Huge crowd marches through US capital to protest against war and Israeli occupation

26th April, 2002



EU Presidency: Spain sets plan for European Armament Policy

The Spanish European Union Presidency is proposing the setting up of a European Armament Policy, bringing the arms industry into line with internal market rules which apply to other industries and laying a cornerstone of the developing European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). The proposal comes in response to a decision taken by the  Laeken European Council and long campaigned for by the European Parliament's majority. A ten-point plan includes upgrading meetings of National Armament Directors, the civil servants assisting defence ministers. The Spanish wants the Directors to be constituted as an expert group advising on the implementation of the ESPD, much like the parallel group advising NATO.

One major point of the plan is the encouragement of investment to fill the gaps in current EU "defence" capacity. In plain English, the Spaniards want lots of shiny new toys the better to kill people in large numbers. Western European Union, long touted as the EU's military arm, should be incorporated into the Union's structure.

The plan may get a rough ride from some member states, however. On the one hand there is the continuing irritation of the four countries which insist on retaining at least the trappings of neutrality: Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Austria. On the other, the British and French, as ever, see themselves as in a different league to their EU partners, possessing the Bomb and a permanent seat each on the UN Security Council. Most member states accept that the current European Security and Defence Policy should be strengthened, but there are wide differences of opinion over the precise details of the militarisation of this famously peace-loving Union.. The establishment of the European Armament Policy is linked to the development of the ESPD, leading it more towards the position of acting on an international level.

European Parliament: Members see aftermath of Israeli war crimes

Twenty Euro-MPs visited Israel and Palestine this week, meeting counterparts from the Knesset, members of Israeli peace movements and the Palestinian Legislative Council.  Knesset vice-President Naomi Chazan presented his case against any suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, arguing that would risk undermining the growing Israeli opposition to current policy. Instead, Mr Chazan wants a strong international intervention that would allow the violence to end and the peace process to restart. The delegation also met  Jean Breteché, Head of the European Commission Delegation to the Palestinian Authority, in East Jerusalem. Mr Breteché told MEPs that the Commission was assessing the cost of reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure caused by Israeli military actions.Much of the destroyed property was financed or part-financed by EU development awards. Abu Ala, spokesman for the Palestinian Legislative Council, asked the delegation to use their positions to increase pressure on Israel.

The delegation was headed by Parliament President Pat Cox, who met the President of the Knesset privately. Of the twenty MEPs, however, seven were from the United Left Group (GUE-NGL). MEPs also visited the Jenin refugee camp where they met refugees’ representatives, hospital management and ordinary inhabitants.  GUE-NGL President Francis Wurtz described what had taken place at Jenin as “giving every appearance of having been a war crime”.  Mr Wurtz added that in his view “Mr Sharon is a great evil, both for the Palestinian and the Israeli people.” Swedish Green Per Gahrton referred to Jenine as “Ground Zero…There’s nothing left.” The delegation as a whole condemned “the systematic destruction” of the camp.

Labour MEP: “She can’t understand English. She’s Irish.”

UK Home Secretary David Blunkett, who this week stated fears that schools would be “swamped” by refugees’ children, is not the only Blairite whose choice of language reveals the hypocrisy at the heart of  “New Labour’s” multicultural sloganising.

The European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP) has failed to take any action against one of its members, Gordon Adam, who last week told Irish Green MEP Nuale Ahern that she could “not understand English” because she was Irish. The racist comment came during a debate about British Nuclear Fuels’ dumping of waste into the Irish Sea.

Ms Ahern said that Mr Adam’s remark was “unacceptable and racist and extraordinary for the European Parliament where we do not insult people because of their national identity."

In a reply to a letter from a Parliament official who complained about Mr Adam’s language, EPLP leader Simon Murphy said that he was concerned about the incident but did not anticipate any action because the member had “withdrawn his remark.”

Commission: fisheries reform sees further delay

EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler wants to reduce the Union’s fishing fleets by 40 percent of fishing fleets and slash Total Allowable Catches on numerous species, some of which are already classed as endangered.  The reforms, which also involve enhanced surveillance, have, however, been temporarily shelved following hostile reactions from a number of member states, notably France and Spain, the current EU Presidents. One consideration which led to the Commission’s soft-pedal approach was a fear of giving ammunition to French Fascist presidential candidate Jean Marie Le Pen ahead of Sunday’s second round elections.  Whilst everyone accepts that fisheries reform is urgently needed on environmental grounds, and in order to ensure that Europeans are able to continue to eat fish at all, the Commission’s proposals to soften the blow for the industry and those who depend upon it for a livelihood are regarded as inadequate by political leaders who, unlike Commissioner Fischler, have to answer to their electorates.

“Thousands of activists rallying for a host of causes mingled easily with tourists along the mall this afternoon as chants of "Free, Free Palestine," "Stop the Occupation Now" and "We are all Palestinians Today" filled the Ellipse and the black, red, white and green flag of Palestine waved through the streets of the District.

