Pressure on Greece has intensified after international debt inspectors admitted an additional €15bn (£12.5bn) would be needed to fill a newly discovered black hole in the country’s finances. Germany has ruled out any extra contribution from national governments or the European Central Bank (ECB) to the second Greek bail-out – as requested by the Greek government. “Greece needs a debt restructuring of 50 percent on the bonds held by private investors. It does not need any supplementary contributions from the public sector,” German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble said Thursday on N-TV, a German news channel.
The new treaty to create a European Stability Mechanism (ESM) was signed on 2 February by the eurozone countries’ ambassadors in Brussels. The ESM will be a Luxembourg-based international financial institution, which will support euro area countries where indispensable to safeguard financial stability. It is scheduled to become operational in July 2012. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, welcomed the signing of the treaty, saying that the crisis mechanism would contribute to raising confidence and ensuring solidarity and financial stability in the euro area.
The number of unemployed people in Europe has reached record highs as the economic crisis unfolds into one with significant social consequences. In eight member states alone, over 30 percent of young people under 25 are out of jobs. Some 16.3 million people are unemployed across the 17 single-currency-using countries. The worst affected continues to be Spain where 50% of young people are jobless.
The European commission aims to strengthen oversight of companies that certify medical devices following a breast implant scandal thought to have affected at least 400,000 women worldwide. The commission is currently revising a EU-wide legislation on medical devices with a view to obliging national authorities to strengthen privately-run companies that inspect medical products.
Angela Merkel has announced she will help campaign for French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s bid for re-election. “The CDU chairwoman, Chancellor Angela Merkel, will actively support Nicolas Sarkozy with joint appearances in the election campaign in the spring,” the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party said in a statement. Socialist presidential hopeful Francois Hollande has said that “If Ms Merkel wants to come to France to defend the incumbent, she is totally free to do that,” Hollande said “If Ms Merkel campaigns for the incumbent, I’m still going to work well with her when I’m elected in May.”
The UN’s highest court has confirmed that Germany has legal immunity from being sued in foreign courts by victims of Nazi atrocities. The International Court of Justice said that Italy’s supreme court violated Germany’s sovereignty in 2008 by judging that an Italian civilian, Luigi Ferrini, was entitled to reparations for his deportation to Germany in 1944 to work as a slave labourer. The ICJ rejected Italy’s argument that states’ immunity did not apply in cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by one country’s army on the territory of another country.
The Hungarian national airline Malev has folded after its financial situation became unsustainable. The collapse came after the European Commission ordered Malev to repay various forms of state aid received from 2007 to 2010. The sums involved amounted to 38 billion forints (130m euros; $171m; £108m), a sum equal to its entire 2010 revenue.
The European Parliament has urged England football players and other national sports teams to wear the EU flag on their jerseys. MEPs have also recommended that the European flag should be flown over major international sports events, such as the London Olympics. British opposition to the proposals, aimed at increasing “the European dimension in sport”, led to angry debates in the EU assembly.
Finally, a clip of a five-year-old Swedish sheep-herding bunny has had more than 700,000 YouTube hits since surfacing on a blog a week ago. The video shows Champis the rabbit running back and forth to keep Nils-Erik and Greta Vigren’s sheep together. And a female punk collective has become a focus for anti-Putin protests after performing anti-Putin songs in Moscow’s Red Square. The group are anonymous, wearing neon balaclavas to hide their identity.