Seven Days in Europe

Eurozone officials on Wednesday night agreed to pay only €4.2 billion as first bail-out tranche for Greece, with an outstanding 1 billion being blocked until June, amid growing political uncertainty in Athens and another failed attempt to form a government. Greek voters on Sunday punished the two ruling parties responsible for the last EU bail-out and its austerity measures by giving the radical left the second highest number of votes and allowing a neo-Nazi party into the legislature for the first time. German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble has said the eurozone would survive if Greece left it, with the single currency structures more robust than two years ago.

The European Parliament’s in-house TV, a multi-million-euro project designed to give citizens an insight into the workings of the EU, has been deemed too expensive and watched by too few people to justify maintaining it. Set up in 2008, EuroparlTV gives the unfiltered view of the parliament through live streaming of committee meetings and plenary sessions. But the effect of the TV’s offerings – including pieces showing how MEPs go about their daily work or how EU laws affect people’s lives – were panned by deputies on Thursday.

Francois Hollande won the French Presidential election on Sunday. Speaking after his win, Hollande said that the French had vote for “change.” “Austerity can no longer be an inevitability in Europe,” he said, alluding to the on-going European discussion about the merits of constant economic belt-tightening.  France’s president-elect made a low-key debut on the EU stage in talks with EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy and Irish leader Enda Kenny. Van Rompuy held a 50-minute-long tete-a-tete with Francois Hollande at his Socialist party’s election campaign headquarters in Paris on Wednesday.

European nations are not doing enough to fight corruption and bribery, according to an annual report released on Wednesday by the Council of Europe. In the EU alone, corruption costs an estimated €120 billion annually. The CoE’s group of states against corruption (Greco), which acts as a peer review system producing reports and recommendations on different aspects of each member’s efforts to fight corruption, says members need to increase transparency of political funding. In April, Greco requested Italy to clean up its act, citing a gross lack of transparency throughout its party funding structure.

EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy – the Union’s highest official in protocol terms – has told Ukraine’s prime minister, Mykola Azaraov, he is not welcome in the EU capital. He added that Kiev’s treatment of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is “unacceptable” and that Brussels will only sign a political association and trade pact with Ukraine if “they adapt to our values.”

The European Commission and national governments are seeking to crack down on the rules granting access to their internal documents despite a ruling by the European Court of Justice calling on them to release legal opinions drafted by the EU Council’s legal service. A ruling on Friday (May 4th) by the European Court of Justice brought an end to a two-year legal dispute between Dutch Liberal MEP Sophie In’t Veld and the European Council over access to documents regarding the controversial Swift agreement on transferring banking data.

Measures to overhaul Spain’s ailing banking system are expected to be announced on Friday as the government races to shore up confidence in the economy and head off fears that it will need an international bailout to remain in the eurozone. The emergency measures taken to partly nationalise the country’s fourth largest bank, Bankia, on Wednesday are not regarded as enough to encourage investors to start pouring their money back into the country.

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