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3 May 2007 Edition

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This news feature is funded by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL)

Raymond McCord in Starsbourg

Since being elected to the EU Parliament in 2004, MEPs Mary Lou McDonald and Bairbre de Brún have given high priority to the anti-collusion campaign both at home and on the European stage.
As MEPs, they have used their entitlements to invite citizens to the European Parliament, to highlight collusion between police and unionist armed groups. December 2004 saw a 55-strong delegation, which included Mark Sykes and Pauline Davey-Kennedy, whose brother-in-law and father respectively, were murdered. A similar delegation was received by Mary Lou and Bairbre in December 2005 which included Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice. This was followed up by a delegation made up of the Loughinisland families in November 2006. These were all very important events in the campaign to bring the truth and thereby some kind of closure to the families.
So, with the anti-collusion campaign stepping up a pace with the publication of the O’Loan Report, it was no surprise that  Raymond McCord senior, whose son Raymond was beaten to death by unionist paramilitaries and abandoned in a quarry in November 1997, was facilitated with meetings and a press conference in the European Parliament Strasbourg, by the two MEPs,  Bairbre de Brún and Mary Lou McDonald.
He was invited to the parliament for a round of meetings with Diplomatic, Commission and Parliamentary representatives, which lasted two days and is part of an ongoing campaign around collusion.
Counsellor Keith McBean of the Irish Permanent Representation to the European Union met with Mr McCord to hear his arguments for full disclosure and prosecutions of those involved, while unsurprisingly the NI Executive Representation and the offensively named UK Permanent Representation declined to receive him, taking cover behind a thin veil of diplomatic protocol.
In the week preceding the visit of Commission President Barroso to the North of Ireland, he sent his Principal Adviser BM Jensen to advise McCord on possible ways of advancing his campaign for full disclosure and prosecutions.
With regard to the parliament itself McCord had an exhaustive programme of meetings with MEPs from six different groups including GUÉ/NGL, Greens/EFA, ALDE, Ind Dems, UEN (FF) and EPP (FG).
All the deputies who met MrMcCord, including Irish MEPs Jim Hggins, Marian Harkin, Brian Crowley, and Kathy Sinnott pledged their support for the cause of truth. Indeed the latter is looking into the possibility of launching a case before the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament.
Two further and separate meetings took place between McCord and Jim Nicholson of the Ulster Unionist Party and less productively with Jim Allister, now of no party.
In between all these meetings, a private press briefing and a press conference took place.
In terms of the campaign for truth and justice this two day event was an important boost.
Evidence, coming as it does from the Ombusman’s office, has turned on its head  the notion that allegations of collusion are just republican propaganda and and this has signalled a real step-change in the anti-collusion campaign.  

Why EU policies on climate change will fail


The recent high profile adoption by the European Union of a position on climate change which envisages drastic cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases over the next quarter century risks, once again, creating the impression that the unelected, unanswerable institutions in Brussels, Luxembourg and Frankfurt are at least a potential part of the solution to the world’s ills. They are not.
On the contrary, the EU is very much part of the problem, and must take enormous responsibility for an environmental crisis from which there may, I fear, be no comfortable means of escape. True, in order to meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, the EU has taken a range of measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Unfortunately what it cannot do is evade the logic of the system whose existence it was established to perpetuate – a ‘free market economy’, which in reality is no such thing.
Far from being ‘free’ the market is continually rigged in favour of the most powerful concentrations of capital to the detriment not only of working people and the world’s poor, but of small enterprises, unorthodox economic formations, and any capitalist foolish enough to put any consideration before that of short-term gain.
The EU’s main measure to combat climate change, the Emissions Trading System (ETS), is based on that same rigged market, and so will achieve nothing.
Under the ETS, each member state draws up a National Allocation Plan (NAP), assigning greenhouse gas emission allowances to power stations and other plant.
Not all sectors are covered, but firms in those which are have the choice of using the permits to cover for its emissions, selling what it doesn’t need or buying additional permits.
The idea is to create a ‘market’ in polluting rights, so that companies will decide ‘rationally’ on the basis of hard economics whether to keep polluting or cut emissions.
All other things being equal, they will do what is cheapest.
Unfortunately, most states have overallocated emission permits to companies, allowing them to continue to pollute at the same or even higher levels than before and maintaining a price for emission credits too low to act as an incentive to cut emissions.
Worse still, some of the most polluting sectors, including transport, are not included in the scheme.
The Linking Directive, adopted in summer 2004, plugs the ETS into the global system established at Kyoto. Under the so-called “flexible mechanisms” of the Kyoto Protocol, credits for emissions saved through co-operation with countries outside the EU can also be bought and sold under the ETS.
This will mean that instead of using the ETS for the purpose for which it was intended, companies will buy cheap credits from developing countries, credits based on what are often in reality environmentally damaging projects whose effects on carbon emissions are speculative and, even if positive, offset by other impacts.
The announcement in February that EU environment ministers had agreed in principle to cut greenhouse emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020 and seek a 30% cut worldwide if matched by other developed nations should be seen in this light.
To take a further example, the Renewables Directive was introduced in 2001. Its aim is to increase the share of electricity produced from renewable energy sources in the EU to just over 22% by 2010. The full implementation of this directive would make a big dent on that 20% target, representing a 6% cut against the 1990 base line. Unfortunately, the weakness of national implementation measures means that the EU will not meet the target.
The latest announced targets are likely to meet the same fate. Other measures are in every case undermined by what one can only conclude is a lack of political will.
The Cogeneration Directive, for example, aims to save power by encouraging the simultaneous production of electricity and heat, massively increasing efficiency. Unfortunately, the directive’s failure to set quantified targets for each member state has effectively made it into no more than an advisory measure.
The EU’s inability to take effective action is a result of the enormous influence of corporate lobbyists at both national and European level. But it is also a result of the fact that the EU’s founding treaty, its underlying philosophy and the ideas guiding its key decision-makers share the worldview of those lobbyists and the people they represent. This is why no binding legislation has been implemented in the most obvious area of road transport efficiency. Instead, we have farcical ‘voluntary agreements’.
Unsurprisingly, though these do include quantifiable targets, the industry will not meet them. The same is true in a host of other sectors. Housing is responsible for 40% of the EU’s energy use, yet legislation applies only to buildings larger than 1000m2, around 10% of stock, and fails even to set binding minimum efficiency standards. Even were these measures more effective, however, the EU’s broader activities would surely undermine them.
Transport policy is designed to encourage the building of more roads to facilitate the single internal market and promote growth, so that although there has been an impressive rise in fuel efficiency, this has been more than offset by the increase in road traffic.
Particularly in the new member states, where private car ownership is growing rapidly and the road sector’s share of passenger and freight transport increasing, these developments are accompanied by uncontrolled ribbon development and urban sprawl, all of which mean higher emissions.
Capitalism will never be capable of curbing its rapacious appetite for growth, or of investing in the kind of technologies which might mitigate the harmful effects of that growth.
Still less will it ever be capable of escaping its own merciless logic and adapting to a society based on co-operation in the pursuit of the satisfaction of real human needs and desires in full respect for the environment, the planet, for everything which lives.


