Monday, 16 January 2012

Memos from Member States

Italy: Cruise ship runs aground off the Italian coast 

Three people were confirmed dead on Saturday after the Italian Cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground on Friday night. The accident happened on Friday night as the ship hit a cliff cutting a 70 meter wide hole in the big ship causing it to take in water. Experts have been puzzled as to how it could happen, as the waters are a popular route for cruise ships.

The first accounts from the accident reported that some 30 people were missing, but later on Saturday that number more than doubled to 70. Reportedly, 14 people are injured and at least three people have died.

Costa Concordia managed to get closer to land before going under and is now laying on its side on the bottom of the lower waters about 200 meters from the coast of the small Italian island Giglio.

Approximately 4,000 people, mainly Italian, German, British and French nationals, were on board when the accident happened.

France: US ratings agency cuts France’s triple-A rating

On Friday the American ratings agency Standard & Poor's downgraded Fance’s triple-A rating. At the same time, S&P's downgraded seven other Eurozone economies as well and expressed a lack of confidence in the EU’s new fiscal treaty.

According to the EU Observer, the agency stated that the EU draft fiscal compact "does not supply sufficient additional resources or operational flexibility to bolster European rescue operations."

Along with France, S&P also downgraded Austria, Cyprus, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. Friday’s downgrade means that Cyprus and Portugal have now moved into the junk category.

However, it wasn’t all bad news from S&P: it kept Germany’s triple-A rating and gave the European Central Bank a pad on the back for “relieving the near-term funding pressures for banks.”

Denmark: Queen celebrates 40th anniversary

The Danish queen, Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II, celebrated her 40th anniversary as head of state in the Danish Kingdom on Saturday.

The people of Denmark are ecstatic about their queen these days. Saturday thousands of people gathered in Copenhagen to hail the queen as she and her husband, Prince Henrik of Denmark, drove through Copenhagen in a gold coach to greet the people.

Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark was just under 32 when she took over the Kingdom of Denmark from her father, the late King Frederik IX, who died after a short period of illness on January 14 1972.

Formally, the queen is the head of state in Denmark in that she signs every law decided by the Danish parliament. The job is mostly ceremonial in nature, and does generally not represent real power.