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Authoritarism in Hungary and Poland


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21 minutes ago, sunday said:

Rules could have changed since the incorporation to the EU, also.

Which is why I said "less" not "no"...

It's fairly academic, anyway - the national governments agreed to allow the EU to increasingly legislate without the power of veto, and naturally bureaucracies increase their power over time unless curbed.

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Speaking of which, the weakness of a position tends to be directly measurable from the hystery of the argument.


Polish Prime Minister Warns EU Against Starting World War III, FT Says

By Piotr Skolimowski and Wojciech Moskwa

25. Oktober 2021, 12:24 MESZ

Updated on 25. Oktober 2021, 14:29 MESZ

Poland sought to assuage outrage among its European Union partners after Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the bloc could start “the third world war” by withholding the country’s access to funds in a dispute over democratic values.

In an interview with the Financial Times published on Monday, Morawiecki said the EU was holding a “gun to our head” and said his government would “defend our rights with any weapons which are at our disposal.” Poland is the biggest net recipient of EU funds, gathering more than 200 billion euros ($232 billion) since it joined the bloc in 2004.

While Morawiecki didn’t specify what “weapons” Poland could use, his aides have suggested that it could scupper the bloc’s ambitious plans for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions. After his comments sparked uproar among members of the European Parliament and Poland’s political opposition, cabinet spokesman Piotr Muller said they were “hyperbole” and shouldn’t be taken literally.



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4 hours ago, Rickard N said:

it's like sports people complaining about being penalized for not following the rule book.

Since when has that stopped anyone in football from protesting referee decisions?

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The major change in EU rules since the Great Eastern Expansion of 2004 was the 2009 Treaty of Lisbon, which took the place of the failed attempt at a European Constitution in 2005. It gave EU and EC a single legal character; extended the common legislation process including participation of the European Parliament to the pillar of Police and Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters, and conversely provided for greater participation of national parliaments in said process; made the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights legally binding; gave more competence to the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; and introduced the office of the President of the European Council, the instrument of the European Citizens' Initiative, the common European External Action Service, and the provisions for leaving the EU which later were the legal basis for Brexit. 

In the case of Hungary, consent to ratification was pretty clear, and first among all member states. Parliament voted 325 in favor, including Orban's then-oppositional Fidesz, with five against and 14 abstentions. Poland was more convoluted, with Donald Tusk's PO government for it and PiS president Lech Kaczyński opposed. Eventually there was a compromise with Poland opting out of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the government agreeing to not change the latter or consenting to a modification of the rules about minority rights in the European Council in the future without being authorized by the Sejm and president. 

On that base, the Sejm ratified the treaty with 384 in favor, including the PiS, 56 against and twelve abstentions. Kaczyński subsequently signed it into national law, but put off doing the same with the instrument of ratification. After the initial Irish referendum on the treaty failed, he said it had become moot anyway, but later agreed to sign the instrument if all other member states ratified. He eventually did so after the successful second referendum in Ireland. 

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On 10/25/2021 at 4:33 PM, Ssnake said:

Since when has that stopped anyone in football from protesting referee decisions?

In that case it's a weak ass organization (FIFA) which seems to think it's the way the sport should be played, but that's another discussion :D


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Date 29.10.2021

EU: Parliament sues Commission over rule of law inaction

The European Parliament has grown frustrated with the executive branch's inability to impose sanctions for alleged rule of law breaches by member states.

The European Parliament on Friday launched a lawsuit against the European Commission over what it perceives to be a lackluster attitude in applying a mechanism linking EU funds to rule of law breaches among member states.

"As requested in parliamentary resolutions, our legal service has brought an action against the European Commission for failure to apply the Conditionality Regulation to the Court of Justice today (Friday)," parliamentary speaker David Sassoli said in a statement.

"We expect the European Commission to act in a consistent manner," Sassoli said. "Words have to be turned into deeds."

