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Action On Many Fronts

  • April 2nd, 2008
  • Posted by 7thmin

eu-flag-site.pngCOMMENTARY: Events in March saw new foreign policy initiatives as Prime Minister Rudd set out for America, China and the EU; a colourful cross-Channel trip by the family Sarkozy; more heat on the stock markets; heat on the dairy industry in Italy, and on a Dutchman who affronts Islamic fundamentalists.

TROUBLED WORLD ECONOMY HIGH ON THE AGENDA

The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, en route to Europe, has put a stressed world economy, climate change and trade high on the agenda for meetings this week in Brussels.

The Prime Minister’s eighteen-day journey began with a declaration that his government was planning a more “activist” and “multi-lateral” role for itself.

Accordingly, his visit to the United States included a meeting with the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, where he foreshadowed a bid to put Australia on the Security Council.

Talks with President George Bush and other senior Americans took in the key themes of climate change, relations with China, the Doha Round world trade talks, and concern about the state of financial markets and the economy.

“The core thing … has all been about what to do as a global economic community to provide a global response to this global crisis in financial markets,” he said, setting out last week.

“This is not just some minor, marginal thing … so whether I’m in Brussels or I’m in London, the state of the economy and what to do about boosting confidence in the global economy is the number one concern.”

AGENDA FOR BRUSSELS

He is scheduled to see the European foreign policy head, the High Representative Javier Solana, and the European Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso.

Perennial differences with Europe over liberalising farm trade have not gone away.

Mr Rudd will be arguing for more urgent efforts to re-activate the World Trade Organisation negotiations at Geneva, where delegates have signalled some hope of setting new guidelines for agreement.

TOP LEVEL NATO DEBATE ON AFGHANISTAN

At the NATO Summit in Bucharest (2-4.4.08), a Big Thursday program has been set up, where the alliance’s Heads of Government will get together with their non-NATO partners.

Those will include aspirant members including the Ukraine, which has been receiving special support from President Bush, who visited on his way to Bucharest.

Kevin Rudd will be at the Afghanistan meeting — along with the Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Ban Ki-Moon from the UN — for a debate on the NATO-led military operations and civil reconstruction program in that country.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, a determined foe of NATO expansion, has been invited to meet the Heads of Government on Friday.

ANGLO-FRANCE

Expected at the gathering of Heads of Government and Heads of State, France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy last week obtained some relief from political criticisms at home with a high-profile trip to the United Kingdom.

Notwithstanding fairly rough treatment given out to the wife, he spoke of building more trust between the British and French.

An elegantly turned-out Mme Carla Bruni-Sarkozy braved the British tabloids to take her “playboy president” spouse along when visiting Queen Elizabeth II.

(The newspapers, it as it happened, were able to get out some Page Three pics of the former model from their files; leading auctioneers, showing strong British business aplomb, took the opportunity to sell off some of the originals).

Mr Sarkozy who has ordered a reduction in the French nuclear stockpile in the order of 30%, and proposed more cooperation with Middle Eastern governments on peaceful nuclear technology, told the House of Commons there was scope for picking up France’s armed commitment to Afghanistan.

CHANCY MARKETS

The month of March saw European markets taking their share of the sharp falls on world stock exchanges, as fall-out from the United states indebtedness crisis continued.

One bleak day, among a number, saw falls in London of 3.8%, Paris 3.5%, and Frankfurt 4.8%.

SAY CHEESE

Certain stocks of mozzarella cheese were taken from the shelves after dioxins associated with cancer were found in the buffalo milk used to make it.

The European Union has invested heavily in promoting regional nomenclature for quality foodstuffs and wine; Commission officials were therefore quick to act to ensure the prized pizza product was not dishonoured, repeatedly demanding top-ups of information from Italy.

As the reassurances began to sink in – that the quantities of dioxin were extremely small; that the offending consignments were not being exported — some producers were reporting a 30% drop in sales.

FREE-FOR-ALL OVER FREE SPEECH

The Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders stirred up fresh anger in Islamic circles, releasing a 17 minute polemical film through the Internet.

The production called Fitna might be dignified by the term “verite”; it gives a montage of fiery sermons from the Mosque, juxtaposed with images of terrorist attacks, and pages from the Koran, with no story-line or accompanying commentary.

Geert Winders, who lives under armed protection, said he considered Islamic influences were a threat to freedom.

The film was kept off television in the Netherlands where critics said it was abusive and disregarded peaceful messages of the Islamic faith.

FIRST EUROPEAN?

Archeologists found a jawbone and eight teeth in a cave in Northern Spain, claiming those would be the remains of Europe’s earliest human ancestors.

They were dated to 1.2-million years ago and identified as a species relative of homo sapiens.

The find improves the European pedigree somewhat in the human family: the contents are some 400,000 years older than remains previously held to be those of the first Europeans; evidence of early human life in china and Java goes back 1.5 million years.


Reference:

Michael Hopkin, “The First European? Fossil find is oldest European yet”, Nature: International weekly journal of science, Vol. 452, No. 7186, Macmillan, Basingstoke, 26.3.08. http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080326/full/news.2008.691.html, (2.4.08).

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (home), “NATO’s agenda for Bucharest”, Brussels, 31.3.08.http://www.nato.int/docu/update/2008/04-april/e0402b.html, 2.4.08).

The Age, Melbourne, 2.4.08, “Rudd to hammer trade message in EU talks”,
http://news.theage.com.au/rudd-to-hammer-trade-message-in-eu-talks/20080402-2314.html, (2.4.08).

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