26th December 2003 Greek Communists host Brussels meeting on proposed Constitution


Last weekend, while Europe’s Great and Good were meeting to eat lobster, argue a bit, sulk and go home (the best result, of course, that any of us could have hoped for) the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) hosted a European Meeting on “The Constitutional Treaty of the EU and the Response of the People”. Representatives of 23 communist and workers’ parties, as well as other parties participating in the GUE/NGL (Left) group of the European Parliament, coming from 20 European countries, participated in the meeting. The meeting opened with an address by the Secretary General of the CC of the CPG Aleka Paparigha.


The meeting was held against the background of the EU Intergovernmental Conference on the “Draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe”. It was noted that the failure of the EU summit should not lead to an alleviation but, on the contrary, to an intensification of the campaign to inform the peoples of Europe about the so-called “European Constitution” and organise their opposition.


A spokesperson for the KKE said that the summit had not failed because of conflict over real popular interests and problems “but rather over the sharing of profits, spheres of influence and power among monopolies and the big imperialist powers, both inside and outside the EU. The Constitution sketches out a capitalism that is more and more aggressive and dangerous, as well as a more centralised, anti-democratic and militarised EU. The adoption of the “European security policy” reaffirms the association of the EU with NATO, while integrating the aggressive doctrine of "preventive" war, first adopted by the US on the pretext of terrorism, extending, at the same time, the limits of its military objectives within and outside the borders of EU member states.”


Several participants in the conference noted that the Constitution posed new threats to national sovereignty and people’s democratic rights posed by the so-called "European Constitution" and that it would have broadened and institutionalised inequality among the states, starting with the new EU member states. Participants underlined the fact that, at the same time, measures against popular freedoms are escalating, as are authoritarian attacks against trade unionists, peace fighters, social organisations, immigrants and others. Specific reference was made to the consequences of the new treaty in the social and economic sector, on the living standards and rights of workers.


Worst fears assuaged by environmental liability vote


Mihail Papayannakis, MEP for Greek progressive party Synapismos, part of the European Parliament’s United Left Group (GUE-NGL),  who has been responsible for preparing the European Parliament Environment Committee’s response to EU proposals on liability for environmental damage,  has expressed his disappointment that most of his amendments were not carried. On the other hand, right-wing attempts to weaken the measure still further were also thrown out.


"Today the Parliament resisted attempts from its Legal Affairs Committee to weaken the whole proposal by providing exemptions so broad that it would have been rendered worthless,” said Papayannakis. For example, there was an amendment to exempt damage caused in spite of 'good agricultural practice' which would have given Europe's agricultural industry carte blanche to pollute. However, I am disappointed that we did not agree to extend the scope of the proposal to GMOs and the nuclear industry."


Nevertheless, he added,  all was not lost: "We approved an amendment which will oblige the Commission to propose within 5 years a harmonised compulsory financial guarantee for water and soil damage if no appropriate instruments or markets for insurance have been established. Species and natural habitats would then be covered in a further two years. We also agreed that damage to the marine environment caused by a navigation accident cannot be excluded from the proposal."


Concluding, Papayannakis said: "Today's vote means that Council's position remains largely intact. Although this is not ideal, it is certainly a small step in the right direction towards an effective, legally binding polluter-pays regime in Europe."


US threatens EU over GMO labelling laws


In a letter to US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick this week, twenty-two US agribusiness lobby groups and organised farm interests called on Washington to "take every possible action" against coming EU rules on labelling and traceability of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), including to open another World Trade Organisation (WTO) case against European GM policy.


Commenting on the move, Greenpeace issued the following statement:


“It is hardly surprising that the GM industry is annoyed by new EU rules that will be costly and burdensome for GM crop exporters. What is more remarkable is the fear demonstrated in the letter that the EU rules would set a precedent around the globe and discourage GM food acceptance. That is of course exactly what should - and probably will - happen.


“The precautionary approach to GMOs reflects both good science and common sense, and is becoming the international norm. The GM industry got a real scare when even the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a WTO reference body, edged closer to the EU position on GMO labelling and risk assessments earlier this year. More bad news may be in store for the GM industry when governments meet in February for the first Meeting of the Parties under the UN Biosafety Protocol. The Protocol, in force only since September 2003, explicitly mentions the need to apply the precautionary principle to GMOs and to label and identify them.


“The US government and agribusiness corporations may claim that GMO regulations in the EU are unfair. The fact is that the EU is the world's biggest importer of GM crops, with at least 15 million tons of Monsanto's GM soya sneaking into Europe for use in animal feed each year. This trade is hidden today as GM feed under current rules doesn't have to be labelled. That will change in April next year, and the GM industry is bracing itself for another wave of GM rejection in Europe that will likely spread to other parts of the world.


“The EU legislation on GMO labelling and traceability is, in fact, not strong enough. It still lacks requirements for meat, dairy products and eggs to be labelled if GM animal feed has been used to produce them. The GM industry wants to tell us what to eat but not what's in our food. GM soya arriving on European shores should not only be properly labelled, it should be sent straight back to the US and Argentina with a "no thanks" note stuck on it.


“Far from the cynical declarations from last summer about the fight against hunger, this letter reveals the true face of the GM industry and its will to overcome any democratic debate to impose GMOs to the peoples of Europe and of developing countries, despite their massive rejection of those products.”

The Greenpeace statement has been slightly shortened and edited.


Unity Coalition to Take on Labour in UK Euro Poll

Hilary Wainwright comments on initiatives in England and Wales to build on the anti-war movement and to develop a progressive European electoral coalition, at here

Geneva Accord

The Geneva Accord offers a glimmer of hope for the Middle East. In this article, Phyliis Bennis dissects the Accord, pointing to where it goes beyond previous efforts but also making constructive criticisms of where it falls short. In particular, she points to the question of the need to respect existing UN resolutions.  Go to here


Bush Tries Farce as Cuba Policy


Saul Landau comments on the more than a century long US intervention in Cuban internal affairs, justified as support for “democracy” and “freedom loving Cubans” at here

Incompetence, duplicity, or is Rice just plain stupid?


"I don't think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile," said national security adviser Condoleeza Rice on May 16, 2002.

"How is it possible we have a national security advisor coming out and saying we had no idea they could use planes as weapons when we had FBI records from 1991 stating that this is a possibility," said Kristen Breitweiser, one of four New Jersey widows who lobbied Congress and the president to appoint the commission.

Read the rest of CBS’s report at here