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In the aftermath of the arrest in Barcelona of 10 alleged Islamist extremists earlier this month, it has been widely reported that the group was planning imminent suicide attacks on the public transportation system of the Catalonian capital and perhaps additional attacks elsewhere in Europe. The evidence released thus far, however, does not support this scenario and indeed the statements of Spanish authorities contradict one another on several key aspects of the case. It was Spanish judge Ismael Moreno who, in ordering the detention of the 10 men last week, announced that a suicide attack had been imminent. The judge’s […]

U.N. PROSECUTOR TAKES AIM AT FORMER KOSOVO LEADER — Prosecutors summed up their case against former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj Jan. 21, arguing he was responsible for torture, murder, rape and deportation during the Serbian’s province’s battle against Serbian rule in 1998-1999. Haradinaj, a regional commander for the Kosovo Liberation Army, was legendary in the province for his fierce control over the area under his command. “There was a saying: ‘God in heaven, Haradinaj on earth.’ His degree of control was such . . . that the murders, tortures and rapes could not have occurred without his approval,” prosecutor […]

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Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was in Paris last week and he gave an interview to the French daily Le Figaro. This is what he had to say about an Egyptian proposal to hold four party talks on Gaza involving Israel, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas: I don’t see how we can accept the Egyptian proposal. We have nothing to say to Hamas. We speak to them when we interrogate them in our prisons. But this is a fundamentalist group that says openly that it has received a divine mandate to destroy Israel. One should, on the contrary, weaken […]

EU COURT THREATENS U.N. ANTI-TERROR MEASURES — In a move with potentially devastating consequences for the effectiveness of U.N. counterterrorism measures, an advocate general at the European Court of Justice, Miguel Poiares Maduro, recommended to the court last week that it annul EU financial sanctions against suspected al-Qaida financier, Yassin Abdullah Kadi (aka “Qadi”). The sanctions were originally applied by the EU in 2001 in conformity with U.N. Security Council Resolutions. Kadi’s name was placed on the U.N.’s consolidated list of Qaida or Taliban affiliated persons and entities shortly after the 9/11 attacks. A series of U.N. Security Council Resolutions […]

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Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi resigned yesterday after a no-confidence vote in parliament that was, to say the least, contentious, the New York Times reports: ROME — Italy’s government finally fell Thursday, after Prime Minister Romano Prodi lost a confidence vote that made it clear that Italy’s leaders know they face a deep political and economic crisis but are venomously divided over how to solve it. Emblematic of those divisions, during the debate one senator rushed in fury to the desk of a colleague, Stefano Cusumano, and taunted and apparently tried to attack him. Mr. Cusumano, 60, reportedly cried, then […]

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Apart from “foreigner crime” (see the previous WPR report), the other issue that has been dominating the headlines in the German media in the run up to important regional elections on Sunday is the decision of the Finnish mobile phone manufacturer Nokia to shutter a plant in Bochum in North Rhine-Westphalia and to transfer the production capacity to the Romanian city of Cluj. In an interview with the public television network ZDF, the Christian Democratic governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, Jürgen Rüttgers, went so far as to describe Nokia as a kind of “locust”: namely, for having benefited from public subsidies […]

Although Western attention has focused on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a potential threat to Western influence in Eurasia, another institution, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), currently represents a more serious near-term challenge. Last October, the leaders of the CSTO convened one of their most important summits in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. The assembled presidents and senior staff reached several important decisions that testify to the CSTO’s expanding regional security ambitions. First, they adopted procedures formally authorizing members to conduct joint peacekeeping operations. Second, by reaffirming Moscow’s willingness to sell arms to its CSTO allies on a […]

France, Germany, and the United Kingdom may have new leaders who bring the promise overall of better trans-Atlantic relations, but when it comes to the politics of global trade, some things never change. This month, the European Union missed yet another deadline for correcting its illegal regulation of gene-spliced, or “genetically modified” (GM), crop varieties, following a World Trade Organization decision in November 2005 that some European countries were breaking international trade rules by prohibiting the import of GM foods and crops. Although the WTO bluntly scolded the EU for imposing a moratorium on gene-spliced crop approvals from 1998 to […]

