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« Reply #15 on: May 03, 2004, 03:42:11 AM »

More bad news.

The European Union has its first step Oct. 20 2003 towards the creation of an EU-wide health identity card able to store a range of biometric and personal data on a microchip by 2008. Approved by Union ministers in Luxembourg, the plastic disk will slide into the credit-card pouch of a wallet or purse.

The European Health Insurance Card is intended to end the bureaucratic misery of E111 forms currently used by travellers who fall ill in other EU countries. Eventually it will replace a plethora of other complex forms needed for longer stays.

But civil liberties groups said it was the start of a scheme for a harmonised data chip that would quickly evolve into an EU "identity card" containing intrusive information off all kinds that could be read by a computer.

During the first phase from June 1 this year, each country will be able to choose whether to include photographs, fingerprints and biometric data, such as eye measurements, on the "national" side of the card. Britain is opting for a minimalist version.

The European Commission has said, that the final phase in 2008 would add a "smart chip" containing a range of data, including health files and records of treatment received. "The ultimate objective is to have an electronic chip on the card, as the technology improves."
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« Reply #16 on: October 20, 2007, 02:19:35 PM »

European Union Seeks Greater Impact on World Affairs

Thursday , October 18, 2007

AP
LISBON, Portugal  —
European Union leaders sought Thursday to set aside their national differences and unite behind a new EU treaty designed to give their 27-nation bloc a more influential say in world affairs.

But they launched a two-day summit in the Portuguese capital amid 11th-hour political squabbling over the final text of the document that aims to translate the bloc's economic might into a bigger diplomatic punch.

The treaty would accelerate decision-making so that EU member countries can act more swiftly on global issues such as defense, energy security, climate change and migration.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, the bloc's most senior official, warned that the continent risks seeing its international influence diminished if it remains unable to take a common stand on pressing questions. "We need this agreement," he said upon arrival.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was cautious, saying she expected "difficult" talks to secure a deal, though she said the leaders "are now just a few millimeters from the finish line."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown — attending his first EU summit at Britain's leader — backed the draft treaty, assuring critics at home that it guarantees British sovereignty in justice, home and foreign affairs and security issues.

"On these major issues ... the British national interest is protected," Brown told a news conference.

But Poland's president arrived holding out for more voting rights.

"We don't want anything more than what has already been agreed," Polish President Lech Kaczynski said. "Otherwise, we will have to put off this discussion."

And Italy's Prime Minister Romano Prodi said he would not endorse the treaty unless his country gets more seats in the European Parliament. The draft treaty foresees a 750-seat EU assembly — down from 787 — which would see Italy lose six of its 78 legislative representatives.

Italy "will say 'No,' without hesitation," to the treaty if its demand is not met, Prodi said.

Reservations by Italy and Poland could scuttle the draft treaty and deliver another setback for closer cooperation that would severely damage the EU's credibility.

"We should all be aware that public opinion wouldn't understand if we don't get an agreement," Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said. "We can't talk and talk again and then talk some more."

Also, doubts remained about whether the leaders would subject an agreement to referendums in their countries. Many Europeans are uneasy about the possibility of a superstate that could neglect the concerns of individual countries.

The treaty under discussion is a revised version of a draft constitution that was approved by EU leaders in 2004 and was intended to mark a new era in European integration. But French and Dutch voters rejected it at the ballot box the following year.

Poland, which goes to the polls Sunday, refused to endorse new voting rules that would allow more decisions by majority instead of unanimous consent. Warsaw fears those rules — devised to prevent decisions being held up — could weaken its influence over EU policy.

"An EU where a minority imposes its will on the others may be a union headed for disintegration," Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said in Chorzow, Poland.

Neither Britain nor Poland are to sign up to a planned bill of rights.

The new treaty has kept some details from the defunct constitution, including an EU foreign minister, a smaller EU executive arm and an exit clause for nations wanting to quit the EU. The new document scrapped a planned EU flag and anthem.

European Union Seeks Greater Impact on World Affairs
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« Reply #17 on: October 20, 2007, 02:21:44 PM »

EU agrees new 'Lisbon Treaty'
19.10.2007 - 06:49 CET | By Renata Goldirova
EUOBSERVER / LISBON – The European Union has overnight agreed the precise text of its new 'Lisbon Treaty' to be formally signed off on 13 December in the Portuguese capital.

At around 02:00 local time on Friday morning - following shorter-than-usual discussions - Portuguese prime minister Jose Socrates announced that a deal has been struck, describing it as "victory for Europe".


"With this agreement we have managed to get out of stalemate...we will be ready to tackle the world's challenges", Mr Socrates said.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso also branded the accord as "historic", providing the EU with the "capacity to act".

The decision effectively ends a six-year long period of trying to internally reform.

The first bullet in this battle was fired in February 2002, when the European Convention headed by former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing started drafting the EU Constitution.

This project, however, was buried when French and Dutch voters rejected the document in 2005 - something that resulted in a two-year long phase of soul searching.

The deal
The final hours in the run up to Friday morning's agreement saw battles on two main fronts - with Poland and Italy seeking to strengthen their political weight within the 27-nation union.

In response to Warsaw's demands, a decision blocking mechanism - known as the Ioannina clause - will be written into a declaration of the treaty. However, the declaration will be linked to a legally stronger protocol, saying that the clause can be modified only by unanimous consensus of all EU leaders.

"We got everything we wanted", Polish president Lech Kaczynski said on Friday morning, adding this compromise means that the clause cannot be removed without his country's approval.

Another headline-stealing issue of the summit was how to distribute seats in the European Parliament among EU member states after the next EU elections in 2009. Italy was demanding to have the same number of deputies as France and the UK.

Under the newly-agreed treaty, Rome will get one extra MEP, while the president of the parliament would no longer be counted as a lawmaker in order to preserve the 750 overall ceiling of MEPs.

