Weekly News Review

New Commission line-up agreed

5 Nov 04

With what can only be described as indecent haste, EU member state governments have approved, with a nod and a wink, a slightly revised line-up of Commissioners who will now, or so is the intention, come before the European Parliament for approval the week after next. The rush is occasioned by the legal limbo in which the Union finds itself as a result of the Parliament exercising its rights, a possibility which does not seem to have occurred to the other decision-making institutions. .

"We’re back on track", José Manuel Durão Barroso, the incoming Commission President, was quoted as saying though quite what he meant is unclear. The Parliament refused to vote one team and asked for a rethink. To a small extent they got one, but once again Barroso has demonstrated that, in common with virtually all EU leaders, has no idea what democracy means. How about, Mr Barroso, trying something like "I regret that the parliament did not dully approve my choice. I have removed those who were unacceptable, reshuffled those who seemed to have inappropriate portfolios, and now I will take my new nominations back to the people's representatives and humbly request their approval." That's what a democratic leader would say, isn't it?

Still, at least we got rid of the Butt-man, His Holiness Buttiglione, sent back to Italy to contemplate eternity. And the Latvians were persuaded to send someone other than their original choice. But Kroes, at the insistence of the Dutch government, will stay in charge of competition

In all, then, only two nominations were changed – despite parliament having cast doubt on five of the appointees.

European Parliament President Josep Borrell has said that the parliament could hold hearings for the Commissioners-designate next week, enabling a vote to be taken at the Plenary session the week after. This is bad news for the 41 MEPs of the United Left Group, who will in principle be in Rotterdam, where their political group is holding a conference to organise resistance to the proposed Services Directive, a measure which amounts to a declaration of war on Europe's working people. However, as leader of the centre-left "Socialist" Group, with no semblance of a political debate, has already described Mr Barroso's cosmetic changes, rather bizarrely as "enlightened and courageous steps", the approval of the new line-up seems a formality.

UK government earmarks March 2006 for referendum on EU Constitution

4 Nov 04

The right wing London newspaper the Sunday Telegraph reported this week that ministers are briefing that March 2006 is the likely date for the EU Constitution referendum in the UK. The report suggested that the Government would begin to campaign only after the end of the UK presidency of the EU (July to December 2005).

The report also said that a group including Commissioner-designate Peter Mandelson was pressing for a "two question" referendum, which would combine a vote on the euro and on the EU Constitution.

As a spokesperson for the UK "No" campaign pointed out, however, this would be somewhat foolish. Referring to the Labour Party’s lonstanding commitment to entering the euro only when five the zone’s economy came up to scratch when assessed against five yardsticks related to growth, inflation, employment and ‘competitiveness’, she explained that "Public opinion shows very clear opposition to the euro, and the Government would find it difficult to credibly reverse its negative verdict on the ‘five tests’ so soon."

EU lawmakers aim to improve ties with Cuba

4 Nov 04

A group of MEPs ended a two-day visit to Havana aimed at breaking the logjam in Cuba's relations with the European Union. It was a chance for a dialogue "with the main parties involved to try to move forward from a blocked situation that we see as very unfortunate," said Miguel Angel Martinez (PES - Spain), who leads the group of Cuba "friends" in the European Parliament.

Free and fair American election delivers big boost for incumbent

4 Nov 04

President Hugo Chavez won a massive endorsement last weekend from the people of Venezuela – they’re "American" too remember - when his MVR party scored a historic landslide victory, winning twenty out of twenty-two governorships.

Once again the majority of Venezuelans voted to secure the revolutionary process that the President has outlined, said National Assembly member Cilia Flores. "We are sure that with this new triumph we will continue economic advances and the work of the missions, without obstacles," she added. "With this overwhelming triumph, we have passed the stage of sabotage, conspiracy, and obstacles that the opposition had presented. We enter a new phase of work, harmony, prosperity, understanding, and democracy."

Kerry Won: Some quotes

4 Nov 04

"There was trouble with our elections in Ohio at every stage. It's been a battle getting people registered to vote, getting to the ballot on voting day and getting that vote to count. There is a pattern of voter suppression; that's why I called for [Ohio Secretary of State] Blackwell's resignation more than a month ago. Blackwell, while claiming to run an unbiased elections process, was also the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio. Additionally, he was the spokesperson for the anti-business, anti-family constitutional amendment 'Issue 1,' and a failed initiative to repeal a crucial sales-tax revenue source for the state. Blackwell learned his moves from the Katherine Harris playbook of Florida 2000, and we won't stand for it."

