dezembro 29, 2009

‘Ataque terrorista de Detroit: uma ideologia criminosa tolerada por demasiado tempo‘ in Telegraph

Friday's attempt to blow up a transatlantic airliner by a British-educated Islamist was foiled by the bravery of its passengers and crew. We cannot assume that we will be lucky next time. And the indications are that there will be a next time. According to police sources, 25 British-born Muslims are currently in Yemen being trained in the art of bombing planes. But most of these terrorists did not acquire their crazed beliefs in the Islamic world: they were indoctrinated in Britain. Indeed, thousands of young British Muslims support the use of violence to further the Islamist cause – and this despite millions of pounds poured by the Government into projects designed to prevent Islamic extremism.

Is it time for a fundamental rethink of Britain's attitude towards domestic Islamism? Consider this analogy. Suppose that, in several London universities, Right‑wing student societies were allowed to invite neo-Nazi speakers to address teenagers. Meanwhile, churches in poor white neighbourhoods handed over their pulpits to Jew-hating admirers of Adolf Hitler, called for the execution of homosexuals, preached the intellectual inferiority of women, and blessed the murder of civilians. What would the Government do? It would bring the full might of the criminal law against activists indoctrinating young Britons with an inhuman Nazi ideology – and the authorities that let them. Any public servants complicit in this evil would be hounded from their jobs.

Jihadist Islamism is also a murderous ideology, comparable to Nazism in many respects. The British public realises this; so do the intelligence services. Yet because it arises out of a worldwide religion – most of whose followers are peaceful – politicians and the public sector shrink from treating its ideologues as criminal supporters of violence. Instead, the Government throws vast sums of money at the Muslim community in order to ensure that what is effectively a civil war between extremists and moderates is won by the latter. This policy – supported by all the main political parties – does not seem to be working. The authorities, lacking specialist knowledge, sometimes turn for advice to "moderate" Muslims who have extreme sympathies; supporters of al-Qaeda are paid to disseminate their ideology to young people.

Radical Islamist leaders are not stupid: they know how to play this system. The indoctrination of students carries on under the noses of public servants who are terrified of being labelled Islamophobic or racist. Therefore they fail to do their duty, which is to protect Muslims and non-Muslims alike from a terrorist ideology. If providing that protection requires fewer "consultations" with "community leaders" and more arrests, then so be it.

dezembro 27, 2009

‘Medo e heroísmo a bordo do voo 253 da Northwest Airlines‘ in Washington Post

First came an alarming popping sound, followed by silence, and then the unmistakable smell of smoke. Passengers began to shout and scream on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam.

"People were just running, and they were scared," said Veena Saigal, who turned from her seat on the Christmas Day flight and saw the fire's glow six rows back. "They were running toward the center of the plane, running to get away from the flames."

Jasper Schuringa, an Amsterdam resident, lunged toward the fire in Row 19, jumping from one side of the plane to the other and over several other passengers. He burned his fingers as he grabbed a piece of melting plastic held by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man accused Saturday of trying to bring down the passenger jet with a homemade explosive device.

Schuringa, a video producer, restrained Abdulmutallab as others used blankets and fire extinguishers to douse the flames.

"When I saw the suspect, that he was getting on fire, I freaked, of course, and without any hesitation I just jumped over all the seats," Schuringa told CNN on Saturday. "And I jumped to the suspect. I was thinking like, he's trying to blow up the plane."

The stretch of time from bafflement to abject fear to a calamity averted lasted just a few minutes on the flight, yet as they replayed those moments from their homes on Saturday, passengers described a drama that left many shaken long after the jetliner safely touched down.

"We heard a pop, then the smell and the reality kicked in for all of us. The reality was the fear in the flight attendants' eyes," said Charles Keepman, a Wisconsin businessman returning from Ethiopia, where he and his wife had adopted two children. "We're just thankful to the Lord that we were spared."

Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, praised the quick reactions of those on the plane, which recalled the heroism of passengers who had subdued so-called shoe-bomber Richard C. Reid as he tried to ignite chemicals on a flight in December 2001 and the actions of people on United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.

"I am grateful to the passengers and crew aboard Northwest Flight 253 who reacted quickly and heroically to an incident that could have had tragic results," Napolitano said in a statement Saturday.