The discord relates to a mechanism in force since the beginning of the year that can be implemented which withholds EU funds from the shared budget among the bloc's 27 members.

Poland and Hungary spark dispute

The mechanism was set up amid escalating concerns relating to basic standards such as judicial independence and media freedom, in particular in Poland and Hungary.

However, it can only be activated if there is a clear risk of misuse of EU money due to such violations.

Before acting, the European Commission said it wanted to wait for an upcoming European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling on the legality of the tool linked to legal action brought by Warsaw and Budapest.


ECJ orders hefty fine for Poland

On Wednesday, the ECJ ordered Poland to pay a fine of €1 million ($1.2 million) per day over its decision to ignore an EU ruling on Warsaw's judicial reforms.

The top EU court imposed the penalty as Poland has not suspended the disciplinary chamber of its Supreme Court, which critics say allows for the dismissal of judges on political grounds. 

The ECJ had ruled in July that the chamber does not guarantee judicial impartiality, and ordered that it be suspended.


"Hefty" is relative though. Last year, Poland received in excess of 13 bn Euro more out of the EU budget than they paid into it; for comparison, their national defense budget was 11 bn. One million per day amounts to a slap on the wrist.

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EU's top court says Polish rules on appointing judges violate EU law

2h ago

The European Court of Justice ruled that powers wielded by the Polish justice minister are against the EU law in the most recent clash with Warsaw over judicial independence in Poland.

The European Court of Justice  (ECJ) ruled on Tuesday that the ability of the Polish government to appoint and remove judges from trials is in violation of EU law.

According to reforms pushed through by Warsaw, Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro has the power to move judges to higher courts — known as secondment — and, if he chooses, to end their temporary appointment without giving reason or recourse.

"During the period of those judges' secondment, they are not provided with the guarantees and the independence which all judges should normally enjoy in a state governed by the rule of law," the top EU court said in a statement.

The decision comes just weeks after another case on the rule of law in Poland saw the ECJ fine Warsaw €1 million ($1.14 million) a day.

Challenge to judicial independence

The ECJ took on the case after a Polish court questioned the government's ability to intervene and decide which judges sit on panels for criminal cases.

The EU's top court pointed to the lack of legal criteria for the decisions taken by the justice minister. Because of this gap, the necessary guarantees against the risk of political control over judicial decisions are missing, the judges ruled. 

This blending of judicial and executive power challenges the independence of the judicial system, according to the Luxembourg-based court.

The ECJ said that the risk of bias from appointed judges undermines the presumption of innocence of the defendants they are judging.



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Polish Constitutional Court rules that right to fair trial is unconstitutional. 

Alrighty then. 


Poland's top court declares ECHR article 6 unconstitutional


The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) cannot evaluate the legality of the election of judges to Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal, the tribunal itself has ruled.

In its judgement, made on Wednesday, the Tribunal appears to challenge Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to fair trial by an "independent and impartial tribunal established by law."

"The provision of the European Convention on Human Rights, in as far as it grants the ECHR the competence to assess the legality of the election of judges of the Constitutional Tribunal, is inconsistent with the Polish Constitution," the Constitutional Tribunal ruled on Wednesday.

The judgment was issued following a motion by Poland's justice minister and prosecutor general, Zbigniew Ziobro. In July, he asked the tribunal whether the ECHR could evaluate the legality of the election of judges to the constitutional court.

Ziobro questioned the ECHR's right to assess the legality of the elections of judges to the court, which in turn could allow it to question the Tribunal’s independence and impartiality.

According to Ziobro, the intention of the motion was to avoid a situation in which the ECHR's verdicts distort the original meaning of the convention's articles in a way that is not accepted by the convention member countries.


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  • 3 weeks later...

In contrast:


Date 10.12.2021

Hungarian top court declines to rule on EU law in asylum case

Hungary's top court did not rule on a challenge to the primacy of EU law in its response to an EU court finding that Budapest broke the bloc's laws by deporting asylum-seekers.

