News Timeline: Europe 2017


January 8 – Poland
Poland’s authorities declare a smog alarm in the country’s capital, Warsaw, and offer free public transportation for a day to limit additional pollution from private cars. Freezing temperatures and a lack of wind contributed to air pollution levels breaking all records and exceeding the acceptable levels by three times.[1] Poland relies heavily on burning coal for heating and has not invested alternative sources of energy. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 24 of the European Union’s 50 most polluted cities are in Poland (followed by Bulgaria with 12 most polluted cities).[2]

January 19 – Germany / Europe
Germany announces it will raise military spending, which will reach $41.6 billion in 2017. However, this will amount to 1.22 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), which still will be way below the 2 percent NATO guideline.[3] In 2006, NATO member countries agreed to spend a minimum of two percent of their (GDP) on defense as a commitment to the Alliance’s common defense.[4] In 2016, only five out of 28 NATO members – the United States, Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia, and Poland – met this target.[5] During his presidential campaign and after taking office, U.S. President Donald Trump criticized NATO members for failing to meet the alliance’s 2-percent target and sparked concerns after calling NATO obsolete.[6]

February 2 – Russia / European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) orders Russia to pay opposition activist Alexei Navalny $68,000 in compensation for violating his right to peaceful protest, unlawful arrests, and other rights violations.[7] Alexei Navalny is Russia’s most prominent anti-corruption activist and critic of President Vladimir Putin and his regime. (February 8):  A court in Russia finds Alexei Navalny guilty of embezzlement and sentences him to a suspended five-year term. This is a retrial and repeated sentence of the 2013 trial, which was annulled after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the Russian court had violated Navalny’s right for a fair trial. The sentence bars Navalny from running for president in 2018. He calls the sentence politically motivated and says he will pursue his presidential campaign despite the conviction.

February 15 – European Union
The European Parliament approves the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), a new free trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and Canada. The EU national parliaments must approve CETA before it can take full effect. After CETA comes into effect, custom duties (taxes) on 99 percent of the Canadian and the EU exports will be lifted. After seven years, customs duties on industrial products will be also lifted. Proponents of the trade deal say that CETA will increase exports of goods and services, boosting growth and jobs for both sides. At the same time, CETA will reduce Canada’s dependence on the U.S. export market. But CETA has also been controversial, sparking protests across Europe. The opponents argue that the deal will have negative effect on labor laws, environmental standards, and will empower corporations at the expense of ordinary Europeans.
More about CETA

March 9 – European Union
Leaders of the European Union member-countries, reelect Former Prime Minister of Poland, Donald Tusk, as President of the European Council for another term. The European Council, which brings together national and EU-level leaders, sets the EU’s general political direction and priorities, but has no powers to pass laws. Its President, the voice of the Member States, also represents the EU externally on foreign and security issues.
A chart of EU institutions.
How EU laws are made.

March 15 – Netherlands
The ruling People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) wins the most votes in the Netherlands’ parliamentary elections defeating the far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) and its populist leader, Geert Wilders, who has been campaigning on an anti-immigration and anti-European integration platform. In the wake of the electoral victories of the Brexit in the United Kingdom and Donald Trump’s populism in the United States, the election campaign in the Netherlands has been watched with special attention. The ruling VVD wins a majority in the parliament, 33 seats (despite losing eight) and the PVV gains five seats in the parliament for a total of 20 seats. The turnout was 82 percent.[8] Incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte is expected to form a new coalition government. However, both the governing Liberals and every other sizeable party rules out cooperation with the right-wing PVV.

March 20 – Denmark / Norway / Iceland / Switzerland / Finland
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations releases the 2017 World Happiness Report. Using the following variables—social support, freedom of choice, generosity, honesty, health, life expectancy, income and perceived corruption— the study ranks 155 countries based on the happiness of their people. It also analyzes the findings to explain why some countries are happier than others. According to the study, the happiest place is Norway followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, and Canada. At the very bottom of the happiness list are countries from Sub-Saharan Africa and those hit by conflict, such as Syria and Yemen.[9] Despite an improving economic performance and tripling incomes since 1960s, the U.S. happiness report fell from rank 3 in 2007 to 14. According to the study, rising inequality, corruption, isolation, and distrust are the reasons for this decline.[10]
Full World Happiness Report 2017

March 23 – Russia / Ukraine
Former Russian Member of Parliament Denis Voronenkov is assassinated on the streets of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev in what it is believed to be a contract killing. In 2016, he fled to Ukraine, where he was a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his policies. He also denounced Russia’s annexation of Crimea as illegal. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko calls the murder an act of Russian “state terrorism”.[11]

March 26 – Russia
Russia’s most prominent opposition leader and anti-corruption activist, Alexei Navalny, is fined for participating in the banned protests and jailed for 15 days for resisting arrest. The anti-corruption and anti-government protests drew thousands of people in many cities across Russia.

