Western European News Digest
Sarkozy Hands Out Spoils to His Synarchist Backers
PARIS, May 10(EIRNS)French President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy returned to Paris after spending three days in Malta, aboard the yacht of Vincent Bolloré, one of the closest associates of Antoine Bernheim, the president of the giant Venetian insurance firm Assucurazione Generali, and pillar of the Lazard Frères group which, in the 1930s, funded the pro-Hitler forces in France and Europe. The short holiday was apparently a very busy onethe daily Libération daily reports that, following the trip, Paris is full of gossip concerning a coming buy-up of the first French TV channel, TF1, by Bolloré, from Sarkozy's close friend Martin Bouygues. In exchange, Bouygues, the owner of France's number one construction company, would get the right to buy AREVA, the French public nuclear company, which Sarkozy would privatize.
On the same day, Sarkozy received an endorsement from former Lazard financier and former U.S. Ambassador to France, Felix Rohatyn, who, as reported by the Bloomberg financial website, praised Sarkozy as a "committed democrat." Sarkozy, who is ushering in a police state in France, and who fully supports the war policies of Dick Cheney, would adopt Rohatyn's violently anti-FDR economic policies of private bank control over national credit and economic policy. Said Rohatyn, sounding ever-so-much the Frenchman: "He appreciates that with all the problems we have, we are still the platform for democracy in the world, and he is, if anything, a very committed democrat."
After Scottish Elections: Brawl Over Independence Issue
May 8 (EIRNS)The Scottish National Party is being forced to try and form a minority government in Edinburgh, after attempts over the past several days to form a majority coalition with the Liberal Democrats failed. This makes the political situation in Scotland more unstable, since it appears that the SNP has an agreement with the Scottish Greens, but they have only two seats, having lost five in the May 3 election.
The Scotsman's political editor, Hamish Macdonnell, wrote May 7 that SNP leader Alex Salmond is facing a dilemma, since he "needed the Liberal Democrats to form a workable coalition government, and he needed stable government to persuade Scots to move on to independence." So far, Salmond has neither. The SNP remains committed to a referendum on independence, while the Lib Dems are refusing to even consider the matter. However, they would not oppose Salmond's election as First Minister in Scotland.
In addition, 100,000 "spoiled ballots" are evoking comparisons to the U.S. "hanging chads" mess in Florida in 2000. The head of the U.S.-based "Fair Vote" organization, Robert Richie, was quoted by the Scotsman as saying, "It's totally unacceptable to have so many votes spoiled. There are parallels with the problems in the presidential election in Florida." In one district, Cunninghame North, the Labour Party candidate lost by just 48 votes, and is considering a legal challenge because of the 1,000 spoiled ballots there.
The current situation is that the SNP has 47 seats; Labour 46; the Tories 17; Liberal Dems 16; Greens 2; and one independent won a seat; thus, no two-party majority government is possible.
Elections Show Britain Descending Into Ungovernability
May 5 (EIRNS)Following the May 3 elections, the London Independent called Britain the "Divided Nation: How the Elections Have Fractured the Political Landscape of Britain." Scotland was the most shocking result (see above), however, the Labour Party's woes extend beyond there. In Wales, Labour's vote declined to 32%, while in England, it was completely wiped out in 89 local authority areas, many of them in the south. In total, Labour lost 485 local seats, the Liberal Democrats lost 242, while the Tories gained 850. Not surprisingly, Tony Blair tried to put a positive spin on the results, insisting that Labour did not suffer a meltdown, because the results were dreadful for the Liberal Dems, and the Tories were unable to make the breakthrough that they had sought. "Is Britain becoming ungovernable?" asked the Independent.
Several days later, on May 7, preeminent oligarch and Times senior columnist William Rees-Mogg asked, "Is Britain Ungovernable?" Reviewing the overall election results of May 3, he warned that Britain is becoming a patchwork of regions and regional parties. "There are great dangers; we may be seeing the breakdown of the two-party system and perhaps of the United Kingdom," he wrote.
Upcoming Belgian Elections Threaten Further Instability
May 7 (EIRNS)Belgium, which will hold Federal elections on June 10, has the most complicated system of almost any country in Europe. The country is divided into three provinces: the French-speaking Walloon region, the Dutch-speaking Flanders region, and the mixed Flemish-Walloon Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde region. This makes Belgium an inherently unstable country. All the major parties, except the neo-fascist Vlaams Belang, have separate parties for the Flemish and Walloon provinces; in the third region both Flemish and Walloon parties. The Senate is also up for election by the electoral colleges of all three provinces.
A well-placed Brussels source, who is also a member of the Flemish Socialist Party, told EIR that the mood in the country is center-left. In fact, a poll conducted among readers of the conservative La Standard found that 56% supported France's Socialist Ségolène Royal over neo-con Nicolas Sarkozy. The big supporter of Sarkozy is the French-speaking Finance Minister Didier Reynders, although he tries to distance himself from Sarkozy's law-and-order policies.
