- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 20, 2003

BELGIUM

Discord delays EU charter debate

BRUSSELS — The European Union’s acrimonious drive to forge a constitution will stay on hold for months after the bloc’s incoming Irish presidency said on Thursday it would wait until March before deciding its next step.

But Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, outlining Ireland’s goals for when it replaces Italy in the EU hot seat on Jan. 1, said that the building blocks for a deal are in place and that the talks cannot last forever.

After the next EU summit in March, there will be “a period of discussion at council level, which will determine the next stage,” Mr. Cowen said. The timeline he outlined makes it likely that the EU’s intergovernmental conference will remain on hold beyond March, probably pushing the constitutional debate into the European Union’s Dutch presidency.

The EU is slated to expand to 25 countries in May, and European Parliament elections scheduled for June will complicate the process further.

BRITAIN

Review ordered of terrorism laws

LONDON — A parliamentary committee ordered Britain’s government to reopen debate on its post-September 11 antiterrorism laws or lose its 2-year-old power to hold foreign terror suspects indefinitely without charge.

Britain has imprisoned 14 foreign “suspected international terrorists” without charge under sweeping measures imposed after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, making it the only country to derogate formally from the European Convention of Human Rights.

FRANCE

Fingerprint rule for visas planned

PARIS — Starting in 2004, France will ask visitors from certain countries to supply fingerprints before they will be issued visas, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy announced Wednesday.

Mr. Sarkozy, responding to a question in the Parliament, said the measure would allow those staying in France illegally to be identified more quickly. He did not say which countries’ citizens would be affected.

Weekly notes

Prince Rainier III of Monaco will remain hospitalized for several days in a cardiac unit after complications arising from a bout of influenza, the royal family said last week. A palace source said that the 80-year-old prince’s condition is not cause for concern and that he is expected to be released in time to spend Christmas with his family. … Latvian police said a drunk picked up with about twice the blood alcohol level considered deadly probably set a world record, but would awaken with a hangover to match. The unidentified man was unconscious but stable after a blood test showed 7.22 parts per million of alcohol, a police spokeswoman said. An average person would vomit at around 1.2 ppm, lose consciousness at 3.0 ppm and stop breathing at about 4.0 ppm, she said, adding: “This is one for the Guinness Book of Records.”


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