A datapoint on France.

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Thursday, January 30, 2003  
France's Questionable Bureaucrats: A French government review attacks the opaque salary and benefit framework of that country's civil service. In addition, the Telegraph notes that "Every year the government sets a limit for the number of its employees...The 2001 budget allowed for [the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs] to employ 9,474 people. In fact, it had more than four times that number on its payroll around the world."

If you want a peek at the arrogant opulence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (which is generally populated by the remnants of the French aristocracy), take a tour of the building here.


Côte d'Ivoire Update:

--Paris sends 130 police officers specializing in public order to Abidjan, although business seems to have returned to normal in the capital.

--About 500 more French--primarily women and children--have been evacuated from the African country.

--The French left and right-wing parties are attacking the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its "optimism" and for placing "the French community [of Côte d'Ivoire] in grave danger." Meanwhile Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade, complains that the Economic Community of West African States was never consulted about the peace deal.

--A spokesperson for the Ivorian military downplays the protests by noting that "big protest marches in Paris damage more stores than what was damaged...[in Côte d'Ivoire]." He might have a point.

--Information from Le Monde


Slate adds its two cents worth to the eternal effort to explain French bigotry towards Americans. While the article adds no new insights, it's always useful to remember that French foaming at the mouth towards Americans predates Bush.


French Justice: A state-owned oil company, Elf, gives Christine Deviers-Joncour a several thousand euro credit line and an apartment in the one of the poshest neighborhoods of Paris. Deviers-Joncour's job? To be the generous mistress of Roland Dumas, Mitterand's foreign minister and a former President of the Constitutional Council. Deviers-Joncour spends tens of thousands of euros in gifts for her influential lover, ranging from clothes to artwork to lavish meals. In return, Elf hopes that Dumas will send some profitable contracts its way, in particular a sale of ships to Taiwan in 1991.

While Deviers-Joncour and Elf's management have both been sentenced to prison time, a Paris appeals court today overturned the conviction of the politically elite Dumas (the appeals court noted that Deviers-Joncour was not of a trustworthy character).


French Mistrust and Ignorance of the News: According to a study of 1000 people conducted by the market research group, Taylor Nelson Sofres France, only 44% of the French surveyed believed that "things happen as presented by the [French] press." Moreover, only 29% of the French surveyed prefer to read a newspaper to learn about what is going on outside of their own lives.

Europe vs. Europe: "Two European countries out of 25, only two, France and Germany, meet up without consulting or even informing the others and then what (French President Jacques) Chirac and (German Chancellor Gerhard) Schroeder said should be accepted by the other 23..."

--A slightly piqued Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino, as reported in The People's Daily


Wednesday, January 29, 2003  
France Africa: "France is determined to keep in with Mr Mugabe because of his powerful influence (and alleged interests) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose vast mineral reserves including diamonds, gold, silver and cobalt helped fuel a savage four-year civil war that has only just come to an uncertain end."

--From Jon Henley in The Guardian


Has the EU mandated that farmers provide pigs with toys? It's just a joke.

Fortress Europe begins to seal its coastlines in order to protect itself from those dirty immigrants.

Does Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi have ties to the Mafia? Meanwhile, the head of the Italian secret service predicts a possible, upcoming Mafia-driven "season of blood."

"The Danish Foreign Ministry said Copenhagen sold $77 million worth of weapons to China, Iran, Libya and Ukraine in 2001."

--From the Middle Eastern Newsline


Europe vs. Europe: Some of the smaller Eastern European countries that will enter the European Union in 2004--and particularly those nations that suffered under another "union," the Soviet Union--are expressing concern at the tendency of larger European states to throw their weight around. Alliances external to the EU such as Weimar Triangle--a loose German, French, and Polish confederation dating back to 1991--and EU-focused proposals such as the Franco-German-backed notion of a full-time president of the European Council which would tend to favor larger states have further heightened the concerns of smaller countries that have only recently won their political independence.

These disputes serve as a useful reminder that eyebrows should be raised when self-appointed spokespeople (generally from France or Germany) tell the rest of the world what "Europe" thinks. Oftentimes, the words reflect little more than the viewpoint of one nation or a handful of countries. Europe's true diversity will become more evident in the coming years, as the French and German influence in the European Union is hopefully diluted by the 25 countries that will make up the EU after 2004. As this Washington Post article notes, "Eastern European members will jointly have more delegates to the European Parliament than Germany. Britain, Spain, Italy and Poland will easily outvote Germany and France in the weighted voting system of the European Council."

That day cannot come too soon.


Côte d'Ivoire Update: France has reinforced security for its remaining 25,000 nationals in the African country and now may evacuate them in the face of unrelenting hostility towards the ancient colonial power. Côte d'Ivoire's Interior Minister has rejected the Paris-brokered agreement, which would provide government positions to some of the country's militants. Meanwhile, for the fourth consecutive day on Tuesday, about 8000 demonstrators took to the streets to protest against the peace agreement and against France's involvement. One protestor carried a sign that read, "Like Judas, France has betrayed Ivory Coast," while another reader "No more French, from now on we speak English."

It should be noted that anti-French sentiment, although clearly inflamed of late, is not new in Côte d'Ivoire. Le Monde notes that "Many Ivorians have the impression that their country was never decolonized and that wealth has been denied to them. An example often cited is that close to half of the wage-earning population receives its salary from 600 companies controlled by the French."

On another note...For an interesting photo that suggests that France has successfully managed to portray itself in the world as the antithesis of a particular country, go here.


Tuesday, January 28, 2003  
Europe's Growing Economic Irrelevance: Some data from the Davos World Economic Forum, by way of Le Monde:

(1) According to Gail Foster, chief economist at the Conference Board: "The Chinese economy will pass that of the European Union between 2010 and 2020."

(2) According to a professor at the University of Bonn, Jürgen von Hagen, the average growth potential of the EU over the next five years is likely to be 1.8%, as opposed to the 3% previously predicted. The lackluster performance of continental Europe is not likely to woo the UK into greater EU integration

(3) Also according to von Hagen, the reforms that Germany needs to initiate to improve its economy--in particular those relating to its social security and to shifting its work force from industry to service sectors--are unlikely to happen under Chancellor Schröder.


