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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dutch Christian groups finance theft of Palestine

Sandwiched between giant car and furniture stores on a motorway stop-off, a blue-and-white Star of David flag droops nonchalantly on a stifling summer’s day. The factory-like building beside it could easily missed by a traveller who blinks too soon, yet the work undertaken here in the Israel Centre is far from commonplace. Its staff and management are dedicated not to the manufacturing of goods or to devising sales strategies but to drumming up support for a contentious political project: expanding Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The centre – located on the outskirts of Nijkerk, a sleepy Dutch town - is home to Christenen voor Israel (Christians for Israel), an organisation that views the creation of the state of Israel as the fulfilment of a Biblical prophecy. “It is very important that we in Holland work with the churches and let them know that Israel is one of the important players in the Bible and that they (Israelis) are God’s chosen people,” AndrĂ© Groenewegen, a spokesman for the group, said.

Further on up the corridor from his office, a shop does a brisk trade. The merchandise it sells is promoted as “made in Israel” yet closer inspection reveals that some of it is sold by firms headquartered in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The shop’s cosmetics section brims with Ahava products; though boasting minerals from the Dead Sea, these are manufactured in the settlement of Mitzpe Shalem. The shop’s website, meanwhile, offers spices from Amnon and Tamar Karmi, whose head office is located in the settlement of Alfei Menashe, near the Palestinian town of Qalqilyah.

Unlike almost every member country of the United Nations, Christians for Israel refuses to regard the West Bank as occupied Palestinian territory. According to Groenewegen, “the Bible tells us” that it is part of Israel. (International law is at odds with that view; the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention makes it illegal for an occupying power to transfer part of its own civilian population into the land it is occupying).

Although a brochure on display at the centre’s entrance states that one of the group’s activities is to support Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria (the Biblical name for the West Bank), Groenewegen claims he is unaware of specific projects that it is aiding in the settlements. He concedes, though, that “our daughter organisation”, Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (CFOIC) is involved in such work.

CFOIC was founded in 1995 after some Christian Zionists had expressed the view that Israel had granted too many concessions to the Palestinian Authority as part of the so-called Oslo accords. Literature published by CFOIC argues that the West Bank was granted to the Jewish people 4,000 years ago. The book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament implores Jews to settle this land and to make it “prosper more than before”, according to CFOIC.

“We don’t consider Judea and Samaria to be occupied,” said Henk Poot, a clergyman active in CFOIC and Christians for Israel. “There was never a Palestinian state or people. Apart from this we believe that the land of Israel has been promised by God Almighty to the Jewish people and in that way we feel very much connected to the religious Zionist movement.”

Poot did not respond to requests for information about how much financial assistance the CFOIC sends to Israeli settlements. Yet the organisation’s website solicits donations for the installation of “security cameras” for the gates of Zufim, a settlement beside Qalqilyah, as well as for the maintenance of students in Ariel, a university for settlers.

Even though they are supporting settlement activities that the Dutch government officially considers to be illegal, Christians for Israel and the CFOIC enjoy a cordial relationship with some of the most powerful politicians in the Netherlands. Maxime Verhagen, parliamentary leader of the Christian Democrats party and the outgoing minister for foreign affairs, expressed his support for the work of pro-Israel lobby groups in an interview published in a Christians for Israel newsletter earlier this month. Verhagen has defended Israeli atrocities against Palestinians even more hawkishly than most of his peers in the European Union’s 27 governments. In January 2009, Verhagen visited the southern Israeli town of Sderot as a gesture of solidarity with its residents; three Israeli civilians were killed by rockets fired from Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. Verhagen refused to travel further into Gaza itself, where 1,400 Palestinians were killed over a three-week bombardment by Israeli forces.

Christians for Israel are part of a wider pro-Israel lobby with significant political clout in the Netherlands. The most influential organisation in the lobby network is the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) in The Hague. During the recent general election in the Netherlands, one of CIDI’s staff members Wim Kortenoeven won a parliamentary seat for the Party for Freedom, led by the far-right politician Geert Wilders. This party is in talks with the Christian Democrats about the possible formation of a coalition government. Another pro-Israel lobbyist Gidi Markuszower had been named as a candidate on Wilders’ electoral list but Markuszower’s candidacy was withdrawn at a late stage in the election, reportedly because he had previously been arrested for carrying a gun in public.