The flight from Amsterdam to Detroit seemed long and uneventful until the final minutes, passengers said. Witnesses told the FBI that Abdulmutallab, 23, spent about 20 minutes in the bathroom before returning to Seat 19A and complaining of an upset stomach. He pulled a blanket over his head.

Then came the loud and sudden popping sound.

"What I heard was a firecracker, like a champagne bottle opening. I thought maybe something happened to a window or something hit the plane," said Saigal, who was returning to Ann Arbor from India in Row 13. "Then I smelled the smoke. When I turned around, I could see the fire glow."

Schuringa, on his way to Miami for vacation, leaped from the other side of the plane toward the fire as it spread from Abdulmutallab's pants to pillows on the floor. He said he reacted without thinking, fearful that the fire would cause an explosion that would bring down the plane and nearly 300 passengers and crew members.

As other passengers shouted for water, Schuringa pulled the melted plastic syringe from Abdulmutallab, shook it and threw it to the floor, the FBI said in an affidavit. Flight attendant Dionne Ransom-Monroe asked the suspect what was in his pocket, the FBI said, and he replied, "Explosive device."

The fire out, Schuringa marched Abdulmutallab to the front of the plane, helped by a flight attendant. They stripped off some of his clothes, searched him for weapons and handcuffed him, Schuringa said on CNN, explaining that the suspect seemed almost in a trance. Abdulmutallab said nothing and did not resist, he said.

"He looked like a normal guy," Schuringa said. "It's just hard to believe he was actually trying to blow up this plane."

Saigal, 63, said Schuringa "was holding him from the back, with a strong grip."

"When he went back to his seat, we all clapped," Saigal said of Schuringa.

Passengers and crew members worked to restore calm as the jet sped toward Detroit. Syed Jafry, an engineering consultant from Ohio who watched from Row 16, said the captain told passengers over the intercom: "There was an incident, and everything is under control. It is over. Fasten your seat belts. We are about to land."

As investigators explore how Abdulmutallab allegedly smuggled power and chemicals aboard the flight, Saigal and Keepman voiced distinctly different views of security in Amsterdam, the airliner's last stop before reaching Detroit.

"They're very thorough," Saigal said. "Always in Amsterdam, you go through people questioning you . . . and they put your hand baggage, your purse -- not your shoes -- through security again."

Keepman, however, said security procedures in Amsterdam seemed less rigorous than the measures he had faced at the Detroit airport on his outbound flight.

"I have to be honest, it was lax compared to here," said Keepman, who co-owns a transportation logistics company. "They push you through quite quickly, especially on international flights, because there are so many people to get through."

Keepman was not impressed with the questioning session.

"They ask the questions," Keepman said. "But the person's going to look you right in the eye and lie to you: 'Are you carrying something that could explode on the plane?' 'Certainly not, sir.' "

dezembro 20, 2009

‘Cimeira de Copenhaga: EUA declaram-se vencedores‘ in El Pais

El destino de la lucha contra el calentamiento se ha decidido en una sala cerrada de la primera planta del centro de convenciones de la Cumbre del Clima de Copenhague. Allí, Barack Obama, el chino Wen Jiabao, el brasileño Lula da Silva y el indio Manmohan Singh no sólo acordaron un acuerdo que admitieron como insuficiente.

En esa sala, con poco más de 35 personas, EE UU impuso su ley y logró el cambio de eje de las relaciones internacionales en la lucha con el cambio climático y en el sistema de Naciones Unidas, incapaz de avanzar durante dos años. Los 119 líderes reunidos en Dinamarca regresaron a casa sin foto de familia. Algo, mucho, saltó por los aires en esa sala a puerta cerrada.

Con el pacto promovido por EE UU, a la UE y al resto de países no le quedó más que ratificarlo tras una noche de debate vacío en el que sólo Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba y Sudán se opusieron para ganar protagonismo.

El Acuerdo de Copenhague siempre fue cosa de dos, China y EE UU. Hasta tal punto han monopolizado los debates que en uno de los últimos borradores los países escribieron entre corchetes: "Introducir aquí la consideración de EE UU y China". Así figura en el cuarto borrador, junto al punto de cómo el acuerdo permitiría verificar las emisiones de los países emergentes, el punto al que China se opuso.

