July - December 2010
Rights Groups Tie Pakistan to Militants’ Disappearances
30 December 2010 – The New York Times – Eric Schmidt
The Obama administration is expressing alarm over reports that thousands of political separatists and captured Taliban insurgents have disappeared into the hands of Pakistan’s police and security forces, and that some may have been tortured or killed. The issue came up in a State Department report to Congress last month that urged Pakistan to address this and other human rights abuses. It threatens to become the latest source of friction in the often tense relationship between the wartime allies. The concern is over a steady stream of accounts from human rights groups that Pakistan’s security services have rounded up thousands of people over the past decade, mainly in Baluchistan, a vast and restive province far from the fight with the Taliban, and are holding them incommunicado without charges.
Health Fears Raised as Water Crisis Strikes 36,000 People in Northern Ireland
29 December 2010 – The New York Times
Frustration and fear of disease mounted in Northern Ireland on Wednesday as 36,000 people remained without water, some for more than a week, after a deep freeze and a sudden thaw caused aging water pipes to burst. With reservoirs running low, water supplies were cut off in many towns and cities, and residents turned to emergency water tankers and bottled water for cooking, cleaning and drinking. “It’s been a nightmare,” said James Lawson, a resident of Lisburn, near Belfast, who has been without water for 13 days, the BBC reported. “You can’t wash, you can’t eat because you can’t wash your dishes,” Mr. Lawson told the BBC. “I think it’s a fiasco.”
Hungary Waves Off Criticism Over Media Law
28 December 2010 – The New York Times – Judy Dempsey
Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban, poised to take over presidency of the European Union, is fighting back against criticism from Germany and other countries over a new Hungarian law that some fear could be used to curb press freedom. The law, which was passed last week by the Parliament in Budapest and comes into force on Jan. 1, empowers the newly created National Media and Communications Authority to impose heavy fines for coverage that it considers unbalanced or offensive to human dignity or common morals. Dunja Mijatovic of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors press and human rights freedoms throughout the region, said he was concerned that the legislation, “if misused, can silence critical media and public debate in the country.”
Swiss Judge Presses for Nuclear Trial Despite C.I.A. Link
23 December 2010 – The New York Times – David Jolly
Three engineers suspected of violating Switzerland’s nuclear nonproliferation laws should face charges, an investigating magistrate said on Thursday in a case with national security implications for the United States. The Swiss magistrate, Andreas Müller, said in a telephone interview that he was recommending that the three Swiss men — Friedrich Tinner and his two sons, Marco and Urs — be tried for violating a Swiss law on the use of war material, “specifically in supporting the development of nuclear weapons.”
The investigation stems from the Tinners’ relationship with Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani atomic bomb pioneer who later peddled his knowledge on the black market. The three family members are alleged to have acted as middlemen in Mr. Khan’s dealings with rogue nations seeking nuclear equipment and expertise.
Germany Investigating Bribes at Its Embassies
21 December 2010 – The New York Times – Judy Dempsey
Public prosecutors in Berlin are investigating allegations that staff in several German embassies received substantial bribes in return for issuing visas, the Foreign Ministry said Monday. According to the ministry, local staff in German embassies in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia issued visas in exchange for money, overlooking false statements and failing to properly scrutinize the applications. Several embassy employees have already been dismissed, and investigations are continuing, the ministry said. Visas were issued through a system that was “irregular, abused and corrupt,” the ministry said. The police said Monday they suspected that human trafficking networks seeking to bring young women to work as prostitutes were being run from within Germany.
Montenegro Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic resigns
21 December 2010 – BBC News
Montenegro's Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, the longest-serving leader in the Balkans, has resigned. "The conditions have been created for me to step down," he said, adding that he would stay "at the helm of the Democratic Party of Socialists". This month Montenegro achieved candidate status in its bid to join the EU - a key step towards accession. Mr Djukanovic, 48, spearheaded Montenegro's successful campaign for independence from Serbia in 2006. Mr Djukanovic, who first served as prime minister in 1991 and was later president, told a news conference he was stepping down after serving in top posts for two decades, and not because he was being forced to.
Belarus Police Arrest Opposition Leaders
20 December 2010 – New York Times – Michael Scherwitz
The security services rounded up scores of opposition leaders and their supporters on Monday, a day after antigovernment demonstrators tried to storm the government headquarters here in a futile effort to block the re-election of Belarus’s authoritarian president, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko. Election officials said on Monday that Mr. Lukashenko received just under 80 percent of the vote as critics and outside observers called the election deeply flawed. Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe offered a scathing assessment of the elections, highlighting apparent fraud in the vote tally while strongly condemning police violence on Sunday night. “Violent attacks and subsequent arrests of most of the presidential candidates, as well as hundreds of activists, journalists and civil society representatives is the backdrop against which these elections will now be judged,” said Tony Lloyd, head of the O.S.C.E.’s short-term observer mission.