Ohio State Senator Teresa Fedor

"There were far fewer machines in the inner-city districts than in the suburbs. I documented at least a dozen people leaving because the lines were so long in African-American areas. Blackwell did a great deal of suppressing before the election -- like attempting to refuse to process voter registration forms. The absentee ballots were misleading in Franklin County. Kerry was the third line down, but you had to punch number four to vote for him. Bush was getting both his votes as well as Kerry's."

Bob Fitrakis, an attorney who monitored the election with the Election Protection Coalition

"I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year,"

Walden W. O'Dell, the chief executive of Diebold Inc, which makes the computers used as voting machines in a large number of Ohio voting districts. Go www.nytimes.com to read the whole article.

Make Trouble, Not War

4 Nov 04

On Sunday 14th November London Nonviolent Direct Action Training Workshop is meeting at 7a Rampart Street, E1, from 11am to 4pm. Go to www.voicesuk.org to find out more.

The scandal of Diego Garcia continues

4 Nov 04

The inhabitants of Indian Ocean island Diego Garcia were exiled from their home in the 1970's

after deals between Britain, Mauritius and the US. Mauritius got its independence from Britain in 1965, but let Britain keep the Chagos Islands, of which Diego Garcia is one. In return Britain

paid Mauritius £3 million. Then the thrifty British government agreed to lease the island to the US for military use in return for an £11.5 million discount on nuclear submarines.

The people of Diego Garcia were tricked and forced off their island to make way for an air base. All the animals on the island were gassed, and two of the longest runways in the world were

constructed. Recently, many of the bombers that have been flattening Iraq and Afghanistan took off from Diego Garcia.

The Diego Garcians were sent to Mauritus, where they have lived in slums for the last 30 years. They lived in extreme poverty; many starved, died or committed suicide. The British government

maintained the lie that the island had no permanent residents.

In 2000 the High Court ruled that their expulsion from the Islands was illegal. Neo Labour invented a 'feasibility study' to decide whether the island could be resettled; it decided that it would be 'too expensive' to repatriate the Diego Garcians, would be ecologically harmful (the B52s aren't?), and anyway, the islands are in danger from global warming.

While the Diego Garcians have been prevented from returning to their island, others have been welcomed. The US military for one, along with thousands of Filipino and Mauritian workers who have been brought in to build and maintain the base.

Now the Diego Garcian are arriving in Britain, from the slums of Port Louis in Mauritius, in search of a better life. The Diego Garcians were 'graced' with full British citizenship in 2002, but have been offered no help since by the government. They have been denied benefits because they fail the DSS Habitual Residency Test (HRT); they cannot prove they have been resident in Britain for more than a month. Which is strange, as it was the Government who kicked them

off British territory in the first place. The Diego Garcians are currently challenging this legislation and asking the government to allow them benefits from the moment they arrive.

Thanks to Schnews, the UK-based newsletter, for this report. Schnews points out that there are a number of ways people, especially British residents, can help. "Write to your MP or to Bill Rammell the Overseas Territories Minister about this: rammellb@parliament.uk Donate money to help the Diego Garcians legal costs and get by without benefits: British Indian Ocean Territory Islanders Movement, Barclays Bank, Sort Code 20 23 97, Account Number

93391558. Finally, there's an awareness raising party for the Diego Garcians in the Synergy Project (which is a fundraiser for South London community projects), SeOne Club London (London Bridge tube), Nov 19, 9-6, £10/12/15 featuring live Diego Garcian music, art, films and

photos about their story, and then DJs. Go to www.festival-of-flight.org for more information.

Activist Documentary Show Planned, Swansea, November 19

4 Nov 04

Alternative media group BeyONdTV (you have to read it twice, and more slowly than that, to get the gag) are celebrating their 5th Annual Video Activist Documentary Festival. The lively event consists of a variety of documentaries, community video, music, short movies, dance, subverts and animations from the world's most radical producers which are overlooked by mainstream broadcasters. It's happening November 19th-20th Patti Pavilion, Oystermouth Road, Swansea, Wales, Write to beyondtv@undercurrrents.org for more info.

Rally called to fight For a "Workers’ Charter" in UK

4 Nov 04  

Organised by the United Campaign to Repeal the anti-Trade Union Laws-+, on Saturday 13th November 2004, at 11am at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1, the rally will be addressed by trade union leaders and by Tony Benn. Admission Free.   To find out more about the United Campaign, go to http://www.ucratul.labournet.org/ 


Racism in the Age of Globalisation

29 October 2004

Speaking at the Third Claudia Jones Memorial Lecture on 28 October 2004 organised by the (British) National Union of Journalist's Black Members Council, Dr. A. Sivanandan, Director of the Institute of Race Relations, examined how the two trajectories - the war on asylum and the war on terror - had converged to produce the racism/imperialism of the global era. Read the full speech here