Kosovo – Ten Years of Independence

Ten years ago Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. Recently, celebrations marked the 10th anniversary of the new state as thousands of people marched the streets of its capital, Pristina.

However, not all countries in the world have recognised Kosovo as an independent state.  While the US and Great Britain have been its staunchest supporters, China, Russia and a few EU nations still consider Kosovo as a part of Serbia. It is not yet been able to join the United Nations.

The Balkan state has a population of 1.8 million. 90% are ethnic Albanians, 120 000 live as a Serb minority in Kosovo.

Over 13,000 people died and a million were displaced in the Kosovo War between 1998 and 1999 – a conflict in which Kosovo rebels tried to free themselves from Serbia.  Serb troops pulled out of Kosovo after intensive NATO bombing. After the war, the area was put under UN administration in which NATO supervised a peace-keeping force.

Ten years after the declaration of independence, there are still tensions between Serbia and Kosovo.  Many Serbs see Kosovo as the heart of their nation, because of the important historic sites located there. The European Union has pointed out that Serbia must normalise its relations with Kosovo if it wants to become an EU member. On the other side, Kosovo must also grant Serbs living in their country a certain degree of autonomy.

The young state faces many problems.  Kosovo has a young population but cannot create enough jobs, leaving 60% of its youth unemployed.  Many are well-educated and speak several languages but fail to see any perspectives for their future. Almost 200,000 Kosovars have left the country in the last decade. In addition, corruption is widespread and war crimes are unresolved.

 

Turkish peacekeepers in Kosovo
Turkish peacekeepers in Kosovo

Words

  • administration = political control of an area
  • anniversary = date on which something important happened years ago
  • autonomy = to make your own decisions and govern yourself
  • Balkans = large area in southeastern Europe that extends from Greece to Slovenia
  • capital = most important city in a country; where the government is
  • celebration = an event where you have fun and do something that you enjoy
  • consider = here: to look at a country as …
  • declare independence = to say in public that you are a free country and not under the control of another one
  • decade = ten years
  • degree = amount
  • displaced = to leave your home because of a war or another conflict
  • ethnic = from a certain race, or nation with special customs and traditions
  • face = manage, solve
  • fail = here: do not
  • grant = give
  • historic site =  place at which something important happened in the past
  • however = but
  • in addition = also
  • intensive = strong
  • Kosovar = person from Kosovo
  • minority = small group in a country
  • mark = here: celebrate an important event
  • normalise = to make something normal
  • peacekeeping force = group of soldiers who are sent to a place to keep two enemies from fighting
  • perspectives = here: hope for something better
  • point out = to say very clearly
  • rebel = someone who opposes the government and fights  against it
  • recently = a short time ago
  • recognise = to officially accept
  • several = a few
  • staunch = very loyal
  • supervise = here: to make sure that two groups of people do not fight against each other
  • supporter = here: a country that wants to help you
  • tension = here: nervous feelings because the two groups do not trust each other
  • troops = soldiers
  • unemployed = out of work; with no job
  • unresolved = not solved; not finished
  • war crimes = cruel, illegal  act done during a war
  • widespread = when something is common and happens a lot

Putin Wins Fourth Term as Russian President

Vladimir Putin has won another six-year term as President of Russia.  He received over 75 % of the vote in Sunday’s presidential election. Although the victory was expected Putin received more votes than he did in the 2012 election.

Putin’s strongest opponent, Alexei Navalny was not allowed to take part because of a criminal case against him. He called for a boycott of the election.  Putin’s closest rival, millionaire Pavel Grudinin received only 12% of the vote.

Over 60% of Russians went to the polls. In order to get as many Russians as possible to vote, food and other free services were offered near polling stations. Young voters in Moscow were given free concert tickets if they voted.

Independent election monitorshowever, registered some irregularities in the election. They received evidence of stuffing ballot boxes with extra ballots and authorities forcing citizens to vote.

It was also the first time Crimean citizens were allowed to vote after the peninsula had been annexed by Russia in 2014.

Vladimir Putin has been either president or Prime Minister of Russia since 1999. He has become Russia’s longest-serving leader since Joseph Stalin . The law requires him to step down after his term ends in 2024.