Poland's Two-Dimensional Women: Poland's radio station, Radio 94, has run an advertisement picturing a woman's breasts with tuning knobs attached and a man's hand reaching out to touch them. And such advertisements do not seem to be uncommon in the Pope's homeland. According to Marek Janicki, president of a leading Polish advertising agency, "If you mean sexist, as in denigrating to females, then it’s worse in Poland...This country is more likely to show women to be stupid."

Poland does not, of course, have a monopoly on distasteful ads. However, the advertising firm, Palmers, which runs many of these risqué ads across Europe notes that, while it has placed more clothes on women in certain countries in order to conform to local mores, "Poland’s consumers, by contrast, appear to impose no limits on what Palmers can publicise." In combination with the Polish President and Prime Minister's recent opposition to liberalizing abortion restrictions, the risqué ads reveal a society that adopts its Catholic principles when it suits its testosterone levels. And no, these ads are not one of the products of the evils of capitalism. The Poles demonstrated their ability to trumpet their moral principles in the face of a liberalizing society when they restricted the lax abortion regulations of the Communists. These lewd ads, like the stringent abortion laws, suggest that, communist or capitalist, Poland prefers to keep its women under foot.


Has the demise of the Italian Mafia been much exaggerated?

Monday, January 27, 2003  
Interesting If True: "Britain still owes $14.5 bn to the United States for loans during the First World War; only three countries in sub-Saharan Africa have larger debts. The rest of Europe owes another $18.5 bn to the United States. None are repaying this money. If...Britain [or Europe, for that matter] believes that it need not repay such a huge amount, what right does it have to demand that poor countries pay?"

--From Jubilee Research


Gallic Jingoism: The French National Assembly has passed an amendment to a national security bill that punishes insults to the tricolor flag and the national hymn with a fine of 7500 euros and 6 months in prison.

Perhaps as a sign that the French and Germans really are more in sync these days, it's interesting to note that, under Article 98(a) of the German Penal Code, desecrating the national flag or hymn could land you three years in prison.


Greek and Spanish Cats and Dogs: "[W]e are fighting to stop thousands of animals being cruelly slaughtered to ensure that the streets of Athens and other parts of Greece are animal-free for the Olympics."

--Carol McBeth of the Greek Animal Welfare Fund in this Telegraph article.

Well, dogs, or at least race dogs, don't have it much better off in Spain, where "investigators found dogs dumped in shallow graves or lying under trees where they had been hanged, and evidence of dogs hanged and set on fire."


Marketing Firm Doesn't Want to be Associated with Homosexuals: When the group for sexual minorities, Gayten LBGT, sought to launch a campaign for tolerance in Belgrade with the slogan, "Different Together," it turned to Netmedija. Although Gayten LBGT was willing to pay the full price of the firm's services to place ads in bars and restaurants, its offer was rejected. According to Netmedija, the campaign wasn't feasible because restaurant and bar owners were unwilling to display the ads. So Gayten LBGT then suggested that the ads be placed in train stations and on road signs. Netmedija's response? We can't help you.

French Government Proposes to Reform Asylum Laws: One of the revisions proposes to eliminate the influence, in asylum decisions, of that pesky Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees . It seems that the UN agency had a tendency to contradict the French Refugee Agency (Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides) and to reverse the latter's rejections of asylum applications. Says Gilles Piquoi, an asylum lawyer, the legislators "want a well-regulated office and are seeking to finally rid themselves of an activist UN Refugee Agency that made a mess of everything."

French Tolerance: "French Jewish 'intellectuals' of today are nothing more than firebrands...Instead of opening the debate to what is going on in Israel, they take advantage of their position in the media to manipulate insults and calumny...[If French Jews continue their radical support of Israel], we may witness a resurgence of real antisemitism that will not be, this time [i.e. in comparison to today], merely an illusion."

--Eric Hazan, editor of the left-wing press, La Fabrique (lafabrique@free.fr)


European Anarchy: Back in 1992, the Swiss environmental activist and anarchist, Marco Camenisch, was arrested in Italy on charges of attempted murder and of attacks on power lines. In April of 2002, Camenisch was extradited to Switzerland where he was wanted for murdering a prison guard, among other offenses. In protest at Camenisch's incarceration, his supporters have destroyed a ski lift and power generators in Italy. Graffiti praising Camenisch was found at the Davos summit and recently appeared on the walls of the Swiss consul in Genoa.

Anti-French Rage in Côte d'Ivoire: In Abidjan, French soldiers fired tear gas as tens of thousands of individuals protested against France's efforts to mediate the country's civil war. A French school was burnt, the French cultural center ransacked, French-owned stores destroyed, and a portion of the French embassy was burned. Dominique de Villepin, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, has dismissed the demonstrators as "extremists."

France's Rationale for Inviting Madman Mugabe to Paris: According to the UK's Telegraph, France "is always looking to extend its influence in countries where Britain was once the metropolitan power: dire relations between Mr Mugabe and Tony Blair are an opportunity not to be missed."


Violence in Bern: "[P]rotesters managed to smash the windows of buildings around the main station, including one of the city’s main hotels...[Social Democrat President Christiane] Brunner later criticised the protesters involved in the stand off, and sympathised with the Swiss authorities, saying the protesters had been more 'authoritarian' than the police."

Friday, January 24, 2003  
"Disgraceful" & "Unacceptable": Words used by British officials to describe France's invitation to Zimbabwe's Mugabe to attend next month's Franco-African summit in Paris.

Welcome to Serbia!: According to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, all of the following events happened in December:

(1) In Belgrade on Christmas Eve, around 30 men carrying Serbian icons interrupt an Anglican service and accuse the congregants, including British Ambassador Charles Crawford, of being "anti-Orthodox." Although police are present on the scene throughout the incident, they never intervene. Witnesses later claim that the hooligrans were members of the extreme Serb groups, the Society of St Justin and Obraz.

