News Timeline: Europe 2013


January 23: United Kingdom/European Union

In his speech on the United Kingdom’s relations with the European Union, British Prime Minister David Cameron announces that he plans to renegotiate UK’s membership with the European Union and organize a referendum for British citizens to decide whether the UK should stay or leave the EU. The referendum would take place after the next general election by the end of 2017 considering that the conservatives are elected back to power. His speech is welcomed by Eurosceptics within his Conservative Party and the Independence Party. It is, however, criticized by the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party. Issues that Cameron would like to renegotiate include legal rights, criminal justice, and social employment.

January 26: Czech Republic

Former Czech Prime Minister Milos Seman narrowly wins the country’s presidential election, defeating Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. Both candidates expressed their support for deeper integration of the Czech Republic with the European Union. Zeman replaces the Eurosceptic President Vaclav Klaus, who has concluded his second term in office.

January 31: France

After three weeks of targeted air strikes in northern Mali, French troops regain the territory from Islamist militants who took control of the area in April last year. The intervention was backed unanimously by the United Nations Security Council and accepted by Malian Interim President Dioncounda Traore. Several thousands of African troops, mostly from Chad and Niger, are taking over from the French troops.

February 20: Bulgaria

The government of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov resigns under pressure from popular protests that began as anti-austerity and turned into anti-government protests. Bulgarians are displeased with continuing low living standards, which have been deepened by recession and corruption.

February 25: Cyprus

Center-right leader Nicos Anastasiades wins a presidential election in Cyprus on promises to secure a financial bailout of the country’s economy. Cyprus’ economy has been hit by the recession when the debt trouble in Greece affected the country’s banking sector.

February 26: Italy

Italy’s general election results in a stalemate between Pier Luigi Bersani’s center-left party, which takes control of the lower house of the parliament, and Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right, which takes control of the Senate. In Italy, laws have to be approved by both chambers, and the government needs the consent from both chambers to govern. The Five Star Movement, an anti-austerity protest group led by Beppe Grillo, wins 25 percent of the vote, while leaving Prime Minister Mario Monti’s bloc wins only 10 percent. This deadlock combined with deep economic recession brings concerns of political instability.

March 4: Latvia

Latvia officially applies to adopt the euro currency in 2014, which would make it the 18th member of the Eurozone. After economic troubles during the recession and a financial international bailout, Latvia is now the fastest-growing economy in the European Union.

March 9: Malta

Malta’s Labour Party defeats the governing Nationalists Party in general elections and returns to power after 15 years. The party ran on the promises to lower the costs of electricity, which are among the highest in the world. Malta is the smallest but most successful member of the Eurozone, with its economy relying on tourism and financial services.

March 11: Hungary

Hungary’s parliament approves a controversial constitutional amendment that limits the powers of the constitutional court and imposes other contentious laws that are seen as limiting freedom of expression and civil liberties. The changes are possible because the ruling conservative Fidesz Party holds two-thirds of the seats in the parliament. The opposition boycotts the vote. Critics say that the new amendment undermines the country’s democracy and allows the Fidesz party to consolidate power. The European Union, the United States, and human rights organization express their concerns over the amendment.

March 12: Falkland Islands/Great Britain

The people of the Falkland Islands vote almost unanimously to remain a part of the British overseas territory. Argentina’s response to the results of the referendum is that it is irrelevant to its claims of the islands.

March 13: Vatican

The College of Cardinals elects a new pope, Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who takes the name of Francis I. The new Pope succeeds Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned after eight years in office, and is the first Latin American and non-European to be elected to the post. As the head of the Vatican state and the leader of 1.2 billions of Catholics around the world, Francis I faces many challenges, such as ongoing scandals over clerical sex abuse, the role of women in the Church, and corruption in the Vatican.

March 25: Cyprus

Cyprus secures a $13-billion bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In return, Cyprus agrees to implement tough austerity measures, including restructuring of its banks, privatization, and raising taxes. People with deposits larger than $130,000 are facing losses, while deposits of $130,000 or less are guaranteed.

April 18: Serbia/Kosovo

Brokered by the European Union, Serbia and its breakaway-province, Kosovo, reach an agreement aimed at normalizing relations between the two entities. According to the deal, Serbia recognizes Kosovo’s legal authority over its Serbian minority, but the Kosovo Serbs get their own police and justice representatives within the Kosovo courts. The agreement also gives the green light for the European Union to start accession negotiations with Serbia. Kosovo broke away from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia still does not recognize it as an independent state.

April 20: Italy

The Italian parliament reelects President Giorgio Napolitano for an unprecedented second seven-year term after five rounds of votes failed to produce his successor. Eighty-seven-year old Napolitano is seen as a stabilizing force in Italian politics. (April 28): A new Italian government is sworn in, with Enrico Letta as prime minister. He has formed a grand coalition that includes his Democratic Party (PD), Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party (PDL), and Mario Monti’s centrist Civic Choice party.

