DieselGate and its shadows

dieselgate greenpease

It’s been more than a while since my last posting here, due to a combination of lack of time, writer’s block, rich (to an intolerable level) actuality and procrastination.
However, in the meantime I’ve shared tens of articles in TWTP page in FB  and I urge you (because it is worthwhile) to follow the site there, if you also want to read a rich and essential selection of articles, news and analysis.

This morning, TV presented the recent and notorious #dieselgate, the attempt of the industrial giant, Volkswagen, to mislead and deceive consumers and authorities about the real emissions of their cars.
Around the scandal, some of the facts which have material, ethical and even political levels are:

Consumers buy low-emissions cars, either because of financial reasons or, hopefully, because they want to contribute in lower emissions, less CO2, saving the planet, i.e. environmental awareness.
They have been fooled and betrayed and in their turn and unwillingly, they betrayed the cause.

States and authorities, very unwillingly, struggle to match profits of industries with laws about the emissions. For this reason they have set standards. They have been defrauded.

Environmental groups and organizations invest all their lame (not by their own fault) influence and contribution to the cause of saving the planet to be defeated, like many other fights, in the name of profit. They have been mocked and disregarded and their hardly achieved victories have been “zeroed”.

It is considered highly probable that Germany itself is under pressure (blackmail) from USA to push/force/impose consent inside EU legislative bodies and member states to sign the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the well-known threat on economy, civil rights, public health and, eventually, democracy in EU.

The old and “traditional” industrial giant of Germany is said to be in “existential” danger because of the scandal, they have lost their credibility, their stocks fell and the factory could stop working and producing. Skilled workers are threatened with unemployment and even worse, into current economic climate.
The giant will survive, I could bet much on that, the, real responsible or scapegoat, CEO will not … starve but workers will suffer psychological blackmail to “save their jobs” by accepting cut of their wages and even “limited and targeted” dismissals.
What is ironic if not tragic here is that the workers inevitably connect their lives with the industry, the cheating, unlawful, inhumane organism which nevertheless has giant profits.
The need for work could drive any worker and employee to disregard one’s consciousness, views or ideals. After all, that’s the ultimate role and purpose of (manufactured) unemployment within EU and wherever neo-liberalism is ruling and governing.

So, while environmentalists protest outside Volkswagen, workers and residents of Wolfsburg are terrified by the ominous prospects for their place, their works or their businesses.

A similar situation applies at Skouries, Chalkidiki, Greece, where the gold mining has disastrous effects on environment but the workers (think that) they defend their jobs but unwillingly they fight in favor of the interests of the Canadian company and against their children’s future.

Consciousness vs. Living
People vs. Corporate
Ethics vs. Matter
Climate vs. Fraud
Truth vs. Lies
Earth vs. Fossil fuels
Environment vs. Profits

… and the winner is …

who or whatever we, all the people, decide.

Which are your views??

PS:
A few days after posting this article, revelations show that European Commission knew and covered the fraud.

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ISDS: The Big Bad Wolf of the Trade and Investment Agreements

Hayden Morris ISDS Cartoon
Hayden Morris ISDS Cartoon

 

Also published in: Reader Supported News/Writing for Godot

Protests

Several separate and seemingly different forms of public protests and debates are “running” these days. One of them is an international call from Avaaz to sign a petition for a just rule of arbitration on the known in Spanish as Caso Philip Morris Contra Uruguay, which started about five years ago. In this case, the big tobacco company sues Uruguay for having legislated anti-smoking laws.
As it is the practice and after the July 2013 decision of the tribunal that it has jurisdiction to examine the case, the “complaint” of Philip Morris will be dealt and settled by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) a member of World Bank Group.
The company claims a compensation of $25 million for the anti-smoking campaign of Uruguay with photos on the cigarette packages. More that one million people have signed the petition until today.
In this case, the country has to defend its attempt to safeguard public health by passing anti-smoking laws and applying practices used all over the world.

Another wave of protests is taking place this week, 20-24 April with marches and events in Europe, Canada, USA and elsewhere. More than 20,000 participated in the recent marches and about 1.8 million have signed the internet declaration “STOP TTIP and CETA”.
Protests are against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between EU and USA, the Canada-EU Trade Agreement (CETA), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) a trade agreement currently being negotiated by 24 members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), including the EU, three infamous pending agreements.
All of the agreements aim to “liberalise trade” either of goods or of services. The talks for TTIP have started (formally) in 2013 and remained secret even for the members of the European Parliament. Only after leaks of information which demonstrated the dangers for several sectors, MEPs and the public demanded transparency.
The same secrecy applies to EU-Canada negotiations. All of their terms are promoted as beneficial but Ulrike Hermann in “Free Trade Project of the Powerful” notes in the conclusion about TTIP: “The Canadian lawyer Howard Mann, who has dealt with investor protection agreements for more than 15 years”, assessed that, “this agreement [CETA] was the most ‘investor-friendly’ contract the Canadian government had ever negotiated”.
TTIP is a high target for USA and both the government and the lobbies have demonstrated their deep interest in many.
The dominance of the multinational companies, the privatization of public and social services and their fall to corporate giants are inevitable components of the agreement while the demonstrated benefits (for the people of both parts) are strongly challenged.