Editor’s Note: Today we present the second installment of Transatlantic Intelligencer, a new column written by World Politics Review translations editor John Rosenthal. Drawing from predominantly European foreign-language news sources, Rosenthal posts each “Trans-Int” item on the WPR blog as he uncovers it. At the start of the next week, we publish all of the items in this full column in our news section. GERARD SCHRÖDER, NOW AND THEN — With important elections upcoming later this month in the German states of Hesse and Lower Saxony and next month in Hamburg, former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has returned to the public […]

Citing unnamed EU diplomats, the International Herald Tribune reports that the United States and Germany are prepared to green-light Kosovo’s independence soon after Serbia’s two-stage elections conclude in the first week of February. Once Kosovo declares independence, according to the paper, U.S. President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will move quickly to recognize the predominantly Albanian enclave, with the rest of Europe’s major powers — Britain, France and Italy — following suit. In a world as complex as ours — and in a region as messy as the Balkans — Washington seldom has the luxury of choosing […]

PARIS — It was one of the most surprising and revealing images of the New Year in French politics: José Bové, the famously mustachioed “anti-globalization” activist and self-appointed scourge of genetically-modified crops, being greeted by France’s prim and proper Deputy Minister of Ecology Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet . . . with a kiss. The highly publicized encounter took place with cameras rolling on Jan. 3 in front of the French Ministry of Ecology in Paris. Technically, Bové was supposed to be in prison, serving a four-month jail sentence as a consequence of his role in vandalizing a field of genetically-modified (GM) corn […]

BELGRADE, Serbia — The two leading contenders in Serbia’s presidential election are mixing their messages on Europe, Russia and nationalism. Campaign posters across the country show Democratic Party candidate President Boris Tadic, a pro-European, in front of the national flag. The tricolor, however, is difficult to spot on nationalist Tomislav Nikolic’s posters. Instead, he is telling all he is a lifelong pro-European, despite also saying that EU membership will have to wait until Serbia’s sovereignty over the province of Kosovo is assured. That outcome is far from certain with Kosovo’s declaration of independence set to come soon after the presidential […]

Although Donald Tusk has only been Polish prime minister since early November, he has already made clear that reconciling with Russia is a key goal for his new government. He told a recent news conference that, “The improvement of relations between Moscow and Warsaw is a priority goal of current Polish foreign policy.” The two sides have resolved some strains and begun addressing others. The key issue now facing the Polish government is the extent to which it can both satisfy Moscow and enhance its leverage with Washington without antagonizing either party. Tusk, a former Solidarity activist and leader of […]

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With important elections upcoming later this month in the German states of Hesse and Lower Saxony and next month in Hamburg, former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has returned to the public eye: campaigning for his Social Democratic Party (SDP) and leading the charge against the rival Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The incumbent CDU Governor of Hesse, Roland Koch, has come in for particularly severe criticism from the former chancellor. Following a brutal attack on a senior citizen in a Munich subway station last month, the themes of “youth crime” and “foreigner crime” [Ausländerkriminalität] have come to dominate the headlines in Germany. […]

SARKO ON THE RECORD — Eat your heart out, President Bush. Around 600 media types from 40 countries attended French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s press conference last week. That’s more than twice as many as a normal White House presidential press conference. Predictably, the real news was swamped by coverage of what Sarko had to say about his relationship with Italian girlfriend Carla Bruni. But Sarkozy was living up to his campaign promise to change France. He talked of making the three national television channels commercial free, financing them by raising taxes on independent channels and mobile phones, and by taxing […]

SADDAM’S MONEY IN FRANCE — AND IN AMERICAN PUBLISHING? — In an article that appeared last month (Dec. 21) in the daily Le Figaro, French journalist George Malbrunot reports that the French government is continuing to resist Iraqi efforts to recover the financial assets of Saddam Hussein in France. According to Malbrunot’s report, some €23.48 million of Saddam’s money remains blocked in French banks. (The original report placed the money in the Banque de France: a claim that has since been denied by the French national bank.) France would thus be in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1483 of […]

During the past year, the Implementation Support Unit (ISU), established by the Sixth Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in December 2006, has provided essential support for international efforts to prevent biological terrorism. Unlike the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the BTWC lacks the large institutional structure to help administer convention-related activities as well as monitor and enforce compliance with its provisions. The three-person ISU, which started work in April 2007 and became fully operational in August 2007, attempts to help fill that gap from its office at the Geneva branch of the […]

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