Category: Europe

news from Europe

Italian PM: Govt Set to Declare State of Emergency in Venice

Italy’s government is set to declare a state of emergency in flood-ravaged Venice, to swiftly secure the historic city funds to repair damage from the highest tide in 50 years.
                   
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte described the flooding as “a blow to the heart of our country.”
                   
He said a cabinet meeting called for Thursday afternoon will declare a state of emergency and approve the first measures aimed at helping the city’s recovery.
                   
Conte spent Wednesday night in Venice, where world-famous monuments, homes and businesses were hit hard by the exceptional flooding. The water reached 1.87 meters above sea level Tuesday, the second-highest level ever recorded in the city.
                   
Venice’s mayor said the damage is estimated at “hundreds of millions of euros.”

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Erdogan Says Turkey Won’t Dispose of Russian S-400s

Turkey is willing to purchase U.S.-made Patriot air defense systems but will not agree to disposing of the Russian S-400 system it has already bought, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday.Speaking to reporters on board his plane on his way back from a meeting with Donald Trump in Washington, Erdogan said the U.S. president was engaged in “sincere efforts” to resolve disputes between the NATO allies.Turkey took delivery of the Russian S-400 system this year, dismissing warnings from the United States that it poses a threat to NATO security.As a result, Washington suspended Turkish participation in the multinational F-35 fighter jet program.“We told them we can purchase the Patriots too. We regard the proposal to completely remove the S-400s (from Turkey) as meddling in our sovereign rights,” the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Erdogan as saying. “There can be no question of us leaving the S-400s and turning toward the Patriots.”FILE – First parts of a Russian S-400 missile defense system are unloaded from a Russian plane near Ankara, Turkey, July 12, 2019.Erdogan said: “I want both America and Russia to be my friend. All our efforts are geared toward that.”The dispute over the competing air defense systems is one component of the tension between the two countries. Turkey has also come under fire in Washington for its incursion into Syria last month to drive away Syrian Kurdish forces that fought with the U.S. against the Islamic State.Turkey, meanwhile, is angry at the U.S. for supporting the Kurdish forces it views as a threat and for refusing to extradite a Muslim cleric it accuses of fomenting a 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan.Erdogan also told reporters that he had returned a letter that Trump sent on Oct. 9, urging Erdogan restraint over his plans for an offensive in Syria. Trump wrote: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!”Opposition parties had decried the letter as an insult to Turkey, calling on Erdogan to send it back to Trump.Erdogan said Trump did not react when he handed him back the letter. 

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Trump, Erdogan Meet Amid Cold Bilateral Relations

U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met at the White House Wednesday but did not reach resolutions on major irritants to bilateral relations including Turkey’s recent incursion into northern Syria and its purchase of Russian military hardware. White House Correspondent Patsy Widakuswara has this report.
 

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Russia Reacts to Bolivia’s Political Turmoil

