Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Annual Policy Strategy

On 21 February 2007, the European Commission presented the 2008 Annual Policy Strategy (APS). The annual policy strategy outlines policy objectives and key initiatives for the following year. It also allocates the corresponding financial and human resources for the strategic initiatives. The Commission’s Legislative and Work Programme for 2008, to be adopted in October, should be based on the Annual Policy Strategy and on the dialogue with the Council and the European Parliament. Hence, until the publication of the Legislative and Work Programme, the EU institutions and national parliaments are seeking to mark some influence upon it. However, as the European Scrutiny Committee has proposed: “the extent to which the views of national parliaments will be taken on board remains to be seen.”
The 2008 APS outlines policy objectives, mainly in the four key strategic areas of the Barroso Commission: prosperity, solidarity, security and freedom and a stronger role of the EU in the world. Moreover, the document identifies a series of cross-cutting issues such as energy and climate change, migration management and the Lisbon agenda for growth and jobs. The Commission has proposed for the first time to make communication a priority in 2008. Furthermore, the document contains a general framework for human and financial resources for 2008.
The House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee conducted an inquiry into the Commission’s Annual Policy Strategy 2008, aiming to “examine the role of the Annual Policy Strategy 2008 as a planning tool and consultation document in the preparation of the Legislative and Work Programme.” The European Scrutiny Committee is not convinced yet that the APS is a “useful exercise” as the results of the dialogue between the EU institutions are not clear as well as the influence of other EU institutions in the creation of the Legislative and Work Programme. Also important is that one of the objectives of the APS is to enlighten discussions on the Preliminary Draft Budget in the European Parliament. The European Scrutiny Committee has noticed “the lack of consistency between the headings used in the APS and those used in the Budget” and recalls the European Parliament resolution of 24 April 2007 on the Commission’s annual policy strategy for the 2008 budget. The European Parliament “regrets that the APS classifications of prosperity, solidarity, security and external projection represent a third classification system that is rather arbitrary as regards the classification of policy areas under the different chapters, does not have any major value from a budgetary perspective and cannot easily be reconciled with the Activity based budgeting (ABB) and multiannual financial framework (MFF) categorisations”. It has demanded that the “Commission respect more closely the ABB and multiannual financial framework structures.”

Furthermore, the Committee observed that some proposals contained in the APS were too vague, restricting the “scope for useful debate” such as “an initiative on the implementation of a centralized database of fingerprints.” The Minister for Europe, Jim Murphy, told the ESC that there were three areas of potential concern on the compliance of the proposals in the APS with regards to the principle of subsidiarity: on a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base, consular assistance, and a centralised database of fingerprints. Also important has been the implementation of the EU Maritime Policy – mainly, the international maritime governance and maritime border control mentioned in the APS are very likely to raise important issues of competence. Other proposals are also likely to raise concerns over EU competence, such as urban transport, rights of the child, policies to tackle violent radicalisation, emissions controls on shipping, strengthening EUROJUST, initiatives to prevent discrimination outside the labour market, and measures aimed at reconciling family and working life. The ESC considered that the APS has value although limited in providing the House and the government with early warning of areas in which the Commission is likely to put forward proposals. Moreover the ESC made some suggestions such as the APS having more background information to the proposals and a closer connection between the policies proposed and budgetary resources.

Better Lawmaking in Europe?

Last June, the European Commission presented a report, ‘Better lawmaking 2006.’ According to Article 9 of the Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, the Commission must undertake an annual report on the legislative activities of the Community. The main focus of the report is the European Commission efforts on better regulation during 2006. According to this report, the total number of Commission proposals for Regulations, Directives, Decisions and Recommendation was 474 in 2006. The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Mr. McFadden has recently said to the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee that the government is particularly pleased with the Commission’s action plan to evaluate administrative costs as well as with the Commission’s target of reducing administrative burdens coming from EU legislation by 25 per cent by 2012. However, the European Scrutiny Committee does not believe that the Commission’s better law making policy has been improving Community regulation as the Commission continues to make proposals which entail “unnecessary burdens.”

