The U.S. and EU have agreed to launch negotiations on what would be the world’s largest free trade deal. Such an agreement would be the basis for the creation of an economic NATO and would include trade in goods, services and investment, as well as cover intellectual property rights. There are concerns that the U.S. could use these talks to push the EU to loosen its restrictions on genetically modified crops and foods. In addition, the deal might serve as a backdoor means to implement ACTA which was rejected by the European Parliament last year. A U.S.-EU Transatlantic trade agreement is seen as a way of countering China’s growing power and is the foundation for a new global economic order.
In his recent State of the Union address, President Barack Obama officially announced that the U.S. would launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union (EU). A joint statement issued by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and U.S. President Obama explained that, “Through this negotiation, the United States and the European Union will have the opportunity not only to expand trade and investment across the Atlantic, but also to contribute to the development of global rules that can strengthen the multilateral trading system.” In a separate speech, European Commission President Barroso also emphasized that, “A future deal between the world’s two most important economic powers will be a game-changer. Together, we will form the largest free trade zone in the world. So this negotiation will set the standard – not only for our future bilateral trade and investment, including regulatory issues, but also for the development of global trade rules.”
The decision to pursue a free trade deal was based on the recommendations put forth by the High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth which was created to deepen U.S.-EU economic integration. In their final report, they called on leaders from both sides to, “initiate as soon as possible the formal domestic procedures necessary to launch negotiations on a comprehensive trade and investment agreement.” According to U.S. and EU officials, talks could start in June with the hopes of completing a deal by the end of 2014. The proposed trade pact would include removing import tariffs, dismantling hurdles to trade in goods, services, and investment, as well as harmonizing regulations and standards. It would also cover intellectual property protection and enforcement. This could be used as an opportunity for a backdoor implementation of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). It was a result of public pressure associated with risks to internet freedom and privacy which lead to ACTA being rejected by the European Parliament in July of 2012. There have already been attempts to use Canada-EU trade negotiations to sneak in parts of ACTA.
Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch Director, Lori Wallach cautioned how U.S.-EU talks, “are aimed at eliminating a list of what multinational corporations call ‘trade irritants’ but the rest of us know as strong food safety, environmental and health safeguards.” She went on to say, “European firms are targeting aspects of the U.S. financial reregulation regime, our stronger drug and medical device safety and testing standards and more.” Wallach further added, “U.S. firms want Europe to gut their superior chemical regulation regime, their tougher food safety rules and labeling of genetically modified foods.” In a press release, Earth Open Source warned that, “An EU-U.S. free trade deal would obliterate EU safeguards for health and the environment with regard to genetically modified (GM) crops and foods.” Research Director Claire Robinson pointed out, “If the new trade agreement goes through, it will be illegal under World Trade Organisation rules for the EU to have a stronger regulatory system for GMOs than the U.S. system.” This is disturbing considering that in many cases, GM foods in the U.S. do not require any special regulatory oversight or safety tests.
Overshadowed by the proposed U.S.-EU trade deal are ongoing Canada-EU negotiations on a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Despite talks being in their final stages, both sides still have some important gaps to be bridged before a deal can be reached. Thomas Walkom of the Toronto Star acknowledged that, “Europe’s real interest in negotiating a trade deal with Ottawa was to demonstrate to the Americans that a trans-Atlantic free trade pact was possible.” He noted, “EU negotiators will be even more reluctant to make concessions to Canada for fear of weakening their bargaining hand with the Americans.” Walkom argued that, “Canada is under more pressure to make a deal while Europe is under less.” He concluded that. “A Canada-EU deal seems inevitable. But now, with America in the mix, the terms for Canada may be even less favorable than expected.” The Globe and Mail recently reported that the EU is demanding additional concessions from Canada before any agreement can be signed. In order to wrap things up, a desperate Canada may be willing to give up even more. This was a bad deal from the start and it would be in their best interest to just walk away from CETA.
In the coming months, you can expect the anti-corporate globalization movement on both sides of the Atlantic to mobilize against the U.S.-EU trade agreement. It is big business and financial institutions who are pushing this deregulation agenda which threatens health, environmental and food safety standards. Just like NAFTA, the proposed U.S.-EU trade deal is also likely to include an investor-state dispute process which would give corporations the right to challenge government policies that restrict their profits. A trade agreement between the U.S. and EU is a building block for a new global trading system. If you combine NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a U.S,-EU Transatlantic trade deal, you have the makings for a global free trade area.
Related articles by Dana Gabriel:
Deepening the U.S.-EU Transatlantic Trade Partnership
Growing Opposition to the Canada-EU Trade Agreement
Advancing the Transatlantic Agenda
From NAFTA to CETA: Canada-EU Deep Economic Integration
Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, security, as well as other issues. Contact: email@example.com Visit his blog at Be Your Own Leader
Is the UK Independence Party planning to free us from the EU and handcuff us to Israel?
The main aim of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is withdrawal from the European Union. A ComRes poll for the Independent on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror puts UKIP in third place on 14 per cent, well ahead of the Liberal Democrats.
A few weeks ago YouGov, with the European Parliament in mind and using two different methods, put support for UKIP at between 17 per cent and 19 per cent. So, the Conservatives are under pressure while the Liberal Democrats (on a measly 8 per cent) are set to lose badly.
Spouting Israeli propaganda
After 20 years and eight leader changes UKIP still has no seat in the British Parliament, but with 12 seats in the European Parliament it is now a force to be reckoned with, and the Zionists in their determination to cover all bases appear to have infiltrated the leadership core. It is no longer the likable anti-European Union protest party it used to be.
In its foreign affairs policy statement “Out of the EU, into the world”, UKIP says it
fully supports the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state… Israel is surrounded by hostile states committed to its destruction. The tiny state has been the frequent victim of rocket attacks and suicide bombings from terrorist groups, almost all deliberately targeting civilians. Israel has every right to respond with proportionate force to these attacks, and a UKIP government would do the same were Britain similarly threatened.
UKIP rejects the notion that Israel should be punished through sanctions or cancellation of trade deals (such as the EU-Israel Association Agreement) for defending itself from attack.
UKIP urges Israel to adopt a lasting solution based on a political dialogue and not just military strength…
UKIP wishes to see a peaceful and mutually amicable settlement reached between Israel and the Palestinians. It is not for us to set the terms for these talks, nor the boundaries for any peace deal. This is an issue the Israelis and Palestinians must work out between themselves…
This stuff reads like it was written in Tel Aviv by the regime’s chief spin-master, Mark Regev himself. There’s no acknowledgement that the Palestinians have suffered illegal occupation, dispossession and ethnic cleansing for the last 65 years and they too are entitled to defend themselves. As for “political dialogue”, what does UKIP think has been going on for decades to no avail? Notice they don’t mention law and justice as the path to a solution, don’t demand due process nor an end to the illegal occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza, nor require compliance with those countless UN resolutions. They’re just happy for the oppressor and the oppressed to carry on arguing, one with a gun to the other’s head, with no prospect of a just peace.
Are they really too thick to understand there can be no peace under occupation?
The same policy document says UKIP believes a nuclear Iran would be unacceptable, and they’d support efforts to eliminate its nuclear weapons capability “by targeted military means” if necessary. UKIP conveniently ignores the fact that Israel possesses hundreds of nuclear warheads (and the means to deliver them), menaces the whole region and beyond, and defies calls to sign up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and place all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.
What part of Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement does UKIP not understand?
Rejecting calls for the suspension of trade deals such as the EU-Israel Association Agreement is further evidence of UKIP’s woeful ignorance. The purpose of the agreement is to promote (1) peace and security, (2) shared prosperity through, for example, the creation of a free trade zone, and (3) cross-cultural rapprochement. It governs not only EU-Israel relations, but Israel’s relations with the EU’s other Mediterranean partners, including the Palestinian National Authority. To enjoy the association’s privileges Israel undertook to show “respect for human rights and democratic principles” as set out as a general condition in Article 2, which says:
Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement.
