Denouncing US aid cuts, EU announces new funds

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Denouncing a US move to cut funding for global population programmes, the European Commission last Wednesday said it was giving 32 million Euros to promote reproductive health schemes in 22 African countries. “The US decision is regrettable and counter-productive,” said European Development Commissioner Poul Nielson. “The decision to cut funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) may well lead to more unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and increased dangers for months and infants,” he said.


“The losers from this decision will be some of the most vulnerable people on this planet,” Nielson warned. The Commission said its new aid scheme, launched in partnership with UNFPA, was not meant to replace US money. “But we are trying to solve a problem,” said Commission spokesman Michael Curtis. EU funds would “help people that the US decision penalises,” Curtis added. European money will go to 22 developing countries in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) region, including some of the world’s poorest countries. The US said earlier that it was withholding money from the UNFPA because the programme helps China enforce its controversial policy of forcing abortions on women who already have one child. No US money is spent in China, but goes to other countries. Secretary of State Colin Powell made the decision to cut all funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) after the government received complaints from anti-abortion activists about China’s one-child policy. (635)

Asteroid “2002 NT7” Keeps Astronomers Busy

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Astronomers are maintaining a watchful eye on a newly discovered 1.92km-wide asteroid to calculate the possibility of it colliding with Earth in 2019. Over 100 follow-up observations have allowed astronomers to calculate an additional six potential impact dates: in 2044, 2053, 2060 and 2078.
Although astronomers say the odds are one in 250,000, a slight chance exists that the asteroid, dubbed 2002 NT7, could hit Earth on February 1, 2019. According to Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) estimates, this would cause global catastrophe entering the atmosphere at around 64,000 mph and striking with the explosive energy of 1.2 million megatons of TNT. However, further calculation is likely to show it will miss the planet all together and, although it currently heads the list of asteroids and comets monitored by NASA, as scientists learn more it isn’t expected to stay there. “One way or another, this thing is coming off the risk page,” noted Donald Yeomans, manager of NASA’s near-Earth object program office at JPL. Astronomers with the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Project discovered the space rock on July 9 with a New Mexico telescope. Astronomers will continue to follow the asteroid’s path for at least another year so they can further refine estimates of its trajectory on its 837-day orbit, according to AP. “At that point, if it’s still a threat, I’d start to get a little concerned, but not before then,” said Gareth Williams, associate director of the Minor Planet Centre in Cambridge, Mass. 2002 NT7 is the largest potential Earth-crossing asteroid thus far discovered and has obviously attracted a wealth of interest. In June an asteroid about the size of a football field missed the Earth by 75,000 miles in one of the closest known approaches by an object that size.(636)

UN: Democracy Loses Ground, Authoritarianism More Popular

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The wave of democracy-building that swept the world in the past two decades has slowed down, with some countries sliding back to authoritarian rule amid rising perceptions that democracy has failed to uplift the lives of the world’s impoverished millions, a United Nations report said. According to the annual Human Development Report 2002, the world is more democratic – in terms of the 140 countries that hold multiparty elections – than any time in history, but only 82 of countries out of a total of nearly 200 examined are considered full democracies.


“Around the world, there is a growing sense that democracy has not delivered development such as more jobs, schools, health care for ordinary people,” said Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, chief author of the report.


“Politicians often use this to justify authoritarianism and curtailment of human rights but history and academic research provide no evidence that authoritarian regimes are better at promoting economic and social progress,” she added. The report noted that while democracy is not a “luxury or panacea for poor countries, it is intrinsic to the process of human development, the freedom and the choice that allows an individual or a group dignity and fulfilment within any society.” More than 40 countries with 28 percent of the world’s population are not on track to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. While 57 countries are on track, the report said progress in reducing the number of people living in hunger as measured by malnourishment, especially among children, is hardly keeping up with the world’s booming population. “During the 1990s the number of malnourished people declined by just six million people a year. At this rate, it would take more than 130 years to rid the world of hunger,” the report warned. (637)

“Grace” Full EU Travel Ban on Zimbabwe’s Ruling Elite

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Citing “deep concern” at Zimbabwe’s worsening political and economic plight, European Union foreign ministers slapped a travel ban on 52 leading members of the country’s political elite, including President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace. The Zimbabwean leader and 19 of his closest aides including Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge, cabinet secretary Charles Utete and speaker of parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa are already on a list of targeted EU sanctions including travel restrictions agreed in February.


