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The EU's grim year

United Press International - Intl. Intelligence - Walker's World: The EU's grim year

"Walker's World: The EU's grim year

UPI Editor

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- After a grim year of slow growth, riots and terror attacks from its Muslim immigrant underclass, rows over its budget and two thumping rejections by Dutch and French voters of its planned new constitution, the European Union's leaders can hardly wait for 2005 to be over to make a fresh start in the New Year.

Sadly, they will find the same old, familiar agenda waiting for them. It is an agenda that is likely to mean more rows over Turkish accession to the EU, divisions over what to do about Russia's use of its energy power to bully Ukraine, anguish over immigration, and a great deal more rhetoric about economic reform but only modest action." New Year’s Concert by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra - New Year's Eve in Vienna, Austria


New Year’s Concert by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra - New Year's Eve in Vienna, Austria

">New Year's Concert - Neujahrskonzert
This concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, known for playing "serious" music, is dedicated to the Strauss family and the Waltz. Since 1939 this spectacular annual welcome to the new year has been staged in traditional Musikverein building. It is broadcast live on TV and a very popular international event. It has managed to become part of Austrian and European tradition, its tickets being sold out for years and its TV broadcast being one of the most successful Austrian shows world-wide. Broadcast of this show will be on TV January 1, 2006 - at ORF from 11 a.m., and international stations from 12 a.m. The show is also shown on Eurovision and on US PBS stations on January. Consult your local TV directories - Europe Gets Hammered By Another Snowstorm

VIENNA, Austria -- Europe's second snow storm this week piled drifts on tracks and roads Friday, slowing buses, trains and trams and stranding motorists. At least two people were killed in mass pileups, and a week of icy weather was blamed for dozens of other deaths.In Poland, police said 23 people had frozen to death in recent days, with the last victim found Friday, bringing the number to 87 since the onset of cold weather in late October. Many of the victims were homeless and had died after heavy alcohol consumption. Heavy snowfall blocked roads Poland's Katowice and Bielsko-Biala area in the south, and blanketed the Baltic coastal city of Gdansk, causing traffic jams and blocking city streets. Swirling snow and thick fog enveloped most of Italy, and Florence recorded 25 centimeters (nearly 10 inches) of snow _ the most it has seen in two decades. Temperatures in northern Italy dropped as low as -17 Celsius (1.4 Fahrenheit). A 22-year-old homeless man was found dead, apparently of exposure, in Rome's main railway station Wednesday.With snow falling steadily in France, the national weather service issued road and weather warnings for 70 of the country's 80 regions. Some highways were closed and temperatures of -26 degrees Celsius (-15 Fahrenheit) were recorded in the eastern town of Mouthe, one of the country's cold spots.

IOL: Irish tops for breaking New Year’s resolutions


Irish tops for breaking New Year’s resolutions

Irish people have topped the pole for making and breaking New Year's resolutions. Compared to their European neighbours, Ireland is a nation brimming with good intentions but lacking the willpower to stick to those intentions. According to a survey of seven European countries, our number one resolution is to improve our fitness and eating habits. Almost a quarter of those questioned in Ireland admitted that they will only stick to their diets for about a month because of peer pressure and lack of support. The average European though will manage to stick to their resolutions for about a year. Dave Barry's year in review

Dave Barry's year in review

It was the Year of the Woman. But not in a good way. Oh, I'm not saying that men did nothing stupid or despicable in 2005. Of course they did! That's why we call them ``men.'' But women are supposed to be better than men. Women are the backbone of civilization: They keep families together, nurture relationships, uphold basic standards of morality and go to the bathroom without making noise. Women traditionally shun the kinds of pointless, brutal, destructive activities that so often involve men, such as mass murder and fantasy football. But not this year. Women got CRAZY this year. Consider some of the more disturbing stories from 2005, and look at the names connected with them: Martha Stewart. Judith Miller. Valerie Plame. Jennifer ``Runaway Bride'' Wilbanks. Paris Hilton. Greta ``All Natalee Holloway, All the Time'' Van Susteren. Harriet Miers. Katrina. Rita. Wilma. Michael Jackson. Former Masters of Torture are giving advice: Spying on the US Security State. Countermeasures for US Citizens


Former Masters of Torture are giving advice: Spying on the US Security State. Countermeasures for US Citizens

Is anyone really surprised that the USA now openly advocates torture, spying on its own citizens, or equates dissent with aiding and abetting the "brutal killers" as Bush describes them? Whew! Life is imitating art. President Bush stars as Sgt. Bob Barnes, the maniacal soldier in Oliver Stone's Platoon, who proclaims that he "is reality". Vice President Cheney is Dr. Phibes as portrayed by Vincent Price in the movie classic, The Abominable Doctor Phibes. You want torture? Talk to Dr. Phibes. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld brings to life Colonel Walt Kurtz, the rogue US Army soldier from Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. American society is modeled on Starship Troopers' militarized society at war with the insects from another galaxy. A great scene in Troopers is a segment which shows children stamping out bugs with glee as the narrator says, "Support the war effort. Do your part to kill the bug!" Welcome to the USA.


Jerusalem Post: Global agenda: Instability looms

Jerusalem Post

Global agenda: Instability looms

The annual parade of forecasts for the global economy in 2006 is still focused on the same basic topic as it was last year and the year before - namely the degree of imbalance in the global economy. However, there are two main differences between the debate currently underway regarding the outlook for 2006, and that of preceding years. The first is psychological and the second is substantive.The European economy is generating a stream of data that point to an ongoing improvement, especially with regard to its main bugbear of consumer spending.

Michael Hughes, the chief investment officer of Barings Asset Management. Quoting the American economist Hyman Minsky's famous remark that "stability is unstable," Hughes notes "what he meant by that is that the longer things stay the same, the more we expect them to remain the same and the more complacent we get. The result is that when things actually do change, the shock is that much greater."

The nowhere generation

"The nowhere generation

Home-grown bombers struck in London, rap-loving children of migrants rioted in France. Can Europe and youths caught between Islam and the West learn to co-exist, asks James Button."

Deutsche Welle: Austria Drops "Porno" Posters From Sex-ed up EU Campaign

Deutsche Welle 30.12.2005

Austria Drops "Porno" Posters From Sex-ed up EU Campaign

A number of controversial posters, one featuring naked models posing as world leaders engaged in a simulated sex act, have been removed from a campaign celebrating Austria's EU presidency. When the Austrian government said it wanted its EU presidency to start with a bang, it probably didn't have one in mind involving US President George W. Bush, French President Jacques Chirac and Queen Elizabeth II. Posters from an art project promoting Austria's EU presidency were removed by organizers Thursday after a storm of protest. The offending material depicted naked models posing as the British monarch and the two statesmen seemingly having sex. The project's organizers together with artists Carlos Aires from Spain and Tanja Ostojic from Serbia opted to pull the posters after a public furor that embarrassed the Vienna government, according to a report from APA, the Austrian news agency.

BBC NEWS: Russia says gas cut won't hit EU


Russia says gas cut won't hit EU

Russian energy giant Gazprom has renewed a threat to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine - but said it will not hit deliveries to Western Europe. Russia and Ukraine are continuing talks to resolve a dispute over gas prices, which Gazprom wants to quadruple. Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller said there was a "detailed plan" to ensure that supplies transiting Ukraine to the EU would not be disrupted. Gazprom is threatening to cut off Ukraine's gas at 0700GMT on Sunday.

The Columbus Dispatch - Spain wants to give siesta a rest, add to workers’ family time

The Columbus Dispatch

Spain wants to give siesta a rest, add to workers’ family time

MADRID, Spain — Who could turn down a two-hour lunch fueled with good wine followed by a siesta? Spaniards would love to. Many have schedules chopped in half with extensive breaks, making the work day so long that home is a place they only visit. Now relief is at hand, at least for civil servants: government offices are closing earlier and offering flex time to help people spend more time with friends and family. Many Spanish civil servants work from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., break for lunch, then come back as late as 4:30 p.m. for three hours. Add commuting time in the morning and evening and people spend 12 hours or more away from home every day. But now Spanish government ministries will close by 6 p.m. as part of a package of measures designed to help balance jobs and families.

Independent Online: Review of the year-The European Union

Independent on-line

Review of the year-The European Union

When the novice Polish premier, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, headed down the wrong corridor at an EU summit this month and marched in error towards the press area, one wisecracking TV reporter called out: "Has Poland lost its way?" A similar question could have been addressed to the leaders of all EU countries. For the bloc as a whole, 2005 has been an annus horribilis.


Deutsche Welle: Austria Preps for Challenging EU Presidency

Deutsche Welle

Austria Preps for Challenging EU Presidency

When it takes over the rotating EU presidency on Jan. 1, Austria hopes to revive Europe by infusing the debate about the EU constitution, enlargement and budget with "energy and confidence." Six years after EU members in Feb. 2000 imposed sanctions on Austria for welcoming an far right-wing party into the government, Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel said the revival of Europe will be his country's main priority during the six-month presidency.The differences between European member states, which became painfully visible after France and the Netherlands rejected the European constitution in the spring of 2005, are likely to present a major challenge to the Austrian presidency.

The State: The 2006 economic outlook for regions of the world - EU solid recovery in 2006

The State: The 2006 economic outlook for regions of the world

In the 25-nation European Union, economic activity will see a “sound recovery” in 2006, piggybacking on robust growth in the global economy. The European Commission, the EU’s executive agency, forecast growth of 1.5 percent in 2005 and 2.1 percent in 2006 for the entire EU. Growth hit 2.4 percent last year, a figure it is predicted to reach again in 2007. The forecast sees inflation in the entire EU and the 12-nation euro zone at 2.3 percent in 2005 because of high oil prices, easing to 2.2 percent in 2006 and 1.9 percent in 2007. Unemployment is on the way down, it said, predicting a drop by almost 1 percentage point to 8.1 percent by 2007. USA - Economic slowdown in 2006?

