Last week, the European Parliament voted to prevent ISPs from blocking or slowing down internet services provided by competitors. Furthermore, MEPs are expected to vote for the abolition of roaming charges within the EU. The proposal also is expected to “give companies, citizens and public authorities wanting to strike deals across borders, apply to university or arrange a wedding online access to easy and secure ways to sign and certify documents.” The debate and vote are scheduled for the 3rd of April.
With news that inflation in the euro zone has fallen close to zero (0.5% in March, the lowest figure since the recession in 2009), discussion about a potential stimulus to boost the euro zone economy is not far behind. ECB President Mario Draghi has in the past called any figure under 1% “the danger zone.” However, the European Central Bank will likely take a cautioned approach and not announce any measures. April is expected to bring a rebound in inflation, due to the later date of Easter this year than in 2013. The low inflation also sparked calls for more easing from the IMF on Monday.
In further developments in the Ukrainian crisis, Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered a partial withdrawal of troops stationed near the eastern border of Ukraine. It is unknown yet just how many of the estimated 40.000 troops are to be pulled back, however. The news comes as the foreign ministers of the 28 NATO member states are scheduled to convene in Brussels for the first time since the region of Crimea was annexed by Russia. NATO is expected to provide further security reassurances to its eastern members, either through intensifying military exercises, sending more troops, or adding permanent military bases – a move which Russia will likely view as provocative.
In the fallout to the local elections, which are widely seen in France as a referendum on the current president’s Socialist party’s performance, Francois Hollande has replaced Jean-Marc Ayrault at the head of the government with Manuel Valls. Ayrault is seen to have paid the price for a struggling economy, a high level of unemployment, and a deeply unpopular government. Manuel Valls has described himself in the past as a “Blairiste” or a “Clintonian,” often speaking of “economic realism” and “individual responsibility.” He was considered to be one of the most popular French politicians during his appointment as Interior Minister, which began in 2012. Below, a Jan. 14, 2013 photo of former PM Jean-Marc Ayrault, foreground, and Manuel Valls, then Interior Minister, leaving the Elysee Palace (Christophe Ena—AP).
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