because of Brexit itself.”45

exit and the Northern Ireland Protocol,” accessed June 17th, 2021. https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/eu-exit-and-northern-ireland-protocol. 40 Northern Ireland Direct, “EU exit.” 41 Jonathan Gorvett, “Northern Ireland Is in a Culture War. Brexit Is Making It Worse,” Foreign Policy, January 31st, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/01/31/northern-ireland-culture-war-brexit/. 42 Gorvett, “Northern Ireland Is in a Culture War.” 43 Henry McDonald, “Brexit revives unionist and nationalist divide in Northern Ireland,” The Guardian, June 17th, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/ jun/17/brexit-unionist-nationalist-divide-northern-ireland-survey-identity-political-allegiances.

44 Rory Carroll, “Brexit: Ireland needs to press for reunification vote, says Sinn Féin,” The Guardian, October 1st, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/oct/01/ brexit-ireland-press-reunification-vote-sinn-fein-mary-loumcdonald. 45 Shawn Pogatchnik, “No Irish unity referendum for five years because of Brexit,” Politico.eu, October 22nd, 2020, https://www.politico.eu/article/no-irish-unity-referendum-for-five-years-brexit/. 46 Conor Humphries, “Ireland breathes sigh of relief as ‘least bad’ Brexit deal clinched,” Reuters, December 24th, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/ireland-breathessigh-relief-least-bad-brexit-deal-clinched-2020-12-24/. 47 Humphries, “Ireland breathes sigh of relief.”

But while much of the Irish discourse in 2020 concerned national unification, the possibility of a “hard Brexit” also weighted heavily in the minds of the country. While UK-EU negotiations had progressed, by the beginning of December 2020, there was still no formal economic agreement in place, and the lack of a deal could have meant severe economic damage in the form of tariffs to Ireland’s food and agriculture exports.46 On 38 Nigel Walker, “Brexit timeline: events leading to the UK’s exit from the European Union,” UK Parliament the other hand, a UK-EU deal could give House of Commons Library, published January 6th, 2021. Ireland an additional 3-4% to their 2021 GDP https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/ forecast, a welcome boost to an economy cbp-7960/. 39 Northern Ireland Direct Government Services, “EU already hurt by COVID-19.47 Thankfully

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for all sides, an deal - the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement - was reached just days before the deadline, and Ireland ended up avoiding the brunt of economic fallout from a “no deal” Brexit.48

support, resulted in an extraordinary coalition government. This newfound political dynamic will influence nearly every facet of Irish policy and could particularly impact relations with the EU as a whole. The continued battle with However, the end of UK-EU negotiations does not mean an end to Brexit’s COVID-19, which has already caused significant economic and societal damage impact on Ireland. The UK and Ireland will to Ireland, poses an opportunity for greater have to learn how to work with each other under the terms of this new relationship, and collaboration and understanding with the EU. Last, but certainly not least, the UKthis dynamic will play a significant role in EU trade agreement means that Ireland has determining the EU’s future. Additionally, successfully navigated around the majority the discussion around Northern Ireland of economic damage that Brexit posed. is unlikely to dissipate, even considering However, the continued cultural impact of Taoiseach Martin’s comments. Look to the Brexit and the status of Northern Ireland will exit polls of the 2020 general election, which most likely continue to influence Irish, British, saw significant majority support for a new and EU politics. Looking back at the events of Irish unification referendum, particularly among voters 49 and younger.49 Or look to the the year - a historic election result, a deadly pandemic, and a new formed economic and numbers that indicate Sinn Féin is “the most geopolitical relationship - an observer almost popular party in every age group up to 65… [and] is particularly popular among younger gets the sense that 2020 may not only be a voters.”50 The growing relevance of Sinn Féin, defining year for Ireland, but also the first of in addition to the continued impact of Brexit, many years that will come to shape the longcould have an impact on Irish unification, and term future of the Republic. therefore, the EU as a whole. Year In Review

As we have seen, 2020 presented several major challenges and changes to Ireland. The 2020 general election, which saw Sinn Féin surge to unprecedented 48 Cliff Taylor, “Irish economy dodges a bullet as Brexit trade deal agreed,” The Irish Times, December 24th, 2020, https://www.irishtimes.com/ business/economy/irish-economy-dodges-a-bullet-asbrexit-trade-deal-agreed-1.4444961?mode=sample&authfailed=1&pw-origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.irishtimes. com%2Fbusiness%2Feconomy%2Firish-economy-dodges-a-bullet-as-brexit-trade-deal-agreed-1.4444961. 49 Aoife Barry, “Exit poll shows support for Irish unity referendum, especially among 18-24 age group,” TheJournal.ie, February 9th, 2020, https://www.thejournal.ie/ ge2020-border-poll-4999083-Feb2020/. 50 Órla Ryan, “Sinn Féin is the most popular party among all age groups up to 65,” TheJournal.ie, February 9th, 2020, https://www.thejournal.ie/sinn-fein-most-popular-party-age-groups-4998864-Feb2020/. 174


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Bibliography Amaro, Silvia. “Nine European countries say it is time for ‘corona bonds’ as virus death toll rises.” CNBC, March 25th, 2020. https://www.cnbc. com/2020/03/25/nine-eu-countries-say-itstime-for-corona-bonds-as-virus-deaths-rise.html. Barry, Aoife. “Exit poll shows support for Irish unity referendum, especially among 18-24 age group.” TheJournal.ie, February 9th, 2020. https:// www.thejournal.ie/ge2020-border-poll-4999083Feb2020/. Carroll, Rory. “Brexit: Ireland needs to press for reunification vote, says Sinn Féin.” The Guardian, October 1st, 2020. https://www.theguardian. com/politics/2020/oct/01/brexit-ireland-pressreunification-vote-sinn-fein-mary-lou-mcdonald.

July 23rd, 2020. https://www.gov.ie/en/pressrelease/07aef-government-launches-74-billionjobs-stimulus-to-help-businesses-re-open-getpeople-back-to-work-and-promote-confidence/. Department of the Taoiseach. “Ireland placed on Level 5 of the Plan for Living with COVID-19.” The Government of Ireland, October 19th, 2020. https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/66269ireland-placed-on-level-5-of-the-plan-for-livingwith-covid/. Doyle, Kevin. “Political stagnation is more likely than change in a nation divided.” The Irish Independent, February 8th, 2020. https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/ election-2020/political-stagnation-ismore-likely-than-change-in-a-nationdivided-38938658.html.

Cionnaith, Fiachra Ó. “Just 1% of voters concerned European Movement Ireland. “Ireland and about Brexit, poll suggests.” RTÉ, February the EU 2020 Poll.” EMI Publications. 9th, 2020. https://www.rte.ie/news/electionAccessed June 17th, 2021. https://www. 2020/2020/0209/1114111-election-exit-poll/. europeanmovement.ie/programmes/ Citizens Information Board. “Temporary Wage ireland-and-the-eu-poll/. Subsidy Scheme.” COVID-19 Unemployment Healy, Alan. “Unemployment rate jumps and Redundancy Programs, accessed June 16th, to 16.5% with more than a third of 2021. https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/ young people receiving unemployment employment/unemployment_and_redundancy/ payments.” The Irish Examiner, April 9th, covid19_temporary_wage_subsidy_scheme. 2020. https://www.irishexaminer.com/ html#. business/arid-30993141.html. Cullen, Paul. “Ireland and COVID-19: What we Finn, Christina. “General election to be held got right, what we got wrong.” The Irish Times, on Saturday 8 February, says Taoiseach.” December 26th, 2020. https://www.irishtimes. TheJournal.ie, January 14th, 2020. https:// com/news/the-year-in-review/ireland-andwww.thejournal.ie/election-day-4965156covid-19-what-we-got-right-what-we-got-wrongJan2020/. 1.4432980?mode=amp. Gorvett, Jonathan. “Northern Ireland Is in a Daly, Adam. “Coronavirus restrictions to remain Culture War. Brexit Is Making It Worse.” in place until at least Tuesday 5 May, Taoiseach Foreign Policy, January 31st, 2020. https:// announces,” TheJournal.ie, April 10th, 2020, foreignpolicy.com/2020/01/31/northernhttps://www.thejournal.ie/restrictions-extendedireland-culture-war-brexit/. coronavirus-ireland-5071098-Apr2020/. Gorvett, Jonathan. “The Latest Brexit Crisis Department of the Taoiseach. “Government May Save Ireland’s Shaky Coalition launches €7.4 billion Jobs Stimulus to help Government.” Foreign Policy, September businesses re-open, get people back to work and 29th, 2020. https://foreignpolicy. promote confidence.” The Government of Ireland, com/2020/09/29/brexit-irish-coalition175


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government-micheal-martin/.

colleges and childcare facilities in Ireland to shut.” The Irish Times, March 12th, 2020. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ health/coronavirus-schools-collegesand-childcare-facilities-in-ireland-toshut-1.4200977?mode=sample&authfailed=1&pworigin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.irishtimes. com%2Fnews%2Fhealth%2Fcoronavir us-schools-colleges-and-childcare-facilitiesin-ireland-to-shut-1.4200977.

Griffin, Niamh. “Ireland’s Covid cases are rising, but we are still in a good position compared to our neighbours.” The Irish Examiner, December 16th, 2020. https:// www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/ commentanalysis/arid-40191819.html. Humphries, Conor. “Ireland breathes sigh of relief as ‘least bad’ Brexit deal clinched.” Reuters, December 24th, 2020. https:// www.reuters.com/world/uk/irelandbreathes-sigh-relief-least-bad-brexit-dealclinched-2020-12-24/.

Libreri, Samantha. “Dublin grandmother feels ‘privileged’ to be first to receive Covid vaccine.” RTÉ, December 29th, 2020. https://www.rte.ie/ news/2020/1229/1186763-covidvaccination/.

Irish Times Editorial Team. “The Irish Times view on Election 2020: continuity is not an option.” The Irish Times, February 7th, 2020. https://www.irishtimes.com/ opinion/editorial/the-irish-times-viewon-election-2020-continuity-is-not-anoption-1.4164652?mode=sample&authfailed=1&pworigin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.irishtimes. com%2Fopinion%2Feditorial%2Fthe-irishtimes-view-on-election-2020-continuity-isnot-an-option-1.4164652.

McDonald, Henry. “Brexit revives unionist and nationalist divide in Northern Ireland.” The Guardian, June 17th, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/ politics/2020/jun/17/brexit-unionistnationalist-divide-northern-irelandsurvey-identity-political-allegiances.

Irish Times Election Team. “Election 2020 Results Hub.” The Irish Times, accessed June 11th, 2021. https://www.irishtimes. com/election2020/results-hub. Kenny, Aisling. “Move to Phase 4 delayed, review in three weeks’ time.” RTÉ, August 5th, 2020. https://www.rte.ie/ news/2020/0804/1157163-covid-19-phase3-decision/.

Molony, Senan. “Nphet has recommended the highest level of restrictions for the entire country.” The Irish Independent, October 4th, 2020. https://www. independent.ie/world-news/coronavirus/ nphet-has-recommended-the-highestlevel-of-restrictions-for-the-entirecountry-39587101.html. Murphy, Mary C. “What Sinn Féin’s election success means for Irish relations with the EU – and Brexit.” The Conversation, February 13th, 2020. https:// theconversation.com/what-sinn-feinselection-success-means-for-irish-relationswith-the-eu-and-brexit-131507.

Leahy, Pat. “Coronavirus: People must stay at home, with limited exceptions, until Easter Sunday.” The Irish Times, March 27th, 2020. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ health/coronavirus-people-must-stay-athome-with-limited-exceptions-until-easter- Northern Ireland Direct Government Services. “EU exit and the Northern sunday-1.4214241. Ireland Protocol.” Accessed June 17th, 2021. Leahy, Pat, Paul Cullen, Suzanne Lynch, https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/euand Fiach Kelly. “Coronavirus: Schools, 176


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exit-and-northern-ireland-protocol.

not-been-equally-shared-1.4437564?mode=amp.

O’Brien, Fergal. “First case of Covid-19 diagnosed in east of Ireland.” RTÉ, February 29th, 2020 (last updated March 1st, 2020). https://www.rte.ie/news/ coronavirus/2020/0229/1119357coronavirus-ireland/.

Taylor, Cliff. “Irish economy dodges a bullet as Brexit trade deal agreed.” The Irish Times, December 24th, 2020. https://www.irishtimes. com/business/economy/irish-economydodges-a-bullet-as-brexit-trade-deal-agreed1.4444961?mode=sample&auth-failed=1&pworigin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.irishtimes. O’Leary, Naomi. “Leo Varadkar struggles to com%2Fbusiness%2Feconomy%2Firishreap Brexit dividend.” Politco.eu, February economy-dodges-a-bullet-as-brexit-trade-deal6th, 2020. https://www.politico.eu/article/ agreed-1.4444961. leo-varadkar-struggles-to-reap-brexitVaradkar Leo. “Speech by An Taoiseach, Leo dividend/. Varadkar T.D., Tuesday 14 January 2020.” O’Leary, Naomi. “The EU stared failure in the face MerrionStreet.ie, published on January 14th, 2020. – but survived.” The Irish Times, December 26th, https://merrionstreet.ie/en/news-room/ 2020. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/thespeeches/speech_by_an_taoiseach_leo_ year-in-review/the-eu-stared-failure-in-the-facevaradkar_t_d_tuesday_14_january_2020.html. but-survived-1.4439755?mode=amp. Walker, Nigel. “Brexit timeline: events leading Pogatchnik, Shawn. “No Irish unity referendum for to the UK’s exit from the European Union.” five years because of Brexit.” Politico.eu, October UK Parliament - House of Commons 22nd, 2020. https://www.politico.eu/article/noLibrary. Published January 6th, 2021. https:// irish-unity-referendum-for-five-years-brexit/. commonslibrary.parliament.uk/researchRTÉ Newsdesk. “At a glance: What restrictions are briefings/cbp-7960/. likely to be lifted and when?” RTÉ, May 1st, 2020 World Health Organization. “Coronavirus Disease (updated May 15th, 2020). https://www.rte.ie/ (COVID-19) Dashboard - Ireland.” COVID-19 news/2020/0501/1136167-road-map-details/. Data, accessed June 16th, 2021. https://covid19. Ryan, Órla. “Sinn Féin is the most popular party who.int/region/euro/country/ie. among all age groups up to 65.” TheJournal. ie, February 9th, 2020. https://www.thejournal. ie/sinn-fein-most-popular-party-age-groups4998864-Feb2020/. Ryan, Philip, Fionnán Sheahan and Laura Lynott. “Covid restrictions Ireland: Micheál Martin confirms ‘full-scale’ Level 5 lockdown.” The Irish Independent, December 30th, 2020. https://www. independent.ie/irish-news/covid-restrictionsireland-micheal-martin-confirms-full-scale-level5-lockdown-39914526.html. Taylor, Cliff. “Ireland’s economic year: The pain has most definitely not been equally shared.” The Irish Times, December 26th, 2020. https://www. irishtimes.com/news/the-year-in-review/irelands-economic-year-the-pain-has-most-definitely-

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I TA LY BIANCA COSTATINO

POPULATION: 62, 402, 659 (JULY 2020 EST.) - CIA WORLD FACTBOOK

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE: 9.95% (2019 EST.) - WORLD BANK DATA

GDP PER CAPITA: $44,196.693 (2019 EST.) - WORLD BANK DATA

EU STATUS: EU MEMBER SINCE 1958

T

o many, Italy is recognized as the boot shaped country in Southern Europe. Besides Italy being famously noted for its food, beaches, history and architecture, it is one of the seven most industrialized countries in the world. Italy, despite its past facing a falling society, two world wars, and the constant fight over government issues, Italy is one of the leading countries in global affairs. Italy is amongst the members of the G7, G8, and G20 as a constant player for solving and partaking in global challenges. The year 2020 has been a significant year for many countries facing the novel COVID-19 pandemic which struck the masses with a deadly disease affecting not only citizens but countries on a mass economic scale. Italy was at the center of the year 2020, starting the year off with a spike of COVID-19 cases being noted as a hot spot country. Subsequently, Italy implemented country wide lock downs and experienced the second wave of COVID-19 cases. Furthermore, during this year Italy faced a burden towards their tourism, which is heavily relied upon as well as a hit to the economy. Lastly, Italy also was faced

with a migration crisis which caused for migrant policy changed within the country.

Italy’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic Italy became Europe’s first COVID-19 hot spot in early 2020, after cases started to emerge in the areas of Lombardy and Veneto in early February 2020, which spread rapidly across the country, and shortly worldwide. By early March 2020, the government of Italy under Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte imposed a national lockdown, restricting movement to necessities which included heath care and food. However, this further meant that all non-essential stores and shops would be closed. Italy was the first country who implemented the nationwide lock down in hopes of containing the spread of COVID-19. In efforts to help with citizens abiding by these new nationwide lockdowns, Prime Minister Conte sought after military involvement to ensure security in the streets, particularly in the area of Italy’s COVID-19 hot spots. Moreover, in the early days of the pandemic,

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Conte asked for EU assistance as Italy had the highest death tolls in the begging of the pandemic, the call for assistance was to help mitigate and fund the economic impact of the pandemic. This call for help led to other EU member states questioning EU integration for European economies during this time as some countries may be more fiscally conservative than others. During the course of the pandemic in Italy they also faced a switch of Prime Ministers from Prime Minister Conte to the newly elected Prime Minister Mario Draghi, both Prime Minsters handled certain aspects and areas of COVID-19, Draghi was sworn in on February 2021 and continued the COVID-19 protocols and safety measures from his predecessor for Italy starting then. By mid-December 2020 Italy was faced with the second wave of COVID-19, which was just as deadly as the first furthermore, their nationwide lock down was extended. Italy managed to exit the storm of the first wave through its strictest nationwide lock down which was enforced in early March 2020. After the second wave hit Italy’s vaccination rollout hit the streets alongside most other countries in the EU, while also battling the storm of the second wave. Italy’s lockdown and closures of retail and school remained closed until after April 2021, which was under the government of Draghi. During this extended lockdown the government implemented color coordinated zones like orange and red for regions in Italy, which would identify the extremity of the lockdown in your specific regions. Italy’s vaccination program was set out in phases; phase 1 targeting nursing homes, health medical, administrative staff, phase 2, the elderly, and public service personnel. The Italian government aims to have at least 80% of the population vaccinated by the end of September 2021, despite challenges with the vaccine shipment. Italy was one of the first countries to purchase their vaccine doses

alongside France and Germany, and several other EU countries. However, despite the delays presented to the Italian government by vaccine shipments as well as new information regarding age restrictions from the vaccine companies themselves, Italy’s program and number targets seems to be running effectively and efficiently. Although Italy had the worst end at of the COVID-19 with mass deaths, the government implemented strict yet effective measures to keep Italian citizens safe and ultimately aid in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Tourism and the Economy

The COVID-19 pandemic affected many counties and their economies in more ways than one. Italy is a country whose economy faced a hardship due to the pandemic as it excels and relies on travel and tourism. Due to COVID-19, travel was restricted and not permitted into Italy and many countries were also not allowing their citizens to travel as well. With the closure of businesses, restaurants, and bars for months, the Italian economy faced quite the hit. The Italian economy minister Roberto Gualtieri said that the country’s economic contraction could be worse than the 8% decline that was originally foreshadowed by the government. The new economic recovery plan that the government has implemented aims to focus on improving the country’s growth potential while cutting borrowing from the next year. The overall goal of the Italian government in relation to the economy is to boost public and private investment through growth enhancing policies and fiscal sustainability. Moreover, Italy is considering fiscal measures to spur investments in the auto and tourism sector which were hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, these investments were underway when Prime Minister Conte was in place and during his time the parliament gave the green light to a list of incentives to encourage sales of engine cars, electric and hybrid vehicles in

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the auto sector. This being said Italy has made investments towards a made in Italy campaign to focus on production and innovation being made mainly in the country of Italy to make up for the loss of COVID-19 and give back to the Italian citizens and businesses, which Prime Minister Draghi continued to support and enact. The tourism sector could reach a staggering 100 billion EUR in loss, this meaning that the tourism sector which accounts for 13.3 percent of Italy’s GDP last year will be cut in half this year. With restriction’s slowly easing up in Italy and as countries worldwide slowly recover from the damages of COVID-19 Italy’s tourism sector will as well. By May 2021 Italy is officially open for all leisure travel as they start to get their economy and tourism sector back up running, and alive. However, certain safety measures are in place, travelers must show a negative COVID-19 test or be fully vaccinated. Although the less of the tourism sector in Italy will affect the economy immensely and may not be recovered for a few years it is on an upwards rise to recovery with efforts to boost this specific sector. Refugee Crisis

In 2020 there was a spike in migrants within the Italian borders far more than in its previous year of 2019. The spike of migrants further came at a time of the pandemic when the Italian borders were closed as they were trying to contain the spread of the deadly virus. The crisis surrounds the fact the Italian government signed a bilateral agreement with Slovenia allowing it to return illegal migrants who cross their common border immediately. However, humanitarian organizations are accusing Italy of exploiting the coronavirus crisis to send back migrants which sets off a chain of reactions leaving migrants vulnerable and displaced. During this time of the migration influx, Italy faced rhetoric of becoming anti-

EU and anti-immigration with Italy’s far right leader Matteo Salvini on trial for charges of holding migrants at sea. This case surrounds the allegations that Mr. Salvini was keeping people on a boat off Sicily for days in August 2019. The case was taken to the Senate and Mr. Salvini said “that he will plead guilty to defending Italy and the Italians,” with the rise of illegal immigration Mr. Salvini’s antiimmigration party calls for stricter border sea laws and changes to asylum rules. However, Mr. Salvini approach is not one that is justified and could potentially harm Italy’s relations with the EU. Nevertheless, in hope to reconcile the damages not only from Mr. Salvine but to make up for the displaced migrants during the beginning of the pandemic the Italian government adopted a decree that reverses many of the policies imposed by Matteo Salvini and the anti-immigration party. The decree is a step in the right direction to ensure human lives and treated with dignity and respect. The decree, adopted on October 5, essentially re-establishes in Italian law the residency permit on humanitarian grounds that Salvini abolished in 2018, now called “special protection.” This two-year permit is for people who don’t qualify for asylum, but who shouldn’t be sent away because they would face a risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment. The permit is also for people who have family and social links in Italy, or who suffer from serious physical or mental health issues. The decree allows people to convert this, and other short-term residency permits into longer-term residency permits based on employment. This will help prevent people from falling into the undocumented status and stop the migration crisis to a certain extent. Although the migration crisis is not just happening in Italy and other European countries as well, Italy has faced the grunt of it due to its ant immigration party which essentially caused humanitarian displacement for migrants and asylum seekers. Nevertheless,

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the Italian government throughout the year has made adjustments in the right direction to aid with border control, migrant, and their safety. Year in Review

To conclude, Italy’s 2020 year in review has been a year of many ups and downs. The COVID-19 pandemic affected many countries including Italy facing the extremities of being a global hot spot for the virus. Nevertheless, Italy handled the situation by placing nationwide lockdowns for the safety of their citizens as well as started mass vaccination rollouts. However, the pandemic caused a great hit to their economy as well as their tourism sector, Italy’s response was to continue to invest in these sectors that need the most help. With Italy now being open and non-essential travel is permitted the Italian government is aiding the tourism sector to slowly boost the economy. Finally, Italy was faced with an influx of migrants causing a crisis with displaced and vulnerable asylum seekers. The Italian anti-immigration party’s head Matteo Salvini was put on trial for inhumane behavior of trapping migrants on a boat for days on end. This caused great disappointment from the left-center parties and policies were sent in place to make up for this ill behavior.

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KAZAKHSTAN TAIYLOR WIEBES

T

he year 2020 was a year of growth for Kazakhstan towards better relations with the European Union. IN 2019 when the president for three decades Nursultan Nazarbayev stepped down on March 19th it left the country in a state of uncertainty.1 Nursultan Nazarbayev handpicked interim president Kassym Jomart-Tokayev who later ran against six little-known opposition parties with the backing of the former president, making him expected to win.2 He won the election by 70% vote but this did not stop large scale protests to emerge, the biggest the country has seen in years.3 Protesters claimed that the election was not free or fair where Tokayev described them as democratic.4 Hundreds of peaceful protesters were detained by police in Kazakhstan’s capital of Nur-Sultan and the largest city Almaty.5 The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) sent over 300 officials that would monitor the poll, considering the European Union recognized that Kazakhstan has never had a fully democratic election.6 Going into 2020 the country was now facing more unknown factors such as the pandemic crisis and the newly formed power dynamics among Kazakhstan political 182

elite.7

On December 21, 2015, Kazakhstan was the first country in Central Asia to sign the ECPA agreement.8 The new agreements would create effective diverse cooperation and partnership that will allow for better trade and investment. As of March 1st, the agreement was ratified by all the EU member states.9 Kazakhstan’s first trade and investment partner is the European Union who accounts for more than a third of Kazakhstan’s for foreign trade and more than half of all direct foreign investment in the country.10 To this date, Europe remains Kazakhstan’s main economic partner with over 4000 companies with European participation and 2000 joint ventures.11 The partnership has also helped Europe meet its energy security challenge from kazakh gas and oil exports, as well as transport links across the country to help enhance trade with China.12 In the first six months of 2020 foreign direct investment between the EU and Kazakhstanreached $5.4 billion.13 The agreement initially was concerned with economics, although has expanded to also focus on social and political issues. President Kassym-Jomart


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Tokayev has made expanding EU democratic standards into Kazakhstan the top priority of his government.14 The EU is prepared to apply the EPCA in 29 areas of cooperation, such as international and regional security, trade, investment, infrastructure development, as well as innovation, culture, sports and, tourism.15 President Tokayev joined the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political right which aims to abolish the death penalty, laws on peaceful assemblies and, lower the barrier of entry for creating political parties.16 To date laws over organizing and attending peaceful rallies are being relaxed, as well as registering for new political parties are being halved to 20,000.17 Coping with coronavirus

The beginning of March 2020 brought the Coronavirus to Central Asia with Kazakhstan sighting its first case on March 13th, 2020. The coronavirus has gravely affected the Kazakhstan economy especially the oil and gas industry from harsh restrictions caused a sharp drop in oil prices.18 The industry is vital to the country’s economic and national security considering this sector produces 44 percent of the state budget’s revenues. During the first quarter of 2020, the Kazakh Finance Ministry

stated that the country’s budget deficit grew to 405 billion tenges.19 By the last quarter of 2020, the government’s signed a loan agreement from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank for €661.8 million to help the budget deficit.20 The pandemic has also called into question the Kazakh governments 183


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ability to uphold human rights obligations while faced with COVID-19. They are accused of limiting the access to the information about the spread of the virus, swell as informing restrictions in discriminatory and unlawful ways.21 There have been first-hand testimonies from civil activists solidifying how COVID-19 is fostering authoritarianism in Central Asia, including Kazakhstan.22 With thepandemic causing a decline in the country’s industry’s the Kazakh government looked towards the EU for help. The European Union in consideration of their growing economic relationship with central Asian countries launched a 3 million EURO relief package (CACCR) with a primary focus on Kazakstan.23 The program implemented by the World Health Organization will try and provide support to the current outbreak and contribute towards the longer-term resilience of the national health systems.24 The government has been trying to balance between implementing restrictive measures to combat the spread of the virus and preventing the economy from collapsing.25 Election

Nearing the end of 2020 Kazakhstan was approaching their parliamentary election on January 10th which will be dominated by the Nur Otan party.26 Due to there being no otherchoice in a party, certainly the same regime and political parties from the past 30 years will continue in power.27 The barrier to entry for an opposition party is difficult making the All-National Social Democratic Party the only official registered opposition party. Although this party has decided to boycott the election due to the Kazakstan political landscape always being dominated by the same type of political party.28 In 2019 several other opposition groups tried totake part in the election and were all rejected by Kazakh authorities.29 On December 10th the OSK Chairman Berik Imashev was criticized for banning nongovernmental organizations from being election observers. Also, only pollsters who have had at least five years of experience

and indicate preliminary notice to the OSK can conduct voter preference polls.30

During the election campaigns, the government has tried to get people to install digital security certificates that will create logs of their online activity.31 This behaviour was also viewed in 2019 during anti-government protests due to the very contested presidential election.32 Kazakhstan officials explain the censorship by explaining it is to protect personal data and limit access to banned content.33 Although citizens feel otherwise state agents continue to access personal data and keep tabs on online presence before the January election.34 Throughout this controversy, European observers continue to closely monitor the election proceeding to ensure Kazakstan continues their commitment to transparency and European values.35 Since the country gained independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, none of its elections have been considered fair and free by Western country’s.36 Year in Review

The Kazakhstan government has furthered EU economic relations with the ratification of the ECPA agreement. Direct investment with the EU has allowed for some economic certainty during a time when the Corona Virus creates uncertainty. They have also made it a priority to implement EU democratic standards starting with abolishing the death penalty and laws on peaceful assembly. Although it can be viewed that they still have more to change to meet the civil liberties the EU promotes. This was magnified this year with Kazakstan posing restrictions for COVID-19 in unlawful ways and controlling election outcomes by censoring information. Post Covid-19 Kazakhstan is on track to experiencing significant growth as a country due to their stronger relationship with the EU in 2020.

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Aidana Yergaliyeva in Nation on 30 December 2020. “Kazakhstan in 2020: A Collective Effort to Fight COVID-19.” The Astana Times, December 30, 2020. https://astanatimes.com/ 2020/12/kazakhstan-in-2020-a-collectiveeffort-to-fight-covid-19/. Elya Altynsarina in International on 23 January 2020. “FM Visits Brussels in Advance of Start of New Kazakhstan-EU Cooperation Agreement Entry into Force.” The Astana Times, January 23, 2020. https://astanatimes. com/2020/01/fm-visits-brussels-in-advanceof-start-of new-kazakhstan-eu-cooperationagreement-entry-into-force/.

“Kazakhstan: As Election Beckons, Authorities Tighten Control on Internet.” Eurasianet. Accessed January 6, 2021. https://eurasianet. org/kazakhstan-as-election-beckons-authorities tighten-control-on-internet. Kostisg. “Kazakhstan to Borrow More than €1.5 Billion to Fight COVID-19.” New Europe, November 24, 2020. https://www.neweurope. eu/article/kazakhstan-to-borrow-more than-e15-billion-to-fight-covid-19/.

Kuspan, Aigul. “Kazakhstan Election Holds Genuine Strategic Importance.” www.euractiv. com. EURACTIV.com, November 25, 2020. https://www.euractiv.com/section/ central-asia/ opinion/kazakhstan-election-holds-genuinestrategic-importance/.

“EU Launches a 1.4-Billion-Tenge Programme to Combat COVID-19 in Kazakhstan and Central Asia.” EEAS. Accessed January 6, 2021. https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/ kazakhstan/ 83137/eu-launches-14-billiontenge-programme-combat-covid-19kazakhstan-and-central asia_en.

“How Is COVID-19 Affecting Kazakhstan's Economy?” Caspian News. Accessed January 6, 2021. https://caspiannews.com/newsdetail/how-is-covid-19-affecting-kazakhstans economy-2020-7-20-43/.

“Kazakhstan Election: Hundreds Arrested in Poll Protests.” BBC News. BBC, June 9, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/worldasia-48574540.

“The Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on Human Rights in the Republic of Kazakhstan.” The Open Dialogue Foundation. Accessed January 6, 2021. https://en.odfoundation.eu/a/ 27533,the-impact-of-the-covid-19-crisis-onhuman-rights-in-the-republic-of-kazakhstan/.

“Kazakhstan Sleepwalks toward Choice-Free Parliamentary Election.” Eurasianet. Accessed January 6, 2021. https://eurasianet.org/ kazakhstan-sleepwalks-toward-choice-free parliamentary-election.

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Service, RFE/RL's Kazakh. “Kazakh Election Campaign Kicks Off With No Opposition Parties On Ballot.” RadioFreeEurope/ RadioLiberty. Kazakh Election Campaign Kicks Off With No Opposition Parties On Ballot, December 10, 2020. https://www. rferl.org/a/kazakhstan election-campaign-noopposition-parties/30994261.html. Suman. “A New Era in EU-Kazakhstan Relations,” March 8, 2020. https:// www. neweurope.eu/article/a-new-era-in-eukazakhstan-relations/.

Tileuberdi, Mukhtar. “Kazakhstan-EU Relations Entering a New Stage.” www.euractiv.com. EURACTIV.com, January 17, 2020. https:// www.euractiv.com/section/ central-asia/ opinion/kazakhstan-eu-relations-entering-anew-stage/.


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KO S O V O

Sara Teme

2

0

2

COUNTRY INFORMATION Population: ● 1,932,774 (July 2020 est.) CIA World Factbook Unemployment Rate: ● 25.6 % (2019 est.) – World Bank Data

GDP Per Capita: ● $11,838.9 (2019 est.) World Bank Data

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I

n 2020, Kosovo was submerged in a difficult political context all whilst managing the response on the COVID-19 pandemic. These factors made it hard for Kosovo to progress in regards to its European Union (EU) related aims. The run towards visa liberalization has been a defining factor of 2020 for Kosovo as it has finally been supported by the EU but a definitive date for visa-free travel for Kosovarians is still missing. The Hague Trials were a long awaited response to the independence war that left the people of Kosovo unsatisfied with its current achievements. Lastly, the turbulent relationship with Serbia took a secondary role in 2020 as the response to COVID-19 became the primary concern for both countries. Nevertheless, steps were taken to improve that relationship and get Kosovo closer to realizing its EU goals. The following report highlights and examines the major developments in Kosovo in 2020. Kosovo-EU Visa Liberalization

Kosovo is the only country in the Western Balkans that does not enjoy visa-free travel within the European Union despite the fact that all EU passport holders can enter Kosovo with no need for a visa.1 Currently, Kosovo is passionately fighting to be included in the Schengen area and achieve visa liberalization. Kosovo’s journey with visa liberalization began in 2016, when the European Commission issued a proposal to the European Parliament and Council effectively recommending Kosovo for visa liberalization.2 However, this decision comes with important conditions Kosovo must meet in order to be properly considered. In June 2018, this process was delayed as the EU Council demanded that Kosovo must first solve its organized crime and corruption problems before 1 Dr Bernard Nikaj, “An Opportunity to End Kosovo’s Isolation in Europe,” EURACTIV.com, May 5, 2020, https://www.euractiv.com/section/enlargement/opinion/ an-opportunity-to-end-kosovos-isolation-in-europe/ 2 Ana Pisonero Hernandez and Zoi Muleier, “Kosovo 2020 Report,” European Commission European Commission, October 6, 2020, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/ presscorner/detail/en/COUNTRY_20_1797

they can move forward.3 Shortly after, in July 2018, the European Commission officially confirmed that Kosovo had met these conditions. 4 Despite this advancement, Kosovo is still the last country in the Western Balkans to be considered for visa liberalization and is thus the one that will suffer the consequences of the previous mistakes of the other countries. This will definitely include stricter monitoring by the European Commission and more complicated benchmarks.5 On January 30th 2020, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy released a statement that declared that Kosovo had met all their requirements for the liberalization of the Schengen visas and that it was time to take action.6 This issue further progressed in November 2020, when there was a virtual meeting of the delegations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of France and the Republic of Kosovo where they discussed bilateral cooperation in security, with special focus on visa liberalization. This meeting was made possible by the cooperation of the two Prime Ministers, Emmanuel Macron and Avdullah Hoti, respectively. After the meeting, experts expect more formal accords between the two Internal Affairs Ministries. Despite this, there is still opposition towards Kosovo’s integration into the EU. Visa-liberalization talks simmered down as 3 Gentiola Madhi, “Germany’s Cautious Support to Kosovo’s Visa Liberalization,” European Western Balkans, March 25, 2020, https://europeanwesternbalkans. com/2020/03/26/germanys-cautious-support-to-kosovos-visa-liberalisation/. 4 Ana Pisonero Hernandez and Zoi Muleier, “Kosovo 2020 Report,” European Commission European Commission, October 6, 2020, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/ presscorner/detail/en/COUNTRY_20_1797 5 Gentiola Madhi, “Germany’s Cautious Support to Kosovo’s Visa Liberalization,” European Western Balkans, March 25, 2020, https://europeanwesternbalkans. com/2020/03/26/germanys-cautious-support-to-kosovos-visa-liberalisation/. 6 Top Channel, “Deputetët e PE nënshkruajnë letër drejtuar Merkel: Të vendoset në agjendë liberalizimi i vizave për Kosovën,” June 27, 2020, https://top-channel. tv/2020/06/27/deputetet-e-pe-nenshkruajne-leter-drejtuar-merkel-te-vendoset-ne-agjende-liberalizimi-i-vizave-per-kosoven/

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the year came to a close so it seems that 2021 will in the Netherlands under special circumstances.11 determine the outcome. The President of Kosovo was also charged with war Hague Court Hearing on Kosovo War Crimes crimes and crimes against humanity by the special prosecutor but the charges have yet to be confirmed In 2020, two decades after the Kosovo War, by a judge.12 The Hague has started the hearing of the war crimes Witness protection has been one of the key committed by Kosovo’s separatist fighters in the war for independence against Serbia. The 1998-99 war issues facing the Kosovo Specialist Chambers after left more than 10,000 people dead, most of them witnesses were intimidated in previous Kosovo warethnic Albanians from Kosovo, and more than related trials at the International Criminal Tribunal 1,600 people remain unaccounted for.7 The fighting for the Former Yugoslavia and at domestic courts in 13 ended after a 78-day NATO air bombardment of the country. Ethnic Albanians who testified against Serbian air defences, troops and infrastructure Kosovo Liberation Army fighters are frightened during which civilians were also killed.8 Kosovo, that their identities have been revealed by a leak which is dominated by ethnic Albanians, declared of documents from the Hague-based war crimes 14 independence from Serbia in February of 2008 court. However, the Specialist Chambers reacted which was recognised by many western nations but quickly after the documents were leaked and two veterans were arrested and transferred to The Hague not Serbia or its allies, Russia and China. to face charges.15 They claimed that the documents The international tribunal investigating prove that the Hague court is anti-Kosovo Albanian the war crimes committed during Kosovo’s which is a very serious accusation. Independence War has arrested its first suspect, The court is legally part of Kosovo’s justice a former commander of separatist fighters. The Kosovo Specialist Chambers, based in The Hague, system even though it is located in the Netherlands, declared that the former Kosovo Liberation Army but it is resented by many Kosovo Albanians who (KLA) commander, Salih Mustafa, was arrested.9 see it as an insult to the KLA’s war for liberation from The KLA was made up of ethnic Albanian rebels Slobodan Milosevic’s repression. They believe that who fought for Kosovo’s independence from it was only established because of the pressure from 16 Serbia. Mustafa oversaw fighters in the Llapi area, Kosovo’s Western allies. These court proceedings “Press Statement,” Kosovo Specialist Chambers 20 miles (35km) north of the capital, Pristina.10 11 & Specialist Prosecutor’s Office, Specialist Prosecutor’s Three members of the Kosovo Liberation Army Office, September 22, 2020, https://www.scpks.org/en/ were also arrested and appeared in front of a judge press-statement. 7 “Kosovo War: Salih Mustafa’s Case Is the First for Hague Court,” BBC News, BBC, September 28, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54332199 8 Orlando Crowcroft, “Leaked Files, Organ Removal and Irrepressible Anger: What’s behind the Kosovo War Crimes Probe?” euronews, September 29, 2020, https:// www.euronews.com/2020/09/29/leaked-files-organ-removal-and-irrepressible-anger-what-s-behind-the-kosovo-warcrimes-pro. 9 “Kosovo War: Salih Mustafa’s Case Is the First for Hague Court,” BBC News, BBC, September 28, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54332199 10 “Ex-Army Leader Is First Suspect Arrested by Kosovo War Crimes Tribunal,” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, September 24, 2020, https://www. theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/24/kosovo-war-crimes-tribunal-arrests-former-kla-army-commander-salih-mustafa

12 “Press Statement,” Kosovo Specialist Chambers & Specialist Prosecutor’s Office, Specialist Prosecutor’s Office, September 22, 2020, https://www.scpks.org/en/ press-statement. 13 “Kosovo: War Crimes Indictment Advances Justice,” Human Rights Watch, June 25, 2020, https://www. hrw.org/news/2020/06/25/kosovo-war-crimes-indictment-advances-justice 14 Serbeze Haxhiaj, “Hague Court Document Leak Scares Kosovo War Crimes Witnesses,” Balkan Insight, October 15, 2020, https://balkaninsight.com/2020/10/07/haguecourt-document-leak-scares-kosovo-war-crimes-witnesses/. 15 Ibid. 16 Xhorxhina Bami, “More Leaked Kosovo War Crime Files Returned to Hague Court,” Balkan Insight, September 21, 2020, https://balkaninsight.com/2020/09/17/ more-leaked-kosovo-war-crime-files-returned-to-hague-

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could really affect the already fragile relationship Trump presented Serbia as a European country and between Serbia and Kosovo going forward. Kosovo as a Muslim country in order to increase the ‘historical’ significance of the deal.21 However, Trump’s Serbia-Kosovo Deal especially amidst the wave of de-recognitions, The last couple of years have been Kosovo has tried to avoid being labeled a ‘Muslim strenuous on Kosovo’s status as 15 countries have State’. This label comes with important implications de-recognized its independence. However, in for them as Europe is a predominantly ‘Christian’ 2020, Kosovo received international recognition continent with only two other Muslim majorities.22 by Israel which is a good step in the diplomatic With regards to the Kosovo-Serbia relations, future of the country.17 Serbia also demonstrated its commitment to moving an embassy to Jerusalem the Serbian President, Alexander Vučić, made a whilst Kosovo and Israel agreed to normalize ties statement declaring that there are many differences and establish diplomatic relations. That would between the two countries but this agreement is a 23 make Serbia the first European country to open an step forward. The relationship between the two embassy in Jerusalem, and Kosovo the first with a countries has been extremely tense since Ethnic Muslim majority. However, that remains to be seen Albanian Kosovo declared its independence from as both countries refuse to have embassies in Israel Serbia in 2008. This was the result of a NATO if the other will do so as well, despite what President bombing campaign which also included the United States. The conflict was the aftermath of years of Trump claims.18 repression by the Serbians which included ethnic The recent deal between Serbia and Kosovo, cleansing. It is also important to mention that while was orchestrated by the 45th president of the Kosovo is predominantly Muslim, the majority of United States, Donald Trump. However, he later population in Serbia is Orthodox and has had the announced to reporters that Serbia’s agreement was historical backing of Russia. Both these countries with the United States and not with Kosovo.19 It was refuse to recognize Kosovo’s independence which is also revealed by Ambassador Richard Grenell, who a key precondition for Belgrade’s relationship with is serving as a special envoy on the deal, that the the EU.24 After this deal, and with the help of the United States was not a signatory of the deal.20 This United States, the hope is that both countries will is supported by the fact that the leaders of Serbia increase their efforts in normalizing relationships and Kosovo signed separate documents whilst for the sake of their relationship with the EU. Trump signed documents acknowledging that they A Year in Review would work together. While Kosovo started this year However, some major issues can arise from this seemingly positive diplomatic event. determined to gain visa liberalization, When introducing the two countries, President COVID and other internal issues deterred the county from achieving that goal. Despite court/. 17 Ishaan Tharoor, “Analysis | The Mirage of Trump’s these challenges, Kosovo managed to remain ‘Peace’ Deals,” The Washington Post, WP Company, involved in dialogue in 2020. However, it September 15, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/ world/2020/09/15/trump-deals-bahrain-uae-kosovo-serbia/. 18 Ibid. 19 Majda Ruge, “Trump’s Kosovo Show: No Big Deal,” POLITICO, September 8, 2020, https://www.politico. eu/article/trump-serbia-kosovo-deal-no-big-deal/. 20 Una Hajdari, “Trump’s Serbia-Kosovo Deal Is a Mirage - The Boston Globe,” BostonGlobe.com, The Boston Globe, September 20, 2020, https://www.bostonglobe. com/2020/09/20/opinion/trumps-serbia-kosovo-deal-is-mirage/.

21 Dejan Jovic, “Trump’s Serbia-Kosovo Deal ‘Middle-Easternizes’ the Balkans,” Balkan Insight, September 10, 2020, https://balkaninsight.com/2020/09/10/trumps-serbia-kosovo-deal-middle-easternizes-the-balkans/. 22 Ibid. 23 Tim Judah, “Kosovo, Serbia and the EU: Who Wants to Make a Deal?” Institut Montaigne, Institut Montaigne, July 8, 2020, https://www.institutmontaigne.org/en/ blog/kosovo-serbia-and-eu-who-wants-make-deal/ 24 Ibid.

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needs to continue to improve its standards and implement the conditions set by the EU in order to move forward with visa liberalization. It also needs to up its efforts to conduct proper relationships with Serbia as this is necessary for the progression of their plans with the EU. Meanwhile, the EU continues to aim for an improvement of the Belgrade-Pristina relationship through facilitated dialogue but a binding legal agreement is still missing. In June 2020, a step forward was taken as Kosovo removed the custom tariffs on imported goods from Serbia. The Washington deal, despite not doing much to regulate the relationship between the two countries was a good effort in the right direction. Lastly, the Hague Trials were a long overdue response to the Serbia-Kosovo war. It charged many Kosovarian freedom members and politician with crimes such as murder, persecution and torture. Whilst this was not well received in Kosovo, this court is perceived as a necessary instrument of justice that will finally give justice to many ethnic groups. This remains to be seen in 2021.

Bibliography Aidana Yergaliyeva in Nation on 30 December 2020. “Kazakhstan in 2020: A Collective Effort to Fight COVID-19.” The Astana Times, December 30, 2020. https://astanatimes.com/ 2020/12/kazakhstan-in2020-a-collective-effort-to-fight-covid-19/. Elya Altynsarina in International on 23 January 2020. “FM Visits Brussels in Advance of Start of New Kazakhstan-EU Cooperation Agreement Entry into Force.” The Astana Times, January 23, 2020. https://astanatimes.com/2020/01/fm-visitsbrussels-in-advance-of-start-of new-kazakhstan-eucooperation-agreement-entry-into-force/. “EU Launches a 1.4-Billion-Tenge Programme to Combat COVID-19 in Kazakhstan and Central Asia.” EEAS. Accessed January 6, 2021. https:// eeas.europa.eu/delegations/kazakhstan/ 83137/ eu-launches-14-billion-tenge-programme-combatcovid-19-kazakhstan-and-central asia_en. “How Is COVID-19 Affecting Kazakhstan's Economy?” Caspian News. Accessed January 6, 2021. https:// caspiannews.com/news-detail/how-is-covid-19affecting-kazakhstans economy-2020-7-20-43/. “Kazakhstan Election: Hundreds Arrested in Poll Protests.” BBC News. BBC, June 9, 2019. https:// www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-48574540. “The Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on Human Rights in the Republic of Kazakhstan.” The Open Dialogue Foundation. Accessed January 6, 2021. https:// en.odfoundation.eu/a/ 27533,the-impact-of-thecovid-19-crisis-on-human-rights-in-the-republic-ofkazakhstan/. “Kazakhstan Sleepwalks toward Choice-Free Parliamentary Election.” Eurasianet. Accessed January 6, 2021. https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstansleepwalks-toward-choice-free parliamentaryelection. “Kazakhstan: As Election Beckons, Authorities Tighten Control on Internet.” Eurasianet. Accessed January 6, 2021. https://eurasianet.org/kazakhstan-aselection-beckons-authorities tighten-control-oninternet.

