Western European News Digest
Greens, Christian Dems, Working on Coalition
April 2 (EIRNS)In an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio this morning, Reiner Priggen, the energy policy spokesman of the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) Greens, said the preferred choice for his party is to enter a "red-green" coalition government with the Social Democrats (SPD), after the May 9 elections for state parliament (Landtag). The second choice would be a coalition with the Christian Democrats (CDU).
"We Greens in North Rhine-Westphalia, we have in the towns and cities about 30 coalitions with the SPD, but we also have 25 coalitions with the CDU. What used to be valid, namely the taboo, do-not-touch policy between the CDU and the Greens, is no longer valid, and I would like to say I just find it reasonable: If the alternative would be a Grand Coalition [CDU and SPDed.] or rather a coalition of Greens and CDU, that would be a potential option."
Whereas numerous Christian Democrats want to extend the licenses of existing nuclear plants by as much as 28 years, so that they can be on the grid for a maximum of 60 years, Chancellor Angela Merkel's pro-green Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen (CDU) wants to extend licenses for select power plants by at most eight yearsif at all. And even that is negotiable for him, should his CDU form a coalition with the Greens in the NRW state government.
Irish Prime Minister Denounced as Traitor
April 1 (EIRNS)Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen was denounced as a traitor for his multi-billion-euro bailout of Anglo Irish Bank. Opposition leaders attacked Cowen for his decisions as former finance minister, and now as prime minister, which have saddled the Irish taxpayer with a EU40 billion bailout. Cowen, a radical free-marketeer, who was one of the key people responsible for the Irish financial bubble, is also accused of bailing out his cronies among the real estate speculators.
"I believe that decision was made to save the skins of a number of individualssome of whom are connected to Fianna Fail [Cowen's political party]whose property interests and whose prosperity was bound up with the fortunes of Anglo," charged opposition Labor leader Eamon Gilmore. "If my belief is correctand I have not been convinced to the contrarythen that decision was an act of economic treason for which this country is now paying very dearly."
No sooner did the government come out with its "once and for all" bailout of Irish banks, than more billions were being exposed. The Irish government will have taken over at least EU81 billion worth of bad loans and securities by the end of the year35 billion from Anglo Irish bank alone. Taxpayers are also funding further recapitalization of the banks: Anglo got EU8.3 billion this week and will need EU1 billion more.
While responsible for giving billions to the banks, and cutting living standards of Irish citizens in some cases by 15-20%, Cowen defended himself, saying, about charging him with treason, "I find that beyond the pale."
Will Germany's Transrapid Industry Disappear?
March 29 (EIRNS)Thyssen-Krupp, the main manufacturer of the German maglev system Transrapid, announced at the end of last week that for lack of follow-on contracts, it will shut down what has remained of its maglev manufacturing forceno more than 62 (!) jobs in Kassel and 35 in Munich altogether. The company says it does not like to do it, but sees no opportunity for the technology in Germany given political opposition, so that it cannot keep the jobs. The 280 km Hamburg-Berlin project was axed by the government in early 1999; the 75 km Metrorapid project connecting seven cities in the Ruhr region was axed in 2004; and the 34 km Munich project was cut in early 2008. To date, the eight-year-old Shanghai Transrapid in China is the only commercial maglev train in existence anywhere in the world.
The Kassel site of Thyssen-Krupp will be shut down completely, and the one in Munich cut by one-third, with 22 engineers staying on the job for the time being, but with a very uncertain future. Only the 32 km test track at Lathen with some 40 jobs remains, after its license, which expired on April 1, was extended by another year.
Bounty Paid to London Ambulances for Refusing Patients
March 28 (EIRNS)The London Sunday Telegraph today exposes an experiment being conducted by the National Health Service in London to pay ambulance services not to take patients to hospital emergency rooms, and refer them to telephone advisors, instead. The scheme appears to be part of a broader effort to help hospitals meet the mandate to treat all patients within four hours of arrival, by keeping patients out of the hospital altogether.
The ambulance scheme includes a plan to downgrade certain types of emergency calls that are currently classified as urgent, so that the callers are automatically referred to telephone advice instead of an ambulance response. At least one man in London died this past week because the call was downgraded, and he was referred to a telephone advisor, who discovered, too late, that the man really did have a life-threatening condition.
The London Ambulance Service has reportedly made £850,000 from the bonus scheme, but ambulance services in other locations have rejected similar plans, apparently because of outrage from ambulance crews, who say the clinical needs of the patient should be put ahead the financial demands of the hospital trusts. The scheme was to go national this week, but has been delayed by the government for at least a month, because of concerns about its safety.