March 26 – Belarus
Special police troops in Belarus arrest hundreds of demonstrators during a rare anti-government protest that turned violent. It is a culmination of weeklong sporadic protests across the country against President Alexander Lukashenko’s decree imposing a special tax on the unemployed, calling them “social parasites”.[12] Opponents of the move accuse the president of punishing people for the lack of jobs. Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, has been dubbed as “Europe’s last dictator”.

March 29 – United Kingdom / European Union
The United Kingdom government triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by sending an official notification letter to the European Union about its intention to leave the EU as a member. The move officially begins a two-year process of complex negotiations on exit terms and future ties between the two sides. The UK became a member of the European Union in 1973, but in June 2016 the people voted to leave.

April 16 – Turkey
Voters in Turkey’s national referendum narrowly approve changes to the constitution that give president unprecedented powers and change Turkey’s political system from a parliamentary one to a presidential one. The supporters of the changes, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AK Party), say the new system will make Turkey more efficient and stable. The critics, such as the Council of Europe see Turkey’s proposed constitutional amendments as a “dangerous step backwards” for democracy.[13] They express concerns about the separation of powers and checks and balances within the new system. The new powers of the president include the right to dissolve the Parliament, declare a state of emergency, and appoint vice presidents and ministers. The president will also have more powers in the selection of judges and prosecutors and will be allowed to be a member and even a chairperson of a political party. In this way, the president may control both the executive and legislative bodies.[14]

April 23 – France
Out of the 11 candidates in the election for the French Presidency, centrist Emmanuel Macron and nationalist Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, receive the most votes, 24 percent and 22 percent of the vote respectively.[15] Emmanuel Macron is a banker who was economic minister in President Hollande’s administration, but in 2016, he stepped down and founded En Marche Party (On the Move). Since no candidate secured an outright majority, the two frontrunners will meet for a run-off election on May 7. For the first time in decades, the winners do not come from France’s two major parties: the Socialists and the conservative Republicans. Incumbent Socialist President Francois Hollande did not run for reelection due to his low approval ratings. Macron and Le Pen disagree on many issues. Marine Le Pen wants France to leave the European Union and the eurozone, introduce economic protectionist policies, and suspend all legal immigration. Macron wants France to stay in the European Union but calls for reforms, promotes free trade deals, and calls for strengthening the EU borders.

May 6 – France
In France’s second round of presidential voting, centrist Emmanuel Macron soundly defeats far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, winning 60.1 percent of the vote to her 33.9 percent.[16] One of his first challenges in office is to have candidates from his newly formed centrist En Marche Party elected to the parliament in the June election who could then support his governing policies. At the moment, his party does not have any representation in parliament. His campaign pledges include cutting public spending and tens of thousands of public sector jobs, and reducing unemployment. (May 15): President Macron appoints the center-right Republican Edouard Philippe as France’s new prime minister.

May 22 – United Kingdom
A 22-year old Salman Ramadan Abedi, a British citizen with Libyan roots, carries out a suicide attack at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, during a concert by U.S. singer Ariana Grande. By detonating an improvised explosive device, he kills 23 people and injures 116, many of them critically. Many of the victims are children and teenagers.  This is the deadliest terrorist attack in the UK since the bombing at the London subway in 2005. Salman Abedi was known to authorities and was banned from attending the local mosque for his extremist views.[17] The UK authorities arrest several people who are suspected of cooperating with the bomber. Terrorist organization Islamic State (IS) takes responsibility for the incident.

