• Last summer, my friends from NGOs and governmental organisations in Ukraine started speaking about a surprising problem in wartime. There were plenty of vacancies for jobs, with barely anyone to fill them. Different humanitarian foundations had established their offices in Ukraine, and Western partners had upscaled their operations, providing stable and well-paid jobs for locals ― but finding people for them was a struggle.

    The problem was that most of these positions required good English, a university degree and thorough experience. Ukrainians who have these attributes are usually upper middle class, and are used to moving around from country to country. As the full-scale war broke out, many of them left Ukraine. This has been a strange impact of wartime migration.

    Now this staffing crisis is felt throughout the economy. A coal mine in Pokrovsk, a city 40 kilometres from the frontline, pays its workers double ― and still cannot attract enough candidates. Some men have left the city, some have joined the army, and others are wounded due to hostilities. Who knew that Ukraine would feel a shortage of workers, as Russian missiles bombard our cities?

    There are many other dimensions to Ukraine being on the supply side of the migration flow. Many of my friends are abroad and who knows if they will ever come back. To sustain itself in the future, Ukraine will need more people, maybe even millions. They have to come from somewhere.

    It’s doubtful these will be Germans or Spaniards. The next wave of Ukraine-related migration will most possibly come from Central or South-East Asian countries. Economists and demographers are already starting to talk about this likelihood.

    Although the Balkan route for migrants has seen a decline of 29 per cent in the first half of this year, this remains the second most active pathway into the EU, according to Frontex, after the Mediterranean.

    The numbers sometimes can deceive: this drop hides the individual stories of human suffering. North Macedonia’s Red Cross says thousands are in need of their help while traversing the Balkan route.

    Migrants are often beaten or robbed by traffickers. Some looking to hitch a ride on top of or below a train suffer electrification and severe burns.

    Jozef Lenč is a political scientist who teaches at St. Cyril and Methodius University in Trnava and often analyses politics in Slovakia for the local media.

    According to a new Ipsos survey, illegal immigration is one of the biggest concerns of Slovakians, ahead of the parliamentary elections. Some parties have focused on this issue, especially the former ruling party Smer, which is leading in the polls. Why is this?

    The narrative on illegal migration can help any political party that can properly grasp this topic, including parties that have positive solutions to the migration crisis. Most often, however, political parties of the extreme or alternative right try to gain popularity through this kind of topic.

    In the case of Smer [left-wing populists], they have understood that this could be a way to exploit the current mood in society, and it can cover-up investigations into corruption or the need to tackle the country’s economic problems.

    Why has the issue of illegal migration resonated among politicians and in the media for several weeks?

    The topic of illegal migration will stay here for a long time. But if something spectacular does not happen in this regard, the topic will disappear due to others presented by the extreme and alternative right-wing parties, like the protection against liberalism.

    Political parties and the interim government partially blame Smer for today’s migration problem (from its time in office), but this has not harmed this party. Why?

    The effect of the possible cancellation of the ‘confirmation’ [On the basis of a law passed by the Smer government, Slovakia issues a confirmation letter to illegal migrants, which allows them to stay in Slovakia for a certain period of time, but does not guarantee them the right to stay in the Schengen area] would only see results in a few months. Some voters may not have even noticed these confirmation letters, and it is enough for them that Smer leader Robert Fico is now pointing to illegal migrants.

    Not so long ago, the current German Green Party co-chair Ricarda Lang took to the streets to call for more refugees to be welcome in Germany. But a few days ago, on the subject of facilitating deportations for asylum seekers without a valid reason to remain in Germany, she made an interesting statement. Lang demanded publicly: “We expect the Minister of the Interior to finally make progress on the issue of repatriation agreements.” The conservative CDU, the liberal FDP and the social democratic SPD have all called for a stricter migration policy in recent months.