(2) Also in Belgrade, a dark-skinned university lecturer from Cuba by the name of Jenny Grant is turned away from a supermarket by a security guard. Showing her the flea market across the street, he tells her, "Gypsies buy their groceries over there."

(3) A group of skinheads attacks a dark-skinned Canadian when he tries to defend his wife, who is being harassed. The assailants are never prosecuted.

(4) In the town of Kragujevac, two Chinese businesses are burned.

(5) In the town of Cacak, a Jewish doctor's house is covered with references to Kristelnacht.


The Archbishop of Ljubljana in Slovenia, Monseigneur France Rode, has voiced his opposition to the building of a large mosque in the Republic. The Monseigneur fears any political sentiment coming out of the mosque, stating that "Slovenia must ask itself whether it wants a political center of another culture on its soil." Many of the Muslims in Slovenia fled Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war in ex-Yugoslavia.

In response to the Monseigneur's comments, the leader of Slovenia's Muslim community, the mufti Osman Djogic, has stated that "Slovenia's Muslims want to live with their countrymen of other religions in an atmosphere of tolerance." The mufti continued to note that "we need a center where we can pray, learn, congregate, and speak to one another in our own language."


Fortress Europe: "Much of the concern in rich countries about immigration...is that the potential flow of migrants is so great. Without barriers -- even the rather leaky ones we have today -- there would be a massive and unacceptable flow of migrants into rich countries. For this reason, I see no alternative but to support what is pejoratively known as 'Fortress Europe.' "

--A quotation attributed to Professor Robert Hawthorn of Cambridge University.


Fortress Europe in Action: "The 'keep out' notices are being posted from one end of Europe to another, as governments take fright at the re-emergence of fascism and see the answer as tougher curbs on those seeking to enter from the Middle East, Africa, eastern Europe and the Balkans."

--Larry Elliott in the Guardian. Elliott also remarks upon the poorly reasoned economics of anti-immigrant fears, noting that"The [British] Treasury says that migration has added around half a percentage point to the UK's trend rate of growth, with around 90% of net migration accounted for by people of working age."


Poland & Abortion: According to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Poland's strict anti-abortion law (under which a person providing an abortion other than for reasons of rape, incest, a deformed fetus, or danger to the mother's health can face up to 2 years in prison) has not prevented 200,000 illegal abortions in that country each year. Although almost half of Poles would like a more liberal abortion law, Prime Minister Leszek Miller and President Aleksander Kwasniewski are opposed to any such liberalization and Polish Cardinal Jozef Glemp is pushing for a clause in Poland's EU accession treaty that would guarantee that country's independence in deciding on abortion.


France vs. Immigrants:

(1) Mariame Getu Hagos, a Somalian illegal immigrant in France being deported back to his own country, died in France's Roissy airport last Saturday. Hagos was being physically constrained by immigrant officers when he lost consciousness for reasons that remain unclear; however an investigation has been opened into the possibility of bringing involuntary manslaughter charges against one immigration official. This is the second suspicious death in the past month of an illegal immigrant being deported from France. On December 30, Ricardo Barrientos, an Algerian illegal immigrant, died on board an Air France flight. Although an initial investigation attributed his death to a heart attack, it was later revealed that police had forcibly restrained Barrientos in his seat for 40 minutes prior to his death.

(2) 26 Turks of Kurdish origin have been on a hunger strike (consuming only sugar water and tea) since December 9 in Bordeaux in order to obtain the regularization of their immigrant status.

(3) A French government report recently blasted France's policy of dealing with immigrant children arriving alone (i.e. without any accompanying adult) at airports. First, it's not clear how many such immigrant children there actually are. Annual estimates of the number of children vary widely from one government organization to the next, ranging from 1350 to 2700. Secondly, the interpretations of regulations used to determine whether the children qualify for state protection are not uniform throughout France's child protection agencies, resulting in inconsistent judgments. Finally, some of the children, while in bureaucratic limbo, are placed in group homes without organized activities and with only the benefit of a once-a-week meeting with a youth worker.


Thursday, January 23, 2003  
French Deliver their Strongest Warning Yet: Jack Lang, France's former minister of both culture and education, called him "irresponsible, dangerous and criminal." Who? Hussein? No, Donald Rumsfeld. I guess "criminal" is defined as not taking the French as seriously as they seem to take themselves. Or perhaps it's simply recognizing the existence of other European countries besides France and Germany.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003  
How Beautiful Am I?: With regards to the recent election of a Libyan diplomat to the UN Human Rights Commission, Le Monde writes:

"[T]he countries representing the 'South'--Cuba, Sudan, Algeria--voted for Libya; seven countries representing the European Union courageously abstained; and two countries--notably the US and Canada--voted against." [emphasis added]

Ah, those courageous European states that chose to remain silent when this country was elected to look after our human rights!


Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski opposes any changes to his country's anti-abortion legislation (currently permitting the operation only in cases of rape or life-threatening conditions).

Subsaharan Romas: The French government recently authorized two Roma NGOs, Romani CRISS and Aven Amentza, to tour Roma shantytowns in France and to encourage the residents to return to Romania. However at least one of the NGOs has advocated giving the Roma a free choice between staying in France or returning to Romania.

France's efforts to kick the Roma out are interesting in light of this report by the United Nations Development Program, which examines Roma living conditions in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Some of the UN's findings:

--With regards to illiteracy, infant morality, and malnutrition, the majority of the region's 4 to 5 million Roma have living conditions more similar to Subsaharan Africa than to Europe.
--Only 60% of Roma households have running water, and less than 50% have indoor toilets.
--Only 1/3 of the Roma questioned had finished their primary school studies, and only 6% had completed secondary school.


Failed Attack on Ava Basta: An explosive was found by the front door, in Ajaccio, of the anti-racism organization, which recently denounced an increase in Corsican attacks on immigrants (see Sunday's archived posting on Resistenza Corsa).

