While some changes are made at the ballot box, others are made in fashionable London restaurants. Britain's long standing Prime Minister Tony Blair handed over the reins of power to his partner and rival, Gordon Brown in 2007. There have been reports of a tea-time deal with a young Tony Blair agreeing to hand over the leadership of the country after two terms in office -- well, after a very long wait - Gordon Brown took over at 10 Downing Street a decade later. In London, Radio France International's Rosalyn Hyamns took a look back at Tony Blair’s legacy and peeped into the future of Britain's new Prime Minister.
One of the Netherlsnds’ most controversial politicians, Geert Wilders, has thrust himself back into the spotlight this week. You may have heard of Mr Wilders, journalists usually put the word “controversial” in front of his name. He’s a parliamentarian known as an Islam-basher and it’s now emerged he is making a film denouncing Islam and arguing for the Koran to be banned. Immediately, parallels are being drawn with the film “Submission”, made by murdered Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh and writer Ayan Hirsi-Ali. That film pushed the issue of Moslem integration in Holland up the political agenda, especially after Van Gogh’s murder by an Islamic extremist.
For the seventh time since the collapse of communism in 1989, Poles are about to elect a new parliament. The vote comes two years early, following the implosion of the current coalition in August. Many voters are still undecided over which party to support, and opinion polls show an even split between the ruling Law and Justice Party of Prime minister Jaroslaw Kascinski and the opposition pro-European Civic Platform.
In a week’s time Poles will be electing a new parliament. Snap elections were called after the Polish government, headed by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, fell apart in August, after prolonged infighting in the ruling coalition. Polish voters will now have the choice between seven parties and the race is a tight one as no block has a clear lead. Who are the main players and how do Poles feel about these elections?
Another European country that's had big difficulties maintaining a stable coalition government is Romania. With only a thin majority in Parliament the government has been unable to pass much needed anti-corruption laws. Alarmed by the high levels of corruption, the European Commission on Wednesday threatened to withhold a quarter of the farm aid Romania receives from the European Union. The EU agriculture commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, gave Bucharest one month to root out "serious irregularities" in its agricultural payments system or risk losing more than one hundred million euros in farms subsidies.
Probably no other First Lady in the world has been at the center of so much controversy this year as Ayrünissa Gül, the wife of the new Turkish president. The fact that Mrs Gül, as an orthodox Muslim, insists on wearing a headscarf is seen by many in Turkey as a threat to secularism. So you might not expect Mrs Gül to draw extra attention to her wardrobe. But she clearly enjoys fashion - and in fact, for her latest outfits she went to a Turkish designer who's made clothes for top Hollywood celebrities.
Ukrainians head back to the polls on September 30 for fresh parliamentary elections that aim to end months of political deadlock and confusion. Many Ukrainians hoped that the Orange Revolution of 2004 would lead to political reform and stability. But those high expectations have waned. In the ensuing three years the leaders of the Orange Revolution, who were advocating democracy and closer ties with the west have fallen out with each other. And Ukraine's parliament has witnessed punch ups, power cuts and party swapping not to mention allegations of bribes and corruption. So what do Ukrainians think about their lawmakers and the Orange Revolution three years on? Deutsche Welle’s Guy Degen has been gauging the mood.
Three months after elections in Belgium, there’s still no sign that a new government is coming together. Coalition talks collapsed after French-speaking parties refused to agree to give Flanders greater autonomy. The stalemate is fuelling criticism that Wallonia - the poorer, French-speaking South - is feeding off Flanders - without putting anything back. There's growing support for right-wing Flemish parties who want create an independent Flanders. Radio Netherlands’ Vanessa Mock reports, that's worrying Walloons.
urning now to Germany- A fresh series of racially-motivated attacks on foreigners over the past two weeks has refuelled a debate over banning the far-right National Democratic Party. The European Union’s justice Commissioner, Franco Frattini, was quoted as saying he’d back a ban. A previous attempt to ban it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2003, after it came out that some testimony came from informants in the party. From Berlin, Deutsche Welle’s Hardy Graupner has more.
Europe’s biggest story this week was the return home of a group of Bulgarians who moved abroad in the 1990’s only to find themselves facing death sentences for crimes they didn’t commit. The 6 Bulgarian medics repatriated by Libya on Tuesday captured headlines across the continent. They’d been jailed for deliberately infecting children with HIV but had always protested their innocence. There were jubilant scenes at Sofia airport as the medics landed on their French government plane.