Snow Hampers Travel in Europe
20 December 2010 – New York Times - David Jolly and Julie Werdigier
Europe was slammed by new winter storms on Monday, forcing airlines to cancel or delay thousands of flights and further aggravating travelers after two days of snowy disruption that already had left many airplanes grounded. The repercussions were felt around the globe. The chaos caused by the onslaught of snow and slush that has hit Europe in recent days could hardly have come at a worse time for holiday travelers, and European authorities urged all those who could possibly suspend travel plans to do so. Airlines warned passengers to check their flight’s status before leaving for the airport. To people from more snowy climates, the disruptions might seem to be out of proportion to the amount of snow that fell. Dave Britton, a spokesman for Britain’s weather service, estimated that Heathrow had received about 8 inches of snowfall in the last few days, hardly enough to bring Moscow or New York to a halt.
European Report Cites Need to Regain Ground With U.S.
17 December 2010 – The New York Times - Steven Castle
In her first major report on foreign policy, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, acknowledged that Washington was focusing less on Europe, and warned that the bloc would need to show more unity if it hoped to change that dynamic. While the report broke no new ground, it was the first formal confirmation of what European leaders have been saying for months and an indication that Ms. Ashton considers regaining influence in Washington a priority. “Europe is no longer the main strategic preoccupation of U.S. foreign policy,” the document says. “The U.S. is increasingly looking to new partners to address old and new problems.”
European Court Rules Against Ireland’s Anti-Abortion Law
16 December – New York Times – J. David Goodman
The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday that Ireland’s strict anti-abortion law violated the rights of a woman whose cancer drove her to seek an abortion abroad. The court’s decision put strong international pressure on the heavily Roman Catholic country to make an exception in cases where the mother’s health is at risk. The decision, announced at the court’s headquarters in Strasbourg, France, comes 18 years after the Irish Supreme Court issued a similar ruling against the restrictive abortion ban, but over that time, legislatures have not acted to change the law.
Violence erupts in Rome after Berlusconi survives confidence votes
15 December 2010 – CNN Newswire
Angry protesters threw rocks and bottles and police lobbed tear gas canisters Tuesday in Rome's streets after Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi narrowly survived lawmakers' confidence votes. A crowd of several hundred protesters smashed motorcycles and police vehicles as they erupted in violence and clashed with authorities following the votes. Small fires were burning in various spots, and loud explosions could be heard from firecrackers or flash-bang devices. Police charging down the Via del Corso -- one of Rome's main shopping areas -- were pushing back protesters "slowly but surely," said CNN's Dan Rivers, but he noted the protesters were "clearly very angry."
Anti-Austerity Protest in Greece Turns Violent
15 December 2010 – The New York Times – Niki Kitsantonis
Thousands of Greeks took to the streets of the capital on Wednesday for a protest against a fresh wave of austerity measures which was marred by violence as a general strike brought international travel and public services to a standstill. The walkout — Greece’s seventh general strike this year — grounded flights, kept ferries in ports, halted train services and shut down government offices and schools while leaving hospitals to operate on emergency staffing and causing a news blackout as journalists joined the action. Public transport was operating for most of the day to enable Athenians to attend demonstrations in the city center.
Berlusconi Narrowly Survives Vote of Confidence
14 December – The New York Times – Rachel Donadio
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy narrowly survived two confidence votes on Tuesday, avoiding collapse of his government but prolonging the political agony. The votes, in the Senate and lower house, came in a highly charged atmosphere. Some protestors clashed violently with police, who fired tear gas, as tens of thousands of people marched through Rome calling on Mr. Berlusconi to step down. The government called in 1,500 police officers to keep order. On Tuesday, the man who brought personality-driven politics to a nation once known for its revolving-door governments once again proved that his personal fate was inexorably entwined with that of his country’s.
British Court Orders Leader of WikiLeaks Freed on Bail
14 December – The New York Times – Ravi Somaiya and Alan Cowell
After a week in detention facing possible extradition, Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks antisecrecy group, was ordered released on $310,000 bail by a court on Tuesday as he challenges a Swedish prosecutor’s demand for his extradition to face questioning about alleged sex offenses. Protesters demonstrated outside the City of Westminster Magistrates Court where Julian Assange attended a bail hearing on Tuesday. Judge Howard Riddle ordered that Mr. Assange appear again in court on Jan. 11. He also said that between then and now he must reside at Ellingham Hall, a Georgian mansion in Bungay, eastern England, owned by Vaughan Smith, the founder of the Frontline Club, which is used mainly by journalists. Mr. Assange must spend every night at the mansion and will be electronically tagged so the police can track his movements, the judge said. Additionally, Mr. Assange will be under curfew every day from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will be required to report daily to the police from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. His passport is already with the police and, under the terms of his bail, he is not permitted to try to travel abroad.