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MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA Kostisg. “Kazakhstan to Borrow More than €1.5 Billion to Fight COVID-19.” New Europe, November 24, 2020. https://www.neweurope.eu/article/ kazakhstan-to-borrow-more than-e1-5-billion-tofight-covid-19/. Kuspan, Aigul. “Kazakhstan Election Holds Genuine Strategic Importance.” www.euractiv.com. EURACTIV.com, November 25, 2020. https:// www.euractiv.com/section/ central-asia/opinion/ kazakhstan-election-holds-genuine-strategicimportance/. Service, RFE/RL's Kazakh. “Kazakh Election Campaign Kicks Off With No Opposition Parties On Ballot.” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Kazakh Election Campaign Kicks Off With No Opposition Parties On Ballot, December 10, 2020. https://www. rferl.org/a/kazakhstan election-campaign-noopposition-parties/30994261.html. Suman. “A New Era in EU-Kazakhstan Relations,” March 8, 2020. https:// www.neweurope.eu/ article/a-new-era-in-eu-kazakhstan-relations/. Tileuberdi, Mukhtar. “Kazakhstan-EU Relations Entering a New Stage.” www.euractiv.com. EURACTIV.com, January 17, 2020. https://www. euractiv.com/section/ central-asia/opinion/ kazakhstan-eu-relations-entering-a-new-stage/.

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PANAGIOTIS FOTIADIS

Latvia Introduction

2020

brought unprecedented internal and external challenges to Latvia. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Latvia implemented cautious initial measures which allowed it to open for travel by the summer; however, Latvia failed to control the second wave, and cases drastically increased in the winter. Latvia has also been challenged by Russian media outlets which have been especially influential over ethnically Russian Latvians. In its efforts to curb Russian influence, Latvia became an advocate of pro-democratic protests against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. These major developments were critical in shaping Latvian politics over 2020 and will be discussed in this report. COVID-19 Response Latvia reported its first case of COVID-19 on March 2, with lockdown measures implemented ten days later, when the confirmed total was at 16.1 Relative to other European countries, Latvia acted quickly in responding to the pandemic, though it did not implement as strict a lockdown as near-by Estonia or Lithuania.2 Many outlets labelled Latvia as a successful example in combatting COVID-19 in the spring, recording significantly fewer cases and deaths than its Baltic neighbours.3 On May 15, 1 Reuters Staff. “Latvia Reports its First Coronavirus Case: Ministry,” Reuters, March 2, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-latvia-idUSKBN20P2IU; LETA Staff, “Latvia Declares State of Emergency over Covid-19 Until Easter,” Baltic News Network, March 13, 2020, https://bnn-news.com/latvia-declares-state-of-emergency-over-covid-19-untileaster-211339. 2 Gordon Sander, “Facing Pandemic, Latvia Follows the Lead of Its Experts,” Foreign Policy, May 13, 2020, https://foreignpolicy. com/2020/05/13/coronavirus-pandemic-latvia-follows-lead-medical-experts-science/. 3 Sander, “Facing Pandemic, Latvia Follows the Lead of Its Experts”; “Latvia’s COVID-19 Success Puzzles Lithuanian Pundits, Draws Global Praises,” Baltic News Network, April 29, 2020, https://bnn-news.com/latvia-s192


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Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania reopened their borders, creating the first European travel bubble.4 This was beneficial to local economies as 8.4% of Latvia’s GDP comes from tourism. 5 In early September, Estonian infections began to rise, and in mid-October, Latvia consistently hit daily infection records.6 Rising cases resulted in masks becoming mandatory in public spaces, but on December 17, Latvia recorded 1,040 new cases, contrasting with their spring record of 48.7 In early December, Latvian engineers created a way to increase testing through the use of vending machines. The unique machines replaced two to five medical workers by selling and collecting COVID-19 tests. The tests were easy to perform and cost 53 Euros, with a technician removing samples each day to be tested. Currently, there is only one machine, but there are plans to manufacture a further one hundred to be distributed throughout Latvia to ease pressures on medical workers.8 The vending machine is a promising innovation, but officials will need to revaluate measures to combat the COVID-19 crisis as it develops over 2021. Banning of Russian Television

For the majority of the 20th century, Latvia had been under either Russian or Soviet rule. In the thirty years since their independence, the nation has tried to forge a Latvian identity and heal ethnic divisions. A large (25%) ethnic minority of Russians have caused fears that Latvia could be the next target for Russian annexation, similar to the 2014 situation in Crimea. These tensions continue to fuel a tense relationship that has persisted since the covid-19-success-puzzles-lithuanian-pundits-draws-global-praises-212874. 4 Reuters Staff, “Baltic States to Create ‘Travel Bubble’ as Pandemic Curbs Eased,” Reuters, May 6, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-baltic-idUSKBN22I13A. 5 Girts Zvirbulis, “Latvia Cancels Two-Week Isolation Rule for Most European Travelers,” Public Broadcasting of Latvia, June 3, 2020, https://eng.lsm.lv/article/ economy/economy/latvia-cancels-two-week-isolation-rule-for-most-european-travelers.a362327/. 6 “Latvia Bursts Baltic Travel Bubble as COVID19 Cases Surge,” AP News, September 11, 2020, https://apnews.com/article/estonia-denmark-latvia-travel-virus-outbreak-d1822eaeb66d3ff28514878b83f7f6a9; Kristaps Feldmanis and Madara Licite, “Latvia’s COVID-19 Rate Drastically Increased Over Past Month,” Public Broadcasting of Latvia, October 13, 2020, https://eng.lsm.lv/article/society/health/ latvias-covid-19-rate-drastically-increased-over-past-month.a377695/. 7 “Face Masks Compulsory in Public Spaces in Latvia,” Public Broadcasting of Latvia, October 13, 2020, https://eng.lsm.lv/article/society/health/face-maskscompulsory-in-public-places-in-latvia.a377817/; ENG.LSM.LV, “New Daily Record of COVID-19 Cases in Latvia,” Public Broadcasting of Latvia, December 17, 2020, https://eng.lsm.lv/article/society/health/new-daily-record-of-covid-19-cases-in-latvia. a385777/. 8 Joshua Zitser, “The World’s First Vending Machine for COVID-19 Tests,” Insider, December 12, 2020, https://www.insider.com/latvia-using-vending-machines-to-roll-out-covid-19-tests-2020-12. 193


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fall of the Soviet Union and exacerbated by the Crimean annexation.9 According to the Press Freedom Index, Russia is ranked 149 out of 179 countries for media freedom, largely due to government influence.10 In late June, Latvia banned seven television channels operated by Russia Today (RT). RT has been accused of attempting to influence the Latvian ethnic Russian minority by presenting Latvia as a “failed state” with a Russian-nationalist undertone.11 Since the Crimean annexation, Latvia has become increasingly wary of their Russian border and called on NATO allies, who have pre-emptively stationed troops on the border.12 Latvia hopes to ease these tensions and reduce Russian influence to move forward in forming a post-Soviet Latvian identity. Sanctions Against Belarus

In the interest of defence against Russian influence, Latvia has been wary of the situation in Belarus. In August of 2020, Belarus held its presidential election, where President Lukashenko allegedly won his sixth consecutive election however, many states consider the result to be fraudulent.13 9 LETA Staff, “Relations with Russia have Been Complicated for Several Years Already but Bilateral Work Continues - Foreign Ministry,” The Baltic Times, October 15, 2020, https://www.baltictimes.com/relations_with_russia_have_been_complicated_for_several_years_already_ but_bilateral_work_continues_-_foreign_ministry/. 10 “Latvia Blasts Russian Duma in Row Over Media,” Public Broadcasting of Latvia, December 23, 2020, https://eng.lsm.lv/article/features/media-literacy/latviablasts-russian-duma-in-row-over-media.a386636/. 11 Jari Tanner, “Latvia Bans Russian Television Channel RT,” AP News, June 30, 2020, https://apnews.com/ article/0c6cf24233c7097d4d7bd89697894a60. 12 Phil Heidenreich, “Latvia Does Not Recognize Lukashenko as Legitimate President of Belarus After Unexpected Inauguration Ceremony,” Global News, January 8, 2020, https://globalnews.ca/news/6385212/canadian-soldiers-edmonton-latvia-nato-operation-reassurance/. 13 LETA Staff, “Latvia Does Not Recognize Lukashenko as Legitimate President of Belarus After Unexpected Inauguration Ceremony,” The Baltic Times, September 23, 2020, https://www.baltictimes.com/latvia_does_not_recognize_lukashenko_as_legitimate_presi-

The results and President Lukashenko’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies lead to mass protests throughout Belarus. President Lukashenko holds a strong relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who guaranteed reserve law enforcement force and a loan of one and a half billion US dollars.14 On August 12, President Kariņš, along with the presidents of Lithuania and Poland formed a plan to stabilize Belarus. They suggested Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, mediate the tense situation and, Belarusian law enforcement agree to refrain from antiprotester violence. President Lukashenko denied their appeal, which resulted in multiple sanctions against Belarus.15 Latvia imposed travel bans on President Lukashenko and 29 other Belarusian officials who allegedly assisted in falsifying the election and later sanctioned over one hundred more.16 Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs has pledged Latvia’s unconditional support for the Belarusian people and Belarusian democracy.17 Latvia’s pro-democratic actions have increased their standing as a cooperative member of the European community, though their efforts have done little to ease the situation in Belarus. dent_of_belarus_after_unexpected_inauguration_ceremony/. 14 Tony Wesolowsky, “Lukashenko’s Long Rule Over Belarus Looks Set To Survive 2020. What About 2021?,” Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, December 28, 2020, https://www.rferl.org/a/will-lukashenka-continue-to-rule-belarus-in-2021/31022880.html. 15 “Lithuania, Latvia, Poland Float Plan to Resolve Crisis in Belarus,” TASS, August 12, 2020, https://tass.com/ world/1188889. 16 Andrius Sytas, “Baltic States Impose Sanctions on Lukashenko and Other Belarus Officials,” Reuters, August 31, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-belarus-election-sanctions-idUSKBN25R0Z7; “Latvia Sanctions 101 More Belarus Officials,” Public Broadcasting of Latvia, September 25, 2020, https://eng.lsm.lv/article/politics/diplomacy/latvia-sanctions-101-more-belarus-officials.a375733/. 17 “Latvia Pledges ‹Unwavering Support’ to Democracy in Belarus,” Public Broadcasting of Latvia, November 13, 2020, https://eng.lsm.lv/article/politics/diplomacy/latvia-pledges-unwavering-support-to-democracy-in-belarus. a381662/.

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Year in Review Throughout 2020, Latvia employed admirable leadership and positive working relations with other EU members. Where its neighbours struggled, Latvia was successful in containing the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, though it struggled later in the year. Despite its contrasting size, Latvia made meaningful progress in combatting domestic Russian expansionist and nationalist campaigns. Latvia also attempted to mediate the situation in Belarus with Lithuania and Poland. These developments have demonstrated Latvia’s capability and willingness to be a regional leader and EU ally. Though 2020 tumultuous and challenging, Latvia emerged as a stronger and more reliable power as it enters the new year.

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Bibliography AP News “Latvia Bursts Baltic Travel Bubble as COVID19 Cases Surge.” September 11, 2020.

Complicated for Several Years Already but Bilateral Work Continues - Foreign Ministry.” The Baltic Times, October 15, 2020. https://www.baltictimes.com/relations_ with_russia_have_been_complicated_ for_several_years_already_but_bilateral_ work_continues_-_foreign_ministry/.

https://apnewas.com/article/estoniadenmark-latvia-travel-virus-outbreak-d182 2eaeb66d3ff28514878b83f7f6a9.

Baltic News Network. “Latvia’s COVID-19 Success Puzzles Lithuanian Pundits, Draws Public Broadcasting of Latvia. “Face Masks Compulsory in Public Spaces in Latvia.” Global Praises.” April 29, 2020. https:// October 13, 2020. https://eng.lsm.lv/ bnn-news.com/latvia-s-covid-19-successarticle/society/health/face-maskspuzzles-lithuanian-pundits-draws-globalcompulsory-in-public-places-in-latvia. praises-212874. a377817/. Feldmanis, Kristaps and Licite, Madara. “Latvia’s COVID-19 Rate Drastically Public Broadcasting of Latvia. “Latvia Blasts Russian Duma in Row Over Media.” Increased Over Past Month.” Public December 23, 2020. https://eng.lsm.lv/ Broadcasting of Latvia, October 13, 2020. article/features/media-literacy/latviahttps://eng.lsm.lv/article/society/ blasts-russian-duma-in-row-over-media. health/latvias-covid-19-rate-drasticallya386636/. increased-over-past-month.a377695/. Heidenreich, Phil. “Canadian Soldiers Public Broadcasting of Latvia, “Latvia Pledges ‹Unwavering Support’ to Democracy in Leave Edmonton for Latvia to Play Role Belarus.” November 13, 2020. https:// in ‘Deterrence Mission’ for NATO.” eng.lsm.lv/article/politics/diplomacy/ Global News, January 8, 2020. https:// latvia-pledges-unwavering-support-toglobalnews.ca/news/6385212/canadiandemocracy-in-belarus.a381662/. soldiers-edmonton-latvia-nato-operationreassurance/.

Public Broadcasting of Latvia. “Latvia Sanctions 101 More Belarus Officials.” September 25, 2020. https://eng.lsm.lv/article/politics/ diplomacy/latvia-sanctions-101-morebelarus-officials.a375733/.

LETA Staff. “Latvia Declares State of Emergency Over Covid-19 Until Easter.” Baltic News Network, March 13, 2020. https://bnn-news. com/latvia-declares-state-of-emergencyover-covid-19-until-easter-211339. Public Broadcasting of Latvia. “New Daily Record of COVID-19 Cases in Latvia.” LETA Staff, “Latvia Does Not Recognize December 17, 2020. https://eng.lsm.lv/ Lukashenko as Legitimate President of article/society/health/new-daily-recordBelarus After Unexpected Inauguration of-covid-19-cases-in-latvia.a385777/. Ceremony.” The Baltic Times, September

23, 2020. https://www.baltictimes.com/ TASS “Lithuania, Latvia, Poland Float Plan to latvia_does_not_recognize_lukashenko_ Resolve Crisis in Belarus.” August 12, 2020. as_legitimate_president_of_belarus_after_ https://tass.com/world/1188889. unexpected_inauguration_ceremony/. Reuters Staff. “Baltic States to Create ‘Travel LETA Staff. “Relations with Russia have Been Bubble’ as Pandemic Curbs Eased.” Reuters, 196


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May 6, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/ Wesolowsky, Tony. “Lukashenko’s Long article/us-health-coronavirus-balticRule Over Belarus Looks Set to Survive idUSKBN22I13A. 2020. What About 2021?” Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, December 28, 2020. Reuters Staff. “Latvia Reports its First https://www.rferl.org/a/will-lukashenkaCoronavirus Case: Ministry.” Reuters, continue-to-rule-belarus-in-2021/31022880. March 2, 2020. https://www.reuters. html. com/article/us-health-coronavirus-latviaidUSKBN20P2IU.

Zitser, Joshua. “The World’s First Vending Machine for COVID-19 Tests.” Insider, December 12, 2020. https://www.insider. com/latvia-using-vending-machines-toroll-out-covid-19-tests-2020-12.

Sander, Gordon F. «Facing Pandemic, Latvia Follows the Lead of its Experts.” Foreign Policy, May 13, 2020. https://foreignpolicy. com/2020/05/13/coronavirus-pandemiclatvia-follows-lead-medical-experts- Zvirbulis, Girt “Latvia Cancels Twoscience/. Week Isolation Rule for Most European Travelers.” Public Broadcasting of Latvia, Sytas, Andrius “Baltic States Impose Sanctions June 3, 2020. https://eng.lsm.lv/article/ on Lukashenko and Other Belarus Officials.” economy/economy/latvia-cancels-twoReuters, August 31, 2020. https://www. week-isolation-rule-for-most-europeanreuters.com/article/us-belarus-electiontravelers.a362327/. sanctions-idUSKBN25R0Z7. Tanner, Jari. “Latvia Bans Russian Television Channel RT.” AP News. June 30, 2020.

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2020

R eport

LIECHTENSTEIN

Katherine Haberl 198


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2020

was an unusual year for Liechtenstein, one of the world’s smallest and richest countries, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.1 Fluctuating case numbers over the year led to varying levels of restrictions as the country continued to attempt to cope with the novel virus; Liechtenstein experienced very few cases for the majority of 2020 and thus had almost no restrictions, butat the end of 2020 the level of COVID-19 infections in Liechtenstein was one of the highest in the world (relative to their population).2 However, aside from the pandemic, Liechtenstein remained very stable. In August, Liechtensteiners headed to the polls to vote on a three-part referendum. All three proposals were soundly rejected, but they brought debate, particularly the proposal that sought to amend the constitution to show support for gender parity. In terms of more permanent political fixtures, the House of Liechtenstein continues to wield significant power in the country, remaining at the forefront of the world’s most powerful monarchies despite external (and some internal) disapproval.

restrictions on March 13th, social distancing was rapidly implemented, and everything but essential businesses was closed.5 Restrictions were eased on April 27th, followed by three further easings in May and another in June.6 By early July, gatherings of up to 1000 were allowed in Liechtenstein, and life was almost as it was pre-covid, with the exception of social distancing and the appointment of a mask mandate on public transportation.7 Also in early July, the Swiss and Liechtensteinian governments began to require travellers from high-risk countries to quarantine for 10 days upon entry.8 However, the second wave of COVID-19 hit Liechtenstein hard, with cases skyrocketing in the last three months of 2020.9 In response, Liechtenstein restricted public and private gatherings, enacted a mask mandate inside public buildings (and eventually in public), and restricted, then finally closed, restaurants and bars.10 These restrictions had not led to lower numbers in Liechtenstein, which, at the end of 2020, remained one of the countries with the highest per capita COVID-19 infection rate worldwide.11

The first COVID-19 case in Liechtenstein was recorded on March 5th, 2020, 10 days after neighbouring Switzerland, with whom Liechtenstein has an open border.3 The Liechtensteinian government coordinates the majority of its affairs with the Swiss government, and the coronavirus was no exception.4 After the first major round of

Although delayed by the pandemic from June 7th to August 30th, Liechtenstein did vote on a three-part referendum.12 The first proposal on which they voted was whether or not to fund a railway link between Austria and Switzerland, which would have doubled the tracks (which are owned by Austria) and upgraded Liechtenstein’s train station.13 Liechtenstein’s executive body, the

The COVID-19 Pandemic:

1 Katie Warren, “11 Astounding Facts about Liechtenstein, the Tiny European Country That’s 8 Times Smaller than Los Angeles and Has the 2nd-Highest per Capita GDP in the World,” Business Insider, December 31, 2019, https:// www.businessinsider.com/liechtenstein-map-gdp-per-capita-population-astounding-facts. 2 Friday, “Netherlands’ Covid Infections Remarkably High,” NL Times, December 25, 2020, https://nltimes. nl/2020/12/25/netherlands-covid-infections-remarkably-high. 3 “Switzerland: WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard,” World Health Organization, https://covid19.who.int/region/euro/country/ch. ; “Liechtenstein: WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard,” World Health Organization, https://covid19.who.int/region/ euro/country/li 4 “Measures Taken in Liechtenstein in Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic,” Embassy of the Principality

August Referendum:

of Liechtenstein in Washington, D.C., December 21, 2020, http://www.liechtensteinusa.org/article/measures-taken-in-liechtenstein-in-response-to-the-coronavirus-pandemic. 5 “Measures Taken.” 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid. 9 https://covid19.who.int/region/euro/country/li 10 “Measures Taken.” 11 “Netherlands’ Covid Infections.” “COVID-19 in Liechtenstein - COVID-19 Very High - Level 4: COVID-19 Very High - Travel Health Notices,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/ travel/notices/covid-4/coronavirus-liechtenstein. 12 “Measures Taken.” 13 Sam Morgan, “Liechtensteiners Say ‘Nein’ to New

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Landstag, was in favour of this railway expansion, but the people were not, opposing it because of its cost.14 This was obviously not Austria or Swtizerland’s preferred outcome, as they would have benefitted from the increased rail service. Some Swiss people were also unhappy with the result of the second part of the referendum, which asked citizens to vote on whether or not Liechtenstein should allow dual citizenship.15 The referendum failed to achieve a majority vote in any part of Liechtenstein, which was disappointing to much of Liechtenstein’s workforce, more than half of which commutes from surrounding countries like Switzerland and Austria.16 The Landtag had also supported the allowance of dual citizenship, but once again left the final decision to the people.17 The final part of the referendum and the one that received the most news coverage was the “halbehalbe” proposition. This was a proposed change to Liechtenstein’s constitution, which would have added a line stating that gender parity in political bodies was to be promoted.18 It was very controversial, with the aim of promoting the participation of women in politics in a country that traditionally did the opposite: women did not gain the ability to vote in Liechtenstein until 1984, and then only by a hair.19 This proposal also failed, with Railway,” EURACTIV, September 2, 2020, https://www. euractiv.com/section/railways/news/liechtensteiners-saynein-to-new-railway/. 14 Ibid. 15 “Drei Vorlagen in Liechtenstein Abgelehnt,” Bote der Urschweiz, September 6, 2020, https://www.bote.ch/ nachrichten/wirtschaft/drei-volksabstimmungen-in-liechtenstein;art46442,1261494. 16 Franke von Holger, “Keine Chance Für Doppelte Staatsbürgerschaft,” Liechtensteiner Volksblatt, August 30, 2020, https://www.volksblatt.li/nachrichten/Liechtenstein/ Politik/vb/258043/keine-chance-fur-doppelte-staatsburgerschaft. 17 Ibid. 18 Vaduzer Medienhaus AG. “Ein ganzer Überblick über «HalbeHalbe».” Liechtensteiner Vaterland. August 7th, 2020. https://www.vaterland.li/liechtenstein/politik/ein-ganzer-ueberblick-ueber-halbehalbe;art169,426054 19 Vaduzer Medienhaus AG. “Ein ganzer Überblick über «HalbeHalbe».” Liechtensteiner Vaterland. August 7th, 2020. https://www.vaterland.li/liechtenstein/politik/ ein-ganzer-ueberblick-ueber-halbehalbe;art169,426054 ; Ap, “Liechtenstein Women Win Right to Vote,” The New York

78.75% of voters voting against this change, which had support from some of Liechtenstein’s political parties.20 Power of the Prince:

Liechtenstein is home to one of the world’s most powerful monarchies. Despite the fact that Liechtenstein has an elected parliament and regularly holds referendums, the most powerful person in Liechtenstein remains the prince. Currently, the Prince is His Serene Highness Prince Hans-Adam II, but he appointed his son, HSH Hereditary Prince Alois as his permanent representative in 2004, which means that Prince Alois performs all tasks of the head of state.21 The Prince’s power includes the ability to veto popular votes and legislation as well as the power to dissolve parliament at will.22 The prince also technically appoints the prime minister and members of government, though he does so with the suggestions of parliament.23 Over the past few decades, there have been attempts to limit the prince’s power, but Liechtensteiners have voted to maintain the Prince’s power and actually (in 2003) to confer more power on the Prince.24 The princely veto has not been used in recent history, but the prince has threatened to leave if his powers were restricted (2012) or to use his veto if a vote did not result in his preferred outcome, which led to a collapse in voter turnout.25 The extent of the Prince’s power has Times, July 2, 1984, https://www.nytimes.com/1984/07/02/ world/around-the-world-liechtenstein-women-win-right-tovote.html. 20 National Radio of Liechtenstein.“Initiative “Halbe Halbe” scheitert klar.” Radio Liechtenstein. August 31st, 2020. https://www.radio.li/news-1/initative-halbe-halbe-scheitert-klar 21 Government of Liechtenstein. “Princely House (head of state).” Liechtenstein Government Website. https:// www.liechtenstein.li/en/country-and-people/state/princelyhouse-head-of-state/ 22 Freedom House. “Freedom in the World 2019: Liechtenstein.” Freedom House. 2019. https://freedomhouse. org/country/liechtenstein/freedom-world/2020 23 Ibid. 24 Caroline Copley, “Liechtenstein: ‘For God, the Prince and the Country’,” The Globe and Mail, July 2, 2012, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/liechtensteinfor-god-the-prince-and-the-country/article4384292/. 25 Nick Meo, “Prince of Liechtenstein Threatens to Leave after Vote on His Powers,” The Telegraph, June 30,

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been criticized by the Council of Europe, among other organizations, for several reasons. The prince holds legal immunity, which has been criticized by the Council of Europe because they consider the fact that the is not subject to the jurisdiction of the courts as incompatible with the rule of law, and it has been suggested that the prince’s power limits the power of the legal system (as the prince has a significant role in appointing judges).26 Moreover, the Council of Europe states that the powers of the prince may, in some instances, violate the European Convention for Human Rights. In response to these critiques, HSH Prince Hans-Adam II has suggested that perhaps Liechtenstein should withdraw from the Council of Europe.27 Year in Review:

2020 saw Liechtenstein grapple with the novel Coronavirus, which led to interruptions in its democratic process and in everyday life. August’s referendum shows how, though Liechtenstein retains close relations with Switzerland and other neighbouring countries, Liechtensteiners are not afraid to vote against their interests and against the recommendations of the Landstag. Liechtenstein’s prince continues to wield significant political, legal and administrative power in Liechtenstein, causing tension between Liechtenstein and other nations but not inside Liechtenstein itself.

2012, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ liechtenstein/9366747/Prince-of-Liechtenstein-threatens-toleave-after-vote-on-his-powers.html. 26 Zhale, Henrik, Van Dijk, Pieter, and Jean-Claude Scholsem. “Opinion on the Amendments to the Constitution of Liechtenstein Proposed by the Princely House of Liechtenstein.” Council of Europe. December 16th, 2002. https:// www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdffile=CDL-AD(2002)032-e 27 Antoine Blua, “Liechtenstein: Prince Hans-Adam Threatens To Withdraw From Council Of Europe,” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, April 9, 2008, https://www.rferl. org/a/1104069.html. 201


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LI TH U A N IA FAUSTINE LUO

CAPITAL: V ILNIUS

POPULATION: 2 ,78 6 , 8 44 ( 2 0 1 9)

GDP PER CAPITA: $1 9, 6 0 1

EU STATUS: M E M BE R S I NCE M AY 1 ST, 2004

L

ithuania is a developed and democratic nation bordered by Belarus to the south and east, Poland to the south, Latvia to the north, and Kaliningrad Oblast to the southwest. It is a current member of the United Nations (UN), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), World Trade Organization (WTO), and European Union (EU), among other global organizations. Lithuania’s economy has recovered well from the 2008 Financial Crisis, with wages and employment levels back up to pre-crisis numbers.1 With that being said, the European Commission has identified growing levels of social exclusion, lack of 1 “Lithuania Needs to Address Its Demographic Challenge and Boost Job Quality.” OECD. Accessed December 21, 2020. https://www.oecd.org/ social/lithuania-needs-to-address-its-demographic-challenge-and-boost-job-quality.htm 202

technological innovation, low energy efficiency, and high emigration rates as possible obstacles to Lithuania’s long-term economic competitiveness within the EU2. In 2020, Lithuania, like every other country, was faced with the challenges of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and the implications it had on the healthcare system, systemic inequality and other pre-existing social issues. In addition, there was a change in government, growing national security concerns, as well as new opportunities to play a larger political role within the region. This report will highlight the most significant issues and events that are pertinent to Lithuania’s relationship with the EU; specifically, it will cover the 2020 election, conflict with Belarus and

2 Nakrošis, Vitalis & Vilpišauskas, Ramūnas & Jahn, Detlef. (2020). Lithuania: Sustainable Governance Indicators 2020


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Russia, and the interplay between environmental objectives and economic development.

only suffered minimally, with GDP contracting by just 3.7%. The government also launched a two-billion EUR financial relief package which 2020: A Year of Important Elections allowed a number of businesses to bounce back. In 2020, several new political actors Moreover, Lithuanian companies have been emerged in Lithuania, both public electoral expanding into niche markets, many of which committees and parties. Among these were some were less affected by the pandemic, if at all.7 more radical right-leaning competitors, but in Although the perspectives of Baltic nations are general they drew little support, and the centrecommonly disregarded in the greater EU agenda right Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian that is often dictated by more dominant players, Democrat party won the most votes in the October Lithuania has started to benefit from drawing elections3. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the on its proficiency in policy areas relevant to the first voting round had the second lowest turnout EU. The country is experienced in countering in nearly three decades. As a result, different cyberattacks and combating foreign intelligence, municipalities were split into zones, with stringent and intends to leverage these strengths to take on lockdown rules and limits on capacities for a more important role in global politics. Overall, the second round4. At last, the country’s new Lithuania’s policies appear to have maintained a Prime Minister, Ingrida Simonyte, took 50 out reliable economic environment, and was recently of 141 seats in the Seimas, and plans to form ranked 11th out of 190 in the World Bank’s 2020 a coalition government with two other rightDoing Business report.8 leaning parties- the Liberal Movement and the The Homeland Union was last in power Freedom Party. In addition, she announced her from 2008-2012, but received criticism after Cabinet lineup consisting of nearly 50% women, implementing severe austerity measures to making it one of the most gender-balanced stabilize the nation’s finances during the 2008 Cabinets in the world.5 Although the pandemic global Financial Crisis. The party has recently may not have been the decisive factor impacting managed to distance itself from that image, and election results, it was a key topic of concern intends to prioritize socio-economic equality, for voters. This year, many Lithuanians were education reform, and the development of the dissatisfied with the former government’s efforts 9 to protect small businesses during the COVID-19 country’s renewable energy sector. Moving forward, there are many challenges that the pandemic, as unemployment increased from new Prime Minister will need to tackle in about 9% at the beginning of the year, to over 14% this fall.6 However, supporters of the current 2021. Although public administration is strong, municipal governments still have very limited government claim that Lithuania’s economy has 3 “Lithuania.” Freedom House. Accessed December say in policy-making, and black markets 3, 2020. https://freedomhouse.org/country/lithuania/nations-transit/2020.

4 Jegelevicius, Lina. “How COVID-19 Could Save Lithuania’s Populists from Electoral Oblivion.” euronews, October 9, 2020. https://www.euronews.com/2020/10/09/ in-lithuania-covid-19-is-a-key-election-issue-but-not-in-theway-you-might-think. 5 Jegelevicius, Linas. “Is Lithuania’s Female-Led Government a Sign of Improved Equality?” euronews, November 27, 2020. https://www.euronews.com/2020/11/27/islithuania-s-new-female-led-government-a-sign-of-improvedgender-equality-in-the-country. 6 Nakrošis, Vitalis & Vilpišauskas, Ramūnas & Jahn, Detlef. (2020). Lithuania: Sustainable Governance Indicators 2020

7 Jegelevicius, Lina. “How COVID-19 Could Save Lithuania’s Populists from Electoral Oblivion.” euronews, October 9, 2020. https://www.euronews.com/2020/10/09/ in-lithuania-covid-19-is-a-key-election-issue-but-not-in-theway-you-might-think. 8 Nakrošis, Vitalis & Vilpišauskas, Ramūnas & Jahn, Detlef. (2020). Lithuania: Sustainable Governance Indicators 2020. 9 Jegelevicius, Linas. “Is Lithuania’s Female-Led Government a Sign of Improved Equality?” euronews, November 27, 2020. https://www.euronews.com/2020/11/27/islithuania-s-new-female-led-government-a-sign-of-improvedgender-equality-in-the-country.

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continue to negatively impact public finances and businesses.10 Additionally, Lithuania has made genuine attempts to fight corruption, but several measures and legislation are still being negotiated. The recently submitted budget for 2021 provides for a government deficit of approximately 7% of GDP, most of which will be used to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to keep small businesses afloat.11 Prime Minister Simonyte announced that as soon as she takes office, she intends to gather experts to advise the new government on how to better handle the pandemic.12

elected government is committed to the previous one’s plans to support Belarus’ democratic opposition, as it continues to organize and support protests against Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukahshenko and pressure other nations in the EU to join.16 In September, Belarus imposed sanctions and other restrictive measures against Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, in retaliation to their sanctions and blacklisting of dozens of Belarusian officials for vote-rigging in last year’s presidential election.17 Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, along with the presidents of Poland and Romania, stated that if the EU failed to show its support, its With regard to global issues, Lithuanian journalists viewed the U.S. presidential election as authority and reliability in resolving geopolitical conflict within the region would be at stake.18 one of the most important global issues in 2020. Soon after, the EU decided to follow suit, and Political scientists claim that Biden’s victory in November, supported Lithuania’s call on will be more favorable to Lithuania, as he would the European Commission to ban electricity be more committed to global institutions than imports from a nuclear power plant in Astravyets, Trump.13 From 2016 onwards, trade was a very Belarus.19 This facility did not fulfil EUcontentious issue between the U.S. and EU, and Biden is expected by most to bring the nation back recognized safety precautions, and poses potential security threats due to its proximity to Lithuania’s towards multilateralism.14 capital, Vilnius.20 In November, Lithuania Conflict and the Balance of Power in the Baltic decided to cut off energy trade with Belarus, and Region although these measures could have short-term In terms of defense and foreign policy, China.” AP NEWS. Associated Press, February 4, 2020. Lithuania intends to stay committed to both 16 Bns. “New EU Sanctions on Belarus Coming, NATO and the EU. Intelligence reports alleged Lithuania among Initiators – Minister.” lrt.lt. lrt.lt, December 7, 2020. https://www.lrt.lt/en/news-in-english/19/1293015/ that two of the most imminent national security new-eu-sanctions-on-belarus-coming-lithuania-among-initichallenges this year were considered to be the ators-minister. threats posed by Belarus, and Russia.15 The newly- 17 BNS, LRT.lt. “Belarus Imposes Sanctions on Bal10 “Lithuania Needs to Address Its Demographic Challenge and Boost Job Quality.” OECD. Accessed December 21, 2020. https://www.oecd.org/ social/lithuania-needs-to-address-its-demographic-challenge-and-boost-job-quality.htm.

11 Ibid, 2020 12 “Lithuania’s Incoming PM to Urgently Convene Experts to Get COVID-19 under Control.” The Baltic Times, December 9, 2020. https://www.baltictimes.com/lithuania_s_incoming_pm_to_urgently_convene_experts_to_get_ covid-19_under_control/. 13 Amaro, Silvia. “Europe Welcomes Biden’s Win after Four Fractious Years of Trump.” CNBC. CNBC, November 9, 2020. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/09/us-election-2020-what-a-biden-victory-means-for-europe.html. 14 Ibid, 2020. 15 “Lithuania: Biggest Threats Come from Russia,

tic Officials.” lrt.lt. lrt.lt, September 30, 2020. https://www. lrt.lt/en/news-in-english/19/1242782/belarus-imposes-sanctions-on-baltic-officials. 18 BNS. “Lithuania, Poland, Romania Propose ‘Democratic Transition’ Plan for Belarus.” lrt.lt. lrt.lt, September 21, 2020. https://www.lrt.lt/en/news-in-english/19/1236491/ lithuania-poland-romania-propose-democratic-transition-plan-for-belarus. 19 BNS. “New EU Sanctions on Belarus Coming, Lithuania among Initiators – Minister.” lrt.lt. lrt.lt, December 7, 2020. https://www.lrt.lt/en/news-in-english/19/1293015/ new-eu-sanctions-on-belarus-coming-lithuania-among-initiators-minister. 20 BNS, LRT.lt. “EU Leaders Urge Brussels to Ban Electricity from Belarus Nuclear Plant.” lrt.lt. lrt. lt, December 11, 2020. https://www.lrt.lt/en/news-in-english/19/1296393/eu-leaders-urge-brussels-to-ban-electricity-from-belarus-nuclear-plant.

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negative implications on Lithuania’s economy, they are commonly thought to contribute to efforts to end the current Belarusian regime.21 With that being said, electricity continues to flow between the two nations due to interconnected energy infrastructure; until the Baltic nations successfully separate itself from the Russiancontrolled energy grid, they will continue to share this connection with Belarus.22 At the end of the year, President Gitanas Nauseda made a public statement supporting Ukraine’s decision to join EU sanctions against Belarus. The EU also began discussing a new set of sanctions, many of which are targeted against businesses and individuals that are financing those close to Lukashenko’s regime.23

Lithuanian-Russian relations have been tense since the 1990s, further deteriorated in 2008 when Russia invaded Georgia, and again in 2013 as Lithuania prepared for their EU Presidency. Lithuania supported many ex-Soviet states in their pro-Western aspirations, and bilateral relations reached one of its lowest points when Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea in 2014.24 Russia had already been utilizing soft power tactics to target Russophone minorities and those with pro-Soviet sentiments within Lithuania, and this, compounded with the invasions, have exacerbated concerns that the Baltic nations would come next. Early this year, when democratic protests erupted in Belarus, Russian President Vladimir Putin assured Lukashenko that he would send military units to help suppress peaceful

demonstrations.25 Russia has also deployed missiles in the Suwalki gap, a large strip of land separating Belarus and Russian exclave Kaliningrad.26 Putin’s support of Lukashenko and growing military presence in the region have led former Lithuanian president Galia Grybauskaite to cite Russia as not only a threat to Lithuania but to the balance of power within the entire European continent.27 She believes in the importance of the United States staying in the global political arena, so that Russia cannot take its place. At the beginning of December, Putin publicly stated that he was ready to cooperate with Lithuania.28 However, critics believe that Lithuania should not be fooled; if Putin was truly ready to reconcile with Lithuania, there would have been a formal invitation to start negotiations. Many government officials, reporters, and citizens have expressed their belief that bilateral relations with Russia will never improve as long as President Putin stays in power.29 Environmental Issues: Energy Security and Independence According to public surveys, energy security is becoming increasingly important to Lithuanians, especially the prices of energy resources and reliability of services.30 The country’s environmental performance varies considerably by issue, but Lithuania has

25 Wesolowsky, Tony. RFE/RL. “Russia’s Military Creep in Belarus ‘Chips Away’ at Baltic Defence.” lrt.lt. lrt.lt, October 6, 2020. https://www.lrt.lt/en/news-in-english/19/1246887/russia-s-military-creep-in-belarus-chipsaway-at-baltic-defence. 21 Ibid, 2020 26 Ibid, 2020. 22 “Belarus Nuclear Plant – Safety Threat or Krem27 Ibid, 2020. lin’s Tool to Keep Baltics Close?” The Baltic Word, Decem- 28 “After Years of Animosity, Is Russia Ready to Talk ber 7, 2020. https://balticword.eu/belarus-nuclear-plant-safe- with Lithuania?” The Baltic Word, November 30, 2020. ty-threat-or-kremlins-tool-to-keep-baltics-close/. https://balticword.eu/after-years-of-animosity-is-russia23 BNS. “New EU Sanctions on Belarus Coming, ready-to-talk-with-lithuania/. Lithuania among Initiators – Minister.” lrt.lt. lrt.lt, December 29 Amaro, Silvia. “Europe Welcomes Biden’s Win 7, 2020. https://www.lrt.lt/en/news-in-english/19/1293015/ after Four Fractious Years of Trump.” CNBC. CNBC, Nonew-eu-sanctions-on-belarus-coming-lithuania-among-initi- vember 9, 2020. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/09/us-elecators-minister. tion-2020-what-a-biden-victory-means-for-europe.html. 24 “After Years of Animosity, Is Russia Ready to Talk 30 Leonavičius, Vylius, Dainius Genys, and Ričardas with Lithuania?” The Baltic Word, November 30, 2020. Krikštolaitis. “Public Perception Of Energy Security In Lithhttps://balticword.eu/after-years-of-animosity-is-russiauania.” Journal of Security and Sustainability Issues 4, no. 4 ready-to-talk-with-lithuania/. (2015): 311–22. https://doi.org/10.9770/jssi.2015.4.4(1). 205


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consistently remained dedicated to existing global environmental regimes by incorporating aspects of international provisions and guidelines into domestic policy.31 Although the nation’s electricity use is above EU-average due to inefficient infrastructure, the proportion of this energy produced from renewable sources continues to be well above national targets, and only second to Denmark in terms of expanding solar and wind-powered energy.32 In December, President Lauseda also called on the EU to agree to apply border taxes on imports and exports of goods that do not adhere to nuclear safety guidelines and environmental standards set out by the union.33 All three Baltic states have made commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and in order to do so, they must invest in renewable energy technologies. Part of their plan to improve energy security and independence includes switching from the Russian-controlled BRELL energy network to the continental European grid by 2025.34 As the nation prepares to disconnect from BRELL, it plans to build a large battery storage park in 2021.35 Lithuania’s European commissioner for Environment, Ocean and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, believes that the nation would benefit by allocating more funds from the EU towards meeting ambitious emissions reduction targets.36 During the annual Our Baltic Conference run by the European Commission in September, 8 EU members signed a declaration to protect their shared marine environment from pollution- the 31 Vanttinen, Pekka. “HELSINKI - Saving the Baltic Sea.” www.euractiv.com, October 2, 2020. https://www. euractiv.com/section/politics/short_news/helsinki-saving-the-baltic-sea/. 32 Rep. Country Report Lithuania 2020. Brussels, Belgium: European Commission, 2020. 33 Ibid, 2020. 34 Sytas, Andrius. “Lithuania to Build One of the Largest Battery Parks in the World.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, October 8, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/ uk-lithuania-battery-idUKKBN26T1SH. 35 Ibid, 2020. 36 Vanttinen, Pekka. “HELSINKI - Saving the Baltic Sea.” www.euractiv.com, October 2, 2020. https://www. euractiv.com/section/politics/short_news/helsinki-saving-the-baltic-sea/.

Baltic Sea is one of the most degraded water bodies in the world.37 Since joining the European Union (EU) in 2004, Lithuania has benefited from access to a market of over 500 million consumers, foreign direct investment, and a significant increase in GDP per capita. These funds, coupled with further international cooperation will allow countries to strengthen their commitments to EU legislation and allow green industries to flourish.38 Year in Review

As a firm supporter of the EU, Lithuania has demonstrated its commitment to promote democracy, and encourage unity within central and eastern Europe. Its support for Belarus’ democratic opposition not only stems from the intention to become a more prominent regional player, but also due to a shared historical heritage.39 In the future, Lithuania could even become a broker for the integration of Belarusian in the EU. 40 The country’s geopolitical position makes it a likely mediator connecting Western, Central and Eastern Europe, and although Poland’s size and influence has in the past made it the primary candidate to facilitate this cooperation, this is unlikely to happen due to incompatibilities between Warsaw and Brussels.41 The way that Lithuania dealt with Belarusian protests and conflict with Russia indicates a growing desire and ability to influence other nation’s foreign policy. Lastly, when it comes to environmental progress, EU-funded projects have allowed Lithuania to improve aging infrastructure and invest in science and education 37 Ibid, 2020. 38 BNS. “Lithuania Will Have to Update Its Climate Plan – EU Commissioner.” lrt.lt. lrt.lt, September 16, 2020. https://www.lrt.lt/en/news-in-english/19/1233618/lithuania-will-have-to-update 39 Astapenia, Ryhor. “Common History That Divides Belarus and Lithuania.” BelarusDigest, February 1, 2018. https://belarusdigest.com/story/common-history-that-divides-belarus-and-lithuania/. 40 Bickauskaite, Monika. “Can Lithuania Become an EU Regional Leader in the Midst of Belarus Crisis?” The German Marshall Fund of the United States, October 2, 2020. https://www.gmfus.org/blog/2020/09/28/can-lithuania-become-eu-regional-leader-midst-belarus-crisis. 41 Ibid, 2020.

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throughout the years. However, emissions are projected to increase by 6% by 2030 compared to 2005, and more ambitious emissions reduction targets will be crucial to meet national climate goals.42 Additional integration of infrastructure between the Baltic states and with central European nations are and should continue to be high on the agenda for the upcoming year.

42 BNS. “Lithuania Will Have to Update Its Climate Plan – EU Commissioner.” lrt.lt. lrt.lt, September 16, 2020. https://www.lrt.lt/en/news-in-english/19/1233618/lithuaniawill-have-to-update-its-climate-plan-eu-commissioner.

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Citations “After Years of Animosity, Is Russia Ready to Talk with Lithuania?” The Baltic Word, November 30, 2020. https://balticword.eu/afteryears-of-animosity-is-russia-ready-to-talk-withlithuania/. Amaro, Silvia. “Europe Welcomes Biden’s Win after Four Fractious Years of Trump.” CNBC. CNBC, November 9, 2020. https://www.cnbc. com/2020/11/09/us-election-2020-what-abiden-victory-means-for-europe.html.

Andrius Balčiūnas, LRT.lt. “If Russia Swallows Belarus, What Would Happen to Lithuania?” lrt.lt. lrt.lt, September 10, 2020. https://www. lrt.lt/en/news-in-english/19/1229669/if-russiaswallows-belarus-what-would-happen-tolithuania.

Climate Plan – EU Commissioner.” lrt.lt. lrt. lt, September 16, 2020. https://www.lrt.lt/ en/news-in-english/19/1233618/lithuaniawill-have-to-update-its-climate-plan-eucommissioner.

BNS, LRT.lt. “Belarus Imposes Sanctions on Baltic Officials.” lrt.lt. lrt.lt, September 30, 2020. https://www.lrt.lt/en/news-inenglish/19/1242782/belarus-imposes-sanctionson-baltic-officials. BNS, LRT.lt. “EU Leaders Urge Brussels to Ban Electricity from Belarus Nuclear Plant.” lrt. lt. lrt.lt, December 11, 2020. https://www.lrt. lt/en/news-in-english/19/1296393/eu-leadersurge-brussels-to-ban-electricity-from-belarusnuclear-plant.

Astapenia, Ryhor. “Common History That BNS. “New EU Sanctions on Belarus Coming, Divides Belarus and Lithuania.” BelarusDigest, Lithuania among Initiators – Minister.” lrt.lt. February 1, 2018. https://belarusdigest.com/ lrt.lt, December 7, 2020. https://www.lrt.lt/en/ story/common-history-that-divides-belarusnews-in-english/19/1293015/new-eu-sanctionsand-lithuania/. on-belarus-coming-lithuania-among-initiatorsminister. “Belarus Nuclear Plant – Safety Threat or Kremlin’s Tool to Keep Baltics Close?” The Baltic Word, December 7, 2020. https:// balticword.eu/belarus-nuclear-plant-safetythreat-or-kremlins-tool-to-keep-baltics-close/.

Bickauskaite, Monika. “Can Lithuania Become an EU Regional Leader in the Midst of Belarus Crisis?” The German Marshall Fund of the United States, October 2, 2020. https://www. gmfus.org/blog/2020/09/28/can-lithuaniabecome-eu-regional-leader-midst-belaruscrisis.

Česnakas, Giedrius, and Vytautas Isoda. “Russia’s Soft Power as a Limited Efficiency Tool in Lithuania.” Politologija 93, no. 1 (2019): 60– 97. https://doi.org/10.15388/polit.2019.93.3. Delfi. “Pandemic, Election, Belarus, Astravyets Launch Named Key Events.” DELFI. DELFI, January 1, 2021. https://en.delfi.lt/politics/ pandemic-election-belarus-astravyets-launchnamed-key-events.d?id=86097433.

