Why is Europe so right-wing authoritarian
Andrej Babiš is a true European. The corporate empire he has built extends far beyond the borders of the Czech Republic, and without the subsidies from Brussels it would hardly have become as powerful as it is today. So far, Babiš has not let himself be accused of being ungrateful: since the entrepreneur was promoted to the office of Czech Prime Minister at the end of 2017, he has largely held back with ethnic rhetoric and anti-EU tirades, unlike his colleagues in Hungary and Poland.
But now another Babiš can be heard. He had to fend off an "attack" from Brussels on the Czech Republic, he shouted in the Prague parliament after he had previously promised in the European election campaign: "We will protect the Czech Republic." From whom, his most recent remarks leave no doubt: The EU Commission wants to "destabilize" his country. One might think that this is a physically leaner, but no less trembling new edition of the Hungarian Viktor Orbán. Of course, references to the Hungarian-born, Jewish US billionaire George Soros, the bogeyman in the propaganda repertoire of the right-wing populist international, should not be missing.
Babiš has many reasons to be nervous
If the name Soros appears in a speech by a head of government who has come under pressure, this is now a very reliable indicator of increased nervousness. Those who take refuge in conspiracy whispers have clearly recognized that they have too little convincing to offer their own electorate in terms of content.
Andrej Babiš has many reasons to be nervous, and the number is increasing. On Tuesday there were an estimated 120,000: so many angry Czechs crowded at the feet of the national saint Wenceslaus in the heart of Prague, jingling keys like in 1989 during the Velvet Revolution and chanting calls for resignation. The number of participants in the protests has recently doubled on a weekly basis, and the demonstrators no longer come from the traditionally Babiš-skeptical urban milieu, but from all parts of the country. The wind of changewho swept away the communist regime 30 years ago is now hissing in the face of a democratically elected prime minister.
The popular anger was recently rekindled by a report by the EU Commission, which once again corroborates the accusations against Babiš that have been circulating for a long time: According to this, the head of government de facto continues to control the Agrofert Group, which he formally transferred to two trust funds before taking office; He consequently benefits from EU subsidies, which he himself can influence in Brussels.
Pro-European forces are stronger than expected in Eastern Europe
In addition, Babiš is fueling popular anger: for example, by recently exchanging the Minister of Justice, under whose leadership the police had started investigations against him, for a long-time confidante. At the latest when it comes to the substance of the rule of law, a not inconsiderable part of the people wakes up - and then can no longer be brought into line with nationalist slogans and anti-Brussels rhetoric.
Something similar can be observed in Romania, where the government has just stopped its planned "reform" of the judiciary (de facto a softening of the corruption criminal law) - under pressure from the EU and under the impression of protests on the street and massive loss of votes in the European elections for the named after the social democratic ruling party.
In several Eastern European countries, democratic, pro-European, liberal forces did at least stronger than expected in the European elections: in Poland, in Hungary, in Slovakia. It looks like the feared Europe-wide march of right-wing populists from the east has been canceled for the time being. Even the head anti-European Viktor Orbán is suddenly sending cuddly signals again in the direction of the conservative party family EPP after the continent-wide shift to the right in the election was much weaker than he had hoped - and an international league of right-wing nationalists among figures like the Italian Matteo Salvini and the Austrian Heinz-Christian Strache doesn't offer him such a great power option.
Of course, a democratic spring breeze doesn't make a summer. But at the latest the ringing of keys on Prague's Wenceslas Square these days should make all those who like to look at Europe along a mental line of division sit up and take notice; and who perceive an irreversible polarity between plural, open societies on this side of the former Iron Curtain and hopelessly post-communist-illiberals on the other side. Anyone who cares about the future of a united, democratic, peaceful Europe still has reason to do so. But he shouldn't stare fearfully at the supposed swamps of the east, but rather into the heart of good old core Europe: names like Salvini and Marine Le Pen rumble here at least as threateningly as Orbán and Babiš.
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