EU attacks Bush junta’s climate change scheme

22 February, 2002

EU: Protestors = Terrorists

The current Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union has presented the EU Working Party on Terrorism with a draft Council Decision which would introduce the exchange of information on suspected protestors to protect EU Summits and other international meetings. What appeared to be a "maverick" idea from the Spanish Presidency has now become a serious proposition. The draft Decision openly admits that the Council Framework Decision on defining terrorism includes: "violence and criminal damage

orchestrated by radical extremist groups, clearly terrorising society, to which the Union has reacted by including such acts in Article 1 of the Framework Decision on combating terrorism". The formal text of the draft Decision says that information should be exchanged on: "incidents caused by violent radical groups with terrorist links.. and where appropriate, prosecuting violent urban youthful radicalism increasingly used by terrorist organisations to

achieve their criminal aims, at summits and other events arranged by various Community and international organisations". Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor of the UK magazine and website Statewatch, said: "To link protest groups to terrorism under the EU Framework Decision defining terrorism confirms the worst fears of civil society that, despite assurances to the contrary, this was always the intention of a majority of EU governments. Protest groups are not terrorist organisations. There is no evidence whatsoever that groups protesting, for example, against the effects of globalisation, have any links with real terrorist groups. This proposal has to be thrown in the dustbin". Go to this website for more.

EU leaders and member state politicians lined up this week to attack the US government’s supposed alternative to the Kyoto protocol, a unilateral US plan to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Rejecting Kyoto, a UN plan to bring about balanced and equitable reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other climate-altering gasses, was one of Bush’s first acts following the coup d’état which brought him to power.  The Clinton administration had previously blown hot and cold on the protocol, which in any case would have been difficult to get through Congress, so in a sense Bush’s far-right gang are only continuing the policies of their predecessors. According to some European politicians, including EU environment commissioner Margo Wallström, the new plan will allow emissions to continue to increase greenhouse gas emissions, outlined yesterday by president George Bush.

Bush's proposal is to bring about a “cut” in emissions of 18% before 2012, but this figure would be adjusted to take into account economic growth. If growth is strong, in other words, emissions could increase. If there is recession, on the other hand, they would have gone down anyway. US emissions relative to national economic growth by 18% between now and 2012. Moreover, the plan relies on voluntary commitments, which of course don’t work, and tax breaks. Giving tax breaks to corporations reducing polluting outputs is comparable to granting handsome rewards to burglars who give up housebreaking. Friends of the Earth (FoE), unrestrained by diplomatic word-mincing, described oil man Bush’s plan as a "con", while Greenpeace estimated that US emissions would reach 20% above current levels by 2012, rather than the cut of  7% below the level recorded in 1990 required by Kyoto. Emissions from the US currently stand 15% above this, so the required cut would be much greater.

Although the Commission has in the past made serious attempts to persuade member states to comply with Kyoto, there remains a certain hypocrisy in national politicians righteous indignation with Bush.  Attacks from environment ministers in Germany and France don’t quite square with the behaviour of those countries, which preferred to concoct a weak agreement, the UN Gothenborg accord, on air pollution rather than adhere to stronger proposals from the European Commission backed up by the European Parliament. The UK has, on paper, a better record, but much of this comes from the 1980s Tory government’s two-stage destruction of the British coal industry and its general undermining of the country’s manufacturing and heavy industry. If you stop making things, it’s easy to be green.

The Commission itself has failed to publicise the fact that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are falling more slowly than necessary, according to the EU’s own official environment watchdog, the European Environment Agency (EEA).  EEA director Domingo Jiménes-Beltrán told Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter that "The Commission has been informed and knows how things are. But they have chosen not to show it."  In particular, the disappointing figures are left out of a report to be presented to the forthcoming EU summit in Barcelona.

Mr Jiménes-Beltrán told the daily that the Commission is misleading the public by publishing outdated figures instead of the latest available statistics, which show that energy consumption in the southern EU member countries is going in the wrong direction.