The new EU list covered “all remaining Zimbabwean cabinet ministers, politburo secretaries, deputy ministers, assistant secretaries of the politburo and the spouse of President Mugabe, Grace Mugabe,” EU ministers said in a statement. “We are targeting the whole of Zimbabwe’s ruling elite,” British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told reporters. The new measures would heighten the Zimbabwean government’s “sense of isolation,” he said. The EU did not have a quarrel with the people of Zimbabwe, Straw insisted, but was targeting people responsible for the country’s “man-made disaster,” he underlined.


Ministers said their move was spurred by “deep concerns” over Zimbabwe’s problems, including “social and political polarisation, the impasse in the inter-party dialogue between the ruling Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change, violations of human rights and restrictions on the media.” The country’s rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation was largely the result of the government’s “fast track land reform policy,” EU ministers said.
The decision to slap travel restrictions on more members of Zimbabwe’s political elite follows a British demand that worsening political and social conditions in Zimbabwe demanded tougher EU action against the government. The sanctions also include a decision by the EU to freeze all financial assets of the people banned from travelling to Europe. (638)

Issue 0478: EU working to maintain island status (Print Edition)

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Eni, RasGas ink deal for Spanish market LNG supply

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Kazakh NSA data on industry

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Industrial production in Kazakhstan grew 9.5 percent year-on-year to 1.608 trillion tenge in the first nine months of 2002, the National Statistics Agency recently informed, cited by Interfax. Production grew 13.4 percent in extractive industries, and 8.1 percent in the manufacturing sector, while production and distribution of electricity, gas and water was down 2.4 percent....


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Tashkent-Almaty talks on new transit policy

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Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister Karim Masimov and Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Yunusov discussed transit and transport policy during a recent meeting at the Zhibek Dzoly border customs point, Interfax news agency reported.
At a press briefing Masimov stated that both parties discussed how to simplify border crossing and customs procedures in the region. Masimov said that they specifically considered the transit of goods via Kazakhstan westwards along the Kungrad-Beyneu (from Uzbekistan to Ma...


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Q1-Q3 investment volume up

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Total volume of investments in Kazakhstan's fixed assets grew by eight percent to USD 3.5 billion in the January-September 2002 period against respective figures for the previous year. During a two-day international investment conference entitled "Astana: The City of the Future," which recently opened in the capital, Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister Karim Masimov said that 60.3 percent of all investments goes towards domestic businesses and 31.4 percent goes to foreign businesses. Based on Kazakh go...


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Astana secures stronger ties, investments with Dubai

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Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the United Arab Emirates' Armed Forces Khalifa Bin Zayed al Nahyan, recently met in Astana to discuss the prospects for business and economic contacts between their countries.
"The parties discussed ways to increase investments in Kazakhstan's oil and gas sector and assistance in construction projects in Astana," Kazakhstan's Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Askar Musinov told journalists after the meeting, cited by I...


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Uzbek cellular activity grows

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Tashkent, Tashkent region clinch biggest subscriber numbers

Uzbekistan's cellular subscribers increased in number by 33.8 percent last year, compared with the previous year's data, to 128,000. According to the Agency for Communication and Information (ACI) data, this increased by about 15.3 percent in the first quarter of the year or by 19,599 to top 147,500 subscribers. More than 40,500 or 27.5 percent of them were residents of the regions (outside Tashkent and Tashkent region) the data show...


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France grants USD 200,000 in military aid to Kyrgyzstan

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French troops transferred more than USD 200,000 worth of equipment to the Kyrgyz Defence Ministry early last week. As cited by Interfax, the machines belonged to the French Air Force contingent that was deployed to the Manas airport as part of the anti-terrorist coalition. In early October, troops from The Netherlands, Norway and Denmark replaced the French contingent. The Kyrgyz army received 13 UAZ and Zhiguli vehicles, as well as refrigerators and TV sets, the ministry said. The property will...


