EU moratorium on GMOs upheld

12 December, 2003



Less than half EU population is pro-EU





“Less than half the population in the European Union's member states now support the EU project, according to polling results yesterday. The latest Eurobarometer to be released this week found that just 48 per cent of EU citizens viewed membership as a "good thing", down from 54 per cent last spring. Britain was by far the most negative state, with positive feelings tumbling to 28 per cent, but even the French were below half for the first time after months of battles with Brussels over tax cuts and illegal aid to ailing firms. The results emerged as EU leaders converge on Brussels this week to push through a European constitution that creates a full-time EU president and foreign minister and establishes EU control over most areas of national life, including justice, the environment, transport, energy and economic management. There are growing fears that at least one country will reject the text in a referendum next year. Ireland, Denmark, Holland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain and the Czech Republic are committed to a vote. France appears to have pulled back from the idea.”

 

To read the rest, go to http://tinyurl.com/ydjr

 

 

An EU regulatory committee this week failed to support a proposal by the European Commission to approve a variety of genetically modified sweet corn. Described by environmentalist group Friends of the Earth as a "victory for public safety and common sense", the proposal fell when only six countries - Spain, the UK, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Ireland – supported it. With Belgium, Italy and Germany abstaining, the votes of the six opposing countries - Denmark, Greece, Luxembourg, Austria, Portugal and France – were enough to block the measure.

 

Friends of the Earth was amongst groups which criticised the European Commission for proposing that the GM sweet corn, which has been modified to produce its own insecticide and is also resistant to a herbicide, should be allowed into shops in Europe. In particular, environmentalists were concerned that new labelling and traceability regulations are still not in place, while the proposal bypasses the new GMO approval process which is more thorough and includes post-approval monitoring of health effects. Serious safety questions have, moreover, not been fully addressed, including whether the toxin produced by the corn will cause allergies.

 

Geert Ritsema of Friends of the Earth Europe said:


"There is clearly no scientific consensus over the safety of this modified sweet corn. The decision not to approve it is a victory for public safety and common sense. The European Commission now has the opportunity to re-think its position. The public doesn't want to eat GM foods and question marks remain over its safety. The Commission must put the well-being of European citizens and their environment before the business interests of the US Government and the biotech industry."

 

The trial begins this week of Hungarian Workers’ Party deputy leader Attila Vajnai. His crime was to wear a badge sporting a red star, an illegal “Communist” symbol in “democratic” Hungary, soon to become one of the “family of democratic nations”, as the European Union likes to style itself. The badge was worn at a press conference of his party, which has some local representation but failed to receive enough votes to enter the national parliament at last year’s election. 

 

Far from condemning this blatant attack on human and civil rights., the unelected President of the unelected EU Commission, Romano Prodi, in answer to a question posed by a Greek Communist MEP, stated that “The ban of a Communist Party in an accession country, in no case constituted a cause for particular questioning or criticism in the frame of the (Copenhagen) political criteria.”  These “Copenhagen Criteria” are supposed to amount to conditions of democratisation which applicant countries must meet before they may be allowed to join the EU. Prodi’s fellow unelected Commissioner Verheugen pitched in with the following: “If I might just make a political comment, were I to have experienced what people in Eastern Europe have experienced I think I would be the first person to ask for the Communist Party to be banned in those countries.”  So now we know.

 

As a statement from the Greek Communist Party put it, “These statements not only legitimise the undemocratic, anticommunist clauses, prohibitions and persecutions in a series of applicant states, they also create the conditions for a potential expansion of such measures to other member states as well, since they introduce the dangerous idea that democracy and banning of communist parties are compatible.”

 

MEPs and EU staff demonstrate for rights of Guantanamo detainees

 

A hundred or so people, most of them employees of the European Union institutions in Brussels, demonstrated on Thursday outside the European Council's Justus Lipsius Building to demand that pressure be put on the US government to end the inhuman, arbitrary and unjust treatment of Prisoners of War held at Guantanamo.

 

Led by Euro-MPs Marianne Eriksson of the Swedish Vänster (Left) Party and Pernille Frahm of Denmark's Socialist People's Party (SF), the group was permitted by the police to take up a position across the road from the building but in full view of it, while two people were allowed to leaflet immediately outside the entrance.

 

Marianne Eriksson said that  "This issue will be on the agenda for the Council on Friday 12th and so we think this is a good opportunity to highlight this very serious injustice and to pressurise EU governments to seek fair trials for the prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay."

