Seven Days in Europe

Workers who fall ill during their holidays will be entitled to take paid leave at a later date, the European Court of Justice has ruled. Business representatives have warned that in the current climate, small firms can “ill afford” the potential extra payments but the EU-wide ruling is binding on the UK and other member states. The ruling, which emerged from a trade union case against a department store group in Spain, can be applied regardless of when an employee becomes sick.

Greece is hoping for some renewed stability following elections last weekend. The centre-right New Democracy party came out on top in a run-off poll held last Sunday but failed to clinch an outright majority. Under intense pressure from foreign lenders, the country’s squabbling political elite put differences aside to create a three-party alliance led by the conservatives. Junior partners include the socialist Pasok and small Democratic Left parties. The sole aim of Greece’s new coalition government is “to save” the crisis-hit country and ensure it remains anchored to Europe, newly appointed prime minister Antonis Samaras said in a televised speech. Warning that he would personally chart the progress ministers were making, the conservative leader said good intentions were not enough to rescue a nation grappling with its worst crisis in modern times. “Our goal is to get the country out of the crisis and to have the sacrifices people have made pay off,” he said. “This is a government of responsibility, a government that is here to make big changes.”

Italy’s leader Mario Monti is warning of dramatic consequences should leaders at next week’s EU summit fail to find concrete solutions to save the euro and prevent contagion. He told reporters in Rome that the doomsday scenario at the EU summit would invariably lead to higher borrowing costs on all EU countries. “There would be progressively greater speculative attacks on individual countries, with harassment of the weaker countries,” he said. Monti is also calling for a fuller banking union, a European deposit guarantee, and “new market-friendly policy mechanisms” to help struggling countries.

The head of the International Monetary Fund has piled pressure on Germany by recommending a series of crisis-fighting measures that chancellor Angela Merkel has resisted. IMF managing director Christine Lagarde warned that the euro is under “acute stress” and urged eurozone leaders to channel aid directly to struggling banks rather than via governments. She also called on the European Central Bank (ECB) to cut interest rates – – two ideas Germany opposes.

EU data protection chief Peter Hustinx has warned governments not to water down new rules on data protection by excluding police and law authorities from the scope saying that such steps would be “inappropriate.” Although MEPs are anxious to ensure that the new data protection rules cover government agencies as well as businesses, it is understood that a number of member states are keen to remove law enforcement authorities from the scope of the directive, regarding this as an exclusively national competence. Last week the UK became the latest member state to write domestic legislation aimed at increasing the access of law enforcement authorities to intercept personal data from emails and text messages.

MEPs on the European Parliament’s international trade committee have voted to reject the controversial anti-counterfeit treaty Acta. With a majority of 19 to 12 endorsing the recommendation to reject the pact drawn up by centre-left MEP David Martin, the EU’s ratification of the treaty looks likely to collapse.

Anders Behring Breivik’s defence lawyers have tried to cast the confessed mass killer as a political militant motivated by an extreme rightwing ideology rather than a delusional madman who killed 77 people for the sake of killing. Since Breivik has admitted to the bomb and gun attacks on 22 July, the self-styled anti-Muslim militant’s mental state has been the key focus of the trial. Lippestad used his closing arguments to try to prove to the court that Breivik’s claims of being a resistance fighter in a struggle to protect Norway and Europe from being colonised by Muslims were not delusional, but part of a political view shared by other rightwing extremists.

It emerged today that the European Commission is taking Britain to court in a battle over an unpaid bill of millions of pounds in duty on imports of garlic. The legal action was announced as an ultimatum to pay £15m to Brussels or face action in the European Court of Justice expired. The wrangle is over the fact that import tariffs on frozen garlic from outside the EU are lower than the rates for fresh garlic. And, according to the Commission, UK authorities carelessly levied the lower rate applicable to frozen garlic on imports of the fresh product from China, in breach of EU customs rules.

Wednesday’s edition of the pope’s own newspaper warmly recommended the film “The Blues Brothers” as a “modern classic”. In an article signalled on the front page of L’Osservatore Romano, the cult film, starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, was lauded as a vibrant example of a vanished form of cinema combining “creativity and sweat – just like a blues band”. A photograph of Belushi and Aykroyd wearing their trademark shades and fedoras was sandwiched between an article on the founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and the text of a speech on relations between the Holy See and Finland.

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