Well sort off. At a press conference in London yesterday pat Cox told Jack Straw to get on his bike. I am sure that noble Lord did not mind the emollient Irish President of the European Parliament using his words to sell the European Constitution. Though thinking about it one of the great worries about enlargement is that many people in the enlargement countries will do exactly what Norman advised about finding work. Europe and the UK should welcoome them with open arms.
Interestingly Jack Straw used the opportunity to roll out HMG's current rebuttle over processes and substance. It seems that the government in the UK has come over all utilitarian. The process dsoesn't matter all that matters is the result. Well given the result he is after is of, ahem, questionable value that is a moot point. But to pretend that nobody is interested in the processes by which the government goes about its business, to argue that how decisions are made is of no importance is complete rubbish.
"move from frankly useless arguments about process to really important arguments about substance"
The ends do not justify the means. The circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly was a 'means'. The strange dispensation for Lakshmi Mittal, was a 'means'. The way in which a constitutional referendum is brought about is a 'means'. The entire business of Whitehall are 'means'. If the Straw man is argueing, with his boss that the only thing that is of interest is what the government claims to have achieved he is not doing a very good job convincing anybody about it.
The ends justify the means is a slogan for the belief that morally wrong actions are sometimes necessary to achieve morally right outcomes. Though such a view is implicit in many moral philosophies (especially utilitarianism) and almost all persons would be willing to commit small moral transgressions in the service of a greater good, the phrase is most often used to denote the much stronger view that any action in the service of an important enough cause is justified. This view is found in many radical political ideologies, and the atrocities committed by Jacobins, communists, capitalists, fascists, and others are often attributed to a form of moral blindness in which a powerful ultimate goal becomes an excuse to ignore ordinary moral considerations.
Bloody typical, Schroeder tries to change the rules
You can always tell when the Euro-elite are rattled, they attempt to break thgeir own famously leaky rules. This time it is German Chancellor Gerhard 'Grecian 2000'Schroeder who is at it.
The reason for the shakes, Tony Blair's U-turn on the Constitution referendum in the UK. According to reports on AP and EU Observer, he now wants to find a way in which the Constitution can come into force, even if the population votes against it. "We ought to find an arrangement by which the Constitution can still come into force if the process of ratification in a country has not yet been brought to a conclusion".
Democracy in Europe? Don't make me laugh.
Q: What is Black and has a pointy head?
A: The Guardian's Europe correspondent Ian Black vented his spleen in a comment piece when he launched into the British media in general, and the Sun in particular.
?Its lurid pi?ce de r?sistance remains the Shackle Britain pamphlet, replete with enormous whoppers about being forced to surrender our UN security council seat, North Sea oil reserves and having taxes set by the commission?.
But given he admits to being intolerant on detail he gets it wrong. There are moves to share the Security Council seat, the Constitution does grant EU control of North Sea oil reserves (article III-157) -even British Foreign Minister Jack Straw has objected to that clause. And finally VAT is set by Europe and nobody in Brussels is denying that there are strong pressures to bring about tax harmonisation. He even suggests that the best place to start for an unbiased view of the EU is with the Centre for European Reform. The CER describes itself as 'pro-European but not uncritical', but a quick look at its advisory board questions the double negative. A fine list of European great and good, including former Commissioners and big beasts from the European Movement, but not a single recognised figure from the other side of the argument. So much for his self proclaimed 'honest journalism'.
Stephen Pollard hits the nail on the head about the activities of the Bel;gian state, and by extension the sort of thing that may well happen across the EU.
Though most would dispute the political position of the Vlaams Blok, it is imparative to dispute the position rather than resort to banning them outright. This is a party with almost 50% support in Antwerp, if they are to be banned from standing in the forthcoming regional and European Election then a grave disservice to democracy is at hand.
Tolerance is not about accepting things with which you agree. Thus 'I am happy for gay men to marry' is no statement of tolerance. For I have no problems with homosexuality. No toleration measns allowing things to exist with which one has huge problems. Things which one disagrees with passionately, but accept their right to exist.
If the Belgian political establishment cannot defeat these people with plain arguement hgen things are far worse here than I imagined.
More on Tillack EU Observer is reporting that the OLAF boss Franz-Hermann Brüner may well get sacked over the affair. This would be a vindication for Hans-Martin, but I as I reported earlier, that does not matter because they already have all the details of his sources.
