Berlin, Dec 31 (AP/UNB) — Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany will keep pushing for global solutions to challenges in 2019 and also has to take greater responsibility in the world.
Closing a politically turbulent 2018 in Germany, Merkel devotes a significant part of her annual New Year's address to the merits of bringing a multilateral approach to international problems — a style she has consistently defended in the face of U.S. President Donald Trump's "America First" tactics.
The fourth-term chancellor pointed to curbing climate change, managing migration and combating terrorism as the kinds of challenges that benefit from a wide view. Germany starts a two-year stint on the U.N. Security Council on Jan. 1.
"We want to resolve all these questions in our own interest, and we can do that best if we consider the interests of others," Merkel said in a text of the message her office released ahead of a scheduled Monday broadcast.
"That is the lesson from the two world wars of the last century," she added. "But this conviction is no longer shared today by everyone, and certainties of international cooperation are coming under pressure."
"In such a situation, we must again stand up for, argue and fight more strongly for our convictions," Merkel said. "And we must take on more responsibility in our own interests."
She said Germany will push for "global solutions" at the U.N. and noted the country is spending more on humanitarian aid and defense. She said Berlin wants to make the European Union "more robust and able to make decisions."
Turning to home, Merkel acknowledged that many Germans have "struggled very much" with her latest government amid persistent infighting since it took office in March after unprecedentedly long talks to form the governing coalition. She said it had been "an extremely difficult political year."
Germany's leader for 13 years said she set the stage for a "new beginning" in late October by announcing she won't seek a fifth term. She also gave up the leadership of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, Germany's main center-right party, which has been led since Dec. 7 by ally Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
Merkel has said she plans to remain chancellor for the rest of this parliamentary term, which is supposed to run until 2021. But questions remain over whether she will actually stay that long, not least because of tensions within her governing coalition.
"Democracy lives from change," she said in her new year message. "We build on what our predecessors left us, and shape things in the present for those who will come after us."
Rome, Dec 30 (AP/UNB) — The lower chamber of the Italian Parliament has approved a 2019 national budget that includes funding to realize campaign promises made by leaders of Italy's populist government.
The Chamber of Deputies Saturday night passed the budget law on Saturday night, following the Senate's approval last Sunday.
The government tied support for the budget to a confidence vote to assure the spending package's quick passage to avoid European Union sanctions for excessive debt.
The budget covers the cost of a providing basic income for job-seekers and rolling back unpopular pension reforms. Critics say it lacks investment incentives to revive Italy's sluggish economy.
The European Commission nixed the budget Italy first submitted. The revised version shaved the budget deficit to 2.04 percent of GDP, partly through new taxes, reined-in pension increases and state property sales.
Paris, Dec 28 (AP/UNB) — A 12-year-old boy in the French Alps was found alive and uninjured after being buried under an avalanche for 40 minutes, an event his rescuers are calling a true "miracle."
French police in the town of Bourg Saint-Maurice said the boy was skiing off piste at the La Plagne ski resort in a group of seven skiers Wednesday when he was swept away.
The boy started going down ahead of the others and was the only one caught when a large section of snow detached and roared down the mountain, police said. He was dragged at least 100 meters (110 yards) by the force of the avalanche.
Rescue workers flew in a helicopter to the avalanche scene, which was at 2,400 meters (7,875 feet) altitude. A sniffer dog found the boy, whose winter jacket was not equipped with an avalanche detector.
Rescue workers described the operation as "miraculous" because they said chances of survival are minuscule after 15 minutes under the snow. Police said among the reasons the boy survived is that his airways were not blocked by snow.
"We can call it a miracle. A day after Christmas, there was another gift in store," Captain Patrice Ribes said.
The boy was still sent to a local hospital for a checkup.
Moscow, Dec 26 (AP/UNB) — The presidents of Russia and Belarus met in Moscow Tuesday for talks focused on an energy dispute that clouded ties between the two allies.
Before sitting down with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko harshly criticized tax changes that left his country of 10 million people paying a higher price for Russian oil and gas.
Putin had countered by saying that despite the changes, Belarus still paid much less than other countries for Russian energy resources.
The Russian leader confirmed at the start of Tuesday's talks that he and Lukashenko would discuss the issue. Lukashenko said he hoped for a quick resolution.
The two met for more than four hours. Their respective media representatives said they agreed to have another meeting in the next week to iron out remaining differences.
Lukashenko has ruled Belarus with an iron hand for nearly a quarter-century, cracking down on dissent and the media. He has relied on loans and cheap energy from Russia to keep a Soviet-style economy afloat.
Despite the close political, economic and military ties between the two ex-Soviet neighbors, Lukashenko has bristled at what he described as Moscow's attempts to subdue Belarus.
Earlier this month, he accused some politicians in Russia of floating the prospect of incorporating Belarus and said he wouldn't let it happen.
Tunis, Dec 26 (AP/UNB) — Protests erupted Tuesday in Tunisia after the death of a journalist who set himself on fire to protest economic problems in the North African nation, prompting clashes with police and nationwide concern.
Journalist Abderrazak Zorgui posted a video online before his self-immolation in the struggling provincial city of Kasserine describing his desperation and calling for revolt. He expressed frustration at unemployment and the unfulfilled promises of Tunisia's 2011 Arab Spring revolution.
Authorities said Zorgui died of his injuries Monday soon after being taken to the hospital.
His actions prompted a protest Monday night in Kasserine that degenerated into violence, with police firing tear gas to disperse protesters who blocked roads and threw stones at police. Interior Ministry spokesman Sofiane Zaag said Tuesday that six police officers were injured and several people arrested in the protest.
A new protest was held Tuesday night in Kasserine, with new tensions with police, and other actions were reported elsewhere.
A similar self-immolation - by a street vendor lamenting unemployment, corruption and repression - led to nationwide protests fueled by social media that brought down Tunisia's long-time authoritarian president in 2011. That ushered in democracy for Tunisia and unleashed similar movements around the Arab world.
Zorgui's funeral was being held Tuesday in Kasserine, which has come to symbolize Tunisia's economic problems and social tensions. Unemployment and poverty are high, and the area has struggled for years against extremists in the nearby mountains who are linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.
The Tunisian National Journalists' Union called for demonstrations and a possible strike in response to the journalist's death. In a statement, it accused the state of contributing to Zorgui's death by not cracking down on corruption.
Tunisian reporters expressed solidarity with Zorgui, lamenting precarious conditions for freelancers with no legal protections and low pay amid Tunisia's struggling economy.
"The reasons for this young man's suicide are poverty and marginalization, as well as the fragile situation of most journalists," said Latifa Labiadh of radio station Amal.