By: Hannah Morris, Editorial Assistant

During the first week of February, Italy’s navy rescued over one thousand illegal migrants from boats just southeast of the island of Lampedusa in a period of just 24 hours. In January alone, two thousand illegal migrants landed in Italy, ten times the number of arrivals in January 2013. In the third quarter of 2013, a total of 42,600 illegal immigrants arrived in the EU, almost double the number compared to 2012.[1] Unsurprisingly, the swelling numbers of illegal immigrants, whether coming from North Africa or the Middle East, is causing great concern among EU lawmakers, member state leaders and their citizens.

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On February 19, 2014, The European Institute, in cooperation with the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania and the Embassy of Sweden, held a breakfast discussion with The Honorable Vytautas Leskevicius, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs for European Affairs for the Republic of Lithuania and His Excellency Björn Lyrvall, Ambassador of Sweden to the United States, focusing on the increasingly potent role that the partnership between Nordic and Baltic states has assumed in defining both regional and European foreign policy priorities.  Particular emphasis was placed on sustaining the EU’s Eastern Partnership Initiative following last year’s Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and on assessing the implications of the volatile situation in Ukraine.

By Zachary Laven, European Affairs Editorial Assistant

The voting outcome was a resounding “no” – as widely predicted. So what is the background on this peculiar referendum, a reminder of the continuing tension between the Balkans and post-Soviet Russia. With more than 70% turnout, the vote against promoting Russian as the nation’s second official language was 75 percent and reflected the ethnic and linguistic divide between Latvian and Russian speakers. Said a relieved President Andris Berzins, “The vote on a second state language endangered one of the most sacred foundations of the Constitution: the state language.”

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(October 13)  The Conseil Constitutionnel, France’s top legal authority and guardian of the constitution, approved a law last week previously passed by both chambers of the French parliament banning the wearing of full-face veils in public places. While many expected the Constitutional Council to overturn the law, it ruled instead that the law "conforms" with the constitution and does not encroach on civil liberties, so long as the law does not apply to public places of worship where it could violate the practice of religious freedom.

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UNESCO’s current agenda and the challenges it faces were the focus of a discussion with The Honorable Irina Bokova, Ambassador of the Republic of Bulgaria to France and Bulgaria’s Permanent Delegate to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Ambassador Bokova, who is a candidate for the position of Director General of UNESCO, also offered her vision for the organization moving forward. Participants included Donna Roginski, Deputy Assistant Secretary (Acting), Bureau of International Organizations, U.S. Department of State;  Phil English, Member, U.S. National Commission for UNESCO; and Ambassador Louise Oliver, Former U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO.