The NewsFuror

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lily Allen to judge fiction prize

Lily Allen

Singer Lily Allen has been selected to help judge the winner of next year's Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction.

The 22-year-old, best known for hits like Smile and LDN, will join the five female panellists to decide the winner of the £30,000 prize.

Broadcaster Kirsty Lang will chair the panel. She said she was "extremely honoured" to be to be asked and "a little daunted by the task".

The shortlist will be unveiled in April and the winner announced in June.

The award was set up in 1996 to promote female authors.

Previous winners include Zadie Smith, Andrea Levy and Helen Dunmore.

Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie took the award home this year.

The winner of the £10,000 Orange Broadband Award for New Writers will also be announced at the June ceremony.

The judging panel will be chaired by Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights organisation Liberty.

Melua duet headed for number one

Eva Cassidy and Katie Melua
The original Louis Armstrong song was first released in 1967
What A Wonderful World, Katie Melua's charity duet with the late Eva Cassidy, will top the UK singles chart this weekend, midweek sales data suggests.

According to Music Week, their version of the Louis Armstrong song will knock Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis off the top spot after seven straight weeks.

Profits from the sale of the single - only available via supermarket Tesco - will go to the British Red Cross.

Cassidy, a heroine of Melua's, died of cancer in 1996 at the age of 33.

Bookmakers Ladbrokes make the single 5/1 to be Christmas number one, just behind Leona Lewis.

Sales spike

However, the eventual winner of The X Factor remains the overwhelming favourite to top the chart.

Lewis's debut record Spirit is expected to remain top of the album chart according to midweek data.

Meanwhile, music chain HMV report a significant spike in sales of Led Zeppelin records in the wake of the rock band's reunion concert on Monday.

According to spokesman Genarro Castaldo, sales of the group's back catalogue are five times their normal level.

Led Zeppelin's greatest hits collection Mothership was the store's best-selling artist album on Tuesday, he added.

Writer wins fifth child book gong

Chris Riddell
Chris Riddell scooped his first gold medal in 2004
Author Chris Riddell has won his fifth Nestle Children's Book Prize with his book Ottoline and the Yellow Cat.

Riddell received his gold medal in the six to eight-year-old category during a ceremony at the British Library.

In previous years Riddell, who is also a successful illustrator and political cartoonist, has won gold and silver medals for his work.

The prize, now in its 23rd year, celebrates the nation's best children's books as voted for by children.

Matt Haig won the top prize in the nine to 11-year-old category with his fantasy tale Shadow Forest.

The 31-year-old's book is an atmospheric tale of "one-eyed trolls, murderous truth pixies, witches and humans who turn into rabbits".

When a Monster is Born by Sean Taylor and Nick Sharratt scooped the gold prize in the under-five category.

Young judges

Riddell, who has sketched cartoons for several publications such as The Observer and The New Statesman, last scooped the gold medal award in 2004.

He was awarded the top prize for his illustrations to Paul Stewart's Fergus Crane.

His other medals were awarded for The Emperor of Absurdia and Hugo Pepper and Corby Flood with Paul Stewart.

Sam Fulton from Nestle said: "I'd like to thank the thousands of school children who took part in this year's Nestle Children's Book Prize and especially our young judges who worked so hard to choose the winners."

Penn tops critics choice awards

Sean Penn
Sean Penn won the best actor Critics Choice award in 2004
Actor Sean Penn's latest movie, Into the Wild, leads the Critics Choice awards with seven nominations.

The adventure story, which was directed and produced by the star, is up for best picture, best actor for Emile Hirsch, and best director for Penn.

Offbeat comedy Juno received six nominations, including best picture and best actress.

The 13th annual award ceremony will take place on 7 January at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, in California.

Suburban rebel

The show will be broadcast live on the VH1 channel.

The awards, organised by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, traditionally have a good track record of predicting Academy Award winners.

Their 2006 choices for best picture and director, The Departed and Martin Scorsese, went on to win Oscars, as did three of their four acting choices.

Penn also won the best actor Oscar for his role in Mystic River in 2004 after winning at the Critics Choice awards ceremony for the same role.

Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett is up for best actress for her role as Queen Elizabeth I

Into the Wild is based on the true story of a suburban rebel who starved to death while seeking freedom in the Alaskan wilderness.

