Spain's six-month rotating presidency of the European Union, which began on Jan. 1, 2010, is off to a bumpy start. With the Lisbon Treaty now in effect, the traditional role of the EU rotating presidency has been downgraded. Responsibility for many issues which were once the domain of the rotating presidency now falls to the newly named permanent EU president, Herman Van Rompuy, and EU foreign minister, Catherine Ashton -- who together are supposed to comprise the new "public face" of the EU.
EU leaders have agreed to allow the Czech Republic to opt out of a part of the EU's reform treaty, removing one of the last barriers to ratification. The Swedish EU presidency says talks must now shift to the climate.
The second Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations will be held on 6-7 April 2009 in Istanbul, Turkey.