CROATIA ““ (BBC) Near-complete results from Croatia’s referendum on European Union membership suggest that a large majority of people want to join the EU in 2013. With nearly all votes counted, 66% of voters backed the membership and about 33% were against. Officials expressed disappointment at the low voter turnout (44%). Croatia signed an EU accession treaty last year and should join in July 2013, once all 27 existing members of the union have ratified the deal. It would come more than 20 years after Croatia broke away from Yugoslavia, which triggered a 1991″“95 war to secure its independence. All major political parties in Croatia favor joining the EU, despite the financial crisis engulfing the organization. “It is a historic decision”¦possibly a turning point in our history,” Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said after the vote. EU supporters say membership is the best option for the country in the long term.
FRANCE ““ (BBC) Four French soldiers have been killed in northern Afghanistan after a serviceman from the Afghan National Army opened fire, officials say. Another 16 French soldiers were injured–some seriously–in the incident in Kapisa Province. An official told the BBC that an Afghan non-commissioned officer got into a “verbal clash” and opened fire. President Nicolas Sarkozy said France was suspending its training programs in Afghanistan following the attack. He was sending his Defense Minister Gerard Longuet to the country immediately, he said. Mr. Sarkozy said that the question of an early French withdrawal from Afghanistan would arise if security conditions were not re-established–he said it was unacceptable for French troops to be fired on by their allies.
ITALY ““ (BBC) Divers have found the body of a woman in the wreck of the cruise ship Costa Concordia, bringing the number of people confirmed dead to 13. Rescue workers are still looking for 20 people who are believed to be missing. The vessel sank on January 13th after hitting rocks near the island of Giglio, off Tuscany. The woman who has now been found was wearing a lifejacket, officials say. Her body is being removed from the ship. Only eight of the 13 bodies discovered have so far been identified. The identity of a woman whose body was found on Saturday has yet to be established, along with those of three men discovered previously.
THE NETHERLANDS ““ (BBC) A Dutch teenager who set out to become the youngest solo around-the-world sailor has completed her voyage. Laura Dekker, 16, was greeted by a cheering crowd as she sailed into the St. Maarten Harbor in the Caribbean after a year at sea. She left on January 20th, 2011 aboard her 11.5m boat Guppy. Before her trip, Ms. Dekker won a court case against Dutch social services, who had argued that the voyage could harm her emotional and social development. Her mother had expressed concerns about the solo voyage, but later lifted her objections. The Guinness Book of Records decided to stop recognizing records for “˜youngest sailors’ after the controversy surrounding her bid.
NORWAY ““ (BBC) India says it will try to seek an “amicable” solution to a controversial child custody case in Norway. Two Indian children aged three and one were taken into foster care last May, leaving their parents “devastated.” The parents said there were “cultural differences” the authorities took exception to, including sleeping with the children and feeding them by hand. Norway’s child welfare denied this, saying it only intervened when parents did not take “adequate responsibility.” The child custody case has caused anger in India. Reports say that Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna is likely to talk to his Norwegian counterpart, Jonas Gahr Store, to win the release of the children. “We are in touch with the Norwegian government and we are [hopeful] that an amicable settlement of this question could be arrived at,” Mr. Krishna told reporters. “Whatever support is needed under the circumstances will be provided to the Indian couple.”