Behind the scenes in Brussels questions are being asked about French coercion and threats to switch off Libya’s anti-missile shield. And there’s been fevered speculation as to exactly how the deal to free the Bulgarian medics was made, and who knew about it. Before the champagne corks in Sofia had even started popping difficult questions were being asked about the contents of the deal with Colonel Gaddaffi’s government.
In Poland Jewish culture is enjoying something of a revival. A fact perhaps not being enjoyed by the Catholic priest Father Tadeusz Rydzyk. He owns a growing media business and is expressing some opinions some in the catholic faith think he should keep to himself. A group of prominent Polish Catholic intellectuals has published an open letter condemning recent statements Father Tadeusz Rydzyk has made, among them anti-semitic remarks and some tabloid style put-downs of the Polish president and his wife.
10 years after he was elected, British Prime Minister, Tony Blair handed over the reigns of power to his partner – and rival – the long waiting Mr Brown. It was the end of an era for Britain - but also for Europe, where Tony Blair was long held up as the poster-boy of political reform. Radio France International's Rosslyn Hyamns in London takes this look back at Tony Blair’s legacy and into the future at Britain's new Prime Minister.
The president of Romania Traian Basescu has survived an impeachment referendum. On May the 19th, Romanians decided to go on with their popular, reformist president. He was suspended a month ago by a Parliamentary majority on allegations that he violated the Constitution. But shortly after Basescu was in hot water again for calling a journalist a “dirty gypsy”.
It is a sticky issue that politicians across Europe are having to ponder, with the entry of far right parties into mainstream politics. Sweden's far right party, the Sweden Democrats, burst into the limelight after success in the country's regional elections last autumn. They held their annual conference last weekend. While not so long ago, the event might have only recorded a minor headline or two, these days the anti-immigrant party is big news. So much so, that the country's politicians are now not only engaging in public debate with the party, they're receiving tips on how to do it.
More and more expatriates or expats are getting involved in politics in Spain, for instance in the country’s local elections. Namely, from the country’s large expat community. For more than a decade, European Union citizens have had the right to vote and stand as candidates in local elections, in any EU country if they live there as residents. Until now these expats have been keeping relatively quiet, but that’s no longer the case. In Spain, for the first time, independent political parties with more non-Spanish than Spanish candidates are taking part in local elections.
Romania's president faces an impeachment referendum this weekend. Trajan Basescu was already suspended by Parliament last month for allegedly usurping the prime minister’s power. The Constitutional Court ruled that Basecsu didn’t break the law. The ruling was non-binding though, so the decision of whether or not to let him stay in office is put to voters. But this is more than a referendum on a president. Radio Romania International’s Iulian Muresan looks deeper into the difficulty Romania faces of maintaining a relatively independent Justice system.
After decades of violence and division, this week saw the inauguration of an historic power-sharing government in the long troubled province of Northern Ireland. Rival protestants and Catholics will take their seats in the freshly revived Northern Ireland Assembly. The conservative Protestant DUP party won elections there last month, with the Catholic Sinn Fein coming second. The hard-line Protestant leader, eighty one year old Reverend Ian Paisley, will become the province’s first minister. Radio Netherlands’ Lia van Beckhoven has this portrait of the man who, finally, changed his mind.
Last week, the Romanian parliament suspended the popular reformist president Traian Basescu from office on charges of having violated the Constitution. Among the most serious accusations facing the president is that he undermined the authority of Parliament by saying members of parliament are passing laws favouring organised crime. Radio Romania International's Iulian Muresan has the details.
he Treaty of Rome that marks the started all this was signed on March 25th in 1957. And as Stephen just said, by a small club of just six countries: France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg. By signing that piece of paper, those six established the European Economic Community and paved the way for many more treaties to come... Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice. These European cities have become synonymous with European treaties that were anything but easy to negotiate. And these places are now symbols of ever deeper economic and political integration. But Europe's milestones are more than just a series of treaties.
In business, one seemingly effective way to promote your company's interests is to hire a professional to do your bidding for you. These highly paid campaigners are known as lobbyists and they attempt to curry favour and influence the decision-making process in Europe. But, critics of the profession say it's undemocrtaic and lacks transparancy. Which is why the European Commission is now trying to regulate the industry. Deutsche Weelle's Johannes Bahrke takes us up the corridors of power.
