Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


The Week Ahead: EC heads to burn in Denmark

AS Europe's leaders meet in Copenhagen today and tomorrow to discuss the Community-wide plague of unemployment and the Bosnian wolves howling at the gate, Danes still sore from their country's eventual grudging acceptance of Maastricht are planning their own diversions. In place of the traditional witches, Francois Mitterrand and Jacques Delors will be among those burned in effigy at midsummer festivals on Wednesday, after the originals depart for the European Parliament in Strasbourg. 'I hope that the Danish historical way of making manifestations - the humoristic, peaceful way - will take over,' the Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen said.

Today in Italy the results will be announced of the second round of local elections. Having swept away the established parties in the great upheaval of the first round, voters are now deciding between the new alternatives. The landmark electoral reform vote in Italy's Chamber of Deputies is scheduled for Thursday. The idea is to get rid of the extreme form of proportional representation which has served Italy so badly, and move towards a more Anglo-Saxon majority method. Critics say the proposed system still allows for up to one quarter of seats to be proportionally allocated, so the damaging profusion of parties may not after all be prevented.

Russia's special assembly, called to write a new constitution, reconvenes on Saturday after a break of 10 days. President Boris Yeltsin has promised the constitutional document will be ready by then. The provincial politicians, government officials and business leaders who make up the assembly are not holding their breath.

The UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, will visit Germany on Wednesday to discuss its contribution to UN peace-keeping operations. The contingent of 1,700 troops Chancellor Helmut Kohl sent to Somalia after Mr Boutros-Ghali's last visit in January marked the first deployment of German troops outside the Nato theatre since the German federal army, the Bundeswehr, was set up in 1955. The Foreign Ministry said Mr Boutros-Ghali and the German Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel, would also discuss the possible allocation of a permanent seat on the UN Security Council to Germany. On Tuesday in Karlsruhe, Germany's constitutional court is to consider the legality of sending German troops beyond the Nato zone to Somalia.

The Georgian head of state, Eduard Shevardnadze, will meet Helmut Kohl in Bonn on Thursday, where he will be thanked for the contribution he made, as Mikhail Gorbachev's foreign minister from 1985 to 1990, to German unification. On Saturday a Hamburg foundation will award him the Immanuel Kant prize.

Haiti's military rulers could be the next warlords to face the wrath of a newly assertive UN this week. Last Wednesday, they were given one week to restore Jean-Bertrand Aristide to his democratically elected position as head of state, or face a mandatory worldwide ban on the supply of oil and arms, and the freezing of Haiti's assets overseas.

On Friday, President F W de Klerk of South Africa and the ANC leader, Nelson Mandela, are expected to ratify 27 April 1994 as the date for South Africa's first democratic election. Assuming all goes as it should, they will be able to head off to America in triumph for a 4 July celebration in Philadelphia with President Bill Clinton, to the political benefit of the three protagonists and the political chagrin of those not invited to the party.

The trial begins in Johannesburg's Rand Supreme Court on Wednesday of the alleged killers of the South African Communist Party leader, Chris Hani. The prominent right-winger Clive Derby-Lewis, his wife Gaye and their alleged hit-man, Janusz Walus, are charged with murder, conspiracy to murder, and illegal possession of firearms. After the formal start of the trial, an instant request for an adjournment is expected.

In Peking on Wednesday the sixth session of Sino-British talks on Hong Kong begins, with the arrangements for elections in the colony in 1994 and 1995, in the face of Chinese horror at the very mention of democracy, causing the biggest headache for the Governor, Chris Patten.