from The Water's Edge

The World Next Week: The EU and Ukraine Discuss a Trade Deal, the European Court of Human Rights Reviews France’s “Burqa Ban,” and Mali Elects Its Parliament

Ukrainian and EU flags are displayed before a session of the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev on November 21, 2013 (Gleb Garanich/Courtesy Reuters).

November 21, 2013

Ukrainian and EU flags are displayed before a session of the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev on November 21, 2013 (Gleb Garanich/Courtesy Reuters).
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The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the trade negotiations between the European Union and Ukraine, the European Court on Human Rights’ deliberations on France’s “burqa ban,” and the Malian elections.


The highlights:

  • European Union foreign ministers will gather in Lithuania next week to discuss a trade deal with Ukraine. Whether a deal will get done, however, is unclear. The EU is demanding that Ukraine release Yulia Tymoshenko, a former Ukrainian prime minister currently serving a seven-year jail sentence for abuse of office, so she can get medical treatment in Germany for a back problem. Most Europeans contend that Tymoshenko, a hero the 2004 Orange Revolution, was convicted on trumped up charges so she couldn’t challenge her rival, current Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich. The Ukrainian parliament voted overwhelmingly today to reject legislation that would have permitted Tymoshenko’s release. Echoes of the cold war are playing a role in the Ukrainian debate. Russian president Vladimir Putin has been pushing Ukrainian officials to develop Ukraine’s economic relations with Russia rather than the EU.
  • Next Wednesday the European Court on Human Rights (ECHR) is set to begin deliberations on the legality of France’s so-called burqa ban, a 2011 law that prohibits people from wearing clothing in public places that covers their face. Although the law makes no reference to Islam, it is widely viewed as aimed at Muslim women who wear burqas or niqabs. The law is popular with the French public, which believes that it is in keeping with France’s strong secular tradition. The French Constitutional Court  has ruled that the law strikes a “reasonable balance” between public safety and personal freedoms. The ECHR will hear a challenge from a French citizen that the law violates her freedom of expression and religious practice as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECHR has overridden national laws in the past.
  • Voters in Mali head to the polls next week to elect a new national assembly. The vote offers the chance for a new start for the West African country after a coup, an uprising in its north, and a successfully completed presidential election. The vote will also feature at least one unusual candidate: Astan Coulibaly. She was born as Yu Hong Wei in her native city of Shanghai.
  • Bob’s Figure of the Week is Hamid Karzai. My Figure of the Week is 28 percent. Our audience-nominated Figure of the Week is $700, inspired by a tweet from TWNW listener ‏@CAKonieczny. As always, you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.
  • The University of Maryland’s Department of Geographical Sciences has a cool interactive for anyone interested in global deforestation.

For more on the topics we discussed in the podcast check out:

Ukraine Trade Deal: Carnegie Europe explains the difficulty of EU-Ukrainian negotiations. Reuters examines why an imprisoned ex-president is the main obstacle to talks. AFP reports that the Ukrainian parliament may have dampened any hopes of a deal. The EU Observer notes that any EU-Ukrainian deal will be decided at the “last minute”. The Guardian shows the split between Moscow and Brussels over Ukraine. Europolitics describes the objectives of the Vilnius summit.

Burqa Ban Hearing: The European Court of Human Rights has a summary of the case. Radio Free Europe reports French protests over the ban. The Guardian asks if a British veil debate is warranted. Pew Research conducted a public opinion poll on banning Islamic veils in Europe. BBC News summarizes the different clothing bans across Europe.

Mali Elections: France 24 explains Mali’s preparations for the elections. Deutsche Welle describes the optimism in the election. AFP documents the continuing insurgency in northern Mali. ABC News reports that violence is returning to the north. John Campbell examines obstacles to bringing stability to Mali and discusses the two French journalists recently killed there.