Monday, January 20, 2003  
"moody Madness laughing wild":: According to oumma.com, which claims to be a reference for francophone Islam, the US has a "vision of civilization that consists of neutralizing any renaissance of Islamic values that might jeopardize the occidental monopoly. It is established that in 1910 at Edinburgh, a conference was planned with the goal of placing a border on Islam so as to prevent it from spreading to southern Africa. Later, in 1924, during the abolition of the caliphate by M.K. Ataturk, a congress was held at Jerusalem in order to unify the world in the shadow of Christianity."

--I'm trying to figure out the historical references and am drawing a blank: Yes Ataturk abolished the post of the caliphate in 1924, but I cannot find any evidence of the Christian Congress. Ditto for the insidious plan in southern Africa. If anyone has any insights, don't hesitate to e-mail.


"[M]ost anti-Americanism today doesn't deal with this complex reality...[A]nti-Americanism now looms in the world's psyche without any of its erstwhile anchors. It isn't tempered by fear of a rival super-power; it isn't fortified by a vital economic or political alternative. And when American power is actually deployed, this free-floating animosity mutates into a kind of hatred."

--Andrew Sullivan's latest.


Sunday, January 19, 2003  
"Sorry, Herr Schroeder, but you don't rule Britain ... at least, not yet...Because of our different tradition and our robust democracy, we can publish this sort of material and believe we have every right to do so. We feel sorry for our German colleagues who are limited by oppressive laws, and prevented from doing their jobs properly...A British newspaper under British law remains free in a way that our European would-be masters profoundly dislike."

--Britain's newspaper, the Mail, striking back at an oppressive German court order forbidding it from publishing details of the German Chancellor's private life (i.e. that he dyes his hair and that his fourth marriage is falling apart).


Yet another European company is being investigated for violating the UN embargo on Iraq. This time, it's the Swiss.

That Lucky French Mistress: In his book, "Bien entendu, c'est off..." French journalist, Daniel Carton, claims that Valéry Giscard d'Estaing--former French president, European Convention head, and egomaniac--helped a mistress, Christine de Veyrac, become a deputy in the European Parliament. d'Estaing has, in the past, criticized contemporary politicians "who treat politics like a consumable good...[and] who wonder only what politics can do for them and their carriers."

Sshhh...Don't Tell the French that They're at War: Daniel Schneiderman, in Le Monde, critiques the French populace's obliviousness or indifference to the conflict in Côte d'Ivoire:

"Exchanges of fire, bloody battles for military positions...Have we heard elected officials debate (or express anger over the lack of debate) or have we heard commentators inquire as to the neocolonial nature of this 'war' that refuses to speak its name. The foreign media resonates with interrogations...But, in France, the war in Côte d'Ivoire is discussed only on tabloid television..."


Portugal's Prisons: The Council of Europe Anti-Torture Committee has visited Portugal's Oporto Prison in 1995, 1996, 1999, and at the end of 2002 in order to examine the treatment of prisoners. The Council has reported, in the past, that Oporto is "overcrowded and prisoners' living areas were unhygienic, there was a high level of inter-prisoner intimidation/violence, drugs were widely available and staffing levels on the wings were inadequate." According to Amnesty International's 2002 report, the prison has a ''veritable marketplace of drugs as part of the daily routine." In addition, there were reports of prison officers removing prisoners from their cells at night in order to beat them with batons. Amnesty also reports on the death of Augusto Morgado Fernandes back in October of 2001--Fernandes had reported custodial abuse to authorities and was subsequently brutally murdered by other prisoners whose prison cells had been conveniently left open at night.

It was noted back in 1998 that "The majority of male inmates...are squeezed three to a cell in spaces designed for single occupancy, and some rooms of only 144 square feet hold 10 inmates...One bathhouse with only 32 shower heads serves 1,200 inmates...Prisoners are allowed into an exercise yard only every other day."


Socialist Party of Serbia reelects Slobodan Milosevic (the only candidate) as its president. The Socialist Party's Secretary-General, Zoran Andjelkovic, has graciously acknowledged that "mistakes and omissions [were] made while we were in power."

Incidentally, for a good summary of the charges against Milosevic, go here.


More African immigrant die while trying to reach Spain.

A Reasonable Time?: In the case of Karagiannis and others v. Greece, the European Court of Human Rights found a violation of Article 6.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees "a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time." The length of the proceedings that were complained of? More than 35 years.

Roma Roundup:

The European Roma Rights Center notes the following incidents:

--Between January and August of 2002, all 525 asylum applications for Romanian Roma to Finland were rejected.
--French Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, announces more stringent immigrant measures against Roma in France.
--Switzerland expels over 200 Roma to Romania in the first few weeks of October 2002.
--Italy settles cases brought against it before the European Court of Human Rights by Bosnian Romani families who were expelled collectively in March of 2000

In addition, The Guardian reports that: "Since July 2001, British immigration officials have been periodically stationed at Prague airport in an effort to 'weed out' any Romani passengers from boarding planes bound for Britain."

The rationale for some of the rejections of Roma asylum is that the applications are economics-based, and the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees distinguishes between economic migrants and refugees. However, Roma are often "persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group," and it is not clear to what extent they can avail themselves of the protection of their country of origin (these two items are criteria for determining a "refugee" under the Convention). For example, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern, back in 1999, about the "continuing discrimination against the Roma" in Romania, while Czech courts have been accused of lightly slapping the wrists of those accused of crimes against Roma.

What happens to those Roma returned to Romania? Well, under Romanian Government Ordinance 112/2001, the illegal crossing of borders may be punishable by imprisonment, confiscation of goods, and/or the removal of a passport for up to five years.


Resistenza Corsa: Although only about 10% of Corsica's population of 260,000 consists of immigrants (mostly from Morocco), some Corsicans have decided to do something about it. Towards the end of December, a North African home in Bastia was bombed and "Resistenza Corsa" (the name of the group) sprayed on the walls. Other attacks have included a bomb packed with nails exploding in a poor neighborhood at the end of December, and explosives rocking a pub in San Martino di Lota on the night of January 12th.

