Viola von Cramon

Orbán is destroying the remaining Press Freedom in Hungary and the EU is letting it happen

The European Council’s decision to water down all references to rule of law conditionality in the next MFF was a mistake. It took only one day after the end of the Summit to see why they gave a free pass to go against European values. Szabolcs Dull, the Editor-in-Chief of the biggest independent news outlet,, was fired just by Orbán-loyalists who took control over the company’s financial backing. Today (Friday, 24 July) the majority of people working for, over 70 journalists handed in their resignation.

Orbán has been actively destroying the freedom of media. Today the state owned media and over 400 media outlets, including regional newspapers, daily newspapers, websites, radio and television channels, are all under direct control of the government. Among others former leading independent news portal was taken over from the daughter company of Deutsche Telekom in 2014, now it is a website as an open government mouthpiece, with frequent racist and xenophobic content and personal attacks on opposition figures and private individuals who are raising their voice against Orbán. In 2016 the biggest print daily newspaper Népszabadság was shut down over a weekend and journalists had to fight even to get access to their belongings left in the office. Attacks on has started years ago, but this week’s actions made it clear that Orbán is ready to make the next moves to destroy the independence of

Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, member of the Greens/EFA Group commented on it:

“Commission President Ursula von der Leyen claimed that the provisions agreed by the European Council will be satisfactory to protect the rule of law in the European Union member states. It is now a chance to show what the Commission is ready to do to protect the freedom of media, which is one of our key values in our democracies. Orbán thinks we gave a green light to him to do whatever he wishes at home. The member states and the Commission need to step up now. If it will take years to start any meaningful process, this will be too late for the remains of the free media in Hungary, as it is already too late for”


photo: Journalists of are announcing their resignation on 24 July

Increasing SLAPP lawsuits in Kosovo

A certain type of legal actions, often referred as SLAPP lawsuits (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), represents a considerable threat to public debate and freedom of expression. When powerful people or companies are threatening journalists, activists or researchers with expensive lawsuits in order to silence them, these cases are going against the fundamental rights to report and speak up against problems and injustice.

Unfortunately, SLAPP lawsuits are much too common in the European Union. However, in the European Parliament a group of MEPs has been working on solutions for this problem.[1] Only a legally binding anti-SLAPP directive can provide a meaningful protection against those lawsuits.  Recently, there have been a number of such cases in Kosovo against environmental activists as well as against journalists.

Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, Member of the Committee for Foreign Affairs and Standing Rapporteur of the European Parliament for Kosovo comments:

“We are working closely with press freedom organisations (more here) and the European Commission on anti-SLAPP measures. Vice President Věra Jourová  (more here) has announced to take concrete actions to make it possible to end those legal cases without lengthy and expensive procedures.”

SLAPP suits are often targeting individual citizens and activists. Environmental activist Shpresa Loshaj is facing a SLAPP lawsuit (more here) because of her activism against hydropower plants in Deçan Valley. In a similar case, environmental activist Adriatik Gacaferi was sued by the same company Kelkos Energy for 10.000 euro. The reason is that he posted a photo on Facebook and accused the company for allegedly illegally putting 100% of the natural water inside the pipes. Their actions are happening at a moment where there is an increasing activism against misused of hydropower in Kosovo.

There have been a number of other cases where the purpose of suing journalists was to silence them, and we are closely monitoring these cases. Most recently, journalist Jeta Xharra was sued because of her investigative work published at BIRN network (article here) which revealed a contract signed by former Minister of European Integration Dhurata Hoxha with a French PR company to promote land-swap. Investigative journalists of Koha Ditore are also facing several baseless SLAPP lawsuits.

These cases, therefore, can be considered as parts of a wider trend. We need to step up against these actions. A long-term solution has to be legal conditions, which punish those, who are misusing provisions regarding defamations. The responsibility of those, who are bringing forward these cases is clear. They are harming democracy, not those, who are speaking up.

“As Standing Rapporteur for Kosovo in the European Parliament, it is part of my job to follow the development of democratic procedures and situation of fundamental rights in Kosovo. I can promise that those, who are trying to shut down democratic debates, will only achieve the opposite of their aims, as I will bring the stories into a wider European publicity. It is our common interest to have everyone’s voice heard.”

