Weekly News Review

24 October, 2003

European Parliament's budget vote "encourages cruelty to animals"

Following this week's vote on the 2004 budget, Swedish MEP Jonas Sjöstedt of the GUE-NGL (United Left Group) has condemned the  Parliament's failure to end export subsidies for live cattle.

According to Sjöstedt, "this means that the EU will continue to subsidise the export of live animals to third countries to the tune of euro 40m. This money will be set aside for beef and veal. We are all aware that animals suffer when transported over long distances, with many dying en route. Indeed, the Parliament has in the past worked to promote animal welfare. That is why today's vote is a particularly bitter pill. By voting to continue to subsidise exports, the Parliament is now encouraging the continuation of such cruelty.

Although there are animal welfare regulations in place, they are not always respected. Sjöstedt offers the following solution: "I believe that the only way to be sure that animals do not suffer is to ban live transport altogether. If the EU continues to subsidise this cruel practice, we will never see an end to it."

Sjöstedt is concerned that there are other problems associated with export refunds: "Another reason for abolishing export refunds is that they leave the door open to fraud. Fraud statistics for 2002 reveal that, in the agricultural sector, the second most common source of irregularities related to the transport of live bovine animals."

New EU GMO labelling and traceability laws come into force

Two new EU regulations on the labelling and traceability of all foods and animal feed made from or with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will enter force on 7 November. The rules will require mandatory tracking of GM ingredients from field to fork. For the first time they will apply even to products such as refined sugar and oils where they are not detectable.

The measures are meant to enable lifting of the EU moratorium on new biotech crop approvals, but some member states remain reluctant to give up the ban. In addition, left, green and some social democrat members are attempting to bring pressure to bear through the European parliament to prevent the moratorium's being lifted. Jonas Sjöstedt, who led EP deliberations on the Biosafety (Cartagena) Protocol on trade in GMOs, is just one of those who wants to see the moratorium continue, having put forward an amendment to the Report on Co-existence currently being debated, to the effect that "the Commission and Member States (must) not... proceed with the approval of the release of any further genetically modified varieties of plant until such time as binding rules on co-existence, backed up by a system of liability based firmly on the 'polluter pays' principle, have been agreed and implemented."

The United States, increasingly unable to force anyone to accept these products, has expressed its displeasure.


...but EU ducks obligation to consult public


Environmental organisations this week attacked EU governments for withdrawing from their promise to work on a pan-European legal framework for public participation rights on GMO - related decisions. Exactly one year ago, in the Italian town of Lucca, the parties to the Aarhus Convention ‘on the right to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters’ recognised that this Convention had a loophole on decisions on

the use of GMOs. They agreed that a legally binding solution should be worked on. However, several EU governments are resisting progress. They think the existing EU legislation on GMOs is sufficient and are reluctant to co-operate on an instrument that would be legally binding for potentially 50 European countries. France, in particular, does not want to see any legally binding international rule on this, and was accused by the NGOs of obstructing the process.

John Hontelez, Secretary General of the European Environmental Bureau and Chair of the Public Participation Campaigns Committee of the European Ecoforum told the government representatives at a Convention meeting yesterday: ‘The Ministers’ decision in Lucca was a commitment to the European public to guarantee that they will have the same rights on public participation in GMO decision-making as on other decisions with a potential impact on the environment. This commitment needs to be kept!’

The environmental organisations also protested against the idea that countries not in the EU could devise their own legal instrument for GMOs, letting the EU get away with its flawed existing legislation. Juan Lopez, GMO campaigner for Friends of the Earth International said: ‘The Convention needs to be respected for all citizens in Europe, not just for the new democracies.’ Oksana Bilobran of the Ukrainian organisation Mama 86 added: ‘The Aarhus Convention is a way to bring Europe's countries closer together after a long separation. Our governments will not easily accept a requirement to go further than the EU in public

participation. The EU is effectively preventing new EU countries from having the rights we are entitled to on being heard on GMO decisions.’

The European Ecoforum, a platform of environmental organisations across Europe and the former Soviet Union, insisted that the government officials prepare a proposal to amend the Aarhus Convention so that GMO-related decisions are as participatory as other environmentally-sensitive decisions, for adoption at the next Ministerial level meeting, in May 2005.

