Western European News Digest
German State Governments Move vs. Energy Price Increases
The widespread public outcry in Germany after the collapse three weeks ago of the power supplier in the Muensterland region (the "German Enron"), and the prospect that electricity prices will undergo a new round of increases starting Jan. 1, have created a favorable political environment for calls for re-regulation. For example, over the Dec. 17-18 weekend, Hesse State Economics Minister Alois Riehl decreed that none of the 51 utilities planning to increase prices by 5-8% in the state's urban areas, will get the permits. Instead, all are to report to him in detail the reasons for the increases, and how they are justified. Riehl has the backing of Hesse Gov. Roland Koch, a Christian Democratic Union (CDU) neo-con.
With the exception of the grand coalition government in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, none of the other state governments is willing to follow Hessen. Dietrich Austermann (CDU), economics minister of Schleswig-Holstein, said on DLR radio that if (as is the case) power firms are making good profits with increased energy prices, they also have an obligation to share some of those profits with the consumer, along the common good principle that "property obliges."
All state governments are under heavy, increasing public pressure to act. Saxony, Saxe-Anhalt, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Lower Saxony, and North-Rhine Westphalia have okayed most of the price increases, but are withholding permits to several utilities, on the basis of doubts that their increases are justified.
Mannesmann Case Sparks Debate in Germany on Common Good
A court ruled Dec. 21 to reopen the trial of Mannesmann management, making invalid an earlier ruling by the regional court in Duesseldorf, which had ruled for an acquittal of the accusedJosef Ackermann, CEO of Deutsche Bank; Klaus Esser, former CEO of Mannesmann; Klaus Zwickel, former chairman of German Metal Workers Union; and three other members of the Mannesmann advisory board. The six were charged with insider arrangements and fraud in the takeover of Mannesmann by Vodafone in 2000, which provided them with exorbitantly high premium payments. For lack of clear evidence about the fraudulent insider arrangements, the Duesseldorf court ruled for acquittal in July 2004; however, in a rather unusual procedure, the presiding judge stated her deep dissatisfaction with the ruling.
All that is now on the table again, and the new ruling has sparked broad debate in Germany on the Common Good, and management culture in general. Going beyond the many calls from politicians and institutions that Josef Ackermann resign as CEO of Deutsche Bank, there has been reference in many of these statements to the Common Good principle of the German Constitution.
Notably, Wolfgang Thierse, past chief speaker of the Bundestag (parliament) and Susanne Kastner, present vice speaker, have insisted that, short of specific legislation to determine limits to management conduct, there is urgent need for a broad and intense debate on the question, "What kind of management culture complies with the German tradition of social market economy?" The Common Good principle, both said, obliges a manager to see himself as the "good administrator of a firm that is not his personal property," that is, to operate on the basis of a "social consensus."
This principle evidently was violated in the Mannesmann case by top managers like Josef Ackermann, who thereby lost the qualification for a highly responsible job as CEO of a leading German bank, Kastner said.
Neo-Cons Launch Budget Terror Campaign Against France
On Dec. 15, Michel Pebereau, president of the board of directors of France's largest bank, BNP-Paribas, published a report on the French debt which Economics and Finance Minister Thierry Breton had commissioned last July. The appearance of the report was the start of a brutal propaganda campaign to convince the French that for 25 years, the country has lived above its means, and that the accumulated debt is so high that the country is on a short road to self-destruction. The report got dramatic headlines for two days in Le Figaro, the daily owned by military-airplane producer Serge Dassault, a right-winger fully backing the Presidential campaign of neo-conservative Nicolas Sarkozy.
The report, which mixes truth and falsehood, is black propaganda aimed at forcing France to adopt shock therapy, and abandon the remains of its traditional social model. In typically synarchist fashion, the authors lay the blame on the democratic system, its large number of elected officials500,000 in Franceas limiting the possibility of consensus, and its frequent elections, which frequency raises the electoral penalty for politicians who want to introduce reforms.