Note that “respect for human rights and democratic principles” is an essential element – not optional.
The clause allows steps to be taken to enforce the contractual obligations regarding human rights and to dissuade partners from pursuing policies and practices that disrespect those rights. The agreement also requires respect for self-determination of peoples and fundamental freedoms for all.
Honourable politicians would have enforced Article 2, insisted on the observance of all other codes of behaviour and not let matters slide. They would have suspended Israel’s membership until the regime complied 100 per cent. Israel relies heavily on exports to Europe so the EU could, at a stroke, end the brutal occupation, murder and land theft, and resolve the problem in the Holy Land.
Bristling with lies and distortions
UKIP’s leadership has also decided that the party needs a “Friends of Israel” fan club. I include the mission statement http://foi-ukip.org/mission/ in full for its sheer entertainment value to those who know the truth about the situation in the Holy Land:
The State of Israel remains to date the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. It is also the world’s only Jewish state, surrounded and largely unrecognized by 21 Arab nations.
Despite constant assault from within and without, Israel has maintained an impeccable human rights record and remains the only country in the Middle East to extend full civil and political rights to all of its citizens, regardless of race or religion. Yet somehow it is cast as the oppressor, vilified as an “apartheid state” and singled out for disproportionate criticism.
Decades of malicious propaganda campaigns have seen to it that a one-sided historical narrative which portrays the Palestinians as blameless victims now successfully masquerades as reality. Little attention is paid to the fact that an independent Palestinian state has existed under the name of Jordan since 1946, and that the Palestinian leadership has consistently rejected a two-state solution whenever it has been offered, choosing instead to resort to terrorism.
The State of Israel, like all nation-states, has three fundamental rights which must be championed by freedom-loving people the world over: the right to exist, the right to secure borders, and the right to defend itself. In addition, it must also be allowed to preserve its unique Jewish character if it is to remain a safe-haven for Jews in a part of the world where violent anti-Semitism is still rife.
The purpose of Friends of Israel in UKIP is to support Israel’s right to exist as a viable, sovereign homeland for the Jewish people, and to oppose attempts to discredit, dissolve or damage it. FOI in UKIP does not seek to proffer a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, but rather to promote an impartial understanding of the issues by providing a counter-balance to the anti-Zionist rhetoric which currently dominates the debate.
Of course, friendship is more than mere political advocacy. FOI in UKIP will also seek to foster links with the Israeli government and people in order to provide an avenue for the discourse and meeting of minds which cement true friendship.
Doesn’t this just bristle with lies and distortion? UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage, has been described by the Jewish Chronicle as “a good friend of Israel”. The party’s secretary, Michael Zuckerman, is the one who set up Friends of Israel. “There is tremendous support for Israel within UKIP,” Zuckerman told the Jewish Chronicle. The group has the backing of party leader Farage and others among their MEPs, he said.
The objectives of UKIP’s FoI include organizing delegations to Israel; ensuring that UKIP has “a fully informed” foreign policy (no joking); providing UKIP’s elected representatives with information relevant to Britain and Israel’s mutual security concerns (imagine the Zio-nonsense being circulated); and ensuring Israel gets a fair hearing in all forums in which UKIP is represented. Clearly UKIP, or at least those members who provide “tremendous support” to its Israel admiration society, are expected to act as agents for that foreign power.
As disenchantment with the corrupt, extravagant and unaccountable EU continues to grow, UKIP is the only party with a clear intention to bring us out. With its cluster of MEPs, UKIP is targeting local (county council) elections this year, and hoping to profit in the European parliamentary elections next year and the UK general election in 2015.
Fascists, racists and psychopaths
But UKIP is tainted with the extremism of groups to which it has become affiliated within the European Parliament, such as the odious EFD (Europe of Freedom and Democracy), which Farage co-chairs. Given this gruesome alliance, linking up with the racist psychopaths in Tel Aviv is no doubt seen as a “good fit”. It is obvious when listening to remarks by some of the leading lights of the EDF, for example Bastiaan Belder (Netherlands) who chairs the Delegation for Relations with Israel and sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee, that they have swallowed the Israeli propaganda narrative hook, line and sinker and still think the Palestinians are the terrorists.