Max Wieselmann, a representative of European Jews for a Just Peace, an organisation campaigning for the rights of Palestinians to be respected, said that Christians for Israel is in close contact with Israeli diplomats. “You can always see the Israeli ambassador at their meetings or when they have parties and receptions,” Wieselmann added. “This is a little bit funny. We always say – and it is the same for Christian fundamentalists in the U.S. – that they are not interested in Jews as people but only as a vehicle for their own views.”

•First published by Inter Press Service (www.ipsnews.net), 27 July 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The rotten politics of John Lydon

Johnny Rotten has cheated on me.

OK, I don’t expect that statement to elicit much sympathy. But I can’t have been the only one to feel queasy reading the interviews John Lydon gave ahead of this week’s British tour by his band Public Image Ltd (PiL). The erstwhile Mr Rotten believes that now his ads have boosted sales of Country Life butter, he should be courted incessantly by marketing executives. “It amazes me that people don't get the opportunity of me,” he told The Guardian. “I sell."

As I was only five at the time of its release in 1976, I wasn’t conscious of hearing Anarchy in the UK until nine or ten years later. Fashion might have moved on in that time – not that I had any knowledge of fashion – yet it is no exaggeration to say that The Sex Pistols’ debut single was liberating and educational, not least because it prompted me to look up “anarchy” in the dictionary. Here was an exotic creature from London telling a young Irish boy that it was cool to defy authority.

Call me naive for clinging to teenage illusions but I never thought I would learn that Lydon has gone from bellowing “I am the antichrist” at the establishment to “I sell” at an unappreciative marketing industry. It might be daft to ascribe an ethos to a shambolic musical genre like punk rock, yet it seemed to represent values at odds with those espoused by the two political figures who defined the decade after Anarchy in the UK: Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. The punk lexicon had no shortage of slogans but“greed is good” wasn’t one of them.

There were plenty of others politicised by punk. Billy Bragg has told of how he set up the Jail Guitar Doors initiative – which provides musical instruments and tutorials to prisoners - after hooking up with admirers of Joe Strummer following his death in 2002. “Although we may have hung up our leather jackets, those of us who were touched by the fire of punk have held onto our anti-fascist ideals,” Bragg said. “We were amazed to find that many of us were involved in activism in one way or another - union organisers, environmental campaigners, documentary filmmakers.”

Whereas Strummer was more obviously left-wing than Lydon, both have proven inspirational to numerous musicians who reject the silly notion that pop and politics shouldn’t mix. The often fabulous Asian Dub Foundation are among those known to have blared PiL’s Metal Box album on their tour bus speakers.

A few months ago Lydon claimed he’s “well-known for being a pacifist” and named Mahatma Gandhi as his all-time hero. Surely, then, he would be open to supporting one of the most impressive examples of Gandhi’s principles being put into action in today’s world: the weekly demonstrations in the West Bank village of Bi’lin, where unarmed activists are regularly fired at by Israeli forces. Surely, too, he would be sympathetic to the call made by numerous Palestinian trade unions and other campaign groups for a cultural and economic boycott of Israel.

Not a chance, I’m afraid. Lydon has vowed to go ahead with a PiL concert in Tel Aviv, scheduled for late August. "If Elvis-fucking-Costello wants to pull out of a gig in Israel because he's suddenly got this compassion for Palestinians, then good on him,” Lydon told The Independent. “But I have absolutely one rule, right? Until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won't understand how anyone can have a problem with how they’re treated.”

How can Lydon so callously disregard the suffering of a people under colonial occupation? The answer is easy. PiL will be performing in Tel Aviv as headliners at a festival sponsored by Heineken. Along with giving him all the free beer he can swallow, Lydon can be sure the brewers will help to swell his bank account. Finally, he has found a corporation that gets “the opportunity of me”.

•Originally published by The Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk), 21 July 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

Canada bids to export pollution to Europe

Fears of a trade dispute with Canada have made European Union officials reluctant to categorise tar sands from North America as a more polluting fuel than conventional petrol.

