Seven Days in Europe

Greek politicians have reached a deal on austerity measures needed for a new €130bn euro international bailout. Prime Minister Lucas Papademos held days of talks with his coalition partners to broker an agreement. Eurozone finance ministers are expected to discuss the measures when they meet in Brussels later today. The 50-page austerity plan includes a 22-percent cut in the minimum wage, a 32-percent cut in salaries for young employees and the sacking of 15,000 public sector workers. For those who have got lost in the maze of Greek negotiations, the BBC has provided a useful Q & A here.

A group of nine euro-countries led by France and Germany have asked the Danish EU presidency to fast-track plans for a financial transactions tax – a move indicating they will forge ahead on their own in the absence of an EU-wide consensus. The nine signatories are the finance ministers of France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Spain, Portugal and the Prime Minister of Italy, Mario Monti, who also holds the finance portfolio. Britain and a handful of other countries fiercely oppose the tax, arguing that it will lead to business flight and job losses in their financial sectors.

Almost a quarter of the EU’s population is at risk of poverty or social exclusion, according to statistics released Wednesday, with 13 member states recording a rise in the number of their citizens considered vulnerable. The poverty statistics come atop of unemployment statistics published last week recording a record high jobless rate in the EU, with some 23 million people without work.

UK foreign minister William Hague has said EU countries may convene a global summit on how to bring down Syrian leader Bashar Assad. He told MPs in London that the UK and France are working to create a so-called Friends of Syria Group – an informal club of countries that will seek ways to make Assad stop military action, hand over power to a national unity government and hold free elections.

Silvio Berlusconi is to stand trial next month on charges of revealing confidential information in a case related to a 2005 banking scandal. Berlusconi is already facing three separate trials on charges including corruption, tax fraud and paying for sex with an underage prostitute. The latest case stems from allegations that Berlusconi pushed for the publication in a newspaper owned by his brother of a recorded conversation that should have remained secret because of an ongoing investigation.

Baltasar Garzón, the Spanish judge celebrated for pursuing international human rights cases has been convicted of overstepping his jurisdiction in a domestic corruption investigation.  A seven-judge panel of the supreme court unanimously convicted Garzón and barred him from the bench for 11 years. The ruling is not subject to appeal.

The French prime minister and his cabinet stormed out of parliament last week after an opposition MP accused the rightwing interior minister of flirting with Nazi ideology. The Socialist Serge Letchimy, from Martinique, questioned the interior minister Claude Guéant over his controversial comments this weekend that “not all civilisations are of equal value”, and his assertion that some civilisations, namely France’s, are worth more than others.

The Romanian prime minister and his cabinet have resigned after weeks of sometimes violent protests over widespread corruption and austerity measures. The collapse marks the fall of yet another EU government since the euro crisis started to bite. Since 2009, governments in Slovakia, Slovenia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Ireland and the Czech Republic have imploded before scheduled elections, with economic woes playing a significant role.

Finally, an Austrian adventurer planning the highest skydive in history has announced that he will make the record attempt later this year. Felix Baumgartner will jump from a balloon 36.5km (120,000ft) up. He will fall so fast that he becomes the first person to go faster than the speed of sound unaided by a machine.  Pope John Paul II performed an exorcism on a “drooling, trembling” woman in the Vatican but was unable to cure her of her demons, according to the Catholic Church’s most famous exorcist. Father Amorth, the founder and president of the International Association of Exorcists, describes the incident in his new book, “The Last Exorcist – My Fight Against Satan.”

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