    Maybe, this decision by the Greens came out of a fear they will lose the state elections in Bavaria and Hessia, which will take place at the beginning of October. But this is also part of a bigger political picture: The discourse in Germany is sliding to the right. Today, 16.2 percent of the German population have xenophobic attitudes, compared with 4.5 percent two years earlier, according to a new study.

    One of the Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni’s preferred catchphrases is about her “reshaping” Europe’s approach to migration. She has also appeared several times together with Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the EU Commission, and has demonstrated her actions on the issue.

    At that time in mid-August, when most Italians were on holiday, data from the Ministry of the Interior revealed the bluff: in 2023, migrant landings have more than doubled compared to the previous year. From 1 January to 31 July 2023, more than 90,000 migrants arrived. During the same period in 2022, when Meloni was not governing, the figure was close to 41,000. The flows from Tunisia almost tripled compared to the year before.

    Let’s look again at the image of Giorgia Meloni alongside Ursula von der Leyen and Tunisian autocrat Kais Saied. The Italian premier seemed triumphant: she acted as if, with the EU-Tunisia memorandum, the ‘migrant issue’ would melt away. The President of the European Commission even declared, during the State of the Union in mid-September, that she would sign similar agreements with other countries. Meloni and von der Leyen appeared more united than ever.

    And they were, but again this was a bluff. To date, the only point on which Giorgia Meloni is really influencing the whole of the European Union is the definitive abandonment of the principle of solidarity. Until a few years ago, the debate between European governments was about the relocation of migrants in the EU. Italy was very interested in this issue – but now, with aggressive right-wingers sharing power in Italy, the premier has said that she has given up discussing it. She will only discuss strict borders.

    While the citizens of Lampedusa are confronted with increasing landings, the first problematic border is in Meloni’s propaganda, between facts and the narrative.

    It was in 2015 when I realised that the days of the authoritarian regime of North Macedonia, nicknamed “the family”, led by former PM Nikola Gruevski, were numbered.

    Their wrongdoings were ironically uncovered by leaked wiretaps recorded illegally by the secret police.

    It was strange to hear top officials rigging elections, controlling the media and judiciary, discussing bribes and rejoicing in taking revenge against a former political ally after demolishing his building.

    Massive protests followed under the slogan “No Justice – No Peace”, and by mid-2017 Gruevski’s family crumbled.

    Could this be it? I wondered. Could this be the turning point for my country?

    But soon, sweet justice turned sour when the new Social Democratic government first broke its promise to root out corrupt judges, insisting it would do more harm than good. In 2018, they endorsed an amnesty law for Gruevski’s supporters who stormed the parliament the previous year, saying it was for the sake of reconciliation.

    In 2021, Saso Mijalkov, the former head of the secret police, was jailed for 12 years for masterminding the illegal wiretapping. A little glimmer of hope, one would say. But a higher court scrapped this verdict and ordered a retrial, which now has an unrealistic deadline of next year.

    As I write these lines, Law students from Skopje are again protesting in front of the government. The slogan “No Justice – No Peace” is the same.

    The reason? A recent government decision made a change in the criminal law that reduces sentences for misuse in office and criminal enterprise. This would also make many of the ongoing cases expire.

    Is the current “family” making a deal with the old “family” for when it loses power by offering a quiet amnesty for wrongdoers? Quite possible, but this is irrelevant.

    Our fight against the real “family”, deeply embedded in institutions that have no political color and are driven exclusively by self-interest, has failed miserably.

    Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán made an unexpected topless appearance in the local media: a civilian paparazzo in the seaside resort of Opatija, Croatia, caught him stepping out of the sea and into a luxury villa on the beach.

    The photo took the Hungarian public by surprise, but there were also more revealing details about Oban’s holiday. The footage was obtained by opposition journalist Balázs Gulyás, who revealed that the luxury villa belonged to the Ungár family, whose companies have won lucrative state contracts.

    The prime minister, whose father, children and son-in-law are known for their various businesses, was joined by members of his family. Also, he did not pay for accommodation and, according to official information, he was not even on holiday.