Originally, Italy was supposed to end up with 72 deputies, compared to 73 for the UK and 74 for France.

Finally, leaders also overcame Sofia's objections towards the spelling of the word 'euro' and agreed to use the spelling 'evro' in the Bulgarian version of legal documents and the treaty.

The date
The new treaty will be formally signed by all European leaders in Lisbon on 13 December and subsequently go for ratification next year, with a view to coming into place by mid-2009, ahead of the next European elections.

Among other things, the new treaty introduces an EU president, a post that can be held for up to five years, strengthens the post of its foreign policy chief and takes away national vetoes in areas such as terrorism. It also gives more power to the European Parliament.

EU agrees new 'Lisbon Treaty'
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« Reply #18 on: October 20, 2007, 02:23:41 PM »

Calls for EU treaty referendum across Europe

By Toby Helm and Bruno Waterfield in Lisbon
Last Updated: 3:04am BST 20/10/2007

Gordon Brown comes under intense pressure today from across Europe to hold a referendum on the EU treaty as academics, diplomats and politicians unite to demand votes in all 27 member states.

The formation of the European Referendum Campaign, announced on the letters page of today's Daily Telegraph, comes after the Prime Minister agreed last night to rubber-stamp the biggest transfer of powers to Brussels since the 1992 Maastricht Treaty.

The deal, to be finalised at his first EU summit as Prime Minister, will end 40 national vetoes, create a European foreign policy chief and a permanent European president and also give Brussels the power to sign international treaties.

Mr Brown, who effectively ruled out a referendum on the handover of powers contained in the treaty, was accused by the Tories of surrendering British interests without a fight.

But the new pan-European campaign is proof that referendum fever is not confined to Britain. The group spans the full political spectrum in EU politics, from Conservative euro-sceptics to Socialists, Liberals and Greens, and even Tony Blair's former economic adviser Derek Scott. It also includes academics, former diplomats and the Sixties arts-cinema pin-up turned Left-wing activist, Susan George.
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In their letter, the group says: "The adoption of this far-reaching document without referendums would further decrease the legitimacy of the EU and seriously damage democracy in Europe."

Before giving his final assent to the treaty, Mr Brown said that when it was finally agreed, Europe had to concentrate on the real concerns of citizens.

He claimed to have fought successfully to defend the so-called "red lines", which he insists mean Britain can run its own foreign, justice and social security policies as well as preventing the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights from encroaching on UK law.

"At every point we have been determined to protect the British national interest and ensure the interests of the British people are safeguarded," Mr Brown said.

Despite the mounting public pressure for a referendum, he said he did not believe one would be necessary. "If it was the old constitutional treaty that was proposed before, there would have been a referendum. But the constitutional concept was abandoned," he said.

Mr Brown set the stage for a ratification process in the House of Commons early next year. The treaty needs to be ratified in all member states to come into force.

His Government is bracing itself for parliamentary guerrilla warfare over the treaty. But Mr Brown insisted that he was relaxed about the danger that Labour faced the kind of internecine internal battles that hit the Tories over the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.

He said: "Let us now have the debate in the country which will be reflected through what will be a very substantial number of days we will debate this issue in Parliament. People can judge for themselves, as I believe they will, that we have acted that the British national interest has been protected."

Calls for EU treaty referendum across Europe
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« Reply #19 on: October 20, 2007, 02:26:00 PM »

EU leaders agree new treaty deal

European Union leaders have reached a deal on a landmark treaty to reform the 27-member bloc, officials say.

The agreement in Lisbon was sealed shortly after midnight after objections from Italy and Poland were overcome.

The treaty is designed to replace the European Constitution that was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005 and will be formally signed on 13 December.

It includes the creation of a new longer-term president of the European Council and an EU foreign policy chief.

If what will become known as the Treaty of Lisbon is ratified by all member states, it will come into force in 2009.

National pride

After seven hours of talks, EU leaders emerged embracing and slapping each other on the back in sheer relief that the most serious crisis in the bloc's 50-year history seemed to be over, the BBC's Oana Lungescu in Lisbon says.

In the last-minute negotiations, Italy gained an extra seat in the future European Parliament, returning it to parity with the UK and restoring Italian national pride, our correspondent says.

Poland secured a guarantee that small groups of countries would be able to delay EU decisions they do not like - a victory for the Polish government just days before Sunday's early parliamentary election, she adds.

Earlier, Austria reached a deal over its bid to maintain quotas for foreign students, with the European Commission agreeing to suspend for five years its legal action over the country's quota.

Bulgaria also won the right to call the EU single currency the "evro", rather than euro, in its Cyrillic alphabet.

The new Reform Treaty is designed to speed up decision making in the expanded European Union. It will also create a new president of the European Council, a new EU foreign affairs chief, a reformed voting system and scrap vetoes in dozens of areas.

However, the 250-page document has been stripped of any trappings of a super-state, such as the mention of the EU anthem and flag.

It amends, rather than replaces, existing EU treaties, a point which some countries - notably the UK - have argued means there is no need for national referendums on the document.

'Great achievement'

After the agreement was reached, Jose Socrates, the prime minister of Portugal, which holds the rotating presidency, said Europe had emerged from an "institutional crisis".

"With this treaty, Europe is showing that the European project is on the move. Now we can look forward to the future with confidence," he added.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the treaty was a "great achievement".

"I believe we have a treaty that will give us now the capacity to act," he said.

"Our citizens want results. They want to see in concrete terms what Europe brings them in their daily lives."

The UK government had little to say in Friday's negotiations.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the UK's "red lines", which his government had declared around various policy areas, had been secured.

"The British national interest has been protected," he added.

On Thursday, Mr Brown once again ruled out a referendum on the treaty.