UEN covers itself in glory – twice

The Union for a Europe of Nations which includes Fianna Fáil’s four MEPs hit the headlines twice during the Strasbourg session for all the wrong reasons. The group which boasts Brian Crowley as co-President and consists to a large degree of hard-right Polish MEPs twice found itself in splendid isolation from the rest of the EU’s MEPs and also remote from 21st century society.
The group attempted to cancel a planned debate and resolution on homophobia within the EU through a procedural motion. When this tactic failed Fianna Fáil lined up with among other their “comrades”– the fascists and the lonelier-than-ever Jim Allister, formerly of the DUP. They rejected the motion which focussed on attacking the atmosphere of homophobia and hate-mongering against the LGBT community in Poland. It included a reference of opposition to the Polish Education Minister’s attempt to ban “homosexual propaganda” in schools.
UEN’s other moment of glory came when their MEPs supported a call for the disqualification of Bronislaw Geremek as an MEP because of his refusal to co-operate with a new Polish-government inspired witchhunt against former agents of the communist administration during the Cold War.
Geremek’s “crime” is to refuse to submit a declaration of non-compliance with the former regime as a “personal protest” against the law which, he said, “violates moral laws, threatens freedom of speech, media freedom and the autonomy of universities”.
When various leaders of the main political groups rose to defend Geremek’s democratic mandate, the UEN Polish contingent proceeded to interrupt each of them in turn. Very strange behaviour from a group which according to its own charter is committed to:
“A Europe against all forms of racism and discrimination” as well as “ a European Union founded on the right of peoples to express themselves through democratic means”. 


Major gap in EU human rights report

Last week in Strasbourg saw the EU Parliament give its reaction to the Council’s annual report on human rights. The report by Simon Coveney entitled “Human Rights in the world 2006 and the EU’s policy on the matter” won widespread support.
The report runs to 30 pages and singles out human rights offenders across the whole world (well nearly). Sri Lanka, Darfur, the Middle East, Belarus, Cote d’Ivoire, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Myanmar and even the United States are all named within the report. Asia, Africa, the Americas and Eastern Europe are all covered in detail.
Legitimate and urgent concerns are raised about many countries and their poor record on human rights but there seems to be one obvious hole in the report.
Human Rights within the internal market (or the European Union as it is sometimes called) are left un-remarked upon. There can be only one of two reasons for this omission. Either (1) human rights are impeachable within the 27 member states or (2) the EU elites have decided that human rights violations committed by its own members are somehow unworthy of comment in Strasbourg and Brussels. In the week that Raymond McCord Snr. visited the European Parliament it seems patently clear that MEPs have opted for the second option.
Much good work is done around the issue of developing and protecting human rights at an EU level and also by the Council of Europe but as long as the attitude remains “Do as we say and not as we do”, it will have a very hollow ring to it. Exceptions such as the Parliament’s investigation into and report on the CIA-run “extraordinary-rendition” circuits across the EU are sadly noticeable only for their rarity. 

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