The political crisis in Bolivia — where roiling street protests amid accusations of election fraud forced the resignation of longtime President Evo Morales this week — is exposing long-held differences within Russia’s own political system, with pro-Kremlin and opposition voices splitting along familiar dividing lines.As the events in La Paz unfolded, Russia’s Foreign Ministry was quick to express support for Morales, a Kremlin ally who has paid repeated visits to Moscow, most recently in July to expand economic ties.In a statement posted to its website, the ministry condemned violence “unleashed by the opposition” and blamed it for preventing Morales from “completing his tenure” amid “developments typical of a well-orchestrated coup d’etat.” “It would be foolish to expect another reaction — it’s absolutely the consolidated position from the Russian side,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, when asked by journalists about the Foreign Ministry’s assessment.“Of course, we hope that Bolivians themselves will determine their fate without the interference of any third countries,” he said.Opponents of Bolivia’s President Evo Morales celebrate after he announced his resignation in La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 10, 2019.Pro-Kremlin media outlets quickly picked up on the hint, noting that the United States included Bolivia, along with Venezuela and Cuba, as Latin American dictatorships.“The most logical version — a virtuosically prepared and executed coup by the United States, which is traditionally masked by slogans about democracy and human rights,” wrote Igor Pshenichnikov in a column explaining the events in Bolivia in the weekly Izvestia.“And now the time has come for the president and his country to experience for itself the might of American democracy,” he said.Collectively, the arguments were reminiscent of Russia’s position relative to neighboring Ukraine, where Moscow has long maintained that a 2014 pro-Western street revolution that drove another Kremlin ally — then-President Viktor Yanukovich — from power also was the work of the United States.As if to emphasize the Ukraine comparisons, pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine’s official Twitter account condemned the events in La Paz as a “fascist junta.” It’s another talking point widely used by Kremlin state media beginning in 2014 to denigrate Ukraine’s so-called “Maidan Revolution.”FILE – Police officers detain opposition supporters during a protest in Moscow, May 5, 2018. The posters read “I am against corruption.”Other viewsRussian opposition voices saw the events in La Paz, however, in an entirely different light — underlining Russia’s own fractured political environment.Proekt, an online investigative outlet funded by Kremlin foe and businessman Mikhail Khodorkvosky, issued a story reporting it was in fact Russia — driven by economic interests of its oil, gas and energy industries — that had played a key role in Morales’ reelection campaign.In turn, opposition figures were quick to note Russian President Vladimir Putin, like the now former Bolivian leader, also has stretched constitutional norms by serving an unprecedented fourth term in office and soon will face similar questions of if and whether to remain in power.“A corrupt president, unlawfully holding on to power at the expense of lies and falsification, has run from his country,” wrote Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny in posting a picture of Morales and Putin together on Twitter.Коррумпированный президент, незаконно удерживавший власть за счёт лжи и фальсификаций, сбежал из страны. Пока речь идёт о том, что слева. pic.twitter.com/1Wmr38cu5t— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) November 10, 2019“For now, that means only the guy on the left,” Navalny said, in referring to Morales.“Oh, what’s this?” chimed in Navalny’s key strategist, Leonid Volkov, in a similarly themed post.Ой что это?После фальсифицированных выборов люди вышли на улицу и полоумный престарелый диктатор, нарушивший конституционные ограничения на количество сроков, вынужден был уйти в отставку.Ух как хочется, как в Боливии! pic.twitter.com/J79tXbpyyG— Leonid Volkov (@leonidvolkov) November 10, 2019“After falsified elections, people went out on the streets and a crackpot old dictator, having broken the constitutional limit on number of terms, was forced to resign,” Volkov wrote. “Oh, how I would love for us to be like Bolivia!”In a column in business daily Vedomosti, however, political analyst Fyodor Krasheninnikov warned that events in faraway Bolivia could negatively affect politics at home — particularly in the wake of a summer of rolling protests in Moscow and other cities over the banning of opposition candidates from elections.“After Bolivia, all talk about how Russia could have some competitive elections and some softening of the regime amid a future transfer of power should be taken with even more skepticism,” Krasheninnikov wrote. His point? As with Ukraine in 2014, the events in Bolivia have made an impression in Moscow. Perhaps too big of one.The Kremlin has taken note.

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Poll Gives UK PM Johnson’s Conservatives 10-point Lead in Election

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have a healthy 10-point lead ahead of an election on Dec. 12, a poll by Savanta ComRes showed on Wednesday, extending their advantage over Labour after the Brexit Party stood down candidates.The poll, carried out for the Daily Telegraph newspaper, showed the Conservative Party with 40%, up 3 points from a poll last week, ahead of Labour on 30%, up 1 point.The poll was conducted after Nigel Farage said his Brexit Party would not put candidates up in Conservative-held seats, a major boost to Johnson. The Brexit Party will still stand candidates in Labour-held seats.”The Brexit Party’s decision not to stand in Conservativeseats is likely to have an obvious positive impact on the overall Conservative vote share,” said Chris Hopkins, Head of Politics at ComRes. “But it’s those Labour-held seats that the Conservatives need to win for a majority, and the Brexit Party could still scupper those best-laid plans.”The poll showed the Liberal Democrats on 16% and the Brexit Party on 7%. Voting analysis website Electoral Calculus said the vote shares implied a Conservative majority of 110 seats. The online poll of 2,022 adults was carried out on Nov. 11-12.