May 23: Germany

According to the Annual Country Ratings Poll, which interviewed 26,000 people from 25 different countries, Germany has been voted the most popular and influential country in the world. Iran scored at the bottom of the list. The survey was conducted for the BBC by international opinion research consultancy GlobeScan and Washington-based Program on International Policy Attitudes. 

June 5: Latvia

Latvia is set to adopt the euro currency, becoming the 18th member of the Eurozone as of July 1. During the financial crisis in 2008, Latvia had to borrow $7.5 billion and implement tough austerity measures. However, by now it cleared its debt and met all criteria for joining the single currency zone, which include low inflation, low public debt, and low long-term interest rates.

July 8: Greece

Greece receives another bailout installment of $6.8 billion from the troika of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but on the condition to implement reforms faster. (July 17): The Greek parliament passes a public sector reform that will lay off thousands of people, including government employees and teachers. The country’s unemployment has reached 27 percent. Thousands of protesters opposing the move take to the streets.

August 6: Hungary

Hungary sentences several men to life in prison for brutal racially-motivated attacks and killings of six Roma people. The Roma minority, which constitutes 7 percent of Hungary’s population, continues to live in extreme poverty and its members are often victims of discrimination.

September 11: Spain

Hundreds of thousands of people in Spain’s autonomous region of Catalonia form a 250-mile long human chain in support of their quest for independence from Spain. Catalonia has been pushing the Spanish government to agree to a referendum on its independence, and it threatens that if it does not, it will turn the 2016 regional elections into such a vote.

September 22: Germany

Angela Merkel wins a third term as chancellor in Germany’s parliamentary elections after her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) took 41.5 percent of the votes, best result since 1994. Its coalition partner, however, the Free Democrats (FDP) failed to get any seats. The coalition will likely be formed with the Centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) who came second with 25.7 percent of the votes, but after hard negotiations that are expected to last several weeks. Merkel’s win is seen as a strong approval of her stance on austerity measures and budget discipline for other European countries hit by recession, such as Greece.

September 29: Austria

In parliamentary elections, Austrians reelect their grand coalition of the Social Democrats (SPOe) and the conservative People’s Party (OeVP) for another six-year term. Both parties have dominated Austrian politics since WWII. However, the right-wing anti-immigration and anti-European Union Freedom Party gained some support, finishing with over 21 percent of the vote. The complex system of proportional representation has been put in place in Austria to ensure the governing by coalitions rather than a single party with absolute majority.

September 30: Turkey

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announces some significant political reforms. They include lowering the 10 percent electoral threshold, which will allow parliamentary representation of the smaller parties, such as the country’s Kurds, allowing to name towns in other than Turkish languages, opening teaching in other languages in private schools, and lifting the ban on women wearing headscarves in public service, excluding judges, prosecutors, and police and armed forces.

October 15: Italy

Italy’s coast guards rescue 370 migrants from three boats apprehended on the waters between Sicily and Libya. The migrants are transferred to temporary facilities on the island of Lampedusa. Italy says that just this year more than 35,000 migrants arrived on Italy’s coast, mostly from Syria, Mali, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Eritrea mostly through Egypt and Libya. Sicily announces state of emergency due to the high number of migrants it has to deal with.

October 26: Czech Republic

The Czech Republic votes in inconclusive parliamentary elections after the Centre-right government of Petr Necas was brought down in June due to a corruption scandal. Since then, the country has been run by a caretaker government appointed by the president. Social Democrats win the most votes, about 20 percent, which is not enough to form a government alone. The Communists garnered over 15 percent and the new party called Ano run by a billionaire who campaigned against corruption received 19 percent. The Ano leader says he will not enter a collation government with Social Democrats.

October 29: Turkey

Turkey opens a 8.5 mile-long Marmaray tunnel under the Bosphorus Straits that connects the European and Asian sides of Istanbul. This is the first link ever connecting two continents. The Turkish government hopes that the new tunnel will become an important trade route.

November 27: Germany

After 2 months of negotiations, Angela Merkel will return as a chancellor for her third term. Her conservative Christian Union (CDU/CSU) forms a coalition government with its opponent Social Democrats (SPD). Its traditional coalition partner, the Free Democrats (FDP), did not win any seats in the last parliamentary election.

November 28: Ukraine/European Union

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych pulls out of signing an association agreement with the European Union, which would open borders for trade and ease travel restrictions. He says that Ukraine cannot afford to sacrifice trade with Russia, which opposes the deal. Yanukovych’s move sparks massive pro-EU street protests. The European Union criticizes Russia for putting pressure on Ukraine, which wants Ukraine to join its own customs union with former Soviet republics.

December 17: Ukraine/Russia

Russia and Ukraine announce a deal in which Russia agrees to buy $15 billion of Ukrainian government bonds and slash the price of gas supplied to Ukraine by a third. The Ukrainian government says that Russia’s offer helps it to avoid defaulting on its debt. Anti-government protests continue with tens of thousands of demonstrators occupying the Kiev’s main Independence Square.