All we Need to Know About the English... how was it Irish Passports were involved? and was the EU Commissioner of Foreign Affairs Informed? In What way does the eu assume authority when crimes of this kind involve eu members?

Interpol issues arrest warrant for fake passport hit team

'Assassins' used forged old-school documents, says FCO

International police agency Interpol has out put stop and detain notices for 11 suspects reckoned to have used fake passports to enter the UAE before taking part in the murder of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai last month. The development came as UK officials said that a preliminary investigation showed that six forged British passports used in the hit were all older-style travel documents without biometric chips. Interpol said it had "reason to believe that the suspects linked to this murder have stolen the identities of real people". It says it is publishing the (false) names and pictures of suspects as fraudulently used on the passports in" order to limit the ability of accused murderers from travelling freely using the same false passports".

Interpol has also issued (stop and detain) red notices against the suspects, following a request by police in Dubai, in order to help determine the true identity of the alleged perpetrators of Al-Mabhouh’s assassination. “Based on close co-operation among our member countries and on information provided by innocent citizens, it is becoming clear that those who carefully planned and carried out the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh most likely used forged or fake European passports of innocent citizens whose identities were stolen,” said Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble, in a statement.

The Foreign Office has launched an investigation into the misuse of British passports, which is being handled by SOCA. Officials on Friday denied reports in the Daily Mail that MI6 and the government had received a tip-off about the planned operation. The misuse of British and other European passports has raised questions about whether forged biometric passports were used in the attack or whether security screening shortcomings at Dubai airport were exploited. However a Foreign Office spokesman told El Reg that it has already been established that all the suspect passports were forgeries of older passports without biometric chips. Israeli ambassadors to both the UK and Ireland were called in to hear diplomatic protests on Thursday. Israel has a history of using fake travel documents in assassination attempts and a record of not commenting to either confirm on deny involvement in such hits, a line which it is sticking to in this case. ®

UK official: We knew about Mossad assassination plot Fri, 19 Feb 2010 09:09:39 GMT Font size :

Israel's Mossad had tipped off British intelligence that they were going to use fake British passports before the assassination of the Hamas commander, a new report says.

According to a report by the Daily Mail on Friday morning, the British intelligence agency the MI6 was notified before the assassination took place in Dubai last month.

The UK newspaper published the report several hours following a 20-minute meeting between the Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor and a senior British diplomat in London on Thursday.

The two officials discussed the British passports apparently used in the assassination of Mabhouh in Dubai.

A British security source quoted a Mossad agent as saying that "the British Government was told very, very briefly before the operation what was going to happen," the paper further added.

"There was no British involvement and they didn't know the name of the target. But they were told these people were traveling on UK passports," the Daily Mail quoted the British security source as saying.

On Thursday, Dubai Police chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim said he was 99-percent certain that the Mossad was behind the assassination.

Tamim said he would ask Interpol to issue an international arrest warrant against Mossad head Meir Dagan, and perhaps also against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu if it's proven that the Israeli intelligence agency was behind the assassination of Mabhouh.

Mabhouh, a senior commander in the armed wing of the Islamic movement, was killed in his hotel room on January 19 in Dubai by a hit squad of at least 11 people carrying forged European passports, according to the Dubai police.




London is ‘angry’ over the use of stolen identities by the Dubai assassins and points its finger at the Jewish state and its notorious Mossad espionage agency. The Israeli ambassador to Britain, Ron Prosor, was summoned yesterday by the foreign minister to “share information”. In practice Britain has stopped short of accusing Israel of involvement in the scandalous assassination, however to signal its displeasure the Foreign Office ignored an Israeli plea to keep the summons secret. "Relations were in the freezer before this. They are in the deep freeze now," a British official told the Guardian.

The British anger at Israel would be a positive signal in the right direction if we were not aware of British Foreign Secretary David Miliband investing enormous efforts trying to amend Britain’s ethical stand just to appease Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak and other Israeli leaders. The British Foreign Ministry’s reaction could almost be deemed a revelation, were we able to forget that just five weeks before Israel launched its lethal criminal attack against Gaza, David Miliband visited Sderot, an Israeli town on the Gaza border to offer his support. "No country can accept constant bombardment of its citizens”, Miliband told the people of Sderot. He then continued “Israel should, above all, seek to protect its own citizens". It was that foolish statement by Britain’s Foreign Secretary that made us all complicit in Israel’s flattening of Gaza. Bearing these facts in mind, it is rather unlikely that the Israeli Ambassador to Britain was sweating while ‘sharing information’ with the chief aid to the British Foreign Secretary.