EU Lifts Quarantine on British Exports

On 23 August, the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health backed the draft decision of the European Commission to limit the restriction on the export of live animals meat and dairy products only to the 10km surveillance zone in Surrey, which had otherwise been in force across the UK until now. Hence, the ban on British exports to EU countries has been lifted. Therefore, the export of live animals, meat and dairy products will start again within the territory of Great Britain, excluding the 10 km zone in the county of Surrey, on 25 August – when the decision entered into force. However, the trade in meat, milk and live animal exports will be subjected to stringent controls and veterinary supervision. This decision and the remaining restrictions will be reviewed at a meeting of the EU Standing Committee, scheduled for 11 September 2007. The export ban has been costing farmers £10m per week.

On 3 August, the UK authorities confirmed an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) on a farm in Surrey. The European Commission was informed by the British veterinary authorities that an outbreak of FMD has been officially declared. The Council Directive 2003/85/EC of 29 September 2003 lays down Community measures for the control of foot-and-mouth aimed at regaining the disease- and infection-free status of the affected territory.

Member States must have emergency plans in operation and national reference laboratories must collaborate with the Community Reference Laboratory. All measures foreseen in the above mentioned EU legislation were immediately applied in the UK following the suspicion and subsequent confirmation of the disease including the culling of all animals in the infected premises, the establishment of a 3 km (1.8 mile) protection zone and a surveillance zone around the premises of 10km (6.2 miles), where strict movement restrictions are applied as well as increased biosecurity measures.

According to the Directive, Member States shall ensure that the measures applied in the protection zone are kept at least 15 days since the killing and safe disposal of all the animals of susceptible species from the holding and the completion of the preliminary cleansing and disinfection on that holding is carried out. On 6 August, the Commission adopted a new decision (Decision 2007/552/EC) which laid down interim protection measures reinforcing the measures taken by the UK authorities in reaction to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. The European Commission identified the whole of Great Britain as a high risk area and adopted an emergency measure that all live animals susceptible to FMD (cattle, sheep, goats and pigs), or products from these animals could not be exported from Great Britain.

Then, on 8 August, at an emergency session, the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health – consisting of representatives from the Member States and chaired by a European Commission representative – voted unanimously in favour of a decision to confirm the measures taken by the Commission in line with EU legislation. Hence, the Standing Committee agreed that the whole of Great Britain should remain a high risk zone. On 9 August, the European Commission adopted a decision concerning certain protection measures against foot-and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom and repealing decision 2007/552/EC which applied until 25 August. This decision provided for measures which are in accordance with the Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal health’s opinion. No live animals shall be dispatched from or moved through Great Britain. Moreover, the United Kingdom shall not dispatch meats coming from or obtained from animals originating in Great Britain. In the same way, the UK shall not export meat products of animals coming from Great Britain as well as milk and dairy products. It should be noted that the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic outbreak cost the UK economy approximately eight billion pounds. According to Breakingnews, Guy Attenborough, Meat and Livestock Commission’s head of communications said “the export ban will mean a loss of £10m per week to UK red meat businesses.”

Thursday, 23 August 2007

UK Floods – Why Couldn’t we Have Our Money Back, Mr. Brown?

