The Article 7 club has a new member: Hungary. For those with better things to do with their time than study EU regulations, Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty sets out a procedure for revoking the voting rights of an EU member state if it breaches EU values. The European Parliament started that procedure on Wednesday, with a vote of 448-197, saying Hungary was guilty of disrespecting “democracy, equality, the rule of law, and human rights,” according to a press release. Next it’s up to the European Council, comprising heads of state and government, to decide whether it agrees and to recommend certain actions by the member state. The process keeps going from there. The European Commission invoked Article 7 for the first time in EU history last December against Poland for judicial reforms that violated the rule of law in that country. A lot has to happen before Hungary actually loses voting rights, and it is all but impossible in the current environment anyway – it requires a unanimous vote, and Poland would veto, just as Hungary has vowed to do for Poland. Only a day ago, Poland defied the EU when it proceeded with judicial reforms by appointing a new acting head of the Supreme Court, and its voting rights are still intact. Even so, this marks a new high in the deterioration of Brussels’ relationship with Budapest and puts EU divisions into sharp contrast.
How are things between the Philippine military and the Philippine government? After the Supreme Court declined to arrest a Philippine senator and vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, the mercurial leader said in an interview with state television that Philippine soldiers were part of a conspiracy to assassinate him. The New York Times reported that there were rumors of “unusual troop movements” on Tuesday in Manila, though this has not yet been corroborated. Duterte has a penchant for controversy, so this may be just another case of his speaking off the cuff. Still, the Philippine military’s opposition to Duterte and to his pragmatic approach to Philippine-China relations is well-known. Some polls show his popularity rates in modest decline, far below the sky-high rates that insulated him from potential military backlash in the first 18 months of his presidency. The Philippines’ strategic location is what makes this internal drama noteworthy.
Appearances are not what they seem with China, Russia and Japan. The sheer number of headlines generated by the Eastern Economic Forum held in Vladivostok is dizzying. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin met on Tuesday and declared that bilateral relations had reached an “unprecedented high.” Xi also found time to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as the two pledged to “deepen cooperation” and prepare for Abe to travel to China next month. Abe and Putin also met, during which Putin reportedly said they should sign a peace treaty. (Technically, they’re still at war.) A Japanese government spokesman threw cold water on this almost immediately. Indeed, there is less here than meets the eye. China and Japan have common economic interests, but as Abe and Xi shook hands, Japan’s defense minister was courting Malaysia as a partner to ensure “freedom of navigation and rule of law” in the Indo-Pacific – a diplomatic way to say they want to stop Chinese expansion. Meanwhile, a high-ranking Chinese general was in Kazakhstan agreeing to enhance military cooperation. China and Russia highlight what they have in common in public, but there’s a lot of distrust there too.
- TASS reports that Putin wants to meet with Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador later this year.
- The provincial capital of another Afghan province, Sari Pul, is under threat from anti-government insurgents.
- There has been a lull in airstrikes in Idlib; a Russian spokesperson said a peaceful resolution to the situation depends on Turkey separating Islamist militants from the “moderate opposition.”
- Ukraine says it has deployed additional forces, including ground troops, near the Sea of Azov to respond to “Russia’s aggressive actions.”