Weekly News Review

Spectre wishes all of its readers a peaceful and prosperous 2003.

Not welcome here: all refugees in EU will be granted only temporary status

Secret discussions among ministers and civil servants in the Council of the European Union (the 15 EU governments) about the Directive proposed by the European Commission on the definition of 'refugee/subsidiary protection' raise two major causes for public concern, according to UK-based magazine and civil rights activist group Statewatch.

Firstly, from 2003, all new successful applicants for refugee or subsidiary protection status across the EU would have their situation reviewed regularly with a view to terminating their status as soon as possible.

Secondly, the EU is planning to break key parts of the Geneva Convention concerning exclusion from and termination of refugee status - so that despite the EU Member States' international obligations, fewer people will get refugee or other protection status in the EU.

Commenting, Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, said:

"We are entering the end-game: from 1991 onwards the EU told people fleeing from poverty that their applications for asylum would automatically be considered "manifestly unfounded". Now those seeking sanctuary from persecution, torture and inhuman treatment are only to be given temporary status as a matter of policy. Their status is to be under constant review so that they can be repatriated at the earliest opportunity (potentially even through forced return) if EU governments decide it is "safe" for them. Anyone with any morality or compassion will be appalled by this proposal. Any legislator with any principles will have to reject it."

The full report and analysis is available here

End of term report by environmentalists criticises Danish EU Presidency

The verdict issued this week by the European Environmental Bureau, which brings together the EU's leading environmental NGOs, was that while the Danish appeared to begin with good intentions and ambitions, but ended with mixed results.

In its traditional assessment of the achievements of the EU Presidency, the EEB commended the Danish Presidency for its work in four main areas - chemicals, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), emissions trading, and sustainable development - but criticised it for failing in five other key areas – CAP Reform, pesticides, environmental fiscal reform, environmental liability, and packaging waste - as well as for falling short of what was required on other issues and events, such as the Johannesburg Summit.

The EEB also criticises the Danish Presidency for failing to achieve sufficient respect for the environment in the enlargement process. It seemed that the Presidency’s successful closure of the enlargement negotiations had to be achieved “at almost any cost”, says the EEB’s Assessment.

To read the full report, go here

European Parliament: Left Euro-MPs condemn "destabilisation" of Venezuela

The GUE-NGL, the group of fifty progressive Members of the European Parliament, issued the following statement last weekend:

The European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) Group in the European Parliament reaffirms its support for the people of Venezuela, their institutions and their government in the face of attempts at destabilisation made by the same coalition which directed the failed coup d'etat in April against the government of Mr. Chavez.

  The "crime" of this government is to have blocked the privatisation of oil company PDVSA, the largest company in Latin America and the world's fifth largest oil exporter, which provides 15% of US imports. The Chavez government wants also to devote more resources from the oil industry to programmes for development and fighting poverty.

The GUE/NGL Group condemns the recent acts of violence and intimidation carried out by the opposition, in particular, the destruction on 6 December of the MVR headquarters, close to Mr. Chavez, the sabotage of vital elements of the oil production chain, the destruction of dairy trucks and buses, and the acts of violence committed, in particular, those carried out by bands of motorcyclists who are attacking tradesmen and contractors who do not want to back the general strike, etc.

The GUE/NGL Group launches an appeal to the European media to give coverage to the immense popular support for the current government and for the democratic, economic and social reforms that it has carried out.

  The GUE/NGL Group asks the European authorities not to support or recognise, in whatever form it takes, the movement which is trying to topple the government. It appeals to European companies present in Venezuela not to participate in this movement.

The condemnation comes just as, for virtually the first time in its history, the Organisation of American States (OAS) openly defied the will of the US. Go here to read about the unanimous backing for the democratically-elected government of Venezuela in the face of the Bush gang's attempts to create the conditions for a coup.

European Parliament: Human Rights Prize Winner prevented from leaving Israel

Izzat Ghazzawi, winner of the Sakharov Prize in 2001, was prohibited from leaving the Palestinian territory and prevented from going to Strasbourg in order to take part in the ceremony of commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the Sakharov Price, planned for this Tuesday 17 December.  The Prize is awarded every year by the European Parliament to the person whom it judges to have made the most significant contribution to human rights.

  Mr Ghazzawi arrived at the Israeli Kalandia Camp "check point" on Monday morning. He had with him an official authorisation from the Israeli authorities to leave the territory, but this cut no ice with the IDF soldiers guarding the checkpoint, who prevented him from leaving.

  Francis Wurtz, MEP, President of the GUE/NGL group and his colleague Luisa Morgantini, President of the delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council, both expressed their  "indignation at this humiliation of Mr Izzat Ghazzawi, of the entire Palestinian people as well as of the European Parliament." 

  Wurtz added that his group "condemns this unacceptable prohibition and asks the President of the European Parliament, Mr Cox, to send a stiff protest to the Israeli government."

