Seven Days in Europe

This week the horsemeat scandal reached European proportions. German supermarkets pulled frozen lasagne off shelves after horsemeat was detected in it, which follows panic over processed meats in the UK, France and Sweden. The supply chain of the tainted meat involves 16 countries and stems from Romanian abattoirs through to Cyprus and France. The EU Health Commissioner, Tonio Borg, called for member states to carry out DNA tests on processed beef for three months from March onwards. States were also urged to test for traces of the equine veterinary medicine phenylbutazone, which is thought to be harmful to humans.

An Italian journalist got the scoop on Pope Benedict XVI’s impending retirement as she understood Latin. Other reporters at what appeared to be a routine papal announcement on Monday had to wait for the Vatican’s official translations in Italian and English, but Giovanna Chirri understood the magnitude of a short announcement and broke the story. The Pope’s sudden resignation on health grounds surprised clergy around the world.

Turkey drafted changes to its penal code in line with demands from the EU, intended to improve protection of freedom of expression in the aspirant accession state. Previously, anti-terrorist legislation had been used to prosecute activists and journalists for things they had published.

The EU and USA began talks on a free-trade agreement, which could end up being the largest trade deal in history. Bringing trade barriers between the two biggest economies in the world could boost annual GDP growth by 0.5%. President Obama said a free trade agreement would “boost American exports, support American jobs and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia”. The joint statement also saw a transatlantic negotiation as an “opportunity not only to expand trade and investment across the Atlantic, but also to contribute to the development of global rules that can strengthen the multilateral trading system.” However, some commentators have preached caution, arguing that third parties would be at a disadvantage and that the EU may come to regret not focussing on Asia and Latin America as trading partners.

The pan-European emergency services telephone number, 112, was promoted by the Commission. The EC encouraged travel agents and tour operators to feature the number on websites, tickets, and at tourist destinations. A recent survey estimates 5 million more people are aware of the 112 emergency number than a year ago.

Finally, the driver of a specially modified Renault Laguna went on a terrifying 125mph drive around France and across the border after the car went out of control. It had been adapted for disabled drivers, and a fault caused the speed regulator to be stuck at 125mph. The driver managed to call emergency services, who cleared his route. He eventually crashed into a ditch in Belgium hours later after running out of petrol.

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