Officials working for the EU’s executive, the European Commission, are considering the implementation of a fuel quality law nominally designed to make transport cleaner.

While the overall goal of the directive has been agreed - that oil companies bring down their emissions of climate changing greenhouse gases by 6 percent between this year and 2020 – its fineprint has yet to be hammered out. One of the trickiest issues to emerge in the discussions relates to whether imports of non-conventional sources of oil should be restricted.

In a 2009 paper drafted by environment officials tar sands were deemed to be 20 percent more damaging to the climate than the petrol typically used to power Europe’s cars. But this provision was removed from the draft after Ross Hornby, Canada’s ambassador in Brussels, wrote to Karl Falkenberg, head of the Commission’s environment department, in January.

Hornby’s letter was made available to green campaigners, under the EU’s freedom of information rules. In it, he objected to a proposal that fuels derived from tar sands would be treated differently to those using conventional crude oil. The reporting requirements that this would place on energy firms would be too onerous and would constitute a “barrier” to trade, he warned.

Tar sands – a mixture of bitumen, water, sand and clay – lying under the Canadian province of Alberta constitute the world’s second largest proven reserves of oil, outside Saudi Arabia. A study titled “Energy Revolution” published earlier this month by Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council estimated that producing oil from tar sands would release over four times more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than standard oil drilling does today.

A senior Brussels official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the question of how tar sands should be categorised in the EU “goes further than the quality of oil, it is also a trade question”. The official added that “you can be sure” the matter will be discussed in the context of a nominally separate free trade agreement that the EU and Canada have aimed to conclude by the end of next year.

Stuart Trew from the Council of Canadians, a social justice organisation, said a moratorium on the extraction of tar sands is necessary. The eagerness of the Ottawa government to exploit the reserves under Alberta is “a blight on Canada’s reputation and on the world,” he said.

Trew expressed particular concern about how a draft version of the trade agreement would – if implemented in its current form - allow corporations to take action against measures that they perceive as hostile to trade. A similar provision in the North America Free Trade Agreement has enabled companies to attack health and environmental measures in the U.S. and Mexico, he added, noting that the procedure lets corporations bypass courts and instead set up private panels.

“Any attempt to cut back on the production of tar sands, to make stronger environmental rules or to limit the amount of water used to make tar sands could result in a challenge,” he said. Three to five barrels of water are required for every barrel of oil produced from tar sands.

Connie Hedegaard, the EU’s commissioner for “climate action”, wrote to several green groups on July 13, promising that a proposal for regulating tar sands would be put forward after her summer break (most Brussels institutions close during August).

A spokeswoman for Hedegaard said that the Commission is “carefully analysing the different options available and will come up with a balanced proposal, including solid reporting requirements necessary for demonstrating compliance with the target.”

Shell, one of the largest investors in the Alberta tar sands industry, has been vigorously lobbying against tough EU fuel quality rules. In May, it hosted a dinner for members of the European Parliament in an attempt to convince them that tar sands extraction should not be vilified.

Ecologists are adamant that a specific “default value” should be set for tar sands, stating that their production must respect EU moves to reduce the environmental impact of transport fuel. Without such a value, tar sands would be treated the same as conventional petrol.

Nusa Urbancic from the organisation Transport and the Environment said that numerous scientific studies have indicated that tar sands must be regarded as dirtier than conventional fossil fuels. The results of the EU’s discussions will have implications that stretch beyond the Union’s borders, she added.

“The European Commission has a duty to protect the environment, not to protect Canada’s (commercial) interests,” she said. “Europe is a standard-setter when it comes to fuels, vehicles, electronic machinery and things like that. The Canadians fear that if the Europe puts in a value for tar sands, other countries will follow. This is clearly a political decision. If we want to prevent climate change, we should be leaving this stuff underground.”

•Originally published by Inter Press Service (www.ipsnews.net), 19 July 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Europe assaults Western Sahara

There is one surefire way of allowing the internet damage your sanity: spend too much time reading politicians’ blogs. Take a recent post from Maria Damanaki, whose career has taken her from agitating against the Greek dictatorship in the 1970s to being the European commissioner for fisheries today. “Blue should become green,” she declared in her blog on EU efforts to lessen the ecological destruction wrought by illegal fishing.

