Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Local Spanish TV interview me about the Council of Europe Awards

18 Billion Dollars for a fake-pandemic?

In his 13 years working in the audio-visual department of the Council of Europe, Alun Drake said there have only been two really exciting cases. One was back in 2006 when it became known that the CIA were operating more than 1, 000 secret flights within the EU and the other was yesterday (27 January) when almost 1000 medias world wide reported on the Council of Europes hearing on the H1N1 flu.

The meeting involved representatives from the World Health Organisation(WHO), the UN health agencies, European vaccine manufacturers and saw them go face to face with medical experts. European parliamentarians were present to discuss the ethics of the WHO in the last year. Although the World Health Organisation is normally a world leader on health matters, yesterday (27 January) , it was put in the spotlight, and not for the right reasons. WHO was harshly criticised for the their handling of the H1N1 flu, for exaggerating the dangers of the flu just to please pharmaceutical companies who’s only interest was to make profit on the vaccine.

However, the WHO rejected all the accusations made by the Council of Europe. Speaking yesterday on behalf of the United Nations health agency, Dr Keiki Fukuda said that, “the labelling of the pandemic as fake is to ignore recent history and science, and to trivialise the deaths of over 14,000 people and the many serious additional illnesses experienced by others. So let me state clearly for the record: the influenza pandemic policies and reponses recommended and taken by the WHO were not improperly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry”.

And indeed, the WHO is a trusted agency. If the accusations are true, this is a highly blushing matter for them. German health expert, Wolfgang Wodarg ensures that it is and swears to ‘defend public health interests’ from now on. “What we have experienced now is that millions of people have been vaccinated unnessarily. This is damage done to people in order to earn money. And we cannot tolerate such an action by such an important agency as the WHO”.

No less than 18 billion dollars have been spent on the pandemic this year so the serious matter will not just be shoved to the bottom of the pile of files and will continue to be investigated within Europe’s biggest human rights defence body, the Council of Europe.

Méabh Mc Mahon
Strasbourg PACE January 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A trip to Strasbourg

Sticking out amidst the dark cloud of Strasbourgian rain and fog is a huge building. Decorated with a handful of European flags, it is clear to a passer-by that it is an official European institution. Known as the ‘Palais de l’Europe’, it is indeed a huge European intergovermental organisation and in fact is the seat of the Council of Europe. Although on a daily basis, it is full of civil servants, school tours and sporadic diplomatic visitors, this week it is filled to the brim with delegations from all over Europe as it kick’s off it’s first of four annual parliamentary assembly meetings.

What exactly is the Council of Europe?

Often confused with the European Council of the European Union, the Council of Europe is in fact the oldest international organisation that works above all towards promoting European integration. Based in Strasbourg, it was founded back in 1949 and now represents 47 members with roughly 800 citizens. It consists of a Committee of Ministers that comprises of foreign ministers from each member state, a Parliamentary Assembly that makes up of MPs from each member states’ Parliament, the European Court of Human Rights and a Secretary General. According to current Secretary General, the Norwegian Thorbjorn Jagland, if it didnt exist, “there would be a ‘huge divide in Europe today”.
One of the Council’s main activities is that of its Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe or PACE for short. The first Parliamentary Assembly of 2010 commenced yesterday (25 January) here in Strasbourg. The meeting will go on until Friday and put a number of issues on the table. Although topics like swine flu, discrimination, the Middle East and human trafficking will be brought up during the week, the first topic on the table yesterday morning was the election of a brand new President.

“I want to bring political understanding to a new level, to act as a bridge for the peoples of Europe, whether they are in the frozen Arctic or on the temperate beaches of Antalya”, were the words of of incoming President Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. Bidding adios to the outgoing Catalan, Lluís Maria de Puig, the Turk stressed his enthusiasm towards the new challenge of facing increasing intolerance and discrimination in society. “We must break down the walls in our minds. Unless we do that, there is no real freedom”.

The politician and economist, who has been a Member of Parliament for Antalya since 2002 got a warm reception from the audience. The latter made up of MPs from the 47 seven member states. But there were a few perplexed faces in the audiences. They belonged to a few young journalists from Italy, Ireland, Russia and Bulgaria, the winners of the Council of Europe journalism award.

Europe is more than you think Award

Last year, a pan-European media organisation known as the European Youth Press got together with the the Council of Europe to create a youth journalism prize. According to Sebastian Olényi, the organiser of the prize and representative of the Online platform youthmedia.eu of the European Youth Press where the event was published and the entries were collected, “the idea was to reach out to journalists beyond the borders of the European Union and to give them the tools to showcase their hard work”. “Its very exciting now to have our four winners here in Strasbourg for the real parliamentary assembly”. His comments were echoed by Francisco Empis, who organised the competition on behalf of the Council of Europe’s Communication Directerate. “It’s very interesting for us to see the impact we have on young journalists, and how aware they are of the work we do. Their experience here will hopefully inspire them to carry on their work as journalists and cover some of the issues they will be exposed during their visit”.

The thing is, the overall prize of the youth media competition was a trip to Strasbourg to cover this first parliamentary assembly of 2010. This explains the confused faces in the audience yesterday morning. However, today is day two at the Council of Europe and those faces have adapted over night to this ginormous intergovernmental organisation and have become much more aware of what is going on. Ready to report, the group have already started to work and will be updating you on the ins and outs of this weeks Assembly right here on this blog.