Jegelevicius, Lina. “How COVID-19 Could Save Lithuania’s Populists from Electoral Oblivion.” euronews, October 9, 2020. https://www. euronews.com/2020/10/09/in-lithuania-covid19-is-a-key-election-issue-but-not-in-the-wayyou-might-think.

BNS. “Lithuania, Poland, Romania Propose ‘Democratic Transition’ Plan for Belarus.” lrt. lt. lrt.lt, September 21, 2020. https://www.lrt. lt/en/news-in-english/19/1236491/lithuaniapoland-romania-propose-democratic-transition- Jegelevicius, Linas. “Is Lithuania's Female-Led plan-for-belarus. Government a Sign of Improved Equality?” BNS. “Lithuania Will Have to Update Its euronews, November 27, 2020. https://www. 208


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euronews.com/2020/11/27/is-lithuania-s-newJahn, Detlef. (2020). Lithuania: Sustainable female-led-government-a-sign-of-improvedGovernance Indicators 2020. gender-equality-in-the-countryarticle/905a2362 Rep. Country Report Lithuania 2020. Brussels, 53d4fcca275159b227d34667. Belgium: European Commission, 2020. “Lithuania.” Freedom House. Accessed December Sytas, Andrius. “Lithuania to Build One of the 3, 2020. https://freedomhouse.org/country/ Largest Battery Parks in the World.” Reuters. lithuania/nations-transit/2020. Thomson Reuters, October 8, 2020. https:// “Lithuania’s Incoming PM to Urgently Convene Experts to Get COVID-19 under Control.” The Baltic Times, December 9, 2020. https://www. baltictimes.com/lithuania_s_incoming_pm_to_ urgently_convene_experts_to_get_covid-19_ under_control/. “Lithuania Needs to Address Its Demographic Challenge and Boost Job Quality.” OECD. Accessed December 21, 2020. https://www. oecd.org/social/lithuania-needs-to-address-itsdemographic-challenge-and-boost-job-quality. htm.

www.reuters.com/article/uk-lithuania-batteryidUKKBN26T1SH.

“Unemployment, Total (% of Total Labor Force) (Modeled ILO Estimate) - Lithuania.” Data. Accessed October 3, 2020. https://data. worldbank.org/indicator/SL.UEM.TOTL. ZS?locations=LT.

Walstad, Andreas. “The Weekend Read: New EU Financing Mechanism Set to Boost PV Investments.” pv magazine International, December 19, 2020. https://www.pv-magazine. com/2020/12/19/the-weekend-read-disruptingdevelopments/.

“Lithuanian Parliament Adopts 2021 Budget.” The Baltic Times, December 22, 2020. https:// www.baltictimes.com/lithuanian_parliament_ adopts_2021_budget/.

Wesolowsky, Tony. RFE/RL. “Russia’s Military Creep in Belarus ‘Chips Away’ at Baltic Defence.” lrt.lt. lrt.lt, October 6, 2020. https:// “Lithuanian President Calls on EU to Agree on www.lrt.lt/en/news-in-english/19/1246887/ Tax for Polluting Importers.” The Baltic Times, russia-s-military-creep-in-belarus-chips-awayDecember 1, 2020. https://www.baltictimes. at-baltic-defence. com/lithuanian_president_calls_on_eu_to_ Vanttinen, Pekka. “HELSINKI - Saving the Baltic agree_on_tax_for_polluting_importers/. Sea.” www.euractiv.com, October 2, 2020. “Lithuanian President Welcomes Ukraine’s Decision to Join EU Sanctions on Belarus’ Regime.” The Baltic Times, December 17, 2020. https://www.baltictimes.com/lithuanian_ president_welcomes_ukraine_s_decision_to_ join_eu_sanctions_on_belarus__regime/.

https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/ short_news/helsinki-saving-the-baltic-sea/.

“Lukashenko to Impose Sanctions on Lithuania and Poland as the Belarusian Women Get Ready to March in Protest.” bne IntelliNews, December 10, 2020. https://www.intellinews. com/lukashenko-to-impose-sanctions-onlithuania-and-poland-as-the-belarusian-womenget-ready-to-march-in-protest-190672/. Nakrošis, Vitalis & Vilpišauskas, Ramūnas &

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A

fter eight EU states agreed to take on the responsibility of 1600 unaccompanied migrant children amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Luxembourg was the first European country to transfer twelve migrant children from the refugee camps in Greece on April 16th1. With inadequate resources, many migrant children were left in detention centres which caused the Human Rights Watch to start the #freethekids movement.2 In light of the struggles faced by the unaccompanied minors, Foreign minister Jean Asselborn put out the statement that Mediterranean states such as Greece and Malta should not be solely responsible for migrant resettlement. Asselborn went on to urge EU member states to revisit the resettlement program so that “those who qualify for protection are shared out across EU states and those who do not qualify can be sent back to their countries of origin.”3 For this to occur, Asselborn believed that more political will is needed and he emphasized that countries and politicians must recognize that migrants and refugees have a right to live in dignity as well. There was a growing concern over the wellbeing of migrants during the coronavirus pandemic and with 80 million displaced refugees living in desolate conditions, the Luxembourgian Refugee Council (LFC) called for more international solidarity in June.4 The LFC was particularly concerned with the migrants living in Camp Moria, the largest refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. Unfortunately Camp Moria was burned down in an arsonist attack three months later.5 Once again, Luxembourg was 1 Wallis, Emma. “‘It’s a Small Start’: Luxembourg Transfers 12 Migrant Children from Greece.” InfoMigrants. Infomigrants, April 15, 2020. 2 Szucs, Agnes. “Luxembourg Relocates Children from Greek Refugee Camps.” Anadolu Ajansı, April 14, 2020. 3 Wallis, Emma. “‘It’s a Small Start’: Luxembourg Transfers 12 Migrant Children from Greece.” InfoMigrants. Infomigrants, April 15, 2020. 4 Michèle Gantenbein et al., “Luxemburger Flüchtlingsrat Sieht Asylrecht in Gefahr,” Wort.lu, June 19, 2020. 5 Velazquez, Diego. “Feuer in Moria: Regierung in Athen Beschuldigt Migranten.” Wort.lu, September 10, 2020.

eager to help along with nine other EU member states in relocating four hundred unaccompanied minors.6 The fire at Moria left 12 000 homeless and sparked the discussion of the European Union’s refugee policies and measures.7 The EU Commision presented a package to re-regulate European asylum and migration policy however the Luxembourgian Members of European Parliament (MEP) were not in favour of these changes. The package entailed that there were to be preliminary screening of asylum seekers and however there would not be a mandatory redistribution to all EU states. There were other options for countries to get involved without accepting refugees however there were accusations that countries may use this as an opportunity to evade responsibility.8

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn was put in a difficult position after he made comments to the popular German media company, Spiegel, where Asselborn accused Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz for the failure of the European refugee policy and the state of the refugee crisis.9 Asselborn saw Kurz’s stance of sending local aid rather than the redistribution of migrants as detrimental to the current state of affairs and he again called for more solidarity on the refugee crisis by requesting for Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, to convince the two thirds of the EU countries to demonstrate solidarity in the plight of migrants. A few days after these initial comments, Asselborn and Austrian MEP Lukas Mandl, a colleague of Kurz in the Austrian ÖVP party, both attended an interview on the talk show Maischberger. The discussion that proceeded on Maischberger was tense as Asselborn criticized Austria, as well as many other EU member states, of evading their responsibilities on 6 “Auch Luxemburg Will Minderjährige Aus Moria Aufnehmen.” Wort.lu. September 11, 2020. 7 “Auch Luxemburg Will Minderjährige Aus Moria Aufnehmen.” Wort.lu. September 11, 2020. 8 Cames, Sarah, Michèle Von Gantenbein, Marc Von Hoscheid, Danielle Von Schumacher, and Annette Von Welsch. “Asselborn Bekräftigt Position Zur Luxemburgischen Flüchtlingspolitik.” Wort.lu. September 21, 2020. 9 Turmes, Joe, and Gerd Höhler. “Asselborn Nennt Kanzler Kurz „Missetäter.’” Wort.lu, September 11, 2020.

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taking in homeless refugees affected by the Moria fire.10 Swiftly after these comments, MP Fernand Kartheiser called for Asselborn’s resignation for jeopardizing Luxembourg’s position in the EU and negatively portraying its image on a global stage.11 The Parliament debated over Minister Asselborn’s resignation and ultimately voted against it with 55 votes against.12 Handling the COVID-19 Pandemic

the following Sunday and the Luxembourgian government was coordinating with health officials to maintain the healthcare sector in anticipation for the future challenges that hospitals would face throughout the pandemic. Bettel also announced that Luxembourg would be keeping their borders open for the large population of cross-border workers coming to Luxembourg as this would have caused the country’s economy to collapse.

10 Gantenbein, M., Hoscheid, M., Welsch, A., & Schumacher, D. (2020, September 28). Asselborn: “Wir müssen diese Misere als Europäer lösen”. 11 Kuntzmann, Morgan, Michèle Von Gantenbein, Marc Von Hoscheid, Annette Von Welsch, and Claude Von Feyereisen. “Parlament Stärkt Asselborn Den Rücken.” Wort.lu. October 16, 2020. 12 Kuntzmann, Morgan, Michèle Von Gantenbein, Marc Von Hoscheid, Annette Von Welsch, and Claude Von Feyereisen. “Parlament Stärkt Asselborn Den Rücken.” Wort.lu. October 16, 2020. 13 Hennebert, Jean-Michel, and Patrick Jacquemot. “Premier Cas De Coronavirus Recensé Au Luxembourg.” Wort.lu, March 13, 2020. 14 Jacquemot, Patrick. “La Hotline Coronavirus Prise D’assaut.” Wort.lu. March 13, 2020. 15 Tutton, Thomas. “Europe under Lockdown: How Do Luxembourg’s Coronavirus Measures Compare with Others?” Europe under lockdown. RTL Luxembourg, March 27, 2020. 16 Tutton, Thomas. “Europe under Lockdown: How Do Luxembourg’s Coronavirus Measures Compare with Others?” Europe under lockdown. RTL Luxembourg, March 27, 2020.

17 Nanteuil, Anne-Sophie. “Les Frontières Tombent Pour Les Applications De Traçage.” Wort.lu, October 19, 2020. 18 Colin, Jean-François, and Patrick Jacquemot. “Scepticisme Face à Une éventuelle “application Corona”.” Wort.lu. April 16, 2020. 19 Lambert, Yannick. “Chances Slim for Covid-19 Tracing App, Lawmakers Say.” Luxembourg Times - Luxembourg, August 31, 2020. 20 Jacquemot, Patrick. “Le Luxembourg a Bien Manqué De Vaccins.” Wort.lu. August 06, 2020.

There were signs of outbreak starting in 2019 in Wuhan, China and the virus eventually spread to Luxembourg on February 29th, 2020.13 After Luxembourg announced its first case of Covid-19, the Luxembourgian Ministry of Health promptly implemented a covid hotline on March 2nd for residents to provide support and answer questions on the pandemic guidelines as well as a “Pandemic Crisis Unit” that were tasked with monitoring the conditions of the pandemic.14 As cases rose to 77, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel closed all schools on March 13th15 and held a press briefing with Minister of Health Paulette Lenert on March 15th to announce Luxembourg’s measures to slow the spread of Covid-19.16 In the press briefing, Bettel and Lenert announced that restaurants, bars, and nightclubs were closing until further notice

There were many creative and innovative efforts to control the spread of the virus however there was no concession on what was the best route. One popular method was covid-19 tracking apps. The European Commission proposed to have a gateway service that would connect the covid-19 tracking applications from individual countries in the EU.17 Luxembourg was against the use of covid-19 tracking apps and did not participate in these initiatives which caused some contention in the population. Prime Minister Bettel expressed that because there were no applications that complied with data compiling protection laws, the Luxembourgian government preferred more analog methods of tracing the virus.18 Soon, more of Luxembourg’s neighbours started adopting tracing apps which convinced the government to reconsider their stance on digital monitoring however the high cost of implementing such digital tracing mechanisms and the fear of the invasion of privacy ultimately reaffirmed Bettel’s government on its stance against such trackers.19 However while managing the covid-19 pandemic, many difficulties arose. The Luxembourg’s Ministry of Health failed to renew certain contracts in time which caused a shortage in vaccines for other illnesses in early August.20 Due to this shortage in other essential

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vaccines, many healthcare professions had to rely on the national reserve of vaccines. An important lesson was learned from this which prompted the change in contract durations to four years.21 EU Border Closures and Travel Disputes

caused countries like Germany to list Luxembourg as a risk area.26 Germany required travellers from Luxembourg to provide documentation that they have tested negative for covid-19 which caused an overwhelming demand for covid-19 tests in Luxembourg.27 To counter the demand for tests that were straining the healthcare sector and economy, Luxembourg set regulations to deter Luxembourg inhabitants from travelling Europe during the pandemic by only allowing those with symptoms to get tested at the large scale testing centres.28 Thus Asselborn explained to German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas that the number of cases presented in Luxembourg were a result of mass testing. After Asselborn and Maas’ discussion, German Prime Minister Malu Dreyer stated: “As a country with long external borders with several neighboring European countries, we are particularly closely connected to Luxembourg. Around 40,000 people from our country commute across the borders to work alone”.29 After some deliberation, Germany lifted Luxembourg’s status as a risk area. By September, Luxembourg was once again listed as a corona risk area along with many other states though this decision was contested by Prime Minister Dreyer who believed that this action would “punish Luxembourg for many tests”.30

By October 13th, the EU council introduced a traffic light map to display the infection rates in different European regions.22 The traffic light map was introduced so that travellers can measure the risk levels in Europe however Foreign Minister Asselborn expressed contempt towards this system. He stated that it is absurd for another EU country to deem another to be a risk area and felt that there should be more criteria in assessing if a region should be marked in red. Asselborn’s concern stems from Luxembourg being one of the most ambitious covid testers in Europe and Asselborn was concerned that the health data would punish certain countries for being proactive in their fight against the virus.23 Luxembourg provided free covid-19 tests and led a mass testing program across the nation which extended to its cross-border workers.24 However, this meant that the number of covid cases were much higher than other European states which concerned many EU countries and Luxembourg was ultimately blacklisted for travelling in many states.25 This was a particular issue with Germany which was classifying countries as high risk if the A Year in Review number of new cases exceeded 50 per 100 000 26 Riegert, Bernd. “Germany Plans Mandatory inhabitants. This was also an issue earlier in July when Luxembourg was penalized by many of its neighbours due to the high level of cases presented in Luxembourg’s epidemiology reports; This 21 Jacquemot, Patrick. “Le Luxembourg a Bien Manqué De Vaccins.” Wort.lu. August 06, 2020. 22 Cames, Sarah. “Corona-Ampel Der EU Online Luxemburg Rot Markiert.” Wort.lu, October 16, 2020. 23 Cames, Sarah. “Corona-Ampel Der EU Online Luxemburg Rot Markiert.” Wort.lu, October 16, 2020. 24 Gantenbein, Michèle, Marc Hoscheid, Annette Welsch, and Danielle Schumacher. “Dreyer Fordert Aufhebung Von Luxemburgs Status Als Risikogebiet.” Wort.lu, August 17, 2020. 25 Henley, Jon. “Luxembourg’s High Covid Infection Rate Is Result of Mass-testing Regime, Says Minister.” The Guardian. August 18, 2020.

Coronavirus Tests for Travelers from Luxembourg: DW: 28.07.2020.” DW. Deutsche Welle, July 28, 2020. https:// www.dw.com/en/germany-plans-covid-19-tests-for-luxembourg-arrivals/a-54358747. 27 Welsch, Annette, Von Michèle Gantenbein, Von Marc Hoscheid, Von Danielle Schumacher, and Von Annette Welsch. “Bettel: “Zahlen Alarmieren, Schockieren Aber Nicht”.” Wort.lu. July 15, 2020. 28 Welsch, Annette, Von Michèle Gantenbein, Von Marc Hoscheid, Von Danielle Schumacher, and Von Annette Welsch. “Bettel: “Zahlen Alarmieren, Schockieren Aber Nicht”.” Wort.lu. July 15, 2020. 29 Gantenbein, Michèle, Marc Hoscheid, Annette Welsch, and Danielle Schumacher. “Dreyer Fordert Aufhebung Von Luxemburgs Status Als Risikogebiet.” Wort.lu, August 17, 2020. 30 Gantenbein, Michèle, Marc Hoscheid, Annette Welsch, and Danielle Schumacher. “Dreyer Fordert Aufhebung Von Luxemburgs Status Als Risikogebiet.” Wort.lu, August 17, 2020.

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There were many issues and contentions during 2020 and many were subset problems that arose due to the coronavirus pandemic. Luxembourg, like many other countries, spent countless resources in managing the coronavirus pandemic and despite the hardships they faced, Luxembourg successfully diminished the spread of the virus within their borders through their mass testing program. For much of 2020, Luxembourg was a strong advocate for the migrants in Europe and was heavily involved in the redistribution of refugees after the tragic fire in Moria. With the mantra of solidarity, one can look forward to great contributions Luxembourg will make to Europe in 2021.

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Sources “Auch Luxemburg Will Minderjährige Aus Moria “Luxemburger Flüchtlingsrat Sieht Aufnehmen.” Wort.lu. September 11, 2020. Asylrecht in Gefahr.” Wort.lu, June 19, 2020. https:// https://www.wort.lu/de/international/auchwww.wort.lu/de/politik/luxemburger-fluecluxemburg-will-minderjaehrige-aus-moriahtlingsrat-sieht-asylrecht-in-gefahr-5eeb6daufnehmen-5f5b3e6dde135b92362ed80b?utm_ 37da2cc1784e35fedd. internal_campaign=magnet_related_articles. Gantenbein, M., Hoscheid, M., Welsch, A., Cames, Sarah. “Corona-Ampel Der EU Online & Schumacher, D. (2020, September 28). Luxemburg Rot Markiert.” Wort.lu, October Asselborn: 16, 2020. https://www.wort.lu/de/international/ corona-ampel-der-eu-online-luxemburg-rot- “Wir müssen diese Misere als Europäer lösen”. Retrieved from https://www.wort.lu/de/politik/ markiert-5f8898c7de135b9236bef011?utm_ asselborn-wir-muessen-diese-misere-alsinternal_campaign=magnet_related_articles. europaeer-loesen-5f63cd32de135b92361e7555 Cames, Sarah, Michèle Von Gantenbein, Marc Von Hoscheid, Danielle Von Schumacher, and Hennebert, Jean-Michel, and Patrick Jacquemot. “Premier Cas De Coronavirus Recensé Au Annette Von Welsch. Luxembourg.” Wort.lu, “Asselborn Bekräftigt Position Zur 13, 2020. https://www.wort. Luxemburgischen Flüchtlingspolitik.” Wort. March lu/fr/luxembourg/premier-cas-delu. September 21, 2020. https://www.wort. coronavirus-recense-au-luxembourglu/de/politik/asselborn-bekraeftigt-position5e5b720dda2cc1784e357498. zur-luxemburgischen-fluechtlingspolitik5f65eceade135b9236e5cc40?utm_internal_ Jacquemot, Patrick. “La Hotline Coronavirus Prise campaign=magnet_related_articles. D’assaut.” Wort.lu. March 13, 2020.

Colin, Jean-François, and Patrick Jacquemot. h t t p s : / / w w w. w o r t . l u / f r / l u x e m b o u r g / l a “Scepticisme Face à Une éventuelle “application hotline-coronavirus-prise-d-assautCorona”.” Wort.lu. April 16, 2020. https:// 5e5e5182da2cc1784e357750 www.wort.lu/fr/luxembourg/scepticisme- Jacquemot, Patrick. “Le Luxembourg a Bien face-a-une-eventuelle-application-coronaManqué De Vaccins.” Wort.lu. August 06, 2020. 5e980fdeda2cc1784e35bb98. h t t p s : / / w w w. w o r t . l u / f r / l u x e m b o u r g / l e Gantenbein, Michèle, Marc Hoscheid, Annette luxembourg-a-bien-manque-de-vaccinsWelsch, and Danielle Schumacher. “Dreyer 5f2bb67cda2cc1784e36332d. Fordert Aufhebung Von Kuntzmann, Morgan, Michèle Von Gantenbein, Luxemburgs Status Als Risikogebiet.” Wort. Marc Von Hoscheid, Annette Von Welsch, and lu, August 17, 2020. https://www.wort. Danielle von lu/de/politik/dreyer-fordert-aufhebungvon-luxemburgs-status-als-risikogebiet- Schumacher. “Hohes Defizit Für 2021 - Mehr Geld Für Gesundheit Und Wohnraum.” 5f3a9778da2cc1784e363d87?utm_internal_ Wort.lu. October 15, 2020. https://www. campaign=magnet_related_articles. wort.lu/de/politik/hohes-defizit-fuer-2021Gantenbein, Michèle, Marc Hoscheid, mehr-geld-fuer-gesundheit-und-wohnraumAnnette Welsch, and Danielle Schumacher. 215


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5f872dbede135b9236eb8f9d.

Kuntzmann, Morgan, Michèle Von Gantenbein, Marc Von Hoscheid, Annette Von Welsch, and Claude Von Feyereisen.

Velazquez, Diego. “Feuer in Moria: Regierung in Athen Beschuldigt Migranten.” Wort. lu, September 10, 2020. https://www. wort.lu/de/international/feuer-in-moriaregierung-in-athen-beschuldigt-migranten5f5a21efde135b92363fa112?utm_internal_ campaign=magnet_related_articles.

“Parlament Stärkt Asselborn Den Rücken.” Wort. lu. October 16, 2020. https://www.wort.lu/ de/politik/parlament-staerkt-asselborn-denWallis, Emma. “‘It’s a Small Start’: Luxembourg ruecken-5f887fbede135b9236853c Transfers 12 Migrant Children from Greece.” Lambert, Yannick. “Chances Slim for Covid-19 Tracing App, Lawmakers Say.” Luxembourg InfoMigrants. Infomigrants, April 15, 2020. https:// www.infomigrants.net/en/post/24106/it-s-aTimes - Luxembourg, August 31, 2020. https:// small-start-luxembourg-transfers-12-migrantluxtimes.lu/luxembourg/41604-chances-slimchildren-from-greece. for-covid-19-tracing-app-lawmakers-say. Nanteuil, Anne-Sophie. “Les Frontières Welsch, Annette, Michèle Gantenbein, Marc Hoscheid, Annette Welsch, and Danielle Tombent Pour Les Applications De Traçage.” Schumacher. “Bettel: ‘Zahlen Alarmieren, Wort.lu, October 19, 2020. https://www.

w o r t . l u / f r / i n t e r n a t i o n a l / l e s - f r o n t i e r e s - Schockieren Aber Nicht.’” Wort.lu, July 15, tombent-pour-les-applications-de-tracage2020. https://www.wort.lu/de/politik/bettel5f8dafffde135b9236a01d2. zahlen-alarmieren-schockieren-aber-nicht5f0f418dda2cc1784e361af4. Riegert, Bernd. “Germany Plans Mandatory Coronavirus Tests for Travelers Luxembourg: DW: 28.07.2020.”

from

DW. Deutsche Welle, July 28, 2020. https://www. dw.com/en/germany-plans-covid-19-tests-forluxembourg-arrivals/a-54358747.

Szucs, Agnes. “Luxembourg Relocates Children from Greek Refugee Camps.” Anadolu Ajansı, April 14, 2020. https://www.aa.com.tr/en/ europe/luxembourg-relocates-children-fromgreek-refugee-camps/1806188. Turmes, Joe, and Gerd Höhler. “Asselborn Nennt Kanzler Kurz „Missetäter.’” Wort.lu, September 11, 2020. https://www.wort.lu/de/international/ asselborn-nennt-kanzler-kurz-missetaeter5f5b65c0de135b92367b70e7?utm_internal_ campaign=magnet_related_articles. Tutton, Thomas. “Europe under Lockdown: How Do Luxembourg’s Coronavirus Measures Compare with Others?”

Europe under lockdown. RTL Luxembourg, March 27, 2020. https://today.rtl.lu/news/ luxembourg/a/1491281.html. 216


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D AV I D P O L I S U K

MALTA Public Inquiry into the Murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia

Population: 442,135 (Worldometers, 2020) Unemployment Rate: 3.37% (Statista, 2020) GDP Per Capita: 29,845.182 USD (Ceicdata, December 2019) EU Status: Member since 2004 (European Union)

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n October 2017, Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese journalist, was killed when her car exploded in the city of Bidnija.1 Caruana Galizia was known for reporting on the corruption in Malta and frequently targeted prominent businessmen and politicians, including then-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.2 In November 2019, Yorgen Fenech, one of the nation’s wealthiest businessmen, was arrested as the mastermind of the murder plot.3 After initial investigations, it was revealed that Keith Schembri, the Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, and Konrad Mizzi, the energy minister, both had connections to Fenech’s company.4 Both men immediately resigned and after large public protests, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat also resigned in January 2020.56

in Caruana Galizia’s murder but refused to answer over 100 questions.9 In December, during his five-hour testimony, Muscat stated that “Caruana Galizia was killed when she became irrelevant to all.”10 Muscat also revealed that he previously met with Fenech and Melvin Theuma, the middleman in the assassination.11 Although Muscat denied the accusation that Schembri was the real decisionmaker in his government, he stated that he regrets that Schembri and Mizzi were able to obtain so much influence in his government.12 During his six-and-a-half-hour testimony, Schembri denied allegations of corruption and stated that he informed Muscat about Fenech’s company.13 He also said that he knew Fenech was a person of interest in the 14 Throughout 2020, a public inquiry case around one year before he was arrested. board further investigated the assassination. In addition to revealing facts about Overall, the board held 85 sittings and heard the murder, the timeline of the inquiry has from over 100 witnesses, including from become a source of controversy. The inquiry Caruana Galizia’s family, other journalists, board was initially supposed to complete and the politicians implicated.78 In November, their report by September, but Prime Minister Mizzi insisted that he had no involvement Robert Abela extended the deadline to December to account for the delays caused 1 Juliette Garside, “Malta Car Bomb Kills Panama Papers Journalist,” The Guardian, October 16, 2017, by the COVID-19 lockdown.15 However, the https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/16/malboard has requested another extension to be ta-car-bomb-kills-panama-papers-journalist able to properly consider data collected by 2 Ibid. 3 “Yorgen Fenech arrested for fourth time,” Times of Europol that will not be made available until Malta, November 27, 2019, https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/yorgen-fenech-arrested-for-fourth-time.753052 4 Heman Grech, “Muscat to step down as Prime Minister after January 12,” Times of Malta, December 1, 2019, https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/hold-muscatexpected-to-make-statement.754168 5 “Konrad Mizzi resigns, Chris Cardona ‘suspends himself’,” Times of Malta, November 26, 2019, https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/konrad-mizzi-resigns.752803 6 “Robert Abela elected Labour Party leader and will be Malta’s new PM,” Times of Malta, January 11, 2020, https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/robert-abela-electedlabour-party-leader-and-will-be-maltas-new-pm.762714 7 Edwina Brincat, “Daphne inquiry to continue beyond deadline set by the prime minister,” Times of Malta, December 14, 2020, https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/ daphne-inquiry-to-continue-beyond-deadline-set-by-theprime-minister.839012 8 https://www.daphne.foundation/en/justice/public-inquiry

9 Edqina Brincat and Diana Cacciottolo, “As it happened: Konrad Mizzi refuses to answer questions at public inquiry,” Times of Malta, November 27, 2020, https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/live-blog-konrad-mizzi-orderedto-testify-at-daphne-public-inquiry.834769 10 Joseph Muscat in Bertrand Borg, “Nine things Joseph Muscat revealed in five hours of testimony,” Times of Malta, December 4, 2020, https://timesofmalta.com/articles/ view/nine-things-joseph-muscat-revealed-in-five-hours-oftestimony.836636 11 Borg. 12 Ibid. 13 Edwina Brincat and Bertrand Borg, “As it happened: Keith Schembri testifies in Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry,” Times of Malta, December 14, 2020, https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/keith-schembri-testifies-in-daphne-caruana-galizia-inquiry.838838 14 Ibid. 15 Brincat.

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mid-January.16 In response to this request, Abela argued that the board has been given sufficient time and he, therefore, has refused to grant the extension.17 Nevertheless, the board plans to continue working on the report into the new year, citing a provision in their mandate that requires “the proper fulfillment” of the investigation.18 Upon completion, the board will present the report to the Prime Minister and the Attorney General who in turn will present the report to Parliament.19 Relationship with the European Union

In 2014, Malta began selling citizenship to foreign investors, through a program commonly referred to as “golden passports.”20 The goal of selling golden passports was to attract foreign investment and improve the economy.21 The program was so successful that Malta became one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe.22 Furthermore, from when the program started in 2014 to mid-2017, Malta sold 2,000 passports and earned 718 million euros.23 16 Ibid. 17 Ivan Martin, “Daphne inquiry should end next week, prime minister says,” Times of Malta, December 7, 2020, https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/daphne-inquiry-should-end-next-week-prime-minister-says.837203 18 Ibid. 19 Matthew Agius and Massimo Costa, “Caruana Galizia public inquiry: slain journalist’s son says police slept on key information,” Malta Today, December 6, 2019, https:// www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/court_and_police/99087/ live_first_sitting_of_public_inquiry_into_daphne_caruana_galizia_murder_in_progress#.X-PXjOlKjpA 20 “Abela reacts as EU confirms legal action over Malta, Cyprus ‘golden passports,’” Times of Malta, October 19, 2020, https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/ eu-to-launch-legal-action-over-cyprus-malta-golden-passports.825802 21 Nate Sibley, “How the Murder of a Journalist in Malta Exposed Europe’s Corruption Problem,” World Politics Review, January 9, 2020, https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/28457/in-malta-corruption-led-to-a-journalist-s-murder-it-s-time-for-the-eu-to-act 22 Ibid. 23 Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Monika Pronczuk, “E.U. Tells Cyprus and Malta to Abandon ‘Golden Passports,’” New York Times, October 21, 2020, https://www. nytimes.com/2020/10/20/world/europe/cyprus-malta-gold-

However, golden passports also attracted tax evasion, money laundering, and corruption.24 For example, in September, Keith Schembri was arrested for allegedly receiving 100,000 euros as part of a passport sale.25 Similarly, a report published in August by Al-Jazeera revealed that dozens of people who applied for golden passports in Cyprus were under criminal investigations or serving prison sentences.26 In response to these developments, the European Commission opened infringement proceedings against Cyprus and Malta in October.27 The goal of the proceedings is to end the golden passport programs in both countries.28 In a statement, the European Commission stated that issuing golden passports “undermines the essence of E.U. citizenship.”29 In response to the proceedings, Cyprus committed to ending its program, even though Cyprus earned seven billion euros through the program.30 In contrast, Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela stated that he will defend golden passports.31 Abela argued that the program was necessary to fund his ambitious budget for the country.32 Golden passports have not been the only source of tension between Malta and the European Union. For example, in October, the European Commission proposed a directive that would regulate the minimum wage for all its member states and encourage collective en-passports.html 24 Sibley. 25 Jacob Borg, “Keith Schembri arrested in connection with passport kickbacks probe,” Times of Malta, September 22, 2020, https://timesofmalta.com/articles/ view/keith-schembri-arrested-over-passport-kickbacksprobe.819610 26 “Abela reacts as EU confirms legal action over Malta, Cyprus ‘golden passports.’” 27 Stevis-Gridneff and Pronczuk. 28 Ibid. 29 Ibid. 30 “Abela reacts as EU confirms legal action over Malta, Cyprus ‘golden passports.’” 31 Ibid. 32 Ibid.

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bargaining.33 However, Minister Carmelo Abelo stated that Malta’s position is that minimum wages should be regulated on the national level.34 COVID-19 Pandemic

festivals were ultimately cancelled in August due to the rising number of cases.43 As a result of the pandemic, tourism decreased by 66%, according to the National Statistics Office.44 The “second wave” of infections hit Malta much harder than the first.45 Following the easing of first wave restrictions, the number of daily new cases slowly rose from around 20 to around 100.46 Similarly, during the first wave, nine people died of COVID-19 and by October, over 40 people died in the second wave.47 For some time, Malta had the highest death rate and cases per capita in all of Europe.48 In an interview, the president of the Malta College of Pathologists blamed the large second wave of infections on the government’s failure to listen to the advice of medical professionals.49 He argued that the increase in cases occurred because the government allowed tourists to visit the country, allowed people to attend large gatherings, and allowed businesses to re-open.50 As a result of the increasing number of cases, the government ultimately introduced new restrictions in early October.51 These restrictions included mandatory face masks outdoors, the early closure of bars and

Although Malta successfully managed the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was hit hard by the second wave of infections. Towards the end of March, like other countries around the world, Malta placed over 100,000 of its citizens under lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19.35 The initial lockdown measures affected the elderly, pregnant women, and people with medical conditions.36 The government also restricted gatherings to a maximum of five people.37 However, in May and June, the government began easing restrictions.38 Non-essential stores, bars, gyms, religious services, and childcare centres were all allowed to re-open.39 However, face masks were made mandatory and mass gatherings were prohibited.40 On July 1, Malta re-opened its airport to tourists from 19 destinations who were not subject to quarantine nor testing.41 By July, Maltese companies were planning to host music tional/103859/festival_mad_malta_is_parallel_universe_as_ festivals for British tourists.42 However, these covid19_panic_rises_again_#.X-ji-elKjpA 33 “Minimum wages should be up to member states, Malta tells EU ministers,” Times of Malta, December 5, 2020, https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/minimumwages-should-be-up-to-member-states-malta-tells-eu-ministers.836789 34 Ibid. 35 Herman Grech, “As it happened: Lockdown for 118,000 people; five new COVID-19 cases,” Times of Malta, March 26, 2020, https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/ live-coronavirus-updates.781001 36 Ibid. 37 Ibid. 38 Ivan Martin, “Abela: Covid-19 restrictions to be lifted on Friday, but big events still banned,” Times of Malta, June 1, 2020, https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/abelapress-conference-on-easing-of-covid-19-restrictions.795835 39 Ibid. 40 Ibid. 41 Ibid. 42 Matthew Vella, “Festival-mad Malta is ‘parallel universe’ as COVID-19 panic rises again,” Malta Today, July 29, 2020, https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/na-

43 “Malta festivals cancelled due to rise in Covid-19 cases,” BBC News, August 3, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/ news/uk-53642430 44 Laura Calleja, “COVID-19 killed August: tourism down by 66% in summer peak,” Malta Today, October 8, 2020, https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/lifestyle/travel/105148/covid19_killed_august_tourism_down_by_66_in_ summer_peak#.X-jgNulKjpA 45 Raphael Vassallo, “Not a second wave, but a tsunami... | James Degaetano,” Malta Today, October 26, 2020, https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/interview/105516/ not_a_second_wave_but_a_tsunami__james_degaetano#.X-pzIelKjpA 46 Ibid. 47 Ibid. 48 Ibid. 49 Ibid. 50 Ibid 51 Julian Delia, “Watch: Masks made mandatory outdoors, bars to close at 11pm,” Times of Malta, October 16, 2020, https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/watch-livegovernment-announces-new-covid-19-measures.825187

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clubs, and increased fines for violating the program, despite the European Commission’s guidelines.52 A few weeks later, bars and social infringement proceedings against the country.59 clubs were completely closed.53 Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Abela On December 27, Malta received its has been criticized by medical professionals first shipment of 10,000 doses of Pfizer’s for prioritizing tourism and business when 60 COVID-19 vaccine.54 Malta’s distribution plan deciding to re-open the country. In August, firstly prioritizes frontline health care workers Abela was also criticized for taking a vacation followed by elderly residents of long-term to Sicily while his country faced its highest 61 care facilities.55 The government expects to ever increase in COVID-19 cases. achieve herd immunity, with two-thirds of the Nonetheless, Malta has much to look population vaccinated, by summer 2021 and forward to in the new year. Regarding the will be issuing vaccine passports so that travel Caruana Galizia investigation, the inquiry can be resumed.56 board is expected to finally release their report and Yorgen Fenech is expected to face A Year in Review trial.62 These developments should finally Malta began 2020 amid a constitutional shed light on the facts of the murder and crisis. The tenure of Prime Minister Joseph bring those involved to justice. The European Muscat was marked by accusations of Commission’s infringement proceedings will corruption, the aftermath of the Caruana Galiza also decide the fate of the golden passport murder, and poor relations with the European program, a decision that will shape Malta’s Union.57 Muscat’s resignation in January was relationship with the European Union going therefore an opportunity for Malta to switch forward. Regarding the end of the COVID-19 course. pandemic, Malta should be able to quickly However, the new Prime Minister, distribute vaccines, due to its small population, Robert Abela, seems to have continued and return to normal by the summer. 2021, Muscat’s policies. Although he has allowed the therefore, has the potential to be a decisive inquiry board to investigate Caruana Galizia’s year for the future of Malta. murder, he has not completely cooperated with the board’s requested timeline.58 Abela has also continued to defend the golden passport 52 Ibid. 53 Laura Calleja, “COVID-19: Bars, clubs to remain closed, Robert Abela says,” Malta Today, November 25, 2020, https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/106132/covid19_bars_clubs_to_remain_closed_robert_ abela_says#.X-pxNOlKjpB 54 Matthew Vella, “COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Malta, Abela heralds ‘return to normality,’” Malta Today, December 26, 2020, https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/ national/106712/covid19_vaccine_arrives_in_malta_in_ hope_for_end_to_pandemic_fatigue#.X-flOelKjpA 55 Ibid. 56 Ibid. 57 “Joseph Muscat named ‘man of the year’ for corruption,” Times of Malta, December 27, 2019, https:// timesofmalta.com/articles/view/journalists-name-josephmuscat-man-of-the-year-for-corruption.759807 58 Martin.

59 “Abela reacts as EU confirms legal action over Malta, Cyprus ‘golden passports.’” 60 Vassallo. 61 Matthew Vella, “Abela holidays in Sicily. But in Ireland, COVID-19 trip costs tourism chief his job,” Malta Today, August 15, 2020, https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/ news/national/104202/abela_holidays_in_sicily_but_in_ireland_covid19_trip_costs_tourism_chief_his_job#.X-1FqelKjpB 62 Ivan Martin, “Yorgen Fenech’s trial still ‘two to four years’ away,” Times of Malta, September 15, 2020, https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/yorgen-fenechs-trialstill-two-to-four-years-away.818155 222


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MOLD OVA SAARAH KHAN

A

fter experiencing a series of politicallytumultuous events in 2019, the people of Moldova probably expected a return to normalcy.[i] However, even without reckoning the COVID-19 pandemic, this past year has provided another major upheaval in Moldovan governance. A presidential election scheduled for November of 2020 set the tone for the divisive politics that unfolded throughout the year.[ii] The 2020 election, right off the back of 2019’s constitutional crises,[iii] pitted familiar rivals President Igor Dodon and Maia Sandu against one another.[iv] The key distinction between the two candidates can be seen in their stance on Moldova’s integration with the European Union (EU) – the incumbent, Dodon, favours Russian leadership while the challenger, Sandu, prefers a pro-EU position.[v]

As a nation steeped in poverty, Moldova greatly benefits from its preference in allies. Additionally, Moldova must maintain a fragmented ethnic polity that is split between the Romanianspeaking crowd which favours the EU and the breakaway nation of Transnistria that has yet to be granted legitimacy on an international scale.[vi] Hence, Moldova demands a patron who is capable of aiding the development of the Moldovan economy and helping unite a divided nation. Thus, when the people of Moldova voted Sandu as the Presidentelect on the 15th of November, they simultaneously chose the EU as Moldova’s ally.[vii] By building on the ongoing efforts of the EU Eastern Partnership program, which aims to integrate former Soviet Republics, Moldova could quickly become a “success-story” with greater regional stability and prosperity.[viii] Despite being sworn into office on

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the 24th of December, at the very end of the year, chances of electoral success. Sandu’s victory was an important highlight of 2020 Sandu’s experience as a former Prime and has enduring implications for Moldova’s future Minister and the current leader of the liberal relationship with the EU.[ix] Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) defined her 2020 Presidential Election: A Referendum on as strong opposition against Dodon from the European Integration inception of her campaign.[xix] She promised to With 57.75 percent of the fight corruption by first reforming the judicial popular vote,[x] Maia Sandu won Moldova’s system, and then dissolving the parliament [xx] 2020 presidential election and was thereby which she deemed to be illegitimate. She granted the honour of becoming the country’s was a strong critic of Dodon’s myopic focus on first female President.[xi] A closer analysis of building relations with Russia, and especially the electoral results distinguishes the election of his Socialist handling of the spread of [xxi] as a referendum on Moldova’s integration into COVID-19 in Moldova. The failed attempt of Dodon’s administration in compensating the EU. for the economic damage of the pandemic, The first round of voting occurred on the encouraged Sandu to spearhead a campaign 1st of November, and even though none of the that emphasized the importance of bolstering candidates managed to secure a majority vote, the Moldovan economy.[xxii] Her tactic was the results of this round were still noteworthy. effective as most Moldovans showed “concern [xii] Sandu won a total of 36.16 percent of the about the economic consequences of the virus,” votes as compared to Dodon’s total of 32.66 and saw better economic prospects in aligning percent of the votes – she publicly attributed with the Western European Union rather than her significant three-point lead to the mass Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union.[xxiii] Thus, mobilization of Moldovans in diasporas.[xiii] Sandu’s push for a more liberal, pro-European Characterised as a pro-European crowd, the approach in Moldovan governance resonated Moldovan diaspora is a key constituency – with the people on a fundamental front – with around 1 million in number, they form economy. about a third of the Moldovan population. [xiv] To effectively reach the electorate and As they have a large role in sustaining the Moldovan economy – the value of remittances bypass Moldova’s partisan media, Sandu had [xxiv] There from the Moldovan diaspora reached a record- to employ the use of social media. high of 135 million USD in May 2020,[xv] thus has been an increased concentration of media making remittances “worth more to Moldova ownership and propaganda in Moldova [xxv] – the than exports”[xvi] – they are also highly invested since the political instabilities of 2019 non-profit organization Freedom House ranks in politics back home. More than 70 percent of these Moldovans living across Europe and Moldova rather poorly in its independence Russia reportedly voted for Sandu, greatly of media, with a score of 3 out of 7 points. [xxvi] Since Moldovan broadcast media is now boosting her chances of victory.[xvii] This figure largely controlled by associates close to Dodon, can be compared with the meagre 3.59 percent of votes that Dodon received from Moldovans its content reflects his political ambitions by [xxvii] abroad.[xviii] This strong diasporic support for widely circulating anti-West news stories. Sandu is worth looking at in deeper focus – Therefore, Dodon was tacitly endorsing the it is the result of Sandu’s successful campaign use of Russian soft power in growing his restrategies and perseverance in the face of election support base. Dodon’s meaningful attempts at impeding her Yet, Sandu overcame this hurdle 225


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with a highly successful campaign on social media that managed to mobilise the diasporic Moldovans and increase voter turnout, despite pandemic restrictions on movement.[xxviii] In fact, she turned this implicit obstruction from Dodon on its head as she further warned that she would have “zero tolerance for the fraud of the popular will,” [xxix] referencing his alleged past election tactics i.e., in the 2019 parliamentary elections, Dodon was accused of bussing in pro-Russian voters from the Transnistria region.[xxx] For her part, Sandu reiterated her faith in Moldova’s democratic institutions in her attempt to quell concerns of cyber-hacking and Russian interference in the election.[xxxi] By navigating through Moldova’s erratic political terrain, Sandu showed her constituency the strength of her resolve in fighting corruption and achieving necessary reforms. Therefore, when the run-off election was held on the 15th of November between the two leading candidates, Sandu won by a landslide.[xxxii] She also reportedly garnered around 93% of the Moldovan diaspora’s vote in this second round of voting.[xxxiii] It is worth further exploring the two main assets to her victory – Dodon’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and Sandu’s determinedly firm proEU stance. Political Manoeuvres Under the Guise of COVID-19

The Moldovan government’s handling of the pandemic was a microcosm for the proposed future of EU-Moldovan relations, as promised by Dodon and Sandu’s electoral campaigns. Soon after Moldova had recorded its first case of COVID-19 in March of this year, the EU and Russia both extended their help.[xxxiv] The EU began by providing aid and assistance to Moldova’s public health sector to control the spread of the virus. On the 27th of March 2020, the EU stated its intention to grant assistance worth 30 million EUR to the

members of its Eastern Partnership program, including Moldova.[xxxv] In May 2020, the EU agreed to provide a macro-financial assistance package worth 100 million .[xxxvi] The package was meant to alleviate the economic strain that had been incurred by Moldova’s private sector. [xxxvii] Later in the year, the EU Ambassador to the Republic of Moldova, Peter Michalko, personally handed over a consignment of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) worth 1.1 million EUR to Moldova’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection.[xxxviii] The EU’s steady support throughout the start of the pandemic was publicly appreciated by Moldova’s Prime Minister Ion Chicu who “thank[ed] the EU and World Health Organization (WHO) from [his] heart for the solidarity gesture.”[xxxix] On the other hand, Russian efforts were also concerned with the spread of the pandemic in Moldova. In April 2020, Dodon claimed that he had acquired a 200 million EUR loan from Russia.[xl] Adrian Candu, the leader of the Pro Moldova Party and a former speaker of the Moldovan parliament, claimed that “the loan [had] been like a unicorn” as “no one [knew] who negotiated the deal and under what mandate.”[xli] Although clearly a pro-EU supporter, Candu’s remarks about Moldova’s need for external resources to “get through the crisis” were significant as they set the stage for Russian intervention in Moldova’s handling of the pandemic.[xlii] While this 200 million EUR loan was quickly deemed unconstitutional by Moldova’s top court in May, the Russian government continued to exert their influence in the country through other means.[xliii] Russian leadership used the pandemic as an opportunity to undermine the proWestern position in Moldova by spreading disinformation about the EU’s COVID-19 relief efforts.[xliv] The Moldovan broadcast media actively circulated pro-Moscow propaganda, which falsely suggested that the EU was an

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unreliable partner, that it was beleaguered by the pandemic, and that it could not sustain relief to its Eastern Partners.[xlv] None of the Moldovan authorities took any measures to curb the heavy influence of Russian-language press as it was promoting their political agendas.[xlvi] In September 2020, Moldova opened its border with Russia, despite a lack of respite in COVID cases.[xlvii] Then in October 2020, Dodon stated in a public interview that he was hopeful that Moldova would receive the Russian vaccine against Coronavirus by the end of the year, and that when the vaccine would arrive, he would be willing to try it out first.[xlviii] Thus, it can be inferred that Dodon’s handling of the pandemic not only meant to instil pro-Russian solidarity, but also sought to directly degrade EU-Moldovan relations. A New Chapter in EU-Moldovan Relations

Not only does Sandu’s victory represent the Moldovan people’s willingness to seek greater integration with the European Union, but it also comes at an opportune time as one of the key pieces of EU-Moldovan legislation had been coming to an end in 2020.[xlix] The Council of Europe’s (CoE) Action Plan for the Republic of Moldova was a three-year plan that had been adopted in 2017.[l] It sought to align Moldova’s legislative frameworks, and democratic institutions more closely with the EU’s standards.[li] The action plan showed that bilateral relations between Moldova and the EU had superseded mere cooperation, as there had been economic and political integration as well. Thus, with Sandu’s promised proWestern reforms in place, Moldova can hope to see their relationship with the EU thrive. Yet, had Dodon been re-elected, it would have entailed greater Russian influence in the country – something that he had implied on numerous occasions.

towards Russian leadership.[lii] In interviews conducted in the first half of 2020, Dodon tried to characterise his foreign policy as being balanced – with equal deference given to Brussels as well as to Moscow.[liii] For example, in February of 2020, he stated that if the EU wanted to become a more significant actor in the international system, they would need the help of Russia.[liv] Later that month, he accused EU ambassadors to Moldova of hindering EU-Moldovan relations, as they had allegedly “prioritised links with opposition leaders rather than the current administration.”[lv] However, his actions in the second half of 2020 contradict his previously-stated foreign policy. Even after he lost the presidential election in November 2020, he continued to assert his dominance in Moldova’s parliament as his party voted to strip the incoming President of the power of controlling the Moldovan state security.[lvi] The move was approved by 51 votes in favour in the 101-seat parliament.[lvii] It is this deep-seated disregard for the rule of law exhibited by Dodon, which encouraged his political opponents to voice their support for pro-European candidates like Maia Sandu ahead of the election.[lviii]

Calling herself the “President of European integration”, Sandu is self-assuredly a key asset in improving prospective EUMoldovan relations.[lix] She promises to liberalize Moldova, while maintaining a practical working relationship with Russian leadership – an example of a balanced foreign policy.[lx] Nicu Popescu, a former Moldovan minister for foreign affairs claimed that Sandu would have work hard to inculcate good relations with its neighbours, Romania and Ukraine as well, whom Moldova had isolated from during the Dodon-administration.[lxi] It is this balanced outlook, which advocates decent living income for its citizens and Clearly, the biggest threat to EU- freedom of political beliefs and expression, Moldovan relations was posed by former that had initially drawn Moldovans to Sandu’s president Igor Dodon’s political favouritism campaign and still continues to maintain 227


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA Need to Know,” October 29, 2020. her importance in bettering the prospects of [lxii] [vi] “Moldova Country Profile,” BBC News (BBC, Moldovan civil society. November 17, 2020), https://www.bbc.com/news/ world-europe-17601580.

