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Friday, March 1, 2013

EU Leaders Attack UK Plans on Membership Referendum

The President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, has issued a stern warning to UK Prime Minister David Cameron that no other European Union leader is likely to support his campaign to accommodate British demands to remain in the bloc. Speaking in London, he said no other EU leader “particularly liked” or “particularly feared” Cameron’s campaign for new terms and a membership referendum. “How do you convince a room full of people, when you keep your hand on the door handle? How to encourage a friend to change, if your eyes are searching for your coat?”, asked Van Rompuy during a conference hosted by Policy Network think tank in London. Olli Rehn, the European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro, echoed Van Rompuy’s argument. He warned that Cameron “should not seek to undo our community. This is a game in which, if I were a British citizen, I would want my country to be playing as a midfield playmaker rather than watching from the sidelines. No one ever scored goals sitting on the bench”, said Rehn.

M5S Says It Will Not Form a Government in Italy

The joint founder of the Five Star Movement (M5S), the party that holds the balance of power in Italy after this week’s elections, has told the Guardian that it will not play any role in the formation of the country’s next government. “If a government is put together, formed by other parties, the Five Star Movement will vote for everything that forms an integral part of its programme”, said Gianroberto Casaleggio. He added that the long-term aim was to bring M5S to power, but that until then the group would not enter into agreements with any other political party. His comments dash the hopes of those that thought the M5S could avoid a greater crisis by entering talks, as suggested by the group’s other joint founder, comedian Beppe Grillo. He had told reporters earlier in the week that he would represent the movement in talks with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, who is responsible for giving one of the parties a mandate to try to form a government.

Eurozone Unemployment Hits Consecutive Record High

The 17 members of the eurozone hit another record unemployment rate in January, pushing the figure to 11.9 percent in comparison to December’s previous record of 11.8 percent. The figures published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, show that unemployment in the eurozone rose by 201,000 to 18.9 million people without a job. The wider European Union, which includes those countries not members of the monetary union such as the U.K. and Poland, registered an unemployment rate of 10.8 percent, up from 10.7 percent in December. The highest unemployment rates were registered in Spain, with 26.2 percent unemployment, and Portugal, with 17.6 percent unemployment. The country with the lowest jobless rate was Austria, with 4.9 percent.

MPs Demand Reform of Undercover Policing Regulations

The UK Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee has asked for an urgent review of laws regulating undercover policing after the discovery of intimate relationships between officers and those being investigated. A number of allegations have been brought forward after it emerged that former PC Mark Kennedy had investigated the workings of environmental protest groups by posing as an environmentalist himself and having sexual relationships with an activist, a procedure deemed “devastating” by committee chairman Keith Vaz. Five women and a man are suing the Metropolitan Police over relationships with undercover officers, with one of the victims having a child with an officer before he disappeared. “It is unacceptable that a child should be brought into the world as a result of such a relationship and this must never be allowed to happen again”, states a report released by the commitee on Friday. James Bannon, a former undercover officer, said that such practices could only be justified in extreme circumstances, if “you have exhausted every other avenue of infiltration in order to gather evidence on a particular person”.

UK Government Selling Its Wine at Auction

The UK government’s austerity drive has hit its own wine cellar, used to cater to visits by foreign VIP guests, royalty and heads of state. The cellar, located at Lancaster House near Buckingham Palace, provides wine for around 200 events a year and contains over 38,000 bottles of wine and spirits. It has a total market value of £3 million pounds, but failed a government recommendation to become self-sufficient in 2012. It sold £44,000 worth of bottles last year, but bought approximately £49,000 for its stocks. The government has now placed six lots of wine, totalling 54 bottles, with auction house Christie’s in a bid to raise about £65,000. A spokesman with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said this was the first time the cellar had sold wines at auction, with previous sales made privately. “This is part of the process for making the cellar self-funding for the lifetime of the current parliament”, said Mark Simmonds, a junior minister at the FCO. Christie’s classified the government cellar as an example of “professional cellar management”, with wines bought young and held in ideal conditions until mature and ready to drink.

Weekend Read: How to Spend 47 Hours on a Train

A 47-hour train ride offers the possibility of cheap therapy. There is ample time to relate your entire life story to a stranger, confidentially, because you will never see that person again. In the New York Times Magazine.

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