Weekly News Review

17th April 2004

Oxfam: Big companies are winners from skewed EU sugar regime that hurts poor countries

EU taxpayers are giving €819m in subsidies each year to six European sugar processing companies to dump unwanted sugar on world markets, according to new research from the international agency Oxfam. Meanwhile, efficient sugar producers from developing countries are denied the chance to trade their way out of poverty.

The European Commission is currently proposing to reform Europe’s sugar sector but Oxfam says the proposals, as they stand, will do nothing to help small farmers in Europe and will instead continue to allow big companies to hurt developing country farmers by dumping subsidized sugar.

Europe’s sugar regime rewards the gross over-production of sugar by big companies and rich farmers and creates instability on the world market. This exacerbates poverty in the developing world, says Oxfam.

Beghin Say (France), Sudzucker (Germany), and Tate and Lyle (Britain) are among the companies named in Oxfam’s new report, available here Oxfam has estimated that these companies receive €236m, €201m, and €158m respectively in EU export subsidies, challenging the EU’s claim that it is a “non-subsidising exporter” and using new analysis to prove that the EU is in fact the world’s biggest subsidizer and dumps around 5 million tonnes of sugar on the world market every year. Brazil and Thailand lose an estimated $494m and $151m respectively each year because of European sugar dumping on world markets, says Oxfam.

Much trumpeted preferential access schemes are not as generous as the EU makes out. Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are allowed limited access to the EU market under the “Everything But Arms” initiative but Oxfam’s report reveals that the total annual quota allowance for the 49 LDCs is equivalent to only three days’ EU consumption. Three of the world’s poorest countries, Mozambique, Malawi and Ethiopia, are estimated to have lost $238m since 2001 in potential earnings from sugar because of these limited quotas.

Jo Leadbeater, Head of Oxfam International’s EU Advocacy Office said: “This is a sugar scandal and there is nothing sweet about it. The EU sugar regime is long overdue for reform. The system rewards big companies and rich farmers with EU taxpayers’ and consumers’ money, while denying people in the developing world the chance to trade their way out of poverty. The madness is that current proposals to reform the sugar regime will make things even worse, hurting small farmers in Europe as well as the poorest countries in the world while allowing big farmers to continue dumping. Rhetoric on reform in Brussels must be matched with meaningful action to change the regime in a way that benefits developing country producers and puts a stop to EU overproduction and export dumping”.

Oxfam’s report is calling for reforms that end EU export dumping, reduce European production levels and increase access to Europe’s markets for LDCs at fair prices. Efforts to protect developing countries and small sugar farmers in the North from negative adjustment costs must also be made. The sugar regime is under discussion at the EU at the moment and Oxfam is calling on ministers to make reform a priority.

Jo Leadbeater added: “Sugar is the one commodity on which Europe could make progress to make trade fair this year. Yet it seems to be slipping off the European agenda. It is imperative that pressure from vested interest groups is not allowed to win the debate before it’s even started and that we don’t lose the impetus for meaningful reform”.

Right-wing dominance of European Parliament to be reinforced in coming elections

The centre-right is set to dominate again in the European Parliament after elections in June, a new report predicts.

Based on the premise that parties in government will do badly and that large parties in opposition will do well, the study for public affairs company Burson-Marsteller predicts that while the centre-right may make a loss in several smaller member states, it will more than make up for it in Germany, Poland and the UK.

Read more here

While the diplomats talk, NASA supports West Bank settlement.


On the eve of the Bush-Sharon summit in which the future of Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements is at stake, it turns out that a major agency of the United States Government - the National Space and Aeronautics Agency, NASA – is already on the way to granting both recognition and financial sustenance to the settlement-city of Ariel, which constitutes a major focus of Sharon's land-grabbing and annexation program.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), at Pasadena, California has expressed its interest in a new robotics program developed by researchers at the "College of Judea and Samaria" in the Ariel settlement, for incorporation into the planned 2009 robotic mission to Mars. In addition to space exploration, these new robotic techniques are expected to have terrestrial applications such as "Autonomous mobile robots performing security and defence tasks, patrolling roads and hostile areas" (sic!).

Israeli peace group Gush Shalom sees settlements as the main obstacle on the way to peace with the Palestinians. A spokesperson for the group said “We have many years campaigned for boycotting the products of settlements - with a significant follow-up of tens of thousands of Israeli households. We are very concerned at international institutions lending support and legitimacy to settlements such as Ariel. We call upon you to express your concern to these institutes, using either the sample letter appearing below or your own text.”

For further information see the Ariel college's own announcement

here and the article here

Venezuela coup victims sue US Ambassador

An association of victims of the April 11, 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez have said that they will file court papers at the World Court in the Hague and in US courts, charging US Ambassador to Venezuela, Charles Shapiro, for his involvement in sniper shootings at the Llaguno Bridge in downtown Caracas.

According to Cort Greene from the pro-Chavez Hands Off Venezuela Campaign, Charles Shapiro is no stranger to being a participant with military coups.

Shapiro was Deputy Chief of the Mission at the US Embassy in Chile at the time of the coup against the democratically-elected President Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973. The U.S government-inspired coup, carried out by the CIA and Armed Forces of Chile, left in place a terrorist dictatorship for more than a decade.

In a statement by Merly Morales, spokeswoman for the lawyers of the ASOVIC (Association of Victims of the April 11, 2002 Coup) ,"there are elements for conviction, which in our judgement serve as evidence to ask for the opening of an inquiry before the US Courts and the appropriate international tribunals" against Ambassador Shapiro.

Evidence include special courses in assault tactics given by US authorities to members of the Caracas Metropolitan Police Phoenix Group and the Chacao and Baruta Municipal Police in the months leading up to the coup. These police units allegedly spearheaded the coup attempt.

The ASOVIC lawyers will also present tape recordings of conversations between Caracas Police Commissioner Forero and Ambassador Shapiro during the hours of fighting with references that the Phoenix Group should use long-range rifles to neutralize the "talibans" who the police referred to as the pro-Chavez supporters at the Miraflores Palace, near the Llaguno Bridge.

The conversations between the US Ambassador and top cop Forero, who participated in the coup, were recorded in the Center of Operations of the Metropolitan Police on April 11, 2002.

According to Merly Morales, there is also evidence that is "presented by the (Chavez) administration relating to the unauthorized presence in Venezuelan territory of US ships on April 11, as well as US military personnel in the military installations at Fort Tiuna that would lead one to believe that there was a act of State committed against the constitutional government of Venezuela that directly affected members of our association that were injured and killed.

Thanks to Maria Engqvist of  ANNCOL for this report.

Okay, we admit it, we’re glad we’re not US citizens not just for the obvious reasons but because it means we don’t have to decide whether to vote for Kerry in an attempt to get rid of Bush. At least Kerry doesn’t think Jesus is coming “back” to institute the Kingdom of Heaven by nuking everyone who can pronounce the letter “W” properly, but beyond that? Well, take a look at the Kerry’s own words here and you’ll lose any illusions you may have had. I am afraid we are going to have to do this ourselves.

The Spring 2004 issue of Independent Progressive Politics News (IPPN), the US quarterly which covers the activities of left and environmentalist parties throughout the country, and an antidote to stupid anti-Americanism, is now out. Go to here to see how to subscribe, or how to order a free sample issue. You can also read a sample of articles from this latest and earlier editions.