Despite receiving rave reviews it has under-performed at the box office, selling just $16m (£7.8) worth of tickets in the US since its September release.

Atonement, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, Sweeney Todd and Hairspray all received five nominations each.

With the exception of Hairspray, they all received best picture nominations, along with American Gangster, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Kite Runner, and There Will Be Blood.

Besides Hirsch, George Clooney is also up for best actor, along with Daniel Day-Lewis, Johnny Depp, Ryan Gosling and Viggo Mortensen.

Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett, Julie Christie, Marion Cotillard and Angelina Jolie will all compete in the best actress category.

US anthem to be played in N Korea

New York Philharmonic president Zarin Mehta
Zarin Mehta said the concert would represent 'a giant leap'
New York's Philharmonic Orchestra will perform the US anthem at its historic concert in North Korea on 26 February.

The Star Spangled Banner will feature in a programme that will also include the North Korean anthem and Gershwin's American in Paris.

The Philharmonic's two-day trip is the first US cultural visit to North Korea and is being seen as a breakthrough in the two countries' tense relationship.

Orchestra president Zarin Mehta said it would show how "music can unite".

"All I can say is one small symphony is a giant leap," he said at a joint news conference on Tuesday with North Korea's UN ambassador, Pak Gil Yon.


"We only play great music," he added when asked whether the choice of pieces had been politically inspired. "We don't think about politics."

The orchestra's concert in the North Korean capital Pyongyang will follow a trip to China.

After the engagement, the 250-person party will travel to Seoul in South Korea.

Pak Gil Yon said the invitation to perform had been extended to the Philharmonic several months ago.

The UN ambassador said he did not know whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il would attend the event.

Citizen Kane Oscar fails to sell

Orson Welles
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at the age of 25

Orson Welles's Oscar for the 1941 film Citizen Kane failed to sell at an auction at Sotheby's in New York.

The statuette, for best original screenplay, had been expected to fetch up to $1.2m (£586,000).

However, Welles's personal working copy of the script, which also went under the hammer, sold for $97,000 (£47,475).

The sale of the Oscar was controversial as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences prefer the awards to remain in the hands of the winners.

No-sale policy

To enforce its policy, the Academy requires nominees to sign a contract agreeing "not to sell or otherwise dispose" of the award, should they win.

In addition, the agreement requires that a winner who no longer wishes to retain the statuette should first offer to sell it back to the academy for $1 (49p).

But the no-sale policy did not come into effect until 1950, meaning Welles's Oscar is free to be sold.

The award was believed to have been lost until it appeared at a 1994 Sotheby's auction.

A Los Angeles cinematographer had held it in secret, after Welles gave it to him as payment. Welles's youngest daughter, Beatrice, claimed the Oscar for herself after suing Sotheby's and the cinematographer.

It was acquired by the Dax Foundation in 2003, a Los Angeles-based charitable foundation which decided to sell the Oscar.

Proceeds made from the sales of the script will help fund the organisation's worldwide humanitarian efforts, a spokeswoman said.

Pratchett has Alzheimer's disease

Terry Pratchett
The writer said he would continue to work on his latest book
Author Terry Pratchett is suffering from a rare form of early Alzheimer's disease, it has been revealed.

He said in a statement that with forthcoming conventions and the need to inform his publishers it would have been "unfair to withhold the news".

Discworld author Pratchett has sold more than 55 million books worldwide.

The writer, 59, who gave the news on the website of Discworld artist Paul Kidby, said the condition was behind a "phantom stroke" earlier this year.

'Mild optimism'

He said: "I would have liked to keep this one quiet for a little while, but because of upcoming conventions and of course the need to keep my publishers informed, it seems to me unfair to withhold the news.

"I have been diagnosed with a very rare form of early onset Alzheimer's, which lay behind this year's 'phantom stroke'."

He added: "We are taking it fairly philosophically down here and possibly with a mild optimism.

The author said work was continuing on his latest book, Unseen Academicals.

'More books'

"All other things being equal, I expect to meet most current and, as far as possible, future commitments but will discuss things with the various organisers," he said.

"Frankly, I would prefer it if people kept things cheerful, because I think there's time for at least a few more books yet."

He told fans the statement should be interpreted as "I am not dead".

"I will, of course, be dead at some future point, as will everybody else," he said.

"For me, this may be further off than you think. It's too soon to tell.