Así que Obama y Wen, en su segundo encuentro en el día, dieron con la fórmula: los países en desarrollo realizarán su propia "medición, declaración y verificación de sus emisiones", pero a la vez aceptan un sistema de "consultas y análisis internacionales bajo unas guías claras que asegurarán que se respeta la soberanía nacional".

Pekín vetó la palabra verificación como una opción de la ONU. Los recortes de emisiones financiados con dinero internacional -sea un parque eólico o una central hidroeléctrica- sí tendrán control internacional.

El lenguaje es enrevesado como todo en esta cumbre. Leer los tres folios del Acuerdo de Copenhague es sumergirse en conceptos aparentemente vaporosos pero que esconden detrás dos años -desde que en Bali en 2007 se acordó que en 2009 habría un tratado- de enconadas disputadas.

El texto también establece que "el cambio climático es uno de los grandes retos de nuestro tiempo", que "el incremento de la temperatura debería estar por debajo de dos grados" y que las emisiones habrían de tocar techo "lo antes posible". Y todo esto se conseguirá, supuestamente, con objetivos voluntarios de reducción de emisiones que los países presentarán antes de febrero de 2010.

"Científicamente el acuerdo es como una mesa de una sola pata: no se aguanta", resume un negociador. Las rebajas anunciadas, en caso de cumplirse, sólo reducirían un 18% las emisiones de los países desarrollados en 2020, lejos del rango de entre el 25% y el 40% que pidió el Panel Intergubernamental de Cambio Climático. Con las ofertas voluntarias la temperatura subirá unos tres grados, según un informe de la ONU. "El acuerdo no sirve para el objetivo de los dos grados", admitió el presidente de turno de la UE, Fredrik Reinfelt.

Los textos previos, incluso el acordado en la reunión G-8 del pasado verano o el pactado en Bali en 2007 eran mucho más precisos y pedían una reducción mínima de emisiones del 25%. Pero la Casa Blanca se opuso por poco realista. Europa confiaba en que, al dirigirse al mundo, Obama fuera más allá. "En reuniones informales nos habían dicho que con compensación de emisiones su bajada estaría entre el 26% y el 33%", explicó en los pasillos Josef Matthias Leinen, jefe de la delegación del Parlamento Europeo. Pero Obama, enrocado en elevar la presión a China no se movió de su postura.

En el acuerdo tampoco aparece que en 2050 las emisiones deberían situarse un 50% por debajo de las de 1990. Lo vetó China, como reveló el presidente de la Comisión Europea, José Manuel Durao Barroso. Lo más claro es el compromiso de financiación para los países en desarrollo, que permitió a los africanos sumarse al acuerdo.

El resultado no satisface a nadie. Obama, en una breve declaración antes de dejar Copenhague por la puerta de atrás, dijo: "Sabemos que el avance no es suficiente y que queda mucho camino por hacer". El presidente de EE UU, sin embargo, pidió realismo: "Creo que hace falta un tratado (vinculante). Pero esta era la típica situación en la que si hubiéramos esperado a que pasara no habríamos avanzado nada" y criticó a quienes hubieran preferido "dos pasos atrás antes que un paso adelante". Obama, cuyo discurso en Copenhague, fue recibido con una inusitada frialdad por el tono mecánico y tenso de sus palabras. Se defendió de que en el acuerdo todo sea voluntario: "Kioto era legalmente vinculante y a todo el mundo le pareció poco. Es importante avanzar en vez de tener palabras en un papel".

Como no había forma de acordar nada sobre cómo pasar de los objetivos voluntarios a un acuerdo legalmente vinculante en 2010 -como querían la UE y EE UU- la opción fue dejarlo en blanco. El papel no aclara si se prorrogara Kioto, si habrá un nuevo tratado ni cuándo. Simplemente no existe ninguna mención. En busca del consenso para salvar la cara se llegó a situaciones así.

Una vez pactado entre los cinco grandes, Obama anunció que se lo comunicaría "a los europeos" y luego al grupo de 28 jefes de Estado y de Gobierno de todos los grupos que preparaban el texto político.

