Entries in Europe (11)


Balkans Lurch from Killer Blizzards to Destructive Floods

ALEXA STANKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images(BELGRADE, Serbia) -- The Arctic cold is over for now, but that does not mean the Balkans are out of the woods yet. In fact, if the weather gets too warm too fast, the troubles may only be beginning.

Already hundreds of boats and barges have been crushed by cascading ice on the Danube River, and fears are growing that a thaw accompanied by spring rains will cause massive flooding and even landslides. The snow through much of the region is still five times its normal depth.

"We've got a situation that could be problematic," Aleksandar Prodanovic, flood control expert in Serbia told ABC News. "You have to take into consideration March and April rain as well as couple of weeks of winter left."

When a freeze gripped Europe in the end of January and first half of February, a thick layer of ice was formed on the Danube -- in some places as thich as 18 inches. Ship traffic was halted in many areas of Europe's busy waterways.

But now, with temperatures climbing, the ice has begun breaking up around the Serb capital of Belgrade, and damage has already been significant.

In Belgrade, huge ice chunks crashed into hundreds of anchored boats and swept away a number of barges. A couple of Belgrade's most popular floating restaurants have sunk. Now the U.N. is warning that parts of central and eastern Europe, until recently paralyzed by heavy snow, could face another catastrophe.

Margareta Wahlstroem, the U.N. secretary-general's special representative for disaster risk reduction, said in a statement in Geneva that there are warning signs that, "destructive floods will add to the loss of life and economic assets" as temperatures rise. In addition to the flood warnings, Serbian emergency officials warned of a risk of landslides in some 2,300 locations, where the heaviest snow has fallen in the lowlands.

In neighboring Bosnia, emergency crews are preparing for a fresh battle with winter when rivers overflow with snowmelt. Bosnians are also being warned of the danger of possible landslides and citizens are asked to contribute to the country's recovery by removing snow around their homes and trying to control of melting water.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Iran Threatens to Cut Off Oil Supplies to European Customers

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran is telling some of its steadiest oil customers that if they go along with tough sanctions to punish Tehran for its nuclear program, they won't be getting any more fuel.

That message was delivered Wednesday by the Iranian Foreign Ministry to Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Greece and Portugal.

Iran's state news agency reported, "Iran warns Europe it will find other customers for its oil.  European people should know that if Iran changes destinations of the oil it gives to them, the responsibility will rest with the European governments themselves."

It was the European Union last month that said it would install an embargo on Iranian oil by July 1 unless Iran stopped its uranium enrichment program, a major step in the development of nuclear weapons.

Iran also announced Wednesday advancements in its nuclear energy capabilities with centrifuges that can supposedly enrich uranium at a faster rate.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had telegraphed this announcement a few days earlier, celebrated the occasion by inserting the first nuclear fuel rod produced in Iran into a nuclear reactor.

Iran insists its nuclear ambitions are dedicated to peaceful pursuits, a claim widely disputed by Israel and the West.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Deep Freeze Grips Europe, Killing 80

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- The severe cold weather currently gripping Eastern Europe has now spread to Italy and as far south as Turkey. As many as 80 people have died, mainly in Ukraine and Poland, as the death freeze settles over the continent.

Dan Britton, a press officer at Britain’s Met Office, told ABC News the cold weather stems from, “a large area of high pressure sitting over Eastern Europe, which has brought about cold temperatures over quite a large area.”

The Ukraine has suffered the most fatalities as emergency ministries confirmed 43 people had perished in minus-28 degree temperatures.

While hospitals in Ukraine have treated more than 600 people for frostbite and pneumonia, many of the dead were homeless people who were unable to find shelter at night.

As Poland experienced minus-22 degree conditions, seven more deaths have been confirmed. Five were said to be homeless people.

Several people have also died in the Baltic states -- the Czech Republic, Serbia, Bosnia, Romania, and Bulgaria -- where until now temperatures had been well above normal for midwinter.

The heavy snow has caused transport chaos across Europe.

Forecasters have confirmed that this area of high pressure has come from Siberia.

“These kind of weather conditions occur every 20 to 30 years, last time in 1986 and 1956,” Jurik Muller of the German Meteorological Service said.

