The fiscal compact entered into force on 1 January. Formally known as the “Treaty on stability, coordination and governance in the Economic and Monetary Union“, it forces eurozone members to introduce a balanced budget rule at national level to prevent deficits from spiralling out of control as they did in the run-up to and during the crisis. Berlin welcomed this development while certain economists warn that it could deepen the recession. The fiscal compact was signed outside the EU’s framework by 25 of the Union’s 27 leaders – minus the UK and the Czech Republic – on 2 March 2012. (EUROPOLITICS.INFO)

David Cameron has thrown down the gauntlet to Paris and Berlin, warning that he would block moves to closer eurozone integration unless Britain was allowed to repatriate some powers from the European Union. Mr Cameron said on Sunday it would be “difficult but possible” to renegotiate a better membership deal for Britain when the EU begins talks on a new treaty to deepen political and economic co-operation in the eurozone. He wants to put his “new settlement” to the British people in a referendum in the next parliament and will set out details of his strategy in a long-awaited European speech in the second half of January. (FT.COM)

Ireland’s “no nonsense, no frills” presidency of the Council of the EU began with a ceremony at Dublin Castle on New Year’s Eve. The country took over the presidency for the seventh time, having last presided in 2004. It is to spend € 60 million on the six-month tenure. (IRISHTIMES.COM)

Hungary‘s ruling Fidesz party abandoned plans to force voters to register for parliamentary elections before the 2014 poll, after the Constitutional Court threw out the measure saying it limited voting rights. The Constitutional Court ruling and Friday‘s retreat represent a major blow to conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who swept to power with a two-thirds majority in 2010 parliamentary elections but has since suffered a fall in public support. (REUTERS.COM)

Italian caretaker Prime Minister, Mario Monti, has promised to reduce taxes on labour in an interview seen as the launch of his election campaign. Monti leads a centrist coalition but is not standing as a candidate himself when Italians go to the polls on 24-25 February. (EUOBSERVER.COM)

The Greek parliament may vote already this week on whether to set up a special probe to investigate if George Papaconstantinou, who as finance minister negotiated Greece‘s first international bailout, doctored the so-called Lagarde list by removing the names of his cousins from the register of Greeks with Swiss accounts. (EUOBSERVER.COM)

The amnesty that Czech President Vaclav Klaus declared on January 1 will cover more than 32,000 people, according to the current estimates, Justice Ministry spokeswoman said on Friday. Besides the released prisoners, persons in house arrest and those sentenced to community work, the amnesty also relates to some 14,500 people with suspended sentences who are supervised by a probation and mediation service clerk.Mr Klaus granted the amnesty on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of establishment of the Czech Republic, following the split of Czechoslovakia. (CESKENOVINY.CZ)

French President François Hollande was dealt an embarassing blow last Saturday when the country’s highest legal body scrapped his controversial 75 percent upper income tax rate. The Constitutional Council announced it was overturning the 75 percent bracket on income over € 1 million because it was “excessive” and represented a “breach of equality of taxes.” The French government responded to the decisions by insisting it would push on with plans to impose the reform and would be submitting a revised proposal for the 75 percent upper rate in its 2013 budget. (FRANCE24.COM)

Portugal‘s President has called into question the viability of his country‘s austerity programme. Cavaco Silva said in his New Year‘s speech that he would request an inquiry from the country‘s top court on whether planned spending cuts as well as a new supertax on pensions above € 1,350 a month were constitutional. He said his country would “honour its international obligations,“ even though a negative court ruling could force the government to rewrite its 2013 budget. He also said “there are well-founded doubts over whether the distribution of sacrifice is just.“ (EUOBSERVER.COM)

Marseille (France) and Košice (Slovakia) are the European Capitals of Culture in 2013. The cultural programme will officially begin on 12 January in Marseille and on 19 January in Košice.


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