Western European News Digest
Fight Erupts over Blair's EU Candidacy
Oct 24 (EIRNS)A coalition against Tony Blair's candidacy for European president has emerged in recent weeks, leading a few commentators to believe that his candidacy is already dead. Jean Quatremer, journalist for the French daily Libération, who specializes in European Union affairs, indicates how the war front has evolved against Blair since early October: Germany, which has been opposing him from the beginning, continues to do so, and the Benelux countries, Austria, and several heavyweights in France are in opposition as well. In Britain too there is opposition, coming from the Conservatives (who may well be in power by the time the European election comes around), with Foreign Affairs spokesman William Hague warning European diplomats stationed in London that it would be an "error," if their countries supported Blair's candidacy.
LaRouche Plan, U.S. Mass Strike Brought to Paris
PARIS, Oct. 22 (EIRNS)Some 100 people attended the presentation by Lyndon LaRouche's West Coast spokesman, Harley Schlanger, in Paris this evening, hosted by France's LaRouche movement, Solidarity and Progress (Solidarité et Progrès). There were many young people in the audience; many came in response to the invitation on the S&P website, and from literature distributions at nearby metro stations. Schlanger discussed developments from LaRouche's July 25, 2007 forecast of the financial meltdown, to the mass-strike process in the United States that began this Summer. He presented the entire 40 years' crisis from the perspective of the LaRouche Triple Curve. He said that Frenchmen must educate everyone with LaRouche's ideas, to lift the political level of the different resistance movements, as the EIR and LaRouche PAC websites and he personally are doing in the United States.
Danish Schiller Institute Campaign Kicks Off
COPENHAGEN, Oct. 23 (EIRNS)Today, the campaign started for the Danish local elections on Nov. 17. The LaRouche movement is on the ballot in the two biggest cities, Copenhagen and Aarhus, and the smaller Halsnaes Commune, with electoral lists labeled "Friends of the Schiller Institute."
In kicking off the campaign, one of the national TV networks, TV2, held a morning show roundtable with Danish Schiller Institute chairman Tom Gillesberg and candidates from the five other small parties.
Tremonti Calls Berlusconi's Bluff: Threatens To Resign
Oct. 23 (EIRNS)Italian Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti decided to call his enemies' bluff, and threatened Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi with resignation yesterday. Tremonti phoned Berlusconi, while the prime minister was in St. Petersburg, Russia, and demanded a clarification of Berlusconi's role in a plot to drive him out of the government, before the cabinet meeting that was supposed to take place this morning. Tremonti has earned the anger of the City of London by his support for a New Bretton Woods system and his endorsement of other ideas of Lyndon LaRouche.
Tremonti's action is motivated by a visible plot to dump him from the government, which he suspects Berlusconi to be part of. The plot is led by the so-called "Britannia faction," and aims at replacing him with Bank of Italy director Mario Draghi. Berlusconi met with Draghi privately two weeks ago. Last week, Berlusconi's daily Il Giornale opened a salvo against Tremonti. Two days ago, Berlusconi's main ally, Gianfranco Fini, chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, attacked Tremonti in an interview, after a meeting with Berlusconi, and several cabinet members have raised opposition against Tremonti's initiative for a Banca per il Mezzogiornoa funding mechanism for development of Italy's impoverished South.
The straw that broke the camel's back was Berlusconi's announcement from St. Petersburg that the government will cut taxes. This is unacceptable for Tremonti, because it will destabilize the budget.
Tremonti relies on the support of Lega Nord (Northern League), the third government coalition partner. Without the Lega, Berlusconi has no majority. And the condition for continued Lega support is to have Tremonti in the government. Before Berlusconi's arrival in Rome today, Lega Nord leader Umberto Bossi stated: "Someone wants to oust Tremonti, but I protect him."
In the evening, Tremonti's office denied that he had ever threatened to resign.
German Coalition Plan for Funding Will Not Work
Oct. 21 (EIRNS)The new CDU/CSU and FDP coalition government apparently intends to create a special fund of about EU50-60 billion, outside from the regular budget. It is obviously afraid of the social explosion, if brutal budget cuts are implemented right away. The special fund is supposed to make up for the holes in budget of the Federal Labor Agency (now projected at minus EU20 billion until the end of 2010) and the upcoming EU1 billion shortfalls in the public health insurance sector; also the citizens' share for pension payment are to be kept from rising over 3%. Coalition spokesmen argue that one should differentiate between "regular costs," and those that came about through the financial crisis.
While it is not a wrong impulse to seek to create some maneuvering room outside the EU's insane Maastricht straitjacket and Germany's self-imposed "debt brake," which was recently included in the German Basic Law (constitution), this will not the problem of the collapsing economy. Especially, since the plan probably is to be financed by loans from private banks (which were just rescued by taxpayers money, anyway!). And since the poisonous debt of the banks is not being written off first, this all is perpetuating the hyperinflationary austerity cycle, with more debt incurred, which the taxpayers have to pay off, while the bottom falls out.
More Drastic Cuts in German Steel Production
Oct. 19 (EIRNS)Suffering from the collapse of the real economy on several fronts at the same time (automobiles, ship-building, machine-building), German steel output is down by 50% as compared to 2008, and the leading steel producer, Thyssen-Krupp, announced additional job cuts in the range of 15,000 to 20,000 this morning. This also hits the supply sector, endangering up to 80,000 jobs there, which means that no fewer than 100,000 jobs are at stake.
Today's Financial Times sheds light on the fact that one-third of the world's container shipping, which the economic collapse has driven into a catastrophic situation, is in the hands of German owners. These firms are organized in 120 shipping funds, all of which are basically bankrupt and are calling for government and EU support. The EU, however, is just about to sign a free-market deal with South Korea which will open Europe to ships built (if at all, amidst this crisis) at much lower cost in Korea, so the EU Commission is not very likely to support these shipping funds in Hamburg and other German port cities.
Closure Threatens 1 Million Italian Firms
Oct 24 (EIRNS)One million small firms in Italy are threatened with closure in the short term, said an official of the National Association of Industry (Confidustria) yesterday. Italy has 5 million enterprises, 98% of which have fewer than 250 workers and fall under the category of PMI (Piccola e Media Industria, or small and medium industry). PMIs are reporting a collapse in activity of 50-70%. Trade union leader Guglielmo Epifani (CGIL) said that Confidustria's warning means there could soon be 4 million more unemployed. (Italy's population is 59.6 million.)
Today, a four-hour general strike called by some national trade unions brought thousands of workers out to demonstrations in Rome and other cities.