January 4: Germany
Germany marks its highest unemployment rate since 1990, which has reached 10.8 percent. Labor Office Chief Frank-Juergen Weise says that although the three years of stagnation in the German economy ended in 2004, the recovery has yet to boost the labor market. A strong and lasting turnaround is not expected before 2006.
January 26: Russia/Ukraine
Russian officials say they will pursue a criminal case against Yulia Tymoshenko, the Ukrainian parliamentarian and recently nominated prime minister in the newly elected Yushchenko government. Tymoshenko is accused of attempting to bribe Russian officials in Russia’s defense ministry in 1996 when she ran a Ukrainian gas trading company.
February 2: Spain
The Spanish parliament rejects a Basque regional government initiative for greater autonomy in that region. The plan includes a proposal for a separate judiciary, financial system, and citizenship, which would make the Basque state largely independent. The Basque leader, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, still plans to hold a referendum in his region on the autonomy proposal.
February 7: Spain
In an effort to counter the informal economy, Spain offers amnesty to up to 800,000 undocumented immigrants. The applicants have to prove they arrived before last August, have job contracts and no criminal records. The plan is expected to bring millions of euros of tax revenue. The move is criticized by immigrant groups and other European states, which say the amnesty does not solve Spain’s immigration problems and makes Spain a gateway for illegal migrants.
February 25: Bosnia-Herzegovina
Radivoje Miletic, a former Bosnian Serb general and an aide to a most-wanted wartime fugitive, General Ratko Mladic, surrenders to face war-crimes charges at the UN tribunal at The Hague. Miletic is accused of taking part in the Srebrenica massacre in 1995, one of the worst atrocities of the 1990s wars in former Yugoslavia.
February 28: France
The French parliament amends the country’s constitution, paving the way for the approval of the EU constitution. Under the previous law, the two constitutions could not legally coexist.
March 7: Moldova
Moldova’s governing Communist Party wins parliamentary elections with 46 percent of the vote, losing ground, however, to the opposition Democratic Moldova bloc and the Christian Democratic Popular Party. The Communists will still be able to pass laws, but will have to form a coalition to elect a new president.
March 22: France
The French parliament votes to relax the 35-hour-week rule, allowing the private sector to increase working hours as well as convert extra days off into wage raises and pension contributions. The changes also allow workers to work up to 48 hours a week, the maximum allowed by the European Union. The 35-hour week, however, remains the standard week in the public sector.
March 24: Macedonia
Former Macedonian Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski is transferred to the International Tribunal at The Hague, where he has been indicted for war crimes. He faces charges relating to the killing of seven ethnic Albanians in the village of Ljuboten during an ethnic Albanian rebellion in Macedonia in 2001.
April 3: Vatican City
The Polish-born Pope John Paul II dies at the age of 84 after his health deteriorated in the last several weeks. His 26-year pontificate was characterized by a conservative stand on issues, such as abortion, contraception, family, and women’s role in church. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims arrive at St. Peter’s Square in Rome to mourn the pope.
April 4: Austria
Joerg Haider, a controversial former leader of Austria’s right-wing Freedom Party, founds a new party, the Alliance for Austria’s Future. Haider clashed with the party activists over the weakening support for the Freedom Party. In an election held last November, the Freedom Party won 10 percent of the votes, which is two thirds less than in 1999.
April 5: Ukraine
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko pays his first official visit to the United States, where he meets with his U.S. counterpart, George W. Bush. President Bush promises to support Ukraine’s bid for membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the end of trade sanctions. He also promises economic aid to help Ukraine implement reforms and end corruption. However, President Bush says Ukraine has yet to meet NATO’s membership requirements.
April 6: Monaco
Monaco’s Prince Rainier dies at the age of 81 and is succeeded by his son, Prince Albert. Prince Rainier ruled the small Mediterranean principality from 1949 and turned it into a haven for the rich and famous.
April 19: Vatican City
The College of Cardinals elects Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new pope and the head of 1.1 billion Roman Catholics. Ratzinger, who takes the name Pope Benedict XVI, was born in 1927 in Germany. He was a close friend of Pope John Paul II and is known for his conservative views. For more than 20 years he was the head of the congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican.
April 20: Italy
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi resigns, but will stay as caretaker prime minister until he forms a new government. Berlusconi’s center-right coalition has gone into crisis after poor results in recent regional elections followed by the pullout of the Union of Christian Democrats and the New Italian Socialist Party from the coalition. The controversial war in Iraq and poor economy contributed to Berlusconi’s waning popularity.
April 25: Bulgaria/Romania/European Union
The European Union signs accession treaties with Bulgaria and Romania, preparing them to join the union in 2007. The treaties contain a clause that both countries have to strengthen judicial independence and tackle corruption. Failure to meet these requirements might delay their accessions by a year.
April 29: United Kingdom
The British government withdraws $10 million of aid to Uganda, pressing the government to restore a multiparty system. For years, political parties have been severely restricted and opposition groups have insisted that donors cut aid. Half of Uganda’s budget consists of donors’ funding.