The editorialist, Iviu Bourdiec, recently wrote the following in the Corsican daily, U Ribombu:

It is "intolerable [that] young foreigners in Corsica...display a racist, anti-Corsican attitude...Members of this foreign community will not, with impunity, insult our culture, our language and our people....The problem of unemployed and wayward foreign youth who become petty drug dealers and then corrupt young Corsicans and make them dependant upon them is, unfortunately, all too real."


Friday, January 17, 2003  
Russians Present Dossier of Former Soviet Police Chief: All 47 volumes detailing the life and atrocities of Lavrenty Beria, chief of the NKVD secret police in 1938. During Stalin's Terror, Beria oversaw the imprisonment and execution of millions of individuals. To add to the horrors, cameraman who were allowed to film excerpts of the dossier (it won't be released to the public for another 25 years) showed lists of hundreds of female names with telephone numbers. Beria is alleged to have been a stalker and rapist.

Flashback: France vs. Greenpeace: Greenpeace has long been opposed to France's handling of its nuclear weapons program. The country never signed the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty that bans nuclear testing in the atmosphere, outer space, under water, and, under certain circumstances, underground. And Greenpeace's protests of French nuclear testing have frequently provoked violent responses. In 1973, the French navy rammed the environmental organization's yacht, Vega, and beat the ship's skipper (David McTaggart). Then on July 10, 1985, Greenpeace's flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, was the victim of a French attack in a New Zealand harbor. Members of the French Security Forces placed explosives on the ship's hull, and the ensuing blast killed Fernando Pereira, a crew member and photographer. Then-president François Mitterand denied all French involvement and refused to extradite the wanted individuals--Major Alain Mafart and Captain Dominique Prieur--or to identify the other French criminals. However, bowing to international pressure, Prime Minister Laurent Fabius confessed that the French Security Forces had ordered the attack.

Although Mafart and Prieur were sentenced to "exile" in French Polynesia, both returned to France on medical grounds (one because she was pregnant and the other because he claimed to be suffering from stomach pains). Neither was ever returned to French Polynesia. For the careers of other suspected members of the bombing, go here.


Thursday, January 16, 2003  
Germany Company Accused of Violating UN Embargo: German police raided Reemtsma's headquarters and the homes of some of its officers in an investigation into the sale of over 17 million cigarettes to Iraq in violation of the UN embargo. The contraband would have likely benefited Udai Hussein, one of the business leaders of Iraq's cigarette market. Although the UK's Imperial Tobacco acquired Reemtsma in 2002, the alleged activity dates back to 2000.

Incidentally..."Up until the Gulf War, German companies were the main suppliers to Iraq' nuclear weapons program, poison gas facilities, ballistic missiles, and long-range delivery system. After the war, German companies continued to dodge the embargo. Two German businessmen were arrested in October for selling material in 1999 for Iraq's 'supergun,' capable of shooting biological and chemical weapons at troops in Kuwait. More recently, it was reported that the German government has known since 1999 of a German company that assisted Iraq with electronic technology that can be adopted for use on the battlefield."

--Matthew Albright in CounterPunch.


A Reexamined Past: Jörg Friedrich's book, Der Brand, has stirred controversy with its description of the Allied bombings of Nazi Germany between 1943-1945. During that time, 1.27 million tons of bombs destroyed 160 medium to large-sized cities, 850 villages, and the lives of 600,000 civilians (of which 75,000 were children). Friedrich describes the German suffering in detail and takes Sir Arthur Harris--the British organizer of this strategy--to task. Although the bombing strategy was designed to break the German spirit, Friedrich argues that it may have strengthened support of the Nazis by creating the impression of a pitiless enemy to whom it was impossible to surrender. Although Friedrich does not hesitate to codemn the Nazi barbarity, his descriptions of German civilians who were asphyxiated during bombings as dying "like they were in gas chambers" and of German bodies being incinerated "as if they were in crematoriums" leaves Friedrich open to the criticism of moral confusion.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003  
UN Raises Questions about Swiss Discrimination Against Women: In particular, the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women noted that:

(1) Switzerland has yet to ratify the optional protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. This protocol allows, among other things, individuals to file complaints with the UN Committee.
(2) The UN Committee questioned whether the Convention was being taken seriously at all levels of government, noting that Swiss's federal system (consisting of the national government, cantons and communes) made implementation of the Convention difficult.
(3) A UN expert (Goran Melander) questioned why trafficked women were returned to their country of origin (where they may be forced to suffer repeat victimization) instead of being treated as refugees.
(4) The Swiss government gives preferred status to migrant women who apply to be cabaret dancers, despite a link between that profession and sex trafficking (which the Convention requires parties to combat). At the end of 2000, Switzerland had approximately 1,694 cabaret dancers.

One UN expert (Naela Gabr) noted, "Despite the primary significance attached to women in Switzerland, ensuring their human rights did not appear to be one of the Government's utmost concerns."

Some interesting tidbits from the UN press release:
(1) The canton of Appenzell Inner-Rhoden granted women the right to vote in 1991 (Switzerland offered women the right to vote and hold office at the national level only in 1971).
(2) Swiss men make 21.3% more than Swiss women. According to the UN expert from Germany, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court has justified pay differentials on the basis of market mechanisms and seemed to be justifying these pay differentials rather than seeking to eliminate them. Legislation protecting women from discrimination in the workplace does not exist in all parts of Switzerland.


Tuesday, January 14, 2003  
French Group Levels Accusations at UN: The French-Iraqi Friends Association (Les Amitiés Franco-Irakiennes) has sent a delegation to Iraq to conduct its own weapons investigation. After being driven around one military site, one Frenchman said, "I'm convinced that they [the Iraqis] don't have weapons of mass destruction." This thorough investigative team is composed of 12 members of all political persuasions and includes physicists, geologists, and two reserve admirals (thereby doubling the French military presence in the Middle East overnight). While being wined and dined by Hussein's elite, the French group attacked the UN inspection team as a "United States spy mission...With that inspection regime, Iraq has absolutely no way to organize its defenses or to defend itself, even with conventional weapons...Saddam Hussein is the Iraqi people's problem."

