Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Spain fails to get a government

by IdiotSavant Thu Jul 25th, 2019 at 10:07:49 PM EST

Back in April, Spanish voters went to the polls to elect a new parliament. The Socialists emerged as the largest party, with 28.7% of the vote. But despite being the only party with the possibility of forming a government, they have failed to do so:

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Democracy with Spanish characteristics again

by IdiotSavant Thu Jun 20th, 2019 at 10:00:39 PM EST

Last month, Catalans elected three exiled and jailed pro-independence politicians to the European Parliament. Unfortunately, Spain no longer seems to respect the results of democratic elections, and the Spanish Electoral Commission today declared their seats vacant. The reason? None of them had made the required oath to uphold the Spanish constitution before the Electoral Commission. But in all three cases, it is because the Spanish state did not permit them to.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Arbitrary detention in Spain

by IdiotSavant Wed May 29th, 2019 at 11:37:38 PM EST

Twelve Catalan politicians are currently on trial in Madrid on charges of "sedition" and "rebellion" over Catalonia's 2017 independence referendum. Many of them have been held without bail since their arrest almost two years ago. But now, a UN working group has concluded that their detention is arbitrary:

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Britain wants its troops to commit war crimes

by IdiotSavant Wed May 15th, 2019 at 03:35:07 AM EST

That's the only conclusion that can be drawn from its "vow" to introduce an amnesty for crimes committed by soldiers and to derogate from the ECHR:

The new defence secretary has promised to introduce an amnesty on historical prosecutions for military veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and anywhere else around the world - with the exception of Northern Ireland.

Penny Mordaunt will consult on proposals for a presumption against prosecution for offences committed more than 10 years ago and will say she supports plans to opt out of the European convention on human rights (ECHR) in future armed conflicts.

But the minister risks courting conflict with some on the right of her party, who want Northern Ireland to be included within any amnesty, following the prosecution of a former paratrooper for the murder of two people on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972.

Front paged - Frank Schnittger

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No justice for Bloody Sunday

by IdiotSavant Thu Mar 14th, 2019 at 12:21:15 PM EST

On 30 January 1972, British soldiers shot 28 unarmed civilians in Derry in Northern Ireland, killing thirteen people. The usual official whitewash followed, and the leader of the murderers was awarded an OBE for his services. But a second inquiry in the 2000's called the crime what it was: murder. The Police Service of Northern Ireland finally began a murder investigation, and now one former soldier has been charged with murder. But only one. As for the rest, the men who pumped bullets into a crowd, shot those trying to flee, and murdered those trying to help the wounded, they all get away with it. But it gets worse - because the reaction of the British government to this was not an acknowledgement of its past crimes and a desire that a prosecution might finally bring some justice, however imperfect, to its victims, but this:

Responding to the PPS decisions, the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, said: "We are indebted to those soldiers who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland. The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance and we will offer full legal and pastoral support to the individual affected by today's decision. This includes funding all his legal costs and providing welfare support.

"The Ministry of Defence is working across government to drive through a new package of safeguards to ensure our armed forces are not unfairly treated.

"And the government will urgently reform the system for dealing with legacy issues. Our serving and former personnel cannot live in constant fear of prosecution."

No, Cthulhu forbid murderers living in fear that they might finally face justice! Won't someone think of the poor, oppressed killers?

In case anyone needs reminding, the dead of Bloody Sunday were UK citizens, killed by their own government for daring to demand human rights. They deserve justice. But they will never get it from Britain.

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The latest Brexit clusterfuckery

by IdiotSavant Tue Mar 12th, 2019 at 09:06:44 PM EST

So, having rejected Theresa May's shit Brexit deal, UK MP's were told to vote until they got it right - and rejected it again. Which means that the UK is now just 16 days from Brexit and has no plan whatsoever.

Tomorrow the UK parliament will vote on whether to leave the EU without a deal. They will reject that (again). The day after they will vote on asking the EU for an extension, so they can flail around and fail to make up their minds some more. But with no prospect of any change to the deadlock, there is little point to an extension. The EU may grant it, simply to give the UK every possible chance, but ultimately the deal they have offered is the only deal on the table, and the UK can take it or leave it.

