Tuesday was the European Day of Languages, which was celebrated across the continent with various events including language workshops, film screenings, performances for children utilising language, audiovisual translation seminars and school visits. Miguel Angel Martínez, vice president of the European Parliament – and a polyglot – answered questions on the EP and multilingualism, responding to questions in the language they were asked in. The EU has 23 official languages and the EP has considerable interpreting and translation services, as well as legal text verification.
There is mounting civil unrest in both Greece and Spain over the Eurozone crisis. In Spain, rallies against austerity measures being imposed to avoid a full bailout turned violent when police baton-charged protesters and fired rubber bullets at the crowd. The Spanish government is expected to announce yet more spending cuts and tax rises against an unemployment rate of 25% later today. Strikes and a mass walkout in Athens ended with riot police using tear gas to disperse protestors throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks. The minimum €11.bn of planned cuts will come predominantly from wages and pensions and will partly be used to recapitalise banks.
Greece was also in the news after securing an interim injunction (Greece v Commission (T-52/12) against the Commission which suspended the recovery of funds paid to Greek farmers. The payments, intended to compensate the farmers for damage as a result of adverse weather conditions, were classed as unlawful State aid incompatible with the internal market by the Commission. On Wednesday the Commission adopted a proposal which would require the publication of information on the beneficiaries of European agricultural funds. Commissioner Dacian Cioloş said of the measure:
“At a timewhenmany Member States’ national budgets are being squeezed, I consider it vital to inform citizens how the aid from the Union’s Common Agricultural Policy is being spent.”
New rules on the calculation of inter-bank lending rates have been promised by the end of 2012 by EU internal market commissioner Michel Barnier. This move is intended to increase public confidence in the banking system after the Libor/Eurlibor tampering scandal and was described as necessary in order to depart from the “anything goes attitude of the financial sector.”
Poland’s foreign minister, Radosław Sikorski, has warned the UK to abandon its “false consciousness” of Euroscepticism or risk isolation. In a speech at the Global Horizons conference Sikorski also spoke of a lack of alternatives – pointing out that if the UK were to leave the EU and then attempt to negotiate trade, member states would have the upper hand. Also, in order to have the privilege of access to the Single Market, non-EU countries Norway and Switzerland have to contribute to EU cohesion funds, and have to adopt certain EU standards without having a say in how they are written. The British government is currently considering a referendum on EU membership.
Finally, according to a survey conducted by the Commission, a large proportion of Europeans are well informed about the EU’s space activities and have expressed preferences on the role they wish the EU space programme to play in the future – ranging from monitoring systems to prevent satellite collision to space exploration programmes.