"The goal of the EU is that transport should grow less than economic growth. That goal will not be reached, and that means more greenhouse gasses. This is a piece of important information that must be made known," says Mr. Jiménes-Beltrán, adding that for the EU to meet its targets would now take “a miracle”.

The attack, coming not from an environmental NGO but from within an official EU agency, is particularly embarrassing for environment commissioner Margot Wallstrom, coming as it does in a newspaper in her own country, where she retains a green image which, since her appointment, she has done little to justify.

Central and Eastern European countries miss out on promised EU bounty

  Of 4 billion euros Even tough the EU promised to the ten Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries which have applied to join the EU, only about 200million has actually been paid. ISPA, the Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-Accession (ISPA), allocates funds for environmental and transport projects in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Just over a third is earmarked for Poland, by far the biggest applicant, but only one scheme, a sewage treatment plant, has actually seen the cash..

The scandal has arisen because in almost all cases at least a quarter of the money for a project has to come from domestic sources, with ISPA providing the rest. In addition, small schemes – with a total value under 5m euros, are excluded. The money to meet 25% or more of the cost of major projects simply isn’t available .

Meanwhile in another EU applicant, Malta, the anti-EU Campaign for National Independence is preparing to take legal action against the state-owned Public Broadcasting Station if it does not give coverage to those who are against Malta's membership in the EU.

The national Maltese broadcasting station is legally obliged to maintain impartiality on the issue, which CNI alleges it is failing to do. The row centres on visits from two foreign politicians, a British Tory “euro-sceptic” and the pro-EU Cypriot foreign minister.

Dr Mifsud Bonnici, CNI chair and former prime minister of Malta, is insisting that the two be given equal coverage, and has threatened legal action if this is not the case.

EU fails to meet pesticide assessment deadline

Belgian Green MEP Paul Lannoye, the European Parliament’s Rapporteur (the member responsible for drafting an initial response to a proposed measure) has attacked the EU’s method of assessing pesticides, claiming that it leads in some cases to “pointless evaluations” whilst on the other hand allowing some toxic substances to continue in use. The Commission has asked the Parliament to approve a proposal which will lead to the deadline for what should have been a decade-long process of assessment to be put back from 2003 to 2008.  Mr Lannoye, faced with what amounts to a fait accompli, has little choice but to accept the delay, but is attempting to insist that remaining unassessed substances to be taken in a priority order, with the most dangerous having to meet the original deadline.  He also wants a commitment to exclude from approval any substances which are either carcinogenic, toxic to reproduction, endocrine disrupting, persistent in the environment or bio-accumulating. This, however, is likely to be considerably diluted by amendments from MEPs from other political groups.

English High Court rules against “Metric Martyrs”: Eurofanatics have their .4528kg of flesh

The story so far: last November the Court of Appeal in England refused an appeal from two market traders from Sunderland in the North East of England who were found guilty of selling bananas in pounds and ounces. The conviction came despite the fact that the price per kilo was also clearly marked, because trades were clearly made without reference to the metric measures and using an old-fashioned mechanical scale which was marked only in pounds and ounces. Non-British readers should know that, because the metric system has been taught in schools since the early 1970s, it is broadly understood by most people who have yet to kiss goodbye to their 40s. Older people are often don’t know a kilo from a hole in the ground. The obvious solution to this is dual marking, but this goes against the European Union’s fanatically harmonising, standardising, centralising agenda.

The heart of the market traders’ appeal was that the 1985 Weights and Measures Act was still in force and gave equal legal status to metric and imperial measures in trade. The opposing prosecution's argument was that that Act was amended by government ministers using administrative orders in 1994, authorised by the European Communities Act, in order to comply with EC directives that required metric measures.

  In Court, Mr Michael Shrimpton, representing the five Metric Martyrs, said that Parliament used express and clear words when passing the 1985 Weights and Measures Act, allowing imperial units. In so doing, he said, it overruled the 1972 European Communities Act in the field of weights and measures.