I hear that if a UKIP MEP refuses to sit alongside those obnoxious EFD people he/she face disciplinary action.
More than likely, voters who are planning to tick UKIP’s box next time they go into a polling booth – and indeed many of the party’s members and activists – are unaware of this dark and dangerous side to the UK Independence Party. UKIP started life with the right idea but sadly has fallen into the wrong hands, like all the others.
At the time of filing this article I found access to UK FoI’s mission statement blocked. Maybe it’s temporary. Maybe they’re feverishly rewriting it.
When President Obama speaks, most Americans hear what he wants them to hear: lofty rhetoric and a “progressive” vision. But just below the surface the president has a subtly-delivered message for the 1%, whose ears prick up when their buzzwords are mentioned.
Obama’s state of the union address was such a speech – a pro-corporate agenda packaged with chocolate covered rhetoric for the masses; easy to swallow, but deadly poisonous.
Much of Obama’s speech was pleasant to the ears, but there were key moments where he was speaking exclusively to the 1%. Exposing these hidden agenda points in the speech requires that we ignore the fluff and use English the way the 1% does. Every time Obama says the words “reform” or “savings,” insert the word “cuts.”
Here are some of the more nefarious moments of Obama’s state for the union speech:
“And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms [cuts]…”
“On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms [cuts] that will achieve the same amount of health care savings [cuts] by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms [cuts] proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.”
This ultra-vague sentence was meant exclusively for the 1%. What are some of the recommendations from the right-wing Simpson-Bowles commission? Obama doesn’t say. Talking Points Memo explains:
-Force more low-income individuals into Medicaid managed care.
-Increase Medicaid co-pays.
-Accelerate already-planned cuts to Medicare Advantage and home health care programs.
-Create a cap for Medicaid/Medicare growth that will force Congress and the president to increase premiums or co-pays or raise the Medicare eligibility age (among other options) if the system encounters cost overruns over the course of 5 years.
There were many other subtly-delivered attacks on Medicare in Obama’s speech, all ignored by most labor and progressive groups, who clung tightly to the “progressive” smoke Obama blew in their face.
Obama’s speech also included a frightening vision of a national privatization scheme to previously publicly owned resources. But it was phrased so inspirationally that only the 1% seemed to notice:
“I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital [wealthy investors] to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children…we’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers [corporations]…”
Obama’s proposal plans to “rebuild America” in the image of the wealthy and corporations, who only put forth their “private capital” when it results in a profitable investment; resources that previously functioned for the public good will now be channeled into the pockets of the rich, to the detriment of everyone else.
Allowing the rich to privatize and profit from public education and publicly owned infrastructure (ports and pipelines, etc.) has been a right-wing dream for years. This will result in massive user fees for the rest of us, while further dismembering public education, which Obama’s ill-named Race to the Top education reform is already successfully accomplishing.
Obama’s speech also put forth two massive pro-corporate international free trade deals, which would further drive down wages in the United States:
“We intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership [a massive free trade deal focused mainly on Asian nations]. And tonight, I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership [free trade deal] with the European Union – because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.”
While praising free trade Obama disarmed labor and progressive groups by throwing in the meaningless word “fair.”
Lastly, Obama’s drone assassination policy was further enshrined in his speech. Drone assassinations are obvious war crimes — see the Geneva Convention — while also ignoring that pesky due process clause — innocent until proven guilty — of the constitution.
But Obama said that these programs will be “legal” and “transparent,” apparently good enough to keep most progressive groups quiet on the issue.
There were plenty of other examples of sugar-coated poison in Obama’s speech. It outlined a thoroughly right-wing agenda with no plan to address the jobs crisis — sprinkled with pretty words and “inspiring” catchphrases.
Some labor leaders and “progressive” groups seem dazzled by the speech. President of the union federation, AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, praised Obama’s anti-worker speech:
“Tonight President Obama sent a clear message to the world that he will stand and fight for working America’s values and priorities. And with the foundation he laid, working families will fight by his side to build an economy that works for all.”
