Western European News Digest
Italy's Diplomacy Draws Praise from Russia
Sept. 6 (EIRNS)Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini left Moscow Sept. 4, with Russian backing for his plan to have humanitarian missions deployed in South Ossetia. Frattini was to present the results of his trip to Georgia and Russia, to the EU foreign ministers meeting in Avignon on Sept. 5, which has also taken up the proposal of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier that a committee be established to determine who actually started the conflict in Georgia.
Frattini told journalists in Moscow, "It is in Russia's interest to show the devastation, in order to demonstrate how the Georgians were heavy-handed." Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov added, "I thank my colleague [Frattini] for the efforts taken to solve the Caucasus crisis," according to the Sept. 5 Italian daily La Repubblica. "Italy has played a constructive, reasonable, balanced role which Russia appreciates very much." Frattini, for his part, issued a statement which is viewed as a direct response to Dick Cheney, who said yesterday in Georgia that Russia is not a reliable partner. "Russia is a strategic partner of the European Union," Frattini said.
Germany's Spiegel Exposes Saakashvili, Cheney
Sept. 1 (EIRNS)The current edition of the weekly Der Spiegel carries an exposé of the Georgian government as provocateurs and liars: "At the same time [that governments were preparing the EU special summit], several departments of the German government in Berlin began voicing doubts about the credibility of this presently most problematic friend of the West. The Georgian President [Mikheil Saakashvili] apparently attacked South Ossetia before Russian tanks arrived there through the Roki Tunnel, it is said. That has been told by military observers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), who were in Georgia. It is possible that their reports, which now leaked out of the OSCE center in Vienna, also included information about wiretapped phone calls of the Georgian leadership. Someone who is personally familiar with these reports summed up the assessment in the following way: 'Saakashvili lied 100 percent to all of us, the Europeans and Americans alike.'"
Frattini Tells Saakashvili To Renounce Force
Sept. 4 (EIRNS)Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini was in Tblisi today, where he met President Saakashvili and Foreign Minister Tkeshelashvili. He told the Georgians that they must formally renounce the use of force, and pushed for the proposal to hold a conference in Rome on the Caucasus. The Georgians don't like that idea, and prefer a donors' meeting.
Italy-Libya Colonial History Put to Rest
Sept. 1 (EIRNS)Italy has paid $5 billion in reparations to Libya for its colonial rule, given back a statue of Venus, and signed a friendship pact, thereby becoming the first former colonial power to apologize to the Arab world for activities during the colonial period.
Italy is now Libya's biggest trading partner, importing gas via a pipeline to Sicily, and developing oilfields. The $5 billion deal is anchored in the real economy, and will be paid over 25 years, through various projects (see below), including a highway from Egypt to Libya. According to the London Financial Times, "[Italian President Silvio] Berlusconi has set an important precedent in negotiating diplomatic energy deals."
French Inspired by 'Chinese Methods' in Africa
PARIS, Sept. 5 (EIRNS)The French Secretary of State for Economic Cooperation had a brainstorming session with French diplomats and industry captains on Africa, in which China's approach to infrastructure was discussed, according to the periodical Les Echos. Among the proposals to develop French business on the continent, was the idea to follow some of the Chinese methods, notably "combined offers."
From the law firm of Simmons and Simmons, Christophe Asselineau said, "The Chinese propose to build bridges, power stations, and other infrastructure, in exchange for mining contracts." He explained, "The Europeans lend money to African nations, which then issue a public invitation to bid, while the Chinese deploy nearly a full Marshall Planthey arrive with their money, their workforce, their infrastructure [projects] and leave with the natural resources." Without copying "exactly" the Chinese example, France also wants to go for "combined offers" based on consortiums. While it is now forbidden for EU countries to give "aid" in exchange for obtaining a "contract," there are ways to go around the legal obstacles.
Berlusconi Shifts Against Tremonti on Crisis
Sept. 3 (EIRNS)In a interview given to the Aug. 21 issue of the right-wing weekly Tempi, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi insisted that the world financial and economic crisis is not like 1929, and those who say so, are spreading panic and causing economic troubles. This is an attack against his own Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti, who has warned against precisely a new 1929. It could indicate a shift in the balance of power inside the government and in domestic politics. Even if it were known that Berlusconi does not share some of Tremonti's views, the prime minister had not dared, until now, to come out publicly against Tremonti, because of the latter's popularity and competence.
Sarkozy in Syria: Mediation for Peace, Economic Cooperation
Sept. 4 (EIRNS)On an official visit to Syria, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, on Sept. 2, met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other officials, followed on Sept. 3 by a meeting among Sarkozy, Assad, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, and Qatar Emir al Thani, which concentrated on the indirect dialogue between Syria and Israel.
In addition to diplomatic initiatives involving Israel and Darfur, French companies signed several economic cooperation protocols with Syria. Total, the oil and gas company, has signed three new contracts, and discussions have been opened for sales of airbuses to SyrianAir.
Pound Sterling Still Sliding; Darling Blamed
Sept. 2 (EIRNS)"The pound's slump accelerated for a second day in London as traders abandoned British investments following [Chancellor of the Exchequer] Alistair Darling's [Aug. 29] warning that the economy is facing its worst threat for 60 years," the London Daily Telegraph reports today. Tory leader David Cameron said, "It is an extraordinary situation that we've got a Chancellor of the Exchequer effectively talking the economy right down." There seems to be a lynch mob forming in the City of London against Darling, from people who make him a scapegoat for the systemic collapse.