Seven days in Europe

The Commission has stated in a written note that respect for gay rights is a criterion for EU accession. Armenia is keen to become a member state, but Armenian law does not prohibit any sort of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, does not recognise same-sex partnerships and has no legal provision for individuals wishing to change gender. It repealed legislation criminalising homosexual intercourse in order to meet conditions for its accession to the Council of Europe in 2001.

Public attitudes are also considered a problem, with gay-friendly bars being vandalised and protesters at a small pro-toleration rally abused with slogans about gay people being a disease and a threat to children.

This looks likely to result in Armenia failing to meet the eligibility criteria for accession, with the Commission’s note quoting the 1993 “Copenhagen criteria”, the TEU arts 2, 10 and 19, and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights art 21.

However, Ulrike Lunacek, an Austrian MEP, has said that the way forward is to work with conservative countries on the fringe towards improving the situation rather than putting up barriers.

Hungary’s attempt to secure the extradition of former soldier Charles Zentai from Australia has failed. Zentai, now an Australian citizen, is suspected of murdering a Jewish teenager during World War II and is among the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s 10 most wanted. The Australian court ruled that war crimes were not on Hungary’s statute book when the offence would have been committed and so it was not an extradition offence under Australia’s treaty with Hungary.

Following searches of homes and businesses four men have been arrested in Germany on suspicion of breaking the nuclear trade embargo on Iran by illegally supplying the country with parts for a nuclear reactor.

The UN, the US and the EU all have a wide range of sanctions in place aimed at making it harder for Iran to pursue its nuclear programme. Israel is poised to attack Iran, arguing that its nuclear capabilities pose an existential threat to the Jewish state.

The US presidential election debates are being fought around views on Europe and its perception as being in an economical crisis. Republican candidate Mitt Romney has said:

“I see our President making us more and more like Europe. I don’t want to be like Europe, I want to be like America.”

His running mate Paul Ryan has described President Obama’s fiscal policies as sending the US down the same path as Greece.

Bruce Stokes, a US pollster, was quoted as saying that in general US citizens are not well informed about the euro crisis, and that not knowing where regulation was coming from would cause them to blame Obama for sudden news about failing markets and exports declining. He said:

“It is really just about big government versus small government and often not that well informed. This has nothing to do with what is actually going on in Europe.”

 Italian police have discovered a massive cannabis farm in an abandoned metro tunnel built under Rome during the rule of Mussolini. Suspicions were roused by a strong smell of marijuana emanating from the area. Police confiscated 340 kilos of the drug, worth an estimated €3m.

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