In the last few days Robert Fisk reported from the Middle East that, in Dubai there is not much doubt about Britain being involved in the Israeli blunder. "The British passports are real”, says one of Fisk’s sources in Dubai. “They are hologram pictures with the biometric stamp. They are not forged or fake. The names were really there. If you can fake a hologram or biometric stamp, what does this mean?" The truth better be exposed here. As if this is not enough, the Israeli Ynet reports today (quoting the Daily Mail) that Israel informed the British government that its agents were going to carry out an 'overseas operation' using forged British passports. “It wasn't a request for permission, but rather a courtesy call”.

If Britain was collaborating with Israel at any level, we better know it all, we better find out whether it was a person or a body within the Government or the intelligence, or just an ordinarysayan* in the Home Office or any other government office. If there was British collaboration, we better identify what it was exactly, who decided to serve Israeli murderous interests in our midst. We also better find out who in Britain decided to put British interests and British security in the Arab world at enormous risk.

In the Guardian yesterday Seumas Milne didn’t save his words either. “Instead of setting off a diplomatic backlash, the British government sat on its hands for almost a week after it was reportedly first passed details of the passport abuse. And while the Foreign Office finally summoned the Israeli ambassador to ‘share information’, rather than to protest, Gordon Brown could ­ yesterday only promise a ‘full investigation’”.

The truth of the matter is tragic. The British political system is paralysed by the Israeli Lobby. Like in the USA, British national interests are sacrificed for the sake of dirty Zionist cash. If Britain wants to liberate itself from the Zionist grip and have any prospect of a future, it must move fast and clean the entire list of Zionist infiltrators from its political ranks, Government offices and strategic positions. I am not talking here about Jews. By no means do I mention ethnicity or race. I am talking here about a political and ideological affiliation. Considering Zionism is a murderous, racist, expansionist ideology, it is natural to stress that people who are affiliated with Israel and Zionism must be removed immediately from any political, government, military or strategic posts and so on.

As much as Britain would refrain from delegating decisions regarding its security with Arab, Chinese or Russian Nationalists, it should similarly treat Jewish nationalists with at least as much caution.

But here is the good news. Unlike the Zionised British political system, the British people and media are actually outraged. The Mossad’s blunder, as well as the British political impotence is overwhelmingly exposed in the British press. It is on the front page of every British daily paper, it is featured on every TV news item. There is no doubt today, the patience towards Israeli barbarism is clearly running out.

A few years back I was listening to a talk given by Dr. Mustafa Barghouti who pointed out that back in 1948 the world stood silent watching 750,000 Palestinian people being driven out of their land, their villages and their cities through an orchestrated ethnic cleansing coupled with many massacres. The world kept silent when Israel set its racist return laws to prevent the Palestinians from returning to their land. In 1967, the developed world wasn’t just silent, it actually praised the Israeli expansionist extravaganza. It applauded the IDF as it cleansed tens of thousands of Palestinians out of their historic land.

But then things started to change. In the Lebanon war of 1982 the world at large was still pretty silent as 30,000 Palestinian and Lebanese were butchered by the Israeli Air Force and the IDF. Yet it miraculously woke the Left up from its terminal snooze. Some activists started to realise that Palestinians and their cause were at the heart of the battle for a better world. During the first and the second Intifadas more and more people came to realise that Israel was the aggressor. In 2006 Israel again unleashed total havoc in Lebanon. This time Israel left 3,000 fatalities. However, the impact of these successive Israeli brutalities led to a drastic rise of anti Israeli feelings. It was in fact the 2nd Lebanon war (rather than Iraq) that was the catalyst for Tony Blair’s overdue political downfall. Blair paid an immediate political price for condoning the war. The Gaza massacre of 2009, left 1,400 dead Palestinians, most of them women and children, it left Gaza in total ruin, but as we know, it also led to the highest tide of anti Israeli resentments in every possible level in the media, in the street and even in the UN.

This week we learn about Israel’s latest murderous blunder. It assassinated a Hamas military leader. While in the past Israel would be praised for the courage of its assassin squads, those who are chasing the enemies of the Jews in far lands and beyond, the reaction this week is very different. The Jewish state is now regarded as a qualified pariah state. British media and people start to see through it. No one in the British press stood for Israel, no one tried to justify or advocate Israel’s acts. No one repeated the clichés about Hamas being a terrorist organisation. I guess that by now, people out there grasp that Hamas is Palestine’s democratically elected leadership. People also realise that Hamas is justified in pursuing a fully legitimate struggle for liberation.

