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Cablegate: Luxembourg: Dispatches From the Duchy-October 2009

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RR RUEHIK
DE RUEHLE #0313/01 3071327
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 031327Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY LUXEMBOURG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6788
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 LUXEMBOURG 000313

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ELAB PGOV EAGR EFIN PHUM LU
SUBJECT: LUXEMBOURG: DISPATCHES FROM THE DUCHY-OCTOBER 2009

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1. (U) Embassy Luxembourg is pleased to present the October
2009 edition of "Dispatches from the Duchy" to capture
highlights from the local press, diplomatic and international
communities, and news not otherwise reported during the
month. Prepared by (acting) POL/ECON Chief Adam Center. This
month's topics include:

- spouses of "Cuba 5" visit MFA;
- dairy farmers protest EU Agriculture Ministerial;
- Luxembourg candidate for the European Central Bank;
- Luxembourg Green Party unhappy with H1N1 progress;
- Press freedom conference in Luxembourg;
- shenanigans at Villeroy & Boch;
- further shenanigans on the tennis court.

-----------------------------------
"CUBA 5" SPOUSES COME TO LUXEMBOURG
-----------------------------------

2. (SBU) Wives of two of the famed "Cuba 5" prisoners
confined in Florida visited Luxembourg in mid-October. Olga
Salanueva and Adriana Perez, wives of Rene Gonzalez and
Gerardo Hernandez, respectively, met with MFA representatives
and parliamentarians during their brief visit to the Grand
Duchy. The two women traveled to other countries in the
region as well, spreading the gospel about their husbands'
plight. Luxembourg officials tend toward reticence on most
issues related to Cuba, as the Grand Duchess, Maria Teresa,
is a native Cuban. Any conversation linking Luxembourg and
Cuba tends to default into speculation of what role the Grand
Duchess may or may not play, even as the Palace purports to
be above political dialogue. The fact that the MFA granted
an audience to Senoras Salanueva and Perez therefore raises
eyebrows. MFA's Latin America coordinator told Poloff that
the women lamented the baseless denial of visas to them to
visit their husbands and reaffirmed the readiness of the
Cuban government to directly negotiate the case of the "Cuba
5" with U.S. authorities. Reports of the visit were
noticeably absent from Luxembourg press. Post picked up on
the story purely by chance as a Google alert on the word
"Luxembourg" returned the story from a Cuban press outlet.

--------------------------------------------- --------------
MILK DOES DO A BODY GOOD - TO THE TUNE OF 280 MILLION EUROS
--------------------------------------------- --------------

3. (U) Dairy farmers besieged the site of European Union
Agricultural Ministers meetings on 19 October, causing minor,
but expected, paralysis of Luxembourg's traffic pattern for
hours. The protests were planned well in advance and
Luxembourg police amply prepared to manage the situation.
Official figures indicate that more than 2000 farmers and
nearly 500 tractors picketed the meeting site. The
well-organized protesters ignited bundles of straw, tires,
and even a felled tree, but caused minimal damage. Press
reports indicated, as well, the hurling of several Molotov
cocktails, but no injuries were reported. During the course
of meetings, the European Commission acknowledged the
farmers' concerns, proposing a 280 million euro fund to ease
the dairy sector's troubles. EU Agriculture Commission
representative Mariann Fischer Boel commented that the
protests have followed the agriculture ministers all over the
continent in recent months, and she was "emptying" EU pockets
for other agricultural sectors that may encounter troubles of
their own in the future. Fischer Boel indicated that, for 21
of the 27 EU governments, securing this aid for the dairy
sector was a priority.

------------------------------------
EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK VICE PRESIDENT
------------------------------------

4. (U) The government of Luxembourg nominated its central
bank governor, Yves Mersch, to succeed Greek incumbent Lucas
Papademos as Vice President of the European Central Bank.
Reuters quotes Prime Minister Juncker as saying Mersch would
make an excellent candidate and that he would do all in his
power to ensure Mersch ascends to the VP position. PolAsst,
however, was present at the Juncker press brief and indicated
Reuters did not accurately report Juncker's comments.
Juncker did endorse Mersch's candidacy, but the endorsement
was tepid - Juncker and Mersch are known to harbor a dislike
of each other. PolAsst reported that Juncker made no such
emphatic statements and certainly made no assertion that he
would "do everything within (his) possibilities so that
Mersch can become vice president of the ECB," as the Reuters
story reports. Mersch has served as Luxembourg's central bank
director since 1998.

