The world at a glance . . . Europe



Brussels pays the rich: Some of Britain’s richest people, including some royals, collected farm subsidies from the European Union this year, according to data released this week. Queen Elizabeth took in nearly $1 million for her farms in Sandringham, while the Duke of Westminster got even more. One of the largest payments, of more than $3 million, went to the Mormon Church, one of the biggest foreign landowners in English farming. Farm subsidies, intended to protect small farmers in the various European countries, take up 40 percent of the E.U. budget every year and are a perennial source of discord. The subsidies are “going to fat-cat landowners for no useful purpose,” said Member of Parliament Harry Cohen. “It is a shocking scandal.”


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Sarkozy’s ‘Marshall Plan’: French President Nicolas Sarkozy this week announced a massive urban renewal program aimed at troubled housing projects. The ghetto areas known as banlieues, populated mostly by Arab and African immigrants, were the sites of weeks of rioting in 2005, and Sarkozy campaigned last year on a platform to clean them up. He said he would add 4,000 police officers to the neighborhoods, provide job training for more than 100,000 youths, and build new transportation links. He also pledged a crackdown on crime. “As of tomorrow, a merciless war will start against drug dealers,” he said. “I will take full responsibility for its enforcement.” Sarkozy did not say how much the new programs would cost.


Tax bill comes due: Motorcycling champion Valentino Rossi agreed this week to pay $28 million in back taxes to the Italian government. Rossi, a seven-time world champ, is a big star in Europe, where he has made millions of dollars in endorsements. At 28, he is the seventh highest-earning sports figure in the world, taking in an estimated $30 million a year. In 2000, Rossi moved to Britain to avoid Italian taxes, but it now appears that the ploy did not work. The agreement covers only 2001 to 2004; Rossi could owe another $25 million for 2005 and 2006.


Protest over teen alarm: British officials are calling for a ban on a high-pitched device intended to discourage youths from loitering. The Mosquito security alarm emits a piercing sound that is painfully annoying to the young but can’t be heard by most people over 25. Since the device went on sale two years ago, some 3,500 stores, schools, and municipal buildings have installed it to prevent teenagers from hanging around after hours. But Sir Albert Aynsley-Green, the children’s commissioner for England, this week called for a ban, saying that the alarm infringes on children’s rights. Activists agreed. “What type of society uses a low-level sonic weapon on its children?” said Shami Chakrabarti, head of the human-rights group Liberty. Compound Security, maker of the device, said police forces credit the Mosquito with reducing delinquency.

Zurich, Switzerland

Brazen art theft: Armed robbers in ski masks burst into a Swiss museum

this week and stole four impressionist masterpieces. The three men entered the Emil Bührle museum in Zurich about 30 minutes before closing time and ordered everyone in the lobby to lie down on the floor. They then made off with paintings by Cézanne, Monet, Degas, and van Gogh, which together are worth more than $160 million. It was Switzerland’s biggest art heist ever. Just last week, two Picassos were taken from a cultural center in a town near Zurich. Police are investigating whether the two robberies are linked.

Aarhus, Denmark

Plot against Mohammed cartoonist: Danish police arrested three men this week on suspicion of plotting to kill one of the artists who drew the Mohammed cartoons that provoked riots across the Middle East and Asia in 2005. The targeted artist, Kurt Westergaard, 73, drew the cartoon in which the Prophet Mohammed was depicted wearing a turban shaped like a bomb. One of the suspected Islamic extremists who was arrested is a Danish citizen of Moroccan origin; the other two are Tunisians. More than 100 people were killed in riots across the Muslim world after the cartoons were reprinted in numerous European papers. Newspapers across Europe reacted to the arrests this week by reprinting the Westergaard cartoon.

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