Western European News Digest
Former French PM Shocks Academics, Endorses NBW
Michel Rocard, French Prime Minister between 1988 and 1991, currently Member of the European Parliament, and troublemaker of the Socialist Party, broke through the fantasy-land of the 200 or so people gathered at the Nancy School of Political Science last week for a discussion on the future of Europe. After an introduction by two sycophants of the financial oligarchy, Rocard put reality on the table: "Europe has historically been the place where peace has been possible, especially after World War II and the reconciliation between France and Germany," but after the death of de Gaulle, the British, who had tried earlier to destroy the EU from the outside, "entered and destroyed it from the inside," and now "the European dream is dead!"
Rocard then developed how austerity policies are destroying the EU and how, in the last 30 years, they have created the conditions for a "systemic crisis" or a "financial tsunami" today. He developed a comparison with the U.S. debt in 1929 (120% of GDP), which created the crisis and brought fascism in Europe, and how today's debt is 230%! He also explained that this debt is financed by other countries, especially China, which could blow everything "in less than one hour."
At the end of his presentation, the room was very tense, because he almost said that there was nothing that could be done about it. During questioning from the audience, however, the issue of a New Bretton Woods (NBW) monetary system was raised. Not only did Rocard endorse the NBW, but he attacked monetarism and its creator, establishment icon Milton Friedman, saying that the Friedman "should be brought to the International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity, because he is an example of how ideas can kill."
De Villepin Survives No Confidence VoteBarely
The French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, made it through a vote of no confidence May 17, but not without scars. The vote supported the government, which has a majority in the Parliament, but many of de Villepin's own party members were absent, and others, who usually support the government, voted against it. De Villepin's poll ratings are at 26%.
Reportedly, deals are being made between President Jacques Chirac and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, and between Chirac and de Villepin, to try to keep the boat afloat. It is rumored that the reason Chirac is sticking to his discredited Prime Minister is that, according to the book, The Tragedy of the President, de Villepin had stated in the late 1990s that he would never be fired because, "I know too much" and "outside of the system, I would become a time bomb."
German Chancellor on First State Visit to China
Chancellor Angela Merkel is to leave for Beijing May 21, accompanied by the Ministers of Economics, Transport, and Justice, and about 40 business leaders, with emphasis on the Mittelstand (medium-sized firms).
May 22 is reserved for talks with Chinese leaders in Beijing, and for a speech at the Joint German-Chinese High-Tech Dialogue Forum, which has a conference with 200 industrial leaders and experts in the Chinese capital. That night, Merkel will depart to Shanghai, where she will meet with the Catholic Bishop, meet local Chinese leaders, and take a ride on the maglev train to the airport, from which she will return to Germany.
The fact that, as reported by various German media, Merkel is reading Henry Kissinger's Diplomacy book these days, may not be a good omen for the China trip.
In her article for the coming issue of Neue Solidarität, Helga Zepp-LaRouche called on Merkel to take an example of the pro-industrial thrust and technological optimism that China experienced with the Deng Xiaoping reforms.
Northern Ireland Assembly Has Historic Meeting
The Stormount Assembly in Northern Ireland sat for the first time in nearly four years, and it has until Nov. 24 to come up with a power-sharing agreement, the Guardian reported May 15. The Stormount Assembly had been closed in 2002 by then-Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid, who suspended the body based upon claims subsequently shown to be spurious that the IRA was running a spy ring out of the Parliament Assembly. (John Reid, an arch-Blairite, is today Home Secretary, and a distant-second candidate against Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown to replace Tony Blair.) At the point of its cloture, the Assembly was dominated by the Ulster Unionists and Social Democratic Labour parties.
However, the more hardline Democratic Unionist and Sinn Fein parties are the majority blocs after the 2003 Northern Ireland elections. Democratic Union leader Ian Paisley has refused to share power with Sinn Fein as long as the latter refuses to recognize the Northern Irish police. Ulster Unionists also voice doubts over whether the IRA has really disarmed, as has been attested to by the decommissioning commission.
Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein said that he would vote for Ian Paisley to be First Minister, with Sinn Fein Assembly member Martin McGuinness as his deputy.
EU Commission Backs Privatization of German Savings Banks
Put under pressure by the savings banks (Sparkassen) association and the German financial regulators, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbruck wrote a letter to the EU Commission last week, protesting its intent to open a lawsuit against the German savings banks law. At the recent Berlin convention of the savings banks, Chancellor Angela Merkel also backed the cause of the savings banks. Steinbrueck wrote that Mario Monti, the predecessor of the present EU Commissioner for Competition Charlie McCreevy (known for remarks like "The people just want beer and a bit of sex, that's all."), had already ruled that the savings banks law is in line with EU regulations.
But McCreevy wrote back that he does not care about Monti's views, he considers the German law as being against the regulations for full freedom of financial services. The privatizers hold that the law, which maintains that savings banks are institutions of the public sector and therefore mandated to serve the common good, stands in the way of the supposedly unavoidable and necessary transformation of savings banks into private sector commercial banks, mandated to serve the shareholders.
The plan of the privatizers is additionally duplicitous, because they want to keep the name of "Sparkasse" for the newly privatized savings banks, as a means to lure more deposits in from citizens, who have more confidence in a savings bank than in a commercial bank.
The entire dirty operation escalated in March, when Berlin's State Finance Minister Thilo Sarrazin wrote to McCreevy, urging him to take the German savings banks to court, and force them to accept Sarrazin's intention to sell the Berlin Sparkasse to private investors. The sale would be a foot in the door to the privatization of all the savings banks in Germany.
Dresden Mayor on Trial for Corruption
Ingolf Rossberg (FDP), the Mayor of Dresden, Germany who sold the WOBA public housing to a locust fund, is now on trial for corruption. The case pivots around a friend of Rossberg's, Rainer Sehm, and a one-man firm he created, Actor Consulting, which managed the millions in flood relief for Dresden. The state administration had investigated Sehm's firm in 2004, but did not pursue it. Then, in an April 2005 raid, they found out that Sehm had hidden his income from Rossberg's contract from the insolvency board, which constitutes serious fraud. There is apparently evidence that Rossberg may have had a role in telling Sehm to hide that income.
The reopened Sehm case has now been expanded to include Rossberg, who announced he is taking a leave of absence as mayor during the trial, from early June to September. It is now likely that Rossberg will be ousted in a no-confidence vote, if he does not step down voluntarily. Dresden will then have early elections for mayor, some time in autumn.
Retooling May Save Berlin Machine Firm
In what has to do more with excessive profit expectations of shareholders than with problems of the production as such, the BSH firm (Bosch Siemens Hausgeraete Werk) in Berlin has been blacklisted as "deficient" by the management, which wants to shut it down by next autumn at latest.
For the Siemens household machines section, CEO Kurt-Ludwig Gutberlet declared in Munich May 16, that perspectives are grim for the Berlin plant, adding not so convincingly that the management will look for options to keep the site with its 580 workers.
The question is posed, whether survival for the Berlin plant is possible outside of the "white ware" branch, perhaps by shifting to production of other useful products. During the first round of the LaRouche re-tooling mobilization in 2005, it was learned from phone calls into Berlin, that BSH there could be retooled to produce formed metal components for urban transport or railway systems. The reluctant top management at Siemens, a leading transport technology producer in Germany, would just have to be convinced to give the go-ahead.