Western European News Digest
Chevènement Blasts 'Simplified' European Treaty
PARIS, Nov. 10 (EIRNS)In a Le Monde column Nov. 8, former French Defense Minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement, honorary president of the Mouvement Republicain et Citoyen (MRC) party, blasted the new, 256-page "simplified" European "mini-treaty" to be signed at Lisbon on Dec. 13. Chevènement goes after the treaty in terms parallel to those of Solidarité et Progrès president Jacques Cheminade, the leader of the LaRouche movement in France, in a Oct. 29 statement, and points to the most troubling military implications of the treaty.
For example, Article 17 states: "Before undertaking any action on the international scene, each member state will consult the others among the European Council...." Chevènement writes that "everybody understands that if these provisions had been applicable in 2003, France, being unable to oppose both the U.S.A. and the EU, with which a majority of members are aligned, could not have dissociated itself from the Iraq invasion, and tomorrow would be unable to avoid preemptive military strikes on Iran, ... if the U.S. should decide to do so."
In respect to Article 27, which restates that for those EU members that are part of NATO, it remains the "framework of their defense policy," about which Chevènement correctly observes that the treaty brings to an end any form of independent European defense.
Sarkozy Admits EU Treaty Referenda Would Lose
PARIS, Nov. 14 (EIRNS)"Referenda on the new European Union Treaty would be 'dangerous' and would lose in France, Britain," admitted French President Nicolas Sarkozy, according to today's London Daily Telegraph.
"The French President's confession that governments could not win popular votes on a 'simplified treaty'drawn up to replace the EU constitution rejected by his countrymen two years agowas made in a closed meeting of senior Euro-MPs. France was just ahead of all the other countries in voting no. It would happen in all member states if they have a referendum. There is a cleavage between people and governments," he said. "A referendum now would bring Europe into danger. There will be no treaty if we had a referendum in France, which would again be followed by a referendum in the UK."
Spread of French Strikes Brings Sarkozy to the Table
Nov. 15 (EIRNS)The anti-labor government of French President Nicholas Sarkozy has changed its stance and agreed to negotiate with striking French unions, because their strikes could potentially merge into a general one. The three striking sectors are those involving industrial workers, civil employees, and students. The unions are targeting the government plan to reform the "special retirement regimes"which would extend retirement to 40 years of work and not 37.5, as now.
The government reacted to the big banner which led the demonstration yesterday, calling for unity on the issues of "wages, unemployment, and special retirement plans." The government feared that between the students on strike over unemployment (with most universities blocked), and the entering of the civil servants into the mass ferment, with a strike of the their own on Nov. 20, the risk of an expansion of the political upsurge to all categories of discontent was very real.
Another Rail Strike in Germany: Issue Is Privatization
Nov. 15 (EIRNS)Another strike of railway engineers began yesterday in Germany, this time lasting for 62 hours until Nov. 17, and affecting both freight and passenger transport, with several hundred trains coming to a standstill. The main focus of the strike is in eastern Germany, where the GDL, the railway engineers' labor union, has most of its members; there, 85%, of all trains are blocked.
As the engineers strike, pressure is increasing from among members of the general railway workers labor union Transnetwhose leaders are hostile to the GDLto change their views on privatization. Transnet has now done so, with its leaders deciding Nov. 14 to oppose the government's plan for railway privatization. Because of their vacillation on this issue, however, the latest Transnet vote is seen with skepticism: Is it real, or will it be dropped again, at the next opportunity?
Transnet leaders also vehemently oppose the proposed Munich Transrapid maglev railroad.
Italian Infrastructure Deficit Costs $20 Billion
Nov. 15 (EIRNS)The failure to build necessary infrastructure in Italy in the last three years has cost that nation 14.2 billion euros (about $20 billion), according to a study coordinated by Milan economics Prof. Andrea Gilardoni at Bocconi University. By 2020, the cost will jump to 251 billion euros, according to Gilardoni's group, which monitors "the costs of economic inaction."
In the energy sector, Gilardoni's report computes the loss caused by the failure to make the investments planned to close the energy gap. The report's computations use gas and coal as energy sources; had nuclear power been used, the losses would be even bigger because of nuclear power's higher energy flux density. The report concludes that 1.1 billion euros were lost, because of the failure to build three re-gassifiers and all the coal plants planned.
Failure to make planned investments in waste disposal have cost 4.02 billion euros; delays in the high-speed rail network have cost 3 billion; and highways, 4.6 billion.
Collapsing Dollar Threatens Europe's Export Industries
Nov. 9 (EIRNS)Last Spring, industrial exporters in Germany said that once the dollar dropped to 1.40 against the euro, businesses with clients outside the euro-zone would run into deficits. Now, as the dollar has dropped to almost 1.50, there are warnings that this would imply disaster for exports, and experts are already forecasting a dollar-euro ratio of 1.60 to 1.00, by the end of the year.
In the case of EADS (European Aircraft and Defense Systems), continental Europe's leading aerospace conglomerate, this problem was made public yesterday, when the management announced deep cuts in the budget for the Airbus section of the firm, to compensate for net losses of 1 billion euros in the recent period. That corresponds to a drop of the dollar by 10 cents against the euro. The EADS case may also have inspired remarks made in front of the U.S. Congress, yesterday, by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who spoke of the weak dollar policy as an "act of economic warfare against Europe." What Sarkozy did not say, is that the dollar collapse is steered from London.
Decision To Kill BAE Investigation Challenged
Nov. 9 (EIRNS)British campaigners have won permission to make a high court challenge against the decision by the British Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to end the corruption investigation of BAE Systems bribery payments to Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan for their huge arms deals with Saudi Arabia, the Guardian reports today. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and the Corner House held that the SFO decision in December 2006 to end the investigation was unlawful under the OECD's anti-bribery convention. Britain signed the convention in 1997, the Guardian reports.
The campaign groups made the case that the SFO's decision did not take account of the security implications of not carrying out the investigation. The paper quotes Lord Justice Moses saying that "matters of concern and public importance" had been raised and the challenge "cries out for a hearing."
Scottish National Party Sets Date for Independence
Nov. 14 (EIRNS)Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, for the first time today, set a target date for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom, according to The Scotsman. Salmond said that he anticipated that Scotland would break away from the UK by 2017.
The context for the announcement was the presentation of the Scottish National Party's first budget in government. The 42-page document outlines a strategy to bring Scotland's economic growth rate up to that of the UK by 2011. This could be done with Scotland as a part of the UK, Salmond maintained. However, Scotland would need the full powers of independence to achieve all of the targets in the document.