Hungary's Constitutional Court on Friday struck down a bid by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government to challenge a ruling by the EU's top court against Budapest's asylum policy.

Orban's justice minister asked the court earlier this year to review a ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) that Budapest broke EU law by allowing police to physically "push back" asylum-seekers across the Serbian border.

What exactly did the court rule?

Judges ruled that the legal challenge by the Hungarian government "cannot be the subject of a review" of the European court's judgment, nor can it lead to an "examination of the primacy of EU law."

The Hungarian Constitutional Court did, however, rule Friday that Budapest has the right to apply its own measures in areas where the European Union has yet to take adequate steps for common implementation of EU rules.

Judges said Hungary can also decide whether a person can remain in the country, where there is "incomplete effectiveness" in terms of EU rules.

Judges also said Hungary's constitution protects the "inalienable right" of the country to "determine its territorial unity, population, form of government and state structure."

Last month, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that Hungary had failed to fulfill its obligations under EU law with its rule that considers asylum applications inadmissible if the asylum-seeker arrived in Hungary via a third country considered safe.

Secondly, judges found that the Budapest government also went against EU law by criminalizing certain activities of providing assistance in making or lodging an application for asylum in its territory.

The challenge to the EU court's ruling was made by Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga.

Varga argued that implementing the ruling by the European court would result in many migrants staying permanently in Hungary.





The One-Man State

Viktor Orbán and the Fall of Democracy

Cronyism, control of the media, attacks on the EU: Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is transforming his country into an autocracy. This spring he will once again stand for re-election. Will Hungarians allow him to get away with it this time?

By Jan Puhl und Walter Mayr

09.12.2021, 14.01 Uhr

The border between Austria and Hungary runs through the plains not far from Lake Neusiedl, a line dividing West and East and – at least according to Viktor Orbán – uprooted liberals and steadfast patriots. Only in his country, he claims, are people still safe from rampant immigration and de-Christianization.

In 1989, here on the border dividing Sopron from the Austrian state of Burgenland, people streamed westward through a gap in the Iron Curtain. The iconic images of fleeing East German citizens were long viewed as evidence of the apparent triumph of the Western system of values.

It was the moment that Orbán himself stepped out of the twilight of declining socialism and into the light of history. He first became know to a broader public on June 16, 1989, in Budapest, a 26-year-old with scruffy beard and long hair who was a fiery orator. Orbán climbed the tribune at the ceremony marking the reburial of the body of Imre Nagy, the prime minister executed by the regime in 1958. There, in front of hundreds of thousands, he demanded the withdrawal of the still heavily armed Soviet troops from Hungary. The performance brought him popularity.

Today, three decades later, the lanky provocateur of yesteryear is hardly recognizable, and not just on the outside. As a long-time prime minister and the eloquent leader of the ruling Fidesz party, Orbán is challenging the legal and moral norms of the European Union. After the fall of communism in 1989, he said that Hungarians and other Europeans believed "that Europe is our future." But that is no longer the case. "Now, we feel that we are the future of Europe." Anyone looking for a symbol of the failure of Western elites, he says, need only look to Brussels: to the European Commission.

Patience with Orbán within the European Commission, the EU’s executive, and within the European Parliament appears to be running out. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is holding back the disbursement to Budapest of the first tranche of a total of 7.2 billion euros from the EU’s coronavirus reconstruction fund. Last week, the Commission sent what is known as a "blue letter" to Hungary accusing the Orbán system of being plagued by nepotism and of having a weak and biased judiciary. Budapest could soon lose out on billions in EU subsidies.

Years ago, then-Hungarian Education Minister Bálint Magyar claimed that his country had developed into a "post-communist mafia state ruled by Orbán’s political-economic clan." Last autumn, Věra Jourová, vice president of the European Commission, declared that a "sick democracy" had emerged in Hungary. In July, Mark Rutte said that Hungary "has no place in the EU anymore." The Dutch prime minister’s choice of words betrayed anger, but also powerlessness.