The Roma: "Abuses by law enforcement officials do not stop at beatings. A young Romani man was shot dead through the back of his head when he failed to stop his car for a police patrol...An elderly Albanian farm labourer is alleged to have been beaten, then shot in the back, by border guards...Other shootings by law enforcement officials indicate excessive use of force or criminal incompetence in the use of firearms."

--Amnesty International's report on Greece and the Romas.


Monday, January 13, 2003  
People in Glass Houses Throwing Stones: An Englishman (the poet, Andrew Motion) accuses the US of empire-building, while Germans warn of belligerence.

Go to Michael Gove's Times piece to learn more about an "anti-Americanism...[that] reaches deep into the darker recesses of the European soul."

(Thanks to Andrew Sullivan's page for these finds)


Germany tries to squelch speech with the trial of Horst Mahler, a leader of the National Democratic Party. Mahler is accused of justifying an illegal act because of his verbal support for the 9/11 attacks as justified warfare. I wonder, if this law were taken seriously, how many Germans would be in prison right now for expressing Mahler's exact sentiments. But I have a hunch that Germany's law is applied selectively to target those political groups that are deemed to be undesirable.

Sunday, January 12, 2003  
More French Mosques Vandalized: This time, they were 2 mosques in Nîmes. Damage included broken doors, books thrown on the ground, electronic equipment ruined, and 3000 euros stolen.

Of Interest: "A sense of immobility in...[France's] traditionally class-conscious society also saps many people here of the get-ahead ambition that drives their counterparts in the United States. The country's exam-heavy education system sets career paths early and there is little flexibility for changes later on...'Some French were even taught that ambition could make them ill,' said Theodore Zeldin, a British sociologist."

--From The NY Times


Sangatte Aftermath: The closing of the Sangatte refugee camp has pushed Iraqi and Afghan asylum seekers onto France's freezing winter streets. An estimated 300 are wandering about Calais (near which the refugee camp was located), while others have found their way to Paris. The Communist mayor of Calais, Jackie Hénin, has refused the opening of temporary shelters despite the freezing temperatures for fear that these shelters would attract more unsavory asylum seekers. Meanwhile, Paris's shelters are overwhelmed, even though some of Sangatte's former inhabitants are probably afraid to use them for fear of being deported.

The goal of many of these asylum seekers is to get out of France and enter the British El Dorado. According to a Guardian article, asylum seekers "said they believed the French, who have a harder line on refugees than the British, had no intention of giving residence permits and were determined to make life as uncomfortable as possible to discourage newcomers. They pointed out that more than 50 Kurds who had applied for temporary visas were on hunger strike in Bordeaux because their asylum applications had been rejected."


Saturday, January 11, 2003  
Muslim activist beaten in Italy.

Europe Adds to the Middle Eastern Fire:

(1) "The Holocaust excepted, the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is worse than the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands...The cruelty of the Israelis knows no bounds. For example, it's not unusual that they blow up Palestinian houses. The Nazis never went so far during the Dutch occupation."

--Gretta Duisenberg, wife of Wim Duisenberg (the president of the European Central Bank), offering her usual, thoughtful and constructive take on the Middle East situation.

(2) A similarly balanced, European perspective of the Middle East conflict can be found in the words of Archimandrite Hanna of the Greek Orthodox Church. He is reported to have said à propos of suicide bombers: "We support the martyrdom operations without any reservations, regardless of what skeptics and opponents of this form of resistance are saying...These martyrdom freedom fighters are the heroes of the people and we are proud of them. We categorically reject suspicious attempts to cast suspicion on their deeds."

(3) Meanwhile, a Czech protest march around Jewish monuments, synagogues, cemeteries, and neighborhoods allegedly organized to demonstrate support for Palestinian victims was banned by Czech authorities.


Friday, January 10, 2003  
Venice vs. Napoleon, Part II: To understand this story, you have to go back to 1797, when Napoleon conquered Venice. France's Emperor proceeded to destroy palaces and churches, the horses of San Marco and other valuable works of art were taken to Paris, and 537 kilograms of gold and silver were melted down to pay Venice's war debt.

Thus, modern-day Venetians are understandably peeved that the city recently purchased and plans to display a statue of Napoleon. There is a mock trial of Bonaparte planned for next March. Says one Venetian: "This is like erecting a statue in honor of [Admiral Horatio] Nelson in the Louvre in Paris."


French-Algerian Framed as Terrorist: Marcel Le Hir, a former French solider, has confessed to framing Abderazak Besseghir, a French-Algerian. Le Hir placed guns, plastic explosives, detonators, pilots' uniforms, and radical pro-Palestinian and Islamic documents in Besseghir's car and then tipped off the police. The framing was apparently related to the suicide of Besseghir's wife several months ago. The wife's family seemed to hold the French Muslim responsible and sought to frame him in retribution.

FRANCE'S SLAVES: Over the course of eight years, the Society Against Modern Slavery (le Comité contre l'esclavage) has accepted over 300 cases in France, approximately 40 of which have led to criminal investigations. And from January to October of 2002, the Society received over 200 appeals for help in the Paris region alone. These cases have ranged from the Malagasy (i.e. person from Madagascar) who was tortured, forced to offer herself to guests, and eventually beaten to death to the mentally retarded, middle-aged French woman who worked every day from 6 in the morning until 10 at night and was “disciplined” with physical punishments. In particular, the Society Against Modern Slavery looks for 3 symptoms: (1) The employer’s confiscation of the victim’s identity papers (viz. passport or birth certificate) and the victim’s concomitant, quasi-total dependence on the employer that includes a limitation or ban on communications (viz. phone calls or letters) with the outside world. (2) 15-18 hour work days, 7 days a week, with no vacations, little or no remuneration and inadequate food and lodging, (3) Victims who are of foreign origin and, not knowing French, cannot inform themselves of their rights or appeal for help.