[1] Thirty four MEPSs co-sign letter to Věra Jourová initiate a new directive to stop SLAPP suits,

photo: Press conference of Adriatik Gacaferi


Pressemitteilung: Ergebnis des EU-Gipfels ist lediglich ein Minimalkonsens

Die EU-Staats- und Regierungschefs haben sich nach zähen Verhandlungen auf einen Wiederaufbaufonds in Höhe von 750 Milliarden Euro und davon 390 Milliarden Zuschüsse, einen Mehrjährigen Finanzrahmen von 1.074 Milliarden Euro, eine vage Verknüpfung von Zahlungen aus dem Wiederaufbaufonds an Rechtsstaatlichkeit und eine Einspruchsmöglichkeit für die EU-Regierungen bei der Vergabe des Geldes aus dem Wiederaufbaufonds geeinigt. Die Niederlande, Österreich, Dänemark und Schweden setzten mit Unterstützung von Finnland einen deutlich niedrigeren EU-Haushalt und harte Kürzungen bei Zukunftsprogrammen wie im Forschungsrahmenprogramm, bei der Gesundheit, aber auch beim sog. „Just Transition Fund“ und „Erasmus plus“ durch.

Viola von Cramon, Mitglied der Grünen/EFA-Fraktion im Europäischen Parlament, kommentiert das Ergebnis:

„Es ist gut, dass der EU-Gipfel endlich zu einem Ergebnis gekommen ist, der besonders den krisengeschüttelten Ländern eine Perspektive und Planungssicherheit bietet. Alles andere wäre eine Katastrophe für den Zusammenhalt der Europäischen Union gewesen. Der beschlossene EU-Wiederaufbaufonds ist allerdings nur ein Minimalkonsens, der viele Zukunftsfragen unbeantwortet lässt.

Der verwässerte Rechtsstaatsmechanismus ist enttäuschend. Eine Ausschüttung von EU-Geldern sollte nur erfolgen, wenn die massiven Zweifel an der Rechtsstaatlichkeit vor allem in Ungarn und Polen ausgeräumt werden können. Die gefundene Regelung einer Zweidrittellösung im Europäischen Rat für Streitfälle ist hier nur ein Kompromiss.

Außerdem sollten Finanzhilfen vor allem in zukunftsfähige und langfristige Investitionen fließen. Dass Ausgaben für Forschung und Wissenschaft dabei genauso dem Rotstift zum Opfer fallen sollen, wie massive Kürzungen vor allem bei den Agrar- und Umweltmaßnahmen darf keinesfalls das letzte Wort sein. Diese Schwächung können wir nicht akzeptieren und so werden wir im Europäischen Parlament unser Mitspracherecht nutzen und an diesen Stellen unbedingt Korrekturen vornehmen müssen.“

Cross-party statement from the European Parliament to overcome Serbia’s political blockade

After receiving a request this week from the Serbian opposition to the EU institutions to further engage in the peaceful and politically sustainable resolution of the ongoing political crisis in Serbia and to facilitate creation of new instruments that would help achieve this goal, we, the undersigned MEP-s from 3 different political Groups, have decided to respond to this request. Our ambition is to enable all relevant political parties and movements in Serbia to solve the crisis and this way enable revival of democratic development of Serbia for the interest of its citizens. We invite the European Commission to create a senior expert group to publish reports on state and media capture in Serbia.

Serbian democracy is currently endangered by authoritarian tendencies of the government, unfair electoral conditions and lack of basic media freedom and rule of law. Despite the recent general elections, the on-going demonstrations in the streets and their violent suppression, which are of a great concern to us, are clear signs Serbia is facing grave challenges to its future. Without the solid response and solution to listed problems, Serbia has no stable future and unfortunately no real EU membership perspective. Therefore, our commitment to helping Serbia become an EU member state requires from us to support initiatives that aim at increasing EU engagement in improving Serbian democracy and enable it to follow the path of prosperous future in the European family of democratic countries.

Creation and unbiased work of the senior expert group reports on state and media capture, as requested by the Serbian opposition, would help identify and assess some of the key problems currently plaguing Serbian democracy and would represent a good baseline for further engagement of EU institutions and a starting point for identified necessary changes in Serbia. Coordinated efforts of the European Parliament and the European Commission have proven effective in solving the political crisis in other countries in the region, and could prove effective in Serbia as well.

To this end, the European Parliament should support cross-party dialogue on strengthening the democratic pillar of the new enlargement methodology as a means to implement the EU reform agenda, by ensuring the widest possible societal consensus through the engagement of all the main Serbian political parties in the continuation of the EP facilitated Inter-Party Dialogue.

Viola von Cramon, MEP, Greens/EFA

Tanja Fajon, MEP, S&D

Klemen Groselj, MEP, Renew Europe

Innenansichten – mein neuer Podcast

Ab sofort gibt’s die Innenansichten auf die Ohren!

