News Timeline: Europe 2007


January 1: European Union

Bulgaria and Romania join the European Union (EU), bringing the total number of EU member-states to twenty-seven and the EU population to 490 million.

February 2: Serbia

Serbian President Boris Tadic rejects a UN proposal concerning the future of Serbia’s Kosovo region, saying that the plan paves the way for the region’s independence. The UN plan advocates Kosovo’s semi-independence and is a compromise between the goals of Kosovo’s Albanian majority and Serbian minority. Serbia, which considers Kosovo the cradle of its civilization, wants to keep it as part of its territory, while Kosovo’s Albanians demand full independence for Kosovo.

February 26: United Kingdom

Great Britain announces that it will send an additional 1,400 troops to Afghanistan, bringing the total number of British forces in Afghanistan to 7,700. Most of these troops will be based in the southern province of Helmand, where they will fight Taliban insurgents.

February 26: Serbia

The International Court of Justice clears Serbia of charges of genocide during the war in Bosnia in 1990s, but blames it for failing to stop the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica. The case brought before the highest UN court by Bosnia-Herzegovina is the first in which a state has been charged with genocide.

March 3: Bulgaria/Greece/Russia

After thirteen years of negotiations, Bulgaria, Greece, and Russia sign an agreement to build a pipeline that will transport oil from Russia to Europe, bypassing the busy Bosphorus and Dardenelles Straits. The 178-mile long pipeline will go overland from Bulgaria’s Black Sea port of Burgas to the northern Greek town of Alexandroupolis on the Aegean Sea.

March 9: Cyprus

Greek Cypriots demolish a part of the Green Line in the center of the island’s capital, Nicosia. The opening of the barrier becomes the sixth crossing point along the Green Line dividing Cyprus since 1974. Greek Cypriots live in the southern part of the island and Turkish Cypriots live in the northern part.

March 27: Latvia/Russia

Latvia and Russia sign a treaty demarcating their border, after sixteen years of disagreements since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Both sides hope that the move will normalize relations between the two countries.

April 3: Ukraine

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko dissolves parliament and calls for a new election after talks with parliamentary leaders fail to resolve a long-running power struggle with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Yushchenko accuses the pro-Russian prime minister of illegally luring lawmakers into his coalition in order to gain the parliamentary majority necessary to overturn presidential vetoes and make changes to the country’s constitution.

April 4: United Kingdom

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad frees fifteen Royal Navy sailors as a “gift” to the United Kingdom, ending a two-week standoff between the two countries. He also awards medals to the commanders who captured the crew. Iranian warships seized the British navy personnel in the Persian Gulf. The Iranians insist that the British patrol boat entered Iranian waters, but the UK says the group was within Iraqi boundaries

April 12: Bosnia-Herzegovina

Bosnia-Herzegovina’s government revokes the citizenship of 367 former Islamic fighters who came to Bosnia during the 1990s war to fight on the Bosnian-Muslim side. After the war, many of the fighters remained in the country as naturalized citizens. The government looked into the legality of the citizenship awards as part of the country’s campaign to fight terrorism.

April 23: European Union/Iran

The European Union ministers agree to expand UN sanctions imposed on Iran after it refused to stop uranium enrichment. The sanctions include a total arms embargo and an expanded list of people who are banned from traveling to the member-countries of the European Union.

April 27: Estonia/Russia

Estonia removes a contentious memorial in its capital, Tallinn, dedicated to the Soviet Army during World War II. The removal, which Russia condemns, sparks protests in Tallinn by about a thousand mostly ethnic Russians. For Estonians, the monument is a reminder of many years of Soviet occupation.

May 7: France

Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s former interior minister and leader of the ruling conservative Union for a Popular Majority party (UMP), defeats his Socialist opponent, Ségoléne Royal, and wins the second round of the presidential election with 53 percent of the vote. His victory is followed by a few riots across France by his opponents. The president-elect calls for unity and vows to implement economic and social reforms.

