Seven Days in Europe

Statistics for Euro area trade at the end of last year were released. In November 2012 the trade in goods balance with the the rest of the world gave a €13.7bn surplus, up on €4.9bn from November 2011. The EU27 goods balance for the same period showed a €1.7bn deficit, compared to a €9.8bn deficit in 2011. Exports to most major partners grew in 2012 – particularly exports to South Korea, Russia, Japan, the USA, and Brazil.

MEPs called for the Commission to introduce common rules relating to carry-on luggage. Speakers urged more stringent regulation of hand luggage rules in order to “protect consumers from the abusive commercial practices that airlines use to generate extra income”. However, Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht was not in favour of more regulatory action, stating that the Commission sees the variation in luggage restrictions as the “reflection of diversity in a very competitive market”.

National parliaments within the EU responded to the Commission’s proposals to introduce gender quotas on corporate boards. Under the Lisbon Treaty, parliaments are entitled to provide their opinion on whether motions adopted by the Commission are in accordance with the subsidiarity principle. Six countries (the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the UK) have stated their objections. However, the green light from the remaining 21 countries means the EC can proceed with drafting laws that would ensure publicly-listed companies have at least 40% women among their non-executive directors.

Silvio Berlusconi’s legal team attempted to delay the ex-prime minister’s current trial, where he stands accused of paying for sex with an underage prostitute. He is also accused of abusing his office by telling police that she was a relative of Hosni Mubarak in an attempt to secure her release from custody. Prosecutors accused the defence of trying to delay the trial to avoid a guilty verdict before the Italian elections, which are in February. Berlusconi is running for election with his People of Freedom party, and has not ruled out standing for prime minister again.

In other Italian news, it is possible that dozens of convicted mobsters may be released early due to a faulty printer. In 2011 over a hundred ‘Ndrangheta members were sentenced to a combined total of over 1,000 years in prison in a large-scale crackdown on mob activity. On appeal, court workers did not include 120 of the 900 pages of reasoning behind the sentences as they had failed to print. As a direct result the Supreme Court of Cassation scrapped the trial judge’s reasoning, opening the possibility of appeals.

A woman stole an empty passenger train from a depot in Stockholm and crashed it into an apartment building. She had driven the train around a mile before it derailed. The woman, injured by the crash, was later arrested on suspicion of endangering the public.

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