Those efforts might have some credibility if the Brussels bureaucracy was not actively encouraging European vessels to act unlawfully in the waters of Western Sahara.

In 2005, the EU and Morocco signed a lucrative fisheries agreement. Entering into force two years later, its small print stated that European fishermen may operate in Western Sahara, which Morocco has occupied since 1974, provided that their activities benefit the indigenous Sahrawi people.

To date, the European commission has not only failed to produce evidence that the theft of fish from their waters aids the Sahrawis, it has sought to justify that theft on false premises. In a new letter sent to the organisation Western Sahara Resource Watch, the commission selectively quotes a Swedish lawyer’s opinion to contend that economic activities affecting an occupied territory would only be illegal if they disregarded the “needs and interests” of the people under occupation.

This is not the first time that the commission has misrepresented the views of that lawyer, Hans Correll, whose 2002 paper had been prepared for the UN. Speaking at a 2008 conference in Pretoria, Correll said it was “incomprehensible” that EU officials could find anything in his paper that would support their case. Correll then noted that all of the payments made as a result of the fisheries accord would go to Morocco and that the Rabat authorities would explicitly enjoy full discretion over how to use them. He was so incensed about how the agreement did not refer to Morocco’s responsibility to respect the Sahrawis right to self-determination that he said: “As a European, I feel embarrassed. Surely one would expect Europe and the European commission to set an example by applying the highest possible international legal standards in matters of this nature.”

It is instructive that 100 of the 119 European vessels granted access to Western Sahara’s waters through the agreement are registered in Spain, the territory’s former colonial overlord. Spain’s manifest commercial and geo-strategic interests in this murky affair undermines the EU’s claims to be neutral in the dispute over the territory’s future. If it was neutral or even-handed, the EU would be heeding a statement issued by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (officially recognised as the representatives of the Sahrawi people by some 75 countries) in January last year. On that occasion, the SADR asserted its people’s exclusive rights to exploit the natural resources in a 200 nautical mile zone surrounding the territory.

Those resources do not appear limited to fish. In 2001, Morocco announced that it had handed licenses to the French and American energy firms Total and Kerr-McGee so that they could search for oil off Western Sahara. The companies have subsequently withdrawn from the contracts under pressure from human rights campaigners. But the perception that Western Sahara has rich oil reserves – oil fields have been found in neighbouring Mauritania - helps explain why policy-makers in both the EU and US have been so eager to strengthen their relations with Morocco. In April, 54 members of the Senate – a bipartisan majority – put their names to a letter calling on the US to effectively approve Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara.

While this grubby power game continues, the Sahrawis who fled to Algeria in the 1970s have no prospect of returning home. Unicef has described how most of the estimated 150,000 Sahrawi refugees know only the sights of their camps – “vast, flat wastelands with the harshness of one of the hottest deserts in the world”. A scarcity of fresh food there has left one in ten women suffering from anaemia.

It is not true that these refugees are completely forgotten about. In 2009, the European commission said it was “committed to assisting these vulnerable people until a political solution can be found for their plight”. It released €10 million in humanitarian aid but failed to explain that the amount it will be paying Morocco over the four years of the fisheries accord’s duration will exceed €144 million.

Isn’t there something rotten about how Europe throws a pittance at the poor, while it empties the seas of their homeland?

•First published by The Guardian (10 July 2010), www.guardian.co.uk

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bowing to Big Brother - in America

Private information on innocent citizens will be handed over to U.S. law enforcement authorities under an agreement slated for approval by the European Parliament this week.

In February, members of the Parliament (MEPs) rejected a plan to allow data on everyday bank transactions be given to the U.S., citing concerns over fundamental civil rights. Four months later, however, MEPs are expected to endorse the same plan July 8, having been granted a small number of concessions.

The whole affair has its roots in a U.S. move to snoop on data held by Swift, a Belgian-based company that facilitates exchanges between banks, following the 11 September 2001 atrocities. Under the pretext of tracking the “money trail” of terrorists, the Washington authorities used subpoenas to gain access to Swift’s data. Yet even though personal details on millions of individuals were transferred across the Atlantic, the public was not informed that such transfers were taking place until a report appeared in The New York Times during 2006.