Die erste Folge meines Podcasts ist seit gestern online. In „Innenansichten“ will ich mich mit Wissenschaftler*innen und Politiker*innen unterhalten und über den Tellerrand schauen. Dabei beleuchten wir Themen, die nicht immer im Fokus stehen und doch wichtig sind.

In der ersten Ausgabe spreche ich mit Dr. Bettina Rudloff über Ernährungssicherung. Hör gerne rein und gib mir Feedback, wie sie dir gefällt, was wir noch verbessern können und wen ich unbedingt mal einladen soll.

Systemic Political Pressure in Ukraine

Photo by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash

Members of the European Parliament -Viola von Cramon and Petras Auštrevičius sent a letter to the European Commission urging them to react on systemic political pressure exerted by President Zelensky on independent state institutions.

To: the European Commission’s DG NEAR

In the midst of pandemic and the calamitous economic meltdown when Ukraine needs international support the most, unfortunately, President Zelensky and his Government are willingly jeopardizing the wellbeing of Ukrainian people by aiding the narrow, self-serving interests of Ukrainian oligarchs.

The resignation of Yakiv Smolii, the respected governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, once again highlights what we already knew well: President Zelensky continues grave interference and systemic political pressure on few truly functioning state institutions.

Unfortunately, this is not the first case of a malign interference in the activities of important independent state institutions and represents rather a trend of destructive approach by Zelensky Government. Attacks on Anti-Monopoly Committee, National Anti-Corruption Bureau, the General prosecutor’s office and many more, are the unequivocal and unfortunate evidence of this trend.

Despite the President’s impromptu attempts to reassure the worried investors, he, as the main architect of the systemic political pressure, lacks credibility to be trusted. The exit of Smolii who managed to tame inflation, stabilise hryvnia, and negotiate a multi-billion Euro deal with the IMF sends a clear signal of uncertainty to the domestic and international investors at the same time and threatens to sink Ukraine in deeper economic and political crisis.

Especially now when Ukraine’s credit rating risks to deteriorate even further, the European Commission should demonstrate extra vigilance when dealing with Zelensky’s government. The financial ramifications of the systemic political pressure on independent institutions should be very clearly spelt out to the Ukrainian Government and the leverages of the Commission should be more efficiently applied in order to remind the associated partner of the EU of the obligations it has taken towards the international partners and more importantly towards its people.


Viola von Cramon

Petras Auštrevičius

Letter of MEPs to call Merkel and Seehofer for Kosovo visa liberalisation

32 Members of the European Parliament, from all major political parties have co-signed the letter, which is calling Mrs Merkel and Mr. Seehofer to deliver under the German Council Presidency on the issue of  visa free regime.

The European Commission has already announced in July 2018 that Kosovo fulfilled all criteria in order to make visa free travel into the Schengen area possible.  However, the Council has not given its final green light and the citizens of Kosovo have been waiting for this decision for two years now. The European Parliament has called on the Council a number of times to deliver on our promise, last week we also referred to this issue in our recommendations to the Council on the Western Balkans.

You can find the letter here

Grünes Impulspapier zu neuer Gentechnik – Politische und wissenschaftliche Fragen und Antworten

Die globalen Herausforderungen werden immer drängender: Wir brauchen auch in Zukunft Innovationen, um die Klimakrise, die Biodiversitätskatastrophe oder die Welternährungsfrage zu bewältigen – und die Zeit wird immer knapper. Klar ist aber auch, dass keine einzelne Technologie alle unsere Probleme lösen wird. Wir haben als Grüne grundsätzlich einen systemischen Ansatz, zu dem Innovationen dazu gehören aber auch eine umfangreiche Agrarwende, für die wir seit langem streiten.

2020 geben sich Bündnis90/Die GRÜNEN nach fast 20 Jahren ein neues Grundsatzprogramm. Wir haben in diesem Zuge mit mehreren grünen Mitgliedern ein Impulspapier zur Rolle von neuer Gentechnik im Zusammenhang mit unseren Zielen geschrieben:

Für uns ist klar: Am Anfang steht die Bewertung neuer Technologien immer im Hinblick auf die jeweilige Anwendung zum Nutzen von Mensch, Tier und Umwelt. Das Vorsorgeprinzip als Leitprinzip der Politik steht für uns stets im Vordergrund. Auf dieser Grundlage wollen wir Chancen und Risiken der neuen Gentechnik bewerten und mit der Wissenschaft in den Dialog treten, die den neuen Forschungsstand in mehreren Stellungnahmen in die Politik hineingetragen hat. Gentechnik ist weder per se ein Risiko, noch ein Allheilmittel – es kommt auf Anwendung und Kotext an. Lasst uns darüber sprechen, wie dazu eine kohärente und risikobasierte Regulierung aussehen kann.