Excellent news According to EU Observer the European Parliament is preparing to carpet the Commission on the Eurostat affair. What is more
"Moreover, the UK Conservatives have secured the support of the 232-strong majority of the centre-right EPP-ED group to table a formal request for a debate over Eurostat during next week’s European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg.
"I am delighted that we have secured the agreement of the ... EPP-ED Group to express our Group’s strong concern at the Commission’s failure properly to allocate responsibility for the Eurostat affair", UK Conservative leader in the European Parliament Jonathan Evans said".
Bloody marvellous, seems that they do have shame after all
The magazine was removed from the shops because it showed 4 pictures from the autopsy of the dead girls. The parents of those girls requested and were granted an injunction against us.
Well, to an extent fair enough, the sight of the bodies of their daughters in the public print must have been ghastly in the extreme. There was no intention on our part to exacerbate the pain. But the claims in the more hysterical parts of the Belgian press that this was done solely for money misses the point to a large degree. As has been accepted by the broadsheets – at least the Flemish broadsheets there was a very serious point to our publication of those photos.
That is that they show the level of torture that the girls had undergone. This raises the very important question. Essentially did they die of thirst or hunger as has been believed for the last 7 years supported by the testimony of a policeman who claimed to have heard them in Dutroux’s cellar – or did they die in the beating they received? This is a question that has never been asked, either in court or elsewhere. The policeman now admits that he did not hear them after evidence came out that he was a known associate of the paedophile gang.
If this is the case then who did kill them?
On a different level, only one Belgian newspaper did not carry the story yesterday. La Libre Belgique, a catholic paper.
Funnily enough instead of the Sprout story – and I discover that our website has now been disabled – they ran a story about Melchior Wathelet resigning from the list to become an MEP in June. It was Wathelet who let Dutroux out early, it was he whose action sacking a magistrate caused 300,000 people to march through Brussels. It was he who was promoted, and sent to be a judge at the European Court of Justice. I was he who we wrote an article about pointing out his (possible) links to paedophiles himself.
Nice timing Melchior.
Update It seems that website went down due to weight of hits - my paranoia can take a back seat now
What an of days. As ever at this time of the month there is a paucity of postings as I get all the final work done on the magazine. This month has been no different. But due to the sensitivity of our story and a couple of other reasons the magazine only made it into the shops yesterday morning. By midday the monopoly distributor had pulled the whole print run from the shops. By one o’clock we were the lead story on Flemish Television and by the evening a writ was issued – that I understand needed no contact whatsoever with the magazine to come into force – exceptional circumstances you see – and we will be fined 1000 euro for any copy sold from now n in. Now seeing that we make less than 1.50 per copy methinks that this is hardly good business sense. Thus this morning I have to go to the last two shops that might still be carrying the magazine, camp outside and make damned sure they do not sell it.
Well there a couple of reasons. The main one is that we have broken an unwritten agreement in the Belgian press that stats that no pictures of the autopsy of the girls killed in the Dutroux case are published. That is the headline reason. However the fact that we launch an English language in depth study into the political/legal networks that are behind Dutroux has nothing to do with it. Nor indeed has the fact that we have launched an enquiry – for the first time anywhere – into the role of the Catholic Church – in particular the actions of the Cardinal Archbishop of Mechelen/Malines, Godfried Danneels. No of course that has nothing to do with it.
State TV last night was leading with a crowing story about, no of course not, the main story on the news is that we have been taken of the stands. No mention, whatsoever, of what we have written.
Talking to one, of many, Dutch and Flemish journalists yesterday, somebody who has covered the Dutroux story for eight years I was shocked to learn what they had to tell. Many stories had been pulled, lines of investigation closed down, death threats against journalists who dared cover the story. Now I learn that a book is being written in which all the journalists who have been in the pay of the state, and have been deliberately implicated in protecting the guilty is being published.
One final thing, one of Dutroux’s lawyes was on the box last night where he said – and my translation from Flemish is pretty poor, “I would prefer to be the lawyer of Dutroux than in the shoes of that journalist”. Oh bugger.
The strange things you find on the web. Part 7,564
Surfing lazily this morning I discovered this. Now The idea of a Samoan Nazi party is weird in itself. But it seems that the New Zealand police chief on Island had his eye on the ball. He was a former circus master and Mississippi River boat gambler by the name of Arthur Braisby and seemed to enjoy the job.