May 30 – Moldova / Russia
Moldova’s pro-EU government expels five Russian diplomats. Among them is a military aid diplomat who earlier this year had received government classified information from a former Moldovan member of parliament, Yuri Bolbochan, who was later arrested and accused of treason. Russia condemns the expulsion and threatens retaliation. Russia considers Moldova, a former Soviet republic, within its sphere of influence. After Moldova signed a broad association agreement with the European Union in 2014, Russia imposed restrictions on agricultural imports from the country.[18]

June 8 – United Kingdom
Voters in the United Kingdom deliver a huge blow to the Conservative Party (the Tories) during a snap general election. The Conservatives lose 13 seats in the parliament to 318 seats and lose their majority, which needs 326 seats. The election is a victory for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, which picks up 30 additional seats to a total of 262.[19] Corbyn campaigned on promises of better funding for health and education. British Prime Minister Theresa May called the snap election three years ahead of schedule, convinced by opinion polls that her Conservative Party could gain a larger majority and thus larger mandate to govern. However, after the recent terrorist attacks in the UK, the election campaign debates turned from Brexit to security issues and the fact that police numbers were cut by 20,000 when May served as Home Secretary.[20] The shocking election results embarrass and undermine May, with some calling for her resignation. It also creates a hung parliament where no party holds a majority and a government has to be formed through a coalition of parties. (June 26): The Conservative Party reaches an agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to form a minority government. As part of the deal, the 10 DUP members of parliament will support the Conservatives’ policies. In exchange, Northern Ireland will receive an additional 1 billion pounds for infrastructure, health care, and education. Wales and Scotland question the deal and call for matching funds to their regions.
The UK general election explained for non-Brits: Video (2:48 min) from the Guardian

June 12 – Russia
Despite intimidation by the authorities, tens of thousands of people respond to Russian activist Alexey Navalny’s calls for protests against high-level corruption and stage rallies in towns and cities across Russia. The protests take place on Russia Day as Navalny’s tactic to connect the anti-graft campaign with patriotism. Navalny is detained upon leaving his apartment building to join the protests and quickly sentenced to thirty days in prison. Hundreds of protesters are also detained.[21] Alexey Navalny is currently the most prominent opposition figure in Russia who continues his dissent despite government harassment and intimidation.
More on human rights in Russia from Human Rights Watch: World Report 2017

June 18 – France
President Emmanuel Macron’s newly formed centrist La Republique En Marche (LREM) party wins a huge majority in the French parliament after the second round of the general elections. His party now has 308 of the 577 seats in the parliament. Together with its partner, centrist Democratic Movement (MoDem), Macron’s coalition will have 350 seats, or 61 percent of the legislative seats. More than 200 of the elected legislators, more than 38 percent, are women.[22] The election results give President Macron a strong mandate to implement his social and economic reforms. He plans to loosen France’s restrictive labor laws, lower unemployment, and cut corporate tax from 33 percent to 25 percent.
Emmanuel Macron: What are the French president’s policies?

June 19 – Russia / North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
A Russian military jet aggressively flies within 5 feet of a US spy plane over the Baltic Sea. (June 21): A NATO fighter jet approaches a Russian plane carrying the defense minister to the militarized Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea. A Russian jet escorts it away from the plane. Tensions between Russia and NATO have intensified in recent years after the alliance expanded its military presence in Poland and the Baltic states following Russia’s aggression into Ukraine in 2014. The tensions intensified after the recent downing of a Syrian jet by the US forces in Syria. Russia is an ally of the Syrian regime.[23]
Listen to an NPR’s interview about the growing military standoff between NATO and Russia in northeastern Europe.

July 6 – European Union 
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker of the European Union sign a free trade agreement, which abolishes tariff barriers between the two entities. Japan is the EU’s second biggest trading partner in Asia after China. It exports over $92 billion worth of goods and services a year and Japanese companies in the EU employ more than half a million people. This trade deal removes almost all custom duties, which sum up to $1.1bn annually and opens up Japan’s market for EU’s agricultural products, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, as well as high tech products. For Japan, the EU is a big market for its automobiles.[24] This free trade agreement counters EU critics and Brexit proponents that the EU is unable to promote free trade.
More on the EU-Japan Economic Partnership

The agreement with Japan is expected to have similar benefits as the one with South Korea signed by the EU in 2012. Since then EU exports to South Korea have increased by 55 percent and European companies have saved $3.2 billion by eliminating customs duties. Those who worried about imports of Korean cars to Europe saw EU car exports to South Korea increasing by 206 percent, while imports from Korea increasing by 53 percent.[25]