The UK was more than entitled to apply to the EU to help pay towards the costs of damage inflicted by recent floods. But rather than ask for our money back (after all, the UK contributes £10½ billion pounds gross to the EU budget every year to prop up hopeless causes), the Labour government delayed the application. In all the heated attention, we forgot to ask: why?
The EU Civil Protection Mechanism was established in 2001 with the aim of facilitating mobilisation of support and assistance from Member States in case of major emergencies. It purports to pool the civil protection capabilities of the participating states to ensure better protection in the affected country. During July, the Commission's Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) received several requests for assistance to combat the forest fires raging across Southern Europe. Various Member States provided assistance through the Community Civil Protection Mechanism. And while Southern Countries were struggling with fires the UK was flooding. The MIC was also monitoring the situation in the UK and was ready to offer assistance however the UK has not requested any civil protection assistance to tackle floods consequences. The UK is contributing to the Civil Protection Mechanism therefore why did it not require assistance from it? Moreover, why has the Government taken so long in applying to the EU Solidarity Fund?
The EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was established in November 2002 to provide financial assistance to Member States and pre-accession countries in the face of major natural disasters. The EUSF assists in the event of major natural disaster which is considered as “major” if the estimated cost of the direct damage is over EUR 3 billion (2002 prices) or 0.6 per cent of the gross domestic product of the State concerned. The EUSF supplements public expenditure by the Member State in question, it is aiming at providing fast, effective and flexible emergency financial aid, limited in principle to non-insurable damage, for measures such as providing temporary accommodation or the provisional repair of vital infrastructures permitting the resumption of everyday life and funding rescue services to meet the immediate needs of the population concerned, immediate securing of prevention infrastructures and measures to protect the cultural heritage, cleaning up of disaster-stricken areas.
The State affected is required to submit an application to the Commission for assistance from the fund no later than ten weeks after the first damage caused by the disaster. Moreover, all information on the damage caused by the disaster and its impact on the population and the economy must be provided as well as the estimation cost of the foreseen assistance. John Healey announced on 1 August the government’s intention to apply for financial assistance from the EU Solidarity Fund (EUFS) to help recovery from the June-July floods in the UK. There was no excuse for the government not to apply for the fund. The government should have done so earlier since the floods in Britain had left thousands of people without homes or energy.
Since the beginning of July, the Conservative Party had asked the government to apply for the fund. According to the Financial Times, Peter Ainsworth, Shadow Environment Secretary, said “if the government had taken note the money might now be filtering through to people who need it most.” The UK’s taxpayers contribute extraordinary amounts to the EU Solidarity Fund – therefore it is about time to have same money back. In order for the UK to be entitled to the fund the total amount of damaged caused by the floods has to exceed £2.2billion. Finally, on 20 August, the government formally applied to the EU Solidarity Fund. According to BBC, the Communities Minister John Healey has said “the total cost of the flood damage was now estimated at £2.7bn.” Moreover, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government “if the UK’s total damage is £2.5bn, we might expect between £62.5 million and £125 million.” The Commission will not cover the costs of all damages.
The European Commission will decide the amount of grant and will propose its mobilisation to the European Parliament and Council (budgetary authority), according to the information provide by the UK. The grant is paid immediately and in a single installment after the Commission and the UK sign an agreement. The grant must be used within one year of the date on which it has been received.

Friday, 3 August 2007

EU–Africa Strategy

On 27 June the Commission approved a Communication ‘From
Cairo to Lisbon: the EU-Africa strategic partnership’. Ahead of the
European Union–Africa summit to be held in Lisbon during December
2007, the European Commission adopted a Communication
proposing a strategic partnership between the European Union and
Africa for a joint European Union–Africa strategy. The EU and
Africa will aim to redefine their existing partnership. The
Commission has stressed that the EU is the most important Africa

The Commission believes that the approaching EU-Africa
Summit marks “an opportunity for the political leaders of the two
continents to make strong action-oriented political commitments on
current key international issues.” The African and EU Heads of State
and government will sign, at the Summit, “a Lisbon Declaration” –
an EU–African consensus on values, common interest and strategic
objectives” and they will adopt as well a Joint Strategy, which will be
“a political vision and guideline for the future of the EU–Africa
strategic partnership.”

Portugal has close and strong ties with several African countries,
mainly with its former colonies. In this area, Portugal has had more
political influence in the EU due to its historic relationship with
African countries, in particular in its former colonies, and may
push for the channelling of Community aid. The Commission has
said in its Communication that the Summit will promise to be a
success. Socrates has stressed that the EU–Africa summit in
December will be the Portuguese Presidency’s biggest initiative.
However, the Portuguese Presidency has not started off on the
right foot – in particular, the 2003 EU–Africa Summit was
postponed as several Member States were against the presence of
Robert Mugabe. This year, Portugal wishes to ‘invite’ Mugabe
although it hopes to ensure that Zimbabwe’s President does not
actually attend the event. Portugal is already under pressure from
some African leaders saying they will not attend the summit if
Mugabe is present. Some EU Member States – mainly the UK – is
against the idea of Mugabe’s presence at the summit.