The real problem here is the dysfunction and delusion of the UK political class. Faced with the biggest political crisis in a century, they are unable to agree on anything, unable to even accept their negotiating position. So we have delusional absurdities like the EU just giving them whatever they want if they whine loudly enough, or that they can ignore their binding international legal commitments to the Irish peace agreement because they're Britain and they Rule The Waves. Or their imperialist delusions that Ireland would leave the EU and "re"-join their colonial oppressors for the convenience of the latter - or that threatening them with food shortages would change their minds (I guess they don't teach about the potato famine at Eton or Oxford...)

Given this utter failure, there is really only one solution: parliament can't make up its mind, so kick it back to the people in a second referendum. But that would involve the UK political class admitting its failures and yielding a smidgen of power (not to mention the risk that the people might then want to address the fundamental causes of an unfair electoral system and an intellectually inbred elite which produced this clusterfuck), so it will never happen. So instead they'll just continue the cannibalistic orgy all the way to the bottom of the cliff.

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Democracy on trial

by IdiotSavant Thu Feb 14th, 2019 at 12:41:14 AM EST

Twelve Catalan political leaders went on trial in Madrid yesterday. Their crime? Advocating peacefully for an independent Catalonia and organising a referendum on the issue. The Spanish government calls this "sedition" and "rebellion". But what it really is is democracy. In a democratic state with freedom of expression, people can and should be allowed to advocate for independence. And in a democratic state, when people peacefully demand independence, it is entirely right and proper for them to vote on it. Spain attempted to crush that vote with brute force - and failed. Now they are attempting to crush its advocates. But in a democratic state, democracy should not be a crime. If Spain thinks it is, then it shows that that country is not a democracy, and not a fit member of the civilised world. Democratic countries should condemn this political trial, and demand that Catalans get what they have demanded all along: a free, fair and binding referendum on their independence.

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What happens now?

by IdiotSavant Tue Jan 15th, 2019 at 09:29:39 PM EST

This morning the UK parliament voted on Theresa may's Brexit deal - and as expected voted it down in the biggest defeat for a UK government in the democratic era. So what happens now? The problem is that no-one can tell. The UK has passed into political singularity, and no-one knows what might come out the other side.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Bigotry loses in Romania

by IdiotSavant Wed Oct 10th, 2018 at 01:47:47 AM EST

Romanians went to the polls over the weekend to vote in a constitutional referendum to ban same-sex marriage. Or rather, they didn't - because the referendum failed due to miserably low turnout:

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Belgium stands up for freedom of speech in Spain

by IdiotSavant Tue Sep 18th, 2018 at 02:57:33 AM EST

Back in February, Spain sentenced rapper Valtonyc to three and a half years in prison for insulting the monarch. He promptly fled the country. Now, a Belgian court has refused to extradite him:

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The EU acts against Hungary

by IdiotSavant Thu Sep 13th, 2018 at 10:56:33 AM EST

Over the past few years, Hungary has been transforming itself into an authoritarian state. The government of Viktor Orbán has undermined human rights and the rule of law, attacked judicial independence, and shut down independent media. Not to mention being virulently Islamophobic. This is all a violation of European democratic norms, and its finally grown too much for the EU, which has voted to pursue disciplinary action against them:

Front paged by Frank Schnittger

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A victory for European justice

by IdiotSavant Fri Jul 20th, 2018 at 12:38:49 AM EST

A week ago, a German court rejected the extradition of exiled Catalan President Carles Puigdemont on "rebellion" charges. He could be extradited for "misuse of public funds", but not for "rebellion" as there was no equivalent offence in German law (Germany requires actual or planned violence, not peaceful protest and democratic advocacy. The idea of a peaceful "rebellion" is nonsensical). And now, as expected, Spain is having a legal temper-tantrum and has withdrawn the European Arrest Warrants against all the exiled Catalan politicians:

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The EU is dead

by IdiotSavant Mon Jul 2nd, 2018 at 03:48:46 AM EST

Remember the European dream? An ever closer union founded on respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights? Its dead: it is now official EU policy that refugees should be left to drown:

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The cost of austerity

by IdiotSavant Tue Mar 20th, 2012 at 07:39:29 PM EST

In May last year, Portugal reached a deal for a bailout from the IMF and European Central Bank.  The bailout of course came with conditions: cuts, austerity, and privatisation.  Now the cost of those cuts is becoming apparent: dead people.  

