15.04.2005 - 19:12 CET| By Lisbeth Kirk
EUOBSERVER / COPENHAGEN - French
president Jacques Chirac is facing opposition to the
Constitution from within his own ranks, as well as
fighting an uphill battle to win the sympathy of the
"If this Constitution wins, it is the end of Europe," Niclolas Dupont-Aignan, a French MP from Chiracs own UMP party, declared in Copenhagen on Friday (15 April).
Speaking to the press after meetings with members of the Danish Parliament, the Gaullist leader of the French no-campaign argued that a no-vote would serve Europe well.
"The system has been built without the will of the people and they will revolt within ten years if this [treaty] is passed. We see it already with the Bolkestein directive and with Turkey's possible entry into the EU," he warned.
"We cannot build a solid European future on such a complex text," the MP added, branding the Constitution a 'judicial monster' which he said would be the end of free states in Europe.
"Just because we say no, doesn't mean we are against Europe," he explained.
Mr Dupont-Aignan indicated that a French no vote would encourage the EU to put the brakes on negative integrationist trends, while allowing more postive aspects of the process to flourish.
His visit to Denmark coincided with Jacques Chiracs entry onto the yes campaign stage.
The French president recently argued that his country would be considerably weakened by a no vote. "France would cease to exist politically," Mr Chirac said.
"Im glad to see that Denmark is still alive after voting no to the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and after turning down the euro," Niclolas Dupont-Aignan countered.
"The EU must adapt to the new world. We dont want a return to nationalism, but we need a Europe based on democracy, with majority voting for the Internal Market and for daily affairs, but with voluntary participation for the rest, in what we call variable geometry."
A fresh poll by the French marketing research institute, the CSA, published in Le Parisien (15 April) predicted that 55 per cent of the French will reject the EU constitution on May 29, and that only 45 per cent are set to vote in favour of it.
But Niclolas Dupont-Aignan is not counting his chickens before they are hatched.
Ken Livingstone one of the honest men England needs to re-create a socialist government.
IS RED KEN TURNING GREEN?
On George W Bush :
I was in California over Easter and I was denounced by all and sundry for being rude about George Bush at the Stop the War Rally. Some US journalist came up to me and said: "How can you say this about president Bush?" Well, I think what I said then was quite mild. I actually think that Bush is the greatest threat to life on this planet that weve most probably ever seen. The policies he is initiating will doom us to extinction.
The World Trade Organisation
The World Trade Organisations structure enforces the US system of consumption around the world. It is one of the biggest threats to life on the planet.
The consumer society
There is no future in it, but right now we are locked into that mode of production and distribution. It will become the norm in India, China and the rest of the Third World as each of these economies grows. On that basis the world cant survive
A whole generation has grown up with the attitude that you dont get things repaired. People might expect the mayor of London to have a wide-screen TV, but Ive had my TV since 1985. Youve got to keep things till they fall apart. The same applies to fashion. You should buy clothes, and wear them till they fall apart.
True devolution would actually unleash cultural difference. For example,the south west has a very distinct cultural identity, yet they have been smothered for 250 years because of the strong centralised state. But the Government never really devolves power in the elective sense.
The only reason I support the United States of Europe is that I want to see a powerful block emerge to rival the US. The American agenda is sweeping everything before it, and although its not perfect the EU is better on environmental issues. Its a less rapacious form of capitalism.
The nightmare is that everything that is centralised around Whitehall is sucked up to Europe. For me, everything should be devolved to the regions. Look at the problem the government has with trying to get the health service to turn around. The solution is to devolve it down. Look at how we turned the buses around. We have increased bus riders from 4.2 million to 5.4 million in 3 years. That only happened because there is a mayor who focussed on a local problem.
Politicians who advocate restraint are not likely to get elected. Its much easier to vote for people who tell you to consume.
New Labours failure to set a radical agenda
I went through the 1997 general election thinking it was a load of old guff theyd come out with because they didnt want to upset the Daily Mail, and that when they got in Blair would follow the sort of agenda put out by Will Hutton in The State Were In. [Huttons agenda] wasnt revolutionary but it was a big progressive step forward. I was just amazed when it transpired that Blair had been serious, and [New Labour hadnt campaigned as it had] just to win the election.
