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Daily Archives: September 18, 2008

EU treaty not likely to be in place till 2010: Juncker

The EU's Lisbon reform treaty will probably not be in place for European elections next year but could come into force in January 2010, Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said yesterday.
"I don't think the treaty will be in place in June, when the next European (parliamentary) elections will take place," he told a forum, voicing what many in Brussels have been saying in private.
"In order to make it enter in force in June 2009, the treaty would have to be ratified by all countries before the end of February," he added.
"It's not realistic to consider that this could be," said Juncker.
"So my guess would be that the treaty will enter into force around the first of January 2010."
Ireland sent shockwaves through Europe on June 12 when a referendum rejected the treaty. It was the only country in the 27-nation European Union to hold a referendum but all nations must ratify the text before it can come into force.
Apart from Ireland, only Sweden and the Czech Republic have yet to ratify the text, and will do so via the parliamentary route.
The treaty crisis, which recalls the rejection of a full-scale constitution by French and Dutch voters in 2005, ruined the original plan to get the treaty up and running by January 1, 2009.
The Lisbon Treaty, drawn up to replace the failed constitution, would introduce an EU president and new foreign policy supremo and cut the number of national vetoes in EU voting.
These and the other treaty measures are designed to allow the European Union to play a stronger, more unified, role in international affairs and to streamline the creaking institutions of the European Union, which is currently operating under rules designed before the "big-bang" of 2004 which brought 10 mainly ex-Communist Eastern European nations into the fold.
In recent days several European officials have admitted they do not expect the treaty to come into force until 2010, but Juncker is the first to say so as clearly on the record.
The Luxembourg premier, who was addressing a forum in Brussels as the head of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, highlighted Dublin's difficulties in organising a second referendum in the current climate.
"Given the economic crisis we are dealing with, given the fact that confidence is lacking, given the fact that governments are increasingly unpopular all around Europe, organising a referendum on the European treaty is a dangerous path to take in those countries," he said.
The Irish government is due to present its analysis of the "no" vote and its consequences at a European summit in Brussels on October 15-16. However, no one is expected that it will propose a solution then.
The Irish decision on how to attempt to emerge from the treaty crisis is expected at the subsequent EU summit in December.
Until the Lisbon Treaty is ratified the EU's existing Nice Treaty, which came into effect in 2003, will continue to apply.
If the existing treaties are still in force in June 2009 the European parliament will have to be reduced from 785 deputies to 736.
It will also mean reducing the number of European policy commissioners when the members of the EU's executive arm are changed in November 2009. Currently each EU member state is allotted one commissioner.
Last month Ireland's Europe minister Dick Roche admitted for the first time that a second Irish vote may be necessary.

Spike Lee does the right thing in France for forgotten black troops

by Rory Mulholland*

Spike Lee visited a World War II cemetery near France's D-Day landing beaches before presenting the European premiere of his film about the forgotten contribution of African-American soldiers to the war that freed Europe from Nazi tyranny.
"I was surprised to find African-Americans buried there too," he told reporters after his trip to one of the many cemeteries on the Normandy coast where lie thousands of Allied soldiers killed as they stormed ashore in 1944.
The D-Day landings and other epic battles in World War II have been portrayed in countless films but, said the US director, nearly all show only white soldiers engaged in the struggle.
Lee's new film, "Miracle at St. Anna," aims to right that wrong.
"This film debunks the Hollywood mythology of Word War II films in general. That mythology excludes the 1.1 million African-Americans who contributed, fought and died in the war," he said before the premiere Wednesday at the Deauville Festival of American Film.
The 156-minute film follows four members of the all-black 92nd "Buffalo Soldier" Infantry Division trapped behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied Italy in 1944.
Both violent and schmaltzy, it portrays the camaraderie of the four men and the tensions that emerge between them as they hole up with an Italian family in a Tuscan viLlage.
It also details the racism they endured back home in the US and from their white commanders in the battle zone.
Asked about the 2006 French film "Indigenes (Days of Glory)," which like "Miracle at St. Anna" aimed to highlight the important but overlooked role of North African soldiers in the French army, Lee said he had seen and enjoyed that movie.
"That's one of the few examples where a film had an impact on real life. The (North African) veterans finally got the pension that the whites got" because of the extra pressure the movie put on the French government, he said.
"Miracle at St. Anna" is based on a novel by James McBride, who wrote the script for the movie.
The film is the first war film for New York-based Lee as well as the first movie he has made outside the US.
But the 51-year-old has worked in a number of genres and made his name by taking on issues that affect African-Americans in films such as "Jungle Fever," "Malcolm X, or "Do the Right Thing".
He said here Wednesday that his latest work was in "direct lineage from Italian post-war neo-realist works such as "The Bicycle Thief," "Germany Year Zero," and "Rome, Open City" in each of which, as in Lee's film, a child features in a prominent role to highlight the futile cruelty of war.
Long seen as an icon of independent US cinema, Lee in 2006 made the big-budget — and hugely successful — "Inside Man" bank heist drama, starring Clive Owen and Denzel Washington.
The prospects for "Miracle at St. Anna" might not be so rosy if some of the first reviews are to be heeded.
The Hollywood Reporter trade magazine slammed it as "an unsavoury blend of the sentimental and melodramatic".
The Irish Times, also basing its review on the world premiere at the Toronto film festival last weekend, called it "a plodding film unwisely over-stretched to close on three hours".
"Lee's film pales in comparison with the award-winning 2006 movie, 'Indigenes'," the paper's film critic said.