January-June 2011

Opposition lawmakers in Turkey boycott swearing-in ceremony
29 June 2011 – CNN – Ivan Watson and Gul Tuysuz 
The swearing-in ceremony of the new Turkish Parliament was marked by boycotts by the opposition. Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, recently won the national elections in a resounding victory and captured 327 out of 550 seats in the Turkish Parliament. The country’s largest secular and opposition party boycotted the ceremony when several of its members were barred from Parliament after being deemed unacceptable by the Turkish electoral board. Kurdish candidate Hatip Dicle was disqualified from joining Parliament due to his alleged involvement with the Kurdish separatist rebel group, the Kurdish Worker’s Party, or PKK. Dicle was replaced by the electoral board with a member of the ruling political party. 
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Is Germany Turning Into the Strong, Silent Type
27 June 2011 – Marcus Walker – Barrons
Germany has spent years building up its economy and is sitting pretty compared to the rest of its European counterparts. With all this economic power, the question arises as to what Germany’s role in the world is. Germany is reluctant to bail out nations and is also hesitant to get involved in international conflicts like Libya. German citizens are also wary of the EU and NATO, with only small percentage standing behind its effectiveness. The international community has been pressuring the European nation to do more in terms of resolving global conflicts, and critics have called Germany a “large Switzerland” – benefitting from a global economy but unwilling to become involved in international conflicts.
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Bulgaria, Romania monitoring inspires new Schengen rules
24 June 2011 – EurActiv
At the conclusion of the EU summit on June 24, leaders announced that they would increase “political guidance” for the management of the Schengen area. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte compared the new reforms to the tough monitoring rules imposed on Romania and Bulgaria after their accession to the EU. The new rules will be based on country-specific evaluations, and will be put in place in accordance with “common standards and fundamental principles and norms.” This news is causing anxiety in Bulgaria and Romania, as they wonder whether the increase in Schengen security is an attempt to keep them out. Rutte insisted that the summit decision was unrelated to their cases.
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EU-Azerbaijan parliamentary committee holds 'constructive' talks
21 June 2011 – News.AZ
A meeting of the EU-Azerbaijan Parliamentary Cooperation Committee discussed various economic and social reforms, fighting crime, and the Karabakh conflict. The two groups are looking to cooperate on these issues and meet more intensively in the future to develop Azerbaijan further. The issue of Azerbaijan’s membership in the EU was also discussed, and it was concluded that until the territorial issue of Karabakh was resolved, Azerbaijan could not be a member of the EU. 
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Why Turkey must join the European Union
14 June 2011 – Javier Solana – CNN 
Turkey’s membership in the European Union would be extremely beneficial and the EU should “reset” its membership negotiations in light of the election of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Europe is a culturally diverse continent, and Turkish membership would only add to this diversity and bring a fresh perspective into European politics. Turkish integration into the EU would also aid European involvement in the Mediterranean and the Balkans region, creating a mutually beneficial strategic and security relationship. 
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EU Pushes Turkey for Reform After Elections
14 June 2011 – Peter Valk
The European Union has been pushing Turkey to step up reforms in the areas of modernization and democratization in order to become a full member of the EU. Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have the ability to play a pivotal role in the development of new reforms. Many issues surround Turkish accession to the EU, ranging from human rights issues to cultural concerns as the majority of Turkey is of the Muslim faith. Erdogan and the AKP party have the ability to push reforms through Turkey’s parliament and rewrite the constitution, a top priority of both Turkey and the EU. 
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US Urges Macedonia To Solve Name Dispute
9 June 2011 – Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Thomas Countryman, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia, urged Macedonia and Greece to solve their dispute over Macedonia’s name in order to speed along the process of Macedonia’s admission into the European Union. Greece is opposed to Macedonia’s entrance into both NATO and the EU as it believes that Skopje’s use of the name “Macedonia” implies a territorial claim over a Greek province with the same name.  The name dispute has lasted over two decades and former Macedonian chief of diplomacy, Slobodan Casule, says the US should step up pressure on both sides in order to bring the dispute to a conclusion.
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Is Germany’s Transatlantic Relationship Still Relevant?
8 June 2011 – Wall Street Journal – Harriet Torry
The relationship between Berlin and Washington has certainly proved to be one of the most important transatlantic relationships since the end of World War II, and the two nations hold a great amount of trust in one another. Germany’s decisions have proved to be disappointing to the United States recently, as it recently refused to back the UN resolution authorizing military action in Libya. In order to become a more effective partner, Germany must begin acting like the leader it is capable of being in European and Transatlantic affairs. 
