BC-AP--Europe News Digest, AP
TOP STORIES FROM EUROPE AT 1100 GMT
HORLIVKA, Ukraine — Ukraine’s police and security forces are “helpless” to quell unrest in two eastern regions bordering Russia, and in some cases are cooperating with pro-Russian gunmen who have seized scores of government buildings and taken people hostage, the country’s president said Wednesday. Oleksandr Turchynov said the goal now was to prevent the agitation from spreading to other territories. By Peter Leonard. SENT: 530 words, photos. UPCOMING: 650 words by 1300 GMT.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s finance ministry says the country will achieve better-than-expected budget figures this year, but conceded that high levels of unemployment would likely only decline slowly over the next four years. The ministry said Wednesday it expects a primary budget surplus of 2.3 percent of gross domestic product in 2014, improving on its earlier prediction of 1.5 percent, and would reach a primary surplus of 5.3 percent in 2018. Primary surplus figures refer to the budget balance before interest payments. SENT: 130 words, photos.
LONDON — Inflation across the 18-country eurozone rose in April, official figures showed Wednesday, but not as much as had been anticipated in the markets. Even so, few economists think the European Central Bank is quite ready to back another stimulus to the eurozone economy. Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, said consumer prices rose by 0.7 percent in April from the year before, up from the previous month’s 0.5 percent. By Pan Pylas. SENT: 370 words, photos.
PARIS — The French engineering company Alstom says it will decide by the end of May whether to accept a 12.35 billion euro ($17 billion) offer from General Electric Co. for its energy business. France’s government, which regularly intervenes in corporate decision making, had questioned whether selling Alstom to Connecticut-based GE threatens the country’s energy independence and jobs. Officials had pressed for more time to allow rival Siemens, based in Germany, to make an offer. By Greg Keller. SENT: 310 words, photos.
MOSCOW — Russia’s Defense Ministry says10 people have died after a fire broke out at a military warehouse in the Siberian Baikal region. In a statement published early on Wednesday, the defense ministry said 10 people who were traveling in a truck near the depot when the fire broke out late on Tuesday were found dead. Two of the victims were military personnel while the other eight were civilians who worked at the base. SENT: 130 words.
AMSTERDAM — Royal Dutch Shell PLC says it will not be entering new investments in Russia anytime soon as tensions rise over the country’s confrontation with Ukraine. Chief Financial Officer Simon Henry said the company, Europe’s largest oil company, will continue to oversee its existing operations and will cooperate with any sanctions placed upon Russia by Western powers. Amid the uncertainty, however, it will hold back on starting new projects. SENT: 610 words.
FRANKFURT, Germany — Automaker Daimler AG said Wednesday that net profit almost doubled in the first quarter, as new Mercedes S-Class and E-Class models fueled sales growth. The company gave an upbeat outlook for this year and predicted stronger demand for cars in the world’s developed countries — including recovering Western Europe. By David McHugh. SENT: 320 words.
MADRID — The Spanish economy grew at its fastest rate in six years in the first quarter, a strong indicator that the country is recovering from a severe crisis. The National Statistics Institute said Wednesday the economy expanded by 0.4 percent January through March. It was the best quarter since the first three-month period of 2008, when the economy grew by 0.5 percent. SENT: 130 words, photos.
AMSTERDAM — ING Groep NV, the Dutch bank and insurance company, has struck a deal to sell $1.8 billion (1.28 billion euros) worth of shares in its insurance arm to Asian investors later this year. The European Commission has instructed ING to spin off its remaining insurance operations in compensation for needing state support during the financial crisis of 2008. The date of the initial public offering has not been set. SENT: 130 words.
FINANCIAL TRANSACTION TAX
BRUSSELS — The European Union’s top court has dismissed a British challenge to the introduction of a tax on financial transactions by 11 European nations as premature. Even though the EU’s largest economies are pushing for the levy, Britain sought to challenge it because of fears the measure would undermine the competitiveness of the City of London, the continent’s biggest financial hub.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — The Council of Europe says Hungary’s prison system needs to reduce overcrowding, stop discrimination against Roma prisoners and offer inmates work or recreational activities so they don’t spend 23 hours a day in their cells. The report released Wednesday is based on visits to 10 jails and prisons across Hungary by a special committee of the Council in April 2013. SENT: 130 words.