There is a chart on the wall beside a machine that accepts credit cards. It shows the charges for seeing a doctor in one of western Europe's poorest countries, where opposition politicians blame budget cuts for a thousand extra deaths in February, 20% more than usual.

"They hiked the fees in January," said the receptionist, pointing to the new charges for everything from jabs and ear washes to having stitches removed. "Now a visit to the emergency room costs €20 instead of €9. A consultant costs €7.50. People are angry."

The health service is just one victim of sweeping cuts and increased charges for public services across Portugal.

Its a similar story in Greece, where German-imposed austerity has seen a resurgance in HIV and malaria (because needle-exchange programmes and hospitals were cut), and is expected to lead to a significant rise in infant mortality.  Which is what happens when you cut healthcare and price it out of the reach of ordinary people.

It will take years before we have the proper numbers on this from an excess death study.  But there's little doubt that these cuts will lead to tens of thousands of deaths in each country.  And every one of those deaths can be laid at the feet of the foreign bankers demanding their pound of flesh.  What they are doing to Greece and Portugal constitutes mass-murder on a vast scale. And they need to be held to account for it.

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Dictatorship is not a solution

by IdiotSavant Tue Dec 6th, 2011 at 09:18:10 PM EST

The European Commission's answer to the Eurozone crisis?  Foreign dictatorship.  Yes, really:

The European commission could be empowered to impose austerity measures on eurozone countries that are being bailed out, usurping the functions of government in countries such as Greece, Ireland, or Portugal.

[...]

A confidential paper for EU leaders by the EU council president, Herman Van Rompuy, who will chair the summit on Thursday and Friday, said eurobonds or the pooling of eurozone debt would be a powerful tool in resolving the crisis, despite fierce German resistance to the idea.

It called for "more intrusive control of national budgetary policies by the EU" and laid out various options for enforcing fiscal discipline supra-nationally.

This is madness.  All it does is swap economic instability for political instability.  We're already seeing in Greece that people will not put up with austerity for the sake of the bankers when imposed by an elected government.  Imagine how they'll react when its imposed by foreign officials in the interests of a foreign power, without any suggestion of a democratic mandate.  

Europe's great achievement has been to spread democracy from the Atlantic to the Baltic.  Now they want to throw that away, while releasing the most toxic forms of nationalism from their box.  And all for the sake of the banks.  If Europe goes down this path, then the European Project might as well be over - because it will no longer be worth supporting.

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Europe leaves refugees to die

by IdiotSavant Sun May 8th, 2011 at 10:26:58 PM EST

At the moment, NATO, backed by a UN mandate, is bombing Libya, ostensibly to save civilian lives.  Meanwhile, it left a boatload of refugees fleeing the bombing to die of hunger and thirst at sea:

Dozens of African migrants were left to die in the Mediterranean after a number of European and Nato military units apparently ignored their cries for help, the Guardian has learned.

A boat carrying 72 passengers, including several women, young children and political refugees, ran into trouble in late March after leaving Tripoli for the Italian island of Lampedusa. Despite alarms being raised with the Italian coastguard and the boat making contact with a military helicopter and a Nato warship, no rescue effort was attempted.

All but 11 of those on board died from thirst and hunger after their vessel was left to drift in open waters for 16 days.

As the article points out, the law of the sea requires all vessels to respond to distress calls.  But the military forces of Italy and France refused, because that would mean the refugees would be entitled to asylum in the rescuing country.  So instead, they left them to be someone else's problem - which in practice meant leaving them to die.  At the least, it is a violation of international maritime law, and the officers who gave the order to ignore need to be prosecuted and stripped of their positions.  But beyond that, it exposes an ugly policy on the part of European nations to ignore cries for help when they come from people with the wrong coloured skin. And that is simply racism.

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A whitewash on torture

by IdiotSavant Tue Jul 6th, 2010 at 09:59:50 PM EST

From No Right Turn: New Zealand's liberal blog.

