Western European News Digest
Trichet Demands More Austerity, Targets Elderly
Aug. 28 (EIRNS)Speaking at the confab of world bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyo., European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet said debt must be reduced and that the only way is for governments to slash expenditures. EU governments must slash their budgets to 60% of GDP with "ambitious fiscal consolidation." As an example of how that is feasible, he mentioned six countries that succeeded in past decades: Great Britain, Belgium, Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands, and Finland. But he forgot to say that Britain, Ireland, Spain, and Belgium are today the most bankrupt countries in Europe (Belgium is also being partitioned as a country)!
Trichet, who, at the end of the year will resign and will receive three retirement checks (ECB, Banque de France, and IMF), called for slashing pensions: "Aging populations and associated increases in spending on health and pensions require that all fiscal authorities allow budgetary room to respond to those substantial future costs.... That implies a continuation along the path of structural reform in product markets, labor markets and financial markets."
Sarkozy Under International Attack
PARIS, Aug. 24 (EIRNS)Surveying the outrage French President Nicolas Sarkozy is creating with his Vichyite law-and-order ranting and fascistic attacks against the Rom (Gypsy) minority in France, the international community is moving to pressure Sarkozy, through outlets including London's Financial Times and the New York Timeswhich have no lessons to teach on those issues.
On Aug. 23, Pope Benedict issued a call, "welcoming all human diversity." The Catholic community in France is telling the media that the Pope was making an indirect reference to Sarkozy.
Yesterday, an article was posted on the website of Mediapart, one of the main offices covering the scandals against the Sarkozy government, which exposed Sarkozy's "berlusconization" (a reference to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, i.e., a turn to the "right"). In France, says author François Bonnet, the question is "Sarkozy, or how to get rid of him. Will the French right wing also have courage to ask this question? That is the unstated agenda of the post-holiday recess."
German Inflation Dynamic Worst in Ten Years
Aug. 27 (EIRNS)The officially published figure of 1.2% overall inflation for July 2010 (as against July 2009) certainly does not take into account the real economy; there, where imports of raw materials and exports of manufactured goods are involved, inflation is officially listed at 9.9%the highest monthly increase in ten years.
And that figure breaks down to much higher percentages in select categories; iron ore (prices up 65%), steel (up 30%), and coffee (up 30%). German exporters were forced to increase their prices by 4.1% in July 2010 (as against July 2009), therefore, to balance some of the increased imports bill. And that is the highest monthly increase of prices of exported goods in 18 years.
German Memo Stresses Benefits of Nuclear Power
Aug. 28 (EIRNS)A Cologne University-based team of energy experts has presented an assessment which they worked out under a mandate from the German government, with alternating scenarios for the "energy mix of the future." Their memo is intended to contribute to the discussion about a new national energy strategy between now and 2050, which the government plans to pass this October. The expert team's assessment unfortunately still holds onto the weird outlook that Germany is "on its way towards the era of renewable energies," but it advocates a change in the existing energy law (which presently sets 2021 as the target date for Germany's final exit from nuclear power), to extend the ability of nuclear power plants to be in operation further into the future.
Extending operational licenses for existing power plants by 12 years, the experts calculated, would reduce the energy bill of private households by 4% and help to create new 43,000 jobs in the energy industry; extending the licenses by 20 years would reduce households' energy bill by 7% and create 71,000 new jobs in the energy industry. German Environmental Minister Norbert Röttgen, however, wants an extension by only 8 years at most, and for only some of the 17 existing nuclear power plants that Germany still has.
Public opinion is shifting on nuclear power. An opinion poll just completed by Germany's Stern weekly found that while 48% of Germans polled were still for the final exit from nuclear, 45% endorsed extending operational licenses for existing power plants. Among the generally pro-ecologist Social Democratic Party members, 39% supported extending the licenses, and even among the radical ecologist Green Party, 13% favor extending the licenses. This is up from three months ago, when only 39% of the population favored allowing existing nuclear plants to continue operating.
GM Accelerates Destruction of Opel
PARIS, Aug. 23 (EIRNS)On Aug. 19, trade unions at Opel Antwerp, along with Flemish President Kris Peeterswho has been working to save the Opel production site in Antwerp, Belgiumbecame furious at GM, when it was discovered that the company had mandated CB Richard Ellis, a real estate broker, to proceed immediately with the sale of the 950,000 square meter production site, a deal estimated at EU75-100 million, which was in violation of the agreements with the Belgian government, and did not take into account any possible rescue of the production site and jobs. Also, the Gemeentelijk Havenbedrijf Antwerpen, the port's legal entity, said it was very surprised by the move, since the Antwerp port has a priority "first refusal" over any private buyer to acquire the strategic site, and GM knows it.
Desertec Threatens Germany for Cash
Aug. 28 (EIRNS)The German government's national action plan for renewable energies until 2020, published at the beginning of August, does not include support for the crazy Club of Rome brainchild Desertec, a EU400 billion solar-panel project in the North African desert. This has prompted Paul van Son, the head of the project's planning agency DII, to write an alarmist letter to the three Cabinet ministers of Economics, Environmental Protection, and the Chancellory.
The letter warns that "Germany could lose economic opportunities" if the government does not promote the project with more force, such as giving it a prominent role in the new national energy policy outline between now and 2050 which Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to present during September. So far, no such role is defined in the draft outline, and Desertec fears a collapse of its plans without the government's financial support.
In his letter, van Son warns that absent German government support, the recently established French industrial group Transgreen would press ahead and secure the big deals for France, whereas German companies would be cut off from the alleged "benefits." (See InDepth for more on Destertec.)