Note that on Nov. 17, Standard & Poor's rating agency threatened to downgrade France's AAA rating if it didn't reduce its deficit and indebtedness. At the same time, the European Central Bank, furious at the refusal by the major Europeans countries, France and Germany in particular, to impose deep austerity cuts to meet the Maastricht criteria, had taken on itself to launch a campaign to force them to do so. It announced a month ago that it would be using Standard & Poor's criteria to downgrade the financial rating of European member states, and get them back into line.
Italians Investigating U.S. Marine in Calipari Death
An Italian prosecutor has confirmed that he is investigating a U.S. Marine in connection with the death of Italian secret service officer Nicola Calipari, and has considered charging the Marine with murder. The prosecutor would not discuss details of the investigation into the March 4 shooting death of Calipari, the agent who was killed by U.S. gunfire at a checkpoint in Iraq, while rescuing Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who had been kidnapped by insurgents.
World War II British Torture/Interrogation Prisons Exposed
On the basis of just-declassified 60-year-old British Army records, the London Guardian Dec. 18 published a detailed account of secret British torture/interrogation centers in postwar occupied Germany. The article identified the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Center (CSDIC) as the agency that ran a string of secret torture/interrogation centers, including a particularly vicious one at Bad Nenndorf, near Hannover, and the London Cage, a center in an exclusive London neighborhood. The initial prisoners were German Nazi officials and industrialists who profiteered under Hitler, but later, the facilities targetted suspected Soviet spies. The Guardian story appears in the context of wide international circulation of the Frank Olson story in EIR (see "It Didn't Start With Abu Ghraib; Dick Cheney: Vice President for Torture and War," by Jeffrey Steinberg, EIR Online, Nov. 8, vol. 4, no. 45).
Stone-Age Observatory ReopenedAfter 2,800 Years
The Stone-Age observatory at Goseck, Saxe-Anhalt in Germany, which was discovered by aerial archaeography in 1991, has been reconstructed to its original form. The two main rings of palisades, the gates of which point exactly to the sunrise at solstice, form what is known to date, as the oldest observatory on Earth. The ancient structures were dated as older than 6,800 years (about 4800 B.C.), which makes them older than Stonehenge in England (3000 B.C.), and the pyramids in Egypt (ca. 3200 B.C.).
The original site may have been in use until 800 B.C., which means that its reopening Dec. 21, with a winter solstice ceremony, occurs after an interruption of almost 3,000 years. The entire site is surrounded by numerous larger settlements dating from the Stone Age, as well as by other structures that indicate rather developed astronomical practices, several thousand years ago. Not far away from Goseck, a Bronze-Age plate depicting a section of the sky along with two curves believed to portray the movement of the Sun between the two solstices, was found in 1997.
Blair Was Warned of Coming Subway Terror Attack
British intelligence organs MI5, MI6, AND GCHQ warned Prime Minister Tony Blair before the July 7 bombings that al-Qaeda planned a "high-priority" attack on London's subway, says a four-page report by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), leaked to the London Sunday Times Dec. 18. JIC oversees all intelligence-gathering. The document, it says, "will fuel suspicions that Mr. Blair decided to rule out a public inquiry into the bombings last week because it could expose intelligence failings at the highest level.... [T]he leaked document, dated April 2003, will be seized on by critics to show that ministers failed to disclose that they knew al-Qaeda was targetting the Tube [the subway]." The document, marked "Top Secret," and signed off by the heads of all the above agencies, was based partly on the interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al-Qaeda's operations chief. It stated: "The UK and its interests remain high in Al-Qaeda's priorities.... Plans have been considered to attack Heathrow, the London Underground and other targets."
Ministers and senior security officials have insisted that there was no warning of an imminent attack ahead of the July 7 bombings, in which 56 people died. Officers judged that Siddique Khan, who was to be the leader of the four bombers, was not an immediate threat to national security and decided to stop monitoring him. Blair ruled out a public inquiry on the grounds that it would detract from the investigation.