ForesightNews world briefing: upcoming events 14 – 20 May

May 11, 2012

A weekly round up of world events from Monday, 14 to Sunday, 20 May from Foresight News

By Nicole Hunt

All eyes will be on newly-elected French President François Hollande and the euro zone this week, kicking off with a meeting of euro group finance ministers in Brussels on Monday ahead of a wider ECOFIN meeting on Tuesday. Hollande has previously talked about renegotiating the EU stability treaty, but with his government not quite officially in office yet, the mood at the meetings is likely to be somewhat uncertain.

Gulf leaders gather in Riyadh for the annual Gulf Cooperation Council summit on Monday, with Syria and Iran likely to feature prominently on the agenda. The leaders of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also expected to discuss proposals for a political federation that would see the group share foreign and defence policies, according to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal.

In Vienna, Iran begins two days of talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The talks follow IAEA visits to Iran in January and February this year, and come ahead of the resumption of P5+1 discussions in Baghdad on 23 May.

Tuesday is the big day! Hollande is sworn in as President at the Elysée Palace in Paris in the morning, and one of his first orders of business will be to fly to Berlin to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Meanwhile, France’s national statistics institute releases preliminary figures for quarterly growth, job creation and labour activity, which will give the new president a better idea of the current state of the economy. On top of that, Greek, German and euro zone first quarter GDP figures are also out.

If anyone doesn’t feel like discussing European economic prospects, they might be interested to know that Germany’s other favourite subject is also in the news, as the Kiev Court of Appeal holds a hearing for jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison after being convicted of abuse of power in October; she also faces a separate trial for embezzlement, which resumes in Kharkiv on 21 May. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, meanwhile, is expected to be in Moscow to attend an informal meeting of the Commonwealth of Independent States, hosted by new President Vladimir Putin.

In Nairobi, United Nations Development Programme administrator Helen Clark launches the first African Human Development Report, which focuses on food security on the continent.

Wednesday’s Hollande-story-of-the-day: the new President chairs his first cabinet meeting, at which he’s expected to announce a cut in his own salary, as well as those of his ministers. The cabinet won’t be the only ones earning less money in France, as Hollande is expected to work quickly to introduce one of his most popular election pledges: a 75% tax on earnings over €1 million.

Aside from that, there’s a lot happening in Dutch courts. The Assen District Court is due to rule on a petition filed by the public prosecutor to dissolve and ban the Martijn organisation, which lobbies for the social acceptance of sexual relationships between adults and children.

At the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, former Bosnian Serb Army Commander Ratko Mladic goes on trial facing 11 counts of criminal responsibility and superior criminal responsibility for genocide, complicity in genocide, persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, inhumane acts, inflicting terror upon civilians, cruel treatment, attacks on civilians and taking hostages.

Over at The Hague’s special trial chamber for the Special Court for Sierra Leone (which otherwise sits in Freetown), a sentencing hearing takes place for former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who was convicted of crimes against humanity on 26 April. Following submissions from both sides, Taylor will be sentenced on 30 May.

Thursday is looking relatively quiet, so far. The official Handover Ceremony for the Olympic Torch takes place at the Panatheanic Stadium in Athens, following an eight-day torch relay around Greece, with Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Princess Anne among those in attendance.

In Chicago, NATO spokesman James Appathurai is due to participate in a debate with Andy Thayer of the Coalition Against the NATO/G8 War and Poverty Agenda. The debate is part of NATO’s efforts to ‘reach out’ and ‘exchange views’ with activists, who have planned a week of protest events ahead of the weekend summit.

The two-day G8 Summit begins at Camp David on Friday, with US President Barack Obama playing host. The meeting is Hollande’s big international debut, but one person he won’t be meeting there is Putin, who has opted to skip the summit and send Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in his place.

Facebook is widely expected to launch its stock flotation on Friday, following a cross-country roadshow to drum up interest – which has been either weaker or stronger than expected, according to various sources. The company has been valued at up to $100 billion, and is reportedly making around $11 billion in shares available in its first offering.

The Queen is hosting a jubilee lunch for other sovereign monarchs, which normally wouldn’t be notable to anyone besides royal-watchers, but the potential guest list has come under scrutiny as of late. King Hamad of Bahrain is rumoured to be among the invitees, despite ongoing human rights and security issues in the country, which have been criticised by the Foreign Office.

The G8 Summit continues on Saturday, when we can expect the final communiqué to be released , but otherwise it’s looking like another quiet day. Baby Milk Action holds its annual Boycott Nestlé demonstration at the company’s Croydon headquarters, protesting against ‘aggressive’ and ‘unethical’ marketing of baby milk formula in developing countries.

Most of the G8 leaders will make their way from Camp David to Chicago on Sunday for another two days of meetings, this time to discuss NATO.  Since the G8 Summit was moved from Chicago, preventing any large protests from getting near the meeting, the biggest demonstrations are also scheduled for Sunday.

Three elections taking place on Sunday:  a presidential vote in the Dominican Republic, where Danilo Medina and Hipolito Meja are vying to replace Leonel Fernandez Reyna, who is stepping down; a runoff in the Serbian presidential election, which saw incumbent Boris Tadic narrowly beat his main challenger Tomislav Nikolic on 6 May; and the runoff votes for the municipal elections in Italy, following the first round of voting on 6-7 May.

Finally, Google’s annual top-secret Zeitgeist Conference takes place in London. According to a leaked schedule obtained by Forbes in April, speakers include former US President Bill Clinton, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, Independent chairman Evgeny Lebedev, former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow, BBC’s Paul Mason, and, er, Annie Lennox and Arsène Wenger.