Weekly News Review

28th July 2004

Anti-choice homophobe elected to chair European Parliament Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality

A Hungarian Christian Democrat who opposes women's right to control their own fertility and believes that homosexuals should be barred from teaching has been elected to Chair the European Parliament Women's Committee. The extraordinary result followed of a stitch-up between the Parliament's different political groups. Although Committee chairs and vice-chairs are officially elected in an open procedure at public meetings, in reality political groups decide behind closed doors who will get what.

A European Parliament official who asked not to be named said "at its worst the system can be used to exclude minority voices, but it isn't actually as undemocratic as it sounds, as the positions are divided according to the strength of the Groups. Because of this everyone usually accepts it. However, in this case the centre-right European People's Party, which has tried to have the Women's Committee abolished, seems to have decided to sabotage it in another way."

Right-wing conservative Slovak Anna Záborská was elected last Monday (26 July) by 15 votes to 4 on a secret ballot. "Ballots aren't usually secret but if a certain number of members asks for a secret vote then their request must be met. Only four votes against means that the Socialist Group members must have abstained," the official explained. The Parliament's second biggest group, the so-called "Party of European Socialists (PES)", had originally protested the choice and asked the PPE to put forward a different candidate. However, they backed down when the PPE threatened to block the PES candidate for Chair of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee.

Opinion was even divided within the United Left Group (GUE-NGL) with one senior official arguing that "if we don't hold to the agreement then others could break it in future and it is the small groups who would lose out."  Luisa Morgantini, an Italian MEP from Rifondazione Communiste, won the Chair of the Development Committee as a result of the deal, for example, whereas if all positions were decided on a free ballot the two big groups would be able to take everything.

However, Kartika Liotard, a GUE-NGL member from the Socialist Party of the Netherlands (SP), said, "Normally I would agree to respect the system, but in the case of a woman of such extreme right wing views, who has clearly been put forward to discredit the Committee and make it utterly ineffective, I felt a line had to be drawn.  She is opposed to a woman's right to choose whether to bring her pregnancy to term and has been quoted as saying that it is 'questionable whether homosexuals are able to fulfil all occupations', citing teaching as an example."

Záborská's election demonstrates that, with MEPs from the new member states reinforcing the right wing domination of the EP, for at least some conservatives the gloves are off.

Germany and Finland ponder referendum possibilities

The Bundesrepublik's Constitution appears to ban referenda, yet there is increasing talk in Germany about the legal possibility of a referendum on the EU constitution- an idea which is supported by most Germans, according to polls. Read about the development at here Meanwhile, Finland's Prime Minister Martti Vanhanen has said that he will decide whether to hold an advisory referendum on the Constitution in the coming few weeks, according to Finnish media reports. Go  here

Prodi Commission set to rule on Andreasen case

The European Commission is set to decide what steps to take against its former chief accountant-turned-whistleblower Marta Andreasen before its term ends in October.  Read all about it here

A Common Baltic Future

"Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians have high hopes for life in a united Europe, but so have members of the Russian ethnic groups living in those countries. They must build their future together, and the sooner they realise this the better." Read the rest of Boris Kagarlitsky's look at the situation in three of the EU's new member states here

United for Peace and Justice

Leslie Kauffman, Mobilizing Coordinator for the US umbrella group United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) writes to say that "Stickers promoting the August 29 NYC march and rally against the Bush agenda are now available! We're selling them at our cost -- $25 per 500 -- to ensure the widest possible distribution. Both English and Spanish versions are available. Visit here to view and order the stickers. Note that August 29 posters are also available -- scroll down the merchandise page to view and order them. We also have a new set of half-page leaflet designs available for downloading on our website here  These come in both NYC and national versions, so groups outside of the New York area can include their local contact information on any leaflets they distribute. The momentum is clearly building for this historic protest. Last night, we held our first NYC mobilizing meeting, in our new 4000-square-foot offices in Midtown Manhattan. It was a packed, standing-room-only crowd, full of outrage at the Bush Administration's record and enthusiasm for the massive mobilizing we need to do in the weeks ahead." If you don't already know about this rally, go here

Green Left Weekly #591, July 28, 2004, now available on line here. GLW carries outstanding coverage of Australian, regional and international affairs from a critical left perspective. This week Australia's socialist newspaper asks "Will Fahrenheit 9/11 burn Bush?" The corporate media is attempting to discredit Fahrenheit 9/11 because, despite Mike Moore's endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, the film goes far beyond the carefully managed bounds of `debate' between the Republican White House and the pro-war Democratic challenger in the lead-up to the November election. Whatever the limitations of Moore's political views, Fahrenheit 9/11 spectacularly exposes and undermines the US ruling class's phoney `war on terror'. It graphically and emotionally reveals whose interests are really being served in the bloodbath in Iraq. Read the full article here