A week ago, when 129 people in Paris were massacred as they went joyfully about their Friday nights, there were instant predictions of fury and instability. The cut-off commentariat in particular was worried that ‘ordinary people’ might turn Islamophobic. Hatred will spread ‘thick and fast’, said Scotland’s minister for Europe. Others fretted that there would be displays of jingoism, demands for revenge. Don’t agitate for a ‘clash of civilisations’, observers warned. One expert on international affairs even told us not to get angry, because ‘ISIS counts on anger… to advance its cause’. This elite panic about post-Paris rage spoke volumes about the anti-public mindset of Europe’s opinion-formers, who view us as volatile, easily turned from civilised creatures into warmongers.
In the event, though, in the seven days since the massacres, something even worse than all that happened: nothing. There’s been no fury. No clamour for a fightback, whether of the militaristic or intellectual variety.
– Brendan O’Neill
Reason goes to sleep during election campaigns. Sometimes it is said elections are like the fiesta of democracy, which is true, but electoral campaigns are like bachelor parties which culminate in huge hangovers and sometimes culminate in disasters.
– Marek Belka
If reports are true, the Finnish tax police want the public to report anyone selling a take-away pizza for less than €6.
“Unless a pizza is on temporary sale there is no way a legitimate establishment can offer pizza for less than six euros,” Det Insp Minna Immonen of the Uusimaa police department is quoted as saying.
So they have calculated that it is not possible to remain in business selling pizza for less than that price, and still pay the 12% VAT.
12% VAT? What a pleasantly low rate, here in the UK it is 20% for almost everything. I will not be diverted onto a discussion as to what is standard or zero-rated, except to note that on learning that horse semen is subject to normal VAT but bull semen is zero-rated (effectively exempt) as in most of Europe horses are not ‘food’, I decided that whoever made that ruling in Brussels bloody well deserved that to be their legacy.
However, the intrusion is greater, you should get a receipt for your pizza, so Finland has joined Italy as a place where every transaction (even a 1€ cup of coffee or Sachertorte in Venice) leads to a receipt being printed at the till, for fear of the Tax Police.
Police are trying to crack down on the “grey economy”, which costs the country millions of euros in lost tax revenue each year. They also want people to make sure they get a receipt for their pizzas, regardless of value.
We all surely know that the ‘country’ is in fact ‘the State’, and those millions of Euros of lost revenue go on to lead happy, productive lives in the private sector in the hands of their owners. It is a sorry state of affairs when price signals are used by tax authorities to go looking for suspects, rather than customers for bargains, perhaps the tipping point from a tolerably free society to an unpleasant one. I do recall the Sage of Kettering remarking years ago that someone had calculated that no business could carry on in New York City if it followed all the regulations that apply to it.
Still, this has generated some scorn, so that is a positive sign.
The drowned body of little Aylan Kurdi is on front pages all over the world. His surname and the name of his home town, Kobani, tell the story of why his family were so desperate to leave their homeland.
What can be done to stop this happening, as the Middle East burns? What should be done? In the long term – God only knows.
But we don’t have to know. In the short term there is something we can do which has a proven record of saving lives in a similar situation.
Could Australia’s ‘stop the boats’ policy solve Europe’s migrant crisis?
When the bodies of asylum seekers en route to Australia washed up on the shores of Christmas Island in 2010 everyone was in agreement that something needed to be done.
Five years later Australia has implemented one of the harshest border policies in the world. It is characterised by three core points: turning or towing back boats of asylum seekers at sea; forcing asylum seekers to live in detention centres across the Pacific in Nauru and Papua New Guinea; and guaranteeing they will never be resettled in Australia.
Dozens of would-be migrants are reported to have drowned between Libya and Sicily, the latest tragedy in the Mediterranean this spring. The increasing numbers making the perilous journey on overloaded boats has brought the issue of migration into Europe to a head. But what can be done about it?
Prime minister Tony Abbott is now making a clarion call to Europe, where crisis meetings have taken place following the deaths of over 800 migrants in the Mediterranean this week. The only way to stop deaths at sea, he told reporters this week, “is in fact, to stop the boats”.
They were stopped.
Building a camp – a decent camp – and putting all those attempting illegal entry in it does not satisfy either side of the immigration debate. But at least it could be tolerated by both sides and might stop the bodies floating in on every tide. To use an unhappy metaphor, it would keep the floodgates closed by showing that taking ship with a people smuggler is not a successful strategy to get to the West. To work this policy would require both sides to acknowledge very clearly that doing this for now implies absolutely nothing about what the permanent policy on refugees and/or migrants should be.
Sometimes the Guardian surprises. This piece by David Crouch certainly came as an unwelcome surprise to some of the regular Guardian commentariat. Mr Crouch has written a very fair appraisal of the effects of rent control in Sweden: “Pitfalls of rent restraints: why Stockholm’s model has failed many.” He writes,
The result [of rent controls] is a thriving rental property black market, with bribes of as much as 100,000 kronor per room to obtain a direct contract, McCormac says. Many people sublet space in their rental apartments. When one tenant advertised a tiny closet last year for rent, there were many potential takers.
