Weekly News Review

27th September 2003

"Right now, we are in deep crisis"



The United Left Group in the European Parliament is demanding strong action to deal with rampant fraud in the European institutions. Speaking in a parliamentary debate Group leader Francis Wurtz said that "Until yesterday, Wednesday, there were suspicions. From now, there are facts. The situation is serious. A single example - an extract from the summary of the Commission's own internal audit service - speaks for itself:


"We need to find out how it is possible that crucial audit reports, even those produced by the competent internal audit system, were not fully communicated (...) to the political hierarchy. In particular, we need to look at how, after three audits were produced by the former financial controller (...) and eleven internal audit reports worked on since 1998, which also covered a broad range of important questions, to which various OLAF investigations were included since 2000 (...), only went up the political hierarchy after it was too late for the necessary measures to be taken."

"This single statement firmly challenges the Commission on the political responsibilities in question. And this is all the more so because it is corroborated by many other disconcerting facts in the reports being looked at. Those mentioned are "worrying elements," "of omissions of very important information", of "concealed reserves", of "risks of collusion, conflicts of interests, insider dealing" and of "clearly insufficient controls". In this respect, the facts revealed in the summary of the OLAF report relating to EUROSTAT leaves us stunned on how public funds are managed. Mention is made of "the existence of a double, even triple community financing"; of "falsification of the accounts"; of "financial loss" of nearly 5 million Euros.

"Clearly, the Commission, up to the highest level, made a serious mistake in playing down the scale of the problems of which it was informed, even by lending to the idea that it wanted to conceal crucial information from MEPs before the vote on budget discharge in April 2003. By doing this, it - once more - seriously underestimated the possible political consequences of such behaviour.


"Right now, we are in deep crisis. The question of who bears political responsibility has been asked. The Budgetary Control Committee must be free to intensify its investigations as long it considers it necessary, so that a political decision of the European Parliament can be taken based on all the facts."


United Left warns that European Parliament's vote on software promotes litigation over innovation


The United Left Group (GUE-NGL) expressed its  "disappointment" over the vote this week in the European Parliament that failed to reject a report on software patents. Europe's small and medium software entreprises (SMEs) are convinced that the proposal, if unamended, will lead to their demise. This is because the proposal as it stands encourages litigation and it can cost millions of euros to go to court in a patent case.


Danish MEP Pernille Frahm, the United Left's spokeswoman on the report, said: "Today's vote is bad news for Europe's software industry, for innovation, and for creativity. In fact, the only people celebrating will be the patent lawyers and the big computer companies.


"There appeared to be some confusion during this whole debate. Everyone in the Parliament, including the rapporteur, was saying that they agreed on the importance of promoting innovation and protecting small companies. They all said they did not want patents on software. Why, therefore, did they approve this report today?


"If what they were saying was true, why was it that European SMEs were against the report and all the large multinationals supported it? The European companies are very aware of the experience in the US, where it is clear that multinationals gained most from its software patent legislation. That is why they were against this report."


Italian MEP Armando Cossutta, GUE-NGL Member of the Legal Affairs Committee, said: "Even if today's result was in favour of the multinationals, I remain quietly confident for the Parliament's second reading. I really hope that all the Groups will be ready to take their responsibilities when, following the approval of a Directive such as this one, the European software industry will be damaged irreparably with the consequent loss of thousands of jobs."


The United Left Group is pleased that some of its amendments to improve the text in some important areas were approved. These included one on improving accountability of the European Patent Office and one to clarify important definitions.


The proposal now goes to the Council of Ministers before returning to the EP for second reading, when MEPs will have a chance once again to consign it to the "Trash" of history.


Left Euro-MPs meet President Arafat


President Yasir Arafat last week received a delegation from the European Parliament at the Presidential Headquarters in Ramallah today. The delegation included: Luisa Morgantini; Francis Wurtrz, head of the unified left bloc at the European Parliament; and Stefano Squarcina, assistant general secretary


President Arafat briefed the delegation on the serious developments in the Palestinian territories in the light of the Israeli escalation against the Palestinian people and Christian and Islamic holy places, and continuation of the siege and economic strangulation, including preventing workers from reaching their workplaces.


