Weekly News Review

4th April 2004

No proof that EU aid went to terrorists

"There is no proof that aid from the EU has been used to fund terrorism" concluded Swedish Left MEP Jonas Sjöstedt after this week's final meeting of the Parliament's working group on allegations that EU funds to the Palestinian Authority had been misused.

Sjöstedt, who represented the European United Left / Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) in the working group, said: "We have been working for one year, during which time we have studied many documents and met many people from both Israel and Palestine. The conclusion is that there is absolutely no proof that financial support from the EU has been used to fund terrorist activities. Rather, it is very clear to me that those allegations have primarily been used to discredit the Palestinian Authority."

The EU first started giving financial support in 2000, when Israel stopped transferring monies from taxes that rightfully belonged to the Palestinian Authority.

"Given this background, I would say that the financial support from the EU has instead been a great help in the region. It has meant that essential services including healthcare and education have been able to function and has prevented a complete collapse of the Palestinian Authority. This has been of fundamental importance in relation to progress in the search for peace. The EU imposed strict requirements on the Palestinian Authority for aid administration, which has helped them improve the administration of the budget and has helped prevent corruption."

The Parliament's working group did not find any evidence that aid from the EU was used to produce school-books containing anti-Israeli propaganda. The group also studied whether the Israeli army destroyed EU-funded projects in Palestine. From the evidence, Sjöstedt concludes "Israel has destroyed projects in Palestine supported with aid from EU to the tune of some 20 million Euro. These included projects on harbours, schools and water. In one case a large stock of provisions was destroyed in Gaza, very deliberately and without any apparent military purpose. I think it would be appropriate if Israel gave financial compensation to the Palestinians for this destruction."

MEPs poke eye of spy in sky

A group of Euro-MPs is threatening to take the European Commission to the EU Court o Justice if it does not withdraw its decision to transfer air passenger data to the US authorities. Read all about it here

...and take a a slug at the Commission

A group of 76 MEPs is calling for censure of the European Commission because no individual responsibility has yet been taken for the recently-revealed corrupt goings-on at EU stats bureau Eurostat. Go  here

Conference on "Globalisation and Africa" planned for European Parliament

‘Globalisation and Africa’ is the subject of a conference at the European Parliament in Brussels organised by the Parliament's United Left group, the GUE-NGL in co-operation with a group of Netherlands-based NGOs.  The Conference will take place on 15th and 16th April.

Key issues on the agenda include the restoration of the concept of a social state, the cancellation of debt and the right to protection of African markets. The aim is to discuss the launching of a Europe-wide solidarity campaign in support of these demands. 

Registrations are being processed  by Spectre editor Steve McGiffen - also a member of the GUE-NGL secretariat - who said "This isn't just another conference but a chance to hear leading African progressives discussing their continent's difficulties and how to address them, attempting to develop alternatives to  IMF-imposed neo-liberalism. Effective solidarity is only possible if we in developed countries listen to what people actually want and act on it, so this is a great opportunity."

For security reasons, it is advisable to register in advance. Write to Steve McGiffen at smcgiffen@europarl.eu.int if you want to book, or go to here or here  for more information.

Controversy in Ireland over Euro-elections

A proposed controversial referendum on the same day as the European Parliament elections, as well as the prospect of electronic voting is causing uproar in Ireland. More here

Peru in crisis

A series of popular protests is taking place in Perú against privatizations and other so-called free trade policies, writes Carlos Quintanilla. The Confederación de Trabajadores del Perú (Confederation of Workers of Perú), Peru’s major trade union, held during March a national day of protest to demand that Alejandro Toledo’s government pay attention to social needs.

Toledo is facing the worst political crisis since he took office in July 2001. The President’s Perú Posible party has lost credibility, according to Perú’s leading newspaper El Comercio. Toledo has a 7%  approval rating against 85% rate of disapproval.

A survey published recently by the Datum polling firm showed that 49% of Peruvian’s believe Toledo is responsible for his government’s bad image. Toledo won the presidency with 60%  support.

