Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

SUMMERTIME BLUES FOR EU REFORM TREATY?

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European Union officials are thinking the unthinkable — they could hold a summit in July, during the normally sacrosanct summer break set aside for Brussels’ Eurocrats.

Diplomats say there is mild panic in the EU capital at the thought that the regular June summit — where the bloc is due to discuss the Lisbon treaty reforming the EU — could be chaired by Eurosceptic Czech President Vaclav Klaus.

The idea is that it would be better to postpone the discussions on the treaty until July, by which time Sweden will have replaced the Czech Republic as holder of the EU presidency.

Prague has not yet confirmed which of its officials will chair the June 18-19 Brussels summit after the collapse of the Prague government last month. But Klaus, who has described the Lisbon treaty as an irrelevance, could try to do so.

Should Europe help Obama out over Guantanamo?

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 Barely noticed, the United States sent a top diplomat to  Europe this week to seek help on an important commitment by President Barack Obama — to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.
   
The trip by veteran envoy Dan Fried to Brussels and Prague is part of efforts to persuade European states to take in some of the 241 remaining detainees at the prison, synonomous for many with rights abuses in the “war on terror” under U.S. President George W. Bush.
   
Europe has long called for the jail to be shut down, but only a few countries — such as France, Portugal and Albania — have  volunteered to resettle any inmates from third countries such as Afghanistan or China.
   
 Time is steadily running out if Obama is to achieve his goal of clearing and closing the prison by next January.  A perceived  lack of European help could sour the much-vaunted new start in transatlantic ties which both sides say they want.
  
But many European officials are asking why they should help the United States out of a hole it dug itself into.
   
The main problem does not involve the small number of  so-called high-value  terror suspects in the camp — they will remain in detention and Washington does not seriously expect anyone to come forward and take them off its hands.
   
Nor does it involve the 17 detainees who have already been cleared for release. The really hot issue is the fate of  the remaining detainees who are not high risk but have not been given the full all-clear.
   
 European officials fear the affair could turn into a legal and political nightmare. Who will take which detainees? Given that much of Europe is now border-free, how will one country reassure its neighbours if it agrees to resettle inmates? And doesn’t the fact that European states have different national policies on surveillance and detention pose extra problems?
   
Worse still, the political fall-out could be devastating. If , for example, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner carried out an attack in Germany just before an election this year, how would Chancellor Angela Merkel explain it to voters? 

Washington knows it won’t be easy to get the Europeans on board. But it says it would be hypocritical for Europe now not to help after all its criticism of Guantanamo.

EU stumbles over UN racism conference

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The Czech Republic issued a statement on Tuesday condemning Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at a U.N. conference on racism in which he called Israel a “cruel and repressive racist regime”.

The statement by the country holding the EU presidency was meant to underline the bloc’s unity but highlighted divisions on the issue.

Growing sense of fin de siecle in Brussels

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    There is a growing feeling of “fin de siecle” in Brussels  these days, a sense of degeneration, of euro-depression.
    But people across the European Union do not seem to care.

from Africa News blog:

Did Dalai Lama ban make sense?

Organisers have postponed a conference of Nobel peace laureates in South Africa after the government denied a visa to Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who won the prize in 1989 - five years after South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu won his and four years before Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk won theirs for their roles in ending the racist apartheid regime.

Although local media said the visa ban followed pressure from China, an increasingly important investor and trade partner, the government said it had not been influenced by Beijing and that the Dalai Lama's presence was just not in South Africa's best interest at the moment.

What should the world do about Somalia?

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Islamist militants imposing a strict form of Islamic law are knocking on the doors of Somalia’s capital, the country’s president fears his government could collapse — and now pirates have seized a super-tanker laden with crude oil heading to the United States from Saudi Arabia.

Chaos, conflict and humanitarian crises in Somalia are hardly new. It’s a poor, dry nation where a million people live as refugees and 10,000 civilians have been killed in the Islamist-led insurgency of the last two years. A fledgling peace process looks fragile. Any hopes an international peacekeeping force will soon come to the rescue of a country that has become the epitome of anarchic violence are optimistic, at best.

Is Turkey reassessing Ataturk’s legacy?

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The following piece is written by Turkey correspondent Ibon Villelabeitia:

A new and intimate documentary on Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the
venerated soldier-statesman who founded modern Turkey after
World War One, has sparked controversy in this European Union
candidate country at a time of national self-absorption.

“Mustafa”, which opened on Oct. 29 on the 85th anniversary
of the foundation of the republic, has spawned a lively debate
in newspapers and television shows on the merits of the film.

Steinmeier sheds dull image with rousing speech

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Steinmeier address SPD conventionAs Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier has delivered many speeches,  but none that anyone can particularly remember. Germany’s top diplomat has impeccable credentials yet has rarely come close to stirring anyone with his balanced, cautious, usually dry and sometimes rather dull addresses. No one would ever think of ticking the box “rousing speaker” next to his name.

That all changed on Saturday — when Steinmeier gave the speech of his life to a congress of his centre-left Social Democrats (SPD). The 500 delegates interrupted the white-haired lawyer’s riveting 88-minute address with applause 114 times. They then elected Steinmeier, who had never won election for any public office, as their candidate for the 2009 election with 95 percent of the vote.

Does crisis give China new opportunity in Africa?

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chinese-workers-in-kenya.jpgWith the West reeling from the financial crisis and pulling back some of its investment in Africa, could China step into the breach and expand its footprint on the continent - a presence that already worries Western powers?

On the face of it, China, which is relatively unscathed by the crisis, has a golden opportunity to exploit Western disarray and increase its financial and political penetration of the continent. Already there are signs that Africans are starting to look away from the West and towards other emerging markets, especially China, as they watch the banking chaos in the traditional capitalist markets.

Where would we be without Europe?

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ECB headquarters in Frankfurt/Alex GrimmIf the financial crisis looks bad, I for one am thinking it might have been even worse — in the euro zone at least — had European countries not decided to pool their economies together by launching the single European currency.

I covered Europe in the 1980s from Belgium and Luxembourg when the idea of a single currency was still the pipe dream of a few old men who back in the 1950s had been inspired by the idea of a united Europe emerging from the rubble of World War Two.

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