"I know it's a very human thing to say 'is there anything I can do', but in this case I would only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry."

Pratchett was made an OBE in 1998 for services to British literature.

Fantastic Four star Alba pregnant

Jessica Alba with Cash Warren
Alba and Warren met on the set of the first Fantastic Four film
Jessica Alba, star of the Fantastic Four movies, is expecting her first child with boyfriend Cash Warren.

"Jessica and Cash are expecting a baby in late spring [or] early summer," her spokesman told the People.com website.

Alba, 26, has been dating Warren since autumn 2004. The pair met on the first Fantastic Four film, on which Warren, 28, worked as a director's assistant.

Alba, recently seen in the comedy Good Luck Chuck, was named the sexiest woman in the world by FHM readers last April.

The actress played Sue Storm, aka the Invisible Girl, in 2005's Fantastic Four and its 2007 sequel.

Her other films include Sin City, Into the Blue and current US release Awake.

US soul musician Ike Turner dies

Tina Turner and Ike Turner. 1972 photo
Turner denied claims of abuse by his former wife
US soul legend Ike Turner, the former husband of Tina Turner, has died at the age of 76.

He died at his home near San Diego, California. There was no immediate word on the cause of death.

He rose to fame in the 1960s, and is best remembered for his musical partnership and stormy marriage with Tina Turner.

She said he abused her, but he somewhat rehabilitated his image in his later years, winning a Grammy in 2007.

"Ike Turner passed away this morning. He was at his home," said Scott Hanover, an official at the performer's management company.


Turner, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is credited by many music historians with making the first rock 'n' roll record in 1951.

Ike Turner in concert

Turner was also known as a prolific session guitarist and piano player.

After marrying Tina Turner in 1959, the pair produced a string of hits, including A Fool In Love, It's Gonna Work Out Fine.

The song River Deep Mountain High, produced by Phil Spector, was one of their most successful singles.

But Mr Turner will be forever remembered for his turbulent relationship with Tina Turner, the BBC's Peter Bowes in Los Angeles says.

In 2001, Mr Turner denied his ex-wife's claims that he abused her and expressed frustration that he had been demonised in the media.

In 2007, he won a Grammy award in the traditional blues album category for Risin' With the Blues.

Zara owner's sales disappointing

Zara store
Inditex says sales in Spain were in line with the rest of the world
The world's second biggest clothing retailer, Spain's Inditex, has reported worse than expected sales but better than expected profits.

Shares in the company that owns Zara, Massimo Dutti and Pull and Bear have risen more than 23% this year, but fell more than 4% in early trading.

There is concern about the effects of the housing slump in its home market, which accounts for 38% of its sales.

But its boss said sales growth in Spain was in line with the rest of the world.

Inditex reported net profit of 825m euros ($1.21bn; £593m) for the nine months to the end of October, which was 30% ahead of the same period last year.

That figure was better than expected, as a result of a programme of cost-cutting.

Sales rose 17% in the period to 6.63bn euros, which was worse than had been expected.

Inditex has been expanding aggressively, especially in fast-growing economies such as China and Russia.

It currently has stores in 400 cities around the world.

Microsoft buys UK mapping service

Buttons with the Microsoft logo
Microsoft makes acquisitions to strengthen its internet business
Microsoft has bought online mapping company Multimap to expand its web business, the US firm said.

Multimap, which was established in 1996, is among the UK's top 10 visited websites, receiving more than 10 million users each month.

Microsoft hopes that the acquisition "will play a significant role in the future growth of our search business".

Web search giant Google, Microsoft's arch-rival, provides its own online mapping service, Google Maps.

'Huge opportunity'

Microsoft's internet empire also includes services such as Virtual Earth, Live Search and Windows Live.

Earlier this year Microsoft bought a 1.6% stake in social networking site Facebook for $240m (£117m) and US online advertising firm aQuantive for $6bn.

It has not revealed how much it is paying for Multimap.

Sharon Baylay, general manager of the Online Services Group at Microsoft, said that the deal with Multimap presented "a huge opportunity to expand our platform business beyond the UK and globally".

Multimap has offices in America, Australia, South Africa and Turkey, as well as in London, and has a presence in 48 countries.

US banks reveal more debt losses

warning sign on lending by Cleveland government
Banks had been making a huge profit from sub-prime loans
Three major US banks, including Bank of America and Wachovia, have warned that losses linked to investments in soured US home loans will get worse.