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European Parliament Approves Bulgarian, Romanian Schengen Bid
8 June 2011 – Bloomberg – Elizabeth Konstantinova
In an overwhelming 487 to 77 vote, the European Parliament agreed that Romania and Bulgaria have met the requirements to join the Schengen area. The European Parliament’s statement urged Bulgaria “to take additional measures, including special action plan” when it joins the Schengen zone, because “illegal migration makes Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece one of the EU’s most sensitive external border areas.” Some Western European states, such as the Netherlands, France, and Germany are concerned that Bulgaria and Romania need to take stronger measures to eliminate corruption and organized crime; they do not think that merely meeting the technical criteria is enough to gain entrance to the Schengen area.
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Merkel visit prompts White House pomp
7 June 2011 – The Local
With her political standing waning in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel was welcomed to the White House on Tuesday with open arms. "Germany at the heart of Europe is one of our strongest allies and Chancellor Merkel is one of my closest global partners," Obama said in welcoming remarks. At a state dinner later this evening, Mr. Obama will present Merkel with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The two leaders are set to meet and discuss the transatlantic alliance, crises in North Africa and the Middle East, and the financial turmoil in the eurozone. Tensions between Berlin and Washington have been lingering because of Germany’s decision to abstain in a United Nations Security Council vote to endorse NATO action against Muammar Qaddafi. US-German relations are still strong, however, and Mr. Obama hopes that Germany can do more in the international effort in Libya.  
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European, Asian Nations Agree on Tougher Nuclear Safety Measures
7 June 2011 – Monsters and Critics
At a nuclear safety forum conference at the Paris headquarters of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), ministerial officials from 33 European and Asian countries agreed that all countries with nuclear facilities should conduct “stress tests” and safety reviews.  As a result of the Fukushima accident in Japan, it has become more important to enhance international cooperation on nuclear safety.  The delegations highlighted the importance of a voluntary peer review system with the hope of one day making the tests mandatory. This meeting comes on the heels of the recent G8 summit in southern France, where leaders agreed that nuclear safety was a top priority and that "the highest levels of safety worldwide" are needed.
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U.N. High Commissioner rebukes Israel, Syria in protester deaths
7 June 2011 – CNN Wire Staff
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Tuesday expressed concerns over Israeli forces' use of live ammunition against protesters along the cease-fire line between the occupied Golan Heights and Syria, as well as reports that Syrian authorities encouraged the civilians to protest in an area where landmines had been planted. Syrian state media reported 25 protesters were killed and more than 350 wounded when Israeli soldiers opened fire on demonstrators Sunday. Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, said 10 people died when fire bombs thrown by protesters detonated landmines. The United States and Israel have blamed Syria for the incident Sunday, saying it was provoked to divert international attention from the bloody crackdown in that country against dissidents protesting Bashar al-Assad's regime. 
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Eyeing EU, NATO, Macedonia votes in snap polls
5 June 2011 – RNW
Early general elections were held on Sunday in Macedonia, and early reports indicate that the incumbent VMRO-DPMNE party has the lead but may fall short of winning a majority. Incumbent Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has pledged to continue the reforms that are necessary to move Macedonia toward EU and NATO membership, but continues to fight charges of corruption from his opposition. Macedonia has officially been a candidate for EU membership since 2005, but a 19-year-old name dispute with Greece has blocked its attempts to join. Greece contends that Macedonia’s use of the name implies a claim on Greek territory – a northern province also called Macedonia. Macedonia filed with the ICJ against Greece in November 2008, and the judges’ ruling is expected by the end of this year.
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Mladic Arrest Opens Door to Serbia’s Long-Sought European Union Membership
26 May 2011 – The New York Times – Stephen Castle
Former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, the single largest obstacle to Serbian integration in Europe, has been arrested and will be transferred to The Hague to be tried for directing war crimes in the Balkans region in the early 1990s. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hails this as “an historic day for international justice,” while Heather Grabbe, Director of the Open Society Foundations in Brussels and a former European Union official, sees this as a rehabilitation of “Serbia’s reputation as a country that can deliver the rule of international law.” Now, there is hope that the Balkans region will be able to use European integration to bring about regional reconciliation as Croatia nears the end of its EU application process and Serbia is finally cleared to begin talks.
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Russia Signs OECD Anti-Bribery Convention; Major Step For Membership
26 May 2011 – RTT News
Russia officially signed onto the OECD’s Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions and acceded to its Anti-Bribery Convention on Wednesday, bringing it even closer to attaining full membership in the forum. The Convention outlaws the bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions – an issue that has consistently plagued the Russian government. The OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria termed the step “a significant milestone” toward Russian accession to the OECD that “underlines the political priority that the Russian government has given to its fight against bribery and corruption.” Likewise, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lauded the Russian signature as the removal of a major obstacle to economic growth in the region. 
