- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 27, 2002

Poland welcomes Franco-German deal

BRUSSELS Poland, the European Union's biggest candidate for membership, welcomed as "good news" last week a Franco-German compromise on farm aid that raised hopes of agreement at an EU summit on financing the bloc's enlargement.
French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder struck a deal in bilateral talks before EU leaders dicker on funding to keep the enlargement on track. If the Franco-German accord opens the way to an overall EU deal, the bloc will have just six weeks to negotiate entry terms with 10 prospective members before EU leaders meet in Copenhagen in December.
Candidate states reacted with dismay to draft plans under which their farmers would, in their first year, receive just a quarter as much farm aid as farmers in current EU countries. Their subsidies would rise to parity over 10 years.

France sets plan to help legal immigrants
PARIS France's center-right government has introduced a plan aimed at better integrating some 100,000 legal immigrants that arrive in the country each year by offering them language training and job counseling.
Labor and Social Affairs Minister Francois Fillon explained the key points in an interview with the newspaper Liberation, saying: "We need legal immigration marked by successful integration."
The "contract," the cornerstone of the initiative, would provide immigrants with up to 600 hours of French language courses, 30 hours of civics lessons and individualized professional advice. Mr. Fillon said it would not be mandatory, like a similar program that goes into effect in Austria next year, but rather an incentive to new arrivals.

Historic re-enactment Italian-style
ROME Sergio Iacomoni lives a double life. By day, he is a money printer for the Bank of Italy, and by night "Nero," a gladiator of ancient Rome and keeper of some pretty tough company.
On a recent evening he was crossing swords with "Aureus the Barbarian." The burly men dressed in white tunics and hand-hammered metal helmets grunted and howled as they lunged at each other with heavy iron swords.
But unlike their bloodthirsty forefathers two millennia ago, Nero and Co. rarely do more harm than a scratched forehead or bruised finger at the Scuola Gladiatori they founded a few years ago. "We're passionate about ancient Rome, but we're not going to kill for it," joked Mr. Iacomoni, 50.
Their efforts at authenticity recently drew researchers from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, who came to the school for a closer look at the weapons recreated by its modern-day gladiators.

Weekly notes
German and Dutch commanders will take joint control of the international security force in Afghanistan by March, German Defense Minister Peter Struck said last week after talks with Dutch counterpart Benk Korthals. Mr. Struck said the German contingent would be raised from its present strength of 1,280, but that it has not been decided how many extra soldiers would be deployed. The international force in Kabul is now commanded by Turkey, whose turn ends Dec. 20. British Prime Minister Tony Blair reshuffled his Cabinet on Thursday after a surprise resignation, appointing a new minister for Northern Ireland at a key juncture. He was forced to tweak his team of ministers after Education Secretary Estelle Morris quit following a series of blunders involving her department. Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy replaced John Reid as Northern Ireland secretary less than two weeks after Britain suspended the province's power-sharing regional government. Mr. Murphy, a Catholic, was closely involved in talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement of April 1998 and "is genuinely respected by all parties in Northern Ireland," a Blair spokesman said.

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