Braisby, who seemed to know everything, reported to Wellington that the Samoan Nazi's were bothered by the Arian standards required by Berlin. "To overcome this difficulty various debates have taken place among the Samoan Nazi's, and reference made to various anthropology authorities with the object of proving that Polynesian natives are not what is considered as coloured Negroid," Braisby reported to Wellington. "They appear to be having some difficulty in this direction, but the issue is so important to them that their hard work, talk and beer enter into their efforts. They persevere. The subject of this extraordinary discussion is watched with humorous interest by the German Concordia group, who, for the moment, may be considered to be the non-Nazi group."
She was trying to justrify the EU's pesticide regime. A regieme that, though she accepts it is "challenging" for European farmers to comply with must also be imposed on any third world farmer trying to enter the European market.
If it is challenging for rich, heavily subsidised European farmers - how the hell are African or other develloping world producers gouing to comply. Protectionism in the guise of food saftey.
How the European Union crushes dissent,
or the strange case of Hans-Martin Tillack
Final words on the Tillack episode - well unless anything new happens. (Some repetition from previous posts)
According to Article II-11 of the European Constitution “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected”.
Sounds good and solid doesn’t it? So how is it that on Friday the 19th of March this year Hans-Martin Tillack, the Brussels correspondent for Die Stern the German news weekly, found himself woken by police, his phones confiscated, his office raided and files sequestered and access to his lawyer denied?
This story goes back to 2002 when Tillack – the most active investigative journalist in Brussels – was able to obtain some documents from the EU’s anti fraud office OLAF. These documents were in reference to the Van Buitenen affair. (Van Buitenen was the Dutch auditor whose revelations lead to the collapse of the Santer Commission in 1999). Immediately the normally somnambulant OLAF went into overdrive. They launched an official internal investigation into the leaks and made statements in the press accusing an un-named journalist of bribing officials for information, what is more they announced that they had “prime facia” evidence to back up their claim. As Die Stern was at that time the only news source that had been reporting the issue it was pretty apparent who they were accusing, Hans-Martin Tillack. He and his magazine demanded that OLAF apologise or produce the evidence. This the fraud office refused to do.
Now we scroll forward to November last year. Finally after over 18 months OLAF issued a statement where they admitted they had no evidence, but despite that would be continuing the witch hunt into Tillack. At this point the European Ombudsman, Nikiforos Diamandouros, made a report where he stated that he had told OLAF to apologise, but OLAF had refused. Indeed in internal OLAF emails it was found that they knew that the rumour was unsubstantiated. The ombudsman therefore criticized OLAF in, for Brussels very strong terms.
One would have thought that OLAF under its German boss, Franz-Hermann Bruener would act with dignity and withdraw. But only in November Tillack had published a very personal attack on Bruener, an attack that had been followed up by the Sunday Telegraph. Bruener was incensed. There was no way he was letting up now. He handed over his lack of evidence to the Belgian authorities and demanded that they act. OLAF is by its own rules unable to act. Its working methods are to collate information and hand them over to national authorities. In the case of Belgium, the evidence would be handed to the public prosecutors office, who then instruct the police. However the case of Belgium is very specific. In Belgium journalists have, by law to hand over all details of sources to the authorities. Recently, after strong criticism from the International Court of human rights the Belgian authorities have been passing a law that will protect journalists from these situations. Last week the Belgian parliamentary committee passed this law unanimously. Therefore OLAF had to act fast. So fast indeed that they neglected to have any substantive evidence. The level of farce that this whole affair has descended to is illustrated by two appearances on German television by Bruener last week. At the beginning of the week he informed his interviewer that OLAF had nothing to do with the arrest, two days later he was forced to admit that he had in fact sent the request to the Belgians.
If the anti fraud office knew that they were acting illegally, and had been criticized as such by the Ombudsman why on earth would they have done this. This is where we start to understand the strategy involved in the action. Bruener is coming up to the end of his term as Director General. He wants to keep his job. His nomination and retention is in the hands of the European institutions. If he can be seen to close down awkward questions raised against those institutions then he will have shored up support from those same institutions.
