Weekly News Review Archive

16th November, 2001

Euro-zone tightens screw on public ownership

German Finance Minister Hans Eichel has said that he plans a programme of privatisations to bring the government’s budget deficit within the limits set by the Eurozone’s Stability and Growth Pact. Earlier in the week Mr Eichel said that the European Commission had warned him that Germany would have a government deficit of 2.6 percent of GDP. This is dangerously close to the 3 percent limit after which fines apply. The slowing German economy has left the government with an overall shortfall of €9.8bn .

The move follows the announcement last month of emergency privatisation measures in Italy and France to meet Eurozone targets. The French government announced a plan to meet a pledge to the European Commission to achieve a balanced budget by 2004. A crucial element of the plan involved a sell-off of the French motorway company Autoroutes de Sud . The Italian government also announced its plan to meet its deficit target – by selling off government-owned real estate. The government hopes to raise £4.8 billion from the sales.

The latest attacks on publicly owned services follow a speech in Bruges on 12 November by Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission, calling for further centralisation of control over Eurozone member states’ taxation and public spending policies.

In his speech Prodi called on EU states to agree on a “code of conduct” for managing their economies, to reassure “the public and the markets that, alongside the system of management of the currency by the European Central Bank, there is an effective mechanism for managing the economy.” Mr Prodi said that the Commission would be presenting their proposals soon.

He claimed that “unilateral budgetary policies adopted by individual Member States will always be less effective, and might indeed have a negative effect on the entire euro area and on the credibility of economic and monetary union”

To make the euro work the Eurozone will need a far larger central budget. Mr Prodi also called for a single EU foreign policy under the Commission. He said, “Europe, as I have said many times in the past and will say again here today, will not succeed in contributing to peace and stability in the world, nor will it be able to fill a political role that matches its economic stature, or indeed be accepted in such a role, unless it is united in its actions. This problem will be resolved once and for all only if the necessary adjustments are made and the entire foreign and security policy of the Union is brought inside the Community system.”

Spectre thanks the UK Euro-No campaign for this information. Read more at  http://www.no-euro.com/.

WTO launches second front in war on poor

Following the inevitable all-night negotiating session, the World Trade Organisation launched a new trade round in Doha on Thursday. European Union and United States delegations succeeded in bullying the rest of the world into accepting the round, which signals a different kind of warfare from that being inflicted on Afghanistan, but one which in the not-very-long term could kill even more people.  The agreement included provisions to start negotiations on a host of new issues, including multilateral agreements on investment and competition rules.

Caroline Lucas, MEP for the Green Party of England and Wales, who was in Doha as part of the European Parliament’s delegation, said: "The pressure brought upon developing countries by the developed nations' combined strength is unforgivable. The ACP countries (developing countries linked to the EU through a special ‘partnership’ arrangement – Ed.) seem to have been bullied into line despite being on record as being opposed to opening negotiations on these new so-called ‘Singapore’ issues.”

The ACP countries were whipped into line following a threat that the WTO would not grant the normal waiver for the most recent EU-ACP trade agreement.  The much-trumpeted declaration that countries had the right to gain access to essential medicines was in reality merely a confirmation of the existing rules.

Nothing much could be done in the streets of Doha, but whilst trade negotiators were opening another front in the war against the poor, demonstrations ranging from tens of thousands to a few enlightened souls were seen in just about every country where the authorities have to put up with that kind of thing. Two lists, with links to press stories, can be found at http://www.indymedia.org/ and this website also.

British MPs see war devastation in Southern Iraq

A delegation of British Members of Parliament led by anti-war activist George Galloway visited the southern Iraqi city of Basra this week and saw for themselves the extensive destruction which has overtaken the region in two decades of almost unbroken war.

Iraq claims that tens of thousands of Iraqi children are suffering from cancer or birth deformities as a result of exposure to depleted uranium from 940,000 DU shells fired during the Gulf War.

Whilst the full extent of DU-related health problems hasnot been independently verified, the UN estimates that half a million Iraqi children have died from malnutrition and disease as a result of the US-led embargo.

