Western European News Digest
Following U.S. Shift: Dutch Conservatives Lose Majority
The ruling Dutch Christian Liberal coalition lost nine seats, dropping from 72 to 63, in the Nov. 23 elections; this is 13 seats short of a majority in the 150-member Parliament. Scripts by the governing pro-Bush-Cheney coalition to structure the vote around themes like immigration and Islamic terrorism, failed with a good part of the Dutch electorate. Minor coalition partner D-66 had quit the government several weeks ago, over disputes concerning the Iraq War and the Islamic immigration issue.
The vote also was one against globalization, against the European Union's role in making the economy and social conditions worse: The Socialist Party almost tripled its vote, improving from 9 to 26 seats in the Parliament. Many of these votes came from the Social Democratic (Labor) Party, which also took a beating from voters over its inactivity on pressing economic and social issues, dropping from 41 to 32 seats.
Because of the difficulty of forming a majority government coalition from several parties over the entire political spectrum, as neither a conservative nor a progressive majority exists, it cannot be ruled out that the Netherlands will be run by a minority government, for the time being. The outgoing minority government of Prime Minister Jan Balkenende is expected to stay in office into early 2007.
Core Synarchist Bid for Control of European Media
The ongoing fierce faction fights among the leading media groups have seen a spectacular new development with, the Bertelsmann Group's attempt to take over Independent TV, the second-largest TV network in Britain. Rumors have it that Bertelsmann's RTL-TV is teaming up with a group of locust equity funds led by KKR, to assemble several billion euros for the takeover, according to media reports Nov. 18-20.
The latest development in this media struggle has been the purchase of 17.9% of ITV by BSkyB of the British-Australian Rupert Murdoch Groupwhich is said to be preparing the ground for Bertelsmann, which would then swap some of its media assets on the European continent with Murdoch.
Apart from its dominant role in Germany's media sector (TV, music and entertainment, books, publications), the Bertelsmann Group also has an unhealthy control of foreign policy, budget control, education and health care/pension debates, through its Munich-based Center of Applied Politics (CAP). The CAP organizes an international event at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin at least once a month.
Blair Echoes Bush on Causes for Iraq Quagmire
When challenged by interviewer David Frost on Al-Jazeera's new English-language TV-news channel Nov. 17, that the invasion of Iraq has "so far been pretty much of a disaster," British Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted that "It has." He went on: "It's not difficult because of some accident in planning, it's difficult because there's a deliberate strategyal-Qaeda with Sunni insurgents on one hand, Iranian-backed elements with Shi'a militias on the otherto create a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced by the will of the minority for war." Despite all that, however, he insisted that Britain will not pull out. "We will stay for as long as the government needs us to stay," he declared.
Blair's remarks came a day after his Trade and Industry Minister, Margaret Hodge, was reported to have called the Iraq War, Blair's "big mistake in foreign affairs," and to have criticized his "moral imperialism," during a private dinner organized by the Fabian Society. A spokesman for Hodge later denied that she made those comments.
Lazard Man Gets an Earful from the Crowd
Lazard's John Kornblum was again in the public eye last week, continuing to circulate the establishment line in the wake of the watershed shift in the U.S. political landscape. Speaking at an event entitled "The Mid-Term Elections: The Road to 2008," held in cooperation with Harvard's Center for European Studies in Berlin, were Kornblum and Guido Goldman.
Introduced as the ex-U.S. Ambassador to Germany and current Lazard Frères chief of Germany, Kornblum immediately cautioned the crowd: "Many are relieved by the Democratic victory, ... but I think that people should not overinterpret the meaning of this election result." The dreary analysis by the two speakers of the election results' causes: the Iraq quagmire, Republican corruption, including five GOP legal scandals (Ney, Cunningham, DeLay, Foley, and Haggard), evangelical reaction, conservatives contra Bush, and the Democrats being pro-active (here the war veteran candidates were cited). There was no mention of the single most notable singularity of the election: the significant turnout among the youth voters, ages 18-25.
The two speakers were given a dose of exactly how the American youth were motivated during the question period. At least five questioners were of the youthful variety, hitting them with questions that they either couldn't or didn't want to answer in public. Questions concerned the key topic of impeachment, Democratic combativeness, and the all important economic collapse. The duo stammered party-line answers as well as they could, and then quickly departed.
'Europe Relaunches Nuclear Energy Through Finland'
That was the headline in the economic section of the French daily Le Figaro Nov. 24, written on the eve of the Russia/EU summit, which makes reference to the Finnish nuclear reactor Olkiluoto, a prototype reactor being constructed now in Finland. The article reports that 12,000 workers and 1,000 engineers from 26 countries are involved in the construction. The new reactor, if ready, will, by the year 2010, increase Finland's nuclear dependence from 26% to 50%. This also must be seen in the context of the country's economic development, which increases the need for electricity. The article also states that in Poland, a debate is taking place about nuclear energyby which Poland may want to reduce its energy dependence on Russia. The article makes reference to a statement which was made two weeks ago by Poland's Economic Minister Piotr Wozniak, who said that the country intends to construct a nuclear reactor. Figaro also notes that there is rethinking in Germany about reversing their determination to exit nuclear technology.
German Performance Draws Musical Insight from Pope
After a Nov. 18 performance by the Berlin Philharmonia Quartet of works by Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Wolff, which German President Horst Koehler arranged for his visit with the Pope at the Vatican, Benedict commented: "Playing together as soloists requires each individual not only to use all his technical and musical abilities in playing his part but, at the same time, to know how to draw back and listen attentively to the others. Only if ... each player does not put himself at the center but, in a spirit of service, becomes part of the whole, ... an 'instrument' that turns the composer's idea into sound to reach the listeners' hearts, only then does the interpretation become truly great. This is a beautiful image, also for us who, within the Church, are committed to being 'instruments' to communicate to men and women the idea of the great 'Composer,' Whose work is the harmony of the universe."