When the Polish Liberal party won in October, one of the first decisions the new government took was to withdraw the country’s troops from Iraq by the end of this summer. The move has been approved by the president. That doesn’t mean Polish troops won’t be stationed around the world, on other foreign missions.
The European Commission launched the world's biggest job advertising blitz this week. European officials announced plans to introduce an EU work permit - dubbed the Blue Card. It's inspired by the famous Green Card in the US and is designed to attract would-be migrants normally headed for North America or Australia. And to match the EU flag, it's of course a Blue Card - not a green one. Why does Europe needs such a card?
NATO defence ministers met this week to discuss the future of the International Security Assistance Force or ISAF in Afghanistan. Violence there has sharply increased over the past two years, and there've been numerous calls to beef up troops. But many NATO allies are reluctant to send additional soldiers. Sweden is part of ISAF and early next month 350 Swedish soldiers are being sent to northern Afghanistan, to replace the Swedish force currently serving there. Radio Sweden visited the unit as they're preparing for their mission.
Stockholm's International Peace Research says too much focus on the possible possession of nuclear weapons by Iran and North Korea has diverted attention from the development of a new generation of sophisticated nuclear weapons by three countries in Europe - Russia, France and the UK.
The Swedish government is being accused of reneging on its promise to support an international ban on cluster bombs. In February at a two-day conference in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, 46 countries pledged to work towards a new treaty banning them. But now in Sweden, the government is being accused of backtracking. As Radio Sweden’s Azariah Kiros reports, the government may stand behind some kind of a ban, as long as it doesn’t include Swedish designed bombs.
Now, from organizations buying political influence we move to selling influence in return for letting someone set up a military base in your backyard. That someone is, of course, the US and the proposed new military bases would be built in Poland and the Czech Republic. The plans have prompted lively debate there and have angered Russia considerably. Radio Prague's Rob Cameron has the story.
It's a fact of life... and death. Service in the military always carries the risk of dying in battle. But recruits in the Russian army face an additional risk. They stand a chance of dying at the hands of older conscripts. Abusive treatment of army recruits in Russia is widespread - with hazing blamed for hundreds of suicides and... thousands of desertions each year. From Moscow, Charles Maynes offers this look at draft dodging Russian style.
The leaders of NATO's 26 member states gathered in the Latvian capital Riga this week for their annual summit. It's the first meeting the alliance held in an ex-Soviet state. Afghanistan was at the top of the agenda, as NATO-led forces there have faced fierce resistance from Taliban fighters in the south of the country in recent months. NATO commanders were now calling for more troops and more flexibility in the deployment of their forces in Afghanistan.
As Turkey chews over what more it needs to do to win EU membership, the Turkish army's flexing its muscles in domestic politics. The chief of staff has warned prime minister Tayyip Erdogan that the secular state is facing a threat from fundamentalist Islam. The prime minister's in a difficult situation because conservative muslims form the backbone of his support. But the Turkish army, along with the middle class, fiercely defend the separation of state and religion - something many in the EU would applaud.
The Polish authorities have declared they will send a thousand soldiers to Afghanistan, as part of a NATO multinational force. The decision is to some extent a logical consequence of the country's support for American-led operations in the war on terror. But for the first time, the national consensus on Poland's role in such missions, seems to have been broken, with the opposition accusing the government of sending Polish troops into combat, rather than a peacekeeping mission.
After the EU-US summit in Vienna this week, George W Bush visited Hungary, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Hungarian uprising against communism. Commentators have noted that trips to Europe of the US President often include a stop in Eastern Europe's new democracies. The US administration has decided to station forces in Bulgaria and Romania. Hungarian troops helped in Iraq after the March 2003 invasion. Romania Bulgaria and Poland also joined the coalition. But it seems said these countries suffer from a sense of frustration, and believe they have not been sufficiently repaid. For instance Poland's hopes to land contracts in the reconstruction of Iraq have not materialized.
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