Weekly News Review

3rd July 2004

Left MEPs condemn choice of nominee for President of EU Commission

The United Left Group of 40 Euro-MPs (GUE-NGL) has reacted with anger to the nomination of Portuguese right-winger José Manuel Durao Barroso as President of the new European Commission, due to take office later in the year. Condemning the nomination, GUE group leader Francis Wurtz said that Mr Barroso “combines all the qualities to justify a unanimous ‘no’ our Members. On the one hand we have his neo-liberal politics, particularly his zealous pursuit of the Stability Pact which led Portugal into a serious recession and record unemployment, and, on the other is his Atlanticism, especially his allegiance to George Bush, illustrated by the "Azores Summit" just before the Iraq war, a sad memory for all.  By presenting this candidate, the EU Heads of State and Government illustrate the gulf which separates them from Europe's citizens, who have just clearly rebelled against these policies", Mr Wurtz said "It is, therefore, in the name of all our hopes for Europe that my Group will vote against Barroso for Commission President."

Dutch Socialists prepare to campaign for a “No” to proposed EU Constitution

Two weeks ago government leaders from the EU’s member states reached agreement over the European Constitution. This ‘result’ was achieved by the familiar means of leaving controversial questions – such as sanctions for breaking the rules of the contentious Growth and Stability Pact – poorly resolved.  A number of countries, including of course the UK, have already pledged to hold a referendum on the issue. The first such referendum will be held in the Netherlands, which expects to vote before the end of the year.  In the Dutch parliament, however, the major political parties are strongly in favour of a ‘Yes’, while the only serious political force opposed to the proposed text is the radical left Socialist Party. The SP, which has 8 out of 150 MPs and 4 out of 100 Senators, as well as two MEPs, will mobilise its army of enthusiastic activists in a David-and-Goliath struggle against the Tweedledum Labour Party, the Tweedledummer Liberals, and the Tweedledee Christian Democrats.

Re-elected SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer explained why the campaign is so important. “The Constitution to be placed before us would make Europe neither more ‘social’, nor more secure, nor more democratic. The peoples of the EU member states have no desire to see a Union which institutionalises free and unrestrained competition in its constitution. The same goes for a Constitution which imposes a duty on the member states to strengthen their military capacity, establishes a European armaments institute and an army empowered to conduct preventative wars outside Europe.”

  T he SP also believes that, although the Constitution would strengthen the position of the European Parliament in relation to that of the Commission and the Council, there is within the European Union no possibility of establishing a thoroughgoing parliamentary democracy , and that democracy can thrive only in a context within which the peoples of the member states feel themselves to be truly involved in the process of decision-making, something which remains a long way from being the case.

“Looking at the proposal as a whole it’s clear that what we are dealing with is more of a political programme than a true constitution,” added SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel.

Because the majority in the Dutch Parliament supports a consultative referendum, the people of the Netherlands will have the opportunity, either at the end of this year or the beginning of next, to express their view of the Constitution.

“This European Constitution is wrong, which is why the SP will be campaigning against it.” van Bommel added. Amongst other moves to prepare for this a Committee, ‘No to this European Constitution’, has been set up in order to enable SP members and people from outside the party to combine their forces to ensure a ringing ‘No!’’’

No to GMO authorisations by the back door

Newly elected Greek MEP Dimitri Papadimoulis, of the European United Left / Nordic Green Left Group (GUE-NGL) used his first opportunity to speak in the European Parliament – a meeting of his political group – to demand that a controversial variety of genetically modified maize be refused authorisation. Mr Papadimoulis, a member of the pro-EU Synaspismos party, expressed the hope that the European Commission would accept that Member States are still divided on GM products and refuse authorisation for the import and processing of Monsanto's genetically modified maize, NK603.

Environment Ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday 28th June did not agree on whether the product could be authorised, meaning that the Commission can now decide via a completely undemocratic procedure, in which absolutely no elected politicians participate. The procedure, known as 'comitology', is in itself defensible, but only when used for the purpose for which it was designed, to take purely technical decisions which only scientists are qualified to judge and which involve no controversial aspects. In the case of GMOs, neither of these conditions can possibly be said to apply.

"It would be a terrible shame if the Commission took advantage of government's indecision and authorised this product, which, ironically, is maize which has been modified for increased tolerance of glyphosate, Monsanto's own herbicide," Dimitri Papadimoulis said.

"Moreover, we cannot allow those governments in favour of GMOs to get their way by passing the buck to the Commission. We cannot afford to repeat the decision taken in May this year by the Commission to authorise Bt11 sweet corn made by the Swiss company Syngenta. There is no clear majority in favour of GMOs in the Council and the Commission should not be allowed to continue to push GM authorisations through a 'back door' in the legislative process,” he added.

"The principle of prevention of environmental damage is paramount - this is recognised both internationally and at EU level - it is unacceptable to concede on such principles when it happens to be commercially expedient."

Looking at the lie machine

Bradford University professor Dr. Brian Burkitt and Andy Mullen, a PhD student researching the response of the British Left to Europe from 1945 to 2002, have together produced an interesting study of  pro-European Community/Union propaganda in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as more recent propaganda campaigns. Their findings are available on line here

Green Left Weekly, Australia’s socialist newspaper, latest edition (June 30) leads with a call to “Kick Howard out!” and for “ Troops out now!”:  “Australian PM John Howard has made clear: If re-elected, the Coalition government will drag Australia into more US-led wars of aggression. Although Australians only make up a fraction of the 150,000 foreign troops occupying Iraq, their withdrawal would significantly pressure the regime in Washington to abandon its war on the Iraqi people. For Australians to force this withdrawal would be a powerful statement that we will not let politicians murder in our name.” Read the full article here

How many Bush administration officials does it takes to change a light bulb?


* One to deny that a light bulb needs to be replaced.

* One to attack and question the patriotism of anyone who has questions about the light bulb.

* One to blame the previous administration for the need of a new light bulb.

* One to arrange the invasion of a country rumoured to have a secret stockpile of light bulbs.

* One to get together with Vice President Cheney and figure out how to pay Halliburton one million dollars for a light bulb.

* One to arrange a photo-op session showing Bush changing the light bulb while dressed in a flight suit and wrapped in an American flag.

* And finally, one to explain to Bush the difference between screwing a light bulb and screwing the country.

Thanks to Eric Schuster of the Socialist Party USA for sending us this piece of unAmerican disloyal pinko propaganda. Aid and comfort, Eric, and we certainly need it.