Whittling away at our freedoms


Statewatch's submission to the EU Network on Independent Experts raises 22  major concerns on civil liberties:

"Left unchecked basic freedoms and democratic standards - freedom of movement, freedom of expression and the right to protest, freedom from surveillance in everyday life, accountability, scrutiny and data protection - will be whittled away one by one threatening the very democracy being defended by the "war on terrorism"  Read the rest at  http://www.statewatch.org/news/2003/oct/22swsub.htm

Any Questions?


The UK Labour Euro-Safeguards Campaign has produced an analysis of recent developments of euro-zone economies. In the form of "Questions and Answers", it is available from LESC, more information about which can be read at http://www.lesc.org.uk

Forced deportation of Roma from CR

A well-respected Roma political organiser and twenty-five other Czech Roma are to be deported to the Czech Republic on 25 October, despite the fact that by next May the Czech Republic will be part of the European Union. Read all about it at http://www.irr.org.uk/2003/october/ha000006.html


British "democracy"


"Stuart Wheeler, a spread betting tycoon who gave £5m to William Hague in the previous Parliament when he was leader, made clear he would not give any more cash until Mr Duncan Smith was removed."  The Independent 23 October 03, on the position of the beleaguered Tory leader at Westminster,


The Madrid Donors Conference: A Fig Leaf for Maintaining US Control

"The international donors meeting being held today in Madrid, initially called to pressure other governments to contribute money to sustain the US-UK occupation of Iraq, will not come close to meeting Washington's original goals." Read the rest of Phyllis Bennis's take on the weird US idea that "we break it and you pay for it to be mended" at http://www.tni.org/archives/bennis/points13.htm

UN Security Council Vote on US Occupation

"The new US-driven UN Security Council resolution on Iraq provides only an internationalist fig-leaf for Washington's occupation. It does not set a timeframe for turning Iraqi sovereignty back to Iraq, and does not foresee any significant role for the United Nations."  The same writer takes a critical view of the shenanigans at the UN at 



Real World Radio on air again


Real world radio started on October 21st a special coverage of the new Free Trade of

Area of the Americas (FTAA) negotiation round and the mobilisations that will take

place during the November 17-22 FTAA Summit in Miami.

You can listen to the programmes via this website http://www.radiomundoreal.fm in English, Spanish or Portuguese, or by means of one of the more than 300 community radios that are part of AMARC, the World Association of Community Radios - at (http://www.amarc.org) - in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Real world radio is an initiative of Friends of the Earth International  - more info about them at  http://www.foei.org - and AMARC, and it intends to show the impacts of "trade liberalisation" in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the many ways available for local communities

to resist transnational corporations. Real world radio also has a space available for community radios, organizations and independent producers from all over Latin America to exchange materials.

London left-leaning think tank looking for freelance researchers


Catalyst is seeking to establish a pool of contract/freelance research assistants and consultants who may in principle be available for fixed-term part-time and/or full-time work.

This is to facilitate rapid identification and recruitment of researchers to work on specific projects where they arise at short notice. For example, in the next few weeks we are likely to be looking for individuals to help us with projects in the areas of housing, transport, and regional policy, and we expect such projects to multiply as Catalyst develops its role as a centre for progressive policy development and research.

Catalyst would be interested to hear from people with research interests and experience in all fields of public policy and related topics, including (but not limited to) sociology and social policy, community regeneration, poverty and social exclusion, urban and regional planning, health, education, transport, macro- and micro-economic policy issues, trade unionism and

employment relations, public administration and constitutional affairs.

Catalyst would be looking for individuals with specific expertise and experience in such areas or who can demonstrate an ability to quickly master a new brief, identifying and working with experts in the field. Closing date: 14 November 2003. Write to newresearch@catalystforum.org.uk for more.

Festive fun


The UK left magazine Labour Left Briefing has produced a set of Stop the War cards which can be used for Christmas or any bother superstition-based booze-up you care to celebrate.  With a design reminiscent of the Guernica, they will go well on the mantelpiece amongst all those ornothologically inaccurate robins, views of pre-IDF Bethlehem and so on. Go to www.labourleftbriefing.org.uk for more. LLB needs and deserves your money more than the big card companies, which are in the main notorious sweatshops.


Singing for peace


Raised Voices describes itself as a "London political street choir" that's "fun, friendly an inspirational". If you live in London and want to make sure the devil doesn't have all the best songs go to http://www.raised-voices.org.uk