9:04 AM, Nov 12, 2015 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
The Germans are angry with the Greeks for retiring at age 50 and counting on Germans to keep working until they are 65 so as to have enough cash to lend to Greece. The French are angry with the Germans for demanding such harsh and humiliating terms from the Greeks in return for a few billion more euros. The Greeks are angry with the Germans for once again in effect telling them how to levy taxes and to organize their economy. Italy is angry with every other EU country for refusing to relieve it of the flood of refugees fleeing Africa. Britain is angry with the entire EU for denying it the right to control its borders and snatching from it large portions of its sovereignty. There’s more, lots more. But on one thing they all, or almost all, agree: products made in “occupied Palestinian land” must be labeled as such, rather than as “made in Israel.” Nothing to do with any anti-Israel attitude, of course. And horrors at the thought that the rule might have anything to do with anti-Semitism. Merely a clarification of existing rules, which are along the lines of those already issued by Denmark, Belgium and Britain—yes, Britain, home of the Balfour Declaration, but that was long before the Muslim population soared and academics began their drumbeat of criticism of Israel.
“It clarifies certain elements linked to the interpretation and effective implementation of existing EU legislation,” European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis told reporters in Brussels. “This is a technical issue, not a political stance.”
Why such clarification is not needed in other cases in which territories are disputed remains unexplained. Nor did the EU feel that timing the rule’s announcement when Israel is being subjected to a wave of terrorist knifing, and its government absorbed with that problem, is any way insensitive. And the EU has no problem welcoming goods made by workers far more oppressed than are Palestinians in Israeli- and, one must assume, Palestinian-owned factories.
The reach, current and potential, of the new rule is not entirely clear. What is clear is that the rule makes goods manufactured on the West Bank, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem ineligible for the more relaxed tariff treatment long accorded Israel’s products. These are a small portion of the $13 billion worth of goods Israel annually sells to the member states of the EU. Immediately affected are foodstuffs (fruit, vegetables, wine, honey) and cosmetics, but few doubt that the labeling principle will be more broadly applied in short order. The New York Times is guessing that Israeli banks that provide mortgages to West Bank homeowners, and retail stores handling goods in the areas listed, might come within the quasi-boycott.
In ordinary times product labeling, if not too costly, is a good idea. But these are not ordinary times. It is less than a year since the manager of Sainsbury’s supermarket in Holborn (in central London) removed kosher food from the shelves in fear of an attack for carrying it, and because “we support Gaza.” And that included kosher food wherever made. It is only a few months since jihadis shot and killed four Jews in a Paris supermarket after identifying them as Jews. Imagine what will happen to any store that carries goods labeled “made in occupied Palestine”.
A European Commission spokesman says, “The EU considers settlements in occupied territories illegal under international law.” Not a word about protecting consumers from shoddy or unsafe products. No worry about adding to the resources being devoted to tracking postcodes to make certain that no goods from the settlements enjoy duty-free status under the EU’s free-trade agreement with Israel.
Britain, in the person of its prime minister, led the charge for the new rule, ignoring the potential for mayhem it will create, helped along by France, which has forgotten the supermarket killings and might want to reconsider supporting the new rule in light of its history of treatment of Jews, and not only in the parts of the country occupied by Nazi Germany. Germany remembers its history: Alone among the big five European states, it refused to urge this action on the EU, and since enforcement of the labeling rule is left to the member states, might just decline to assign its inspectors and police the chore of checking the labels on goods lining supermarket shelves.
2:20 PM, Oct 6, 2015 • By LEE SMITH
Today, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that Russia has violated Turkish airspace for a second time. On Saturday, a Russian plane crossed into Turkish airspace near the Syrian border, and in response the Turks scrambled two F-16s. In a subsequent incident, Ankara said that a MiG-29—flown either by Russia or its client Syria—locked its radar on to two more Turkish F-16s Sunday as they patrolled the border.
1:53 PM, Oct 5, 2015 • By JEAN KAUFMAN
Whenever I read about the European response to the current wave of “migrants” to Europe, one of the first questions that comes to mind is, “Why?”