Zum Impulspapier möchten wir mit euch diese Debatte weiterführen und ins Gespräch kommen. Wir freuen uns, dazu als Gäste den renommierten Schweizer Agrarwissenschaftler und Vordenker ökologischen Landbaus, Prof. Urs Niggli als Gast begrüßen zu dürfen. Ihm zu Seite steht die Nachwuchswissenschaftlerin Dr. Natalie Laibach von der Universität Bonn, die im Bereich der Lebensmittel- und Ressourcenökonomik forscht.

Wir freuen uns auf den Austausch!

Eine Anmeldung zum Webmeeting ist hier möglich:

Elections in Serbia proved that democracy is hollowed under Vučić

Serbia has held its national and municipal elections on 21 June, after they were postponed from April. Most of the opposition parties has boycotted the elections; before the end of the counting, it seems that the governing coalition will have over 220 seats out of the 250, with only one opposition party and some minority lists being present in the national legislative body.

Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, shadows rapporteur for Serbia from the Greens/EFA group has commented on the results:

“Long before yesterday’s election it became clear that Serbian elections do not reach the basic democratic standards. The ruling party has been using state resources as its own; the media landscape did not allow a real debate, harassment and intimidation of opposition politicians did not make it possible to have free and fair elections. The boycott caused a situation where the winner was clear before the elections even started.

The European Union has not raised its concerns in the past years and we let this democratic backsliding happen in Serbia. High-ranking politicians from the European Peoples’ Party have been even actively supporting Mr. Vučić and they praised him for his work.

Aleksandar Vučić has a promise to have a stable country in our neighbourhood. But stability is not enough: we want to see a democratic Serbia. Under these circumstances, when Serbian democracy is in its current shape, the country cannot join the EU. The European institutions have the opportunity and the obligation to demand Serbia to undergo meaningful reforms. We, members of the Greens/EFA group know what we want: a democratic Serbia, which is member of the European Union. It is time for other parties and institutions of the EU to decide what kind of Serbia they want to see.“

Structural flaws of Ukraine’s environmental approach

Неофіційний український переклад знаходиться нижче.

Ukraine, the associated partner of the European Union is home to one of the last old-growth and primeval forests in Europe. Unfortunately, many of those forests are being eradicated through uncontrolled and illegal logging. According to independent estimates, the overwhelming part of logging in Ukraine is done illegally. Moreover, 40% of the wood imported by the EU from Ukraine is harvested and traded illegally.

This one example highlights a much bigger environmental problem, namely the lack of adequate Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) laws in Ukraine. Furthermore, members of civil society who speak up against such structural deficiencies often become the victims of legal and physical harassment.

To address these and other issues, my colleagues at the European Parliament and I sent a letter to Prime Minister Shmyhal and Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Razumkov. The copy of the letter was also sent to the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement – Mr. Várhelyi.


Dear Prime Minister Shmyhal,

Dear Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Razumkov,

We, members of the European Parliament express our deep concerns regarding three major problems prevalent in Ukraine’s environmental policy. These problems include the environmental cost of the timber industry, the flawed execution of the Law on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and the lack of safety of environmental activists. Providing home to some of the last old-growth and primeval forests in Europe, the preservation of Ukraine’s ecosystems is of global significance and must be a priority of the political agenda.

Deforestation and illegal logging continue to pose a major threat to Ukraine’s ecosystems and forest landscapes. According to estimates by the British NGO EarthSight published in 2018, 40% of the Ukrainian wood exported to the EU is harvested or traded illegally. While we welcome and support foreign and domestic investments into Ukrainian economy, the environmental cost caused by excessive logging and air pollution through the timber industry must be taken into account by the competent authorities.

Although the Law on EIA was adopted in 2017, the implementation still entails a multitude of loopholes. The implementation of the EIA is a key requirement of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (Annex 30). The current plan to build a new plant in Rivne Oblast by the Austrian wood-processing company Kronospan provides an example of the structural deficiencies of EIA in Ukraine. As you are aware, the area already suffers from harmful pollution by the chemical industry. Building the Kronospan’s plant with the currently agreed conditions will further deteriorate the ecological situation and endanger the health of the local population. Unfortunately, on this matter, the competent authorities neither considered the position of civil society organisations nor commissioned an independent expert analysis to evaluate the concerns.

