Weekly News Review

5th July 2003

Dangerous lunatic loose in European Parliament

MEPs were menaced on Wednesday in Strasbourg by a dangerous madman who managed to enter the building by convincing guards that his belief that he was Prime Minister of Italy was more than a sad delusion. No-one was hurt, though one German MEP was gratuitously accused of looking like a Nazi concentration camp guard. The misunderstanding was continued when Mr Pat Cox, who believes himself to be President of the European Parliament, threatened to break off relations with the European Council, of which the self-styled "Prime Minister" believes himself to be President. The man, who also claimed to be owner of AC Milan football club, several television stations, a number of newspapers and publishing houses and almost everything else in Italy, was later escorted to what he was assured was an "official car", where he is believed to have been given a jacket which buttons up the back. In the wake of the Sars crisis, World Health Organisation officials now fear that a virus is at large which causes these dangerous delusions. Cases have apparently been reported in Washington, DC, where a man said to be of "abnormally low intelligence" is claiming to be President of the United States. 

Sweden and UK: biggest No so far in both

More than half of Swedish voters now say no to the Euro, according to the latest poll.

The No-side's lead is twice as large as in May. Currently, 51.5% are against, and 35.3 % say yes. In May, 43.9 percent were against, and 35.4 percent in favour. The referendum in Sweden will be held on 14 September.

Meanwhile, a poll conducted by ICM showed that support for the Euro has fallen to just 21 percent – the lowest level since March 2001. 62 percent said they would vote against the Euro in a referendum.

GMO vote "a step in the right direction"

Commenting on this week's crucial European Parliament vote on GMOs, Swedish Left MEP Jonas Sjöstedt, spokesperson for the United Left on biotechnology issues, said "although we are disappointed that a number of important amendments from the Parliament's Environment Committee did not win sufficient support, we are nevertheless pleased that we have succeeded in improving several aspects of the Council's draft. This vote was a step in the right direction.

"We felt strongly that the threshold, below which contamination of products by GMOs will be tolerated, should be as low as possible. Our scientific advice was that 0.1% was feasible. The consensus of the Committee was that this figure should 0.5%. Unfortunately, the Parliament as a whole was not convinced and we are left with the Council's proposed 0.9%. However, the clear labelling which will now be introduced will still give consumers the chance to shun these products. We have also obliged producers to take strict measures to avoid contamination. Member States will be enabled to develop measures to prevent GM crops from contaminating conventional or organic crops.

"Until such measures are in place and the problem of co-existence between different types of agriculture solved, the moratorium should continue. When we passed the law governing the release of GMOs into the environment, we were promised an effective polluter pays-based environmental liability system. We are still waiting.

"Moreover, we must not allow any outside party to dictate to European consumers what we should eat. In Africa we saw the shameful attempt of the US government to use food shortages to foist GMOs on people. In the EU, they are trying to use other forms of bullying.

"Today's vote sends a clear message to the Member States and the Commission that however we may decide to regulate GMOs, these decisions will be taken by elected representatives of the European peoples and not by the US or the WTO."

New video reveals massive animal suffering

A new video investigation reveals that up to 2,000,000 animals a year experience extreme suffering in the EU animal transport trade. Italy is at the centre of this trade being one of the biggest importers of cattle, horses, pigs and sheep from other Member States and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

The video was launched this week to coincide with the start of the Italian Presidency. It is to be launched by the European Coalition for Farm Animals (ECFA) of which Advocates for Animals is the Scottish representative, with support from the Eurogroup for Animal Welfare, a cross-party group of Euro-MPs.

The whole of Europe is criss-crossed with long cruel journeys carrying many different animals; cattle are also exported to non-EU countries where they undergo appalling treatment.

Using undercover investigators from Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) and Animals Angels, the video reveals British sheep being trucked for 35 hours to southern France, cattle exported from the EU to the Lebanon, calves exhausted after travelling over 1000km from Poland to Italy, cattle sent from Ireland's green fields to barren feedlots in Spain, horses collapsing from exhaustion and injury on the 90 hour journey from Eastern Europe to slaughter in Italy, a bull forcefully crammed into a tiny box beneath the wheels of a truck and sheep from across Europe transported for over 80 hours to Greece in inhumane conditions.