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Barack Obama bolsters transatlantic relationship in Westminster speech
25 May 2011 – Guardian – Nicolas Watt
President Obama rejected claims that the transatlantic alliance was losing power on the international stage during a speech to the British Parliament on Wednesday. He declared that the rise of Eastern powers such as China and India will not lead to the decline of Europe and the United States, saying that “as more nations take on the responsibilities of global leadership, our alliance will remain indispensable.” While the main point of his speech was to reassure Europe of the United States’ commitment to the transatlantic relationship, he also discussed economic challenges, security challenges, and the future of the Arab spring.  
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EU Ties Future Aid to Arab World to Democratic Reforms
24 May 2011 – New York Times – Stephen Castle
A document outlining the EU’s strategy in relations with its neighbors in North Africa and along that continent’s eastern flank suggests that it will prioritize democratic reform over its financial, energy, and other interests. “Increased EU support to its neighbors is conditional,” a draft of the document says. “It will depend on progress in building and consolidating democracy and respect for the rule of law. The more and the faster a country progresses in its internal reforms, the more support it will get from the E.U.” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the aim was to create a stable and prosperous region as the best way to prevent uncontrolled migration from North Africa.
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Obama in Ireland to Start Six-Day, Four Nation European Trip
23 May 2011 – Voice of America 
U.S. President Barack Obama has embarked on a six-day, four-nation trip that will include high-level discussions on the revolts in the Middle East; talks on global economic difficulties at a summit of the Group of 8 leading industrialized nations in France; and a celebration of his distant Irish roots. Over the course of the next several days, he will meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, and collectively with other world leaders.
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Swiss solar plane takes first international flight
13 May 2011 – Washington Post
The Swiss team behind the Solar Impulse HB-SIA single-seater prototype, a solar-powered plane which has generated widespread interest internationally, took off on their first international journey Friday, planning to land in Brussels Friday night. Last year the flight accomplished a 26 hour non-stop flight, proving the plane could operate even after nightfall, due to the solar cells the plane soaked up during the day. The team plans to fly an improved version of the plane around the world in 2012.
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EU ministers divided on reinstating border controls
12 May 2011 – Washington Post
At a special meeting of EU interior ministers, divisions deepened in an attempt to quell the recent uptick in illegal immigration. Denmark was particularly criticized by some ministers for its plans to install permanent border control stations to curb illegal immigration and crime. The notion of reinstating border controls was initially brought about by France and Italy in an effort to suppress the flow of illegal immigrants from northern Africa, but the notion has since spread to other nations. However the issue remains contentious, as Belgian Migration Minister Melchior Wathelet illustrated, asking “What is the answer in bringing back borders? What will it produce? Nothing….Too bad it is being brought forward by several nations.” 
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Demjanjuk convicted of Nazi death camp murders
12 May 2011 – BBC News
A German court has convicted John Demjanjuk, 91, of being an accessory to the murder of more than 28,000 Jews at the Sobibor death camp between March and September of 1943. He was sentenced to five years in prison but will be released pending an appeal. Presiding Judge Ralph Alt said he was convinced Demjanjuk was a guard at the camp and “as guard he took part in the murder of at least 28,000 people.” Demjanjuk denies the claim, asserting that he was a prisoner of war and a victim too. An estimated 250,000 people were killed in the gas chambers of Sobibor, 28,060 of which were killed during Demjanjuk’s time as guard. It is unclear whether he will be receiving credit for time served.
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Major strikes halt public services in Greece
11 May 2011 – BBC News
A strike sponsored by public sector unions GSEE and ADEDY shut down the majority of public sector services and transport networks in Greece on Wednesday, in protest of government austerity measures which have cut jobs, wages and pensions, and implemented tax hikes. The measures were mandated as preconditions of the international bailout, however there is widespread speculation in Greece that the bailout has failed and the public will continue to bear the consequences. Hospitals were operating with skeleton staff, schools were closed, train and ferry services were halted, and many banks were shutdown in fear of violence by some fringe protestors.
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EU sanctions target Syria elite in bid to end violence
10 May 2011 – BBC News
The EU has imposed an arms embargo on Syria as well as an asset freeze and visa ban on 13 top Syrian officials. The Syrian president's younger brother Maher al-Assad tops the EU list. He is described as "principal overseer of violence against demonstrators".  President Bashar al-Assad is not included. But the EU said he too could face sanctions if he failed to end the authorities' violent crackdown.
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Berlusconi appears at corruption trial
9 May 2011 – Associated Press
Premier Silvio Berlusconi again accused magistrates of mounting a politically motivated legal campaign against him as he appeared in court Monday for his corruption trial on charges he bribed a witness to lie in another trial.  Berlusconi's hearing coincided with commemorations honoring magistrates killed by domestic terrorists. A handful of demonstrators gathered outside in support of prosecutors, and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano choked up as he delivered a speech in Rome honoring fallen ones.
