Western European News Digest
Pope John Paul II: Overcome Evil with the Good
In his World Peace Day message on Jan. 1 in Rome, Pope John Paul II cited an Epistle of the Apostle Paul, by saying: "Do not be overcome by Evil, but overcome Evil with Good." The Pontiff went on to say, "In the face of the many manifestations of Evil which afflict unfortunately the human family, the high-priority demand is to promote peace, using consistent means, giving importance to dialogue, to work of justice and educating in forgiveness."
"Transforming evil with the weapons of love transforms the way in which each one can contribute to the peace of all." Christians and believers of the various religions are called upon called "to walk by this path, together with those who accept the universal moral law."
Vatican Foreign Minister Giovanni Lajolo, in outlining the perspective for the New Year to diplomats, emphasized that aside from finding solutions to the terrible tsunami catastrophe in Asia, the Vatican's biggest concern was Africa and the Mideast. He very much emphasized the need for dialogue with China, above all through a dialogue of religion, and said, that he sees in the Holy Land signs of the beginning of new relations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.
Italian Legislation for Debt Relief Should Be Proposed Anew
Italian Rep. Giovanni Bianchi, Member of Parliament who was the main speaker for the Italian bill granting debt relief to poor countries in the Jubilee Year (2000), has renewed his call for debt relief. Briefed on German Chancellor Schroeder's proposal for a debt moratorium to the countries hit by the Asian tsunami, Bianchi volunteered to propose a similar bill in light of the devastating catastrophe in Southeast Asia.
Regarding the State Department's arguments to explain its failure to inform the embassies of those countries (i.e., that State had no means for alerting the population), Bianchi commented: "It is not true, we all know that many people near the beach run around with little radios; it would have been enough to broadcast a warning." Bianchi is considering presenting an interrogation to the Berlusconi government on the State Department failure.
An Italian member of the European Parliament is also considering a motion on debt relief. This representative, a congresswoman, was a national cabinet member under the Amato government when the Jubilee proposal for debt relief was adopted. In 2003, she and Rep. Bianchi jointly invited Lyndon LaRouche to address a group of members of the Italian Parliament and Senate in Rome.
German Chancellor Calls for Tsunami Debt Moratorium
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's proposal for debt moratorium for tsunami-afflicted countries, formally welcomed by the government of Indonesia Dec. 30, received full support also from the President of France and Italy's Prime Minister.
President Jacques Chirac said that the Jan. 12 session of the Club of Paris governmental creditors will have the call for debt moratorium at the top of its agenda, and announced a doubling of French instant relief aid to the nations hit by the quake, to more than 40 million euros.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi ordered the economics ministry in Rome to probe ways of granting debt moratoria to all governments in the Indian Ocean region, and he also called for a special emergency summit of the G-8.
The German government, meanwhile, announced that it wants to organize a special session of the European Union's development ministers in early January. As far as the creation of a seismic early warning system in the Indian Ocean region is concerned, German Development Minister Heidi Wieczorek-Zeul said in a DLR radio interview this morning that Germany offers the installation of such a system, as well as the training of the technical personnel, to the countries hit by the quake.
The foreign debt of Indonesia is $135.7 billion; that of India, $93 billion; of Thailand, $53.7 billion; Malaysia, $48.8 billion; of Sri Lanka, $10.5 billion; of Myanmar, $6 billion; and Somalia, $2.6 billion. In February 2005, an Indonesian debt repayment of $250 million is due.
Schroeder also dedicated his New Year's Eve Address to the quake and its consequences, saying that all the victims shared the message of the "indivisible one world." He declared that the challenge is posed to all of mankind to help reconstruct the region of the Indian Ocean, a moratorium on debt being an essential aspect of that, as "these countries now need all the resources they have, to get the reconstruction off the ground."
Diplomatic Schedule of Emergency Meetings on Tsunami Disaster
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and European Union Commissioner for Development Sector Relations Louis Michel are currently touring the disaster region around the Indian Ocean. Both are expected back in Brussels on Jan. 6, for emergency sessions of the EU's 25 ministers of development policy and foreign affairs, who also met on Jan. 6, in Jakarta, with the ten member governments of ASEAN and representatives of the U.S., EU, and UN.
On Jan. 7, the EU's 25 health ministers met to prepare the EU contribution to the Jan. 11 meeting of international relief organizations at the UN offices in Geneva.
On Jan. 12, the Club of Paris, the governmental creditors of developing-sector nations, will convene in Paris, having on their agenda the German Chancellor's call for a debt moratorium for the tsunami-hit nations. The call has the support of the leaders of France, Italy, Spain, Britain, Canada, and the United States.
On Jan. 18, in Kobe, Japan, the international scientific conference on quake and related natural disasters, long since planned, will prominently deal with the tsunami issue.
EU To Discuss Special Civilian Disaster Response
The proposal, mentioned by EU Commissioner for Foreign Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner in an interview with Germany's public radio station DLR, was put on the agenda of the Jan. 7 special meeting of EU foreign ministers on the tsunami disaster.
The idea is to have a civilian rapid intervention force of about 5,000 specialists, parallel to the military intervention force that already exists. The disaster intervention force would consist of units provided, trained, and equipped by the national governments of the EU, and would be ready to leave for a zone of disaster, on a stand-by basis. The funding of missions would come from the national governments and from the European Commission.
Neo-Con Militarization Drive Sucks Away Billions of Dollars
In a year-end interview given before the South Asia tsunami struck, German Development Affairs Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul appropriately criticized the financial resources pumped into militarization projects. With the main emphasis in the United States, military budgets have been increased in the most recent years to a total global expenditure of $940 billion; Wieczorek-Zeul noted that total world development aid in 2004 was only $68 billion, while the war in Iraq alone absorbs more money than is spent for development projects globally. Unless this gross discrepancy is corrected, development will never really take off, she warned.
Technological Apartheid Contributed to Indian Ocean Disaster
German and other European media continue reporting harsh criticism by experts that the absence of an early seismic warning system left the tsunami-threatened nations unprotected against the quake catastrophe.
Wolf Dombrowski, of the catastrophe research center at Kiel University in northern Germany, charged the rich nations of the Pacific (the USA, Japan, and Australia, most of all), with never having paid serious attention to their Indian Ocean neighbors. They never installed, for a relatively small sum of money, an Indian Ocean branch of their Pacific Ocean seismic warning system when they created it, years ago. "They rather prefer using their satellites for commodities futures transactions," Dombrowski charged.
Former German Chancellor Compares Tsunami to World War II Bombing
In a report for the Dec. 30 Bildzeitung, Helmut Kohl, who was in Galle, Sri Lanka, for a cure at the time of the quake and tsunami, and who survived the flood in the third floor of his hotel directly on the coast, wrote: "We could not grasp, at first, that entire buildings can vanish from one second to the next. The sea had taken everything away. Images of the war, which I lived through as a boy, came to my mind. It looked as if after a heavy bombing raid."