Western European News Digest
EU Drafts Direct Taxation Plan
March 5 (EIRNS)The European Union Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud, Algirdas Semeta (Lithuania), is planning a "minimum rate of tax on carbon" across the EU "as a priority," he told the European Voice, a publication of The Economist Group. The idea is to give the EU the power of direct taxation, something which is unconstitutional in most member-states, because it violates the principle of "no taxation without representation." The German Constitutional Court ruling of June 2009 forbade exactly such actions, by ruling that EU institutions are not democratically legitimized.
Past attempts to introduce direct EU taxation have always been defeated, starting with the famous opposition to the European Economic Community (EEC) by France's President Charles de Gaulle in 1965. However, the EU junta sees itself empowered with new privileges by the Lisbon Treaty, and is trying again. "In my estimation it is possible to start discussions within the college [of European Commissioners]," Semeta said, adding that "there is currently the right momentum" to raise the issue again. The momentum Semeta refers to, is the EU push for a fascist, supranational government.
Thousands Demonstrate Against Austerity in Greece
March 5 (EIRNS)Thousands of Greek workers demonstrated in front of the Greek Parliament today, to protest European Union-dictated austerity measures. The demonstrations followed a three-hour strike by the ADEDY civil service union, which brought mass transportation, airports, and ferries to a standstill, and closed government offices.
On the same day, the Greek Parliament approved budget cuts that included increasing consumer taxes and cuts in public sector workers' pay by up to 8%.
In separate statements, the Greek General Confederation of Labor (GSEE) and the ADEDY said the measures are "anti-popular" and "barbaric," and announced that both organizations will be calling a second general strike for March 11 (the first on was on Feb. 24).
Television footage showed two men throwing a cup of coffee and water at GSEE leader Yiannis Panagopoulos, as he addressed protesters outside Parliament, before a third man walked up and punched him.
Portugal's Civil Servants Stage 24-Hour Strike
March 4 (EIRNS)The Portuguese civil servants union staged a 24-hour strike today, in protest against the government austerity measures demanded by the European Union. The strike disrupting schools, courts, and hospitals, and is being described as the biggest strike action in years. "There is immense discontent, which you can see in the way workers behave, and that means there will be enormous turnout in the strike," said Manuel Carvalho da Silva, leader of the 725,000-strong General Confederation of Portuguese Workers, ahead of the strike.
Unions fear the additional austerity measures will include an extension of the wage freeze beyond 2010, indirect tax increases, and cuts in bonuses and pension benefits for state workers. Ana Avoila, a trade union leader, said further strikes and protests were being organized for April and May.
According to Britain's Financial Times, polls show a collapse in approval ratings for Prime Minister José Socrates, from 40.3% in January to 29.4% in February.
Hung Parliament Gives Queen Increased Powers
Feb. 28 (EIRNS)It is increasingly likely, given that the Tory lead over Labour has slipped to only 5-6% (or less) in the polls, that there will be a hung Parliament in the next election, where neither party has the majority of seats required to govern. If that occurs (the last time was in 1974), then the Queen becomes a major factor in naming a new prime minister.
Already, the "golden triangle" of Britain's most senior civil servants and courtiers is meeting to prepare a dossier of advice to the Queen on what steps she might consider. Sir Gus O'Donnell, the cabinet secretary, has distributed secret memos compiled by the prime minister's private secretary in March 1974, Robert Armstrong, as a guide for discussion by the "golden triangle." The memos are also being avidly studied at No. 10 Downing Street, the prime minister's office.
'British Business Model Can No Longer Survive'
March 6 (EIRNS)David Scammell of Schroders Bank said in an interview in today's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the British financial sector is overblown, that even before this crisis, 30% of tax revenues came from the banking sector, and that has turned even worse, with the bailout policies.
The British government will find it very difficult to place bonds over £220 billion this year, because investors are worried about London, he said. Many of these "have come to the conclusion that the British business model basically can no longer be preserved.... Great Britain will need to have a stronger industry, again," Scammell adds. "The situation in Great Britain is as bad as that in Southern Europe."
French Industry, a Dying Species
Paris, March 4 (EIRNS)President Nicolas Sarkozy will be closing the discussions of a panel he named a few months ago to study the situation of French industry, which is going from bad to worse. The part of manufacturing comprising the value added in France went down from around 24% to 16% in 2008. During the same time frame, Germany for instance, maintained a constant ratio, at around 29%.
Industrial employment in that same period has declined, from some 3.9 million to 3.4 million, in direct jobs. Interim jobs related to industry dropped from 4.2 million in 2000 to 3.6 million in 2009.
As a result, the French balance of trade is in the red, by -EU43 billion, while Germany's is exploding, at +EU136 billion, even though Germany's balance of trade also reflects deep cuts in wages (in the range of 20%), which, in France, no government has had yet the power to implement. This disequilibrium is even more marked in the exchanges of industrial goods, which for Germany is positive with +EU155 billion, and for France negative, with -EU25.5 billion.
NHS Will Cut 1/3 of Hospital Beds in London
March 4 (EIRNS)The British government is planning deep cuts in the National Health System. John Appleby, chief economist of Prince Charles's King's Fund said: "In London there is a plan to close a third of the hospital beds, that is being floated by NHS. It's not out in the open yet and already it's attracted huge opposition. In Manchester you have 25 acute hospitals. That is probably too many, and it underlines what a big question the real funding cuts entail."
According to a study by the Guardian, published March 3, there are plans to cut surgical operations and to close emergency departments and entire hospitals. Already general practitioners in Hartfordshire are being told to get "approval" for a list of procedures, including hysterectomies, removal of skin lesions, and tooth extraction. Managers have advised family doctors, that in many cases, "It is usually better to wait to see if symptoms resolve themselves." Some emergency departments will be open only 12 hours a day!