Western European News Digest
Sign of the Times: Euro-Enemy Klaus Applauded in Berlin
April 30 (EIRNS)Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, and longtime opponent of the euro, spoke yesterday at the Humboldt University in Berlin, where he charged that the euro has failed, and is to blame for the Greek crisis. (That morning, many of these same charges had appeared in a full-length interview with the financial daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.) "And what happens? Warm, long applause," writes the Financial Times Deutschland. "I had not expected applause," Klaus said. "I expected tomatoes and eggs. This shows that something has changed in Europe."
At such speeches as Klaus's yesterday, "Members of the European Parliament used to exit the plenary room in rage. But the audience in Berlin, a mixture of students, politicians and diplomats, remained calmly seated."
Apparently, before the discussion period, the representative of the EU Commission in Germany left the podium, so that Klaus could speak freely, making fun of EU attitudes, and eliciting laughter from the audience.
Great Britain as the Next Greece
May 1 (EIRNS) Great Britain could become the "next Greece," sooner than people may think. The Greek crisis began after the Pasok Party came to power in October, and had a look at the books, which showed them to have been "cooked, well done." The same could happen after the British elections this month. City of London mouthpiece Ambrose Evans-Pritchard revealed in today's Daily Telegraph that government debt worth billions is currently "off the books," through an accounting trick involving "PFIs."
PFIs are a derivative of public-private partnerships, and have been used extensively by the British government to finance infrastructure and other capital projects, including to build embassies, hospitals, schools, and even Britain's contribution to the European aerial tanker project. Since these are off the books, it is apparently not known publicly how much is actually involved, but it obviously runs into the tens, if not hundreds of billions of pounds.
No matter how many billions are hidden as PFIs, none of this includes the hundreds of billions in pounds that the government has used to bailout the British banks. Furthermore, now that the government virtually owns such banks as the Royal Bank of Scotland, it is responsible for their liabilities. The press and government have stopped publishing this figure.
Greek Unions Call for General Strike on May 5
April 27 (EIRNS)Greek trade union federations GSEE and ADEDY have called for a 24-hour general strike on May 5, to protest massive cuts being mandated by the International Monetary Fund and European Union.
Today, the transport workers held a 24-hour strike.
Greeks will also be taking to the streets May 1, the traditional Labor Day. Strikes by Athens public transport staff will mark the Labor Day celebrations, with early morning work stoppages by buses, the electric railway, and the metro, and full-day strikes by railway workers.
Teachers, lawyers, and journalists will participate on May 5, while doctors will strike on May 5 and also 6, which is Public Health-Care Day. Unions have decided to call a strike when the Parliament begins debate on the new social security bill.
This will be the third general strike by the two federations, which together represent about 2.5 million workers, half of Greece's workforce.
High-Speed Rail Is Center of Swedish Campaign
April 26 (EIRNS)As a weak shadow of the proposal of the LaRouche Movement in Sweden, the European Labor Party (EAP), the two blocs competing in the September elections are putting forward proposals for infrastructure development. The EAP proposal is to build a maglev train system in the Nordic Triangle connecting the Scandinavian capitalsboth via Denmark with the European continent, and via a new tunnel between Sweden and Finland to Helsinki-St. Petersburg, and the Eurasian Land-Bridge.
Not so with the current politicians. After the rescue packages to the banks, there is no money for the development of the country, leaving cowardly politicians to fight over crumbs. In the budget last month, the government put forward an infrastructure plan for railways, roads, and shipping lanes, deploying 1.4% of the GDP. The government did not even propose the high-speed rail project between the main cities Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmoe, investigated last year.
How About Germany Leaving the Eurozone?
April 30 (EIRNS)The public debate about the future of the euro and a return of the D-mark has massively intensified in Germany, with more and more mainstream media putting the issue onto the agenda. Most prominently, the Markus Lanz Show on German television tonight had as a guest Olaf Henkel, the former head of the Association of German Industry, who said, in response to a question about Greece's leaving the Eurozone, that one might also see it the other way around, namely "Germany leaving the Eurozone." Lanz then did an instant opinion poll of the audience, asking those who would prefer a return of the D-mark to raise their hands, and concluded that "this is a clear majority."
EU Commission vs. Italian-Russian Nuclear Deal
April 30 (EIRNS)The spokesman for EU Environment Commissioner Günther Oettinger said yesterday that part of the recent nuclear deal between Italy and Russia, according to which Italy will export its nuclear waste to Russia for reprocessing, is forbidden by the EU, and that an EU guideline to that effect will be issued later this year. No nuclear waste is to be moved outside of the EU borders, according to the to-be-issued ukase.
This is sabotage of a key aspect of Italy's nuclear revival, which aims at neutralizing the main environmentalist argument against nuclear energy, i.e., radioactive "waste." Unconfirmed rumors are that the Italians are going to ignore the EU diktat, and will smuggle nuclear waste to Russia inside jumbo-sized tomato cans.
Prince Charles' 'Medieval' Health Quackery Foundation Closed Down
May 1 (EIRNS)Britain's Prince Charles has had one of his foundations closed down. While the official reason involves financial fraud, another good reason was that it promoted quackery.
Charles' Foundation for Integrated Health was closed down after one of its employees, and an accomplice, were arrested on suspicion of defrauding the foundation of £300,000. The foundation, which promoted "complementary medicine," has long been accused of medical quackery. The chairman of the foundation's board of trustees, David Brownlow, claimed that there were plans to shut down the charity within a few months, but since the fraud case broke, they decided to do it now. Its 2008 audit revealed a £300,000 hole, which now seems to be of a criminal nature. The fund also received £1.1 million from the Department of Health.
David Colquhoun, professor of pharmacology at University College London, is quoted in today's Guardian that the foundation "has been influential in senior medical circles and it has been largely responsible for the acceptance of complementary medicine in parts of the establishment, and that has been its worst influence.... In much of what it promotes, I believe it has given misleading advice and it has not considered the evidence for and against the effectiveness of various medicines. The Prince is well-meaning, but he has views about these things that are somewhat medieval."