Western European News Digest
Dutch Crisis Could Lead to Emergency Government
The Netherlands still does not have a government despite it's having been three weeks since it held elections, the International Herald Tribune reported Dec. 14. Those elections left both the Christian Democrats (CD) and the Labor Party, the country's two largest parties, without enough votes to form a government. The third-largest party, the Socialists, refused to join a coalition, while the fourth-largest, the liberal VVD, was an unacceptable partner for Labor. It is now proposed that Labor and CD form a coalition with the Christian Union, which would have a slight majority. This coalition has yet to be approved.
If this fails, and a government cannot be formed, then an obscure clause in the Constitution could be used to form an "all party" government. This has never happened before and would be a form of emergency government that could conceivably rule for a full four-year term, but most likely would lead to yet more elections.
According a Dutch source, the ongoing political chaos is to the advantage of the nominally neo-conservative, but really neo-fascist, Party for Freedom, led by Geerd Wilders, which went from one to nine seats in the 150-seat parliament after the elections. Wilders is militantly anti-immigrant and a leading figure in the European Islamophobia. movement. The source warned if there were another provocation like that of the Danish cartoons that could fan the flames of anti-Islamism, then his party could win even more seats and become a decisive factor in the formation of a government.
German Role in Iraq Keyed to Baker-Hamilton Report
In meetings in Washington in the wake of the release Dec. 6 of the Iraq Study Group's report, German Foreign Minister Frank W. Steinmeier told U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that sending German troops to Iraq is ruled out as before, a theme that was repeated by leading German politicians over the past few days. Steinmeier added that any increased role for Germany depends on U.S. clarification of its future Iraq policy, in light of the recommendations made by the Baker-Hamilton report, and that all of that will have to be debated during 2007.
In a Dec. 9 radio interview, U.S. Ambassador to Germany William R. Timken urged Germany, "the third-largest economic power of the world," to increase its engagement in and for Iraq. Timken welcomed the Baker-Hamilton report in general, hinting at a change of U.S. policy, but objected to direct U.S. talks with Syria and Iran, saying that the Iranians were not ready to talk yet.
The Social Democrats' foreign policy spokesman, Gert Weisskirchen, told Spiegel online that a military mission in Iraq "is the red line that must not be crossed." He did not rule out though "that during another, later phase of the development in Iraq, if it were still necessary then at all, we shall contribute to the production of security, if the Iraqis wish, and after we have looked at the situation carefully."
Spokesmen for German industry have repeatedly hinted, also before the release of the Baker-Hamilton report, that they would like to return to Iraq, to repair infrastructure and industrieswhich in many cases originated in Germanybut on condition that first there must be peace and stability in Iraq.
EU Summit Endorses Spanish Mideast Peace Initiative
At a dinner meeting of the European Union Summit conference, EU foreign ministers affirmed a five-point Israel-Palestine peace initiative demanding an immediate ceasefire, formation of a Palestinian unity government, the exchange of prisoners, talks between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian National Authority President Abu Mazen, and an international mission in Gaza to monitor the cease-fire. The leaders also called on Syria to play a larger role.
This is the same initiative proposed by Spain last November and endorsed by France and Italy.
On a visit to Germany last week, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert broke the decades-long taboo and admitted Israeli possession of nuclear weapons. In two radio interviews Dec. 11, Olmert said, "Iran openly, explicitly, and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they [Iran] are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel, and Russia?" Asked about this at a press conference, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said, "The European Union does not want to have weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Is that clear?"
Merkel Sees 'Many Small Steps' to Mideast Peace
German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared before the press Dec. 11, after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Berlin the previous day, and announced, in rather nebulous terms, a "new German initiative for the Mideast." She spoke of revitalizing the Road Map Quartet (UN, United States, EU, and Russia) for Palestinian-Israeli peace, of sovereignty and mutual recognition of statehood for Palestine, Israel, and Lebanon. Details of the initiative will be made known by the beginning of 2007, when Germany takes the half-year presidency of the European Union. Merkel said that in order to accomplish peace in the Mideast, "many small steps" were requiredno grand design, not even a medium-size one.