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Clinton seeks to use Gaddafi’s seized funds to aid Libyan people
4 May 2011 – The Washington Post – Mary Beth Sheridan
The Obama administration intends to use some of the billions of dollars in frozen assets belonging to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi and his government to provide humanitarian and other assistance to Libyans affected by the ongoing civil war, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday. The move, announced at a high-level meeting here on how to shore up Libya’s bedraggled rebels, appeared to be the first time a country has sought to tap some of the massive Libyan wealth blocked by U.N. sanctions in February.
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Libya’s opposition outline post-Gaddafi road map
6 May 2011 – BBC News
Libya’s opposition has set out a political ‘road map’ for life after Gaddafi, including the formation of an interim government while elections are held and a new constitution is drafted. Mahmoud Jibril, a senior member of the opposition’s Transitional national Council (NTC), explained that an interim government would immediately take over day-to-day governance after the fall of Gaddafi and would include members of the NTC, some technocrats from the Gaddafi regime, and senior members of the intelligence and military communities. Parliamentary and presidential elections would follow a referendum on a new constitution. 
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France expels 14 Libyan diplomats
May 6 2011 - The New York Times - Scott Sayare and Alan Cowell
The French Foreign Ministry has ordered 14 Libyan officials to leave the country, shortly after Western nations announced their intentions to provide Libyan rebels with financial support on Friday. The 14 were accredited Libyan diplomats but maintained allegiances to Gaddafi. Ministry spokesman Francois Courant said each was declared a “persona non grata and will be given either 24 or 48 hours to leave the country,” depending on the case. This mimicked Britain’s decision last week to expel Libya’s ambassador and other diplomats. France has taken a leading role in supporting the opposition in Libya, as it was the first nation to recognize the NTC, was a strong supporter of a robust UN mandate in Libya, and is taking a prominent role in current bombing campaigns against the Gaddafi regime. 
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Turkey Closes Libya Embassy
2 May 2011 - Ahram Online
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu revealed that Turkey had closed its embassy in Libya on Monday.  Davutoglu emphasized Turkey's continued commitment to its logistical and support role in Libya, saying, "Of course, this does not mean that Turkey will halt its efforts" to help the NATO mission.  The Turkish move came after demonstrators against the lethal NATO air strike that killed one of Colonel Gaddhafi's sons vandalized British and Italian diplomatic buildings in Tripoli.  NATO maintained that it does not target individuals in its air raids, and vowed to continue air strikes throughout the country.  Turkish forces have not taken part in any such strikes, and have aided NATO in a largely humanitarian capacity since the beginning of NATO intervention in Libya.
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EU Slams Bosnian Serb Referendum
May 2 2011 - Euractiv.Com
The European Union envoy to the Balkans has condemned plans for a referendum challenging the legitimacy of Bosnia's justice system, saying that such a move would jeopardize the fragile peace that has been built between ethnic communities within the country.  The referendum, sponsored by the Serbian political entity within Bosnia - Herzegovina, the Republika Srpska, seeks to dissolve both the Bosnian national court and its prosecutor. Republika Srpska views the court as unfair in its treatment of Serbians.  
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Libyan conflict spills into Tunisia
29 April 2011 – Reuters
Pro-Gaddafi forces collided with the Tunisian military on Friday, as the Libyan conflict spilled beyond its borders. Gaddafi loyalists shelled the border-town of Dehiba, injuring at least one resident and prompting a gun battle with the Tunisian military. After the fight, rebels claimed to control the town. A resident of the town reported that “rounds from the bombardment are falling on houses.... A Tunisian woman was injured.” After the bombardment, the resident described the sense of uncertainty in the area: “The Tunisian army is combing the town. We have no idea about the fate of Gaddafi's forces there because the Tunisian army closed the gates to the town and nobody is allowed to enter.” Weeks of fighting between rebels and loyalists has recently settled into a pattern of skirmishes along the Mediterranean coast.
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Top Islamist militant killed in Russia
29 April 2011 – BBC News
Russian security forces have reported that ten Islamist militants, including a top leader, were killed in a siege in the Russian town of Stavropol. Asker Dzhappuyev, reputed leader of a militant group in the nearby Kabardino-Balkaria region, was wanted for the murder of hunters and police officers. Security forces surrounded the group’s hideout and attacked the suspects after they refused to surrender.
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Ambassador Crocker represents strategic shift in Afghanistan
28 April 2011 – Reuters
The nomination of Ryan Crocker as the next Ambassador to Afghanistan represents a significant shift away from a military oriented approach to a newfound political emphasis, according to analysts and diplomats. This will be welcomed by diplomats in Kabul, who have consistently complained of a political vacuum in the country while resources were poured into military operations. Diplomatic relations between the US and Afghanistan have been strained recently, as current U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry has a “difficult” relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
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Congressional panel blacklists Egypt over religious oppression
28 April 2011 – Washington Times
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has designated Egypt a “country of particular concern” over its “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom” in its annual report released Thursday. The bipartisan commission recommended that widespread violations against Christians and minority Muslim sects in Egypt should prompt President Obama to place Egypt on a separate blacklist maintained by the State Department, which entails economic sanctions. The report cites 14 countries as the most serious abusers of religious liberties, with commission Chairman Leonard Leo claiming “there is a problem with the failure to cite countries, and then a failure to take action when countries are cited.” 