Despite pressure in the UK and several other countries for a popular vote, only Ireland is legally bound to hold a referendum, and most governments will do what they can to avoid another embarrassing failure, our correspondent Oana Lungescu says.

EU leaders agree new treaty deal
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« Reply #20 on: October 20, 2007, 02:29:16 PM »

Brown welcomes deal on EU treaty

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has welcomed the agreement of a new EU treaty, reached after last-minute changes at a summit in Portugal.

"The red lines have been secured. The British national interest has been protected," Mr Brown said.

He said Britain can still set its own policies on justice, home and foreign affairs, as well as security.

But shadow Europe minister Mark Francois said the Conservatives would continue to campaign for a referendum.

Mr Brown said: "It is now time for Europe to move on and devote all our efforts to the issues that matter to the people of Europe - economic growth, jobs, climate change and security."

Earlier the European Commission's president Jose Manuel Barroso said Britain's requests for concessions in the EU treaty were likely to be met, but it must not make any fresh demands.

He added he hoped for no further "difficulties" at the two-day summit in Lisbon as he urged all EU leaders to back the treaty.

"We prefer to have a solution that is broadly agreed with some specific opt-outs for some countries than not to move forward," he had said.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The consequence of this treaty is that Europe has to prove that it can make a real difference to people's lives on issues like climate change, jobs and terrorism."

'National interests'

The opt-outs, which Mr Brown referred to as "red lines", were in areas such as human rights, tax and benefits, foreign policy and justice.

The prime minister said that if these made the final draft of the treaty, it would avoid any significant transfer of power to Brussels.

"I've been determined that Britain will continue to decide in justice and home affairs - and I believe that the detailed changes that are being made with the opt-in for Britain in this area protect the British national interests," Mr Brown said at a news conference in the Portuguese capital before the deal was reached.

"On foreign affairs and security matters, it is important for us that Britain can decide, and that's why we have been determined that foreign policy remains inter-governmental and decisions are made by unanimity.

"On social security, we have been determined that there is an emergency break - and in some cases a veto - so that decisions are made in the interests of Britain."

Mr Brown, attending his first EU summit as prime minister, had pledged to veto the treaty if Britain's "red lines" were not fully incorporated.

Referendum calls

Tory Mark Francois said: "In the small hours of the night Gordon Brown has agreed the revised EU constitution which potentially transfers massive powers from Britain to the EU.

"He had absolutely no democratic mandate to do this and we will now step up our campaign to secure the referendum which he promised the British people all along."

And shadow foreign secretary William Hague said that by failing to agree to a referendum, Mr Brown was "still treating the British people like fools" with comments that had "reached new depths of cynicism".

"He still claims that because the name 'constitution' has been dropped, this treaty is somehow different, even though the European Scrutiny Committee has specifically told him his argument is misleading.

"He claims that this treaty is about making a free-trading Europe work better, when he knows that it downgrades the importance of free competition."

But Mr Miliband said the constitution was "dead" and "by no measure" could the treaty be called a constitution.

He said it was time to dispel the "myths" that the treaty amounted to "the end of Britain".

'Country called Europe'

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) has also demanded a referendum, along with some Labour MPs, while ex-Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell has said a public vote should be held on the wider question of UK membership of the EU as well.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: "We've agreed a treaty that makes the European Union a country, a country called Europe now exists.

"Once this treaty goes through there's no legal debate or argument about that."

But Mr Brown was adamant a referendum was not needed.

"If we were debating as big an issue as Britain's membership of the euro, I would have been the first - indeed, I was the first - to say this is such an issue of great significance that the British people must vote in a referendum," he said.

"If it was the previous constitutional treaty, I would have argued, as we did, that there should have been a referendum. But this is an amending treaty, where the constitutional concept has been abandoned."

He said this was "a very different document" to the failed EU constitution, on which voters in the UK were promised a referendum.

And a parliamentary debate would be "the proper way of discussing this", he insisted, as long as the "red lines" made the final draft.

Brown welcomes deal on EU treaty
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« Reply #21 on: October 20, 2007, 02:31:57 PM »


EC Unveils New EU Maritime Policy
European Defence Agency | Oct 16, 2007

The European Commission has adopted an Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union, which has the world’s largest maritime territory, marking the first time in its 50 years that it will have a strategic approach to decision-making in Maritime Affairs. The policy was unveiled at a press conference on 10 October in Brussels, Belgium.
 
European Commissioner in charge of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Joe Borg said: "This is a crucial first step for Europe's oceans and sea – unlocking the potential and facing the challenges of a Maritime Europe will be our common goal. It will allow us to make the most of the geopolitical realities of our continent and will help Europe face some of the major challenges before it.
 
"At the European level, it is clear the transnational character of maritime affairs demands a European approach: shipping and traffic corridors cross the waters of our Member States, oil spills and pollution know no borders in Europe's waters and illegal activities … are transnational by nature, affecting all of Europe."
 
The European Commission (EC) said the new policy will build on Europe's strengths in marine research, technology and innovation and will be anchored in the European Union's (EU) overarching commitment to ensuring that economic development does not come at the price of environmental sustainability.
 
Under the European Space Policy, ESA is responsible for implementing space capabilities that respond to EU policy needs. The Integrated Maritime Policy will facilitate efficient exploitation of space systems in the maritime sector, which ESA has been actively involved in over the last 25 years.
 
ESA’s ERS satellites have been the main vehicles for testing and demonstrating the feasibility of using satellite Earth Observation (EO) data in different maritime policy areas. The ERS missions supported developments in oil slick detection, sea ice monitoring, wind and wave forecasting, regional ocean current forecasting, coastal bathymetry mapping and vessel detection.
 