Year in Review

The combined forces of the 2020 presidential election and unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic threw the existing inadequacies of Moldova’s government into sharp relief. More glaring, however, was the Moldovan people’s desire to settle the country’s constant back and forth between Russian and the EU. Their response? Electing Maia Sandu as the Republic of Moldova’s newly, liberal President. With promises to establish reforms to judicial and regulatory frameworks, Sandu is the ideal candidate for steering Moldova toward greater regional prosperity and political stability. She has proven her resilience in fighting a strong campaign against a long-time incumbent president, one who had obstructed her path to victory. Although her term is still young, Sandu’s victory can also usher in a golden era for EU-Moldovan relations – while she possesses a more pragmatic and balanced foreign policy than Dodon did, she still prioritises greater European integration. Notes

[vii] Madalin Necsutu, “Pro-EU Candidate Wins Landslide Victory in Moldovan Presidential Race,” Balkan Insight, November 16, 2020, https:// balkaninsight.com/2020/11/16/pro-eu-candidatewins-landslide-victory-in-moldovan-presidentialrace/. [viii] Armand Gosu, “Maia Sandu: Common Sense Prevails in Moldova,” Middle East Institute, November 25, 2020, https://www.mei.edu/ publications/maia-sandu-common-sense-prevailsmoldova.

[ix] “Moldova’s Pro-EU President Sandu Sworn In,” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty (Moldova’s Pro-EU President Sandu Sworn In, December 24, 2020), https:// www.rferl.org/a/moldova-s-pro-eu-president-sandusworn-in/31017177.html. [x]

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1182736/moldovapresidential-election-results/

[xi] Gosu, “Maia Sandu: Common Sense Prevails in Moldova,” November 25, 2020. [xii] Orlando Crowcroft, “Moldova Presidential Election Has Sandu Ahead of Dodon in First Round,” euronews, November 2, 2020, https://www.euronews. com/2020/11/01/moldova-presidential-election-headsto-runoff-with-no-winner-in-first-round. [xiii] Madalin Necsutu, “Pro-European Maia Sandu Wins First Round of Moldova Election,” Balkan Insight, November 2, 2020, https://balkaninsight.com/2020/11/02/proeuropean-maia-sandu-wins-first-round-of-moldovaelection/.

[i] Emma Beswick, “Moldova Political Crisis: How Did [xiv] Necsutu, “Pro-European Maia Sandu Wins First Round of Moldova Election,” November 2, 2020. We Get Here?,” euronews, June 12, 2019, https://www. euronews.com/2019/06/11/how-did-the-political-crisis- [xv] Madalin Necsutu, “Moldovan President Slams Diaspora in-moldova-unfold-and-what-happens-next. for Voting for Rival,” Balkan Insight, November 4, 2020, https://balkaninsight.com/2020/11/03/moldovan[ii] Orlando Crowcroft, “Moldova Elections: Everything president-slams-diaspora-for-voting-for-rival/. You Need to Know,” euronews, October 29, 2020, h t t p s : / / w w w. e u ro n e w s . c o m / 2 0 2 0 / 1 0 / 2 9 / [xvi] Ernest Bunguri, “Moldova: How the Diaspora Keeps moldova-s-election-will-be-bitter-divisive-andEurope’s Poorest Nation Afloat,” euronews, November 15, very-very-close-here-s-what-you-need-to-kno. 2020, https://www.euronews.com/2020/11/15/moldovahow-the-diaspora-of-europe-s-poorest-nation-keeps-its[iii] Beswick, “Moldova Political Crisis: How Did We economy-afloat. Get Here?,” June 12, 2019. [iv] Cristina Gherasimov and Vadim Pistrinciuc, “POLICY BRIEF: The 2020 Presidential Elections: Key Challenges for the Electoral Process in Moldova,” IPRE POLICY BRIEF The 2020 Presidential Elections Key challenges for the electoral process in Moldova Comments, April 28, 2020, http://ipre. md/2020/04/28/policy-brief-the-2020-presidentialelections-key-challenges-for-the-electoral-processin-moldova/?lang=en. [v] Crowcroft, “Moldova Elections: Everything You

[xvii] Necsutu, “Moldovan President Slams Diaspora for Voting for Rival,” November 4, 2020. [xviii]Necsutu, “Moldovan President Slams Diaspora for Voting for Rival,” November 4, 2020.

[xix] Crowcroft, “Moldova Elections: Everything You Need to Know,” October 29, 2020. [xx] “Moldova’s President-Elect Sandu Demands Dissolution of Parliament,” TASS, December 4, 2020, https://tass.com/ world/1231247.

228


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA [xxi] Andrey Pertsev, “Maia Sandu’s Victory What You Need about-us/partners/news/news/2020/8/who,-euto Know about Moldova’s 2020 Elections and First Woman supply-critical-covid-19-equipment-to-the-republicPresident,” trans. Eilish Hart, Meduza, November 16, 2020, of-moldova. https://meduza.io/en/feature/2020/11/16/maia-sandu-s[xxxvi] “Moldova,” European Commission victory. European Commission, December 7, 2020, [xxii] Crowcroft, “Moldova Elections: Everything You Need to https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economyKnow,” October 29, 2020. euro/economic-and-fiscal-policy-coordination/ international-economic-relations/enlargement-and[xxiii] Crowcroft, “Moldova Elections: Everything You Need neighbouring-countries/neighbouring-countriesto Know,” October 29, 2020. eu/neighbourhood-countries/moldova_en. [xxiv] Crowcroft, “Moldova Elections: Everything You Need [xxxvii] Anna Akhalkatsi, Filip Jolevski, And Natasha to Know,” October 29, 2020. Rovo, “The Growing Impact of COVID-19 on [xxv] Cornelia Cozonac and Angela Gramada, “How Russia’s Moldova’s Private Sector,” World Bank Blogs, Soft Media Power Is Battling for Moldovan Minds,” July 13, 2020, https://blogs.worldbank.org/ euronews, October 5, 2020, https://www.euronews. europeandcentralasia/growing-impact-covid-19com/2020/10/05/how-russia-s-soft-media-power-ismoldovas-private-sector. battling-for-moldovan-minds. [xxxviii] “WHO, EU Supply Critical COVID-19 [xxvi] Victor Gotisan, “Moldova,” Freedom House, accessed Equipment to the Republic of Moldova,” August 10, December 30, 2020, https://freedomhouse.org/country/ 2020. moldova/nations-transit/2020. [xxxix] “WHO, EU Supply Critical COVID-19 [xxvii] Cozonac and Gramada, “How Russia’s Soft Media Equipment to the Republic of Moldova,” August 10, Power Is Battling for Moldovan Minds,” October 5, 2020. 2020. [xxviii] Crowcroft, “Moldova Elections: Everything You Need [xl] Andrian Candu, “Andrian Candu: Moldova’s to Know,” October 29, 2020. Future Is Being Put on the Line by a Trojan Loan from Moscow ǀ View,” euronews, May 4, 2020, https:// [xxix] Madalin Necsutu, “Belarus Should Be ‘Warning www.euronews.com/2020/05/04/andrian-candufor Moldova’ Ahead of Presidential Election,” moldova-s-future-is-being-put-on-the-line-by-aeuronews, September 28, 2020, https://www. trojan-loan-from-moscow-view. euronews.com/2020/09/25/belarus-should-bea-warning-for-moldova-ahead-of-election-says- [xli] Candu, “Andrian Candu: Moldova’s Future Is presidential-hopeful-maia-s. Being Put on the Line by a Trojan Loan from Moscow ǀ View,” May 4, 2020. [xxx] Gosu, “Maia Sandu: Common Sense Prevails in Moldova,” November 25, 2020. [xlii] Candu, “Andrian Candu: Moldova’s Future Is Being Put on the Line by a Trojan Loan from Moscow [xxxi] Madalin Necsutu, “Concern over Moldova Cyber ǀ View,” May 4, 2020. Security As Election Looms,” Balkan Insight, October 28, 2020, https://balkaninsight.com/2020/10/28/ [xliii] “Moldovan Court Rules Russian Loan Violates concern-over-moldova-cyber-security-as-electionLaw,” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty (Moldovan looms/. Court Rules Russian Loan Violates Law, May 7, 2020), https://www.rferl.org/a/moldova-court[xxxii] Madalin Necsutu, “Pro-EU Candidate Wins rules-russian-loan-violates-law/30599792.html. Landslide Victory in Moldovan Presidential Race,” November 16, 2020. [xliv] Madalin Necsutu, “COVID-19 Provides New Material for Russian Anti-EU Disinformation,” [xxxiii] Vladimir Socor, “Fractured Moldova’s Balkan Insight, September 22, 2020, https:// Presidential Election Decided by European Diaspora balkaninsight.com/2020/09/22/covid-19-providesVote,” Jamestown, November 17, 2020, https:// new-material-for-russian-anti-eu-disinformation/. jamestown.org/program/fractured-moldovaspresidential-election-decided-by-european- [xlv] Necsutu, “COVID-19 Provides New Material for diaspora-vote/. Russian Anti-EU Disinformation,” September 22, 2020. [xxxiv] “COVID-19 Cases Rising in Moldova, Seen as ‘Out of Control’,” U.S. News & World Report (U.S. [xlvi] Necsutu, “COVID-19 Provides New Material for News & World Report, June 8, 2020), https://www. Russian Anti-EU Disinformation,” September 22, usnews.com/news/world/articles/2020-06-08/ 2020. covid-19-cases-rising-in-moldova-seen-as-out-of[xlvii] “Moldova Opens Border for Citizens of Russia control. and Some Other Countries,” TASS, September 1, [xxxv] “WHO, EU Supply Critical COVID-19 2020, https://tass.com/world/1195829. Equipment to the Republic of Moldova,” World “Молдова Рассчитывает До Конца Health Organization (World Health Organization, [xlviii] Года Получить Российскую Вакцину От August 10, 2020), https://www.euro.who.int/en/ Коронавируса,” Point.md, October 19, 2020, 229


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[lxii] Tidey, “Moldova: Sandu Is President, but the Battle for Power Has Only Begun,” November 16, 2020.

[xlix] “Council of Europe Action Plan for the Republic of Moldova 2017-2020,” Council of Europe Office in Chisinau, accessed December 30, 2020, https:// www.coe.int/en/web/chisinau/action-plan. [l] “Council of Europe Action Plan for the Republic of Moldova 2017-2020,” accessed December 30, 2020.

[li] “Council of Europe Action Plan for the Republic of Moldova 2017-2020,” accessed December 30, 2020. [lii] Ramona Strugariu, “Why Moldova Belongs in the European Union,” The Parliament Magazine, June 30, 2020, https://www.theparliamentmagazine. eu/news/article/why-moldova-belongs-in-theeuropean-union. [liii] Orlando Crowcroft, “‘Europe Can Only Be Stronger with Russia,’ Claims Moldova’s President,” euronews, February 14, 2020, https://www. euronews.com/2020/02/14/europe-can-only-bestronger-with-russia-claims-moldova-s-president. [liv] Crowcroft, “‘Europe Can Only Be Stronger with Russia,’ Claims Moldova’s President,” February 14, 2020.

[lv] Orlando Crowcroft, “European Ambassadors ‘Blocking’ Closer Ties between EU and Moldova,” euronews, February 20, 2020, https://www. euronews.com/2020/02/18/europeanambassadors-blocking-closer-ties-between-eu-andmoldova-says-president-igor-dodon.

[lvi] “Thousands Protest after Moldova’s New President Stripped of Key Power,” euronews, December 3, 2020, https://www.euronews.com/2020/12/03/ t h o u s a n d s - p ro t e s t - a f t e r- m p s - v o t e - t o - s t r i p moldova-s-new-pro-eu-president-of-key-power. [lvii] “Thousands Protest after Moldova’s New President Stripped of Key Power,” December 3, 2020. [lviii] Strugariu, “Why Moldova Belongs in the European Union,” June 30, 2020.

[lix] Deutsche Welle (www.dw.com), “Moldova’s Maia Sandu: ‘I Want to Be the President of European Integration’: DW: 30.12.2020,” DW.COM, December 30, 2020, https://www.dw.com/en/moldovasm a i a - s a n d u - i - w a n t - t o - b e - t h e - p re s i d e n t - o f european-integration/a-56089364. [lx] Deutsche Welle (www.dw.com), “Moldova’s Maia Sandu: ‘I Want to Be the President of European Integration’: DW: 30.12.2020,” December 30, 2020.

[lxi] Alice Tidey, “Moldova: Sandu Is President, but the Battle for Power Has Only Begun,” euronews, November 16, 2020, https://www.euronews. com/2020/11/16/moldova-pro-western-maiasandu-won-the-presidency-but-the-battle-forpower-is-only-just-be. 230


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Balkan Insight, November 16, 2020. https:// euronews, balkaninsight.com/2020/11/16/pro- December 3, 2020. https://www.euronews. eu-candidate-wins-landslide-victory-incom/2020/12/03/thousands-protest-aftermoldovan-presidential-race/. mps-vote-to-strip-moldova-s-new-pro-euNecsutu, Madalin. “Pro-European Maia Sandu president-of-key-power. Wins First Round of Moldova Election.” Tidey, Alice. “Moldova: Sandu Is President, Balkan but the Battle for Power Has Only Begun.”

Insight, November 2, 2020. https:// euronews, November 16, 2020. https://www. balkaninsight.com/2020/11/02/proeuronews.com/2020/11/16/moldova-proeuropean-maia-sandu-wins-first-round-ofwestern-maia-sandu-won-the-presidencymoldova-election/. but-the-battle-for-power-is-only-just-be. Pertsev, Andrey. “Maia Sandu’s Victory What “WHO, EU Supply Critical COVID-19 You Need to Know about Moldova’s 2020 Equipment to the Republic of Moldova.” Elections and First Woman President.” World Health Translated by Eilish Hart. Meduza, Organization. World Health Organization, November 16, 2020. https://meduza.io/ August 10, 2020. https://www.euro. en/feature/2020/11/16/maia-sandu-swho.int/en/about-us/partners/news/ victory. news/2020/8/who,-eu-supply-criticalService, RFE/RL’s Moldovan. “Moldova’s covid-19-equipment-to-the-republic-ofPro-EU President Sandu Sworn In.” moldova. RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Moldova’s “Молдова Рассчитывает До Конца Года Pro-EU President Sandu Sworn In, Получить Российскую Вакцину От December 24, 2020. https://www.rferl. Коронавируса.” org/a/moldova-s-pro-eu-president-sandu- Point.md, October 19, 2020. https://point. sworn-in/31017177.html. md/ru/novosti/obschestvo/moldovaSocor, Vladimir. “Fractured Moldova’s rasschityvaet-do-kontsa-goda-poluchitPresidential Election Decided by European rossiiskuiu-vaktsinu-ot-koronavirusa. Diaspora Vote.” Jamestown, November 17, 2020. https://jamestown.org/program/ fractured-moldovas-presidential-electiondecided-by-european-diaspora-vote/. Strugariu, Ramona. “Why Moldova Belongs in the European Union.” The Parliament Magazine, June 30, 2020. https://www. theparliamentmagazine.eu/news/article/ why-moldova-belongs-in-the-europeanunion. “Thousands Protest after Moldova’s New President Stripped of Key Power.” 233


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O

ver 2020, the main issue facing the principality of Monaco was the COVID-19 crisis. Monaco leveraged its unique relationship with France, by extension the EU, and de-facto membership of the Schengen Area to combat COVID-19’s adverse impacts. Expansion of the Monacan sports industry was another significant development that drew press attention, particularly relating to boat and car racing. Fiscal and monetary regulations reforming Monacan economic policy to conform to EU and global standards, particularly in the areas of taxes and banking secrecy, round out the major events of 2020. Their impact was felt in Monaco, and across other nations, so this report offers multiple viewpoints in the interest of a holistic media and policy analysis of the city-state over the year.

Faadil Butt

MO N AC O

COVID-19 The coronavirus pandemic reached Monaco through French workers in late February. All segments of society were infected, including Minister of State Serge Teller and Prince Albert II.1 Testing was first offered to all citizens, then noncitizen employees of Monacan industries, as the government began to take measures such as suspending sporting events (a relatively large revenue source) and restricting the vital tourism industry.2 1 “Covid-19: Monaco Invite Toute Sa Population À Se Faire Tester,” Le Figaro, May 15, 2020, https://www. lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/covid-19-monaco-invite-toute-sa-population-a-se-faire-tester-20200515. 2 “‘Coronavirus’ Impact On Sport - Timeline,” BBC, June 12, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/sport/51605235; Cassandra Tanti, “Prince Tests Positive For New Coronavirus,” Monaco Life, March 19, 2020, https://monacolife.net/ prince-tests-positive-for-new-coronavirus/.

Though lockdown measures were implemented, by June, the Monte Carlo Casino and AS Monaco

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Sports Industry Expansion

stringent COVID-19 testing measures and marked an effort to reopen some areas of the economy.3 The Grimaldi Forum, a major event and conference space, was given a “safe” status in July, that facilitated increased tourism. To promote the reopening, Visit Monaco released a video titled “Monaco Safe” to assuage pandemicrelated domestic and foreign fears.4 This effort was hampered when, in late July Princess Jazmin contracted the virus damaging the “Monaco Safe’’ image.5 Several cases among high-profile athletes and celebrities followed though it was disproportionate relative to total cases. The government reopened schools in September with careful measures, causing a short-term test shortage. Currently, the situation is relatively stable, with minimal hospitalizations and new cases.6

Over 2020, a major economic focuss been in the sports and entertainment industry. Formula One racing, in which several teams from Monaco compete have large support bases. The Monacobased Venturi team rose in prominence with new members and sponsors over the year, and plans were announced to host major races in the coming year. The Monaco Automobile Club will host three events, including the Historic Monaco Grand Prix in April, Monaco EPrix in May, and Formula One Grand Prix later that month. This promises to generate major revenues and attract teams and supporters from around the world.7

3 Reuters Staff, “The Chips Are Down As Monte Carlo Casino Reopens After Coronavirus Closure,” Reuters, June 5, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSL8N2DI4V0; “Coronavirus : Les Images Du Dépistage (Douloureux) Des Joueurs De Monaco - Ligue 1 - Football,” Le Figaro, June 22, 2020, https://sport24.lefigaro.fr/football/ ligue-1/actualites/coronavirus-les-images-du-depistage-douloureux-des-joueurs-de-monaco. 4 Ian Brodie, “Grimaldi Forum Wins ‘Monaco Safe’ Status,” Monaco Daily News, July 24, 2020, https://news. mc/2020/07/24/grimaldi-forum-wins-monaco-safe-status/; Martina Brodie, “‘Monaco Safe’ Video Promotes Glamour And Safety Of Principality,” July 27, 2020, Monaco Daily News, https://news.mc/2020/07/27/monaco-safe-video-promotes-glamour-and-safety-of-the-principality/. 5 Cassandra Tanti, “Prince’s Daughter Suffers Worsening Covid Symptoms,” Monaco Life, August 20, 2020, https://monacolife.net/princes-daughter-suffers-worsening-covid-symptoms/. 6 “Covid-19: Un Cas Détecté À L’as Monaco - Fil Info - Ligue 1 - Football,” Le FIgaro, August 21, 2020, https://sport24.lefigaro.fr/football/ligue-1/fil-info/covid-19un-cas-detecte-a-l-as-monaco-1011292; Cassandra Tanti, “Covid Latest: Tests In Short Supply, Labs Boost Capacity,” Monaco Life, August 29, 2020, https://monacolife.net/ covid-latest-tests-in-short-supply-labs-boost-capacity/; Cassandra Tanti, “Government Lays Out Plans Ahead Of School Reopenings,” Monaco Life, September 2, 2020, https:// monacolife.net/government-lays-out-plans-ahead-of-schoolreopenings/; Ian Brodie, “Monaco’s Coronavirus Situation Not Causing Concern,” Monaco Daily News, October 12, 2020, https://news.mc/2020/10/12/monacos-coronavirus-situation-not-causing-concern/.

Boat racing is also quite popular and lucrative in Monaco, given the high concentration of wealthy residents and tourists. Monacan sailing organizations consistently produce globally competitive teams and high-caliber events, taking advantage of Monaco’s costal Riviera location and superfluous supply of yachts. The global draw of these events provides a major advertising stage for Monacan businesses and the principality’s patronage of the arts.8 Financial and Economic Reform Monaco has been combating its historic reputation as a tax haven to further integrate into the international community. In recent years, agreements and treaties have been reached between Monaco and 7 Stephanie Horsman, “2021 To Be The Year Of Racing,” Monaco Life, May 20, 2020, https://monacolife. net/2021-to-be-the-year-of-racing/; Jack Brodie, “Venturi Racing Team Looking Forward to 2021 Season Challenge,” Monaco Daily News, August 25, 2020, https://news. mc/2020/08/25/venturi-racing-team-looking-forward-to2021-season-challenge/. 8 Staff writer, “Inter-Bank Sailing Challenge As Popular As Ever,” Monaco Life, March 25, 2018, https://monacolife.net/inter-bank-sailing-challenge-as-popular-as-ever/; Ian Brodie, “Monaco Yacht Brokers Offer Game-Changing Silent Yachts,” Monaco Daily News, November 21, 2019, https://news.mc/2019/11/21/monaco-yacht-brokersoffer-game-chamging-silent-yachts/; Stephanie Horsman, “Brutus Takes Out Monaco Sportsboat Winter Series,” Monaco Life, January 20, 2020, https://monacolife.net/brutus-takes-out-monaco-sportsboat-winter-series/.

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the European Union to increase financial transparency and combat criminal activity.9 Increasing Monacan compliance lead to a meeting between the German ambassador and Monacan economic stakeholders to discuss investments in Germany, opening new opportunities for Monaco.10 It also sent funding to European organizations for vaccine development to Combat COVID-19, among other collaborative initiatives.11 Despite progress, tensions rose when James Ratcliffe, the richest man from the United Kingdom, moved to Monaco to avoid taxes, complicating UK-Monaco relations and revealing the persistent problems with the Monacan zero-income taxes model.12

tries to distance itself from its clandestine past. Overall, Monaco was largely able to leverage its strengths and mitigate its weaknesses to increase ties with the EU. 2020 showed promise for future global collaboration in combatting COVID-19 and financial crime, in addition to a commitment to its cultural and sporting traditions.

Year In Review

As expected in 2020, Monacan headlines were dominated by the COVID-19 crisis. Disproportionate cases among Monaco’s high-profile residents hampered efforts to reopen the essential tourism industry. Monaco’s significant sporting history underwent several developments, as it looks to host high-profile events in the coming year. Fiscal and monetary regulations, though not always front-page headlines, showed progress and controversy as Monaco 9 “Monaco Takes Leading Role In Financial Crimes Course”, Monaco Life, November 5, 2017, https://monacolife.net/monaco-takes-leading-role-in-financial-crimescourse/; “Monaco’s Cross-Border Tax Agreement Approved,” Monaco Life, October 11, 2016, https://monacolife. net/monacos-cross-border-tax-agreement-approved/. 10 “Germany Shows Its Strengths At Ambassador’S Lunch,” Monaco Life, February 25, 2018, https://monacolife.net/germany-shows-its-strengths-at-ambassadors-lunch/. 11 Ian Brodie, “EU And Monaco Discuss Monetary Issues,” Monaco Daily News, October 23, 2019, https:// news.mc/2019/10/23/eu-and-monaco-discuss-monetary-issues/; Ian Brodie, “Prince Albert Mobilises Monaco In Support Of Global Pledge,” Monaco Daily News, May 6, 2020, https://news.mc/2020/05/06/prince-albert-mobilises-monaco-in-support-of-global-pledge/. 12 “GB: Le Milliardaire Jim Ratcliffe, Fervent Défenseur Du Brexit, S’exile À Monaco,” Le Figaro, August 13, 2018, https://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-eco/2018/08/13/9700220180813FILWWW00123-gb-le-milliardaire-jim-ratcliffefervent-defenseur-du-brexit-s-exile-a-monaco.php.

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Bibliography BBC. “Coronavirus’ Impact On Sport - Timeline.” June 12, 2020.

Le Figaro. “Coronavirus : Les Images Du Dépistage (Douloureux) Des Joueurs De

https://www.bbc.com/sport/51605235.

Monaco - Ligue 1 - Football.” June 22, 2020. https://sport24. lefigaro.fr/football/ligue-1/actualites/coronavirus-lesimages-du-depistage-douloureux-des-joueurs-de-monaco.

Brodie, Ian. “EU And Monaco Discuss Monetary Issues.” Monaco Daily News,

Le Figaro. “GB: Le Milliardaire Jim Ratcliffe, Fervent Défenseur Du Brexit, S’exile À

October 23, 2019. https://news.mc/2019/10/23/eu-andmonaco-discuss-monetary-issues/.

Monaco.” August 13, 2018.

Brodie, Ian. “Grimaldi Forum Wins ‘Monaco Safe’ Status.” Monaco Daily News, July 24,

https://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-eco/2018/08/13/97002-20180813FILWWW00123-gb-le-milliardaire-jim-ratcliffe-fervent-defenseurdu-brexit-s-exile-a-monaco.php.

2020. https://news.mc/2020/07/24/grimaldi-forum-winsmonaco-safe-status/.

Monaco Life. “Germany Shows Its Strengths At Ambassador’s Lunch.” February 25, 2018.

Brodie, Ian. “Monaco’s Coronavirus Situation Not Causing Concern.” Monaco Daily News,

https://monacolife.net/germany-shows-its-strengths-atambassadors-lunch/.

October 12, 2020.

Monaco Life. “Monaco’s Cross-Border Tax Agreement Approved.” October 11, 2016.

https://news.mc/2020/10/12/monacos-coronavirussituation-not-causing-concern/.

https://monacolife.net/monacos-cross-border-taxagreement-approved/.

Brodie, Ian. “Monaco Yacht Brokers Offer Game-Changing Silent Yachts.” Monaco Daily News, November 21, 2019.

Monaco Life. “Monaco Takes Leading Role In Financial Crimes Course.” November 5, 2017.

https://news.mc/2019/11/21/monaco-yacht-brokers-offergame-chamging-silent-yachts/.

https://monacolife.net/monaco-takes-leading-role-infinancial-crimes-course/.

Brodie, Ian. “Prince Albert Mobilises Monaco In Support Of Global Pledge.” Monaco Daily

Monaco Life Staff. “Inter-Bank Sailing Challenge As Popular As Ever.” Monaco Life, March

News, May 6, 2020. https://news.mc/2020/05/06/princealbert-mobilises-monaco-in-support-of-global-pledge/.

25, 2018. https://monacolife.net/inter-bank-sailingchallenge-as-popular-as-ever/.

Brodie, Jack. “Venturi Racing Team Looking Forward to 2021 Season Challenge.” Monaco

Staff, Reuters. “The Chips Are Down As Monte Carlo Casino Reopens After Coronavirus

Daily News, August 25, 2020. https://news.mc/2020/08/25/ venturi-racing-team-looking-forward-to-2021-seasonchallenge/.

Closure.” Reuters, June 5, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/ article/idUSL8N2DI4V0.

Brodie, Martina. “‘Monaco Safe’ Video Promotes Glamour And Safety Of Principality.”

August 29, 2020.

Monaco Daily News, July 27, 2020. https://news.mc/2020/07/27/monaco-safe-video-promotesglamour-and-safety-of-the-principality/. Heslin, Nancy. “Monaco Minister Of Finance: NonResidentsAnd The Exchange Of Financial Information.” Monaco Life, February 1, 2017. https://monacolife.net/monaco-minister-of-financeexplains-automatic-exchange-of-financial-data/. Horsman, Stephanie. “2021 To Be The Year Of Racing.” Monaco Life, May 20, 2020. https://monacolife.net/2021-to-be-the-year-of-racing/. Horsman, Stephanie. “Brutus Takes Out Monaco Sportsboat Winter Series.” Monaco Life, January 20, 2020. https://monacolife.net/brutus-takes-outmonaco-sportsboat-winter-series/. Le Figaro. “Covid-19 : Monaco Invite Toute Sa Population À Se Faire Tester.” May 15,

Tanti, Cassandra. “Covid Latest: Tests In Short Supply, Labs Boost Capacity.” Monaco Life, https://monacolife.net/covid-latest-tests-in-short-supplylabs-boost-capacity/. Tanti, Cassandra. “Government Lays Out Plans Ahead Of School Reopenings.” Monaco Life, September 2, 2020. https://monacolife.net/government-lays-out-plans-aheadof-school-reopenings/. Tanti, Cassandra. “Prince’s Daughter Suffers Worsening Covid Symptoms.” Monaco Life, August 20, 2020. https://monacolife.net/princes-daughter-suffers-worseningcovid-symptoms/. Tanti, Cassandra. “Prince Tests Positive For New Coronavirus.” Monaco Life, March 19. 2020. https://monacolife.net/prince-tests-positive-for-newcoronavirus/.

2020.https://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/covid-19-monacoinvite-toute-sa-population-a-se-faire-tester-20200515.

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D I V YA J A G PA L

MONTENEGRO

T

he year 2019 has brought many new opportunities for Croatia to grow and expand not only its own personal agenda but the agenda Montenegro has been the in the process of becoming a member of the European Union for almost a decade now, and through its dedication has gotten the closest to becoming a part of the EU than any other candidate country. The parliamentary elections held this year brought a drastic change to Montenegro in that for the first time in three decades the opposition won the majority vote, putting an end to Milo Djukanovic’s thirty-year-rule over the country. Last but not least, Montenegro had to handle the coronavirus pandemic this year and although it did experience the impact of the disease it was able to control the spread fairly well.

with Montenegro had begun on June 29, 2012, and eight years later the country has officially opened it’s last of the 35 negotiation chapters at the EU-Montenegro Intergovernmental Conference in Brussels. This made Montenegro the first candidate country of the six Western Balkan countries to open all negotiating chapters. As part of the European Commission’s Economic & Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, Commission Spokesperson Ana Pisonero stated that the EU “is fully committed to further supporting Montenegro’s EU accession process.” Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, expects Montenegro to become a member of the EU by 2025. However, despite its progress in its EU accession process, the country still has a great deal of reforms it must implement Accession of Montenegro to the European before it can begin successfully closing all the chapters. Union Top EU officials have urged the new Montenegro has been in the process of becoming a part of the European Union (EU) Montenegrin government “to deepen and since 2008 when the new country first applied speed up political and economic reforms, for membership. The accession negotiations particularly on the rule of law area.” With regard to the parliamentary elections, the 238


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EU acknowledged that they were “managed transparently and peacefully,” however, the Commission also stated that the elections “took place in an environment highly polarized over issues of church, and national identity.” EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, has urged both Montenegro and Serbia to negotiate an acceptable solution to the matter stating that “we are interested in dialogue” and “if we could be of any help with that…we would be happy to help.” The Montenegrin government has also faced accusations of autocracy in the past, in order to begin resolving this matter Ana Pisonero states that the government must make further progress in its implementation of judicial reform in order to meet the criteria for Chapter 23. Pisonero says the problem lies in the fact that Montenegro’s judicial council reappointed Branko Vučković as the president of the Basic Court eight times in a row which raised concerns regarding judicial independence. The European Commission in its 2020 progress report also noted that there was a lack of media freedom in Montenegro and was concerned for the editorial independence and professional standards of the its national public broadcaster Radio Televizija Crne Gore. This is furthered by the polarizing widespread disinformation that followed the Law on freedom of religion. The 2020 report also stated that Montenegro had made no progress regarding freedom of expression citing the arrests and proceedings against citizens for the content the posted or shared online, while older cases remain unsolved including the 2004 murder of the editor-in-chief of a daily newspaper and the 2018 shooting of an investigative journalist. Additionally, the Commission urges Montenegro to make more progress in the area of fundamental human rights especially with regard to disadvantaged groups such as the Roma and Egyptians and people with disabilities. However, Montenegro did vote to change the status of same-sex

couples becoming the first country outside of Western Europe and the EU to legalize gay and lesbian couples. EU leaders welcomed this change and tweeted that Montenegro was affirming “European values.” Change in Parliament

On August 30th, 2020, Montenegro held its parliamentary elections which brought an end to the three decade rule of Milo Djukanovic and the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS). In its 30-year-rule the DPS led Montenegro through the partition of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the dissolution of its almost century-old State Union with Serbia in 2006, and even its accession into NATO. Despite being in power for decades, the DPS was only able to win 30 of the 81 seats in the Montenegrin parliament, which was not enough to win a majority. Whereas, the opposition, consisting of three blocs, were able to win a slender majority with 50.7 percent of the votes or 41 out of 81 seats and announced the formation of a coalition government. This new coalition government consists of three parties, the pro-Serbian For the Future of Montenegro led by Zdravko Krivokapic which won 27 seats, Peace is Our Nation led by Dritan Abazovic which won ten seats, and Black on White led by Aleksa Becic which won four seats. Since then Aleksa Becic was elected the head of parliament, and on December 4, Zdravko Krivokapic was elected prime minister by the Parliament of Montenegro. Krivokapic’s election marks the first time Montenegro has been run by a government not dominated by the DPS since 1991. The leaders of the new government have promised that they will continue to lead Montenegro on its pro-Western course and will thus strengthen the country’s ties with NATO whilst speeding up its accession into the European Union. Krivokapic also stated that his government will focus on reform and rule of law, this includes changes to the disputed

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Law on Religious Freedom which came into force on January 8, 2020. Also referred to as Article 62, this law requires that religious communities to prove ownership over property before 1918, and if they are unable to do so, the property will then belong to Montenegro. The Law caused tension between Montenegro and Serbia because it meant that the Serbian Orthodox Church would have to prove that it held rights to property such as medieval monasteries and churches before December 1, 1918, otherwise the buildings will become state property. Although Montenegro had separated from Serbia in 2006, many Montenegrins are followers of the Church and ethnic Serbs represent about 30 percent of the country’s population. The Serbian Orthodox Church and its supporters believe that the Law was “discriminatory and unconstitutional.” Article 62 therefore led to daily protests from Serbs and followers of the Church who wanted the Law to be annulled. Priests joined the protestors as they waved Serbian flags and church banners and chanted hymns as they made their way towards parliament in Podgorica. Although the protestors were met with riot police, Montenegrin police deny allegations that a Serbian Orthodox bishop was beaten with batons. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is concerned for the Serbian population in Montenegro as well as for the Serbian holy sites there, stating that “[the Montenegrin government] is stealing [the Serbian Orthodox] Church property.” While European Commission spokesperson Ana Pisonero tweeted regarding the situation, “The EU welcomes initiated dialogue…and calls on all political actors to show respect for the rule of law and democratic principles…” Handling the COVID-19 Pandemic,

The early firm action taken by Montenegro meant that initially the country was handling the pandemic fairly well, however it lost whatever advantage it had

due to its rapid lifting of restrictions. In Montenegro the first wave of the coronavirus had lasted between March and May, and in that time the country had 324 infections and four deaths. The Montenegrin government had declared the first wave an epidemic and imposed lockdown measures that included border closures, closing shops and hotels, closing schools and universities and prohibiting public gatherings and even intercity traffic. On May 25, then Prime Minister, Dusko Markovic declared that Montenegro was “corona free” and was the first covid-free country in Europe and lifted all of the measures that had been put in place. However, then on June 14, seven new cases of the coronavirus had been registered in the towns of Rozaje and Budva and as the numbers of cases continued to rise another epidemic was declared in the whole country and reintroduced restrictions. Despite its efforts, Montenegro had the secondhighest infection rate in Europe at the end of July and authorities admitted that it had the highest number of active cases per 100,000 of the population. The National Coordination Body for Infectious Diseases then made protective masks mandatory in all public places and public gatherings were limited to fifty people indoors, and one-hundred people outdoors. The new restrictions also included prohibiting sports events, political rallies and religious services in an attempt to contain the increase in new cases. Thus far, Montenegro has experienced 48, 247 total cases of the COVID-19 disease and 682 deaths. Despite these numbers, the EU has been satisfied with Montenegro’s response to the coronavirus crisis. At the 13th Subcommittee meeting between Montenegro and the European Union the Montenegrin government was commended for its decision to quickly adopt measures that would mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 as well as the economic consequences brought on by it. The EU also acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic

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had a large impact on the Montenegrin deal of progress in the upcoming years. economy stating that “the crisis has taken a heavy toll in the area of public finances as well – falling revenues and higher spending have led to larger deficits.” Furthermore, as with other Balkan countries, Montenegro relies on tourism for over 20% of its GDP. The EU thus, reallocated funds from approved Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) programs in order to provide Montenegro with a total of 53 million euros in order to support the country in its battle against the spread of the coronavirus and to reverse the economic consequences. In the meantime, Minister of Health in Montenegro government, Kenan Hrapović, has signed an agreement guaranteeing Montenegro will receive doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it becomes available. The Ministry of Health reported that Montenegro needs just under 250,000 doses which will be enough to cover 20 percent of the population. Hrapović has stated that procuring the vaccine will cost Montenegro a total of €2.163.000 or €8.84 per dose. Conclusion

Although the European Union has praised Montenegro for its dedication to becoming a member of the EU, the government has a great deal of reforms it must implement before it will be able to successfully close all of its negotiation chapters. However, the government has made progress this year and this can be seen in the vote to legally recognize same-sex couples. The new Montenegrin government has also displayed promising signs of change and this shows in the fact that Zdravko Krivokapic wishes to reform the polarizing Law on Religious Freedom. Regardless, the EU has provided Montenegro with a great deal of funding and support and so long as it can financially recover from the economic consequences of the pandemic the country has the potential to make a great a 241


Population: • 17,427,806 (opendata.cbs.nl)

• Unemployment rate: 4.4% (opendata.cbs.nl) GDP per capita: • $51,289.6 (USD, Oct. 2020 est) (imf.org) European Union: • founding member since 1952

NETHERL ANDS

Stuart Jones


2020

was a year of international adversity. As the Netherlands enters 2021, much uncertainty lies in the air on both the national and European stage. Netherlanders continue to sacrifice personal liberties in order to fend off the spread of the Coronavirus, although popular resistance to the government’s measures has been widespread; voters prepare to go to the polls in March of 2021 to elect new members of the Tweede Kamer, the state’s lower house of parliament; and throughout all these processes, national debates rage about the Dutch role and identity within the European Union (EU) and the international arena.

measures was strong; in the first weekend of the curfew, 435 fines were distributed to rulebreakers.4 The government’s app, like those of other countries, was designed to track community spread by monitoring both user-inputted and automatically-collected data on positive test results and proximity with other phones with the app. But it was far from perfect: by no means mandatory, only truly functional with widespread citizen participation and raising questions about digital privacy amidst the widened breadth of government surveillance capabilities.5 By the end of October, there were so many new cases per day that hospitals nationwide had to send patients across the border to Germany 2020: The “Coronajaar” where there were available ICU beds.6 On DecemThe Netherlands amassed international ber 14, after weeks of unmet targets and in prepaattention with its “intelligent lockdown” approach ration for the holiday season, the Torentje rolled to containing the Coronavirus in April, in a hybrid out a five-week “hard lockdown”, the most comattempt to keep parts of the economy and sociprehensive of The Hague’s containment policies to ety open and mitigate the high costs of absolute date. This was widely reported on, as it closed all 1 isolation. Despite comparatively lax restrictions schools and non-essential businesses until January on social behaviour, by June the Dutch economy 19th, including museums, stores, theaters, beauty was under significant strain, with an unemployparlors and more, and restricted indoor contact to ment rate almost twice as high as that of January just three people from outside each household.7 As 2020.2 Prime Minister Mark Rutte was forced in PM Mark Rutte said in his history-making address mid-October to expand to a “partial lockdown” 4 David van Unen, “Afgelopen weekend 435 coroafter a steep rise in cases in September, introducing naboetes uitgedeeld,” NRC, October 19, 2020, https://www. nrc.nl/nieuws/2020/10/19/coronablog-19-oktober-a4016492. the “CoronaMelder” app and a new curfew from 5 Nando Kasteleijn and Joost Schellevis, “CoronaMelder vandaag gelanceert, maar ‘app is geen 20:00-7:00, including a ban on public consumpwondermiddel,’” NOS, October 10, 2020, https:// tion of alcohol and soft drugs.3 Resistance to these nos.nl/artikel/2351727-coronamelder-vandaag-gelan1 Anna Holligan, “Coronavirus: Why Dutch lockdown may be a high-risk strategy”, BBC, April 4, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-52135814. 2 “CPB: ongekende krimp van 6 procent, werkloosheid verdubbelt,” NOS, June 16, 2020, https://nos.nl/ artikel/2337409-cpb-ongekende-krimp-van-6-procent-werkloosheid-verdubbelt.html. 3 “Grapperhaus: Gebruik van softdrugs op straat in avond en nacht wél verboden,” NU, October 19, 2020, https://www.nu.nl/coronavirus/6084969/grapperhaus-gebruik-van-softdrugs-op-straat-in-avond-en-nacht-wel-verboden.html.

ceerd-maar-app-is-geen-wondermiddel.html. 6 “Stretched Dutch hospitals to send COVID patients to Germany within days,” Reuters, October 22, 2020, https:// www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-netherlands-tally/stretched-dutch-hospitals-to-send-covid-patientsto-germany-within-days-idUSKBN2771SS?edition-redirect=ca. 7 “Harde lockdown van vijf weken, dit zijn de maatregelen,” RTL Nieuws, December 15, 2020, https:// www.rtlnieuws.nl/nieuws/politiek/artikel/5203135/ harde-lockdown-corona-van-vijf-weken-dit-zijn-de-maatregelen.


to the nation: “Nederland gaat op slot” (“the Neth- public about the virus evolved into distrust, disbeerlands is locked”).8 lief and eventually outright rejection by much of society of all the government’s actions and stateIt is fitting that during the video stream of ments on the pandemic. Criticism of the Prime Mr. Rutte’s December speech, hundreds of frusMinister’s evolving approach has come from both trated demonstrators protested outside the Binnensides of the political spectrum. While many claim hof in The Hague by clanging pots and pans and that restrictions such as the imposed 1.5-meter shouting “Nederland politiestaat!” (“the Nethsocial distancing are intrusive and should be done erlands is a police state”).9 Protests have been a away with, many still criticize the relatively weak constant aspect of the Dutch Coronavirus situation. hand of The Hague’s Coronavirus strategy, which Many media outlets in the conservative camp, as for example waited until December 1st to mandate well as politicians and citizens, call foul about the the wearing of masks in enclosed spaces.13 violation of fundamental personal freedoms in the government’s escalating restrictions on society.10 The future of Coronavirus in the NetherThe Viruswaarheid (“Virus Truth”) movement lands is far from certain. The government’s hard gained large traction online, responsible for prolockdown over the winter holidays has been called moting the popular social media trend “ik doe niet by some observers, and the Prime Minister, as the meer mee” (“I don’t participate anymore”).11 Such beginning of the end.14 This comes as vaccinations media presences became very popular over 2020, in the country begin on January 8th, starting with including Lange Frans and Robert Jensen, famous frontline medical workers and immuno-vulnerable for propagating conspiracy theories regarding the citizens.15 At the same time, however, the NethCoronavirus.12 Like in other countries, what started erlands ranks relatively high internationally for as a lack of credible information available to the scepticism towards taking the COVID-19 vaccine once available, with almost 30% of the population 8 “Rutte: ‘Nederland gaat op slot,’” De Telegraaf, December 14, 2020, https://www.telegraaf.nl/nieuresistant to the idea according to a survey of Busiws/880763108/rutte-nederland-gaat-op-slot. 16 9 Lamyae Aharouay and Stéphanie Alonso, “Neder- ness Insider conducted online across age groups. land gaat nu echt op slot,” NRC, December 14, 2020, https:// www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2020/12/14/nu-echt-op-slot-a4023866. 10 Jochem Westerhof, “Weerstand tegen coronamaatregelen is menselijke natuur,” De Volkskrant, November 2, 2020, https://www.volkskrant.nl/columns-opinie/ weerstand-tegen-coronamaatregelen-is-menselijke-natuur~b0ef6b11/?referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google. com%2F. 11 Rik Kuiper, “Actiegroep Viruswaarheid bracht BN’ers bij elkaar tegen coronamaatregelen,” De Volkskrant, September 22, 2020, https://www.volkskrant.nl/nieuws-achtergrond/actiegroep-viruswaarheid-bracht-bn-ers-bij-elkaar-tegen-coronamaatregelen~be5538eb/. 12 Tom Grosfeld, “Coronasceptisch of complotdenker: waar ligt de grens?” Het Parool, August 14, 2020, https:// www.parool.nl/ps/coronasceptisch-of-complotdenker-waarligt-de-grens~b3152915/?referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww. google.com%2F.

13 Valentijn Bartels, “Na 1 december geen mondkapje op? Eerst een waarschuwing,” De Telegraaf, November 28, 2020, https://www.telegraaf.nl/nieuws/989982811/na-1-december-geen-mondkapje-op-eerst-een-waarschuwing. 14 “De uitzending van 14 december: Harde lockdown / De Jonge over maatregelen / Duitse maatregelen,” NOS, December 14, 2020, https://nos.nl/nieuwsuur/artikel/2360588-de-uitzending-van-14-december-harde-lockdown-de-jonge-over-maatregelen-duitse-maatregelen.html. 15 “Nederland begint vaccinatie tegen corona 8 januari,” RTL Nieuws, December 17, 2020, https://www.rtlnieuws.nl/nieuws/nederland/artikel/5203827/begin-vaccinatienederland-8-januari-de-jonge-brief-kamer. 16 Isabella Jibilian, “3 grafieken die laten zien wat mensen uit verschillende landen denken over coronavaccins -- Nederlanders zijn behoorlijk sceptisch,” Business Insider Nederland, September 3, 2020, https://www.businessinsider. nl/covid-19-coronavirus-vaccin-weigeraars-nederland-vs-china/.