District police officials said the crowds were larger than they had anticipated, and put their numbers at about 75,000. Organizers of a Palestinian-rights rally at the Ellipse south of the White House said the gathering was the largest demonstration for Palestine in U.S.”

To read the rest go to this website

World domination coming along nicely

Not content with bombing anyone who stands in its way, threatening America’s remaining wildernesses, imposing its twisted “anti-terrorist” policies on foreign governments, and pulling out of any international treaty which seeks to encourage co-operation to solve pressing environmental and social problems, the Bush junta has now turned its attention to international officials who refuse to do its bidding. This week saw Brazilian José Bustani, head of the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), voted out of office after severe bullying from the US. A similar fate awaited Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] Robert Watson. The eminent US scientist was replaced by engineer and economist Rajenda Pachauri from India following a 57-49 vote by IPCC members. The ousting, orchestrated by the Bush junta and the Esso oil company, followed a recent IPCC report which contained stark warnings about human interference with the climate. This created problems for both Esso and the Bush administration, which have led strong campaigns against international action on global warming. This was highlighted recently when a memo from Esso(Exxon) to the White House calling for Bob Watson to be opposed was leaked to the media.

Kate Hampton, International Climate Co-ordinator for Friends of the Earth said, “The fossil fuel industry and the US Government will be celebrating their success in kicking out Bob Watson, an experienced scientist who understood that urgent action is needed to tackle global climate change. The Bush administration and its friends would rather shoot the messenger than listen to the message. No doubt in years to come - when millions of people around the world are paying the price for climate change - they will be claiming that no-one ever told them the truth.”  Go to www.foe.co.uk to find out about the British campaign Stop Esso’s 18th May Day of Action.

In Brief

European Central Bank ECB vice-president Christian Noyer told Euro-MPs this week that there were no plans to publicise how different national representatives have voted when interest rates are set. Mr Noyer said he was worried that debates over rates would become tainted by arguments over national interests, if the people of the member states were allowed to know what was going on.  The ECB cannot claim to be following normal banking practice, moreover, as leading central banks including the Bank on England and the US Federal Reserve, publish minutes of their meetings and roll-calls of votes.

Enlargement: Two million family-owned farms will bite the dust if Poland goes through with plans to join the European Union, according to the International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside (ICPPC). The currently significant organic sector will be hard-pushed to survive, while biodiversity will be massively reduced as agri-business buys up the countryside, ICPPC said. The Coalition does not oppose EU membership in principle, but has called on the Polish authorities to stand up for the small farmer in accession negotiations.

Sweden calls for total EU ban of Paraquat…Swedish official environment protection agency SNF is trying to persuade the other member states to institute a complete EU-wide ban on the pesticide Paraquat. The chemical is currently allowed in 10 EU member countries and the EU is currently investigating either extending the ban to all member countries or lifting the ban in those countries that currently forbid its use.

Sweden: Support for Euro falling: a year away from the probable referendum on the Euro, polls show that almost half of Swedes want to join the eurozone, but the minority who want to keep the kroner has grown since the beginning of the year from 33% to 37%

Iceland: 37.6% of Icelanders are opposed to EU membership, just ahead of the 36.6% want in. The poll clashes with recent findings that claimed a 56%  majority for joining.

Specialists in the 'dirty wars' of the Eighties encouraged the plotters who tried to topple President Chavez…..or so ran the headline in the British Sunday newspaper The Observer.

“The failed coup in Venezuela was closely tied to senior officials in the US government, The Observer has established. They have long histories in the 'dirty wars' of the 1980s, and links to death squads working in Central America at that time. Washington's involvement in the turbulent events that briefly removed left-wing leader Hugo Chavez from power last weekend resurrects fears about US ambitions in the hemisphere.” Indeed…to read the rest go to this website

Fat Cats....US trade union confederation the AFL-CIO has set up a new online service, Executive PayWatch 2002. It contains data from 900 companies on Chief Executive Officer (CEO) pay, bonuses and retirement perks--the double standards that keep CEOs fat and happy while the people who work for them struggle. In 2001, the median US CEO's pay-and-perks package went up 7 percent, while corporate profits declined 35 percent, stock prices fell 13 percent and more than 1.4 million workers were laid-off. Click here to find out more go to this website

And The DICK Goes To... US freelance writer Heather Wokusch has instigated a new award for political leaders: "the coveted DICK. Named after US vice president Dick Cheney, the DICK honors outstanding achievements in the art of duping the masses and using public resources for personal gain, and while this year's competition was understandably cut-throat, some DICKS clearly stand above the rest." With England's footballers dropping like flies in the run-up to the World Cup, the nation of St George can console itself with Tony Blair's DICK. Read how Britain's most popular Prime Minister since John Major cemented the Special relationship in triumph at this website