El sistema de trabajo es el resultado de una inteligente estartegia de EE UU. Obama, con el Nobel de la Paz por el mutilateralismo, envió una delegación de altísimo nivel a la cumbre. Desde la primera semana, el enviado especial de Obama, Todd Stern, dirigió las negociaciones, mucho antes de que llegaran los ministros europeos. Por la cumbre han pasado siete seretarios (ministros) de su Administración, desde Hillary Clinton al premio Nobel de Física y secretario de Energía, Steven Chu.

Pero a la vez, Washington ha conseguido lo que Bush no logró: sacar la negociación fuera del plenario de Naciones Unidas, donde cualquiera de los 193 países puede vetar cualquier acuerdo y eternizar las discusiones. Obama negoció a puerta cerrada, lo entregó al pleno y se fue. Los delegados seguían enzarzados en discusiones sin final y en largos discursos con barrocas formas de cortesía diplomática -"con el debido respeto a esta presidencia y sin socavar su autoridad", y frases similares cuando el avión presidencia aterrizaba en Washington.

Bush intentó crear un foro paralelo a la ONU en el que las grandes economías se pusieran de acuerdo para, de forma voluntaria, afrontar el cambio climático. Fracasó. Igual que ha ocurrido en Copenhague pero dentro de un edificio de Naciones Unidas.

"Lo ocurrido, el pacto a puerta cerrada refrendado por la ONU, tendrá enormes cnsecuencias, no solo para la Convención de Cambio Climático, sino para todo el sistema de Naciones Unidas. Vamos hacia la Organización Mundial del Comercio donde todo se decide a puerta cerrada", lamentó resignado ayer por la mañana, después de más de 24 horas sin dormir, Kim Carsten, de WWF, uno de los únicos 300 miembros de ONG autorizados a entrar los últimos días de la cumbre. "Si la UE ha eliminado la unanimidad porque no sirve para 27 países con intereses comunes, ¿cómo va a servir para la ONU?".

El problema es que el espectáculo que ofreció la ONU como alternativa fue lamentable. 183 países estaban de acuerdo y pedían apoyar el texto como la única solución posible. Pero el bloque bolivariano -Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua y Cuba- y Sudán se oponían. El sudanés Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping llegó a afirmar que el texto "es producto de la misma ideología que llevó a los hornos crematorios a seis millones de personas en Europa", por lo que recibió reproches de decenas de Estados.

Durante 10 horas, toda la noche, decenas de países defendieron el texto, pero la ONU exige consenso y por la mañana Hugo Chávez y Evo Morales ya habían anunciado que bloquearían cualquier acuerdo porque no habían sido invitados a la reunión de 28 países y porque la ONU no funciona así. A las siete de la mañana, el ministro británico Ed Miliband, frenó en el último segundo, a base de dar golpes en la mesa para llamar la atención del presidente, que el texto quedara incluido como una simple propuesta, lo que habría impedido aplicar los fondos de ayuda a los países en desarrollo. Miliband, en una vibrante intervención advirtió de que si el acuerdo era rechazado "supondría romper la convención de Naciones Unidas", algo que planeaba en el ambiente ya que de ninguna forma lo acordado por los líderes de 183 países iba a depender de Chávez.

"Ha sido el plenario más vergonzoso al que he asistido. Si no somos capaces de ponernos de acuerdo en esto, ¿cómo vamos a alcanzar un tratado vinculante?", declaró el representante saudí.

Pasadas las 10 de la mañana, tras dos horas de parón para consultar con los servicios jurídicos, la cumbre "tomó nota" del acuerdo y el presidente golpeó con la maza a toda velocidad para que nadie pudiera protestar. La fórmula permite, según el secretario general de la ONU, Ban Ki-moon, que el acuerdo "entre en vigor inmediatamente", dijo tras observar mudo desde la presidencia 10 horas de descontrol.

La reacción de Miliband, una de las figuras clave del laborismo británico, salvó la cara de la UE. Apartada en la negociación clave, los europeos se van de Copenhague con la sensación de que les han robado la cartera, que el proceso que lideraron durante dos décadas ya no está bajo su control y que, los nuevos capitanes quieren ir en otra dirección. Barroso hizo malabarismos: "La UE lidera cuando se trata de elevar los objetivos, pero no está cuando lo que se busca es reducir la ambición". La UE se reserva su oferta de ampliar su recorte de emisiones del 20% actual al 30% hasta ver cómo evoluciona la negociación. Los delegados europeos musitaban por los pasillos las palabras "Decepción, desastre y fiasco". "Es el mundo que tenemos", lamentaban. Y, sin embargo, el pacto se salvó por el empuje de un británico, no por la representación estadounidense.