Blair Interrogation Is First for Sitting Prime Minister
British Prime Minister Tony Blair was questioned by the police in the "cash-for-honors" criminal investigation, the Guardian reported Dec. 15. The scandal involves cash donations to the Labor Party in return for honors such as knighthoods and appointments to the House of Lords, a criminal offense. Blair has become the first sitting Prime Minister to be questioned by the police.
The police said that Blair was questioned as a "witness" and not a "suspect," but that could change if fresh evidence surfaces, according to the police. Blair kept the questioning secret, even from his own staff, until after the fact.
Blair Intervenes on BAE Systems Bribery Investigation
Thanks to the intervention of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Serious Fraud Office dropped its investigation of alleged bribery by BAE Systems in its multibillion-dollar deal with Saudi Arabia, according to the Guardian Dec. 15. Following threats by the Saudi government to drop a 6-billion-pound offer to purchase 72 Typhoon fighters, the Blair government intervened, citing "national interest." Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, made the decision following "representations" from the Prime Minister's and Defence Minister's offices, and the intelligence services.
As could be expected, BAE's stock price went up along with those of other major contractors in the deal, including Rolls Royce. The move has created a outcry in the Parliament and the press.
Nazi Crown Jurist Schmitt Profiled in German Daily
Without explanation, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the paper of the German financial community, published Nov. 29 a two-page article on the career of Carl Schmitt, the judicial figure who legitimized the entire Nazi program. The article, "My Visit to Carl Schmitt," gives a "clinical" insight into some aspects of the thinking of the famous Nazi Crown Jurista synarchistas EIR has documented. Author Henning Ritter, a later pupil in the Carl Schmitt school of thought, begins with an introduction saying that Carl Schmitt was always regarded as the most "dangerous" thinker of the 20th Century in Germany. The "Crown Jurist" of the Third Reich, writes Ritter, after the war, was not allowed to teach at the university, and was confined to a place in Sauerland which became a pilgrimage place for many intellectuals from all over the world (he does not mention that among them were Alexandre Kojeve, Raymond Aron, etc.)
"Today Carl Schmitt is being discussed worldwide as intensively as no other German thinker of the 20th century," Ritter asserts, adding that Schmitt's "great affinity with reactionary thinking had its roots in the 19th Century and in the historical period of France's Dreyfuss Affair." Ritter's article ends, saying: "After having read Schmitt's 'Partisan,' I ordered the entire works of Mao Tse-tung. This occurred several years before it became fashionable in Germany to recite the words of the great Chairman Mao."
China Sees Progressive Era of Bismarck, List, as Model
A series on Chinese state television which looks at what China can learn from the history of other nations, focusses prominently on 19th Century Germany, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Dec. 14. In particular, the role of Friedrich List, the economist, and of Otto von Bismarck, the politician and German Chancellor, is elaborated.
List, who spent considerable time in the United States, studying the American System of economics, created the theory of stages of economic development, which was then implemented by Bismarck, the program noted. List and Bismarck jointly contributed to a model of development, which is of relevance for countries that are lagging behind other countries. Therefore, China can learn from the German example about the continuation of economic and military strength, of political balance, and sober foreign policy, the program advises. List and Bismarck understood the importance of a first-class education system, as well as of social policy. Unfortunately, Germany turned away from these principles in the first half of the 20th Century, with devastating consequences, only to return to them after the Second World War, the program noted.
Belgian TV News Fakes Break-Up of Nation
An eerie, "psywar" type incident was staged in the leading channel of the Belgian national TV on Dec. 14. The program "Prime Time" broadcast a news update which turned out to be a complete fabrication, along the lines of Orson Wells' "War of the Worlds."
The RTBF Channel 1 prime-time news program was suddenly interrupted with an "emergency news bulletin." The well-known TV news reporter Francois de Brigode announced, with a serious demeanor, that "Flanders had just declared its independence" from Belgium. What followed then, writes the FAZ, was political and journalistic "fireworks." The program then showed people being interviewed from various locations, expressing shock and dismay. In front of the Royal Palace in Brussels, a journalist reported that King Albert II had just left the country, to go into exile (they used archive pictures showing him taking an airplane). After more of this, the station announced, "This is a fiction."
However, as a quick poll showed, 89% of the viewers had thought that the "disinformation" was authentic, while another 6% believed that it was credible.
According to the FAZ, various top politicians and entertainersamong them Parliamentary President De Croohad given interviews to the program, not realizing they would be used in the spoof.