Springtime in the Mediterranean: The skies are clear, the waters are calm, and the migrants are drowning. In 2014, the U.S. Border Patrol estimated that 307 people died while being smuggled into the United States from Mexico. So far this year, more than 1,650 people have drowned as they attempted to cross Europe’s most porous and dangerous border, the Mediterranean. In 2014, the Border Patrol “rescued” 509 migrants along the Mexican border. In the third week of April alone, European vessels retrieved 8,500 migrants from the Mediterranean, most of them in the 300-mile stretch between the shores of Libya and Sicily.
Many of the migrants are trafficked out of Africa’s numerous failed states, across the Sahara, and into Libya. Every stage of their journey enriches organized criminals and, in their odyssey’s later stages, Islamist militias too. Smaller numbers of migrants come from Syria. Some are found floating in the water or drifting in dinghies. Others are crammed into rusting pirate ships. All have risked their lives, and many have suffered exploitation and abuse.
The migrants have been drowning quietly for years, but this month, a series of tragedies forced the European Union to acknowledge the crisis, if not to admit its responsibilities. On April 12, 400 Africans drowned when their boat capsized, apparently because they had rushed to one side to greet a rescue ship. On April 16, 40 Africans drowned when their inflatable sank off the Libyan coast. On April 17, Muslim migrants murdered 12 Christians from Ghana and Nigeria by throwing them into the sea. The worst came on April 19. More than 700 people crammed into the lower decks of a 65-foot vessel drowned when it capsized.
Until 2014, Italy policed these waters in a program named, apparently without irony, Our Sea, after the Roman Mare Nostrum. The Italian government suspended the program because of Italy’s chaotic finances, and because other EU nations were unwilling to help. The EU government in Brussels took over and launched Operation Triton, a cheaper and smaller program that patrols only 30 miles from the Italian coast. Although the number of migrants in the first quarter of 2015 was lower than in the first quarter of 2014, the death toll multiplied ten-fold. In Europe’s moral hierarchy, Palestinians rank high, other Arabs low, Africans lower, and African migrants lowest of all.
After the mass drownings of April 19, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, summoned the leaders of the EU states to an emergency summit. For two decades, the EU has tried to control the Mediterranean basin through the Barcelona Process and its spin-offs, the European Neighborhood Policy (2004) and the Union for the Mediterranean (2008). Now, finally facing a genuine pan-Mediterranean crisis, the EU leadership is washing its hands. Even before the summit had convened, EU leaders seemed resolved to return the human and budgetary aspects of the problem to member states.
“I do not expect any quick fix solutions to the root causes of migration,” Tusk declared presidentially, “because there are none.” His foreign minister, Federica Mogherini, bravely asserted that she was not “afraid of showing the limits . . . of the policy-making process.” When Italian foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni complained that Italy has not received an “adequate response” from Brussels, EU spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud protested that there is no “silver bullet” for the migrant problem.
The EU is short of brass bullets, too. It floated the euro before floating a navy. It is the first power in history to offer a major currency without a military guarantee. There is no EU fleet, only the overstretched and underfunded navies of its member states. While the EU combines imperial pretensions with provincial pettiness, its member states behave no better. The Germans wish to manage Greece’s economy but not its borders. The Italians accuse the Greeks of sending migrants to their shores, while themselves shunting migrants into France. The French denounce the Italians, while allowing migrants to camp at the ferry port of Calais so they can leave for Britain. If the EU lacks the means, its members lack the will. Both lack the money.
As reported by the Austrian daily Der Standard, some fifty Bosnian soccer fans broke into a chant of “Kill, kill the Jews!” during a pro-Palestinian rally in Vienna’s central Saint Stephan’s Square last week. The incident appears to have occurred on Tuesday, when the Bosnian national team was in town for a match against the Austrian team.
The question as to why Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot of Germanwings flight 9525 would intentionally bring about the crash of the plane is at the source of much of the perplexity surrounding the Germanwings tragedy. Even if we suppose that Lubitz was suicidal, it is obviously one thing to commit suicide and another to do so in such a way as to cause the death of 149 other people as well.
An Iranian journalist writing about the nuclear negotiations between the United States and Iran has defected. In an interview Amir Hossein Motaghi, has some harsh words for his native Iran. He also has a damning indictment of America's role in the nuclear negotiations.
Until Hillary Clinton decided to destroy 33,000 allegedly personal e-mails, all was quiet on the document-retention front in her selected home State of New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo was quite happy with the secrecy provided by his own refusal to send written memos or e-mails, and the practice followed by his staff and state agencies (at his insistence) of destroying e-mails older than 90 days. No footprints. Which is the way the famously secretive Cuomo likes it.
Seventy years ago, on March 1, 1945, Franklin Roosevelt assured a war-weary nation that a new era of international peace and democratic government was at hand. The accords signed just weeks earlier at the Yalta Conference, he told Congress, laid the foundation for postwar cooperation between the Soviet Union and the democratic West.
Vice President Biden spent about a day and a half in Belgium in early February to meet with various European leaders, but his entourage, security team and other delegation members required up to 209 rooms for up to three weeks surrounding the visit.
If you ignore the cringe-worthy opening line of this article from the Pew Research Center – the Holocaust did far worse than “decimate” Europe’s Jewish population – you will find some interesting facts. In a nutshell, Europe’s Jewish population continues to decline. There are now approximately 1.4 million Jews living in Europe, compared to 9.5 million in 1939. Only 10 percent of the world’s Jews now live in Europe, and a mere 0.2 percent of Europeans are Jewish.
Vice President Joe Biden is in Europe today where how spoke out against Vladimir Putin's aggression toward Ukraine.
"Ukraine is fighting for its very survival right now. Russia continues to escalate the conflict by sending mercenaries and tanks and as we euphemistically say in the United States, Little Green Men, without patches in, and very sophisticated special operation soldiers," Biden said at the European Council building in Brussels.
France’s momentary appearance on the world stage as a champion of free expression, after the execution of the beloved Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, made for a break in her relentless culture of repression of free speech, which she shares with most of Europe.