This Week in Europe: Greenland, Migrants and Polish Priests

, by Pascal Letendre-Hanns, Radu Dumitrescu

This Week in Europe: Greenland, Migrants and Polish Priests

Members of the TNF team recount big events from Europe from the past week, and point attention to news that may have passed notice. What did we miss? Comment on our Facebook page at !

Estonian government holds together after crisis

This week the Estonian government was thrown into disarray after the Finance Minister tried to force the resignation of the country’s police chief, without consulting the Prime Minister first. Martin Helme was standing in for his father, Interior Minister Mart Helme, when he called in the head of police and accused him of breaking public trust by announcing that the government had asked the police to undertake cuts. The two Helmes are members of the far-right EKRE party that has been part of Estonia’s governing coalition since elections earlier this year. The Prime Minister Juri Ratas, of the Centre Party, pushed back quickly against his coalition allies, declaring on public television that the decision on the position of the head of the police was a matter for the whole government, not the minister alone, and that he had not been consulted. The situation has calmed following a meeting between the three men but Ratas warned that such incidents would not be tolerated in the future. Ratas has been under intense public pressure since the decision to go into coalition with the far-right. His party’s ratings have plunged in the polls, to the benefit of their main rivals the Reform Party, and the overtly nationalist and racist positions of EKRE politicians has caused not only disquiet within the Centre Party but has cost them support among Estonia’s native Russian speakers.

Greenland not for sale

Following reports that US President Donald Trump had repeatedly asked about the possibility of buying Greenland during private discussions on the geopolitical situation around the Arctic, Greenland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stepped in to specify that the territory is not for sale. As an autonomous territory of Denmark, Danish politicians have also poured cold water on the idea, a message that could be repeated when Trump visits the Prime Ministers of Denmark and Greenland later this year.

Belgium steps towards piecing together its multi-layered government

While almost everyone was focused on the results of the European Parliament elections back in May, Belgium also held elections for its regional and federal governments. The notoriously fractured country is now making steady steps towards creating the necessary coalitions but the top jobs in the federal government are still a long way off. So far the Brussels region has successfully formed its new government, including most of the same parties as before but with the inclusion of the Greens at the expense of the Christian Democrats. The German-speaking region has also formed its new government but the main regions of Wallonia and Flanders, along with the federal government, have not been able to advance so quickly. While parties in the Flanders region have now announced the start of talks, the prominent role of the N-VA will only make matters more difficult in the federal government. The issue lies in the N-VA’s push for flemish independence and the strength of the centre-left PS in Wallonia, which resolutely opposes the breakup or increased decentralisation of Belgium. If the two parties are to form a government then N-VA watering down its position on decentralisation seems to be a likely precondition.

6 EU countries agree to take migrants stranded in Lampedusa

On Thursday, the Italian government announced that a coalition of 6 EU member states agreed to take some of the 147 migrants stranded on a ship near the Italian island of Lampedusa. The announcement marked the end of a conflict between Italy’s strongman interior minister, Matteo Salvini, and PM Giuseppe Conte, who condemned the former’s ‘obsessive focus’ on closing ports to migrants. France, Germany, Romania, Portugal, Spain and Luxembourg agreed to welcome the migrants on the Open Arms vessel operated by the Spanish charity Proactiva, easing some of the burden that Salvini argues is unfairly placed on Italy. “Without my resolve, the EU would never have lifted a finger,” Salvini argued, adding that his obsession is to fight ‘every kind of crime, including clandestine immigration.’ Earlier this month, Salvini banned Open Arms vessels from Italian waters, but the charity appealed to a court which suspended the decree.

One million European citizens living in UK granted citizenship

This week, the British Home Office released numbers showing that 951.700 citizens from the EU27 states have obtained settled or pre-settled status in the UK. As such, about 1 million out of the roughly 3 million European citizens living in the UK have obtained the right to reside in the country after Brexit. The figure was achieved under the British government’s new EU settlement scheme, which ensures that people will continue to live, work and have access to public services in the Uk after Brexit. The scheme replaces the permanent residency program. Low-skilled workers, such as fruit pickers, are, however, less likely to apply. A spokesman at the Home Office said that the figures are positive, but that EU citizens don’t yet appreciate the significance of having to do it.

Poland’s most politically powerful priest in geothermal scandal

This week, a scandal erupted around Tadeusz Rydzyk, priest and head of an enormously influential right-wing media empire who is also the happy recipient of an injection of government funds for his geothermal power plant. The ruling PiS party, traditionally wary of renewable energy, had no doubts about the potential of Rydzyk’s project. In response, the opposition denounced the project as a masked way of rewarding one of its most powerful backers. Polish media calculates that Rydzyk’s foundation has received 214 million złoty (€48 million) in public funds since 2015, when PiS took power. Through his Radio Maryja network, his TV Trwam television station and the Nasz Dziennik newspaper, the priest has been supporting PiS for years. His geothermal power plant is the culmination of Rydzyk’s plans, with the Polish energy minister appearing on Rydzyk’s radio station to call it an example for the rest of the country. About 80% of Poland’s electricity comes from coal, and 300 geothermal plants are planned across the EU. Poland, however, is seeking to expand its 6 existing plants.

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