Anything but transparent negotiations and terms

Since 2013, a number of EU laws have changed, fragmentary though methodically, in an attempt to ensure “conformity” to the terms and conditions of TTIP which according to studies and publications threaten (in both sides): Democracy itself, Food Safety, Jobs, Environment, Public Services and Personal Privacy. TTIP also includes provision for Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which is the tribunal mechanism involved in the Uruguay Case.
USA has insisted on including the clause in the agreement but according to information of January, the EU won’t decide whether to include it in the TTIP until the “final phase of the negotiations” with the US.

A major contribution to the public alert both in EU and USA about the agreements have offered the releases by the Wikileaks of a series of classified documents revealing terms and chapters of the other (also disputed) agreement, the TPP.
This “regional regulatory and investment treaty” which is top priority for Barack Obama, involves USA and 11 more countries, all of which control the 40% of the world’s economy -i.e. Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
The talks started in 2005 and have long passed their initial time-limit of 2012, as a wave of movements, activists and professional groups have questioned the clauses -especially after the documents publications by Wilileaks-, but also because of the discrepancies of interests between the countries.

The involving parts (the US overarching) claim that the results would be in favour of their countries and for the middle classes in particular, as President Obama stressed facing the criticism even from democrats, about the fast-track procedures on TPP.
Elizabeth Warren, the democratic senator -who is encouraged and supported by Media to run for the nomination for president- has initiated the internet campaign “No vote (by the Congress) on fast-tracking trade until the TPP agreement is public”. She also denounces the secrecy which has kept people out of “locked doors” about the information for TPP.

It is obvious that secrecy is a common factor of all negotiations on the so-called “free trade” agreements and the debate procedures that European Commission opened, function more than a propaganda channel rather than a voice of people.
After keeping the public in ignorance and mediocrity, the long time negotiations from their part, serve the gradual strategy, both strategies of manipulating the population according to Noam Chomsky.

It is also a common knowledge that corporate rules in USA; USA seeks the final signs of TTIP and TPP;  the corporate seeks the agreements which means that their profits from them are evident.
Furthermore, corporate profits and interests are by definition and proven, against people’s benefits.

ISDS: Corporate Vs Countries

So, apart from terms concerning foods, environment or public services, which is the extra danger deriving from the ISDS term?

When a company invests and operates inside a country, it must comply with state laws. In case of changes of laws, citizens as well as companies have to conform. That is the norm but not under signed agreements which include ISDS term.
Under ISDS, if the investors, usually trans-national corporations, find that the new legislation affects their interests they have the right to demand compensations. “They are able to bring claims for damages against the host country even if they have no contract with its government”, as described by John Hilary, in “TTIP: Charter for Deregulation, an Attack on Jobs, an End to Democracy”.
Any dispute is resolved by the arbitration tribunals.

No matter what the beneficial act for the country and its people is, the supportive system of arbitration, almost by default decides in favour of the investor a practice that lead them to lose any credibility, according to an older (no longer available) Public Statement On The International Investment Regime, supported by academics with expertise on investment law, arbitration, and regulation.

A few examples out of 500 known cases against 95 countries follow:

  • The Swedish energy company Vattenfall is suing the German government for € 3.7 billion over the country’s decision to phase out nuclear power […] Vattenfall has already been successful in a previous challenge to the city of Hamburg’s environment regulations […]
  • …Under NAFTA rules, Canada was forced to revoke its ban on the fuel additive MMT under a challenge from US Company Ethyl. In a later case over water and timber rights, Canada had to pay out $122 million to the Canadian paper company AbitibiBowater. It is worth noticing here that some domestic companies “reinvent themselves as ‘foreign’ investors in order to take advantage of ISDS privileges and sue their government” according to Gus Van Harten’s, Investment Treaty Arbitration and Public Law, as cited by Hilary.
  • US tobacco giant Philip Morris, apart from Uruguay, is also suing the Australian government for billions of dollars over its public health policy that all cigarettes must now be sold in plain packaging.
  • Until 2011, 27 claims were pending against Argentina at the ICSID, accounting for more than 1/5th of that institution’s pending case-load. All but 1 of these 27 cases involve claims relating, at least in part, to Argentina’s response to its earlier financial crisis. In short, Argentina was sued to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for the measures it took against its financial crisis.
  • Another South American country, Ecuador, has been ordered to pay to Occidental Petroleum $ 1.77 billion in damages for terminating the contract when the company broke the law (ICSID’s the largest award in history). On the other hand, a separate tribunal dismissed the claim for $19 billion in damages by Ecuador against Chevron for the contamination of the Amazonian rainforest, although there is evidence of the pollution which cost lives.

It becomes clear that arbitration tribunals are a kind of defenders and guardians of the interests of investors.

Together with enforced legislation about GMOs and other food processes applied by big companies in USA, fossil fuels and energy, privatizations -especially of health services- or personal privacy attacks by the copyright, patents and trademarks clauses, all under the agreements, the arbitration provision has more than one level of risks.