And here is the real problem; as President Obama follows in the footsteps of President Bush, labor and progressive groups have found their independent voice stifled. The close ties between these groups and the Democratic Party have become heavy chains for working people, who find themselves under assault with no leadership willing to educate them about the truth, let alone organize a national fightback to win a massive jobs-creation program, prevent cuts to social programs, and fully fund public education. Obama’s second term will teach millions these lessons via experience.
- Obama’s State of the Corporate Union (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Join and spread widely the latest EU-wide call to stop funding of Israeli military companies and illegal settlements:
As more and more of us become aware of the injustices against Palestinians denied their basic rights, the situation is becoming even more desperate on the ground. It has never been more important for us to make our elected representatives aware of the growing and unstoppable pressure for peace and justice.
The EU should be playing a leading role in implementing policies to ensure that Israel ends its illegal occupation and respect Palestinian human rights and international law. Instead, they are supporting Israel’s occupation by:
- allowing illegal settlement products to be traded in the UK and across Europe
- by using EU tax-payer money to fund Israeli military companies who are responsible for killing civilians and supporting Israel’s military occupation
It is time for actions, not words. Tell the EU to act today.
Read the full letter and sign the call here today: http://psc.iparl.com/lobby/96. Please spread widely.
Join and spread widely the call from Palestine to EU citizens to urge representatives to suspend trade agreements with Israel until it complies with international law, initiated by Palestinian grass-roots organizations recently:
- Palestinians call for a boycott of Israeli diamonds (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- South African agricultural company cuts ties to Hadiklaim (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The recently released data shows Iran’s crude oil exports to China soared to the second highest level in December 2012, despite US-led sanctions against the Islamic Republic’s energy sector.
According to a Reuters report China imported nearly 593,390 barrels per day (bpd) of crude from Iran in December last year, up 3.6 per cent from the preceding year and up 39 per cent from November. For the full year 2012, the highest level of China’s crude imports from Iran stood at 633,000 bpd.
Industry officials in China attributed the enhancement in Iran’s crude oil exports to improvement in shipment. The problems that used to cause delays have been overcome recently. The period of delay has become shorter and overall, less frequent.
Iran is currently China’s third largest supplier of crude, providing Beijing with roughly 12 percent of its total annual oil consumption.
At the beginning of 2012, the United States and the European Union had imposed new sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors with the goal of preventing other countries from purchasing Iranian oil and conducting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.
On October 15, 2012, the EU foreign ministers reached an agreement on another round of sanctions against Iran.
Iran terms these impositions illegal and insists that US-engineered sanctions were imposed based on the unfounded accusation that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.
According to another news report China will soon start importing polyethylene made in Iran, which became possible after the Islamic Republic partially lifted a ban on the export of petrochemicals late last year.
Lately, China-based market sources said that an estimated 100,000-150,000 metric tons of high density polyethylene (HDPE) and low density polyethylene (LDPE) from Iran is expected to arrive in China within a month aboard five vessels. The sources added that the Iranian tanker Touska will shortly discharge HDPE and LDPE at Shanghai port.
On November 6, 2012, Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Abdolhossein Bayat announced that the Oil Ministry had lifted the ban on the export of seven petrochemicals; benzene, styrene monomer, caustic soda, linear alkyl benzene (LAB), melamine crystal, premature ventricular contraction (PVC), and polyethylene.
- US probes Swiss medicine giant for trade with Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel may rely on US ‘scalpels’ to contain Iran – defense minister (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- US exempts 9 countries from sanctions on Iranian oil industry (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Despite its claims of easing the restrictions on the sales of medicine to Iran, Washington has launched an investigation into the transactions of Switzerland’s biggest pharmaceutical company, Novartis, with the Islamic Republic.
In its 2012 annual report, Novartis said its Alcon eye-care unit is being investigated by the United States for exporting medicine to Iran, Wall Street Journal reported.