Of all countries, why did one that played a significant role in the rapprochement between East and West in the late 1980s take the path toward autocracy? And how did Hungary go from being a model pupil in Europe to a pariah? How can it be that Viktor Orbán, the intrepid anti-communist of 1989, is winning over a majority of voters as a populist firebrand decades later?

Felcsút: The Family Business

Whenever she can, journalist Babett Oroszi travels to the village of Felcsút, around 50 kilometers west of Budapest. Orbán grew up here and still lives in a small white stucco weekend home. In the yard, the prime minister has had a jungle gym assembled for his grandchildren, with a stately Hungarian flag flying next to it.

Felcsút and its surroundings are pure Orbán country, says Oroszi – a place where you can get a good grasp of the basics: How does the prime minister view the world? Where does he want to lead Hungary? Everything that plays a role in the prime minister’s surroundings comes into view in this model region: Cronyism, corruption and megalomania, tradition-conscious Hungarians and general enthusiasm for football.

Orbán was born in nearby Székesfehérvár and grew up in modest circumstances. There was no running water and he had to work in the fields during the holidays. His father also punished him physically. Orbán’s provincial origins have shaped his political career and are a key element of his populist persona. The Orbáns' house in Felcsút is the fitting image.

Journalist Oroszi is certain that the modesty is little more than a facade. The magnificent stadium of the local first division football club, not 10 meters away from Orbán's house, has about twice as many seats as the town's population. Together with the narrow-gauge railway funded with almost 2 million euros from EU funds, which chugs from the stadium to a nearby park, it the lends the village a grotesquely ambitious look.

Oroszi says that Orbán systematically mixes politics and business. His father Győző, once a member of the party leadership in the agricultural collective in Felcsút, grew wealthy as the owner of a quarry after the fall of communism. Oroszi systematically followed the trucks of Győző’s company on their way to various construction sites. Her conclusion: Stone from Orbán is used almost everywhere in Hungary. "The son is showering his father with contracts," she says.

Meanwhile, Orbán’s brother, Győző Jr., collected EU funds for his technology company. Four contractors close to Orbán, including son-in-law István Tiborcz, won more than a quarter of all government contracts, with a total value of around €80 million, in the first months of 2020 alone – in most cases without having to bid against even a single other competitor. The EU anti-corruption agency OLAF has accused Tiborcz of 17 cases of "organized fraud" and called on the European Commission to reclaim subsidies amounting to 44 million euros.

Orbán doesn’t even make a secret of the fact that state contracts are often awarded without any bidding competition. The prime minister believes that the country needs national entrepreneurship because too much money is flowing out of Hungary and into the coffers of European corporations.


Sopron: Loyalty to the System

As a linguist, Koloman Brenner, the vice president of Hungarian parliament, is used to expressing himself in a refined manner. But when he is asked to explain the success of the Orbán system in his office in Sopron's historic city center, southwest of Lake Neusiedl, he visibly struggles to gain his composure. "Viktor Orbán’s one-party state has gone wild and has promoted corruption and destroyed so much in education, health care and social welfare," laments Brenner, who is himself a member of the right-wing, conservative Jobbik party.

In 1988, around three dozen intellectuals founded the civic alliance Fidesz. At the beginning of his political career, Orbán’s course was decidedly pro-Western, with accession to the EU and NATO as the top priorities. In 1998, the liberal Fidesz leader, then only 35 years old, was elected prime minister for the first time. Two years later, his party joined the European People’s Party, the group of mainstream center-right parties in the European Parliament.

The turning point came with his election defeat in 2002. In his final days in office as prime minister, he declared: "The homeland cannot be in the opposition," thus declaring his personal debacle to be a defeat for the entire nation.

