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Contempt for democratic process now routine in EU:  

Barroso resigns to take Commission job, 3 weeks before European Parliament debates its approval

José Manuel Durão Barroso, the Thatcherite nominated by the member state governments  to head the new European Commission, has resigned as Prime Minister of Portugal despite the fact that his nomination must be approved by a majority of the European Parliament.

This approval can scarcely be viewed in any legitimate way as routine, moreover, as the Parliament's second largest group, as well as the 40-strong United Left, have already stated their opposition.

Barroso's nomination came in the wake of the Blair government's refusal to accept the proposed nomination of Belgian Premier Guy Verhofstadt. Verhodstadt, though less extreme in his neo-liberal views than is his Portuguese counterpart, was regarded as the perfect choice for the job by almost every other member state. Used to the balancing act required to run Belgium's fractious multi-lingual coalitions, he is also an enthusiastic "European".

The Blair government, playing to the growing anti-EU sentiment in Britain, gave this as their reason to reject him. In reality, this right-wing Prime Minister was not right wing enough for the Blairites, whose claim to inclusion under the term "social democrat" is increasingly thin. In addition, the nomination of the PM of the most vigorously anti-war country in the EU, would no doubt have been seen as a deliberate slap in the face by Blair's friends in Washington, DC.   

Barroso claims that his decision to step down now, four months before he can take office in Brussels, was for the sake of political stability and economic growth.  Resignation after confirmation by the EP would, however, surely have been early enough to achieve this.

His real aim is to free enough time to gladhand his way around Brussels, promising the earth and moon to get MEPs to support him. If successful, he will take up office on 1 November. His premature resignation, however, has gone down badly with many MEPs.

New Socialist Group leader (see below) German MEP Martin Schulz called his resignation "rather surprising" and said that "when I think of Barroso I always see him with Mr Bush and Mr Aznar on the Azores. Those are the pictures, the photos in the papers, which come to mind".

Green Co-president Monica Frassoni said that by resigning Barroso "has illustrated just how little the parliament is to be considered in the whole process because he does not apparently deem it necessary to wait for parliament's opinion on this".  The Liberals, the majority of whom opposed Bush's invasion of Iraq, are also reported to be unhappy with the nomination of a man who slavishly followed the US junta's line.

Barroso will address the EP's two major groups next week, as well as the United Left group (GUE-NGL) while the other smaller groups have yet to decide whether to accept his offer to come to address them. The crucial vote, confirming or rejecting his nomination, takes place on the very first day that the new Parliament takes office, July 22.  

While EU Commission does Monsanto’s dirty work, former UK environment minister keeps on telling the truth about GM foods

As the European Commission gradually forces the lifting of the moratorium on GM crops, former Uk environment minister Michael Meacher, forced out for telling the truth about agricultural biotech and its products, reminds us why we need it. “The safety of GM food remains a very open question,” writes Meacher.  “And one is not encouraged when the guardian of our food safety, the Food Standards Agency, and particularly its chairman, John Krebs, is so strongly pro-GM. They naively rely on company data to prove the safety of GMOs, despite numerous reports which have revealed the dubious credibility of company studies. The FSA has also focused mainly on the safety of inserted GM material, and neglected the inherent risks of the gene insertion process itself, such as the production of new toxins and allergens. Against this background it is almost incredible, but true, that there have been no peer-reviewed clinical studies on the human health effects of GM food. Instead, when the biotech companies manufacture a new GM product, they compare it with its non-GM counterpart in terms of nutrients, toxins and allergens, and if they allege it to be "substantially equivalent", they deem it to be safe. Such an assumption would never be allowed in the regulation of pesticides or drugs. It is simply a device to circumvent direct trials of the effects of GM foods on human health, and ensures that GM crops can be patented without even animal testing.” Read the rest here

UK rebate under threat again

A fierce battle is brewing as leaked documents from the European Commission reveal plans to end the UK's special budget rebate and make London the biggest net contributor to EU funds. Read all about it here

Women still under-represented in European Parliament

Last month's EP elections did not increase the representation of women, which remains at under a third of MEPs. More information here

EP social democrats elect new leader.

The so-called Party of the European Socialists (PES, the European Parliament's second biggest grouping, which brings together the EU's social democratic parties, has elected Martin Schulz to head their group in the European Parliament meaning that the two biggest groups in the Brussels assembly will be headed by Germans members. Read about it here

EU "dismantling refugee protection"

The European Commission has developed the controversial UK plan to keep refugees outside the EU by giving so-called protection in the region and resettlement. There is no clear legal basis for this scheme. It has been set out in a form that allows officials to simply proceed without any consultation of national or European parliaments. The analysis concludes that: "The EU has already exported its responsibility for countless refugees through the development of buffer-states and readmission agreements. By funding "protection in the region", border controls and "migration management" in developing countries it will export responsibility for countless more."

