15th March, 2002 Spain operates border controls ahead of this weekend’s Barcelona summit

The authorities of the Spanish state have activated article 2 of the Schengen agreement, which allows border controls between EU member states in the event of a threat to public order. The decision comes amidst fears that planned protests during the gathering of European Union leaders in Barcelona could turn violent. Last time antiglobalisation activists gathered in Barcelona, police were caught by photographers deliberately attempting to start fights among a crowd of demonstrators. Rather than asking their employees to refrain from such behaviour, however, the Spanish authorities have decided to try to keep crowds as small as possible.   

Borders will not be closed, but controls at harbours, airports, and rail and road entry points, which must normally be kept to a minimum, will be hugely stepped up. In Barcelona itself, a number of authorised demonstrations will be asked to keep to prescribed routes. 

European Parliament: Left leader condemns US stand on nukes

Francis Wurtz, President of the European United Left (GUE-NGL), speaking at this week’s Plenary session of the European Parliament, demanded that the Commission, Council and Parliament react publicly to what he called the Pentagon's "secret plan" to authorise the use of nuclear weapons against the "axis of evil considerably and conveniently enlarged to countries like China and Russia". Describing the Bush junta’s nuclear warmongering as “an irresponsible turn without precedent since Hiroshima",  Mr Wurtz called for “a very firm reaction to this totally unacceptable slide on the part of the world's leading military power".

EU Institutions: Ombudsman blocks European Recruitment Office

European Ombudsman Jacob Söderman, the official responsible for investigating citizens’ complaints against the European Union’s institutions, has refused to sign his name to a decision setting up the European Recruitment Office unless a provision allowing age discrimination is deleted.

In a letter to the presidents of the Commission and Parliament, Mr Söderman says: "I cannot agree to sign any decision that does not make clear that the Office must not discriminate on the grounds, including age, that are prohibited by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU".

The Ombudsman asks Commission president Romano Prodi and European Parliament president Pat Cox to delete the provision allowing the new Office to use age limits and to replace it by a requirement that the Office respect the Charter's anti-discrimination provision.

The European Recruitment Office will be responsible for hiring staff to work at the various  EU institutions, including not only the Parliament and Commission, but the Council, the Court of Justice, the Court of Auditors, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the Ombudsman’s own office.

Valery Giscard d’Estaing may have to face a vote of no confidence later this month. The threat comes from a number of delegates of various political persuasions who object to the former French President’s allegedly autocratic style. Rules proposed by Giscard himself give him total control of who speaks and when. This is hardly unusual for a meeting’s chair, but Mr Giscard’s style and past record are seen as indications that he will use these powers to exclude anyone with whom he does not agree from speaking at all. 

Just a few weeks after the country’s social democratic party announced that it would consult its members to see whether they wanted their country to join the European Union, conservative minister of foreign affairs, Halldor Asgrimson has joined the drip-drip of voices seeking to lead the small nation into the jaws of the increasingly expansionist bloc to its south and east. Mr Asgrimson complains that since Iceland joined the European Economic Area, which also links Norway and tiny Lichtenstein to the Union, the country has been forced to adopt 4,000 directives and other EU rules into its national legislation without having any influence on the decision process in the EU. Asgrimson’s rather bizarre conclusion from this is not that Iceland should leave the EEA before the Union steals all of its fish (ask a Brit), but that it should join in order to exert such an influence.  (We would tell Mr Asgrimson just how much influence his small country would be able to exercise were it to cast in its lot with a Union increasingly dominated by its largest members – but our Icelandic dictionary contains no entry for either “doodly-squat” or “Sweet FA”.)

Ahead of the Alþingi (parliament) election in September, these rumblings have made EU membership an issue in Iceland for the first time. Prime minister David Oddsen from the conservative Independence Party remains opposed, but after consulting its membership the opposition in the Social Democratic party is expected to come out in favour.

“Some people are suggesting that, by remaining faithful to George  Bush, our Prime Minister has won some influence over him. This is true. Blair licks his arse so thoroughly that George now listens to Tony's opinion as to whether he should lick his right buttock first or his left.”                   - Mark Steel, The Independent

Difficult to find sensible, progressive comment about the Bush junta’s decision, under pressure from big steel but also from the workers it employs, to slap preventive tariffs on foreign steel imports. Working for change has one of the most interesting pieces: “ "The Asian Financial Crisis, the collapse of the Russian economy, and the resulting flood of steel imports can all be attributed to the forces of free trade and globalization," says steel-state Democrat Dennis Kucinich. The same WTO regulations which foster a race to the bottom in wages internationally make it difficult for the United States to protect its industries — even when, as Kucinich points out, U.S. trade laws exist that could facilitate just that. "Free Trade" is a kind of protectionism, after all. U.S. trade negotiators have persistently traded off the interests of workers and those who produce in the United States in favor of investors, and those who want to outsource U.S. production to take advantage of cheap labor elsewhere.” Go to this website to read the rest.

Quote of the week(2) also from Mark Steel, British journalist: 'There will probably be an announcement soon that our steel industry was harbouring al-Qa'ida'

As Sharon’s thugs continue their pogroms, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has begun an operation for provision of medical assistance to Palestinians. The many murdered victims are now beyond our help, but thousands more have been injured recently in the West Bank and Gaza.  The Israeli doctors need money (including yours, if you’ve got any) to provide medicines and equipment to hospitals in the Occupied Territories, as well as direct medical care. Hospitals in areas attacked by Israeli forces have reported a shortage in stretchers, first aid equipment, surgical thread and medicines.