In the years that followed, Orbán orchestrated his struggle against the ruling post-communists as a battle for his nation's future. After a total of eight years in the opposition, the Hungarians thanked Orbán by re-electing him in 2010.

"Since Orbán came to power for the second time, everything that is part of civil democracy has been successively dismantled," Brenner says. "The European Union was founded on the assumption that everyone would play by the rules, but Orbán is playing a perverse game by only pretending to be a civil democracy. The EU has no means of countering this. No one thought it was possible that anyone could go as far as Orbán. He is a brilliant cynic."


"In this country, where everything depends on where you stand with Fidesz, you have to think carefully about how you vote in elections," says Zsolt Porcsin, a journalist who has been critical of the government. "Even in the late stages of socialism, it never got to the point that a kindergarten teacher would only get hired if she belonged to the right political camp," he says.

He says that in his hometown of Debrecen, officials were fired from the city administration because they were considered politically unreliable, and a similar purge later took place in state-owned companies. Later, contracts were even terminated with suppliers and contractors whose loyalty was called into question. "People are running for cover," says Porcsin. One elderly woman, for example, took out four subscriptions to his online newspaper because her three working sons wanted to read Porcsin’s articles without somehow falling under suspicion.


No EU member state has collected as much subsidy money from Brussels per capita as Hungary. The European Structure and Investment Fund alone has channeled more than 55 billion euros to the country since 2004. A further 51.5 billion euros are to follow by 2027.

And yet that still doesn’t stop Orbán from running full-page ads in newspapers warning that Brussels is trying to build a "superstate" and a "European empire." Budapest blackmailed the EU in late 2020 by blocking the EU budget to force concessions on a new rule-of-law mechanism. And it refused to send its own lawyers to the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office, which is to monitor the appropriate use of EU funds.


On several occasions, alliances of different parties have won victories against Orbán at the local level. Three years ago, for example, the economist Péter Márki-Zay won in the Fidesz stronghold of Hódmezővásárhely. Márki-Zay is now also set to run against Orbán next spring as the joint leading candidate of a six-party coalition. In polls, his coalition is a little bit ahead of Fidesz. But polls fluctuate, and the election campaign in Hungary is only just beginning.

It is already certain that Orbán will use all the institutions at his disposal for his campaign in the coming weeks and months. The media, courts, government agencies, universities and foundations have all been packed with his people. Even after a change of power, they would likely still have the strength to thwart a new government at anytime.



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Poland: Parliament approves controversial media reform bill

3h ago

Poland's parliament voted in support of a controversial media reform bill targeting Discovery-owned TVN24. The bill now goes to President Andrzej Duda to be signed into law.

Poland's parliament voted unexpectedly Friday to overturn a Senate veto of a previously shelved and controversial media reform bill.

The bill aims to limit foreign ownership of media companies, but critics charge the legislation is designed mainly to affect Discovery-owned TVN, which has been critical of the Polish government. The move to force the ouster of Discovery as the owner of TVN has caused tensions with the US.

The charge d'affaires at the US Embassy, Bix Aliu, tweeted, "The United States is extremely disappointed by today's passage of the media bill by the Sejm. We expect President Duda to act in accordance with previous statements to use his leadership to protect free speech and business." 

Washington has previously asked Duda to veto the bill and he has signaled through allies that he would.


Why is the bill controversial?

If Duda signs the bill into law, the ban on firms from outside the European Economic Area holding a controlling stake in Polish television and radio would be strengthened.

TVN is owned by the US-based Discovery Inc. However, by registering in the Netherlands, Discovery was able to maintain its hold on TVN whereas the new law would remove this workaround.

In the past, Discovery has said it is willing to go to court to maintain ownership of TVN.

For its part, the ruling Law and Justice Party, known by its Polish acronym PiS, has justified the law by saying it would like to put curbs on the ability of outsiders to influence public opinion. 

Since 2015 when PiS took power, Poland has dropped from 18th to 64th on Reporters Without Borders' World Press Freedom Index.


