Western European News Digest
Italian Parliament To Debate Return to Bretton Woods System
Italy's Parliament will soon debate a motion calling for convening a conference to consider a return to a new Bretton Woods monetary conference. The motion was introduced in the Chamber of Deputies on Feb. 13, 2004, by Dep. Mario Lettieri of the opposition party "Margherita," with the support of a group of about 50 parliamentarians from various partiesmostly the opposition, but also a few from the government coalition. Lettieri is also Secretary of the Chamber's Finance Committee. Among the best-known signers are Giovanni Bianchi, who in 2001, organized an event with Lyndon LaRouche in a room at the Parliament; former Ministers Antonio Maccanico and Nerio Nesi; and former Deputy Foreign Minister Ugo Intini. The motion was prepared in collaboration with Paolo Raimondi, president of the Movimento Solidarietà, the LaRouche movement in Italy.
The official Calendar of the Chamber announced that on March 14, the motion for a new Bretton Woods system will be debated, with discussion continuing on March 15-16, and if needed, also on March 18. The Calendar says that there will be "a discussion on the general lines of the motion of Lettieri and others (N. 1-00320) on convening an International Conference for a new monetary and financial system."
After analyzing the systemic implications of the Parmalat crash, the global speculative bubble, the OTC derivatives, etc., the motion, "Requires the government to: Act in the relevant international fora to build a new financial architecture, aimed at avoiding future financial crashes and the recurrence of financial bubbles, and is concentrated on the objective of supporting the real economy; and to take all necessary initiatives to convoke, as soon as possible, an international conference of heads of state and government similar to that held in Bretton Woods in 1944, to define a new and more just global monetary and financial system."
Schroeder Promotes 'Dialogue of Cultures' in Tour of Arab States
A proposal that the direct regional neighbors of Iraq have to be involved in the nation-building process there, as well as in the economic aspect of the envisaged EU-Iran agreement, was a recurring theme in Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's tour of seven Arab states, from Feb. 27 to March 5. The tour took the Chancellor to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and five Persian Gulf states, which are having their first time ever visit by a German head of government leader.
The framework theme of the visits is the "promotion of the dialogue of cultures," the Chancellor's office told the press on Feb. 25, and an important sub-theme, which Schroeder spoke about in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Feb. 28, is "how German engineering capabilities can assist in building infrastructure" in the Arab world. Development of petrochemical production on site, in the oil-producing countries, and of transportation, notably railway (or, maglev), were prominent topics in the Chancellor's talks.
Blair Government Triggers Outrage Over 'Anti-Terror' Law
British Prime Minister Tony Blair's government managed to get its new "Prevention of Terrorism Act" through the House of Commons, but the debate was hot, and on one crucial issue, the government won by only 14 votes, even though the government holds a 167-vote majority in the lower house. The law must now go to the House of Lords, where a lot more opposition is expected. The government has to get the bill passed by March 14, when the current anti-terror law, pushed through right after Sept. 11, will expire.
Home Secretary Charles Clarke had to make an important concession, agreeing that judges, and not government ministers, have the final say on house arrest orders. The orders, which violate the Magna Carta, would allow detention of terror suspects without trial. Under the law pushed through by former Home Minister David Blunkett, a group of non-British suspects have been held in prisons for years. This was declared a violation of human rights by Britain's Law Lords last December.
A cross-party group of dissenting Members of Parliament demanded an amendment which would ensure that judges would decide on all measures to "control" terror suspects, not just house arrest. The amendment was voted down March 1, with 60 Labour MPs voting against Clarke. The "rebels" included former Blair Cabinet ministers. The entire bill was finally passed with a majority of 53. Tory shadow Home Minister David Davis warned that under this bill, "the scope for miscarriages of justice is enormous."
Meanwhile, the terrorism "threat" is being played up daily, with claims that the upcoming election campaign, and Prince Charles's wedding could be terror targets. Blair claimed on radio that "several hundred" suspected terrorists are being watched in Britain, although this number is "far in excess of what intelligence officials estimate," which is more like 40, BBC reported.
'Prevention of Terrorism Act' Changes Fundamental British Law
Terrorism expert Simon Reeve, writing in the Daily Mail March 1, warned that the rush to pass the Prevention of Terrorism Act changes fundamental British laws.
"It will abolish the basic presumption of innocence for British citizens, and means a Briton can be labelled a 'terrorist' without charge or trial, and detained in their home. If you were held under one of Clarke's new 'control orders', you would have no right to know the evidence against you, no right to contest the evidence, and no right to legal representation of your choice."
But this bill will do nothing to counter the situations which are generating a real terror threatthe Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and "the chaos of Iraq." Iraq is now "pumping out militants in much the same way Afghanistan churned out men like bin Laden in the 1980s," Reeve wrote.
The new bill will not help intelligence, since investigators will be under pressure to put together enough evidence to get a control order, rather than conducting a rigorous analysis. "The whole system smacks of politicians desperately wanting to be seen doing something, anything, quickly," Reeve wrote.
German Finance Minister Ignorant on Credit Generation
Coming under strong pressure from the side of the neo-cons that charge him with trying to abandon loyalty to the Maastricht budgeting criteria, German Finance Minister Hans Eichel, in several interviews over the past days has made special efforts to convince his critics he wants no change of policy.
In a widely-reported interview with the Passauer Neue Presse daily, March 2, Eichel made the nonsensical statement that, "spending ever-more money, if there is no money anyway, does not work." Apparently addressing dissident Social Democrats who are calling for a (modest) increase of spending for job-creation, and a (likewise modest) decrease of budget-cutting, Eichel said there must not be any deviation from budgetary discipline.
The secrets of how to generate productive credit, which should be among the basic ABCs of any finance minister, are completely unknown to Eichel, as he has demonstrated once again.
German Jobless Figures Are at a Record High
Even the heavily massaged official German jobless figures show a record high in lack of employment. The February figures, as published by the Federal Agency for Employment in Nuremberg the first week of March, list 5.2 million citizens without a regular job. Compared to February 2004, almost 440,000 more Germans were without a job. This is an all-time high in 55 years of postwar German statistics, but also in 73 years since the Great Depression peak in the autumn of 1932.
The Federal Office of Statistics, in its report for January, also published March 1, offers an insight into the alarming dynamic of increasing youth unemployment: between January 2005 and the same month 2004, unemployment of young Germans under age 25 increased by 26.9%, from 500,000 to 635,000; but in the category under age 20, the increase is 62.5% (!), from 69,000 to 112,000.
Also, women show a disproportionate increase, from January last year to this year, with 13.8%, from 1.948 million to 2.216 million. The average increase for all categories is 9.6%. One has to keep in mind that the figures for February, once published, will be even more alarming than these January figures. Real unemployment, with the many statistical manipulations taken away, is close to 9 million.