“It is almost impossible for immigrants and new arrivals to penetrate this market – it is all about who you know and how much money you have,” McCormac says. Students, young people and immigrants are consequently shut out, and ethnic and social segregation is increasing.
A commenter called “JohannesL” adds his own story:
When I moved to Helsinki in 1982, there was strict rent control in place and the tenant was well-protected, it was very difficult to get rid of even the tenant from hell. Because of this, there were no rental flats available at all, except the council flats, which were definitely not available for healthy non-addicted young men.
There were plenty of people living in tents and cardboard huts in the woods then. (I enrolled in the university just to get a room in a student dormitory).
In the early 90’s they got rid of the rent control which made renting a profitable business, with the result that suddenly there was an active and relatively abundant rental market, and has been ever since.
Sad but true. Rent control does not work. Also, it must be possible to get rid of your tenant in reasonable time. It breaks my bleeding lefty heart, but that’s just how it is.
Le Journal du Dimanche printed a loyal address made by President Hollande to Jacques Delors on the occasion of the old emperor’s nintieth birthday.
Here are some extracts, translated by me and Messieurs Google et Bing:
“Because Europe can only advance if it carries the idea of transcendence. No nation can contemplate giving up part of its sovereignty if it is not satisfied that it will emerge stronger from this process. He [Delors] intuited that out of the crisis, Europe needs to define a new horizon that can give rise to a new hope, because he knows that the European idea runs out of steam when it is no longer put into action.”
“What threatens us is not too much Europe but too little.”
“The eurozone has managed this week to reaffirm its cohesion with Greece.
The quality of the Franco-German relationship had a great deal to do with it. The European spirit prevailed. But we cannot stop there. I have offered to take forward Jacques Delors’s idea for a Government of the euro area with the addition of a specific budget and thus also a Parliament to ensure democratic control.”
Found via Bloomberg and the Drudge Report. The French original can be seen at the first link. Is he really saying what I think he’s saying? A unified Eurozone government?
1) Which side will win?
2) Which side should win?
…an uneasy alliance of former enemies, having marshalled massive forces and waged a skilful campaign involving unprecedented levels of deception, was victorious in its battle to keep Britain in the Common Market.
This is looks like it was a fun hack!
The hackers from the Anonymous International have disclosed thousands of text messages sent to and by Timur Prokopenko, deputy chief of the Domestic Politics Department of the Russian Federation’s Presidential Administration.
The messages dating back to March 2014 also mention Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French far right National Front, and contribute to better understanding of the relations between Russia and Le Pen’s party.
These communications correspond well to the developments in March 2014. Le Pen did not indeed go to Crimea, but her contemporary adviser on international relations, Aymeric Chauprade, went to observe the “referendum”. The French newspaper Libération informed, with a reference to Chauprade’s entourage, that he had been invited to monitor the “referendum” by the Eurasian Observatory for Democracy and Elections (EODE), a Belgium-based NGO run by Belgian extreme right activist Luc Michel. Together with the pro-Kremlin, Poland-based European Centre for Geopolitical Analysis, the EODE was responsible for inviting international monitors to observe the “referendum” in Crimea. However, the National Front denied that the EODE had invited Chauprade, as the party feared that the publicized relationship with the Belgian right-wing extremists could damage the reputation of the National Front, especially on the eve of the municipal elections.
Whilst the Le Pen/Putin association is hardly a secret, it is always fascinating to see the spider-web of links amongst amongst Europe and Russia’s assorted fascists.
If Capaldo’s claims were right, Europe should have economically disintegrated as a result of its trade integration with any other part of the world. The Capaldo reasoning suggests that Europe’s trade integration with China, for instance, would have fractured EU economic integration. In fact, European economic integration deepened considerably even though import competition from the Asia-Pacific increased significantly over the past two decades.
According to the Capaldo reasoning, economic integration within the European Single Market should have triggered a tremendous fall in wages and employment due to the greater exposure of EU economies to trade and the proclaimed negative impact on income and aggregate demand. None of this has happened.
– Fredrik Erixon & Matthias Bauer, from “Splendid Isolation” as Trade Policy: Mercantilism and Crude Keynesianism in “the Capaldo Study” of TTIP
A Russian minister has paid an unannounced visit to Norwegian owned Svalbard, much to the Norwegian government’s annoyance.
But said Russian minister also seemed to be suggesting Norway does not really have sovereignty over Svalbard. However that is not really what the Svalbard Treaty says, not that the Kremlin is known for worrying over much about such niceties.
First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs Leonid Kalashnikov contested the full sovereignty of Norway to Svalbard. Norway previously demanded an explanation after a visit to the archipelago Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is part of the EU sanctions list
Under the Svalbard Treaty the peninsula is not supposed to host bases but is not actually ‘demilitarised’ as such, so now might be a nice time for the Norwegian army to send a company on an extended posting up north.