With snow now falling in Istanbul and other parts of Turkey, the weather is likely to continue throughout the weekend.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US, Europe Reiterate Offer for Talks with Iran

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration and its allies in Europe are reiterating their offer for nuclear talks with Iran as they prepare additional sanctions on the country’s oil sector.
Iran, too, has said recently they are prepared to hold talks, but Secretary Clinton Friday said they need to show they are serious about talking substantively about their nuclear program.
“We all are seeking clarity about the meaning behind Iran's public statements that they are willing to engage, but we have to see a seriousness and sincerity of purpose coming from them,” she said during a press conference with her German counterpart.
On Friday, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton released a letter she sent to Iran’s nuclear negotiator last October which called for Iran to take “concrete and practical” confidence building steps.
Clinton declined to reveal what concrete steps the U.S. and its allies are looking for.
“Confidence will start with their conveying a seriousness of purpose to engage with us and our partners in the E-3 plus three process. That would build confidence. And then the additional steps will await the actual resumption of negotiations,” she told reporters.
Her German counterpart echoed the sentiment.
“We are ready for serious dialogue and substantial talks on this. Just to meet for show, that this meeting would be misused for propaganda, is not what we want to do,” Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.
The extended hand comes as tensions between Iran and the West remain high as the international community continues to increase sanctions on Iran. The Obama administration has sought to tone down its rhetoric in recent days as tempers flared in the Strait of Hormuz.
“We're making it clear to Iran, as the minister said, that its pursuit of nuclear weapons and its needless provocations such as the threats on -- regarding the Straits of Hormuz, place it on a dangerous path,” Clinton said Friday.
“I want to underscore: We do not seek conflict,” she added.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Radiation Mystery Solved? Budapest 'Probably' the Source

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Nuclear officials said Thursday they believe they have traced the source of a massive, but harmless, radiation plume that has spread across the atmosphere in Europe to an institute in Hungary, but the head of the institute disagrees.

The Hungary Atomic Energy Authority (HAEA) said the Budapest-based Institute of Isotopes was "most probably" the source of the continued leak of trace amounts of Iodine-131 into the atmosphere, according to a statement by the International Atomic Energy Institute. Last week the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)  first announced they received reports of trace iodine-131 detections from countries "across Europe," but had no idea from where the radiation was leaking.

According to Thursday's announcement, the HAEA said the leak started on Sept. 8 and was just identified and stopped Wednesday. The IAEA repeatedly said the levels of iodine-131 released into the atmosphere were far too low to pose a public health concern.

But the head of the Institute of Isotopes, Mihaly Lakatos, told ABC News that while a filtering problem at his organization may be responsible for some of the iodine-131 detected in Hungary, it could not be the source of detections hundreds of miles away in other European nations.

"Maybe partly we have something to do with iodine-131 over Budapest, but not over Europe," Lakatos said. "The distance is too long."

The IAEA told ABC News Wednesday iodine-131, which has a decay half-life of just eight days, had been detected in at least seven countries -- from France to Slovakia and Poland. Before the HAEA's announcement, the IAEA said they were still working to narrow the list of possible sources for the radioactive leak.

In response to Lakatos' objections, the IAEA referred ABC News to the HAEA, who made the claim initially. Representatives there did not immediately responded to requests for comment.

Budapest's Institute of Isotopes produces radioisotopes "for a broad range of application areas, especially healthcare, research and industry," according to its website. Iodine-131 in particular is commonly used in low doses to help treat thyroid issues.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


More Protests Staged Across Europe as Finance Ministers Meet

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(BRUSSELS) -- More protests were staged across Europe as finance ministers meet in Brussels.

As European finance ministers reportedly made progress on a plan to keep Europe from default and protect investors, demonstrators protesting against the powers of big banks took to the street in Germany. 

In Berlin there were clashes with police by the Brandenburg Gate. In Madrid teachers and parents protested against education cuts.

As one placard in Madrid read, "Our hopes for the future were never more gloomy."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Occupy Wall Street Movement Goes Worldwide

Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Occupy Wall Street movement that has been spreading across America went worldwide Saturday morning.

