In brief - 2006-04-12

  • 2006-04-12
The European Union told Moldova this week to concentrate on essential reforms instead of focusing on membership. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU's external relations commissioner, told Moldovan Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev in a meeting on April 11 that Moldova has made "quite important advances on the economic, political, and also structural-reform side." These efforts had prompted the EU to include Moldova in its "GSP Plus" scheme, the EU equivalent of "most favored nation" status that eases access to the European market. Still, Ferrero-Waldner said that "a lot of effort" still needs to be invested in reforms in human rights, minority protection and the rule of law. Ursula Plassnik, foreign minister of the EU's current presidency, Austria, said after meeting Tarlev that Moldova must "manage its expectations in a responsible way" and work within the EU's Neighborhood Policy, which is designed for neighboring countries not yet on the path to EU membership. Moldova is one of Europe's poorest countries.

The Norwegian oil company DNO said test-drilling in northern Iraq shows promising results. The company, which is exploring the possibilities of oil production in the Tawke area in Iraqi Kurdistan, said test production could begin in early 2007.

The ongoing boycott of Danish goods by Muslim countries resulted in an 85 percent plummet of the country's dairy exports in February. The National Statistics Office said exports of milk, butter and cheese dropped to some 130 million kroner (16 million euros) in February, compared with 840 million kroner during the same month in 2005. This is one of the first reports of the economic impact of cartoons in a Danish paper depicting the prophet Muhammad in an unflattering light and resulting in mass unrest in Islamic countries.

Finnish and Estonian lawmakers appear intent on forging ahead with referendums on the maligned EU Constitutional Treaty. Estonia may hold a vote in May while Finland could do so in July. "This will send a signal from the Finnish people that this treaty is needed, that it is the best compromise to make the union more efficient and democratic," Jan Vilen, chairman of the Finnish parliament's Grand Committee, was quoted as saying by the Observer. The treaty has been ratified by 14 countries, though several members 's i.e., Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, and Britain 's have either suspended or delayed the ratification process after France and the Netherlands rejected it last year. Meanwhile, Alain Lamassoure, told the European Voice that "everyone knows that the draft constitution will never be applied." In his words, many top European officials believe the treaty should be "smaller" and "deal with essential constitutional issues."