Because both ERS-1 and ERS-2 significantly exceeded their original design lifetime of three years, it was possible to build an extended, continuous and homogeneous time series of oceanographic measurements, which were not previously possible.
 
In particular, accurate measurements of sea surface height variation by the radar altimeter instrument provided a unique capability to monitor variations in currents at the regional level while the Along Track Scanning Radiometer (AATSR) series of instruments have delivered a highly accurate time series of sea surface temperature variations over a 16-year period.
 
In addition, satellite data from the radar altimeters onboard ESA’s ERS-1, ERS-2 and Envisat and NASA/CNES’ Topex-Poseidon detected a trend in sea level rise between 2.64 and 3.29 mm/year over the last 15 years.
 
In 2002, the newly launched Envisat acquired images of the Prestige oil spill in Spain with its Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) instrument. Since this time, ESA has been working within the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) Services Element to demonstrate and qualify the capacity for pan-European oil spill surveillance. Last year, an operational satellite-based oil slick detection service based on SAR data from Envisat and the Canadian Radarsat satellite was set up for all European waters under the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). The service, named CleanSeaNet, is the first operational pan-European satellite based surveillance service for European waters.
 
Under this service, a notification of a pollution event can be provided within 20 to 30 minutes of the satellite overpass. By integrating the SAR oil slick information with vessel information, it becomes possible to identify potentially responsible vessels.
 
"This is a first, and significant, step in the process whereby EMSA assists Member States and the Commission in detecting illegal and accidental discharges at sea," Willem de Ruiter, Executive Director of EMSA said.
 
Intentional and accidental discharges threaten fragile coastal ecosystems, impact on tourism and generate significant clean-up costs. The European policy goal, as stated in the Marine Thematic Strategy of the 6th Environment Action Plan is a complete elimination of discharges into the marine environment by 2020. Effective surveillance such as CleanSeaNet is essential if this objective is to be met. However, oil spill detection is not the only area where satellite based SAR surveillance is being applied.
 
There is growing interest in the use of satellite SAR for fisheries and for maritime border control. In particular, the Integrated Surveillance System for Europe’s southern maritime borders as requested by the European Council is intending to integrate satellite based surveillance with conventional vessel tracking systems.
 
Routine monitoring of water quality in European coastal areas is important to effectively protect fragile coastal ecosystems. Within the MARCOAST Consortium under the GMES Services Element, most European coastal states are provided with key parameters, including chlorophyll-a concentration, transparency and suspended sediment load, for their region of interest several times per week.
 
Due to the extensive winter transport levels in the Baltic Sea, Europe hosts the largest volume of commercial shipping activity in ice-infested areas. The timely delivery of accurate, up-to-date sea ice information by national ice services is critical in maintaining the security and efficiency of this transportation. Many national ice services have routinely integrated Envisat and Radarsat SAR imagery into their operational sea ice charts for several years.
 
These capabilities are based on EO satellites that have already been operating for some time. ESA is working to ensure continuity of the key data streams underpinning these services within the framework of GMES. The Sentinel missions will ensure that SAR, ocean colour, radar altimeter and sea surface temperature observations will be continued beyond the lifetime of the current missions. In addition, ESA is working with the European scientific community to bring new observation techniques, the so called Earth Explorers, to support research in critical Earth science issues such as global change and biodiversity.
 
ESA welcomes the Integrated Maritime Policy and intends to work with the different actors involved in areas where it sees current or potential future demand for space-based capabilities in the maritime sector. 

EC Unveils New EU Maritime Policy
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« Reply #22 on: October 20, 2007, 02:33:24 PM »

New EU foreign policy think tank created
03.10.2007 - 09:10 CET | By Helena Spongenberg
A group of European politicians and intellectuals have started a new think tank aimed at pushing EU capitals to creating a "more coherent and vigorous" foreign affairs policy in an attempt to make Europe a stronger player on the global stage.

The new think tank - European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) - was launched on Tuesday (2 October) by fifty founding members such as former prime ministers, presidents, European commissioners, MEPs and ministers as well as intellectuals, business leaders, and cultural figures from the EU member states and candidate countries.


They include Martti Ahtisaari, former Finnish president and current special UN envoy for Kosovo; Joschka Fischer, former German foreign affairs minister; Gijs de Vries, former EU counter-terrorism coordinator; Timothy Garton Ash, renowned professor of European studies; and Bronislaw Geremek, MEP and former foreign minister of Poland.

They call on European governments "to adopt a more coherent and vigorous foreign policy in support of European values and interests backed by all of Europe's power: political, cultural, economic and – when all else fails – military."

The centre will be based in seven EU capitals - Berlin, London, Madrid, Paris, Rome, Sofia and Warsaw - and headed by Mark Leonard - a writer and former director of Foreign Policy at the UK-based Centre for European Reform.

"Europe needs to come of age. We need to stop complaining about what others are doing to the world, and start thinking for ourselves. We want a can-do foreign policy, where European power is put at the service of European values," he said in a statement after the launch.

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« Reply #23 on: October 20, 2007, 02:35:25 PM »

Brussels could extend anti-terror rules to EU flights
05.10.2007 - 09:28 CET | By Lucia Kubosova
The EU is considering checking the private data of air passengers in a security scheme similar to the controversial US model.

While the scheme is initially to be applied to travellers from third countries heading to Europe, Brussels could at a later stage extend the data controls to intra-EU flights, as well.


The plan is to be part of a new list of anti-terror measures to be unveiled by the European Commission in November.

"In the package I will propose to the ministers on 6 November, there will be a proposal to collect passenger data for extra EU flights," Commissioner Franco Frattini, in charge of security issues told a press conference in Slovenia on Thursday (4 October).

But he added that his proposal will "for the moment" not include checking travellers flying within the EU's borders, adding that due to some privacy and Schengen passport-free zone rules, it is "premature" to say if such controls will be introduced later.