As much as Israelis and their supporters try to tell us that the diplomatic backlash is fuelled by merely technical matters such as ‘identity theft’, reading the British press conveys a far deeper resentment to Israel, what it stands for and the way it operates.

For a while some of us have been talking about remote signs that the tide is changing. As it happens, we are waking up into a new reality. The tide has changed already. Israel has exhausted the last drops of moral integrity, as if it possessed such an integrity to start with. Britain and every Western country better move fast and identify the enemy within, those amongst us who support the Zionist project and convert us all into being complicit partners in Israel’s never ending sin.

British Prime Minister: Israeli officials were part of decision to invade Iraq

by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC News Report post

In his recent testimony to the UK Committee investigating the Iraq war, British Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted that Israeli officials influenced and participated in the decision by the US and UK governments to attack Iraq in 2003. During testimony regarding his meetings in Texas with then-US President George W. Bush in 2002, Blair stated, “As I recall that discussion, it was less to do with specifics about what we were going to do on Iraq or, indeed, the Middle East, because the Israel issue was a big, big issue at the time. I think, in fact, I remember, actually, there may have been conversations that we had even with Israelis, the two of us, whilst we were there. So that was a major part of all this."

Professor Steven Walt, co-author of the book 'The Israel Lobby', wrote an op-ed following Blair's admission describing how he and co-author John Mearsheimer were attacked by the US media and by right-wing lobbyists for Israel when they made that claim in 2003. Now, Walt says, he feels vindicated because Tony Blair himself has had to admit publicly the extent to which the invasion of Iraq by the US, the UK, and other armies, was influenced by Israel's strategic interests in the region, and Israeli officials themselves. Walt stated, “ Professor Mearsheimer and I made it clear in our article and especially in our book that the idea of invading Iraq originated in the United States with the neoconservatives, and not with the Israeli government....We also pointed out that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other Israeli officials were initially skeptical of this scheme, because they wanted the U.S. to focus on Iran, not Iraq. However, they became enthusiastic supporters of the idea of invading Iraq once the Bush administration made it clear to them that Iraq was just the first step in a broader campaign of 'regional transformation' that would eventually include Iran.”

The two Harvard professors were vehemently attacked at the time by many prominent Jewish leaders in the US, who accused Mearsheimer and Walt of anti-Semitism for their 'preposterous' claim that Israeli officials had any impact at all on the US and UK governments' decision to attack Iraq. In his recent op-ed, Professor Walt also noted that the attacks against him and Professor Mearsheimer were made despite many articles and statements by prominent Jewish organizations and writers in the US. In one example, he referred to an editorial in the Jewish newspaper Forward, published in 2004, which stated, “As President Bush attempted to sell the war .. in Iraq, America's most important Jewish organizations rallied as one to his defense. In statement after statement community leaders stressed the need to rid the world of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. Some groups went even further, arguing that that the removal of the Iraqi leaders would represent a significant step toward bringing peace to the Middle East and winning America's war on terrorism". The editorial also noted that "concern for Israel's safety rightfully factored into the deliberations of the main Jewish groups."

No apologies have been made to Professors Walt and Mearsheimer by any of the groups or individuals who attacked them, even after British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently admitted that Walt and Mearsheimer's claims were true.

saed at imemc dot org

Dr.Norman Finkelstein Banned in Berlin:

by Anis Hamadeh

19/02/2010 - Dr. Norman Finkelstein wrote several books in the field Israel/Palestine/Holocaust and is one of the most sagacious analysts of our time. Similar to Professor Ilan Pappe, he formulates sharp criticism in respect to past and presence of the State of Israel, and both use very rational argumentations and are reliable researchers. Especially since the mass murders in Jenin and in Gaza, these two men and many other Jews (also in Germany) speak out, because they do not want to be taken in for violent purposes by a state that arrogates to speak and act in the name of all Jews.

As is known now, both the Heinrich Boell Foundation and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation have canceled Finkelstein talks that were already scheduled in Berlin. While the foundation close to the Green party did not even bother to explain its behavior, the board of the foundation close to the Left party explained its drawback in a media info with the empty statement that such a talk would be “explosive” (“brisant”).

What is going on there, one wonders. Does Finkelstein call for violence? Are his views outside legal norms, does he disesteem the human rights? Nothing of all this. On the contrary. The reason for banning him is the veto of groups that seek to avert criticism of Israel, connecting this issue with the reproach of anti-Semitism. This is an old chestnut and not specifically interesting. What is interesting, though, is that the German public buys this nonsense and denies a man, who lost his family in German concentration camps, to talk on German soil, tolerating that he is labeled an anti-Semite for his reflections on violence in Israel. The same thing actually happened only some months ago to the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe in Munich, when the city’s Lord Mayor canceled a scheduled talk. Pappe then wrote in an open letter that his father “was silenced in a similar way as a German Jew in the early 1930s”.