Eager to allow the transfers continue, the European Union’s governments accepted an accord designed to give Washington the necessary legal cover in November last year. This accord drew an angry response from civil liberties watchdogs, who pointed out that people whose data was abused would have no means of seeking redress. America’s privacy legislation only offers protection against unlawful data processing to U.S. citizens and residents, not to outsiders under scrutiny by the U.S. authorities.

The Parliament’s revolt against that accord was prompted in large measure by how MEPs felt they had been excluded from talks over the accord’s content and by their desire to exercise new powers under the EU’s Lisbon treaty, which gives them a greater say in many policy areas. As a result, the Union’s governments and Barack Obama’s administration in the U.S. sought to address some of their concerns. A few modifications to the agreement have been made, including a provision for stationing an EU official in Washington to monitor the accord’s implementation.

But privacy campaigners say that the core deficiencies in the agreement have not been remedied.

“The fundamental points that were rejected by the Parliament the first time are in the text again,” Joe McNamee from the group European Digital Rights said. “It seems that what the Parliament has been searching for is a way of backing down. The amount of data involved remains pretty much the same.”

The data held by Swift includes the names of bank account holders and the numbers of those accounts. Because the volume of information concerned is so vast, the EU’s own Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx has protested that the measures envisaged in the November accord “interfere with the private life of all Europeans”. There are no guarantees that data will no longer be stored after a certain length of time or after it has been proven to be of no benefit in an investigation, he has observed.

Alexander Alvaro, a German Liberal MEP who has been tasked with drafting the Parliament’s official response to the accord, said that he and his colleagues “have got clear concessions” since February. The EU official sent to Washington will be able to block the transfer of data if it is being abused, he claimed.

Although his stance is being supported by a majority in the Parliament, some MEPs are continuing to voice serious misgivings. Opponents say that the agreement is illegal because it violates the right to privacy, which is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. All EU countries are required to respect that convention.

Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green, said: “Nothing has really changed. All sorts of personal data concerning innocent European citizens are still being sent to the U.S.”

Rui Tavares, a Portuguese left-wing MEP, said European citizens will be discriminated against as a result of the agreement. “We know full well that this doesn’t change American law and that it doesn’t go through the American Congress,” he added.

Sophie in ’t Veld, a Dutch Liberal MEP who specialises in civil liberties, said she was only supporting the revised accord because she did not believe it would be politically possible to hammer out a better deal. “There is no reason for jubilation but it is the least bad option,” she added, warning that the accord’s shortcoming left it vulnerable to legal challenges.

As part of the changes to the agreement, the EU has undertaken to set up its own “terrorism finance tracking programme”, so that it can analyse bank transactions within Europe. Supporters of the accord say that this step should enable the Union to eliminate the bulk transfer of data to the Americans.

The latest agreement also gives Europol, the EU’s police cooperation agreement, a role in its implementation. But privacy campaigners point out that Europol is not a data protection body and that it will have a chance to request access to data for its own investigations. “Europol has been given an incentive not to restrict the amount of data transferred,” said McNamee from European Digital Rights.

This is not the first time that the European Parliament has succumbed to pressure to approve controversial measures that the U.S. has sought as part of the “war on terror” declared by its former President George W. Bush. In 2005, for example, MEPs accepted sweeping measures to make telecommunications firms retain details of all phone calls and email messages made and sent by ordinary citizens.

•First published by Inter Press Service (www.ipsnews.net), 7 July 2010

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bankers besiege European Parliament

Besieged by bankers opposed to the regulation of their sector, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have taken an unusual step. A cross-party alliance has called for an international campaigning organisation to concentrate on remedying the flaws of the financial services industry with the same tenacity that Amnesty International focuses on victims of torture and Greenpeace on toxic chemicals and whales.

The call – signed by 70 of the Parliament’s 736 elected members – was prompted by concerns over how the financial lobby had marshalled its ample resources over the past few years in a bid to dilute legislation drafted in response to the global economic crisis. According to the MEPs, the pressure they have been placed under by the financial industry is so intense that it represents a threat to democracy, especially as public interest groups have generally lacked the means or the expertise to mount a robust counter-offensive to the banks’ efforts.