July 17 – Ukraine
Separatists in eastern Ukraine declare the creation of new ‘state’ called Malorossiya (Little Russia), the name used by Russians tsars to describe the areas covering most of today’s Ukraine. With Russian support, the rebels broke away from Ukraine in 2014. Despite multiple attempts to implement the ceasefire agreement, fighting has continued and the peace process has stalled.
Why Ukraine matters to the U.S. and Russia? Video (2:05) from CNN

 July 24 – Poland
Polish President Andrzej Duda vetoes two out of three controversial judicial reforms after days of massive street protests across the entire country. Earlier in the week, Poland’s parliament, with the majority of legislators from the right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS), passed judicial reforms that would end judicial independence. The rejected laws by President Duda, who is also former member of the PiS party, would require all Supreme Court judges to step down and would empower the justice minister (who in Poland also acts as attorney general) to pick their replacements. They would also give politicians control over the National Judiciary Council, which nominates Supreme Court judges. However, Duda approves a third law, which gives the justice minister power to appoint and dismiss judges in lower courts. The European Union accuses the PiS government of moving towards an authoritarian regime.

According to Freedom House[26], Poland’s aggregate score in freedom ratings dropped from 93/100 in 2016 to 89/100 in 2017due to a decline in civil liberties under the rule of the PiS government.[27] In freedom of press, Poland’s status declined from free to partly free due to government intolerance of independent or critical reporting and excessive political interference in public media.[28]

July 27 – Russia
Despite objections from the Trump Administration, both houses of U.S. Congress overwhelmingly approve new sanctions on Russia in response to Russia’s alleged meddling in the U.S. 2016 elections. It also strengthens the previous sanctions imposed after Russia’s annexation of Crimea by turning them into a law, which means they cannot be eased or reversed without congressional approval. New measures target key Russian officials and industries. They also put restrictions on companies doing business with the Russian oil industry. President Donald Trump reluctantly signs the bill. (July 28): Russia retaliates to US new sanctions by cutting U.S. diplomatic staff and seizing some properties used by US diplomats.

August 17 – Spain / Italy 
Spain’s coastguard rescues 600 migrants in one day at sea crossing from Morocco to Europe. According to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 8,000 migrants have arrived in Spain so far in 2017, almost three times as many as in the previous year.[29] In 2016, most migrants were reaching Europe through Greece. However, a deal with Turkey to intercept migrant boats and tighter border controls in the Balkans forced migrants to look for different options.  Most migrants leaving the coast of Morocco cross the seven-mile Strait of Gibraltar in cheap flimsy vessels, paddle boats without motors, or even jet skis. This allows them to bypass smuggler networks and their fees. The majority of these migrants come from West African countries. Many migrants still chose the route from the coast of Libya to Italy. In June alone, the Italian coastguard rescued about 5,000 people one day in the Mediterranean. Since January 2017, there were nearly 126,000 arrivals to Europe by sea, mostly to Spain and Italy. More than 2,500 migrants drowned attempting the crossing.[30]
More maps and charts from OIM on migration flows to Europe: recent trends, transit routes, stranded, relocated, and missing migrants, and internally displaced and refugees

September 14 – Russia / Belarus 
Russia and Belarus launch large-scale joint military exercises, called Zapad-2017 (“West-2017”), held across Belarus, as well as Russia’s military district of Kaliningrad, Russia’s small territory on the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania. Russia says that fewer than 13,000 troops are participating, which means they don’t have to invite international observers. But NATO and Western military experts believe as many as 100,000 troops may be involved in the drills.[31] These troops include armored units, warships, and aircrafts. This show of Russia’s force and power makes its neighbors nervous, especially Ukraine, which is not part of NATO and its eastern part is under pro- Russian separatists. In 2014, Russia has also already invaded and annexed Crimea, which is part of Ukraine.
Map showing the area of the Zapad-2017 military exercises

In 2016, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) established a forward presence with four multinational combat-ready battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland on a rotational basis. They serve as a deterrent on eastern flank of the Alliance.[32]
Map of NATO Enhanced Forward

September 24 – Europe: Germany
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union CDU/CSU alliance wins the country’s general elections, gathering 33 percent of the votes. This gives it 246 seats in the 709-seat federal parliament, the Bundestag. However, this is 65 seats fewer than the current seat allocation. The opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) came second winning 20.5 percent of the votes. It also lost seats to total of 153. The liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) will reenter the Bundestag with 80 seats (10.7 percent of vote) after it failed to win any seats in 2013. The Green party increased its seats by 4 seats to 67. The biggest upset of this election, however, is the success of a new right-wing nationalist Alternative for Germany party (AfD), which garners 7.9 percent of the vote and will enter the parliament as the third largest party with 94 seats.[33] The party was founded in 2013 in opposition to the EU bailouts of indebted EU countries within the eurozone, quickly becoming an anti- immigration party. AfD rejects Angela Merkel’s decision to open doors to one million refugees, particularly those from the Middle East, calling Islam incompatible with German culture.[34] Angela Merkel, who has been Germany’s leader since 2000, will maintain her position as a chancellor for the fourth term. Her party will form the next government, but building a coalition is expected to take several months.