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9-mo CPI in downward trend

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Consumer price inflation (CPI) in Kyrgyzstan slowed to 1.3 percent in the first nine months of this year from 1.5 percent in the same period of 2001, National Bank head Ulan Sarbanov was quoted as saying by Interfax last Monday. "The inflation figure for the nine months is within the bounds of target figures," Sarbanov said adding that the target of keeping inflation at 4.9 percent or less this year would certainly be met. The local currency's exchange rate against the USD rose by 3.6 percent in...


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IMF welcomes economy policy, urges inflation limitation

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IMF delegates recently concluded their working visit to the capital of Tajikistan. During talks with President Imomali Rakhmonov, IMF official Rupert Christiansen commended on Tajikistan's impressive economic growth, and particularly in the agricultural sector. However, the IMF official reportedly expressed concern over rising inflation and advocated adopting a tougher monetary policy....


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World Bank to provide anti-poverty loan to Bishkek

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The World Bank is expected to provide Kyrgyzstan with about USD 700 million to finance a three-year national programme designed to help reduce poverty, Prime Minister Nikolai Tanayev told the press, cited by Interfax. The premier referred to the above upon completion of a two-day meeting of donor countries that recently took place in Bishkek. Tanayev said that out of the USD 700 million, 50 percent would come in grants. The prime minister said that the poverty reduction programme, which is due t...


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NB positive outlook on international reserves

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"Kyrgyz gross international reserves have exceeded USD 300 million," Chairman of the National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic Ulan Sarbanov recently stated during a briefing at the Kabar Agency on the results of monetary and credit policy for nine months. In his words, the same positive tendencies are observed almost on all other monetary and credit parameters. So, the monetary base on the results of nine months has made six billion 786 million soms, higher than 2001 by 1.7 billion soms....


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Russia detains ex-TCB official

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Acting on a request from Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, Russian police have detained in Moscow Murad Garabaev, one of the two fugitive former Turkmen central bank (TCB) officials suspected of embezzling over USD 40 million from Turkmenistan's foreign currency reserves. This was reported by local Russian papers, yet it was not made clear whether Garabaev had already been extradited to Ashgabat....


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Roundtable on agrarian issues, debt is key problem

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Issues related to clearing-off of dehqan (peasant) farms' debt to foreign investors and the enhancement of profitability of Tajikistan's agrarian sector were recently discussed at a roundtable organised with support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), in Dushanbe. Experts from ADB, heads of hukumats of some of districts of the republic, and senior representatives from relevant ministries and international organisations took part in the meeting's work, Asia plus reported.
Chairing the meeting D...


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IDB decides on lending terms for Bishkek

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The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) plans to set special terms of lending for the republic of Kyrgyzstan and restructure its debt, IDB Vice President Amadu Sisse stated during a press conference in Bishkek early last week.
Cited by Interfax, the bank official noted that given the difficult situation with foreign debt payments in Kyrgyzstan the IDB board would consider granting the country more favourable terms of financing.
If this is approved Kyrgyzstan would be able to receive loans for 35 ...


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IFC, AKFED in joint venture for Tajikistan’s electricity system

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The International Finance Corporation (IFC), World Bank's private sector development arm, and the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) have joined forces to develop a new electricity and distribution project in a remote eastern region in Tajikistan. According to and IFC release, cited by Asia Plus reports, such a project will boost the region's dangerously inadequate electricity supply, improve health conditions, reduce environmental degradation, and contribute toward the region's econ...


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Yusufov proposes trading Urals crude on London’s IPE

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The Russian Energy Ministry is considering the possibility of trading Urals crude on the International Petroleum Exchange in London. Energy Minister Igor Yusufov announced during a visit to the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District that this would promote Russian crude oil on the world market irrespective of the volumes of other types of oil traded on the IPE and their prices. "This issue is being negotiated with the world oil community," Interfax quoted Yusufov as saying. This idea was proposed for ...