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Domingo to Sing at 100th Anniversary Salzburg Festival

Placido Domingo is scheduled to sing two concert performances in Verdi’s “I Vespri Siciliani (The Sicilian Vespers)” next summer as part of the 100th anniversary Salzburg Festival, which features 221 performances over 44 days and includes seven staged operas.Domingo, who turns 79 in January, was dropped or has withdrawn from all his U.S. performances since reports by The Associated Press in August and September detailed accusations against him of sexual harassment or other inappropriate, sexually charged conduct.He received standing ovations in Salzburg at performances of Verdi’s “Luisa Miller” last August and is welcome back pending investigations by the LA Opera, where he resigned as general director last month, and the American Guild of Musical Artists. Helga Rabl-Stadler, president of the Salzburg Festival, said Domingo was engaged two years ago to sing the baritone role of Guido di Montforte on Aug. 16 and 19. European houses have maintained Domingo’s contracts.”We do not see any reason why we should change our opinion if there are no new facts,” Rabl-Stadler said in a telephone interview, adding the situation could change depending on what is uncovered by the investigations. “We have to follow the rules of our law.”Staged operas, concertsStaged operas announced Wednesday for next summer’s festival include Strauss’ “Elektra,” directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski; Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” directed by Romeo Castellucci and conducted by Teodor Currentzis; Mozart’s “Die Zauberfloete (The Magic Flute),” directed by Lydia Steier; Puccini’s “Tosca,” directed by Michael Sturminger and starring Anna Netrebko; Luigi Nono’s “Intolleranza 1960,” directed and choreographed by Jan Lauwer;, and Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov,” directed by Johannes Leiacker. Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale” with mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli will return after premiering May 29 at the Whitsun Festival.FILE – Actors perform during a dress rehearsal of Guiseppe Verdi’s opera “Macbeth” in Salzburg, July 28, 2011, in preparation for the 91st edition of the Salzburg Festival.The first Salzburg Festival opened Aug. 22, 1920, with a performance of Hofmannsthal’s “Jedermann” on the steps of Salzburg Cathedral. Its first opera, two years later, was “Don Giovanni.” Next summer’s festival runs from July 18 through Aug. 30.”The history of Salzburg Festival is extremely rich. It could be a burden,” said pianist Markus Hinterhauser, who became artistic director in October 2016 and has a contract running until September 2026. “But for me it’s really a very inspiring, very vitalizing thing to look at the history. But looking back needs also to make clear that we are always trying to lead the festival in a new presence.”Concerts include eight programs of Beethoven piano sonatas with Igor Levit; five performances by the Vienna Philharmonic led by Riccardo Muti, Gustavo Dudamel, Christian Thielmann, Mariss Jansons and Andris Nelsons; and two performances of the Berlin Philharmonic and new chief conductor Kirill Petrenko. The only U.S. orchestra is the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Manfred Honeck.”I’m often asked, is Salzburg here to keep the tradition or is it here to set the trends?” Rabl-Stadler said. “I think both. It’s wonderful to have Mozart in our town, but on the other hand, we have to think how can we explain the topics of works to people nowadays.”
 

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Trump, Erdogan Discuss Turkey’s Purchase of Russian Missile Defense System

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday welcomed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House for a second time at what is a low ebb in relations between Washington and Ankara. 
 
“We’ve been friends for a long time,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “We understand each other’s country.” 
 
