Western European News Digest
'Together' Loans Drive Up Home Repossessions in Britain
With a "Together" loan, first-time British home buyers can borrow up to 95% of the price of their home, plus another 30% as a personal loan at the same interest rate, the Guardian reported Feb. 4. In other words, you get your mortgage and your home equity loan all at oncebefore you have any equity! These loans made up about one-sixth of all mortgages to first-time buyers in 2005, about 7 billion pounds sterling. Some of the same banks offering these "Together" loans are also making them at up to six times the income of the buyer, twice the recommended formula. It's no surprise then that repossessions are skyrocketing as borrowers struggle to repay these loans. One lender, Northern Rock, has seen its repossessions triple in the past year, to 576. The proportion of such borrowers behind on their payments has also increased.
Report Signals Intent To Reform NATO for War on Terror
Last October, the Spanish FAES (Foundation for and Social Studies and Analysis), linked to former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, produced a report demanding that NATO be reorganized, "in order to combat and defeat Islamist terrorism." Aznar, an avowed admirer of Spain's late fascist dictator Francisco Franco, personally presented the FAES proposal, titled "NATO: An Alliance for Freedom," at NATO headquarters on Nov. 30, 2005. Many in Europe do not yet agree that "Islamic jihadism/extremism/terror"a phrase appearing over 20 times in the documentis an "existential threat" to countries, the report says, but then confidently asserts that "the threat of Islamist terrorism will end up becoming the greatest priority sooner or later."
The FAES document is a proposal for NATO to become a supranational dictatorship on behalf of "the liberal and democratic world." The report proposes that NATO create a standing counterterrorist military command, empowered to commandeer "domestic resources" into the military fight as required, including taking "active measures" against domestic threats. NATO is to provide Homeland Security for its members. "A new legal framework" must be drawn up to permit NATO and its armed forces to operate within the countries themselves. And NATO must be prepared to go into the Middle East and impose democracyby military force, if necessary.
Background research by EIR indicates that Aznar's proposal received its first international endorsement on Nov. 15, 2005: from the think tank Committee on the Present Danger. The endorsement should not come as a surprise, since both James Woolsey and George Shultz sit on the CPD's board, and the CPD-International is co-chaired by Jose Maria Aznar.... The day after the CPD endorsement, Nov. 16, 2005, the American Enterprise Institute held a panel discussion on Aznar's proposal, with Aznar giving the keynote address, in which he emphasized the importance of his foundation's call for a "homeland security dimension" for NATO.
Aznar is still busy promoting his foundation's NATO plan. On Jan. 29, 2006, he presented it at George Shultz's Hoover Institute's Washington, D.C. office, and later dined with President George Bush at the White House. The next day, in a speech at Georgetown University in the company of two of his cronies from FAES, Aznar insisted that now is the time to create an "Atlantic Prosperity Area" to strengthen trans-Atlantic ties and pave the way for global free trade.
On Feb. 6, the Wall Street Journal endorsed Aznar's call for Israel to join NATO. In its editorial, the Journal stated that if Israel were to join NATO, it would have "the additional virtue of forcing Europe to take a firmer stand against an Iranian bomb."
Spain and Turkey Promote Dialogue of Civilizations
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Rodriguez Zapatero and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan came out in a common call to promote "an alliance for the dialogue of civilizations"a call which was officially presented by Zapatero during the last UN General Assembly. "A call to respect and calm," is the title of their op-ed published by the Spanish daily El Mundo Feb. 7, in which the two statesmen expressed their concern about the fuelling of tensions and called for "the voice of reason to be heard." The two further stated, "Last year when the government chiefs of Turkey and Spain put forward the initiative 'Alliance of Civilization,' we did it with the firm conviction, that we need initiatives and instruments in order to stop the spiral of hatred which constitutes a threat to peace and international security."
Spain and Turkey have been historically situated at the crossroads between Occident and Orient, and would want to promote contact and dialogue between the different cultures, the two statesmen said. While rejecting the publication of the Danish caricatures of the prophet Mohammed, they stressed the need to respect religions of both sides and to cultivate "peaceful coexistence, which is only possible if there is an interest in understanding the viewpoint of the other and about what each side considers as the most sacred."
This call is in direct opposition to the Clash of Civilizations proposal by former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar (see above). In the same light, it has been announced by the Vatican Press office that Pope Benedict XVI has accepted an official invitation from the President of Turkey, and will visit the country Nov. 28-30. It is also noteworthy that Bishop Renato Raffaele Martino, in commenting on the Danish cartoon story, spoke about the "arrogance of the West"especially of the rich countries in the Western world "which have no respect for the poor."
EU Commission Makes Concessions on Anti-Labor Directive
The EU Commission has now signalled that it would no longer insist on the "country-of-origin principle" formulation in the anti-labor Bolkestein Services Directive, but rather accept that services offered by a firm in one country to another country, are subject to the respective labor and social laws of the other country. This is a significant retreat for the EU Commission, which is still reeling from its big setback four weeks ago in the European Parliament, on the Port Package II directive and on the draft for the 2007-2012 EU budgetboth voted down with a 75% majority.
The new formula is praised as a "breakthrough" by both Social Democrats and Christian Democrats, even those who have previously opposed it. Evelyn Gebhardt (SPD, in charge of the directive at the Internal Market Committee of the EU Parliament), and SPD national party chairman Matthias Platzeck have both called it "good," Platzeck calling it a "good compromise between the requirements of the market and the social state model."
The labor unions however are skeptical, and for several good reasons. First, the full text of the "breakthrough" document is not yet available, and may not be until Feb. 14, the day when the EU Parliament begins its hearing on it. Also, labor demands that definite standards be imposed for minimum wages and against fake "entrepreneur" status of, in reality, low-paid foreign workers, have not been heeded, which means that the erosion of living standards, health, and security regulations continue with wage-dumping practices. In addition, there still is no clause that makes registration of services firms in another country mandatory, which opens the door to "unregistered" firms undercutting legitimate businesses.
The labor unions are sticking to their plan to protest in Berlin Feb. 11, and in Strasbourg, with labor from all EU member countries taking part, on Feb. 14. Warning strikes have been taking place throughout Europe (notably in the public services sectors), in anticipation.