Daily Digest: Tymoshenko on hunger strike after assault by prison guards

As we wrote in yesterday’s Daily Digest, Holland’s government fell over the weekend due to Geert Wilders’ unwillingness to agree on austerity measures. The resigned Prime Minister, Mark Rutte – in effect a caretaker prime minister since his resignation – now urges MPs to act ‘responsibly’, saying that a standstill is not an option for the country in its current situation. The Dutch fear that their AAA-rating will be degraded if they don’t achieve political and economic stability soon. Though some MPs have called for a general election in June, Mr. Rutte says he expects it to take place on September 12, after the summer recess. Rutte will also seek an agreement on budget cuts of 16 billion euros. A final decision on the issues will be made by the cabinet on Friday. Rutte’s deadline for sending his plans to Brussels is April 30, and though some MPs have appealed for more time to achieve the budget deficit goal, Rutte insists on this date, saying that Holland is unlikely to be allowed extra time to meet the goal.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban met yesterday with President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barosso to talk about a loan package by the IMF that the Hungarian economy is desperately in need of, but which the Commission has blocked due to objections on some of the Orban government’s policies. Orban has agreed to make concessions on the issue of the Hungarian central bank which EU has accused of a lack of independence, and it seems that this is enough to continue talks of approving the loan package. The Commission has objections on other political issues, such as the judicial system, as well, and it is unclear if the promises of implementation of the central bank is quite enough to initiate discussions on the loan. It does seem so, though; Mr. Orban said that the two sides had “come very close to essentially reaching a breakthrough”, and that an agreement on beginning talks could come in days or weeks.

The jailed former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko has gone on hunger strike after allegedly being assaulted by prison guards. According to Tymoshenko, the assault occurred Friday after she refused to leave her prison cell for a medical check-up without consulting with her lawyer first, and her hunger strike has been going on since Friday. Yesterday, the EU demanded urgent ‘clarification’ by the Ukrainian authorities, and a spokesman for the European Commission  said that “appropriate independent persons, and her legal advisers, should immediately have access to her for a sufficient duration”. Germany’s foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle also said yesterday that he is deeply concerned about Tymoshenko’s health and said his country would “continue to press the Ukrainian authorities for her to finally receive adequate medical treatment”, referring to Tymoshenko’s back problems which we wrote about in yesterday’s Daily Digest.

A year after rapidly shifting away from nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has now invited the country’s four main utilities to a meeting to discuss how best to transform Germany’s energy capacity from primarily fossil-fueled and nuclear power generation to becoming more reliant on sustainable forms of energy, such as offshore wind and solar power. Germany has pledged a complete exit from nuclear energy by 2022. The meeting will take place on May 2.

On Monday, EU nations put a halt to most sanctions against Myanmar for one year to reward a series of dramatic reforms since direct army rule ended last year. The reforms by the military junta culminated with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi being elected for parliament on April 1. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which Myanmar is also a member of, welcome the suspension saying that it “was the right thing to do at the right time”.

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