La reacción china al acuerdo también fue fría. Cuando Wen aceptó el pacto, uno de sus ministros comenzó a gritar en chino con gestos de desacuerdo. "La traductora no dijo qué gritaba", explica una fuente presente en el encuentro. En el plenario que después adoptó el pacto entre los cinco grandes, China no defendió ni una sola vez su aprobación frente a las críticas del bloque bolivariano. La delegación china aplaudía las declaraciones de estos países contra la forma "antidemocráctica en la que se adoptó el acuerdo", según negociadores en la sala, cerrada a la prensa por primera vez en 10 años. Fuentes de la ONU dudan de que Pekín buscara boicotear su acuerdo a través de otros países: "Probablemente lo hacían porque arremetían contra EE UU y los países ricos".

La dificultad para alcanzar un acuerdo puede parecer excesiva, pero es que las implicaciones de la lucha contra el cambio climático son inabarcables: para conseguir limitar la temperatura y estabilizar la concentración de dióxido de carbono en la atmósfera hace falta una revolución industrial con energía verde, dejar atrás el petróleo, actuar sobre el comercio internacional, tratar la aviación, evitar la deforestación... La española María Neira, de la Organización Mundial de la Salud, estuvo hasta el ultimo día: "Si esto sale adelante sera el principal tratado de salud pública del mundo. Los millones de muertes por contaminación en las ciudades y la mala calidad del aire interior por combustión de cocinas de mala calidad en países en desarrollo empezarán a caer".

El acuerdo incluye que el Fondo del Clima pagará a los países tropicales para que no talen sus bosques, imprescindibles para el planeta. Luz entre las sombras.

dezembro 15, 2009

‘Documentos secretos revelam que Irão testa componente de arma atómica‘ in Times

Confidential intelligence documents obtained by The Times show that Iran is working on testing a key final component of a nuclear bomb.

The notes, from Iran’s most sensitive military nuclear project, describe a four-year plan to test a neutron initiator, the component of a nuclear bomb that triggers an explosion. Foreign intelligence agencies date them to early 2007, four years after Iran was thought to have suspended its weapons programme.

An Asian intelligence source last week confirmed to The Times that his country also believed that weapons work was being carried out as recently as 2007 — specifically, work on a neutron initiator.

The technical document describes the use of a neutron source, uranium deuteride, which independent experts confirm has no possible civilian or military use other than in a nuclear weapon. Uranium deuteride is the material used in Pakistan’s bomb, from where Iran obtained its blueprint.

“Although Iran might claim that this work is for civil purposes, there is no civil application,” said David Albright, a physicist and president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, which has analysed hundreds of pages of documents related to the Iranian programme. “This is a very strong indicator of weapons work.”

The documents have been seen by intelligence agencies from several Western countries, including Britain. A senior source at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that they had been passed to the UN’s nuclear watchdog.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said yesterday: “We do not comment on intelligence, but our concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme are clear. Obviously this document, if authentic, raises serious questions about Iran’s intentions.”

Responding to The Times’ findings, an Israeli government spokesperson said: “Israel is increasingly concerned about the state of the Iranian nuclear programme and the real intentions that may lie behind it.”

The revelation coincides with growing international concern about Iran’s nuclear programme. Tehran insists that it wants to build a civilian nuclear industry to generate power, but critics suspect that the regime is intent on diverting the technology to build an atomic bomb.

In September, Iran was forced to admit that it was constructing a secret uranium enrichment facility near the city of Qom. President Ahmadinejad then claimed that he wanted to build ten such sites. Over the weekend Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian Foreign Minister, said that Iran needed up to 15 nuclear power plants to meet its energy needs, despite the country’s huge oil and gas reserves.