A first dispatch has already been purchased for Tull Karm refugee camp. Your help will enable provision of further much-needed assistance. Postal orders/checks can be sent to Physicians for Human Rights, Medical Operation, Levanda 30 Tel-Aviv 66020 or via the New Israel Fund, POB 91588, Washington DC, 20090-1588, USA. Please do not send medicines from overseas, due to customs constraints. For details contact Miri Weingarten at miri@phr.org.il

The Online Intelligence Letter, a US-based webzine, has revealed that a vast Israeli spy network operating on American territory has been dismantled since the September 11 attacks.  In June 2001, just weeks before the destruction of the WTC, an investigative report detailed the activities of more than a hundred Israeli agents, some presenting themselves as fine arts students, others tied to Israeli high-tech companies. All were challenged by the authorities and questioned, and a dozen of them are still imprisoned. One of their tasks was to track the Al-Qaida terrorists on American territory - without informing the federal authorities. Elements of this investigation, taken up by American television channel Fox News, reinforce this thesis: that Israel did not transmit to the United States all the evidence in its possession on the preparation of the September 11 attacks.

Visionary

George W. Bush, a man of low intelligence who suffers from the delusion that he was recently elected President of the United States, is having visions again. “When President George Bush wanted Arab support  for  the  US bombing of Afghanistan in September, he suddenly announced   he  had  a  "vision"  of  a  Palestinian  state.  Then  it disappeared off his radar screen. Yet  now  it's  back  in  a watered-down, US-framed UN resolution that affirms  "a vision of a region where two states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side..." Could it be that Mr Bush has another war in mind for  the  region, that perhaps Vice-President Dick Cheney, now touring the Arab world and Israel, wants Arab support for an attack on Iraq?” Read the rest of Robert Fisk’s article at this website

Non-Lethal Weapons Research in the US: Genetically Engineered Anti-Material Agents is the second in the Sunshine Project's series on US research on 'non-lethal' weapons, and profiles work on genetically engineered anti-material agents by the US armed forces and national laboratories, including US Navy development of focused anti-material microbes and related US Army research on 'terminator technology' for field release of genetically engineered degradative agents. The report also includes information on the US Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program's investigation of anti-material agents.

Naturally occurring biodegradative microorganisms pose virtually no military threat. It is only though the use of genetic engineering that they can become viable weapons. While discussion of military abuse of genetic engineering typically concerns genetic "upgrading" of classic biowarfare agents, genetically engineered anti-material agents are part of a second tier of biotechnological products that may be abused in warfare: new types of weapons that have been previously impossible due to technological constraints.  Thus, the development of genetically engineered anti-material microbes underscores the tight relationship between the prohibition of biological weapons and the precautionary approach to regulation of biotechnology.

Recommendations for national and multilateral action by governments are included.

Available online in html and pdf format:  http://www.sunshine-project.org

In Brief

Norway: Opposition to EU membership is growing in Norway, according to a poll published recently in leading paper Nationen. Read more here  

Sweden: 40 police officers have been suspended on suspicion of neglect of duty following the Swedish Police’s raid on a school in Gothenburg during the European Union summit last summer. Following the police raid on the school, which young protesters were using as a dormitory, accusations of police brutality and abuse of power have come to light after investigations conducted by Swedish Radio.

Denmark/UK: Having upset his fellow “Socialist” leaders by cosying up to the unspeakable Berlusconi, British PM Tony Blair, already snuggled under the eiderdown with his Spanish conservative homologue Aznar, is now courting Danish PM and right wing weirdo Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Blair, who shuns the company of social democrats in favour of an unsavoury bunch of right wingers headed by US jefe GW Bush, is ganging up with Rasmussen in order to increase pressure on the EU to undermine workers’ rights, push down wages and destroy the welfare state – or, as they put it “deregulate the labour market and reduce non-wage labour costs.”

Turkey: In a further sign of the growing repression evident in the country, Dogu Perincek, Chair of the Marxist-Leninist Turkish Workers’ Party, Dogu Perincek, and editor of its weekly paper, Emcet Olcaytu, face imprisonment of one to three years after having published a series of e-mails that the European Commission's representative ambassador in Turkey, Karen Fogg had sent to EU officials and Turkish journalists.

Slovenia: Transvestite trio Sestre, who take to the stage in scarlet air stewardess’s uniforms, have been chosen to represent Slovenia in the Eurovision song contest. The decision provoked demonstrations for and against, as well as predictable comments from the Catholic Church. Dutch Liberal MEP Lousewies van der Laan commented “I feel Slovenia is an excellent candidate for EU membership, so affairs like this are regrettable”. Ms van der Laan has been a consistent campaigner for gay rights and is from the less right wing of Holland’s two liberal parties, so she meant the fuss, not Sestre’s no doubt deserved victory.

Publicity-shy information officers seem to be a growing phenomenon. It’s a couple of years now since one “Press Officer” for a major progressive international organisation complained that an (admittedly unsolicited) announcement sent to her via email from Spectre represented “an invasion of privacy”.  We of course apologised, explaining that we were all volunteers rather than pros and naively believed that a left-wing press officer might have an interest in the left wing press. Seems we may have been wrong. European Voice reported last week (7 March) that the information officer for ECHO, the Orwellian-named European Community Humanitarian Office, refused to comment on the latest scandal rocking the hapless organisation on the grounds that his job “doesn’t include speaking to the press.”