I think there is a background problem. There is nothing in his past that was radicalising. He wasnt interested in all the great student activities, the radical campaigns. He did not get involved in politics until the 1970s when the high point was passed. So, you have someone of the "summer of 68" generation who actually wasnt part of it.
The cultivation of GM crops
If the government ignores public opinion then civil disobedience on this issue is quite legitimate, as long as its not violent. But the most important thing that affects a government is not peaceful protest but fear of the ballot box.
When will the current system change?
I think the combination of a social movement growing out of the Third World and a holocaust-style disaster leading to environmental degradation will be what finally forces the world economy to reform.
What will that social movement be?
It might be an alliance between progressive (but sadly minority) groups in the advanced capitalist nations with people like Lula (The Brazilian president) in the third world. It will be interesting to see what happens if Lula really challenges American power. Unlike in Iraq, where you couldnt be enthusiastic about protecting Saddam Hussein, here wed be faced with a democratically elected, charismatic leader capable of mobilising massive support. Anything smaller than Brazil wouldn't stand a chance. The challenge has to come out of Brazil, India, China one of the emerging economies. Our role in the West is to weigh in there and make sure we prevent our governments from destroying it.
IF HE HAD THE POWER
Childhood and obesity
If it was up to me, it would be illegal to add salt, sugar or fat to any foods that were on sale for kids, and schools would have a very tight regime over what they can actually serve. If kids get in the habit of eating good, wholesome food then they will avoid obesity and an awful lot of disease. Invariably, these things could be produced locally or in the school rather than bought in.
There is a need to democratise the EU. All the power should be within the European Parliament. There should be no European Commission. The commission should be the civil service answering solely to the people elected. Increasingly, however, the power of party machines that control candidates means it doesnt matter anyhow. No one gets to stand unless they have been vetted in advance.
There is no way that the current global population can have US levels of consumption. We need to manage down population to perhaps half of what it now is over a century.
There is no taxation on aviation. I dont have the slightest doubt that if we stopped giving tax breaks to cheap foreign holidays, we wouldnt have any demand for another airport or runway.
What you have effectively got through the current tax system is the poorest people in Britain, who might just be able to afford a week in Blackpool, are subsidising people like us who are flying all over the bloody world.
BUSHS STATE VISIT
I dont formally recognise George Bush because he was not officially elected. So, we are organising an alternative reception for everybody who is not George Bush. We are trying to get Michael Moore over as our guest as the alternative voice of the US, and then get all the environmental and peace movements here in this building for a "not the George Bush reception".
WELL HE WOULD WOULD'NT HE?
18.04.2005 - 18:13 CET
EUOBSERVER/BRUSSELS - The European
Commission has rebuffed claims that president Jose Manuel
Barroso and trade commissioner Peter Mandelson acted
improperly by accepting luxurious holidays from wealthy
friends. But the Commission's attitude, that officials do
not need to declare gifts given while they are off-duty
and that the college can police its own conduct, has
ruffled feathers among some UK MEPs. "The receipt of
hospitality is a fact of private life, and therefore
falls in principle under the respect for privacy of each
individual Commissioner and those who host them",
the college said in a statement issued on Monday (18
Mr Barroso confirmed that he and his family stayed with the Greek billionaire, Spiros Latsis, on the magnate's 51 metre long yacht, the Kalinga, between August 22 and 28 last year. The president met Mr Latsis while they were students at the University of Geneva in the late 1970s. Mr Barroso's former politics tutor, Dusan Sidjansky, was also on board.
Meanwhile, Mr Mandelson indicated that he stayed as a guest of two old friends in Guyana, South America, between December 30 and January 3 while on his way to a trade summit in the region.
The remaining commissioners also declared that their conscience was clean with respect to obligations under article 213(2) of the Treaty, the September 1999 Code of Conduct and the oath which they took in the European Court of Justice upon joining the Commission. The college made the pledge during a meeting on 12 April in Strasbourg. The declaration of good faith was prompted by a parliamentary question from the UKIP MEP, Nigel Farrage, on February 5. A leak to the German newspaper, Die Welt, over the weekend may also have spurred the Commission to action.
