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Headliner Week

  • January 22nd, 2008
  • Posted by EUEditor

musharraf-durdeshnet.jpgHeadlines at the start of this week seemed likely agenda-setters for 2008: a run on stock markets; Pervez Musharraf parleying with the EU over democracy; the nationalist man in front, in Serbian elections; a round-up of alleged jihadists in Spain.

STOCK MARKETS AND THE ECONOMY

Major European stock markets had a black Monday (21.1.08), prices falling in response to fears of recession in the United States, and continued worries over a shortage of credit, flowing out of the “sub prime” lending crisis last year.

London’s FTSE index was down 5.5%, with prices down also in France and Germany, in the range 5.5 to 7%.

Larger banks which have been receiving loans assistance from central authorities were severely affected.

Not long after, Australian stock exchanges opened sharply down.

Senior officials in Brussels commented that economic fundamentals remained sound, though there has been some adjustment of European growth forecasts, (See “Unease over economy”, EUAustralia, 19.1.08).

A quarterly report on outlook for the Australian economy, from the think tank Access Economics, has predicted continued growth on the strength of the resources trade with China, especially in Queensland and Western Australia.

It says continuing consumer spending was contributing to strong economic performance despite the weakening of the US economy.

MUSHARRAF ON DEMOCRACY

President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan told the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European parliament (21.1.08) his country was “not a banana republic”.

It would deliver free and fair elections on 18.2.08, and was following “correct strategy and tactics” against terrorism.

However it was in a “tough situation” and the European should be less “obsessed” by democracy; a response to “democracy first” doctrines of the EU, and criticism of disturbances surrounding the murder of the opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, 27.12.07.

SERBS PONDER THE EU VERSUS RUSSIA, KOSOVO AND THE HIP POCKET

Voters in Serbia gave a strategic lead to the radical nationalist candidate, Tomislav Nikolic, over the incumbent President, Boris Tadic, in elections on Sunday (20.1.08).

The electors have had to juggle with a handful of contradictions in making their choice this time: while many people want the country to join the European Union, and integration with prosperous Western economies, they don’t like the EU’s sympathy for Kosovo independence; they have cultural traditional ties with Russia, and see the Putin government there as the Serbia’s one powerful ally over the Kosovo issue. Claims of official corruption have also coloured the decision-making.

Mr Nikolic, a confrere of the former President Slobodan Milosevic, supports closer relations with Russia, and took the strongest line against independence for Kosovo. .

President Tadic campaigned on an economic platform, making a case for continuing with growth and jobs under the present government.

While also opposed to independence for Kosovo, he is a leading advocate for entry into the European Union.

Voting figures gave the opposition candidate Nikolic, from the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), a lead of 3%, with some 36% of votes cast; ahead of President Tadic, from the Democratic Party (DS) – the largest in parliament up to this date.

The two candidates face a second round contest on 3.2.08.

The European Union has offered to expedite Serbia’s application to become a member state, if it helps with a democratic solution in Kosovo, implying moves to independence (See “Kosovo Stand-off”, EUAustralia, 19.12.07 ). Kosovo, a Serbian territory over centuries, has a majority ethnic Albanian population, and is administered under the oversight the United Nations with a military presence provided by NATO.

SPAIN SAYS JIHARDIST STRIKE AVERTED

Security forces in Spain say they have broken up a radical Islamic cell planning a terrorist attack in the country.

Reportedly acting on information from the intelligence services of other countries, they took into custody fifteen suspects at Barcelona, mostly from Pakistan.

Spain was one victim of the two major terrorist attacks in Europe in recent years, the bombing of trains at Madrid in March 2004, causing 191 deaths. The bombings in the London Underground took place just over one year later.

Reference:

Access Economics, Business Outlook, 22.1.08. http://www.accesseconomics.com.au/publicationsreports/publications.php, (22.1.08).

Adrian Thirsk, “Share market plunges”, ABC (Australia), 22.1.08. www.ABC.net.au/, (22.1.08).

European Parliament, “Pervez Musharraf promises ‘free, fair, transparent and peaceful’ elections in Pakistan”, 21.1.08, 20080121IPR19237.

Al Jazeera. Net, “Hardliner leads Serbia vote”, 22.1.08. http://english.aljazeera.net/, (22.1.08)

Cécile Chambraud, “Une cellule djihadiste pakistanaise, soupçonnée de préparer un attentat, démantelée en Espagne” (Pakistani jihadist cell suspected of planning an attack, broken up in Spain), Le Monde, 21.1.08.

Picture: Pervez Musharraf, google – durdesh.net

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