Seven Days in Europe

The EU budget summit started today, and early reports indicate that very disparate competing interests have resulted in hard bargaining and ill tempers.  The European Parliament president, Martin Schulz, was quoted as saying he was very sceptical about an agreement being reached this week. However, EU Observer has reported a different side of things, with one diplomat speculating that “everyone is unhappy which gives us the impression that a compromise is possible,” and that “Van Rompuy’s people have been very clear that they have a large range of possible tweaks up their sleeves to sort out individual problems.”

The Irish prime minister intervened in the inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian-born woman resident in the Republic of Ireland who died last month of blood poisoning following a miscarriage. Galway University Hospital doctors had refused to perform an abortion on her even though she was miscarrying, as the foetus still had a heartbeat. Taoiseach Enda Kenny removed employees of the hospital from the inquiry panel to ensure it remained independent. Savita’s death has incensed the pro-choice lobby in Ireland, resulting in protests calling for abortion legislation to ensure no other women die due to uncertain laws.

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was questioned over claims that he accepted thousands of euros during his 2007 election campaign from France’s richest woman, L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. The allegations are that his campaign treasurer collected donations amounting to €150,000 in person from Bettencourt, when campaign donations are limited to €4,600 under French law. These claims surfaced when Sarkozy was in office, but at the time he had immunity from prosecution.

Lithuania joined the “enhanced cooperation procedure”, an agreement which facilitates divorces for international couples. Under the agreement couples from different countries can select which country’s law applies to their separation. The Commission has emphasised the importance of adopting the Council decision on enhanced cooperation in these instances – in 2007, 13% of divorces in the 27 Member States had an international element.

Apparently the EU is one of the biggest exporters of shark fins to Hong Kong and China, and this week MEPs called for a ban on the practice of “shark finning”. The biological characteristics of sharks make them particularly vulnerable to overfishing – namely that they have a slow rate of reproduction and growth, and do not reach sexual maturity until they are 19-21 years old in the case of some species.

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