 

In its traditional pre-Council Resolution, the Parliament stated that it "deplores the failure of EU leaders and the Council Presidency to discuss the rights of the Guantánamo detainees to a fair trial, and insists that the European Council and the Presidency undertake to raise this matter at the highest level with the US administration."

 

After the EMU

 

Over two months have now passed since the Swedish people emphatically declined to join the European Monetary Union, much to the bitter dismay of the country's political, economic and media establishment. Developments since then have confirmed the wisdom of the overwhelming "No!" vote: The EMU's crucial "stability pact" has collapsed, raising fundamental questions about the future of the monetary union and of the entire European Union.

 

Meanwhile, the Swedish establishment appears to have learned exactly nothing from its debacle in September. The principal lesson that Prime Minister Göran Persson appears to have learned is not to permit any more referendums, at least not on matters pertaining to the EU. He has declared that the people will not be allowed to pass judgement on the EU constitution which is currently being negotiated-- even though it is likely to let the EMU in through the back door, and lead to the formation of a superstate that will absorb most of what remains of Swedish sovereignty.

These and related issues are reviewed in an analysis of the September referendum and its aftermath at: http://www.nnn.se/n-model/eu/eu.htm

 

Latvian Far Right in Brussels

 

A few weeks ago the Latvian parliament voted to withdraw Martyans Bekasovs from the country's delegation to the European Parliament, where countries shortly to become EU members are entitled to be represented by "Observers". Of course, the Latvian parliament has no power to do this, and Bekasovs continues to perform his duties as an Observer within the Left group, the GUE-NGL. His "crime" was to send a letter to MEPs and fellow Observers describing discriminatory practices against Russian-speakers in Latvia. Another Observer, Juris Dobelis, calmly explained that Bekasovs had been removed because "It is unacceptable that a member of a national parliament acts against the interests of the state he represents."

 

Spectre's editor once taught principles of democracy to undergraduates, and so we were pleased to offer his services to the Latvians, who admittedly don't have much experience of this sort of thing. We even thought of sending Dobelis a copy of Bernard Crick's Introduction to Democracy. But apparently that's not the problem.

 

It isn't that they don't understand democracy, but that they hate the hell out of it, as just the same people who have attempted to have the left observer sent home are the same as the ones who recently consecrated a "memorial in honour of the Latvian SS-Waffen legionnaires".  To quote from an English language Latvian source, "On November 5, a memorial in honour of the Latvian SS-Waffen legion's soldiers was opened in Lestene. The Minister of Defence Girts Kristovskis, commanders of the national armed forces, and members of the ruling party "For Fatherland and Freedom" were among 1,000 people who gathered there. MP from the party "For Fatherland and Freedom" Juris Dobelis declared, "The battles, the legionnaires fought someday in, are lasting... The wheel of naturalization is turning. Thanks to it, people disloyal towards the state become the citizens of Latvia!" He also mentioned that there is not and cannot be a concept like "Latvia's people", but there is only ethnic Latvian people. Many Latvian politicians now try to prove that Latvian legionnaires should be considered as fighters for the independence of Latvia against the Soviet occupation, and not as nazi collaborators."

 

We leave our readers to judge which of these people has no place in a democratic assembly.

 

Homage to the Spanish, yet not a word for the Iraqis


Minutes’ silences, homages, and all sorts of commemorations of the “victims of terrorism” have become a regular feature of life at the European Parliament. The terrorists, however, never include the Bush junta or its puppet government in London, and the victims are never ever Iraqi, or Palestinian. Noticing this, Greek Communist MEP Costas Alissandrakis responded to the latest “homage” with the following dignified and apposite statement:

 

Mr President, the MEPs of the Communist Party of Greece followed your proposal for a minute's silence to the memory of the seven Spaniards who lost their lives in Iraq. We grieve for the worthless loss of human lives, even if they were secret agents with an unclear mission, and we give our warm condolences to their families. However, we must note that the Spanish government that sent them there holds the full responsibility.  We grieve even more for the tens of thousands of Iraqis who met death by the foreign invaders and the conquerors of their homeland, and we harshly condemn the fact that you have made no reference to them, as if they were lower class human beings. We hope that prudence prevails and foreign invaders withdraw from Iraq before the resistance of Iraqi people puts them to rout."   Amen.

