Weekly News Review

13th June 2004

Elections for the European Parliament are held this weekend, with the Uk and the Netherlands voting on Thursday 10th and everyone else on or before Sunday 13th. Spectre will carry full coverage of these elections next week. In the meantime, if you can stand the Europhiliac federalist crap, you can follow the results as they unfold at the official election website at http://www.europecounts.org.uk/

EU-US free trade talks ahead?


The EU-US summit (June 25-26) may result in a de facto launch of free trade negotiations between the EU and the US. Little-known but influential bodies like the Transatlantic Policy Network and the Transatlantic Business Dialogue are campaigning behind the scenes. Read the full Corporate Europe Observatory article here

Protests against separation call for Roma children

"Nobel Prize-winning writer Günter Grass is among the first 700 signatories to a petition calling for the resignation of Eric Van der Linden, the EU ambassador to Slovakia. A month ago, Van der Linden called for Roma (Gypsy) children to be forcibly separated from their parents during the week and put in boarding schools." Read the rest of By Arun Kundnani's article here

250,000 join protests over French cuts to health insurance

More than a quarter of a million people joined marches throughout France last weekend in protest at plans to "reform" the country's national health insurance system.

To reduce the scheme's growing debts, the government says that it intends to increase employees' and retired people's social security contributions, to raise the daily hospital fee and to introduce a tax to be paid for each visit to a doctor.

Speaking at a 100,0000-strong demonstration in Paris, Bernard Thibault, general secretary of left-wing union centre CGT, warned the government that further action would follow if it did not drop its plans.

• About 30,000 people marched through central Paris on Saturday to protest against the policies of visiting US President George W Bush and the invasion of Iraq.

The demonstration was called by over 40 trade unions, peace groups and left-wing parties, including the French Communist Party (PCF) and the Greens.

Thanks to the Morning Star (http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/) for this news item.

Veteran Communist elected president of Indian parliament

Congratulations to  Somnath Chatterjee,  who last week became the first Communist to be elected president of the lower house of the Indian federal parliament.  The choice follows the victory of many Communist and other progressive candidates in the national elections several weeks ago, elections which saw the unsavoury far right BJP government replaced by Congress, critically supported by the left. Chatterjee, who has been an MP for thirty years, and is a veteran of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) was nominated by Congress leader Sonja Gandhi and unanimously acclaimed. The CPI (M), whose power base is Calcutta, has 60 seats, making it critical to Congress's attempt to form a majority.  The party has, however, refused to accept ministerial seats in the new government. 

US activists plan trip to Colombia

Fourteen activist groups of the US-based Colombia Action Network are organizing a trip in solidarity with the people and movements of Colombia.  The delegation will meet with Colombian unionists and human rights defenders in July.

In Colombia, the solidarity activists will meet with the Oil Workers' Union (USO), and Reiniciar, a human rights group, and the Cimitarra River Valley Peasants Association.

According to Tom Burke of the Colombia Action Network, the network has a solid relationship with these organizations, having toured speakers from USO and Reiniciar.

The delegation will also travel to Barrancabermeja, a city northeast of Bogotá to visit the displaced people, the Peace Brigades International, as well as the women's group OFP, which has been repeatedly targeted by army-backed death squads.

The last leg is to visit the Arauca Department where the delegation will have the opportunity to see the pilot projects of the US Military in Colombia and meet with leaders of social organizations. The Asociacion Campesina de Arauca  will host this part of the tour.

The trip is organized by the Colombia Action Network together with the international Campaign to Boycott Coca-Cola. The solidarity tour will last two weeks, and the delegation plan to arrive in Bogota on June 30th.

For more information go here

A chance to ensure justice for Bhopal

A US court has presented the Indian government with a unique opportunity to hold Dow/Carbide responsible for the clean-up of the Bhopal gas disaster site and its surrounding areas. The court ruled that Union Carbide (now owned by Dow) could be made to undertake and bear the costs of remediation of the factory site in Bhopal. The US court has said that if the government of India or Madhya Pradesh issues a letter stating they have no objection to Union Carbide cleaning up its toxic contamination to enable him to take appropriate action. The deadline for receipt of such a letter by the US Court is June 30, 2004.

Greenpeace is urging people to "take action and tell the government of India and Madhya Pradesh to send this letter and ensure that justice is brought to Bhopal after 20 years". Go here  to read more about what you should tell the two governments.

Friends of the Earth Europe Bulletin for June, 2004

is now available on line. The Bulletin provides an overview of environmental issues at European level Latest issue looks at the implications for the environment of EU enlargement, GMOs at the WTO, the need for safer chemicals and tougher laws, clean energy, the future of EU regional policy, and many other issues. The Bulletin is published four times a year and can be downloaded from here

Green Left Weekly, #585, June 9, 2004 is now available on-line. Australia's socialist newspaper's lead story, on how, with a new Iraqi government, the "USA will still call the shots" argues that "the selection of Iyad Allawi as prime minister of the Iraqi `interim government' is a clear demonstration that Washington has no intention of relinquishing its control over Iraq on June 30. Washington's moves to handover `sovereignty' to Iraqis, and to bring them `freedom' and `democracy' are nothing more than a public relations charade to disguise what is really going on -- the installation of a puppet regime that will provide an Iraqi face to the US corporate takeover of the Iraqi economy." Read the full article here or go here for a full list of contents.

Labour Left Briefing (UK), June issue contains articles on the euro elections, saving the Labour Party, and the Indian elections. To read more go here

SOA Watch Update summer edition out now. The SOA in question is the notorious School of the Americas, where the US army has for generations taught soldier from latin American client states how to spy, kill and torture the opponents of the regimes which send them. Find out more at www.SOAW.org

Against the Current is a radical bimonthly from the US, associated with the group Solidarity. May/June edition focuses on "Labor in Crisis: Two-tier wages, outsourcing and other corporate tricks", as well as carrying articles on the World Social Forum, Haiti, Mexico and West Africa. In addition, four left activists present differing views of what we ought to do about the 2004 Presidential election. For more go here