Erdogan recently infuriated U.S. officials when he ignored American warnings not to invade northeastern Syria in an operation targeting Syrian Kurds. 
 
The Turkish leader also upset American defense officials and diplomats with the purchase of the S-400 missile defense system from Moscow. The purchase violated the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanction Act (CAATSA), which prohibits major purchases of Russian military hardware. 
 
That also prompted the United States to eject Turkey from its F-35 joint strike fighter program.  FILE – First parts of a Russian S-400 missile defense system are unloaded from a Russian plane near Ankara, Turkey, July 12, 2019.”We’ll be talking about the S-400,” said Trump, when asked by reporters about the defense relationship. “We’ll be talking about the F-35 fighter jet.” 
 
Trump also was asked whether Turkey could possess F-35 jets while owning the Russian missile defense system. 
 
“We’re having a second meeting in a little while,” replied Trump, indicating there might be more to say about it at a joint news conference in the afternoon. 
 
Erdogan recently discussed with Russian President Vladimir Putin buying Su-57 and Su-35 fighter jets from Moscow if he is not able to get the American aircraft, according to media reports. 
 
Such a move could endanger Turkey’s membership in the U.S.-led NATO defense alliance. 
 
Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of congressmen sent Trump a letter requesting that he cancel his meeting with the Turkish president because of Erdogan’s “disastrous” actions in Syria and purchase of the S-400 system. 
 
“Given this situation, we believe that now is a particularly inappropriate time for President Erdogan to visit the United States,” the lawmakers wrote.  FILE – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., arrives for a gathering of the House Democratic caucus as Congress returns for the fall session, at the Capitol in Washington, Sept. 10, 2019.Just before Erdogan arrived at the White House, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, called it “shameful” for Trump to host Erdogan, accusing the U.S. president of “again turning a blind eye to the actions of foreign leaders who have amassed power and seek to rule as autocrats, subverting democracy in their countries and exploiting divisions and ethnic conflicts to promote their own legitimacy.” In an interview with VOA’s Kurdish service, the spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, Mustafa Bali, called for the United States not to sacrifice the Kurds, Christians and other ethnic and religious groups in northern Syria for its economic interests. 
 
“President Trump should fulfill his moral obligations and prevent the ethnic cleansing and demographic engineering” carried out by Erdogan “since his forces started the occupation in Syria,” said Bali, who alleged that Turkey has been violating the cease-fire and expanding territory outside the so-called “safe zone.”    
 
Turkey considers the Kurdish forces, allies of the United States in the fight against the Islamic State group inside Syria, to be terrorists.  FILE – In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the Turkey-Syria border, in Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, smoke billows from a fire in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Oct. 20, 2019, days after the declaration of a cease-fire.In the Oval Office on Wednesday, alongside Erdogan, Trump said “the cease-fire is holding very well. We’ve been speaking to the Kurds and they seem to be very satisfied.” 
 
The discussions between Trump and Erdogan began amid the first day of public testimony in the impeachment inquiry the House is conducting against the U.S. president. 
 
“It’s a witch hunt, it’s a hoax. I’m too busy to watch it,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “I see they’re using lawyers that are television lawyers. They took some guys off television.” 

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Venice ‘On Its Knees’ after 2nd-Worst Flood Ever Recorded