Putin’s election victory came at a time of increased tensions with the West. A week before the elections, the United States imposed sanctions on Russia because of its interference in the 2016 US presidential election. The British government accused Moscow of poisoning a Russian double agent on the streets of London.

 

Vladimir Putin, Russian President
Vladimir Putin, Russian President – Image: www.kremlin.ru

Words

  • accuse = to say that someone has committed a crime
  • although = while
  • annex = to take control of an area by sending an army and soldiers into it
  • authorities = here: people who organise an election
  • ballot = piece of paper on which you make a cross for your favourite candidate
  • boycott = not take part
  • citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • criminal case = an event in which  someone might have broken the law and now comes before court
  • double agent = a spy who works for two countries at the same time
  • election = when people choose someone for an official position
  • evidence = facts that show something is true
  • expected = it was not a surprise
  • force = to make someone do something
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • however = but
  • impose = to force something on someone
  • increased = getting higher or more
  • independent = here: not belong to a political party
  • interference = to get involved or mixed up in something
  • irregularity = here: something that is against the law and not correct
  • law = rules that a country has
  • monitor = a person who watches things closely
  • opponent = someone who tries to win against you; a rival
  • peninsula =piece of land that has water on three sides
  • poison = to kill someone with a deadly chemical
  • polling station = building that you go to in order to vote
  • polls = the place where you can go to vote in an election
  • Prime Minister = the leader of the government
  • receive = get
  • register = realise; notice something
  • require = you have to do something
  • rival = opponent ; the person who also wants to win
  • sanction = form of punishment against a country
  • service = things that are offered to you
  • step down = here give up your job as President
  • stuffing ballot boxes = here: putting more votes in boxes than you have people who vote
  • tension = here: nervous feelings between two or more countries
  • term = here: period of time during which you are president
  • victory = win
  • vote = the result of the election

New Eurostar Service Between London and Amsterdam

Eurostar, the company that operates train services between Great Britain and the European mainland through the Channel Tunnel, will start a new service between London and Amsterdam in April. The company has said that the new route is another step towards connecting major European capitals to the UK by rail.

Trains will travel twice a day between London and Amsterdam via Brussels and Rotterdam. The journey will take about three hours and 40 minutes.

Eurostar will offer tickets starting at £35 one-way, which is expected to compete with cheap budget airlines on the route between London and the Dutch capital.

The service especially targets businesspeople who prefer comfortable foot space and WiFi. In addition, Amsterdam has become increasingly popular among UK tourists. Over 4 million passengers travel between London and Amsterdam, one of Europe’s busiest air routes, every year.

Travel between the UK and Western Europe has increased strongly in the last two decadesSince the start of Eurostar services in 1994,  the number of travellers between London and Paris, Eurostar’s first route,  has doubled.

While passengers leaving London will be able to travel to Amsterdam without interruption, travellers from Amsterdam to London will be required to undergo passport and security checks in Brussels. This is only a temporary measure and only should only last until the end of 2019.

 

Eurostar high-speed train
Eurostar high-speed train – Image: Kabelleger / David Gubler

Words

  • budget airlines = airlines that offer cheap tickets, but not as many services as other airlines do
  • capital = the most important city in a country; where the government is
  • compete = here: to be able to attract as many passengers as airlines do
  • connect = link together
  • decade = ten years
  • double = to be twice as much
  • especially = above all
  • foot space = room for your legs when you sit
  • in addition = also
  • increasingly = more and more
  • interruption = to stop something
  • mainland = the European continent, without the islands that belong to it
  • major = very important
  • measure = law, action
  • offer = sell
  • one-way = only to a destination; not back again
  • operate = here: to run a service
  • popular = liked and well-known
  • prefer = like
  • require = need to; must
  • security check = here: officials check your passport and see that you don’t bring anything illegal into a country
  • service = here: a train that travels between two cities
  • step = stage, phase
  • target = aim at a certain group of people
  • temporary = only for a short time
  • twice = two times
  • undergo = here: you must do something
  • via = through; by way of
  • WiFi = wireless internet connection

EU Plans To Recycle All Plastic Waste by 2030

The European Union has released plans to recycle all plastic by the year 2030. It wants to ban all types of plastic that can only be used once. The measure comes as a  consequence of China’s decision to ban imports of foreign plastic that is to be recycled in in the country. Currently, the EU exports half of its collected plastic,  most of which goes to China.