May 8: United Kingdom

After many years of conflict, a new power-sharing government takes office in Northern Ireland, bringing together the Democratic Unionists’ Ian Paisley as first minister, with Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness as his deputy. The peace was mediated by Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair and Ireland’s Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. The new government’s priority is to rebuild Northern Ireland’s economy, which has been damaged by years of violence.

June 6: Spain

The Basque separatist group ETA formally ends the ceasefire that it declared “permanent” in March 2006. The move is a setback for Spain’s prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who insisted on negotiations with ETA despite strong opposition from conservatives.

June 23: European Union

At a summit in Brussels, the European Union agrees to a draft treaty that will replace the draft constitution rejected two years ago by Dutch and French voters. The treaty includes a long-term president and a Foreign Affairs Representative of the European Union, fewer national veto powers, and more powers for the European Parliament. A new voting system, referred to as a “double majority,” will match a country’s voting strength to its population. Its introduction, however, will be delayed until 2014, as a compromise reached with Poland, which vehemently opposed the new system that reduces its voting powers.

June 27 — United Kingdom

Tony Blair steps down as the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister after ten years in office. He is replaced by Gordon Brown, the new leader of the Labour Party and the former Chancellor of the Exchequer. At the same time, Tony Blair is appointed an envoy for the group of Middle East mediators called the Quartet, comprised of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia, which works on peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

July 10: Cyprus/Malta/European Union

The European Union (EU) approves Cyprus and Malta entry into the Eurozone. On January 1, 2008, the euro will replace the Cypriot pound and the Maltese lira as the official currency of these countries. Before joining the Eurozone, EU member-states have to meet strict criteria on inflation, interest rates, debt, deficits, and currency stability.

July 17: Poland/Russia

After meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush, Polish President Lech Kaczynski reaffirms Poland’s decision to allow parts of a U.S. missile defense system on its territory. Russia, however, is against the project, and threatens that if the United States proceeds, Russia will point its missiles at Europe. Three days earlier, Russia suspended the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), which limits the amount of major conventional weapons deployed between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ural Mountains.

July 19: Russia/United Kingdom

Russia expels four British diplomats in retaliation for the expulsion of four Russian diplomats from Britain over the Litvinenko affair. Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent and a naturalized British citizen, was poisoned in London by radioactive polonium-210 in 2006. Russia has repeatedly refused to extradite a suspect in Litvinenko’s murder to Britain.

July 23: Turkey

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is re-elected for a second term after his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) wins parliamentary elections. Erdogan called the elections early after the secular parties blocked his choice of a former Islamist ally as the next president. The election demonstrates the tensions between Turkey’s secular establishment and the Islamic AK Party. Prime Minister Erdogan vows to continue reforms to join the European Union.

July 25: France/European Union

Libya and France sign agreements covering security, health care, immigration issues, and a nuclear energy project a day after Libya releases five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor. The medics were accused of deliberately infecting Libyan children with HIV and sentenced to death. The deals are seen as a sign of normalization of relations between Libya and the European Union. The EU was deeply involved in negotiations to free the medics.

July 31: United Kingdom

The British army officially ends its longest continuous campaign, Operation Banner, in Northern Ireland. The British troops were sent to the province in 1969 in response to violent clashes between Catholics and Protestants. A garrison of 5,000 troops will remain as support for Northern Ireland’s police.

August 2: Russia/Denmark/Norway

Russia plants its flag on the seabed 14,000 feet below the North Pole, staking claim to a large part of the Arctic territory. Other countries bordering the Arctic — the United States, Canada, Denmark, and Norway — challenge Russia’s claim. According to current laws, countries bordering the Arctic are granted 200-nautical-mile economic zones beyond their land borders.

August 3: France

Libya signs a $405 million arms agreement with France to purchase anti-tank missiles and radio communications equipment. It is Libya’s first deal with a Western country since the European Union lifted its embargo on Libya in 2004. France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is accused of using the deal to secure the release of six Bulgarian medics imprisoned in Libya. In response to these accusations, France’s opposition leader calls for a parliamentary inquiry into the negotiations between the two countries.