Industry Group Sets Blairite Trade Agenda

…which, you might say, is hardly news. Now, however, Amsterdam-based citizens’ group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) has uncovered hard evidence of collusion between corporate capital and Britain’s “Labour” government. as the latter prepared for the now-concluded WTO negotiations in Doha. Read for yourself how another giant leap forward for liberalisation was agreed, and how corporate and government suits planned to undermine NGO campaigns opposing the General Agreement on Trade in Services at this website

Eric Wesselius of CEO and GATSwatch explained that “The LOTIS (Liberalisation of Trade in Services) minutes were discovered accidentally by Corporate Europe Observatory on 3 May 2001. They were located on a publicly accessible part of the IFSL web site, but not linked from the IFSL home page. Since a redesign of the IFSL web site in June/July 2001, the minutes were no longer accessible. Today they have been put back into the public domain.”

An analysis of the LOTIS minutes was published as a GATSwatch research paper last month. Go to http://www.gatswatch.org for more details.

Huge Anti-War Demo in Rome

Around 100,000  people marched through Rome’s city centre last Saturday to protest against the US-led war against Afghanistan. The marchers, broadly organised under the title Rome Social Forum, came from many different political currents and walks of life, and included many immigrants.  The colourful march, which featured street theatre, music and the playful forms of protest which have come to characterise the anti-globalisation movement, passed off in an appropriately peaceful fashion.

New Toys for Boys Cost German Taxpayers Top Euro

According to the Bundesrepublik’s Secretary of Defence Rudolf Scharping, German military engagement in Afghanistan at has already costs DM 50 and will rise to ten time sthat figure next year. The restructuring of the country’s army into an interventionist force de frappe will add DM 200 billion to existing military appropriations over the next 15 years.

Putin-Bush Love Issues Russia With Licence to Terrorise

The attempt this week by Russian President Vladimir Putin and US Junta leader Bush to pass themselves off as friends of “peace and progress” might be amusing were it not for the piles of corpses for which the two men must share responsibility. The US need for Russia’s support for its Afghan terror campaign will mean that Chechnyans can forget any expressions of concern, let alone help. As we have noted before in relation to Israel and Turkey, the American military-corporate machine’s friends can commit atrocities, occupy neighbouring countries, and conduct decades-long campaigns of state terror with impunity. Russia has now joined this elite little band.

The hypocrisy does not stop here. Whilst “Gee Whizz, I never knew we had so many bombs” Bush is lauded in the increasingly slavish mainstream media for cosmetic cuts in the stockpile of obsolete weapons of mass destruction, the US is boycotting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty conference in New York City. Go to this website to read more on this. As John Burroughs, executive director of the (US) Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy (http://www.lcnp.org) points out, "Bush's announced intention is to maintain about 2,000 operational long-range nuclear weapons for the next decade,” a course which “definitely does not fulfil the legal obligation under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of the United States and other nuclear-armed countries to eliminate their nuclear arsenals."

Another country whose terrorism against its own citizens gets the blind eye treatment is Iran, whose accommodation to the war on Afghanistan and support for the Northern Alliance has speeded up the rapprochement between the two country’s rulers. 

Last Sunday Donald Rumsfeld, Bush’s Secretary of Defence admitted that Iranian and US military advisers are working side by side with Afghan opposition forces trying to bring down the Taliban: "There are places in that country where there are some Iranian liaison people, as well as some American liaison people." Rumsfeld added that as a nation bordering Afghanistan, Iran has "a legitimate interest in what happens in that country" and can influence events on Afghan soil."  Ministerial level meetings ensued.

As Iranian opposition group Workers’ Left Unity commented, “The recent developments are not surprising. Iran has long been the main backer of the very forces that today the US and UK  claim to be the liberators of Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance. This Alliance whose record of human rights violations equals if not surpasses that of the Taliban and its ally the Taliban government of Iran are responsible for many atrocities in Afghanistan in the early 1990s following the defeat of the pro Soviet regime,” adding that “The US rapprochement with  the terrorist Islamic Republic of Iran proves once more that this war had nothing to do with fighting terrorism.”

WTC Disaster Site Dangerously Toxic

Six weeks after the attacks that reduced the World Trade Center to a pile of rubble in lower Manhattan, dust and fires continue to release toxic chemicals and metals into the air in quantities far greater than initially reported.  Although Environmental Protection Agency officials have consistently downplayed the environmental hazards, government reports obtained by the New York Daily News show that the  air and soil at the so-called “Ground Zero” disaster site contain dangerous levels of dioxins, PCBs,  benzene, lead, chromium, and other toxins. Go to this website for a fuller report.