"We are evaluating the impact of collection of personal data of passengers for intra-EU flights given also the problem of compatibility with Schengen rules, which guarantee full freedom of movement within the territory of the EU," Mr Frattini said, according to Reuters.

The Schengen passport-free zone consists of 13 "old" EU member states (excluding Britain and Ireland), plus Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. Later this year, it is set to be enlarged by nine countries of the ten 2004 newcomers (except for Cyprus).

The idea of gathering private information on air passengers is based on the system set up by the US after terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001.

The American database on European air passengers currently collects 34 types of data such as names, addresses and credit card numbers, with the possibility of storing data for three and a half years.

The data inflow from airlines to the US authorities was enabled by a deal between Washington and EU member states - strongly criticised by the European Parliament particularly on personal privacy grounds.

Under the European scheme, airlines flying passengers to the 27-nation bloc would submit certain data to national security agencies.

Brussels could extend anti-terror rules to EU flights
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« Reply #24 on: October 20, 2007, 02:37:41 PM »

New French, German Approach to Russia Welcomed in 'New Europe'
By Elena Nikleva
CNSNews.com Correspondent
October 19, 2007

Prague (CNSNews.com) - A newly assertive approach towards Russia by France and Germany is being welcomed in parts of Europe that formerly were dominated by the Soviet Union and are once again feeling pressure from Moscow.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have proven far more willing than their predecessors to speak their minds to Russian President Vladimir Putin on sensitive issues such as the Kremlin's energy-driven policies, human rights issues and Iran's nuclear program.

"We had enough of Gerhard and Jacques," said the Czech newspaper Lidove Noviny, referring to the approaches taken towards Russia by former Chancellor Schroeder and former President Chirac.

Schroeder, who was criticized for calling Putin a "flawless" democrat, is now the chairman of a German-Russian gas consortium controlled by Russian state-owned energy giant, Gazprom.

Chirac drew fire for saying that the new Eastern European democracies had "missed an opportunity to shut up" when their leaders voiced support for the U.S. position on Iraq in 2003 -- in contrast to Western European governments.

A restored common European Union (E.U.) stance towards Russia is seen here as one of the most important results of the new leaders in Paris and Berlin.

"After recent changes of leadership in France and Germany fences between Old and New Europe have been mended considerably, as may be seen for instance in European policy towards Russia," Jiri Schneider, program director at the Prague Security Studies Institute told Cybercast News Service.

The personal backgrounds of Merkel and Sarkozy may also explain why they connect differently to the former communist-dominated parts of Europe. Merkel grew up in communist East Germany and Sarkozy's father fled from communist Hungary.

Sarkozy recently visited Moscow following meetings with Czech and Polish leaders, at a time Russia vehemently opposes U.S. plans to deploy Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) facilities in the Czech Republic and Poland.

The two governments back the proposals, while polls show public opinion is divided on the matter.

Media commentators here said what matters for the new democracies is a consistent line towards Russia. It is very encouraging to hear the same messages voiced in Berlin and Paris then being delivered to Moscow, the Hosposdarske noviny newspaper said.

Sarkozy's popularity in another former communist country, Bulgaria, stems from different reasons: France played a leading role in the release of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor sentenced to life in prison in Libya in 1999 after being accused of deliberately infecting children with HIV.

Sarkozy and his wife, Cecilia, were heavily involved in final negotiations leading to the release of six over the summer. Their personal intervention won the hearts of many Bulgarians -- even as elsewhere in the E.U., Sarkozy was accused of claiming credit at the end for an effort that had been under way long before he became involved.

Bulgaria differs from other nations in Central and Eastern Europe in its approach towards Moscow, a situation that Vasil Garnizov, a political analyst at the New Bulgarian University attributes to the political leanings of Bulgaria's leaders.

President Georgi Parvanov is a former member of the Bulgarian Communist party and headed the successor Socialist Party until resigning when becoming president. Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev is a Moscow-educated Socialist.

The two politicians would never agree to a tougher line by regional leaders towards Moscow, Garnizov told Cybercast News Service.

Furthermore, most Bulgaria political parties, whether in the ruling coalition or not, tend to avoid criticism of Russia, either because they do business with Russia or because they have succumbed to Moscow's aggressive energy-based pressure, he said. The only exceptions are rare debates in parliament staged by the fractured center-right opposition, he added.

Bulgaria was considered the most loyal Soviet satellite during the Cold War. Some foreign analysts says its increasing dependence on Russian energy supplies undermines E.U. efforts to develop a common energy policy to respond to Russia's assertiveness.

At a recent international conference in Prague, Bulgaria and Slovakia were mentioned as small nations particularly vulnerable to Russia's energy pressure.

The conference, which devoted significant attention to Russian policies in the region, discussed the importance of the change of leadership in Berlin and Paris in upholding a united European stance towards Russia.

As Paris-based political scientist, Jaques Rupnik, put it: "Nobody will tell New Europe to 'shut up' anymore."

New French, German Approach to Russia Welcomed in 'New Europe'
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« Reply #25 on: October 20, 2007, 02:39:02 PM »

Al-Qaeda: The Next Goal Is to Liberate Spain from the Infidels

Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi

Large parts of the Iberian Peninsula were under Islamic rule from 711 until 1492, with the final eviction of the Moors from what they called al-Andalus, and the memory of Islamic rule in Spain has become increasingly part of the discourse in radical Islam.

Osama bin Laden has written: "We request of Allah...that the [Islamic] nation should regain its honor and prestige, should raise again the unique flag of Allah on all stolen Islamic land, from Palestine to Andalus." Bin Laden's mentor, Abdullah Azzam, established that the Islamic obligation to wage jihad in order to recover lost Islamic territories applies to Andalusia.

Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, has written that while Islam was twice evicted from Europe - from al-Andalus and from Greece - it is now in the process of returning.

A children's magazine published by Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, called on Palestinian children to restore the city of Seville to Islamic rule as well as the rest of what was once Islamic Spain.

Israel, therefore, is a small link in the greater confrontation between radical Islam and the West. Accepting the Arabs' terms for a Middle East settlement, or even going so far as "liberating" Palestine from Israeli rule, will not be the last stop in the radical Islamic journey being led by the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda, which share the vision of spreading Islam all over the world.

Indeed, for the West, Israel constitutes a dike against the great wave of radical Islam. The very same principle invoked for waging war against Israel - recovery of what was once Islamic territory - is being applied to Spain, the Balkans, Southern Russia, and India. European pressure on Israel to make political concessions that endanger its security will only bring closer the next stage of Islam's offensive, this time aimed at the heart of Europe.

Al-Qaeda Recalls Islamic Rule in Spain

Historically, large parts of the Iberian Peninsula were under Islamic rule from 711 until 1492, with the final eviction of the Moors from what they called al-Andalus. Despite the passage of over five hundred years, the memory of Islamic rule in Spain has become increasingly part of the discourse in radical Islamic circles.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy of Osama bin Laden in the al-Qaeda leadership, in a new tape publicized on 20 September 2007, referred to the global aspirations of the Islamic Revolution:

O, our Muslim nation in the Maghreb [North Africa], zone of deployment for battle and jihad! The return of Andalus [today's Spain] to Muslim hands is a duty for the [Islamic] nation in general and for you in particular. You will not be able to achieve this except by purifying the Islamic Maghreb of the French and the Spanish who have once again returned, after your fathers and grandfathers had expelled them unsparingly in the way of Allah.

Earlier, in December 2006, al-Zawahiri made a passing reference to "Spain's occupation of Ceuta and Melilla," two small enclaves on the North African coast that are under Spanish sovereignty.

This is not the first time al-Qaeda leaders have referred to the Iberian Peninsula as occupied Muslim territory to which the commandment of jihad applies until it is liberated and Islamic rule is imposed there. On 29 September 1994, Osama bin Laden wrote to Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia: "All in all, we request of Allah...that the [Islamic] nation should regain its honor and prestige, should raise again the unique flag of Allah on all stolen Islamic land, from Palestine to Andalus, as well as Islamic lands that were lost because of the treachery of leaders and the helplessness of the Muslims."1

This view is deeply embedded in the thinking of those Islamist leaders who served as an ideological wellspring for al-Qaeda. Bin Laden's mentor, Abdullah Azzam, established that the Islamic obligation to wage jihad in order to recover lost Islamic territories applies to al-Andalus.2

Sheikh Safar al-Hawali, who was one of the most powerful Islamist preachers in Saudi Arabia, wrote a letter to President George W. Bush on October 15, 2001 - after the 9/11 attacks - in which he explained: "Imagine Mr. President, we still weep over Andalusia and remember what Ferdinand and Isabella did there to our religion, culture and honor! We dream of regaining it."3

It should not be surprising that these repeated references in jihadist circles to al-Andalus have had an impact on how new al-Qaeda affiliates have defined their long-term goals. These groups do not work in a vacuum; the Saudi Gazette reported in March 2005 that there are four million descendents of refugees from Muslim Spain currently living in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. In Morocco, the fall of Granada and al-Andalus is commemorated by many of these descendents.4

The theme of al-Andalus appears among jihadi organizations in a variety of ways. In a January 2007 speech, Abu Musab Abdul Wadud, the commander of the Algerian Salafist Group for Prayer and Combat (GSPC), addressed Algerian Muslims as the grandchildren of Tariq bin Ziyad, who crossed the Straits of Gibraltar in 711 with an Islamic army and conquered most of the Iberian Peninsula.5 GSPC cells have been known to have operated across Spain in the last number of years.

More recently, in June 2007, Islamist websites announced the establishment of "Ansar al-Islam in the Muslim Sahara, Land of the Veiled Ones."6 The organization promised to win back al-Andalus, as well as declaring war on the current North African regimes: "Our raids will not encompass just the Muslim Sahara, but will go beyond it....Al-Andalus is before our eyes, and with Allah's help we will take back the Land of Islam and what was plundered from our forefathers, no matter how long this takes."7

One website announcing the formation of the group featured a map showing "The Great Islamic Caliphate" which it sought to advance, stretching from Spain across North Africa and the Middle East to India and Western China.

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« Reply #26 on: October 20, 2007, 02:40:30 PM »

The Muslim Brotherhood Views Spain as Part of the Islamic Homeland

This view is also held by the Muslim Brotherhood, whose doctrine calls on the Muslims of the world to rise up and unite in the struggle to liberate parts of the "Islamic homeland" that have fallen into the hands of the "infidels," "enemies of Allah," and "enemies of humanity." Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, has written that while Islam was twice evicted from Europe - from al-Andalus and from Greece - it is now in the process of returning.8

The fall of Andalus is mentioned in the speeches of Muslim Brotherhood leader Muhammad Mahdi Akef in one breath with the loss of Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan.9 Akef believes Islamic goals should be achieved through jihad and armed struggle against any foreign rule that occupies Islamic land. In a letter of 26 August 2004, Akef sets forth this strategy in detail under the heading, "Liberating Parts of the Homeland Is an Obligation under Islamic Law:"

[One must develop] the culture of resistance in dealing with the invasion [of Muslim territory], and this is a culture of the occupied and oppressed peoples, for whom Allah has permitted jihad and resistance as a means of achieving liberation....The culture of resistance to occupation and invasion exists on all levels: intellectual, military and economic. The experience in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan has proved to everyone that resistance is not an imaginary strategy, a false option or impossible. It is a feasible option when the will of the members of the nation is united, they reinforce each other, and coordinate their words, weapons and faith to confront the occupier, whether it comes with weapons or bombards us with its ideas, its values or its invalid morality. 10

It should come as no surprise that two years ago a Hamas children's magazine called on Palestinian children to restore the city of Seville to Islamic rule as well as the rest of what was once Islamic Spain.11 According to its charter, Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and, therefore, reflects the parent organization's viewpoints on global issues, like the recovery of al-Andalus.

