PM Tony Blair, soon to be the EU
president (the position is automatically rotated every 6 months), has managed to sway a number of EU MP's but still faces tough opposition from France
Launching the UK's presidency at the European parliament, he warned: "This is not a time to accuse those who want Europe to change of betraying Europe." After weeks of vitriolic political exchanges in Europe, Mr Blair's speech was consensual in tone and received applause from a parliament that had been expected to give him a rough ride.
But Mr Schröder loosed off a broadside in Bild, the German daily newspaper, writing: "The differences in recent days and weeks have shown clearly that Europe faces a choice in the coming months between two poles. The first wants to strip out the core of the European Union and reduce it to a kind of free trade zone. The other wants to preserve a politically active, vital European Union. This is the vision I support."
At a dinner in Aachen on Wednesday night, Mr Schröder also accused José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, of being too close to Mr Blair's ideological view and failing to take account of German interests, according to officials at the meeting.
Although Mr Blair remains at loggerheads with Mr Schröder and Jacques Chirac, French president, British officials believe the economic reform debate is moving in their direction.
And it looks like Turkey
is now pinning hopes of being future members of the EU on Blair as Germany
seem inclined to bar its accession.
"Admiral" Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is offering to buy
votes as he enters into Iran
's run-off presidential elections today, promising every single family $11,000 if he is elected:
In a televised address on Wednesday, Mr Rafsanjani also promised a wide-ranging privatisation programme, seemingly modelled on several Eastern European countries in the 1990s, in which shares would be distributed to all Iranians. Each family receiving 100m rials (US$11,230) worth of state shares, he said.
has an in-depth look at the two finalists: Admiral Akbar Rafsanjani
and Mahmood Ahmadinejad
I always report such serious stuff but here is a quote from a light-hearted story about some drunken Russian
circus members' antics in Norway
A local policeman told Radio Fredrikstad that he could not confirm whether or not the drunken quartet were literally clowns, but said they might have been trying to practice part of their act.
Gotta love it!
Looks like that major bank heist in Norway
last year was set up to fund criminal operations in Kosovo
, which remains the great open sore on Europe's belly.
If you want to know why Norway
is considered one of the best places to live on the planet, the gov't has recently approved a plan where fathers
will receive ten weeks of paternity leave at full pay
. Now THAT is family values.
As I stated yesterday
, the U.S.
(who have been flying secret missions
) are hyperinflating the totals of Invincible Taliban
members killed in air raids. Yesterday about every western media source reported 75-100 IT killed but today the Taliban spokesperson, appearing on television
, said no battles took place at all
"If the Americans say they are bombing and killing dozens of people, then it shows that they must be killing ordinary people. I assure you we have not taken part in any battles in the places that are being bombed", Hakimi said.
In related news, Pakistan
has said it is "impossible" to seal its border with Afghanistan
and wants everyone to quit grumbling about it. What's really going on is that Pakistan would rather see pro-Taliban fighters control the country than the Tajik/Uzbek "Northern Alliance" that is more or less running the show now and therefore Pakistan is plenty happy to let the religious nuts cross over the border.
And I see that Russian
President Vladimir Putin has weighed in on the issue as well:
AFGHANISTAN is still home to terrorist-training camps and US-led forces are ineffective in battling insurgents, Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted as saying overnight.
"We are seriously worried that bases for preparing terrorists are currently functioning on Afghan territory, including with the direct involvement of certain (foreign) spy services," local news agencies quoted the president as saying.
Russia has long said Chechen rebels train in Afghan insurgent camps, and has said repeatedly it will destroy militant training camps abroad without warning.
Some experts are warning that the EU
's extension of targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe
may further endanger that nation's already weak economy. Zimbabwe
is now heavily reliant on trade with Asian countries, particularly China
A new report says that organized crime (mafia) rose 13% last year in Greece
. In other news, the two biggest unions in Greece
continue their crippling strike but the gov't shows little sign of compromising on their main bone of contention - pension reforms.
has refused to confirm that it has successfully test launched a long-range nuclear capable ballistic missile
from a submarine. Let me say that again - a long-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile.
Thanks to independent media, I see that President Bush's younger brother Neil Bush visited Ukraine
earlier this week to check on a new business he has created there:
"The plans of the company include large investments in creation of the educational centers for hi-tech specialists in Ukraine. The participation of Ukrainian scientists in researching of educational programs will be planned as well. The charitable and enlightened aspect is implied in such activity. That will help to establish close relations between Bush's brother and the first lady of Ukraine who leads the Charitable Fund "Ukraine-3000." In the future it will contribute the relationship between Neil Bush and the first authorities of Ukraine.
It's worth noting here that the first lady of Ukraine
is none other than Kateryna Yushchenko-Chumachenko
, an American citizen and former high-ranking State Department employee. She also worked for both Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush. She met her husband when she worked for KPMG, which is a known neocon
company with close ties to the current Bush administration.
And I see that the next day, Neil Bush visited President Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia
, an extremely close friend of the Yushchenko's.
Some good news for once out of the North Caucuses
as a group of prominent Rusian
bands will play a music festival in Chechnya on July 5.
President Vladimir Putin, meeting with NATO leader Jaap de "Hula" Hoop Scheffer, will push for Europe to ratify the (latest) Adapted Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. This is extremely significant as if it is put into place, the 1999 Istanbul agreements will reduce Russian military troops levels in Georgia
, something vital for the internal reunification of those nations.
Facing lagging sales, France
's storied wine industry is making "revolutionary" reforms, designed to make standards even stricter.
Yesterday I erroneously said that Bulgaria
was holding national elections today - instead they will be held on Sunday, and it looks like Prime Minister Simeon Coxburg may be unseated.
Excellent news as Britain
's Ministry of Defense (Defence) has ruled that no more troops will be sent to Uzbekistan
to train that country's military forces - forces which massacred hundreds of civilians last month.
There's a new trend in Denmark
, that of men taking their wives' last names when they get married.
The government of Ireland
has announced that for the first time it will grant "green cards" or legal working permits for thousands of workers from outside the EU
The president of Serbia
, Boris Tadic, is in Romania
for a state visit to consolidate ties, especially on their common position that Kosovo
should not be granted full independence.
The government of Slovenia
is considering the implementation of a flat tax.
On Wednesday, a power outage shut down much of Switzerland
's rail network, sparking a debate about what exactly went wrong.
I see that Turkey
has granted 1 million dollars worth of equipment for the military in Macedonia
And last but certainly not least, the Greek government of Cyprus
is cautiously reacting to the UN's latest proposals to reunify the island with its Turkish-occupied north.