Western European News Digest
UK Ambassador: BAE Probe Would 'Risk British Lives'
July 13 (EIRNS)London's Daily Mail yesterday reported that the British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, had warned the Serious Fraud Office in November 2006 that the probe into the BAE-"Al-Yamamah" deal would "risk British lives" if it continued (see EIR, June 22, for more on the BAE "Scandal of the Century").
The Mail report is based on documents it received under the Freedom of Information Act. Sir Sherard met SFO director Robert Wardle on Nov. 30, 2006, after which, the investigation was closed down on Dec. 14. The confidential papers obtained by the Mail were prepared on Wardle's behalf by the Treasury Solicitor's Department, a government legal service. The Mail quotes the papers saying: "During this meeting [Wardle] received direct confirmation from the ambassador [Sir Sharard] that the threats to national and international security were very grave indeed. As he put it, British lives on British streets were at risk."
There were two more meetings between the two, and the (now former) ambassador said that the danger that Saudi Arabia would withdraw its cooperation on counterterrorism was "real and acute
" He expressed the view that the Saudis were not bluffing and there was a real threat to U.K. lives.
Wardle also considered the views of Blair, then-Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, and Defense Secretary Des Browne, but himself "independently" decided to end the investigation, the papers said.
Revolt Against Neo-Cons' 'Unitary Executive' in Germany
July 11 (EIRNS)The controversy over neo-con German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble's call for targetted assassinations is escalating, with coverage all over the media, featuring opposition from among his own Christian Democrats. Notably, Bavarian State Interior Minister Günter Beckstein, a hard-line neo-con himself, denounced the call, as "simply not possible and not acceptable." On behalf of the Social Democratic coalition partner, Peter Struck spoke of Schäuble "running amok," and Vice Chancellor Franz Müntefering demanded that Chancellor Angela Merkel call Schäuble back to discipline and put an end to this debate. Merkel said yesterday that she endorses the discussion about "new security measures as such" on the grounds that "there are new dimensions of terrorist threats that have to be dealt with."
The Schäuble proposal should be seen as yet another attempt to establish a kind of "unitary executive" mechanism in Germany, bypassing constitutional restraints, with the allegation that "new terrorist threats justify extraordinary measures." Another element in the Schäuble neo-con strategy is the militarization of domestic security, which he introduced de facto, with the unconstitutional use of the armed forces, using Tornado fighters to fly low over demonstrators during the June 6-8 G-8 Summit. The use of Bundeswehr (German Army) Tornados, and also of armored vehicles, has enraged both police and military leaders. In a report on the national television magazine "Monitor," police union representatives spoke of an unacceptable use of "military weapon systems in police functions." Bundeswehr spokesmen stated that the military leadership is united in rejecting such a deployment.
Belgian Daily Covers BAE Scandal
July 11 (EIRNS)Under the title "Investigation into corruption of British arms firm," the Flemish-language Belgian daily De Morgen reports today that the United States is carrying out a criminal investigation into the BAE for suspected bribery of Saudi Arabia, and adds that BAE shares fell by more than 6% after the U.S. Justice Department announced its investigation.
According to allegations, Prince Bandar bin Sultan received a total of 1 billion pounds (1.5 billion euros) for his mediation in the al-Yamamah deal.
The article points out that the 40 billion pound al-Yamamah deal took place when Margaret Thatcher was still in office; and that the British investigation of the BAE was stopped last December by pressure from Tony Blair.
Polish Government Heads for Early Elections
July 10 (EIRNS)After the dismissal of Vice Premier Andrzej Lepper and the resignation of Sports Minister Josef Lipiec, over corruption charges at the peak of a heated nationwide debate on the issue, the government of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski is expected to lose two of its minor coalition partners, Lepper's Samoobrona party and Lipiec's League of Families party.
The turbulence in Poland is also expected to affect the ongoing talks on government plans to station U.S. missile defense bases in Poland.
Kaczynski said that the "obstructionism of the opposition" made it impossible for him to run a minority cabinet, therefore early elections in Autumn are most likely, European newswires reported this morning.
As for the "obstructionism," there is mounting criticism in the country of the government's continuation of the former neoliberal disinvestment and austerity policy, criticism highlighted by nationwide strikes of railway workers and nurses.
German Governor Endorses Fehmarn Belt Bridge
July 12 (EIRNS)In an address before the state parliament of Schleswig-Holstein yesterday, State Governor Harry Peter Carstensen gave wholehearted support to the Danish Fehmarn Belt Bridge project, saying it is crucial for establishing a modern rail/road transport corridor from the continent of Europe to Scandinavia. He pointed out that if flanking infrastructure in road and rail is built in connection with the bridge, Schleswig-Holstein would, by about the year 2020, be located at the crossroads of two grand continental transport routes through Europe's northern regionsNorth-West and West-East. Carstensen called on German firms to get engaged beyond the mere road-rail link from Germany to the bridge, as agreed in the German-Danish government treaty, and make sure that the project does not only imply more transit through the state of Schleswig-Holstein. What is needed is more investment in production along the route, to bring greater job-creation, Carstensen said, adding that he has received a promise also from EU Commission President J. Manuel Barroso that the EU would co-fund the bridge project with 30% of the total expenses. (See this week's InDepth for " 'Danish Bridge' to Germany To Be Built.")
Brenner Tunnel Will Be Longest in the World
July 12 (EIRNS)On July 10, Austrian, Italian, and German transport ministers signed a memorandum of understanding on building the Brenner Tunnel, a massive infrastructure project designed to ease the impact of traffic through the Austrian Alps. Last year 1.9 million trucks used the Brenner Pass. After the projected completion by 2022, the tunnel will have the capacity of handling the transit of three times as many trucks.
The construction of the tunnel is expected to cost 6 billion euros. The deal foresees costs being shared among Austria, Italy, and the European Union. Germany will be required to build the section of the autobahn leading to the tunnel.
The long-delayed project is designed to relieve road traffic through the Brenner Pass connecting Germany with northern Italy via the Austrian Alps. At 63 kilometers long, the Brenner Tunnel will be the longest in the world. The agreement signed July 10 is a breakthrough on the project, which has been under discussion between Austria and Brussels for nearly a decade.