Daily Digest: Silvio Berlusconi put on trial – again

The trial against former prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi opened yesterday. The notorious playboy is accused on several grounds; the juiciest charge being that he had sex with an underage prostitute and then abused his power to get her released after being arrested for theft. They both deny these allegations. According to a statement by one witness, model Imane Fadil, who participated in a party of his, Berlusconi is supposed to have paid women when attending his parties and offered them more money for staying and having sex with him. Also, Fadil allegedly saw Mr. Berlusconi being entertained by two young women dressed as nuns, stripping for him. One of these women, she said, was Nicole Minetti who is now a regional councillor for Berslusconi’s People of Freedom party in Milan. Silvio Berlusconi was driven from his position as head of state in November due to a parliament that had grown tired of his scandalous and embarrassing rule as well as being concerned with the Italian financial situation. Mr. Berlusconi did not attend court yesterday, but he is to testify later in the trial.

At a summit in Brussels yesterday, sustainable energy was on the agenda. President of the EU Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso announced a 50 million euros initiative to support developing countries. The money is to be spent on technical assistance by EU to develop sustainable energy, and Barroso said that EU nations would seek further hundreds of millions to support investments in sustainable energy for developing countries. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon also attended the summit and welcomed the project, calling it “a very ambitious initiative”. The initiative is part of an overall goal of providing sustainable energy to 500 million people in developing countries by 2030. The initiative is to be discussed and finally approved in June at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio.

In a discussion yesterday, the Danish Minister of Economic Affairs, Margrethe Vestager, who is also chairwoman of the Ecofin minister meetings in the Council of the European Union during the current Danish presidency, lashed out at politicians telling the European Central Bank what to do. Vestager mentioned both Merkel and Sarkozy in her speech about politicians with a desire to manage the ECB. According to the minister, the ECB can only act sufficiently when politicians leave it alone to do so, and Vestager said she thinks that “the reason why we are in a more stable situation now is very much due to the fact that there is an active monetary policy by the ECB. She additionally noted that this should not be seen as an invitation to ‘moral hazard’, leaving all economic solutions to the ECB, but she calls for the independency of the institution to come up with solutions.

The Spanish government warned yesterday that it could seize control of the finances in its regional governments. Spain’s regions have a large degree of autonomy, but they are also largely dependent on taxes collected by the central government in Madrid. With legislation expected to be followed through by the end of this month, Madrid will have the authority to make spending cuts in regions that breach their budget targets, and even take over their finances. The initiative is supposed to give investors confidence in the Spanish economy which commentators say has become an important testing ground for Europe’s austerity strategy. Economists warn that a failure would not only undermine Spain’s economy, but the Euro as well. The new austerity initiative by Madrid is, not surprisingly, very much welcomed in Berlin.

The international umbrella organization of Pirate Parties (PPI) held its annual meeting in Prague this weekend, hosting 200 pirates from 20 countries. The surprising success of the German Pirate Party has apparently fueled a Pan-European trend, and in the meeting were talks of uniting the pirate parties across Europe. Concretely, there were talks of creating a European Pirate Party (PPEU) to be represented in the European Parliament. An organiser of the meeting said that it was a “first step towards a coordinated program for the European Elections in 2014″. Most of the national pirate parties are yet in their infancy, however, and there is a long way to go for them to create a sustainable united European Pirate Party.

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