2008-01-18 Quentin Dickenson
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Brussels Briefing

Brussels - Townhallwe turn our attention to Brussels where our correspondent Quentin Dickenson told me a short while ago what our European policymakers have been up to in our names this week…

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Spain’s abortion law is coming under close scrutiny where the government says it is prepared to consider changing the legislation if it can achieve a wide political and social consensus. The announcement follows women from a feminist collective reporting themselves to police for illegal abortions, in order to draw attention to the what they see as the failings of the law. Private abortion clinics have also been on a week long strike to protest against a law they say doesn’t protect medical practitioners or the woman who have abortions. The strike was a response to a recent series of police raids on abortion clinics accused of carrying out illegal terminations. From Madrid, Deutsche Welle’s Danny Wood reports… >>>

Staying with the issue of national identity now, but from a rather different angle... The Second World War is high on the agenda again in Germany. But this time not because of German war crimes, but instead because of German war victims: the millions of Germans that were expelled from territories the country lost to Poland and Russia. The German government wants to erect a "visible sign", or a permanent exhibition, describing their fate. The proposal has sparked a fierce debate with neighboring Poland. Radio Netherlands Worldwide correspondent Laurens Boven spoke with Hertha Mahlow, an elderly woman from Berlin who experienced the expulsion as a young woman. >>>

And we haven’t finished with the war yet… Not for the first time in recent memory there’s controversy in Poland on a World War II issue. Two books on Polish-Jewish relations after the war have just been published, both by Polish-born historians living in the United States. Michal Kubicki of Polish Radio’s External Service looks at why the books are set to provoke heated debate on one of the most complex chapters in Poland’s modern history. >>>

Teenagers are vearing T-Shirts similar to this oneWhile Poland and Germany try to get to grips with their pasts, the United States seems intent on creating its own present-day controversy. The concept of rendition flights has appeared in our headlines in the last couple of years – terror suspects flown secretly, through different countries’ airspaces and interrogated in secret locations. Human Rights groups have complained bitterly that the practice is illegal on a number of levels. Sweden has produced its own negative headlines in relation to the alleged CIA-flights … but as Radio Sweden's Bill Schiller now reports there are some Swedish teenagers currently trying to draw attention to the problem - in their very own way. >>>

After becoming the first French president to divorce during his time in office, Nicholas Sarkozy looks set to become the first to marry as well. He certainly is keen to keep himself busy. This week he described his relationship with Carla Bruni as ”serious” and hinted that a wedding, perhaps in secret, could be expected soon. Our Paris correspondent John Laurenson says if Carla Bruni becomes Carla Sarkozy it would revolutionise the role of France’s first lady and mark a victory for a certain sort of women’s lib’. >>>

Maltese-registered tanker Erika sinked Dec. 13, 1999 - photography from a French Navy planeWe stay in France for some more serious news: last Wednesday The French oil company Total was ordered to pay it's a share of nearly 200 million in damages for a 1999 oil spill off the northwest coast of France. The Erika oil tanker broke in half in December of 1999, spilling almost 20-thousand tons of crude oil into the sea—which killed hundreds of thousands of birds along 400 kilometers of coastline. Radio France International's Sarah Elzas was at the courtroom in Paris for the verdict. >>>

And before we sign off: do take part in this months quiz. This month, we're looking for the name of a French composer whose birth 100 years ago is being celebrated in 2008. "He was organist in the church 'La Trinite' in Paris. He composed a lot of pieces, too, for organ. And I think it's the more important composers in terms of organ in the 20th century". So who is this man? We already know he's a composer who had synethesia- a condition where a person literally hears colors. He's also a very religious man. If you know the answer, send it to contact at networkeurope dot org. Include your name and where you listen to Network Europe. >>>

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