The court agreed early on that no British Act of Parliament had superiority over any future Act of Parliament – in other words, you can’t pass a law saying that something will go on for ever, or for five years, and have future lawmakers bound by this. Nevertheless, Ms Eleanor Sharpston QC, representing the prosecuting local authorities, argued that the 1972 European Communities Act was special, a new legal order; powerful enough to break the fundamental constitutional rule that no Parliament could bind its successor; exceptional enough to break the canon that, in a clash of legislation, the later Act overrides the earlier Act; extraordinary enough to empower a minister to overturn future primary legislation by means of secondary legislation.

Using case law, Mr Shrimpton demonstrated that it is not possible for Parliament to give itself a power that can be projected into the future and bind Parliaments yet to come. He argued that the 1972 European Communities Act gave ministers no power to overturn any future Act of Parliament by means of administrative orders, such as statutory instruments.

The Court rejected, however, the contention that the abolition of the imperial system of measures contravened the fundamental rights to free speech contained in the Human Rights Act, October 2000. It said this is because traders were still allowed to use imperial units as supplementary pricing indicators. Nevertheless, the court acknowledged that in 2010, when use of supplementary information is prohibited, there could be an appeal on these grounds.

The Martyrs’ latest appeal, to the High Court, also failed.  One of the five convicted traders, Mr Neil Herron, said that “For the first time in British legal history a court of law has failed to apply an Act of Parliament. This case has exposed clearly and simply who now governs Britain. An Act of our own parliament has been overruled by EU legislation. The British people now know exactly what their own elected representatives have done in their name without their consent.”

The case, though unfortunate for those who have been criminalised for the heinous felony of flogging bananas using a system of weights that customers can understand, does have its positive side. The British electorate, who will soon be called upon to decide whether they want to replace the pound with the euro, can now quite clearly see just what kind of people they are dealing with: authoritarian, utterly unreasonable, and seriously weird.

One last thing occurs to us: given that the Blairites appear to be serious about legalising cannabis, you may soon be able to buy 7 grams of the stuff with impunity…but woe betide the hapless smoker who attempts to score a quarter of an ounce.

Go to this website for more information, or to make a donation to the martyrs’ defence fund.

Indymedia centres raided in Italy

On the morning of Wednesday 20 February 2002, Italian police raided three social centres in Florence, Turin and Bologna, as well as a Cobas trade union building in Taranto (Sicily) as part of a nationwide operation linked to events at the G8 summit in July in Genoa, and aimed at the Indymedia network. The explicit aim of the searches was to seize audio, photograph and video material collected by the network to document events in Genoa. In a press statement that followed the raids, Indymedia Italy labelled the searches as "an attack against freedom of information", and explained that "Indymedia has no offices, but works through the thousands of people who contribute to the website ... to produce a free and independent information". Furthermore, they stressed that the material sought by investigators was "all freely available on our website". The searches were conducted with the use of dozens of Carabinieri (Italy’s militarised police force) in riot gear, and masses of material was confiscated, including material which had nothing to do with the G8 summit, as well as computers which were vital for running numerous social and cultural activities in which the centre is involved. Go to this website for more.

Quote of the week

"Donald Rumsfeld strongly implied last night that the Department of Defense is not running covert operations in its military operations. The truth of the matter is that U.S. psywar and covert operations against American citizens and allied countries are expanding more rapidly today than at any other time in U.S. history. The program has several clear levels. For example, John Poindexter, a national security perjurer who supervised the Iran-Contra disaster, has been quietly appointed to lead the new Defense Department 'Information Awareness Office'.... Its task is high-tech tapping of computer networks in the United States and abroad. Then, National Security Directives mandate use of information warfare techniques to disrupt and sabotage critics of Bush's policies. The White House Office of

Drug Control Policy is today running television promotions that claim smoking marijuana equals supporting terrorism. And the Pentagon is pushing for expanded authorization of what it calls 'the blackest of black' covert operations against people it regards as opponents. These are developments during the last week alone. This is a pattern of behavior, it is a policy, and it is not an accident. It's a program of action by the present administration to utilize federal power to confuse, deceive or damage anyone who might disagree with them, including the American public."