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Rival Palestinian groups announce reconciliation deal
28 April 2011 – Foreign Policy
The largest Palestinian political factions, Fatah and Hamas, have announced a plan to create an interim unity government until elections are held next year, ending the nearly four year schism. The reconciliation was brokered by Egypt’s caretaker military government in Cairo and received immediate blowback from Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying “the Palestinian Authority has to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas.” Few details have been released about the makeup of the unity government, but negotiators revealed that Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will not play a role, to the relief of Hamas. This shakeup jeopardizes the hundreds of millions of dollars of annual aid the U.S. provides the Palestinian Authority.
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France and Italy seek stiffer regulations on migration
26 April 2011 – NY Times
A recent spike in undocumented migrants from North Africa has prompted France and Italy to call for changes to the Schengen Agreement, which grants free passage across most of Western Europe. The request was sent via a joint letter to the president of the European Commission, in an attempt to amend one of the landmark agreements of the European Union, dating from 1985. Analysts downplay the potential for changing the legislation and claim “the joint request appeared to be aimed more at reducing political tensions between and within the two countries.” In a joint press conference, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and French President Nicolas Sarkozy justified the appeal, with Berlusconi stating “Neither of us wants to deny Schengen, but in exceptional circumstances, we think there should be variations to the Schengen treaty,” with Sarkozy adding “We want Schengen to work, and to make sure that it works, it has to be reformed.”
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Deadly Skirmishes Flare along Thailand-Cambodia Border
April 25 2011 – Associated Press
Cambodian and Thai forces have been engaged in a four-day battle along their disputed border as Cambodia accused its neighbor of damaging ancient temples along the border through artillery shelling.  The two countries’ peers in Southeast Asia have scrambled to bring an end to the violence, but Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has insisted that the dispute must be resolved between Cambodia and Thailand alone.Both sides in the conflict have used mortars, rifles, and artillery against each other. Thai government observers have confirmed that two 1,000-year old temples in the area of the conflict have been damaged by bullets and exploding shells, but were unable to determine the extent of the damage.
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UN wary of EU offer to protect aid deliveries in Libya
21 April 2011 – BBC News
United Nations aid chief Valerie Amos told reporters that an EU offer to provide military escort to protect aid deliveries was unnecessary, warning against blurring the line between providing aid and military operations. Amos went on to say that military escorts could put aid workers at greater risk of targeting, and underscored that humanitarian aid is currently reaching both sides of the conflict: “Our responsibility, all the time, is to ensure that our aid is offered on an impartial basis,” she said. The EU offer was unwarranted under present circumstances because Libyan authorities have guaranteed to secure aid workers in conflict zones and ensure they get through government roadblocks, Ms. Amos said. Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the reported mortar attacks on the rebel stronghold of Misrata by forces loyal to Col. Gaddafi “could amount to international crimes.”
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Growing sense of uncertainty prompts Egyptian support of emergency-law
21 April 2011 – Washington Post - Michael Birnbaum
Maintaining the long-hated emergency law, which has been in place in Egypt since the assassination of President Anwar Sadat thirty years ago, is viewed as a necessary precaution by many Egyptians until a new government is formed. Reports of increased violence in neighborhoods around Egypt has made one of the foremost concerns of protesters- the revocation of the emergency law which enabled former President Mubarak to arrest and detain people indefinitely and limit free speech- seem unachievable under current circumstances. “We’ve taken the emergency law for 30 years. One more year won’t make a difference,” said driver Maged Abdel Geill. But concerns over practices by military units, who were forced into untraditional roles after the revolution, have resulted in less popular support for the military amongst many Egyptians: “The military is worse than the police. The police are getting better. But the military police, they’re vultures,” said Amr Abd el-Azim, a boat pilot who was recently accused of “thuggery.”
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Putin avoids commenting on reelection bid
20 April 2011 – NY Times
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin listed his achievements as Prime Minister and forecasted a prosperous future in an annual speech to Parliament yesterday, steering clear of mentioning his political intentions after the end of his term next year. Speculation in Russia is mounting over who will be running in the next presidential elections, Mr. Putin, or his protégé, President Dmitri Medvedev. Putin assured Parliament that it had weathered the worst of the global financial crisis and predicted Russia’s economic might would rank amongst the world’s top five economies by the end of the decade. 
