Western European News Digest
London's Private Water Controller Moves to Expand Control
As "the driest period in nearly a century" continues into its 17th month in southern England, London's private water monopoly is working to quench usage even further.
The Independent informed its readers of this development April 16, under the headline, "Wimbledon and Lords to truck in water to beat drought." Among the powers being sought by Thames Water is the authority "to ban sports grounds, parks, and private clubs from watering their pitches and grounds this summer."
The privatized water operation says that supplies "are close to a crisis point." Government advisors are saying "privately that there is a 'very good chance' of a total ban on 'non-essential' water use across the city."
Thames Water was privatized in 1989. In 1995, it began acquiring water operations outside of England. In 1996, it gained control of the world's largest private water project, in Izmit, Turkey. In 2001, it became the Water Division of RWE. That same year, it purchased the largest private water company in the U.S., American Water Works. In 2002, it purchased 48% of China Water Company. It now has operations in 46 countries.
RWE, the largest electricity provider in the UK, reports that its "core business is electricity, gas, water, heating, disposal, plant nets, services, solid fuels, and oil." It also trades in energy derivatives and "environmental certificates."
Merkel Increasingly Critical of Bush-Cheney Policies
As the German weekly Der Spiegel reveals in its April 18 issue, the image of outspokenly pro-Bush Chancellor Angela Merkel in the media does not correspond to her concrete political activities. For example, in her 35-minute phone conversation with President George W. Bush on April 12, Merkel urged him to enter direct talks with Iran, and to avoid confrontation with Russiabecause the Russians were needed for a diplomatic solution with Iran. Furthermore, the upcoming G-8 summit in St. Petersburg and the one-year G-8 presidency of Russia have to be successful, Merkel told Bush.
The Chancellor also disapproves of Bush's recent "nuclear deal" with India, because what one grants the Indians, cannot be denied to the Iranians.
At a recent briefing before the foreign relations committee of the German Parliament, Merkel expressed dissent from the U.S. policy of attacking Russian President Vladimir Putin for his lack of "democratic" commitment: She stressed Putin's success in ending the wild privatizations period, and the restoration Russian statehood. She is reported even to have said that a continuation of privatizations in Russia would have resulted in a "sell-out to American oil interests."
The French Youth Who Forced Burial of the 'Job Contract'
The French daily Liberation April 15 had several pages profiling the French youth whose mass demonstrations got rid of the CPE (First Job Contract). Most importantly, the movement is not attached to a particular party, as one youth was quoted saying; they don't want to be boxed in between "a Socialist Party with such a dramatic deficit of ideas that it creates no desire to go there," and an extreme left which is "too dogmatic." The Socialist Party is also accused of being "fatalistic," while the youth believe that "resignation is the absence of politics."
Secondly, while traditionally, such political movements mobilize especially students in the humanities, this time it was all the students in the science and law faculties who were fully mobilized. One model for the mobilization was the University of Poitiers, in the center of France, where as many as 5,000 students crowded into the general assemblies, in which the students decided on their slogans and defined their actions. Participation was so large, that they had to hold their assemblies at a rugby stadium.
Note that the students also decided to have fun, using a lot of humor in their interventions, they organized writing workshops and produced theater pieces which are still being performed. "The neoliberals have never been so aggressive," a student told this newspaper. "They are really unleashed, showing their true ideological face. This is what awoke the flame that was sleeping inside many of the youth."
Liberation also goes into the economic conditions which incited the youth to fight against the CPE for two months. Whereas in 1975, only 20% of female and 35% of male youths over 24 years of age were still living at home, in 2005, that has risen to 50% and 65% respectively. In 1975, a young couple earned 15% less than their parents; today they earn 30% less. While the Baby Boomer generation bought homes downtown, and mountainside and seaside villas, their children, the "baby losers have to sweat it out to buy maids' rooms downtown or end up on the periphery of Paris and even the regional capitals." This explains why 62% of the youth 18-24 voted against the European constitutional treaty on May 29, 2005.
Germany Proposes Leibniz Correspondence for UNESCO Program
The German Nomination Committee for the UNESCO program has officially adopted the proposal to include the entire scientific and philosophical correspondence of Gottfried Wilhem Leibniz in UNESCO'S special mankind's cultural heritage program. The program is called "Memory of the World."
The committee sees the Leibniz Correspondence as a "unique document" of the "European republic of thinkers," which, at the end of the 17th Century, aimed at bringing the "intellectual heritage of the civilizations to a higher cultural unity." The Leibniz scientific correspondence, says the committee, would thus document an effort to establish worldwide cooperation "based on knowledge and reason."
The committee points out that the 15,000 letters which Leibniz wrote to about 1,100 correspondents across the globe, are documentation of the unprecedented development of international relations during the late 17th/early 18th Century: "They reflect the integrating of Russia into Europe at the time of Czar Peter I, as well as the cultural exchange with China. The correspondence marks a turning point in the development of technology and of thinking at that time."
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) is indeed one of the most influential universal scientists of Europe, who, at the end of the ruinous Thirty Years War, laid the basis for a scientific and technological renaissance in Europe. One of the vehicles to foster this endeavor was his vast correspondence in which the most important scientists, inventors, military, political, and religious leaders of the time entered into dialogue with him.
Flooding of Danube Continues in SE Europe, Balkans
The emergency situation on the Danube River in Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania caused by extreme snow melting and heavy rainfall is not over, European media reported April 15-18. Hungary is now also in a state of alarm over the rising Theiss, the Danube's largest tributary, where flooding downstream is threatening Szolnok and Szeged. In Serbia, the water level, at a historic height, has remained constant, but a new flood wave is expected in the next days from Hungary.
In Romania, 3,000 people had to leave a village that was completely surrounded by water, and another 10,000 people might have to be evacuated. Many people are facing the ruin of their means of existence, especially the extremely poor peasants. Dikes have been exploded in a controlled way, letting hundreds of millions of cubic meters of water flood into farmlands, in order to protect villages and cities on the lower reaches of the Danube.