Western European News Digest
Irish Times: Save Ireland, Dump the Banks
Sept. 9 (EIRNS)For Ireland, the question of whether to dump the banks or save the nation, is now at the top of the agenda. Irish Times columnist Finton O'Toole, writing about the call for another $25 billion from the government to bail out the banks, commented: "The choice is now stark: do we go on being 'good Europeans' at the cost of destroying our own society or do we become 'bad Europeans,' lose the trust of our European partners, but save ourselves? There comes a point of existential crisis when even the meekest of countries has to put its vital national interests first. We are at that point now." He called on the European Central Bank to bail out Irish banks if it thinks they pose a systemic risk.
The European Union and Ireland have agreed to split Anglo-Irish Bank into a "good" bank, which will include only its depositors, and belong to the Finance Ministry, and a "bad" bank, which will hold all the worthless assets. The latter would then be "wound down." The big question that will not be answered for weeks is: Who pays the for the worthless assets?
Inter-Alpha Vulture Gets Pickings in Irish Banking Failure
Sept. 11 (EIRNS)The Inter-Alpha Group helps their own: Banco Santander has bought a 70% controlling interest in the Polish subsidiary of Allied Irish Bank, Bank Zachodni WBK for $3.7 billion. AIB had to sell the Polish subsidiary bank in order to be bailed out by the Irish government. The Irish press points out that the Zachodni subsidiary was the only profitable part of AIB and should have been kept. So now that the best parts of AIB have been kept within the Inter-Alpha family, the remains have been dumped onto the backs of the Irish taxpayer.
Greece's Winter of Discontent Has Arrived
Sept. 7 (EIRNS)Greece's Winter of Discontent has arrived early this year, as the economy is collapsing in order to save Europe's banks. A Greek source told EIR that the nation is absorbed by the draconian austerity policy dictated by the European Union. People are fearful of losing their jobs and face cuts in salaries and pensions. He said that for the first time in his life, he saw Athenians searching garbage cans for food.
Prime Minister George Papandreou reshuffled his Cabinet, but kept his Finance Minister, George Papaconstantinou, in place, assuring that he will not change policy. An Athens News Agency story claims that Greece's Winter of Discontent will not be quite like that of Great Britain, in 1978-79, where there were a lot of trade union strikes. But with the economy contracting and unemployment rising to 14%, there will be a lot of tension, which could hurt the government in the upcoming local elections. Inflation based on the consumer price index is reportedly 5.5%, but in terms of food, energy, and fuel prices, it is much higher.
EU Commission Taxes National Sovereignty
Sept. 8 (EIRNS)Taxation, one of the last sovereign rights which the nation-state members of the European Union still have, is being targetted by the EU Commission for takeover. In his "State of Europe" address before the European Parliament yesterday, EU Commission president José Manuel Barroso said the following, on the issue of having taxation of Europeans by the Commission:
"We should also explore new sources of financing for major European infrastructure projects. For instance, I will propose the establishment of EU project bonds, together with the European Investment Bank. We will also further develop public private partnerships.
"As this Parliament has made clear, we must also address the issue of our own resources. The present system is stretched to its limits.... Some will not agree with all the ideas we will raise; I find it extraordinary that some are already rejecting them, even before knowing what they will be."
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble rejected the idea on the spot, saying that any discussion of such new taxes would distract from the more important issue of reforming the financial sector.
EcoFin Fails To Agree on Fascist Reform
Sept. 8 (EIRNS)The Ecofin Council (EU Finance Ministers) failed to reach an agreement today on the planned tightening of the budget and deficit rules. A group of countries led by Spain opposed the proposals to automate violation procedures, and to tighten penalties; another group of countries led by Belgium and Italy opposed the proposal to extend violation procedures to the debt/GDP ratio. Present in everyone's mind is the image of the mass-strike fury against the fascist cuts, as seen in the huge French trade union demonstrations last week.
Sarkozy Sticks to Austerity Pension 'Reform'
Sept. 10 (EIRNS)Despite 2.5 million people demonstrating last weekend against his plan to cut pensions, French President Nicolas Sarkozy refuses to budge. The Sarkozy "reform"austerity cuts in pensions, as demanded by the financier oligarchywould raise retirement age to 62 (from 60) for those who have completed their 41 years of payments into the pension plan, and to 67 from 65, for those who have not yet completed the payments.
Following the demonstrations, Sarkozy and Prime Minister François Fillon immediately stated that they would not concede on pushing back the retirement age, and would limit their concessions to two: Whereas the reform had permitted those who worked under hard physical conditions to retire early if they could show a 20% rate of handicap, this percentage will now be lowered to 10%. The other concession, for women, will allow only civil servants with three children and 15 years in the administration to retire early.
Trade unions are organizing for a national day of strikes and actions on Sept. 23.
Plan To Curtail Emergency Surgeries Exposed
Sept. 6 (EIRNS)The daily Le Parisien revealed yesterday the content of an June 9 confidential note of the Agences Régionales de Santé (ARSRegional Health Agency), an administrative board in charge of cost-cutting and "rationalizing" health services. The 15-page memo, a model of fascist triage, complained that "too many" operating rooms remain open and available for nighttime emergency surgery, between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. Hence, whereas currently there are 6-11 operating rooms available in each region to cover nighttime surgical emergencies, the memo claimed that only one surgical suite per region in any 24-hour period, need be available for emergencies.