IRAN NUCLEAR BREAKTHROUGH
On 14th July, after negotiating for 12 years, Iran and the P5+1 major powers signed an agreement aimed at ensuring a peaceful Iranian nuclear programme.
EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini, with her Iranian counterpart at her side, said in Vienna: “Today is an historic day. It is a great honour for us to announce that we have reached an agreement on Iranian nuclear issue.”
The final hurdles had been cleared, Tehran authorising inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency and accepting a ceiling on its enriched uranium reserves.
An interim accord was signed in 2013 in Geneva, a compromise leading to the easing of international sanctions against Tehran and improving ties with Washington.
The handshake that broke the ice between Cuba and the USA came at the Summit of the Americas in Panama on April 11th. Presidents Raúl Castro and Barack Obama met there following simultaneous announcements that their countries were at last to normalise relations.
Obama had removed Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. This major obstacle had stood in the way of reestablishing diplomatic dialogue broken off on 3rd January 1961.
The Cuban flag was hoisted again over the embassy in Washington on 20th July. The US flag went up in Havana on 14th August. John Kerry was the first US Secretary of State to visit the one-party island in 70 years.
Obama and Castro met again in New York in September, at the UN, beginning hard negotiations centering on the lifting of the US economic embargo against the Communist regime and American property expropriated in the Cuban Revolution.
TURKEY: POWER POLITICS
Turkish elections delivered a thunderclap verdict against the ruling AK Party on 7th June, ending a 12-year unbroken run of exclusive government. This shattered the dream of Recep Tayip Erdogan to give Turkey a more powerful presidential system.
The party won a parliamentary majority but it was no longer absolute—far from the 330 seats it would need to retailor the constitution.
The 7th June election was also historic in that the pro-Kurdish HDP party first entered parliament, passing the requirement of 10% of the votes, the highest such entry threshold in the world. Leader Selahattin Demirtas savoured the moment, having also attracted non-Kurdish voters with his left-leaning programme.
The AK Party’s efforts to form a coalition government with others failed. The people of Turkey would have to vote again. And then, the truce between the state and the armed Kurdish separatist group the PKK was broken, and the radical Islamists ISIL attacked on Turkish soil, with heavy loss of life, in July.
The Turkish air force bombed Kurdish guerrilla bases in northern Iraq. This was a reprisal for a deadly attack on Turkish police officers in Diyarbakir. The death toll from the resumed hostilities rose into the hundreds.
On November 1st, AK supporters rejoiced. The party regained an absolute majority through the ballot box, even if it did not quite win the number of seats needed to reform the constitution without negotiations.
GREECE: AUSTERITY TORNADO
In January, Alexis Tsipras won national elections by promising the people of Greece an end to austerity. But the Syriza coalition of the radical left leader, despite becoming prime minister, could not convince Greece’s emergency lenders this was the way to go. He shuttled back and forth between Athens and Brussels.
Six months later, the Greek government had to close the banks, to stop capital from gushing out of the country, after it missed an IMF loan repayment. The Greeks rejected the Eurogroup’s latest austerity programme in a referendum on 25th June.
The finance minister Yannis Varoufakis, the eurogroup’s bete noire, resigned the next day. One week later, the parliament approved the third rescue package. This split Syriza, and Tsipras had to call early elections. Somehow, Tsipras convinced the voters to reelect him in spite of the very harsh terms in the rescue plan.
CATALONIA: INDEPENDENCE PUSH
On Catalonia Day, 9th November, Avinguda Meridiana, a symbolic road towards independence, was jammed. The regional government had launched campaigning for regional elections. They would take on the form of a plebiscite on whether or not to remain a part of Spain. The United for Yes list, with the head the regional government, Artur Mas, fourth on it, was, obviously, for independence.
On 27th September, the pro- camp won a majority of seats but not votes, a majority of which it desired in order to legitimise an eventual vote on becoming independent.
Even without that, however, on 9th November, the Catalonia’s parliament voted 72 to 63 in support of a resolution to open the way for a ‘disconnection process’ from Spain, within 18 months.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced he would take the case before the constitutional court.
The court returned a verdict on 2nd December. To no great surprise, most of the judges in Madrid ruled the Catalan parliament’s move was illegal.
GERMANWINGS: COPILOT SUICIDE
On 24th March, a Germanwings Airbus 320 with 150 people on board dived into a mountainside in the French Alps. There were no survivors. Air traffic warnings had gone ignored. The Barcelona to Dusseldorf flight disintegrated on impact. First responders combed the wreckage and found the first black box flight recorder.
François Hollande, Angela Merkel and Mariano Rajoy arrived near the scene the next day to pay their respects.
The black box voice recording revealed that only the copilot had been at the controls. He had locked the cockpit door, keeping the pilot out, and crashed the plane on purpose.
The investigation found that the copilot Andreas Lubitz had been under treatment for a psychosomatic illness even before he got his flying licence. He had informed the mother company Lufthansa in 2009 that he’d gone through a severe period of depression. Rules on psychological fitness and cockpit access were revised around the world.
CLIMATE: LAST CHANCE IN PARIS
Capping off the hottest year on record, finally the world has adopted an international agreement to fight climate change. The delegates from more than 190 countries managed (Nov. 30th-Dec. 12th) to reconcile each of their interests with those of humanity—to save the planet. That consensus was historic.
Formal approval and ratification are to come later in the process.
French diplomacy was praised for the COP21 summit organisation outside Paris, inviting the leaders for the first day to set the tone—that this was the last chance to pull back from the point of no return.
The agreement is to strive to keep the rise in average temperature of Earth’s atmosphere “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, with the ambition of not exceeding a 1.5 degree rise, by the end of this century.
Each country agreed to devise its own carbon reduction plan, which is supposed to result in a net increase of zero carbon by 2050.
The accord aims to take effect in 2020 and be reviewed every five years.
Rich countries will provide poor countries $100 billion a year to adapt to the new commitments.