Western European News Digest
Italian Opposition Demands U.S. Apology for Calipari Death
Speaking in the name of the center-left coalition, DS (Democrats of the Left) secretary general Piero Fassino on May 5 urged the Italian government to "demand an act of moral and political reparation from the U.S. government," as "a fact of dignity" for the nation, and "of justice towards the Calipari family and Italy." Italian secret service agent Nicola Calipari was killed by U.S. troops, while escorting an Italian journalist, Giulia Sgrena, to the Baghdad airport, after she was released by kidnappers. "We believe that the U.S. government must offer its apology. So far, this expression from the U.S. government did not come." Fassino was indirectly referring to a phone call between George W. Bush and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi the previous day, which was made public by the two governments, in which Bush expressed "regret" but nothing more.
Fassino also invited the Italian government to draft an exit strategy for Italian troops in Iraq. He took the Parliament floor after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had addressed the Chamber of Deputies on May 5. In his speech that morning, Berlusconi had made an effort to decouple the Calipari issue from the issue of Italy's presence in Iraq. "The discrepancy on the causes and the modalities of the tragic accident has proven to be unreducible," Berlusconi said, "and I will not be the one who minimizes the dimensions of the disagreement." "One does not need to be an expert in criminal law to understand that the absence of the voluntary element does not exclude at all the guilt element, which is provoked by negligence, imprudence or even just uncleverness," Berlusconi said. He pointed to "the irregularity of a checkpoint which was lacking signal mechanisms that would make it clearly visible" and to "a checkpoint placed in the dark, shortly after a curve, certainly in conditions barely indicated to guarantee security both of the soldiers and the incoming drivers." Such a truth, Berlusconi said, has been implicitly recognized by the U.S. report, which recommends to review signals, rules of engagement and post-accident procedures.
However, "the result of the investigation has nothing to do with the quality of our relationships with the United States," Berlusconi said, and "we have no intention of establishing any connection between the evaluation of the events in which our official lost his life, and the role of our country in Iraq." Berlusconi promised formal government support to the Italian judiciary investigation.
Steel Workers Prepare for Strike in NorthRhine-Westphalia
Steel workers in NorthRhine-Westphalia (NRW) announced May 4 they would prepare for the first real strike in 27 years, following the collapse of the wage negotiations in the West German steel sector.
As many as 85,000 steel workers, mostly in NRW cities like Bochum, Duisburg, and Essen, are expected to support a strike, which would be the first in the western districts of Germany since 1978. Steel workers in Lower Saxony, in the Salzgitter, and in Bremen, will join. The strike could be called immediately after the May 22 NRW state elections.
German Union Calls for Public Sector Investment
The chairman of Germany's largest union, IG Metall, called for a program of public-sector investment, in his May Day speech. Many of the union speeches during the May 1 rallies reflected the recent campaign by SPD chairman Franz Muentefering to return to the social state, and a few labor leaders went a step further, into the domain of program. One of these was Juergen Peters, head of the metal workers union, calling for a national and European public-sector investment program to create new and real jobs, with emphasis on public infrastructure. Peters did not go into details in his speech, but IG Metall does have a three-year-old memo calling for such a program, financed through the Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufbau, with 18-20 billion euros annually.
German Press Warns Against Agricultural Speculation
Financial speculators are moving from raw materials into agricultural goods, at an alarming pace, wrote the Welt am Sonntag, Germany's second-largest Sunday mass tabloid, on May 1. The fact that, speculators have begun to show considerable interest in agricultural commodities, after energy-related raw materials and minerals, has received increasing coverage in Europe. The Welt am Sonntag dedicated one full page to this pattern, warning that after coffee and sugar, cereals may be next on the speculators' wish listdriving prices drastically up, as they have done in oil and minerals.
Leading Mainz-Wiesbaden Firm Under Financial Attack
The Kostheim branch of the Cologne-based Linde firm, a leading producer of cooling-generators and related equipment for department stores, is threatened by management plans to outsource production to the Czech Republic. More than 800 workers would lose their jobs. The top management is not German, but are linked to the Anglo-American Carrier group.
Armin Becker, chairman of the Kostheim branch, said in a discussion with EIR, that since the company has workers with more than 20 or 25 years of experience in producing this special equipment, which has an edge also on global markets, the Kostheim site cannot simply be replaced by workers somewhere else. This is not to diminish the qualifications of Czech workers, but the long tradition of Linde cannot easily be replaced. For the Carrier management, however, the only thing that seems to count is to please the shareholders with the prospect of producing in Czechia for 4 euros per hourone third of the wages in Kostheim.
When Carrier took over Linde, there was hope that the Germans could, within this new alliance, produce coolers also for cars, railways, ships, and other systems, since Carrier is one of the leading firms internationally, in that branch. But these hopes were betrayed; now the management policy is outsourcing. Asked about conversion alternatives, Becker said something could be done, like producing other equipment, but that would require political guarantees, which the municipal administration of Wiesbaden, under whose jurisdiction Kostheim falls, is refusing to give. Kostheim workers have protested repeatedly in recent weeks, and also played a major part in the May Day rally in Wiesbaden.
CDU Leader Calls for New Financial Agreements
In a radio interview with the state-run DLR station on May 2, prominent former CDU official and former German Labor Minister Heiner Geissler said, "What we need is international agreements, ... multilateral agreements, for example among the G-7 states, which simply must work out rules that can be made operational in the global economy." Geissler added that, "for some time, there has indeed been discussion about that, among the medium-level leadership of the G-7 states," on how to get control over the global financial bubble. "To regulate this giant financial bubble, one would have to impose an international tax on speculation. One would have to shut down the offshore centers. All of that can be done. It is within the powers of the industrial states. That can be done by politicians."