Weekly News Review Archive

Thursday 31st May, 2001

No to the Nice Treaty!

ATTAC Ireland has been increasingly involved in the campaign for a “No” vote in Ireland’s coming referendum on the Nice Treaty which is to be held on June 7. This is a particularly important campaign as opinion polls are suggesting that there are a huge number of people who will vote “no” or are as yet undecided. Attac has focused its campaign on the  proposed changes to Article 133 of the Amsterdam Treaty, Article 2.8 of the Nice Treaty, and it's particular relevance to the forthcoming GATS negotiations. The group has had some success  with media coverage as several letters have been published in the Irish press on the implications of the proposed changes to Article 133 and the GATS and their position paper will be submitted to the Irish Referendum Commission, the body responsible for circulating a booklet to each household outlining the arguments for and against the Treaty.

Naturally, the political establishment has been using the usual dodgy arguments to push through a Yes vote in this referendum. In particular,  opponents of the Nice Treaty are being persistently portrayed as interested only in depriving the people's of Central and Eastern Europe of the benefits of European Union membership. ATTAC has been the subject of this criticism and has emphatically rejected it. Activists have pointed out that this part of Europe is paradoxically seen by the "YES" campaign as both an opportunity, in the form of a huge market, and a threat, in the form of people. In the words of one member of ATTAC Ireland the "YES" campaign's approach to the applicant countries can by summed up as "Give us your markets but not your people".

Attac has issued a call to people in each European Union member state and each of the applicant states to write to Irish newspapers advocating a "NO" vote. For this purpose ATTAC activists have drafted a sample letter, which we have attached below, which broadly conforms with ATTAC Ireland's position on the Nice Treaty. Of course, if you wish to send your own text, in English, please do so. We would ask that activists from other groups not familiar or aware of Attac submit letters between now and June 7th. Spectre feels this could be an important victory as the Irish people are very close to rejecting the Nice Treaty and therefore it requires as much support as possible.

As has become an increasing feature of our so-called democracies, voter turnout is expected to be low, around 40% of the Irish electorate, therefore it will take only a small number of these voters to swing it towards a "NO" vote. This is truly worth investing some energy in as there is the real possibility of gaining some crucial ground in the debate on creating another Europe. The more victories we can record the more we can begin to mobilise people against the EU – and for the right reasons. If Nice is not ratified by Ireland it cannot be ratified at all - a new treaty will have to be drafted. If this takes place we can begin to campaign for a Treaty that incorporates the interests and concerns of citizens across the European Union and not just the corporations and business interests. Whilst it would be utopian to imagine that we could ever have such a treaty, a new campaign gives new opportunities to blow the whistle on what this Union is all about. Spectre therefore urges our readers to support this campaign by writing letters to the newspapers listed below.  Here is ATTAC Ireland’s suggested text.

Dear Editor,

As citizen's of the European Union we strongly encourage the Irish people to vote No in the June 7th referendum on the Nice Treaty. No other member state of the European Union will allow its citizens a chance to ratify, by a referendum, the changes proposed in The Treaty of Nice. We believe this fatally undermines the democratic legitimacy of the European Union. Of particular concern are changes in the Union's common commercial policy under Article 2.8 ,which will amend the terms of Article 133 of the Amsterdam Treaty. These changes will serve to exclude citizens, and their democratically elected representatives, from the critically important area of trade policy. This is a dangerous development in the context of the World Trade Organisation's proposed General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) which, if agreed, will launch an onslaught of deregulation and privatisation of essential public services across the European Union. The terms of GATS actively exclude the interests of citizens and democratically elected institutions. However they greatly strengthen the power of business interests and multinational corporations. Finally, GATS is effectively irreversible. If the Irish people ratify the Treaty of Nice they will empower the European Commission's efforts to bring the GATS agreement to life across the European Union. A No vote will keep many areas of trade policy, areas of critical public interest, subject to influence by citizens and their representatives. Voting No and rejecting the Treaty of Nice in the June 7th referendum will send a clear signal that citizens cannot be sidelined by the European Union and its institutions. Yours Sincerely, (Name)**Please mark in the subject field "Letters to the Editor" ***The Irish Times lettersed@irish-times.ie The Examiner exam.letters@examiner.ie The Sunday Business Post sbpost@iol.ie Ireland On Sunday p.drury@irelandonsunday.com The Irish News n.doran@irishnews.com