In press statements after the meeting, Luisa Morgantini said: We are here to show support for His Excellency President Yasir Arafat and his people, who are living under occupation. We, at the European Parliament, are committed to the achievement of a just peace, which means ending the occupation.  We are with the peace camp in Israel. We say that the occupation must be terminated so that peace can be achieved. We came to President Yasir Arafat to stress this message. We are against Sharon's policy, which will not bring peace to the Palestinians and Israelis. This policy is bad not only to the Palestinian people, who live under occupation, but also to the future of the Israeli people.


"We are here to say that peace is necessary and important. The occupation must come to an end so that there can be peace and so that the Palestinian can live in freedom and peace."


Junta Leader Bush not welcome in Britain


British anti-war protestors have pronounced themselves "shocked and appalled" by the announcement that junta jefe "President" Bush is to make a state visit to Britain in November.  Leading the condemnation, former Cabinet Minster and vociferous anti-war campaigner Tony Benn believes the people of Britain will be outraged by this news.

"President Bush will not be welcome in Britain," said Mr Benn. "His war has killed thousands of people and left Iraq in chaos and now Iraq's assets are to be sold off on the world market. "I hope that when he comes public opinion will express itself against those policies again."

The Stop The War Coalition will organise huge protests against Bush's presence on British soil.

"The Blair government is adding insult to injury by extending this invitation to George Bush. The majority of people in this country believe there was no justification for this war with Iraq but now their taxes will pay for the war-monger-in-chief to be treated like some sort of British war hero," said Stop The War spokesman, John Rees. "We will mobilise protests which I believe will have the potential to rival will our largest previous protests,"  he pledged.

The Swedish People vs the Establishment, 1-0

Could it Happen in the US?

"On September 14, 2003 the Swedish people said a strong and decisive NO to abolishing the Krona, in favour of the European currency the Euro. The Krona, which succeeded the 470-year-old Daler in 1873, obviously has become a part of the Swedish identity which is not so easy to just discard. The final count in the referendum was 56,1% against the Euro and only 41,8% pro. The turnout was a bit higher than normal, 81,2%, probably due to the assassination of the YES side's main poster name, popular foreign minister Anna Lindh, which focused attention on the referendum. The expected sympathy vote for her side was more than countered by the high turnout which likely benefited the NO side."  Read the rest of Jerre Skog's analysis at   here

Reconstruction of Iraq

"Iraq has just turned a page of her history, with the fall of a dictatorship and the hope for a better future. Yet a tragic cycle of disorder and violence has set in. Attacks have been proliferating. Fanaticism and hatred have struck everywhere: the Jordanian embassy, the United Nations, and the Mausoleum of the Imam Ali in Najaf. We are now facing the real risk of seeing the continuation of a spiral of failure fuelled by the lack of a tangible political way forward. This situation is throwing international organizations in Iraq into disarray and arousing the anxiety of all those on the ground. The gravest danger is that of the Iraqi people falling into apathy and despair. Only an injection of new momentum, supported by the international community can make it possible to break this deadlock. Read the rest of "This Approach is Leading Nowhere" by Dominique de Villepin at herel


Baghdad Bulletin is an independent, and interesting, English language news webzine based in Baghdad You can find it at http://www.baghdadbulletin.com/index.php


Independent Politics News  (US) has a new  20 page issue with reports, pictures and speeches from IPPN's national summit in July at the University of Michigan, articles about various developments and actions of the peace and global justice and domestic justice movements, and  third party and electoral reform articles. For a free sample copy send your earth-bound address to indpol@igc.org


Green Left Weekly, Australia's socialist newspaper provides news, information, opinion and debate from an environmental and left perspective. Latest issue features  call for protest actions against Bush's impending visit . Bush's planned visit to Australia provides activists with an opportunity to organise mass protests that demand that the Howard government withdraws all Australian personnel from Iraq and doesn't give further aid to the brutal and illegal US occupation. Read all about it at here