The European Commission also plans to reduce plastic waste that is washed up on North Sea, Atlantic and Mediterranean shores. According to the new proposal, it will be illegal to dump plastic waste in the open seas.

Although the EU does not want to introduce a tax on plastic yet, it does aim at the development and production of new kinds of plastic that can be recycled in Europe. EU countries produce 25  million tons of plastic every year but only a fourth is recycled. It takes plastic hundreds of years to degrade.

The EU wants to invest 300 million euros to develop better plastic materials. The new strategy aims at making plastic recycling more profitable

While the production of one-time-only usable plastic items, like drinking straws, coffee cups and takeaway packaging is to be reduced, families should also be persuaded to cut down on plastic usage altogether.

Non-EU countries are also considering cracking down on plastic. Some countries have already started to tax the use of plastic bags. Iceland has announced that it will ban all plastic packaging for domestic products.

 

Plastic waste
Plastic waste

Words

  • according to = as planned by…
  • aim = hope to do something
  • although = while
  • announce = to say something in  public or in front of the media
  • ban = forbid
  • consequence = result of something that has happened
  • crack down on = to become more strict about dealing with a problem
  • currently = now; at the moment
  • cut down on = reduce
  • decision = choice you have made after thinking about something
  • degrade = when a material or substance changes into a simpler form
  • development = designing and producing something new
  • domestic = made in your home country
  • dump = here: throw something away at sea
  • European Commission = central organisation in the EU that has certain tasks to do
  • illegal = against the law
  • item = product
  • measure = action that should deal with a problem
  • persuade = to make someone decide to do something and give them reasons for doing it
  • profitable = to make more money out of something
  • proposal = plan or suggestion made by a group of people
  • recycle = to use over and over again
  • reduce = lower
  • release = announce; to say something in front of people and the media
  • shore = coast; where land meets the sea
  • tax = here: money you must pay to the government if you use or buy something
  • takeaway packaging = here: the packages that are used to put takeaway food into
  • usage = using  a product
  • wash up = here: to land on …

 

Equal Pay For Men and Women in Iceland

Iceland has become the first country to make it illegal to pay women less than men. The new law, which took effect on January 1, imposes a fine on companies and government organisations employing more than 25 workers if they pay men more than women. The Scandinavian country wants to eliminate the pay gap between the sexes completely within the next four years.

Iceland has been considered the world’s fairest country in terms of gender equality for the past nine years. In a country where half of the parliamentarians are female, women still earn about 15% less than men. The new Icelandic law aims at helping to change the attitude towards women in business and politics.

According to the World Economic Forum, a Swiss-based non-profit organisation,  there is a global  58 % difference in pay between the sexes.  Economic experts predict that, if the current trend continues,  women will have to wait over two hundred years to get equal pay and the same opportunities at work.

There is also a lack of female politicians. Only a quarter of the world’s politicians is female and fewer than one in five ministers are women. Only 23% of the world’s parliamentary seats go to females.

 

Women campaigning for more rights and gender equality in Iceland
Women campaigning for more rights and gender equality in Iceland – Image: Magnus Fröderberg/norden.org

Words

  • according to = as reported by …
  • aims at = wants to achieve something
  • attitude = the feelings you have about someone or something
  • considered = thought to be
  • current trend = if the situation of today goes on
  • eliminate = get rid of; do away with
  • employ = to give a person work
  • equal = the same
  • gender equality = the same chances and opportunities for men and women
  • global = worldwide
  • illegal = against the law
  • impose = to force people to accept something
  • in terms of = if you look at or observe closely
  • lack = not enough
  • law = rule or regulation that a country has
  • non-profit = to use the money you get to help other people
  • opportunities = chances
  • parliamentarian = member of parliament
  • pay gap = the difference in the amount of money men and women get for their work
  • predict = to say that something will happen in the future
  • quarter = 25%
  • seat = here: an elected member of parliament
  • Swiss-based = organisation that operates out of Switzerland
  • take effect = start; become law

Thousands of Nazis Escaped to South America After World War II

After the end of World War II, as many as 9,000 high-ranking Nazi officers escaped punishment in Germany and fled abroad, most of them to South America. Over 5,000 started a new life in Argentina, the rest were scattered across Brazil, Paraguay and other countries.