Kosovo PM Hashim Thaci claims election victory
13 December 2010 - BBC
Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has claimed victory in the country's first parliamentary vote since declaring unilateral independence from Serbia. He addressed supporters hours after an exit poll gave Mr Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) 31% of the vote. Its main rival and ex-junior coalition partner, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), was second with 25%. If the results are confirmed, Mr Thaci will need support from other parties to form a government. In a speech broadcast on Kosovo state TV, Mr Thaci said his party had won a "major victory" for "democratic and Euro-Atlantic values".
Berlusconi pleas with parliament ahead of vote
13 December 2010 – The Washington Post – Alessandra Rizzo
Premier Silvio Berlusconi urged lawmakers Monday to support him in looming confidence votes, warning that bringing down his government would be "folly" because stability is essential as the country battles an economic crisis. Fighting for his political survival, the Italian leader appealed to a group of rebel lawmakers who have vowed to try to oust him during Tuesday votes. He offered to negotiate a new agenda that would allow the government to survive until new parliamentary elections are held in 2013, as well as a Cabinet reshuffle to give government positions to those who support him in the crucial parliamentary test. "The last thing Italy needs is a political crisis," Berlusconi argued in a 30-minute speech to the Senate. Berlusconi faces votes Tuesday in both houses of parliament after a dramatic falling-out with his one-time closest ally, Gianfranco Fini, his
Attacks on WikiLeaks ‘Tatter’ U.S. Image in Europe
9 December 2010 – The New York Times – Stven Erlanger
or many Europeans Washington’s fierce reaction to the flood of secret diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks displays imperial arrogance and hypocrisy, indicating a post-9/11 obsession with secrecy that contradicts American principles. While the Obama Administration has done nothing in the courts to block the publication of any of the leaked documents, or even, as of yet, tried to indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for any crime, American officials and politicians have been widely condemned in the European news media for calling the leaks everything from “terrorism” (Rep. Peter T. King, Rep.-New York) to “an attack against the international community” (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton). Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates called the arrest of Mr. Assange on separate rape charges “good news,” while Sarah Palin called for him to be hunted as an “anti-American operative with blood on his hands” and Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate, said that he should be executed.
Strike May Be Watershed Event in Spain
9 December 2010 – The New York Times – Raphael Minder
When Spanish air traffic controllers conducted a wildcat strike over the weekend that shut down airports across the country, they were hoping to force the government to back down from its plans to cut their pay, increase their regular working hours and put Spain’s two largest airports under private management. Passengers slept on luggage carts at Barajas Airport in Madrid on Sunday. Air traffic controllers staged a wildcat strike over the weekend, but the action was quashed by the government. Instead, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero declared a state of alarm and forced the controllers back to work under military authority, and the controllers’ union ended up apologizing for its actions. In a country with a strong labor movement that is usually tolerant of wildcat strikes, the confrontation has been hailed as a potential watershed event along the lines of President Ronald Reagan’s firing of air traffic controllers in 1981.
European Parliament to call for new constitution in Turkey
8 December 2010 - Today's Zaman
The European Parliament is expected to reiterate its call on Turkey to adopt a new constitution that better serves human rights and civil liberties in a draft resolution to be discussed at its Committee on Foreign Affairs later this week. The draft resolution, written by the European Parliament's Turkey liason, Ria-Oomen Ruijten, welcomes new constitutional amendments adopted via referendum September 12 but still underscores "the pressing need for an overall constitutional reform transforming Turkey into a full-fledged pluralistic democracy, with the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms at its core." In addition, the draft resolution welcomes significant progress in reforming the judiciary and on strengthening military-civilian democracy, and urges the parliament "to become active in ensuring parliament oversight of security forces, including full oversight of the defense budget.
EU Officials Give First Analysis of WikiLeaks Impact
3 December 2010 - EU Observer - Andrew Rettman
A number of interviews with anonymous senior EU officials has revealed the likely practical and political implications for EU foreign policy of the WikiLeaks scandal currently embroiling US diplomacy. Practically, EU foreign affairs will be shaped by increasing pressure on EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton to devote more resources on cyber security and counter-espionage measures. Most security specialists in Brussels are shocked that a 23-year-old official, the likely suspect of the US security breach, had access to such high level documents as the verbatim transcripts of ambassadors' conversations in top foreign posts. While EU officials wait for an expected 500 cables from the US mission to the EU to be released, many EU officials note that the leak has caused mixed feelings towards the US, with several remarking that US inability to stop the leak reveals weakness. Cables reveal that the US has put more store in dealing with EU member states on a bilateral basis, rather than deal with the EU as a whole, causing EU officials to question US commitment to multilateralism.