Christopher Simpson, associate professor of communication at American University

US Policy Think Tank Releases New Report on Cuba's Successful Organic Farms

Cuba's successful switch from chemical-intensive to sustainable agriculture carried the island nation back from the brink of a national food crisis brought on by the 1990 collapse of trade relations with the former socialist bloc. This fascinating case demonstrates that organic agriculture could actually work as the basis of an entire nation's  farming sector, putting the lie to the oft-repeated myth that "organic farming could never feed the world," according to a new book-length report issued by Food First/The Institute for Food and Development Policy, a food policy think tank based in the United States.

The multi-author report, Sustainable Agriculture and Resistance: Transforming Food Production in Cuba, is largely written by Cuban experts on agricultural production, and represents the first time Cubans have made public the details of this enormous agricultural transformation.

Go to this website for more details. Further articles about Cuba’s sustainable agriculture system can be found at this website 

In brief

South Africa criticises Zimbabwe sanctions: In the week that EU foreign ministers voted unanimously to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe in reaction to President Robert Mugabe's alleged refusal to co-operate with election observers, Aziz Pahad, South Africa’s Deputy Foreign Minister, said: "It is my view that the withdrawal of the EU observers is a tactical mistake because the more observers there are in Zimbabwe, the more you can deal with allegations of violence or vote-rigging."  The Zimbabwean government, in fashionable language, has accused the EU of "economic terrorism". The US, that well-known bastion of free and fair elections, is expected to impose sanctions of its own in the wake of the EU decision.

More UK trade unions are turning against the euro. The ASLEF railway workers’ union carries the anti-euro “no” campaign’s “never mind the euro, where’s our trains?” poster on the front cover of its magazine, and argues that joining the euro would be a disaster for public services.  The union, which mainly represents drivers, points out that “(UK finance minister) Gordon Brown was told that his plans to raise spending on schools and hospitals would be against the rules if Britain were inside the single currency.”  Britain’s biggest trade union, Unison, has warned that joining the euro would lead to massive cutbacks in public services.  Bill Morris of the T&G union, the country’s second largest, has called on the government to rule out a referendum this Parliament, and concentrate on public services.

Germany is to cut public spending to meet euro rules. German Finance Minister Hans Eichel wants huge reductions in public spending to reduce the country's budget deficit.

The current deficit is almost 50 bn euros, about 2.7% of GDP, close to, but inside, the EU stability pact’s 3% ceiling. Nevertheless, the EU Commission has expressed its concern, though it stopped short of any formal action. Smaller countries cannot expect the same leniency. 

Dutch Socialist Party employee and peace activist Krista van Velzen is safely back in the Netherlands follwoing her arrest in Scotland at the anti-Trident “Block and Roll”action last week. Ms Van Velzen, who according to opinion polls will be elected an MP in May, said that  police “recognised me immediately from previous actions and so arrested me first.I had a choice between going straight to court or coming back later. In the meantime I’ve written to the authorities explaining that the wrong people were arrested. It wasn’t us but the people on the other side of the fence who were preparing to commit a crime against humanity.” As we reported last week, members of the British and Scottish parliaments were also among those arrested, as were many activists from overseas. Spectre sends best wishes to Krista, who is known to us through the fact that her party is one of Spectre’s most generous supporters. Go to this website for more information about the blockade and upcoming Trident Ploughshares actions.

Anarchist picture library on line: The Anarchist Black Cross Network site is hosting a new image library of over 200 anarchist and anti-prison graphics. Go to this website to see the collection.

Green Left Weekly, Australia's socialist newspaper, this week features more on the Australian government’s racist refugee policies. It's now common knowledge that Coalition government ministers deceived voters during last year's federal election campaign about "boat people" having thrown their children overboard. Green Left Weekly explains why John Howard and his ministers have to lie about refugees. Go to ths website

This week’s recommended website

If you thought “President” Bush and his bunch of thugs were impossible to satirise, think again. Or who knows, maybe it isn’t satire at all. In any case, thanks to reader Aaron McLoughlin for recommending this website, a pick we heartily endorse.