The German Self-Concept
So let us revisit the German self-concept to understand this apparantly great fear that is going around in Germany. Recently, when the Israeli politician Shimon Peres talked on the occasion of the Holocaust Memorial Day in the German Bundestag, he received standing ovations. The few, who did not stand up for their refusal of Peres’ and Israel’s violent policies, were publically attacked. There is, for example, the quote of a member of the Bundestag: “The Nazi crimes, the Shoa, and the war of annihilation are the original crime of humanity. (...) The Jewish victims of National Socialism are memorized on January 27 in the Bundestag memorial. On this occasion, only they and the reminder of ‘Never again!’ can be the topic. Everything else in this context is a relativization of the Nazi crimes.” It is a quote typical for Germany and reveals the German angst as well as the great danger that goes with it.

The genocide of the Jews in this quote is taken out of any historical context and declared a unique event. Firstly, this reveals a “We (We!) are the greatest” narcissism. Secondly, it reveals a pro-Jewish racism, as if one racism could make up for another one. Not the victims are important, no, the Jewish victims are. The Nazi killing of Sinti and Roma thus is kind of OK. And how much then will the killing of Palestinains be OK if conducted by Jews. Put in a more general way: while calling the genocide of the Jews the “original crime”, the unique and incomparable act, every other crime is relativized and thus not so important. Finkelstein and Pappe do not fit in here, they disturb the celebration by entering the historical framework, which is all the more embarrassing as they are Jews with family ties to Nazi victims. Banning them shows that in the end even Jewish Nazi victims are not what the whole circus is about, despite all the pathetic oaths and solemn declarations.

Both Finkelstein and Pappe write about the missing historical context and this is what people are afraid of, for both use their arguments brilliantly, even compelling, and they are concerned as Jews whose families have Nazi experiences. Like Goldstone, Chomsky, and some others, the two academics are subject to hate and rejection of the ruling Zionism and its strenuous friends. Finkelstein lives in the USA, where Zionism is even stronger than in Israel, and he does not lead an easy life. Pappe needed to go to exile in England, because life in Israel became unbearable for him. He wrote the book “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” in which he clearly shows how the Israeli state was built on heavy violence. Considering that both authors face bans in Germany it is no wonder that there is not much heard of the events around 1948 other than flat stereotypes.

The cancelation of Finkelstein’s talks are but the tip of a huge iceberg. While these lines are written, Palestinian houses in Barta’a Ash-Sharqiya are being demolished and in Sheikh Jarrah/Jerusalem new land thefts are scheduled. A big historic Arab graveyard is to be confiscated to build a “Museum of Tolerance” on it while in Bil’in the nonviolent resistance against the wall enters its sixth year. The protesters are injured by the army on a regular basis, and also killed. The world press says almost nothing about the heroes of nonviolent resistance, because it does not fit the image. Russian Jews in Be’er Sheva in the Negev have just killed a bedouin boy and heavily injured another, while 11.000 Palestinians are kept in Israeli prisons. The “checkpoints” to Nablus have been closed down recently so that nobody can enter. The Gaza fishermen are being shot at by the Israeli navy and Gaza is still under siege. The head of the Dubai police just confirmed that according to police investigations there is a very high probability that the Mossad is behind the murder of a Hamas politician in the Emirates.

Most of what happens remains unknown to us, our media skips most of it, in fear of an increasing “anti-Semitism”. It is for the same reason that we are not to listen to Finkelstein and Pappe, for they verify the terrible events and the historical development sketched above. Instead, we are fed with “information” on “terrorism”. But even according to our mainstream dogmas we have a big problem here, for this development is bad for the Jews, too, the Zionists among them and the anti-Zionists.

Norman Finkelstein ( will talk about Gaza in Munich on Feb. 24, 7 p.m. Amerikahaus, Karolinenplatz 3, and on Feb. 25, 7 p.m., Kulturhaus Milbertshofen, Curt-Mezger-Platz 1


[Comment] The urgently needed reform of the Common Fisheries Policy


28.01.2010 @ 08:22 CET

EUOBSERVER / COMMENT - European seas are emptying of valuable fish - more than 80 percent of assessed fish stocks in EU waters are overfished and 30 percent are outside safe biological limits.As a result, the fishing sector is suffering and fishing communities struggle to make a living. The long-term environmental consequences are yet to be determined. However all is not lost, as a recently launched reform of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy is up for completion by 2012. Fish stocks can be rebuilt and the fishing sector can once again thrive, at least in the medium and long term.

