In order to escape the EU's budget monitoring and funding cuts, Hungary is freezing some budget expenditures. Budapest will freeze $412 million of planned budget spending this year and in 2014. The government is also planning to save an extra $358 million mainly by delaying payments for various projects, such as soccer stadium construction, Economy Minister Mihály Varga said May 14, Bloomberg reported. "We are doing everything on our part to remove Hungary from the hall of shame and to exit the excessive-deficit procedure," Varga said. If these measures prove insufficient, the government will raise the bank tax and the financial-transaction levy.
The Polish government refuses foreign involvement in the shale gas sector, reports the Warsaw Business Journal, said Deputy Environment Minister Piotr Woźniak at a meeting of prospective foreign investors and diplomats. The group discussed planned legislation aimed at the regulation of shale oil and gas extraction in Poland. The government promised to work on the legislation back in 2011; however, as the participants of the meeting later said, Poland does not intend to invest in shale gas nor does it support cooperation with U.S. and Canadian firms.
Slovakia is the third-most corrupt country in the EU, according to a poll conducted by Ernst & Young. The poll suggests Slovakia is one of the most corrupt countries in the soon-to-be expanded European Union. Issues like bribe offering and knowingly overstating the financial situation of companies were raised in the poll. Overall, Slovaks believe corruption and bribery are present in 84 percent of the country's economic life. The poll was conducted among 3,459 respondents from 36 countries, 20 of which were European. Slovenia was named the most corrupt country, followed by Croatia. Greece tied for third place along with Slovakia.
Ukraine has been granted more time to meet European Union demands. The country now has six more months to improve its judiciary and electoral systems and to sign an association agreement with the EU. Signing the agreement will be possible later this year in November at a summit in Vilnius, said Linas Linkevičius, foreign minister of Lithuania, which takes over the rotating EU presidency in July. So far, the agreement has been delayed by the imprisonment of the former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. "We will keep this pressure until the last moment," Linkevičius said. "If they will be ready, we will be ready and we hope, we still believe, that it's doable to sign the association agreement by the summit in Vilnius."
A fire in a squat in southeast France's Lyon killed two women and one 12-year-old child. The disused factory squat has provided a home to approximately 200 Roma. A candle is believed to have started a fire the night of May 12. Prior to the fire, the local authorities cut off the electricity in the squat, anticipating the people living in the factory to move out. Though 70 firefighters worked to tackle the blaze, they were not able to fully explore the building, as the first and second floors collapsed. "It's very sad. But at the same time, these squats, these improvised camps, must always be evacuated because they always represent a real danger," said Interior Minister Manuel Valls.
Portugal will receive another installment of a bailout loan May 13. After a review last week, European Union and International Monetary Fund representatives approved the 2 billion euro payment. In order to receive the bailout loan, Portugal promised to widen deficit reduction, which would take the form of 4.8 billion euros worth of budget cuts over the next two years. The retirement age may also be raised, and some 30,000 public sector workers may be laid off. "The big effort made by the government is so they can go back to the markets and so they can finish the bailout program," said analyst Antonio Costa Pinto. Unemployment in Portugal is currently at 17.5 percent.
Italian prosecutors are demanding a six-year sentence for Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian Prime Minister. If found guilty, Berlusconi may also be banned from holding public office for life. Berlusconi is accused of having sex with Karima El Mahroug, better known as "Ruby the Heartstealer," while she was under 18. He is also believed to have abused his powers by pressuring authorities to release El Mahroug from detention when she was accused of theft. ''The closing arguments of public prosecutor Boccassini are surreal. They're based on the destruction of all evidence that shows Berlusconi's innocence," said Anna Maria Bernini, from Berlusconi's People of Freedom party.
UK's Conservatives are to publish a draft of the bill to legislate for an in-out referendum on the country's membership in the European Union, to be held by the end of 2017. The bill is reportedly an effort to head off growing anger among the party's Members of Parliament (MP). Prime Minister David Cameron promised to go through with the referendum earlier this year. Up to 70 MPs, including a number of Conservative ministerial aides, are expected to vote for the referendum, BBC reports. However, liberal democrats and the members of the Labour Party criticized Cameron's move. Tory MP John Baron told the BBC that the "ploy could fail."