Weapons Inspectors Denied Access To UK Bomb Factory

MEP to appeal directly to defence minister Geoff Hoon

A Team of 20 weapons inspectors led by Green MEP Caroline Lucas and TV satirist Mark Thomas were refused access last week to the UK's nuclear weapons factory in Berkshire. The group had hoped to conduct a 'citizens' inspection' of the UK's capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction and seek reassurance that a #2.5bn investment in Aldermaston announced in the summer will not contravene international law, in parallel with the UN mission currently operating in Iraq.

But military police guarding the base refused to let the team out of the car park. Dr Lucas, who represents South East England and is a member of the European Parliament's Peace Intergroup, said:

"We were refused access to the weapons site despite our having a clear mandate from constituents to ensure the facility was not being used to amass weapons of mass destruction or engage in any activity which contravenes international law.

"We particularly sought an assurance that the base will not be used to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons to succeed Trident, as has been suggested in the media and elsewhere. Any such development would constitute a clear 'material breach' of the UN Non Proliferation Treaty, of which the UK is a signatory and is binding in international law."

The inspectors also fear the planned developments will make the base an increased target for terrorist attack and will be fundamentally undemocratic, since any planning applications will be submitted by the Ministry of Defence and neither the planning authority or residents will have any right to influence the planning process.

The #2.5 development at Aldermaston is the Government's response to a 1998 Strategic Defence Review, which called for the base to maintain "a capacity to design a successor warhead to Trident" - despite any such research being prohibited by the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"In the context of the current threat of war against Iraq for its flagrant disregard for international law and Saddam's history of production and use of weapons of mass destruction it is clear the world has had enough of bullying regimes riding roughshod over international law and maintaining power by the threat or use of force.

"I have a clear mandate from constituents to seek assurances that, despite appearances to the contrary, the UK is not such a regime. As the US has consistently asserted of Iraq - if the Government had nothing unlawful to hide it would have had no problem letting the inspectors in.

"Since we have been denied access we can only assume the worst. I will now be writing direct to Defence Minister Geoff Hoon to demand an explanation - and access to the base. If it transpires Aldermaston is being used to develop weapons in breach of the Non-Proliferation Treaty it will be a matter for the International Court of Justice and the UN Security Council."

You can sign a petition to the UN demanding full inspection of US weapons of mass destruction here

Climate change fears confirmed as 2002 second warmest year on record

Further evidence that climate change is already happening was revealed today when the World Meterological Organisation announced that 2002 has been the second hottest year on record.

Commenting on the news, Kate Hampton, Climate Change Campaigner at Friends of the Earth International said:

"These figures are further evidence that burning fossil fuels is causing massive changes to the atmosphere and affecting our climate. If we do not take cut emissions fast, increasingly frequent and severe storms, droughts and floods are likely to threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of people throughout the globe.

"All governments must re-double their efforts to cut emissions and persuade the Bush administration to accept the Kyoto Protocol. Subsidies for fossil fuels must be abolished and oil companies must be forced to pay the price of their disregard for the environment. "

Go to http://www.foei.org for more

The British "no" campaign has published a review of the first full year of the euro, showing the serious economic problems the Eurozone has faced. At the beginning of the year when euro notes and coins were launched, politicians from both Britain and the Eurozone predicted that it would lead to lower prices, more jobs and higher growth. In fact, there have been significant price rises, constant tensions over the Stability Pact, and the single interest rate has led to lower growth and rising unemployment. Click on here for a copy.

Despite all the hype, the UN-sponsored world summit on sustainable development in South Africa in August could not introduce any real constraints because they would have meant re-examining globalisation. So could sustainable development just be a pretext for maintaining a growth that must be, by nature, destructive to the environment? Read Sadruddin Aga Khan's answer here

Congratulations to Spectre's friends at the Northern Alaska Environmental Center and all the people and other inhabitants of Alaska.

As the result of a federal district court decision, tens of millions of acres of wild, road-free forests in the United States have won a reprieve from the chainsaws and bulldozers. "This is great day for the Tongass and Chugach National Forests," said Michael Finkelstein, Campaign Director of the Alaska Rainforest Campaign. Of all the 50 states, Mr Finkelstein said, "Alaska has the most at stake. One-fourth of the forest acres protected by the roadless rule are located in the Tongass and Chugach National Forests." Alaska Coalition Director Tim Bristol added that the decision "also sends a strong message that the Bush Administration cannot simply defer to its timber industry supporters. The Administration has a responsibility to the American public to defend this vital piece of public lands policy." Including  Alaska's forests, the current rules safeguard 58 million acres of road free national forest lands from destructive road building and logging.

Latest Islip Unity Group Political Newsletter contains articles on the recent National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, Kissinger, the Moron's visit to Prague, and New Labour Write to midhurst14@aol.com for more information. ISLIP was set up in London following the dissolution of the Communist party of Great Britain and is "committed to Communist and Left unity".

Liberation's last issue for 2002 focuses on the Bush-Blair gang's preparations for mass murder in the gulf. Also contains articles on Israeli dissidents, Lula's triumph, Colombia and Ecuador. See our Progressive Publications List for how to subscribe.