Alcon received a subpoena in 2012 from the US attorney’s office for the Northern District of Texas, seeking documents related to its exports to Iran that date back to 2005, years before the current sanctions were enacted.
This is while the US Treasury Department said in October 2012 that American companies are allowed to sell certain medicines and basic medical supplies to Iran without first seeking a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
The move was made amid Iran’s protests that the US-engineered sanctions were hurting ordinary Iranian citizens and over fears that the humanitarian effects of the unilateral sanctions could undermine support for the bans among Washington’s allies.
According to US rules, exporters of medicine and medical supplies to Iran are required to apply for special licenses. Besides, as the aftermath of the sanctions, the impossibility of transferring money through banks has cast its cumbersome shadow upon medicine and healthcare in Iran and has gravely affected the import of medicines to Iran.
On January 26, in a second letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, President of Academy of Medical Sciences Dr. Seyed Alireza Marandi criticized him for his silence and indifference to the threats directed at the health of Iranian people and urged him to show real action.
“As the individual responsible for surveying and monitoring national health related issues, I affirm that this problem is real and the current situation was predictable from the start of the brutal sanctions,” Marandi said in his letter.
At the beginning of 2012, the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors with the goal of preventing other countries from purchasing Iranian oil and conducting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran. The sanctions entered into force in early summer 2012.
On October 15, the EU foreign ministers reached an agreement on another round of sanctions against Iran.
The illegal US-engineered sanctions were imposed based on the accusation that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.
Iran rejects the allegations, arguing that as a committed signatory to nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
- US: We are not sanctioning medicial supplies to Iran (therealamirtaheri.com)
- U.S. sanctions cause shortage of drugs in Iran (thehindu.com)
- US exempts 9 countries from sanctions on Iranian oil industry (alethonews.wordpress.com)
France, Germany and nine other European Union states side-stepped British opposition this week and won approval for a tax on financial transactions, it emerged on Wednesday.
EU Taxation Commissioner Semeta said the tax, strongly rejected by the UK could yield up to 57 billion Euros a year EU Taxation Commissioner Semeta said the tax, strongly rejected by the UK could yield up to 57 billion Euros a year
The Times reported that EU finance ministers gave their blessing to the scheme, which will apply to anyone in the 11 countries who makes a bond or share trade or bets on the market using derivatives.
The two big Euro states were able to bypass opposition from Britain and other states under an EU procedure known as enhanced co-operation. The system has been used previously for divorce law and in the field of patents.
Algirdas Semeta, the European Taxation Commissioner, called the decision a “major milestone for EU tax policies”. He had no immediate estimate of how much revenue the tax would generate, but noted that the Commission previously had calculated that such a tax across the 27-nation bloc could yield €57 billion a year.
The 11 nations, representing about two thirds of the EU economy, are Austria, Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. The Netherlands, where a Government was elected in the autumn, may participate. The states now need the Commission to draft legislation enacting a tax.
- Finance tax given go ahead as Ireland and UK opt out (independent.ie)
- EU approves financial transaction tax for 11 eurozone countries (guardian.co.uk)
- Giant Victory in Europe on Taxing Financial Speculation (ips-dc.org)
Ask your governments and EMPs to suspend EU-Israel Association Agreement and stand up for human rights in 2013!
A call urging citizens of the European Union to tell their representatives to suspend the EU’s trade agreements with Israel, until Israel complies with international law, has been issued by grassroots networks and organizations from across Palestine.
The call has been endorsed by numerous European solidarity networks and organizations.
Join the action. Send letters to your representatives now by clicking on your country below:
BELGIUM (DUTCH / FRENCH)
SPAIN (CASTILIAN / CATALAN)
For the full text click here.
European Union lawmakers are hoping to pressure internet giants such as Facebook and Google, to boost personal security controls and limit the collection of data without users consent.
A German MEP has proposed modifications to the 1995 Data Protection Act, suggesting legislation that would limit corporations’ ability to use and sell data, such as browsing habits, especially when users are unaware of the practice.