August 26: United Kingdom

British forces withdraw from an Iraqi base in Basra they shared with Iraqi police in a step to hand over the city of Basra to Iraqi forces. A small number of soldiers will stay in order to help train Iraqi police. In recent months, the United Kingdom has withdrawn hundreds of troops from Iraq, leaving a force of about 5,500 based mostly around Basra.

August 28: Turkey

Turkey’s parliament elects Abdullah Gul as the country’s new president after months of controversy over his candidacy. His political background as an Islamist politician sparked opposition from the country’s secularists, especially the army, who fear that he will undermine the country’s secular principles. Abdullah Gul, however, has pledged to respect democracy and the secular republic.

September 14: Europe

Ice cover in the Canadian Arctic shrinks to record lows and allows the Northwest Passage to become fully navigable, opening the most direct shipping route between Europe and Asia. The European Space Agency (ESA) reports that the shrinkage of ice has been steady and raises concerns about the speed of global warming. The opening of the new route has already caused international disputes. While Canada claims control over the passage, the European Union and the United States say the passage should be an international strait.

September 23: Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds talks in Berlin with the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader. China protests the meeting, claiming that the Dalai Lama is seeking Tibetan independence from China, and cancels planned talks with the German minister of justice.

October 15: Ukraine

Ukraine’s two pro-democracy Orange Revolution parties, the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc and President Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine-People’s Self Defense, come to an agreement on forming a coalition after their election victory earlier in the month. The two-party coalition gives them a thin majority in the parliament, and Yulia Tymoshenko is expected to be the next prime minister. The election was called early after a long power struggle between President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

October 17: Turkey

Turkey’s parliament approves military cross-border incursions into northern Iraq to fight Kurdish PKK rebels. Turkey blames the PKK fighters for recent raids into Turkey, which left more than 40 Turkish soldiers and civilians dead. The PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, was formed in the 1970s and fights for greater autonomy for Turkey’s Kurdish population. It is listed as a terrorist organization by many states, including the United States and the European Union.

October 19: European Union

The European Union leaders agree to a new reform treaty, which will replace the European Constitution rejected by France and the Netherlands in 2005. The treaty is designed to speed up decision-making within the enlarged union by creating a new voting system. It also creates two new posts: President of the European Council and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. It does not make mention, however, of a European flag and anthem, which are symbols of a supranational state. The treaty, which will be known as the Treaty of Lisbon, will be officially signed on December 13. If ratified by all 27 members, it will come into force in 2009.

October 22: Poland

Poland’s opposition and pro-European Union Civic Platform party (PO) wins parliamentary elections, defeating Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s Law and Justice Party (PiS). PO’s leader, Donald Tusk, has pledged lower taxes and support for businesses, as well as to mend Poland’s relations with its neighbors. He has also vowed to withdraw Polish troops from the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. The election turnout was the highest since the fall of communism in 1989.

November 1: Bosnia-Herzegovina

Bosnia-Herzegovina’s prime minister, Nikola Spiric (a Bosnian Serb), resigns in protest of efforts by the country’s High Representative (an international envoy who oversees implementation of the Dayton Accord) to strengthen Bosnia’s weak central government. Bosnian Serbs claim that the reforms would reduce their influence in the country’s decision-making.

November 23: France

Transport and power workers in France end nine-day widespread strikes after the government agreed to negotiate with the unions. The workers protested against President Nicolas Sarkozy’s reform of the pension system, which currently grants 500,000 transport and utility workers early retirement. The government says it is willing to discuss only the implementation of the reforms, and it will not back down on the principal of the changes.

December 1: Turkey

The Turkish army launches raids on rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. Turkey believes that as many as 3,000 PKK fighters are based in Iraq, from where they periodically attack Turkish troops and civilians in southeastern Turkey.

December 21: Europe

Nine European countries—the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia—join a European border-free zone called the Schengen Area. The new members have had to standardize their visa policy and adhere to a single set of rules for policing the zone’s external border. The extended Schengen Area allows travel across 24 European countries without border stops.