Contract killings in Bulgaria and a direct affront to the rule of law in Romania are some of the major concerns underlined by the European Commission in its latest country progress reports. The Commission said overall both countries have made some progress but neither have fully met their respective benchmarks nor entirely produced convincing results in areas of judicial reform, fight against corruption and organised crime. Adrian Severin, a Romanian MEP accused of having taken bribes from journalists posing as lobbyists, has been charged with siphoning €436,000 from the EU budget. Anti-corruption prosecutors in Bucharest said they had filed new charges against Severin, after having started an investigation linked to the ‘cash for amendments’ scandal uncovered by the Sunday Times last year.
Eurozone states need to give up more sovereignty in order to fix the construction flaws of the euro, with the bailout fund possibly turning into a budget authority further down the road, European Central Bank board member Joerg Asmussen has said. Asmussen also referred to measures such as a cap on how much debt countries can issue, intervention in national budgets and fiscal corrections imposed if a country deviates from the deficit and debt limits imposed in the eurozone.
An Italian institute heavily involved in the discovery of the Higgs particle is facing layoffs as the state slashes public spending on science to balance the budget. Italy’s National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) was informed of the budget cuts two days after the Higgs particle was spotted. The discovery is considered one of the greatest scientific achievements in the past century.
Taxes in Greece continue to slip through state scrutiny as some corporations, wealthy Greek-ship owning families, and the Greek Orthodox Church are either exempt or use loopholes to hide millions of euros. In the first five months of 2012, the Greek ministry of finance registered a €300 million shortfall in collected taxes. The shortfall, notes the ministry, is primarily due to corporations having not submitted their taxes on time.
EU member state authorities collectively removed over 250,000 fake euro notes in the first six months of 2012, said the European Central Bank (ECB) in a statement published on Monday. The figure is 15 percent lower when compared to the same period last year. Almost all the notes were recovered in Eurozone countries. The vast majority were either €20 or €50 bills.
German lawmakers are expected to pass a cross-party motion to protect religious circumcision, after a regional court ruled it amounted to bodily harm. The resolution calls the government to draw up a bill allowing the circumcision of boys in the autumn. Germany’s main political parties – together with Jewish and Muslim groups – have criticised the ruling by the Cologne court in June. Chancellor Angela Merkel said it risked making Germany a “laughing stock”.
The International Monetary Fund has warned the eurozone’s leaders to take “decisive action” as Spanish bond yields shot up to dangerous levels, signalling a fresh leg of the sovereign debt crisis. In its annual report on the eurozone’s policies, known as an Article IV, the IMF made clear that it believes euro ministers have not yet done enough to underpin the future of the single currency.
The Vatican has scraped through an independent international test of its financial transparency. The Council of Europe said it was either “non-compliant” or “partially compliant” in 23 out of a total of 45 areas. But its report showed the Vatican had received “compliant” or “largely compliant” grades on nine of the 16 “key and core” recommendations for combatting money-laundering and terrorist financing. The Vatican’s hopes of making it on to an internationally recognised “white list” of compliant states were dealt a heavy blow in May when the board of the IOR sacked the president and accused him of neglecting his duties.
France’s Socialist government is to bury the “work-more-to-earn more” philosophy of former president Nicolas Sarkozy by reinstating taxes on overtime. The measure is also intended to strengthen the French left’s totemic 35-hour maximum working week and wipe at least €3bn off the country’s public deficit. Companies with less than 20 staff will be able to keep the tax break on extra working hours, as part of Hollande’s promise to boost small firms. Paris police have arrested seven people on suspicion of sabotaging part of the French capital’s celebrated Vélib’ free-rental bicycle network. The suspects allegedly found a way of getting round the sophisticated electronic security system to remove bikes.
In a development described by music experts as “a bombshell in the world of Baroque opera”, a new version of Vivaldi’s opera Orlando Furioso has been discovered, 270 years after his death. The manuscript has been dated to 1714, 13 years before Vivaldi composed his later masterpiece. It contains as many as 20 new arias, never heard before – all composed around the time that Vivaldi was also working on The Four Seasons, said to be the most-recorded piece of classical music in history.
A town in south-west Germany has drawn accusations of sexism after designating two particularly tricky parking spaces “men only”. The mayor of the Black Forest town of Triberg says women would find it difficult to park there because drivers need to back in diagonally without hitting a pillar and a wall. Gallus Strobel noted that 12 places in the 220-capacity car park are reserved for women. Many German cities designate a small number of parking spaces, usually near exits, for women concerned about their personal safety in poorly-lit garages. Strobel said on Thursday that he had received overwhelmingly positive reactions from men who feel discriminated against by “women only” parking.