Western European News Digest
Serbs Warn Against Kosovo Independence
Dec. 27 (EIRNS)In a resolution passed yesterday, the national parliament of Serbia condemned unilateral attempts by Kosovo to become independent. The document declares the protection of Serbian territorial integrity a national priority, and accuses the Kosovar-Albanian side of avoiding dialogue on a compromise solution, during the final stage of talks on Kosovo's political future, which took place from August to December. The resolution warns that any unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo will be regarded as a violation of international law and the UN Charter, and would lead Serbia to reconsider ties with Western countries that recognize an independent Kosovo.
Serbian President Boris Tadic declared after the parliamentary vote that the country's army would protect Kosovar Serbs if EU/NATO peacekeepers fail to halt violence: "If matters in Kosovo reach a violent stage, and if the international KFOR peacekeeping force is unable to adequately protect Serbs, the Serbian Army is ready at any time to provide assistance in protecting the population from danger, with the approval of international organizations and in line with international law."
Blair Caught in New BAE Revelations
Dec. 23 (EIRNS)Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair ordered his attorney general, in late 2006, to shut down the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) probe of billions of dollars in bribes by the defense giant BAE Systems, to Saudi government officials. New documents were released last week in a British lawsuit against Blair and others, brought by two anti-corruption groups, the Corner House and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade. The documents detail private meetings and correspondence between Blair and Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, in which Blair pressured Goldsmith to shut down the probe, because Britain was under enormous pressure from Saudi Arabia. Blair claimed that BAE would lose a pending multibillion-dollar extension of the "Al-Yamamah" oil-for-arms deal, and Saudi Arabia would also cut off intelligence flows on al-Qaeda.
According to documents made public on Dec. 21 by the Guardian, Lord Goldsmith caved in to Blair's demands, just before SFO investigators were to fly to Switzerland to access bank records of Saudi middleman Wafic Said.
The new revelations could badly damage Blair's ongoing efforts to "reinvent" himself as an international diplomat and philanthropist. U.S. intelligence sources have reported that he is in the process of establishing a series of religious and charitable fronts, to conceal some of the covert operations previously run through the BAE/Saudi slush fund. He is also promoted to be the next "super president" of a restructured European Union.
Will Pound Sterling Crash Bring Down PM Gordon Brown?
Dec. 28 (EIRNS)The outlook for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is getting gloomier with every new revelation about the teetering British economy. The huge inflated bubble over which Brown had presided as Chancellor of the Exchequer for the past decade, is imploding. The pound, which had been soaring above $2 for three months, had its biggest weekly fall in five weeks this past week. It is now at $1.98, and at a record low against the euro.
Overall, the Independent reported yesterday that Brown has been hit by a record number of revolts from his own Labour Party backbenchers, dating from his first hours in office. Nottingham University Prof. Philip Cowley, an expert on parliamentary voting, has reported that there were more backbencher revolts against government whips43in Brown's first month in office, than under any other post-war prime minister.
Meanwhile, the housing crash continues to make headlines in the tabloids. The London Daily Mirror on Dec. 22 reported that the housing market continues in "free fall," with an 8% slump in mortgage lending last month.
German Railway Talks Resume
Dec. 24 (EIRNS)Talks resumed between railway engineers and railway management, after a personal intervention by German Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee, who called in the leaders of both sides for an emergency session in Berlin, two days ago.
At least until March, the Social Democrats, the coalition partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's two-party government, insist that no further moves be made on the issue of privatizing the railroads, which the union opposes. But because of Tiefensee's failure to state that there will be no privatization, the railway management continues to provoke the engineers with statements about its preparedness to withstand any new strikes. The German population is reported to be mostly in favor of the engineers, but people naturally welcomed the moratorium on strikes during the holiday period.
'Donorgate' Scandal Could Bring Swift Prosecution
Dec. 27 (EIRNS)Criminal charges could be pressed in record time against resigned Labour Party General Secretary Peter Watt in the £670,000 "donorgate" scandal, the Daily Telegraph reports today. Inquiries may be finished by the end of January, according to Whitehall sources. Watt could be charged with illegally accepting funds from property developer David Abrahams. The prosecution is proceeding much more rapidly than in the earlier "cash for honours" scandal, which was investigated for 15 months and resulted in no charges.
Two days ago, Justice Minister Maria Eagle (Labour) told ePolitix.com that Labour will have to "keep its nerve." The mess includes not only the above scandals, but also the loss of millions of people's private data from government files. Eagle said Labour must "carry on governing, meet the promises we have made and show we can do a good job." Eagle is counting on there being "some time between now and the next election."
IMF Stooges Unhappy With Italy's Prodi Government
Dec. 27 (EIRNS)The International Monetary Fund attacked the Italian government, but then retreated. In an interview with the AGI news agency Dec. 26, an IMF spokesman said that the Prodi government shows "little courage" in cutting the budget. An IMF delegation will visit Italy at the end of January. Following angry reactions from Rome, an IMF release denied that any IMF official had made those remarks.
Meanwhile, a former IMF official, Lamberto Dini, said that Romano Prodi's government is finished. "Prodi no longer has a majority in the Senate," Dini said in an interview with Raitre news. Dini is head of a mini-party with three Senators, which has recently withdrawn its support of the government.
Poland To End Iraq Mission in 2008
Dec. 22 (EIRNS)Polish President Lech Kaczynski, an ally of the Bush Administration in its war in Iraq, has been forced to go along with the troop withdrawal plan of the new government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Tusk's government put forward a plan to withdraw Poland's 900 troops from Iraq by Oct. 31, 2008. According to an AP report, Kaczynski had indicated that he might oppose Tusk's plan, but there was a problem: The troop deployment's mandate expires on Dec. 31 and has to be renewed by Parliament. If Kaczynski had refused the new mandate which goes to Oct. 31, 2008, Polish troops would have had to come home next week.
British Historian Compares the Queen to Goebbels
Dec. 22 (EIRNS)Great Britain's most-noted historian on the British monarchy, David Starkey, compared Queen Elizabeth to Hitler's Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, and also accused her of being a poorly educated philistine. "I think she's got elements a bit like Goebbels in her attitude to culture," Starkey told the Guardian of Dec. 21. "You remember: 'Every time I hear the word culture I reach for my revolver,'" he said. (The remark is variously attributed to Göring and Goebbels, among others.) Starkey, who is sympathetic to the monarchy as a form of government, paints the Queen as a poorly educated, self-centered aristocrat who has little interest in even the history of the British monarchy.
Starkey, the author of a 17-part "Monarchy" TV series, suggests that Prince Charles might be the monarchy's best hope for survival, if he changes some of his ways.