Western European News Digest
Credit Crunch Hitting German Retailers
Aug. 3 (EIRNS)Revenues in the German consumer retail sector are dropping, with Germany's biggest retail and trade conglomerate Metro announcing it has lost almost EU1 billion in the first half of 2009. Metro is registered on the DAX stock exchange, and employs nearly 300,000 people at 2,100 retail locations. Other retail firms had losses in June of 1.6% year-on-year. Shopping mall chains suffered the biggest losses: 5.7% down from last year in June; bakeries, butchers, and other specialized food stores dropped 4.1%. Discounters racked up bigger losses than expected: Exemplary was Aldi, down 4.1% for the first half of 2009. The losses bespeak the fact that people have less buying power and there is a deflation in food products, which the Metro spokesman specifically identified.
Top German Daily Demands Brutal Budget Slashing
Aug. 8 (EIRNS)Germany's top establishment daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, demands "deep cuts" in the German Federal budget after the elections at the end of September. "To balance the budget without tax increases, every fourth euro of spending would have to be eliminated." The "big chunks," which would really make a difference, and have to be cut in the view of these servants of the financial oligarchy, are labor, social welfare, and pensions of EU153.1 billion as budgeted so far for 2010. While nobody dares before the elections to "tell the whole truth ... brutal cuts are inevitable."
Italian Website Promotes LaRouche Webcast
Aug. 5 (EIRNS)The Italian website criticamente.it, connected to a group of globalization critics based in Padua, published a review of Lyndon LaRouche's Aug. 1 webcast on Aug. 4, entitled: "LaRouche: Default in the USA Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 12."
The short article says that LaRouche, "87, held a 3.45 hour conference speaking freely. With surgical precision, he locates the time frame between the 1st and the 12th of October, when the United States (at state and Federal level) will no longer be able to meet payments, thus defaulting. Throwing in jokes, LaRouche forecast that members of Congress going back to their constituencies, from that period on, will risk being lynched. Heavy considerations also on the number of unemployed, which would be 30% of the labor force, of whom only one-third are receiving compensation." It then gives the link to watch the webcast (www.larouchepac.com).
Berlusconi-Tremonti Meeting on Mezzogiorno Strategies
Aug. 4Italian Economics/Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti met with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi yesterday, to discuss a development strategy for the Mezzogiorno, Italy's underdeveloped southern regions. According to leaks from the Premier's office, Tremonti has insisted that money should be given only for specific projects, of at least five years' duration.
The idea is to revive the early Cassa per il Mezzogiorno (Development Fund for the Mezzogiorno) the approach, although the new agency will probably not have the same name. The regionalist Lega Nord (Northern League), an ally of Tremonti, has approved the idea, but rejected the Cassa name. "It evokes the second part of the Cassa performance, which was negative," said Roberto Calderoli, a Lega cabinet member. (See InDepth for "Italy Debates Return to Mezzogiorno Development.")
Italy Grants Debt Moratorium to Industrial Companies
Aug. 4 (EIRNS)A government-sponsored deal was signed yesterday between the national banking association ABI and the industrialist association Confindustria, by which banks will concede a one-year moratorium for capital repayment on loans to industrial firms. The government will support the banks with a tax reduction for each moratorium.
The measure is aimed only at firms with up to 250 workers, which is 90% of the total in Italy. Those firms can obtain a one-year moratorium on real estate leasing rates and a stretch-out of short-term credit up to 270 days.
Russia-Turkey Sign Deal on South Stream with Italian Participation
Aug. 7 (EIRNS)The Prime Ministers of Russia and Turkey, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, respectively, yesterday signed an historic deal in the presence of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was honored with the designation of "patron," because of the role played by Italian industry and diplomacy. The deal concerns the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline, which will supply European Union countries with Russian gas, without going through third countries. Indispensable for the project, however, is Turkish consent to passage through its territorial waters. Turkey was compensated with Russian gas deliveries and consent for the Samsun-Ceyhan oil pipeline project, from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.
ENI, Italy's state energy conglomerate, will build South Stream, which will start with 31 billion cubic meters of Russian gas per year, to expand to 63 billion in a second phase.
French Farmers Threaten 'Burning Summer' against EU Caprice
PARIS, Aug. 3 (EIRNS)The European Union Commission has come up with a plan to impose free-trade competition: demanding that thousands of French farmers, many of whom are long-since bankrupt or even deceased, repay EU500 million in "illegitimate" subsidies, plus interest, that they received from the EU between 1992 and 2002!
François Lafitte, who heads the French Federation of Economic Committees (Fédécom), said that nobody is going to pay back these subsidies. First, because the amounts claimed by Brussels are unfounded. Second, because it will ruin the profession. If Le Maire goes ahead, farmers promise a "burning Summer."
NICE Decides That Britons Need To Suffer More Back Pain
Aug. 2 (EIRNS)In Britain, if you have been suffering back pain for up to a year, and your doctors can't figure out what's causing it, NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) bureaucrats have decided that you can continue to suffer. The Institute has ordered that such patients will no longer be offered injections of such steroid medicines as cortisone in an effort to ease the pain, and instead, should be offered treatments like acupuncture and osteopathy. The National Health Service provides some 60,000 steroid injections every year, and NICE wants to reduce this to no more than 3,000, to save money.
Dr. Jonathan Richardson, a pain specialist, is one of more than 50 doctors to sign a letter to NICE demanding that it reconsider its decision. He is quoted in the Daily Telegraph: "The consequences of the NICE decision will be devastating for thousands of patients. It will mean more people on opiates, which are addictive, and kill 2,000 a year. It will mean more people having spinal surgery, which is incredibly risky and has a 50% failure rate."