Be warned though, this isn't the first attempt at reform. The most recent occurred in 2002. The Commission then cited "dwindling fish stocks, diminishing catches, too many vessels chasing too few fish, steady job losses and a lack of effective control and sanctions" among the chronic problems facing European fisheries. Five years after the 2002 reform, however, the European Court of Auditors still identified "poor profitability and steadily declining employment" in the fishing sector, and many of the problems observed then by the European Commission still plague the industry.

Because fisheries policy affects so many individuals and communities so deeply, it is essential that they participate in the discussion to get this reform right. Fortunately, in June 2009, environmental, social, consumer and development organisations across Europe came together to form a coalition, OCEAN2012, to widen the debate and seek the involvement of all stakeholders.Severe overfishing is contributing to the size of fish populations falling far short of the capacity to harvest them. Indeed, overcapacity - too many vessels, too much time to fish and fishing gear that removes too many fish from a population - has plagued the industry for years.Shockingly, many EU Member States, rather than trying to limit this, are subsidising it even more. Efforts to curb capacity have been largely unsuccessful, as ever more advanced fishing technology continues to boost the capability, resulting in ongoing overfishing and illegal fishing.

Once fishing capacity has been restricted, access to fishing rights - who should be allowed to fish, where, when and how - becomes a pressing and political question. Currently decisions on the allocation of fishing rights are based on historic catches. Allocation should instead centre on a set of transparent criteria which encourage legal and less destructive fishing practices, low fuel consumption, greater employment, good working conditions and high quality products. This would create positive competition amongst fishers, with those who meet the criteria earning priority access.In addition, the EU needs to collaborate still further with those developing countries with whom it has fisheries agreements. These agreements have so far not had "a significant impact on the fight against poverty and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals" according to the EU Commission.

A framework for sustainable fisheries management with effective control and enforcement in all waters, including those of developing countries where EU fishing vessels are active, is necessary to preserve the health of this shared resource. The EU needs to support this work with a range of incentives benefiting fishers and communities in developing countries and EU citizens.

However, the principal failure of the Common Fisheries Policy to maintain healthy fish populations results from structures for decision making that have simply proven counter productive. Even very detailed management decisions are being made at the highest political level, influenced by short-term economic interest rather than guided by a vision of how to ensure long-term sustainable fisheries. In recent years, catch limits set by the EU's Council of Fisheries Ministers have exceeded scientific advice by an average of 48 percent, resulting in the severe overfishing of a number of valuable stocks. The Council of Ministers and the European Parliament must focus on the over-arching vision and objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy, leaving the detailed implementation to more appropriate, decentralised bodies.Unlike previous reforms of the Common Fisheries Policy, this one must succeed if the crisis facing EU fish stocks and the fisheries sector is to be stemmed. There is clear evidence that continuous overfishing has resulted in less productive fisheries and job loss.

Without enough fish, the EU's vibrant coastal communities will wither and fishers' livelihoods will all but vanish. To get this reform right we need to involve everybody affected, not just those few parties who have a vested interest.

The Common Fisheries Policy means too much, to too many Europeans, to be allowed to fail.

Uta Bellion is director of the Pew Environment Group's European Marine Programme.

The Smirking Chancer "grilled"?

You jest, surely? There is not one lawyer on Chilcot and Blair will act, wriggle, smarm & flatter to deceive as usual. There will be no forensic questioning and his wealthy plutocratic friends will declare his day in the "court of public opinion" as a "triumph".

He has, apparently spent weeks preparing his case. It's a case that will allow any country to invade another because it is "the right thing to do." Which ironically justifies even Saddam's invasion of Kuwait and opens the floodgates to international anarchy.

Despite the spin, we all know the truth. Blair is one of the biggest political scoundrels of all time.

- Ricky, Hackney, London

MEPs seek powers to force resignation of single commissioners

The European Parliament has gained political clout over the last few years (Photo: European Parliament)


29.01.2010 @ 17:41 CET

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The European Parliament is set for new political powers allowing it to seek the resignation of an individual European Commissioner, following a working relations agreement sealed earlier this week by senior MEPs and commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.Due to be voted on 9 February, the draft power-sharing deal suggests that Mr Barroso must "seriously consider" whether to ask an individual commissioner to step down if parliament withdraws its confidence. If he chooses not to let the commissioner go he then has to explain his reasoning before MEPs.

