The week at a glance...Europe


Valletta, Malta

Getting unhitched: The heavily Catholic nation of Malta voted this week to legalize divorce. A slim majority of 53 percent voted to allow divorce after a couple has been separated for four years, and once “adequate maintenance” and the welfare of any children has been secured. “The majority result in favor of divorce is not the result that I’d hoped for,” said Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, who had campaigned heavily against the measure. “But the will of the people has to be respected, and parliament should enact a law for the introduction of divorce.” Now only two countries in the world still prohibit divorce: Vatican City and the Philippines.


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Soccer scandal: Sepp Blatter won a fourth four-year term as president of the international soccer body FIFA this week, despite allegations of widespread corruption during his tenure. The 75-year-old was the only candidate in the presidential vote after rival Mohamed Bin Hammam was suspended from the executive committee last week. Bin Hammam is accused of bribing other committee members to pick his native Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup. An ethics committee appointed by Blatter found that Blatter had no knowledge of that or other similar bribery allegations. “Reforms will be made, and not just touch-ups but radical decisions,” Blatter promised this week. “We have been hit and I personally have been slapped. I don’t want that ever again.”

Hamburg, Germany

E. coli outbreak: An outbreak of E. coli poisoning has killed 17 people so far and compelled Germans to dump their salads into the trash. The outbreak has infected more than 1,500 people, making it one of the largest of its kind in the world, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. Cucumbers imported from Spain were initially blamed as the source of the bacteria, and Germany and several other European countries immediately stopped all imports of Spanish produce, costing Spanish farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in losses and infuriating Spanish leaders. But the cucumbers were found not to be the source of the infection, and now German health officials are telling consumers to avoid all raw vegetables until a broad EU investigation into the contamination is completed.


Nuclear era ends: Germany will shut all its nuclear reactors by 2022, the government announced this week, in a policy reversal inspired by the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Nuclear energy provides nearly a quarter of Germany’s energy, but it has long been unpopular. German analysts said the sudden change of heart by longtime nuclear cheerleader Chancellor Angela Merkel—who just nine months ago had announced that she would extend the life span of the country’s reactors—was prompted by electoral considerations. Merkel’s Christian Democrats have been battered in local elections recently. By taking such a pro-environment stance, she could be positioning her party for a chance at an alliance with the anti-nuclear Greens after the next election.

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