Western European News Digest
Stuttgart Pro-Railway Project Camp Building
Oct. 23 (EIRNS)Building on a continuously expanding supporter base on the Internet and in discussion blogs on the media, the number of those who are taking to the streets to voice support for the Stuttgart 21 railway project keeps growing. Today, the rally in Stuttgart, of about 30,000 protesters against the project, will be matched by a pro-rally of about 10,000. A pro-rally of 150 also took place in the city of Aalen, near Stuttgart yesterday.
Twenty-one mayors in the greater Stuttgart region have also signed a statement, circulated by the European LaRouche Youth Movement, in defense of the project. "We hold that Stuttgart 21 and the Stuttgart-Ulm railway project offer a unique chance for development for the state [Baden-Württemberg], the region and for each individual municipality," the declaration says.
Meanwhile, the first round of "mediation" talks between the pro and con camps was also held yesterday, with Winfried Kretschmann, chairman of the Green Party's group in the Baden-Württemberg state parliament, She interpreted the talks as a "clear sign" that not only in Stuttgart but throughout the nation, "it will no longer be possible to carry through on big projects like Stuttgart 21 in the future, as in the past."
Gotthard Base Tunnel Celebrates Breakthrough: 'This Tunnel Is the Future!'
Oct. 19 (EIRNS)On Oct. 15, workers completed the ceremonial drilling of the last five feet of the 35-mile-long (57 km) Gotthard Base Tunnel beneath the Alps in Switzerland, now the longest tunnel in the world. Celebrations were held both under and above ground, in the Swiss village of Sedrun, attended by 200 dignitaries as well as the minerswith fireworks, flags, and champagne underground. An additional special gala celebration was held to fete all the 2,000-plus tunnel workers. The scene featured white table linens, plenty of champagne, hardhats, and flags from more than a dozen home countries of the miners, including Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Turkey, as well as Switzerland.
Miners spoke up both at the tunnel ceremony, and the party. Hubert Baer, the tunnel foreman, from Austria, saidas the giant drilling machine bore through the last rock, "This is the most wonderful moment in my 36 years of tunnel building." He said, "It's a wonderful feeling. It's an honor to have participated in the construction of the longest rail tunnel in the world." He stood alongside miners from Portugal and Turkey.
European television networks broadcast the celebrations and comments live from the scene. Dirk Schwarz, a German tunneler said, "This is a moment charged with emotion, very moving. It's been very impressive. It's a unique project."
German electrician Dieter Meyer told the Associated Press, that Germans should reconsider their opposition to new rail projects. "This tunnel is the future," he said.
Metal Workers Protest in Italy
Oct. 16 (EIRNS)A large metal workers' demonstration took place today in Rome. Seven trains and 700 buses brought workers from throughout Italy. Police estimate there were about 80,000 demonstrators, but organizers say there were "several hundred thousand." In contrast with France, however, the Italian trade union movement is split. The demonstration was organized by the most radical metal workers union, FIOM, whereas the two other large unions, FIM and UILM, opposed the demonstration.
Sunday's demonstration was held in reaction to automaker Fiat's decision to break the national contract as a condition of continuing to keep production in Italy, specifically in the southern Italian city Pomigliano d'Arco, near Naples. Fiat has a two-faced agenda: On one side, it promises investments in Italy to keep some production sites; on the other side, it is moving some production to Serbia. The CISL and UIL unions have signed a new contract with Fiat, whereas CGIL has not.
Huge Cuts in British National Health Service
Oct. 18 (EIRNS)While the Conservative government claims that it will not cut the National Health Service (NHS) budget, the reality is quite different. No cuts also means no increases to the budget. With a real inflation rate of close to 5%, rapidly pushing up costs, an aging population, and a "mini-baby boom," the individual health trusts are each making massive cuts that amount to a total health budget cut of 6%. In fact, according to a report in today's Independent, nearly 15,000 jobs have been cut in the last nine months. Dozens of hospitals have shut wards, removed beds, or are planning to do so. Others have announced plans to cut back on services they offer.
Health aid agencies which have received aid from the health budget are preparing for major shortfalls and cuts in the money they receive from the government. While the government claims that the NHS will receive additional funds over the next three years, the various health trusts that make up the NHS system have been told to make cuts up to £20 billion over the same period, which cuts represent 6% of the NHS budget.
Dr. Peter Carter, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said that, despite the government's promises, "we are seeing on the ground thousands of job cuts, vacancies frozen, staff down banded, and services closed. While the government claims it will increase by 1.5% the money allocated for drugs, the price of drugs in increasing by 10% annually.
German Greens Pick Up Where Social Dems Lose
Oct. 21 (EIRNS)The Social Democrats (SPD) being on the seemingly unstoppable decline, with recent opinion polls placing them already behind the Greens in ratings, the Green Party also wants to take power in the municipal parliament of the German capital, in the elections in September 2011. The SPD's candidate, incumbent Mayor Klaus Wowereit, is most likely to be challenged by Renate Künast, a national leader of Greens, and a former agricultural minister in the SPD-Green national government before 2005. Indeed, the Greens in Berlin may outdo the SPD, in terms of votes. But these scenarios will definitely be challenged and ruined by the BueSo, with a program for the reindustrialization of Berlin that will appeal to reasonable voters who oppose the red-green ecologism.