The prevalence of conspiracy theories certainly has an influential role in breeding vaccination doubts, but many Netherlanders, particularly on the sociopolitical right, are simply sceptical of its effectiveness and are resistant to centralized government vaccination plans.17

under fire from all directions on issues ranging from his administration’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic, to criticism of his green policies and lacklustre climate action, to calls for tighter restriction on immigration and stricter, more nationalistic assimilation policy.20

General Election of 2021

Far-right political outfits pose the biggest threat to Mr. Rutte’s incumbency, mobilizing off of increasingly more Eurosceptic, anti-immigration and anti-lockdown sentiments in Dutch society. While the traditional populist Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV, “Party for Freedom”) of Geert Wilders remains prominent in this regard, still constituting the leader of the opposition in the Tweede Kamer with 20 seats, the Forum voor Democratie (FvD, “Forum for Democracy”) led by Thierry Baudet received much more media attention in 2020.21 Having won the most amount of seats in the country’s senatorial elections for the Eerste Kamer in 2019, media outlets reported extensively on the resignation of Mr. Baudet from the FvD in November of 2020 due to controversial messages praising Nazi Germany uncovered between members of the party’s youth wing.22 He later stunned national media with his reelection as party leader in early December.23 Following the resignations of many

Amidst the turmoil caused by the Coronavirus and the rifts it dug in society, March of 2021 will see Dutch voters go to the polls to elect a new round of representatives in the Tweede Kamer of the States General, the nation’s bicameral parliament. In 2020, political parties workshopped and unveiled their lists of candidates who will compete for seats. A record total of 89 parties registered for the election, compared with 81 in the previous cycle in 2017.18 The most anticipated competition pins Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD, “People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy”), looking to secure a fourth consecutive term and cabinet in the Binnenhof, against opposition parties primarily from the populist right, but also independents, leftists and centrists.19 The contest will be an intense one; the governing coalition has lost much of the support with which they were able 20 “VVD nog lang niet zeker van verkiezingswinst,” to form a majority in 2017, as Mr. Rutte has come BNR, November 22, 2020, https://www.bnr.nl/nieuws/ 17 Frank van den Heuvel, “Weerstand tegen coronavaccin heeft niks van doen met Biblebelt of complottheorieën,” Nederlands Dagblad, December 7, 2020, https:// www.nd.nl/opinie/opinie/1006968/vaccinatie-vergt-vertrouwen. 18 “Record aantal (89) partijnamen geregistreerd voor Tweede Kamerverkiezing 2021,” Kies Raad, December 30, 2020, https://www.kiesraad.nl/ actueel/nieuws/2020/12/30/89-partijnamen-geregistreerd-voor-tweede-kamerverkiezing-2021. 19 Stephan Koole and Roel Schreinamachers, “Mark Rutte is eruit: hij wil door als VVD-lijsttrekker en premier,” RTL Nieuws, October 29, 2020, https://www.rtlnieuws.nl/ nieuws/politiek/artikel/5193455/mark-rutte-vvd-rutte-leiderschap-vvd-leider-premier.

politiek/10426762/vvd-nog-lang-niet-zeker-van-verkiezingswinst. 21 “Flamboyant populist leads the charge as Dutch go to vote,” EURACTIV, May 23, 2019, https://www.euractiv. com/section/eu-elections-2019/news/flamboyant-populistleads-the-charge-as-dutch-go-to-vote/. 22 Harm Ede Botje and Mischa Cohen, “Nazifoto’s geen bezwaar bij de jongeren van Forum van Democratie,” Het Parool, November 21, 2020, https://www. parool.nl/nederland/nazifoto-s-geen-bezwaar-bij-de-jongeren-van-forum-voor-democratie~b634560c/?referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F. 23 “Thierry Baudet wins popular vote to stay on as leader of far right FvD,” Dutch News, December 4, 2020, https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2020/12/thierry-baudet-


of the party’s prominent members, including its representatives in the European Parliament, 2021 will see Mr. Baudet hurriedly compose his party’s list of candidates for the Tweede Kamer -- due by February 1st -- and battle for support in the run-up to the general election.24

like many competing parties has put forward a great deal of new faces hoping to make their mark on the ballot and gain influence in the Tweede Kamer.28 Carola Schouten, like De Jonge, will step aside the CU leadership as Gert-Jan Segers heads into the election as the party’s head candidate.29

Other minority parties, such as GroenLinks (GL), the Socialist (SP) and Labour (PvdA) Parties received overall less media coverage in 2020, expected to play yet again smaller opposition roles in the seat allocation in March.25 The VVD’s incumbent coalition partners seek to realize more seat acquisition in hopes to hold more sway over the policies to come out of The Hague. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Kajsa Ollongren heads the race for the liberal party Democrats 66 (D66).26 Hugo de Jonge, also Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health, became a familiar face for Netherlanders in 2020 with his prominent role in Coronavirus briefings and parliamentary debates. He handed over leadership of his party Christen-Democratisch Appèl (CDA, “Christian Democratic Appeal”) to Wopke Hoekstra, currently the Minister of Finance, who will lead candidates of the centrist party into the election.27 ChristenUnie (CU, “Christian Union”), the third coalition partner currently in government,

At the heart of the electoral discourse is COVID-19; not just on policy of the politicians and the ruling coalition that will be produced, but also on voter safety. Media in 2020 were already reporting on the necessary measures to be installed in polling stations to ascertain the health safety as well as cybersecurity of the Dutch voting infrastructure.30 Minister Kajsa Ollongren has advocated, with considerable media attention, to spread election day, scheduled for March 17th, across the 15th and 16th as well, and to allow mail-in votes for citizens of 70 years and older (currently only citizens living abroad can do so).31

wins-popular-vote-to-stay-on-as-leader-of-far-right-fvd/. 24 Eline Schaart, “Baudet faces task of rebuilding Dutch far-right party after reelection,” POLITICO, December 7, 2020, https://www.politico.eu/article/baudet-resumes-roleof-dutch-far-right-party-in-shambles/. 25 Pim van den Dool, “In diep verdeelde SP is leiderschap Marijnissen niet meer onomstreden,” NRC, December 12, 2020, https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2020/12/12/ in-diep-verdeelde-sp-is-leiderschap-marijnissen-niet-meer-onomstreden-a4023627. 26 “Ollongren bij Kamerverkiezingen lijstduwer D66,” NOS, December 18, 2020, https://nos.nl/artikel/2361122-ollongren-bij-kamerverkiezingen-lijstduwer-d66. html. 27 “Wopke Hoekstra wordt lijsttrekker van het CDA,” NOS, December 11, 2020, https://nos.nl/artikel/2360255-wopke-hoekstra-wordt-lijsttrekker-van-het-cda.html.

28 Bart Zuidervaart, “De ChristenUnie gaat met nieuwgezichten naar de verkiezingen,” Trouw, October 11, 2020, https://www.trouw.nl/politiek/de-christenunie-gaat-met-nieuwegezichten-naar-de-verkiezingen~b742b5ef/?referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F. 29 Hanneke Keultjes, “Schouten op nummer 2 ChristenUnie-kandidatenlijst, veel nieuwkomers in top5,” AD, October 9, 2020, https://www.ad.nl/politiek/ schouten-op-nummer-2-christenunie-kandidatenlijst-veel-nieuwkomers-in-top-5~abd64ede/. 30 “Extra controle nodig bij stemmen tellen Tweede Kammerverkiezingen,” NOS, November 9, 2020, https://nos. nl/artikel/2355904-extra-controle-nodig-bij-stemmen-tellen-tweede-kamerverkiezingen.html. 31 Albert Simons, “Nog veel werk te doen voor ‘coronaproof’ Tweede Kamerverkiezingen,” NOS, November 1, 2020, https://nos.nl/artikel/2354836-nog-veel-werk-te-doenvoor-coronaproof-tweede-kamerverkiezingen.html.

All 89 parties with their exhaustive candidate lists will compete for Netherlanders’ votes in March. As far-right forces gain momentum, despite negative media coverage of their parties’ anti-Semitic and homophobic currents, the election will be the ultimate test of confidence in Prime Minister Rutte, who seeks to extend his now tenyear service in the Torentje. According to biannual


probes on citizens’ trust in government, some 53% of the population see another term for Mr. Rutte as “acceptable,” while 40% find it not so.32 Voters must decide what kind of future administration they want to face the challenges in 2021 and the coming years.

tion of stimulus grants from €500 billion to €390 billion.34 Despite maintaining a hard line for Dutch fiscal interests, Mr. Rutte received considerable criticism of the compromise at home; Mr. Wilders of the PVV described it as “a terribly bad result.”35

32 Jan Hoedeman, “Mark Rutte nog een keer premier? Meerderheid kiezers kan ermee leven,” AD, October 14, 2020, https://www.ad.nl/ politiek/mark-rutte-nog-een-keer-premier-meerderheid-kiezers-kan-ermee-leven~a7e0d450/?referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F. 33 “Europese leiders sluiten akkoord op eurotop, premier Rutte tevreden,” NOS, July 21, 2020, https://nos.nl/ artikel/2341348-europese-leiders-sluiten-akkoord-op-eurotop-premier-rutte-tevreden.html.

36 Gijs Rademaker, “Immigratie hét thema? Voorlopic niet,” EenVandaag, January 28, 2020, https://eenvandaag. avrotros.nl/panels/opiniepanel/alle-uitslagen/item/immigratie-het-thema-voorlopig-niet-weblog-gijs-rademaker/; Inge Lengton and Wouter de Winther, “Premier Mark Rutte: ‘Schengen in gevaar,’” De Telegraaf, December 21, 2019, https://www.telegraaf.nl/nieuws/711021978/premier-markrutte-schengen-in-gevaar. 37 Floor Boon, “Europees ‘pact’ past bij Nederlandse wensen,” NRC, September 23, 2020, https://www.nrc.nl/

Euroscepticism proliferated in the media in The Dutch in Europe 2020 after the sensational rise of Thierry Baudet and the FvD the year prior. Citizens and outlets The election result will have a profound referred to a decline of Dutch norms and values in impact on the role played by the Netherlands the face of rising immigration from predominantly internationally and within the European Union. Muslim countries. This kind of xenophobic naIdeas surrounding Dutch national and European tionalism was operationalized in party rhetoric of identities were thus key talking points of Dutch conservative as well as liberal groups, by and large media and public debates in 2020 -- mirroring a as criticisms of the EU’s Schengen area. Notable similar pattern in the years and months preceding in 2020 was the evolution of this sentiment from the general election of 2017. the standard vocabulary of populist outfits like the The most notable development in the PVV to the governmental agenda of Mr. Rutte’s Netherlands’ approach to Europe was in the EU’s VVD-led coalition, which before the onset of the drafting and passing the bloc-wide Coronavirus Coronavirus pandemic deemed 2020 “the year of relief package. Prime Minister Rutte’s unwavering immigration” and claimed that “Schengen is in stance in opposition to a primarily grants-based danger.”36 The EU’s New Pact on Migration and stimulus deal held the European Council in exten- Asylum was covered quite negatively by most sive, nail-biting talks in June. Dutch media report- national news outlets, reporting that the bloc-wide ed on Mr. Rutte’s satisfaction with the conclusion agreement overlooks Dutch national border inreached in July, which amounts to roughly €1.8 terests -- and usually featuring a photo picturing 33 trillion over 2021-2027. The Netherlands headed flocks of desperate migrants in shabby clothing en the band of like-minded “frugal” Member States route to Europe.37 34 “EU secures Rutte’s approval for budget with cororesistant to a no-strings approach towards the na conditions and extra rebate,” Dutch News, July 21, 2020, countries most affected by the pandemic, like Italy https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2020/07/eu-secures-ruttesapproval-for-budget-with-corona-conditions-and-extra-reand Spain. Mr. Rutte single-handedly kept talks at bate/. 35 “Gemengde reacties in Kamer op EU-akkoord, a standstill over the summer by holding this con- kritiek op openlijk geruzie,” NOS, July 21, 2020, https://nos. servative stance, which eventually led to a reduc- nl/artikel/2341383-gemengde-reacties-in-kamer-op-eu-akkoord-kritiek-op-openlijk-geruzie.html


Concerning national identity, Dutch Minister of Social Affairs and Employment Wouter Koolmees announced in February a new social integration requirement for Turkish citizens coming to the Netherlands, based on national data showing slower naturalization rates for immigrants of Turkish background than others, for example of Morocco.38 Dutch immigration policy in general puts great importance on newcomers’ masterful knowledge of the Dutch language and culture, but the invigorated effort of the government regarding Turkish nationals reflects the Netherlands’ political relationship with Turkey.39 In October, Dutch media reported on Prime Minister Rutte’s vocal support for EU partner and French President Emmanuel Macron in his evolving cultural spout with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan; significant given the large portion of ethnically Turkish Netherlanders in the Dutch population.40 The Netherlands has indeed received attention for standing up for national and European values in multiple international contexts. Before the Coronavirus epidemic, Mr. Rutte applied relentless pressure on Moscow over the downing of Malaysia Airlines

Flight 17, which departed from Amsterdam in 2014 and was dubiously shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing almost 300 people including 196 Netherlanders.41

plicht inburgeren,” NU, February 4, 2020, https://www.nu.nl/ politiek/6028445/turkse-nieuwkomers-moeten-vanaf-2021weer-verplicht-inburgeren.html. 39 “Gemeenten gaan inburgering nieuwkomers weer regelen,” NU, July 2, 2018, https://www.nu.nl/binnenland/5341895/gemeenten-gaan-inburgering-nieuwkomers-weer-regelen.html. 40 “Rutte hekelt ‘onacceptabele’ uitlatingen van Turkse president Erdogan,” AD, October 26, 2020, https:// www.ad.nl/buitenland/rutte-hekelt-onacceptabele-uitlatingen-van-turkse-president-erdogan~a305ec17/?referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F.

41 “EU steunt Nederland: Moskau moet verder onderhandelen over MH17,” NOS, October 16, 2019, https://nos. nl/artikel/2352585-eu-steunt-nederland-moskou-moet-verder-onderhandelen-over-mh17.html. 42 “Europe must wake up to new realities, set priorities, says Dutch minister,” Dutch News, May 7, 2019, https:// www.dutchnews.nl/news/2019/05/europe-must-wake-up-tonew-realities-set-priorities-says-dutch-minister/. 43 Wouter van Dijke, “Jij betaalt 282 euro voor de EU - dit is waar het naartoe gaat,” RTL Nieuws, February 8, 2020, https://www.rtlnieuws.nl/nieuws/artikel/5014026/ kosten-europese-unie-begroting-jaar-subsidie-landbouw.

In the wake of Brexit, the Netherlands with fellow EU Member States must decide what kind of future it wants to realize for Europe. New CDA leader Wopke Hoekstra in 2019 spoke about Euroscepticism directly in his widely-covered Humboldt University address, stressing the need for governments to take a more hawkish stance on EU values and make Europe work for all Europeans, in light of Britain’s withdrawal and similar sentiments felt across the continent.42 The Dutch identity in Europe has thus evolved over 2020 in accordance with the challenges faced by the EU and continues to play the role of the rational intergovernmental partner of the North, concerned above all with national interests in immigration and fiscal policy.43 A Year In Review

With 2020 now surpassed, the Netherlands moves forward to face the issues of tomorrow. nieuws/2020/09/23/europees-pact-past-bij-nederlandseThe Coronavirus pandemic had the most profound wensen-a4013381; Ruud Mikkers, “Zó ziet EU de toekomst van migratie,” De impact on life all around the world, understandably Telegraaf, September 22, 2020, https://www.telegraaf.nl/ nieuws/425205561/zo-ziet-eu-de-toekomst-van-migratie; playing a central role in Dutch media and politics Marc Peeperkorn, “Nieuw EU-migratiepact: ‘Wat we nu zien komt niet dóór Europa, maar door een gebrek eraan,’” De during 2020 and going into the new year. It comes Volkskrant, September 23, 2020, https://www.volkskrant. nl/nieuws-achtergrond/nieuw-eu-migratiepact-wat-weat the same time as crucial debates about European nu-zien-komt-niet-door-europa-maar-door-een-gebrekeraan~b6e964c4/?referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google. integration and its interplay with national identity. com%2F. 38 “Turkse nieuwkomers moeten vanaf 2021 weer ver- These issues will come to the forefront in Dutch


media in 2021 ahead of the general election in March, which will determine what decision-makers usher in the Netherlands of the post-Coronavirus and post-Brexit era.

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Hoedeman, Jan. “Mark Rutte nog een keer premier? Meerderheid kiezers kan ermee leven.”ADR. October 14, 2020.https://www. ad.nl/politiek/mark-rutte-nog-een-keer-premier-meerderheidkiezers-kan-ermee-leven~a7e0d450/?referrer=https%3A%2F% 2Fwww.google.com%2F Holligan, Anna. “Coronavirus: Why Dutch lockdown may be a highrisk strategy.” BBC, April 4,2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/ world-europe-52135814.

Jibilian, Isabella. “3 grafieken die laten zien wat mensen uit verschillende landen denken overcoronavaccins -- Nederlanders zijn behoorlijk sceptisch.” Business Insider Nederland,September 3, 2020.https://www.businessinsider.nl/covid-19-coronavirusvaccin-weigeraars-nederland-vs-china/.

Kasteleijn, Nando and Schellevis, Joost. “CoronaMelder vandaag gelanceert, maar ‘app is geenwondermiddel.’” NOS, October


10, 2020.https://nos.nl/artikel/2351727-coronamelder-vandaaggelanceerd-maar-app-is-geen-wondermiddel.html.

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door-een-gebrek-eraan~b6e964c4/?referrer=https%3A%2F%2FwKeultjes, Hanneke. “Schouten op nummer 2 ChristenUnieww.google.com%2F. kandidatenlijst, veel nieuwkomers intop-5.” AD, October 9, 2020. https://www.ad.nl/politiek/schouten-op-nummer-2-christenunie- Rademaker, Gijs. “Immigratie hét thema? Voorlopic niet.” EenVankandidatenlijst-veel-nieuwkomers-in-top-5~abd64ede/. daag, January 28, 2020. Kies Raad. “Record aantal (89) partijnamen geregistreerd voor Tweede Kamerverkiezing 2021.”December 30, 2020.https:// https://eenvandaag.avrotros.nl/panels/opiniepanel/alle-uitslagen/ item/immigratie-het-th www.kiesraad.nl/actueel/nieuws/2020/12/30/89-partijnamengeregistreerd-voor-tweede-kamerverkiezing-2021. ma-voorlopig-niet-weblog-gijs-rademaker/ Koole, Stephan and Schreinamachers, Roel. “Mark Rutte is eruit: hij wil door als VVD-lijsttrekkeren premier.” RTL Nieuws, Reuters Staff. “Stretched Dutch hospitals to send COVID patients to Germany within days.” October 29, 2020.https://www.rtlnieuws.nl/nieuws/politiek/ artikel/5193455/mark-rutte-vvd-rutte-leiderschap-vvd-leiderReuters, October 22, 2020.https://www.reuters.com/article/ premier. us-health-coronavirusLengton, Inge and De Winther, Wouter. “Premier Mark Rutte: ‘Schengen in gevaar.’” DeTelegraaf, December 21, 2019. netherlands-tally/stretched-dutch-hospitals-to-send-covid-patientshttps://www.telegraaf.nl/nieuws/711021978/premier-mark-rutteto-germany-within-day schengen-in-gevaar. s-idUSKBN2771SS?edition-redirect=ca. Mikkers, Ruud. “Zó ziet EU de toekomst van migratie.” De Telegraaf, September 22, 2020.https://www.telegraaf.nl/ RTL Nieuws. “Harde lockdown van vijf weken, dit zijn de maatrenieuws/425205561/zo-ziet-eu-de-toekomst-van-migratie. gelen.” December 15, 2020. NOS. “CPB: ongekende krimp van 6 procent, werkloosheid verdubbelt.” June 16, 2020.https://nos.nl/artikel/2337409-cpb- https://www.rtlnieuws.nl/nieuws/politiek/artikel/5203135/ harde-lockdown-corona-van-vijfongekende-krimp-van-6-procent-werkloosheid-verdubbelt.html. NOS. “De uitzending van 14 december: Harde lockdown / De Jonge weken-dit-zijn-de-maatregelen. over maatregelen / Duitsemaatregelen.” December 14, 2020. https://nos.nl/nieuwsuur/artikel/2360588-de-uitzending-van-14- RTL Nieuws. “Nederland begint vaccinatie tegen corona 8 januari.” December 17, 2020. december-harde-lockdown-de-jonge-over-maatregelen-duitsemaatregelen.html. https://www.rtlnieuws.nl/nieuws/nederland/artikel/5203827/beNOS. “EU steunt Nederland: Moskou moet verder onderhandelen gin-vaccinatie-nederland-8over MH17.” October 16,2019.https://nos.nl/artikel/2352585eu-steunt-nederland-moskou-moet-verder-onderhandelen-over- januari-de-jonge-brief-kamer. mh17.html Schaart, Eline. “Baudet faces task of rebuilding Dutch far-right NOS. “Extra controle nodig bij stemmen tellen Tweede party after reelection.” Kammerverkiezingen,” November 9,2020.https://nos.nl/ artikel/2355904-extra-controle-nodig-bij-stemmen-tellen- POLITICO, December 7, 2020.https://www.politico.eu/article/bautweede-kamerverkiezingen.html. det-resumes-role-of NOS. “Ollongren bij Kamerverkiezingen lijstduwer D66.” December 18, 2020.https://nos.nl/artikel/2361122-ollongren-bij- -dutch-far-right-party-in-shambles/. kamerverkiezingen-lijstduwer-d66.html. Simons, Albert. “Nog veel werk te doen voor ‘coronaproof’ Tweede Kamerverkiezingen.” NOS, NOS. “Wopke Hoekstra wordt lijsttrekker van het CDA.” December 11, 2020.https://nos.nl/artikel/2360255-wopke-hoekstra-wordtNovember 1, 2020. https://nos.nl/artikel/2354836-nog-veel-werk-telijsttrekker-van-het-cda.html. doen-voor-coronapro NU. “Gemeenten gaan inburgering nieuwkomers weer regelen.” July 2, 2018.https://www.nu.nl/binnenland/5341895/gemeenten- of-tweede-kamerverkiezingen.html. gaan-inburgering-nieuwkomers-weerVan Unen, David. “Afgelopen weekend 435 coronaboetes uitregelen.html. gedeeld.” NRC, October 19, 2020. NU. “Grapperhaus: Gebruik van softdrugs op straat in avond en https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2020/10/19/coronablog-19-oktonacht wél verboden.” October ber-a4016492 19, 2020.https://www.nu.nl/coronavirus/6084969/grapperhaus-gebVan den Dool, Pim. “In diep verdeelde SP is leiderschap Marijnisruik-van-softdrugssen niet meer onomstreden.” op-straat-in-avond-en-nacht-wel-verboden.html. NRC, December 12, 2020.https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2020/12/12/ in-diep-verdeelde-sp-isNU. “Turkse nieuwkomers moeten vanaf 2021 weer verplicht inburgeren.” February 4, 2020. https://www.nu.nl/politiek/6028445/turkse-nieuwkomers-moetenvanaf-2021-weer-verplic ht-inburgeren.html. Peeperkorn, Marc. “Nieuw EU-migratiepact: ‘Wat we nu zien komt niet dóór Europa, maar door een gebrek eraan.’” De Volkskrant, September 23, 2020. https:// www.volkskrant.nl/ nieuws-achtergrond/nieuw-eu-migratiepact-wat-we-nu-zien-komt-



2020 Population: 2,083,343 (2020) Worldometers Unemployment Rate: 16,44% (2020)– Statista GDP Per Capita: 6,043.598 USD (Dec 2019) - Ceicdata EU Status: Candidate country – European Union

2020,

as for other countries, has brought in a basket of challenges for North Macedonia, which have called into question how the country and its society are equipped to deal with them. Some of these issues have even delayed its negotiation with the European Union for their candidacy. On the other hand, it has been a year full of opportunities for growth, learning and development for

NORTH MACEDONIA Ema Marcheska


this small land locked country. Politically, the election that occurred in July of 2020, was one of historical importance. After the rejection faced in October 2019 by the European Union, and specifically France, the costs and need for European Union membership were called into question. Ultimately, the people deciding that European integration was still truly the right path for North Macedonia. Furthermore, North Macedonia was really hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. High death tolls, heavy restrictions and police patrolled hours defined most of the year for the Macedonian citizens. Dr. Venko Filipče, the minister of Heath was the person in charge of handling the Covid-19 pandemic in the country. On the international stage, North Macedonia was blind-sided by its neighbour to the east- Bulgaria, that called for critical changes and to the Macedonian language and history or threated to veto North Macedonian European Union candidacy negotiations.

2020 North Macedonian Politics On July 15th 2020 postponed

from the April 12th 2020, North Macedonia held its first election since changing of its name from Macedonia to North Macedonia in 2019. The election was called upon early from the original scheduled date of November 2020, due to the failed outcome of the European Union negotiations for the start of the joining process for North Macedonia in October 2019. The opposition VMRO-DPMNE had called upon the Prime Minister Zoran Zaev to call this election early to comply with the promises he gave in 2019, that if the EU joining talks were not started in 2019, he would let the citizens decide which way the country should go. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the elections were then postponed from April 12th to July 15th. Therefore, this election was a crucial one for deciding which path Macedonians wanted to follow- to path to EU or the path

away from it. There were two opposing coalitions in addition to the Albanian parties that were in competition. The first coalition was the Social Democratic party (SDSM) lead and BESA Movement (Albanian) aided coalition “We Can” which was deemed to be the biggest multiethnic coalition to be formed in the country- which was advocating for the strengthening the EU- North Macedonian relations. The second coalition was the VMRO-DPMNE-led “Renewal”- which was more nationalistically oriented. The “We Can” coalition was supported by Jean AsselbornForeign Minister of Luxembourg, Michael Roth- German Deputy Minister for Europe, Pedro Sánchez - the Prime Minister of Spain, and Alexis Tsipras-the former Prime Minister of Greece. While the “Renewal” coalition was supported by Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban. In addition, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), which is the largest Albanian party in North Macedonia announced its candidacy and campaigned under the stated goal of electing an ethnic Albanian Prime Minister of North Macedonia for the first time. This was called by some media outlets the “wild card” of the election considering that DUI insisted the two main political blocs accept their choice of Naser Ziberi as the new prime minister if they want the party to talk to them after the elections on forming a new government. Such a notion was considered non-sensical by much of the population since there was no realistic outcome where the population would choose a prime minister based on ethnicity considering specifically the fact that the Albanian population in North Macedonia is only 20%. Voting was carried out with special precautions for 700 people who had contracted the Corona virus and/ or were quarantining, and for the elderly and inmate voters in order to avoid exposure to the virus. The result of the election lead to an extremely divided parliament, with the proEU SDSM-led coalition winning a plurality of


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

votes and seats. The nationalist conservative VMRO-DPMNE-led coalition came as a close second, lagging behind by only two seats and less than 1.5% of the vote. Following the “We Can” coalition win many of the losing parties had come out starting that there was election fraud, and even went so far as to blame Russia in helping “We Can” win the election, which Russia swiftly denied. In August, North Macedonia’s parliament approved the new left-wing coalition government. Therefore, ensuring that the Macedonian goal of EU integration is still on the table for this country.

Covid-19 Pandemic in North Macedonia

As in many other countries in the world, North Macedonia was hit particularly hard by the pandemic and its challenges. The country started to prepare for the pandemic in January of 2020, and appointed health minister Venko Filipče as a lead of the corona virus taskforce. When he was appointed, he said that preparations in terms of staff, infrastructure, equipment, places for hospitalization of patients were made to ensure that the country was ready to face the virus. The first measure was to install thermal cameras at the Skopje Airport to monitor passengers. In February, the first COVID positive patient was announced, a 50- year-old woman who had travelled to Northern Italy prior. In March, a daily curfew was instated in the whole country from 9 pm to 6 am to deal with the pandemic. This prohibited the movement of the population anywhere in the country during these hours, then this ban was extended to include a ban on movement restricted contact between adults over the age of 67, who are considered a risk group, and young people under the age of 18, who may be carriers of the virus. When this local curfew was implemented in the capital Skopje, this led to many people going into smaller towns which causes a spike in numbers in those towns. Furthermore, during the

summer many Macedonians decided to spend the vacations in Ohrid (the lake city in North Macedonia), where non-enforcement of social distancing rules occurred causing once more a spike in numbers. During the summer, the tourism, which brings upon some revenue for the country also was heavily affected. North Macedonia’s Minister of Economy Kreshnik Bekteshi unveiled support measures stating “Given that hotel industry is most affected by the crisis, we will encourage activities related to trainings, conferences, and seminars in domestic hotels. Events and conferences will be co-financed by 50 percent of the costs or up to 30,000 Macedonian Denar (about 549 U.S. dollars) per applicant”. Furthermore, this country’s creative economic support for business was praised. With the introduction of electronic cards “Buy at Home” which allowed for citizens to shop from home and have groceries delivered to their doors. While with the same initiative citizens in households earning less than 15,000 denars ($273) a month, about the monthly minimum wage, are eligible to receive the payment cards loaded with 9,000 denars in credit. The country as well worked and is working with its Balkan neighbours during the pandemic to tackle it successfully. It helped financially for ventilators to be delivered to Albania, its western neighbour. While accepting help from Athens to get more Covid-19 vaccines. This is seen as a great step forward for the Balkan countries and their relations. In December 2020, North Macedonia’s government said it has decided to ask parliament to approve an extension by six months of the state of crisis imposed on the entire territory of the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, which means the extension of the crisis until June 30th, 2021. The tackling of the pandemic is still an ongoing battle in North Macedonia which as of December 29th 2020 has had 81,804 total cases and 2,456 deaths.

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EU Candidacy Track and relationship the Nazis in the Second World War and deny that they had given any aid to the Nazi regime. deterioration with Bulgaria In October 2019, North Macedonia experiences a severe backsliding from their EU integration goal, when President Emanuel Macron vetoed the start of negotiations for EU integration for the country and its neighbour Albania. Despite all the progress that the country had with the changing of its name to put in the past a feud with its southern neighbour Greece, and as well signing of the Friendship treaty with its eastern neighbour Bulgaria. This treaty allowed for a Joint commission on historical and educational issues to be formed in 2018 to serve as a forum where controversial historical and educational issues could be raised and discussed. In October 2019, Bulgaria set out a “Framework position” warning that it would block the EU accession process unless North Macedonia fulfilled a number of demands regarding what Bulgaria perceived as “anti-Bulgarian ideology” in the country. This placed the North Macedonian entry into the EU in jeopardy. The demands of the Bulgarians had been branded by many as non-sensical and even to some point considered an attempt at cultural genocide of the Macedonian people. The Bulgarian government demands that North Macedonia acknowledges that Macedonian languages and history have a Bulgarian root. This is something which has been a very controversial topic for the two countries since the only valid claims over historical figures which the countries share are King Samuel from the 10th Century and The Brothers Miladinovci/Miladinovi which lived in the 19th century. Proving quite difficult to trace any other Bulgarian roots in North Macedonia between the 10th and 19th C. Furthermore, the demands of the Bulgarian government have hit hard particularly the Jewish community in North Macedonia. Sofia demands that in history textbooks used in North Macedonia, the Bulgarians be referred to as liberators from

However, 8000 Macedonian Jews were sent to extermination camps by Bulgarian authorities in 1943, causing the Jewish community in North Macedonia to write an open letter upon hearing the demands which asks Bulgaria to take responsibility for Holocaust Mass Deportations. Many of the European countries have commented against the Bulgarian stance in support of North Macedonia. Czechia and Slovakia are strongly opposed to disputes over history and language to become criteria for the start of EU membership talks. Furthermore, Greece- Bulgaria and North Macedonia’s neighbour as explained by Costas Yfantis, a professor of international relations at Panteion University “will favor the enlargement of the Union. However, all this will be done discreetly as there would be a political cost for the government if it strongly supports the European course for North Macedonia”. In December 2020, the EU had as well come out with a condemning warning against Bulgaria’s obstruction of North Macedonia. German European Affairs Minister Michael Roth, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said that his country is doing all it can to end the standoff, but EU diplomats are doubtful that a breakthrough will be made anytime soon. “Anything else would be a very severe political mistake at the expense of stability and security in the Western Balkans, and that ultimately would massively endanger the security of Europe as a whole – and all should be aware of that,” Roth told reporters. This issue continues to be at the forefront of North Macedonia, EU expansion and Bulgarian politics in the following year as well, maybe even longer.

Year in Review

2020 has been challenging but as well a year for growth for North Macedonia. Dealing with internal politics and the possibility of

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a turning away from the European Union has been a forefront issue in the beginning of the year. Furthermore, with the Covid-19 Pandemic hitting the country hard, the North Macedonia government had to react fast and assure that its citizens were supported and are still being supported. This asked for creative initiatives on the path of the government and as well deep-cooperation with its Balkan neighbours and the European community. Lastly, the EU membership talks have been placed into jeopardy by BulgariaNorth Macedonia’s eastern neighbour- due to historical and languages claims. As seen most of these issues will be moving into 2021 for North Macedonia and despite how hopeful the country may be in all of their issues to be solved, there is still plenty of obstacles and struggles which it must face in order to move past all of these issues.

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Sources Antonopoulos, Paul. “Greece Is Sending COVID-19 Vaccines To North Macedonia From The First Batch Arriving In Athens.” Greek City Times, December 17, 2020. https://greekcitytimes.com/2020/12/16/ greece-covid-19-first-batch/. Burazer, Nikola. “Government of North Macedonia Officially Postpones the Elections.” European Western Balkans, March 23, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans. com/2020/03/23/government-of-northmacedonia-officially-postpones-theelections/.

Grdanoski, Boris, and Konstantin Testorides. “North Macedonia: Ballot Boxes Carried to Quarantined Homes.” The Washington Post. WP Company, July 13, 2020. https:// www.washingtonpost.com/health/northmacedonia-holds-election-amid-virussurge/2020/07/13/9e57bed4-c4d4-11eaa825-8722004e4150_story.html. Hua , Xin. “North Macedonia Unveils Measures to Support Tourism amid COVID-19 Pandemic.” Global Times, June 9, 2020. https://www.globaltimes.cn/ content/1191027.shtml.

Jordanovska , Meri. “Прв Случај На Заболен “Coronavirus Response: NATO Delivers Од Коронавирус Во Македонија.” A1 On Ventilators to Albania.” NATO. Accessed MK , February 27, 2020. https://a1on.mk/ December 30, 2020. https://www.nato.int/ macedonia/prv-sluchaj-na-zabolen-odcps/en/natohq/news_180618.htm. koronavirus-vo-makedonija/. Deutsche Welle. “North Macedonia Holds Kingsley, Patrick. “North Macedonia Election First Election since Changing Its Name: Returns No Clear Winner.” The New York DW: 14.07.2020.” DW.COM. Accessed Times. The New York Times, July 16, 2020. December 29, 2020. https://www.dw.com/ https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/15/ en/north-macedonia/a-54172417. world/europe/north-macedonia-electionzaev.html. Dimitrievska , Valentina. “Russia Denies Interfering in North Macedonia’s July 15 General Election.” bne IntelliNews, July 26, 2020. https://www.intellinews. com/russia-denies-interfering-innorth-macedonia-s-july-15-generalelection-188259/.

Eftov , Vasko. “VO CENTAR Strategija Na Bugarija Da Gi Napravi Nervozni Albancite.” YouTube. YouTube, December 27, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=XzhBeaQrSe8.

Kolekjevski , Ivan. “Tsipras: Progressive Chapter to Continue Only with Zoran Zaev.” МИА, July 7, 2020. https://mia. mk/tsipras-progressive-chapter-tocontinue-only-with-zoran-zaev/?lang=en. Kolekjevski, Ivan. “Spanish PM Sanchez Believes Zaev-Led pro-European Government to Lead Country after Elections.” МИА, July 6, 2020. https:// mia.mk/spanish-pm-sanchez-believeszaev-led-pro-european-government-tolead-country-after-elections/?lang=en.

“EU Warns Bulgaria against Obstructing North Macedonia: Kathimerini.” Kolozova, Katerina. “On the MacedonianKathimerini English Edition . Kathimerini, Bulgarian Dispute and Historical December 8, 2020. https://www. Revisionism.” European Union News ekathimerini.com/260051/article/ | Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera, December 7, ekathimerini/business/eu-warns-bulgaria2020. https://www.aljazeera.com/ against-obstructing-north-macedonia. opinions/2020/12/7/on-the-macedonian257


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bulgarian-issue.

news/north-macedonia-president-blastsneighbor-bulgaria.

Marusic, Sinisa Jakov. “‘Albanian PM’ Becomes Wild Card in North Macedonia Election.” Balkan Insight, July 13, 2020. https://balkaninsight.com/2020/07/06/ albanian-pm-becomes-wild-card-in-northmacedonia-election/.

“North Macedonia’s Social Democrats Grab Slim Election Victory.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, July 16, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/ world/2020/jul/16/north-macedoniasocial-democrats-election-victory.

Marusic, Sinisa Jakov. “Bulgaria Refuses to Remove Barrier to North Macedonia’s EU Talks.” Balkan Insight, December 11, 2020. https://balkaninsight.com/2020/12/08/ bulgaria-refuses-to-remove-barrier-tonorth-macedonias-eu-talks/.

Petrushevska , Dragana. N. Macedonia’s govt proposes six-month extension of state of crisis, December 2, 2020. https:// seenews.com/news/n-macedonias-govtproposes-six-month-extension-of-state-ofcrisis-723086.

Marusic, Sinisa Jakov. “Bulgaria Sets Tough Terms for North Macedonia’s EU Rfe/rl. “Филипче: Без Паника, Ама Од Progress.” Balkan Insight, October 10, 2019. Утре Превентивни Мерки Против https://balkaninsight.com/2019/10/10/ Коронавирусот.” Радио Слободна bulgaria-sets-tough-terms-for-northЕвропа. Филипче: Без паника, ама macedonias-eu-progress/. од утре превентивни мерки против коронавирусот, January 26, 2020. https:// Marusic, Sinisa Jakov. “Czecks, Slovaks www.slobodnaevropa.mk/a/30397586. Reject Bulgaria’s ‘Historical’ Twist to html. Enlargement Criteria.” Balkan Insight, December 18, 2020. https://balkaninsight. com/2020/12/18/czecks-slovaks-rejectbulgarias-historical-twist-to-enlargementcriteria/.

“Misajlovski: I’ll Never Accept These Results, They Don’t Reflect the Reality.” Republika English. Republika , July 17, 2020. https:// english.republika.mk/news/macedonia/ misajlovski-ill-never-accept-these-resultsthey-dont-reflect-the-reality/. Nikolova, Milana. “Bulgaria’s Blockage of North Macedonia’s EU Bid Is about Domestic Politics.” Emerging Europe, December 21, 2020. https://emergingeurope.com/news/bulgarias-northmacedonia-u-turn/. “North Macedonia President Blasts Neighbor Bulgaria: Kathimerini.” Kathimerini English Edition. Kathimerini , December 17, 2020. https://www.ekathimerini. com/260382/article/ekathimerini/

Siracevski , Garvril. “Најголема Мултиетничка Коалиција - СДСМ и БЕСА Го ...” 24 MK . Gate One , February 27, 2020. https://www.24.mk/details/ najgolema-multietnichka-koalicija-sdsmi-besa-go-oficijaliziraa-predizborniotdogovor.

Staff , Algemeiner. “Macedonian Jews Urge Bulgaria to Acknowledge Responsibility for Holocaust Mass Deportations.” Algemeiner.com, December 11, 2020. https://www.algemeiner. com/2020/12/11/macedonian-jews-urgebulgaria-to-acknowledge-responsibilityfor-holocaust-mass-deportations/. Staff , Reuters. “North Macedonia Elections Set for July 15 despite Pandemic.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, June 15, 2020. https:// www.reuters.com/article/us-northmacedonia-election-idUSKBN23M2F1. Testorides, Konstantin. “North Macedonia:

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Complex Coalition Talks to Follow Election.” The Washington Post. WP Company, July 16, 2020. https://www. washingtonpost.com/health/pro-westernparty-claims-victory-in-north-macedoniaelection/2020/07/15/957c1d64-c6fa-11eaa825-8722004e4150_story.html. Trpkovski, Goce. “Share This Now! How Conspiracy Theories Swamped North Macedonia.” Balkan Insight, December 23, 2020. https://balkaninsight. com/2020/12/22/share-this-now-howconspiracy-theories-swamped-northmacedonia/. Tumanovska, Marija, and Andy Heil. “North Macedonia Has A Card Up Its Sleeve To Kick Coronavirus Economic Malaise: Keep Shoppers ‘Home’.” RadioFreeEurope/ RadioLiberty. North Macedonia Has A Card Up Its Sleeve To Kick Coronavirus Economic Malaise: Keep Shoppers ‘Home’, July 7, 2020. https://www.rferl.org/a/ north-macedonia-has-a-card-up-its-sleeveto-kick-covid-economic-malaise-keepshoppers-home-/30706847.html. Wires, News. “North Macedonia’s Parliament Approves New Left-Wing Coalition Government.” France 24. France 24, August 31, 2020. https://www.france24. com/en/20200831-north-macedonias-parliament-approves-new-left-wingcoalition-government. Zacharis, Lambros. “What Stance Is Greece Expected To Take In The Skopje-Sofia Dispute.” Greek City Times, December 4, 2020. https://greekcitytimes. com/2020/12/03/skopje-sofia-strancegreece/. “Короната Урива Рекорди - Филипче Смирува.” Радио Слободна Европа. Короната урива рекорди - Филипче смирува, June 5, 2020. https://www. slobodnaevropa.mk/a/30655064.html. 259


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Country Inf

Population: World Factbook1 Unemployme Bank Data2 GDP Per Cap Data3

1 “Albania - The World Fa Intelligence Agency), https albania/. 2 “Unemployment, Total (% - Albania,” The World Ban 2021, https://data.worldban tions=AL. 3 “GDP per Capita, PPP (C Bank Data (The World Ban bank.org/indicator/NY.GD

T

hroughout the years, Norway has paved its way embarking as a more powerful country within Europe’s borders. Although Norway is not a standing member of the European Union (EU), it has had an agreement with the European Economic Area (EEA) since 1994 ensuring that Norway participates in the EU internal market. Norway started 2020 with efforts in continuing to make successful deals between the UK as Brexit emerges. Furthermore, they spotlighted EU incompetence regarding the rule of law. Finally, Norway displayed its leadership and sovereignty as a unified country in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic which impacted countries globally. This report reviews some of the most important events that took place in Norway during 2020, which include post-Brexit deals, EU incompetence of rule of law, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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formation

3.1 million (July 2021 est.) - CIA

ent rate: 11.47% (2019 est.) - World

pita: 14,495.1 (2019 est.) - World Bank

actbook,” Central Intelligence Agency (Central s://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/

% of Total Labor Force) (National Estimate) nk Data (The World Bank ), accessed June 21, nk.org/indicator/SL.UEM.TOTL.NE.ZS?loca-

Current International $) - Albania,” The World nk), accessed June 21, 2021, https://data.worldDP.PCAP.PP.CD?locations=AL.

NORWAY 2020 Report Bianca Costatino

Norway Acting on EU Incompetence Regarding the Rule of Law Fundamental freedoms and rights including freedom of expression, equal rights and minority are important norms in the international community.1 The rule of law under the European Union (EU) and the European Commission guarantees fundamental rights and values and allows for the application under EU law. This mechanism is a preventative tool aiming to promote the rule of law and prevent challenges from emerging or deteriorating. This is a framework in which the EU prides itself on as it works to further strengthen the rule of law within EU countries, continuing a debate launched in April 2019. However, despite the increased strength to the framework a non-member state has intervened and stepped into the role of the enforcer, policing EU values. Norway has highlighted the EU commissions to act upon the wrongdoing on EU member states.2 Although Norway is not an EU member and voted to stay out of the EU in a 1994 referendum, it stays aligned with the bloc paying fees to access the

1 “Rule of Law in Poland and Hungary Has Worsened: News: European Parliament,” Rule of law in Poland and Hungary has worsened | News | European Parliament, January 16, 2020. 2 Charlie Duxbury, As EU Debates Rule of Law, Norway’s Already Making Offenders Pay, POLITICO. POLITICO, October 13, 2020, https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-rule-of-law-norway-makes-offenderspay/

internal market with high 261

grants to 15 small member


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states to stay in the markets of the EEA.3 In recent years and leading up to 2020, Oslo has made it clear that they will enforce conditions to the grants paid to the 15 smaller member states with demands which involve recipients of the grant money to respect and value the rule of law and minority rights. During this time Norway has acted with more diligence than the EU commission by cutting off grants to the smaller member states that are not upholding the EU agreements of the rule of law.4 In 2014, Norway suspended all grants to Hungary after finding that Prime Minister Victor Orban’s government had sought too much control over how the EEA and Norway cash grants are administered, which violated rules and regulation under the EU treaty.5 In February 2020, Norway froze 65 million euros in funding for a Polish project that will support courts and correctional facilities. The project’s funding was frozen due to doubts and concerns on behalf of Norway about the loss of judicial independence in Poland under the rule of law and justice party. Norway, and Poland’s dispute lasted till early September where Norway once again acted as an enforcer in place of the EU commission. This time, Norway excluded many Polish cities from funding programs worth 100 million Euros (USD 121 million) due to the fact that those cities decided to ban what they call “LGBTQ ideology.” All activities as mentioned above that are financed by EEA and Norway Grants require those recipients to uphold and follow the rule of law, promoting fundamental rights and freedoms, which include minority rights. In 3 Charlie Duxbury, As EU Debates Rule of Law, Norway’s Already Making Offenders Pay. 4 Norway Enforces EU Law Better than Its Member States - the Council.Tek Deeps, October 12, 2020, https:// tekdeeps.com/norway-enforces-eu-law-better-than-its-member-states-the-council/ 5 Charlie Duxbury, “As EU Debates Rule of Law, Norway’s Already Making Offenders Pay,” POLITICO.

the dispute between Norway and Poland, it is evident that Poland has disregarded the EU’s rule of law and violated the regulations set out by the EEA and Norway grants. Norway’s act to service and the defending of the rule of law highlights the incompetence of the EU commission in holding offenders and violators of regulations accountable.6 The EU and their actions after Norway had to step in regarding the violations being made caused the EU Commission President, Ursula von der Lyen, to step in backing Norway condemning Poland’s LGBTQ free zones with more fines, as Poland was in direct violation of article 2 of the EU treaty.7 This section of the treaty relates to respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, the rule of law, all in which Poland violated. Interestingly, a non-EU member state had to intervene to hold offenders accountable for their actions where the EU Commission was lacking the ability to do so. Furthermore, this situation brings light to European values and the EU as a whole, as well as the failure to act upon injustice. This perhaps demonstrated a need for a mechanism of democracy in relation to the rule of law and fundamental rights for EU member states to ensure regulations are being followed. Norway and UK Post-Brexit deals On January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union, causing a great deal of shifts regarding trade and manufacturing relations between the EU and the UK, which was also noted as Brexit. After the UK left the EU, Norway signed an agreement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mrs. Ine 6 Norway Enforces EU Law Better than Its Member States - the Council. 7 Rule of Law in Poland and Hungary Has Worsened: News: European Parliament,” Rule of law in Poland and Hungary has worsened | News | European Parliament, January 16, 2020.

