Soured start to membership talks
The European Union formally opened membership talks with Turkey this week - but only after bitter opposition from Austria exposed deep apprehensions about the large, poor, Muslim country joining the EU. Turkey has taken an important step closer to its four-decade-old goal of joining the European Union. However it is widely predicted that membership talks will span at least 10 to 15 years.
One such supporter of Turkey’s EU bid is French President Jacques Chirac. He argues that Turkey’s inclusion will check the rise of Islamic extremism across the Middle East. Yet he also knows that his own ruling UMP party, as well as most French people, are worried about Turkey joining the European Union. Indeed those fears contributed to the French No to the EU Constitution back in May. Chirac has now promised a further referendum IF Turkey IS indeed offered membership in the future.
Uzbekistan slapped with sanctions
Russian President Vladimir Putin and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair met this week for talks on greater co-operation between Russia and the European Union. The leaders discussed energy, trade and the global threat of terrorism. They also talked about the situation in Chechnya, but failed to address human rights violations in Uzbekistan. Earlier this week the European Union imposed sanctions on the Central Asian state of Uzbekistan, following the violent suppression of anti-government protests in the city of Andijon back in May. Survivors and independent organisations claim that hundreds of people were killed by Uzbek troops. It’s the first time the EU has suspended a partnership agreement with another country. The sanctions include an arms embargo and a travel ban for top Uzbek officials. Veronika Szente Goldston is the Advocacy Director for the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch. She argues the repression and massive scale of human rights violations in Uzbekistan demanded urgent action from the European Union.
Warming up on Artic Svalbard
The archipelago of Svalbard is located midway between Norway’s north coast and the North Pole itself. It’s Norwegian territory, but other nations have the right to explore it‘s most important resource: coal. The main town of Longyearbyen is modern and extraordinarily affluent. But just a few kilometers away lies the poor Russian mining town of Barentsburg.
Five years ago armed and masked burglars escaped by boat with three valuable paintings from Stockholm’s National Museum - one Rembrandt and two Renoirs. A multinational recovery operation was launched including co-operation between the Swedish and Danish police - as well as the FBI. Now, the National Museum in Stockholm has welcomed its Rembrandt back.