Seven Days in Europe

The French cabinet approved a draft law which will legalise same-sex marriage. Proposed amendments to the Civil Code will replace some particular references to men and women with gender neutral descriptions. The changes will be debated in the French parliament in January, and are expected to be passed with relative ease – a recent survey indicated 65% of the public approved of the idea. However, the bill has met with some strong opposition – conservative politician Serge Dassault feels that it signals “the end of the family, the end of children’s development, the end of education”.

Paolo Gabriele, a former butler of Pope Benedict, was found guilty of stealing confidential papers from the Pope and was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment. Gabriele argued that he hoped to reveal alleged corruption at the Vatican, and believed that the Pope was being manipulated. He told the court:

“The thing I feel most strongly is the conviction of having acted out of visceral love for the Church of Christ and of its leader on earth, I do not feel I am a thief.”

“I feel guilty of having betrayed the trust of the Holy Father, whom I love as a son would.”

Yves Mersch was expecting to be fast-tracked to an appointment on the board of the ECB through a procedure where EU capitals send their agreement to Brussels in writing, instead of the usual method of holding a debate. Spain withheld their consent at the last minute, blocking the appointment. This has happened amid the controversy over gender quotas (Mersch’s appointment would result in an all-male ECB board until 2018). The FT Brussels blog has speculated that Spain may have blocked the appointment as there is an agreement that the four biggest Eurozone members should be represented on the ECB board – France, Germany and Italy have representation, but Mersch is from Luxembourg. Spain may be angling to put a Spanish candidate “back on the table”.

The autumn forecast for the EU economy was published. GDP is expected to contract by 0.3% in the EU on an annual basis, but growth for 2013 is projected at 0.4% for the same area.

Greece just barely passed the austerity measures required to meet the conditions for its next bailout tranche. 153 out of 300 MPs voted in favour of €13.5bn of cutbacks, and several MPs were expelled after the vote for voting against the bill. The Greek public continue to protest against the cuts, having already suffered a 35% drop in their quality of life over the past two years according to analysts.

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