Europol Warns European Banks and Businesses of New Currency Crime Wave

Although it has taken some time, the European Union’s police coordination office, Europol, has finally realised that the introduction of the euro will see a huge increase in organised crime. Spectre has been warning for years that One Big Currency would make life sweet for organised crime. Now the police have at last discovered the same. Organised criminals plan to profit from the vast sums of  money that will have to be transported around Europe and the general chaos that will undoubtedly surround the introduction of the euro. Robberies will become more frequent, posing a greater threat to workers in European banks, businesses and in particular to security guards who will have the job of protection during this increasingly expensive operation.

The French government, for example, has declared that it will be deploying thousands of police, paramilitary gendarmes and the army and use satellite monitoring in an attempt to safeguard the euro notes and coins during their distribution at the beginning of next year. Spectre must once again ask just how much this will this add to the already huge expense of the EMU project. Obviously, the European taxpayer will yet again be footing the bill for this EU-wide security operation. French trade unions representing a variety of bank workers and security van drivers have threatened their government with strikes in protest over the lack of consultations with their members over the introduction of the Euro. Concerns for the safety of those working in these jobs and overwork, as organised criminals increase their sometimes fatal attacks, have been ignored by the governments which are so set on introducing this currency no matter what the short or long term effects may be.

Activists Declare Victory As World Bank Cancels Barcelona Meeting

Activists all over Spain and elsewhere celebrated recently when they discovered that the World Bank had decided to cancel its Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE). Essentially this is an academic conference supposedly aimed at bringing together speakers and participants from around the world to discuss poverty reduction and how to ensure that poor people can benefit from globalisation. For some months activists have been organising and preparing to welcome the participants to Barcelona in what has become the usual lively and noisy way. As a result of this activity the World Bank has decided that it would be wiser and attract less attention if they were to conduct these debates over the internet. This may well be a feature that we may see more and more of as international conferences are increasingly being disrupted and publicised through mass demonstrations and alternative conferences. In a press release sent out by the World Bank, spokeswoman Caroline Anstey said:  “A Conference on poverty reduction should take place in a peaceful atmosphere free from heckling, violence and intimidation. Despite our efforts to reach out to some of the groups planning demonstrations, and to include them in the conference, the intention of many of the groups who plan to converge on Barcelona is not to join the debate, but to disrupt it. We do not want to expose academics from around the world and our hosts in Spain to such a situation. She went on to say that “It is time to take a stand against this kind of threat to free discussion”.

Typically, World Bank Chief Economist Nicholas Stern also said that “It is a pity that our more outspoken critics chose not to engage in a dialogue” – we at Spectre are sure they’d like to benefit from the publicity of engaging once again in another futile dialogue. However, this is not the time to sit down with heads of the international financial institutions whilst they listen to our concerns - we have already participated in dialogue and will continue to do so, but now is the time to act and to make some trouble in order to build a truly global movement that can no longer be ignored. We must speak with one voice – as the Borg would say - faced with assimilating the World Bank and its friends: “Resistance is futile”.

Berlusconi and Friends

Silvio Berlusconi's victory in last Sunday's Italian general election will see the far right enter national government after the National Alliance polled 11%. Social democrats and communists lost support to the Right. Gianfranco Fini, the National Alliance leader, is tipped to become the deputy prime minister. Berlusconi's Forza Italia fought the election in a coalition with the Far Right parties National Alliance and Northern League.

