Merkel's Greatest Victory

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Albania: Endangered Cultural Heritage - Since the end of communist rule, religious icons and other treasures have regularly been taken from Albania's churches. What's more, the thieves are becoming increasingly daring. Two decades ago, icons and other objects of historical value began disappearing from Orthodox churches in southern Albania. But now two very high-profile robberies, in which frescoes dating from the Middle Ages were destroyed, have caused a public outcry. Hopes are growing that the new Albanian government will now take the protection of the country's cultural heritage more seriously and implement measures to protect it. Turkey: The Effects of the Syrian Civil War - The civil war raging in Syria is also endangering the peaceful coexistence amongst religious groups in Turkey's border regions. Many Kurds are already deeply involved in the conflict. Earlier this year the PKK Kurdish armed separatist group declared a ceasefire with Turkey and agreed to abandon all military activities. More and more Turkish Kurds are crossing the border to fight in Syria, however. The Kurds here enjoy greater autonomy than those living in Turkey. The Turkish government fears that an independent Syrian Kurdistan would give rise to separatist sentiment amongst Turkey's 30 million Kurds. Britain: Fighting Fracking - British Prime Minister David Cameron is a proponent of fracking, a highly controversial method used to extract oil and gas reserves located underground. In Balcombe, 30 miles south of London, tests are to be conducted to see whether fracking is worthwhile. A cocktail of chemicals and water will be used to force crude oil and natural gas out of the ground. Ecologists and residents of West Sussex are appalled and fear that the procedure will harm the environment. Supporters, on the other hand, say fracking will produce revenue for local coffers and create jobs. France: Lavender Under Siege - A type of bacteria is threatening the life of Provence's signature herb. Now scientists are searching for a variety of the plant that is resistant to these microorganisms. Provence's lavender fields are under siege from bacteria called stolbur phytoplasma, transmitted by tiny cicada insects. It can cause the plants to form only tiny flowers and dry up. The disease has been spreading since the year 2000, and the dryness of the past year has only worsened the situation for lavender farmers. Some have had to uproot their entire crops. Germany - Angela Merkel's Victory - German Chancellor Angela Merkel has secured the greatest election victory so far in her political career. A year ago Merkel faced harsh criticism in the Greek media and many people in Greece still blame her for the financial crisis in their homeland. In Poland and the Czech Republic however respect has grown for Angela Merkel and she is also a respected political figure in Britain. Before Sunday's election British newspapers praised her, saying that at least you know where you are when it comes to Angela Merkel.