September 25 – Russia 
A report issued by the United Nations Human Rights (UNHR) accuses Russia of violating human rights in Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014. It details “grave human rights violations, such as arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment and torture, and at least one extra-judicial execution.” It says that Ukrainian laws and citizenship were replaced with the Russian ones in violation of the obligation under international humanitarian law to respect the existing law of the occupied territory. Hundreds of prisoners and pre-trial detainees have been transferred to Russia despite the practice being strictly prohibited by international humanitarian law. Education in the Ukrainian language has almost disappeared from Crimea, jeopardizing one of the pillars of an individual’s identity and cultural affiliation. The report also says that while those human rights violations have affected Crimeans of all backgrounds, Turkic-speaking minority, the Tatars, have been particularly targeted, especially those with links to the Mejlis organization, which initiated public protests against Russia’s annexation.[35]
To access the full report

October 1 – Spain
Voters in Spain’s autonomous region of Catalonia vote in a referendum on the region’s independence despite the ruling by the Spanish Constitutional Court that it is illegal. Spanish national police tries to stop people from voting causing clashes and injuries. Almost 90 percent of voters approve the region’s independence; however, the turnout is only 43 percent.[36] Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont immediately declares independence, but then suspends its implementation and calls for negotiations. The Spanish government demands that he clarify his position and warns that declaration of Catalonia’s independence will breach the 1978 constitution. (October 27): Catalan President Puigdemont asks the Catalan Parliament to make a decision on the region’s independence. The legislators approve it. This triggers Spain’s Senate to invoke Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which allows the central government to strip a region of its autonomy, dismiss its leaders, dissolve the parliament, and take control of its institutions, police and finances. New elections in Catalonia will replace the region’s top officials. (October 31): The ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and several other cabinet members leave Spain to Belgium as they could be charged with offenses against the Spanish state that carry up to 30 years in prison.[37]
Catalonia: What powers does the region have?
Cases for and against independence in Catalonia

October 4 – Russia
King Salman of Saudi Arabia is the first sitting Saudi monarch to ever visit Russia, where he meets with President Vladimir Putin. Both sides sign investment deals worth several billions dollars. Saudi Arabia will invest in Russian energy industry and will purchase Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missiles (diversifying it from the U.S. and UK markets). Russia, on the other hand, will build a petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia. Both sides also agree to continue their cooperation in the area of oil industry. Although Russia is not part of the intergovernmental oil cartel, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), it cooperated with OPEC members to suppress oil production in an effort to increase oil prices. This economic cooperation provides Russia with much needed investment as its revenues have been hit by falling oil prices and Western sanctions after the 2014 annexation of Crimea. In terms of the conflict in Syria, where Russia and Saudi Arabia are on the opposing sides, with Russia supporting the Syrian regime and Saudis supporting Syrian opposition, the two countries agree to cooperate in fighting terrorism.[38]

October 15 – Austria
The conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) emerges as the largest party in Austria’s legislative elections, winning 31.5 percent of the vote and gaining 62 out of 183 seats in the parliament. The ruling Social Democrats (SPÖ) finish second with 26.9 percent of the vote and 52 seats, slightly ahead of the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ), which receives 51 seats.[39] The leader of the People’s Party, 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz, is expected to become Austria’s next chancellor. Both People’s Party and Freedom Party exploited anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments after tens of thousands of refugees fleeing wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan passed through or settled in Austria. They have promised a more hardline stance against the influx of refugees and immigrants. The Freedom Party even declared that Islam is incompatible with Austrian values and an existential threat to Europe.[40] The situation sparks concerns from the Muslim and Jewish communities in Austria who call on Kurz not to form a coalition government with the Freedom Party, which was founded by a former Nazi officer and is now led by Heinz Christian Strache, a once neo-Nazi activist.[41]