 

Hello Sailor and a very Merry Christmas

 

Early on Sunday evening last week a member of Faslane Peace Camp in Scotland, Zoe Weir, entered the top security Clyde Submarine Base at Faslane and spray-painted an early Christmas message “Merry Christmas from Faslane Peace Camp – No More War!” for the sailors on board the Trident submarines berthed there.



Zoe remained undetected for over two hours whilst she spray painted her message across the entrance to the top-security jetty where submarines carrying Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons were moored. She then avoided being arrested for another three hours by climbing on top of MoD Police Security Post 4 at the entrance to Berth 12. At 11pm Zoe finally agreed to come down after the Base Commander had promised her a mug of hot chocolate.



The Trident jetties at Faslane are some of the heaviest guarded facilities in the UK because of the weapons the submarines berthed there carry. As well as a large contingent of MoD Police guards being based there, the jetties and submarines are also patrolled by heavily armed Comachio Company Royal Marines who have instructions to shoot anyone getting close to the subs.



Protestors from Faslane Peace Camp and from the Trident Ploughshares campaign have in the past managed to swim to the submarines but Zoe’s action is thought to be the closest anyone has got to Trident submarines from the land in recent years.



Allison Hunter, Secretary of Scottish CND commented:

“Whilst I applaud the spirit of this good natured protest by Zoe it is shocking at this time of high security alert over possible terrorist attacks that someone could get this close to Britian’s nuclear arsenal and remain undetected for so long. It just shows how easily something could go

wrong at Faslane.”



Zoe Weir has lived at Faslane Peace Camp for over five years and is resident there with her small two year old daughter, Tabatha. She has been charged with cutting a hole in the Faslane perimeter fence and for staying in a “protected area” without permission.











 

 

The Socialist Party USA has joined the growing international chorus condemning the electoral fraud in Vladimir Putin's Russia. The SPUSA, itself the victim of massive historical fraud in the past, has also campaigned to uncover the fraudulent nature of the Bush junta’s silent coup d’état and much of what has developed since to undermine democracy in the USA.  Putin’s “election” demonstrates, however, that it is not only the US electorate which is having its rights undermined. Socialist Part international secretary Bill Pelz said “The elections were fixed from the get go as noted by numerous impartial international observers. In many parts of Russia, voting results were all but openly decided before the balloting began. Even the Financial Times admitted the Kremlin corrupted the election "through their control of the administrative machine and the media." This triumph of Putin shows him to be a worthy successor to Joseph Stalin who said "It doesn't matter who votes, it's who counts the votes that matters."



Pelz added that Putin, with his base in the security apparatus, is pushing Russia to become a police state at the service of international capital. By contrast, we join all who support a complete democratic and socialist transformation of Russian society.



 

Information Warfare in Miami

 

“On Wednesday, Nov. 26, labor leaders stood up at a press conference with environmental and global justice activists and blasted the Miami police force for using repressive tactics against those protesting the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit (FTAA). That same day, Amnesty International called for an independent investigation into the strong-arm tactics utilized by a militarized force of over 40 agencies against the demonstrators. The stakes in Miami were very high for the Bush administration. Across Latin America, millions of people have expressed their opposition to corporate driven globalization and "free trade." Meanwhile, historic alliances have been forged between various movements inside the U.S. Gone were the messaging disputes between those who advocate "Fair Trade" and supporters of "No Trade" that had characterized previous demonstrations at trade negotiations. This time, unions and street activists shared a clear, common message: "No to FTAA." Anti-war groups such as United for Peace and Justice joined with the more de-centralized, affinity group-based wing of the global justice movement to organize direct action. Powerful labor groups like the AFL-CIO and the United Steelworkers made clear that despite tactical differences, there was solidarity among resistance movements. To emphasize this point, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney visited the mobilization convergence center where art-making, training and planning was underway for un-permitted street actions. Yet this powerful display of successful solidarity is not what Americans saw on their television or read in their newspapers.” Read the rest at http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=17293





 

Green Left Weekly is Australia's socialist newspaper. The current issue, the last one of 2003, as staff take a well-earned Christmas break, as always provides news, information, opinion and debate from an environmental and left perspective, with this week a special focus on  Washington's Iraq war: Vietnam replayed. “While the White House and Pentagon brass desperately want to avoid the US people drawing any such comparisons, with US troops dying every day at the hands of guerrillas who clearly have popular backing, more and more Americans are coming to realise that the war in Iraq is a replay of the Vietnam War.”  Go to http://www.greenleft.org.au for the rest of this feature and lots of Australian and international news and comment.