May 6: United Kingdom
United Kingdom’s Labour Party, under the leadership of Prime Minister Tony Blair, wins a remarkable third term in national elections. However, its majority is drastically reduced. The Liberal Party makes gains, securing 62 seats.
May 11: Bulgaria
Bulgaria’s parliament ratifies their European Union (EU) accession treaty. Bulgaria will join the EU in 2007 unless it fails to meet EU standards. To do so, the country must enact judicial reforms and address corruption.
May 25: Turkey
In the Azeri capital of Baku, international business and government leaders attend the inauguration of a 1,000-mile-long oil pipeline that leads from the Caspian Sea across Azerbaijan and Georgia to a Turkish port of Ceyhan. For oil-consuming nations, the pipeline is an important link to a non-Russian and non-Middle Eastern source of oil.
May 27: Turkey/European Union
Turkey’s parliament approves a reformed penal code, a key requirement for opening accession talks with the European Union. The law strengthens human rights and the rights of women and children. Journalists protest that the code does not have strong enough guarantees of press freedom.
May 27: Germany/Austria/Slovakia/Greece
Germany’s parliament completes ratification of the proposed European Union constitution. Earlier in the month, Austria, Slovakia, and Greece also approved the constitution through the parliamentary vote.
May 29: France
French voters overwhelmingly reject the European Union constitution with 55 percent of people voting against it. By rejecting the constitution, the French voters express their concerns about the European project, as well as their dissatisfaction with their government and domestic issues.
June 1: Netherlands/European Union
The Netherlands turn down the European constitution with 62 percent percent of the vote. The center-right government and major opposition parties encouraged people to vote in support of the constitution, saying it would increase the Dutch influence in Europe. The rejection by the French and the Dutch voters poses a question about the future direction of the EU.
June 2: Latvia/European Union
The Latvian parliament overwhelmingly approves the European constitution, which becomes the tenth EU member to ratify the document. Latvian Prime Minister Artis Pabriks says that despite the rejection by France and the Netherlands, all the remaining EU members should hold a vote on the constitution because it is important to know the views of all member states. He also repeated his support for the treaty by saying that it is the best compromise the members could agree to.
June 5: Switzerland
The Swiss voters approve a plan to join the Schengen agreement, a European passport-free zone, by 2007, which will also allow the Swiss police to share information with the EU about crimes, such as money-laundering and terrorist organizations. Switzerland is not a European Union member, but it is surrounded by the EU.
June 13: Ireland/European Union
The Irish national language, the Gaeltacht, receives an official recognition as the 21st official language of the European Union. Out of 4 million Irish, 1.4 million claim to have an ability to speak the Gaeltacht. The speakers of this language are mostly concentrated in the western coastal areas of Ireland.
June 17: European Union
The European leaders end a summit in Brussels with a deadlock on the financial plan for the EU’s 2007-13 budget. At the heart of the summit discussions were contentious issues of Britain’s $5.3 billion annual rebate and the EU’s massive farm subsidies program, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which amounts to half of the EU’s entire budget. The EU leaders also decide to postpone the ratification process for the planned European constitution.
June 27: Estonia/Russia
Russia withdraws from a border treaty with Estonia signed just last month. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Estonia’s parliament put unacceptable references to Soviet occupation in the treaty text. Both Estonia’s and Latvia’s borders with Russia remain disputed.
July 7: United Kingdom
More than 50 people are killed and 700 injured when four bombs explode in London. Muslim suicide bombers detonate the bombs in three subway stations and one double-decker bus. All four bombers—three Pakistani and one Jamaican-born—had grown up in Britain.
July 11: Bosnia-Herzegovina/Serbia
In the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, Bosnian Muslims bury more than 600 newly identified dead, marking the 10th anniversary of the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces in 1995. For the first time, Serbian officials, including President Boris Tadic, attend the ceremonies. The anniversary takes place shortly after the discovery of a video showing the executions of Muslim men. It has shocked many Serbs who did not believe the massacre took place.
July 28: United Kingdom
In Northern Ireland, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) declares that it will pursue its goals through peaceful means. After an embarrassing bank robbery in 2004 and an IRA gang’s brutal murder of an innocent pub-goer, the organization gives in to pressure and tells its members to disarm. The IRA had been fighting violently for the end of the British presence in Northern Ireland.
July 28: Poland/Belarus
Tensions grow between Belarus and Poland, as the two nations expel each others diplomats. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko accuses Poland of interfering in the country’s domestic affairs, and the Polish minority in Belarus of plotting his overthrow. Poland claims that Belarus is persecuting the Polish community. There are approximately 400,000 ethnic Poles living in Belarus.
July 29: Turkey/European Union
Turkey signs a European Union protocol extending custom union to the 10 new EU members, including Cyprus. Because Turkey does not recognize Cyprus, it issues a statement after the signing, which reinforces that position.