The worst flooding in Venice in more than 50 years prompted calls Wednesday to better protect the historic city from rising sea levels as officials calculated hundreds of millions of euros in damage.The water reached 1.87 meters (6.14 feet) above sea level Tuesday, the second-highest level ever recorded in the city and just 7 centimeters (2 inches) lower than the historic 1966 flood. Another wave of exceptionally high water followed Wednesday.“Venice is on its knees,” Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said on Twitter. “St. Mark’s Basilica has sustained serious damage, like the entire city and its islands.”One death was blamed on the flooding, on the barrier island of Pellestrina. A man in his 70s was apparently electrocuted when he tried to start a pump in his dwelling, said Danny Carrella, an official on the island of 3,500 inhabitants.General view of flooding in Venice, Italy, Nov. 12, 2019. (Sabina Castelfranco/VOA)In Venice, the crypt beneath St. Mark’s Basilica was inundated for only the second time in its history, with water entering through the windows and bypassing all defenses. Damage was also reported at the Ca’ Pesaro modern art gallery, where a short circuit set off a fire, and at La Fenice theater, where authorities turned off electricity as a precaution after the control room was flooded.Tourists floated suitcases through St. Mark’s Square, where officials removed walkways to prevent them from floating away. The water was so high that nothing less than thigh-high boots afforded protection. Water poured through wooden boards that shop and hotel owners have previously placed in front of doors to hold back water during flooding. Tourists staying on the ground floor of hotels were forced to move to upper floors overnight.“I have often seen St. Mark’s Square covered with water,” Venice’s patriarch, Monsignor Francesco Moraglia, told reporters. “Yesterday there were waves that seemed to be the seashore.”Brugnaro said damage would reach hundreds of millions of euros, and he called on Rome to declare a state of emergency. Premier Giuseppe Conte was due to visit the city later Wednesday.“We are not just talking about calculating the damages, but of the very future of the city” Brugnaro told reporters. “Because the population drain also is a result of this.”The flooding was caused by heavy rains coinciding a full moon that brought high tides that were pushed into Venice by southerly winds. At the same time, rising sea levels because of climate change make the city built amid a system of canals even more vulnerable.Damage included five ferries that serve as water buses, a critical means of transportation.Photos on social media showed a city ferry, taxi boats and gondolas grounded on walkways flanking canals. At least 60 boats were damaged, according to civil protection authorities.Pellestrina was one of the worst hit areas. Facing the sea, water came over the banks of the canal and filled the island like a basin. Carrella said a meter (more than 3 feet) of water remained Wednesday because of broken pumps.Brugnaro blamed climate change for the “dramatic situation” and called for a speedy completion of a long-delayed project to construct offshore barriers called “Moses,” the moveable undersea barriers are meant to limit flooding.But the project, which was opposed by environmentalists concerned about damaging the delicate lagoon eco-system, has been delayed by cost overruns and corruption scandals, with no launch date in site.Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto region, told SkyTG24 that the barriers were almost complete, but it wasn’t clear if they would work against such flooding.“Despite 5 billion euros under water, St. Mark’s Square certainly wouldn’t be secure,” Zaia said, referring to one of Venice’s lowest points, which floods when there is an inundation of 80 centimeters (31.5 inches).Zaia also expressed concern for snowfalls in the mountains above Venice, where up to 120 centimeters (47 inches) was expected.Across the Adriatic Sea, heavy storm and sweeping winds also collapsed caused floods in towns in Croatia and Slovenia.In the Croatian town of Split, authorities on Wednesday said that the flooding submerged the basement area of the Roman-era Diocletian’s Palace where emergency crews battled to pump out the water.Slovenia’s coastal towns of Piran, Izola and Koper reported that sea levels reached the second highest point in the last 50 years. 

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British Refusal to Publish Russia Report Fuels Suspicions Of Kremlin Links

The British government is refusing to publish a report examining Russian interference in its democratic process – despite widespread calls for its release before the general election scheduled December 12. The report by the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee was completed months ago – and the head of the committee says it is ready for release. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the delay is fueling suspicions that it could be damaging for the ruling Conservative party 

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Syria, Russian Missiles on Agenda for Trump-Erdogan Talks

