Weekly News Review

22 November, 2002

This week's oil spill disaster in Spanish waters shows the “crying need for tough new liability laws for environmental damage” according to environmentalist group Friends of the Earth.

The call came as it emerged that the tanker Prestige  – which threatens an environmental catastrophe off the Spanish coast following its sinking and subsequent splitting in two - is registered in Bahamas, was managed in Greece, and carried oil for a Swiss company (with mostly British directors) whose ultimate owners are Russian. The oil industry has

fiercely opposed liability for the impacts on biodiversity for a number of years [2].

Later this month the European Parliament is due to discuss a draft EU Liability Directive. However the proposal has been criticised for being so weak it is practically useless.

Although there have been numerous serious oil spills around the coast of Europe over the last fifteen years the question of who pays for the damage caused to the environment and peoples’ livelihoods has not been resolved. Communities are often left footing the bill many years after an incident has happened. Friends of the Earth says that oil companies must be made fully liable for their pollution.

“Once again a European coast is under threat from a massive oil slick. Although these incidents happen with depressing regularity nothing has been done to make oil companies still avoid paying for the damage caused to the environment and peoples livelihoods. Politicians must resist the disgraceful lobbying from the oil industry and their friends and draw up tough rules that ensure people and the environment are put ahead of big business,” Friends of the Earth’s pollution campaigner Matt Phillips said today.

Convention: NGOs demand human rights guarantees


Four leading EU NGOs - the Standing Committee of experts on international immigration, refugee and criminal law (the "Meijers Committee"), Immigration Law Practitioners' Association (ILPA), European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and Statewatch - have submitted 18 demands in a joint submission to the "Convention on the future of Europe".

The primary concern expressed by the NGOs is that there is not in place adequate or effective judicial, parliamentary and public accountability nor guarantees of full compliance with human rights obligations in the fields of immigration and asylum, policing and legal cooperation (justice and home affairs).

The joint submission demands include:

1. The abolition of the "third pillar" (policing and criminal law) of the EU by fully merging it into the "first pillar". This will ensure greater democratic scrutiny and that individuals can enforce their rights in national courts.

2. The rules on external relations in the "third pillar" should also be brought under "first pillar" rules which would ensure parliamentary and public scrutiny of proposed agreements with non-EU states and organisations on policing and criminal law (covering, for example, the proposed EU-US agreement on judicial cooperation in criminal matters).

3. Normal EC decision-making procedures should be applied to all immigration and asylum matters and they should be subject to human rights obligations in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights.

4. If a European Border Guard is created it should be a civilian body not a police or military force.

5. The EU should formally accede to the European Convention on Human Rights to ensure effective independent scrutiny of EU measures with human rights implications which is particularly necessary in fields such as policing and asylum.

6. All EU institutions and bodies and agencies (for example, Europol and the Schengen Information System) created by it should be subject to the same rules of accountability, judicial control and rules on public access to documents.

7. The powers of the European Ombudsman should be strengthened (by allowing the Ombudsman to take case directly to court) and extended to ensure the protection of human rights.

8. The Council of the European Union (the 15 EU governments) should be obliged to meet in public when making legislative decisions.

9. The role of national parliaments to effectively scrutinise measures should be significantly increased and parliamentary timetables should be amended to allow civil society to make its views known. National and European parliaments should, in addition to their current roles, scrutinise the implementation of EU policies/measures.

10. The European Court of Justice should have full jurisdiction in justice and home affairs.

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, commented that "The policies and practices affecting the fundamental freedoms and liberties of people in the EU must be subject to effective and transparent judicial, parliamentary and public scrutiny and human rights protection.

This is not the case at the moment. It is a prerequisite of a democratic Europe that these standards now be put in place"

You can read the full text of the joint submission here

European Commission snubs left MEPs


A conference organised last week by the GUE/NGL, the fifty-strong grouping of left Euro-MPs, on “Changing the Direction of Water Policy” was deprived of an opportunity to share the wisdom of the European Commission when the Eurocrats refused to participate. The European Commission was invited to give participants an update on the most recent EU legislation and policy in the water field.