Shares in all three firms fell as each separately said earnings would take a hit as the value of mortgage-backed securities continues to decline.

Wachovia said it would write down $1bn (£489m) in its fourth quarter, nearly double its original estimate.

Regional lender PNC said it would miss its fourth-quarter profit target.

The swathe of bad news indicates that banks are still suffering from a killer hangover as a result of taking on too much risk when interest rates were low in the US, Europe and UK.

Many people on low incomes or with bad credit took advantage of rock-bottom mortgage repayments to get on the property ladder.

A lucrative market sprung up whereby these sub-prime mortgages, as they are called, would be packaged along with other debt of a higher quality and then sold to investors.

But with interest rates in the US at five-year highs as recently as August, sub-prime mortgage repayments have become much less affordable leading to steep loan defaults and subsequently a drop in value in investments centred on this sector.


Bank of America chief executive Ken Lewis said the firm's fourth-quarter results would be "disappointing", predicting further fall-out from the problems in credit markets next year.

The bank had last month forecast that it would have to write off $3bn of soured investments, but said on Wednesday it would be more than that.

Separately, Wachovia boss Ken Thompson was equally bearish and could not say when the credit crisis might ease.

He said Wachovia, the fourth-largest US bank, was facing "as tough an environment as I've ever seen".

Pittsburgh-based PNC, the largest bank in Pennsylvania, marked down its fourth-quarter earnings after its mortgage portfolio weakened by $1.5bn.

Oil climbs on central bank plan

oil rig
Oil prices have been volatile on fears over the health of the US economy
Oil prices rebounded on fresh hopes that the global economy could remain robust after unprecedented action taken by a number of key central banks.

The plan to make available billions of dollars worth of loans to cash-strapped banks pushed a barrel of New York light crude up $4.37 to $94.39 a barrel.

A US government report showing an unexpected fall in crude stocks and heating oil raised supply fears.

Brent crude also hit $94 a barrel after sinking to $88 a barrel last week.

By the end of last week, world oil prices had fallen more than $10 from their November peak of near $100 a barrel.

The sell-off came when traders took profits as the certainty that the US economy would weather the sustained housing slump and financial market turmoil snapped and the spectre of a recession dawned.

Dramatic move

But a quarter point cut in US interest rates to 4.25% from 4.5%, delivered by the Federal Reserve after its meeting on Tuesday, persuaded energy traders that the Fed was focused on relieving the pressures facing the US economy and put oil back on the front foot.

These gains were dramatically extended following the earlier announcement that the Fed would team up with other key central banks, including the Bank of England and the European Central Bank, to assuage gummed up credit markets.

It is hoped the bold move will prevent commercial banks in the US, Europe and the UK from increasing charges on credit cards, unsecured loans and mortgages, bringing spending among indebted populations to a standstill.

"Anything the Fed is doing to help out is going to support oil prices," said Brad Samples, commodities analyst at Kentucky-based consultancy Summit Energy Services.

An energy department report showing US crude oil stocks at two-year lows after falling by a greater-than-expected 700,000 barrels supported fears that supply could be tight as the northern hemisphere prepares for a cold winter.

Stocks of distillate fuel, which include heating oil and diesel fuel, were also disappointing, declining 800,000 barrels. Analysts had predicted a decline of about 500,000 barrels.

A large oil spill off the Norwegian coast where 25,000 barrels of crude poured into the North Sea as it was being piped from a loading facility into an oil tanker would also have riled a sensitive market, analysts said.

Emerging giants spur telecom boom

Mobile phone user
The emerging giants are driving mobile phone use
Mobile phone users in China, Brazil, India and Russia are driving the global telecoms boom, a report by UK telecoms watchdog Ofcom suggests.

Since 2001, these countries have added 660 million new subscribers, accounting for 40% of total new mobile phone accounts globally.

Their large populations and economic muscle mean they will continue to grow and likely dictate technical standards.

New subscriptions in India alone doubled to 150 million in 2006.

The spread of networks into smaller towns, lower voice tariffs and intense competition spurred growth in the Indian market last year, which now has twice as many subscriptions as the UK.

Half the world

mobile phone users worldwide

With 2.8 billion people, nearly half the world's population, and rising incomes, the four countries - referred to as the BRICs - still have the potential to acquire millions of new phone subscribers.