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Illarionov backs US plans to import oil from Russia

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Russian Presidential Economic Advisor Andrei Illarionov has backed the United States' intention to replenish its strategic stock with the oil imported from Russia. "Creation of back-up reserves is a natural position for the countries that heavily depend on energy supplies," Illarionov said on October 12. The United States has been stocking up oil since the seventies' crisis, he said. It is not surprising that the United States turned to Russian import, he said. "This is just business. It is bene...


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Russia to produce 377-380 mln tonnes of oil in 2003

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According to forecasts, Russian companies will produce 377-380 million tonnes of oil in 2003, including gas condensate, said the head of the oil and oil refining industry department at the Russian Energy Ministry, Boris Vydrik. "This volume will be sufficient not only to satisfy domestic requirements but also to use export potential," he told a press conference on October 14 held in connection with the international forum Southern Russian Fuel and Energy Complex. In 2001, Russian companies produ...


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Kasyanov signs order for Slavneft privatisation

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Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has signed an order for the privatisation of Russian oil and gas company Slavneft and the sale in 2002 of a state owned packet of 74.95 percent of the company's shares, the government information department said.
The Property Relations Ministry has been ordered to reach a decision on the privatisation of the shares, involving their sale at an open auction, with a proposal on price. The Russian Federal Property Fund has been ordered to ensure the holding o...


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Launch of Shakh-Deniz project delayed until February 2003

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The launch of the Shakh-Deniz gas condensate project has been delayed until February 2003, the First Vice President of Azeri state oil company SOCAR, Ilkham Aliyev, told reporters. The delay is caused by a rise in the project's cost, Interfax quoted him as saying.
Azerbaijan has not received explanations of the higher cost of the platform and undersea pipelines to be installed at the field. British Petroleum Company, the project's operator and main investor, should be interested in a minor incr...


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Transneft to decide on building BPS-2…

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The Board of Directors of Transneft was expected to make a decision on the start of the construction of the second phase of the Baltic Pipeline System (BPS-2) by the end of last week, Transneft President Semyon Vainshtok told reporters. All original parameters of the project's second phase, particularly its capacity and expenses, could change, Vainshtok warned. Transneft has so far decided not to issue USD 500 million worth of Eurobonds for five years, as "the market of bonds is too expensive at...


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…doesn’t not fear over- saturating European market

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Transneft oil transporting company does not share the fears of Russian oil companies that Russian oil may over-saturate the European market and that another market should be urgently found. Vedomosti quoted Transneft President Semyon Vainshtok in an interview on October 14 that in 1999-2000, annual exports through his company to Europe grew by 26 million tonnes. "And did it drown in our oil? As for America, one should think how the political and oil map of the world will change given US intentio...


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Gazprom to develop new fields in Eastern Siberia, Far East

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Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom is prepared to start developing fields in Eastern Siberia and the Far East and to build pipelines in eastern parts of the country. Interfax quoted a member of the Board of Directors, Vladimir Rezunenko, as saying sales of gas from those fields inside Russia and in the Asian-Pacific region must be sufficient to make the projects sound....


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TNK supplies 140,000 tonnes of oil to US

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Tyumen Oil Company (TNK) has supplied 140,000 tonnes of Russian oil to the United States. The company said in a press release that the buyer of the oil - the US company Kokh Supply & Trading - will supply part of this consignment (40,000 tonnes) to replenish the US strategic oil reserve. The remainder will be sent to a US refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Two tankers were sent to the United States: Glen Buck, which sailed from Primorsk on September 14 and Front Sky - which sailed from Novoross...


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LUKoil plans oil field development in Kaliningrad

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Russian oil major LUKoil plans to implement a number of new projects in Kaliningrad region, LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov told a press conference in Kaliningrad region. Russia's largest oil company is developing very dynamically in Kaliningrad region. "The time has come to review our plans regarding participation in the further development of the economy of this Russian region," Interfax quoted him as saying.
The company plans to sign a new cooperation agreement with the Kaliningrad administ...