It should be noted that since 2002, the EU has held a travel ban on
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and members of his ruling
party. As Neil Parish had said “the travel ban is pointless if we
continue to invite Mugabe to the more prestigious meetings on
European soil. The Portuguese Presidency is sending out a terrible
signal that we are prepared to do business with dictators. This
invitation is a disgrace and must be revoked.” Luís Amado, the
Portuguese Foreign Affairs Minister, also said to the European
Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee while presenting the Portuguese
programme, “I am not delighted at the idea of Mugabe
attending the summit, but of course the AU must stick to its own rules.”
However, he has not sought to clarify the Presidency’s intentions
with regards to President Robert Mugabe. It remains to be seen
which diplomatic ‘recipe’ will be found by the Portuguese
Presidency in order to resolve this issue.

More crucially, the EU has been accused of distributing aid
ineffectively and inefficiently. The group, Action for Global Health,
published on 4 July a report ‘Health Warning: Why Europe must act
now to rescue the health Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs).
Whilst recognising some progress has been made in achieving the
MDG, it is insufficient. They are particularly concerned about the
health goals which are considerably “off-track.” According to the
report, Europe is not doing enough to support developing countries
achieve the MDG by 2015.

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UK ‘Not Interested’ In European Network Agency

The European Commission has recently adopted a Communication
– Evaluation of the European Network and Information Security
Agency. The European Network and Information Security Agency
(ENISA) was created in 2004 for a period of five years with the task
of “ensuring a high and effective level of network and information
security within the Community … in order to develop a culture of
network and information security for the benefit of the citizens,
consumers, enterprises and public sector organisations of the European
Union, thus contributing to the smooth functioning of the
internal market.” Their recent Communication presents the
conclusions of an external panel of experts that carried out an
assessment of the Agency and the recommendations of the ENISA
Management Board (comprising of Member State, Commission
and stakeholder representatives) with regards to the ENISA

The report says that the “Agency’s activities appear insufficient to
achieve the high level of impacts and value added hoped for, and its
visibility is below expectations.” Moreover, there are several
problems that affect the capacity of the Agency to perform at its
best, such as its “organisational structure, the skills mix and the size of
its operational staff, the remote location, and the lack of focus on
impacts rather than on deliverables.”

In the Communication, the Commission summarises, rather
positively, the recommendations of the Evaluation Panel on the
future of ENISA after 2009. They recommend: the extension of the
Agency’s mandate, maintaining its original chief objectives but
taking into account the current experience. They also believe that
the Agency’s size and resources should be increased. The Panel has
also suggested moving the Agency to Athens or another city with a
greater international environment.

The European Scrutiny Committee is not pleased with the
Explanatory Memorandum from the Minister of State for Industry
and the Regions, Margaret Hodge. According to the Committee, the
Commission Communication “suggests that this agency was created
on an unsound basis, which was compounded by it then being sited in
the wrong place for the wrong reasons.” The Committee has
considered Margaret Hodge’s response very disappointing – “it is as
if the UK had no interest in the question, but was content to let the
Commission and others take the lead and then react, notwithstanding
the present unsatisfactory state of affairs.” Therefore, the Committee
has demanded further explanation on this issue from the

Europe Harmonizes Road Transport

The EU is currently hoping to introduce extensive regulations on
road transport. The European Commission recently adopted a road
transport package which supposedly aims to reduce distortion of
competition within the EU as well as enforce the compliance of
social legislation and road safety rules onto transport operators.
The Commission’s proposals also aim to harmonise the rules
governing access to the profession and access to the road transport

The legislative package contains three proposals for regulations:
the first (replacing Directive 96/26/EC) is on admitting staff as road
transport operators, the second (amending Regulations 881/92 and
3118/93) lays down the precise EU conditions governing access to
the Community road haulage market and the final one (amending
Regulations 684/92 and 12/98) state the governing conditions for
companies to gain access to the Community coach and bus
transport market.