The pressure from the financial industry is unlikely to be eased in the coming months as the European Union’s only directly elected body considers a number of crucial dossiers.

First, the Parliament will vote July 7 on proposed new rules on capital requirements for banks and on how much financial whiz-kids may be paid in bonuses. Written in response to the immense public anger over how banks rescued at the taxpayers’ expense were maintaining lavish pay-and-perk deals for their management, the latest draft of the proposal would require that upfront cash bonuses do not exceed 30 percent of total bonuses. Instead of doling out bonuses in cash, between 40 percent and 60 percent of all bonuses would have to be deferred and could be recovered in cases where investments fare badly.

Arlene McCarthy, a British Labour Party MEP who has been leading the Parliament’s negotiations with EU governments on the proposal, is among those who have expressed misgivings about the influence that banks wield over politicians and civil servants. She has stated that her plan is not designed to punish bankers but rather to ensure that bonuses they receive are linked to their performance.

The European Banking Federation (EBF), an umbrella group for 5,000 banks, is claiming that this kind of ceiling on bonuses would prove economically damaging.

“The European Parliament is promoting rules that are more stringent than those of our major trading partners and competitors,” Robert Priester, an EBF representative, said. “The stricter rules in the EU raise issues of competitiveness for Europe’s banking or financial services sector.”

According to data it made available to an EU register of lobbyists, EBF spent over 1 million euros (1.3 million dollars) last year in trying to influence the Union’s institutions. “Lobbying in the EU is fundamentally different from the U.S. where donations and contributions are commonplace to exert influence,” said Priester. “The European institutions do not work that way and EBF does not need to make such donations.”

Despite claiming to have a relatively small budget for its activities, the EBF has been able to ensure it has full access to the Brussels elite. Its secretary-general Guido Ravoet doubles up as chairman of the European Parliamentary Financial Services Forum. Presenting itself as dedicated to spreading “neutral information”, the forum is nonetheless brings together some of the best-known players in the global banking industry such as Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan - and MEPs sympathetic to them. Some MEPs – including McCarthy – who have warned about the power of the financial lobby are also active in the forum.

In February, the forum published a briefing paper, exhorting MEPs to radically reshape a proposed EU directive regulating hedge funds. Originally this directive had been slated for a vote in the Parliament in July but the decision has been postponed for another few months, while the main EU institutions continue to deliberate over its contents.

The hedge fund industry – financial speculators largely based in the City of London – has literally been seeking to write the rules it should play by itself. In April, the Parliament’s main committee for economic affairs voted on its response to the proposed law. MEPs had to wade through 1,600 suggested amendments to the law on that occasion. Although only MEPs themselves can sign amendments, it is common practice for industry lobbyists to act as “ghost-writers”. More than half of the amendments in this case were written by the financial services industry, according to Parliament insiders.

Whereas hedge funds have been widely accused of engaging in highly risky practises that helped trigger the global financial crisis, their supporters have been portraying them as economically beneficial. Open Europe, a corporate-funded “think-tank” in London, has published several pamphlets arguing that hedge funds and private equity bring billions of pounds in tax revenue to the British economy each year, while not addressing evidence compiled by the Tax Justice Network and anti-poverty advocates of how hedge funds can be vehicles for tax evasion.

A hedge fund lobbyist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it is “absurd” to argue that financial services endanger democracy. “Before now, we were criticised for not engaging – in inverted commas – with policy-makers,” he said. “Now that we have engaged, the perception is we have engaged too much. The truth of the matter is that many MEPs are so ignorant of how financial services work that there is an absolute need to have the relevant industries offering their views. Otherwise, the consequence would be dreadful legislation.”

Olivier Hoedeman from Corporate Europe Observatory, a lobbying watchdog, says that the financial services representatives have “no reason to complain whatsoever” about belated efforts to regulate their sector.

“The banking lobby in Europe has been very successful so far in postponing and avoiding any serious new regulation,” he said. “The EU is far behind the U.S. We have a very ironic situation, where there have been more positive changes and tougher regulations passed so far in the U.S. The EU has left things up in the air.”

•First published by Inter Press Service (www.ipsnews.net), 5 July 2010