"What's New? How Is the World Treating You?"

In 1939 Johnny Burke (1908-1964) composed the music and Bob Haggard (1914-1998) wrote the lyrics for the hit song "What's New?" whose first line serves as the title of this blog.  To listen to Linda Ronstadt (born 1946) perform "What's New?" with Nelson Riddle (1921-1985) and his orchestra (Asylum, 1983), click here.  A new window will open, allowing the music to play in the background.

Check this web page for occasional posts containing news and commentary, mainly about events in Central Europe.  To read the article of your choice, either click on the title that appears in the table of contents or scroll down the page.
For news and commentary from the most recent past quarter, click here.  For earlier quarters in the year or previous years, see the Introduction and Index for "What's New?"

Table of Contents for the Third Quarter of 2018

Birds of a Feather    20 September 2018

On 12 September, the European Union censured Hungary for departing from the rule of law and backtracking on democratic values.  Poland, which is suffering from the same sort of disease–creeping dictatorship that maintains the trappings of parliamentary democracy–supported Hungary.  Also on 12 September, this website supplied a link to an opinion piece by Radosveta Vassileva, who warned of Bulgaria’s departure from democracy.

On 19 September, the Bulgarian government announced that it will defend Hungary against attack from the EU.  Krasimir Karakachanov, Bulgaria’s defense minister, told reporters that the Bulgarian cabinet unanimously agreed to oppose any sanctions against Hungary.  Karakachanov, from the United Patriots party, which is in a coalition with GERB, stated, “Today it is Hungary, tomorrow it could be Poland, and one day it could be Bulgaria in the dock.  Central and eastern European countries should act in solidarity and help each other.”  The prime minister of Bulgaria, Boyko Borissov, who leads the GERB party, interpreted the cabinet decision differently, claiming that it is not legally binding.  He noted that Hungary needs to change some of its policies.

The Finnish Swastika    14 September 2018

The Finnish Air Force first used the swastika in 1918, when it flew its first plane against the Red Army.  After the Second World War, the Soviets insisted that the Finnish Air Force discontinue painting it on planes, but some military units still have the symbol as part of their insignia.  The Finns’ use of the swastika not only predates that of the German National Socialist party, but it does not carry the same meaning.  Despite some concern that NATO allies may misconstrue the swastika, there are no plans to end its use.  See https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2018/0910/Finland-used-the-swastika-before-the-Nazis.-Why-do-they-still?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&cmpid=FB&utm_source=Facebook#Echobox=1536598725.

Poisoning in Moscow    13 September 2018

Pyotr Verzilov, of Pussy Riot, is in the toxicology department of a Moscow hospital, after having lost the ability to see, speak, and walk.  Verzilov was one of the individuals who protested by storming the final World Cup tournament in Moscow in July.  The illness began after he had appeared at a court hearing for Pussy Riot member Veronika Nikulshina.  His wife, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, also of Pussy Riot, and other members of the protest group provided information about Verzilov, including the speculation that he may have been poisoned and that his mother was unable to visit him.  See https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-45505064.

Novichok Suspects Claim “Risible”    13 September 2018

British officials identified two Russian men likely to have used Novichok in an attempt to kill Sergei Skripal and his daughter, but on Russian Television, the two claimed to have been sightseeing.  Vladimir Putin has backed their claims, which British authorities call “risible.”   See https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/sep/13/russian-television-channel-rt-says-it-is-to-air-interview-with-skripal-salisbury-attack-suspects.

EU Censures Hungary    13 September 2018

On 12 September, the European Parliament voted to censure Hungary for breaking European Union values in a vote that won the support of 448 MEPs (197 voted against it, and 48 abstained).  Through Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty, Hungary could lose voting rights in the EU.  All the leaders of the EU must approve the measure unanimously, but Poland, which also is at risk of censure, stated that it will oppose removing Hungary’s ability to vote.

The European Parliament’s actions come after lengthy negotiations about Hungary’s attacks on the media, its removal of judges, its interference with academic freedom, and its approach toward minorities and immigrants.  The European Parliament has similar grievances against Poland.

Bulgaria’s Hidden Crisis    12 September 2018

In a recent article, Radosveta Vassileva, a Bulgarian national who teaches law at University College London, UK, and blogs about social justice, human rights, and other issues, describes Bulgaria’s struggles with economic underperformance, corruption, lack of press freedoms, and government abuse that permeates the ruling GERB party and reaches to the prime minister, Boyko M. Borisov.  Vassileva maintains that Bulgaria is in danger of going down the path of Hungary and Poland, where democratic institutions function only on the surface and serve the interests of the ruling elite.  See https://euobserver.com/opinion/142795.  Vassileva’s blog is at https://twitter.com/radosveta_vass?lang=en.

Sweden’s Election    11 September 2018

The far-right, neo-Nazi Sweden Democrats gained seats in Sweden’s parliamentary elections of 9 September to become the third largest party in the legislature.  The Social Democrats, with 28 percent of the votes, and Moderates, with nearly 20 percent of the votes, refuse to enter a governing coalition with the Sweden Democrats.  The current government, a coalition of the Social Democrats and the Greens, is a minority government that relies on the support of other parties in the legislature.  The Sweden Democrats, who received nearly 18 percent of the votes, had only 13 percent in the last election.  Their third-place finish in the elections signifies the growing discontent in Sweden with the number of immigrants entering the country.  See https://www.seattletimes.com/business/sweden-faces-weeks-of-uncertainty-after-close-election/.

Invasion!  21 August 1968    21 August 2018

Fifty years ago, the Warsaw Pact, under the leadership of the Soviet Union, invaded Czechoslovakia to stop its reform movement that was to give the country “socialism with a human face,” as the Communist leader Alexander Dubček (1921-1992) once stated.  Immediately after the invasion, Blahoslav Auředník (1937-2017) took several photographs of the invaders and the protesters that now appear for the first time.  See Auředník: Invasion! 21 August 2018 on this website

Research in Europe    21 August 2018

Forgive my inactivity over the past few weeks.  I have been researching in Prague and doing some traveling with my daughter, who was in Europe for several weeks.  She already has returned home, and I will be on my way within hours.  Soon, I will resume posting news items on this site.

Protests in Poland    6 July 2018

Tens of thousands protested in Warsaw against the Polish government’s efforts to force the retirement of judges, and one judge has defied the new law.  Lech Wałęsa, who played an important role in the fall of the Communist party in Poland and was once the country’s president, has joined the protests.  On several occasions, Wałęsa has warned that the policies of the Law and Justice party, which has a monopoly on power in Poland, could lead to a civil war.  See https://www.afp.com/en/news/23/top-polish-judge-defies-purge-walesa-joins-protests-doc-17513p6.