October 16 – Malta
A leading investigative Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, is killed when a bomb planted in her car exploded. Her popular blog covered corruption of government officials and abuse of office. She exposed Malta’s links, which includes the country’s prime minister, to offshore tax havens through the leaked Panama Papers. The Panama Papers is a name given to 11.5 million leaked documents that detail financial information about wealthy individuals, public officials, and companies that for years used offshore business entities to cover fraud, tax evasion, and evade international sanctions. Although violence against journalists in Malta is rare, the bombing of Daphne Galizia brings attention to the freedom of press in this tiny island-country in the Mediterranean where the threat of lawsuits and prosecutions remain a serious constraint on newsrooms across the country.[42]
More on Freedom of Press in 2017
More on the Panama Papers

November 29 – Russia
In defiance of international sanctions, North Korea successfully launches another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Hwasong-15, which flew higher than missiles previously tested and landed off the northern coast of Japan. The missile reached an altitude of 2,780 miles and flew the distance of 590 miles in 53 minutes. The height is important as missiles at higher altitude can travel longer distances on a lower trajectory. North Korea boasts that the new missile can now reach any part of the continental United States.[43] Defending the launch, North Korea says it is a “responsible nuclear power” and it needs these strategic weapons to defend itself from “the U.S. imperialists’ nuclear blackmail policy and nuclear threat”.[44] (November 30): U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley urges all countries to sever relations with North Korea. Russia, however, says that sanctions do not work and encourages diplomatic approach.[45]
North Korea in nine charts

December 6 – Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin says he is seeking another term as president in the elections scheduled for March 2018. If he completes the next 7-year term, he will have ruled Russia for 24 years until 2024. He has been in power since 1999. This includes the period between 2008 and 2012, when he switched places with Dmitry Medvedev who theoretically served as President and Putin as his Prime Minister.[46] Russia’s main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, has been officially barred from running for president because of his embezzlement conviction, which he claims was politically motivated. Navalny calls for a boycott of the next year’s elections.[47]
From spy to president: The rise of Vladimir Putin: video (09:05)


