Western European News Digest
Fillon, Putin Reach Accords in Paris Meeting
PARIS, Nov. 30 (EIRNS)The yearly Franco-Russian conference, which met in Paris under the leadership of French and Russian Prime Ministers François Fillon and Vladimir Putin, on Nov. 27, resulted in the conclusion of more than 20 accords and contracts, mainly in the areas of natural gas and high technologies.
The major deals signed include France's entry into both Russian pipeline projects transporting gas to Western Europethe North Stream and the South Stream. The French giant Total has been given a stake in the exploitation of the giant gas reserves of the Yamal Peninsula, in Siberia. Other contracts include building sophisticated medical facilities in Russia, a highway from Moscow to Petersburg, ongoing work on the SuperJet 100 Franco-Russian airplane (Safran), unspecified work on nuclear development, saving the Avtovaz car production facility, where Renault holds a 25% stake and which has been bankrupt since the beginning of the global crash.
Lastly, 2010 will be the Year of France in Russia, and the Year of Russia in France. Four hundred events are organized in both countries, and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev will be in Paris next March, while Putin will come back in May for such events.
EU Incapable of Dealing with Greek-Style Crisis
PARIS, Dec. 5 (EIRNS) George Provopoulos, the governor of the Greek central bank, told reporters earlier this week that "if the Greek debt continues to deteriorate, we will find ourselves in a terrifying position where we can't obtain any more liquidity, since the ECB will no longer accept our assets as collateral." The conjunction between failing states and the European Central Bank's latest decision to exit its "unconventional monetary" policies, cannot but accelerate the blowup of the euro system.
Jean Pisani-Ferry, who heads the Belgian think-tank Bruegel, observes that the EU itself has no formal "financial instrument to deal with a liquidity crisis among one of its members," according to Le Figaro Dec. 3. The Maastricht Treaty is contradictory in this respect, comments the paper. "On the one side, it forbids any effort at bailout of the debts of a member-state (Article 104B). On the other side, it envisages that 'by reason of exceptional circumstances ... to grant, under certain conditions, Community financial assistance' (Article 103A)," but highly unlikely. Le Figaro concludes that Europeans should remain united in the face of a threatened "little Lehman," Greek-style.
Italian Law Expert Calls for Glass-Steagall
Dec. 3 (EIRNS)Former Italian stock exchange supervisor Guido Rossi gave President Obama an "F" in economics, at a public conference in Trieste yesterday. Obama has failed to do "the two things that Roosevelt did in 1933, and in a few months, not years: the separation between commercial and investment banks, and the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission to put markets under control," Rossi said at a press conference, in the context of the ongoing "Nobel Colloquia" in Trieste.
"I flunked Obama in economic policy, because he is a victim of Wall Street," Rossi said.
Reflection of Glass-Steagall Debate in Austria
Nov. 30 (EIRNS)Austria is in an uproar because the financial institution Hypo Alpe Adria Kärnten is in dire need of EU2 billion, of which the Austrian state or the state Carinthia would have to provide EU900 million. Perhaps to cool the public outcry, the main Austrian daily Die Presse on Nov. 26 reported that the Central Bank and the Financial Regulatory Agency now want to change their approachinstead of taking over the bad parts, i.e. creating a "bad bank," they now want to take over the good parts, and create a "bridge bank."
The idea is to put the deposits, "systemically relevant liabilities," and promising business areas into a good bank, which the state would take over, while the toxic paper and inherited waste would stay in a bad bank, with the old owners. This part then would fall under general insolvency law. Bankers admit that the term "systemically relevant" is rather vague.
However, the idea as such is a small echo of the international debate over restoring the FDR-era Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial banking from speculative investment banking.
Climate Change Hoax Attacked in Denmark
COPENHAGEN, Dec. 4 (EIRNS)On the eve of the Copenhagen Climate Summit, a faction-fight has broken out in the Danish government's leading party, the Liberal Party, with the chairman of the Parliament, Thor Pedersen, expressing his skepticism about the extent of man-made climate change, and about Danish climate legislation.
Pedersen told the daily Berlingske Tidende: "You have to remember that these are theories. Some things are theories and some things are knowledge, and you have to take that into account when you put out a message. Is it something we know, or is it a theory?" Pedersen is questioning how much man influences climate change, and saying that climate legislation should not restrict individual freedom. "When I come home, I like to see all the lights on, and I will continue to do that," he said.
The debate inside Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen's Liberal Party resulted in postponement of an internal party vote on legislation to compel a homeowner to disclose how energy-efficient the house is, when it is put up for sale.
France Social Kettle Close to a Boil
PARIS, Dec. 4 (EIRNS)While carefully blacked out by the French and international media, France is in an explosive situation. A leaflet by the Solidarity and Progress party (the LaRouche movement in France), titled "On the Coming Anger," addresses the real situation of "mass strike ferment."
* Police demonstration: On Dec. 3, several thousand police officers held demonstrations in several cities, including a large rally in Paris, in front of the Finance Ministry. The police complain that while delinquency continues to rise and is becoming increasingly violent, the number of security personnel is slashed for budgetary reasons.
* Truckers strike: Difficult negotiations are underway between the government and the transportation unions. The unions, which represent some 500,000 people, plan to blockade all the major distribution centers during the Christmas shopping season, starting Dec. 13.
* Teachers and research assistants started demonstrations two weeks ago against President Nicolas Sarkozy's education reform, which will force officials to raise private funding for their activities.
* Health-care providers on strike: Many hospitals are striking for lack of funds and personnel. In Boulogne-Billancourt, near Paris, nurses pulled empty hospital beds into the main street and blocked traffic.
* Museums closed: The Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, and the Chateau de Versailles have been closed for several days because of labor actions. More personnel and wage increases are demanded.
Cranes of Ibykus Circling Blair
Dec. 5 (EIRNS)Tony Blair's role in bringing about the Iraq War could well be the undoing of the former prime minister. The Chilcot inquiry into the war has provoked an avalanche of attacks in the British press that, while not accusing Blair of lying to cause the war, must nonetheless be making him very uncomfortable.
* Dr. Hans Blix, the leader of the UN weapons inspection team, from late 2002 until mid-2003, accused Blair and George W. Bush of a witchhunt against Saddam Hussein that led to the war.
* The London Daily Telegraph includes a commentary by Anthony Seldon, an unofficial biographer of Blair, who asks the question, "Is Tony Blair a War Criminal?"
* Six doctors have filed to reopen the inquest into the suspicious death of Dr. David Kelly, the weapons expert who leaked to the BBC that the Blair government had "sexed up" its dossier on Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction.
* The Belfast Telegraph also questions whether Blair acted in good faith. An editorial reports that many people are convinced that Blair is chargeable under the Nuremberg count of a secret conspiracy to levy war.