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Eriksen with the UK which also left them pulling out of the European Economic Area (EEA). This agreement will ensure that the relationship with the UK and Norway will not change during the transition period.8 The new agreement between the UK and Norway safeguards the citizens of both countries in relation to travel, trade and business affairs. Furthermore, it acts as a transit period between the two countries to ensure business is kept up as usual, which includes EU relations as well.9 This entails that from February 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020, business activity will remain as is within the EU and EEA in relation to the UK and its departure from the EU. During this period the EU and its member states have been working on relations and agreements between the UK for business and trade deals. This being said, Norway, a non-EU member state, takes action to ensure its trade relation with the UK is kept alongside Iceland and Liechtenstein who have also ensured trade relation with the UK.10 The agreements made between Norway and the UK cover areas of trade and fisheries, patent and copyrights, judicial cooperation in criminal matters and protection of personal data exchanged. Norway’s push to cooperate with the UK led to a UK-Norway fishery deal on September 30, 2020 for a joint fish stock in the North Sea. What does this mean for the EU and Norway? The EU wants to secure rights to fish in British waters and the UK is looking for an agreement with the EU similar to Norway.11 Furthermore, under EU membership rights to negotiate fishing

8 The Office of the Prime Minister, Norway Signs Brexit Agreement with the UK, Government.no, January 28, 2020, https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/norway-signsbrexit-agreement-with-the-uk/id2688101/ 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid. 11 Afp, “Britain Nets Post-Brexit Fisheries Deal with Norway,” thenews, The News International, October 1, 2020, https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/722539-britainnets-post-brexit-fisheries-deal-with-norway

rights in British waters were outsourced to Brussels, however, with the Norwegian agreement it gave light to the promise of an independent future. Nevertheless, quotas are annually renegotiated as part of the Brexit deal starting January 1, 2021 when Britain leaves the transition period with the EU. This year, both the EU and UK have been battling agreements back and forth with new amendments and wants to their negotiations. The EU hopes for a non-regression clause that would ensure that neither side can slip from the standards of labor, the environment, social rights and state aid from 20201.12 Furthermore, a ‘ratchet clause’ which will ensure the standards would become a new common floor if both the EU and the UK were to upgrade their climate or other laws in the future. Both power houses want control of certain areas of trade and subsidy agreements which make coming mutual agreement difficult yet not impossible. However, Norway is open to a triliteral deal with the UK and EU, but nothing is confirmed.13 In early December 2020, Norway threatened to close its waters to fishing vessels from the EU and UK on Jan 1, 2021 if no deal or agreement is reached. The Norwegian government has been pushing for cooperation in reaching a deal or trilateral agreement with the UK and EU, as Norway’s fisheries are the world’s 9th largest.14 These agreements are crucial to 12 Michel Rose and Gabriela Baczynska, “Head of EU Parliament Fisheries Committee Takes Tough Line on Brexit Deal,” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, October 7, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-france-fishidUSKBN26S2BD 13 Stephen Treloar and Lars Erik Taraldsen, “Norway May Shut down Access to EU, UK Fishing amid Brexit Deal,” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-12-11/norway-may-close-waters-to-eu-u-k-fishing-due-to-brexit-delay 14 AFP Presse - Agence France, “UK, Norway Agree On Temporary Post-Brexit Trade Deal,” Barron’s. Barrons, October 21, 2020, https://www.barrons.com/ news/uk-norway-agree-on-temporary-post-brexit-tradedeal-01603295118

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Norway’s relations as the UK is an important trading partner for Norway. Moreover, unless a trading agreement is reached, the World Trade Organization (WTO) regulation will apply, imposing high customs taxes. Nevertheless, deals and agreements between Norway, UK, and the EU are still underway with developments to be coming forward throughout January 2021.

essential travel is limited, using their color coordinated system to allocate red zones, symbolizing more dangerous areas, and green zones, indicating safer places and allowing travel.19An agreement was made between the EU/EEA and Schengen countries stating that they were able to travel to Norway with no quarantine as of July 15, which quickly changed after Norway viewed many EU states as ‘red zones.’

The year 2020 was a difficult year for many countries bringing a ray of challenges regarding leadership and safety. The novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has had detrimental effects for many countries around the world, making it a global pandemic.15 Norway had its first case of COVID-19 in early February in Torso.16 The government acted fast and just a few weeks after the first confirmed case, Prime Minister Erna Solberg introduced a lockdown on March 24 which lasted until April 13.17 The lockdown and security measures included the closure of schools, restaurants and bars. Furthermore, there was a 14-day quarantine stay at home order for citizens who travelled abroad during that time period. Towards the end of the Norwegian lockdown, the government acted slowly but effectively creating a colour coordinated list for most infectious countries or regions, labelling them in red. The Minister of Health and Care Services urged that people arriving in Norway from a red zone to follow the Norwegian COVID-19 rules, which meant quarantining, as well as paying attention to any symptoms.18 They also ensured that non-

Heading into early October, Norway was noted as one of the countries with the lowest fatality rates in Europe after their 5-month plan of strict measures under the direction of Prime Minister Erna Solberg. However, they are still left with recovering the economy and building up while continuing to battle COVID-19.20 On October 12, schools, restaurants and bars started to open with restrictions in municipalities pertaining to what citizens can and cannot do.21 The Norwegian government granted municipalities the authority to make decisions relating to COVID-19 based on the severity of specific areas. Regulations made to ensure the safety of citizens include masks to be worn in public spaces and limitations of public gathering. Furthermore, the Norwegian government has expressed diligence in striving for the vaccination for their citizens while still declaring new safety measures. Norway now requires all non-Norwegian citizens to show a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival. They have also created more testing centers for citizens in many of the municipalities. The government is leading with strength, recovering its economy and providing safety to citizens. As

COVID-19

15 David Nikel, “Coronavirus in Norway: The Latest News on the COVID-19 Outbreak,” Life in Norway, December 2, 2020, https://www.lifeinnorway.net/norway-is-closed-coronavirus/ 16 Ibid. 17 Ibid. 18 Norway Imposes Quarantine for Citizens of Some ‘High Risk’ Countries,” SchengenVisaInfo.com, August 10, 2020, https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/news/norway-im-

poses-quarantine-for-citizens-of-some-high-risk-countries/ 19 Norway Imposes Quarantine for Citizens of Some ‘High Risk’ Countries. 20 “Norwegian Municipalities Introduce Local Coronavirus Rules,” October 2, 2020, https://www.thelocal.no/20201002/norwegian-municipalities-introduce-local-coronavirus-rules-heres-what-applies-in-your-area 21 Ibid. 264


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businesses are able to open with restrictions, they are seeing a progressive incline toward the rebuild of the economy. Norway has also started to roll out vaccinations and COVID-19 treatments for their citizens. The plan is to provide a vaccination free of charge, which would be a part of the country’s national vaccination program.22 The first 9,750 vaccines have arrived in Norway and are being distributed to seven municipalities in eastern Norway, with over 35,000 doses on the way for the end of 2020 and also planning on having 40,000 doses scheduled for every week. Ultimately, Norway had handled the pandemic effectively with strict measures, as well as short- and long-term plans to ensure the economic recovery and safety of its citizens. Year in Review

Norway’s 2020 has been a year to remember as it has largely focused on leadership and taking charge. Starting off with paving the way as an enforcer in a situation where the EU lacked control, Norway showed a great deal of influence in the EU stage ensuring that EU member states uphold the rule of law. Furthermore, Norway engaged in building agreements with the UK and showed commitment to reaching an agreement in relation to fisheries with the UK, as well as the EU. Finally, Norway like many other countries was faced with having to act fast and effectively to ensure the health and safety of their citizens while managing a hurting economy. While COVID-19 impacted Norway, its government was able to manage the situation through imposing high safety measures. The country is also on the road to rebuilding the economy and providing vaccinations for their citizens.

22 David Nikel, “Coronavirus in Norway: The Latest News on the COVID-19 Outbreak.”

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Katherine Yuran

POL AND 2

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COUNTRY INFORMATION Population: 37.8 million (2020 est.) - Worldometer Unemployment Rate: 3.04% (2020 est.) - Statista GDP per Capita: 15,653.6 USD (2020 est.) - Statista EU Status: Member since 2003 Gov.pl

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his report will analyze the events within Poland in 2020 through three points: the separation of religion and the state, rotating presidency, and the growing economy against the backdrop of European Union (EU) member economic activity. Poland contrasts from the liberal and secular values of the EU through its strong Catholic and conservative leadership, making this significant because it threatens the relations between Poland and the EU.


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Poland experienced a buildup to theproblem of separating Catholic values from the government in the first election of conservative Presidential candidate Andrzej Duda in 2015. The re-election of 2020 is important to highlight because it signifies a solidification of conservative political values, and fueled events such as the march for women’s rights in reaction to increased anti-abortion laws. The economy is crucial to examine as although Poland’s strong manufacturing sector solidified the country to become the sixth-largest economy in the EU, factors such as an aging population weakens its workforce, and slower technological development threatens to economically drag the country behind as compared to other states in the EU.1 Re-election of Previous President

strong scrutiny from the EU, creating political conflict and straining relations.6 On December 20, 2017, President Duda signed legislation that put the courts under the control of the PiS.7 This came after a formal warning from the EU, which stated the legislation as a serious breach in democratic values.8 The EU recommended Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty to be invoked, with consequences as severe as the removal of Polish voting rights.9 However, this requires a unanimous vote from the EU, which Hungary had stated it would vote against.10 In 2020, the PiS stated it wants to continue to completely overhaul the judiciary, which is a policy severely criticized by the EU.11 This threatens the democratic element of separation of powers, as Duda’s government is aiming to fully place judicial appointment in the power of the government, thus enabling the Polish government to fill courts with selected individuals and reducing the independence of the judicial branch.12

In the fall of 2015, President Andrzej Duda’s first presidential term took effect after he defeated the previous President - Rafał Trzaskowski of the libeal-centrist Platforma Obywatelska (OB)2. President Duda represents Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS), a right-wing national-conservative party.3 In October of 2020, a nation-wide citizen The defeat occurred in narrow margins - 51 percent survey found that less than half of the Polish to 49 percent, showing that the Polish population 6 Aleks Szczerbiak, “What Does Andrzej Duda’s was nearly equally divided and polarized in their Presidential Election Victory Mean for Polish Politics?” LSE European Institute, July 27, 2020, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpolitical opinions.4 President Duda’s win allows his pblog/2020/07/27/what-does-andrzej-dudas-presidential-elecsocial conservative party to unfold a radical state tion-victory-mean-for-polish-politics/#Author Marc Santora and Joanna Berendt, “Poland Overhauls reformation programme.5 The PiS has been under 7 1 Anthony Casillas, “Four Economic Challenges Facing

Poland in 2020,” Investopedia.com, October 12, 2020, https:// www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/011416/3-economic-challenges-poland-faces-2016.asp 2 Aleks Szczerbiak, “What Does Andrzej Duda’s Presidential Election Victory Mean for Polish Politics?” LSE European Institute, July 27, 2020, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2020/07/27/what-does-andrzej-dudas-presidential-election-victory-mean-for-polish-politics/#Author 3 Adam Easton, “Poland’s Duda narrowly beats Trzaskowski in presidential vote,” BBC News, July 13, 2020, https://www. bbc.com/news/world-europe-53385021 4 Aleks Szczerbiak, “What Does Andrzej Duda’s Presidential Election Victory Mean for Polish Politics?” LSE European Institute, July 27, 2020, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2020/07/27/what-does-andrzej-dudas-presidential-election-victory-mean-for-polish-politics/#Author 5 Aleks Szczerbiak, “What Does Andrzej Duda’s Presidential Election Victory Mean for Polish Politics?” LSE European Institute, July 27, 2020, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2020/07/27/what-does-andrzej-dudas-presidential-election-victory-mean-for-polish-politics/#Author

Courts, and Critics Retreat from Democracy,” The New York Times, December 20, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/20/ world/europe/eu-poland-law.html?_r=0/world-europe-42270239 8 Marc Santora and Joanna Berendt, “Poland Overhauls Courts, and Critics Retreat from Democracy,” The New York Times, December 20, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/20/ world/europe/eu-poland-law.html?_r=0/world-europe-42270239 9 James Masters, “Poland Faces EU Punishment Over Controversial Judicial Reforms,” CNN News, December 20, 2017, https://www.cnn.com/2017/12/20/europe/poland-eu-punishment-judicial-reforms-intl/index.html 10 James Masters, “Poland Faces EU Punishment Over Controversial Judicial Reforms,” CNN News, December 20, 2017, https://www.cnn.com/2017/12/20/europe/poland-eu-punishment-judicial-reforms-intl/index.html 11 Adam Easton, “Poland’s Duda narrowly beats Trzaskowski in presidential vote,” BBC News, July 13, 2020, https://www. bbc.com/news/world-europe-53385021 12 Aleks Szczerbiak, “What Does Andrzej Duda’s Presidential Election Victory Mean for Polish Politics?” LSE European Institute, July 27, 2020, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2020/07/27/what-does-andrzej-dudas-presidential-election-victory-mean-for-polish-politics/#Author

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population was content with the leadership and actions of Duda.13 In fact, this rating was lower than the one Duda held in 2015, marking a decline in the satisfaction of Polish citizens with the government and how they handle national matters.14 Separation of Church and State

one that has become very politicized through the initial motion brought forth by PiS, ruled that abortions for the reason of severe, fatal birth defects infringe on the Constitution - enforcing this decision on the women of Poland immediately.20 These two factors are seen in only two percent of all abortions conducted in Poland in recent years.21 This legal decision was made on the application of constitutional values of life, dignity and freedom to a fetus.22 On average, Poland sees approximately 10,000 abortions performed every year, around 1,000 of those being legal under two reasons within the law: when the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, and if the pregnancy results from an illegal act, such as incest or rape.23 In comparison to the EU, all of the members countries have accessible legal abortions, creating tension between the liberal views of the EU and the conservative, religiouslymotivated ones of Poland.24

The re-election of Duda fueled the ongoing problems that Poland has in separating the state from the church. In 2020, the amount Poland has dedicated to funding priests and other religious pursuits rose from 11 million PLN to 181.8 million PLN, creating the highest Church Fund in Polish history.15 This fund, established in the mid-1900s, includes health and pension for clergy members, charity, church care and the restoration of religious institutions.16 The Polish government defends this amount by relating it to the increase in minimum wage, which increased from 13.7 PLN per hour to 14.7 PLN per hour.17 The opposition parties This new law created an eruption of call against this fund, stating that it is archaic and protests around the country the night of October demand for its liquidation.18 22, 2020, with Polish protesters stating that this As a result of a strong connection between reaction is a “revolution of the youth”.25 Hundreds the church and the state, the PiS was able to nearly PiS and the Julia Przyłębska Tribunal Have Introduced a Ban on completely ban abortions in Poland on October 22, Abortion,” OKO Press, October 22, 2020, https://oko.press/pol2020.19 In this action, the Constitutional Tribunal, ska-pieklem-kobiet-pis-i-trybunal-julii-przylebskiej-wprowadzi13

Agnieszka Kublik, “CBOS: A Spectacular Drop in Support for Andrzej Duda,” Wyborcza.pl, November 4, 2020, https:// wyborcza.pl/7,75398,26478255,cbos-spektakularny-spadek-poparcia-dla-andrzeja-dudy.html 14 Agnieszka Kublik, “CBOS: A Spectacular Drop in Support for Andrzej Duda,” Wyborcza.pl, November 4, 2020, https:// wyborcza.pl/7,75398,26478255,cbos-spektakularny-spadek-poparcia-dla-andrzeja-dudy.html 15 Josie, “Record Spending on Priests. The Church Fund is the Highest in History,” Fakt.pl, June 23, 2021, https://www.fakt.pl/ wydarzenia/polityka/rekordowe-wydatki-na-ksiezy-fundusz-koscielny-najwyzszy-w-historii/dgnret3 16 Josie, “Record Spending on Priests. The Church Fund is the Highest in History,” Fakt.pl, June 23, 2021, https://www.fakt.pl/ wydarzenia/polityka/rekordowe-wydatki-na-ksiezy-fundusz-koscielny-najwyzszy-w-historii/dgnret3 17 Kafkadesk, “Poland Plans to Increase Minimum Wage in 2019. Then What?” Kafkadesk, September 25, 2018, https://kafkadesk.org/2018/09/25/poland-plans-to-increase-minimum-wagein-2019-then-what/ 18 Josie, “Record Spending on Priests. The Church Fund is the Highest in History,” Fakt.pl, June 23, 2021, https://www.fakt.pl/ wydarzenia/polityka/rekordowe-wydatki-na-ksiezy-fundusz-koscielny-najwyzszy-w-historii/dgnret3 19 Dominika Sitnicka, “Poland is a Hell for Women.

li-zakaz-aborcji/ 20 Dominika Sitnicka, “Poland is a Hell for Women. PiS and the Julia Przyłębska Tribunal Have Introduced a Ban on Abortion,” OKO Press, October 22, 2020, https://oko.press/polska-pieklem-kobiet-pis-i-trybunal-julii-przylebskiej-wprowadzili-zakaz-aborcji/ 21 Joanna Plucinska, “Polish Court Ruling Amounts to Almost Total Ban on Abortion,” Reuters News, October 22, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-poland-abortion-rulingidUSKBN277213 22 Dominika Sitnicka, “Poland is a Hell for Women. PiS and the Julia Przyłębska Tribunal Have Introduced a Ban on Abortion,” OKO Press, October 22, 2020, https://oko.press/polska-pieklem-kobiet-pis-i-trybunal-julii-przylebskiej-wprowadzili-zakaz-aborcji/ 23 Michał Borkowski, “Abortion Ban in Poland,” GK24 News, November 23, 2020, https://gk24.pl/zakaz-aborcji-w-polsceprotesty-od-kiedy-nowy-zakaz-i-gdzie-kobiety-beda-przerywac-ciaze-polska-na-tle-swiata-23112020/ar/c1-15258484 24 Michał Borkowski, “Abortion Ban in Poland,” GK24 News, November 23, 2020, https://gk24.pl/zakaz-aborcji-w-polsceprotesty-od-kiedy-nowy-zakaz-i-gdzie-kobiety-beda-przerywac-ciaze-polska-na-tle-swiata-23112020/ar/c1-15258484 25 Michał Borkowski, “Abortion Ban in Poland,” GK24 News, November 23, 2020, https://gk24.pl/zakaz-aborcji-w-polsceprotesty-od-kiedy-nowy-zakaz-i-gdzie-kobiety-beda-przerywac-ciaze-polska-na-tle-swiata-23112020/ar/c1-15258484

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of protesters showed up in Warsaw, Łódź, Krakow, and other Polish cities, being met by pepper spray and physical force from the police.26 These events are caused directly by the growth of Catholic, conservative values from the renewed term of PiS.27 On November 26, 2020, a press release given by European Parliament condemned the Polish restriction of reproductive and sexual rights, and reminded Poland of the EU’s responsibility to protect and respect such rights.28 In the resolution adopted by this Parliament, it states that “the decision was made by “judges elected by the coalition led by PiS and wholly dependent on its politicians.”29 The press release continues to say that such religiously-motivated values threaten Polish women’s human rights, for which autonomous and accessible means of reproductive decision-making must be made available.30 This issue puts immense pressure on the relationship between Poland and the EU, as the former holds conservative and Catholic values, while the latter holds those that are liberal and progressive. Polish Economy: Growth and Setbacks

The Polish economy was fairly strong prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 due to years of growth, access to EU funding, investment in human 26 Joanna Plucinska, “Polish Court Ruling Amounts to

Almost Total Ban on Abortion,” Reuters News, October 22, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-poland-abortion-rulingidUSKBN277213 27 Joanna Plucinska, “Polish Court Ruling Amounts to Almost Total Ban on Abortion,” Reuters News, October 22, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-poland-abortion-rulingidUSKBN277213 28 Press Release, “The Actual Ban on Abortion in Poland Threatens Women’s Lives, Says Parliament,” November 26, 2020, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/pl/pressroom/20201120IPR92132/faktyczny-zakaz-aborcji-w-polsce-zagraza-zyciu-kobiet-mowi-parlament 29 Press Release, “The Actual Ban on Abortion in Poland Threatens Women’s Lives, Says Parliament,” November 26, 2020, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/pl/pressroom/20201120IPR92132/faktyczny-zakaz-aborcji-w-polsce-zagraza-zyciu-kobiet-mowi-parlament 30 Press Release, “The Actual Ban on Abortion in Poland Threatens Women’s Lives, Says Parliament,” November 26, 2020, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/pl/pressroom/20201120IPR92132/faktyczny-zakaz-aborcji-w-polsce-zagra-

capital and effective macroeconomic policies.31 Poland has benefitted from structural reforms over the past few years, including low corporate taxation and trade liberalization, which allowed it to prosper economically and contribute significantly to the EU economy.32 However, the 2020 pandemic puts Poland on the course of a recession for the first time in almost thirty years, placing a 3.9 percent contraction.33 This is in comparison to the average yearly growth of 3.6 percent in the last decade.34 As well, the GDP decreased by 2.7 percent.35 Polish World Bank Representative Marcus Heinz states that the country began investing in postpandemic recovery by focusing on education, healthcare and encouraging investment.36 2020 caused Poland challenges in maintaining a competitive technological advantage, and requires more investment in this area to catch up with the rest of EU member countries.37 In February 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic also forced a 4.7 percent 31 Press Release, “Polish Economy To Shrink in 2020 Due

to Pandemic: Then It May Start a Moderate Recover,” The World Bank, October 7, 2020, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/ press-release/2020/10/07/polish-economy-to-shrink-in-2020-dueto-pandemic-then-it-may-start-moderate-recovery 32 Anthony Casillas, “Four Economic Challenges Facing Poland in 2020,” Investopedia.com, October 12, 2020, https:// www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/011416/3-economic-challenges-poland-faces-2016.asp 33 Press Release, “Polish Economy To Shrink in 2020 Due to Pandemic: Then It May Start a Moderate Recover,” The World Bank, October 7, 2020, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/ press-release/2020/10/07/polish-economy-to-shrink-in-2020-dueto-pandemic-then-it-may-start-moderate-recovery 34 Anthony Casillas, “Four Economic Challenges Facing Poland in 2020,” Investopedia.com, October 12, 2020, https:// www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/011416/3-economic-challenges-poland-faces-2016.asp 35 Press Release, “Polish Economy To Shrink in 2020 Due to Pandemic: Then It May Start a Moderate Recover,” The World Bank, October 7, 2020, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/ press-release/2020/10/07/polish-economy-to-shrink-in-2020-dueto-pandemic-then-it-may-start-moderate-recovery 36 Press Release, “Polish Economy To Shrink in 2020 Due to Pandemic: Then It May Start a Moderate Recover,” The World Bank, October 7, 2020, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/ press-release/2020/10/07/polish-economy-to-shrink-in-2020-dueto-pandemic-then-it-may-start-moderate-recovery 37 Anthony Casillas, “Four Economic Challenges Facing Poland in 2020,” Investopedia.com, October 12, 2020, https:// www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/011416/3-economic-chal-

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year-over-year inflation.38

Better management of resources and more sustainable resource consumption was a key area of concern for Poland in 2020, and the country must take greater steps to instate sustainable management, as it mostly relies on coal-based resources.39 Due to Poland’s aging population, which was marked by decreased births in 2020, a tightened labour supply can threaten the Polish workforce.40 To combat this, more job opportunities are recommended to be created for older workers and disadvantaged groups.41 Year in Review

Overall, the increasing merge of the church and state in 2020 created tense social and political situations in Poland. In fact, it has created social turmoil, as tightening anti-abortion laws have sparked protests that lasted many days throughout Poland. This strained relations with the EU, with the European Parliament condemning the actions of President Andrzej Duda. On this note, the reelection of President Duda for another four years signified a solidification of Catholic, right-wing conservative rule. This election exposed the high political polarization in the country, as the PiS party won on very thin margins. The political and social principles of the ruling party greatly contrast with those of the EU, creating more disagreement and talk of Poland leaving the Union. These two topics influenced each other through the values of the new Polish government, 38 Anthony Casillas, “Four Economic Challenges Facing

the one which put forth the motion that created the new abortion laws. This ultimately negatively impacted the Polish relationship with the EU in 2020 because of this incredible contrast of values, as well as the reality of how church and state intertwinement can infringe on the human rights of women in Poland. Although the economy has prospered in the decade leading up to 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has decimated some of this growth, forcing the country into an economic downturn. This is shouldered by other limiting factors, such as the lack of sustainable resource consumption and business practices, lessened technological growth, and an aging population. In order to combat this, Poland must create greater job opportunities for an older population of workers and invest in technological growth to maintain an economic advantage. As well, Poland must continue to invest in education, healthcare and the investment sector in order to better recover from the lack of growth due to the pandemic. In order to remain in good standing with the EU, conferences must be held between Polish leaders and EU representatives, where the discussion of human rights in the law can be held. To better align with the progressive and liberal perspectives of the EU, Poland must foster greater distancing between the Catholic church and the government - which would ultimately better protect human rights, strengthen democracy and lessen bias in the government and the justice system.

Poland in 2020,” Investopedia.com, October 12, 2020, https:// www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/011416/3-economic-challenges-poland-faces-2016.asp 39 Anthony Casillas, “Four Economic Challenges Facing Poland in 2020,” Investopedia.com, October 12, 2020, https:// www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/011416/3-economic-challenges-poland-faces-2016.asp 40 Press Release, “Polish Economy To Shrink in 2020 Due to Pandemic: Then It May Start a Moderate Recover,” The World Bank, October 7, 2020, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/ press-release/2020/10/07/polish-economy-to-shrink-in-2020-dueto-pandemic-then-it-may-start-moderate-recovery 41 OECD Economic Survey, “Key Policy Insights,” OECD, 2020, https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/a6ff3f1d-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/a6ff3f1d-en

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Sources

Agnieszka Kublik. 2020. “CBOS: Spektakularny Spadek Poparcia Dla Andrzeja Dudy.” Gazetapl. Agora SA. November 4, 2020. https://wyborcza. pl/7,75398,26478255,cbos-spektakularnyspadek-poparcia-dla-andrzeja-dudy.html.

Polsce [PROTESTY] Od Kiedy Nowy Zakaz I Gdzie Kobiety Będą Przerywać Ciążę? Polska Na Tle Świa.” Głos Koszaliński. Głos Koszaliński. November 23, 2020. https://gk24. pl/zakaz-aborcji-w-polsce-protesty-od-kiedynowy-zakaz-i-gdzie-kobiety-beda-przerywacciaze-polska-na-tle-swiata-23112020/ar/c115258484.

BBC News. 2020. “Poland’s Duda Narrowly Beats Trzaskowski in Presidential Vote.” BBC News. BBC News. July 13, 2020. https://www.bbc. Plucinska, Joanna. 2020. “Polish Court Ruling Amounts to Almost Total Ban on Abortion.” com/news/world-europe-53385021. U.S. October 22, 2020. https://www.reuters. Dominika Sitnicka. 2020. “Polska Piekłem Kobiet. com/article/us-poland-abortion-rulingPiS I Trybunał Julii Przyłębskiej Wprowadzili idUSKBN277213. Zakaz Aborcji.” Oko.press. Oko.press. October 22, 2020. https://oko.press/polska-pieklem- “Poland Plans to Increase Minimum Wage in 2019. Then What? - Kafkadesk.” 2018. kobiet-pis-i-trybunal-julii-przylebskiejKafkadesk - Ultra-Local News from Central wprowadzili-zakaz-aborcji/. Europe. September 25, 2018. https://kafkadesk. Faktyczny zakaz aborcji w Polsce zagraża życiu org/2018/09/25/poland-plans-to-increasekobiet, mówi Parlament | Aktualności | Parlament minimum-wage-in-2019-then-what/. Europejski. 2020. “Faktyczny Zakaz Aborcji W Polsce Zagraża Życiu Kobiet, Mówi Parlament “Polish Economy to Shrink in 2020 due to Pandemic: Then It May Start a Moderate Recovery.” 2020. | Aktualności | Parlament Europejski.” Europa. World Bank. 2020. https://www.worldbank. eu. 2020. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/ org/en/news/press-release/2020/10/07/polishpl/press-room/20201120IPR92132/faktycznyeconomy-to-shrink-in-2020-due-to-pandemiczakaz-aborcji-w-polsce-zagraza-zyciu-kobietthen-it-may-start-moderate-recovery. mowi-parlament. Fakt.pl. 2021. “Rekordowe Wydatki Na Księży. “What Does Andrzej Duda’s Presidential Election Victory Mean for Polish Politics?” 2020. Fundusz Kościelny Najwyższy W Historii.” EUROPP. July 27, 2020. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/ Fakt24.Pl. Fakt24.pl. June 23, 2021. https:// europpblog/2020/07/27/what-does-andrzejwww.fakt.pl/wydarzenia/polityka/rekordowedudas-presidential-election-victory-mean-forwydatki-na-ksiezy-fundusz-koscielnypolish-politics/#Author. najwyzszy-w-historii/dgnret3. “Key Policy Insights | OECD Economic Surveys: The New York Times. 2021. “Poland Overhauls Courts, and Critics See Retreat from Democracy Poland 2020 | OECD ILibrary.” 2020. Oecd(Published 2017),” 2021. https://www.nytimes. Ilibrary.org. 2020. https://www.oecd-ilibrary. com/2017/12/20/world/europe/eu-poland-law. org/sites/a6ff3f1d-en/index.html?itemId=/ html?_r=0/world-europe-42270239. content/component/a6ff3f1d-en. Masters, James. 2017. “Poland Faces EU Punishment “4 Economic Challenges Facing Poland in 2020.” 2021. Investopedia. 2021. https://www. over Controversial Judicial Reforms.” CNN. investopedia.com/articles/investing/011416/3CNN. December 20, 2017. https://www.cnn. economic-challenges-poland-faces-2016.asp. com/2017/12/20/europe/poland-eu-punishmentjudicial-reforms-intl/index.html.

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• Population: 10,196,709 people1 • Unemployment: July 2020 5.6%2 • GDP Per Capita: 22700.00 USD3 • EU status: Portugal became a member of the European Union in 1986, with a majority of the Portuguese supporting Portugal’s membership in the union. 4 1 Raynor De Best, “COVID-19 Deaths per Capita by Country,” Statista, December 16, 2020, |PAGE|, accessed December 31, 2020, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1104709/ coronavirus-deaths-worldwide-per-million-inhabitants/) 2 “Portugal Unemployment Rate19832020 Data: 2021-2022 Forecast: Calendar,” Portugal Unemployment Rate | 1983-2020 Data | 2021-2022 Forecast | Calendar, accessed January 01, 2021, https://tradingeconomics. com/portugal/unemployment-rate) 3 “Portugal GDP per Capita1960-2019 Data: 2020-2021 Forecast: Historical: Chart,” Portugal GDP per Capita | 1960-2019 Data | 2020-2021 Forecast | Historical | Chart, accessed January 01, 2021, https://tradingeconomics.com/portugal/gdp-per-capita) 4 Almut Möller@almutmoeller on TwitterECFR Alumni · Head et al., “Portugal: A Good European in Search of Friends,” ECFR, accessed January 01, 2021, https:// www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_portugal_a_ good_european_in_search_of_friends)

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or most of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant and prolonged impact in most nations of the world, and as a result has influenced the decisions of EU and by extension, Portuguese policymakers. In such circumstances, the Portuguese government has attempted to limit the spread of and deaths due to COVID-19, sacrificing a relatively prosperous economy for the health of Portugal’s citizens. THE HEALTH EFFECTS OF COVID-19 ON THE PORTUGUESE

The reaction to COVID-19 by Portugal has been similar to that of most nations around the world. In particular, the Health Minister of Portugal, Marta Temido, and the various provincial health ministers throughout Portugal, have attempted to listen to the experts and follow the advice of the World Health Organization. As a result, the federal Portuguese government enacted social interactions regulations, which among other things mandated mandatory mask usage when exposed to others. There has been little debate on how effective the Portuguese government has been at containing and limiting the spread/deaths of COVID-19. Thus, the following statistical analysis can shed some light on how Portugal has fared so far in the COVID-19 pandemic. The following statistical analysis, while limited, is intended to provide a degree of context on how Portugal has fared so far during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The first analysis (figure 1.1) uses statistics from various EU countries with a similar population to that of Portugal (populations ranging from 9-11 million), comparing each country’s average COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita, to that of Portugal. Additionally, (figure 1.2) compares the same statistics for all Southern European countries as they have similar demographics to Portugal.

Despite the constraints of this analysis, Portugal is doing relatively better than the EU countries with populations similar to itself. The mean of the COVID-19 Cases per Capita for the chart one countries (excluding Portugal) is 0.0457 compared to Portugal’s 0.038. The mean of the COVID-19 Deaths per Capita for the chart one countries (excluding Portugal) is 0.0037 compared to the Portugal’s notably lower 0.00064. However, Portugal did relatively worse in cases and better in deaths than the other Southern European countries. Portugal’s COVID-19 cases per capita of 0.038 is notably higher than the average (excluding Portugal) of 0.0287. However, since Greece’s cases are so few compared to the other countries, it has skewed the average. With Greece removed as the outlier, Portugal’s cases are reasonably similar to Italy and Spain, but Portugal is still doing relatively poorly. Portugal has more cases per capita than Italy (+0.005) and slightly fewer cases than Spain (-0.0017) on a per capita basis. Portugal’s COVID-19 deaths per capita are 0.00064, lower than the average of the COVID-19 Deaths per Capita (excluding Portugal) of 0.0009. Portugal is doing notably better when it comes to deaths per capita, as it is relatively similar to Greece’s and notably smaller than Italy and Spain’s death per capita values. Thus, despite the constraints of this analysis, Portugal is doing reasonably well to limit the spread of COVID-19 and is doing notably well at limiting deaths from COVID-19. Numerous media sources agree with this conclusion, and have hailed Portugal “as one of the most successful national responses to COVID-19 [in the EU]”. Portugal has been praised for its early decision to lockdown, restrict freedoms temporally and for mandating mask usage. Additionally, despite bordering Spain and

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having very similar demographics to Italy and Spain, Portugal has fared significantly better than both those countries in terms of deaths per capita (figure 1.2), leaving the other EU countries impressed. Furthermore, Portugal’s relative success at combating COVID-19 has contributed to reinforcing public opinion for President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, virtually confirming his success in the next Portuguese Presidential election on January 24, 2021. THE ECONOMIC EFFECTS OF COVID-19 ON THE PORTUGUESE Like most European Union countries, COVID-19 and measures taken in response, such as Portugal’s full lockdown in mid to late March, proved to be devasting to the economies of EU member countries. On March 18, Portugal went into lockdown, with Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo declaring a state of emergency, and the suspension of democracy, in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Thus, at the end of the first quarter, the Portuguese economy shrunk by -4% (figure 1.3), and a notable reduction in GDP (figure 1.4). The continuation of domestic restrictions, uncertainty and the substantial decline of foreign demand for Portuguese exports contributed to the substantial weakening of the Portuguese economy; with a significant reduction in GDP of 14% in the second quarter. However, the Portuguese government began to limit restrictions in early May gradually, reopening the country for the third quarter of the year.

the country. These measures promoted positive economic growth, in combination with Portugal’s stimulus packages (see graphs). Even though the economy has not entirely recovered, it has improved substantially. The vast majority of media outlets acknowledge and understand the need for the decisions made by the Portuguese policymakers (which resulted to substantial economic troubles) as essentially every EU country is following the same strategy, to sacrifice economic prosperity for health. PORTUGUESE STIMULUS PACKAGES

On March 18, the Portuguese government announced its EUR 9.2 billion stimulus package. A simplified overview of this stimulus package is as follows: 5 5.2B euros in fiscal stimulus 3B euros in state-backed credit guarantees 1B euros related to social security payments, including soft loans, and a delay in some tax payments to support businesses. Additionally, on October 15, the Portuguese government announced its Recovery and Resilience Plan, with a budget of 13.944 Billion euros. This package is very complex and targets a wide range of economic and societal aspects to Portugal. It is designed not only to help stimulate the Portuguese economy but also to improve Portugal’s economy, productivity

The spread of COVID-19 gradually diminished in the summer months; hospitals had more experience and had become better equipped to treat COVID-19 patients. These 5 “Portugal,” KPMG, April 14, 2020, accessed aspects contributed to the decision by December 31, 2020, https://home.kpmg/xx/en/home/inPortuguese policymakers to gradually reopen sights/2020/04/portugal-government-and-institution-measures-in-response-to-covid.html)

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and society: 6 1.038B euros – improve the Portuguese national healthcare system 1.633B euros – restructuring social housing 833M euros – relive inner-city poverty 1.386B euros – supporting of Portuguese technological and industrial development 1.369B euros – professional training and the modernization of education 833M euros – enhancing accessibilities in urban centres/ improve socio-economic conditions of various regions throughout Portugal 665M euros – improve progress on fire fighting 441M euros – improvement of water management 2.888M euros – climate transition (promoting a greener Portuguese economy and society) 1.032B euros – develop sustainable/ greener public transport 865M euros – finance investments dedicated to decarbonized the Portuguese economy 6 «Portugal,» KPMG, https://home.kpmg/xx/en/ home/insights/2020/04/portugal-government-and-institution-measures-in-response-to-covid.html)

991M euros- promotion of energetic efficiency and renewable energies 2.858B euros – allocated to digital education, digital measures within companies, and the Public Administration’s modernization. Various media outlets hold the belief that Portugal’s stimulus packages can bring the country back to its prepandemic economic strength. The recovery to businesses that the stimulus packages provided, combined with the improvement of infrastructure, could heavily influence Portugal’s positive long run economic growth and productivity. 7 However, Portugal relies heavily on tourism, so as long as the world is stuck in a pandemic it is unlikely Portugal will make a full recovery. 8 YEAR IN REVIEW Portugal has had a hectic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has caused numerous infections and deaths, economic disaster and also political upheaval in Portugal. For example, Portugal has experienced various anti-mask/antilockdown protests. Portugal had hundreds protesting in Lisbon in late October expressing their views that the Portuguese government is acting tyrannically, and that forcing citizens to wear masks is contrary to their constitutional rights. 9

7 Author: Tiziana Barghini, “Portugal: On The Brink Of Recovery,” Global Finance Magazine, accessed January 01, 2021, https://www.gfmag.com/magazine/september-2020/portugal-brink-recovery) 8 Author: Tiziana Barghini, “Portugal: On The Brink Of Recovery,” Global Finance Magazine, https://www. gfmag.com/magazine/september-2020/portugal-brink-recovery) 9 Marina Watson - et al., “Hundreds Protest in Lisbon against Mandatory Masks,” Portugal Resident, October 26, 2020, accessed January 01, 2021, https://www.portugal275


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Anti-mask and anti-lockdown in protests in Portugal have been more common through October to the present day as restrictions were reinforced to combat the second wave of Covid-1910. However, it seems anti-mask/lockdown protests in Portugal have not been as widespread as they have been throughout Southern Europe, as various far-right protests have been on the rise throughout Spain, Italy (mainly Sicily), and various urban areas throughout Greece. However, Portuguese policymakers did not give in these domestic pressures and have reinforced their staunch support for the EU as they have followed the practices and recommendations of the leading EU countries (Germany, France etc.). Additionally, Portugal’s stimulus packages promote Portugal’s further integration into the EU, for example the promotion of a substantially greener economy and society as well as the modernization of infrastructure and education. Nonetheless, there is fear that Portugal’s ambitious stimulus packages may plunge the Portuguese economy into even further debt, which may result in Portugal to seem as one of the weaker links in the European Union. 11

resident.com/hundreds-protest-in-lisbon-against-mandatory-masks/) 10 “Journalists across EU Face Wave of Attacks Covering Anti-lockdown Protests,” International Press Institute, December 03, 2020, accessed January 01, 2021, https://ipi. media/journalists-across-eu-face-wave-of-attacks-coveringanti-lockdown-protests/) 11 “Portugal National Debt: Spiralling Upwards For 20 Years. Find Out Why,” Commodity.com, December 03, 2020, accessed December 31, 2020, https://commodity.com/ data/portugal/debt-clock/)

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ROMANIA JONATHAN KATZ

A

s the global pandemic rages, politics continues. Nowhere is this more true in Romania, where the most recent parliamentary election was held amidst increasing cases and deaths. This election was one of extreme consequence, a referendum on corruption that has plagued the former communist republic in recent years as it acclimatizes itself in the European Union, following a midterm switch in government. Romania was at a crossroads between one party that fought against the rule of law and received the ire of the European Commission, and those who view Romania at home within the legalism of the Union. ELECTIONS 2020

The results of the recent Romanian parliamentary election were simultaneously surprising and expected. Then-Prime Minister Ludovic Orban announced on the third of September that Romanians would head to the polls on the sixth of December1. Turnout for the election was very low, with 31.94% of registered voters voting, possibly reflecting both the population’s fatigue with Romania’s troubled politics and the forgoing of voting due to the pandemic2. Because of the pandemic, the opposition had requested that the government postpone the election, but the government refused3. Prior to the pandemic, President Klaus Iohannis and the Prime Minister wished for early elections to capitalize on their high polling, but this was squashed when the world became engulfed by the virus4. The Romanian Social Democratic Party (PSD) once again won a plurality of the seats, but fell far short of a majority. They won only 28.90% of the popular vote for the lower house,

the Chamber of Deputies, a loss of 16.6 points since the 2016 election. This netted them 110 seats in the Chamber, 46 fewer than needed for a majority5. This is the party’s worst result since its modern foundation in 2001, which can be attributed to the Romanian public’s wide discontent with the PSD’s rule, which has been criticized for being corrupt and incompotent, including judicial interference which has incurred the condemnations of the European Commission and the PSD’s European affiliate, the Party of European Socialism6 (more on this below). The PSD ruled Romania for most of the period between 2012 and 2019, before being ousted in a vote of no confidence in 2019; PSD Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă was replaced by National Liberal Party’s (PNL) Orban7. Shortly after, PSD founder and the first President of Romania Ion Illescu was charged with crimes against humanity committed during the anti-communist revolution8, which may have contributed to the PSD’s woes. More significant was the 2018 conviction and 2019 imprisonment of the PSD’s leader, Liviu Dragnea, who was found guilty of using his connections in order to give two PSD party workers government jobs9. Dragnea was previously convicted in 2016 of voterigging, and has continued to wield massive power within his party10. The then-President of the Chamber of Deputies (the Romanian equivalent of a parliamentary Speaker) Marcel Ciolacu led the party into the election11. Ciolacu, a former Deputy Prime Minister served as interim leader following Dăncilă’s ouster, and was elected in a landslide to a full term as leader in August of 202012. Of a relatively low profile, Ciolacu used to be a major ally

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of Dragnea before turning against him and Dăncilă, embodying the power struggle in the party since Dragnea’s conviction13. The party performed the strongest in the east and south of Romanian14, in counties roughly coinciding with the historical regions of Moldovia and Wallachia.

The Liberal-Conservative PNL achieved 25.19% of the popular vote for the Chamber of Deputies, netting them 93 seats. This was an improvement compared to the last election, as they increased their popularity by approximately 5 points15. Nonetheless, it was something of a disappointment, for

polls predicted a better result for the party, especially after their victory in the 2019 European elections16. The PNL was hurt by the government’s coronavirus response, with over 12,000 Romanians dying from the virus17. The party was led into the election by

the then-incumbent Prime Minister, Orban. Orban’s tenure as Prime Minister was short, losing a vote of no-confidence mere months after he became Prime Minister, only for his government to be given new life when the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated an 279


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emergency government18. The party performed strongest in the northwest of Romania19, counties that were ceded to Romania from the Kingdom of Hungary following the First World War, aside from certain counties in Transylvania where ethnic Hungarians are the plurality. The liberal electoral alliance between the Save Romania Union (USR) and Freedom, Unity and Solidarity Party (PLUS) increased their combined support by 6.5 points, winning 55 seats in the lower house with 16.37% of the popular vote. While this was a solid third-place finish, the alliance polled 6% less than it did in the 2019 European elections, where they also finished third20. The USR is led by lawyer Dan Barna21, while PLUS is led by former technocrat Prime Minister and European Commissioner Dacian Cioloș22. Cioloș also currently serves as a Member of the European Parliament and as leader of the centrist Renew Europe, the third largest group in the European Parliament23. USR-PLUS is the most pro-European party major party, and achieved its best results in Romanian’s urban areas, winning the capital, Bucharest, as well as Timiș county and Brașov county24. They also won the votes of the Romanian diaspora, a reflection of their proEuropean stance25. The biggest surprise was the fourth place finish of the Alliance for the Unity of Romanians (AUR), a far-right nationalist party26. The party was founded in December 2019, and was virtually unknown, winning less than half a percent of the vote in September’s local elections27. In the parliamentary election, they won 9% of the popular vote, netting them 33 seats in the Chamber of Deputies28. The party is fiercely homophobic and antiimmigrant, emphazing the need for Romanian to embrace its Christian identiy29. Members of the party have also been accused of extreme misogyny30. Parts of the party openly praise the fascist regime in the 1940s, and advocate

for Romanian irredentism31. The AUR was weakest in urban areas, achieving an insignificant result in Bucharest32, but doing exceedingly well amongst the Romanian diaspora, winning a quarter of their votes33. The result of the ethnic vote in Romania was entirely unsurprising. The Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) won 5.74% of the popular vote for the Chamber of Deputies, winning 21 seats, equalling their seat total from the last election34. As their name suggests, UDMR represents the ethnic Hungarian population in Romania. As parties that represent ethnic minorities in Romania have a much lower threshold needed to enter parliament than most parties, 18 parties representing minorities such as Jews, Romas, and Tartars each won one seat, an increase of 1 from the last election35. Pre-election and exit polling was mediocre; most polls overrated popular support for the PNL and USR-PLUS,while discounting the PSD36. Nearly every poll forecasted the PNL winning a plurality of seats in a hung parliament; the result was a hung parliament, but with the PSD with the plurality. Most polling had another party led by a former PM, PRO-ALDE clearing the 5% threshold needed, which it failed to do. The most egregious errors concerned the AUP, which was left off of most polls despite winning nearly 10% of the popular vote, although this can be excused due to their unprecedented late-surge in support. A day after the election, Orban resigned due to the poor showing after consulting with President Iohannis37. Following Orban’s resignation, the PNL began negotiations with USR-PLUS and the UDMR. After almost two weeks of negotiations, a coalition deal was agreed upon by the three parties, where the PNL would receive the premiership, the presidency of the Chamber of Deputies, and nine ministries, USR-PLUS would receive a

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deputy premiership, the Senate leadership and six ministries, and UDMR would receive a deputy premiership and three ministries38. Orban’s finance minister Florin Cîțu was chosen as Prime Minister, while USR-PLUS coleader Dan Barna and UDMR leader Kelemen Hunor were agreed to be the two deputy Prime Ministers39. In a final twist, it was agreed that Orban would become the President of the Chamber of Deputies, despite internal PNL criticism that the party was giving up too many ministries in order to give the former PM the parliamentary job40. The coalition, which has the support of the ethnic minority MPs, was confirmed on the twenty-third of December with a majority of 32 seats41. The Cîțu cabinet received both praise and criticism for its composition. Only one of its twenty-one members are women: Raluca Turcan, the minister of labour42, meaning that the cabinet is 95% male. The education minister, Sorin Cîmpeanu attempted to passion reducing penalties for academic plagiarism while he served as education minister in a previous government43. Stelian Ion of USR, “one of the fiercest opponents’’ of the PSD’s judicial corruption is the new minister of justice, which will hopefully resolve the conflict with the European Commission44. In local election news, Dominic Samuel Fritz of USR-PLUS won the September mayoral election in Timișoara, the third largest city in Romanian, defeating the incumbent PNL mayor45. Fritz is a German national who originally came to Romania to volunteer for disadvantaged youth46. EU citizens have the right to vote and run in local elections throughout the Union, and Fritz is the latest in a trend to exercise this right47. THE PANDEMIC

Much like everywhere in Europe and the world, the global COVID-19 pandemic up ended the lives of all Romanians. On March 14th, then-caretaker Prime Minister Ludovic

Orban was reinstated in an all-party confidence vote so he would be able to adequately address the pandemic, breathing new life into his government while simultaneously preventing the early elections he desired48. A day before one of his MPs tested positive, sending the Prime Minister into self-isolation and preventing him from participating in his own investiture vote49. Initially, cases were low in Romania; only 102 Romanians had tested positive for the virus when Orban was reinvested into office50. There were concerns for the Romanian diaspora in Italy, which at the time was the European hotspot for the virus. The first three deaths occured on the twenty-first of March51. On the tenth of July, Romania reached what was then a peak of cases: a relatively low 698 positive tests (0.035 positive tests per 1000 people)52. As cases were relatively low, restrictions began to lax, and schools were opened the twenty-fourth of September,53 eventually resulting in the second wave. The second wave far exceeded the first, with cases slowly climbing throughout the summer and autumn, reaching 168490 total cases on the fourteenth of October54. Daily cases peaked on the eighteenth of November with 10269 positive results55. Four days prior, a fire in the hospital COVID-19 ward in Bucharest killed 10 people.56 The parliamentary election occurred on the sixth of December; video circulated showing people hospitalized with the virus voting from the COVID-19 ward 57 – the incumbent government would be somewhat punished by voters due to the rise in cases (read above). The army was deployed on the sixteenth to assist Romania’s public health units 58. Romania reached 600,000 cases of the virus on the twenty-third, with a total death toll of 14766.59 On a positive note, the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine arrived in Bucharest on Christmas Day60 – the beginning of the path forward past the

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pandemic.