--------------------------------------------- ---
H1N1 UPDATE: GREENS QUESTION LACK OF INFORMATION
--------------------------------------------- ---


LUXEMBOURG 00000313 002.2 OF 003


5. (U) Luxembourg's Green Party criticized the Government
of Luxembourg for lack of transparency in its efforts to
address the H1N1 flu spread in the Grand Duchy. Party leader
Jean Huss held a press conference on 26 October, during which
he accused the government of withholding information about
side effects from the H1N1 vaccine. The GOL has announced
that it will open sites around the country to administer the
vaccine, and that there will be more than adequate reserves
to meet the needs of the entire country. The Greens also
suggested that those who the government dispatches to
administer the vaccine may not be properly trained and
informed about the medication or its potential side effects.

-------------------------------
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS ROUNDTABLE
-------------------------------

6. (U) The Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies spearheaded a
project which brought a media freedom and protection of
journalists' sources conference to Luxembourg, held 26
October. The conference was organized by the Council of
Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Subcommittee for Media,
and the GOL parliamentarians successfully lobbied for it to
take place in the Grand Duchy. European journalists and
media-related NGOs participated in the roundtable, alongside
members of the CoE's Parliamentary Assembly. Presided over
by former UK Minister for Media and Heritage Andrew McIntosh
and former BBC senior correspondent William Horsley, the PACE
subcommittee presented a country-by-country report indicating
the Council of Europe has suffered a "marked setback" in the
overall level of press freedom in the past three years,
citing a minimum of twenty journalist murders, apparently
linked to their work, since 2007, a huge increase over the
previous three year period. McIntosh labeled the lack of
media freedom in Europe as a "running sore" which will not go
away.

---------------------------------
"BOSS-NAPPING" AT VILLEROY & BOCH
---------------------------------

7. (U) Disgruntled staff at historic and
internationally-renowned household goods furnisher Villeroy &
Boch held the company's Luxembourg plant director,
Charles-Antoine de Theux, hostage for several hours on 21
October. While there was no dramatic denouement to the
situation (the police waited patiently outside; what was
reported as "hours" of heavy drama appears to have really
only been minutes), the incident is symbolic of dissent among
the ranks. The V&B house is a Luxembourg institution and,
for many, is the country's pride and joy. Yet the company
will shutter its Luxembourg operations in June 2010,
eliminating hundreds of jobs. One German news outlet ran a
story on 24 October lamenting the spread of "boss-napping" to
Luxembourg, claiming that German far left political parties
are calling for use of this tactic in industrial disputes in
that country.

--------------------------
LUXEMBOURG AT CENTRE COURT
--------------------------

8. (U) The Grand Duchy played host this month to the
professional Women's Tennis Association (WTA) tour's annual
Luxembourg Open. The tournament lacks the cachet of major
international stars such as the Williams sisters, but this
year boasted both the U.S. Open champ, Belgian Kim Clijsters,
and runner-up, Dane Caroline Wozniacki. The tourney was
eventually won by the Swiss Timea Bacsinsky, but controversy
swirled from day one following Wozniacki's untimely
withdrawal. Ahead 7-5, 5-0 and one game away from victory,
Wozniacki - the number six ranked woman in the world -
withdrew, citing an injury, giving the victory to her
opponent, Luxembourg native Anne Kremer. Courtside
microphones picked up on the player's father advising her to
retire before winning the match, sparking a major swing in
betting parlors to her opponent and igniting speculation of a
fix. Wozniacki continues to deny any wrongdoing, citing a
leg injury and saying that she knew she would not be able to
perform in the second round and chose "the sporting option"
to allow her opponent that opportunity. She remains under
WTA investigation for possible match-fixing and
unsports(wo-)manlike conduct.

9. (U) Luxembourg struggles to make international sports
headlines. Unheralded pro Gilles Muller made a surprise run
to the quarterfinals of the 2008 U.S. Open, including a
defeat of the highest-ranked American player, Andy Roddick.
The famed Schleck brothers - Andy and Frank - pedaled their
way to top five finishes in this year's Tour de France (NOTE:
Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn is a noted cycling
enthusiast and often shares this past-time with fellow
minister, Frank-walter Steinmeier, the German Foreign

LUXEMBOURG 00000313 003.2 OF 003


Minister.). However, Luxembourg's sports headlines tend to
skew toward the negative. The national soccer team has won
only one international match in the last dozen years (sorry,
Belarus). The annual Luxembourg Open will now be remembered
not for a display of extraordinary tennis, but rather for
being at the center of gambling controversy.

10. (U) Stay tuned for another exciting edition of
Dispatches From the Duchy, coming soon to a WEBGRAM near you.

BIEDLINGMAIER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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