Protests were planned in solidarity from Europe to Australia in what is being called an "International Day of Action" this weekend.

In Tokyo, protesters fought inequality and about 300 Australians chanted the cry that started on Wall Street, "We are the 99%!"

While the worldwide protests get underway, protesters at the movement's home base in Lower Manhattan said they're not done spreading the message of the so-called "99 percent."

There are two major events planned for Saturday—a march to Times Square and a rally at JP Morgan Chase Bank, where protesters say they'll be pulling the money from their accounts and closing them all together.

Elsewhere in the country, protesters like Larry Coleman in Flint, Mich., say they're in solidarity with similar protests against corporate greed and economic injustice.

"There's a lot of things wrong in our county that need to be corrected and the only way to get them corrected is to start with a grassroots movement," Coleman said.

On Friday, protesters camping out at New York City's Zuccotti Park were able to stay put a few more days after the company that owns the park postponed a planned clean-up.

When the real estate company Brookfield Properties, along with the backing of police, told protesters the rules against camping, the protesters saw it as an eviction order.

Protesters vowed to stay in the park and would try to stop cleaning crews from coming in.

Brookfield Properties said in a statement that they postponed the cleaning "at the request of a number of local political leaders."

The company said it hoped "to reach a resolution regarding the manner in which Zuccotti Park is being used by the protesters.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on WOR radio Friday that if no agreement is reached, the company will likely attempt the same cleaning next week.

He warned that "it would be a little harder at that point in time to provide police protection."

At least 14 people were arrested Friday for blocking access to the park, authorities said.

It was one of several incidents between protesters and police around the country.

In Denver, police in riot gear moved Wall Street protesters away from the Colorado state Capitol grounds.

In San Diego, scuffles erupted between protesters and police over a tent encampment.

Pepper spray was used to disburse a human chain that was formed around the tents, San Diego ABC News affiliate KGTV reports.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Wealthy Germans Join List of Europeans Who Wish to Pay Higher Taxes

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Fifty wealthy Germans have pledged to their country's Chancellor Angela Merkel to "stop the gap between rich and poor getting even bigger," and join the "tax me harder" movement, which began with American billionaire Warren Buffett and caught on in several European countries, according to The Guardian.

When Buffett stated earlier this month that America's wealthy had been "coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress," and called for higher taxes on wealthy incomes, some of the wealthiest in European countries such as France, Italy and Spain stepped forward willing to contribute towards debt reduction in their respective countries as well.

Now The Wealthy for a Capital Levy, a group of well-off individuals in Germany, say if the country's wealthiest paid a five percent wealth tax for two years, the country could raise $ 144.3 billion, The Guardian reports.

Other countries are also considering temporary tax hikes for the rich.  French president Nicolas Sarkozy last week proposed a three percent tax on incomes higher than $721,350.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Defending Breivik: European Politicians in Hot Water for Norway Comments

HOLM MORTEN/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- At least three European politicians, including one former minister to Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, have come under fire for defending the extremist, anti-immigration views of Anders Breivik that inspired him to allegedly murder more than 70 people in Norway Friday.

Francesco Speroni, who was the Minister of Institutional Reform under Berlusconi in the mid-1990s and current leading member of Italy's Northern League, said Tuesday on an Italian radio show, "If [Breivik's] ideas are that we are going towards Eurabia [Islamized Europe] and those sorts of things, that western Christian civilization needs to be defended, yes, I'm in agreement."

Speroni said he condemned the attack itself but was coming to the defense of Mario Borghezio, a fellow member of the Northern League and member of the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, who previously said some of Breivik's ideas were "great."

"Some of the ideas [Breivik] expressed are good, barring the violence. Some of them are great," Borghezio said also in a radio interview, according to the BBC and The Guardian. "Christians ought not to be animals to be sacrificed. We have to defend them."

Hours before Breivik allegedly began his attack Friday, he posted a 1,500-page manifesto and YouTube video online in which he not only described his meticulous and painstaking preparations for the attack, but an academic-styled presentation against what he called cultural Marxism and mutliculturalism.

