Seven Days in Europe

On Monday 15 out of 27 Member States voted for a two-year ban on pesticides thought to be harmful to bees, giving the Commission the final say on whether to approve the ban. It was passed despite fierce lobbying from chemical companies and opposition from eight Member States. The ban proposes to restrict the use of three neonicotinoids on plants and cereals attractive to bees and has divided the scientific community. Although it is argued that the ban is necessary to gauge whether bee colonies recover in the absence of these pesticides and create a strategy for the bees’ survival, some observers are worried that farmers will resort to using older pesticides that are damaging to other species.

Speculation was that the ECB will cut interest rates, reducing its key interest rate to a new record low from the current 0.75%. Data released earlier in the week indicated that German manufacturing shrank in April, and the ECB will likely seek to boost growth in other troubled Eurozone economies.

Ireland’s Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced that there will be no change in the country’s controversial abortion law in an attempt to subdue backbench opposition to the plans. Current proposals are to introduce legislation that would incorporate the rights of pregnant women and unborn children under the Irish Constitution, the 21-year-old Supreme Court X case (which found abortion is legal if there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother) and the ECtHR judgment in A, B & C v Ireland (App. No 25579/05) in order to bring legal clarity to both women and doctors. Ireland has been under international pressure to reform its abortion law following the death of Savita Halappanavar from sepsis after she was refused a termination during miscarriage.

Willem-Alexander was crowned King of the Netherlands after his mother Queen Beatrix signed an abdication agreement, making her son the first Dutch king in over a century. Although the Dutch royal family is largely ceremonial, it is considered a cornerstone of the national identity and above the political system. King Willem-Alexander said:

“I want to establish ties, make connections and exemplify what unites us, the Dutch people.  As king, I can strengthen the bond of mutual trust between the people and their government, maintain our democracy and serve the public interest.”

Since February’s inconclusive election Italy has been in a bit of a “political vacuum”. This looks set to end since the deputy leader of the Democrat party, Enrico Letta, was asked to be Prime Minister and form a new government last week. He has been described as a Europhile on the moderate side of his centre-left party, and intends to change the parliamentary system and electoral law to make politics in the country more stable. He said of his intentions:

“It will be a government at the service of the country, the aim including that of bringing morals to the country’s public life, which needs new nourishment.”

“This government will not be born at any cost – there will be conditions. I will give my all for it because Italians are fed up with these little political games.”

A coalition government bringing together Democrats and members of the People of Freedom party was agreed and sworn in on Sunday.

Robin van Helsum, a Dutch citizen who made the news in 2011 as “Forest Boy” after showing up at the Rotes Rathaus in Berlin claiming to have lived wild in the forest with his father for five years, spoke to press about the pressures that had driven him to stage such an elaborate hoax. Apparently he was €8,000 in rent arrears and had discovered his ex-girlfriend was pregnant, and bought a one-way ticket to Berlin but ran out of money soon after arriving. The German authorities still plan to prosecute Van Helsum for fraud.

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