The full text of the Commission Communication can be found here . An analysis by Statewatch is here

EU-US Summit: Declaration on combating terrorism

The "Declaration" contains a number of new proposals: i) that people and groups can be put on the list of those who finances are to be frozen/seized ("designation") can be based on "serious and credible evidence, providing a reasonable basis to indicate that such entities" are supporting terrorist activity and ii) "outlawing support to designated names"

For the full story, go here

Dutch whistleblower vows to expose irregularities in EU institutions

Dutch whistleblower Paul van Buitenen, has again attacked the European Commission and vowed to expose more details of mismanagement in the last administration. Read all about it   here

Caught in the Matrix  

“Political debate in the mainstream in the US and UK increasingly resembles the dystopian vision encapsulated in the film the Matrix. Here the reality of human bondage to the system is disguised by a sophisticated virtual reality – the matrix – from which it is difficult, to break free.

In matrix world Iraq had and may still have Weapons of Mass Destruction. In the real world it did not. In matrix world there were links between Iraq and Al- Qaeda. In the real world there were not. In matrix world Lord Hutton is a respected judge who produced an independent report. In the real world Hutton was a whitewash. In matrix world Katherine Gun and Clare Short are deeply irresponsible for breaching trust and revealing secret information. In the real world they blew the whistle on illegal and immoral official behaviour.  Too many people who have witnessed the lies and deception of the past couple of years our leader seem deranged. Blair and his clique seem to have a tenuous grip on reality. How can it be - people wonder - that they can go on and on and on about Weapons of mass destruction when even the head of the Iraq Survey Group has concluded that they probably never existed? How can they appear to take so seriously statements that most of us now know are built on foundations no more secure than the shifting sands of the Iraqi deserts which they no longer even pretend to search?” Read the rest of David Miller’s superb exposé of disinformation in the media here.   And check out his book on the same issue, Tell Me Lies: Propaganda and Media Distortion in the Attack on Iraq here

Lobbywatch exposes “Living Marxism” as group of the “libertarian” far right

The webzine Lobbywatch, which you can read here devotes a whole section “LM WATCH” to the bizarrely names Living Marxism political network. By drawing readers’ attention to this, Spectre is not breaching our policy of not publishing sectarian attacks on left groups, because though LM can apparently claim distant descent from the Revolutionary Communist Party, a group of a couple of dozen people who disrupted left meetings in London in the late 70s, they are in fact extreme libertarian group arguing for legalised paedophilia, the right to use unrestrictedly racist language and so on. They also eulogise technologies such as nuclear power, genetic engineering and human cloning. According to the anti-GM group GMWatch, “in order to punch above their weight, they often hide their affiliations and engage in infiltration of media organisations; or operate via front groups or by colonising existing lobby groups. Colonised lobby groups include Sense About Science, the Genetic Interest Group, Progress, the Pro-Choice Forum, and the Science Media Centre.” Read all about LM here

New poll: Chavez has support of 57% of Venezuelan voters

North American Opinion Research has discovered that six weeks before the referendum on whether he should stay in power, President Chavez appears to have a strong lead. Read the details here

Who's afraid of Michael Moore?

The June 26-27 opening weekend of Michael Moore's new documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, confirmed the nightmares of US President George Bush's supporters. Despite the right-wing's best efforts to derail the Fahrenheit juggernaut, in a single weekend it became the highest grossing documentary in US history.  Read the Australian socialist newspaper Green Left Weekly’s take on these events here.  Or go here to link to GLW’s range of coverage of Autralian, regional and international affairs.

North Korean Nuclear Ambition & Bush's presidential campaign strategy

"The Bush administration is now in the spotlight recently with regard to its relationship with North Korea as it indicates some slight but significant changes from the firm cynicism toward North Korea. The change was noticeable in the third round of six-party talks in Beijing last June when a new proposal came out from the US with its previous call for the "complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantling" (CVID) of the North Korean nuclear programs.  

The so-called ‘CVID principle’ has been the basic rule for the Bush administration in dealing with North Korean nuclear issues, while the North has refused to accept the concept contending that is applicable only to the defeated nation. But such arguments were not replayed in the third six-party meeting. is about the connection between NK's nuclear ambiton and US presidential election 2004." Read the rest of this article by Cheong Wook Sik as well as other essays on peninsular affairs as they relate to peace and defence issues here.

Viviane Lerner is one of the unsung hero(ine)s behind Spectre. Viviane sends out collections of material of interest to the left which we have used many times in the past to keep our readers up to date. For the last few months she has been helping Heather Wokusch, another heroine, who provides us with her high quality journalism, with her book on women and politics. Now that project is drawing to a close Viviane is looking for further work of the same nature. If you happen to know anyone who needs in-depth editing, research or proofreading by an experienced and reliable person, get in touch. Viviane has also done translations for us in the past. Her native language is French but her English is flawless, so she can work in either language or both. Contact Dr Viviane Lerner at