USA - Economic slowdown in 2006?

For the past several years, the U.S. and regional economies have rested on the backs of consumers who kept buying houses, cars, computers and other gadgets, even when their wages weren't keeping up and jobs weren't plentiful. Now, all of that may change. Interest rates are rising, energy costs continue to pinch budgets and there's more concern than ever over debt levels and the lack of personal savings. More importantly, perhaps, the housing market likely has reached its top -- and 2006 may be the year it softens.

That adds up to a halt in exuberant consumer spending and the potential for far slower economic growth, unless more business spending kicks in. Virtually no one is predicting a recession in 2006 -- but many are predicting an economic slowdown. "2006 will be a little more dicey," said Martin Cantor, the director of economic development for Sustainable Long Island, an advocacy group. "If you don't consider the consumer tapped out, then I think you're misjudging or being too optimistic about economic growth."

MOSNEWS.COM: The New Year Ordeal in Moscow - "Capitalism has taken over Russia"


The New Year Ordeal in Moscow- "capitalism has taken over Russia"

Moscow is a frustrating experience in December. The days are short, freezing temperatures and heavy snow turns the roads into ice covered with slush, and the streets get so congested it is impossible to breath. Snowfalls and shopping frenzy — it is the same all over Europe.Where are all those people going? Police reports here say the number of cars in Moscow grows by 10 to 15 percent in the last two weeks of every year as people from neighboring districts also invade the capital. Most supermarkets in Moscow work around-the-clock and most malls will be open on Jan. 1. If by four in the morning of Jan. 1 you realize you need more vodka or will die without another mango you are not likely to face any problems getting it because "Capitalism has taken over in Russia"

Monsters and Critics 2005 Review: EU ends year on upbeat note - but many challenges ahead

2005 Monsters and Critics 2005 Review

EU ends year on upbeat note - but many challenges ahead

Brussels - The European Union ended 2005 on a more upbeat note than expected as leaders clinched a last-minute budget deal in the early hours of December 17, ending months of growing acrimony and bickering among the bloc's 25 governments.

Agreement on the budget lifted the mood of crisis that has enveloped the bloc since the rejection this summer of a new EU constitution by French and Dutch voters and the breakdown in June of negotiations on the new multi-annual budget. But the year ahead will bring new challenges as leaders struggle to revive efforts to win popular support for the constitution and negotiations speed up on EU membership of Turkey and Croatia. Having recognised Macedonia as a candidate for EU entry, relations between Brussels and the western Balkans will also dominate the bloc\'s agenda over the coming year.

As the EU presidency passes from Britain to Austria on January 1 - and then to Finland in the second half of 2006 - palpable relief at having clinched the 862 billion euro eleventh-hour budget deal at the summit in Brussels is mixed with growing recognition that the bloc must avoid similar fractious financial scenarios in the future. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is leading calls for a rethink of how the EU agrees its joint finances, including suggestions that the bloc should introduce a common EU tax to raise funds for joint spending.

Hürriyet: Turkey: Erdogan vows to lift obstacles over freedom of thought


Turkey: Erdogan vows to lift obstacles over freedom of thought

Speaking at a meeting in Ankara on Wednesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his government was resolved to eliminate all obstacles hindering freedom of thought. The PM stated that Turkey had laid a milestone on its path to European Union membership. The government’s priority, the premier said, was to complete reforms and a structural transformation as part of the negotiation process, a necessity for any society with free thought and conscience, which is the basis of the EU.




De Almere Stad, a local Dutch newspaper in the city of Almere, reporting on some of the new ecologically friendly building projects in the city, said that one of the more innovative building designs known as "the Yurt" was recently purchased from the Bill Copperthwaite collection in Bucks Harbor Maine.

Modern day versions of the age-old Yurt have been popping up all over the U.S.A., and now also in Almere Holland, a city of some 178.000 inhabitantants, created only 30 years ago on land reclaimed from the ocean. Almere is considered one of the most avant-garde new cities in the Netherlands.

EU-Digest found a description of this modern day version of the Yurt by Bill Copperthwaite in Modern Earth News, where he writes: "The Yurt has its origins in the folk wisdom of the ancient nomads of inner Asia. There, the prototype has withstood the fierce cold, the violent winds and the intense heat of the steppes for thousands of years. The traditional Yurt, made of light poles and covered with thick felt, was a portable structure which the nomads carried with them in their search for suitable grazing for their herds. It is out of a profound respect for the technical genius of these people that the name yurt was chosen for our contemporary structure.

The nomadic Yurt builders appear to be the first people to have used the principle of the tension-band in the support of a dwelling. This advance allowed the roof, or roof-wall, of a structure to be raised above the ground without the use of internal posts or trusswork. This solved a basic architectural problem of eliminating the negative space, space formed by the walls of most tent structures as they meet the ground. The challenge was to have neither negative space, posts nor trusswork blocking the interior of the dwelling. These ancient peoples made an ingenious discovery that, at once, gave to their tent a positive wall angle, a clear inner space, a circular structure to fend off strong winds while permitting less heat loss per unit of volume than other shapes . . . and, still allowed the dwelling to remain portable."

In Europe the Yurt design has also found its way to Ariege in the South of France.

For additional information see also: and


New Europe: New Year traditions in Europe

New Europe

New Year traditions in Europe

In Europe the custom of first-footing is practised. This is where the first person to enter the house after midnight must be male and is supposed to bring good luck to the household. The visitor has to bring a gift such as money, bread, or coal, these guarantee that the family will have plenty of these "goodies" in the coming year. Throughout Europe the custom of making noise to ring in the New Year and to scare off evil spirits has also become common practice. Today any noise goes, such as fire crackers, toy trumpets, whistles, and bells. All have become party favors given to guests to use when the New Year is rung in.

Mercury News: U.S. dollar slips against euro

Mercury News

U.S. dollar slips against euro

BERLIN - The dollar slipped against the euro Wednesday, with a thinly traded currency market ignoring news that consumer confidence surged in December, signaling a good start in 2006 for spending. The euro bought $1.1836 in late New York trading, up from $1.1832 in New York late Tuesday. Merkel Scores Political Wins, Gains in Polls in Her First Month

Merkel Scores Political Wins, Gains in Polls in Her First Month

Dec. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Angela Merkel, sworn in as Germany's first woman chancellor at the head of a shaky coalition, has gotten off to a successful start. In her first month in office, Merkel, 51, helped broker an agreement on the European Union budget, won speedy passage through parliament of measures to cut subsidies and end tax loopholes and saw the release of Susanne Osthoff, a German archaeologist who had been kidnapped in Iraq and held for three weeks. She's also benefiting from signs of revival in Europe's biggest economy.

Europeans Revert to Islam for Peace: US Paper

JTW News - Europeans Revert to Islam for Peace: US Paper

"Europeans Revert to Islam for Peace: US Paper
Islam is a message that appeals to more and more Europeans who are “looking for inner peace and reacting to the moral uncertainties of Western society”, Muslim and non-Muslim researchers told a leading US paper Tuesday, December 27.

Although there are no precise figures, observers who monitor Europe's Muslim population estimate that several thousand men and women revert each year, The Christian Science Monitor (CSM) said."

PHYSORG.COM: Europe launches first navigation satellite to rival GPS


Europe launches first navigation satellite to rival GPS

GIOVE-A, the first EU Galileo navigation satellite, lifted off on schedule from Russia's Baikonur at 05:19 UTC (06:19 CET). The satellite is now in its medium Earth orbit. The first signal has been received from GIOVE already; the satellite systems are being checked out prior to solar array deployment. - Boeing tops Airbus in orders for 2005

Boeing tops Airbus in orders

In this record year for commercial aircraft sales, Boeing Co. is expected to edge out Airbus in jetliner orders for the first time since 2000.

Boeing's orders probably will surpass 850 airplanes — more than triple last year's count. Demand was so strong in 2005 that airlines were ordering Boeing aircraft even while a strike by machinists was shutting down its large Seattle-area assembly lines for a month.

Las Vegas Business Press: New Airbus A380 to boost tourism to Las Vegas

Las Vegas Business Press

New Airbus A380 to boost tourism to Las Vegas

Airbus A380, the mammoth new European jetliner, promises to boost international visitorship to the Las Vegas Valley. The travelers will arrive via the future Ivanpah Airport, to be located 30 miles southwest of Las Vegas. The new $4 billion facility will, however, need reinforced runways, wider taxiways and high capacity gates in order to accommodate the 853-seat, eight-story-tall mega-plane.

The A380's wingspan is twice as wide as a football field and holds 38.6 percent more passengers than a Boeing 747. It also weighs 1.2 million pounds, or the equivalent of 240 heavy-duty pick-up trucks.

EE Times UK - Philips spin-off creates an 'iPod' for the written word

EE Times UK

Philips spin-off creates an 'iPod' for the written word

LONDON — A Royal Philips Electronics spin-off company has developed a wirelessly-connected “electronic reader” tablet based on a high-contrast "electronic paper" display technology from E Ink Corp. The spin-off, iRex Technologies BV (Eindhoven, the Netherlands), claims that its wireless e-reader can be viewed outdoors in sunshine or shadow. The e-reader allows users to write comments, mark or underline sections to provide a paper-like experience, the company claimed.

"Iliad" is iRex’s first-generation electronic reader product. It is due to become available from April 2006 and can be customized to create versions for different business-to-business markets.

