EUROPE ““ (BBC) The eurozone crisis is the single biggest threat to the global economy, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The economy of the 17 nations that use the euro will shrink 0.1% this year, before rebounding to 0.9% growth next year, the OECD predicts. By contrast, the U.S. economy will expand by 2.4% this year and 2.6% in 2013. The OECD also seemed to back calls by some Europeans to combine spending cuts with measures to boost growth. “The crisis in the eurozone remains the single biggest downside risk facing the global outlook,” said OECD chief economist Pier Carlo Padoan. In November last year, the organization warned of a “deep recession with large negative effects for the global economy” if the eurozone did not tackle the crisis. On Tuesday, it said: “The immediate dangers of such developments have receded somewhat since last autumn, although”¦the dangers have not disappeared.” In addition, the OECD added: “Failure to act today could lead to a worsening of the European crisis and spillovers beyond the euro area, with serious consequences for the global economy.”
ITALY ““ (BBC) Comedian Beppe Grillo has shaken up Italian politics, with his party winning elections in the northern city of Parma and several smaller towns. His Five Star movement has surged in popularity in its opposition to the euro, austerity and corruption. His candidate Federico Pizzarotti won 60% of the vote for mayor of Parma. Another anti-austerity candidate, Leoluca Orlando, won the vote in Palermo. He described his victory as “a slap in the face of the party system.” Mr. Orlando is a former mayor in the Sicilian city who became prominent in the 1990s for his anti-mafia stance. Beppe Grillo himself is unable to stand for election because of a 1981 court conviction. He was found guilty of manslaughter after three passengers in his car – members of the same family – died in a crash on a mountain road. Despite this, his party has rapidly become a major force in Italian politics, seizing on the unpopular measures of technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti and refusing to engage with the mainstream parties.
NORWAY ““ (BBC) A young man shot on the Norwegian island of Utoeya has told the trial of Anders Behring Breivik in Oslo how he waited in the water to be rescued. After suffering a superficial bullet wound in the back, Espen Myklebust swam out to a boat which was already full of panicking youths. He was given a life jacket and a friend held on to him until police arrived. Mr. Myklebust, 18, told the Oslo district court on the 22nd day of the trial that he had heard shots, but thought they were part of “a crazy drill.” When he saw people running in panic, he flung himself into the icy cold water around the small island. As he waited in his life jacket, he could still see bullets hitting the water – after police rescued him in another boat, he spotted “many dead bodies” in the water. Myklebust described Breivik as “calm as a human being can be.” He added: “He walked around as if nothing had happened.” He said he had assumed Breivik was a neo-Nazi because of his fair hair and the fact that he had attacked a Labour party youth camp. Breivik reportedly showed little sign of emotion in court. Breivik is on trial for the murder of 69 people on Utoeya and eight in Oslo on July 22nd last year. If he is convicted and the court decides that he is criminally insane, the 33-year-old Norwegian will be committed to psychiatric care. If he is judged to be mentally stable, he will be jailed. Breivik admits the attacks, arguing they were necessary to end multiculturalism and prevent a “Muslim invasion” of Norway and Europe.
RUSSIA ““ (BBC) A bill which massively increases the size of fines for unapproved rallies in Russia has begun its passage through parliament amid strong protests. MPs from President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party passed the bill in its first reading by a majority of 236 to 207 in the State Duma. Rally organizers could face maximum fines of 1.5m roubles ($48,000), up from 50,000 roubles. Critics accused the ruling party of destroying democratic freedoms. Sergei Mironov, leader of the opposition A Just Russia, said his party was boycotting the parliamentary readings. He said the “odious” bill was intended to “shut the people’s mouth.” The giant anti-government demonstrations in Moscow which followed parliamentary elections in December were approved by the authorities in advance. However, unauthorized spontaneous protests have been held since Mr. Putin’s inauguration as president for the third time on May 7th and demonstrators have clashed with police. In another development, Mr. Putin appointed the outgoing Interior Minister, Rashid Nurgaliyev, as a presidential adviser. The new Russian cabinet announced on Monday retained many of the pervious government’s ministers.
SPAIN – (BBC) Schools and universities in Spain have closed in protest at government cuts – the first ever strike across all levels of public education in the country. Pupils, parents, and teachers have joined the protests. The cuts will see class sizes increase, teachers will have to work more hours for the same pay, and university tuition fees will increase by up to 25%. The government says the cuts of more than 20% are necessary so it can meet its spending targets for this year. It believes this is crucial for the Spanish economy to start growing again. The strike is taking place in all regions of Spain except for the Basque Country and the Balearic Islands. Since winning power in December’s elections, Prime Minister Mariana Rajoy has vowed to undertake harsh austerity measures, promising major reforms every week. The protests come just over a week after police cleared anti-austerity demonstrations from the Puerta del Sol square in central Madrid.
UKRAINE ““ (BBC) A senior Ukrainian Olympic official has been suspended after a BBC investigation showed he was willing to sell 2012 tickets for cash. Volodymyr Gerashchenko, of Ukraine’s National Olympic Committee (NOC), told a reporter posing as a UK tout he would have up to 100 tickets to sell. It is a criminal offense, punishable by fines of up to £12,000, to sell London 2012 tickets to touts. Mr. Gerashchenko claimed he had “never planned to sell tickets in the UK.” Ukrainian Olympic chief Sergei Bubka said he called Gerashchenko in Kiev on Tuesday to tell him he was suspended pending an investigation. Mr. Gerashchenko, who has been general secretary of his national Olympic committee since 1997, told an undercover reporter: “I understand you’re a dealer ““ that’s why for me, you are priority number one, the top, the person, in case we have extra tickets to contact you, we contact you.” During a subsequent meeting at a hotel near the Olympic Park in east London, Mr. Gerashchenko explained he was in the process of distributing tickets to Ukrainian fans, coaches, and officials. However, once this process had finished, he would be prepared to sell up to 100 spare tickets. Mr. Gerashchenko said that the meeting with the undercover reporter “was unofficial, with no intention to make any real deal,” either in writing or verbally. He added: “All points that [the reporter] mentioned were not [the] subject of any deal. I have nothing to propose. I did not have real tickets to sell.” Former Olympic Minister Tessa Jowell MP has now called for an investigation. “I think it’s shocking. Here’s somebody who’s exploiting the system and if the charge against them is proven, the sanctions are very heavy,” she said.