"You cannot defeat Islamisation or halt/reverse the Islamic colonization of Western Europe without first removing the political doctrines manifested through multiculturalism/cultural Marxism," the manifesto reads. "Time is of the essence. We have only a few decades to consolidate a sufficient level of resistance before our major cities are completely demographically overwhelmed by Muslims."

Breivik apparently finished his manifesto just hours before allegedly launching a bombing attack in Oslo that killed eight before an assault on a liberal party's youth camp that claimed another 68 lives.

Hours after Borghezio's comments, a leading member of the Northern League, Roberto Calderoli, reportedly released a statement apologizing for Borghezio's "rants" and several other Italian politicians called for Borghezio's resignation.

A member of France's right-wing National Front party has already been suspended for writing a blog post defending Breivik and calling him an "icon," Britain's The Telegraph reported.

"The reason for the Norway terror attacks: fighting the Muslim invasion, that's what people don't want you to know," read a post signed by Jacques Coutela. Coutela called Breivik "the main defender of the West."

Coutela's post was reportedly removed from the Web after a complaint by the French Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between Peoples. After the post was removed, Coutela told Agence France-Presse he was just passing along someone else's words and said he denounced terrorism.

In the wake of the attack several fringe right-wing group's have distanced themselves from Breivik's horrific attack. In his manifesto, Breivik said he communicated closely with Britain's English Defence League, a group that characterizes itself as defenders against "a truly Global jihad." But the EDL said in a pair of statements after the attack it is a "peaceful and patriotic" organization and their group has never had any official contact with Breivik.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


What a Greek Default Could Mean for Americans

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Greece, a small nation in southern Europe, is having an outsized impact on the U.S. economy amid fears among investors that Greece might default on its debt.

The news comes just as the U.S. is seeing some positive signs regarding unemployment benefits and mortgage payment rates.

Fewer Americans applied for jobless benefits in the past three weeks, and more have stayed current on their mortgage payments than at any time since 2006, before the nationwide housing crisis spurred the Great Recession.

This indicates that the U.S. economy is recovering, albeit slowly, even as problems in Europe continue to cool the stock market.

The problems in Greece could lead to these probable outcomes:

If the European economic zone countries come to an agreement to bail out Greece, those countries will have less money to spend on American goods, causing job losses here.

If Greece defaults on its debt, it would mean any entities that bought bonds (banks, governments and private investors) would have to readjust their balance sheets. Those entities had relied on the interest payments paid by Greek bonds to fund other investments and buy goods and services so that money would no longer be there to spend.

If a full default occurred, other troubled countries, notably Spain and Portugal, could also follow suit, leading to a wave of defaults that would severely affect the European zone and could send shockwaves all the way to Wall Street.

Already, Greeks are rioting in the streets and tossing petrol bombs at riot police. They are protesting austerity measures their government has tried to impose as it works to solve its country's debt crisis. Prime Minister George Papandreou has so far failed to put together a cross-party coalition that could come up with a plan to combat the debt.

"Greece has defaulted already," Richard Bove, an analyst at Rochdale Research, told ABC News. "We are arguing about how we are going to handle this default in a way that is least destructive to bank balance sheets."

Although U.S. businesses, even banks, are not severely exposed to Greece's economy, investors worry that if Greece defaults on its debt and leaves investors such as Greek bond holders out in the cold, financial trouble would spread to other troubled European economies, such as Spain's, Portugal's and Ireland's. If the European economy were to implode in a wave of defaults and associated bank failures, it could pull the U.S. economy down as well, since there is a lot of trade between the U.S. and Europe.

"Large European banks are very intertwined with American banks," said Bove. The question becomes, in the worst case-scenario, a wave of defaults, "Will these banks be able to absorb a number of defaults from a number of countries?"

Large country defaults have happened before. Argentina defaulted on part of its external debt in 2002, leading to a decade of economic turmoil for that country. Following the default, Argentina received a crucial loan from the International Monetary Fund in 2003 and restructured its massive debt. Today, Argentina is the third-largest economy in Latin America.

Next week, European leaders will convene a summit to attempt to deal with the crisis, and another meeting is set for July 11.

Europe has far more money as a whole than Latin America, so perhaps it can avoid the worst-case scenario for Greece and help save their own skins -- and ours too.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio