2011 in Europe was marked by Norway’s Utoya massacre, the Dominique Straus-Khan affair, the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi and rumblings of discontent towards Vladimir Putin.
Perhaps the most shocking event of 2011 was the massacre carried out by Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old anti-Islamic fanatic, in July in Oslo. The 32-year-old far-Right extremist killed 77 people when he detonated a bomb in the Norwegian capital and went on a shooting rampage on the island of Utoya. At his first open court appearance in November, he claimed to be the commander of a resistance movement fighting the spread of Islam in Europe. A psychiatric evaluation found him criminally insane, which if upheld by the courts means he will end up in compulsory psychiatric care instead of prison.
The Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, was rarely out of the headlines in 2011. In February, a British court upheld Sweden’s right to extradite Assange, but the Australian whistleblower successfully appealed the case, allowing him to stay in the UK for the rest of the year.
The focus on Sweden continued with the publication of The Reluctant Monarch, a biography of King Carl XVI Gustaf, which alleged that he had attended a string of sex-parties hosted by a Serbian underworld figure. In August, the Swedish royal family received rather more cheery news, when Crown Princess Victoria announced she was pregnant.
France was shaken by a scandal involving Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a former head of the International Monetary Fund and a strong contender for the French presidency, who was accused of sexually assaulting a maid in a New York hotel in May. He was initially charged with attempted rape after the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, alleged he attacked her and forced her to perform oral sex. But New York prosecutors dropped the charges after they said they lost confidence in Diallo’s account. The affair badly damaged Strauss-Kahn’s reputation, and other scandals – including allegations by Tristane Banon, a French writer that he sexually assaulted her during a 2003 interview – effectively ended his political career.