EUROPE ““ (BBC) Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned of the problems facing Greece if it decides to abandon the euro. “They have to be prepared to take action to stop euros leaving the country, maybe have border controls,” he told the Andrew Marr Show. Eurozone finance ministers are due to discuss a 130-billion-euro ($171 billion USD) bailout package for Greece this week. “˜They don’t have the old currency sitting in the vaults ready to distribute,” he said. “It’s not straightforward to leave the euro. It was built without exits.” Shadow chancellor Ed Balls criticized the steps that Germany was taking to support the eurozone. “For Greece to stay in the euro”¦means a long and protracted period of slow growth, high unemployment, at a time when the German economy is not really willing to pull its weight – the Germans aren’t doing what needs to be done,” he told Andrew Marr.
Mr. Balls also ruled out taking the UK into the euro in his political lifetime. Mr. Hague said that greater integration would be needed to make the euro work. “It does require closer fiscal integration, it does require closer political integration – it can’t work without that,” he said. Asked about whether he would be happy for Britain to contribute to an IMF bailout of Greece, Mr. Balls said that should happen only if it was not a substitute for funding that should come from the European Central Bank (ECB). “If the IMF funding is supposed to go in to substitute for the funding which should come from the ECB, because Germany says we’re not willing to fund the ECB, that would not only be the wrong thing, it would be completely counterproductive,” he said. “I don’t think Germany has faced up to the reality it’s in a single currency and there are collective obligations in a single currency. They joined it, they’ve now got to make the best of it, and that’s not happening at the moment.”
FRANCE ““ (BBC) Dominique Strauss-Kahn is to be questioned next week by police investigating an alleged prostitution ring in northern France, officials say. Mr. Strauss-Kahn has been summoned for questioning on Tuesday and can be held for up to 48 hours without charge. He resigned from the International Monetary Fund last May when charged with raping a New York City hotel maid. Although the case was later dropped, it ended his ambitions to run for the French presidency. The latest scandal involves an alleged prostitution ring and the organization of sex parties at luxury hotels in the city of Lille. Consorting with prostitutes is legal in France, but supplying prostitutes to others is illegal. It is also illegal for an official to accept gifts of any kind from a company. Reports say Strauss-Kahn could be charged if magistrates deem he was aware that the women who took part in the sex parties he is alleged to have attended were prostitutes. Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer has previously said the former IMF chief thought he was participating in swingers’ parties and had no reason to believe the women were prostitutes. Strauss-Kahn has demanded to be questioned by the judges leading the investigation in the hope it will clear his name. Lawyers for Strauss-Kahn have previously said that he will take legal action over his alleged invasion of privacy.
FRANCE, UNITED KINGDOM ““ (BBC) The United Kingdom has signed a deal with France to strengthen cooperation in the development of civil nuclear energy. The government said it reiterated the UK’s commitment to nuclear energy “as part of a diversified energy mix.” The coalition said the agreement would create a number of commercial deals in the nuclear energy field, worth more than £500 million and creating 1,500 UK jobs. The deal was signed at a summit between Prime Minister David Cameron and President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris. The two governments will work together with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “to strengthen international capability to react to nuclear emergencies and establish a joint framework for cooperation and exchanging good practice on civil nuclear security.” Mr. Cameron said, “As two great civil nuclear nations, we will combine our expertise to strengthen industrial partnership, improve nuclear safety, and create jobs at home.”
GERMANY ““ (BBC) German President Christian Wulff has announced his resignation after prosecutors called for his immunity to be lifted. An ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr. Wulff stepped down over corruption claims involving a dubious home loan. He denies any wrongdoing. Mrs. Merkel cancelled a visit to Italy on Friday to deal with the crisis and said she regretted that he had quit. German media say the crisis is unprecedented in post-war Germany. Mrs. Merkel said: “He dedicated himself to the interests of Germany.” She said Wulff was convinced he had “acted legally correctly,” but was “stepping back from the office, from service to our people.” Germany’s political parties will now seek to agree on a new candidate for president. In the interim, Horst Seehofer of the Christian Social Union will be acting president.
THE NETHERLANDS ““ (BBC) Dutch Prince Johan Friso has been seriously injured in an avalanche while on a skiing holiday in the Austrian resort of Lech. Officials said the prince, 43, was buried under the snow for about 15 minutes before being rescued. He was resuscitated at the scene and taken to the hospital in Innsbruck – the Dutch government said he was stable but “not out of danger.” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte confirmed that the queen was there but had not been involved in the incident. The prince was skiing with between one and three other people off the marked pistes when the avalanche hit shortly after midday local time. No one else was injured. The Austria Press Agency quoted Lech’s mayor Ludwig Muxel as saying the prince had been buried by an avalanche measuring about 30 meters wide by 40 meters long.
SPAIN ““ (BBC) Mass protests have been held across Spain against the conservative government’s labor market reforms. The trade unions that organized the rallies said half a million protestors marched through Madrid. Police put the turnout in the capital at about 50,000. Spanish media say protests took place in 57 towns and cities. There was anger at a labor reform law that cuts severance pay and gives employers more flexibility over jobs. The unemployment rate has reached 23%. The motto of the protests was “no to the labor reform that is unfair to workers, inefficient for the economy, and useless for jobs,” Spain’s El Pais news website reports. Spain’s unemployment rate is the highest in the European Union, hitting young job-seekers especially hard.
SWEDEN ““ (BBC) A Swedish man has survived being trapped in his snow-covered car for two months without food, police say. The car was found on Friday at the end of a forest track more than 1 km (0.6 miles) from a main road in northern Sweden. Police say the temperature in the area had recently dropped to -30C (-22F). The man, who was too weak to utter more than a few words, said he had been inside since December 19th. He may have survived by drinking melted snow. Police say they have no reason to doubt his story.
VATICAN CITY ““ (BBC) Pope Benedict XVI has created 22 new cardinals at a ceremony in Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica. The new “princes of the church” were presented with red hats called birettas and gold rings at the “consistory.” The archbishops of New York and Hong Kong are among those joining the prestigious group that will one day choose the pontiff’s successor. Pope Benedict, who is nearly 85, is visibly slowing down, says the BBC’s David Wiley in Rome. He entered St. Peter’s Basilica for Saturday’s consistory on a rolling platform to spare him the long walk down the center aisle. Wearing red and gold vestments, he called on the new cardinals “to serve the Church with love and vigor” before handing them their birettas and rings. Eighteen of the 22 newcomers are under the age of 80, meaning they can join the group of 125 cardinals who are eligible to take part in the conclave that will meet to elect a new pope once Pope Benedict dies.
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