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Khristenko: Russia, Japan must broaden cooperation in energy

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Cooperation in the energy sector may give a strong impetus to trade between Russia and Japan, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko said on October 14 after the sixth meeting of the Russian-Japanese intergovernmental commission for trade, economic, scientific and technological cooperation.
Khristenko said that the first moves to implement the Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2 projects caused serious changes in this sphere. Japanese companies have invested over USD one billion in these project...


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Keeping the Faith on the Russian Space Programme

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The explosion of a Russian Soyuz rocket carrying a research satellite seconds after blast-off cast doubts over the cash-strapped Russian space programme and its ability to keep commitments to the USD 90 billion International Space Station. The 300-tonne unmanned Soyuz-U rocket exploded 29 seconds after take-off from Russia’s Arctic Plesetsk cosmodrome late on October 15, showering debris over the launchpad and killing one soldier.
However, Russians are not the only ones that have explosions. Russia’s space station programme has accumulated great expertise since the time it launched Gagarin into space and has a good track record. On that note, the Russian space agency vowed to meet its obligations to the space station.


It is a shame therefore that funding is running out. Russia’s space programme has been underfunded since Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Russia has raised eyebrows among its partners in the ISS project by sending increasingly unqualified passengers into space as paying tourists to cover cash shortages.


Russia needs four cargo launches and two manned launches a year to maintain the ISS and this will not be possible without extra cash. (689)

EU Warns Nuke North Korea

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The European Commission warned of serious consequences for North Korea if the country has broken international agreements by secretly developing nuclear weapons, according to a spokesperson for the Commission but EU’s jumping to conclusions without verifying the facts itself did nothing to better the image of the European Union.


Commenting on reports coming from the United States that North Korea has admitted that it has enough nuclear material to build at least two nuclear weapons, the Brussels spokesperson said: “We are taking this very seriously”. We agree with the observers who said that if the reports were correct, all agreements to cooperate with North Korea in the peaceful application of nuclear technology would be called into question. The EU has donated almost 100 million Euro since 1996 to finance the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation (KEDO) Agency, whose motto is “promoting peace and stability on the Korean peninsula”. KEDO supports the development of light-water nuclear reactors for the production of electricity as in exchange for not developing weapons grade nuclear material. The Commission is right in rethinking its policies but it can avoid doing that aloud and instead have its own findings and come to its own conclusions.(690)

Eurozone Economy Chugs Along Sluggishly

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The Eurozone economy limped along and the European Central Bank (ECB) did little to allay fears of the investors, consumers and other players as it cautioned that the eurozone economy will remain sluggish at least through the end of this year, and said economic prospects faced inflationary, fiscal and stock market risks. Reading the monthly report for October, the ECB said it is now difficult to try to predict when the world and European economies will start to gather momentum again. On other hand dashing earlier it added no revival can be expected before the end of 2002. The ECB warned that the downturn on stock markets posed a risk by negatively affecting private consumption and investments. But it noted that such risks were greater for the United States than the eurozone region. Explaining the inflation factor it said there is a gap between what the statisticians are measuring and what consumers “feel”. Whereas eurozone inflation in August was measured at 2.1 percent, private consumers felt that prices were five per cent higher. If this perception continued, then it would have a further adverse affect on private consumption, the ECB warned. The eurozone central bank also admonished the member governments to show fiscal discipline, saying that a reduction of public debts improved credibility and confidence in the monetary system. The ECB demanded that the eurozone countries should adhere to the strict stability criteria. Now, that is a lot of talk from the ECB and if the Commission is listening we may have some fireworks flying towards Portugal and Germany, the duo who are the alleged over shooters of the delicate Eurozone balance between GDP and budget manipulation. (691)