The UK government seems generally content with the introduction
of the regulations:

• The House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee has been
analysing the Commission proposals.
• At the time, Minister of State, Department for Transport, Stephen
Ladyman said that the Commission proposals were generally
consistent with the government’s view.
• Although the government is not keen that companies may be
required to employ a transport manager who must attend a
compulsory 140 hours of training and an examination or with the
costs, particularly for small companies, it believes that apparently
the Commission’s proposed definition of road cabotage will create
greater clarity for the industry and will not create further
administrative burden for companies or enforcement authorities.
• With regards to the harmonisation of administrative procedures
for the development of European coach services between Member
States and a single Community licence “in principle the Government
welcomes such simplification”
• The Commission proposal will include local bus services which
cross international borders in its authorisation.
• The UK government believes that it “is reasonable to have a
standardised format of the certified copy of the Community
authorisation or licence.”
• By 2010, National licensing authorities would have to establish
interoperable electronic registers all over the EU. They would have
to withdraw the licences of transport operators convicted of serious
offences. Hence, it recognises that any serious offences identified
will be mutually recognised between Member States.
• While the Government has been in favour of a more broad
information exchange “if monitoring and enforcement are to be
improved on a Community wide basis” it believes that 2010 as a
target date to establish an interoperable electronic register all over
the EU may be too ambitious.
• UK drivers would no longer be able to call upon the services of a
transport manager of a company for which they work as subcontractors.
According to the Minister, this will have “implications
for UK companies which have an exclusive contract with self
employed drivers, with each having their own operator’s licence, but
with the company providing each with a vehicle (with company livery)
and a transport manager for professional competence purposes.”
• What has the government said of finance? Regarding the financial
implications of the Commission’s proposals “the Government
is generally satisfied with the Commission’s assessment that more
harmonised measures will lead to possible reductions in administrative
costs of €190 million per annum overall across Member
States in the longer term.”

It is likely that such proposals will add huge costs to road
transport companies. Neither is the European Scrutiny Committee
convinced that it is appropriate to prescribe rules on the degree of
seriousness of criminal offences which are to lead to a loss of ‘good
repute’ under a measure adopted under Article 71EC. Moreover
they have asked the Minister “if it is appropriate for the degree of
seriousness to be left to the Commission to determine by comitology
decision under the regulatory procedure.”

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Harmonising Retail Financial Services

The European Commission is eager to fully harmonise the retail
financial services industry. Last April, the European Commission
adopted a Green Paper “on Retail Financial Services in the Single
Market.” The Commission’s vision for future EU policy on retail
financial services (bank accounts, loans, investments and insurance
provided to consumers) has been expressed in the Green Paper. It
aims at deepening the Commission regulation of consumer and
industry policy in the area of retail financial services and
identifying the possibilities for further initiatives. The government
has already said that “many of the barriers that obstruct retail
markets are not regulatory” – such as language barriers and cultural
practices. Therefore, according to Ed Balls “a legislative approach
will often be less likely to be effective in removing many of the barriers
present in retail markets.” It remains to be seen what will come out
from the consultation. It seems certain that any Commission
proposal on the matter will have a huge impact on retail financial

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Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Costs of EU agencies go through the roof

