Western European News Digest
Goldman Sachs Case of Interest for NRW Voters
April 23 (EIRNS)Many citizens and voters of North Rhine-Westphalia, especially tenants of LEG (Landesentwicklungsgesellschaft NRW) flats, are very angry at incumbent State Governor Juergen Rüttgers (CDU) and his "black-yellow" government, because the sale of the LEG's 93,000 flats to Goldman Sachs in 2008 resulted in increased rents, but decreased maintenance and other services. The LEG sale for EU4.3 billion, which allowed Rüttgers to fill some acute holes in the state budget, made Goldman's real estate branch, Whitehall, the single-biggest owner of privatized flats in the formerly state-owned housing sector, in Germany.
Questions about the details of this scandalous transaction will be posed, now that Goldman Sachs is the target of an official fraud investigation in the U.S.A., during the remaining three hot weeks of the election campaign in NRW. And voters, in the Erler Settlement in Kreuztal, Kaerntnerstrasse in Moenchengladbach, Westerfilde and Wickede in Dortmund, or the Reichel Settlement in Rheinberg, will be eager to learn what the BüSo has to tell them. In Berlin, the opposition SPD (Social Democrats) has already called for an investigation.
EU Financial Dictatorship Takes Shape
PARIS, April 19 (EIRNS)"Eurozone May Review National Budgets" is the headline of an April 16 article of Brussels-based newspaper The European Voice, a publication of the London Economist Group.
The EU Commission, says the daily, "called for Eurozone countries to submit draft budgets for evaluation at EU level. The issue is highly sensitive for member-states, for whom the right to set their own national budgets is an essential part of their sovereignty. The Commission, however, claims that the step is essential to avoid a repeat of the Greek debt crisis. 'We are of the view that [governments] should integrate the European dimension into national processes when it can still make a difference,' Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, said." European Voice reports the proposal is strongly backed by Jean-Claude Juncker, of Luxembourg, the president of the Eurogroup.
Should this measure go through, it would be implementation of the economic dictatorship which Helga Zepp-LaRouche warned against in the campaign she led against the Lisbon Treaty.
Belgium Back on Radar of Speculators
PARIS, April 22 (EIRNS)Belgium's five-partner coalition government, lead by Prime Minister Yves Leterme, collapsed today, after just five months in power. Leterme offered his resignation to King Albert II after the Flemish liberal VLD party staged a walkout, claiming they had lost confidence in Leterme's ability to settle regional quarrels.
If the King accepts the resignation, the House of Representatives will be dissolved, and early elections organized. But the instability of Belgium, which has to preside over the EU in two months, and hosts the headquarters of both the EU Commission and NATO, further destabilizes an already shaky Eurozone.
Belgium faces a deficit of 4.9% of GDP, and its public debt will soon reach beyond 100% of GDP. "So far, one can say that Belgium was not on the radar screen of the financial markets, but the political crisis could bring it back on the screen of the speculators," declared Etienne Callatay, an economist of the Degroof Bank, Belgium's largest private bank.
British Rail Union Condemns DBahn Takeover
April 23 (EIRNS)The £1.59 billion takeover of the Arriva transport group by Deutsche Bahn (DB) was condemned on April 22 by Britain's biggest specialist transport union RMT, as another worrying step towards the creation of a pan-European private transport monopoly. The RMT points out that, although still nominally owned by the German state, DB has slashed its workforce by half since moves to privatize it began in 1994, and is aggressively raising capital for acquisitions, while making full use of the EU's forced liberalization of the European rail network. DB already runs Chiltern Railways and the newly privatized Tyne and Wear Metro, and has closed freight depots at Trafford Park and Falkland since it acquired EWS (Britain's biggest freight rail unit).
Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, said, "Millions of people across Europe believe that railways should be publicly owned and publicly run, not a commodity to be smashed up and exploited by privateers who are ultimately only interested in the bottom line."
Finland Approves Two Nuclear Reactors
April 22 (EIRNS)In Finland, three companies have been bidding to build new reactors, in addition to the four old ones still in service, and a new one under construction. Yesterday, the government decided that two of the new reactors could be built, even though the conservative party in the government coalition wanted all three. The Green Party blocked the third one, but faces a storm of criticism for accepting two. Now it is up to the parliament to make the final decision in the beginning of May.
The two reactors are to be built by companies owned by industries in Finland; Sweden will produce the electricity for those industries at actual production cost. The third and unsuccessful bidder wanted to build its reactor to sell the electricity at market cost.