At the beginning of World War II, Argentina already had a large German community. President Juan Peron sympathized with the Third Reich and helped set up routes in Spain and Italy, through which Nazi officers escaped. He also gave them false passports and new identities.

With the help of the Vatican and relief organisations like the Red Cross, more and more Nazis poured into South America, building a network of contacts that made it easier for the rest of them to flee. In the decades after the war, some were tracked down and brought back to Germany, however many Nazis escaped justice.

One of the most famous Nazis who found his way to South America was Adolph Eichmann. He was an SS officer in charge of Hitler’s final solution – sending millions of Jews to death camps all across Europe. He lived in Buenos Aires until 1960 when a team of Israeli intelligence officers captured him and got him out of the country.  After his trial in Jerusalem,  he was hanged in 1962.

Another famous Nazi was Joseph Mengele, a doctor who conducted medical experiments at the Auschwitz death camp, where he often used prisoners as guinea pigs. He spent several years in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay where he died in 1979.

Adolf Eichmann on trial in Jerusalem in 1962
Adolf Eichmann on trial in Jerusalem in 1962

Words

  • abroad = to a country across the ocean; here: North or South America
  • capture = to catch a person  and keep them as prisoner
  • community = people who live together in the same area
  • conduct = carry out
  • death camp = place where a large number of prisoners are killed or die
  • decade = ten years
  • escape = get away from a bad or dangerous situation; leave a place because it is dangerous
  • false passport = here: a passport that is not real, with a made-up identity
  • flee – fled = escape; get away from a bad situation
  • guinea pig = someone who is used in a test or experiment to see how successful  something new is
  • high-ranking = in a high position in an organisation
  • hang – hanged = to kill someone with a rope around their neck
  • however = but
  • identity = name
  • in charge of = responsible for
  • intelligence officer = person of a foreign government who tries to collect secret information in other countries
  • justice = system by which criminals are punished
  • network = system
  • officer = someone who has power in the military or police department
  • pour into = come in large numbers
  • prisoner = someone who is kept in prison  for a crime they may have committed
  • punishment = to make somebody suffer because they have done something that is against the law
  • relief organization = organization that helps people who are in danger
  • scattered = spread over a large area of land
  • sympathize = here: like, support, help
  • Third Reich = period of Nazi Germany, led by Adolf Hitler
  • track down = to find someone who  has been hiding
  • trial = legal process in which a judge and a jury in a courtroom decide if a person is guilty or not

Traditional Sports in Britain on Boxing Day

Boxing Day, the 26th of December,  has become a traditional day of sports in the UK, with many events taking place all across the country.

The day got its name from a time when many upper-class families gave boxes of gifts to poor people who had to work at Christmas while everybody else was celebrating. Boxing Day is celebrated in many Commonwealth countries.

The first important sports event on Boxing Day took place back in 1860 when two of the oldest football clubs in England played against each other. Today the Englisch Premier League schedules a full round of matches on this Christmas holiday. In many cases, teams that are geographically close to each other play on Boxing Day so that fans do not have that far to travel.

While most European football leagues take a winter break, sometimes for several weeks, English football continues between Christmas and New Year.

The holiday schedule is welcomed by many football fans, but there are critics however who say that the Christmas season is a time when everybody should be at home with their families. Some managers point out that the season is very long and major teams need a break for players to recover from injuries.

Football is not the only popular sport that is played on  Boxing Day. Horse racing and rugby have also seen regular sports events on the second day of Christmas.  Traditional fox hunting is opposed by more and more Britons. In addition, Boxing Day has become one of the strongest betting days of the year.