Brussels works by a conspiracy of silence. Recently the Chairman of the European Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee was quoted as saying that Parliamentarians had a “duty to the idea of Europe, not just to their constituents”. It works the same way for the press corps. As Hans Martin himself has said, “the basic Brussels rule: "Don't ask, don't talk about fraud... even most of the journalists in Brussels think like that. The argument for sweeping dirt under the table goes something like this: talking about fraud harms the reputation of the European Institutions, which only furthers the cause of the eurosceptics. That's why the true believers of the European project prefer to close their eyes. They don't realise that it is precisely this attitude that allows the sleaze to grow and gives eurosceptics even more reasons to complain about the EU.”
The EU, OLAF and Bruener have already won. The purposed of the exercise has already been accomplished. The nub is that Tillack, was a meticulous German, and had all his files on over 50 investigative stories confiscated. All his contact details were in those files. There are at least 12 Commission sources that will be uncovered by this (possibly) illegal action. Those sources will be punished, and thus the job of a journalist in Brussels goes from hard to nigh on impossible. If the Commission can confiscate journalist's files without evidence of illegality who is ever going to talk to a journo?
This has to be understood in the light of some leaked documents from last year, where the internal disciplinary procedures of the Commission were laid bare. In the document it was apparent that one gets punished (hand slap - promoted sideways) for financial impropriety or sexual harassment. But to get fired you have to do something serious, paedophilia is one thing but the other is to leak documents to MEPs or the press. The ratchet of silence in Brussels just got one notch tighter.
Pat Cox, the European Parliament's own Gay Byrne and president has come out all guns blazing over the media enquiry into MEPs ripping off their expense claims.
"I refuse to accept, as President of this Parliament, that we, the elected Members of this House, suffer from some kind of collective guilt. We do not need to be presumed guilty if we do not individually establish our innocence"
The issue came to a head in the biggest country in the EU when Mr Martin claimed to have evidence that 57 German MEPs were among those claiming expenses falsely - in all he says, he has evidence of 7,200 cases.
He also made the astonishing statement
"The German media, of all the media in Europe, should know in their hearts that collective guilt cannot be visited upon any people or any institution".
What Pat didn't realise and I do, is that this morning The Bild turned up at the Strasbourg parliament and checked the signing in register and then spent the morning looking for those members who had signed in (and were thus eligable for 180 pounds attendance allowance). I do not know how meny members they have caught out, but Pat has made alot of serious enemies in the German press.
This is the story that Hans-Martin Tillack was working on when he was arrested (see below).
At 7.43am on the first of April an email appeared in the inboxes of the Conservative MEPs. The email, which many must have thought was an April fool’s joke in particularly bad taste, was from Jonathan Evans, leader of the Group. (interestingly the mail was also addressed to Dana Scallon, the independent Irish member who seems to be taking instructions from the Tories).
In it Evans required that the entire delegation take their names from a motion of censure. The motion of censure was calling for a parliamentary vote on censuring the EU Commission on its appalling handling of the Eurostat affair. Many Tories have been intimately involved in prosecuting this case. For a motion to be accepted 63 signatures are necessary. The loss of the Tory names would cause the motion to fall.
It seems that Evans and the Tories had just accepted the secondary role in the EPP/ED group that had been allotted to them, and Evans had been to talk with the leader of the EPP group, Hans-Gert Poettering. At that meeting, which I understand was heated, Peottering made it clear that the Tories names had to go. Thus the email.
Today Poettering announced at the Conference of Presidents, (the governing body of the Parliament) that 22 signatures from the EPP/ED had been removed.
There had been an uneasy truce between the pro-European and Eurosceptic sides of the Tory delegation now it seems there is open war. What threatened to become a split after the elections in June, when certain members had made it clear to me that they would split from the EPP has now happened at the worst possible time, before the elections.
Meanwhile there were celebrations involving chilled champagne in the offices of UKIP as they watched the implosion of Tory party unity.
The BBC Provides Balance "The UK media approach is broadly sceptical we try in Brussels to break that cycle of scepticism. The BBC's job is to reflect the European perspective .. And make news less sceptical. That is why the BBC has such a big bureau in Brussels."
Jonathan Chapman, BBC, "Senior World News Reporter",
(previously "Senior Europe Producer" in Brussels) in a speech to a media seminar at the Malta Press Club in March 2004. (sadly the link has no mention of this - last event mentioned Feb 2002)
Hold on a moment, the purpose of the BBC, as I have always understood it, is not to provide balance, but to provide accurate coverage.