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Polish president vetoes law aimed at muting US media group Discovery

1h ago

Government critics said the proposed media law was aimed at silencing dissent. President Andrzej Duda said it would have dealt a blow to Poland's reputation as a place to do business.

Poland President Andrzej Duda said Monday he has decided to veto a bill that would have forced US media group Discovery to give up its controlling stake in Polish broadcaster TVN.

Duda recognized that the bill was unpopular with many Polish citizens and would have been a blow to his country's reputation as a place to do business.

The bill, recently passed by the lower house in Warsaw, would have blocked any non-European outlet from owning a 50% share or more in a Polish broadcaster.

"I believe that generally limiting the possibility of holding shares or stocks in media companies is sensible when it comes to foreign capital," Duda said. "I share the opinion that it should be introduced in Poland, but for the future."

Media freedom in question

"The bill and its amendments concern entities which are already present in the market," he continued. "There is also the issue of media pluralism, of freedom of speech. When taking my decision, I took this element into serious consideration."

Earlier this month thousands of people gathered in cities across Poland to demand Duda veto the controversial media law. The protesters criticized the bill, saying it was a push to silence TVN24 news channel, which is part of the TVN network.



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Date 25.05.2022

Hungary's Orban extends emergency powers, points to Ukraine

Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared a "state of danger" in Hungary over the Ukraine war, allowing him to keep emergency powers his government originally claimed over the COVID pandemic.

The Hungarian government on Tuesday passed a constitutional amendment giving Prime Minister Viktor Orban emergency powers, with the first measures to be announced on Wednesday.

Hungarian officials cited the Russian attack on Ukraine as the reason for the move, which effectively prolongs the pandemic state of emergency due to expire at the end of May.

War in Ukraine a 'constant threat' — Orban

In a video posted to social media Orban said that the war in Ukraine posed "a constant threat to Hungary" and that it was "putting our physical security at risk and threatening the energy and financial security of our economy and families.''

As a result of that Orban said a  "state of danger" would come into effect,  which would allow the government to "protect Hungary and Hungarian families by any means possible." 

The amendment will allow Orban to continue ruling by decree and allows laws to be suspended without parliamentary oversight.

A similar measure granting Orban emergency powers due to the COVID-19 pandemic was first imposed in March 2020, then lifted in June of the same year before coming back in November 2020.



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Norway to Track All Supermarket Purchases

June 3, 2022 by David Nikel

SSB has ordered Norway's major supermarket chains NorgesGruppen, Coop, Bunnpris and Rema 1000 to share all their receipt data with the agency. Nets, the payment processor that is responsible for 80% of transactions, will also need to provide data.



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Well,  I suppose with data mining and sufficient number crunching you could track if someone was slowly and incrementally buying ingredients for an explosive device.

And you could use it to track movement of individuals to some extent as well, if they were not trackable from their mobile devices.

I am sure the big government devotees would see all kinds of applications for that stuff, useful as well as nefarious.




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4 hours ago, Soren Ras said:

Well,  I suppose with data mining and sufficient number crunching you could track if someone was slowly and incrementally buying ingredients for an explosive device...

For most obvious ones - yes, but there are ways to use covers, there are utterly inconspicuous elements for explosives practically unknown (because they require more than primary school chemistry, or are somewhat less effective that most common ones, but still effective enough), there are way too many substitutes that can be used instead of "usual suspect" chemicals etc.

Eg., relatively obscure, but actually pretty common plastic and very common disinfectant can make quite good explosive (which is also very stable, and process of making it is extremely safe as an added benefit). Tracing both... no way, way too many people use those. As a bonus that explosive is practically unknown, and is questionable if most low end explosive detectors could even detect it.

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3 hours ago, Ssnake said:

"Only criminals use cash."

Several years ago, our then-Minister of Finance suggested that "use of cash should be discontinued" because "electronic money is so much easier to track"...

Edited by Yama
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