Under EU treaty rules, MEPs can censure the commission as a whole but not individual members. This new inter-institutional arrangement, while not legally binding, will further increase the political clout of the EU assembly, a trend that has been growing steadily in recent years.

Its most obvious expression has been when it has sought, and obtained, changes to the commission line-up before it came into power - although legally it is not able to veto single would-be commissioners. Earlier this month, MEPs forced the resignation of Bulgarian commissioner designate Rumiana Jeleva, following through on political powers won in 2004. The five-page agreement binds the two institutions more closely together in a series of informal ways. European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek will be allowed to attend the weekly meeting of commissioners when major laws are being proposed. The twice monthly meeting of political group leaders in the parliament will host Mr Barroso when legislative and budgetary matters are discussed.

Meanwhile, the monthly question-and-answer session between MEPs and Mr Barroso will be extended to include Catherine Ashton, the EU's top diplomat, and other commissioners.The parliament has also been granted extra rights when it comes to international negotiations, particularly in the area of trade, where it shall have better access to information and will have attendance rights - although only with an observer status for the head of the relevant delegation.

In two major areas, MEPs were rebuffed however. They failed to secure agreement from Mr Barroso that there should be US-style hearing for senior appointees to the EU's future diplomatic service, something they had openly pushed for. Instead they received commitment that the ambassadors will be appointed in a transparent manner.Mr Barroso also rejected an attempt by MEPs to oblige the commission to come forward with EU legislation if the chamber requested it, something the commission felt was stepping on its rights as sole initiator of EU legislation. Instead, the commission will respond to a legislation request by the parliament within three months and propose a law, if it decides to do so, within a year, and will give reasons to MEPs if it chooses not to legislate.

The deal, agreed on Wednesday and to be looked over by the assembly's political leaders on Thursday (4 February), means the way has been opened for the parliament to vote on the new commission on 9 February. Previously, some MEPs had suggested there would be no commission in view without an inter-institutional agreement first.

EU commission 'embassies' granted new powers


21.01.2010 @ 09:15 CET

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The EU has converted 54 out of the European Commission's 136 foreign delegations into embassy-type missions authorised to speak for the entire union.

The move follows the coming into force last year of the Lisbon Treaty, which has the creation of a new EU diplomatic corps as one of its main provisions.

All 136 commission delegations were renamed "EU delegations" on 1 January. But only the 54 placements were at the same time quietly given fresh powers in line with their new names.

The super-delegations have taken on the role previously carried out by the national embassies of the member state holding the six-month EU presidency at any given time.

As such, they now co-ordinate the work of the member states' bilateral missions to the countries in question. The heads of the 54 delegations are also empowered to speak on behalf of the EU as a whole. But their statements have to be pre-approved by the 27 EU countries during meetings in Brussels.

"They are going to be a bit more political. They will provide the same function that was provided by the given [EU presidency] member state before," an EU official said.

Eight of the new-model units are in Europe: Armenia, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland and Ukraine.

Twelve are in Asia and the Pacific Ocean: Afghanistan, Australia, China, East Timor, Fiji, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and Vietnam.

The rest is in Africa: Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, the Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zimbabwe and the delegation to the African Union in Addis Ababa.

Some of the far-flung outposts concentrate on distributing aid and also do ad-hoc projects, such as promoting European film in Fiji.

The 54 missions were selected by EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton following discussions with EU states. There is no deadline for the conversion of the rest.

The choice is designed not to undermine the prestige of the Spanish EU presidency: None of the new placements are in former Spanish colonies in Latin America or in countries due to hold EU summits on Spain's watch, such as the US and Russia. China is the only exception, with a summit due on 15 March.

The choice was also guided by technical issues.

Most of the commission's delegations to international bodies, such as the UN in New York or the OSCE in Vienna, were not included because the EU is still working out how to handle its membership in multilateral forums under Lisbon.

Some commission delegations did not have enough staff or were not yet plugged into the EU system for circulating classified information, known as Coreu.

ECB and rating agencies issue warnings on EU debt


Jan.27.2010 @ 09:22 CET

A collection of prominent voices warned EU member states on Tuesday (26 January) about the risks of rising indebtedness hampering economic recovery and spooking financial markets.

European Central Bank chief economist Juergen Stark said the shocking state of public finances could lead to further credit rating downgrades of government bonds and ensuing market turmoil. "We are seriously concerned about forecasts of strong rises in government deficits and the indebtedness of countries in the eurozone," he said in a speech.

