This Week in European Conflict… June 18th-24th, 2011

  • The meeting of religious leaders from Armenia and Georgia did not result in any concrete agreements on disputes between the quasi-official churches after nearly one week of talks.
  • Thousands of people marched on Parliament in Athens, Greece on Saturday, angry at a push for austerity measures following a poll that showed half the country opposed them. Many are sceptical that Greece can ever repay its debt pile that is expected to rise to 170% of the country’s annual economic output by 2013. EU finance ministers delayed sending 12 billion Euros until next month, while the IMF warned European leaders that their hesitant response to the Greek debt crisis risks triggering the world’s second global financial meltdown in three years. The crisis is already affecting many young Greeks, who are taking up farming or exiting the cities, in hopes of finding a more manageable existence.
  • Tens of thousands marched against the so-called “Euro Pact” and the handling of the economic crisis in Spain. There were no reports of violence. Unemployment has soared to a 14 year high and almost half of under 25 year olds are out of work, banks have cut off credit lines, consumer prices are rising faster than the regional average, investment has been slashed and house prices have plummeted; while government has kept wage rises to a minimum, lengthened working lives, abolished welfare payments and increased taxes.
  • The Parliament in Bulgaria rejected a second no-confidence motion against the centre-right government on Friday over the economy, which is struggling to recover from recession. The ruling GERB party came to power two years ago with promises to battle the economic crisis and improve living standards, but was forced to freeze pensions and public sector salaries to rein in its fiscal deficit.
  • Three people, including a former police official, were arrested on Monday on suspicion of committing war crimes against Serbian civilians during the 1990s war in Croatia. The former head of a police department and his deputy were arrested for command responsibility, while a third person was charged with personally committing crimes.
  • A leader of a pro-Palestinian group in Paris, France is being sued for racial hatred after she called for a boycott of Israeli products. The plaintiffs claim that calling for an Israeli boycott is a provocative act that incites discrimination, hatred and violence, however, the defendant believes that she is exercising her right to freedom of speech. Around 80 are now facing trial for calling for boycotts. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again; there is a difference between an action against a State (which is not above criticism) and an action against a group of people based solely on their ethnicity, heritage or religion.
  • Homes in east Belfast, Ireland were attacked by a large group of masked men on Tuesday in what the press is calling the latest sectarian violence. The homes were hit with paint bombs, pipe bombs and petrol bombs, causing several injuries, and several hundred people were said to have been involved in “hand-to-hand fighting”. Two men were shot and up to 500 involved in the violence.
  • President Medvedev of Russia says he wants a second term in office, but that he won’t stand against Vladmir Putin because their rivalry would hurt the country. Putin is widely expected to reclaim the job.
  • A police officer in Britain has appeared in a London court on a manslaughter charge in the death of a newspaper vendor during the 2009 G20 demonstrations. The case has become a cause celebre against police brutality.
  • PM Berlusconi of Italy faced parliamentary votes this week that tested the strength of his coalition. The PM won a confidence vote over measures to help growth on Tuesday and another on Wednesday to see if the government still enjoys a majority.
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