Fibre2Fashion: UK : European Union probes into Indian polyester fibres, reports FTA


UK : European Union probes into Indian polyester fibres, reports FTA

An investigation has been initiated by the European Commission into the alleged dumping of Indian polyester spinning fibres in Europe, reported by a European trade body Foreign Trade Association (FTA). In response to a request made by French fibre association Comite International de la Rayonne et des Fibres Synthetiques (CIRFS), the Commission has taken steps to look into the matter. According to CIRFS, polyester producers of India have been selling their goods at cheaper rates in countries like China, Egypt, Indonesia, Syria, the Philippines and the US, which then export the fibres to European countries. The European Commission in September 2005 kept some short-term duties of 14.1 to 56.2 percent on Chinese-made polyester fibres permanent. The EU is also probing into the alleged dumping of leather shoes from China and Vietnam, and in short time duties may come into effect on these products as soon as at the starting of next year.


Radio Netherlands : On the Iraq Election

Radio Netherlands

On the Iraq Election

The crucial question for an invading army is: 'do they want us to be here?' Well, we know the answer to that. The British Ministry of Defence carried out a poll a couple of months ago, it was secret, but it leaked to the British Press - I don't think it's been reported in the US. They found that 82 percent of the population wanted the coalition forces, British and US forces to leave. One percent of the population said that they were increasing security. - Euro vision a good deal clearer now

Euro vision a good deal clearer now

AS the British presidency of the European Union comes to a close at the end of the year, the fact that Britain ever held the six-month presidency will have gone unnoticed by most people, coming and going in the blink of an eye. Also unnoticed by the vast majority as they went about their daily business was the fact that Edinburgh was very much involved in the presidency, holding meetings which included a social services conference in July, a criminal justice conference in September and a Committee of the Regions meeting this month. Tony Blair was criticised at home for giving away too much, surrendering £1 billion a year of the British rebate, and criticised in Europe for not giving it away earlier. The rebate won by Margaret Thatcher at Fontainebleau in 1984 had the virtue of simplicity, giving back to the UK two-thirds of the difference between what it pays in and what it gets out of the budget. But at some stage, it had to come to an end or be modified, and everyone knew it. The issue was how and when, and by how much. In the end, Mr Blair got a review of EU spending before the budgetary envelope ends in 2013 - and had to give up some of the increases in the rebate which will rise anyway as the overall budget goes up. It was a patched-up sort of affair with no great passion behind it. At least a deal was done and the British Government can claim this as an achievement along with the agreement to start accession talks with Turkey, which it championed, as well as Croatia, enhancing stability in a region which a mere decade ago was ravaged by war. In fact, history will probably judge the decision over Turkey - if it leads to Turkish membership - as far more significant than another budget deal cobbled together in the small hours. In addition, agreement was reached on telephone and e-mail data retention to tackle terrorism, and the EU also got its first real counter-terrorism strategy. The UK, on behalf of the EU, also helped get an agreement in Montreal to set new emissions targets when the Kyoto treaty expires, and crucial EU backing was given to a UN agreement on protecting civilians from genocide.

RIA Novosti - First Galileo satellite launch set for Dec. 28

RIA Novosti

Russia - First European Galileo satellite launch set for Dec. 28

MOSCOW, December 26 (RIA Novosti) - The first satellite in Europe's planned Galileo satellite navigation system will be launched on December 28, the Russian Space Agency's official spokesman said Monday. Vyacheslav Davidenko said the Galileo would be carried into orbit by a Russian Soyuz rocket from Russia's Baikonur Space Center at 5:19 a.m. GMT Wednesday. The Galileo launch will take place two days later than originally planned because of an unspecified glitch in the satellite's ground station network. Galileo, built by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. in Britain, is a satellite navigation system designed to compete with the American GPS system. - 2005 Global Most Admired Companies- All-Stars

2005 Global Most Admired Companies- All-Stars

"Rank Company Industry Country
1 General Electric Electronics........................................U.S.
2 Wal-Mart Stores General Merchandisers.........................U.S.
3 Dell Computers....................................... U.S.
4 Microsoft Computers.......................................U.S.
5 Toyota Motor Motor Vehicles.................................Japan
6 Procter & Gamble Household and Personal Products.........U.S.
7 Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals...............................U.S.
8 FedEx Delivery..........................................U.S.
9 Intl. Business Machines Computers......................................U.S.
10 Berkshire Hathaway Insurance: P & C.............................U.S."
Europe is not doing well on this Fortune Magazine Global list ranking :
BMW Motor Vehicles (Germany) ranks 11th., BP Petroleum Products(Britain) 22,
Nestle Food Products(Switzerland) 23, Nokia Electronics (Finland) 26, L'Oreal, cosmetics (France) 33.
Go to Fortune Magazine at,23181,,00.html
for full list.

Turkish Press: Turkey Is Europe's Fastest Growing Country

Wilson: Turkey Is Europe's Fastest Growing Country

ANKARA - The new United States Ambassador in Ankara Ross Wilson has indicated that it is impossible not to be impressed by the economic growth in Turkey. Turkey is Europe's fastest growing country and one of the world's foremost developing markets, said Wilson.


Guardian Unlimited: "A European perspective of the American nightmare"

Guardian Unlimited

"A European perspective of the American nightmare"

What is happening to America?p America was somehow different, alongside the corporate greed, brash materialism and barely functioning social safety net, a unique society prospered. America was a land of limitless opportunity, a magnet to those escaping oppression, offering prince and pauper alike the possibility to dream big. This America still exists, but it is being eroded by an administration that believes it can rule outside the rule of law. They are fast replacing the American dream with an American nightmare, an Orwellian world where memos defending torture are penned in the department of justice and judges are made redundant in the public interest. The irony of President Bush's proud statement this week on the Iraqi elections was inescapable. "The Iraqi people now enjoy constitutionally protected freedoms and their leaders now derive their powers from the consent of the governed," he said at the start of a press conference in which he defended eroding those freedoms at home while asserting his power to act without judicial check. Waiting to authorise wiretaps on suspected enemies of the state takes too long, long enough for them to act, went the argument. This is bogus. The laws in place make attaining a warrant for a wiretap extremely easy. What's more, once a warrant is obtained, it is effective without review for up to 120 days. The warrant law is not some tiresome piece of procedural bureaucracy, but the only safeguard against the executive branch of government targeting anyone they don't particularly like for any reason of their choosing. It was put in place after the Watergate scandal demonstrated how easily the White House could persecute its perceived political opponents by drawing up secret enemies lists.

The Japan Times Online: EU must act in a unified manner to catch U.S., keep lead over China and India

The Japan Times Online

EU must act in a unified manner to catch U.S., keep lead over China and India

The European Union needs to take a regionwide approach -- in addition to independent efforts by member countries -- as it tries to catch the United States in labor productivity and remain competitive vis-a-vis emerging powers like China and India, a top economic adviser to the French government told a recent symposium in Tokyo.The EU is still "nowhere" near achieving the goal set out in the so-called Lisbon Agenda of March 2000, which was aimed at innovating the European economy, said Christian de Boissieu, executive chairman of the French Council of Economic Analysis. The potential annual growth rate of the euro zone is around 2 percent today, and to raise that to 3 percent European economies need to invest more in research and development and information technology as set out in the agenda, Boissieu told a Dec. 7 symposium organized by the Keizai Koho Center.

India Monitor: Iraq - the ultimate quagmire

India Monitor

Iraq - the ultimate quagmire

Iraq is a giant, messy albatross hanging from President George W Bush's neck. The faith-based American president believes "we are winning the war in Iraq". The reality-based global public opinion - not to mention 59% of Americans, and counting - know this is not true. Bush felt that "God put me here" so he could conduct a "war on terror". Somebody up there must have a tremendous sense of humor - once again manifested in the way He allotted winners and losers in Iraq's December 15 parliamentary elections. The Shi'ite religious parties in the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) were the big winners - from 70% to 95% of the vote in the impoverished southern provinces; 59% in Baghdad; and nationally, well over 40% of the total (they've won in nine of Iraq's 18 provinces plus the capital). It's a relatively unexpected success considering the dreadful record of Ibrahim Jaafari's Shi'ite-dominated government.

All those intimately allied with the US invasion and occupation were big losers. The Iraqi National List of US intelligence asset and former prime minister Iyad Allawi, also known as "Saddam without a moustache", the man who endorsed the Pentagon bombing of the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf and Sunni Arab Fallujah - got a pitiful 14%.

Convicted fraudster and former Pentagon ally Ahmad Chalabi received less than 1% in Baghdad. The neo-conservatives of the American Enterprise Institute were predicting 5% for Chalabi (their overwhelming favorite) and 20% for Allawi; that's proof enough they have no clue about what's going on in Iraq.

Mathaba News: The Myth of the Superhuman Enemy

Mathaba News

The Myth of the Superhuman Enemy

There is purpose behind having enemies, for their existence is the backbone of the corporatists. Indeed, there is a method behind their madness. Having enemies means having control both of fear and hatred of the people, as well as having control of the masses along with their animalistic emotions. Psychology can be manipulated at the push of a few buttons; an entire nation can be mobilized toward war in the time it takes two skyscrapers to be imploded. Nationalism and xenophobia make blind rational thought; ignorance makes deaf the sounds of wisdom.

SF Indymedia: Did Israel Lead the US into the War on Iraq?

SF Indymedia

Did Israel Lead the US into the War on Iraq?

As the war on Iraq rages on with no end in sight, the scandals around its beginnings continue to proliferate. Because of these scandals, one question now being revisited is the role the state of Israel may have played in initiating the invasion of Iraq. Israel's role is debated whenever American policy in the Middle East is discussed. This is inevitable, because Israel is America’s key ally in the region and because the Israel-Palestine conflict is the focal point of attention for virtually anyone who cares about the Mideast. Some critics of the war on Iraq maintain that the decision to go to war was made largely to advance Israeli interests. Others maintain that Israel had nothing to do with it. The evidence suggests, however, that neither of these views is accurate.

SFGate: No breakthrough, no breakdown at WTO / EU resists move to throw out its farm subsidies


No breakthrough, no breakdown at WTO / EU resists move to throw out its farm subsidies

Heavily subsidized European farmers dominate the short list of winners from last week's World Trade Organization talks in Hong Kong. For most of the rest of the world, the trade summit was either a losing proposition or a stalemate where progress was put off to another day. The talks focused mainly on reforming global agricultural rules and produced an agreement to phase out all government subsidies to farm exporters by 2013.