 

Israel Is the Front Line in the Defense of Europe from Radical Islam

Israel, therefore, is a small link in the greater confrontation between radical Islam and the West. Accepting the Arabs' terms for a Middle East settlement or even going so far as "liberating" Palestine from Israeli rule will not be the last stop in the radical Islamic journey being led by the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda, which share the vision of spreading Islam all over the world and establishing a global organizational infrastructure under a new caliphate to make this possible.

Indeed, for the West, Israel constitutes a dike against the great wave of radical Islam. The very same principle invoked for waging war against Israel - recovery of what was once Islamic territory - is being applied to Spain, the Balkans, Southern Russia, and India. Gustavo de Aristegui, a conservative Spanish parliamentarian, has disclosed that former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer once said that if Israel were to fall and be defeated, the next in line would definitely be Spain.12

European pressure on Israel to make political concessions that endanger its security will only bring closer the next stage of Islam's offensive, this time aimed at the heart of Europe. The fate of Spain and other European states will be no different from that of Israel. Neither the Spanish withdrawal from the Coalition's war against the Iraqi insurgency, nor proposals for a Spanish dialogue with Hamas, have abated in any way the anti-Spanish hostility coming out of radical Islamic movements in recent years. It emanates from a long-term historical grievance.

Al-Qaeda regards the large Muslim communities in Europe as a strategic hinterland for when the time is right. There is no point in pursuing reconciliation and dialogue with a worldwide terror organization that preaches the ideology of ethnic cleansing and genocide. This is an existential struggle over the nature of the world, pitting dark religious fanaticism against democracy and humanism. Israel can serve as a crucial front line in the defense of Europe. Moreover, the more Israel is accepted as a legitimate part of the Middle East, with full peace treaties with its neighbors, this will serve as a powerful indicator that the forces behind the current radical Islamic wave against the West, as a whole, are receding and going into a period of decline.

 

Notes

1 http://www.alarabnews.com/alshaab/GIF/26-10-2001/Ben%20laden.htm

2 Gilles Kepel, Jihad: The Trail of Radical Islam (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), p. 222.

3 Patrick Sookhdeo, Understanding Islamic Terrorism (Wiltshire: Isaac Publishing, 2004), p. 159.

4 "Saudi Daily: Andalusian Muslims Recall Mass Exodus," MEMRI Special Dispatch Series, No. 873, March 4, 2005, http://memri.org/bin/opener.cgi?Page=archives&ID=SP87305

5 "Speech by Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, Commander of the Algerian Salafist Group for Prayer and Combat (GSPC)," Global Terroralert, January 3, 2007, http://www.globalterroralert.com/pdf/0107/gspcwadoud0107.pdf

6 "The ‘Ansar Al-Islam in the Muslim Sahara' Group Declares Jihad Against the North African Regimes and Promises to Take Back Muslim Spain," MEMRI Special Dispatch Series, No. 1653, Islamic Websites Monitor No. 118, July 3, 2007, http://memri.org/bin/opener.cgi?Page=archives&ID=SP164307

7 Ibid.

8 http://www.islamonline.net/fatwa/arabic/FatwaDisplay.asp?hFatwaID=2042

9 http://www.ikhwan.net/vb/showthread.php?+=21095

10 http://www.daawa-info.net/letter.php?id=8

11 http://www.al-fateh.net/arch/fa-66/ana.htm

12 Aaron Hanscom, "A Fatwa in Spain," FrontPageMagazine.com, September 4, 2006, http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID={715C1193-821F-47F0-8332-1FA10C86CEB6}
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« Reply #27 on: October 20, 2007, 02:41:51 PM »

EU informal summit ends with new treaty, strong commitment on globalization challenges

11:21, October 20, 2007

Leaders of the European Union (EU) wrapped up their two-day informal summit here Friday, with a new treaty aimed at improving EU decision-making and pledges to better deal with the challenges of globalization.
"We've managed to complete our plan at the summit," Jose Socrates, Prime Minister of Portugal, which holds the rotating EU presidency, told reporters at the end of the summit.

"We had a treaty yesterday, and today we went straight into high quality debate on the real issue for the future ... the issue of how Europe can successfully rise to the challenges of globalization," he said.

He said the EU is ready to tackle the challenges of globalization and intends to "lead" the world debate on globalization, in three areas in particular.

The three areas are the redesigning of global institutions, the globalization agenda, which should be an agenda of innovation but not of isolation or protectionism, and the environmental issue, especially climate change.

Climate change is the most severe challenge arising from globalization, he said.

Socrates said Portugal will prepare a declaration on globalization, which will be submitted to discussion at the Dec. 13 summit in Lisbon. Portugal will also push for the formation of a "group of wise men," who will make proposals for the EU to cope with globalization.

Meanwhile, he said the EU leaders also discussed the issue of stability of the EU financial market.

He said the leaders have confidence in the EU economy, and pledged their full support to the EU finance ministers who are drawing up a plan to increase transparency on risk assessment of the financial market.
At the joint press conference with Socrates, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the Lisbon summit has the importance of "a milestone."

"We turned a page in Lisbon. Now we look into the future confidently," he said.

He said the EU must protect its citizens without being protectionist, and should not close its doors, and also encourage others to open their doors.

On climate change, he said the momentum is with the EU after the Group of Eight summit last June.