To reduce the suffering, animal welfare organisations are calling for a maximum limit of 8 hours to be placed on journeys to slaughter or for further fattening.

The Scottish group Advocates for Animals' Campaigns Director, Ross Minett explained that: "This film exposes the complete failure of the present EU Transport Directive to give any real protection to animals in transit. I have witnessed first-hand the terrible suffering caused to animals transported huge distances across Europe. We want Italy to use its Presidency to persuade the EU Agriculture Council to enact a new Transport Directive which places a maximum limit of 8 hours on journeys to slaughter or further fattening".

For more information go to http://www.advocatesforanimals.org.uk

Police raid on Bové home sparks outcry

The arrest of farmer José Bové in a little town in southern France is beginning to do more damage to the government than to him. Shortly after 6am June 22, a police force moved up to his house in Larzac, about 700 kilometers south of France. The policemen, accompanied by guard dogs and moving under helicopter cover, smashed through a glass door and arrested Bové.
Read the rest of the report on France's very own stormtroopers here

Founding Conference of the Israeli-Palestinian Action Group for Peace

Last week in Ramallah, a hundred Israeli peace activists eluded military roadblocks in order to meet like-minded Palestinians.

"We welcome the increasing move towards Hudna (cease-fire) and the chance to break the cycle of violence, bloodshed and killing of innocent Israelis and Palestinians - but a cease-fire can be no more than one step in the right direction. A stable and lasting peace cannot be achieved without putting a complete end to the occupation which is the root cause of the hatred and bloodshed. Leaders, politicians and diplomats cannot be relied on to do the job alone. There is needed a daily struggle for peace, a grassroots struggle, a joint struggle of committed citizens from both sides, acting together."

The above sums up he mood among two hundred Israeli and Palestinian peace activists, public figures and intellectuals who gathered in Ramallah on the West Bank to attend the founding conference of the "Joint Action Group for Israeli-Palestinian Peace."

In order to get there, the Israeli participants had to find their way through the army roadblocks at the entrances to Ramallah. After several dozen Israelis mingled among Palestinian pedestrians at

Kalandia Checkpoint on the south side of the city, soldiers blocked the entrance. The remaining activists, however, travelled by backroads and eventually made it to the conference hall. A few hours later, when they were exiting the city, soldiers at Kalandia wrote down meticulously

names and ID numbers, threatening the Israelis on their way home with prosecution for having broken a military order - the three-year old order forbidding Israelis from entering the Palestinian cities ("Area A").

"Our most important declaration is the fact that we are here, peace-seeking Israelis who came to meet peace-seeking Palestinians and establish together a joint organization. The government wants to prevent Israelis who want peace from going into Ramallah; this is a privilege only of soldiers and settlers. But we are here to say to you, our Palestinian friends, that we are not enemies; that the joint enemy of all of us is the occupation, and the joint purpose - peace between the state of Israel and the state of Palestine", said Dr Lev Grinberg of Ben-Gurion University.

"I am happy to receive and host here so many peace-seekers", said Hanan Ashrawi, one of the main Palestinian organizers. "The approach common to all of us here, to Israelis and Palestinians alike, is based on the concept of security - not military security, but human security, creating mutual trust and recognizing the humanness of the other. Even the most difficult problems outstanding between the two peoples, such as settlements, refugees and Jerusalem, must be squarely faced and equitably solved, rather than swept under the rug."

Uri Avnery, who had a central role in bringing about the conference, mapped out a plan of action for the new body. including the  setting up a committee of experts to prepare within three months a detailed draft peace agreement, dealing with all the difficult issues; - a "Truth and Reconcilation Commission" on the model of the South-African body chaired by Bishop Desmond Tutu, a joint media bureau, which would actively engage the Israeli, Palestinian and international media; - an operations committee, charged with preparing demonstrations, campaigns and struggles, for example against the Separation Wall which is systematically depriving Palestinian of their lands, or against the roadblocks which severely disrupt daily life.

The confernce was also addressed by a range of speakers including members of the Knesset and the Palestinian Authority, and Reuven Kaminer, grandfather of one of the Israeli refuseniks  and himself a veteran peace activist.

Finally, tribute was paid to Rachel Corrie, and a  delegation of conference participants met with President Arafat, who was reported to welcome the joint initiative.