Lest one think that this type of slavery is limited to the back alleys of Paris, it’s instructive to recall the case of Henriette Siliadin. This Tongan woman was owned by Vincent Bardet, whose family founded a prestigious Parisian publishing house. Henriette arrived in France illegally at the age of 16, where she originally performed house chores and worked in a store from 7 until 1 in the morning for one family. This family then “loaned” Henriette to the family of Vincent Bardet, where Henriette slept on a mat in the baby’s bedroom, was clothed with hand-me-downs from the children, worked 14 hours a day without vacation, was forbidden to interact with guests, and was often locked up when the Bardets left the house. Henriette’s compensation? Some pocket money from time to time.

According to the Society Against Modern Slavery’s website, 65% of their cases concern victims of African origin, three-quarters are women, one-third arrived as minors on French soil, and more than 70% received no compensation for their work.

How seriously does the French government take this modern slavery? Well, the Society Against Modern Slavery, with its 5 full-time employees, may close due to a lack of government funding (as of Christmas time, the Society was 60,000 euros shy of covering its 2002 budget), and guilty employers only face 2 years in prison and a 70,000 euro fine.


Thursday, January 09, 2003  

"Whatever you (America) do, you will be criticized by the Europeans because there is a certain distrust which is being exploited by the nation states in Europe against Americans."

--So says Ruediger Lentz, former bureau chief for Deutsche Welle. In evidence of this point, there is an article in The Economist on Hervé Gaymard, France's Minister of Agriculture. He has been crossing Europe in a campaign for agricultural protectionism. His argument is a mixture of (1) the US is more protectionist than Europe and therefore there is no reason to reform our policies, (2) Agriculture is a national patrimony and therefore needs to be protected, (3) the US is more protectionist than Europe and therefore there is no reason to reform our policies, (4) Developing countries should follow our protectionist lead, and (5) the US is more protectionist than Europe...


Wednesday, January 08, 2003  
Flashback: France & the United Nations: Chaos in the newly independent Congo leads the UN Security Council to launch a peacekeeping operation in 1960. However, the Soviet Union becomes disenchanted with the UN's increasing involvement and vetoes a resolution that would have reinforced the UN presence. Then Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld turns to the General Assembly, which takes over the Congo operation for the Security Council with the Uniting for Peace Resolution. The Soviet Union and France then refuse to contribute financially to the peacekeeping operation. The former argues that the General Assembly has acted beyond the scope of its authority, and the latter argues that the payments should be voluntary for states that have not voted in favor of the peacekeeping operation. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) weighs in on July 20, 1962, siding against France and the Soviets. According to the ICJ's Advisory Opinion (which isn't binding), France and the Soviet Union are obligated to help pay the Congo bill. The ICJ's Opinion is adopted by the General Assembly over the objections of France and the Soviet Union. However France and the Soviet Union--in contradiction of the International Court of Justice and the UN Resolution--continue, for years, to refuse any contributions to the Congo peacekeeping operation.

For more information, see Richard W. Nelson's "International Law and US Withholding of Payments to International Organizations" in the American Journal of International Law.


Tuesday, January 07, 2003  
France's Jews: These facts speak for themselves:

Background: "[B]etween 1940 and 1944, more than one in four of the 330,000 Jews living on French territory were deported. The majority were identified, arrested and shipped off by French administrators and the French police, without whose zealous cooperation German forces in France would have been unable to carry out the job...[In contrast] [d]uring a three-week period in October 1943, 7,000 Jews — 93 percent of the Jewish population — and 700 of their non-Jewish relatives were smuggled out of Denmark into neutral Sweden." (information based on books by Eugen Weber and Emmy Werner)

& Now More Recently...

1. French rabbi's car burnt in 16th arrondissement.
2. French consulates refusing to recognize marriages performed by rabbis who are residents of Occupied Territories.
3. The immigration of French Jews to Israel hit a 30-year high in 2002.
4. University Paris-VI-Pierre-et-Marie-Curie calls for a boycott of Israeli scientists, asking the European Union to end all cooperation with Israeli universities. Says Tania Assouline, head of a French student union, "Paris-VI's position is counter-productive...In Israel, it's precisely in the universities where one finds advocates of peace and opponents of the establishment."

Update: "the University's board of directors observe that judgments on the suspension of scientific exchanges with Israeli universities are outside the institution's realm of competence, and, in compliance
with Article 3 of the January 26,1984 Law on Higher Education, the board was in favor of reinforcing Paris VII's scientific cooperation agreements with all the universities of the world. The motion was passed with
39 in favor, six against, and an abstention."
(an excerpt of the decision is here)


Monday, January 06, 2003  
The Cult of Europe: "In civilisation and richness of life and history, Europe has been, is, and will be a pattern for the world....Why do we not recognise and praise more the beauty, the splendour, the magnificence of Europe? It is not a matter of economics or military power, but of Europe as incomparable in all the arts and accomplishments which make and have made life worth living; a reasonable, comfortable and decent place for human life."

Flashback: October 17, 1961: Tens of thousands of Algerian immigrants in France march to protest the 8:30 PM to 5:30 AM curfew imposed on them by the Paris police (who want to avoid demonstrations in favor of Algerian independence during France's war with that country). Officers led by Maurice Papon move in, and hundreds of Algerians are beaten, tortured and murdered in the ensuing violence. Their bodies are later seen floating in the Seine. It will take France 40 years to officially recognize that day's brutality. Even today, less than half of French citizens have even heard of the event, and only 20% are familiar with its details.

Egalité?: "Muslims now make up as big a proportion of France's population as blacks do in the United States...[but] not a single Muslim (and not a single Arab of any faith) sits in the 577-member Chamber of Deputies. Fifty percent of France's unemployed are Muslims, according to Zinedine Houacine, president of the Arab/Muslim Union of Seine St-Denis. Over half of France's prison population is made up of people of 'foreign origin,' as is 43 percent of its reform-school population."

--More on Islam in France here.


Sunday, January 05, 2003  
Serbia's Ghosts Catching up With Greece: Milan Milutinovic will soon be brought before The Hague's War Crimes Tribunal. This recently retired president of Serbia and former Yugoslavian ambassador to Greece during the 1990's once placed Slobodan Milosevic's money in Athens and Crete real estate, and strengthened the ties between the two Orthodox nations during Milosevic's ethnic cleansing. For example, Milosevic had several hundred accounts in various Greek banks as well as money-laundering operations during the 1990's used to finance Serbian military operations.