Thus, the following measures are advised to be developed for the proper implementation of the Law on EIA:

  1. Establishment of EIA expert groups with involvement of independent experts to assist competent authorities in the decision-making process
  2. Development of subordinate legislation on EIA including official guidelines for different project types
  3. Securing high-quality EIA conclusion reports through the involvement of expert groups and civil society organizations

Finally, environmental NGOs and activists are repeatedly confronted with massive threats as a result of their work against illegal logging and environmental pollution. Furthermore, NGOs voicing public accusations against timber companies face legal harassments, commonly known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP). As a reaction to its critical statements regarding the EIA of Kronospan in Rivne Oblast, the NGO Ecoclub was taken to court by Kronospan for defamation. 

We call on the Ukrainian government and lawmakers to urgently correct the shortcomings of the Law on EIA and to develop the above-mentioned measures in order to fulfil a fundamental requirement of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. Moreover, we highly recommend you to develop a legal framework in order to guarantee the security of environmental activists, journalists and civil society organizations along the lines of the upcoming EU anti-SLAPP directive.

Yours sincerely,

Members of the European Parliament:



Неофіційний переклад.

Шановний прем’єр-міністре Шмигаль,

Шановний Голово Верховної Ради Разумков,

Ми, члени Європейського парламенту, висловлюємо глибоку стурбованість щодо трьох основних проблем у природоохоронній політиці України. Ці проблеми включають екологічні втрати від діяльності лісової промисловості, недотримання Закону про оцінку впливу на довкілля (ОВД) та відсутність гарантії безпеки природоохоронних активістів. Оскільки українські екосистеми є домівкою для деяких правікових та первинних лісів у Європі, їхнє збереження має глобальне значення і повинно бути пріоритетом для політикуму.

Знищення лісів та їх незаконна вирубка продовжують становити серйозну загрозу екосистемам та лісовим ландшафтам України. Згідно з результатами дослідження британської громадської організації EarthSight, опублікованих 2018 року, 40% української деревини, що експортується до ЄС, заготовляють та продають незаконно. Звісно, ми вітаємо та підтримуємо іноземні та внутрішні інвестиції в українську економіку. Однак компетентним органам влади слід також взяти до уваги екологічні втрати, спричинені надмірною вирубкою лісу та забрудненням повітря внаслідок діяльності деревопереробної промисловості.

Попри те, що закон «Про ОВД» був прийнятий в 2017 році, його реалізація все ще містить безліч лазівок, щоб його обійти. Реалізація ОВД є ключовою вимогою Угоди про асоціацію Україна-ЄС (додаток 30). Поточний план будівництва нового заводу в Рівненській області австрійською деревообробною компанією Кроноспан є прикладом структурних недоліків ОВД в Україні. Як Вам відомо, навколишнє середовище вже потерпає від забруднення результатами діяльності хімічної промисловості. Будівництво заводу Кроноспану, відповідно до погоджених на даний момент умов, ще більше погіршить екологічну ситуацію та негативно вплине на стан здоров’я місцевого населення. На жаль, компетентні органи не звернули увагу на позицію організацій громадських організацій, а також не замовили незалежний експертний аналіз для оцінки проблемної ситуації.

Відтак, для належного виконання Закону «Про ОВД» рекомендуємо вдатися до наступних заходів:

  1. Створити експертні групи з ОВД із залученням незалежних експертів для надання допомоги компетентним органам у процесі прийняття рішень.
  2. Розробити підзаконні акти по ОВД, а також пакети офіційних покрокових інструкцій для різних типів проектів.
  3. Забезпечити високоякісні висновки ОВД із залучення експертних груп та громадських організацій.

І на завершення, в результаті своєї роботи щодо незаконної вирубки лісів та забруднення навколишнього середовища природоохоронні громадські організації та активісти часто стикаються із величезними загрозами. Понад те, неурядові організації, які висувають звинувачення під час публічних компаній проти лісопереробних компаній, зазнають юридичних утисків, на кшталт загально відомих Стратегічних судових процесів проти участі громадськості (SLAPP). Внаслідок критики ОВД Кроноспана в Рівненській області на ГО «Екоклуб» позивалися до суду у справі захисту ділової репутації.

Ми закликаємо український уряд та законодавців терміново виправити недоліки Закону «Про ОВД» та розробити вищезазначені заходи для виконання принципових вимог Угоди про асоціацію між Україною та ЄС. Крім того, ми наполегливо рекомендуємо розробити законодавчу базу, яка б гарантувала безпеку природоохоронних активістів, журналістів та громадських організацій відповідно до майбутньої директиви ЄС проти SLAPP.