Published on Tuesday, March 22, 2005 by the Inter-Press Service
Europe Prepares Its Case Against Wolfowitz
by Stefania Bianchi
BRUSSELS -- Paul Wolfowitz, the controversial U.S. nominee to take over as World Bank president, will face some of his biggest critics during a trip to Brussels.
The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union (EU), announced Monday that Wolfowitz had agreed to visit Brussels, as members of the European Parliament (MEPs) launched a campaign to block his appointment.
U.S. President George W. Bush announced Wolfowitz as the U.S. nomination to head the global lending institution for developing countries last week.
Wolfowitz, who is currently the deputy secretary of defence, will meet Louis Michel, European commissioner for development and humanitarian aid during the visit, and will explain his views on development to EU officials..
”I am looking forward to meeting Mr Wolfowitz in Brussels to listen to his ideas on development, the main challenges ahead, and his vision for the World Bank as a major actor,” Michel said in a statement last week.
”As the world's largest aid donor, the European Union has built a strategic partnership with the World Bank to pursue its main goal, which is poverty alleviation. This institution plays a crucial role in addressing the development challenges, a huge task that can only be tackled by a joint effort of the international community,” he added.
No date for the meeting has been set, and it remains unclear whether the meeting will be held before or after the World Bank board meets to pick a successor to outgoing president James Wolfensohn, whose term ends May 31.
U.S. nominations to the World Bank presidency are usually unchallenged, as are European nominations to lead the International Monetary Fund. But since the announcement of the nomination of Wolfowitz for the post, a Europe-wide campaign against his choice has been gaining momentum.
Wolfowitz is considered one of the Bush administration's most hawkish figures. He was a leading advocate of the decision to go to war with Iraq.
Wolfowitz insists he is not looking to shift the Bank's agenda to a more political one, but development groups and some leading EU officials are demanding that his candidature is withdrawn.
Senior MEPs led by Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Liberal Andrew Duff, Christian Democrat Alain Lamassoure and Socialist Hannes Swoboda tabled a written declaration Monday asking EU member states not to accept his nomination.
”We object both to the process of the nomination and to its substance. 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,” Andrew Duff says on his parliamentary website.
Labour MEP and development policy expert Glenys Kinnock is urging the EU to use its voting powers to challenge the United States.
”The EU has more voting weight in the World Bank than the United States. It should use it. The idea that someone with no experience nor understanding of development can be parachuted into this job beggars belief,” she said in a statement.
”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.”
Development non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are also calling for the withdrawal of Wolfowitz's nomination.
”This is a terrible choice,” David Waskow, director of the international programme at Friends of the Earth-U.S. said in a statement. ”At a time of immense global challenges, Wolfowitz has no relevant expertise in alleviating poverty or addressing critical environmental issues like global warming. He is the wrong person for this job.” ”There's never been a time when the world was in greater need of cooperative leadership. Instead, Bush has put forward one of the principal architects of his administration's unilateralist policies. Wolfowitz has shown nothing but disdain for collaboration with other countries.”
CONCORD, a confederation of European NGOs for relief and development, has launched its own multi-country petition to European heads of state challenging the choice of Wolfowitz.
The network of NGOs says Wolfowitz is a ”very controversial choice borne of an untransparent and undemocratic process.”
The group says the petition has already met ”an unprecedented response”, and within 30 hours attracted 1,255 signatories from 68 countries. The petition will be sent to heads of state.
EU finance ministers were due to discuss Wolfowitz's nomination at a summit in Brussels Tuesday, but it is unlikely that the ministers will reach a conclusion over his candidature.
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