Credit rating agency Fitch pointed to the expected heavy toll of the rising debt levels. On average, nearly one fifth of national output will be absorbed by debt costs this year, but in some countries such as Italy, France and Ireland, it will be about one quarter, said the agency. "The increase in the stock of short-term debt is a source of concern to Fitch as it increases market risk faced by governments, notably exposure to interest rate shocks," said associate director for sovereign debt, Douglas Renwick.Following a study of 15 EU countries and Switzerland, the agency found that gross borrowing this year "in absolute terms is projected to be largest in France (€454 billion), Italy (€393 billion), Germany (€386 billion euros), and the UK (€279 billion)."

However, Italy, Belgium, France and Ireland are forecast to have the highest borrowing as a percentage of GDP, all at about 25 percent.

Separately on Tuesday, Spain's finance minister Elena Salgado told the European Parliament's economic committee that she wants to see "rigorous and consistent" enforcement of EU budget rules that limit budget deficits to three percent of GDP.Spain, currently holders of the EU's rotating presidency, is estimated to have run up a deficit of around 11 percent last year.


The warnings come amid concerns the ongoing Greek debt crisis and strains in other eurozone countries, notably Portugal and Ireland, are threatening the cohesion of the 16-member euro area.

On Tuesday night, Portugal's Socialist government outlined proposals to bring down the government's deficit over the course of 2010, without hampering nascent signs of recovery. The country has seen considerable pressure from the International Monetary Fund and credit rating agencies to start implementing measures rapidly, with latest figures suggesting the peripheral state's deficit reached 9.3 percent of GDP in 2009, far higher than previously expected. Portuguese finance minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos said the government would cut the budget deficit by one per cent of GDP this year. "By 2013, we will reduce the deficit to below three per cent of GDP," he added.

The European Commission is expected to give its assessment of deficit cutting measures in four EU member states - Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Malta, on Wednesday. A draft copy of the report, seen by Reuters, says Hungary and Latvia are on track with their fiscal cutback programmes, which require the two states to bring their deficits below three percent by 2011.

Can Merkel be So Foolish as to Curtail Big German Contract at this Stage in Financial Crisis?
Haaretz Correspondent

German firm cancels deal with Iran port due to Israeli pressure After heavy diplomatic pressures from the Israeli government, a German construction company on Monday canceled its end of a contract to renovate the Bander Abbas Port in Iran. Israel's ambassador to Berlin told Chancellor Angela Merkels' top aides, as well as foreign ministry officials, that Iran has been exporting weapons from that port bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Ambassador Yoram Ben Ze'ev stressed that the Gaza-bound weapons ship "Francop," which was recently apprehended by the Israel Defense Forces in the Mediterranean, had been dispatched from that Iranian port.

A political official said that the Israeli embassy received word just over a week ago of a deal in the works between the Hamburg Company, which is partly owned by the German government, and the Iranian agencies. Ben Ze'ev stressed that Israel viewed the contract as German assistance to an Iranian arms deal with terror organizations, and a violation of United Nations resolutions. At Israel's request, German officials contacted the company owners and hinted that ir preferred the deal be terminated. Several days later, the company announced that it would withdraw from the contract.

President Shimon Peres arrived in Berlin on Monday ahead of international Holocaust Memorial Day on Wednesday, during which he is scheduled to address the German parliament in Hebrew. The president will also speak to Merkel regarding Germany's financial ties with the Islamic country.

80% of Germans against troop surge in Afghanistan
Wed, 27 Jan 2010

A recent survey by the Independent Polling Institute Forsa indicates that four out of five Germans disagree with Berlin having a stronger military role in Afghanistan. Forsa indicated even among supporters of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Union, 77 percent said they objected to adding soldiers to the 4,300-strong force currently in the war-ravaged country. The survey says 32 percent of Germans are calling for an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Despite these reports, Merkel pledged on Tuesday to send another 500 troops to Afghanistan. "So that rebuilding can take place, and so that the training of security forces can occur, it is necessary that the (Afghan) population is protected from the Taliban," the chancellor argued. "Without peace there is no reconstruction, but without reconstruction there will be no peace either," Merkel was quoted by German broadcaster Deutsche Welle as saying. She noted that German army personnel would also focus on accelerating the training of Afghan security forces.

However, a 2009 fatal German-ordered airstrike in the province of Konduz sparked a debate over whether training was the sole purpose of the country's presence.


Member states set for tussle with parliament over 18 MEPs


21.01.2010 @ 09:27 CET

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - EU President Herman Van Rompuy has formally requested the European Parliament not to call a broad discussion on how to legally establish the 18 extra MEPs foreseen under the Lisbon Treaty in the Brussels assembly.