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EU seeks budget increase of 4.9%
20 April 2011 – BBC News
The European Commission has requested a 4.9% annual budget increase, almost 2% above EU inflation. This request risks a new row with member states who are dealing with domestic austerity measures. The British government has already responded to the request, saying that the drastic increase was “not acceptable.” Last year, the Commission sought close to a 6% increase, causing a major dispute with some member states, including the UK. After protracted negotiations, the increase was capped at 2.91%. EU Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski said the request was “a delicate balancing act combining austerity and growth-boosting measures for 500 million Europeans”. If accepted, the increase would take the Commission's budget for 2012 to 132.7bn euros. 
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Overcrowding in UK’s House of Lords
20 April 2011- The Associated Press
A report by University College London demands that immediate action be taken to reduce the number of members in the country’s upper chamber of Parliament. With 792 active members in the House of Lords, legislators are complaining about the scramble for seats, office space, and time slots to speak during debates. Several prominent lawmakers have already backed the report, including Baroness Betty Boothroyd, a former House of Commons speaker, who has urged Prime Minister David Cameron to stop appointing new members. The report also calls on permitting Lords to retire by moving away from life-long appointments. 
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Suspected killers of pro-Palestinian Italian activist die in raid
20 April 2011- Reuters
Two suspects in the murder of Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni were killed by Hamas security forces in a raid on a building in the central Gaza Strip. A third suspect was taken alive, along with three other men who were in the building, but not considered suspects in the murder. Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman Ehab Al-Ghsain described the effect of the events after they unfolded: "This is a tough lesson to whomever would think of messing with the security of the homeland and the citizens.” 
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Hungary: Parliament votes for new constitution
19 April 2011 – Reuters – Nick Thorpe
Hungary's parliament has voted in favour of a new constitution which ends the transition from a totalitarian to a democratic system, its authors claim.  Two of the three opposition parties walked out of parliament before the vote.  They accuse the governing Fidesz party of imposing divisive right-wing ideology on the country.  The votes - 262 in favour to 44 against with one abstention - reflect the two-thirds majority enjoyed by Fidesz.  A storm of applause erupted from the benches of the governing party, followed by the Hungarian national anthem, once the result was declared.
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Italian activist found murdered in Gaza
15 April 2011 – BBC News
The body of Vittorio Arrigoni, an Italian pro-Palestinian activist was found in the Gaza strip just hours after his reported abduction. Mr. Arrigoni was abducted by Salafist radicals, an Islamist movement which considers Hamas too moderate. The group sought the release of several of its members from Gaza prisons, including its leader, Sheikh Abu Walid al-Maqdasi, who was captured last month by Hamas. The Salafists had threatened to execute Mr Arrigoni by 1400 GMT on Friday if the prisoners were not released; however Arrigoni was killed before the deadline expired. In a video posted on YouTube, Mr. Arrigoni was shown with his eyes covered with thick black tape and appeared to have been beaten. Prior to Arrigoni’s abduction, Hamas had been credited for halting kidnappings in Gaza. Italy condemned the murder, calling it "barbaric" and an "act of vile and senseless violence". 
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UN court convicts former Croatian general of war crimes
15 April 2011 – Reuters
A United Nations court convicted former Croatian general Ante Gotovina of war crimes on Friday, sentencing him to 24 years in prison for his role in orchestrating a murderous campaign against Serbs in 1995. Former police general Mladen Markac was also convicted of playing a role in the campaign which killed dozens of civilians and drove around 200,000 Serbs from a rebel enclave. Markac was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Prior to reading the verdict, presiding judge Alphons Orie said "Mr Gotovina's order to unlawfully attack civilians and civilian objects amounted to significant contribution to the joint criminal enterprise.” Gotovina was arrested in Spain’s Canary Islands in 2005, eliminating an obstacle to EU accession, as member states insist that Balkan states arrest alleged war criminals before joining.
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Hungary urges EU enlargement of Balkan states
14 April 2011 – NY Times
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, is using his term to appeal to reluctant members to renew the commitment to expand EU membership to Balkan states, a prospect which Orban believes is weaker than at any time in the past 15 years. At a news conference in Brussels, Orban said “there are doubts, there are reservations, there are fears, there are uncertainties. These are the key words attached to enlargement.” The tactic of holding out the prospect of membership has been utilized by the EU for decades as a means of encouraging democratization. Asked about whether the expansion of the bloc was in the interest of the EU nations, Mr. Orban contends that “the heads of the member states are not giving a clear reply to this question.”
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Cypriot President Stresses Sovereignty
April 14 2011 - People's Daily Online
Cypriot President Demetris Christofias claimed that the peoples of Middle Eastern and North African states have the right to decide their own future through 'peaceful and democratic means.'  Christofias expressed his concern that countries in this region which are currently embroiled in violence and civil strife might be influenced by foreign powers to form governments that do not have the best interests of the people in mind.  He believes that intervention by the EU or other foreign entities should be undertaken only at the request of the countries involved in order to protect their national sovereignty.  In separate comments on Wednesday, Cyprus Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou encouraged the EU to en]gage in dialogue with the citizens of Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Bahrain in order to facilitate democratic reform.