While Russia's mobile phone penetration is 106%, Brazil's is 53%, China's is 34% and India's is just 14%.

The absence of old-fashioned land-line infrastructure means that the BRIC countries are introducing new technologies at the same pace as more mature economies, the report said.

"Growth in the number of users of communication services within the four countries will continue," the report said.

The growth will be "driven both by penetration into lower income segments, through the expansion of coverage and the continuation of falling prices, and also rising economic prosperity in smaller towns and rural areas," it added.

Chinese women share a mobile phone
Chinese use of mobile phones is on the rise

The sheer size of the BRIC market makes it likely that it will be key in deciding standards and dominant technologies, it added.

Investment capital is pouring in, as firms, tiring of more mature markets, are eager to take advantage of the returns on offer, it added.

Data boom

Most mobile firms in these four countries make their money from voice services.

But in the case of China, which enjoys the most developed mobile data market, generating 20% of mobile revenue from data services, consumers have proven eager to stay in touch by text.

Last year, mobile phone users in China sent 429 billion text messages, or 967 text messages per user.

That compares with 621 per mobile user in the UK.

China is also unusual in that the number of fixed lines grew by 79%, powered by the roll-out of fixed lines outside the main cities.

Digital television remains in its infancy in the four emerging giants.

Both Russia and India have seen their television industries grow quite fast, the former driven by an advertising boom, the latter by subscriptions to services such as Star.

Saturn's rings 'may live forever'

Saturn's rings (Nasa)
The UVIS instrument sees the rings in the ultraviolet
Saturn's iconic rings may be much older than we thought, scientists say.

New data from the Cassini probe shows these thin bands of orbiting particles were probably there billions years ago, and are likely to be very long-lived.

It means we are not in some special time - the giant planet has most likely always provided a stunning view.

Previous data had led researchers to believe the rings were created just 100 million years ago, when a huge moon or comet shattered in Saturn's vicinity.

Professor Larry Esposito told the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting that Cassini had completely changed that view.

"Despite what was thought after the [1970s] Voyager investigations of Saturn - that Saturn's rings might be very youthful, perhaps only as ancient as the dinosaurs - we have results that show the rings could have lasted as long as the Solar System and maybe will be around for billions of years," he said.


Cassini has been studying the rings with its Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS). It has looked at light reflected off and passing through the ring particles, which range in size from grains of sand to boulders.

It has concluded there is far more clumpiness in the water-ice particles than was previously thought - that there may actually be three times the mass than was assumed from the Voyager observations.

We are able to reach the paradoxical conclusion - because the rings appear so young, they may actually be as old as the Solar System
Prof Larry Esposito
University of Colorado at Boulder

Cassini sees features that suggest the rings cannot have formed in a recent one-off cataclysmic event because they display a range of ages - some of them very young.

To explain this, Professor Esposito and colleagues have put forward the idea that material is constantly coming together to form small "moonlets" and that these aggregations are then breaking up in what is a seemingly perpetual process.

In other words, there is a major recycling process going on.

"Although the Voyager observations indicated Saturn's rings were youthful, Cassini shows even younger ages; and because we see such transient, dynamic phenomena in the rings we are able to reach the paradoxical conclusion - because the rings appear so young, they may actually be as old as the Solar System," the University of Colorado at Boulder researcher said.

Scientists had previously believed that really ancient rings should be quite dark due to ongoing pollution from the "infall" of meteoric dust. But if there is recycling going on, this would explain why the rings overall appear relatively bright to ground-based telescopes and spacecraft.

Late collisions

"The more mass there is in the rings, the more raw material there is for recycling, which essentially spreads this cosmic pollution around," Professor Esposito said.

"If this pollution is being shared by a much larger volume of ring material, it becomes diluted and helps explain why the rings appear brighter and more pristine than we expected."

Artist's impression of Saturn's clumpy rings (Nasa)
The rings are a dynamic place - material clumps and breaks up

The question is when did the rings actually form? No-one can say for sure.

The scientists still hold to the idea that the rings resulted from a collision event - but it must have been a long time in the past.

There is enough mass in the rings to make a moon with a diameter of 300km.

"To break up an object that big is really difficult," explained Professor Esposito. He suggested the last obvious time to consider was the so-called Late Heavy Bombardment, when the Solar System experienced its last period of concentrated impacts.