The EU has created a number of agencies for various apparently worthy causes. Not surprisingly, however, the budgets of these agencies have gone through the roof – so much so, indeed, that the European Parliament has started to raise concerns and has criticised the European Commission sharply. The Chairman of the Budget Control Commission of the European Parliament, the Austrian Social Democrat, Herbert Bösch, has said, “The agency-itis in the EU is gobbling up our money and it operates in a control-free space.” EU agencies are usually free-standing authorities which deal with specific subjects like professional training or drug addiction. They are financed by taxpayers’ money. There are currently twenty-three EU agencies and they consume a billion euros a year, according to Bösch. The last seven years the number of employees in these agencies has risen from 166 to 3,737. Bösch says, “The number of EU agencies has risen dramatically in recent years. There is no proper control over whether all these agencies are really necessary.” He cites the new agency for fundamental rights in Vienna, which has started off with 100 employees. It is supposed to oversee the protection of human rights in the EU but this is already done by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and the Council of Europe to which it belongs. Bösch says, “A culture of irresponsibility is gaining ground. I really cannot see anyone who is taking responsibility for this.” No one knows who is in control of what. Bösch says, “There is hardly a European Council any more at which a new agency is not created.”

This is not the only aspect of the Commission’s policy which has attracted the attention and criticism of the Parliament committee. The number of permanent employees at the European Commission has increased by 16 per cent in the last seven years and now stands at 19,004. “The need for the majority of the new jobs is unproven,” according to the speaker of the European People’s Party parliamentary group in the European Parliament, Inge Gräßle. There are now fewer than 1,200 employees of the Commission who are responsible for “communication”. Yet the Commission’s image is worse than ever. When Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU at the beginning of this year, the Commission recruited 741 new employees, supposedly to enforce the single market. Mrs Gräßle, however, says that this means that the pension costs of the Commission will go through the roof, becoming a huge burden for taxpayers. “In 2008 alone, the cost of pension payments has risen by more than 10 per cent.” [Handelsblatt, 19 July 2007]

---- An excerpt from John Laughland's Intelligence Digest. For a free e-mail subscription to the Intelligence Digest, please click here ----

Lukashenko goes on the attack

In an interview with Le Monde, the Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko, has sought to rebut many of the allegations made him since he was elected in 1994. He emphasised Belarus’ continuing astonishing economic growth (9 per cent in the first six months of this year) and said that his country was not diplomatically isolated. He said there was just as much political freedom in Belarus as in France and dismissed the demands made on him by the EU as “risible”. He vehemently denied being a dictator, he said that people lived without fear and that Belarus had excellent relations with its neighbours. “We are not one of those aggressive states which sends its troops abroad to kill old people and children.” He said that opposition demonstrations were not suppressed with tear gas or rubber bullets (as has happened in Europe) and that everyone can watch opposition or foreign TV stations. Anti-Presidential and anti-government newspapers were freely on sale. He said that his policy was not one of dictatorship but of national independence. “One Belarusian out of three died in the Second World War and we did a huge amount to save the world from Nazism. We deserve respect for it but the Europeans have forgotten it. Not us. We are proud, we do not like to be pushed around or told what to do. We do not live off the loans that you give to others. Our external debt is less than 2 per cent of GDP. So what is our fault? If the hawks in Europe want chaos and instability to reign here, we will not accept that.” He said that the Belarusian people would never accept a dictatorship, as history had shown. “Perhaps there are elements of rigidity or authoritarianism in Belarus, but that is all within the framework of the constitution, adopted by referendum.” He said that people had supported him because in the early 1990s the country had been plunged into chaos, as in Ukraine, and the Belarusians had wanted to get out of that situation. He rejected the need for any “dialogue” with the opposition, saying that it was interested only in taking foreign money and not in helping the population. He said that he had no intention of creating a political party because he was elected by the people and, in any case, a party should come from below. He criticised the sharp increase in gas prices from Russia, saying that one could hardly speak of market prices when Belarus depended on a single supplier, Gazprom. He said that Belarus was one of the countries which had created Gazprom within the Soviet Union and that other countries were negatively affected by its aggressive pricing. For this reason, he said, Belarus ought to have the same gas prices as Russia. He said that Russia had destroyed the agreement on creating a union state uniting Belarus and Russia, and that this meant that there was now no chance of getting internal prices for gas. “But our economy and our state are strong enough to resist this, as the situation over the last six months shows.” He said that Gazprom had taken its decision on the basis of instructions from the Russian government. He attacked the plan to build a pipeline under the Baltic Sea (linking Russia directly to Germany) as “stupid”. “It is rather like choosing to walk on one’s knees in the mud rather than with shoes on a carpet. Those who invented this project have probably got money to waste.” He said that it was much cheaper for Russian gas to transit through Belarus. He said that the project of a union state remained on the agenda, although Russia had killed off the agreement, but that Belarus would never accept to become part of Russia. Instead, any union state would be a partnership of equals. Lukashenko said that President Putin well understood the need for a union with Belarus. “Vladimir Putin is a Soviet,” he said, “and he will remain one even if he had – let us say – changed his suit.” He said that Putin was his friend, that he had a direct line to Moscow, and that their relationship was based on respective national interests. He said that relations with his Western neighbours (Lithuania and Poland) were characterised by a high degree of economic exchange and that this would dictate the terms of relations in the future. He attacked, however, NATO, saying, “We consider it to be an illegal organisation.” He said that the Warsaw Pact had been dissolved on the basis of an agreement with the US but that, far from NATO being dissolved, it had been strengthened. He said that Europeans were wrong to remain silent in view of the American plan to station new missile launchers in Europe – “we learned the costs of silence in World War Two” – and that the US military expansion in Europe was a security problem for the whole continent. He said it could escalate into a global conflict. He also said that Belarus was intending to build a nuclear power station and that France would be invited to tender. “The objective is to reduce our energy dependence on Russia.” [Le Monde, 20 July 2007]