Startribune: Rome has a special glitter for the holidays


Rome has a special glitter for the holidays

Rome, always wonderful, may be at its best in December. Here is a sampling of traditions and places that help the holiday season shine. Each year a different region of Europe donates a tree to decorate St. Peter's Square at Christmastime. This year's offering, which was lit on Dec. 16, was a 90-foot fir from the town of Eferding, in Upper Austria. On Christmas Eve, a life-sized Nativity scene, with wooden figures, adds to the holiday show. White and peaceful Christmas in Bethlehem

White and peaceful Christmas in Bethlehem

Thousands of tourists flocked to Bethlehem on Saturday for Christmas Eve celebrations, bringing a long-missed sense of holiday cheer to the biblical town where Jesus was born and capping the most peaceful year since the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian fighting in September 2000. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas arrived in town late on Saturday to join the celebrations and attend midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity. It was the first time Abbas, who won election in January, has participated in Christmas celebrations as the Palestinian leader. Speaking to the hundreds of Christians gathered in the ornate church, The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah, called for Israel and the Palestinians to put a final end to violence. The Church of Nativity is erected on the site where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born.

Tikkun: Hostile Takeover: Theocracy in America


Hostile Takeover: Theocracy in America

The growing power of the Religious Right requires more than the predictable array of “oy veys” and cries of despair. One reason that I’ve written my new book The Left Hand of God: Taking Our Country Back from the Religious Right (Harper San Francisco, February 7, 2006) and why the Tikkun Community is organizing a second gathering of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (at All Souls Church in Washington, D.C., May 17-20) is precisely because Americans need a coherent strategy to respond to the Right, not just analyses about how dangerous they are. This is a movement that is not just for people who believe in God or who are part of some religious community—it is equally inviting to those who are “spiritual but not religious” and who recognize that a progressive movement today needs a spiritual foundation if it is to take our country back from the Religious Right.


Agenzia Giornalistica Italia


Rome, Dec 24 - People are spending more on Christmas lunch and they are more likely to chose typical Italian products such as Parmesan Reggiano cheese (up 3.8 per cent). On the other hand, spending is down on typical luxury goods such as salmon (down 11.7 per cent), oysters (down 2.5), caviar (down 1 per cent) based on Istat data on imports during the first nine months of this year. This is view of Coldiretti, who point out that each Italian family is going to spend 113 euro less on their Christmas table, 3.7 per cent more than last year, according to Confesercenti estimates. It appears that, in line with tradition, more than nine out of ten Italians spend Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day lunch with relations and friends rather than, at least on this occasion, restaurants. However, for Christmas 2005, they are doing more of their food shopping in the traditional markets (spending up by 10 per cent), mainly to try and combat high prices without sacrificing quality, say Coldiretti. There is a real boom here benefiting the market squares of many Councils, where it's possible to buy local foodstuffs with all the signs of transparency, typical of the various regions, and saving a few bob, partly thanks to market traders dealing directly with farmers. If these trends continue, say Coldiretti, Italians are expected to spend 1.5 billion euro on typical Italian products, i.e. wine and sparkling wines (40 per cent), cheeses (35 per cent), cold meats (20 per cent), extra-virgin olive oil (1 per cent) and vegetables, dried fruit and other products (4 per cent).

About: Christmas in Europe - European Christmas Traditions

AboutChristmas in Europe - European Christmas Traditions

Lots of mythology surrounds the idea of Christmas in Europe. I've heard, for example, that Italians don't really celebrate the idea of giving gifts at Christmas. Yet there I was in Tuscany in late November, trying to buy a telephone of all things, at the Ipercoop--and I couldn't get close to the electronics department for the throngs of folks buying gifts. So I thought, "what the heck, I'll buy some wine to soothe my jangled nerves" only to find out that the wine department had been replaced by mounds of cheap Christmas toys and decorations. I never did find the wine. Nor did I buy the telephone. But I'm not so inflexible as to believe that buying Christmas gifts and decorations in November has become an instant tradition in Italy. Traditions in Europe tend to have a much longer history than even the hypermarkets that promote the kind of crass commercialism that has come to define the holiday in the U.S.

Since Christmas is, first and foremost a tradition involving family and friends, what follows is a survey of the rich and varied Christmas experiences written by the About family, my friends and cohorts.


CFP: Merkel Will Force Constitution on Europe


Merkel Will Force Constitution on Europe

Never underestimate a woman. Angela Merkel will be the politician to watch next year. Her two predecessors as German chancellor, Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schröder, derisively called her “das Mädchen” (the girl). Through sheer ambition, however, this workaholic has made her way to the top in Germany. She is now on her way to the top in Europe. At last week’s European Union summit in Brussels, Ms Merkel brokered the budget deal between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jack Chirac. The deal gave nothing to Blair and everything to Chirac. Merkel, however, succeeded in giving Blair the impression that he had saved his face, while at the same time she gave Chirac the impression that he – and not “the girl” – had persuaded Blair to the budget deal. “Il faut le faire,” as they say in Jack’s language. On top of it all, Merkel managed to salvage 400 million euros from the EU budget for Germany. She at once gave 100 million euros to Poland, thereby accomplishing a second remarkable feat. During the past six months Blair had antagonised Poland. He drove Britain’s geopolitical ally into the arms of France by giving the impression that London cared only about its own money and did not give a damn about Eastern Europe. Merkel gave Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz a present of 100 million euros, as if she wanted to indicate that Warsaw’s true friend is not London or Paris, but Berlin.

Times Online: Budding tycoons in Europe not afraid to take on risks

Times Online

Budding tycoons in Europe not afraid to take on risks

HIGH risk of failure, volatility of income and the hard work associated with setting up a business are failing to deter the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Young people recognise the difficulties associated with going it alone but remain keen to do so, according to a Europe-wide survey. The survey of 10,434 students aged 16 to 25, published by the Junior Achievement-Young Enterprise (JA-YE) European network, highlights the readiness of the next generation for business. Students who had taken part in the programme said that they were most inspired by direct contact with business people, a key part of the Young Enterprise experience. They added that participation in JA-YE programmes had strengthened their problem-solving abilities and teamwork. The research suggests that education plays a crucial role in changing attitudes towards entrepreneurship, which will help to boost the European economy.

Mail & Guardian Online: Czech carp competes for Christmas-table spot

Mail & Guardian Online

Czech carp competes for Christmas-table spot

Carp, the traditional Christmas meal in Central Europe, is facing fierce competition this year from newcomers such as salmon and poultry, according to worried Czech producers. Already facing pressure from poultry, carp prices have fallen by about 5% since last year, according to estimates from the biggest national carp producer, Trebon-based Rybarstvi Trebon in the heart of the Czech carp-production region. "Prices could fall even more because of competition from salmon," which has been helped by favourable customs duties in the enlarged European Union, said Petr Sedlacek, the commercial director of the company, which exports about 70% of its annual production of 3 000 tonnes. In addition, there is the traditional competition from Poland and Hungary, the two other major providers of carp in Central Europe.

Casper Star Tribune: EU Threatens Microsoft With Penalties

Casper Star Tribune

EU Threatens Microsoft With Penalties

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Union on Thursday threatened to fine Microsoft Corp. up to 2 million euros ($2.37 million) a day for failing to obey its 2004 antitrust ruling, accusing the company of intransigence in sharing information with competitors. "I have given Microsoft every opportunity to comply with its obligations. However, I have been left with no alternative other than to proceed via the formal route to ensure Microsoft's compliance," said EU Antitrust Commissioner Neelie Kroes. The threat of new sanctions against Microsoft aims to force it to provide more detailed information so competitors' products can be made more compatible with Microsoft's Windows server operating system.

Iran News - Demand for Persian pistachios up in EU

Iran News

Demand for Persian pistachios up in EU

LONDON, December 24 (IranMania) - A senior pistachio industry official said that with the Christmas season approaching, demand for Persian pistachios has risen significantly in European markets, stressing that some 90 % of pistachios is being exported at present. Behrouz Gheibi, the Agriculture Jihad Ministry's director general for pistachio affairs, told Fars news agency that Iran is the largest pistachio producer and exporter, adding that some 80,000 tons of the delicious nuts were exported during March-November this year, bringing in revenues of some $400 mln.


The Times of India: France may get a woman prez - women political leadership on the rise in Europe

The Times of India

France may get a woman prez - women political leadership on the rise in Europe

PARIS: No sooner was Germany's new chancellor Angela Merkel dubbed the new Queen of Europe after her decisive role in settling the EU's budget battle over the weekend than a new Royal rival has emerged. The former cabinet minister Ségolène Royal has begun to outdistance potential candidates for the centre-left in the next French presidential election. Mme Royal, 52, dismissed by many as a lightweight, is now a strong contender to become the first woman presidential candidate for a leading French political party, the Independent said.

MehrNews: German leader wants China, Russia to join Iran-EU nuclear talks


German leader wants China, Russia to join Iran-EU nuclear talks

TEHRAN, Dec. 23 (MNA) -- German chancellor Angela Merkel has called on China and Russia to join nuclear talks between Iran and the European Union, the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine reported on Friday. Iran and the EU represented by Germany, France and Britain, resumed talks in Vienna on Wednesday after a break-off since August. Merkel told Frankfurter Allgemeine that indications suggest that Tehran wants nuclear talks to bear results.

2005: E.U. gets tough at home and abroad

M&C News

"2005: E.U. gets tough at home and abroad
By Gareth Harding Dec 23, 2005, 19:19 GMT

BRUSSELS, Belgium (UPI) -- By almost any measure, 2005 was a grim year for the European Union. The bloc`s first constitution was roundly rejected by French and Dutch voters in May and June, protracted haggling over the EU`s budget for 2007-13 soured relations between member states, economic growth remained sluggish and unemployment stubbornly high and political leadership was found wanting in most of the Union`s large countries.

