30th January, 2004 UN Secretary General: “Migrants are part of the solution, not part of the problem”

 

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, used his acceptance speech to criticise in damning terms the EU's racist approach to migration and asylum. Accusing the EU authorities of making asylum seekers and migrants "scapegoats for a vast array of social ills", he said that the media, which fed the public  “images of a flood of unwelcome entrants, and of threats to their societies and identities" also shared the blame for the way in which “immigrants have sometimes been stigmatised, vilified, even dehumanised". Urging the the EU to open up its borders, he argued that "Your asylum systems are overburdened precisely because many people who feel they must leave see no other channel through which to migrate. Many others try more desperate and clandestine measures, and are sometimes injured or even killed – suffocating in trucks, drowning at sea, or perishing in the undercarriage of aircraft."

 

This was a policy which did nothing to address the “human tragedy” which accompanied such attempts to escape intolerable circumstances, but was also short-sighted: "A closed Europe would be a meaner, poorer, weaker, older Europe. Migrants are part of the solution, not part of the problem".

 

Spectre will publish the whole text of this speech next week.

 

Davos gathering of Great and Good, secretive gatherings in the mountains


Just before the end of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland earlier this week, which brought together more than 2,000 representatives from the top 1000 global companies along with state leaders, Friends of the Earth International revealed that the Forum had hosted a secret meeting of the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue TABD is a business-led process that has huge influence on government decision-makers in the European Union and the United States.



Friends of the Earth formally asked several times for any information on the agenda and the participants list for this meeting but nothing was disclosed by the office of Niall FitzGerald, Chief Executive of Unilever PLC who since December has held one of the two TABD chairs (the other is held by the Coca-Cola Company).



According to Corporate Europe Observatory, conferences are attended by high-level delegations from the European Commission and the US government. Due to the far-reaching, high-level political support it enjoys, TABD routinely succeeds in weakening or postponing new consumer and environment protection measures on both sides of the Atlantic. It also maintains significant influence over EU and US policies within the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Despite the fact that the TABD is a private sector group with no official status in the EU treaties, the Commission refers to its involvement in the TABD events as "negotiations".



Trade ministers of 18 select members of the WTO also met behind closed doors and in parallel to the WEF on January 23 to try to renew international trade negotiations. The so-called 'informal meeting' was intended to revive trade talks collapsed in Cancun (Mexico) in September 2003.

At the "Public Eye on Davos", the alternative conference to the World Economic Forum annual meeting, environmental and development organisations explained the dangers of such meetings.  reiterating their warning that no WTO agreement is still better than a wrong agreement, especially an agreement of the kind the richest trading blocs and the business lobbies behind them hope to reach.









On January 19th Friends of the Earth International Vice Chair Tony Juniper requested a list of WEF participants and the detailed agenda they would address. The office of the WEF's senior managing director, Jose Maria Figueres, said that the detailed agenda and people attending was

confidential.



Craig Bennett of Friends of the Earth said:

"The World Economic Forum is hiding behind a screen of philanthropy, but in reality it is operating behind closed doors to make it even easier for big business to make massive profits at the expense of people and the environment."



In an effort to diffuse criticism about its secrecy, the WEF started in 2003 its own 'Open Forum' that runs in parallel to its traditional closed-door meetings. Because the WEF and the 'Open Forum' are both called 'Forum', media reports and the public may confuse them.



A report from Friends of the Earth International released ahead of the WTO Cancun meeting showed that big business, rather than helping achieve the ideals set out in the Millennium goals, is damaging the environment and local communities. Friends of the Earth is demanding international rules to make big business accountable for its behaviour.







 WEF’s website: www.weforum.org  Real information on WEF can, however, be found here and here

FoEI’s report can be downloaded from here


A new EU critical party in Sweden could get as much as 25 percent of the votes in the June 2004 European Elections, a new poll has revealed. Read all about it   here

Lord Hutton: Anyone inclined to take the Hutton Report with less than hypertension-provoking quantities of sodium chloride should know the following: Lord Hutton of Bresagh was formerly Sir Brian Hutton, a High Court Judge from 1979 to 1988. He then became the Lord Chief Justice of the Six Counties and the legal adviser to the Ministry of Home Affairs under the former Stormont Government. He acted in that role for the British Government when it was called before the European Court of Human Rights when the government was accused of the inhuman and degrading treatment of internees. In 1986 he acquitted the RUC police officer who killed Sean Downes with a plastic bullet fired at point blank range., In 1999, then a law lord, was involved in a case brought by two lawyers , Seamus Treacey and Barry MacDonald (both of whom are currently representing the families at the Saville :Bloody Sunday inquiry.) When Treacey and MacDonald mounted a legal objection to the requirement that all newly appointed QCs make an oath of loyalty to the British monarch, Hutton wrote to the Attorney General warning against any decision to remove the requirement for such a declaration , saying ".it will appear that you are being influenced by political pressure to alter the procedure relating to an office which links Northern Ireland with the Crown."

 

Justice Kerr then dismissed the plea to remove the requirement, citing Hutton's comments in his judgement. In 1999 Hutton was one of the law lords who ruled that the former Chilean dictator; Pinochet should receive immunity from arrest and extradition for crimes against humanity. During the case Hutton criticised one of his fellow Judges in the case (Lord Hoffman) for not having declared his links with Amnesty International. Hutton was also involved in the David Shayler case (the former MI5 agent). He and his colleagues ruled against Shayler's argument that he was acting in the public interest when he exposed the illegal activities of British Intelligence forces. Shayler was later jailed.    

 

Rising tide: Schnews reports that Delegates at the 'Risks & Opportunities in Caspian and Central Asian Oil & Gas' got a bit of a surprise on Tuesday when people from London Rising Tide bike-locked themselves to furniture during the meeting and let everyone know about the environmental and climatic effects of running pipelines through the Caspian oil fields” To read more about the campaign go to  http://www.risingtide.org.uk


Political prisoner would like to hear from you: Sue Brackenbury would welcome letters and CDs as she awaits trial in HMP Eastwood Park, Falfield, Wotton-under-edge, Glos, GL12 8DB, England. She is one of three people accused of attempting to disarm a Trident Sub at Devonport Docks last year. Their trial is set for the 25th of Feb in Plymouth.


Gorilla warfare: Congratulations to the activists who have forced the cancellation of a planned new primate vivisection centre. Britain’s reaction to the banning of invasive experiments on primates of other countries such as the Netherlands is, naturally enough, to see the chance of picking up a few quid.  To read about the campaign that stopped the centre and why experiments on apes and monkeys are cruel and pointless, go to www.primateprison.org

 

EU Observer, the invaluable on-line news service, now has an online bookshop where you can order books on EU affairs. Go to  http://www.eubookshop.com