[1] “To nie mgła. To rekordowy smog w Warszawie.” 8 January 2017. Web. 12 February 2017.
[2] “WHO Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database.” The World Health Organization. Ambient (outdoor) air pollution database, by country and city. 2016. Web. 12 February 2017.
[3] “Germany says boosting defense spending, demands clear U.S. agenda.” Reuters. 18 January 2017. Web. 21 February 2017.
[4] NATO. “Funding NATO.” 19 January 2017. Web. 21 Feburayr 2017.
[5] NATO. “Defence Expenditures of NATO Countries (2009- 2016).” Press Release. Communique
PR/CP(2016)116. 4 July 2016. Web. 19 February 2017.
[6] Ibid 4.
[7] Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty. “European Court Rules Russia Must Pay Navalny For Unlawful Arrests.” 2 February 2017. Web. 14 March 2017.
[8] “Dutch Election Results.” The Economist. 16 March 2017. Web. Accessed 7 April 2017.
[9] Helliwell, J., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. World Happiness Report 2017, New York: Sustainable Development Solutions Network. 2017. Web. Accessed 13 April 2017.
[10] Ibid. Chapter 7. “Restoring American Happiness.”
[11] Oliphant, Roland. “Russia accused of ‘state terrorism’ as ex-MP shot dead in Ukraine.” The Telegraph. 23 March 2017. Web. Accessed 5 April 2017.
[12] “Henadz Fiadynich: Only Active Protests Could Abolish ‘Social Parasites’ Decree.” Charter 97. 22 February 2017. Web. Accessed 5 March 2017.
[13] The Council of Europe. “Venice Commission: Proposed constitutional amendments in Turkey would be a “dangerous step backwards” for democracy.” The Venice Commission. 10 March 2017. Accessed 11 May 2017.
[14] Seyrek, Demir Murat. “Turkish Constitutional Referendum: Trexit from Parliamentary Democracy?” EuroNews. 13 April 2017. Accessed 11 May 2017.
[15] “French election 2017: Who are the final candidates?” BBC News. 24 April 2017. Accessed 26 April 2017.
[16] “French election: live results.” Politico. 7 May 2017. Accessed 25 May 2017.
[17] Fox, Aine and Beth Abbit. “Manchester bomber Salman Abedi was banned from a mosque and reported to authorities for his extremist views.” Manchester Evening News. 25 May 2017. Accessed 30 May 2017.
[18] “Moscow threat as Moldova expels five Russian diplomats.” BBC News. 30 May 2017. Accessed 31 May 2017.
[19] “Elections 2017. Results: Election ends in Hung Parliament.” BBC News. N/d. Accessed June 26 2017.
[20] Masters, James and Angela Dewan. “Theresa May to form new government with help of DUP.” CNN. 9 June 2017. Accessed 10 June 2017.
[21] Lipman, Masha. “The Urban Protesters Defying Putin.” The New Yorker. 15 June 2017.
[22] Rubin, Alissa J., Aurelien Breeden, and Benoît Morenne. “Emmanuel Macron’s Party and Allies Win Big in France.” The New York Times. 18 June 2017. Accessed 21 June 2017.
[23] “NATO Jet Approaches Russian Defense Minister’s Aircraft.” NPR. All Things Considered. 22 June 2017. Accessed 24 June 2017.
[24] The European Commission. “A new EU trade agreement with Japan.” EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement. 1 July 2017. Accessed 18 July 2017
[25] Ibid 24.
[26] Freedom House conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights. The organization’s annual Freedom in the World report assesses each country’s degree of political freedoms and civil liberties, as well as freedom of the press and freedom of the net, which monitor censorship, intimidation and violence against journalists, and public access to information.
[27] Freedom House. “Freedom in the World 2017 Report and Freedom in the World 2016 Report.” Poland. 2016 and 2017. Accessed 24 July 2017
[28] Freedom House. “Freedom of the Press 2017 Report.” Poland. 2017. Accessed 24 July 2017
[29] United Nations International Organizations for Migration (IOM). “Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 120,137 in 2017; 2,410 Deaths.” Press Room.22 August 2017. Web. Accessed 6 September 2017 from
[30] United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM). “Migration Flows – Europe.” 3 September 2017. Web. Accessed 6 September 2017 from
[31] Smith, Alexander, Mac William Bishop and Courtney Kube. “Russia Kicks Off Huge Zapad 2017 Military Exercises With Belarus.” NBC News. 14 September 2017. Web. Accessed 29 September 2017 from
[32] “Boosting NATO’s presence in the east and southeast.” NATO. 11 August 2017. Web. Accessed 2 October 2017 from
[33] The Federal Returning Officer. “Bundestag election 2017: Results.” 25 September 2017. Web. Accessed 25 September 2017 from and
[34] “AfD: What you need to know about Germany’s far-right party.” Deutsche Welle. 24 September 2017. Web. Accessed 26 September 2017 from germanys-far-right-party/a-37208199
[35] Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. “Situation of human rights in the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine).” United Nations Human Rights. 25 September 2017. Web. Accessed 3 October 2017 from
[36] “Catalonia crisis in 300 words.” BBC News. 21 October 2017. Web. Accessed 23 October 2017.
[37] “Catalan independence: Sacked leader Puigdemont ‘not seeking asylum”. BBC News. 31 October 2017. Web. Accessed 31 October 2017.
[38] Soldatkin, Vladimir and Katya Golubkova. “Russia, Saudi Arabia cement new friendship with king’s visit.” Reuters. 5 October 2017. Web. Accessed 17 October 2017.
[39] BM.I. Federal Ministry of Interior of Austria. “National Elections 2017.” 2017. Web. Accessed 23 October 2017 from
[40] Witte, Griff and Luisa Beck. “For Austria’s Muslims, country’s hard-right turn signals an ominous direction.” The Washington Post. 20 October 2017. Web. Accessed 20 October 2017.
[41] Traynor, Ian. “Extreme right emerges as strong force in Austria.” The Guardian. 28 September 2017. Web. Accessed 23 October 2017 from
[42] Aghekyan, Elen. “A Journalist’s Death Highlights Obstacles for Maltese Press.” Freedom House. 18 October 2017. Web. Accessed 18 October 2017.
[43] “North Korea says new missile puts all of US in striking range.” BBC News. 29 November 2017. Web. Accessed 7 December 2017.
[44] Kim, Christine and Phil Stewart. “North Korea says ‘breakthrough’ puts U.S. mainland within range of nuclear weapons.” Reuters. 28 November 2017. Web. Accessed 7 December 2017.
[45] “North Korea: Russia accuses US of goading Kim Jong-un.” BBC News. 30 November 2017. Web. Accessed 7 December 2017.
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