Central Europe

  • Populists-1, Globalists-0

    Hungary forges a path for illiberal democracies

    Fourteen years after Hungary joined the European Union—a celebrated and significant milestone for the post-Communist nation—the country’s deviation from the EU’s shared principles of democracy and freedom is both a source for concern and a warning sign for others following suit.

    On April 8, Hungary re-elected Viktor Orbán to his third consecutive term as prime minister. Despite a record turnout of approximately 70 percent in this year’s election, Orbán and his far-right Fidesz party managed to win 67 percent (133) of the seats in Hungary’s 199-seat parliament. By obtaining this two-thirds majority, the seemingly unstoppable leader has secured his ability to make at-will constitutional changes without opposition support, continuing his reign of power.

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  • Curb Your Enthusiasm: Even If Viktor Orbán Loses Sunday, Hungarian Democracy Is Still In Trouble

    Six weeks ago, the ruling conservative-nationalist Fidesz party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was delivered a stunning defeat. The southern city of Hódmezővásárhely—population, roughly 45,000—had been governed by Fidesz mayors since 1990. The party’s candidate this time was projected to win handily, by about twenty points. Yet, that was approximately the margin of victory for independent Péter Márki-Zay. The forty-five-year-old Márki-Zay—a devout Catholic, political conservative, father of seven—defeated Fidesz’s odds-on favorite for mayor Zoltan Hegedus, in the hometown of János Lázár no less, the man who heads Orbán’s office. “We want to get rid of the big boys bullying the whole class,” said Márki-Zay after his remarkable win. He has street cred. Márki-Zay used to be a member of Fidesz.

    What does it mean when the pitchforks are out for the populists?

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  • Why Nord Stream 2 Isn’t Just an Ordinary Pipeline

    Of all nations, Germany must heed the lessons of history, both current and past. This begs the question as to why Germany would help Europe become more energy dependent on a country like Russia that ignores norms, contracts, laws, treaties, and borders.

    And yet that is exactly what Germany is about to do if it approves Gazprom’s $11.5-billion pipeline gas megaproject called Nord Stream 2. Proponents argue that the pipeline is an “economic project” that simply will deliver cheaper gas to German industries and turn Germany into a European hub for Russian gas. They say this is the same gas, only a different pipeline.

    But this is not an “economic” project and this is not just a different pipeline.

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  • A Tribute to Wolfgang Ischinger

    US Marine Corps retired Gen. James L. Jones, Jr., interim chairman of the Atlantic Council board of directors, delivered this speech on March 1, 2018.

    Distinguished guests, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, Ambassador and Mrs. Ischinger.

    It is a great honor for me to be with you in city of Berlin, which holds such historical significance to Germany and to the transatlantic alliance.

    It is a particular pleasure to be able to pay an American tribute to my friend Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger at this evening’s gala in his honor.

    Tonight, the American-Chamber of Commerce, Germany, recognizes Ambassador Ischinger for his unparalleled lifetime commitment to fostering German-American ties, and to his belief that a robust dialogue between Europe and the United States is as important today as it ever has been. 

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  • A Tale of Two Transitions

    Germany may have gained a grand coalition this week, but it lost one of the champions of its clean energy transition—the Energiewende—with the resignation of former State Secretary for Energy Rainer Baake.

    The Grand Coalition between Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democratic Party  (SPD) was approved by the SPD voters by a margin of 64 to 34 percent on March 4. While this enabled the formation of a new government, after six months of waiting for a governing coalition to be formed, it also spelled the end of Baake’s four-year tenure because he is a member of the Green Party, not included in the coalition. The now-former state secretary—often referred to as Mr. Energiewende—submitted his letter of resignation, calling the new governing coalition’s energy and climate aims, or lack thereof, a “bitter disappointment.”

    In his letter to the incoming Altmaier, Baake expressed disappointment with the absence of climate goals in the coalition agreement, based on the decision by CDU and SPD negotiators to essentially drop Germany’s 2020 emissions reduction goals, which the country is widely expected to miss.

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  • Angela Merkel: Time for a Legacy

    Now that the new German government has been approved by the political parties and can finally begin work, it is time for Angela Merkel to think about her own agenda for the next few years.

    At the start of her fourth—and presumably last—term as chancellor, she is politically weaker than she has been before, and thus must save her energy and influence for a few key issues. Merkel should never be underestimated—she is a survivor and could yet see reinvigorated public support and renewed political power. But the logical choice right now is for her to focus on issues that will build her legacy in Germany, in Europe, and in the world, including the transatlantic partnership.

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  • Fried Quoted in The Washington Post on U.S.- Poland Tensions


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  • In Germany, Social Democrats Give Merkel a Fourth Term

    The political uncertainty that had gripped Germany for the past five months was lifted on March 4. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) rank-and-file voted in favor of another grand coalition that would keep Angela Merkel chancellor of Germany for a fourth term. Sixty-six percent of the SPD’s members voted in support of a grand coalition; thirty-four percent opposed it.

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  • Trump May Get His Trade War After All

    US President Donald J. Trump’s surprise decision to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, and a tweeted declaration that “trade wars are good” have set off alarm bells across the globe while causing the stock market to plunge.

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  • Cohen in The Hill: Germany and The US Need a New Beginning in Their Security Relationship


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