But when it comes to exporting stability outside the European Union`s borders and strengthening security within its frontiers, the year ended on a more optimistic note."

EUbusiness: Four in five toys supplied to EU come from China: agency


Four in five toys supplied to EU come from China: agency

Four out of every five toys and almost all Christmas tree lights imported into the European Union last year came from China, the EU's statistical agency Eurostat said on Thursday. The agency said the 25-member bloc imported some 600 million euros'million dollars') worth of Christmas items, like decorations and artificial trees, and around 220 million euros' worth of lights in 2004. Chinese products accounted for 87 percent of all imported items and 97 percent of all lights. Half the toy imports went to Britain, with Germany also taking a big slice. China was far and away the biggest supplier of toys to the EU, with Switzerland and Hong Kong, accounting for four percent and three percent, a very distant second and third.

By contrast, 80 percent of real Christmas trees came from Denmark. France was the biggest sender of Christmas cheer from the EU, accounting for three quarters of all sparkling wine exports, or around 740 million euros' worth. Italy exported 110 million euros' worth outside the bloc and Spanish exports were valued at 70 million euros.


Analysis: Eurasianism, an EU alternative?

United Press International - Intl. Intelligence

"Analysis: Eurasianism, an EU alternative?

UPI International Editor

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Turkey has been pushing for full membership in the European Community for almost 50 years now. And for 50 years Brussels Eurocrats have repeatedly told the Turks they are not quite ready.

Brussels has repeatedly told Turkey it still has giant steps to take in order to reach a level of democracy acceptable to the EU. Consecutive Turkish governments were given a long sundry list of action points that had to be implemented before the EU would consider allowing Turkey into the club. Turkey had to meet the Copenhagen Criteria for human rights and free market, it had to abolish torture in its prisons and ease up on the Kurds. Then there remains the unresolved Cyprus question."

BBC NEWS: Dutch set immigrants culture test


Dutch set immigrants culture test

Would-be immigrants hoping for Dutch citizenship will need to pass a special test on Dutch language and culture, the country's parliament has ruled.The new test will cost 350 euros (£237) and is thought to require 250 to 350 hours of study. Some 14,000 applicants, mainly from Turkey, Morocco and Surinam, are expected to sit the test each year. The Netherlands, which already has a strict immigration policy, hopes to cut down on so-called "import brides". Candidates will have to take the test in their country of origin, and will be examined at Dutch embassies and consular offices.

Newsweek: Where’s the Outrage?


Where’s the Outrage?

"There are many well-meaning Americans who agree with their president's explanation that it's all a necessary evil (and that patriotic citizens will not be spied on unless they dial up Osama bin Laden). But the nasty echoes of apartheid South Africa should at least give them pause. While Bush uses the rhetoric of "evildoers" and the "global war on terror," Pretoria talked of "total onslaught." This was the catchphrase of P. W. Botha, South Africa's head of state from 1978 to 1989. Botha was hardly the first white South African leader to ride roughshod over civil liberties for all races, but he did it more effectively than many of his predecessors. Botha liked to tell South Africans that the country was under "total onslaught" from forces both within and without, and that this global assault was his rationale for allowing opponents to be jailed, beaten or killed. Likewise, the Bush administration has adopted the argument that anything is justified in the name of national security."

Prague Daily Monitor: Czech economy will grow five percent next year

Prague Daily Monitor

Czech economy will grow five percent next year

PRAGUE, Dec 21 (CTK) - Czech economy will expand by five percent and inflation will be below three percent next year, Deputy Prime Minister for Economy Martin Jahn said in an interview for CTK today. He added he was more optimistic than most economists, but the optimism was thanks to very good economic fundamentals. The Finance Ministry estimates economic growth at 4.4 percent and inflation at around 2.5 percent for next year. Jahn said he believed that average monthly salary would top CZK 20,000 in 2006, while unemployment should decrease slightly.

Market wire: European Union Takes Action to Accelerate Biomass Energy in 2006

Market Wire

European Union Takes Action to Accelerate Biomass Energy in 2006

Green Energy Resources (OTC: GRGR) cited industry reports measuring growth forecasts of biomass renewable energy for 2006 and beyond. The reports projected growth, size, and momentum of wood biomass in the renewable energy industry. The forecasts, in conjunction with new European Union actions to accelerate biomass power generation, provide strong evidence of a rapidly expanding market place for Green Energy Resources "The global market for renewable energy technology is expected to soar by 70% over the next three years," according to McIlvaine. "The market is currently worth $27 billion and expected to reach $46 billion in 2008." According to the UK's Environmental Finance Magazine December issue, biomass power plants lead all other renewable energy sectors by a margin of more than 2 to 1, for plants scheduled to go on line between 2006 and 2012 -- an estimated 80 new biomass power plants.

Nieuwsbrief: Economic migration in the EU - Commission presents a roadmap on Legal Migration


Economic migration in the EU - Commission presents a roadmap on Legal Migration

The European Commission adopted today a "Policy Plan on Legal Migration", jointly presented by Vice-President Franco Frattini, Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security, and Commissioner Vladimir Spidla, responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. This plan has been developed in order to comply with a request in the Hague Programme, the EU multi-annual work programme in the field of Justice, Freedom and Security. The Hague programme explicitly asked the Commission to present, before the end of 2005, "a policy plan on legal migration, including admission procedures capable of responding promptly to fluctuating demands for migrant labour in the labour market".

Vice-President Franco Frattini said: "I attach particular importance to this Policy Plan as it is the result of a long bottom-up, rather than top-down, process. We listened to all relevant stakeholders in the field, notably trade unions, employer's organisations, governments, European Parliament, NGOs and the European Economic and Social Committee, and we listened well. Their input enabled us as Commission to present our views on how to respond to the economic and demographic challenges ahead of us - and to the immigration pressures at our borders - by means of a comprehensive set of measures that should allow for a better management of the immigration phenomenon from all its different angles. I am strongly convinced that legal migration and integration are inseparable and should mutually reinforce each other".

Commissioner Vladimir Spidla added: "Immigration has always been both: an asset and a challenge. In order for Europe to truly benefit from immigration we have to manage legal migration in a coherent, predictable and efficient way. Immigration must benefit the European economy, the countries of origin and the individual migrants themselves. In this respect, sustained efforts to integrate the immigrants into the labour market and into broader society are equally important as clear but flexible rules for entry, stay or re-entry."


Radio Netherlands: Bloomin' bulbs - the Dutch love affair with the tulip

Radio Netherlands

Bloomin' bulbs - the Dutch love affair with the tulip

According to Internet encyclopaedia Wikipedia, tulips are the national flower of both Iran and Turkey, with the name an abused form of the English for turban, probably derived from the custom of wearing flowers within its folds. The answer as to who exactly brought them to Western Europe for the first time depends on which version of history you read. One of the most popular versions cites letters from Oghier Ghislain de Busbecq, Ambassador of Ferdinand I to Ottoman ruler Suleyman the Magnificent in 1554. Another cites written records from Conrad Gessner, who saw tulips flowering in the garden of Councillor Herwart in Augsburg, Bavaria in 1559. The accepted story goes that a certain Clusius, while teaching at the University of Leiden, planted several plots of the 'exotic' bulbs for scientific research, noting how certain viruses created variations in colours within the blooms. He did not want to share the bulbs, however, so some were stolen from the gardens. By 1634, a crazed mania had seized the Netherlands, creating a boom/bust industry that took three years to go through its cycle, leaving many financially ruined at the end. It is said that at its height, Tulipomania was so consuming that people thought nothing of risking their homes, lands and fortunes on the bulbs. By 1637, the market had been flooded and the entire economy eventually crashed. Several attempts were made by the government to sort out the massive economic catastrophe, but even the last declaration that ensured contracts would be honoured at 10 percent of their value was almost impossible to enforce. These days, the story of the tulip bulb, the accompanying mania after its introduction to the Netherlands and of the subsequent crash of the Dutch economy, is used as a text-book example of financial speculation gone wild - a morality tale. For historians, it will always remain a point in history when the Dutch were not prudent, but passionate.

EUROPA - Generalized System of Preferences: EU "GSP+" granted to an additional 15 developing countries


Generalized System of Preferences: EU "GSP+" granted to an additional 15 developing countries

Today the European Commission granted important preferences (duty and quota-free access) to an additional 15 vulnerable developing countries that have implemented sustainable development and good governance policies under the "GSP+" incentive. Commissioner Mandelson said that "this was further proof of the EU’s efforts to help developing countries at the same time as promoting sustainable development and Human rights".On the basis of findings from international organisations including the UN and ILO, the Commission has decided to grant GSP+ benefits to the five Andean countries : Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru & Venezuela and six Central America countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua & Panama, in addition to Moldova, Georgia, Mongolia and Sri Lanka.

IPSNEWS: Europe Looking for a Way Forward

CHALLENGES 2005-2006

From IPS News - "Europe Looking for a Way Forward
Stefania Bianchi

BRUSSELS, Dec 21 (IPS) - The year 2005 will be remembered as the ''annus horribilis' in the European Union with political wrangling, terrorist attacks, social unrest and natural disasters, and there are questions over how the bloc will progress next year.

Throughout 2005 European leaders clashed over the ''deepening' of European integration versus opening the bloc to more members, economic reforms versus social and trade protection, investing European Union (EU) funds in research and development or in agriculture.

