GERMANY ““ (BBC) Chancellor Angela Merkel has admitted her Christian Democrat (CDU) party suffered a “bitter, painful” defeat in Germany’s largest state election. However, she said the result in North Rhine-Westphalia would have no impact on her policy of Europe’s debt crisis. The election saw the governing Social Democrats increase their share of the vote,
while support for Mrs. Merkel’s CDU fell to its lowest post-war level.
She insisted that she was “very relaxed” about national elections due next year. Analysts say many voters rejected Mrs. Merkel’s tough line on fiscal discipline as a cure for state debt. The CDU had attempted to portray the Social Democrat-led state government as irresponsibly spendthrift. However, speaking on Monday after the result of Sunday’s vote was clear, the Chancellor defended her stance on austerity, insisting there was “no conflict between solid budgetary policy and growth.” In another development, Germany’s Pirate Party won seats in North Rhine-Westphalia, making it their fourth state parliament. The Pirate Party has grown in strength recently with its calls for transparency and internet freedom.
GREECE ““ (BBC) Negotiations on forming a new Greek government have resumed. Three previous attempts to form a government have failed. If the parties cannot agree on a coalition, new elections must take place next month. The left-wing Syriza bloc ““ the second largest in parliament ““ did not attend the talks, saying it would not join any coalition making further cuts. Syriza rejects the terms of the EU/IMF bailout, which demand more austerity. “Things are very difficult. I’m not optimistic,” said Evangelos Venizelos, leader of the Socialist Pasok party, after the talks, according to the Reuters news agency. A majority of Greek voters backed parties opposed to the austerity needed to meet the terms of the 130bn euro ($170 bn) bailout agreed with the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF). The BBC’s Mark Lowen in Athens says the chances of success at this 11th hour are slim. Failure would mean fresh elections which, polls suggest, could usher in a government that turns its back on Greece’s bailout. That could lead the country into a default on its debt and hasten Greece’s departure from the euro, our correspondent says. Syriza opposes any further spending cuts and wants to renegotiate the bailout package.
NORWAY ““ (BBC) A teenager who survived Anders Breivik’s Utoeya massacre has told his trial she heard “the worst screaming” as he carried out his attacks. Marta-Johanna Svendsen, who was shot in the arm, described hiding with others in a building and hearing twigs snap as Breivik tried to get in. As proceedings continued, a man set himself on fire outside the courthouse. He tried to enter the Oslo building but was stopped by police and taken to hospital to be treated for burns. A correspondent in Oslo says the man was shouting something as he ran towards the entrance of the courthouse, but police say it was not about Breivik. They do not yet know what his motive was. He is being treated for serious burns to the head and chest.
UKRAINE ““ (BBC) The trial of jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko has been delayed again until late June. State prosecutors asked the supreme court to delay her appeal, due to begin on Tuesday, because they needed more time to prepare and due to her absence. Ms.Tymoshenko was moved from prison into a hospital to be treated for chronic back pain last week. The country’s prime minister said Ms.Tymoshenko had been convicted by a free and independent judiciary. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said his predecessor invited observers from European Union nations to Ukraine to watch the appeal process. Tymoshenko’s lawyers have said that her appeal was delayed on political grounds ““ the court has set a new date of June 26 for the hearing.
UNITED KINGDOM ““ (BBC) Rebekah Brooks and her husband, Charlie, have been charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice over the phone-hacking inquiry. Three of Mrs. Brooks’s staff and News International security head Mark Hanna are also charged with the offense. They will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on June 13. They have been charged with offenses including concealing documents and computers from police. The charges, which relate to alleged offenses in July last year, are the first in an inquiry lasting 18 months ““ more than 40 other people remain on police bail in the investigation. Mr. Brooks said he had been used as a “scapegoat” to “ratchet up the pressure” on his wife, who he claimed was the victim of a “witch-hunt.” The ex-News of the World editor herself said she was “baffled” by the decision. She described the investigation as a “waste of public money” and added: “One day the details of this case will emerge and people will see today as nothing more than an expensive sideshow.” Mrs. Brooks was editor of the News of the World (NoW) when voicemails on murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s mobile phone were allegedly intercepted. She quit as chief executive of News International in July 2011 ““ the same month as the alleged conspiracy offenses ““ after the phone-hacking scandal led to the paper’s closure. Mrs. Brooks, 43, from Churchill, Oxfordshire, has denied any knowledge of phone-hacking on her watch.