Madrid believes that the planned 2014 referendum on Catalan independence is illegal. In response to the plan, included in a regional coalition pact between two Catalan nationalist parties, the centre-right Convergencia i Unió (CiU) and the leftwing Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), Mariano Rajoy could choose to apply article 155 of the constitution, which allows for the suspension of a regional government in the event of "serious harm to the general interests of Spain", or impeach the regional president, Artur Mas, for disobedience.

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Government considers impeaching Mas and suspending Catalonia regional government – El Mundo

Following his appointment as prime minister on December 17, Victor Ponta has presented his cabinet. The list of selected ministers includes a number of controversial figures. Two of them are under investigation by tax authorities, another is accused of corruption, while a fourth has been implicated in a scandal involving call girls. The ministers are to be questioned by parliament today.

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Black sheep of Ponta's 2nd government – Evenimentul zilei

Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the self-proclaimed Armenian republic in the Nagorno-Karabakh are at their worst since the end of the 1988-1994 war between the two countries. “For the first time in its history, the OECD has issued an ‘initial warning’ to its member countries on the possibillity of a war.” At issue, the triumphant reception in Baku for an Azeri officer who murdered an Armenian soldier in Hungary and the announcement of the establishment of an air link between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

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Risk of war in Europe – Svenska Dagbladet

“Are we going to pay the highest price in the EU for Russian gas again?” worries the daily as Russia’s monopolist Gazprom announces plans to lower the annual average price of gas exported to Western Europe by more than 9 per cent from $400 to $370 per 1,000 cubic metres. Poland, which has recently negotiated a gas price reduction to $460-$490 per 1,000 cubic metres, is not included in the deal.

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Special gas deal for the West – Gazeta Wyborcza

The technocractic government leader is expected to announce in the next few days that he will run as a candidate in next year's election. He will head a centrist and reform oriented list mainly made up of figures from the world of business and research. According to the polls, a “Monti list” will have the support of 12-14 per cent of the electorate. Mario Monti is to resign following the vote on the 2013 budget in the run-up to general elections slated for February 24.

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Monti will run for prime minister – La Repubblica

In the wake of inquiries targeting the Co-Chairman of Deutsche Bank and the Chairman of ThyssenKrupp, investigators have turned their attention to the former boss of car maker Porsche, Wendelin Wiedeking, who is suspected of manipulating share prices in the course of a failed bid to gain control of Volkswagen. The expression “they only catch the small fry while the big fish get away,” is no longer appropriate, remarks the business daily.

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German prosecutors hunt the big game – Handelsblatt

The province of Groningen in the north of the country is planning to build a new artificial sand island covering 500 hectares in the delta of the river Ems, between the uninhabited island of Rottumeroog and the German island of Borkum. The new island will benefit both wildlife and the economy. It will be covered by tidal marshes and will also be home to a new transhipment port.

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A new Frisian island to preserve wildlife in Ems – Trouw