    It is not only the Prime Minister who is of interest in this case. One member of the hosting family, Péter Ungár, is a well-known figure in the Hungarian opposition to Orbán. The circle of influence appears to be closing.

    Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni wants to “defend” the family. She kept repeating this catchphrase last week, when she spoke at Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán’s Demographic summit in Budapest. And I can assume that she really wants to “defend the family”. At least, her own.

    Since the Brothers of Italy party’s leader took charge of the government, Meloni’s family-first policy has begun to form: she appointed her own brother-in-law, Francesco Lollobrigida, as the Agriculture Minister. He first met the Meloni family at the beginning of 2000 because of their common involvement in far-right politics. Lollobrigida is still a supporter of the “Replacement Theory” – a conspiracy theory about migration – and he says it publicly.

    Another striking decision came in August, when Meloni named her sister Arianna as the head of the Brothers of Italy party secretariat, with the role of managing the membership department. Arianna Meloni will almost certainly be a candidate for the European Parliamentary elections, and this is thanks to her surname: voters are regarded as inclined to vote for “Meloni” if that name is on the electoral list.

    Giorgia Meloni is used to blaming journalists and satirists: she accuses them of criticising her family. But the weird thing is that, in her case, her family also represents… Italian politics. Giorgia Meloni trusts in the family, and she uses her family as a trust. She refers to fiduciary relationships with a lack of public accountability. And she wants to keep a monopolistic control of the political processes. It now seems that there is no distinction between Meloni’s government, her party and her family. This triangle reveals an abnormal concentration of power, and it shows how Meloni’s grip on power works: it is designed to prevent dissent. The irony is that Giorgia Meloni loves to talk about turning Italy into a “meritocracy”…

    Three million Polish Zloty (about €650,000) is the value of land bought by Iwona Morawiecka, the wife of the Polish Prime Minister, journalists have revealed. The total value of PM Mateusz Morawiecki’s wealth is unknown.

    Before turning into politics, the prime minister was the CEO of a large foreign bank in Poland. He has savings and bonds worth almost five million zlotys (over one million euros), plus several houses and apartments. Polish law does not oblige family members of politicians to submit a declaration of their assets.

    The Prime Minister’s critics say that if the wealth of the Prime Minister and his family were made public, it might not go down well with the voters for his Law and Justice party, ahead of next month’s parliamentary election.

    “My moral values haven’t changed,” the Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas insisted. In just one week, Kallas’s untouchable grip on the country’s top job and her credibility collapsed. 

    What happened? Media revealed that her husband belonged to a group of business associates who continued to operate in Russia, despite its invasion of Ukraine. After first claiming their trucking company only helped ‘one Estonian customer close down their Russian business’ and were doing ‘a morally good thing’, new details started to emerge.

    This customer was an aerosol canister factory that belonged to one of the associates. Instead of returning factory equipment from Russia to Estonia, the trucking firm continued carrying raw material to Russia, making at least 1.5 million euros in revenue on the deals.

    If Kallas had not built herself up as a moral beacon regarding the Ukrainian war in Estonia and on the world stage, one might say this is business as usual. A few months ago Kallas urged local businesspeople to ‘find their moral compass’ and restrict ties with Russia. This wasn’t a one-off statement, but has characterised her policy since 24 February 2022. She has been one of the most staunch advocates for sanctions against Russia.

    She wasn’t involved in the business herself and, strictly following the law, it wasn’t illegal. Still, many believe her actions and statements constitute moral corruption. 

    Firstly, she tried to downplay the issue. Secondly, she insisted the scandal was revenge by middle-aged white men. Thirdly, she complained she was being bullied by reporters. Finally, she announced that her husband’s continued business links to Russia are a non-issue in the West, but are in Estonia, because the people have high demands of their leader’s ‘moral values’.

    As we went to press, she was still in power, though 70% of the public want her to resign.