Didn’t have time to read the news lately? Kafkadesk’s got you covered. Here’s our recap of what’s been going on in the political arena and what you might have missed these last few days: Hungary’s Viktor Orban gets long-awaited welcome at the White House, Poland under the shock after release of sex child abuse documentary, and Czechs take to the streets for third week in a row to defend independent judiciary.
Hungarian PM Viktor Orban meets Donald Trump at White House
On Monday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban met with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House. The working visit came after years of Orban being shunned by the Obama administration and intense lobbying (as well as pledges to purchase a significant amount of U.S. military equipment) from Budapest to score an invitation to Washington, hailed as a major breakthrough by the Hungarian government, but criticized on both sides of the Atlantic. Viktor Orban first came to the White House in 2001, during his first tenure as Prime Minister, when he met with then-President George W. Bush.
During the meeting, Donald Trump heaped praise on M. Orban, a “highly respected” politician all across Europe whose immigration and border protection policies have managed to keep “Hungary safe”, according to the U.S. President. The Hungarian Premier’s visit to the White House comes amid the Trump administration’s wish to step up its engagement and defend U.S. interests (particularly in the energy and defense sectors) in Central Europe. The Slovak and Czech Prime Ministers were recently hosted at the White House, as well as the Polish President, who’s due to come back to Washington next month.
Rumors about a possible U.S. visit by Hungary’s controversial PM had been circulating ever since Trump’s election, with commentators highlighting the strong similarities between both men’s leadership style and populist, nationalistic and anti-immigration platform. Trump’s former campaign chief and strategist Steve Bannon holds close ties to Orban, who was the only EU leader to publicly endorse him instead of opponent Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. But even though the pair might look like a match made in heaven, both leaders remain at odds on a number of key issues, including Hungary’s close relations with China and Putin’s Russia.
Shock documentary on child sexual abuse unleashes firestorm in Catholic Poland
The documentary “Tell No One“, which addresses sexual child abuse by the Polish clergy and features victims confronting their abusers years after the facts, has sparked a nation-wide outcry in Poland, where the topic has been at the forefront of public debate in recent months. Released on Saturday, it’s been viewed more than 14.5 million times at the time of writing. Although Poland’s primate Wojciech Polak issued an official apology, saying he was “sorry for every wound inflicted by people of the church”, critics point out that no steps have been taken to bring pedophile priests to justice and that the clergy, which holds close ties to the ruling party, has been covering up these scandals for decades.
Speaking on Sunday in Poland’s northern city of Szczecin, leader of the Law and Justice (PiS) party Jaroslaw Kaczynski promised to crack down on child sex abuse crimes in response to the release of the documentary: “We prepared changes to the penal code meaning [child abuse] will be punished very severely… there will be no suspended sentences, there will be severe penalties, maybe even up to 30 years in prison” the leader of the ruling conservative party said, adding that “this applies to priests” as well. Currently, sexual abuse of a child under 15 is punishable by up to 12 years in jail.
Czechs demand Justice Minister’s resignation for third consecutive week
For the third week in a row, thousands of Czechs demonstrated in Prague and other cities on Monday to demand the resignation of Justice Minister Marie Benesova over fears for the country’s judicial independence.
Around 20.000 gathered in Prague’s Old Town Square, matching the turnout of last week’s protests, to express their worries Marie Benesova, who was appointed as the country’s new Justice Minister one day after Czech police recommended the indictment of Prime Minister Andrej Babis over suspicions of EU subsidy fraud, might meddle in the ongoing investigation. Ms. Benesova, a former top state prosecutor who previously served as judicial advisor to President Milos Zeman, discarded the allegations, saying she would never exert influence over the investigation targeting the Czech PM, the second richest man in the country, who’s also being investigated for alleged conflict of interest.
A fourth protest is planned on Tuesday next week on Prague’s iconic Wenceslas square, as well as in other Czech cities.