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EU Parliaments Debate Balkan Integration
April 14 2011 – BBC
The EU Parliament, as well as the parliaments of individual member states, debated methods of integrating members of former Yugoslavia into the European Union on Wednesday.  Slovenia is the only former Yugoslav republic which is currently a member of the EU, while Croatia, Macedonia, and Montenegro are all official candidates.  Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, and Kosovo, the last of which is not recognized by all EU members, have not yet been offered candidate status.  Allegations of corruption and government inefficiency have prevented these states from being offered candidacy.  During the debate in the EU Parliament, EP President Jerzy Buzek stated that these states still had many challenges to overcome before they would be offered the chance to join the EU.
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World powers meet in Turkey for discussion on Iran’s nuclear program
January 21 2011 – CNN News
The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: the United States, France, Russia, China, and Britain plus Germany, also known as the P5, met in Turkey to discuss Iran’s nuclear program. Diplomats from each of these countries are discussing Iran’s developing nuclear program and what consequences that holds for the global community. Iran strongly denies any allegations that their nuclear development is being used for weapons, a claim which has done little to assuage the global communities concerns at a nuclear Iran. Iran has been at work splitting the international community on this issue and causing dissension among the coalition’s ranks.  
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Alleged Bin Laden audiotape threatens France
January 21 2011 – CNN News
A speaker claiming to be terrorism mastermind Osama bin Laden warned in an audiotape aired Friday that the release of two French journalists abducted by militants hinges on France's military role in Afghanistan. The speaker, believed to be al Qaeda chief bin Laden, warns the French government that its alliance with the United States will prove costly.
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Guantanamo Bay a possibility for Assange 
11 January 2011 - CNN News
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could end up at Guantanamo Bay if he is extradited to Sweden, his lawyers will argue next month, according to legal papers they released Tuesday. His lawyer's argue that Assange would be at risk of mistreatment, and possibly execution, citing Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee's call to have him executed. Their argument is that Britain cannot extradite him without violating his human rights. Prosecutors in Sweden want him for questioning in connection with sexual misconduct allegations unrelated to Wikileaks. Assange denied the allegations, and is free on 200,000 pounds bail while he fights for extradition. Assange's website, which facilitates the leaking of secret information, has released hundreds of thousands of pages of U.S. military and diplomatic documents over the past eight months.
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Vice President Biden offers assurances to Afghanistan
11 January 2011 - ABC News
Vice President Biden said today that the coalition forces in Afghanistan have "largey arrested the Taliban momentum" in key areas there. But he acknowledged the gains are "fragile and reversible." Biden's comments came after a meeting with President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace in Kabul. Biden emphasized the U.S. commitment to the Afghan government. "We are not leaving if you don't want us to leave," he said. The Vice President said while there are "many hard days that lie ahead," there is now a "viable path going forward" to the transition from US forces to Afghan security forces by 2014. "It is not out intention to govern or to nation-build," Biden said. "As President Karzai often points out, this is the responsibility of the Afghan people and they are fully capable of it." 
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Belarus Signals It Could Seize Opponent’s Son
10 January 2011 – The New York Times – Michael Schwritz
Ever since riot police officers crushed a large protest against apparent fraud in presidential elections here last month, the security services — still called the K.G.B. in this authoritarian former Soviet republic — have been rounding up people across the country for even the most tangential affiliation with the opposition.  Now, it seems, they have gone a step further.  The government warned recently that it might seize custody of the 3-year-old son of an opposition presidential candidate who was jailed along with his wife, a journalist. The authorities said that they were investigating the status of the child, who is now living with his grandmother, and that they expected to make a decision by the end of the month.
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Corruption Eroding Level Playing Fields of Europe
7 January 2011 – The New York Times - Eric Pfanner
When Ante Sapina awarded “five stars” to a soccer match, he thought he could rest easy. For the governing authorities of the sport, however, such games have come back to haunt them.  To Sapina, a Berlin-based gambler, a five-star rating denoted a match in which he had bribed several players or even the referee to rig the outcome. He told a court in this industrial city in the Ruhr Valley this week that he had sometimes staked hundreds of thousands of euros on games like these in what officials call the biggest match-fixing scandal in the history of European soccer.  A loose confederation of corrupt gamblers, centered in Germany but with links across Europe and Asia, is suspected of manipulating hundreds of matches, including World Cup qualifiers, UEFA Europa League encounters and even youth league games. Since the arrest of Sapina and several alleged co-conspirators in November 2009, the investigation has prompted additional arrests in Germany, Switzerland, Turkey and other countries. Dozens of players have been implicated; and UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, has suspended two referees for life.