Publication of the nuclear documents will increase pressure for tougher UN sanctions against Iran, which are due to be discussed this week. But the latest leaks in a long series of allegations against Iran will also be seized on by hawks in Israel and the US, who support a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities before the country can build its first warhead.

Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow for non-proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said: “The most shattering conclusion is that, if this was an effort that began in 2007, it could be a casus belli. If Iran is working on weapons, it means there is no diplomatic solution.”

The Times had the documents, which were originally written in Farsi, translated into English and had the translation separately verified by two Farsi speakers. While much of the language is technical, it is clear that the Iranians are intent on concealing their nuclear military work behind legitimate civilian research.

The fallout could be explosive, especially in Washington, where it is likely to invite questions about President Obama’s groundbreaking outreach to Iran. The papers provide the first evidence which suggests that Iran has pursued weapons studies after 2003 and may actively be doing so today — if the four-year plan continued as envisaged.

A 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate concluded that weapons work was suspended in 2003 and officials said with “moderate confidence” that it had not resumed by mid-2007. Britain, Germany and France, however, believe that weapons work had already resumed by then.

Western intelligence sources say that by 2003 Iran had already assembled the technical know-how it needed to build a bomb, but had yet to complete the necessary testing to be sure such a device would work. Iran also lacked sufficient fissile material to fuel a bomb and still does — although it is technically capable of producing weapons-grade uranium should its leaders take the political decision to do so.

The documents detail a plan for tests to determine whether the device works — without detonating an explosion leaving traces of uranium detectable by the outside world. If such traces were found, they would be taken as irreversible evidence of Iran’s intention to become a nuclear-armed power.

Experts say that, if the 2007 date is correct, the documents are the strongest indicator yet of a continuing nuclear weapons programme in Iran. Iran has long denied a military dimension to its nuclear programme, claiming its nuclear activities are solely focused on the production of energy for civilian use.

Mr Fitzpatrick said: “Is this the smoking gun? That’s the question people should be asking. It looks like the smoking gun. This is smoking uranium.”

dezembro 09, 2009

UE acusada de ‘truques sujos‘ na cimeira de Copenhaga sobre o ambiente in EU Observer

Europe, the US and other advanced nations have been accused of pressuring developing countries to pull experienced negotiators and excluding them from access to draft documents in an effort to undermine their position at the bargaining table.

Ahead of the UN climate talks in Copenhagen that opened on Monday (7 December), Bernaditas Muller, co-ordinator for the G77 and China group of countries was suddenly dropped from the Philippine delegation without explanation.

"The exclusion of Bernarditas Muller, a long-time diplomat, is a cowardly acquiescence to the US, EU, Japanese, Canadian and Australian pressures to eliminate vocal defenders of developing countries' interests from the negotiations," read a joint statement of almost 40 environmental and development NGOs including Oxfam, the WWF, Christian Aid and Greenpeace condemning the move.

Ms Muller is one of the most experienced climate negotiators in the world, having been involved in similar international discussions dating back to the UN Conference on Environment and Development Rio de Janeiro in 1992 - the first major global talks on climate change - and has frequently been a thorn in the side of industrialised countries.

"She's an extremely experienced negotiator, with an in-depth knowledge of the convention," Lim Li Lin, a legal advisor with the Third World Network, a group of NGOs close to developing nation governments, told EUobserver. "Very few people in the developing world have her depth of institutional knowledge and negotiating capacity."

"It really destabilises them and their ability to act as a co-ordinated group. It upsets their strategy and capacity to negotiate," she added.

The group of NGOs suggested that the move followed a visit by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton to the Philippines.

According to the Philippine delegation and domestic NGOs, the decision to exclude Ms Muller was taken by the Philippine cabinet and the president herself.

"We can't confirm that this was as a result of pressure or promises, but clearly these things don't happen without this sort of activity," said Ms Lin.

Ms Muller was quickly re-adopted by the Sudanese delegation, allowing her to continue in her role as G77 co-ordinator.

A spokesperson for the European Commission denied that Europe was behind Ms Muller's removal. "We had nothing at all to do with this," said environment spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich.


Separately, an overlapping group of NGOs sharply attacked Denmark, holder of the presidency of the UN climate conference, of acting in a "biased, manipulative and nontransparent manner."

