Duff tries to thwart Wolfowitz

THE East of England, in the guise of its Liberal Democrat Euro MP Andrew Duff, is at the forefront of cross-party efforts in the European Parliament to veto the appointment of Paul Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank.

THE East of England, in the guise of its Liberal Democrat Euro MP Andrew Duff, is at the forefront of cross-party efforts in the European Parliament to veto the appointment of Paul Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank.

"We object both to the process of the nomination and to its substance," said Mr Duff as he led a campaign to block US President George Bush's nomination for the job.

"Wolfowitz is an unabashed right-winger whose policies are out of line with those of the European Union.

"He will behave like an American pro-consul and will never command the trust of the global development community."

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Mr Duff, who said EU member states collectively had more voting clout than America in the World Bank "and should use it," is behind a written declaration gathering support in the European Parliament urging EU governments not to accept the American nomination.

Labour MEP and Development policy expert Lady (Glenys) Kinnock chipped in: "The idea that someone with no experience nor understanding of development can be parachuted into this job beggars belief.

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"He is a renowned neo-conservative hawk who has, for instance, shown that he believes that you can build democracy by force if necessary.

"He is the nomination of a government which opposes international positions on climate change and is far from positive on its responsibilities to promote trade justice, debt reform or the doubling of overseas aid levels."

Mrs Kinnock added: "Technically, it should be possible for concerned members of the World Bank Board to form a blocking minority against this nomination.

"This will need the British Government to take a strong stance, by backing the proposal clearly made in the Commission for Africa Report that the Heads of the World Bank and IMF should be selected through a system of open competition."

Wolfowitz was one of the architects and chief cheer leaders of the Bush-Blair led invasion of Iraq, which is why anti-war campaigners are trying to block the nomination.

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso has been forced onto the back foot, pleading for a fair hearing without prejudice for Washington's controversial choice for the job.

"We should not be prejudiced about people and personalities. We should listen and judge their ability to implement their objectives."

Traditionally, the United States chooses the World Bank chief and the European Union selects the head of the International Monetary Fund.

THE EU has taken the unprecedented decision to postpone the start of membership talks with Croatia, because of the country's lack of co-operation with the International War Crimes Tribunal. Brussels insists the Croatians arrest and extradite General Ante Gotovina – charged with war crimes against Croatian Serbs during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in 1995.

THE European Commission has sounded alarm bells over Europe's falling population. Better health, longer life and lower fertility rates signal dramatic demographic changes ahead, with immigration the only thing keeping the EU population growing for the time being.

By 2025, the population will start to decline – at a time when the American population will have risen by more than 25% since the turn of the century.

Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimir Spidla said: "This is much broader than just older workers and pension reform. Demographic change will affect almost every aspect of our lives, from the way businesses operate and work is organised to urban planning, the design of housing and voting behaviour.

"All age groups will be affected as people live longer and enjoy better health, the birth rate falls and our work force shrinks. It is time to act now and this European level debate is the first step."

ESSEX Tory leader Lord Hanningfield's assertion last week that anyone voting Labour or Liberal Democrat in May's county council elections should seek "psychiatric help" has naturally upset his opponents.

Ken Jones, Liberal Democrats group leader, said: "I am shocked and appalled at the contempt with which Lord Hanningfield has shown the people of Essex by this cheap and vulgar comment.

"It is unforgivable for any politician to abuse the taxpaying public in this juvenile and patronising way, to say nothing of those who genuinely need mental health services.

"In a democracy, not only are people entitled to vote for whoever they choose, but they are also entitled to cast the vote of their choice without being accused of mental illness, especially by respected members of

government like Lord Hanningfield," added Mr Jones.

DOWN in Westminster, MPs were treated to a sermon on the proposed licesnsing charges for village halls by none other than the Secretary of State for Media, Culture and Sport Tessa Jowell.

When Tory Andrew Selous (SW Bedfordshire) warned at question time of "widespread damage" to 90,000 such premises in England from November after the new Act's provision take effect in November, Ms Jowell said village halls would be exempt from licence charges unless they serve alcohol and could apply for up to 12 temporary event notices a year.

"It is as important to local communities in local areas that their peace and quiet enjoyment of the homes is safeguarded as it is in urban areas. We will ensure through the application of the licensing regimes, through the local authorities, that it is proportionate."

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