Curiously this alliance is referred to in the media as being of the 'centre right', despite the politics of his allies and a local pact made in Sicily with the openly fascist MSI-Fiamma.

The election results were welcomed by Jorg Haider, leader of the Austrian Freedom Party, but caused concern elsewhere. There was a certain amount of the usual hand-wringing in Brussels, but having made itself look thoroughly idiotic over the Haider affair, the EU establishment has lost its taste for gesture politics.  The only political response worth reporting came from European Parliament Greens, who have asked the Commission to look into Berlusconi’s tightening monopoly of the Italian media, to see whether it contradicts EU competition policy.

Small parties not aligned with either Berlusconi or the previously governing centre-left coalition generally did badly. The dippy former EU Commissioner Emma Bonino even went on hunger strike to protest her party’s exclusion from the media, though it seemed to be a special sort of hunger strike – absolutely nothing between breakfast and lunch, something like that. Didn’t do her any good, though, she still didn’t win any seats in parliament. Refondazione Communiste (Communist Refoundation) did better. Despite eating to their hearts content during the campaign, they beat the 4% barrier and won several seats in the new assembly.

(Thanks to Marxist Mark and Anti Fascist Action for some of  this information)

US and Europeans plan to dump toxic waste in Africa

A recent report by Nigeria’s national co-ordinator of the Secretariat of the Basel Convention on Trans-boundary Movement of Hazardous Waste, Oladele Osibajo, on toxic wastes and dumping episodes, has revealed that around 29 million tonnes of toxic waste has been allegedly planned to be offloaded in 11 African countries by a number of European countries and the US. The materials range from chemical and radioactive wastes to categories of unspecified hazardous wastes. Many of the African governments have collaborated with the US and Europeans and have agreed to the dumping in return for big piles of money. However, after the populations of many of these countries moved against these wastes-for-money deals, some of the governments have backed down, claiming their were loopholes in the agreement. To find out more about the Basel Convention on Trans-boundary Movement of Hazardous waste there are numerous websites - start with www.unep.ch which has country by country reports.

Republicans Continue Dividing Spoils of Coup d’Etat

Having taken power in a manner unapproved by the Constitution, the Grim Old Party is now preparing to divide up the plunder by means of tax cuts aimed at rewarding their richest supporters. Fortunately, director of the US pressure group Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) Robert McIntyre is the proud possessor of the only computer model outside the government capable of a detailed analysis of the effects of the Republicans’ proposed tax cuts. CTJ has a series of reports on its website at http://www.ctj.org/html/senmark.htm, including the newly released  (and catchily titled) Distributional Effects of the Senate Finance Committee-Passed Version of the Bush Tax Plan. Among its findings: While the top 1 percent of Americans -- those making $373,000 or more -- will get a tax cut averaging $44,293, the bottom 60 percent -- those making less than $44,000 -- will get an average of a $330 cut.  As with Thatcherism in the 1980s, this sort of measure begs a question which we’d like to pose to centre-left governments and their supporters: if it’s so damned easy to redistribute wealth, then why can’t it de done in the opposite direction? The $580 billion of this tax cut, that will go to the richest 1 percent, would alone pay for three-quarters of the cost of providing universal prescription drug coverage for retired people.  For a detailed analysis of the implications of the proposals, go to http://www.dollarsandsense.org

The Bush Junta also rewarded the oil companies behind it this week, publishing a National Energy Plan which is no more than a polluters’ charter. The plan, which must win Congressional support if it is to be inflicted on the American people (and the rest of us, of course) relies heavily on nuclear power. It contains nods towards environmentalist concerns, including tax credits for biomass-based energy plants, a 15% tax credit for homeowners who install solar panels and for various other ‘green’ activities. However, the main thrust of the plan is to reject conservation as unrealistic and economically dangerous. It would ease restrictions on oil and gas development on public lands and open the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. You can read the whole seventeen pages of the curséd thing at http://www.whitehouse.gov/energy/ If you’re a US citizen, go to our Action page to find out how to try to influence your Representative to vote against.

