Western European News Digest
The Scent of Panic at the EU Commission
Feb. 12 (EIRNS)Very late, but hopefully not too late, comes the EU Commission's realization that the collapse of the real economy is proceeding at full speed. EU Commissioner of Industry Guenter Verheugen said yesterday, "Totally new for us, are the scope and pace of the crisis." He reported that in December, the automobile sector and the steel industry of Europe showed a drop in new contracts by more than 40%, which, together with serious problems in the construction and chemical sectors, offers grim perspectives for 2009.
The EU will therefore hold a special summit on the state of industry on March 1 in Brussels. As Verheugen spoke, several thousand steel workers from across Europe were protesting outside the Commission building in Brussels. The day before, London's Daily Telegraph reported that it had obtained a secret 17-page European Commission document warning that the governments of the EU were driving themselves into bankruptcy by taking on the banks' toxic waste. The report, discussed by EU foreign ministers, warns that the EU itself could be shattered in the process.
Germany Puts Lawyer in Charge of Economy
Feb. 9 (EIRNS)In a surprise development, German Economics Minister Michael Glos (CSU) resigned last weekend, and was replaced by Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, also CSU. According to the public side of events, this was the culmination of a build-up of tensions between Glos and new Bavarian CSU governor Horst Seehofer, which included Seehofer's quasi-public discussion about a new economics minister. On Feb. 7, Glos sent his resignation letter to Seehofer's private address, with a copy to Bild-Zeitung, so that apparently Seehofer, who was attending the International Security Conference in Munich, only learned about it through the press.
Glos had already complained that he had not been really involved in the financial rescue package efforts of Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück. As Helga Zepp-LaRouche commented upon hearing the news, such a resignation is quite a scandal, given the financial meltdown we are in. Even more scandalous, she said, is the fact, that the new minister does not even have an economic background.
EU Commission Targets French Protectionism
Feb. 13 (EIRNS)Called to Brussels to justify the French plan to support its auto industry, French Prime Minister François Fillon said that France didn't impose any conditions on automakers with respect to investments, but had only asked them not to close assembly lines on national territory, since its citizens would not understand why the state would lend EU6 billion to a car manufacturer which would then close these factories. No other auto industry in Europe has deployed its production facilities so widely in other European Union member states, whether the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Portugal, or Great Britain.
European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes was livid, saying that Fillon's speech was the best example ever of protectionist rhetoric. We have to give a clear signal that we will not allow state aid for protectionist behavior, she concluded. Fillon in turn attacked the European Commission for its lack of initiatives, saying he would have preferred a European solution, since it is "unsound" to have very different national programs. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso whined that he also prefers a European plan, but that the Commission has no credit available.
European Automobile Sector in Free Fall
Feb. 13 (EIRNS)As the European governments are still working on their incentives for the automobile industry, the measures discussed so far will come much too late, because the auto sector is collapsing much faster than the government's experts expected. Figures for January, published yesterday by the European carmakers association ACEA, document that people who will buy cars whatever the price, no longer exist. Car sales went down by 26.5% on the average, and most dramatically in Ireland, with -66.5%, and in Spain, with -41.6%.
In terms of individual car producers on the European market: Daimler -30.5%, BMW -32.4%, GM -35.4%, Toyota -31.5%, Ford -21.8%, and Volkswagen -20.1%.
Opel's problem is on the agenda of North Rhine-Westphalia Gov. Juergen Ruettgers, who will meet GM CEO Rick Wagoner in Detroit next week.
U.K.: Ecstasy Only Kills a Few, So Legalize It
Feb. 13 (EIRNS)The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, a division of the United Kingdom's Home Office, has completed a study showing that the disco/psychedelic drug ecstasy only kills a few, and only destroys the immune system and the brain in a few more, so it "should be downgraded from a class A drugon a par with heroin and cocaineto class B, alongside cannabis." (George Soros and his cronies plan to legalize cannabis.)
According to an article in the New Scientist, the Home Office report concludes that ecstasy "causes light memory difficulties and mild depression, but these rarely translate into problems in the real world. While smaller studies show that some individuals have bigger problems, including weakened immunity and larger memory deficits, so far, for most people, ecstasy seems to be nowhere near as harmful over time as you may have been led to believe."
Proof? "Around half a million people take ecstasy every year in England and Wales, and 30 die." On the council are several doctors who are also involved with the drug-pushing Beckley Foundation, as well as several police chiefs and judges. Notable is Trevor Pearce, executive director of the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA).
British Minister Warns of Rise of Fascism
Feb.10 (EIRNS)British Children's and Schools Secretary Ed Balls told a group of Labour Party activists that the current "recession" is the worst in 100 years and could lead to the rise of fascism. "I think that this is a financial crisis more extreme and more serious than that of the 1930s, and we all remember how the politics of that era were shaped by the economy," he said.