"Mr Barroso strongly believes that he has done nothing wrong and he challenges anybody to prove otherwise", the president's spokeswoman, Francois Le Bail, said. She added that, as far as she knew, neither Mr Barroso or Mr Mandelson's hosts had any business ties with the EU. But she conceded that Mr Latsis' shipping, construction and banking empire is so large and complicated as to leave room for doubt. "There are limits to how deep our investigations can go", she told EUobserver. Ms Le Bail also disclosed that Mr Sidjansky had worked as a special advisor to the Commission, but explained that such a post entitled the holder only to claim back expenses and not to any form of remuneration.
But the Commission's response has done little to silence its critics.
"At a time when the Commission is trying to promote the Constitution as a document that will increase transparency and accountability in the EU, they are proving by their actions that they don't care about the opinions of ordinary people", Mr Farrage told EUobserver.
The UKIP MEP remarked that under the present system, Mr Barosso could go on holiday with a Russian gangster and would not be obliged to declare it if he did not personally feel it created a conflict of interest.
19.04.2005 - 09:56 CET | By Elitsa Vucheva
Some two hundred Belgian mayors have
responded positively to the call for the worldwide
abolition of all nuclear weapons by 2020, and for the
withdrawal of US nukes from Europe.
The Belgian mayors are calling on their government to focus on its own disarmament obligations, but also on the need for nuclear disarmament in general, during the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference, which begins 2 May, in New York. Moreover, they would like to see Belgium being the initiator of an international conference aiming to negotiate a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons.
The mayors are also calling for a removal of US nuclear weapons from Kleine Brogel (Belgium) and Europe in general. The US is the only country to have nuclear weapons stationed in the territory of other countries.
The initial call came from the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hiroshima's mayor, Mr Tadatoshi Akiba, visited Belgium at the beginning of this year, explaining his "2020 vision", and asking for support for a complete abolition of nuclear weapons by 2020.
Following Mr Akiba's visit, some Belgian mayors called on all of their colleagues to join the network of the Mayors for Peace World Conference, presided by Mr Akiba. Currently, some 1 000 mayors worldwide are said to have joined it. A delegation of Belgian mayors will meet the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel De Gucht today (19 April), before some of them leave for the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference in New York.
ruling says Dresden was a holocaust
By Hannah Cleaver in Berlin
German prosecutors have provoked outrage by ruling that the 1945 RAF bombing of Dresden can legally be termed a "holocaust".The decision follows the refusal by the Hamburg public prosecutor's office to press charges against a Right-wing politician who compared the bombing raids to "the extermination of the Jews". German law forbids the denial or playing down of the Holocaust as an incitement to hatred. So delicate is the subject of the slaughter of Jews under Hitler that any use of the word "holocaust", or comparison with it, faces intense scrutiny and sometimes legal action. But prosecutors have declined to pursue further the case of Udo Voigt, the chairman of the far-Right NPD, who likened the RAF's raids to the Nazis' "final solution".
Rudigger Bagger, a spokesman for the Hamburg public prosecutor, said the decision took into account only the criminal, not the moral, aspects of the case. But he cited as a legal precedent a ruling by the federal constitutional court that favoured free speech in political exchanges, if defamation was not the prime aim of the argument.
Holger Apfel, the NPD's leader in the Saxon regional parliament, caused a scandal in January when he shouted down a commemoration of the Dresden bombing, prompting many others to walk out in disgust. His outburst was covered by parliamentary privilege but Mr Voigt applauded and repeated the statements elsewhere.
Paul Spiegel, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, criticised the decision by prosecutors not to take action. He said the statements were incitement and allowing them to stand opened the door to further such comments. "Morally, I have no understanding of this," he said. "One can ban such remarks if you use the law consistently. It is questionable whether statements that are clearly incitement come under freedom of expression."
Although the NPD is despised by other parties, German politicians reluctantly accepted the ruling. Dieter WiefelspŁetz, the interior spokesman for the Social Democrat Party described the phrase "holocaust" in the context of Dresden as an "exploitation of the victims". But he supported the decision not to prosecute.
Attitudes towards the Allied bombing campaign, which killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, are changing. Estimates of the death toll in Dresden in February 1945 hover at about 35,000. All the same, some historians claim that as many as 500,000 people were killed in the raids. Strictly speaking, the word "holocaust," which comes from the ancient Greek for "burnt", might seem apt for Dresden, much of it immolated by the fires started by the RAF's incendiary bombs.