4:01 PM, Sep 22, 2015 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Moody’s must have it in for France. Sure, its economy is moribund. Sure, its trade unions are among the most intransigent in the world. But surely the socialist government deserves some credit for one of the most significant reforms in 200 years.
Hungary’s Orbán cancels Merkel’s invitation.Sep 28, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 03 • By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL
Until mid-September, the half-million migrants who had been marching northwards into central Europe seemed like the Old World equivalent of Hurricane Sandy survivors. Families uprooted by the war in Syria were seeking safety, according to this view of things. It was sad to see little girls sleeping by the side of the road, but inspiring to see European volunteers, with their clipboards and their bags of snacks, their water bottles and Port-a-Potties, showing such compassion and logistical expertise.
Labour elects an unelectable leader.Sep 28, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 03 • By DOMINIC GREEN
The eighties, as the hipsters among us know, are undergoing a revival. The music and fashion of the decade have been disinterred, and its politics too. Where, the pundits of America ask, is our Reagan? Meanwhile in Britain, the Labour party has revived its eighties’ follies by choosing an unelectable leader. Jeremy Corbyn is one of the hardest of the hard left, an ideological relic. His surprising success in Labour’s leadership election represents an unsavory turn in European politics.
Sep 21, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 02 • By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL
You could tell that the plan European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker announced on September 9 for distributing 160,000 refugees around the European Union was slapdash. You could tell by the number of times Juncker felt he had to browbeat his listeners about their Nazi past. “We Europeans should know and should never forget why giving refuge . . . is so important,” he said. Of course giving refuge is important. So is democratic accountability. Right now Europe’s politicians owe their citizens an explanation, not a scolding.
European disunion.Sep 21, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 02 • By DOMINIC GREEN
Europe’s migrant crisis, the continent’s greatest humanitarian disaster since the aftermath of World War II, continues to worsen. The summer began with mass drownings in the Mediterranean and bickering between the European Union and the governments of its member states over who should foot the bill for search and rescue patrols of Europe’s southern coasts. The summer is ending with a series of appalling images that have galvanized public opinion, especially in the northern European states, and forced both national and supranational authorities to act.
1:14 PM, Sep 1, 2015 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
For the last several weeks, Air Force Secretary Deborah James has been touting the deployment of F-22 Raptor fighters – the best plane America owns – to Germany as “the strong side of the coin” in an effort to reassure Eastern Europeans who have seen their air space increasingly violated by Russian jets. “Russia’s military activity in the Ukraine continues to be of great concern to us and our European allies,” she said.
Victorino Matus, big spender.Jul 27, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 43 • By VICTORINO MATUS
Have you ever had two dinners in one night? I did, more than 20 years ago, in Budapest. My buddy Todd and I had gone backpacking through Europe, hitting 11 cities in 30 days. As students, we were careful not to overspend, staying at pensions and hostels and crashing at my former host family’s house in Germany. By the time we reached Budapest, our last stop, we’d saved more money than we’d anticipated.
8:14 AM, Jul 13, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
As he has for much of his post-presidency, Bill Clinton was on the road again in June, traveling to Europe at the end of the month for various conferences and other public appearances. After a few days in London, the president popped over to Paris for a day or two to shop at Hermès, a well-known luxury boutique. Such trips, however, do not come cheap. Hotel contracts for the president's Secret Service team for the Paris leg of the trip alone came to over $48,000.
4:29 PM, Jul 5, 2015 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The vote in Greece is running 60 percent “No” on the terms of its creditors. The same experts who had been predicting a close vote will now explain why it was a runaway in favor of … well, who knows. But count on the usual confident voices to sort it all out.
1:42 PM, Jul 3, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will not find a home in France. The French government has announced today it will not grant asylum to the fugitive.
"France has received the letter from Mr Assange. A closer examination shows that given the legal elements and the material situation of Mr. Assange, France can not act on its request. The situation of Mr Assange presents no immediate danger. He is also the subject of a European arrest warrant," the French government writes in a statement released by the Elysee Palace.