Seven Days in Europe

The UK Commission on a Bill of Rights has published its interim advice on the reform of the European Court of Human Rights. The Commission recommended three areas for reform – first, the need to reduce the number of cases that reach the Court by introducing new screening mechanisms; second, the need to reconsider the relief that the Court is able to offer by way of just satisfaction; and third, the need to enhance procedures for the selection of well-qualified judges of the Court. Somewhat unusually, an additional letter was published in parallel to the interim advice, laying out suggestions from individual members of the Commission. Perhaps the most controversial idea laid out in the letter is that there should be some form of ‘democratic override’, allowing national parliaments to override decisions of the Court.

This week bought further bad news for the beleaguered eurozone. The Italian finance minister met with the head of the China Investment Corp last week, and it is understood that the Chinese delegation was asked to consider buying Italy’s sovereign debt.

French banks faced difficulties as shares plummeted after fears that banks stocks might be overly vulnerable in the event of Greece defaulting on its debt. The fall came despite, or perhaps because of, an announcement by Greece on Sunday evening that a new property tax was being introduced to plug budget shortfalls. Societe Generale, particularly badly hit, slid 10.8 percent while BNP Paribas was down 11 percent. After reports that Germany was preparing for Greece to leave the eurozone, Angela Merkel issued a strong statement indicating that the eurozone must stick together and that a departure by Greece could lead to a ‘domino effect’. Brussels has also denied that any plans are being made to prepare for a Greek default and confirmed that no state would be expelled for failing to meet strict budgetary discipline.

Alongside the eurozone crisis negotiations are underway over the EU’s proposed 2014-2020 budget. Member states have not responded well to proposals that spending be increased by 5 percent to €971.52 billion over the seven-year period, with €1,025 billion pledged in commitments. A paper signed by eight member states, including the UK, France and Germany, said that “Member states are making considerable financial efforts to support Europe and at the same time are undertaking tough consolidation efforts … European public spending cannot be exempt from these considerable national efforts.”

France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain have called for an EU military headquarters. In a letter to the foreign relations chief Caroline Ashton the five states urge her to  “Examine all institutional and legal options available to member states, including permanent structured co-operation, to develop critical CSDP [Common Security and Defence Policy] capabilities.”

This week has bought goods news for some. Ageing rock stars will benefit from music royalties for a longer period of time under a new regulation adopted by the ministers of EU affairs, extending the current music copyright protection from 50 to 70 years.

And finally – it seems that elks, despite their size, are alcoholic lightweights.  A homeowner in southern Sweden got a shock when he found a drunken elk stuck in his neighbour’s apple tree. The animal was apparently on the hunt for fermenting apples when she lost her balance and became trapped in the tree.

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