Bird Flu spreads west
Bird flu has hit Europe and is spreading west. Three children died in eastern Turkey last week after contracting the deadly H5N1 strain and three further cases have been confirmed in the Ankara region of the country. The European Commission confirmed on 7 January that the ban on imports of live birds and poultry products from Turkey remains in force. Untreated feather imports from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Iraq and Syria, which neighbour Turkey have also ceased for the time being. Amid the fears of a pandemic, Iran has closed its Turkish Border and Russia has advised against travelling to the country. Experts from the European Commission, along with members of the World Health Organisation, visited the affected areas over the weekend.
New EU Presidency to resurrect EU Constitution
On 1 January 2006, Austria took over the EU Presidency from Britain. In its agenda for the next six months, Austria has proposed to re-open talks on the European Constitution after its rejection by voters in France and the Netherlands in 2005. Another item likely to be approached is the EU's dependency on fossil fuels. The new Presidency is supporting a push forward with the Biomass Action Plan following the recent gas sanctions between Russia and the Ukraine. The United Kingdom, along with the Netherlands and Germany, are three Member States that either have, or are preparing, Biomass Action Plans to increase the use of bio-energy sources as an alternative to non-renewable supplies.
The next sitting of the European Parliament will be on 16 January 2005, with the full session of the Parliament being held in Strasbourg.
Council of Ministers
During the first half of 2006, the Presidency of the Council of the European Union will be held by Austria. This will be the second time that Austria has held the Presidency. On 1 July, Finland will take over, followed by Germany and Portugal. In 2008, the Presidency will be held for the first time by one of the newly acceded Member States, Slovenia.
The European Commission travelled to Austria yesterday to meet the Austrian President of the EU.