Western European News Digest
300,000 Polish Soccer Fans to Descend on Germany
According to a report given by Polish Interior Minister Ludwik Dorn during a press conference, 300,000 fans from Poland will be travelling to Germany for the World Cup Soccer games. Of these, only 10,000 have tickets; the rest will watch the games on huge screens in the various cities. According to the Polish Interior Ministry, the Polish Police estimate that there are 3,000 hardcore Polish hooligans who want to travel to Germany. It was also reported that 68 Polish police officers will directly assist the German police during the games.
In a separate interview with German TV Phoenix, outgoing Polish Ambassador Byrt underlined that both Poland and Germany, irrespective of obvious political frictions, have for four years very closely cooperated in the monitoring of the hooligan scene in both countries.
Photo Shows World Cup Provocation Leading to Balkans War
A picture and caption run in the Washington Post June 7 demonstrates the psychological tension before the start of the World Cup Soccer games. The Post ran an archive photo of a confrontation between a soccer player and a policeman during a 1990 soccer game in Zagreb. The caption noted that this was the start of the Balkan wars.
The background to that confrontation were hooligan fights between the Belgrade Red Star team which visited the Zagreb Dinamo Stadium, provoked by a fight between Belgrade soccer player Arkan, Croatian fans and the police. Croatian player Boban got into the fight between the Croatian fans and the police. Today there is a monument in the Zagreb stadium park commemorating that mélée as the "first battle of the war."
Report: Europe Aided U.S. Torture Renditions
The Council of Europe has published a damning report on Europe's role in helping the Bush Administration transport suspects to torture chambers on flights that went through Europe. According to the report, covered in the June 7 Guardian, 14 European nations knowingly cooperated with the U.S., from offering logistical support to supplying intelligence on torture victims.
The investigation was conducted by former Swiss Attorney General Dick Marty, who wrote in the report, "It is now clearalthough we are still far from having established the whole truththat authorities in several European countries actively participated with the CIA in these unlawful activities. Other countries ignored them knowingly, or did not want to know." He also said that the program could have operated only with "the international or grossly negligent collusion of the European partners."
The investigation was mostly based on flight information supplied by EuroControl of CIA flights through Europe since 2001. Marty accused the U.S. of creating "new legal concepts" in order to deprive hundreds of suspects of their liberty outside the U.S. "This legal approach is utterly alien to the European tradition and sensibility, and is clearly contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
According to the report, Spain, Turkey, Germany, and Cyprus provided staging posts for rendition operations, while Italy, Sweden, Bosnia, and Macedonia have all allowed the rendition of residents from their soil. Britianlike Ireland, Portugal, and Greeceis described as providing stopovers for CIA planes. Britain is accused of handing over information about its residents and former residents that led to renditions and torture. Based on a study of the rendition flights, Poland and Romania are strongly suspected of providing facilities for the torture of prisoners, despite the fact that they deny it.
Rich/Poor Gap Widening in Central and Eastern Europe
In Czechia and Slovakiawhere, in recent years, foreign automobile companies (among them VW, GM, Kia, Hyundai) have opened an enormous concentration of production sites, being offered big tax incentives by the respective governmentsthe gap between rich and poor widening. While in Bratislava, unemployment is at 3%, in Precov, it stands is at 18%. A similar situation exists for wages: In Bratislava, wages are about 30,000; in other parts Slovakia, they are at 17,000, or even 6,000. Add the fact that food, gas, and oil prices have been increasing in recent weeks, as is household debt service, the economic stress on the average citizen is rising.
Hungary held parliamentary elections at the end of April, reconfirming the coalition government of Ferenc Guyrzcany, from the former Socialist Party MSZP, and the liberal party SZDSZ, for a second term. The global financial crisis and last weeks' crisis on the emerging markets not only had a visible effect on Hungary's currency, the Forint, but generally, the mounting tensions in the Eurozone are also reflected in Hungary, as well as in countries such as Slovakia and Czechia. The fight centers around those who insist at adhering to the EU Maastricht criteria at all cost, and those who look for a social-market orientation.
Civil Service 'Mandarins' Strike Back at Blair Government
After weeks of unprecedented politically motivated attacks by cabinet ministers of Tony Blair's government in Britain, Jonathan Baume, the general secretary of the First Division Association, which represents 16,000 senior civil servants, shot back at the Blair government, in an interview to be aired on British GMTV.
Baume said the top civil servants he represented were fed up with being "unfairly maligned" by ministers and commentators, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph June 3. The association's membership includes most of the elite group of permanent secretaries heading each goverment department who actually run the British government.
Baume said, "The Labour government is in some difficulty as poll ratings fall and the Conservative Party is revitalized. Some recent criticism of the Civil Service looks like an ill-disguised attempt by some politicians and commentators to make excuses and shift responsibility for struggling policies from ministers to their staff who serve them. These tactics are especially cowardly because civil servants are not allowed to fight back."
The last time such an open criticism by the "mandarins" was launched, was in the dying days of the Conservative government of John Major.
Derivatives Bubble Hiding in German Municipalities
Treasurers of chronically cash-strapped German cities have been lured by clever bankers into more and more speculative investments, under the illusion that they will make some quick euros to balance their budgets, Spiegel reported June 5. Many of these deals have flopped, with the banks always on the winning side, as the ghost of the 1994 Orange County, California bankruptcy hovers over these deals.
At the same time, the association of municipalities in Germany is rightly complaining about the chronic inaction of the government on urgently needed improvements of municipal funding: Emergency repairs of city streets in the range of 25 billion euros, and annual emergency repairs of municipal sewage systems of at least 5 billion euros (with a total backlog of at least 500 billion) cannot be done. Last year, cities did not even have one-third of the funds they needed for urgent repairs. At the same time, several billion euros have been pumped into stadium projects, for the world soccer championship.
Experts warn that another 10-15 years of such degeneration will turn all of Germany's infrastructure into what East Germany looked like, when it collapsed in 1989.
Blair Defenders Try To Change the Subject
According to a senior Labour Party figure speaking with the Independent June 4, arch-Blairites have taken to emitting scandalous leaks against Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott; this will be brought up at the first meeting of Labour Party MPs after spring vacation. "This just illustrates the level of meltdown that's occurring in No. 10. They are trying to stab John in the back as a way of saving Tony. The Party has had enough of this," the source charged.
Among the only charges brought against John Prescott, who is guilty of supporting strong British entry into the Iraq war, etc., is that he had an affair with a secretary, played croquet at a grace-and-favour mansion on a day when the Prime Minister was away, and waited until being caught playing croquet before giving up the mansion, despite the latest Cabinet reshuffle having taken his department away from him.
Sir Ian Blair, Tony Blair's Copper, May Face Charges
The Crown Prosecution Service is reported to be considering bringing possible civil charges against Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan London Police Commissioner, for his role in bungling the shooting of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, while branding him with a false terrorist tag, according to press reports June 4.
Meanwhile, no chemical weaponry or equipment to produce it has been located in the case of Mohammed Abdul Kahar and Abul Koyair, who were arrested after Kahar was shot as a suspected terrorist.