EUROPE ““ (BBC) The European Parliament has voted to reject the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The proposed agreement sought to curb piracy, but Internet campaigners said it posed a threat to online freedoms. The rejection vote followed a failed attempt to postpone the decision because of ongoing investigations into ACTA by the European Court of Justice. Euro MP David Martin said: “It’s time to give [ACTA] its last rites.” Twenty-two EU member states, including the UK, had signed the Acta treaty, but it had not been formally ratified. Outside the EU, the treaty also had the support of the U.S., Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea. However, following significant protests, several countries chose not to back it. Wednesday’s vote is seen by most observers as the final blow to the treaty in its current form. It means no member states will be able to join the agreement. A total of 478 MEPs voted against the deal, with 39 in favor. There were 165 abstentions.
FRANCE ““ (BBC) French President Francois Hollande has announced plans to raise taxes on businesses and the richest households by 7.2 billion euros ($9 billion). He unveiled plans for a 2.3 billion-euro one-off levy on households earning 1.3 million euros a year or more. There will also be a special tax on large banks and oil companies which is forecast to raise 1.1 billion euros. Earlier this week, auditors had warned that the new Socialist government needed to raise an extra 10 billion euros. France has promised to reduce the gap between annual government spending and tax receipts to 4.5% this year from 5.2% in 2011. On Tuesday, the government was forced to reduce its forecast for economic growth. It now expects GDP to expand by 0.3% this year and 1.2% in 2013, compared with earlier estimates of 0.5% and 1.7% respectively. The consequent fall in tax receipts and rise in benefit claims risks pushing up debt, so the taxes announced by Mr. Hollande are aimed at putting the government back on track towards reducing its deficit to 3% of GDP in 2013.
FRANCE- (BBC) Police have carried out searches of the home and offices of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy as part of a campaign financing probe. A law firm in which Mr. Sarkozy owns shares was also searched, reports say. The investigation is related to allegations that Mr. Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential election campaign received illegal donations from France’s richest woman, Liliane Bettencourt. Mr. Sarkozy has previously denied all wrongdoing. He is currently in Canada with his family, his lawyer Thierry Herzog told the AFP news agency. Tens of thousands of euros were allegedly funneled to Mr. Sarkozy’s campaign by Ms. Bettencourt’s office. Individual campaign contributions in France are limited to 4,600 euros ($5,800). “These raids”¦ will as expected prove futile,” Mr. Herzog said in a statement.
GERMANY ““ (BBC) A man has shot dead four people including his partner before killing himself in a siege in the German city of Karlsruhe, police say. The 53-year-old, whose partner was said to be facing eviction, had barricaded himself in the flat with the hostages. Among those who died were a bailiff who had gone to evict the couple as well as the flat’s new owner and a locksmith. A social worker escaped unharmed. Police said that two of the victims had their hands tied behind their backs. An area around the block in the Nordstadt area was sealed off and hundreds of police officers were deployed. A school and a kindergarten nearby were evacuated. After smelling smoke, special forces eventually moved in. German media said that initially four bodies, including the gunman, were discovered in the flat on the top floor of the building. The smoke was so thick in the flat that “you couldn’t see your hand in front of your eyes,” a police spokesman was quoted as saying. “I am deeply shocked by the deaths of five people, including a bailiff working as a justice official for Karlsruhe district court,” Baden-Wuerttemberg’s Justice Minister Rainer Stickelberger said, according to Bild website. It was an “incomprehensible act,” he added. The gunman was not known to have any previous record of violence.
ROMANIA ““ (BBC) Romania’s president faces impeachment after the governing coalition called for him to be suspended. Centre-right President Traian Basescu has been at loggerheads with Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who heads the opposing Social Liberal Union (USL), which has a majority in parliament. If parliament votes for Mr. Basescu’s suspension, a national poll on his impeachment can follow. Mr. Ponta himself is under pressure to resign over allegations of plagiarism. The USL party has asked parliament to hold an extraordinary meeting to suspend Basescu, a party member told a Romanian news agency. The political conflict between the president and prime minister has stalled decision-making processes in Romania at a time when it is finalizing agreements on an IMF-backed aid package for its economy. Mr. Basescu has accused Mr. Ponta of trying to interfere with Romania’s legal and state institutions in order to secure his indictment. On Tuesday, the U.S. ambassador to Romania, Mark Gitenstein, expressed deep concerns about any attempts to affect state institutions.
SWITZERLAND ““ (BBC) Cern scientists reporting from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have claimed the discovery of a new particle consistent with the Higgs boson. The particle has been the subject of a 45-year hunt to explain how matter attains its mass. Both of the Higgs boson-hunting experiments at the LHC see a level of certainty in their data worthy of a “discovery.” More work will be needed to be certain that what they see is a Higgs, however. The results announced at Cern (European Organization for Nuclear Research), home of the LHC in Geneva, were met with loud applause and cheering. Professor Peter Higgs, after whom the particle is named, wiped a tear from his eye as the teams finished their presentations in the Cern auditorium. “I would like to add my congratulations to everyone involved in this achievement,” he added later. “It’s really an incredible thing that it’s happened in my lifetime.”