Religious leaders talking tough on abortion and threatening to use their political clout? It doesn't sound like liberal Sweden. But eyebrows are raised in Stockholm as abortion is suddenly back on the political agenda. A plan to allow foreign women to come to Sweden for abortions has infuriated some church leaders. Religious leaders talking politics in Sweden is highly unusual in a country that's usually considered to be at the vanguard of liberal reform. But as Radio Sweden’s Azariah Kiros found out, the Catholic Church and the evangelical Pentecostal Movement in Sweden are advising Swedes not to support one of the coalition partners in the government, the Christian Democrats, in the next election if the Party supports the proposal.
Scandinavia is known for the high number of women in politics. A full 47.3 percent of the country's parliamentary politicians are female. Nine of the current ministers in the centre-right cabinet are women - including the deputy Prime Minister.
Glitz and glamour haven't followed Germany's first woman Chancellor Angela Merkel Many worried at the outset that Ms Merkel didn't have enough charisma for the job. Some wondered whether this unassuming former physicist could hold her own with the heavyweights on the world stage. But, it turns out she's put most of those fears to rest.
Perhaps International women's day would be better appreciated by the female MEP's and bureaucrats trying to make a name for themselves in Brussels. But how seriously are women taken in the EU capital? We put it to RN's Brussels correspondant Vanessa Mock that it was surely still a man's world.
On the 1st of March, it is customary for women in Romania to receive “Martisor”, a sort of talisman, which can be a jewel, or just a nickel, glass or plastic figurine tied to a red and white string. Men give offer this little present to women in token of love, appreciation, or just trying to be complaisant with female colleagues at work. This year however, there is a woman in Romania which enjoys the sincere appreciation of a large part of the Romanian people. She is Romania's Minister of Justice and she's received one of the most beautiful Martisor a person can get. Iulian Muresan, from Radio Romania International witnessed the gesture...
The Romanian political scene is very tense... With EU membership in its pocket and with pressure from Brussels subsiding, Romania is at a critical moment. The good steps taken so far in giving independence to the judiciary and combating corruption are no longer popular measures among the majority of Romania's politicians. Iulian Muresan reports.
There's a general election in the Netherlands next week and although there's little chance of it making waves across Europe - it's suddenly livened up Dutch public life. Dreary campaign manifestos have given way to good old-fashioned personality politics and slanging matches. If you don't know who's in the current Dutch government or why you should care, don't worry. Radio Netherlands' Andy Clark tells Network Europe who the major players in Dutch politics are and how they've been insulting each other.
Germany's far-right National Democratic Party held a convention last weekend that sparked debate about whether or not to try to ban them. An effort was made to do just that 3 years ago but the whole plan was scuppered when it came to light that some of the intelligence agents who'd infiltrated the party undercover had got a little too into character and were shown to be involved in provoking some of the behaviour being complained about. Some politicians in Germany want to muzzle the party, but are asking if a ban is either useful or realistic?
Far right political parties are making their presence felt in many parts of Europe - even in the "liberal" heartland of Scandinavia. Recent elections in Sweden have given the country's far right party, the Sweden Democrats, some unwelcome power, especially if you're an asylum seeker. Radio Sweden's Mark Cummins told Network Europe it’s tricky to nail down exactly what the Sweden Democrats stand for.
His Christian Democrats are rising in the polls and are now in a dead heat with the opposition Labor Party. Mr Balkenende has ushered the Netherlands through a rocky period since his first election campaign in 2002.... a period that included two political assassinations and the premature collapse of two of his cabinets. And even in the past few weeks, his party was hit by controversy - when it scrapped ethnic-Turkish candidates from the ballot list after they refused to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. In an exclusive interview for Radio Netherlands, Richard Walker asked the Prime Minister whether the voters will choose his party in November.
After Ireland, Italy, Sweden or Spain, France could become the next country to introduce a blanket ban on smoking in public areas. That’s what a parliamentary committee recommended this week, after five months of consultations with doctors, tobacconists, and trade unions. According to government figures, some thirty five per cent of the French population uses tobacco, and sixty six thousand die of smoke related illnesses every year. The measure would be enforced from September next year at the latest, though the committee held open a possible delay till summer 2008 for some establishments, including night clubs and restaurants. The tobacco lobby reacted with outrage. But Radio France International’s Nick Champeaux says smokers in Paris are already making the mental adjustments.
German government officials and representatives of Muslim organizations have met for the very first time in an attempt to initiate a dialogue between the state and Muslims living in Germany. The government hopes the talks will continue for at least two years and will result in a political pact with the Muslim community.