The TPP targets to completely uniform legislations of trade and services in countries around the Pacific, many of which are near China while TTIP, CETA and TISA involve European countries, all of which are near Russia.

Within the EU, where the countries of the south suffer the consequences of economic destabilization caused largely by the very core of the Euro zone, it could be a matter of (short) time to become colonies of big corporations and multinationals.

Or, as Noam Chomsky put it: “Every Word in the Phrase ‘Free Trade Agreement’ Is False”.

Relative articles:
The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Death of the Republic – The Web of Debt Blog

Updated April 27 2015

 

 

Alexis Tsipras’ visit in Moscow The aftermath

Tsipras-visits-moscow-5

On 8th April, a few days before Orthodox Christian Easter, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras visited Moscow, the capital of Russia, and met with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

While this was “one of the many visits” that the new Head of the Government of any country is expected to carry out (a few days earlier Mr. Tsipras had visited German Chancellor Angela Merkel), it proved that this specific travel to Russia has triggered disproportionately many reactions, especially among the officials of the EU.
For example, the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, felt obliged to warn Greek Prime Minister not to “endanger” the common European policies against Russia.
Although we shall not analyze in this article the issue, the background, the expediency, the appropriateness, the ultimate purposes and the side effects of these policies, it is worth noticing that neither the president of the E.P. nor any official of a country or an institution has the right to “warn” the leader of a state about anything.
After all, in which way Mr. Tsipras could endanger the supposedly solid and righteous policies of EU? Could Greece unilaterally lift sanctions? It is proved they cannot.
If any unilateral action could be taken, Russia would have possibly agreed to lift sanctions against Greek agricultural products, a disastrous side-effect of sanctions of EU against Russia.
Even the use of the word “controversial” by Media seems having the intention to creating negative impressions. These reactions combined with a few other aspects of the conversations between the two leaders, worth some further analysis.

One of the dominant subjects discussed, according to the two leaders’ statements, has been the construction of a pipeline which will transfer gas within Greek territory and will be the extension of the pipeline which passes through Turkey.
While the profits deriving from this pipe are connected and are relative to energy sufficiency and autonomy for Greece, as Alexis Tsipras stated, there is a question about this project and this question has to do with the promoted Energy Union project which was launched in March 2015 by the EU.
Apart from any other (many) controversies of this Union which has been questioned by scientists, its so-called environmental profits are also questioned.
Additionally, the target of 20/20/20 includes measures for climate.
To this controversy, we have to add the controversial or even catastrophic results of earlier “unions”- such as Agricultural, Monetary etc- for the weaker, less populated and with “obedient” neo-liberal governments, member-states.
Energy Union, not accidentally at all, followed sanctions against Russia and coincides chronologically to the discussions of infamous Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between EU and USA which until now has not been signed mostly because of German objections, no matter how calamitous the agreement has proved to be.
EU is also an “open” market for the Canadian tar sands oil, furthermore in front of the uncertainty about Keystone XL, at least during Obama administration.
If and when the terms of the agreement become profitable for Germany et al., it is certain to be imposed to other member-states.

Could Greece sign an agreement with Russia, if it contradicts the terms of the Energy Union?
In the same way by which Athens is in fact not allowed to ask money from lenders other than IMF or EU (which is the explanation of the attempt to create climate of fear with “leaks” and publications about Grexit soon after the travel to Moscow), in the same way by which Bulgaria, after the impose of sanctions to Putin and Russia, was ordered to stop the construction of the profitable for the country South Stream pipeline (which bypasses Ukraine and probably because of this reason was undesirable for EU and USA) and was threatened to be deprived of economic support if they denied, in this same way Greece will not likely be allowed to build the pipeline.

If all earlier Greek governments had not realized how important the country is or they had chosen not to shield the country’s interests and not to take advantage of their geostrategic place, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the new Greek government, have to play smartly and to use their strong cards for the benefit of the Greek people.
Many, inside and outside Greece, could argue that any action not approved by the European partners, could lead Greece outside EU.
An ousting of a “disobedient” member would certainly be one more demonstration of punitive policies conducted by Germany et al.
On the other hand, the upheaval caused by the visit of Greek Prime Minister in Moscow is a fine example of the fear which is caused to the dominant EU powers when a member-state exercises its right to independent national policy.
Mr. Tsipras says (and we believe him) that “wants” EU although, with all due respect, he most likely wants the European ideals of the once preached Europe of the People.
The EU of the present much less the EU of the future, is not “of the People”.
Even if it is called “EU of the citizens”, in fact it is the EU of the rich and powerful who act according to a political, cultural and ideological conservative conception.

Relationships within the EU resemble to these of  troubled marriages of older times:
The obliged by social conventions not to work member is financially dependent and therefore weaker.
This member, the wife in most cases, thinks that she cannot afford to abandon the bad husband. Therefore she suffers psychological blackmail by the owner of the wealth.

Instead of an epilogue: If indeed (as it is published) a leader of a European country has warned Alexis Tsipras not to become “useful idiot” for Russia (a phrase falsely attributed to Vladimir Lenin), someone has to tell him or her that potential useful idiots are certainly more decent than useless and volunteer idiots.