This morning David Cameron finally announced his long-promised (and long-awaited) judicial inquiry into the UK intelligence services' collusion in torture.  Unfortunately, it looks like its going to be a whitewash from the start.  Firstly, instead of being headed by an independent judge, it will be led by Peter Gibson, the Intelligence Services Commissioner.  This is an equivalent position to NZ's Inspector-General of Security and Intelligence, and it has the same problems of institutional capture and a lack of independence.  The UK government is effectively getting the spies to investigate themselves, through their pet judge.  And when its put like that, it is clear that the public can have no confidence in the outcome.

Secondly, Cameron tipped his hand in his announcement:

Mr Cameron told MPs that to ignore the claims would risk operatives' reputation "being tarnished.

Which suggests that the primary concern is not bringing torturers to justice and ensuring that it never happens again, but to protect the reputation (what reputation?) of the spies.  So, everything will be swept under the rug.

(Also note the focus on ending those embarrassing court cases, which threaten to drag the details out in a manner the government cannot control.  This is about PR and damage limitation, not justice).

But finally and most damningly, the inquiry will happen in secret.  Meaning we cannot see that it is fair.  And if we can't see it, we can't trust it - its that simple.

Crimes have been committed.  Their victims deserve justice, not a whitewash.  That justice is best achieved by a fair, independent and impartial court of law - not by another secretive, compromised "inquiry" with a mandate to bury the truth.

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Laughing all the way to the bank while dancing on corpses

by IdiotSavant Fri Jul 2nd, 2010 at 07:31:28 AM EST

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog:

Today's must-read: a truly horrifying article by Johann Hari in the Independent about how US investment bank Goldman Sachs set up a speculative bubble in food futures and caused mass starvation as a result:


In 2006, financial speculators like Goldmans pulled out of the collapsing US real estate market. They reckoned food prices would stay steady or rise while the rest of the economy tanked, so they switched their funds there. Suddenly, the world's frightened investors stampeded on to this ground.

So while the supply and demand of food stayed pretty much the same, the supply and demand for derivatives based on food massively rose - which meant the all-rolled-into-one price shot up, and the starvation began. The bubble only burst in March 2008 when the situation got so bad in the US that the speculators had to slash their spending to cover their losses back home.

Two hundred million people went hungry as a result, not because there wasn't any food - supply had in fact risen - but because futures market speculation had pushed prices beyond what they could afford to pay.  There were food riots in 30 countries, and at least one starvation-induced revolution. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has called it "a silent mass murder" entirely caused by "man-made actions".  Another word for it would be genocide.

But hey, the bankers made money, so it must be OK, right?

This is the sort of shit which caused the French Revolution.  And if they'd done it in the places where people were actually starving, they would have been strung up.  But the joy of globalisation is that you can profit from a famine on the other side of the world, while being totally insulated from the angry, starving mobs you have caused.

Our bankers are genocidieres.  Time for some trials.

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Getting ugly in Greece

by IdiotSavant Wed May 5th, 2010 at 10:45:19 AM EST

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog:

The past few months have seen a slow-motion train-wreck in Greece, as the government faces increasing debt as a result of the global economic crisis.  The government has negotiated a bailout from the EU and IMF, but the cost of that is savage austerity measures: a 25% cut in public sector salaries, wage freezes, cuts to pensions and public services, VAT (but not income tax) increases, followed by a terminal dose of NeoLiberalism.  But there's a problem: the Greek people don't like it.  They especially don't like the fact that the burden is being unfairly dumped on them, rather than the politicians who lied systematically about the country's accounts, or the wealthy who systematically evade their taxes.  And their protests have grown louder and louder.

Yesterday, they stormed the Acropolis.  Today, they held a general strike and set fire to banks - in the process killing three people.  Things are getting very ugly indeed, and if the government persists in bowing to the international money markets, they will only get uglier.  In 2001, the government of Argentina was toppled by its people in similar circumstances, and if the Greek government is not careful, they could find themselves sharing the same fate.  Unfortunately, in that case, the bankers will probably make out like bandits anyway.

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UK election open thread 3

by IdiotSavant Sat Apr 24th, 2010 at 09:19:08 AM EST

As requested.

Only two weeks to go... can we take the stress?

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