The Hungarian capital was the scene of repeated overnight violence and demonstrations this week. These were prompted by what will probably go down in history, as one of the worst gaffes made by a ruling politician. Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, admitted in a behind-doors meeting that his government “messed up and lied”. The problem is that all of this was leaked to the press, and led to demonstrations and riots. Network Europe’s EU insider reports from the Hungarian capital, Budapest.
What did Hungary’s socialist Prime Minister say exactly ? His leaked comments have sparked off the Budapest riots, but are there other reasons for discontent in Hungary? Radio Romania International has the answers.
In Sweden, voters have sent the Social Democrats into opposition in last week-end’s general elections. Swedes normally refuse to go right, the Social Democrats have been in the driving seat for most of the last eighty years. But this time apparently, they thought it was time for a change. Frederik Reinfeldt, the leader of the centre right coalition and next prime minister, is working to form a new government which is due to take power on the fifth of October. Radio Sweden tells what people in Sweden can expect from the new team in power.
On Wednesday the leader of the National Front, Jean Marie Le Pen, announced he would run in the country’s next presidential elections in Spring, his fifth bid for the presidency. The seventy eight year old leader made the announcement from the battlefield of Valmy, a key site in the history of the French Revolution. Can Le Pen, notorious for his racist and revisionist remarks, succeed in presenting himself as a Republican ? Can he capitalise on his breakthrough into the second round of the country's elections four years ago ? Radio France International reports from Valmy.
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.
George Orwell once lived in Paris, but he may not have had it particularly in mind when he wrote 1984 and created the concept of Big Brother keeping watch over citizens. Today technology is becoming ever more a part of the fabric of ordinary life. At the start of the new school term, the biometrical scanning of pupils’ hand prints as a way of paying for meals has appeared in more school canteens in France. With computers, mobile phones, chip and pin payment systems, not to mention surveillance equipment our movements are being traced and tracked as never before.
An almost immediate impact of the attacks on the US in 2001 in Britain was a move to bring in legislation giving police wider powers, notably to act on suspicion of terrorist activity. Some see such initatives on the part of the British government as sensible and effective prevention steps. Others have raised concerns over abuse of rights.
The case of France. Feeling less under threat because seen to be less supportive of the United States than some of its neighbours, France has also seen an array of tough new anti-terror laws. And according to some opinion polls, more people are more wary of their Muslim neighbours in France in the wake of 9/11.
German’s were shocked to find that those believed to be behind the attacks on the US five years ago, had worked on their plan in one of its own cities. The authorities try to work out how to move forward, to protect themselves and others, while dealing with its particular history, and recent policy of welcoming foreigners.
Network Europe reporters ask ordinary citizens what they think about how 9/11 has affected their lives. From living in fear to “nothing has changed”, to embracing religion, or embracing the United States, depending on who you are and where you are.
Polish people feel vulnerable and wonder if they are could be on a terrorist hit-list because they have shown support for the US war on terror. So the level of suspicion is high and tighter anti-terror laws are on the cards.
For many musicians, file sharing is a contentious issue. Some support the practice arguing it's one of the only ways for alternative bands to become known in a market often saturated with big names from the US and the UK. Other musicians condemn the practice, arguing that file sharing is causing record sales to plummet. In Sweden, the issue has even caused the formation of a political party. The Pirate Party, which started up after Swedish police closed down one of the world's biggest file-sharing sites - The Pirate Bay, has candidates standing in Sweden's September election.
You usually go to your library to borrow a book. How about borrowing a human being instead? Maybe an obese person, a bouncer, a Moslem or why not a politician? Then you should head to the Swedish Travelling Exhibition's Prejudice Library.
One of Germany's most colourful politicians - former foreign minister Joschka Fischer is pulling the plug on his electrifying political carrer. The charismatic leader of the Green party is bringing to an end more than two decades in German politics in which he led his party from an ecologist fringe grouping to a respected government party which has left their stamp on sweeping social, energy and foreign policy changes. Joschka Fischer is to start on an academic career at an American university leaving behind shoes too large to fill by his political successors. Uwe Hessler reports from Berlin.
Robert Fico, and his SMER party won around twenty nine per cent of the votes in last week-end's elections, and fifty in the 150-member parliament. Fico has been struggling to find common ground with the other parties to form a government.
This webpage receives support from the European Union