The Trade Union organization announced demonstrations all over the country, including a large mobilization in Lima, the capital, for the coming months, to urge profound changes in the official economic policy.

Union leaders also state that they will demand fulfillment of 20 proposals to better the living conditions of the majority, most of whom live in poverty and misery.

Many Peruvians criticize the president for his lack of humility and solidarity, despite the fact that he is Peruvian Indian. They accuse him of launching a package of neo-liberal policies that are increasing poverty.

During the electoral campaign, the indigenous president promised to deliver jobs and pay rises; however, those were just promises. Toledo is also facing huge protests from social movements. Teachers are disappointed with his administration. Health workers, transport workers, and students are also part of the movement trying to get rid of him

Former Peruvian President, Alberto Fujimory, meanwhile, is calling for early elections. After ruling Perú for 10 years, Fujimory ran away to Japan a few years ago, trying to avoid his corruption scandal. Peruvian authorities have asked for his extradition, but Japan has not complied.

Peru is thus facing a serious political and social crisis, where almost 50% of the population wants Toledo to step down and call for new elections. Perú has almost 30 million inhabitants. More than 60% of its population lives in poverty.

Thanks to ANNCOL for providing this report. Carlos Quintanilla is a journalist, and director of the radio program, Noticiero Pacífica, broadcasting by KPFK, Pacífica Network, in Los Angeles.

Anti-deportation demos planned for UK

The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees in Britain (IFIR) is organising a series of demonstrations to protest against the deportation of Iraqi asylum seekers. Go here

Is Venezuela next?

"US support for Venezuela's opposition intent on overthrowing President Hugo Chavez resonate with memories of tested CIA formulas, writes Landau, such as the one used to foment revolt against the government of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1970-3." Read the rest of Saul Landau's analysis here  Landau also takes a look at Democratic US Presidential hopeful John Kerry here

The real thing

We at Spectre are invariably puzzled whenever we see anyone drinking Coca-Cola, as healthier and better-tasting substances can sometimes be found in the u-bend of better-class toilets. However, when we see anyone on the Left drinking the stuff we're mystified and horrified, and it has nothing to do with the foul taste, osteoporosis, obesity or bad teeth. Find out why here

Vananu: free at last!

"Dugnad" is a fine Norwegian word for solidarity: All in the valley got together when a farm needed a new house. What otherwise would have taken years was done in a few days.

Now, wishing to honour Israel's nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, the Norway-based campaign for his release has devised a modern Internet "dugnad" for the global village. On April  he will be free after 18 years in jail and the renowned political prisoner needs help to rebuild his life.

Explaining the "Dugnad", International Vanunu Campaign and Norwegian Peace Alliance spokesman FredrikHeffermehl said "After test runs, all is now set for sending a greeting of $10 (or more if you wish)". The campaign hopes to receive $10 for each of his 6,413 days in prison. "The Internet-based campaign permits everyone to take part, to pay online. You can organise your own mini-campaign and follow the development from minute to minute. We have repaired bugs, got a simple address and added flexibility, with local payment to the Vanunu trusts in Canada, Israel, Norway, UK, US. To get there, just doubleclick: here

Vanunu himself is beaming with optimism "I'll be free. I won. The gates and locks will be opened. They didn't succeed in breaking me or driving me crazy."  This despite the fact that the Israelis kept him for 12 years in solitary). But, new, hard challenges lie ahead. Vanunu will be 49 and face the future without a home, with no job or income, no country.

As Heffermehl added: "If we show solidarity and support for one whistleblower, we help others to follow in their footsteps."  Go here for more information.

inexile is a bi-monthly UK magazine for people interested in or who work with refugee issues. Issue 30 includes an interview with John Denham, the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee looking at the broader picture of the asylum debate. Victoria Prais and Paul Warburton from the Immigration Advisory Service provide a timely reminder of the situation in Iran and a report on the initial findings of a Refugee Council survey on the impact on asylum seekers of the withdrawal of the work concessions. Go here