Red Reading

The Shape of Things to Come Tony Bunyan

The EU is currently developing a new five year strategy for justice and home affairs and security policy for 2009-2014. The proposals set out by the shadowy "Future Group" set up by the Council of the European Union include a range of highly controversial measures including new technologies of surveillance, enhanced cooperation with the United States and harnessing the "digital tsunami". In the words of the EU Council presidency:

"Every object the individual uses, every transaction they make and almost everywhere they go will create a detailed digital record. This will generate a wealth of information for public security organisations, and create huge opportunities for more effective and productive public security efforts."

Seven years on from 11 September 2001 and the launch of the "war on terorism" this major new report The Shape of Things to come examines the proposals of the Future Group and their effect on civil liberties. It shows how European governments and EU policy-makers are pursuing unfettered powers to access and gather masses of personal data on the everyday life of everyone – on the grounds that we can all be safe and secure from perceived “threats”.

The Statewatch report calls for a “meaningful and wide-ranging debate” before it is “too late” for privacy and civil liberties.

Slow and shaky start for EU lobbying register

More than two months after the European Commission's voluntary lobbying register was launched, only a few large corporations have registered, including Telefónica, Renault and Air France KLM. There seems to be a very wide variation in their reported lobbying costs, probably as a result of the Commission's failure to provide clear and unambiguous guidelines for calculating lobbying expense. Read more about who registers and who doesn't, what is disclosed and what isn't, in Corporate Europe Observatory's new blog

Sugarcane ethanol: a sweet solution for Europe's fuel addiction?
by Corporate Europe Observatory

Brazil's agribusiness is lobbying to make the case, but people and the environment are paying the price.

In spite of overwhelming criticism of agrofuels as a 'solution' to climate change, sugarcane ethanol is often seen as the one more positive exception. The Brazilian government is lobbying hard in Brussels in favour of high EU agrofuel targets and for better market access for sugarcane ethanol. However, sugarcane is far from a sustainable source of energy. Certification initiatives such as the 'Better Sugarcane Initiative' are top down approaches that lack support from small producers or affected communities.

In July, responding to high profile concerns, the European Parliament's Environment Committee voted in favour of cutting the proposed 10% target down to 4% by 2015. Many calls are now going out to the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee to drop the proposed 10% agrofuel target in their upcoming vote on the issue on 11 September.

That same ITRE Committee however voted on 1st September to significantly dilute proposals for fuel efficiency standards for cars. Car manufacturers will be able to use agrofuels as a 'get out clause' to avoid having to abide by standards. This shows clearly that agrofuels are being promoted in the EU largely to make up for the lack of real measures to reduce emissions from cars and fuels, or to change the transport model. EU decision makers have turned agrofuels into an escape route for the car and the oil industry, who will have to invest less in more efficient cars, or in a clean-up of oil operations.

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Protect and Survive
Peter Mandelson is bullying the world’s poorest nations into following a development route that can’t work.

By George Monbiot.

It is not often that a bureaucrat makes a major scientific discovery. So hats off to Peter Power. The European Commission’s spokesperson for trade, writing to the Guardian last week, has invented a new ecological concept: excess fish. Seeking to justify policies which would ensure that European trawlers are allowed to keep fishing in West African waters, Mr Power claims that they will be removing only the region’s “excess stocks”(1). Well, someone has to do it. Were it not for our brave trawlermen battling Nature’s delinquent productivity, the seas would become choked with these disgusting scaly creatures.

Power was responding to the column I wrote a fortnight ago, which showed how fish stocks have collapsed and the people of Senegal have gone hungry as a result of plunder by other nations. The Economic Partnership Agreement the EC wants Senegal to sign would make it much harder for that country to keep our boats out of its waters. Power maintains that “the question of access to Senegalese waters by EU fleets … is not part of these trade negotiations.”

This is a splendid example of strategic stupidity. No one is claiming that there is a specific fish agreement for Senegal. But the EC’s demand that European companies have the right to establish themselves freely on African soil and to receive “national treatment” would ensure that Senegal is not allowed to discriminate between its own businesses and foreign firms. It would then be unable to exclude European boats. Is this really too much for a well-paid bureaucrat to grasp?

After that column was published, several people wrote to suggest that the problem is worse than I thought. Senegal’s fish crisis is part of a bitterly ironic story. As Felicity Lawrence shows in her book Eat Your Heart Out, the people of Senegal have become dependent on fishing partly because of the collapse of farming(2). In 1994, Senegal was forced to remove its trade taxes. This allowed the EU to dump subsidised tomatoes and chicken on its markets, putting its farmers out of business. They moved into fishing at about the same time as the European super-trawlers arrived, and were wiped out again. So fishing boats were instead deployed to carry economic migrants out of Senegal. Lawrence discovered that those who survive the voyage to Europe are being employed in near-slavery by … the subsidised tomato industry.

But this is just one aspect of a scandal which has been missed by almost every journalist in the UK.

Read the rest of this article, published in the Guardian 8th September 2008

Blame capitalism, not Medvedev
Boris Kagarlitsky
The Moscow Times, 4 September 2008

Whenever a writer promises to "reveal the truth behind recent events," he usually digs up the latest conspiracy theory or divulges "inside information" that explains how key decisions were made. Unfortunately, I am not a big fan of conspiracy theories, nor am I privy to any secret negotiations between the Kremlin and the White House. Nevertheless, I am convinced that we should interpret the fundamental reasons behind the present U.S.-Russia confrontation much differently than the way the media have portrayed it.

Yes, Russia clashed with Georgia. Yes, there are problems in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. And yes, there have been many points of contention between Moscow and Washington. But why has it all erupted into such a heightened confrontation right now? Most important, why have bilateral relations deteriorated so much, even when both sides are seeking compromises to limit the scale of the conflict?

In order to understand what is happening, we must take a step back from the situation in the Caucasus and even from current U.S.-Russian relations. We are now witnessing the crisis in the global economic system.

In response to events in South Ossetia, the West threatened to deny Russia membership in the World Trade Organization. But it had been clear long before the first shots were fired in the Caucasus that Russia had no hope or desire of joining the WTO anyway -- at least not without securing a whole series of concessions to Moscow's demands. And WTO states have been unable to overcome disagreements during trade negotiations on admitting Russia.

The Doha Round negotiations, the ongoing effort by WTO member states to achieve greater liberalization in global trade, broke down in July and are not expected to resume until 2009. East European states cannot reach trade agreements with West European countries, and Western Europe is at loggerheads with the United States over agricultural subsidies. Washington's plan to create a free trade zone in South America have been rejected, while Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's Bolivian Alternative for the Americas is attracting the support of governments that have little in common with Chavez's radical policies.

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