Some 25 groups, including Action Aid, the World Development Movement and Friends of the Earth criticised as "undemocratic" Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen's practice of convening small working groups of countries, which excluded poor nations, before the Copenhagen meeting.

Draft "Copenhagen Accords" circulated before the conference were given only to a small number of governments while others were excluded, the NGOs added.

The groups argue that the texts ignore the demands of developing countries, instead reflecting the position of developed countries on key issues.

Raman Mehta from Action Aid India said: "The global community trusted the Danish government to host a fair and transparent process but they have betrayed that trust."

A Danish official told this website that such criticisms were unwarranted as "it's no secret that there have been ongoing bilateral discussions for some time now."

dezembro 01, 2009

‘O Tratado de Lisboa entrou em vigor‘ in EU Observer

The European Union is celebrating the entry into force of a new set of rules today (1 December), hoping to put a full-stop behind the years of wrangling, set-backs and lowered ambitions that have marked this lengthy phase of institution building.

The Lisbon Treaty, named after the Portuguese capital where it was signed in 2007, is coming into place a full eight years after member states decided that the European Union needed both to address its democratic legitimacy - sometimes described as its democratic deficit - and allow for more flexible decision-making.

Since that time, the European Union has grown by 12 member states to encompass almost 500 million citizens, expanded the area where the euro is employed as the currency to 16 countries, and sees its main challenges as tackling climate change, dealing with the effects of globalisation, and lately trying to exit the economic crisis.

The path to today's ratification however has been far from smooth, leaving the European Union with barely a month since 2001 when the institutional question was not an issue up for debate.

The body of the treaty was drawn up via a one-year convention, hailed at the time for containing a broad mix of representatives including national and European politicians and civil society representatives and headed by former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing.

But the European Constitution that emerged was in 2005 torpedoed by voters in founding member states France and the Netherlands, shocking the EU and sending everyone back to the negotiating table.

Bumpy path

The resulting Lisbon Treaty contains most of the constitution's innovations but no longer the symbolically important and state-like elements such as an article covering an EU flag and anthem. It was also presented differently as simply an amending treaty, rather than a constitution in its own right.

This is largely a reflection of the nature of the European Union, made up of 27 member states, which to a greater or lesser degree want to further integrate in certain - but not all - areas.

Controversy and delays have continued to dog the treaty even in its new form. It too was rejected, this time by Irish voters in June 2008 who then changed their minds to embrace it a second referendum in the October of the following year. Meanwhile the Czech Republic's ratification, the final of the 27, was a drawn-out process involving multiple court assessments before the eventual reluctant signature by its eurosceptic president.

This meant that news that the treaty could finally to pass into force was marked rather by a sense of weary relief in member states than any sort of celebration.

New posts and new powers for MEPs

Its most prominent innovations include the creation of a permanent president of the European Council and a beefed up foreign policy chief, who will head a new large diplomatic corps.

These posts are supposed to give coherence to the bloc's external policy and supply it with a stronger voice on the world stage, although their success – ultimately awarded to a pair of low-profile politicians - will depend on the ability of member states to form united positions and support the new external policy chiefs.

The arguably more profound change is internally, with member states' ability to veto being markedly reduced and a corresponding significant boost to the European Parliament's powers. MEPs now have a say over a wide range of new areas including farm and fisheries policy, transport, structural funds and justice and home affairs.

Tax, social security issue, citizens' rights, the main aspects of foreign and defence policy and where EU institutions sit geographically are still subject to agreement by member-state unanimity, however.

National parliaments also gain some powers to scrutinise legislation to make sure it is proportionate and being enacted at the right level, while the signature of one million citizens across the EU obliges the commission to look into acting on the issue concerned.

The European Court of Justice gains the powers to rule in the area of freedom, security and justice as well as judging whether member states are implementing EU laws according to the Charter of Fundamental Rights – a rights document that all member states except Britain, Poland and the Czech Republic have signed up to.

The treaty, so long in the making, has both ardent proponents and vehement critics. Its admirers say it will make internal EU decision-making easier, more flexible and more democratic while its innovations will allow the EU to become a major player in the globe.

Its critics, however, say the central issue of the EU's democratic deficit has not been sufficiently addressed, meaning citizens will continue to perceive the European Union as being an elites-driven project.