In a letter unveiled by EU parliament chief Jerzy Buzek on Wednesday (20 January), Mr Van Rompuy asked MEPs to let member states call an intergovernmental conference (IGC) to tweak the EU treaty, without prior discussion in a convention.

Spain, currently heading the EU presidency, is pressing for a quick amendment to allow the new MEPs entry into the parliament for the 2009-2014 mandate. Madrid has made the issue a priority as it stands to gain the most, with four extra Spanish MEPs entitled to come to Brussels.

Of the other 11 member states concerned, eight are entitled to one more MEP each and three countries to two more deputies.

Parliament may yet dig in its heels on principle, however. The house was angered by France, which failed to make arrangements prior to last year's European elections allowing for the two extra French MEPs to take part in the vote. Instead, Paris has suggested it will handpick two deputies from its national assembly and parachute them into the EU legislature.

"I think that this is sufficient breach of the democratic legitimacy of parliament that we should precede an intergovernmental conference to discuss this matter with a convention," UK Liberal MEP Andrew Duff told this website.

A convention requires the involvement of representatives from the European Commission, European Parliament, national parliaments and member states - the last one was called in 2001 to draw up what eventually turned into the current Lisbon Treaty.

Pandora's box

Member states fear that calling a convention could lead to other issues being examined, perilously soon after they closed their last round of institutional talks, which lasted some eight years.

MEPs, on the other hand, argue that the remit of both gatherings could be made very narrow and that the convention could be limited to just two or three days.

"It would be possible to draw the brief for the convention and the IGC extremely tightly - that the parameters of the things to be discussed could be specified," said Mr Duff.

The issue will be discussed by representatives of the political groups in the parliament's constitutional affairs committee next week and is due for a wider discussion by the committee as a whole in February.

Spain is hoping that the IGC "will be called as soon as possible," said a spokesperson, and that if it falls during its presidency, running until the end of June, then "all the better."

The anomaly with the MEPs arises because the June elections took place under the Nice Treaty but the Lisbon Treaty, in place since 1 December, increases the number of deputies.

Most of the member states affected by this change took account of this in the June elections by simply electing reserve MEPs.

French gambit

France's hope that the extra two deputies can be picked from its national parliament goes against treaty rules.

Meanwhile, the overall number of MEPs is set to rise to 754 with the 18 extra names - three more than foreseen under the Lisbon Treaty - because Germany, which is to lose three deputies, will not reduce its number until the next legislature in four year's time. The two factors require temporary changes to be made to the Lisbon Treaty.

The new MEPs will mean that the Swedish pirates party, amongst others, will get an extra deputy - set to be the youngest member of the parliament, Amelia Andersdotter. The Netherlands' anti-immigration PVV party will increase its seats from four to five, the same number as the Dutch Christian Democrats.

Spain's IGC idea needs to be realised quickly if it is to make political sense.

An amendment changing the number of MEPs would need to be agreed by all 27 national parliaments - a lengthy process occasionally taken hostage by other political issues.

Any delay in ratification risks bringing the date by which the extra deputies are actually in parliament with full rights close to 2014 - the date of the next European elections, when the legal problem will cease to exist.

Zapatero announces EU electric car plan


20.01.2010 @ 17:50 CET

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has provided further details of his vision for the EU's 2020 economic strategy, including measures to promote electric car production in Europe.

Speaking before the European Parliament on Wednesday (20 January), the Socialist leader, whose country currently holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency, said the 27-member union would embark on a major new project to promote electric-car production.

"The other day I met together with a group of companies, some of the most important in Europe, and it was felt it was fundamental that there should be co-operation and integration of efforts in developing the electric vehicle," he told MEPs.

"If our markets don't have a regulatory framework to provide financial support, and if we don't have common standards on the technologies, then it will be difficult for Europe to take a leading role," he added.

EU industry ministers are set to launch the plan at a meeting on the 8 February in the Spanish seaside town of San Sebastian.

Greater energy self-sufficiency will also be key to sustainable European growth, said the Spanish leader whose country was one of the worst hit by the recent recession.

"In the last ten years ... our energy consumption has gone up by nine percent," he told euro deputies. "We need to reduce our dependence. If we don't reduce it we won't be able to have any economic growth."

At present roughly 58 percent of the gas used by European homes and industry comes from outside the EU, with last January's dispute between Russia and the Ukraine and the subsequent European energy crisis highlighting the bloc's vulnerability.

EU leaders have scheduled for a brainstorming session next month to debate priorities for the EU's new economic blueprint. The Spanish leader also cited the need to strengthen Europe's information society sector and redouble efforts to step up research and education.