News Timeline: January 2008


January 1 — Europe: EUROPEAN UNION

Cyprus and Malta adopt the euro, becoming the 14th and 15th EU members to replace their currency with the euro. The two Mediterranean island states will have the same voting rights as the other 13 members at the European Central Bank.

January 2 — South Asia: SRI LANKA

The Sri Lankan government officially withdraws from a ceasefire agreement with Tamil Tiger rebels, who are fighting for an independent state in the north and east of the country. Despite the Norwegian-brokered truce, fighting has been escalating since 2006. Some 5,000 people have been killed in the past two years of the “ceasefire,” bringing the total number of deaths since the beginning of the war in 1983 to 70,000.

January 5 — Former Soviet Republics: GEORGIA

Georgia’s incumbent President Mikhail Saakashvili wins re-election in a snap election with roughly 52 percent of the vote. Saakashvili called for the early election to resolve a political crisis that led to violent clashes between protestors and riot police in November 2007. Notwithstanding an array of alleged violations including misuse of state resources and media bias, international observers call the election mostly clean, and the most competitive in Georgian history.

January 11 — Europe/Africa: EUROPEAN UNION/CHAD

The European Union approves a peacekeeping force for Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) to protect internally displaced persons, Darfur refugees, and aid workers, as violence between Chadian forces and Darfur rebels escalates. Camps in Chad host about 240,000 refugees from Sudan’s region of Darfur, along with 180,000 displaced Chadians, and 45,000 Central Africans. The force, known as Eufor Chad/CAR, will consist of 3,700 troops, more than half French. The operation is separate from the United Nations’ ongoing mission in Darfur.

January 12 — East Asia: TAIWAN

Taiwan’’s opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party wins a landslide victory in parliamentary elections. The KMT, which seeks closer ties with China, gains 72 percent of the seats in the 113-seat chamber, defeating President Chen Shui-bian’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The defeat prompts Chen to resign as chairman of the DPP.

January 14 — Middle East/North America: IRAQ/UNITED STATES

Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul Qadir arrives in the United States to discuss the long-term military relationship between both countries, including U.S. assistance in building Iraqi armed forces. During his interview, Minister Qadir says that Iraq will not be able to provide for its internal security until 2012, or to defend Iraq’s external borders until 2018-2020.

January 15 — Europe/Middle East: FRANCE/UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

In an effort to increase France’s prestige abroad, French President Nicolas Sarkozy signs a deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to establish a permanent French naval base in Abu Dhabi, France’’s first base in the Persian Gulf. France also agrees to help the UAE build two nuclear energy reactors.

January 21 — East Asia: THAILAND

Thailand’’s newly elected parliament convenes for the first time since the military seized power in a September 2006 coup, placing the country back on the road to multiparty democracy. Leading a six-party coalition will be the People’s Power Party (PPP), a reincarnation of the Thai Rak Thai party, which was formerly led by deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and was dissolved by the junta.


The Congolese government and rebel groups sign a peace pact aimed at ending years of bloody insurgency in the country’’s eastern region. The deal includes a ceasefire, provisions for the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers, and promises of financial aid for reconstruction. The agreement also offers partial amnesty to key rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda, dependent on the disarming of his group. Still unresolved is the related issue of disarming another rebel militia, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). The FDLR is opposed to the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) of General Nkunda.


Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip blow several openings in the border fence that divides the territory from neighboring Egypt. Hundreds of thousands of Gazans flow into Egypt to purchase essential goods. The action is in defiance of Israel’s decision on January 17 to close all border crossings into Gaza. Israel’’s move was in response to rockets fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip. The blockade created severe fuel and food shortages in the Gaza Strip.

January 23 — Europe: GREECE/TURKEY

Greek prime minister Costas Karamanlis arrives in Turkey for a three-day visit, the first official visit by a Greek leader in almost fifty years. Although relations between the two countries have improved greatly in the past decade, territorial disputes over the Aegean Sea and, especially, the future of the divided island of Cyprus remain.

January 24 — Europe: ITALY

A senate no-confidence vote forces Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi to resign. Prodi, who led a center-left government coalition for 20 months, faced nearly three dozen no-confidence votes before losing the latest one. Constant bickering among the coalition members prevented Prodi from implementing many of the economic and electoral reforms he promised. Prodi’’s government was Italy’’s 61st government in the 62 years since the end of World War II.


Serbia and Russia’s state-owned gas giant, Gazprom, sign an energy agreement that gives Gazprom a controlling stake in Serbia’s national gas and oil monopoly, NIS. Gazprom also agrees to construct a gas pipeline through Serbia to pump Russian natural gas to other European countries. The deal, together with another deal reached four days earlier with Bulgaria to build a fuel pipeline, gives the Russian company significant control over gas supplies to Europe.

January 29 — Africa: KENYA

The killing of opposition parliament member, Mugabe Were, sparks fresh fighting in Kenya, where weeks of intense violence were triggered by the disputed December 27th presidential election. Hundreds have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced by ethnically driven revenge and reprisal attacks between President Mwai Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe and the Luos and Kalenjins, who back opposition leader Raila Odinga. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is mediating talks to try to end the crisis.

January 31 — Latin America/International Organizations: MEXICO/NAFTA

Tens of thousands of Mexican farmers protest in Mexico City against the lifting of corn tariffs, which took place on January 1 under the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Protesters claim the elimination of trade barriers, as well as unfair government subsidies for farmers in Canada and the United States, will put many Mexican farmers out of business. The farmers and some opposition leaders call for renegotiation of some NAFTA provisions.