However, Catherine Day, Director General for the Environment wrote to Pernille Frahm, Vice-President of the GUE/NGL saying: "I do not feel it would be appropriate for the Commission to participate in view of our obligation to remain neutral on such questions."


A spokesperson for the group said "The Commission refused to speak at the conference claiming that its substance was too anti-privatisation. However, on 20 November the Commission will participate in a conference organised by the water industry as represented by EUREAU—“the voice of Europe's water and wastewater sector” which “represents the common interests of its member associations to the Community institutions”."


Catherine Day describes the Commission's relationship with EUREAU in the conference material: "The European water industry as represented by EUREAU is a major stakeholder and one of our most effective partners."


President of the GUE/NGL Group, Francis Wurtz reacted: "It is unacceptable for the Commission to claim to be neutral. Their role is to develop and implement Community water policy. The officials of the Commission should be carrying out the same role at both conferences - updating participants on the work it does. They should participate in conferences organised by both pro-privatisation organisations such as EUREAU and anti-privatisation organisations such as the ones at our conference. We would have been happy to welcome them to our conference. More importantly, we would like them to also see us as partners in developing European water policy."


Read about just one of the places suffering from the attentions of the water thieves whose company the Commission prefers to that of the elected representatives of the people they are supposed to serve here:

"Active bankwatchers" sought to help halt destruction


The NGO CEE Bankwatch Network, which keeps an eye on the environmentally destructive activities of the EU's European Investment Bank and other International Financial Institutions (IFIs), has launched a new service for activists known as the 'Active Bankwatchers' initiative. CEE Bankwatch Network spokesperson Magda Stoczkiewicz expained that "to help us fighting destructive IFIs projects you may register at active.bankwatch.org  We will send you action alerts and ask for your help in pressing banks and governments. The first alert concerns EIB financing of a road-building project in Bulgaria, which the group would like help in drawing to the attention of EIB President, Philippe Maystadt. "Despite the environmental and health hazards, and despite the fact that this project is currently being continued illegally, the European Investment Bank is providing a 40 million euro loan for construction." said Ms Stoczkiewicz.

For more information on this issue,  visit here

To receive more alerts subscribe at active.bankwatch.org


Stop the War!


Protest marches against the war are now occurring on a weekly basis throughout the world, whilst we have yet to notice a single march demanding military action against Iraq. here is the best site to keep up with growing antiwar movement in the US.

US Socialists call for an end to military aid to Philippines


The Socialist Party USA has issued the following statement on events in the Philippines: Despite popular opposition from the people of the Philippines, President Bush has begun a military build-up in the island nation.  The pretext for US military aid to the Macapagal-Arroyo regime was the need to combat the Abu Sayyaf — an Islamist group of 90 formerly CIA-sponsored terrorists. 


However, the US State Department has made it clear that it will not stop with Abu Sayyaf: On August 9, 2002, Secretary of State Colin Powell officially designated the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist organizations.  Slowly, the American military has shifted its attention away from Abu Sayyaf and toward the Communist insurgency.


If the United States government were truly concerned with ending terrorism and promoting stability in the Philippines, it would encourage peace talks between the Filipino government and the CPP.  Instead, in classic Vietnam style, the US is aggravating a civil war — and taking the side of the corrupt and authoritarian government.


The Socialist Party USA demands an immediate withdrawal of the US military and self-determination for the Filipino people.  Talks between the CPP and the Philippine government, free of US involvement, are the only way that peace and justice can be achieved in the Philippines.



Know your enemy


The annual report by the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation is now available on line. The report will be the basis of the WTO Trade Policy Review Body's annual review on 11 December 2002 of developments in the international trading environment and multilateral

trading system, and so makes interesting reading. Catch up with it here


The land where terror won


An author and activist talks about the atrocities committed in Guatemala, the people too frightened to speak of it and America's shameful support of the perpetrators here