July 30: Italy
The Italian parliament enacts tough new laws to battle terrorism in the aftermath of the London subway bombings. The laws range from more flexible Internet and phone surveillance to greater powers to detain suspects. They also ban hiding one’s features in public, such as underneath an Islamic burqa.
August 23: Denmark
Canada deploys two warships to the Arctic to demonstrate territorial sovereignty in a land dispute with Denmark. The two nations claim ownership over Hans Island, an uninhabited rock in the eastern Arctic region. The islands, which are unlikely to be rich in natural resources, were not part of border discussions between Denmark and Canada over 30 years ago.
September 5: Ukraine/Chernobyl Forum
The Chernobyl Forum reports that the cumulative death toll from the effects of the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant located in Ukraine is estimated at 4,000. The previous estimates pointed to hundreds of thousands. The report also states that there is no convincing evidence that the accident has caused the rise in cancer. The Chernobyl Forum, which was established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the World Health Organization (WHO), UN agencies, and the governments of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, traces the impact of the Chernobyl accident.
September 8: Germany/Russia/Poland
Germany and Russia finalize a pipeline deal to transport gas under the Baltic Sea from the Russian port of Wyborg to the German town of Greifswald. Russia supplies a quarter of Western Europe’s gas needs, and Germany, with limited natural resources, relies on Russia’s oil and gas. Poland criticizes the pipeline deal and fears that it could be used to divert energy away from Poland for political reasons.
September 8: Ukraine
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko dismisses his government after only six months in power. The coalition government came to power under the Orange Revolution, but recently fell apart due to in-fighting and allegations of corruption. Economist and regional governor Yuri Yekhanurov replaces Yulia Tymoshenko as prime minister.
September 28: Spain
Spain plans to double the height of the fences around Melilla, a Spanish enclave in Morocco, which is a destination point for hundreds of illegal African immigrants trying to cross into Europe. Just this year, there were 12,000 attempts to enter Melilla. Doctors Without Borders, a medical charity, calls the Spanish and Moroccan security tactics violent, whereas Spain claims the violence stems from assaults by the immigrants.
October 3: Turkey/European Union
Turkey and the European Union officially begin membership talks, towards which Turkey has been working since 1959. The negotiations may last several years, and Turkey’s admittance into the EU is not guaranteed. After the talks are concluded, all twenty-five member-nations will have to ratify Turkey’s accession.
October 10: Germany
Angela Merkel, head of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), becomes Germany’s first woman chancellor under the agreement between the CDU and the Social Democrats (SPD) that formed a “grand coalition.” The chancellery had been contested after close elections in September, when both Merkel and current chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of the SPD party laid claim to the position.
October 24: Poland
Lech Kaczynski of the Law and Justice Party wins a runoff election for president, defeating his Civic Platform opponent, Donald Tusk. Law and Justice, a conservative party led by Kaczynski’s identical twin brother, won parliamentary elections last month. The party now controls both the prime minister position and the presidency.
November 10: The European Court of Human Rights/Turkey
The European Court of Human Rights upholds Turkey’s ban on wearing Islamic headscarves at universities. The judges agree with the Turkish argument that the ban’s goal is to prevent giving preference to any religion in the overwhelmingly Muslim country. More than one thousand Turkish women have filed similar suits against the ban.
November 21: Bosnia-Herzegovina/European Union
The European Union agrees to start talks on a stabilization and association agreement (SAA) with Bosnia-Herzegovina in preparation for EU membership. Bosnia is the last of the Balkan states to begin the slow move towards membership, having been held up by problems of corruption and organized crime.
December 1: Ukraine
The European Union announces that Ukraine has made significant progress in reforms and grants it the status of a market-economy country. The move is expected to boost Ukraine’s trade relations with the EU.
December 6: Romania
The United States and Romania sign a deal allowing the U.S. to use Romanian military bases, the first such agreement to be signed with a former communist country in Eastern Europe. The deal is a part of the Pentagon’s plan to reduce and reposition U.S. troops in Europe, placing them closer to potential trouble spots in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Romania is an U.S. ally with troops stationed in Iraq.
December 28: Europe
Europe launches the demonstrator spacecraft Giove-A, a major step towards its new satellite-navigation system, Galileo. Europe’s largest space project ever, Galileo is a global network of thirty satellites set to be launched by 2010. Giove-A will test the in-orbit technologies needed to run Galileo. A joint venture between the European Commission and the European Space Agency, the project is seen as an assertion of European independence.
December 30: Poland
Polish NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) pilots begin patrolling the air space of the three Baltic states. Poland is the first former Warsaw Pact country to take up the rotating NATO mission and it is the first time Polish pilots will patrol air space bordering Russia. Some fear that Russia will use the opportunity to test the skills of Polish pilots. Relations between Poland and Russia have deteriorated following, among others, Poland’s support of the Ukrainian Orange Revolution.