With no agreement on the fate of the bloc's new constitutional treaty in sight after the ''no' votes in France and the Netherlands, disagreements over Turkey's accession and fierce arguments over the multi-annual budget, the EU appears to be in a deep crisis and incapable of finding a way forward. "

Deutsche Welle: Germany Sour Over US-EU Wine Deal

Deutsche Welle

Germany Sour Over US-EU Wine Deal

US methods of using water to dilute the alcohol and ageing wine with woodchips to improve flavor should be unacceptable in Europe. The EU has approved a transatlantic deal opening the glutted European wine market to imports from the US. But Germany has called for imposing a "purity law" to protect European wines from US vintners' practices. German Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer said a new European Union code is necessary to assure the quality of European wines. US practices such as adding water to dilute the alcohol and ageing wine with woodchips to improve flavor are unacceptable in Europe, he said. "It's absolutely unclear why we bother having rules for the production and labeling of wine in Europe if they are not applied to agreements with other countries," he said. Numerous European lawmakers have long accused the US industry of cheapening wine by using the new methods. Adding water and sugar to wine is permitted in the United States but not the EU, as are so-called designer wines, which are separated into their various components in laboratories before being rebuilt for a more consistent taste.

Euro-correspondent- Fluffy bunny vote shows EU strength in unaccountability


Fluffy bunny vote shows EU strength in unaccountability

In many ways the European Union is a sorry waste of taxpayers' money. It is obscure and undemocratic. Few of the people it is supposed to represent know or care much about it. It is bogged down by arcane procedural regulations and it wastes money on an almost criminal level because of national posturing - the monthly perambulation to Strasbourg to keep France happy is a prime example. Yet two recent initiatives show that it isn't all bad, and the European Union can even refresh some parts that national governments can't reach.
The first is the European Parliament's 'fluffy bunny' vote - support for a ban in the EU on cosmetics tested on animals. Not only will the ban apply to cosmetics produced within the EU but it will also affect imports - thus bringing powerful economic forces to bear for producers for whom the EU is a key market. The cosmetics industry, naturally, is horrified. With vast amounts invested in testing facilities it wants to make sure it gets a decent return. This is especially the case in France, where the EU's animal testing industry is concentrated. In fact only French deputies in the European Parliament voted against the ban, because of concern about the impact on French companies such as L'Oreal. Other EU member states, including the Netherlands, Germany and the UK, have already banned animal testing for cosmetics within their borders. Nevertheless, the EU-wide sales ban, even if phased in over several years as planned, will bring the EU into conflict with national governments, who fear trade conflicts, primarily with the USA, says Euro-Correspondent.

Indi Star: Sunnis claim fraud wrecked chances in Iraq election

Sunnis claim fraud wrecked chances in Iraq election

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Sunni leaders alleged Tuesday that rampant fraud in last week's election squelched the voice of their supporters as election officials released a preliminary tally for the entire country that indicates the main Shiite religious bloc will have the dominant hand in forming the next government. Adnan al-Dulaimi, head of the leading Sunni political alliance, the Iraqi Accordance Front, said the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq should take unspecified measures to change the election results that he and many other Sunni leaders say were skewed by intimidation and ballot forgery. In Baghdad, for example, al-Dulaimi's group and the secular Shiite list headed by Ayad Allawi were expected to make strong showings. But Dulaimi's slate only took 19 percent of the vote and Allawi 14 percent, while the Shiite bloc won 59 percent. Sunni leaders allege that in many cases their supporters were prevented from casting votes, ballots were tampered with and militias aligned with the main Shiite religious parties stood outside polling places intimidating voters.

Techwack News: E.U. slams Google, Yahoo and Microsoft over China

Techwack News:

E.U. slams Google, Yahoo and Microsoft over China

A senior EC official has criticized the highflying tech giants from United States over their policies for the Chinese market. EC vice president Margot Wallstroem claimed in a Blog entry that these companies have changed their policies to operate in the ever-growing Chinese market by helping the government in silencing their critics on the internet. Wallstroem said that the companies were matching the non-democratic policies of the Chinese government with their operations in China. She even went to the extent of claiming that these firms seem to have deleted words such as “ethics” and “corporate social responsibility” from their codes of conduct to suit the requirements of Chinese government. She has urged the companies to get their actions back on track and does not submit to the pressures from the government very unpopular for suppressing their citizen’s rights. We have seen instances of Google changing their search engine and news engine’s results to hide anti-Chinese content.


The Epoch Times: Europe Revitalizes Its Auto Industry

The Epoch Times

Europe Revitalizes Its Auto Industry

At a press conference in Brussels last month, a high-level group of EU, government, industry, NGO, and trade union leaders announced a ten-year plan to make the European automobile industry stay competitive. The group, called CARS 21, made commitments to achieve simpler regulations for carmakers, defend European manufacturers, enhance road safety, adopt Kyoto emission targets, and seek safer access to the Chinese market.

"CARS 21 is a new industrial policy in the EU," said Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the European Commission for Enterprise and Industry. "We are not talking about subsidies or protectionism. We are trying to improve the framework of the industry so that it can be successful, can create jobs… can build cars for the future." Euro-Area Economy Set for `Solid Growth,' EU Says

Euro-Area Economy Set for `Solid Growth,' EU Says

he European Commission raised its forecast for the economy of the dozen nations sharing the euro and predicted ``solid growth'' in 2006.

The commission predicted the $9 trillion economy will grow around 0.6 percent in the current and subsequent quarters, matching the pace of the third quarter. The economy hasn't grown that fast over a nine-month period since the end of 2000 and start of 2001. ``The recovery in the euro area is gaining momentum,'' Klaus Regling, head of the commission's economics department, told a Brussels news conference today. ``We are more optimistic about the outlook for growth.'' Government and industry reports this month showed that the economy is strengthening with investor confidence in Germany, Europe's largest economy, rising the most in more than 12 years. That's prompting economists at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley to raise their forecasts for growth next year.

DEBKAfile - Chancellor Merkel Shakes up German Intelligence, Bids for Middle East Foothold


Chancellor Merkel Shakes up German Intelligence, Bids for Middle East Foothold

Ernst Uhrlau, Angela Merkel’s new head of the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence service, is revealed by DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources as the man behind Berlin’s secret decision to trade German archeologist Susanne Osthoff kidnapped in Iraq on Nov. 25 for the jailed Hizballah terrorist wanted in America, Mohammad Ali Hammadi. Uhrlau attained international prominence as broker in the Hizballah-Israel prisoner swap and the failed effort to track down the missing Israeli navigator Ron Arad. Hammadi was serving a life sentence without parole for hijacking a TWA airliner to Beirut in 1985 and throwing a Navy SEAL diver, Robert Dean Stethem, out of the window to his death. A US extradition warrant was on file in Berlin with a promise it would take effect if the hijacker were ever released. A few days after the terrorist was flown to Beirut, Osthoff was freed by her Iraqi insurgent captors. This hostage-for-terrorist swap will no doubt raise storms of protest in Washington and Jerusalem and cast a shadow on relations with the Bush administration which Schroeder was at pains to mend.

Noticias info - EU: Quo vadis Europa? “To be a pioneer, you have to be an optimist.”

Noticias info: EU: Quo vadis Europa?

EU: Quo vadis Europa? “To be a pioneer, you have to be an optimist

Today’s fundamental question “Quo vadis Europa?” is no exaggeration. The European Union stands at a critical junction. The current challenges are more profound than a mere “constitutional crisis” implies. The referenda in France and the Netherlands, the debate about Europe’s future course, and the difficult talks on the Financial Perspectives show that the Union is in a crisis of confidence and in a crisis over its substance, all this as we must manage ever-faster globalisation. But, as Count Coudenhove-Calergi famously said: “To be a pioneer, you have to be an optimist.”

Helsingin Sanomat: Finnish EU payments to European Union to grow in coming years

Helsingin Sanomat

Finnish EU payments to European Union to grow in coming years

Finnish payments to the European Union are set to grow in the coming years, with the net contribution to EU coffers rising to about EUR 400 a year, up from the present EUR 140 million. EU rural development subsidies received by Finland are going down considerably. Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) said after EU leaders ironed out the details of the reached agreement on the budget early Saturday, that the British proposal for a seven-year budget was reasonable. In his view, Finland has an obligation to contribute to the costs of EU enlargement. Vanhanen also sees the agreement as necessary for the preservation of the ability of the EU to function. The budget reduces the amount of rural development funds going to Finland by one third. Next year Finland is still getting EUR 350 million. In spite of the cuts, Finland approved the agreement, even though it means that Finland’s net contribution will be greater than it would have been under the model put forward by Luxembourg in the summer, which Finland voted against. "The agreement should be seen as an investment into the future of the EU, which will undoubtedly pay itself back", Vanhanen said on Saturday in Lahti.


Guardian: EU - A bigger achievement than it seems


A bigger achievement than it seems

The Brussels EU budget summit may not have been anyone's triumph - but that does not mean that it was a disaster - and there is a good argument for seeing it as a solid success for the 25-nation Europe as a whole. In any case, a British victory of the traditional us-against-them kind was not on offer, not least because the massive issue of the common agricultural policy was not on the table, but also because when 25 heads of government are gathered in search of a solution which any one of them can veto, compromise must ultimately prevail. And compromise was what the 25, under the British presidency, finally produced. Given the challenges to old thinking that have been required in Europe this year - absorbing enlargement, continued economic stagnation, a revolt against the EU constitution and the Turkish question, among others - last week's summit may seem in time to be a more substantial achievement than it appears today. The 25 have made the system work. Don't knock that. What was the big story from Brussels? Some critics will argue that the big challenge was to keep the size of the EU budget under control. If so, that was achieved - the percentage of European GDP that will go on the EU budget in the years 2007-13 is lower in the Europe of 25 than it was in the Europe of 15 a decade ago. Others, seeing the matter solely from a "what does it mean for me?" perspective, will focus exclusively on the British rebate. If so, they should be satisfied too, since the rebate will rise from an average £3.6bn a year over the past six years to an average £4.3bn over the next six. Or perhaps the big issue was the CAP? In that case, Brussels produced a commitment to a review starting in 2008, five years earlier than previously agreed, and a review on which the new German government is apparently enthusiastic, another change from the old past.