“Users must be informed about what happens with their data,” said Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green Party MEP. “And they must be able to consciously agree to data processing – or reject it.”
EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding noted that she is “glad to see that the European Parliament rapporteurs are supporting the Commission’s aim to strengthen Europe’s data protection rules, which currently date back to 1995 – pre-Internet age.”
“A strong, clear and uniform legal framework will help unleashing the potential of the Digital Single Market and foster economic growth, innovation and job creation in Europe,” she added.
The report by the German MEP adds to a proposal for tougher data protection announced by the European Commission last January. The European Parliament, the European Commission and the bloc’s 27 nations say they will seek an agreement on the rules in the coming months.
Google and Facebook – who were among the first corporations to profit from user data – have been lobbying against any such moves in the European Union. The Internet goliaths have warned legislators that such laws may hamper innovation and harm business.
“We are concerned that some aspects of the report do not support a flourishing European digital single market and the reality of innovation on the Internet,” Erika Mann, head of EU policy for Facebook, said.
Meanwhile, the Industry Coalition for Data Protection, an ICT lobby group, stated that Albrecht had “missed an opportunity to reconcile effective privacy safeguards with rules protecting the conduct of business — both fundamental rights under the EU charter.”
The European Union frequently raises the issue of privacy controls, causing standoffs with major American corporations.
In September, in another standoff over privacy issues, Facebook was forced to remove its facial recognition software from the social network in Europe in order to comply with European data protection laws. This followed an investigation by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland.
- Facebook, Google May Face More Data-Use Limits, EU Lawmaker Says (bloomberg.com)
- EU Seeks More Privacy Pressure On Google, Facebook (eurasiareview.com)
- Facebook and Google may be forced to ask permission to use personal data (guardian.co.uk)
New data shows Spain’s jobless rate hit a new record high of 26.6 percent for the month of November 2012, amounting to 6.157 million Spaniards.
The European Union’s statistics office, Eurostat, released the new data on Tuesday, which showed an increase of 0.4 percent from October’s reading of 26.2 percent.
The EU’s Employment Commissioner Laszlo Andor urged Spain’s government to find a political strategy to decrease the number of people without work
Andor said he is extremely worried about the unemployment rate for the country’s youth under 25, which was reported at 56.5 percent in November 2012, a 0.7 percent increase from 55.8 in October last year.
Spain accounts for about a third of the 18.82 million EU citizens looking for work.
On Tuesday, Eurostat also presented a new record high jobless rate for the eurozone, at 11.8 percent in November 2012, up from 11.7 in October the same year, marking the 19th consecutive month with increasing jobless rates.
Europe plunged into financial crisis in early 2008. The worsening debt crisis has forced the EU governments to adopt harsh austerity measures, which have triggered incidents of social unrest and massive protests in many European countries.
“You don’t sell public health care – you defend it!”
Today, December 27th 2012, is a black day in Spanish social services history. The Madrid Assembly approved a law which allows the “externalization of the management” of various hospitals in Madrid. This means privatization with public monies heading into private management pockets and patients being expected to pay for medical services or being obliged to take out costly medical insurance as in the US.
Spain has free medical services and this is the first step toward privatizing medicine in this country and making life even harsher for the 5.6 million unemployed and people who have lost their jobs and their homes, as well as those upon whom the Rajoy government is forcing wage cuts.
The President of the Comunidad de Madrid, Ignacio Gonzalez, who has been instrumental in forcing this legislation through, has had the gall to say that he is willing to enter into a dialogue with striking doctors protesting against this neoliberal axe coming down on the socialized medical services in Madrid. It will not be too long before other regions in Spain follow suit as the central government prefers to save the bankers by having the public pay for their errors and embezzlement. The EU bailouts will eventually fall on to the shoulders of the public with higher direct and indirect taxes and by having their social services and right to a decent education for their children cut to the bone.
On December 16th thousands Spanish public health workers and other people marched from four main hospitals in Madrid to converge on a main square in the capital Sunday, protesting the regional government’s plans to restructure and part-privatize the sector.