He said the UN framework and the setting of "binding, mandatory" targets is the "right way forward." He also said that Europe must " continue to show leadership" on the issue, with the EU executive playing its part.

"I promise to bring forward an ambitious package in January to implement those decisions," he said, in order to keep up "pressure" on progress leading up to a summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009.

Early Friday morning, the EU leaders adopted the new treaty, the so-called Treaty of Lisbon, which will improve EU decision making and streamline EU institutions.

"The treaty is the basis of the renewed Lisbon strategy," said Barroso. "With the agreement, we can now start to build for reforms."

The new treaty will replace the defunct EU constitution, which was rejected by French and Dutch voters in referenda in 2005.

The document will be signed on Dec. 13 in Lisbon by the EU leaders, and will be signed by the member states before it takes effect on Jan. 1, 2009.

Among institutional changes, the new treaty installs a new foreign policy chief for the EU and a long-term president for the European Council to replace the current six-month rotating presidency, but it avoids any mention of what may suggest a constitutional nature, such as EU symbols -- the flag, the anthem and the motto.

It also introduces the double majority voting system in decision-making, reduces the size of the executive European Commission, and gives national parliaments more power.

The deal was possible after last-minute concessions were made to some aggressive demanders, notably Poland and Italy.

Poland threatened to veto the treaty unless the so-called "Ioannina" mechanism, which allows a minority group of states disagreeing with a resolution to freeze it for a considerable period of time, was written into the new treaty.

Under a compromised arrangement, though there will be no Ioannina clause in the treaty, the European Council, composed of 27 EU leaders, will adopt a declaration on the substance of the Ioannina mechanism, making it legally binding. In addition, the declaration will be attached with a protocol, which requires consensus in any change to the Ioannina mechanism.

Another Polish demand, a permanent advocate general on the European Court of Justice, was also satisfied.

"Poland has got everything it asked for," said Polish President Lech Kaczynski after the talks.

Italy had disagreed with the plan to redistribute EU parliamentary seats. According to the new rules, Rome's seats in the European Parliament should be cut from 78 to 72 in 2009, the biggest decline among member states.

The EU leaders finally agreed to add one more seat to Italy without breaching the 750-member cap by excluding the non-voting president of the parliament from the count.

EU informal summit ends with new treaty, strong commitment on globalization challenges
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« Reply #28 on: October 20, 2007, 02:42:56 PM »

Brown: Blair would be great EU president

By CONSTANT BRAND, Associated Press Writer Fri Oct 19, 3:01 PM ET

LISBON, Portugal - Let the jockeying begin!

Will it be former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern or former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski?

After agreeing on a European Union governing treaty, leaders began jostling Friday over who should become the first full-time president of the union — and Blair drew backing from his successor and the president of France.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Blair would be a "great candidate" to become EU boss.

"Tony Blair would be a great candidate for any significant international job," Brown told reporters at the end of the EU summit. "As you know, the work that he is doing in the Middle East (as a peace envoy) is something that is of huge international importance."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy also said Blair would be a good candidate.

Blair "is a very remarkable man. The most European of all Britons. To think of him would be a good idea," Sarkozy said, adding it was too early to rule out other potential candidates.

Blair recently became the new Middle East envoy for the international Quartet of peacemakers. Asked about the EU job, his spokesman, Matthew Doyle, said: "Tony Blair's focus is on his role in the Middle East. That is what he is thinking about and spending his time on."

The new EU treaty needs to be ratified by all member nations before a president could take office, likely in 2009.

Under the treaty, the president has to be backed by all leaders and can serve for a maximum five-year term. The new system replaces one in which EU leaders and nations rotate into the presidency every six months.

Media reports in recent days listed Blair, Kwasniewski and Danish Premier Anders Fogh Rasmussen on the short list for the job, which is meant to boost the profile and unity of the 27-nation union.

Ahern has also been touted as a candidate and he refused to rule himself out, saying: "It's an interesting job."

The new position will have few formal powers but will chair leaders' summits and meetings and help the EU's foreign policy chief represent the bloc on the world stage.

Kwasniewski is a front-runner, according to Andrew Duff, a longtime British member of the European Parliament who helped draft the new EU treaty.

"Kwasniewski, he's very good. He's from the east, and he's a social democrat, which we need as well," Duff said.

However, Polish President Lech Kaczynski sought to discourage Kwasniewski, a former communist and his political rival, from seeking the post.

"The first president ... will probably come from old member states," Kaczynski said. "If I was him ... I would not run for another post."

Kwasniewski's party is running in Polish elections Sunday, but is polling at a distant third. The former president is not seeking a legislative seat himself, but if his party is successful he could become prime minister.

Duff rejected the idea of a Blair candidacy, saying other countries would never pick him because of his record, notably on backing the U.S. war in Iraq, which was opposed by many EU nations.

"He's just too British, and a Brit doesn't deserve the job," Duff said.

Former Danish Premier Poul Nyrup Rasmussen backed his successor, Fogh Rasmussen. "You should always hope that it will be someone from your own country, no matter who it might be," Nyrup Rasmussen told the Danish daily Politiken.

But Fogh Rasmussen said he was not interested in the post.

Other candidates mentioned include Luxembourg Premier Jean-Claude Juncker and outgoing Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.

EU nations will also pick a new "high representative" to coordinate foreign policy, a post now held by Javier Solana of Spain. Sweden's Foreign Minister Karl Bildt has been mentioned as a possible successor.

The post will have more power and will get a seat on the EU's executive commission when the treaty comes into force. As vice president of the European Commission, the foreign policy chief will control the EU's aid budget and its network of diplomats and civil servants.

Brown: Blair would be great EU president
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« Reply #29 on: October 20, 2007, 02:43:53 PM »

Psalm 118:8 It is better to trust and take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in man.
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