World in View: Reaction and racism in the ‘new’ Europe

July 24, 2018

From the July-August 2018 issue of News & Letters

Poland—Tens of thousands of Poles took to the streets to protest their narrow nationalist government’s attempt to purge and replace their Supreme Court’s judges. While 27 of the 72 justices were forced into retirement, some refused to leave. Almost half the justices of the Constitutional Tribunal said that its workings became politicized and dysfunctional. Their letter calls into question the functioning of the Tribunal, claiming cases are rigged.

The protests and crisis within the courts are an indication of the ruling Law and Justice Party moving toward a deeply authoritarian government.

Italy—The anti-migrant League party is governing Italy in a coalition with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement. Since taking power on June 1, the new government has instituted new antiimmigrant policies and closed Italian ports to any ship bringing migrants rescued at sea.

Italy even blocked rescuers from reaching one capsized boat, murdering nearly 100 refugees. This despite the fact that immigration is considerably lower than in previous years. Meanwhile, far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been fulminating against the oppressed Roma minority, calling for them to be “registered” and their camps to be “bulldozed.” The Roma have been the target of racist speech and violence in Italy and other European countries for years.

Hungary—Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, has guided his Parliament to pass a series of anti-migrant laws. The laws criminalize the act of helping undocumented migrants and create a parallel court system, which could be used for politically sensitive cases. The anti-migrant measures were passed on World Refugee Day.

Since regaining power in 2010, Orban has consolidated his position by appointing close colleagues to key judicial posts and by undermining the independence of the media.

–Eugene Walker

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