Western European News Digest
Europe Reacts Negatively to U.S. Iran War Moves
A group of parliamentarians from several Italian parties (DS, PRC and Greens) has called for a majority meeting to review the Italian mission in Kabul, Afghanistan. The mandate for the mission expires at the end of the month, and pressures on the government to give an anti-Bush signal have escalated from anti-war factions, after the Democratic electoral victory and Bush's announcement of the surge policy.
Germany's Ambassador to Tehran Herbert Honsowitz said last week that his country wanted a peaceful solution for Iran's nuclear dossier and would support this approach. Honsowitz added that promoting cooperation potentials with the EU would be a priority when Germany assumes the presidency of the EU.
Most press in Continental Europe report that Bush is becoming more and more isolated, that even prominent Republicans like Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb) are deserting him, that Senate hearings turned out rather unpleasant for Gates and Rice. (See InDepth this week, for more reactions to the Bush-Cheney insanity on Iran.)
Schroeder Defends Russia EU Strategic Partnership
Former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder gave a significant talk at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, on Jan. 17, to an audience of about 1,000 of Germany's "elite." This, on the same day that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived there, and almost on the eve of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Moscow meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Jan. 21. The keynote speaker at the event was Igor Shuvalov, the Russian "sherpa" for the G-8, who welcomed Germany as the new G-8 chairman, which Russia had last year.
According to a source, Schroeder's speech "quite brilliantly" laid out his policy for a united Continental Europe that is "like de Gaulle's view," against many who criticize Russia over issues such as the death of Alexander Litvinenko. Schroeder defended his policy of a strategic relationship with Russia, while he sees a shift going on, where now, his Russia policy is seen as dangerous. He said that the strategic partnership with Russia was a benefit to all of Continental Europe, and he sees it as a way to stabilize the continent. He laid out the issue of a common European house of Continental Europe, which the source also compared to "[Willy] Brandt's cautious Ostpolitik."
The source also noted that the audience expressed considerable hostility toward Russia, as did the press coverage later, which was also directed against Schroeder for his policy. The "elites," said the source, had been horrified by Schroeder and Western Europe's rift with the U.S., which is now being turned around by the Merkel government.
Italian Police Warn of Anarchist Terror Threat
As in the past, synarchist circles seem to be activated to create a terrorist potential, in connection with labor or other kinds of popular protests. Sources from the Anti-Terrorist Office of the Italian Interior Ministry (police department) have described a possible scenario of "a new season of street violence, radical protests, and subversive actions" based on the current mobilization of "anarchist" and "antagonist" sections of the radical left. Those anti-terrorist sources do not exclude the possibility that "new Red Brigades organizations" would go into action, according to La Stampa Jan. 18.
The alarm bell rang on Jan. 16, when two explosive devices were received by two Undersecretaries of State at their homes, both in Sardinia; and the Italian government announced its decision to give consent to the U.S. government decision to enlarge the Air Base in Aviano, Vicenza. Such a decision "could be utilized by the radical and antagonist wing of the movement," the sources said. In Vicenza, where there is a cross-party, popular mobilization against the air base, a situation could develop in a way similar to the Val di Susa protests, where "groups of the antagonist movement rode the popular protest."
The honeymoon of the radical left with the Prodi government is now over, and there could be a "resurgence of political and social conflict around two issues which are historically dear to terrorist subversion: anti-imperialism and the labor movement, which could find fuel for a new terrorist offensive." The fear is that in very soon, a surprise could occur, such as a bombing at a military target, in Aviano or Vicenza itself.
Bankers' Mouthpiece Hails End of Gaullism in France
The France of Charles de Gaulle can be finally buried once and for all, if either Nicolas Sarkozy or Segolene Royal be elected, chortles Matthew Kaminski, the editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe, in a Jan. 16 op-ed. Charles de Gaulle's spirit has yet to be buried, he complains; "the General has shaped France's view of the world and itself from the closing days of the last Great War. Come May, with a new resident in the Elysee Palace, that looks bound to change." With either Sarko or Sego, he writes, France will have its first head of state born after World War II (the election is scheduled for April 22). Both are pragmatic, which leaves less space for the "French glory" espoused by de Gaulle.
Sarkozy is outright pro-Bush (his memoirs, Temoignage are being published in English in the spring), and Royal, says Kaminski, is at least "agnostic," and has taken a hard line on Iran. They are prepared to accept modern realitythat "France simply matters less, in a larger Europe and with a rising Asia, than before."
Kaminski remains a little edgy, however, that Jacques Chirac might just find a way to stop either "Sego or Sarko" from taking office, and thereby keep the soul of France alive. As if to give life to their fears, two websites using the name of Chirac have been created and are circulating petitions calling on Chirac to run for a third term as President. The old Gaullist circles, whom some describe as still alive, well, and kicking, have several options for a Gaullist Presidential candidate, scenarios that they will unfold as the situation develops.
Blair Under Attack on Afghan Heroin
British Premier Tony Blair is facing a growing number of hostile Members of Parliament on the Afghan heroin issuethere has been an explosion in opium production since the U.S. invasion in 2002. Unfortunately for Blair, his whole justification for the Afghan invasion was the elimination of opiumunlike President Bush (who went to war in Afghanistan to eliminate Osama bin Laden). Blair made a dramatic presentation before the British Parliament after 9/11, saying he is joining the Americans against the Taliban because "the arms the Taliban are buying today are paid for with the lives of young British people buying their drugs on British streets," British media reported Jan. 18.
Protests Against Italian Finance Minister Padoa-Schioppa
Italian Finance Minister Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa gave a fascist speech in Turin in favor of a European super-government, when a group of "antagonist" youth loudly protested, shouting insults, throwing eggs, and setting off fireworks at a university where he was speaking. Eventually, they clashed with police.
In his speech, which was excerpted Jan. 18 in the Italian press, Padoa Schioppa said, among other things, that "the cure" for the European crisis "is nothing but the conscious choice of the federation model, the one creating an effective decision-making and executive power at a higher level than the nation-states, for those issues that states are no longer able to deal with by themselves." Undersecretary of State Alfonso Gianni, supported the protest against his boss Schioppa, saying that "protests are part of democracy."
JFK Cited by Gordon Brown at Fabian Society Conference
British Chancellor Gordon Brown repeatedly cited President John F. Kennedy in his discussion at a Fabian Society conference on Jan. 13. Also speaking was Ed Balls, who is both Economic Secretary to the Treasury, and vice chairman of the Fabian Society, and a devoted supporter of globalization. Brown claimed that Britain's "national mission" must be "lifelong recurrent and permanent education" as "the best economic policy" and "the best social policy."
In what jobs people are to use their education, Brown does not mention. Equal opportunities for all, unfair privileges for no one. Reality is, that under the Labour Party, Britain has become a nation of huge personal debt and a vast housing price bubble.