CONCLUSION

When they were in power until 2019, the PSD enacted reforms that undermined the independence and effectiveness of the judiciary. This included the formation of the Section for the Investigation of Offences in the Judiciary, a body created to exclusively prosecute judges. This was criticized by the Council of Europe’s Vienna Commission as an attempt to reduce the independence of the judiciary61. The European Commission’s 2020 “Country Chapter on the rule of law situation in Romania” criticized this and other efforts of the PSD to delegitimize the rule of law in Romania.62

While the pandemic continues to take the lives of Romania’s residents, the beginning of vaccinations show the end is in sight. The conflict over Romania’s judicary and corruption may also be coming to an end, with the victory of the National Liberty Party and the Save Romania Union-Freedom, Unity and Solidarity Party alliance. The new coalition is flawed, and will have to contend against the Social Democratic Party and Alliance for the Unity of Romanians in their quest to align the laws of the country with Europe’s standards, but Romania’s future depends on it. The sins of the twentieth century still plague Romania alongside the virus, but a path forward is clear; hopefully Florin Cîțu will take it.

JUDICIAL INTERFERENCE

The legality of these reforms is being decided upon by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after various judges’ advocacy groups brought the case forward63. Hearings occurred in Luxembourg City in January of 202064. The case is still pending, but Advocate General Michal Bobek submitted a brief to the court that the judicial reforms were illegal, and that Section should be abolished immediately.65 A ruling was expected before the end of 2020, but it is yet to be released66. The PSD was removed from power in 2019 in a vote of no-confidence, and Ludovic Orban and the PNL gained power. They opposed the section, and desired its repeal, but were unable to do so as they lacked the numbers in parliament, as the PSD were the largest parliamentary faction67. The parliamentary election on the sixth of December represents a new opportunity, as a pro-repeal majority may now exist. Prior to the election, the PNL introduced legislation repealing the section that will be voted on after March of 202168. Post-election, the PNL/USR-PLUS-UDMR coalition may be able approve the legislation, and the new Minister of Justice, Stellan Ion, is an opponent of the PSD’s judicial corruption69.

Notes 1

Georgi Gotev, “Romania to Hold Elections on 6 December, Says PM,” EURACTIV.com, September 4, 2020. 2 Kit Gillet, “Romania’s Leader is Tested by a Close Election,” The New York Times, December 6, 2020. 3“Ciolacu: Präsident Mit Zweierlei Maß,” Allgemeine Deutsche Zeitung für Rumänien, October 21, 2020. 4 Craig Turp-Balazs, “In a Time of Coronavirus, Romania Gets a New Government,” Emerging Europe, March 19, 2020.

5

Alina Novăceanu, “Parlamentare2020/BEC - Rezultate Finale (Înainte De Contestaţii): Senat - PSD: 29,32%, PNL:..,” AGERPRES, December 9, 2020.

6

“European Socialists Freeze Relations with Romanian Ruling Party,” Romania Insider, April 12, 2019. 7“Ludovic Orban, Prim-Ministru Desemnat. Klaus Iohannis a Făcut Anunțul,”. Digi24, October 15, 2019.

8

Kit Gillet,“Inside Europe: Former Romanian President to Stand Trial: DW: 12.04.2019,” Deutsche Welle, April 12, 2019.

9

“Romania Corruption: PSD Chief Liviu Dragnea Jailed,” BBC News, May 27, 2019.

10 11

12

282

Ibid. “Marcel Ciolacu, Ales Președinte Al PSD / Eugen Teodorovici a Obținut Doar 91 De Voturi,” HotNewsRo, August 22, 2020. Ibid.


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA 13

Ibid.

14

Novăceanu, “Rezultate Finale”.

15

Ibid.

16

“2019 European Election Results: European Parliament,” European Parliament, July 4, 2019. 17 Gillet, “Romania’s Leader is Tested.”

45

Simona Fodor, “Romania Local Elections: Young German Elected Mayor of Timișoara,” Romania Insider, September 28, 2020.

46

Ibid.

47

Ibid.

48

Turp-Balazs, “In a Time of Coronavirus.”

18

Turp-Balazs, “In a Time of Coronavirus.”

49

Ibid.

19

Novăceanu, “Rezultate Finale”.

50

Ibid.

20

“2019 European Election Results”

51

“Încă un român a murit din cauza coronavirusului. Trei decese confirmate în România,” Digi24, March 22, 2020. 52 Associated Press, “Florida Shatters U.S. Record for Largest Single-Day Increase in COVID-19 Cases | CBC News,” CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, July 13, 2020.

53

Irina Marica, “School Starts in Romania for around 2.8 Mln Students, with New Learning Models and COVID-19 Prevention Rules,” Romania Insider, September 14, 2020.

54

Simona Fodor, “Romania’s New Covid-19 Cases Top 4,000 for a Second Day.” Romania Insider, October 15, 2020. 55 John Hopkins University data publically accessible through Google’s API

56

Sabina Niksic, and Vadim Ghirda, “Fire in COVID-19 Unit Kills 10 in Romania,” CTVNews. CTV News, November 14, 2020.

57

RFE/RL’s Romanian Service. “Romanian COVID-19 Patients Cast Votes On Hospital Ward,” RadioFreeEurope/ RadioLiberty, December 6, 2020.

58

Irina Marica, “Army Joins Romanian Public Health Departments’ Efforts to Fight COVID-19,” Romania Insider, December 16, 2020.

59

Irina Marica, “Total COVID-19 Cases Surpass 600,000 in Romania,” Romania Insider, December 23, 2020. 60 VOA Staff, “France, Romania Receive First Doses of Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine,” Voice of America, December 26, 2020.

61

European Commission, “Country Chapter on the rule of law situation in Romania,” September 30, 2020. 62 Ibid.

63

Marcel Gascón Barberá, “Romanian Judges Demand EUSlated Special Court’s ‘Immediate’ Abolition,” Balkan Insight, September 24, 2020.

64

Molly Quell, “EU High Court Takes Up Romanian Rule of Law,” Court House News, September 18, 2020. 65 Barberá “Romanian Judges Demand Abolition.

66

Ibid.

67

Ibid.

68

Marcel Gascón Barberá, “Romania Advances Drive to Scrap Former Govt’s Justice Laws.” Balkan Insight, October 1, 2020.

69

Turp-Balazs, “Florin Cîțu Becomes Romania’s PM.”

21

Andrei Chirileasa, “Update: Romania’s Center-Right Coalition Reaches Agreement on the next Government,” Romania Insider, December 18, 2020.

22

Matei Alexandru, “Dacian Cioloș a Fost Ales Liderul Grupului Renew Europe Din Parlamentul European, Al Treilea Grup Ca Mărime Din Legislativul UE,” G4Media. ro, June 19, 2019.

23

Ibid.

24

Novăceanu, “Rezultate Finale”.

25

Andrei Chirileasa, “Who Is AUR, the Anti-System Movement That Has Become the New Force in Romanian Politics?,” Romania Insider, December 11, 2020.

26

Ibid.

27

Ibid.

28

Novăceanu, “Rezultate Finale”.

29

Chirileasa, “Who Is AUR.”

30

Ibid.

31

Ibid.

32

Novăceanu, “Rezultate Finale”.

33

Chirileasa, “Who Is AUR.”

34

Novăceanu, “Rezultate Finale”.

35

Ibid.

36

According to poll results aggregate on Wikipedia.

37

“Ludovic Orban și-a dat demisia din funcția de primministru,” edited by Robert Kiss, Digi24, December 7, 2020. 38 Chirileasa, “Coalition reaches agreement.”

39

Ibid.

40

Ibid.

41

Craig Turp-Balazs, “Women Left out in the Cold as Florin Cîțu Becomes Romania’s PM,” Emerging Europe, December 24, 2020.

42

Ibid.

43

Ibid.

44

Ibid.

283


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https://www.romania-insider.com/dominic-fritz-winstimisoara-mayor-2020. Fodor, Simona. “Romania’s New Covid-19 Cases Top 4,000 for a Second Day.” Romania Insider, October 15, 2020.

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/election-results-2019/en/ romania/.

https://www.romania-insider.com/coronavirus-casesoct-15-2020.

Alexandru, Matei. “Dacian Cioloș a Fost Ales Liderul Grupului Renew Europe Din Parlamentul European, Al Treilea Grup Ca Mărime Din Legislativul UE.” G4Media. ro, June 19, 2019.

Gillet, Kit. “Inside Europe: Former Romanian President to Stand Trial: DW: 12.04.2019.” DW.COM. Deutsche Welle, April 12, 2019.

https://www.g4media.ro/dacian-ciolos-a-fost-ales-liderulgrupului-renew-europe-din-parl amentul-european.html. Associated Press. “Florida Shatters U.S. Record for Largest Single-Day Increase in COVID-19 Cases | CBC News.” CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, July 13, 2020. https:// w w w. c b c . c a / n e w s / w o r l d / c o ro n a v i r u s - j u l y - 1 2 covid-19-1.5646735. Barberá, Marcel Gascón. “Romania Advances Drive to Scrap Former Govt’s Justice Laws.” Balkan Insight, October 1, 2020. https://balkaninsight.com/2020/10/01/romania-advancesdrive-to-scrap-former-govts-jus tice-laws/. Barberá, Marcel Gascón. “Romanian Judges Demand EUSlated Special Court’s ‘Immediate’ Abolition.” Balkan Insight, September 24, 2020. https://balkaninsight.com/2020/09/24/romanian-judgesdemand-eu-slated-special-courts -immediate-abolition. Chirileasa, Andrei. “Update: Romania’s Center-Right Coalition Reaches Agreement on the next Government.” Romania Insider, December 18, 2020. https://www.romania-insider.com/romania-rulingcoalition-agreement-new-govenment. Chirileasa, Andrei. “Who Is AUR, the Anti-System Movement That Has Become the New Force in Romanian Politics?” Romania Insider, December 11, 2020. https://www. romania-insider.com/profile-alliance-romanians-unityelections-2020. “Ciolacu: Präsident Mit Zweierlei Maß.” Allgemeine Deutsche Zeitung für Rumänien , October 21, 2020. https://adz.ro/ artikel/artikel/ciolacu-praesident-mit-zweierlei-mass. European Commission, “Country Chapter on the rule of law situation in Romania,” September 30, 2020. “European Socialists Freeze Relations with Romanian Ruling Party.” Romania Insider, April 12, 2019. https://www.romania-insider.com/european-socialistsfreeze-relations-psd. Fodor, Simona. “Romania Local Elections: Young German Elected Mayor of Timișoara.” Romania Insider, September 28, 2020.

https://www.dw.com/en/inside-europe-former-romanianpresident-to-stand-trial/av-4829 7216. Gillet, Kit. “Romania’s Leader Is Tested by a Close Election.” The New York Times. The New York Times, December 6, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/06/world/europe/ romania-election.html. “Încă un român a murit din cauza coronavirusului. Trei decese confirmate în România”. Digi24, March 22, 2020. https://www.digi24.ro/stiri/actualitate/inca-un-roman-amurit-din-cauza-conoravirusului-tr ei-decese-confirmatein-romania-1279526. Kiss, Robert, ed. Ludovic Orban și-a dat demisia din funcția de prim-ministru. Digi24, December 7, 2020. http s ://w w w.digi24.ro /s tiri/ac tualitate / politica/ ludovic-orban-si-a-dat-demisia-din-fruntea guvernului-1414065?__grsc=cookieIsUndef0. “Ludovic Orban, Prim-Ministru Desemnat. Klaus Iohannis a Făcut Anunțul.” Digi24. Digi24, October 15, 2019. https://www.digi24.ro/stiri/actualitate/politica/ludovicorban-prim-ministru-desemnat-klau s-iohannis-a-facutanuntul-1201378. “Marcel Ciolacu, Ales Președinte Al PSD / Eugen Teodorovici a Obținut Doar 91 De Voturi.” HotNewsRo, August 22, 2020. https://www.hotnews.ro/stiri-politic-24245224-marcelciolacu-ales-presedinte-psd-eugen -teodorovici-obtinutdoar-91-voturi.htm. Marica, Irina. “Army Joins Romanian Public Health Departments’ Efforts to Fight COVID-19.” Romania Insider, December 16, 2020. https://www.romania-insider.com/soldiers-romania-healthefforts-covid. Marica, Irina. “School Starts in Romania for around 2.8 Mln Students, with New Learning Models and COVID-19 Prevention Rules.” Romania Insider, September 14, 2020. https://www.romania-insider.com/school-startsromania-covid-safety-rules-2020. Marica, Irina. “Total COVID-19 Cases Surpass 600,000 in Romania.” Romania Insider, December 23, 2020.

284


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA https://www.romania-insider.com/coronavirus-casesromania-dec-23-2020. Niksic, Sabina, and Vadim Ghirda. “Fire in COVID-19 Unit Kills 10 in Romania.” CTVNews. CTV News, November 14, 2020. https://www.ctvnews.ca/world/fire-in-covid-19-unit-kills10-in-romania-1.5189343. Novăceanu, Alina. “Parlamentare2020/BEC - Rezultate Finale (Înainte De Contestaţii): Senat - PSD: 29,32%, PNL:..” AGERPRES, December 9, 2020. h t t p s : / / w w w. a g e r p r e s . r o / p o l i t i c a / 2 0 2 0 / 1 2 / 0 9 / parlamentare2020-bec-rezultate-finale-inain te-decontestatii-senat-psd-29-32-pnl-25-58-camera-psd-28-90pnl-25-19--625107. Quell, Molly. “EU High Court Takes Up Romanian Rule of Law.” Court House News, September 18, 2020. https://www.courthousenews.com/eu-high-court-takes-upromanian-rule-of-law/. RFE/RL’s Romanian Service. “Romanian COVID-19 Patients Cast Votes On Hospital Ward.” RadioFreeEurope/ RadioLiberty. Romanian COVID-19 Patients Cast Votes On Hospital Ward, December 6, 2020. https://www.rferl.org/a/romanian-covid-19-patients-castvotes-on-hospital-ward/3098680 6.html. “Romania Corruption: PSD Chief Liviu Dragnea Jailed.” BBC News. BBC, May 27, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/ world-europe-48421430. “Romanian Government Toppled In No-Confidence Vote.” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Romanian Government Toppled In No-Confidence Vote, February 5, 2020. h t t p s : / / w w w. r f e r l . o rg / a / ro m a n i a - s - c e n t e r- r i g h t government-faces-no-confidence-vote/304 18255.html. Turp-Balazs, Craig. “In a Time of Coronavirus, Romania Gets a New Government.” Emerging Europe, March 19, 2020. https://emerging-europe.com/news/romania-coronavirusgovernment/. Turp-Balazs, Craig. “Women Left out in the Cold as Florin Cîțu Becomes Romania’s PM.” Emerging Europe, December 24, 2020. https://emerging-europe.com/news/women-left-out-inthe-cold-as-florin-citu-becomes-ro manias-pm/. VOA Staff. “France, Romania Receive First Doses of Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.” Voice of America, December 26, 2020. https://www.voanews.com/covid-19-pandemic/franceromania-receive-first-doses-pfizer biontech-covid-19vaccine.

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RUSSIA

Madison Skoblo

A

s the COVID-19 pandemic quickly became the most press-

ing issue countries had to face, Russia was already dealing with a set of challenges domestically and abroad. To begin, the COVID-19 pandemic not only damaged the healthcare system and infected thousands of Russians, but President Putin was quickly criticized for his disoriented and contradictory approach. Ultimately, by the end of 2020, Russia had the fourth-highest number of COVID-19 cases. Domestically, the Russian opposition figure, Alexei Navalny was poisoned by a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok family, the Soviet-designed toxic nerve agent used to poison former

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MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

spy Sergei Skripal on British soil in 2018.1 Inter-

the Kremlin.5 Nevertheless, the poisoning had not

nationally, as Belarussians protested against the

only given Navalny a stronger foundation to oppose

re-election of Lukashenko, Russia decided to send the Kremlin, but he also gained sympathy and moral support to suppress protesters. The year 2020 was high-ground internationally, especially since Angela a challenging one for Russia because of the three main situations it had to deal with: poisoning, pro- Merkel paid a visit to the hospital. tests, and a pandemic. The portrayal of the poisoning in Russian

Poisoning

news channels varies. For instance, Channel One,

One of the most prominent events in 2020

one of the most popular Russian news channels,

for Russia was the Kremlin’s decision to poison the

which more than 140 million Russians watch, has

opposition leader, Alexei Navalny. Navalny estab-

mentioned the poisoning but does not attribute

lished a reputation as Russia’s anti-corruption cru-

blame towards President Putin.6 Headlines such

sader who threatened Putin by his online exposés of as “Russian President Commented on the Investithe crony capitalist deals made in the ruling United

gation into the Case of Alexei Navalny” does not

Russia party and state companies.2 With Navalny’s

deny the occurrence of the poisoning, but it does

growing support, especially present in the media, the not suggest that the government played a role.7 Kremlin poisoned Navalny on August 20.3 By the

Moreover, Russia Today (RT), a state-controlled

end of 2020, the Kremlin refused to investigate the

international television network, focuses more on

poisoning and has hindered relations with Germa-

the government’s role, but also includes statistical

ny and the EU to cover the poisoning.4 Specifically,

measures on citizens’ opinions. RT claims that half

Putin had explained to French president Emmanuel

of Russians believe the alleged Navalny poisoning

Macron that Navalny poisoned himself to discredit

was faked or carried out by Western intelligence,

1

Daniil Galaydov, “Russia’s Biggest Stories of 2020: Pandemic, Putin and Poisoning,” December 20, 2020, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2020/12/23/russias-biggest-stories-of-2020-pandemic-putin-and-poisoning-a7245. 2 Michael Weiss, “RIGHTS IN RUSSIA: Navalny and the Opposition,” World Affairs 176, no. 4 (2013): 73, accessed December 18, 2020, http://www.jstor.org/stable/43554881. 3 Mason Clark, Report, Institute for the Study of War, 2020, accessed December 18, 2020. doi:10.2307/resrep26477.

4

“The man who lived; An interview with Russia’s opposition leader,” The Economist, October 17, 2020, 43(US), Gale In Context: Canada (accessed December 22, 2020), https://link.gale. com/apps/doc/A638458862/CIC?u=utoronto_main&sid=CIC&xid=0592f976.

and only 15% blame the Kremlin.8 5 6

Ibid. “Channel One – Most Popular Television Channel in Russia,” Subsidiaries, accessed December 22, 2020, https://nm-g.ru/ en/actives/sections.php?ID_BLOCK=33. 7 “Президент России Прокомментировал Расследование Дела Алексея Навального. Новости. Первый Канал,” 1tv.ru, accessed December 24, 2020, https://www.1tv.ru/news/2020-1217/398656-prezident_rossii_prokommentiroval_rassledovanie_ dela_alekseya_navalnogo. 8 Reuters, “Half of Russians Sceptical Kremlin Critic Navalny Was Poisoned - Poll,” Investing.com (Investing.com, December 24, 2020), https://www.investing.com/news/world-news/

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MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

Protest

lin.”12 Putin’s attitude toward the Belarusian regime sheds light on how he sees his own power and, thus,

As the protests continued against the coun-

recognized action needed to be taken. Russia’s state

try’s disputed presidential election and Belarus’ Moscow-backed President Alexander Lukashenko in

media has switched from its earlier, relatively honest portrayal of the protests as “Belarus is not Ukraine”

Belarus, Putin tried to deter protesters and support Lukashenko. The threat of a Russian intervention to

to “in Belarus, just like in Ukraine…”13 RT claims the protests in Belarus was the worst political event

support Lukashenko, which ISW reported on August 19 and forecasted on August 14, likely deterred

of 2020: The survey of 1,609 adults revealed that, of six of the year’s most important political events, the

protesters on August 19 and 20.9 As Russia partook

anti-government demonstrations in Belarus were the

in deterring protesters, Belarussian security forces

least popular, with 50 percent of those questioned

also deployed in force following instructions from

responding negatively.14 Meanwhile, a controversial

Lukashenko to “crush” the protests.10 The Russian National Guard has signed a cooperation agreement

constitutional amendment created in the summer of 2020 allows Putin to potentially remain in power

with Belarus’ police force to combat “terrorism

until 2036.15 This amendment and the actions taken

and extremism.”11 This agreement claims to protect

in Belarus suggest that Putin is solving any potential

public order and safety, but it came amid months before the opposition protests. Ultimately, Putin did

threat that questions his power.

not want to set a dangerous precedent and, thus, this Pandemic situation became much more a geopolitical one. Putin made it very clear during an interview that the situation in Belarus “must not change the

The most defining event of 2020 - just like every country - is the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 in Russia severely rattled its healthcare

global power balance to the detriment of the Krem- 12

Alexander Baunov, “Domestic Geopolitics: Belarusian Protests and Russia’s Power Transition,” Carnegie Moscow Center, accessed December 22, 2020, https://carnegie.ru/commentary/82619. 13 Ibid. 14 “Russians Rank Belarus Protests as Worst Political Event of 2020, but More Tolerant of Demonstrations in Khabarovsk, Poll 10 Mason Clark, Report, Institute for the Study of War, Reveals,” RT International, accessed December 23, 2020, https:// 2020, accessed December 18, 2020. doi:10.2307/resrep26477. www.rt.com/russia/510567-belarus-protests-russians-poll/. 11 The Moscow Times, “Russian National Guard to Partner 15 Ann M. Simmons, “After Momentous 2020, Russia’s PuWith Belarus Police Amid Protests,” The Moscow Times (The Mos- tin Enters New Year as Powerful as Ever,” The Wall Street Journal cow Times, December 18, 2020), https://www.themoscowtimes. (Dow Jones & Company, December 26, 2020), https://www.wsj. com/2020/12/18/russian-national-guard-to-partner-with-belarus-po- com/articles/after-momentous-2020-russias-putin-enters-new-yearlice-amid-protests-a72408. as-powerful-as-ever-11608999914. half-of-russians-sceptical-kremlin-critic-navalny-was-poisoned-poll-2375206. 9 Mason Clark, Report, Institute for the Study of War, 2020, accessed December 18, 2020. doi:10.2307/resrep26477.

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MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

system and economy.16 Today, Russia is one of the

pandemic became a much more serious issue as

world’s most infected countries, while also being

cases began to soar. In Putin’s first address on March

the first country to produce a COVID-19 vaccine,

25, he made clear the epidemic was serious. “Russia

Sputnik V.17 The first two cases were registered on

cannot insulate itself from this threat.”23 Howev-

February 15, and the first death on March 19.18 In

er, Putin was still adamant that the virus would

the early stages of the pandemic, the Kremlin per-

end quickly and Russia would still have its annual

sistently denied the virus and treated it as a problem Victory Parade on May 9. Moreover, Putin avoided in China, South Korea, and Italy.19 As a result, the

the word ‘quarantine’ and did not implement harsh

Kremlin quickly sent medical assistance to Italy,

measures. Russia’s first set of restrictive measures

Serbia, and the United States.20

were border closures to foreigners. On Sunday, March 29, Mayor Sobyanin introduced strict

However, how COVID-19 was portrayed

quarantine in Moscow, which many considered a

quickly changed when the virus began to infect individuals in Russia. On March 4, Putin held a first meeting with government members on COVID-19, where Deputy Prime Minister for Social Affairs,

harsh restrictions, it began to contradict Putin’s orders. Russia introduced a nationwide lockdown, non-essential businesses were closed and, finally,

Tatyana Golikova, reported that the situation “is

Putin announced in a televised address that public

changing for the worse by the hour.”21 In terms of

holidays were postponed.25 Specifically, authorities

specific policy, Putin decided to close the border with China on January 30 and prohibited the entry of Chinese visitors from February 20.22

curfew.24 Thus, as Mayor Sobyanin implemented

in Moscow introduced a digital pass system and heavy fines for unauthorized movement around the city.26 The leadership when handling the COVID-19

Just like the rest of the world, the

16 Daniil Galaydov, “Russia’s Biggest Stories of 2020: Pan-

demic, Putin and Poisoning,” December 20, 2020, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2020/12/23/russias-biggest-stories-of-2020-pandemic-putin-and-poisoning-a7245. 17 Daniil Galaydov, “Russia’s Biggest Stories of 2020: Pandemic, Putin and Poisoning,” December 20, 2020, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2020/12/23/russias-biggest-stories-of-2020-pandemic-putin-and-poisoning-a7245. 18 Anders Åslund (2020) Responses to the COVID-19 crisis in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, Eurasian Geography and Economics, 61:4-5, 537, DOI: 10.1080/15387216.2020.1778499 19 Ibid., 537. 20 Ibid., 537. 21 Ibid., 537. 22 Ibid., 538.

pandemic was considered disoriented and contradictory. 23 Ibid., 538 24 Ibid., 540 25 Daniil Galaydov, “Russia’s Biggest Stories of 2020: Pandemic, Putin and Poisoning,” December 20, 2020, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2020/12/23/russias-biggest-stories-of-2020-pandemic-putin-and-poisoning-a7245. 26 Daniil Galaydov, “Russia’s Biggest Stories of 2020: Pandemic, Putin and Poisoning,” December 20, 2020, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2020/12/23/russias-biggest-stories-of-2020-pandemic-putin-and-poisoning-a7245.

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Towards the end of 2020, Russia had

the fourth-highest number of cases in which there were over 50,000 deaths.27 Putin delegated much more power to the regional governors, proving that in situations that do not involve means of mobilization and militarism, Putin retreats. Russia continues to be rolling out its Sputnik vaccine, however, cases continue to soar with around 25,000 per day. A Year In Review From a pandemic that significantly impacted the healthcare system and economy, to Putin’s decisions to poison and support the suppression of opposition, the year 2020 has definitely been challenging for Russians and the President. The Russian citizens continuously had to face uncertainty in the way the Kremlin handled the pandemic. Meanwhile, Putin took measures against the growing threat to his power which demonstrates how far he is willing to go. As Russia is not part of the European Union, there were not any significant contributions made. As the EU was focused on Brexit and COVID-19, they were not effectively able to address the situation in Belarus. However, the EU was persistent in implementing sanctions after the Navalny poisoning.28 27

“This Map Shows How the Coronavirus Pandemic Is Developing in Russia,” Meduza, accessed January 1, 2021, https:// meduza.io/en/feature/2020/04/27/this-map-shows-how-the-coronavirus-pandemic-is-developing-in-russia. 28 Daniil Galaydov, “Russia’s Biggest Stories of 2020: Pandemic, Putin and Poisoning,” December 20, 2020, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2020/12/23/russias-biggest-stories-of-2020-pandemic-putin-and-poisoning-a7245.

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Bibliography Åslund, Anders (2020). Responses to the COVID-19 crisis in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, Eurasian Geography and Economics 61:4-5, 537. DOI: 10.1080/15387216.2020.1778499. Baunov, Alexander. “Domestic Geopolitics: Belarusian Protests and Russia’s Power Transition.” Carnegie Moscow Center. Accessed December 22, 2020. https://carnegie.ru/commentary/82619. “Channel One – Most Popular Television Channel in Russia.” Subsidiaries. Accessed December 22, 2020. https://nm-g.ru/en/actives/sections. php?ID_BLOCK=33. Clark, Mason. Report. Institute for the Study of War, 2020. Accessed December 18, 2020. doi:10.2307/resrep26477. Galaydov, Daniil. “Russia’s Biggest Stories of 2020: Pandemic, Putin and Poisoning.” Accessed December 20, 2020. https://www.themoscowtimes. com/2020/12/23/russias-biggest-stories-of2020-pandemic-putin-and-poisoning-a7245. Reuters. “Half of Russians Sceptical Kremlin Critic Navalny Was Poisoned - Poll.” Investing.com (Investing.com, December 24, 2020). https://www.investing.com/news/world-news/halfof-russians-sceptical-kremlin-critic-navalny-w as-poisoned--poll-2375206. “This Map Shows How the Coronavirus Pandemic Is Developing in Russia.” Meduza. Accessed January 1, 2021. https://meduza.io/en/feature/2020/04/27/thismap-shows-how-the-coronavirus-pandemic-isdevel oping-in-russia. “Russians Rank Belarus Protests as Worst Political Event of 2020, but More Tolerant of Demonstrations in Khabarovsk, Poll Reveals.” RT International. Accessed December 23, 2020. https://www.rt.com/russia/510567-belarusprotests-russians-poll/.

Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones & Company, December 26, 2020). https://www.wsj.com/articles/after-momentous2020-r ussias-putin-enters-new-year-aspowerful-a s-ever-11608999914. The Moscow Times. “Russian National Guard to Partner With Belarus Police Amid Protests.” The Moscow Times (The Moscow Times, December 18, 2020). https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2020/12/18/ russian-national-guard-to-partner-withbelarus-pol ice-amid-protests-a72408. “The man who lived; An interview with Russia’s opposition leader.” The Economist, October 17, 2020, 43(US). Gale In Context: Canada (accessed December 22, 2020). https://link.gale.com/ apps/doc/A638458862/CIC?u=utoronto_ main&sid=CIC&xid=0592f976. Weiss, Michael “RIGHTS IN RUSSIA: Navalny and the Opposition.” World Affairs 176, no. 4 (2013): 73. Accessed December 18, 2020, http:// www.jstor.org/stable/43554881. “Президент России Прокомментировал Расследование Дела Алексея Навального. Новости. Первый Канал.” 1tv.ru. Accessed December 24, 2020. https://www.1tv.ru/news/202012-17/398656-prezident_rossii_ prokommentiroval_rassledovanie_ dela_alekseya_navalnogo.

Simmons, Ann M. “After Momentous 2020, Russia’s Putin Enters New Year as Powerful as Ever.” The 291


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T

San Marino

he Republic of San Marino is a micro-

in tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic

state, landlocked by north-central Italy.

initiated a chain reaction, forcing the govern-

Due to its small size and location, San Marino ment, and its citizens, to adjust and seek out faces a constant challenge to provide for its

new ways to support themselves. In 2020, the

citizens. Well preserved historic architecture

pandemic and ensuing economic crisis have

around Monte Titano support the country’s

caused internal division and tensions with Ita-

leading industry, tourism. A sharp decline

ly, San Marino’s primary trading partner.

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Lolita Vorobyeva Covid-19 Pandemic

implemented a curfew, but despite the microstate hitting record case numbers, a Due to San Marino’s small stature, lockdown still has not been implemented.3 news coverage, particularly related to COVID-19, is sparse, making it difficult The current, relatively relaxed, to track the Virus and its impacts there. measures have been criticized by EuroThe main source is the paper, Libertas, pean experts and the Italian government; which publishes daily briefs including however, small countries, like San Marino case numbers, deaths, recoveries and and Monaco, have reasons for their apvaccine update information. In October proach. Unlike Italy and larger countries of 2020, when Europe entered its second in the European Union (EU), San Marino wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the does not receive as much centralized supgovernment of San Marino optimistical- port. Due to San Marino’s tourism-based ly refrained from implementing extreme economy, it has kept its borders open measures.1 Opposition politicians became to support small businesses, while most vocal against this approach after the Unit- other tourist destinations have closed. ed Kingdom announced travel restrictions Thus far, San Marino’s situation has been for those entering from San Marino due worsening, but the government is not yet to case increases. Despite this, the State ready to implement stronger measures.4 Senate decided not to follow its Europe- As the world struggles to find solutions an neighbour in re-implementing severe during the second wave of the pandemic, measures.2 In December, San Marino it remains to be seen if San Marino will make decisions to prevent its spread. 1 “San Marino. Coronavirus, Altri Sette Casi Positivi. Tre i Guariti, Quattro Sono i Ricoveri,” Libertas, October, 20, 2020, http://www. libertas.sm/notizie/2020/10/20/san-marino-coronavirus-altri-sette-casi-positivi-tre-i-guariti-quattro-sono-i-ricoveri.html. 2 “England Removes Italy, San Marino & Vatican City From Travel Corridor List,” Schengen Visa Info News, October 19, 2020, https:// www.schengenvisainfo.com/news/england-removes-italy-san-marino-vatican-city-from-travel-corridor-list/ 293

Italy vs San Marino

This year, the Republic of San

3 Nicholas Waller, “The Curious Case of San Marino during the COVID Pandemic,” New Europe, December 18, 2020, https://www.neweurope.eu/article/the-curious-case-of-san-marinoduring-the-covid-pandemic/. 4 ibid


MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

Marino has faced serious financial hardships. Italy, which surrounds the micronation, has a long-standing financial and trade relationship with San Marino. Due to this special relationship, the two countries have a long history of agreements, such as the 1939 Convention of Friendship and Good Neighbourhood for times of financial crisis.5 Naturally, the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout, which has drained San Marino’s resources, constitutes as a time of crisis. Without its tourism industry, San Marino is without many alternatives a to support itself, especially since it has little control over its borders as it is physically within Italy. COVID-19 related financial troubles, including major debts and an inability to pay pensions, have turned San Marino to Italy for loan assistance. Negotiations with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio began well, but tensions soon rose. Initial negotiations resulted in a five-year repayment period, which left many Sammarinese critics unimpressed and questioning its feasibility due to the unprecedented economic fallout of the pandemic.6 Tensions rose higher when Italian police breached provisions of the 1939 Convention of Friendship and Good Neighbourhood. Contradictory to the agreement, fines were issued by the Italian police to citizens of San Marino via mail.7 During the meeting between the Italian Foreign Minister and San Marino Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, issues of licence plates, frequencies, energy supply and confiscation and recognition of qualification were brought up alongside the loan issue.8

Even with these long-standing issues, the citizens of San Marino have maintained a positive outlook on the situation. They believe the relationship between San Marino and Italy should have been renegotiated long ago, and some say that “it is nice to have an institutional discussion.” Moreover, the government of San Marino claims to be “committed, at a political and technical level to ... ensure the protection of citizens and respectful observance of ... conventional legislation.”9 These negotiations are shaping up to be an opportunity for San Marino and Italy to solve long-standing issues as well also addressing those immediate to the pandemic. Social Pact of San Marino

As discussed above, the economy of San Marino suffered severely from the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite efforts from the State Senate to implement economic support measures, such as loan negotiations with Italy, the citizens are not happy with its handling of the pandemic. At the end of October 2020, the labor unions, Sindacati dei lavoratori, of San Marino came together to create a social pact.10 Its purpose is to set economic and social priorities and pressure the government to open a dialogue with citizens to find solutions. The labor unions claim the government has not been transparent or presented adequate economic solutions during the economic crisis. Members of the labor union have stated “[they] await answers and demand clarity” on issues ranging from sustainability of the banking system, to contours of public debt, level of public investments, and tax 5 “Relazioni Con L’Italia,” Banca Centrale della 11 Repubblica di San Marino, accessed January 6, 2021, https:// and social security reform projects. www.bcsm.sm/site/home/relazioni-internazionali/relazioni-con-litalia.html. 6 “San Marino. In Arrivo Una Commissione Mista Sugli Aiuti Richiesti All’Italia,” Libertas, October 19, 2020, http://www.libertas.sm/notizie/2020/10/19/san-marino-in-arrivo-una-commissione-mista-sugli-aiuti-richiesti-allitalia. html. 7 “San Marino. Multe Dall’Italia, La Segreteria Esteri Vuole Risolvere Il Problema,” Libertas, October 18, 2020, http://www.libertas.sm/notizie/2020/10/18/ san-marino-multe-dallitalia-la-segreteria-esteri-vuole-risolvere-il-problema.html. 8 “San Marino. In Arrivo Una Commissione Mista

The social pact was also created in re-

Sugli Aiuti Richiesti All’Italia.” 9 ibid 10 Redazione, “‘Un Patto Sociale per Il Futuro Di San Marino’: Approvato All’unanimità Il Documento CSU,” San Marino Rtv, October 26, 2020, https://www.sanmarinortv.sm/news/comunicati-c9/un-patto-sociale-per-il-futuro-di-san-marino-approvato-all-unanimita-il-documento-csu-a196167. 11 “Csu: ‘’Un Patto Sociale per San Marino’’,” Libertas, October 26, 2020, http://www.libertas.sm/notizie/2020/10/26/csu-un-patto-sociale-per-san-marino.html.

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sponse to the government’s development project San Marino 2030, which labor unions criticized as not comprehensive or appropriate in timing.12 Labor unions had decided to take charge of critical issues in San Marino even before the pandemic, but its impacts intensified their efforts. They claim the government failed to find solutions democratically and that the people are demanding to be involved. The General Secretary of the pact, Giuliano Tamagnini, stated, “democracy must be practiced to the full, contrary to what the government has done so far.” The social pact of San Marino presents an opportunity for the country to reach unified solutions and for the government to become more transparent and adherent to democratic values.

Bibliography Libertas. “Csu: ‘’Un Patto Sociale per San Marino’’.” October, 26, 2020.

http://www.libertas.sm/notizie/2020/10/26/csu-un-

patto-sociale-per-san-marino.html.

Libertas. “San Marino. Coronavirus, Altri Sette Casi Positivi. Tre

i Guariti, Quattro Sono i Ricoveri.” October, 20, 2020.

http://www.libertas.sm/notizie/2020/10/20/san-marino-

coronavirus-altri-sette-casi-positivi-tre-i-guariti-quattrosono-i-ricoveri.html.

Libertas. “San Marino. In Arrivo Una Commissione Mista Sugli

Aiuti Richiesti All’Italia.” October, 19, 2020. http://www.

libertas.sm/notizie/2020/10/19/san-marino-in-arrivo-unacommissione-mista-sugli-aiuti-richiesti-allitalia.html.

Libertas, “San Marino. Multe Dall’Italia, La Segreteria Esteri Vuole Risolvere Il Problema.” October, 18, 2020. http://www. libertas.sm/notizie/2020/10/18/san-marino-multe-dallitalia-

Conclusion

la-segreteria-esteri-vuole-risolvere-il-problema.html.

Like most countries around the world, 2020 has been exceptionally difficult for the Republic of San Marino. The country ended the year with a record number of COVID-19 cases, a crumbling economy, and high tensions with its main trade partner, Italy. Despite this, its citizens have seemingly remained hopeful. 2020 has sown that in the coming years, San Marino will need to take steps to rebuild its relationship with Italy, and with its citizens. There is opportunity for it to become a more democratic state and recover economically. Over time it will be made more clear if the actions taken in 2020 were positive steps, but the year certainly challenged and changed San Marino for generations to come.

Redazione. “‘Un Patto Sociale per Il Futuro Di San Marino’:

Approvato All’unanimità Il Documento CSU.” San

Marino Rtv, October 26, 2020. https://www.sanmarinortv. sm/news/comunicati-c9/un-patto-sociale-per-il-futuro-

di-san-marino-approvato-all-unanimita-il-documentocsu-a196167.

“Relazioni Con L’Italia.” Banca Centrale della Repubblica di San Marino. Accessed January 6, 2021. https://www.bcsm.sm/ site/home/relazioni-internazionali/relazioni-con-litalia. html.

Schengen Visa Info News. “England Removes Italy, San Marino & Vatican City From Travel Corridor List.” October 19, 2020. https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/news/england-removesitaly-san-marino-vatican-city-from-travel-corridor-list/.

Waller, Nicholas. “The Curious Case of San Marino during the COVID Pandemic.” New Europe, December 18, 2020. https://www.neweurope.eu/article/the-curious-case-of-sanmarino-during-the-covid-pandemic/.

12 Redazione, “‘Un Patto Sociale per Il Futuro Di San Marino’: Approvato All’unanimità Il Documento CSU.” 295


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SERBIA 2020 R epo rt

Ana Djordjijevic 296


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hroughout 2020, the prevalent theme in Serbia was one of relative stagnation and postponement caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The parliamentary elections were pushed back as a result of a rise in infections, and the country is not significantly closer to becoming a member of the European Union (EU). Serbia’s handling of the pandemic has incited much debate and criticism nationally because of the sporadic and inconsistent government rhetoric and decisions. Although the Kosovo-Serbia talks have been a symbol of unprecedented progress between the two nations, they stop short of full recognition of independence for Kosovo, a key element for Serbia’s potential EU adhesion. Overall, Serbia will face new challenges when it comes to its EU candidacy due to the shift away from multiparty politics and towards an increasingly authoritarian system. Parliamentary Elections

Serbia’s 2020 parliamentary elections (as well as provincial and municipal elections) were meant to be held in April but were postponed due to the outbreak of COVID-19.1 Instead, they were held on June 21st and President Aleksandar Vučić’s political party, the Serbian Progressive Party, won approximately two-thirds (188 of the 250 parliamentary seats) 2 of the new Parliament.3 This landslide win represents a significant shift in the country’s power dynamic as the Serbian Progressive Party will be able to amend the Constitution without much or any opposition at all, giving President Vučić and his party more power than any of his predecessors since 1 European Western Balkans Reporting Network, “Izveštaj Evropske komisije o napretku Srbije: Ima napretka, ali i ozbiljnih problema sa stanjem demokratije u Srbiji,” European Western Balkans. October 6, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans.rs/izvestaj-evropske-komisije-o-napretku-srbije-ima-napretka-ali-ozbiljnih-problema-sa-stanjem-demokratije-u-srbiji/ 2 Ljudmila Cvetković. “Vučićevo vaganje sastava nove vlade Srbije.” Radio Slobodna Evropa, August 14, 2020. https://www.slobodnaevropa.org/a/vlada-srbije-aleksandar-vucic/30783595.html 3 European Western Balkans Reporting Network. “Izveštaj Evropske komisije o napretku Srbije: Ima napretka, ali i ozbiljnih problema sa stanjem demaokratije u Srbiji.”

Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s.4

Leading up to the parliamentary elections, the country’s media diffused two very distinct narratives about the electoral process within Serbia and the role or influence of the media. During the campaign, Serbia’s Government and the Serbian Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM) claimed that the freedom of the media in Serbia was satisfactory and that campaign media coverage was balanced. 5 However, many civil society organizations’ findings paint a starkly different picture about the state of media freedom in Serbia. In fact, their research showed that one of the main problems was “unequal media reporting on televisions with a national frequency” as well as “a large number of abuses in the application of media laws.” 6 According to the Bureau of Social Research’s monitoring over the span of ten days, President Vučić had around four hours and 12 minutes of coverage, while others had around two hours and a half or even as little as 30 minutes, clearly demonstrating the blatant disparities in media support.7 Then, ten days before the parliamentary elections, the European Commission released its six-month report on the “rule of law in Serbia [and] noted

the continuation of threats, intimidation and violence against journalists.” 8

Next, Serbian opposition parties chose to boycott the parliamentary elections because they vehemently opposed President Vučić’s decision to hold them during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who boycotted the elections claimed that they sought to distance themselves from 4 BBC News na srpksom Reporting Network. “Izbori u Srbiji 2020: Šta sve mogu naprednjaci sa dvotrećinskom većinom u skupštini.” Danas, June 22, 2020. https://www.danas.rs/bbc-news-serbian/izbori-u-srbiji-2020-sta-sve-mogu-naprednjaci-sa-dvotrecinskom-vecinom-u-skupstini/ 5 Sofija Popović. “Izbori 2020: Mediji u kampanji i dalje pristrasni.” European Western Balkans, June 30, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans.rs/izbori-2020-mediji-u-kampanji-pristrasni/ 6 Sofija Popović. “Izbori 2020: Mediji u kampanji i dalje pristrasni.” 7 Sofija Popović. “Izbori 2020: Mediji u kampanji i dalje pristrasni.” 8 Sofija Popović. “Izbori 2020: Mediji u kampanji i dalje pristrasni.” 297


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what they believed to be illegitimate elections that followed an undemocratic campaign period. 9 They pointed to the issues mentioned by the Center for Contemporary Politics’ findings that “the process of collecting signatures and the record annulment of votes as well as the change of election laws in the election year.” 10

As a result of all these issues leading up to the 2020 parliamentary elections, the newly constituted Parliament is characterized by a large majority which has the power to crush any opposition, thereby moving away from a pluralist political culture in Serbia. Following the elections, Serbia did not have a fully formed government until late October. 11 This represented the longest government formation in the history of the country. The issue now for Serbia’s integration into the EU may be more along the lines of a lack of democracy. As the parliamentary elections have demonstrated, Serbia has dropped 36 ranks in the World Press Freedom Index since 2014. 12 Freedom House also demoted Serbia to a “partly free” country due to the “conduct of elections, media repression and the president’s counterconstitutional accumulation of executive powers.” This back-slide on democratic indicators will serve as a serious impediment to Serbia’s EU membership. COVID-19 Pandemic Response

As the COVID-19 pandemic swept the

9 BBC News na srpksom Reporting Network. “Izbori u Srbiji 2020: Šta sve mogu naprednjaci sa dvotrećinskom većinom u skupštini.” 10 European Western Balkans Reporting Network. “Objavljen izveštaj ‘Stanje demokratije u Srbiji 2020.’” European Western Balkans. September 28, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans.rs/objavljen-izvestaj-stanje-demokratije-u-srbiji-2020/ 11 Nikola Kojic. “Vučić and Brnabić broke the record: The longest formation of the government in the last 20 years.” N1, October 14, 2020. https://rs.n1info.com/ izbori-2020/a660212-vucic-i-brnabic-oborili-rekord-najduze-formiranje-vlade-u-poslednjih-20-godina/ 12 Nebojša Zelenović. “Serbia’s government simulates democracy.” EURACTIV, February 26, 2020. https:// www.euractiv.com/section/enlargement/opinion/serbias-government-simulates-democracy/

world, Serbia vacillated between extremely strict lockdowns and exceedingly lax re-openings. In Serbia, from January 3rd, 2020 to December 28th, 2020, there have been 326, 060 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3,030 deaths.13 A state of emergency and strict lockdown were put into effect on March 15th, 2020.14 As part of the lockdown measures, the entire nation was subjected to a curfew between the hours of 5PM and 5AM during the week, with even stricter hours on weekends. 15 Although the state of emergency shut down 40 border crossings, and those who returned to Serbia had to quarantine for 28 days, an estimated 317,000 Serbs came back into the country in the early days of the pandemic. 16 Although President Vučić had previously underplayed the danger of the virus, he spoke at a news conference on March 21st to blame returning Serbs for the alarming increase in infections nationally. He pointed to this influx of people supposedly seeking free care during the pandemic as the cause for the rise in case numbers.17

However, backlash against these strict government measures began in early July, when students who were evicted from their university dormitories took to the streets to prevent this course of action. 18 Then, President Vučić swiftly reopened the country around the time of the election, against the recommendations of epidemiologists. Many Serbs believe this to be an attempt to gain the population’s favor ahead of the upcoming 13 WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard, “Serbia.” Last Updated December 28, 2020. https:// covid19.who.int/region/euro/country/rs 14 Milica Stojanovic. “Serbia Pins Coronavirus Blame on Returning Serbs ‘Concealing Infection.’” Balkan Insight. April 3, 2020. https://balkaninsight.com/2020/04/03/serbia-pins-coronavirus-blame-on-returning-serbs-concealing-infection/ 15 Milica Stojanovic. “Serbia Pins Coronavirus Blame on Returning Serbs ‘Concealing Infection.’” 16 Milica Stojanovic. “Serbia Pins Coronavirus Blame on Returning Serbs ‘Concealing Infection.’” 17 Milica Stojanovic. “Serbia Pins Coronavirus Blame on Returning Serbs ‘Concealing Infection.’” 18 BBC News na srpskom Reporting Network. “Protest studenata: Noćna šetnja zbog najave iseljenja iz domova.” BBC News na srpskom. July 3, 2020. https://www.bbc. com/serbian/lat/srbija-53277823

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parliamentary elections. 19 However, following a surge in cases in July, he sought to shut the country back down. 20 This sparked Europe’s first major pandemic-related unrest as people were frustrated with the Government’s extreme reactions (both in locking down and opening up the country). 21 Belgrade was overcome by protesters attempting to storm Parliament in the city center, resulting in 71 people being detained. 22 As protesters defied the rules against outdoor gatherings, police attempted to disperse the growing crowd with tear gas for the third time in a week. Many saw these protests as an expression of the country’s underlying frustration with an increasingly authoritarian regime and with the incessant fluctuations of their COVID-19 response.

revision of the country’s COVID-19 data.25

19 Patrick Kingsley. “Serbia Protests Meet Violent Response in Europe’s 1st Major Virus Unrest.” New York Times. July 8, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/08/world/ europe/serbia-protests-coronavirus.html 20 Patrick Kingsley. “Serbia Protests Meet Violent Response in Europe’s 1st Major Virus Unrest.” 21 Patrick Kingsley. “Serbia Protests Meet Violent Response in Europe’s 1st Major Virus Unrest.” 22 Associated Press Reporting Network for Euronews. “71 arrested after hundreds try to storm Serbian parliament in anti-Vučić protests.” Euronews. July 11, 2020. https:// www.euronews.com/2020/07/11/hundreds-try-to-storm-serbian-parliament-as-anti-vucic-protests-heat-up 23 Associated Press Reporting Network for Euronews. “71 arrested after hundreds try to storm Serbian parliament in anti-Vučić protests.” 24 Radio Slobodna Evropa Reporting Network. “Vučić najavio ‘kompletnu revizuju’ podataka o broju umrlih od COVID-19.” Radio Slobodna Evropa. October 1, 2020. https://www.slobodnaevropa.org/a/30867867.html

26 Reuters Staff. “Factbox - Europe’s plans to vaccinate against COVID-19.” Reuters. December 21, 2020. https:// www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN28V1BT 27 Aleksandra Stamenkovic and Danijela Sever Radovanovic.“The Impact of Covid 19 in Serbia: A new report and call for action from the United Nations.” United Nations Serbia. September 28, 2020. https://serbia.un.org/en/92908-impactcovid19-serbia-new-report-and-call-action-united-nations 28 Ben Hall and Valerie Hopkins. “Serbia’s President Vucic bets economy will avoid Covid-19 recession.” Financial Times - Special Report, Investing in Serbia. June 16, 2020. https:// www.ft.com/content/fb8f2298-9c13-11ea-871b-edeb99a20c6e 29 Aleksandra Stamenkovic and Danijela Sever Radovanovic.“The Impact of Covid 19 in Serbia: A new report and call for action from the United Nations.” 30 European Commission, European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations. “EU response to the coronavirus pandemic.” Last Updated December 28, 2020. https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/news_corner/eu-response-to-the-coronavirus-pandemic_en

Looking forward, Serbia’s fight against COVID-19 and its economic repercussions is relatively successful, particularly in comparison to other EU countries who were just as affected by the pandemic. Around 4,875 doses of the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccines arrived in the country on December 22nd and two days later, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic was the first person to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.26 From an economic standpoint, President Vučić hoped to escape a recession throughout 2020 because of the country’s “timely and efficient response to the first peak of COVID-19.” 27 Unfortunately, President Vučić’s plans for economic expansion in 2020 were unrealistic. 28 However, according to the United As a result of these protests, the Government Nations, “while it is likely that the GDP will was forced to abandon the plan for a new curfew decline between 3% to 5.3% in 2020, it is expected and instead prohibited gatherings of more than to rebound in 2021.” 29 10 people in the capital. 23 Soon after, President Finally, although Serbia provided some Vučić’s Government was once again engulfed in aid to European nations by donating protective national scandal. For weeks, speculation grew material to Italy, 30 the COVID-19 pandemic overall about the Government potentially tampering with has brought more of a rift between Serbia and the COVID-19 data that was released to the public. EU. President Vučić accused the EU many times of Epidemiologists in Serbia estimated that the number not helping the country in its time of need, leading of deceased people until June was actually three the Serbian nation to turn to China for the help they times higher than reported by the Government. 24 In Radio Slobodna Evropa Reporting Network. early October, however, President Vučić strongly 25 “Vučić najavio ‘kompletnu revizuju’ podataka o broju umrdenied these allegations and called for a complete lih od COVID-19.”

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did not receive from the EU. 31 These growing ties they signed an agreement to normalize economic with China may constitute a serious obstacle for ties. 34 During this meeting, Serbia signed to move Serbia’s EU membership. its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, leading to criticism from the EU as no member state has its embassy in Kosovo-Serbia Relations Jerusalem. 35 The EU remains firm in their position Since Kosovo declared its independence of supporting common diplomatic steps concerning in 2008, Kosovo-Serbia relations have largely Jerusalem. 36 Additionally, the agreement signed been unstable and cold. Recently, both countries falls short of having Serbia formally recognize are making efforts to negotiate and build up Kosovo as an independent nation. Both of the a relationship for each of their benefits on the issues will be problematic for Serbia going forward international stage, as well as for the stability of in terms of its adhesion to the EU. the region. In 2020, these negotiations have been Those negotiating on the part of Serbia overseen both by the EU and the United States. maintain their firm stance concerning economic In March 2020, President Emmanuel relations and stress the importance of no taxes or Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel new tariffs introduced on either side in the future. of Germany announced that they planned to However, some Serbs continue to feel betrayed hold a summit between Serbia and Kosovo by Vučić’s decision to proceed with these Kosovo which they expressed to be a matter of European talks as they believe Kosovo is rightfully a part of security, cementing the EU’s role as a dialogue Serbian territory and that their President has given facilitator between the two nations. 32 This marked into international pressure.37 In fact, the Director a new chapter in the ongoing Belgrade-Pristina of the Office for Kosovo of the Government of negotiations, for which the European Union Serbia, Marko Đurić, spoke out against Kosovo’s is largely the moderator, as this greatly affects Prime Minister Avdulah Hoti’s comment about the possibility for both countries to become EU the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina being members. Then, on June 6th, Kosovo agreed to get a dialogue between two independent states. 38 Mr. rid of all restrictions on imports of Serbian goods Đurić said these remarks were “provocative.” 39 which was later followed by other diplomatic steps Finally, in early November, President such as the reboot of flights and the projects for rail and motorways between the two countries Hashim Thaci of Kosovo stepped down from his Euronews with Associated Press. “Kosovo-SerKosovo and Serbia have agreed to create rail and 34 bia talks resume in Brussels after US economic agreement.” motorway links between the two countries in a Euronews. September 7, 2020. https://www.euronews. huge diplomatic step for the region. 33 com/2020/09/07/kosovo-serbia-talks-resume-in-brussels-after-stateside-economic-agreement

The countries met again in September, this 35 Euronews with Associated Press. “Kosovo-Serbia time at the White House in Washington D.C., where talks resume in Brussels after US economic agreement.” 31 Valerie Hopkins. “Pandemic and EU neglect tighten Serbia bonds with China.” Financial Times - Special Report, Investing in Serbia. June 16, 2020. https://www.ft.com/content/ eeb179ae-9c13-11ea-871b-edeb99a20c6e 32 European Western Balkans Reporting Network. “Makron i Merkel organizuju samit Srbija-Kosovo kada se stvore uslovi.” European Western Balkans. March 25, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans.rs/makron-merkel-organizuju-samit-srbija-kosovo-kada-se-stvore-uslovi/ 33 Matthew Holroyd. “Kosovo and Serbia sign deal on rail and road links in huge diplomatic step.” Euronews. September 7, 2020. https://www.euronews.com/2020/02/14/ kosovo-and-serbia-sign-deal-on-rail-and-road-links-in-hugediplomatic-step

36 Euronews with Associated Press. “Kosovo-Serbia talks resume in Brussels after US economic agreement.” 37 N1 Beograd Reporting Network. “Đorđević tvrdi da Vučić izdaje Kosovo, Mrdalj da opozicija možda ponudi i više.” N1. October 15, 2020. http://rs.n1info.com/Vesti/ a661257/Djordjevic-tvrdi-da-Vucic-izdaje-Kosovo-Mrdaljda-opozicija-mozda-ponudi-i-vise.html 38 Radio Slobodna Evropa Reporting Network. “Hoti i Vučić potvrdili dolazak na sastanak u Vašington 2. Septembra.” Radio Slobodna Evropa. August 14, 2020. https:// www.slobodnaevropa.org/a/30783085.html 39 Radio Slobodna Evropa Reporting Network. “Hoti i Vučić potvrdili dolazak na sastanak u Vašington 2. Septembra.”

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position after learning that the Kosovo Tribunal in the Hague had confirmed a war crimes indictment against him. 40 Later in the day, he was arrested and sent to the Tribunal’s detention center. He and “three other former leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) are accused of overseeing illegal detention facilities where the movement’s opponents were kept in inhumane conditions, tortured and sometimes killed.” 41 Although Former President Thaci denies these claims, he maintained that his resignation was necessary “to protect the integrity of the state.” 42 It remains unclear how this latest development will affect the ongoing Belgrade-Pristina negotiations.

still refuses to recognize Kosovo as an independent nation, which does not bode well for its EU candidacy, as many member nations of the bloc have already done so. Overall, Serbia is no closer to becoming a member state of the EU and is facing increasingly more obstacles: lack of democratic principles and freedoms, growing ties with rival regimes, and a refusal to compromise concerning its recognition of Kosovo’s independence. If Serbia is to officially become an EU member, they will first have to overcome these hindrances to prove their commitment to the shared values of the EU bloc.

Year in Review

All in all, despite progress in terms of the country’s relations to Kosovo, Serbia’s relationship with the EU has deteriorated throughout 2020. The nation’s increasingly authoritarian system, as illustrated by the parliamentary elections, greatly hinders any progress that can be made in terms of the country’s adhesion to the EU. The lack of democratic ideals and of free and fair elections, which are crucial to member countries of the bloc, will be a central topic going forward. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic caused Serbia to build up its ties with China in order to obtain medical materials. This only widened the rift between Serbia and the EU as the nation’s President spoke up about the illusion of solidarity and the hypocrisy of the bloc. Finally, despite the growing economic relations between Belgrade and Pristina, Serbia 40 Bardh Krasniqi. “Kosovo President Thaci arrested, moved to The Hague to face war crimes charges.” Reuters. November 5, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-warcrimes-kosovo-thaci/kosovo-president-thaci-arrested-movedto-the-hague-to-face-war-crimes-charges-idUSKBN27L1DO 41 Bardh Krasniqi. “Kosovo President Thaci arrested, moved to The Hague to face war crimes charges.” Reuters. November 5, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-warcrimes-kosovo-thaci/kosovo-president-thaci-arrested-movedto-the-hague-to-face-war-crimes-charges-idUSKBN27L1DO 42 Bardh Krasniqi. “Kosovo President Thaci arrested, moved to The Hague to face war crimes charges.” Reuters. November 5, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-warcrimes-kosovo-thaci/kosovo-president-thaci-arrested-movedto-the-hague-to-face-war-crimes-charges-idUSKBN27L1DO 301


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Sources

Associated Press Reporting Network for Euronews. “71 arrested after hundreds try to storm Serbian parliament in anti-Vučić protests.” Euronews. July 11, 2020. https://www.euronews. com/2020/07/11/hundreds-try-to-stormserbian-parliament-as-anti-vucic-protests-heatup

“Izveštaj Evropske komisije o napretku Srbije: Ima napretka, ali i ozbiljnih problema sa stanjem demokratije u Srbiji.” European Western Balkans. October 6, 2020. https:// europeanwesternbalkans.rs/izvestaj-evropskekomisije-o-napretku-srbije-ima-napretka-aliozbiljnih-problema-sa-stanjem-demokratije-usrbiji/

BBC News na srpksom Reporting Network. European Western Balkans Reporting Network. “Makron i Merkel organizuju samit Srbija“Izbori u Srbiji 2020: Šta sve mogu naprednjaci Kosovo kada se stvore uslovi.” European sa dvotrećinskom većinom u skupštini.” Danas, Western Balkans. March 25, 2020. https:// June 22, 2020. https://www.danas.rs/bbc-newseuropeanwesternbalkans.rs/makron-merkelserbian/izbori-u-srbiji-2020-sta-sve-moguorganizuju-samit-srbija-kosovo-kada-se-stvorenaprednjaci-sa-dvotrecinskom-vecinom-uuslovi/ skupstini/ BBC News na srpskom Reporting Network. European Western Balkans Reporting Network. “Objavljen izveštaj ‘Stanje demokratije u Srbiji “Protest studenata: Noćna šetnja zbog najave 2020.’” European Western Balkans. September iseljenja iz domova.” BBC News na srpskom. 28, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans. July 3, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/serbian/lat/ rs/objavljen-izvestaj-stanje-demokratije-usrbija-53277823 srbiji-2020/ Cvetković, Ljudmila. “Vučićevo vaganje sastava nove vlade Srbije.” Radio Slobodna Evropa, Hall, Ben and Hopkins, Valerie. “Serbia’s President Vucic bets economy will avoid Covid-19 August 14, 2020. https://www.slobodnaevropa. recession.” Financial Times - Special Report, org/a/vlada-srbije-aleksandar-vucic/30783595. Investing in Serbia. June 16, 2020. https://www. html ft.com/content/fb8f2298-9c13-11ea-871bedeb99a20c6e Euronews with Associated Press. “Kosovo-Serbia talks resume in Brussels after US economic agreement.” Euronews. September 7, 2020. Holroyd, Matthew. “Kosovo and Serbia sign deal on rail and road links in huge diplomatic step.” https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/07/ Euronews. September 7, 2020. https://www. kosovo-serbia-talks-resume-in-brussels-aftereuronews.com/2020/02/14/kosovo-and-serbiastateside-economic-agreement sign-deal-on-rail-and-road-links-in-hugediplomatic-step European Commission, European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations. “EU response to the coronavirus pandemic.” Last Hopkins, Valerie. “Pandemic and EU neglect tighten Serbia bonds with China.” Financial Updated December 28, 2020. https://ec.europa. Times - Special Report, Investing in Serbia. eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/news_corner/ June 16, 2020. https://www.ft.com/content/ eu-response-to-the-coronavirus-pandemic_en eeb179ae-9c13-11ea-871b-edeb99a20c6e European Western Balkans Reporting Network. 302


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Kingsley, Patrick. “Serbia Protests Meet Violent Response in Europe’s 1st Major Virus Unrest.” Reuters Staff. “Factbox - Europe’s plans to New York Times. July 8, 2020. https://www. vaccinate against COVID-19.” Reuters. nytimes.com/2020/07/08/world/europe/serbiaDecember 21, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/ protests-coronavirus.html article/idUSKBN28V1BT Kojic, Nikola. “Vučić and Brnabić broke the record: Stamenkovic, Aleksandra and Sever Radovanovic, The longest formation of the government in the Danijela. “The Impact of Covid 19 in Serbia: A last 20 years.” N1, October 14, 2020. http:// new report and call for action from the United rs.n1info.com/Izbori-2020/a660212/Vucic-iNations.” United Nations Serbia. September 28, Brnabic-oborili-rekord-Najduze-formiranje2020. https://serbia.un.org/en/92908-impactvlade-u-poslednjih-20-godina.html covid19-serbia-new-report-and-call-actionunited-nations Krasniqi, Bardh. “Kosovo President Thaci arrested, moved to The Hague to face war crimes Stojanovic, Milica. “Serbia Pins Coronavirus charges.” Reuters. November 5, 2020. https:// Blame on Returning Serbs ‘Concealing www.reuters.com/article/us-warcrimes-kosovoInfection.’” Balkan Insight. April 3, 2020. thaci/kosovo-president-thaci-arrested-movedhttps://balkaninsight.com/2020/04/03/serbiato-the-hague-to-face-war-crimes-chargespins-coronavirus-blame-on-returning-serbsidUSKBN27L1DO concealing-infection/

N1 Beograd Reporting Network. “Đorđević tvrdi WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) da Vučić izdaje Kosovo, Mrdalj da opozicija Dashboard, “Serbia.” Last Updated December možda ponudi i više.” N1. October 15, 2020. 28, 2020. https://covid19.who.int/region/euro/ http://rs.n1info.com/Vesti/a661257/Djordjeviccountry/rs tvrdi-da-Vucic-izdaje-Kosovo-Mrdalj-daopozicija-mozda-ponudi-i-vise.html Zelenović, Nebojša. “Serbia’s government simulates democracy.” EURACTIV, February Popović, Sofija. “Izbori 2020: Mediji u kampanji 26, 2020. https://www.euractiv.com/section/ i dalje pristrasni.” European Western Balkans, enlargement/opinion/serbias-governmentJune 30, 2020. https://europeanwesternbalkans. simulates-democracy/ rs/izbori-2020-mediji-u-kampanji-pristrasni/ Radio Slobodna Evropa Reporting Network. “Hoti i Vučić potvrdili dolazak na sastanak u Vašington 2. Septembra.” Radio Slobodna Evropa. August 14, 2020. https://www.slobodnaevropa. org/a/30783085.html Radio Slobodna Evropa Reporting Network. “Vučić najavio ‘kompletnu revizuju’ podataka o broju umrlih od COVID-19.” Radio Slobodna Evropa. October 1, 2020. https://www.slobodnaevropa. org/a/30867867.html 303


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ike many countries in the world, 2020 was one of the challenging years in Slovakia’s politics. The year started with a challenging parliamentary election that resulted in many concerns among the people of Slovakia. A few months after the parliamentary elections in Slovakia, like most countries, Slovakia started to see its very first case of COVID-19. However, despite the very few cases that the country had, it became one of the most outstanding countries in the world to stop the growth of COVID-19 cases from the start of the pandemic. Slovakia also saw many difficulties and challenges along the way because of the pandemic. One of these challenges was the far-right extremist group, L’SNS who did not believe in the pandemic but most importantly tried to bring neo-Nazism to Slovakia and Europe once again. Parliamentary Elections:

Slovakia’s parliamentary elections took place on February 29, 2020.1 This election was expected to change the country’s politics after the former Slovak prime minister had to step down.2 Robert Fico, the former prime minister of Slovakia and the current leader of Smer-SD or DirectionSlovakia Social Democracy party resigned in 2018 as the result of his involvement in the murder of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée 1 Peter Csanyi, “Slovakia Political Briefing: The 2020 Parlimentary Election in Slovakia,” China-CEE, April 7, 2020, https://china-cee.eu/2020/04/07/slovakia-political-briefing-the-2020-parliamentary-election-in-slovakia/ . 2 Peter Csanyi, “Slovakia Political Briefing: The 2020 Parlimentary Election in Slovakia,” China-CEE, April 7, 2020, https://china-cee.eu/2020/04/07/slovakia-political-briefing-the-2020-parliamentary-election-in-slovakia/ .

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MESSAGES IN THE MEDIA

Martina Kušbírová.3 The major cause of Ján Kuciak was his investigations and publishing of nine articles detailing. 4 EU funds in Slovakia, tax fraud and alleged ties between the Slovak government officials and the Italian mafia.5 During the 2020 campaign elections few major problems started to occur in the country.6 The first major problem was, after the alleged murder of Kuciak and his fiancée, their investigations led to a mass discovery of more cases of corruption between the Slovak politicians, businessmen, members of the police and civil servants, and judges.7 The issue of corruption had created an increased polarization in Slovak society.8 The second issue that arose was the spread of disinformation in Slovak society.9 Spread of disinformation had become more prominent than ever in Slovakia during the 2020 election campaign.10 One of the ways in which disinformation was being carried through the country was through more than 1,800 Facebook accounts and profiles that sent people inimical messages and polarizing narratives.11 The third issue was, an attempt to limit the rights of Slovaks to information and their access to public opinion polls.12 The fourth issue that arose before the 2020 election was the creation of manipulative and hate videos which resulted in amplifying polarizing messages.13 3 Peter Csanyi, “Slovakia Political Briefing: The 2020 Parlimentary Election in Slovakia,” China-CEE, April 7, 2020, https://china-cee.eu/2020/04/07/slovakia-political-briefing-the-2020-parliamentary-election-in-slovakia/ . 4 Jon Henley, “Slovakian Businessman Cleared of Ordering Journalist’s Murder,” The Gaurdian, September 3, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/03/slovakian-businessman-cleared-of-ordering-journalist-jan-kuciak-murder. 5 Euronews Associated Press, “Slovakia’s Anti-Corruption Opposition Party Wins Parliamentary Election,” Euronews, March 01, 2020, https://www.euronews.com/2020/03/01/slovakia-s-anti-corruption-opposition-party-wins-parliamentary-election. 6 Peter Csanyi, “Slovakia Political Briefing: The 2020 Parlimentary Election in Slovakia,” China-CEE, April 7, 2020, https://china-cee.eu/2020/04/07/slovakia-political-briefing-the-2020-parliamentary-election-in-slovakia/ . 7 Peter Csanyi, “Slovakia Political Briefing: The 2020 Parlimentary Election in Slovakia,” China-CEE, April 7, 2020, https://china-cee.eu/2020/04/07/slovakia-political-briefing-the-2020-parliamentary-election-in-slovakia/ . 8 Peter Csanyi, “Slovakia Political Briefing: The 2020 Parlimentary Election in Slovakia,” China-CEE, April 7, 2020, https://china-cee.eu/2020/04/07/slovakia-political-briefing-the-2020-parliamentary-election-in-slovakia/ . 9 Peter Csanyi, “Slovakia Political Briefing: The 2020 Parlimentary Election in Slovakia,” China-CEE, April 7, 2020, https://china-cee.eu/2020/04/07/slovakia-political-briefing-the-2020-parliamentary-election-in-slovakia/ . 10 Peter Csanyi, “Slovakia Political Briefing: The 2020 Parlimentary Election in Slovakia,” China-CEE, April 7, 2020, https://china-cee.eu/2020/04/07/slovakia-political-briefing-the-2020-parliamentary-election-in-slovakia/ . 11 Peter Csanyi, “Slovakia Political Briefing: The 2020 Parlimentary Election in Slovakia,” China-CEE, April 7, 2020, https://china-cee.eu/2020/04/07/slovakia-political-briefing-the-2020-parliamentary-election-in-slovakia/ . 12 Peter Csanyi, “Slovakia Political Briefing: The 2020 Parlimentary Election in Slovakia,” China-CEE, April 7, 2020, https://china-cee.eu/2020/04/07/slovakia-political-briefing-the-2020-parliamentary-election-in-slovakia/ . 13 Peter Csanyi, “Slovakia Political Briefing: The 2020 Parlimentary Election in Slovakia,” China-CEE, April 7, 2020, https://china-cee.eu/2020/04/07/slovakia-political-briefing-the-2020-parliamentary-election-in-slovakia/ .

Before the 2020 election OL’aNO or Ordinary People and Independent Personalities was seen as one of the major causes of Slovak peoples’ despise against corruptions in the country, OL’aNO came to power with people’s trust and belief in order to make Slovakia a fair country where laws and rights equally applied to everyone.14 the pro-western Igor Matovič 14 Peter Csanyi, “Slovakia Political Briefing: The 2020 Parlimentary Election in Slovakia,” China-CEE, April 7, 2020, https://china-cee.eu/2020/04/07/slovakia-political-brief-

and the leader OL’aNO had promised the people of Slovakia to focus on fighting against corruption.15 Matovič’s anti-graft movement also caused public anger over the previous account of corruption in Slovakia.16 OL’aNO ing-the-2020-parliamentary-election-in-slovakia/ . 15 Euronews Associated Press, “Slovakia’s Anti-Corruption Opposition Party Wins Parliamentary Election,” Euronews, March 01, 2020, https://www.euronews. com/2020/03/01/slovakia-s-anti-corruption-opposition-party-wins-parliamentary-election. 16 Jan Loptaka, “Dark Horse of Slovak Election

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also showed its empathy during its campaign by lighting 5,000 candles outside of Slovakia’s government building to symbolize deaths caused by shortfalls in Slovakia’s healthcare funding due to corruption.17 On the day of elections, February 29 of 2020, Slovaks had the right to make a big decision for the future of their nation.18 When the results were published, OL’aNO or Ordinary People and Independent Personalities became the most popular party with, 25.02 percent of the vote and 53 seats in the parliament.19 The next most popular parties followed as, Smer or Direction-Slovak Social Democracy with 18.29 percent votes and 38 seats in the parliament, followed by the third most voted party, Sme Rodina or We Are Family (Slovakia) with 8.24 percent votes and 17 seats in the parliament.20 The rest of the parties followed as, People’s Party Our Slovakia (L’SNS) with 7.97 percent votes and 17 seats in parliament, SaS or Freedom and Solidarity with 6.22 percent and 13 seats in the parliament and last Za L’udí or For the People party gained 5.77 percent votes and 12 seats in the parliament.21 Slovakia

and

Handling

of

COVID-19

Woos Voters with Tough Anti-Graft Message,” Reuters, February 24, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-slovakia-election-ordinarypeople-idUSKCN20I1CM. 17 Jan Loptaka, “Dark Horse of Slovak Election Woos Voters with Tough Anti-Graft Message,” Reuters, February 24, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-slovakia-election-ordinarypeople-idUSKCN20I1CM. 18 Peter Csanyi, “Slovakia Political Briefing: The 2020 Parlimentary Election in Slovakia,” China-CEE, April 7, 2020, https://china-cee.eu/2020/04/07/slovakia-political-briefing-the-2020-parliamentary-election-in-slovakia/ . 19 “Final Results: Debacle for the Coalition, great Victory for Matovuič,” The Slovak Spectator, March 2020, https://spectator.sme.sk/c/22338362/2020-parliamentary-election-slovakia-preliminary-results-outcome.html. 20 “Final Results: Debacle for the Coalition, great Victory for Matovuič,” The Slovak Spectator, March 2020, https://spectator.sme.sk/c/22338362/2020-parliamentary-election-slovakia-preliminary-results-outcome.html. 21 “Final Results: Debacle for the Coalition, great Victory for Matovuič,” The Slovak Spectator, March 2020, https://spectator.sme.sk/c/22338362/2020-parliamentary-election-slovakia-preliminary-results-outcome.html.

Pandemic: Like many other countries in the world, Slovakia started to see its very first COVID-19 case on March 06 of 2020.22 On March 16 of 2020, Slovakia’s government declared its first state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic only ten days after the country’s first confirmed case of COVID-19.23 The lockdown included a full closure of all schools, restaurants, bars, and shops with an exception for grocery stores, pharmacies and banks along with a ban on all public events and gatherings.24 Slovakia also did close all of its airports and implemented a mandatory quarantine for all of its citizens returning from abroad.25 On March 14th, the country urged its entire nation to wear facemasks as well.26 Slovakia became among the first countries in the world, and second in Europe after the Czech Republic to implement mandatory facemasks after the COVID-19 outbreak.27 After the COVID-19 outbreak and the start of the pandemic, all the Slovak public figures and leaders were seen with facemasks unlike, many countries that did not make face masks mandatory, the people of Slovakia also started to share their pictures with facemasks 22 “Slovakia COVID-19,” World Meters, June 15,2020, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/slovakia/ 23 Miroslav Beblavy, “How Slovakia Flattened the Curve,” Foreign Policy, May 6, 2020, https://foreignpolicy. com/2020/05/06/slovakia-coronavirus-pandemic-public-trust-media/. 24 Miroslav Beblavy, “How Slovakia Flattened the Curve,” Foreign Policy, May 6, 2020, https://foreignpolicy. com/2020/05/06/slovakia-coronavirus-pandemic-public-trust-media/. 25 Miroslav Beblavy, “How Slovakia Flattened the Curve,” Foreign Policy, May 6, 2020, https://foreignpolicy. com/2020/05/06/slovakia-coronavirus-pandemic-public-trust-media/. 26 Miroslav Beblavy, “How Slovakia Flattened the Curve,” Foreign Policy, May 6, 2020, https://foreignpolicy. com/2020/05/06/slovakia-coronavirus-pandemic-public-trust-media/. 27 Yasmeen Serhan, “Lessons From Slovakia—Where Leaders Wear Masks,” The Atlantic, May 13, 2020, https:// www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/05/slovakia-mask-coronavirus-pandemic-success/611545/.

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online.28 Although Slovakia became one of the outstanding countries in Europe and the world through their battle with COVID-19, the country faced difficulties as well.29 After the start of the pandemic, like other countries in the world, Slovakia faced with a shortage of personal protective equipment like facemasks.30 Economic hardships were among one of the main concerns for Slovakia as well.31 After the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Slovakia saw an increase in the country’s debt to 60% of GDP in 2020.32 Following the pandemic started to see a high record of unemployment starting in April 2020 by 6.57%, May 2020 by 7.2%, July 2020 by 7.65% and the highest was in September of 2020 by 7.43%.33

2020, Slovakia was a0mong a few countries that were able to start vaccinating the people.35 As of the end of December, Slovakia was able to contract 18 million doses of vaccines.36 The president of Slovakia, Zuzana Čaputová was among the very first people to get her first dose of vaccine on December 27, and to show her support for vaccination.37 Slovakia and Extremism:

Slovakia has been among top countries in the Europe with a high support of extremism and far-right movements, one of the big promoters of extremism in Slovakia has been L’SNS or People’s PartyOur Slovakia with the leadership of Marian Kotleba. 38 The far-right extremism in Slovakia is supported by a network of disinformation Since the start of the COVID-19 media and Facebook groups.39 L’SNS has the pandemic, Slovakia’s total cases were habit of regularly celebrating the anniversary significantly low, however, with the start of the of wartime fascist Slovaks on March 14th.40 The second wave the country started to see a peak in 19-new-cases-by-date/. its COVID cases at the beginning of September 35 Anonymous, “Vaccination in Slovakia Continues: 2020.34 However, at the end of December of Dozens of Healthcare Workers Have Receieved the Jab,” 28 Yasmeen Serhan, “Lessons From Slovakia—Where Leaders Wear Masks,” The Atlantic, May 13, 2020, https:// www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/05/slovakia-mask-coronavirus-pandemic-success/611545/. 29 Yasmeen Serhan, “Lessons From Slovakia—Where Leaders Wear Masks,” The Atlantic, May 13, 2020, https:// www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/05/slovakia-mask-coronavirus-pandemic-success/611545/. 30 Yasmeen Serhan, “Lessons From Slovakia—Where Leaders Wear Masks,” The Atlantic, May 13, 2020, https:// www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/05/slovakia-mask-coronavirus-pandemic-success/611545/. 31 Juraj Bronček, “Slovakia Real Estate Market View,” Cushman & Wakefield, June 14, 2021, https://www. cushmanwakefield.com/en/slovakia/insights/covid-19-impacts-slovakia-real-estate. 32 Juraj Bronček, “Slovakia Real Estate Market View,” Cushman & Wakefield, May 14, 2020, https://www. cushmanwakefield.com/en/slovakia/insights/covid-19-impacts-slovakia-real-estate. 33 Martin Kahanec and Monika Martišková, “Crisis Response Monitoring: Slovakia,” IZA Institute of Labor Economics, November 5, 2020, https://covid-19.iza.org/ crisis-monitor/slovakia/. 34 “Number of COVID-19 Cases Confirmed in Slovakia from 2020-2021,” Statista, June 16, 20201, https://www. statista.com/statistics/1104627/slovakia-coronavirus-covid-

Slovak Spectator, December 28, 2020, https://spectator. sme.sk/c/22562922/vaccination-in-slovakia-continues-dozens-of-healthcare-workers-have-received-the-jab.html. 36 Spectator Staff, “Vaccination in Slovakia Continues: Dozens of Healthcare Workers Have Receieved the Jab,” Slovak Spectator, December 28, 2020, https:// spectator.sme.sk/c/22562922/vaccination-in-slovakia-continues-dozens-of-healthcare-workers-have-received-the-jab. html. 37 Spectator Staff, “Vaccination in Slovakia Continues: Dozens of Healthcare Workers Have Receieved the Jab,” Slovak Spectator, December 28, 2020, https:// spectator.sme.sk/c/22562922/vaccination-in-slovakia-continues-dozens-of-healthcare-workers-have-received-the-jab. html. 38 Miroslava German Sirotnikova, “Far-Right Extremism in Slovakia: Hate, Guns and Friends From Russia,” Balkan Insight, January 20, 2021, https://balkaninsight. com/2021/01/20/far-right-extremism-in-slovakia/. 39 Miroslava German Sirotnikova, “Far-Right Extremism in Slovakia: Hate, Guns and Friends From Russia,” Balkan Insight, January 20, 2021, https://balkaninsight. com/2021/01/20/far-right-extremism-in-slovakia/. 40 Miroslava German Sirotnikova, “Far-Right Extremism in Slovakia: Hate, Guns and Friends From Russia,” Balkan Insight, January 20, 2021, https://balkaninsight. com/2021/01/20/far-right-extremism-in-slovakia/.

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party also has the tendency of highlighting anyone who has a Jewish ethnicity as their enemies, but also putting up billboards that sent messages against the LGBTQ community, anti-immigrants, and anti-Roma.41 In the history of the party, aside from Maran Kotleba himself, at least seven members of the party have been charged and convicted of extremism and violent crimes.42 Earlier in 2020, during the parliamentary election of Slovakia, Kotleba’s party was able to gain 7.97 percent votes and 17 seats in parliament.43 In the past, Kotleba who was also the former governor of the Banaska Bystrica region, was known for hosting organized marches in which he and his party members wore neo-Nazi uniforms.44 Kotleba’s party campaigns have also been against EU and NATO membership of Slovakia, along with preaches hatred against Jews, Muslims, and Roma.45 Kotleba was also charged in 2017 after he presented three families with cheques for 1,488 euros, which number of 1,488 has a symbolic meaning for neo-Nazis and white supremacy.46 The far-right L’SNS tried to manipulate the public by relating the 41 Miroslava German Sirotnikova, “Far-Right Extremism in Slovakia: Hate, Guns and Friends From Russia,” Balkan Insight, January 20, 2021, https://balkaninsight. com/2021/01/20/far-right-extremism-in-slovakia/. 42 Miroslava German Sirotnikova, “Far-Right Extremism in Slovakia: Hate, Guns and Friends From Russia,” Balkan Insight, January 20, 2021, https://balkaninsight. com/2021/01/20/far-right-extremism-in-slovakia/. 43 “Final Results: Debacle for the Coalition, great Victory for Matovuič,” The Slovak Spectator, March 2020, https://spectator.sme.sk/c/22338362/2020-parliamentary-election-slovakia-preliminary-results-outcome.html. 44 Deutsche Welle, “Slovakia Jails Far-Right Leader For Extremism,” Taiwan News, November 13, 2020, https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4028969. 45 Tim Gosling, “Slovakia Becomes Latest European Country to Hit the Far-Right,” Al Jazeera, October 27, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/27/slovak-courtsentences-neo-nazi-mp. 46 Associated Press, “Slovakia’s Far-Right Leader Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison,” ABC News, October 12, 2020, https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/slovakias-leader-sentenced-years-prison-73572458.

pandemic to a project, and immigrants for bringing the COVID-19 virus to Europe.47 Finally, in November of 2020, the Slovakian court sentenced the leader of the right-wing extremist People’s Party- Our Slovakia (L’SNS), Marian Kotleba to four years and four months in prison.48 Kotleba’s movements along with his supporter in 2020 included a series of protests the COVID-19 measures and seeking to deepen public distrust in the government and democratic institutions, including the European Unions.49 Kotleba was convicted for promoting the neoNazi slogan for saluting Hitler.50 Year in Review:

Slovakia’s 2020 parliamentary elections were a different one for the people of Slovakia. People of Slovakia went into the elections with a lack of trust in their government due to the previous accounts of corruption such as the murder of a journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée. Kuciak was able to expose the country’s politicians, actor’s illegal relationships with other EU nations such as Italy after his long time investigations. OL’aNO was among the very few parties who promised people to fight and eradicate corruption in the country. On February 29th of 2020, OL’aNO was able to gain people’s trust. After the parliamentary elections, Slovakia started its battle with the COVID-19 pandemic and, became the 47 Nina Hrabovská Francelová, “Crisis Feeds Extremism. Matovič Gov’t Performance Crucial to Preventing it,” April 29, 2020, https://spectator.sme.sk/c/22394381/ rise-of-extremism-pandemic-crisis-slovakia-kotleba-matovic. html. 48 Deutsche Welle, “Slovakia Jails Far-Right Leader For Extremism,” Taiwan News, November 13, 2020, https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4028969. 49 Miroslava German Sirotnikova, “Far-Right Extremism in Slovakia: Hate, Guns and Friends From Russia,” Balkan Insight, January 20, 2021, https://balkaninsight. com/2021/01/20/far-right-extremism-in-slovakia/. 50 Miroslava German Sirotnikova, “Far-Right Extremism in Slovakia: Hate, Guns and Friends From Russia,” Balkan Insight, January 20, 2021, https://balkaninsight. com/2021/01/20/far-right-extremism-in-slovakia/.

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second country in Europe to implement strict lockdowns along with setting mandatory laws for wearing facemasks with the support of Slovak politicians and actors. With the first wave of the pandemic, Slovakia became one of the most successful countries in Europe and the world in battling the COVID-19 pandemic. Although, the country started to see a downturn after the second and third of pandemic. The last and one of the most important events that occurred in Slovakia’s politics was the imprisonment of Slovakia’s far-right extremist leader of L’SNS, Marian Kotleba. Kotleba was one of the biggest promoters of neo-Nazism in Slovakia but also in Europe. Kotleba and his party had been charged with hate and violent crimes in the past. After many years of promoting hatred toward people who identified as Jews, Muslims, Romas, and people who self-identified as LGBTQs along with neo-Nazism, in November 2020, Kotleba was finally sentenced to four years and four months in the prison.

Associated Press. “Slovakia’s Anti-Corruption Opposition Party Wins Parliamentary Election.” Euro News, March 1st, 2020. Accessed June 15, 2021. https://www. euronews.com/2020/03/01/slovakia-santi-corruption-opposition-party-winsparliamentary-election. Associated Press. “Slovakia’s Far-Right Leader Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison.” ABC News, October 12, 2020. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://abcnews.go.com/International/ wireStory/slovakias-leader-sentencedyears-prison-73572458. Beblavy, Miroslav. “How Slovakia Flattened the Curve.” Foreign Policy, May 06, 2020. Accessed June 16, 2021https:// foreignpolicy.com/2020/05/06/slovakiac o ro n a v i ru s - p a n d e m i c - p u b l i c - t ru s t media/. Bronček, Juraj. “COVID 19 Impacts on Slovakia Real Estate: Coronavirus: Slovakia.” Cushman & Wakefield, March 14, 2021. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www. cushmanwakefield.com/en/slovakia/ insights/covid-19-impacts-slovakia-realestate. Csanyi, Peter. “Slovakia Political Briefing: The 2020 Parliamentary Election in Slovakia.” China-CEE, April 7, 2020. Accessed June 15, 2021. https://china-cee.eu/2020/04/07/ slovakia-political-briefing-the-2020parliamentary-election-in-slovakia/. Francelová, Nina Hrabovská. “Crisis Feeds Extremism. Matovič Gov’t Performance Crucial to Preventing It.” Spectator.sme. sk. April 29, 2020. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://spectator.sme.sk/c/22394381/riseof-extremism-pandemic-crisis-slovakiakotleba-matovic.html.

Bibliography:

Gosling, Tim. “Slovakia Becomes Latest European Country to Hit The Far-Right.” Aljazeera, October 27, 2020. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www.aljazeera.com/ 309


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news/2020/10/27/slovak-court-sentencesneo-nazi-mp.

Continues. Dozens of Healthcare Workers Have Received the Jab.” The Slovak Spectator, December 28, 2020. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://spectator.sme.sk/c/22562922/ vaccination-in-slovakia-continues-dozensof-healthcare-workers-have-received-thejab.html.

Henley, Jon. “Slovakian Businessman Cleared of Ordering Journalist’s Murder.” The Guardian, September 3, 2020. Accessed June 15, 2021. https://www.theguardian. com/world/2020/sep/03/slovakianb u s i n e s s m a n - c l e a r e d - o f - o r d e r i n g - Statista. “COVID-19 New Cases in journalist-jan-kuciak-murder. Slovakia 2020-2021, By Date of Report.” Published on June 15, 2020. Accessed Kahanec, Martin, Martišková, Monika. June 16, 2021. https://www.statista.com/ “Crisis Response Monitoring: Slovakia.” statistics/1104627/slovakia-coronavirusIZA Institute of Labor Economics, November covid-19-new-cases-by-date/. 5, 2020. Accessed June 16, 2021. https:// covid-19.iza.org/crisis-monitor/slovakia/.

Welle, Deutsche. “Slovakia Jails Far-Right Leader for Extremism.” Taiwan News, November 13, 2020. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/ news/4028969.

Loptaka, Jan. “Dark Horse of Slovak Election Woos Voters with Tough Anti-Graft Message.” Reuters, February 24, 2020. Accessed June 15, 2021. https://www. reuters.com/article/us-slovakia-election- World Meters. “Slovakia COVOD-19 Cases.” ordinarypeople-idUSKCN20I1CM. Last Updated: June 18, 2021. Accessed June 16, 2020. https://www.worldometers.info/ Serhan, Yasmeen. “Lessons From Slovakiacoronavirus/country/slovakia/. Where Leaders Wear Masks.” The Atlantic, May 13, 2020. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www.theatlantic. com/international/archive/2020/05/ slovakia-mask-coronavirus-pandemicsuccess/611545/.

Sirotnikova, Miroslava German. “Far-Right Extremism: Hate, Guns and Friends from Russia.” Reporting Democracy, January 20, 2021. Accessed June 16, 2021. https:// balkaninsight.com/2021/01/20/far-rightextremism-in-slovakia/. Spectator Staff. “Final Results: Debacle for The Coalition, Great Victory for Matovič.” The Slovak Spectator, March 20, 2020. Accessed June 15, 2021. https://spectator.sme.sk/ c/22338362/2020-parliamentary-electionslovakia-preliminary-results-outcome. html. Spectator Staff. “Vaccination in Slovakia 310


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SLOVENIA

Population: 2,102,678 (July 2020 est.) - CIA World Factbook Unemployment Rate: 4.446% (2019 est.) - World Bank Data GDP Per Capita: $40,656.557 (2019 est.) - World Bank Data EU Status: EU Candidate since 2004

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I

n 2020, Slovenia faced a tumultuous political

election, which elected Janez Janša of the Slove-

climate that had large ramifications on other

niana Democratic Party (SDS). However, he was

issues in the country. The resignation of the Slove-

unable to form a coalition and withdrew, resulting

nian Prime Minister in the beginning of the year

in the election of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec of

led to the right wing opposition forming a new

the List of Marjan Šarec Party (LMS). Despite rel-

government. This would create tension within the

ative popularity, on January 27 2020, Prime Min-

government for the entirety of the year as politi-

ister Šarec announced his resignation stating his

cal deadlock and allegations of mismanagement

coalition government was “unable to fulfill people’s

threaten the new coalition. The country would go

expectations.”1 This resignation follows the resig-

through further turmoil due to the COVID-19

nation of Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj who

pandemic, with a nationwide quarantine being

issued a statement protesting against new legisla-

enforced on March 13 by the previous government. tion proposed by the LMS party.2 In February, the This also marked the same day the new govern-

SDS conducted coalition discussions with other

ment would come into power, highlighting the in-

parties. The Slovenian parties suffer from a harsh

fluence of the changing government on the nation. and non-collaborative environment and therefore Slovenia would make headlines just two months

create a political deadlock.3 This political deadlock

after as it became the first European country to de- made it difficult for new policies and legislation to clare an end to the pandemic. However, this victory be able to pass. The coalition aimed to check if the would be short-lived with cases rapidly increasing

SDS would be able to run and work effectively with

as the government started to ease restrictions.

the other central parties. There was some resis-

Alongside this, the anti-immigration stance of the

tance, as the former President Miro Cerar of the

government would also play a large role this year,

Modern Centre Party (SMC) quit from his party

with Slovenia taking a larger role in EU migration 1

policies. PM Resignation The election of 2018 was record breaking in the formation of the first minority government in Slovenia. This was mainly due to the results of the

Novak, Marja. “Slovenian PM Sarec Resigns, Early Election Likely.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, January 27, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-slovenia-government-idUSKBN1ZQ0RY. 2 “Šarec Quits as Slovenian PM amid Political Deadlock.” euronews, January 27, 2020. https://www.euronews. com/2020/01/27/slovenia-prime-minister-marjan-sarec-