Western European News Digest
Railway Group Promotes Beijing-Hamburg Land-Bridge
Jan. 16 (EIRNS)The agreement among six Eurasian nations to facilitate rail transport from Beijing to Hamburg, initiated in China on Jan. 9, has enormous potential, the Paris-based International Union of Railways (UIC) said today. AFP quoted Luc Aliadière, CEO of the UIC, as saying that "China is the workhouse of the worldthe potential is enormous." According to Deutsche Bahn, Germany's rail system, the project is expected to be commercially viable as soon as the transit timenow estimated to be 20 dayscan be reduced to 15 days, which the Chinese think can be done within a year.
"It's like a new [high-speed] TGV line coming into play, and now it's becoming real," said Aliadière. For the rail companies, the prize is "grabbing a slice of the pie" of Chinese exports. His assessment is that "export transport costs, taking goods from China to Europe, are worth some EU3 billion per day," with almost all freight moved by sea. Rail companies are trying to develop a market for higher-value products.
Aliadière also noted that more and more Chinese manufacturing is moving into the interior, away from the main ports like Shanghai. This also favors rail transport to Europe. He said that, of course, "there is a lot still needing [to be] done," especially dealing with border delays due to customs regulations. These are a bigger problem than the gauge changes from China to the former USSR, and again to Europe. Changing engines takes "10 or 15 minutes," Aliadière said.
French Promote Technology Deals With SE Asia, North Africa
Jan. 28 (EIRNS)France is at the center of a multitude of deals with developing countries, involving nuclear or high-speed rail technology.
On Jan. 13, President Nicolas Sarkozy left for a tour of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. According to Élysée sources, France will sign a nuclear framework agreement with the UAE, the third of its type, following deals concluded with Libya and Algeria. The contract will deal with development and utilization of civilian nuclear power, and could lead to the signing of future contracts representing close to EU4 billion for the French companies. A fourth such contract is being prepared for signing with Morocco.
After a war of nerves which lasted eight months, the French nuclear company Areva has conceded to demands from former colony Niger, and finally concluded a very good deal for its uranium. (See Africa Digest.)
On Jan. 14, as reported by both Xinhua Times and People's Daily, China has opted for the French model of TGV high-speed rail, and will start construction of a 1,318-km connection between Beijing and Shanghai as a joint venture with the French company Alstom, with construction beginning Jan. 18, to be completed by 2013. China becomes the fifth country in the world producing its own TGVs [train à grande vitesse], after France, Germany, Japan, and Korea. The Chinese-built trains will be ready before the 2008 Olympic Games and could connect Beijing with Tianjin, 115 km north.
Fight Against Maastricht in Slovenia
Jan. 15 (EIRNS)Slovenia has begun to fall out with the EU Commission in Brussels, over polemics against the EU institutions, as reported by several news media over the past days.
Notably, the euro is coming under attack in Slovenia, and the fact that many Slovenians speak German has helped make popular the German term "teuro" (a play on words, merging "teuer"expensivewith euro). Especially everyday consumer necessities, including food, have seen price increases of 25% and more, in recent months.
The number of Slovenians that regret the adoption of the euro, when their nation became a member of the EU, and call for the return of their old national currency, the tolar, is increasing.
Political unrest is also increasing, forcing Prime Minister Janez Jansa to launch polemics against Brussels, as being to blame for inflation. Both the Commission and the European Central Bank have lashed back; Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, Italian member of the ECB directorate, demanded that Slovenia stop blaming others for its own mistakes, and that decisive steps be taken by Jansa to curb inflation and launch "reforms" to make the country "competitive."
Ex-Pentagon Official Tells Czech Mayors BMD Won't Work
Jan. 14 (EIRNS)In a meeting with 30 Czech mayors in the district where the U.S. is proposing to place a ballistic missile defense radar, former Pentagon official Dr. Phil Coyle said that the Bush Administration's assertions about the capability of its proposed BMD system are an irresponsible exaggeration. He presented the results of a study on the system by the Union of Concerned Scientists, ceskenoviny.cz reported today. Coyle spent 32 years at the Lawrence Livermore nuclear weapons laboratory, and was Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Testing and Evaluation during the Clinton Administration. In that capacity, he evaluated every BMD test; he now accuses the Pentagon's BMD office of exaggerating its success, withholding critical information, and never carrying out a test in a realistic environment. In December 2007, Aviation Week quoted Coyle stating that at the rate of progress, "it could take 50 years" for the Pentagon to complete all the tests that are needed. Coyle told the mayors that if the radar base were built in their region, it would become the first target of an attack, if a war broke out.
Coyle said that the original reason why the Pentagon wanted to build the radar on Czech soil, was to protect its radars in operation in Greenland and Britain, not to protect Europe from "rogue" missiles. He said he personally supports the Russian proposal to place the radar in Azerbaijan, which, if the system ever worked, would protect more of Europe.
Pope Forced To Cancel Visit to Rome University
Jan. 16 (EIRNS)Pope Benedict XVI cancelled a visit to Rome University, scheduled for tomorrow, where he had been invited to inaugurate the academic year. The cancellation was the result of a hostile campaign by some professors and groups of radical students. It is the first time in history that a Pope has been prevented from speaking at an Italian institution.
The revolt against Benedict's visit has been led by a left-wing fascist named Marcello Cini, who argued that the Pope is a reactionary because he defended the Inquisition against Galileo. The argument is preposterous, but it qualifies Cini as a member of the Anglo-Venetian "Sarpi faction." Cini was one of the founders of the Manifesto radical faction that split from the Italian Communist Party in 1968, in support of the student revolt. He was the only professor in the Physics Department who joined the revolt. In 1969, he attacked the Apollo mission, saying that the Moon landing was just a show. Eventually, he became one of the first leaders of the anti-nuclear movement.
Although the Vatican does not say it, some politicians have pointed to the fact that the Pope's life could have been in danger, had he accepted the invitation.