Western European News Digest
Issue of Secret CIA Prisoner Flights Explodes Across Europe
Since the story of secret CIA prisoner flights across Europe broke in the Washington Post Nov. 2, it has become a hot topic in many European countries. At least six European countries are now being investigated, and, according to the Berliner Zeitung, more than 80 flights into Germany alone, making that country a "hub" for CIA prisoner transport.
On Nov. 3, Human Rights Watch said it had evidence that the CIA flew terror suspects to Poland and Romania. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski repeated on Nov. 27 that Poland had never allowed the CIA to hold prisoners on its territory; however, he obfuscated on the issue of whether the CIA flights had ever landed in Poland.
The European Union's top justice official, Commissioner Franco Frattini, warned the EU's 25 member nations Nov. 29 that any country found to have hosted a covert jail could be punished, and even lose its vote in the EU Councilan unprecedented punishmentbecause such actions violate the Treaty of Nice signed by all EU members.
On Nov. 30, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, wrote a formal letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, publicly questioned the U.S. about the "rendition flights." Straw wrote in Britain's capacity as EU president, but, as the Glasgow Herald wrote, it is also "politically significant," because of the UK's role as the key European ally of the U.S. in the Iraq war.
Following that, an all-party group of British MPs called on the Blair government to answer questions about the use of UK airports for the flights, with a similar action coming from the leaders of the Scottish National Party. This week, British MPs will meet to discuss the "extraordinary renditions" and gather information on the flights, since the government so far has only said that it is "not aware" of British airports being used for them.
German Kidnapping Is Strategy of Tension
The kidnapping of Suzanne Osthoff Nov. 29, the first German national to be kidnapped in Iraq, seems designed to orchestrate a diversion of German politics. Osthoff, a prominent German archeological and aid worker, has lived and worked in Iraq for years, and was seized, along with her driver, and three others, by armed captors. The kidnapping has riveted a German public that has long opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The kidnapping occurred right after Germany's new Chancellor Angela Merkel assumed office. Merkel said the government has set up a crisis committee to address the kidnapping.
German Auto Spokesman Says Employment Has 'Peaked'
The collapse of the automobile sector has finally also arrived in Germany, with public remarks by leading management that both spending and more jobs have to be cut from 2006 on. In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Nov. 29, Bernd Gottschalk, president of the Association of German Automakers (VDA), said that the "peak" of employment in this sector has "inevitably" passed. What is now on the agenda, Gottschalk said, is to secure that at maximum 50% of new investments are made in Germanybut that would be possible only with additional 10-15% cuts in "labor costs." The other 50% of investments will "inevitably" be made abroad. The envisaged cuts are not to be made in production of the standard private automobile; they are, instead, to be made in the "premium class" cars, production of which currently employs 60% of all auto workers in Germany.
European Fascists Gather To Commemorate Franco's Death
Spanish fascist Blas Pinar crawled out of his crypt on Sunday, Nov. 20, to lead, on the streets of Madrid, a commemoration for the 30th anniversary of Francisco Franco's death. He was joined at the podium by the head of Germany's neo-nazi NPD party, Ugo Voight; the president of Italy's Fiamme Tricolore, Maximo Zanoni; unnamed French representatives; Blas Pinar's grandson, Miguel Menendez Pinar; and the head of Spain's "La Falange," Miguel Mariat, among others. The estimated 1,000 people participating in the Madrid demonstration included blue-shirted paramilitary Falange youth; participants cried "Franco, Franco," as they gave the fascist salute, and waved the Spanish flag from Franco's era.
Former Franco official and founder of today's Fascist International, Blas Pinar, delivered a diatribe against the 1978 Constitution which rules Spain today, derided Prime Minister Zapatero, and lamented the loss of Franco's days. Falange chief Mariat ranted against immigrants as a "time bomb which endangers Spain's cohesion." Pinar's grandson railed about how Muslims and homosexuals are seeking to "take over Spain."
The website of the European wing of the reconstituted Fascist Internationalwhose various language pages gloat that the riots in France prove that "ethnic war" is about to begin against Muslim immigration into Europereports that "comrades from across Europe" gathered in Madrid on Nov. 18, for activities beginning with a "Dinner for the Europe of the Fatherlands," and concluding with a Nov. 20 march in honor of Falange founder Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera. At the Nov. 18 dinner, Tudor Ionescu from the Romanian fascist party Noua Dreapta; Udo Voigt, from the NPD; the infamous British-controlled terrorist Roberto Fiore for Italy's Forza Nuova; Jose Cantalapiedra of Spain's Falange; and Dimitri Papageorgiou from Greece's Golden Dawn party, signed a formal agreement to coordinate activities. Although not signing the accord, Olivier Grimaldi of the French-Hispanic Circle, also addressed the meeting.
Hedge Funds Hungry for German Industrials
As the Handelsblatt daily reported Dec. 1, hedge funds and private equity funds are keeping a close watch on the biggest real-industrial companies of Germany, just waiting for the first major management mistake there, to intervene with a hostile takeover bid. At least six of the 30 leading companies that form the core stock market index in Frankfurt, the DAX, are in high danger of such takeover attacks; names include Siemens, Linde, MAN, and Daimler-Chrysler, among others. Especially firms of the "old economy," with an emphasis on machine-building companies, are a target of the funds, the daily reported, on the basis of remarks made at a Frankfurt investment forum organized by the daily.
The dangerous potential of hedge and private equity funds is their targetted aggressiveness, which allows them, even with only 3-5% of owned shares, to lure other greedy shareholders into ganging up for a shakeup of the management and a takeover by managers of the funds' choice.
German Metal Workers Plan Ineffective Public Action
Workers from numerous German metal-sector firms threatened with shutdowns, planned to take to the streets of Berlin, Dec. 1. A smaller contingent of workers from Samsung and JVC already protested in front of the Reichstag, the parliamentary building, Nov. 30. Workers from these two companies planned a motorcade from their sites in Oberschoeneweide and Reinickendorf, to the Mayor's office at the Rote Rathaus, in the center of Berlin. There, they were to be joined by several thousand workers from numerous other firms, mostly in the metal sector, protesting the unabated deindustrialization of the city. In mid-May this year, the labor federation of Berlin presented a memorandum calling for the reindustrialization of Berlinwhich had 400,000 industrial jobs 15 years ago, shrunk down to only 100,000 now.
Also on the agenda, is protest against the destruction of still-existing full-time jobs, by part-time or 1-euro jobs: The city of Berlin alone lost 32,000 full-time jobs this way, during 2005, and the entire region (with the famous Speckguertel) of Berlin even 51,000 jobs.
The workers at JVC have presented an alternate production model, shifting from production of normal television screens to production of monitors for other purposes. The concept, so far rejected by the management in South Korea, does have the backing of the Berlin municipal administration, which would also co-fund the transformation process.
Tom DeLay's Scottish Host Forced To Resign
Brian Monteith, who has hosted disgraced former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, has now been forced to resign from the Scottish Tory Party. While his fall is not explicitly related to the ongoing U.S. Department of Justice investigation into Monteith's decades-long friend Jack Abramoff, it does reflect Tory opposition to such expendable trans-Atlantic intriguers, as Monteith was caught promoting press attacks on the head of the Scottish Tories.