Western European News Digest
French Defy Maastricht Diktat To Build Rail
Feb. 13 (EIRNS)The European Union finance ministers meeting in Brussels, after a fight, ordered France to balance its budget, refusing to give France the power to deal with its own situation as a sovereign country.
But Jean Louis Borloo, the Infrastructure and Environment minister of France, announced today in an interview with Le Figaro that the government will proceed with investments projected last year for the construction of 2,000 kilometers in new high-speed TGV rail lines.
A first line of TGV will be extended from Tours to Bordeaux, close to the Spanish border, for an investment of Eu7 billion. Studies for transversal lines, between large cities of France (Nantes and Lyon, for instance), impossible throughout the history of France because of hyper-centralization, will be started at the same time.
Borloo confirmed the government's project to drastically reduce freight transport by truck throughout France. Four out of five trucks transporting goods are foreign, and France wants to move all this freight to rail, and is also planning to improve its maritime ports. Financing will be public and the regions will be called upon to contribute.
High-Speed Trains Now on the Swedish Agenda
Feb. 11 (EIRNS)After the LaRouche movement in Sweden, the EAP, has, for years, campaigned for infrastructure corridors and maglev in that country, and five days after the release of the leaflet, "Instead of Financial Bubbles, Build Nuclear Power and Maglev Trains!" there is finally motion. Today, the daily Dagens Nyheter has a two-page spread on the building of new rail lines in Sweden for high-speed trains, citing the interest in all political quarters, however, failing to mention LaRouche.
Jan Forsberg, the head of the state rail system, SJ, wants to catch up, as "Sweden is 15-20 years behind." The proposals follow the arguments from a Prof. Bo-Lennart Nelldahl, who in a seminar in Linkoeping in January 2008 presented a vision on how to eliminate (for "climate" reasons) domestic passenger air transport. From his studies, he has found out that this can be done, if the train ride takes less than three hours. For this you need more than 300 kph and such an investment pays back whenever it is done, the better the earlier it is done. In this way he calculated from the vision down, and not the customary way, from "what can we afford," up.
His argument is dominating the Swedish debate. Infrastructure Minister Aasa Torstensson is figuring out whether this can be proposed in the infrastructure plan this Autumn. Discussing money, she said: "For these kinds of tracks, the role of the state is decisive," and went on to say that the yearly budgetary allocation is not enough, and that the best guarantee for the projects to be realized is to borrow money.
Bloomberg's U.S. 'Election Coup' Hits European Media
Feb. 13 (EIRNS)Some European circles know the open "secret" being prepared as a coup against the U.S. election process. "The Outsider That Is Preparing an Election Coup" is the headline of a Feb. 11 article in the Swedish daily Aftonbladet, on the plan to put Michael Bloomberg into the White House. Bloomberg's top henchman, Doug Schoen, author of a new book pushing his "independent" candidacy, is interviewed, as is Deputy Mayor of New York Kevin Sheeky.
After briefing readers on the evolution of his still-undeclared campaign, the article gives Europeans a short history of the financial and media empire that Bloomberg founded in 1981. It reports on Fortune magazine's estimate that Bloomberg LP is now worth $20 billion, with Bloomberg himself owning 60% of the company, and notes that "Bloomberg was elected mayor of New York in 2001 and then ran as a Republican, although he had formerly been a Democrat. He left the Republicans in 2007 and is now a potential independent candidate for the Presidential elections."
Will New 'Mohammed Cartoon' Crisis Destabilize Europe?
Feb. 13 (EIRNS)Yesterday in Copenhagen, three men, two of them Tunisian citizens, were seized by Denmark's police intelligence (PET) for allegedly plotting to murder Kurt Westergaard, the cartoonist who drew the most controversial of the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten's cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, showing him with a bomb as his turban, which sparked violent demonstrations two years ago. Eleven newspapers in Denmark and one German paper have reprinted the cartoon, and the story is the lead item on Al-Jazeera, so there is the possibility that another round of destabilizations will occur.
Westergaard and his family have been living in PET hideouts for the last three months. Today's Jyllands-Posten also carries a new cartoon by Westergaard, a portrait of himself with a pen, with a flag behind him dripping in blood.
In response to the alleged murder plot, a spokesman for the Danish Islamic Society pleaded for individuals to not take things into their own hands; however, the day after the news broke, Danish youth of foreign descent rioted throughout the night in the housing complex in Aarhus where the two Tunisian men were taken into custody. Riots also occurred in six other locations in the Copenhagen area, and in at least one provincial town. Police arrested 17 people.
BAE Systems and Tony Blair on Hot Seat in British Court
Feb. 14 (EIRNS)The British High Court began conducting a judicial review today, of the British government's closing down of the Serious Fraud Office's (SFO) investigation into BAE Systems' alleged corruption, involving payoffs of billions of dollars to Saudi Prince Bandar. This is part of an effort by two campaign groupsthe Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and The Corner Houseto request that the court quash the SFO's decision to close down the investigation, according to a report in the Lancashire Evening Post.
The British court case is one of three involving BAE, two of them in the United States (see also, USA Digest). The long-running SFO investigation was related to the so-called Al-Yamamah contract for BAE aircraft, which was signed in 1985. In December 2007, then Prime Minister Tony Blair ordered SFO director general Robert Wardle to drop the investigation, invoking British national security concerns. Attorney Dinah Rose, however, told the court that Blair had wrongly interfered in a legal matter, following threats by the Saudis.
It was widely reported that the threats came from Bandar and his agents, who visited London and met with Foreign Office officials on Dec. 5, 2006. U.S. Vice President Cheney was in Saudi Arabia just before that, in November.
German IKB Again Needs Bailout, Bavaria's LB Suffers Losses
Feb. 14 (EIRNS)Germany's state-owned IKB bank, which received billions of euros in bailouts in 2007, now requires between Eu1.5 and Eu1.7 billion more to keep its head above water. On Feb. 13, Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück met in emergency session with representatives of private and savings banks, and the state-run Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, but failed to reach a definite agreement on what to do.
Meanwhile, the crisis afflicting Bayern LB, the state bank of Bavaria, is now moving into the headlines. Just three weeks ago, the bank's management admitted "upwards of Eu100 million" in losses, although it said it could not make details of its 2007 performance public before April 28. Yesterday, however, Bayern LB was forced to report losses of Eu1.9 billion for 2007, adding that this is only the most acute problem of a total of Eu16 billion at risk in three conduits on the leveraged mortgage market in the USA.