Global Briefs: Ukraine inching toward EU membership | WORLD
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Global Briefs: Ukraine inching toward EU membership

Ukraine won a concession from the European Union, but it still faces skeptics in the U.S. and elsewhere

Volodymyr Zelenskyy Virginia Mayo/AP

Global Briefs: Ukraine inching toward EU membership
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President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed as a victory the European Union’s Dec. 14 decision to begin membership talks for his country. But Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán blocked an EU proposal for aid to Ukraine, saying he would not back down until the EU releases Hungarian funds frozen over concerns about the rule of law and press freedom. Zelenskyy’s recent fundraising tour through Europe and the U.S. met with limited success. His biggest failure came in Washington, where Congress nixed a $60 billion aid package. U.S. President Joe Biden said waning support for Ukraine plays into Russia’s hands. —Jenny Lind Schmitt

Fact Box Source: The World Factbook-CIA

Papua New Guinea

Almost 50 years after Papua New Guinea gained independence from Australia, the two countries have inked a new security deal. Papua New Guinea will recruit 50 Australians for short-term police management roles and will ­welcome Australian involvement in its defense and biosecurity ­sectors, as well as in the judiciary. Leaders of both countries say the deal will improve security and economic development in a nation with one of the world’s highest crime rates. Australia and New Zealand have historically sent police to Pacific island nations in need, including the Solomon Islands. Papua Prime Minister James Marape says the Australian security deal and a defense agreement he signed with the United States in May don’t signal his country is taking geopolitical sides. Marape also signed memorandums increasing trade with China. —Amy Lewis


The Muslim-majority country in December detained more than a dozen Christian leaders and their family members. The arrests followed a leaked video showing a baptism ceremony, according to International Christian Concern. Christianity is not illegal in the Islamic republic, but the country’s penal code currently imposes the death penalty for apostasy and a possible lower penalty if the offender repents. Authorities have never applied the maximum sentence. Christians make up less than 1 percent of the northwest African nation, and the rest of the population are mainly Sunni Muslims. Authorities have also limited the distribution and printing of non-Islamic religious materials, according to the U.S. State Department. —Onize Ohikere

Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva/Sipa USA/AP


One of NATO’s newest members could soon allow the United States to station troops and weapons within its borders. Finnish lawmakers must approve the pact, but Finnish Defense Minister Antti Häkkänen has already hailed the Dec. 18 deal as “very significant for Finland’s defense and security.” After decades of neutrality, Finland requested NATO membership as a direct consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Its 832-mile border with Russia has now become NATO’s northeastern boundary. Finland recently closed the borders with Russia amid claims Moscow has encouraged asylum-seekers from Africa and the Middle East to cross from Russia into Finland. —Jenny Lind Schmitt

Natacha Pisarenko/AP


On Dec. 12, a few days after President Javier Milei took office, his government announced drastic measures designed to rein in the country’s triple-­digit inflation. Milei’s government slashed the peso’s value by 50 percent and announced plans to cut energy and transportation subsidies and reduce the number of government ministries from 18 to nine. Milei admitted the measures would cause pain but insisted they would save the country’s economy. Four in 10 Argentines live in poverty, and the country owes $45 billion to the International Monetary Fund. Milei, an economist, ran on promises to restore prosperity. —Leigh Jones

South Africa

Lawmakers on Dec. 5 approved a bill that mandates five-year maximum sentences for hate speech offenses. The law extends to anyone who communicates to incite harm or propagate hatred. The charges also come with a fine. The bill drew both international and local criticism, with opponents saying the proposal was too broad and could facilitate human rights abuses. “It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where one peacefully voices their views only to find themselves guilty of so-called ‘hatred’ under the dangerously ill-defined parameters of the new law,” said Georgia Du Plessis, a South African legal officer with Alliance Defending Freedom International. The bill still needs final approval from the president to become law. —Onize Ohikere


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