Ralph’s Return

Ralph Nader has been criticised for disappearing from view after the presidential election, but not by Spectre. Elections can be physically and emotionally gruelling. Anyway, Ralph, or at least his campaign, is back. Having won nearly 3 million votes, recruited 150,000 volunteers, and raised over $8 million from individual contributors, Nader and his supporters are determined to keep raising the issues that the two corporate-backed parties would rather ignore: electoral reform, corporate subversion of the democratic process, universal health care, child poverty, the death penalty, fair trade, the criminal injustice system, corporate welfare, a bloated military budget, and environmental protection. Those who supported Nader, those who wish they had, and those who simply want to be kept informed can plug oin to one of two new citizens’ groups being established by his campaign to work with Green Parties and other progressive organisations. Go to http://www.votenader.org/signon.html

West Papuans Travel to Geneva to Demand Rights

Sem Karoba, a representative of the West Papuan Community (WestPaC), travelled to Geneva during the week to speak to the UN about West Papua's  struggle for independence. "The right to association of the West Papua people was first of all denied by Indonesia from 1963 to 1969 during the decolonisation period.” Karuba said. “In these years, the official New Guinea Council was not acknowledged as an association of the people of the territory, against Article 2.4 of the UN Declaration on Minorities. West Papuan people were excluded from the processes of West Papuan decolonisation. The outcome of this was the U.N. Resolution 2504 of 19 November 1969,  which 'took note' of the  outcome of the Act of Free Choice. In Papuan history we refer to this as the Act of No Choice. Our people did not accept this then nor do we now accept it nor will future generations accept it. Most of the Council Members are now still in exile because they were threatened with death. " Since the passage of this Resolution, 200,000 people have been murdered by Indonesian troops and countless more tortured or imprisoned. WestPAC is urging people in developed countries to put pressure on their governments to force Indonesia to come to the negotiating table. Apart from such negotiations, their initial demand is for an international ‘truth and reconciliation mission’ to be sent to West Papua.  For more information mail sem_karoba@yahoo.com or visit the site at www.westpapua.org.uk

New Japanese Communist Party English Language Website Comes On Line

Sometimes, when you read an article in one of the more intelligent mainstream newspapers criticising your country’s government, or the IMF, or NATO, you can still believe in that hoary old notion of a free press. The virtual blackout on news of the Japanese Communist Party in the western media is a good antidote to this poisonous myth: here is a party which, having been excommunicated by both Stalin and Mao in the early 1950s has followed an independent course which has allowed it to become the biggest radical left party in the industrialised world, commanding between ten and fifteen percent of the vote and organising vigorous opposition to the continued US military occupation and all that accompanies it, to the neo-liberal policies successive governments, to the hyper-exploitation which is the lot of most Japanese blue- and white-collar workers, to the continued subordination of women, to name just a few of the causes covered in the party’s excellent English-language news services over the last year or so. Until recently both the email and hard copy news services have had to be paid for, but now these have been discontinued in favour of a free access website at www.japan-press.co.jp

Pakistani Resistance

PRISE is organising resistance in Pakistan to World Bank-enforced ‘reforms’ carried out by an illegal military regime with which, as an institution financed by your tax euros/pounds/dollars/etc and mine, should not be talking to them at all. Find our more at prise@lhe.orbit.net.pk

Qatar Denies Access to Anyone Not Accredited With The Conference

Those without the right credentials for the Qatar Conference will be refused entry into the Emirate as authorities in this feudal, theocratic dump have stated that only 4400 visas will be delivered to accredited participants at the Conference in November. However, despite this minor annoyance in actually gaining access to the country the nutters that run the place have also stated that "Qatar will permit peaceful demonstrations to be held during the Conference." Well, at least we can be grateful for that.