Greece and Serbia's ties were intimate. According to a report on the Srebrenica massacre by the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation and to Takis Michas' book, Unholy Alliance: Greece and Milosevic's Serbia, the support between the two countries included the following:

--Under the socialist leader Andreas Papandreou, Greece went beyond encouraging its oil tycoons to break the UN-imposed fuel embargo on Serbia and delivered military assistance to the Bosnia Serbs and to indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. Greek paramilitaries fought in Bosnia as part of the Drina Corps under indicted war criminal General Mladic.
--The Greek flag was hoisted in Srbrenica after it had fallen to the Serbs.
--Greek intelligence agencies supported the Greek paramilitaries and Serb troops.
--The Greek Orthodox Church sent priests to the Serbian front lines, and several clerics received bravery medals.
--A distrustful NATO simply stopped sharing intelligence with the Greeks.

According to Nikolas Voulelis of Athens News Agency, the Greek media was fanatically pro-Serb and portrayed Yugoslav Muslims as 'infidel Turks' who had designs on their Orthodox brethren.

Says Takis Michas, "In an era where everyone is saying sorry, in Greece at least no one has shown remorse for the crimes in Bosnia when undoubtedly a significant proportion of the political establishment bear some responsibility."


Saturday, January 04, 2003  
European Seeds: Here’s an article worth reading in the NY Times Magazine by Michael Ignatieff on America’s so-called “empire.” While Ignatieff never defines “empire” (and while most of the article is unfortunately beyond the focus of this website), Ignatieff’s placement of the US in a long line of empires casts a different light on certain conflicts abroad. In particular, Ignatieff notes that “America has inherited a world scarred…by the failures of empires past” and describes Iraq as an “imperial fiction, cobbled together at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919 by the French and British and held together by force and violence since independence.” He goes on to emphasize that “America has inherited this crisis of self-determination from the empires of the past. Its solution -- to create democracy in Iraq, then hopefully roll out the same happy experiment throughout the Middle East -- is both noble and dangerous: noble because, if successful, it will finally give these peoples the self-determination they vainly fought for against the empires of the past; dangerous because, if it fails, there will be nobody left to blame but the Americans.”

No, Ignatieff does not argue that the source of the world’s ills is Europe; however it’s worthwhile remembering that religious fervor and American missteps are not solely responsible for today’s international fires.


A European New Year Already Very Much Like the Old: Another Jew attacked in France, and more immigrants drowned off the Spanish coast.

French Inflation: André Fontaine writes in Le Monde:

"[W]ithout the decisive action of the British and French governments, who did not hesitate to invoke a duty to interfere, a no-fly zone over Kurd areas would not have been established and the Iraqi leader would have pursued, with impunity, the massacre of an unfortunate people...You can say what you will about George Bush Jr., but at least he won't be satisfied with any solution that leaves Saddam in control of Iraq."

One interesting point about the editorial is the critique that the US didn't finish the job in Iraq. Well, damned if you do, damned if you don't. If the US had assassinated Hussein, it would be condemned of imperialism. When it didn't, it's condemned as incompetent. A defensive Bush Sr. said back in 1998, "For those who now say ipso facto we should go in and kill [Saddam Hussein] -- then I would then ask the question, whose son, whose daughter would I ask to give their lives in perhaps a fruitless hunt in Baghdad, where we would have become an occupying power?"

The more interesting point in the article is how French egoism now tries to portray itself as the savior of the Kurds and the hero of the Gulf War. Unfortunately, reality may be more complex. The author neglects to mention that France no longer participates in the no-fly zones (and hasn't since 1998), that France's Defense Minister, Jean-Pierre Chevenment , resigned in protest at the beginning of the Gulf War, that France is, according to one source, "one of the European states most keen to resume trade with Iraq and win reconstruction contracts," and that when tens of thousands of Kurds were gassed in Halabja back in 1988, France "confined itself to an enigmatic communiqué condemning the use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world."

For a French article (and English translation) on France's interesting relationship with Iraq (the French version is by André Fontaine in a moment of greater lucidity), go here.


Friday, January 03, 2003  
More Irish Blood: The Ulster "Freedom" Fighters (UFF) have claimed another victim in Northern Ireland's loyalist feud--this time, the victim was shot outside a pub. The UFF is associated with Northern Ireland's largest loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Defense Association (UDA) (the UFF may simply be a cover for the UDA), and the violence is the result of internecine conflict surrounding the expulsion of Johnny Adair--a brigade leader--from the UDA.

Thursday, January 02, 2003  
Austria Defies UN to Protect Its Own: Austrian officials have helped Martin Almer, an Austrian police monitor working for the UN in Kosovo, to escape a UN probe. Almer was suspected of beating an ethnic Albanian in custody in order to extract a confession. In particular, Almer is alleged to have hit the man in the stomach, forced him to dig a hole for his own grave, and made him walk through a Serbian section of town with an "I hate Serbs" sign. Although Austrian officials had promised to cooperate with the investigation, Austria later threatened to withdraw all personnel from UN peacekeeping operations if the matter was not resolved in a satisfactory fashion. While the UN was negotiating, the Austrian government then repatriated Almer, allegedly for medical reasons. According to the Washington Post, "an international prosecutor in Kosovo is considering whether to issue an international warrant for his arrest."

Wednesday, January 01, 2003  
Britain Considered Ethnic Cleansing: Documents recently released by Britain's Public Records Office indicate that the British government, back in 1972, considered forcibly moving over 200,000 Catholics from Northern Ireland either to the Irish Republic or to Catholic "enclaves" within Northern Ireland. The plan was ultimately rejected, with the government report noting that "Unless the government were prepared to be completely ruthless in the use of force, the chances of imposing a settlement consisting of a new partition together with some compulsory transfer of population would be negligible...Any faint hope of success must be set against the implications of a course which would demonstrate to the world that [the government] was unable to bring about the peaceful solution of problems save by expelling large numbers of its own citizens and doing so on a religious basis."

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