Although the source predicts that the elections will not bring about an unstable situation, nonetheless the built-in fractionalization of the country and its political parties, and the often razor-thin margins among the parties, makes for an inherently unstable situation.
Serbian Instability Exacerbated by Kosovo Crisis
May 9 (EIRNS)The election of Tomislav Nikolic, president of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party, to the position of Speaker of the Parliament, may signal a deeper decline into ungovernability for this Balkan nation.
Nikolic was elected with the backing of MPs from his own Radical Party, the late Milosevic's Socialist Party, and, most surprisingly, by the Democratic Party of Serbia, party of "democratic" and "pro-European" Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.
The election took place in the midst of a political crisis which has left Serbia ungovernable for months. The general elections held last January resulted in a hung parliament, and a new government has yet to be formed. If one is not formed by May 15, new elections will have to be held, according to the constitution. Nikolic, a political heir to Radical leader and war criminal Vojislav Seselj, is infamous for his hard-line statements concerning Kosovo.
According to an Associated Press report covered in the Serbian daily Politika May 9, Nikolic would "go to war for Kosovo" and "cut relations with the West if Kosovo is granted independence."
Although other Serbian "pro-European" and regional leaders condemn his election, Nikolic received congratulations from the president and vice president of the Russian parliament, Boris Grizlov and Sergei Baburin, and from the president of the Council of Russian Federation, Sergei Mironov. These congratulations were delivered to Nikolic personally by Russian Ambassador to Belgrade Alexander Alexeev. In sharp contrast to EU condemnation, Alexeev said that Nikolic's election is an internal affair of Serbia and that Russia's interest is "to strengthen cooperation on every level," including governments and parliaments.
Serbian national and regional leaders, and European leaders and media, tend to see the election of Nikolic as a huge step back from the "democratization" process, returning Serbia to times of Nikolic's former ally, the late Slobodan Milosevic. EU enlargement commissioner Ollie Rehn said yesterday that "fragility of democratic development becomes a danger for the region." The EU, in protest, cancelled visits of its emissaries scheduled for today.
Europe Again in the Midst of Growing U.S.-Russia Tensions
May 8 (EIRNS)News wires in Europe reported this morning that Richard Holbrooke, the former U.S. State Department official, said it would not matter if Russia vetoed the Ahtisaari plan for granting "independence" to the Kosovars. The U.S. would recognize Kosovo's independence in any case, if the Kosovars declared it unilaterally, Holbrooke said. Learning about his remarks, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt warned that if the U.S. did that, it would be "playing with fire."
Bildt's warning may be on the mark, as it is reported at the same time that a 5,000-man-strong ultranationalist Serbian force has been formed, under the name "Prince Lazar Guard," which wants to go into action once the Kosovars declare independence.
Asked in Washington today about Holbrooke's statement, a State Department spokesperson told EIR that, even though Holbrooke works with the State Department on some Balkan matters, he does not speak for the U.S. government. Holbrooke "is a private citizen, and is entitled to his views," the spokesperson said.
The possibility of a Russian veto has been raised in a number of State Department press briefings, and spokesmen have said that the U.S. will continue to talk to Russia about the issue, adding, the Department "does not deal in hypotheticals."
German Prosecutor Warns of New Nationwide Terror Group
May 10 (EIRNS)Following police raids on 40 sites across six northern states of Germany, Federal Prosecutor Monika Harms warned of the formation of a new terrorist group, capable of carrying out violent attacks throughout the country. Although the attacks would be aimed at protesting the upcoming G-8 meeting to be held in Heiligendamm in June, the German government is concerned that certain groups have crossed the line from militant protest to actual terror.
Following the police raids, which involved 900 officers, Anti-Fa and other anarchist groups provoked riots or held demonstrations in 12 cities across northern Germany. Hamburg experienced the most serious of them.
"The militant extreme-left groups and their members are suspected of having founded a terrorist group, or of being members of such an organization, with the specific goal of staging fire bombings and other violent attacks in order to disrupt or prevent the upcoming G-8 summit in Heiligendamm," a statement from the federal prosecutors' office declared, as reported by the Associated Press. According to a report in today's Financial Times, Harms, who is heading an investigation into the activities of these militant groups, said the raids were aimed at gathering "evidence on the people involved and the structure" of the alleged terrorist group. The authorities have 18 people under investigation, some of whom are believed to belong to the Militant Group (Militante Gruppe), which last year attacked an economic research institute in Berlin.
Militant attacks, including car burnings and launching of paint bombs, have occurred over the last 12 months. Among the most serious was a paint bomb attack on the home, and the burning of the car last December of Thomas Mirow, State Secretary of the German Ministry of Finance and head of the G-8 organizing committee.