Western European News Digest
Rising Energy Costs Force Nuclear Debate in Germany
Two CDU (Christian Democratic Union) state governors in German states have declared their support for reopening the public debate on nuclear technology. In an interview with the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung on Dec. 22, Christian Wulff, Governor of Lower Saxony, pointing to the rising energy prices and the need for a secure energy supply for industry and consumers, said, "We will not be able to keep the timetable for turning off modern nuclear power plants.... Because of rising energy prices, a mix of energy sources is required." He left open whether he thought merely of having existing power plants continuing to operate for several years more, or of also building new plants. Wulff also recommended that energy-intensive industries get relief from rising costs, through tax rebates.
In an interview with the German edition of the Financial Times Dec. 23, Guenther Oettinger, Governor of Baden-Wuerttemberg, said, "I think that the development of electricity prices over the coming months, and new nuclear power plant projects on the European energy market, will make the Social Democrats rethink their views." Also, labor union officials have begun to question the exit from nuclear technology by the previous (Red-Green) government of Gerhard Schroeder, which combined the SPD (Red) and the Green Party, Oettinger said. He warned that if that exit policy remains unaltered, the power plant at Neckarwestheim in his state will have to be shut down in three years. As there will be no substitute for it by then, Baden-Wuerttemberg will be forced either to import electricity, or to face the possibility that companies and jobs will leave for other European countries which do have secure power supplies.
German States Tighten Control of Energy Prices
Christa Thoben, economics minister in the state government of North-Rhine Westphalia, gave her approval Dec. 27 to the RWE firm's planned increases of electricity prices beginning Jan. 1. However, prices were fixed at 25% below RWE's plans, and the government permit is dependent on the growth of RWE expenseswhich will be monitored. Should a review next spring deliver evidence of lower real expenses than those reported by RWE to the government in official hearings in early December, the pricing permits will also be subject to review.
Three other German state governmentsHessen, Thuringia, and Schleswig-Holsteinhave not yet decided on electricity prices. Thuringia and Schleswig-Holstein want to negotiate the increases down by as much as 40 or 50%.
A debate has also begun on controls of household gas-pricing policies, and on the usefulness of privatization in the gas-supply sector: there, increases are quite drastic, as shown in the case of GASAG, Germany's biggest municipal supplier of household gas, which supplies 700,000 Berlin households. Formerly state-owned in both parts of Berlin, GASAG was sold to Gaz de France several years ago, during one of several emergency privatizations of the public sector of the over-indebted city-state of Berlin.
On the heels of increases of 10.5% in October, GASAG wants another increase of up to 12%, beginning in January. EMB, which supplies municipalities in the state of Brandenburg, plans gas price increase of up 11%. The average price increase for household gas, before these new increases, was 43% between June 2004 and September 2005.
Britain Developing Orwellian Traffic-Monitoring Scheme
Starting in 2006, Britain will monitor every journey by every motor vehicle, the Independent Online reported Dec. 22. Science editor Steve Connor reports that the vehicle surveillance network "is only the beginning of plans to monitor the movements of all British citizens."
Staying a step ahead of the Cheney-Bush regime, the United Kingdom will become the first country to use a network of thousands of CCTV cameras to automatically read every passing license-plate number. The round-the-clock system will monitor all motorways and main roads, as well as towns, cities, ports, and gas stations. By next March, the central database alongside the Police National Computer will store details of 35 million "reads" a day, including time, date, and precise location. Arrangements are under way to expand the number of camera networks so that the central computer would receive 100 million reads a day, which will be stored for up to five years.
The database "will revolutionize arrest, intelligence, and crime investigation opportunities on a national basis," according to a "strategy document" issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers.
Mass Layoffs Next Year in German Auto, Finance Sectors
During the next two years, Daimler-Chrysler has plans to lay off 16,000 production workers; Volkswagen will let 14,000 go, and Opel 12,000. For every job eliminated in the big firms, two or three others in the supply sector will disappear. And, as these announcements of new layoffs keep coming in piecemeal, it is expected that even more layoffs are planned by management.
For the Frankfurter Allgemeine daily, which published a two-page overview Dec. 28, this trend "from the industrial to the services economy" is allegedly "without any alternative."
The banking sector also features considerable layoffs: Deutsche Bank 6,400; Hypovereinsbank 4,200; Dresdner Bank 3,000. The biggest wave of layoffs, so far, is planned at Deutsche Telekom, with 32,000 over the coming two years.
Italians Want To Question CIA Chief on Rendition
The Milan prosecutor made a formal request for the FBI to question a CIA ex-station chief over the rendition and torture of Abu Omar after he was kidnapped and taken to Egypt nearly three years ago. In a formal request for information was made under a mutual assistance treaty between Italy and the U.S., Milan's chief anti-terrorism prosecutor Armando Spataro is asking U.S. authorities to question the CIA's former chief in Milan, Robert Seldon Lady, about events in the aftermath of the kidnapping. They wish to know why Lady went to Egypt just after Abu Omar was flown there, whether Lady participated in his interrogation, and whether he had any reason to believe Abu Omar was being mistreated. The information request also asks for the interrogation of Lady's boss, the chief of the CIA's station in Rome.
Spataro has sent the request to Italian Justice Minister Roberto Castelli, who will decide whether to officially transmit it to the U.S. Justice Department. Castelli has not yet acted on Spataro's earlier request to extradite Lady and the 21 other CIA operatives accused in the case.
Italians Choose 'Mr. Britannia' To Head Central Bank
Mario Draghi, better known as "Mr. Britannia," has been chosen as the new head of Italy's central bank. Draghi is currently vice chairman of Goldman Sachs. Earlier, he was Director General of the Treasury Ministry for ten years, during which time he directed the process of privatization and liberalization of the Italian economy. This process started after the June 2, 1992 semi-conspiratorial meeting on the British royal yacht Britannia, which was exposed by EIR. Draghi was at that meeting, together with a selection of City bankers and Italian managers. In his speech on the Britannia, he pointed to the fact that to create a financial market in Italy, the obstacle represented by the political system had to be removed. Soon after that, a financial and a political crisis was provoked, through the George Soros-led speculative attack that pushed the Italian currency out of the EMS, and the "Clean Hands" investigation that successfully destroyed that very political system targetted by Draghi for elimination.