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits the White House for talks Wednesday with U.S. President Donald Trump, with the two leaders likely to discuss Turkey’s incursion in northern Syria and its purchase of a Russian air defense system.The agenda for the day released by the White House also includes an afternoon joint news conference.The United States and other NATO allies have expressed concern about Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system, saying they do not fit with the alliances defense systems and pose a threat to the U.S. F-35 fighter jet program.  In response, the United States has suspended Turkey’s involvement with the F-35.A senior U.S. official, who spoke to reporters ahead of Erdogan’s visit, said the issue of the missile system is one that Trump “is trying to address head-on” in the talks with Turkey.”As he’s outlined publicly, there’s tremendous upside in this bilateral relationship in economic terms, a key part of which is the F-35 and Turkey’s role and potential role in the F-35 program.  But to get there, we, as allies, need to resolve this issue of the S-400,” the official said.Erdogan spokesman Fahrettin Altun said on Twitter that Turkey has been clear about its reasoning for purchasing the Russian missiles.”Turkey’s need for a missile defense system is urgent. The U.S. must recognize this to prevent the issue from becoming a thorn in our relations. Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program is crucial for our defense partnership,” Altun wrote.A senior U.S. official said another of Trump’s priorities would be the situation in Syria where the United States is chiefly concerned about a potential resurgence of the Islamic State group as well as preventing “humanitarian atrocities against religious and ethnic minorities.”Trump also planned to discuss human rights issues within Turkey as well.

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Moscow Accuses US Of ‘Hunting’ Russians After Israel Extradites Suspected

Russia’s Embassy to Washington says it has lodged a formal diplomatic protest after Israel extradited a Russian national to the United States, where he is suspected of stealing more than $20 million from U.S. consumers through credit card fraud.In a Wednesday Facebook statement, the embassy also accused Washington of “hunting” Russian citizens across the world.The statement said that Russia had formally sent an official note to the U.S. State Department, demanding Aleksei Burkov’s rights be respected.The U.S. Justice Department says Burkov was “charged with wire fraud, access device fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, computer intrusions, identity theft, and money laundering” in the Eastern Court in Virginia on November 12.”According to court documents, Burkov allegedly ran a website called “Cardplanet” that sold payment card numbers (e.g., debit and credit cards) that had been stolen primarily through computer intrusions. Many of the cards offered for sale belonged to U.S. citizens. The stolen credit card data sold on Burkov’s site has resulted in over $20 million in fraudulent purchases made on United States credit cards,” the Justice Department said in a statement.If convicted on all counts, Burkov may face up to 80 years in prison.​Burkov was arrested in December 2015 while leaving Israel.Last month, Israeli Justice Minister Amir Ohana signed an extradition order to the United States for the suspect.On November 10, the Supreme Court of Israel rejected Burkov’s appeal amid Russia’s protests.Russia had proposed to exchange Burkov for a U.S.-Israeli national Naama Issachar, who was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison in Moscow last month for possession of marijuana.A potential pardon for Issachar, 26, was reportedly discussed last month when Russian President Vladimir Putin called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to congratulate him on his 70th birthday.Born in New Jersey, Issachar was arrested in April after police found nine grams of cannabis in her luggage during a layover at a Moscow airport.Issachar was flying from India to Israel when she was detained and wasn’t supposed to exit the airport in Russia.

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Polish Opposition Celebrates Taking Control of Senate