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A Tax on Witches? A Pox on the President
7 January 2011 – The New York Times – AP
Everyone curses the taxman, but Romanian witches, angry about having to pay up for the first time, hurled poisonous mandrake into the Danube River on Thursday to cast spells on the president and government.  In the past, the less mainstream professions of witch, astrologer and fortuneteller were not listed in the Romanian labor code, and people who worked in those jobs used their lack of registration to evade paying income tax. Under a new law, they will pay 16 percent income tax and make contributions to health and pension programs, like other self-employed people.  A witch named Alisia, who was at the protest on the Danube, called the new tax law “foolish.”  “What is there to tax, when we hardly earn anything?” she said, identifying herself with only one name as many Romanian witches do.
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Hungary PM 'ready to change' media law if EU demands
6 January 2011 – BBC News
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said his government is prepared to change the country's controversial new media law if required by the EU.  Under the law, a watchdog has the power to impose fines for violating "public interest, public morals or order".  Hungary's centre-right government has just taken on the EU presidency and the law has prompted sharp criticism from France and Germany.  The European Commission has said it will sanction Budapest if necessary.  Critics of the new watchdog say it is dominated by figures loyal to Mr Orban and his centre-right Fidesz party.  Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has warned that "freedom of the press is a sacred principle" and announced he would discuss the issue with Mr Orban.  The Hungarian prime minister reiterated his strong defence of the law, arguing: "I defy anyone to find anything in our law that is not in other EU member states' media laws."
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Lithuania loses Euro court case over ex-leader Paksas
6 January 2011 – BBC News
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Lithuania was wrong to bar former President Rolandas Paksas from running for parliament after he had been ousted from power in 2004.  Lithuania violated an article on free elections in the European Convention on Human Rights, the ruling said.  Mr Paksas was impeached and removed from office as president after the Baltic state's constitutional court found that he had abused his position.  He is now a Euro MP in Strasbourg.  The judgement by the Strasbourg court on Thursday is binding, meaning that Lithuania, an EU member state, will have to act on it to prevent any similar violation in future.  But the judges did not award Mr Paksas compensation, saying their ruling was in itself "sufficient just satisfaction".  Lithuania was found to have violated Article Three of Protocol One (Right to free elections) in the European Convention on Human Rights.
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Resurgent Turkey Flexes Its Muscles Around Iraq
5 January 2011 – The New York Times – Anthony Shadid
A Turkey as resurgent as at any time since its Ottoman glory is projecting influence through a turbulent Iraq, from the boomtowns of the north to the oil fields near southernmost Basra, in a show of power that illustrates its growing heft across an Arab world long suspicious of it.  Turkish diplomats say that businesspeople from their country face little competition there.   Its ascent here, in an arena contested by the United States and Iran, may prove its greatest success so far, as it emerges from the shadow of its alliance with the West to chart an often assertive and independent foreign policy.  Turkey’s influence is greater in northern Iraq and broader, though not deeper, than Iran’s in the rest of the country.
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Nazi Era Graves to be Dug up in Austria
5 January 2011 – BBC News
Officials in western Austria say exhumations are to take place at a psychiatric hospital thought to contain the remains of Nazi victims.  The remains of 220 people are buried at a cemetery in Hall in Tyrol province.  The Nazis murdered thousands of disabled people they thought unfit to live, deeming it "euthanasia". The hospital believes many died there as part of the programme.  A planned construction project has been halted to allow a full investigation.  Some 30,000 people were killed at one psychiatric hospital alone - Schloss Hartheim, near Linz in upper Austria.  Tilak, the company responsible for the Hall hospital, said the graves contained the remains of people buried between 1942 and 1945.
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New bid to break Belgian deadlock over government
5 January 2011 – BBC News – Bruno Boelpaep
Belgium's politicians have until Wednesday to consider a new plan for forming a government after nearly seven months of deadlock.  Seven political parties have been wrangling over the details since the general election in June but finally there are signs of movement.  French-speaking Walloons want greater protection and more money for the region around the capital, Brussels.  The Flemish population is seeking more control over tax policy.  The parties have been given a blueprint by Johan Vande Lanotte, the latest mediator appointed by the king to find a compromise.  The question is whether any solution will be acceptable to both sides.
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Belarus Ejects European Watchdog Agency
3 January 2011 – The New York Times – Michael Schwirtz
n what appears to be another step in suppressing criticism and dissent, Belarus asked the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to leave the country after its election monitors accused the government of fraud in the presidential election last month.  A spokesman for the Belarussian Foreign Ministry announced the decision on Friday evening, saying that the group had fulfilled its mandate and that it was no longer needed.  “This was a conscious decision due to the absence of an objective basis for retaining the O.S.C.E. mission in Belarus,” the spokesman, Andrei Savinykh, said, according to Belarussian news agencies.  The organization, which has maintained an office in the capital, Minsk, since 1998, criticized the decision. Its chairman, Audronius Azubalis, the foreign minister of Lithuania, expressed “deep regret” over the move.
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