Irish Set to Approve Nice Treaty as EU Hopefuls Wait

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The northwestern periphery of the European Union was slated to take centre-stage last Saturday as Ireland’s 2.9 million voters go to the polls for a second time to ratify the Treaty of Nice, which allows reforms of EU institutions to make way for up to 12 new member states. According to the latest opinion poll (as New Europe went to press), published in last Thursday’s Irish Times newspaper, the Treaty looks set to be accepted as some 42 percent of voters said they intend to vote “yes”. Some 29 percent are against, 19 percent still don’t know and 10 percent do not intend to vote.
The Treaty of Nice puts in place institutional structures to allow enlargement of the European Union and Ireland is the only member state where the Treaty must be ratified by referendum. National parliaments ratified the Treaty in the other 14 member states. A second rejection of the Treaty of Nice could seriously hinder the process of enlarging the EU and Saturday’s vote was closely watched by the 10 countries waiting in the wings to join in 2004 and Bulgaria and Romania, hoping to join in 2007. Ireland sent shockwaves throughout the EU in June 2001 when the usually enthusiastic Europeans rejected the Treaty by 54 percent to 46 percent. Only 34.8 percent of the electorate voted in the first referendum on Nice, and commentators later attributed the rejection of the Treaty to a lack of understanding of the issues among the electorate, a weak campaign on the part of the government to encourage a “yes” vote, a strong “No to Nice” lobby and fears that Ireland’s closely-guarded neutrality would be affected by the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy. Both the government and opposition parties have been running a strong campaign for a “yes” vote after last year’s embarrassing defeat for the pro-European government.


But many in the “yes” lobby fear the electorate will use the referendum to vote against the government to deliver a message on broken election promises. Voters feel they were misled about spending cuts in the run-up to the May 2002 general election in which the coalition of Fianna Fail and Progressive Democrats was re-elected. But even the opposition parties have been rallying behind the government in an effort to secure a “yes” vote in the Treaty of Nice. The Labour Party called on the electorate to “hold your fire”. “Wait in the long grass and deliver your retribution to Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats where it hurts – in 20 months time in European parliament seats and local authority seats,” said the leader of the Irish Labour Party, Ruairi Quinn.


Agriculture is Ireland’s most important industry and while some farmers fear they will lose a share of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget to farmers from applicant states, most see the Treaty of Nice as a separate issue to CAP reforms. In a survey conducted for the Irish Farmers Journal, almost two-thirds of those polled indicated that CAP would not affect their attitude to the referendum. A survey of 400 farmers showed a total of 47 percent intend to vote in favour, 19 percent against and a sizeable 31 percent were still undecided.


Causing most concern is that Ireland, as one of the smaller member states, will be subsumed into a federal Europe and will have less influence in the decision-making process. The issue of military neutrality has caused huge confusion but in June 2002 at a European Council meeting in Seville, the Irish government made a declaration that it would not enter any common EU defence commitment. “Yes” campaigners claim the Seville Declaration safeguards neutrality, while “no” campaigners say the declaration is meaningless and has no legal status.


But regardless of the referendum outcome, Ireland has already agreed to contribute 850 troops to the 60,000-strong EU Rapid Reaction Force, which is expected to be ready for action next year. Now, if Ireland accepts the Nice Treaty, all is well that ends well but if Ireland rejects the Nice Treaty again, enlargement can go ahead with up to five new countries under the terms of the Treaty of Amsterdam – but after that, Europe says it has no “Plan B”. But let us not bring out the Plan B before the corridors of power in Brussels want it out. (692)

Europe readies for president of council

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National governments tend to use the EU as scapegoat

The European Union is gearing up for reforms to emerge as a stronger political entity and Vidal-Quadras Roca, Vice President of the European Parliament confirmed to New Europe in an interview a recent announcement by Valery Giscard d'Estaing, that there is talk to upgrade the high representative of the Council to president of the Council. Roca argued, "... the current one-semester presidency is very short and that implies discontinuities, s...


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Terror strikes again

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The heat is again on but the foreign ministers of the United States and Britain vowed not to allow recent terrorist attacks distract them from their campaign to confront Iraq over its weapons of mass destruction. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw conferred at the State Department on their joint strategy to convince the UN Security Council to pass a tough new resolution demanding unfettered weapons inspections and specifying "consequences" should Iraq not comply. Bo...


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