 

Traditional King George VI chase on Boxing Day
Traditional King George VI Chase on Boxing Day – Image: Carine06 , https://www.flickr.com/photos/43555660@N00/8315710432/

Words

  • betting = when people risk money on the results of games  or future events
  • break = pause; a time during which you have no games
  • celebrate = to have fun or do something special
  • Commonwealth = group of about 50 countries that were once a part of the British Empire
  • critics = people who think that certain things are not good
  • everybody else = all the other people
  • gift = present
  • however = but
  • in addition = also
  • injury = when a part of your body gets hurt
  • major = important
  • manager = someone who is in charge of and coaches a football team
  • oppose = to be against
  • point out = to say something that is important for you
  • Premier League = the 20 best football teams of England an Wales which play against each other
  • recover = to  get better
  • schedule = to plan something for a certain time
  • traditional = something that has existed for a long time
  • UK = United Kingdom
  • welcome = to be glad that something happens
  • winter break = time during which teams do not play because it is too cold or there is too much snow on the ground

Europe’s Muslim Population Will Continue to Grow

Over the next few decades, Europe’s Muslim population is expected to continue growing.  A study estimates that by 2050 the Muslim population could grow to 58 million, or 11 % of the total European population, compared to 5 % today.

The study conducted by Pew research, is based on census and immigration data from  30 countries. It created three scenarios. In the first scenario, Muslim immigration into Europe would come to a complete halt.  Even then, the Muslim population would rise to 7.4 %. This is because Muslims, on average,  are 13 years younger than Europeans and have a higher birth rate.

On the other side, a high migration scenario is based on the flow of refugees from 2015- 2016 and expects it to continue. If this happens, the total Muslim population in Europe will rise to 75 million, about 14% of the total population.

According to the Pew report, not all countries will be affected evenly by future Muslim immigration.  Germany and Sweden will see the biggest increases because these two countries accepted most asylum seekers during the 2015-2016 refugee crisis.

At the moment, Germany (5 million) and France (5.7 Million)  have the largest Muslim populations in Europe.

The recently published study is likely to cause more debate on immigration into Europe.  It cites instability in the Middle East and Northern Africa as well as the ongoing conflict in Syria as the main factors that drive people to European countries.  In the last 6 years seeking asylum in conflict regions was the most important motive for Muslims coming to Europe. Only few came to Europe for employment or education.

 

Migrants near the Hungarian-Serbian border during the 2015 refugee crisi
Migrants near the Hungarian-Serbian border during the 2015 refugee crisis – Image: Gémes Sándor/SzomSzed

Words

  • according to = as reported by …
  • affect = here: changed by the situation
  • asylum seeker = person who leaves their country because they are in danger, mostly for political reasons, and asks another country to let them live there
  • birthrate = the number of births for every 1,000 people in a year
  • census = official counting of a country’s population
  • cite = mention
  • compared = to look at two things in a similar way
  • conduct = carry out
  • data = information
  • debate = discussion
  • decade = ten years
  • employment = job, work
  • factor = reason
  • flow = steady movement of people
  • estimate = to calculate how big something will be  based on the information that you have
  • halt = stop
  • immigration = when you go to another country and plan to live there permanently
  • increase = to go up
  • instability = when the situation in a country is not stable because of war or other conflicts
  • is based on = use something as the starting point for your research
  • is expected to = will probably
  • motive = reason
  • ongoing conflict = here: conflict or war that is continuing
  • refugee = people who have to leave their home because of war or a natural disaster
  • rise = go up
  • scenario = situation that could possibly happen
  • study = piece of work that is done to find out more about a subject

Da Vinci Painting Sells For Almost 500 Million

Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Christ was sold for $450 million at an art auction at Christie’s  in New York. It was more than double the price of any art object ever sold.

The painting, Salvator Mundi,  is one of the rare masterpieces of the Renaissance painter. Created at around 1500 it is one of 20 da Vinci paintings still in private possession.

Salvator Mundi was once owned by King Charles I  of England in the middle of the 17th century.  The painting was believed to have been destroyed until it resurfaced in 1900.  In England, it was sold for a mere $125  because art experts at the time thought it was a worthless copy, either done by one of da Vinci’s followers or students. Even today, the painting’s authenticity is still in doubt.