People's Daily Online -- Chirac has 'ambitious' reform plan for EU

People's Daily Online

Chirac has 'ambitious' reform plan for EU

French President Jacques Chirac said on Saturday he planned to make "ambitious" proposals for changes in the way the European Union works. "Our institutions are today not really adapted to an enlarged and modern Europe and we need democratic and more efficient institutions," he said in a brief statement to journalists at the Elysee Palace. A new EU constitution drawn up last year was intended to modernize the bloc's institutions and make its administration more efficient after eastward enlargement raised its membership to 25. But French and Dutch voters rejected the proposed charter earlier this year, making it difficult for French leaders to play a leading role in the project. A key step for the enlarged Union was to agree a long-term budget, which EU leaders finally did earlier on Saturday after long negotiations in Brussels, setting a figure for spending in 2007-13 after arguing over funds for new members and cuts in Britain's long-cherished rebate from the EU. Chirac noted that Austria would take over the rotating EU presidency next month from Britain. "In that light I will have the opportunity to make proposals, ambitious proposals for the Europe of tomorrow ... I will make proposals so that Europe can move on and ... become one of the main actors in the world of tomorrow," he said.

12/18/05 "Europe Will Get It Right"

Newsweek: International Editions -

"Europe Will Get It Right
The question is how can Europe's social-democratic state be made sustainable?

By Andrew Moravcsik
Newsweek International

Dec. 26, 2005 - Jan 2, 2006 issue - Just over a year ago, author Jeremy Rifkin predicted that Europe would soon overtake the United States as a model for the world. The so-called European Dream—a coupling of the national social welfare state with multilateral cooperation in Brussels to promote free markets and common"

Europe`s migrant elephant

Europe`s migrant elephant

"Europe`s migrant elephant
By Martin Walker Dec 18, 2005, 16:51 GMT

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) -- The vast sense of relief and even the outbreaks of modest euphoria among European leaders at finally settling their battle of the budget in Brussels will be reinforced by the latest news from the world trade talks in Hong Kong.

It seems that there will be enough of a deal to save face all round, and the Europeans will escape the massive blame they deserve for clinging to their indefensible farm subsidy system for another eight years."

MERCAPESCA.NET: The European Union Condemns Spain for Not Reducing Pollution in the Ria of Vigo for Shellfish Farming


The European Union Condemns Spain for Not Reducing Pollution in the Ria of Vigo for Shellfish Farming

Yesterday, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) condemned Spain for not having implemented a specific program to reduce water pollution for shellfish farming in the Ria of Vigo, after considering that said action constitutes a violation of the Community’s law. Document proves European Union agreed to CIA rendition flights

Document proves European Union agreed to CIA rendition flights

As European human rights groups decry CIA actions, the CIA and Europeans work together in spy nests called "CTICs" to perform kidnappings and prison flights. Others cite the proof -- we provide here the actual agreement (see the link below).$File/st05762.en03.pdf Not a big deal? The governments of CIA allies might fall over this mess. Watch the news as the European governments have to "fess up" to their citizens that they helped in CIA renditions, provided airport and other services, allowed their airspace to be used to transport "aliens." Aero Contractors (NC) and its former president Norman Richardson, Richmor Aviation (NY) and its owner Mahlon Richards, CIA shell companies and their lawyers like Dean Plakias (MA) and Scott Caplan (WA) -- these are but a few of the many US firms that could potentially be served legal actions by victims of CIA kidnapping and torture, based on the existence of the landmark lawsuit filed Dec. 6 by CIA victim Khaled el-Masri of Germany. Already Aero and Plakias have heard from Masri's lawyers. Then there are CIA officials like James Pavitt, its retired DDO (Deputy Director for Operations). The DDO reportedly is the specific officer who approves kidnappings and torture measures for specific victims. The DDOs can be gone after. Pavitt was the DDO from Aug. 1999 to Aug. 2004, succeeded by Stephen Kappes (Aug. to Nov. 2004). The Nation says the DDO since Nov. 2004 is Jose Rodriguez. COUNTERTERRORIST INTELIGENCE CENTERS (CTICs) : Working directly with at least a score of CIA operatives, a Counter Terrorism Intelligence Center (CTIC) combines key personnel from a country's security forces and armed forces. The CTIC relies heavily on the CIA for its structure, guidance, and funding. Two agencies -- the US CIA and the Italian SISMI, for example -- share facilities, equipment, and information on a daily basis. That is why the CIA fugitive Robert Seldon Lady is right: the Italian secret service knew in advance about the kidnapping he is accused of, and the operation had the approval of high Italian officials, likely Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi himself. Most governments never publicly acknowledge the existence of CTICs, but they exist in over two dozen countries, likely including the following:

COUNTRIES WITH CTICs (Partners in CIA Renditions and Flights)

EUROPE 1. Albania 2. Britain 3. Czech Republic 4. France 5. Germany 6. Italy 7. Macedonia 8. Poland 9. Portugal 10. Romania 11. Spain 12. Sweden

ASIA 13. Indonesia 14. Malaysia 15. Pakistan 16. Thailand 17. Uzbekistan

MIDDLE EAST 18. Egypt 19. Jordan 20. Libya 21. Morocco 22. Saudi Arabia 23. Turkey 24. Yemen

OTHER 25. Australia 26. Canada


Counter Punch: The Decline of the American Empire by Gabriel Koko

Counter Punch

The Decline of the American Empire by Gabriel Koko

The dilemma the US has had for a half-century is that the priorities it must impose on its budget and its imperial plans have never guided its actual behavior and action. It has always believed, as well it should, that Europe and its control would determine the future of world power. But it has fought in Korea, Vietnam, and now Iraq--the so-called "Third World" in general--where the stakes of power were much smaller.But it is crucial to remember that the US is only a reflection of the militarism and irrationality that has blinded many leaders of mankind for over a century.

The task is not only to prevent the US from inflicting more damage on the hapless world--Iraq at this moment--but to root out the historic, global illusions that led to its aggression.

The Star online: ANALYSIS - Mediator Merkel shines at debut EU summit

The Star online: ANALYSIS

Mediator Merkel shines at debut EU summit

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - With characteristic low-key resolve, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed and prodded fellow leaders towards a budget deal at her first EU summit, establishing herself overnight as a formidable new force on the European stage. The 25-nation bloc clinched a long-term budget deal early on Saturday after Britain agreed to cut its EU rebate and France dropped resistance to a spending review that could reduce its cherished agricultural subsidies.Merkel, whose political career began just 15 years ago after the Berlin Wall fell, was a behind-the-scenes force in Brussels -- quietly nudging the British and French together and securing the backing of eastern European states with a strategically timed proposal to boost the total value of the budget. "Merkel played an extraordinarily important role behind the scenes," said Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel. "She has acted calm, sober and very professional." Romanian President Traian Basescu said: "She brokered the deal from start to finish. She was the first to break the deadlock with a proposal." It was not without cost. Merkel did cough up 100 million euros ($119.7 million) to the Poles in a last-ditch effort to strike a deal, opening herself to accusations that once again Germany was acting as Europe's paymaster. But the deal gets Europe back on track following the collapse of budget talks in June and humbling French and Dutch rejections of the bloc's proposed constitution. EU back on track - EU leaders agree long-term budget deal

EU back on track - EU leaders agree long-term budget deal

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders agreed a long-term budget that put the troubled 25-nation bloc back on track on Saturday after Britain gave up part of its cherished EU rebate to help boost aid to poor new, east European members.

The late night deal after two days of haggling averted the threat of financial paralysis and restored some confidence after a year of setbacks marked by the rejection of the EU's first constitution by French and Dutch voters. The breakthrough came when Britain agreed to cut its rebate by 10.5 billion euros ($12.57 billion) over seven years and raised the 2007-2013 budget to 862.3 billion euros, or 1.045 percent of EU output from 1.03 percent in an earlier proposal. "This is about getting an agreement that allows Europe to move forward," Prime Minister Tony Blair told a 3 a.m. (0200 GMT) news conference, stressing the deal would launch a massive shift of resources to the ex-communist newcomers.

12/16/05 EU SUMMIT - France's Chirac says leaders heading towards budget deal

EU SUMMIT France's Chirac says leaders heading towards budget deal

BRUSSELS (AFX) - French president Jacques Chirac said EU leaders are heading 'little by little' toward a deal on the bloc's 2007-13 budget. Speaking as the UK's EU presidency is about to make a fresh budget proposal, Chirac said talks so far have been 'fairly positive' but added that he cannot predict whether they will result in an agreement. 'Not everything is resolved but we are heading little by little towards a solution ... which would allow us to get out of this difficulty, this impasse,' he said.

NIS Bulletin: Dutch Labour Party Leader Bos: Accept Islam Is Here To Stay

NIS Bulletin

Dutch Labour Party Leader Bos: Accept Islam Is Here To Stay

AMSTERDAM, 17/12/05 - The Netherlands will never be what is was once. And that must be accepted, according to Labour (PvdA) leader Wouter Bos. "Islam is here to stay," he declares in his book 'Dit land kan zoveel beter' (This country can do so much better). People who deny that Islam forms part of Dutch society propagate "a politics of nostalgic illusions". Bos presses for "binding leadership" and a combination of solidarity, sympathy and fellowship among all residents of the Netherlands. His fear is that a middle class develops that feels no solidarity at all with a permanent 'underclass' that may eventually consist of two million people without prospects, Bos stated. Bos presented the first copy of his book to former Prime Minister Wim Kok on Friday. The first 62 pages are about his youth, his time as a student, his ambitions and his career with oil company Shell in Romania, Hong Kong and London. The other 97 pages contain an analysis of the present state of the Netherlands and a vision of the future.

