Western European News Digest
Italian Prime Minister Calls for Dumping Euro
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made brief remarks on the euro at a meeting of the national council of his party, Forza Italia, on July 28; his remarks have received more media attention abroad than in Italy. Referring to his electoral challenger, opposition leader Romano Prodi, Berlusconi said that "Prodi's euro conned us all." This is the first time that the Prime Minister in his own name, rather than through his collaborators and allies, has spoken thus.
Earlier this week, a long-standing EIR contact in the Lombardy regional council was involved in a discussion on the euro and the issue of national monetary sovereignty raised by Helga Zepp-LaRouche in Germany, and he reacted by saying, "The euro issue will be at the center of the election campaign in Italy, but in such a form as to make any serious policy discussion impossible." Nevertheless, Berlusconi's populist statements show that the euro crisis is such that the question cannot be avoided by politicians today, either way.
Britain Is the Most Surveilled Country in the World
In the midst of its extensive coverage of the London bombings, the July 23 New York Times included an item covering the release of surveillance-camera photos of the suspects in failed attacks of July 21. The reason that London police were able to produce the pictures so quickly is because, according to a spokesman for the London transportation system, there are 6,000 cameras in the system, including 1,800 in the subway stations, with 9,000 planned by 2010. However, these cameras are only a small portion of the 4.2 million throughout the country. "It is commonly estimated that the average Briton crosses the line of sight of a security camera 300 times each day," the Times reported.
Whether or not all of these cameras make Britons safer is a subject of some dispute. Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University who has studied the British surveillance system suggests that they're only really useful after the fact. He said that the effectiveness of such systems should be weighed against the benefits of spending funds on other measures, such as hiring more police officers. "Spain and Germany, after all, have identified suspects in major terrorist attacks without CCTV cameras," he said.
British Capital Dubbed 'Fortress London'
Sir Ian Blair, London Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has delivered an uncompromising assessment of the terrorist threat facing the U.K. as the capital becomes "Fortress London," the Glasgow Herald reported July 29. There are about 4,000 armed police officers on patrol.
Residents of London report that the city is like a police state, with armed police everywhere. At rail and Tube stations, commuters' journeys are delayed while trains are halted and officers, some armed, undertake carriage-by-carriage searches.
The Tony Blair government is now proposing legislation that would allow terrorist suspects to be held in custody without charge for up to three months, rather than the present 14 days. It is also proposing the legalization of sleep-deprivation tactics during interrogation, which human rights organizations are describing as simply legalizing torture.
Germany's CDU, FDP Adopt Radical Anti-Labor Platform
Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Chairman Angela Merkel's preferred coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), passed a radical neo-con campaign platform that will further penalize labor. The FDP's national executive gave its okay for the platform at its session in Berlin July 25. The essential issue here, is the duplicitous promise to reduce "labor costs" through a general cut of 2%, coupled with a cut in labor market program funds by 15 billion euros, annually. This implies that all make-work programs, including those under the "Hartz I-IV" austerity programs, will be abolished. The creation of jobs is left entirely to the invisible hands of the free market.
Furthermore, the FDP backs a flat tax, coupled with a lean state program, which implies that social assistance and health insurance will be privatized, along with pensions, and generally, public service will be reduced under the battle cry of "reduce the bureaucracy." Labor market deregulation is to be intensified, state support payments to the coal-mining sector and other sectors of industry are to be eliminated.
The FDP rejects an increase of the value-added tax, as called for by Merkel's CDU, on populist grounds that the "citizens must be protected from the tax-collectors." In reality, the FDP does it on neo-con grounds that the reduction of labor costs, for which the CDU wants to compensate with the additional revenue from the tax, instead be managed through drastic cuts in state programs for social welfare, social services, and labor market support.
FDP general party manager Dirk Niebel conceded that this kind of program, should it become government policy, would provoke widespread labor union protests, which the FDP does not fear.
CDU Chairman Wants To Move to Hartz V-VIII Austerity
CDU chairwoman Angela Merkel wants to move on to the next phase of Hartz V-VIII, which will lead to the first of ten thousands of citizens losing their homes under Hartz IV.
Warnings in late 2004 that the stricter state support criteria for Hartz IV recipients would inevitably lead to residents being forced out of their homes, would be borne out.
For the first six months of 2005, the municipalities, which pay rent support for Hartz IV recipients, had arranged that in cases in which the actual rent is higher than the support, the residents would not be forced out, but would receive higher support. This can add up to 10% of the actual rent, for example, 40-50 euros, of a rent that is 450 euros per month.
But because of budgetary constraints in the municipalities, which have increased in past months, residents will not receive higher support. In Saxony, for example, already 19,000 flats are earmarked for residents moving out, into less expensive flatsmore than 3,100 in Leipzig alone. The BueSo (Civil Rights Solidarity) party, led by Helga Zepp-LaRouche, running for Chancellor, is going to address this scandal.
In Berlin, estimates are that 70,000 citizens will be affected by the municipal budget constraints.
Irish Republican Army Announces End to Armed Campaign
The Irish Republican Army has announced it will lay down its arms. This is the first time in the entire Northern Ireland peace process that the IRA has done so, although it initiated a ceasefire in August 1994, which was then reciprocated by the Loyalists two months later.
Sinn Fein (the political branch of the IRA) president Gerry Adams, who on April 6 had called on the IRA to abandon its arms, said July 28 that the statement would "challenge Irish republicans and nationalists. The IRA statement will also challenge others, especially the two governments and the Unionists."
The IRA statement said that "The leadership of Oglaigh na hEeireann has formally ordered an end to the armed campaign.... All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms. All Volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programs through exclusively peaceful means. Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever. The outcome of our consultations show very strong support among IRA Volunteers for the Sinn Fein peace strategy." The statement also says that the IRA will work with the decommissioning process to verify its end to use of arms, and that the "Army Council took these decisions following an unprecedented internal discussion and consultation process with IRA units and Volunteers."
However, the statement makes clear that the IRA is still committed to its goal of a united Ireland and end to British rule in Ireland. The IRA will also hold British Prime Minister Tony Blair to his commitment to finally fully implement the Good Friday agreement of April 1998.
Sinn Fein representative Martin McGuinness was in the United States when the announcement was made, and was to meet President Bush's adviser on Northern Ireland, Mitchell Reiss, and hold a news conference with a number of Congressmen.
Warsaw on Edge Over Possible Terrorist Attacks
In the Polish capital, Warsaw, as in most European capitals, there is reportedly tremendous nervousness about possible terrorist assaults. Indicative of the level of nervousness is a clash which occurred between thousands of miners and the police. Approximately 5,000 miners had come to Warsaw to protest the neoliberal policy of closing down more coal mines, and to demand that the government, ahead of new elections to take place on Sept. 25, guarantee that those who worked for 25 years in the mines would receive pension benefits.
Sources in Warsaw reported that the clashes resulted in several injuries.