After being restored several times, a Russian billionaire bought the painting in 2013. The new owner intends to remain anonymous.

The oil painting shows the upper body of Jesus Christ as the world’s saviour. In one hand he holds a glass sphere in, while the other hand is raised in blessing.

Currently, there is only one da Vinci in the United States. Ginevra de’ Benci can be observed in public at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

 

Da Vinci's masterpiece "Salvator Mundi"
Da Vinci’s masterpiece “Salvator Mundi”

Words

  • anonymous = not known by name
  • auction = a public meeting where paintings and other things are sold to the person who offers the most money
  • authenticity = the quality of being real or true
  • billionaire = person who has one thousand million dollars, euros etc..
  • in blessing = with the help or protection from God
  • century = a hundred years
  • Christie’s = famous auction house in New York
  • currently = now, at the moment
  • destroy = to damage completely so that you no longer can use it
  • in doubt = here: it may not be real
  • in public = where everyone can see it
  • intend = want to be
  • masterpiece = a work of art that is of very high quality or the best of a famous artist
  • mere = only
  • observe = see something
  • own = possess; if something belongs to you
  • possession = something that belongs to you
  • raise = hold up
  • rare = not found very often
  • Renaissance = period of time in Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries, when art, literature and scientific ideas became very important
  • restore = repair, so that it appears like it once was
  • resurface = to appear again after being lost or missing for some time
  • saviour =  a person who saves someone in a dangerous situation – here: Jesus Christ
  • sphere = shape of a ball
  • worthless = without any value , cheap

Russian Revolution – One Hundred Years Ago

One hundred years ago, in 1917, the Russian Revolution ended the monarchyTsar Nicholas II had to step down and the Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin took control of the country. As a result, the Soviet Union evolved and became the biggest Communist country in the 20th century.

The centennial celebrations did not stir up a lot of publicity and Russian media did not report extensively on the topic. The Russian government under Vladimir Putin all but ignored the anniversary.

In contrast, thousands of Communist party members marched through downtown Moscow in honour of the Bolshevists, holding up flags of Lenin and Stalin.

During the Soviet era, November 7th  was always a state holiday with military parades and a display of power on Red Square. It was stopped after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Public opinion on the Russian Revolution is divided . While most citizens have a positive view of Lenin’s role in history they are opposed to the events that took place under Joseph Stalin’s  authoritarian regime. On the other side, many Russians are proud of having won World War II and of the country’s military and scientific achievements.

Lenin’s legacy collapsed in 1991. After years of chaos and a massive gap between the rich and poor, stability returned in the new millennium. While many cities and towns still honour Lenin in some way, others, like St. Petersburg, have returned to pre-revolutionary names.

Poster showing a Bolshevik in 1920
Poster showing a Bolshevik in 1920

Words

  • achievement = something important or successful that you have done  and can be proud of
  • anniversary = a day on which something special happened years ago
  • authoritarian regime = government that forces people to do what it wants and  where the citizens cannot state their opinions
  • Bolsheviks = group of people who supported the communist party at the time of the Russian Revolution in 1917
  • centennial = day or year exactly 100 years after a special event
  • century = a hundred years
  • citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • collapse = break down; when something stops existing
  • divided = split
  • downtown = the centre of a city
  • evolve = grow
  • extensively = in detail, very much
  • gap = big difference
  • ignore = pay no attention to something
  • in honour = to show how much you admire or respect someone
  • legacy = here: what is left over from a certain period in history
  • massive = very large
  • millennium = the beginning of the next one thousand years
  • monarchy = country in which a king, queen or another person rules
  • oppose = to be against something
  • parade = here: public celebration where soldiers and weapons move down the streets for the people to see
  • pre-revolutionary = before the revolution
  • publicity = attention that something gets  from newspapers or TV
  • public opinion = what the people on the streets think
  • Red Square = large open area in the centre of Moscow
  • scientific = about science
  • stability = being in the same condition
  • step down = give up power
  • stir up = cause, lead to
  • tsar = king of the Russian empire before 1917