This was about four billion years ago.

UK welcomes world cash injection

US homes
Weakness in sub-prime loans have destabilised the financial sector
A joint plan by five central banks aimed at easing the credit crunch in financial markets has been welcomed by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Up to $110bn (£54bn) in loans will be made available to world money markets by central banks including the Bank of England and the US Federal Reserve.

In an interview with the Times newspaper, Mr Brown said there should be more focus on such co-operation.

Analysts say the unprecedented move is a sign of the severity of the problems.


The Federal Reserve and the Bank of England will team up with the European Central Bank and central banks from Canada and Switzerland to offer the cash loans, to be made available in auctions.

Ideally, what we are looking for is the financial institutions to have written off their problems, built up confidence and be willing to lend to each other
Peter Dunay
Investment bank strategist

Such a co-operative act is a first, BBC business editor Robert Peston said.

Other analysts pointed out that the actions are on a greater scale than the moves taken by the Fed to shore up the economy after the 9/11 attacks on the US.

Mr Brown, due in Lisbon for the signing of the new European reform treaty, told the Times the moves were "the co-operative effort I've wanted to see for some time.

"It signals an international desire to act in what has been a period of global financial turbulence."

'Staving off recession'

Share prices in the US rose sharply after the plan was announced on Wednesday, but have since dropped again.

Five of the most powerful central banks are taking concerted action to stop a banking crisis turning into a recession, the BBC's Mark Gregory said.

The problem is that commercial banks in rich nations have sustained huge losses on investments that have gone sour, he said

This has made them reluctant to lend any more money, especially to each other.

By acting together to pump extra funds into the system in the form of loans, the central banks hope to have a bigger impact.

But they are also putting their credibility on the line, our correspondent added.

If the plan fails, it is unclear what else they could do to restore confidence.

Capital gap

Peter Dunay, chief strategist at investment bank Leeb Capital Management in New York, said the new money could only help, but there was a broader problem to consider.

"Ideally, what we are looking for is the financial institutions to have written off their problems, built up confidence and be willing to lend to each other," he told.

"Right now... they do not want to lend - they do not want to lend to the public, they do not want to lend to each other.

"They don't have the capital, they're very concerned and they're holding a lot of debt that is still a problem for them."

EU reform treaty goes to signing

Banners outside the 16th century monastery where the signing will take place
European leaders will be signing the treaty in a 16th-century monastery.
EU leaders are preparing to sign a treaty in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, that will greatly alter the way members govern themselves.

The treaty creates an EU president and a vastly more powerful foreign policy chief for the Union's 27 nations.

At the same time the document scraps veto powers in many policy areas.

It is a replacement for the EU constitution abandoned following French and Dutch opposition. EU leaders insist the two texts are in no way equivalent.

But the Lisbon treaty incorporates some of the draft constitution's key reforms, and several governments face domestic pressure over the document.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has chosen not to attend the ceremony, citing a prior engagement in the British parliament.

However, he will sign the treaty separately, later on Thursday.

The UK's opposition Conservatives accused Mr Brown of "not having the guts" to sign the treaty, which is politically controversial in Britain, in public.

Mid-life crisis

Having started this year with a celebration of its 50th birthday, the EU hopes the signing of the Lisbon treaty will end the serious mid-life crisis brought about by the death of the constitution, the BBC's Oana Lungescu reports.

There will be a lot of relief, said a senior European diplomat, but also some apprehension about what happens next.

Ireland is the only country planning to hold a referendum, but most voters there seem either undecided or indifferent.

Parliaments in Britain, the Netherlands and Denmark are also expected to give a turbulent reception to the 250-page text.

However, Germany, France and Poland have pledged to be among the first to ratify it, so that the new reforms can come into force in 2009 as planned.


The treaty is a slimmed-down version of the European constitution, with a more modest name and without any reference to EU symbols such as the flag and anthem.

It is meant to ease decision-making, by scrapping national vetoes in some 50 policy areas, including sensitive ones such as police and judicial co-operation.

There will also be the foreign policy chief, controlling a big budget and thousands of diplomats and officials, and the permanent EU president appointed for up to five years.

But some already fear that instead of giving Europe a strong single voice in the world, the new posts will only generate more rivalry, Oana Lungescu adds.