The marches, described as a “white tide” because of the color of the medical gowns many were wearing, finally met mid-afternoon in the central Puerta del Sol. On Monday, the region’s health councilor will meet with a committee responsible for coordinating professional services and union representatives to try and agree how to achieve €533 million (US$697 million) in savings.
In early July the EU agreed to bail out the Spanish banks with US$123 billion on the condition that the Spanish government implements austerity packages to cut public spending. Bearing in mind that it was the banks’ greed and risky lending to overpriced real estate projects which sparked the financial crisis in Spain, combined with a national debt that is more than 60% of the GDP, the public is now having to pay for these “misjudgments” which will eventually force Spain into the status of a third world country again.
During the protest march doctors, nurses and public health users — grouped into four columns —marched from leading hospitals located in the north, south, east and west of the capital.
“Our health care system is going to be damaged,” said Alberto Garcia, 26. “Patients are doomed to get a much worse service and this will just make us poorer.”
Health care and education are administered by Spain’s 17 semi-autonomous regions rather than the central government and Madrid proposes selling off the management of six of 20 large public hospitals and 27 of 268 health centers to private corporations.
The Spanish Debt
Spain’s regions are struggling with a combined debt of €145 billion (US$190 billion) as the country’s economy contracts into a double-dip recession triggered by the 2008 real estate crash. By electing a neo liberal government such as that of Rajoy and the Francoist Partido Popular, the Spanish voters are really getting what they voted for. At least Rajoy is true to his “principles” and he is rewarding the Spanish population with:
• Police brutality
• More taxes
• Impunity for most bankers
• Medical services being privatized
• Human dignity being stripped away month after month
Just look at the figures. The Spanish capital needed just US$697,000,000 to save the public health service but the banks which effectively screwed themselves and the country got US$123,000,000,000. Madrid only needed 0.57% of this amount to maintain the integrity of its health system and prevent it falling gradually into capitalist hands. What about families with children who are destitute? Is there no compassion left when it comes down to saving the “too big to fail banks”, by denying bankruptcy which is one of the fundamental pillars of capitalism. It cleans out the system of the diseased and weak.
No-one can tell any right thinking person that this is not a political-ideological decision. With just one iota of political will this total injustice could have been avoided.
Some Enlightening Comparisons
Venezuela: Here in Venezuela we are watching in horror as Spain is gradually morphing into Greece II and at the same time observing how in our country: houses are being built for poor families; a national health service is being constructed piece by piece; banks are too scared to take unnecessary risk too feed their greed since they know that they will be immediately nationalized.
Hundreds of Venezuelan families who sold everything and moved to Spain in order to escape the Chavez “tyranny” are now homeless, jobless and cannot get back to their home country. They are appealing to the Venezuelan government to repatriate them, give them work and put them on the list for a home of the Grand Housing Mission currently underway in Venezuela. How ironic is it that 95% of Venezuelan residents in Spain voted against President Chávez in the October 7th presidential election – and now they are begging to be saved from their own folly – just like the bankers.
While we empathize with the Spanish people and the looming loss of their health-care system to the capitalists, many must accept part of the blame by voting in Rajoy and his neoliberal gang of thug ministers.
The UK and NHS: What is happening in Spain is inevitable and a similar situation is developing in the UK where the Welfare Reform Bill has passed the two Houses of Parliament and signed into law by the Queen. This implies at least partial privatization of the National Health Service but the silver lining of this dark cloud for the British public could mean that the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties could be banished for many decades from government for this betrayal of British voters. Just use Google to discover that no-one – Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Labour – would have voted to privatize even part of the UK National Health Service.
Higher education is now out of reach except for all but the wealthy (university applications are down by 54% this year) and the beloved National Health Service could also soon be sacrificed to the neoliberal ideology of David Cameron who is ensuring that public money is poured into private coffers.
Rajoy and his gang in Spain will also be dumped in the next elections by the voters. If you are in service to the banks and big business expect the end of your political career to come sooner rather than later in the financial maelstrom of the crumbling European Union edifice.
- Defending Public Healthcare in Madrid (counterpunch.org)