Washington Post: Bush Authorized Domestic Spying

Washington Post

Bush Authorized Domestic Spying

President Bush signed a secret order in 2002 authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in the United States, despite previous legal prohibitions against such domestic spying, sources with knowledge of the program said last night. The super-secretive NSA, which has generally been barred from domestic spying except in narrow circumstances involving foreign nationals, has monitored the e-mail, telephone calls and other communications of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of people under the program, the New York Times disclosed last night. The aim of the program was to rapidly monitor the phone calls and other communications of people in the United States believed to have contact with suspected associates of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups overseas, according to two former senior administration officials. Authorities, including a former NSA director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, were worried that vital information could be lost in the time it took to secure a warrant from a special surveillance court, sources said. But the program's ramifications also prompted concerns from some quarters, including Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.), the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, and the presiding judge of the surveillance court, which oversees lawful domestic spying, according to the Times. The Times said it held off on publishing its story about the NSA program for a year after administration officials said its disclosure would harm national security.

The Good Vs. the Bad Europe by Martin Walker

The Globalist > > Global Politics

"The Good Vs. the Bad Europe

By Martin Walker | Thursday, May 06, 2004

Much has been written about the meaning of the May 1, 2004, enlargement of the European Union to 25 members. But as Martin Walker argues, it all boils down to what kind of Europe will emerge from the process: Will the new Europe empower its people — or will it stifle their competitive spirit? The stakes are high for everyone involved."

Is Europe Falling Behind? by Olivier J. Blanchard

The Globalist > > Global Economy

"Checking Europe's economic temperature

Globalist Perspective > Global Economy
Is Europe Falling Behind?

By Olivier J. Blanchard | Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The economic evidence seems quite clear: Europe has made virtually no progress over the past 30 years in catching up with the United States in terms of per capita income. But that view is inaccurate, as Olivier Blanchard argues. He finds that European productivity growth has exceeded that of the United States — it's just that Europeans have chosen to use these productivity gains in a different way."

How the EU Really Works by Martin Hufner

The Globalist > > Global Politics

"How the EU Really Works

By Martin Hufner | Monday, June 21, 2004

After the elections to the European Parliament, most ruling parties are hardly encouraged to push urgently needed reforms. It seems as if reform policy has hit a wall. Martin H�fner addresses the question: Are there perhaps other, European ways of reaching these goals?"

‘Europe: a generation to generation beautiful idea’ ? Amatai Etzioni

Newropeans Magazine

"‘Europe: a generation to generation beautiful idea’ ? Amatai Etzioni
Written by Gerrit van den Berg
Friday, 16 December 2005
“The European Union is not a community and in the current form it can never be an example for the world”. The American sociologist and founder of the communitarian movement, Amatai Etzioni (76), who visited the Netherlands last week, is firm in his conclusions. ‘A community means that there are shared core values and bonds of affection. Only by a true moral dialogue you can achieve this.’ The well known philosopher and sociologist, invited by the Dutch Prime Minister J.P. Balkenende at the conference ‘Europe: a beautiful idea’, presented some striking advices for Europe."

Humans lived in northern Europe far earlier than thought, scientists say

Turkish Daily News

"Humans lived in northern Europe far earlier than thought, scientists say
Friday, December 16, 2005

Before that discovery the earliest unambiguous traces of human beings in Europe north of the Alps were dated to about 500,000 years ago and included flint artifacts, bones of mammals and even some human remains that were discovered in Bosgrove on the southern coast of England "

Dow Jones News: EU to Probe Spain, Italy, Sweden Public Procurement Laws

Dow Jones News

EU to Probe Spain, Italy, Sweden Public Procurement Laws

BRUSSELS -(Dow Jones)- The European Commission Wednesday opened investigations into public procurement laws in Spain, Italy and Sweden. The moves are part of a repeated attempt by regulators to open up these contracts to greater competition. Earlier this month, the Commission said it was preparing legislation to make it easier for foreign companies to bid for lucrative defense contracts. Wednesday, the Commission took Italy to the European Court of Justice over contracts for the purchase of light helicopters for the police and the National Fire Brigade. It also opened a second case on contracts for maintenance of council houses in Reggio Emilia. In Spain, the Commission requested changes in the way Valencia and Madrid awards public works contracts. It also requested Spain change its overall law concerning public works contracts to open it up further to competing bids from foreign companies. Spain has now 15 days to respond. In Sweden, the Commission warned that a decision by several nuclear operators to exclude a consultancy from their services contracts might break E.U. law. Stockholm now has two months to respond and if the Commission is dissatisfied, it can launch a court case.

Sofia News Agency: Spain Ratifies Bulgaria's EU Accession Treaty

Sofia News Agency

Spain Ratifies Bulgaria's EU Accession Treaty

Spain's Senate has unanimously ratified the EU Accession Treaty of Bulgaria and Romania. The voting took place Wednesday evening. With its quick ratification Spain proved its political commitments to Bulgaria as a "strategic ally", Bulgaria's Foreign Ministry wrote in a press release. Bulgaria closed most of its negotiation chapters with the EU during the Spanish Presidency of the Block and received the support of Spain in many critical situations concerning the so-called "sensitive issues." Turkey's EU Entry Gets `Litmus Test' as Trial of Writer Begins

Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, whose books are published in 34 languages, goes on trial today accused of insulting his nation's identity in a case that may threaten Turkey's prospects of joining the European Union. Pamuk, who has said the country persecuted Armenians during World War I, is among 60 Turkish writers and publishers being prosecuted for their views. Should Istanbul's Sisli Court of First Instance find him guilty, Pamuk may be jailed for three years. European Union Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn yesterday called the trial a ``litmus test'' of Turkey's commitment to the EU's criteria for membership. Existing laws don't provide sufficient protection for freedom of expression, he said.

Guardian: Blair meets Chirac in hope of EU budget deal compromise


Blair meets Chirac in hope of EU budget deal compromise

Tony Blair emerged from an informal meeting with Jacques Chirac last night convinced his most significant opponent at the EU's winter summit in Brussels shares "a genuine willingness" to find a compromise on the stalled 2007-13 budget later today. Hinting that Mr Blair will make further tactical concessions on Britain's £3.8bn-a-year EU budget rebate, the Downing Street spokesman later said: "We have had to make difficult choices and will continue to do so." With European leaders warning of grave consequences if the EU experiences a second summit collapse of the year, last night's 30 minutes of "good talks" between President Chirac and Mr Blair did not resolve their differences. France is still demanding that Britain cut its rebate by £9.3bn over the 2007-13 budget period - rather than the £5.3bn proposed by Britain - and that the changes should be permanent. Britain is insisting France should agree to a wholesale review of the EU's £566bn budget, including farm subsidies, which could kick in before 2013.

Kosovo envoy: Austria to drive EU Balkan expansion

Kosovo envoy

Austria to drive EU Balkan expansion -Kosovo envoy

Austria will devote its presidency of the European Union from Jan. 1 to cementing the bloc's commitment to membership for all countries of the former Yugoslavia, a U.N. Kosovo envoy said on Wednesday. Albert Rohan, former secretary-general of Austria's Foreign Ministry, said Vienna intended to "reaffirm" the EU's recently strained commitment to embrace the western Balkans, as agreed at the EU summit in Thessaloniki in 2003. Split by a dispute over the EU budget and rejection of its new constitution, some EU members have gone cold on the idea of further enlargement to embrace the Balkans.


New Statesman - Christianity and Islam are not nearly so far apart as both Bin Laden and the neo-cons would like us to believe - by William Dalrymple

New Statesman

Christianity and Islam are not nearly so far apart as both Bin Laden and the neo-cons would like us to believe - by William Dalrymple

There is a 16th-century manuscript in the British Museum which contains a painting of what - at first - looks like a traditional Nativity scene. In the middle is Mary holding the Christ child, whose arms are wrapped lovingly around his mother's neck. In the foreground, hovering nervously, are the Three Wise Men, ready to offer their gifts. So far, so conventional. But look a little closer and you begin to notice just how strange the picture is. For the wise men are dressed as Jesuits, Mary is leaning back against the bolster of a musnud, a low Indian throne, and she is attended by Mughal serving girls wearing saris and dupattas. Moreover, the Christ child and his mother are sitting under a tree outside a wooden garden pavilion - all strictly in keeping with the convention of Islamic lore, which maintains that Jesus was born not in a stable, but in an oasis beneath a palm tree, whose branches bent down so that the Virgin could pluck fruit during her labour. In this Koranic version of the Nativity, the Christ child, still in his swaddling clothes, sits up and addresses Mary's family with the words: "I am the servant of God. He has given me the Gospel and ordained me a prophet. His blessing is upon me wherever I go, and he has commanded me to be steadfast in prayer and to give alms to the poor as long as I shall live."

IMF: Kingdom of the Netherlands - Netherlands Antilles: Preliminary Conclusions of the IMF Mission


Kingdom of the Netherlands - Netherlands Antilles: Preliminary Conclusions of the IMF Mission

The Netherlands Antilles is at a crossroad. Curaçao and St. Maarten will adopt status aparte, while Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will be integrating more closely with the Netherlands. Greater self-determination provides an opportunity to address social and economic problems in a more island specific context. It comes with the responsibility to give the future countries a clear direction, and implement a set of coherent policies that deliver higher growth on a sustained basis, which is key to reducing unemployment and alleviating poverty. A stable macroeconomic framework is essential, and structural reforms are also needed to better exploit the potential for higher growth and the opportunities offered by globalization. In the context of the ongoing Round-Table discussions on the future relations within the Kingdom, the Netherlands has offered support. Conditional on future fiscal discipline, the Netherlands has committed itself to find a solution of the debt problem, which the Antillean authorities see as the major obstacle to their economic development. The Netherlands Antilles' central and island governments on their side have pledged to adopt responsible fiscal policies, including binding budget rules, supported by improved transparency and strengthened fiscal management.