---- An excerpt from John Laughland's Intelligence Digest. For a free e-mail subscription to the Intelligence Digest, please click here ----

Russian officer predicts war with America

Military experts in Moscow are making plans for a scenario in which Russia is attacked by the United States of America in the medium term. The reason for such an attack would be to obtain control of Russia’s oil reserves in Siberia. Major-General Alexander Vladimirov has said, “A war between Russia in the next ten or fifteen years is quite possible.” Vladimirov says that the reason why Russia might be a target is that it is “the most powerful geopolitical opponent of America and it has the power to extinguish the USA in 30 minutes.” Apart from gaining control of the oil, America would also want to attack Russia in order to demonstrate its military power to the rest of the world. General Vladimirov is Vice President of the College of Military Experts in Russia and he and other strategists aired their thoughts on war with America in an interview with the newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda. One of the other experts was the former Chief of Staff of the Russian Army, General Leonid Ivashov who is now President of the Academy for Geopolitics; General Victor Yessin, first Vice-President of the Academy for Security Problems, Defence and Law; and Alexander Shavarin, Director of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis. Their general view was that the US does not like Russia, and that a confrontation is inevitable. Of the experts, only Yessin thought war with the US was unlikely because the consequences – “a worldwide apocalypse” – were in the interests of neither state. Ivashov said that the Americans wanted to realise their “century-old dream of world domination and the removal of Russia as the main obstacle to their gaining complete control of Eurasia.” The experts all said they thought that America was capable of going to war with Russia over natural resources. The experts discussed what ultimatums they thought the US might issue against Russia. They suggested that they might demand a change in the domestic political situation in Russia on the pretext that human rights were being violated there and in order to obtain access for Western companies to oil and gas resources. They might demand the stationing of NATO peacekeepers in Russia or the secession of Kaliningrad or parts of the North Caucasus and the Caspian. Ivashov said the Americans might demand international control of Russia’s gas and oil and some sort of NATO inspection regime for Russia’s nuclear forces. According to the strategists, the only thing which will prevent such a war is rearmament. The experts differed, however, on the outcome of such a putative war. Yessin said it would lead to a nuclear winter while Vladimirov said that it would lead to a complete victory for Russia and to “the national collapse of the North American state”. [Komsomolskaya Pravda, 17 July 2007]

---- An excerpt from John Laughland's Intelligence Digest. For a free e-mail subscription to the Intelligence Digest, please click here ----