ForesightNews world briefing: upcoming events 23 – 29 January

A weekly round up of world events from Monday, 23 January to Sunday, 29 January from Foresight News

By Nicole Hunt

New week, New Year – the Chinese Year of the Dragon, that is.

But while weeks of celebrations are kicking off in China, the mood will be considerably less celebratory in Brussels, where the EU foreign ministers and euro area finance ministers are holding monthly meetings. The Foreign Affairs Council is scheduled to discuss new sanctions against Iran, including the possibility of imposing sanctions on Iranian oil, while finance ministers will hear from Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti on his government’s plans for economic and labour reforms.

In Cairo, the Egyptian parliament holds its first sitting following marathon elections between November and January. The need for re-votes and subsequent delays in results reporting means the full make-up of the National Assembly is still unknown, though it’s likely to be dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Libyan authorities have until Monday to submit information to the International Criminal Court in The Hague on the conditions of Saif al Islam Gaddafi’s arrest and detention, and to notify the court whether they intend to hand him over for trial. Gaddafi has been indicted by the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity.

Spanish Magistrate Baltasar Garzon, who went on trial last week on charges of illegal phone tapping, is back before the court on Tuesday to face the allegations that originally saw him suspended last spring. Right-wing lobby groups have accused Garzon of overstepping his judicial authority by investigating disappearances under Franco’s regime despite a 1977 amnesty.

US President Barack Obama delivers the final State of the Union address of his first term in Washington. While no details of the speech have been released (other than that Obama will follow it up with a five-city tour through the battleground states of Iowa, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Michigan), the focus is likely to be on the economy and employment.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel opens the World Economic Forum Meeting, better known as Davos, on Wednesday. The annual gathering attracts heads of state and government from across the world, with nearly 40 leaders expected to attend this year alongside IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, World Bank President Robert Zoellick, Arab League Secretary General Nabil El Araby and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Despite the star-studded Davos meeting, all eyes will be on Cairo as the Egyptian revolution marks its first anniversary. However, the mood is likely to be less celebratory than would be expected, as protesters have grown impatient with the rate at which power is being transferred from the military to civilians, as well as the ongoing trial of former President Hosni Mubarak, and activists have continued to clash with police in recent months.

Thursday is a much quieter anniversary, marking one year since the first, tentative protests in Syria, where the death toll has now reached somewhere between 5,000 and 6,500. Widespread demonstrations did not take place in Damascus until 15 March, which is considered the beginning ofthe Syrian uprising, but smaller gatherings were held on 26 January, inspired by Tunisia and Egypt.

Thursday is also seen as a key deadline in the Middle East Quartet’s plan for the progress of peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials. The parties are supposed to have put forward ‘comprehensive proposals’ on border and security improvements by now, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has demanded that a settlement freeze be put in place.

Senegal’s Constitutional Court is scheduled to make a decision on Friday as to the eligibility of candidates for the country’s 26 February presidential election. Incumbent President Abdoulauye Wade maintains that since he was first elected in 2000, three years before the introduction of a two-term limit, he is still eligible to run for another term (despite re-election in 2007). Singer Youssou N’dour is also among candidates.

After a delay of over a month, Silvio Berlusconi’s trial for paying for underage sex resumes in Milan. Both sides will be looking ahead to a 7 February hearing, during which the Constitutional Court is due to hear a motion brought by the Senate requesting that the case be moved to a special minister’s court.


The Cuban Communist Party holds its national convention on Saturday, the first since Raul Castro succeeded his brother Fidel as the Party’s Secretary General last year.

Saturday also marks 100 days since the death of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

With the lower house elections over and Parliament in place, Egypt begins the first round of voting for the upper house or Shura Council on Sunday. A second stage of elections will be held 14-15 February, with runoffs scheduled for both stages, if necessary. Plans for a three-stage vote, in line with the lower house elections, were abandoned in favour of a shorter timeline that will see the Shura Council sitting by 28 February.