Year 2000 No. 92, June 1, 2000

EC Agenda for Further Privatisation of Post Office Must Be Opposed

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index : Discuss

EC Agenda for Further Privatisation of Post Office Must Be Opposed

Talks Held between Diplomats of DPRK and Britain

Comment: The Talks between the DPRK and Britain

Statement from the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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EC Agenda for Further Privatisation of Post Office Must Be Opposed

The European Commission is making new arrangements to break up the national postal services. In proposals in a draft directive put forward on May 30, all EU member states would be compelled to open to competition all postal services on mail over 50 grams at the beginning of 2003, compared with the current limit of 350 grams. In addition, all outgoing post to other EU countries and express mail would be subject to competition. The point of the proposals is to "reform" the postal systems of Europe, to "deregulate" them, in order to follow the dictates of the marketplace, and create the conditions for the postal systems to further compete in the global market, as well as paving the way for a Europe-wide postal system, again in the interests of success in the global marketplace and the pursuit of maximum capitalist profit.

These proposals are entirely in line with the Postal Services Bill at present in Committee in the House of Lords prior to receiving its third reading and becoming law. The previous Conservative government made several attempts to come up with proposals to sell off the postal service and the present Labour government is still active in formulating new arrangements for the postal services. New Labour want to increase the profitability of the Post Office and in so doing increase payments to the rich. The global market is being made the target. This is estimated to be worth £20 billion a year for letters and packages, rising to £57 billion by 2010. This is not to speak of the vast markets in the delivery of goods such as clothes and groceries over which the monopolies are now licking their lips.

The announcement by Brussels of the new proposals, coupled with the Postal Services Bill, comes at a time when rural post offices are under threat of closing with many people, including pensioners in particular, being affected. The new arrangements will escalate the danger in rural areas, and raises the real possibility that what is known as the universal-service obligation will be abandoned. In other words, following the example of the banks, isolated or rural areas would become subject to market forces, and postal services to and from them would be more expensive or take longer or both. The Post Office has said of the EU proposals, "That will ultimately make it impossible to continue with the bedrock principle of an affordable and uniform postal service available to every customer, no matter how remote their address, and irrespective of what distance their domestic mail travels."

Post Office Unions have also warned that the proposals will cost 50,000 of the Royal Mail's 160,000 jobs. General Secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union, Derek Hodgson, said that the union is "gathering allies to ensure vigorous opposition" to the proposals across Europe.

The postal service itself has said that the new arrangements would "inevitably" lead to higher prices for the posting letters and would "dramatically" hit investment in new technology. The Chief Executive, John Roberts is not showing that he is altogether opposed to the plans for deregulation. He has only said that the proposals are going "too far, too quickly".

Workers see the issue, not only of endangering jobs but also affecting the service to ordinary people. It is a question of rights: the service should be fully funded as an important pro-social programme. The issue is not simply that the privatisation and profit-motive of the postal service be kept to reasonable levels, and jobs safeguarded. The fundamental issue is that there are in contention here two diametrically opposed visions of society, what should be its motive force and direction.

Only by opposing the new arrangements and putting forward their own alternative programme for a modern communications and postal system as part of the working people taking up the path of Stop Paying the Rich and Increase Investment in Social Programmes can the issue of properly organised and funded post offices begin to be tackled. The perspective in waging this struggle is that a modern system which serves the people’s needs and is not geared to capitalist competition and profitability will be guaranteed when the assets of the nation are under the control of the working class and the people are empowered to decide on the direction of the economy.

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Talks Held between Diplomats of DPRK and Britain

A spokesperson of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) said in reply to a question put to him by the Korean Central News Agency that talks between working diplomats of the DPRK and Britain were held in Pyongyang from May 16 to 20. He said that these talks were a continuation of earlier dialogue. Both sides had had an exhaustive discussion on the issues of developing in depth the bilateral relations in various fields in an atmosphere of mutual understanding and confidence and reached a consensus of views on a series of matters. The spokesperson added: We will as ever make positive efforts to develop the relations with all the countries which respect our sovereignty and are friendly to us, including Britain.

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The Talks between the DPRK and Britain

The talks between diplomats of the DPRK and Britain in the North Korean capital Pyongyang are an indication of the strength of the positive policy of the DPRK of developing bilateral relations in order to undermine the Anglo-American policy of isolating North Korea and labelling it as a so-called "rogue state", while itself pursuing its own independent course of development.

Only in March, and then again in April, Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain was threatening North Korea, together with Iraq, that as "non-compliers" of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it must be "brought back into compliance" with what he termed their "obligations" under the Treaty. The stand of the DPRK on this issue has all along been a principled one, and it has refuted in practice all allegations that it is developing nuclear weapons. The stand of the British government, as well as the US which has used the pretext of the "danger" of an attack from "rogue states" such as North Korea to pursue its so-called anti-missile defence shield, has been to label the DPRK as a "rogue state" to attack its following its chosen course outside the orbit of Anglo-US imperialism and their agenda of globalisation. The monopoly controlled media have aided and abetted this stand by consistently dishing out such disinformation as that North Korea is "isolationist" and "xenophobic", while floating the most outrageous horror stories about starvation in People’s Korea in the attempt to turn world public opinion against them. At the same time, Britain has pursued a policy of promoting "close political, trade and investment partnership" with South Korea, as well as Japan in furtherance of its aims of being competitive in the global market and following its interests in the South Asian region.

It is to be hoped that the British government will now take a positive stand for peace on the Korean peninsula, and reach the outcome of establishing full diplomatic relations with the DPRK. It should base its stand not on the agenda that all should submit to the "free market" and "liberalisation", but rather on the equality of all countries and the right of all peoples to follow their own chosen system.

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Statement from the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

WDIE has received the following statement by the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dated Wednesday, May 31, 2000. We are reproducing it for the information of our readers.

The Ethiopian Defence Forces that had advanced deep into western Eritrea since May 12, 2000 have evacuated the area after having successfully completed their mission.

The mission had two objectives:

1. to destroy enemy forces that were in retreat in the area;

2. to facilitate the realisation of the return of Ethiopian territories along other parts of the border that had been earlier invaded by Eritrea.

The loss suffered by Eritrea at the western front contributed to the success of Ethiopia's campaign to evict Eritrean troops of occupation in other areas along the common border.

The defeat of Eritrean troops in the western front also encouraged the leaders in Asmara to return to the peace talks without the preconditions they so arrogantly put forward a month ago.

At the same time, it should be noted that while Eritrea's leaders declare that they have accepted a cease-fire, what is evident is that, realism aside, feverish efforts are underway on all the fronts to regroup the battered Eritrean army for the purpose of making a comeback. Any effort by the Eritrean regime to instigate another round of combat will be resolutely rebuffed. Eritrea cannot be allowed to gamble with the peace and stability that is so essential for any progress to be made in furthering development in the Horn of Africa.

Ethiopia has no territorial claims over Eritrea. The withdrawal of the Ethiopian defence forces from western Eritrea is proof of that. All that Ethiopia wanted was the removal of Eritrean troops from Ethiopian soil. As in the other areas of the western and central fronts, Eritrean troops have now fled Bure in the east. It has, however, not been verified that they have vacated Badda on the north east frontier. Ethiopia is taking urgent measures to verify if indeed Eritrean troops have withdrawn from all occupied territories in the region.

Ethiopia, however, has at no time closed the door to peace. It remains committed to the OAU Chairman's efforts to reach a just solution to the crisis, and a delegation led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs is in Algiers for the OAU sponsored talks.

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