Poland’s opposition parties elected their candidate as speaker of the Senate on Tuesday, a small victory that allows them to check the power of the populist right-wing ruling party.Senator Tomasz Grodzki was chosen speaker in a 51-48 vote with one abstention during the first sitting of the new parliament that was elected in October. Grodzki hailed the move as a victory for democracy. Until Tuesday’s vote, it was not certain that the opposition parties would manage to take control of the Senate.For the past four years, the ruling Law and Justice party has put through laws giving it much greater power over the judicial system. The European Union has often expressed its concerns that the party was eroding judicial independence, warning that rule of law in the young democracy was on the line.In many cases, with control of both houses of parliament, the party would rush laws through without allowing opposition lawmakers any say.Now, the Senate will be able to slow down and influence, though not block, the passage of laws. Perhaps more importantly, the Senate has the power to appoint the heads of some key state bodies and the opposition — if it maintains its majority — will be able to block the nominations of some ruling party loyalists.Law and Justice has tried to win over some opposition members in Senate, but has so far failed.Earlier Tuesday, the lower house of parliament, also named its speaker — Elzbieta Witek of Law and Justice.Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, right, outlines his vision of a tolerant Poland based on Roman Catholic values in a speech applauded by the populist ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, left, at the gala inauguration of a new four-year term.President Andrzej Duda opened the first day of parliament’s four-year term with a speech that paid homage to Poland’s tradition of being a land of tolerance and a place where many ethnic and religious groups lived for centuries in relative harmony. He also paid tribute to Roman Catholicism and strong family traditions that he credited with preserving the social fabric over a difficult history.The parliamentary election on Oct. 13 gave a second term Law and Justice party, which won nearly 44% of the votes, the highest percentage of any party since Poland returned to democracy 30 years ago.But the election also created some complications for the party and its 70-year-old leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, as it continues its plans to reshape the nation.Aside from the loss of the Senate, the ruling party must now contend with the fact that a far-right party, Confederation, got almost 7% of the vote, winning 11 seats in the assembly.Law and Justice had sought to prevent any party arising in parliament to its right. That strategy had led Kaczynski and other leaders to try to appeal to the far right, and they even marched with them on Independence Day in 2018.In another change, a left-wing alliance won 49 seats, after a hiatus of four years, after getting nearly 13% of the vote.

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Polish Opposition Celebrates Taking Control of Senate

Poland’s opposition parties elected their candidate as speaker of the Senate on Tuesday, a small victory that allows them to check the power of the populist right-wing ruling party.Senator Tomasz Grodzki was chosen speaker in a 51-48 vote with one abstention during the first sitting of the new parliament that was elected in October. Grodzki hailed the move as a victory for democracy. Until Tuesday’s vote, it was not certain that the opposition parties would manage to take control of the Senate.For the past four years, the ruling Law and Justice party has put through laws giving it much greater power over the judicial system. The European Union has often expressed its concerns that the party was eroding judicial independence, warning that rule of law in the young democracy was on the line.In many cases, with control of both houses of parliament, the party would rush laws through without allowing opposition lawmakers any say.Now, the Senate will be able to slow down and influence, though not block, the passage of laws. Perhaps more importantly, the Senate has the power to appoint the heads of some key state bodies and the opposition — if it maintains its majority — will be able to block the nominations of some ruling party loyalists.Law and Justice has tried to win over some opposition members in Senate, but has so far failed.Earlier Tuesday, the lower house of parliament, also named its speaker — Elzbieta Witek of Law and Justice.Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, right, outlines his vision of a tolerant Poland based on Roman Catholic values in a speech applauded by the populist ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, left, at the gala inauguration of a new four-year term.President Andrzej Duda opened the first day of parliament’s four-year term with a speech that paid homage to Poland’s tradition of being a land of tolerance and a place where many ethnic and religious groups lived for centuries in relative harmony. He also paid tribute to Roman Catholicism and strong family traditions that he credited with preserving the social fabric over a difficult history.The parliamentary election on Oct. 13 gave a second term Law and Justice party, which won nearly 44% of the votes, the highest percentage of any party since Poland returned to democracy 30 years ago.But the election also created some complications for the party and its 70-year-old leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, as it continues its plans to reshape the nation.Aside from the loss of the Senate, the ruling party must now contend with the fact that a far-right party, Confederation, got almost 7% of the vote, winning 11 seats in the assembly.Law and Justice had sought to prevent any party arising in parliament to its right. That strategy had led Kaczynski and other leaders to try to appeal to the far right, and they even marched with them on Independence Day in 2018.In another change, a left-wing alliance won 49 seats, after a hiatus of four years, after getting nearly 13% of the vote.

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