Qualified yes to Romania and Bulgaria

As expected

Not that “qualified” I don’t think. Once you’ve gone this far, turning them down isn’t politically viable. They might get a bunch of embarassing transitional arrangements instead.

My semi-informed uniformed view is that waiting until 2008 would have ultimately been better for them, though a longer wait would have been counterproductive.

The European Commission gave a qualified yes Tuesday to Romania and Bulgaria joining the European Union on Jan. 1, but it delayed a final decision until October to try to pressure the Balkan countries to make greater inroads in fighting corruption and in judicial reforms.

The EU’s executive body said it did not want to dissuade reform-minded governments in both countries by delaying an entry date. But Olli Rehn, the EU expansion commissioner, warned that the two nations still needed to address shortcomings in their judicial systems and that their entry into the world’s largest trading bloc was not yet assured.

“Unless the countries take immediate corrective action, they will not be ready” in January, Rehn told a packed chamber of European deputies in Strasbourg. “If serious concerns remain, we will not hesitate to use the safeguards we have at our disposal,” he added, alluding to the EU’s power to delay the countries’ entry until 2008 or to withhold EU aid, even after they join.

Liesl Prokop: Intellectually Dishonest

No doubt the usual suspects will be hugely enjoying the claim by Austria’s hard-right interior minister Elisabeth (Liesl) Prokop that 45 per cent of Muslims are “unwilling to integrate”. In fact, it’s more than a claim – as well as rhetoric, she’s got a “study” to support her election positioning. Unfortunately, the study still isn’t complete – its leader, one Prof. Matthias Rohe, has yet to draw conclusions from the data. Not only that, there are some serious concerns regarding the methodology – at the link, it turns out that the study included, as well as a mixture of questionnaires and focus groups, a “consideration of media reports”.

Ah. I think I get it. Someone like the emetic FPÖ goon Andreas Mölzer has his pet newspaper (Zur Zeit) rant about TEH TERRORISTS, and this is duly marked off by the responsible minister’s pet academics as evidence for Mölzer’s policy. But there is much, much worse.

According to her spokesman, “20 per cent of Muslims had difficulties with integration for religious reasons and 25 per cent with the cultural background”. So, obviously 45 per cent of them REFUSE TO INTEGRATE AND MUST BE ELIMINATED! Errr..well. Perhaps if religious and cultural differences were mutually exclusive, that might approach the truth or something akin to it.

But of course they are not. In fact, I’d argue that in this case they are barely distinguishable, which implies epic double counting and a truly mendacious misuse of statistics. After all, I suspect that not far off 100 per cent of them agree with me that the current Austrian government is a bunch of racists and cheap-arsed hacks with their fingers in the till, and using the same class of mathematics, we can therefore conclude that 145 per cent of Muslims in Austria are dangerous non-integrators.

Updated: Well, the study was eventually presented, and it doesn’t contain either the phrase “unwilling to integrate” or the figure of 45 per cent. How strange. It’s almost as if someone was lying.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali/Magan moves to US

Controversial “Dutch” politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose true surname is Magan and not Ali, is reported to move to the United States where she will be working for The American Enterprise Institute. She is currently embroiled in a scandal because she had lied about her past to obtain a Dutch passport:

Hirsi Ali said she came clean about the lies she told to get asylum when she joined the Liberal Party (VVD) in 2002. Yet prominent VVDer (and now EU Commissioner) Neelie Kroes described Hirsi Ali as a person who had lived through five civil wars in Somalia. This was not true as Hirsi Ali lived in Kenya for over 10 years before coming to the Netherlands.

A spokesperson for the VVD said the party had been aware that Hirsi Ali lied about her name and date of birth when seeking asylum. This was not seen as a barrier to her joining the party or becoming one of its MPs.

These lies, in short, were already public knowledge. Way back in 2003, for example, the BBC published a story on Ayaan Hirsi Ali/Magan with the correct version of the facts, including her move to Kenya and stop-over in Germany.

The truly salient part of the story is, however, this:

Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk said on Friday that Hirsi Ali need not worry about facing repercussions for what she did 14 years ago. But she repeated she would have deported Hirsi Ali if she had been the minister back in 1992. “I don’t like lies,” Verdonk said on Friday.

Remember, Verdonk now plays tough on illegal immigrants. Yesterday evening, Monday 15th, Verdonk is reported to have made a phone call to Hirsi Ali, her colleague in the VVD party, saying that Hirsi may very well not be Dutch after all because, in 1997, she lied about her application for Dutch citizenship… Gotta love politics.

BTW, Hirsi Ali has declared to be shocked by all this, in The New York Times.

UPDATE, Saturday May 20th: Verdonk stated that Hirsi will get her Dutch passport back. The Dutch news story can be found here. Apparently they want to keep the VVD from splitting into two camps because of this affair. Huge pressure was piled on VVD member Verdonk to compromise and retract her earlier decision to strip Hirsi of her Dutch citizenship.

Van Themsche update

Today more information was released on Hans Van Themsche’s motives for the killings through his lawyer. In my previous post I asked:

Is far-right ideology, in this case Vlaams Belang, responsible for poisoning his apparently unstable mind to such an extent that it would have inevitably led to murder, just like video games or heavy metal are sometimes blamed for violence, or is this just a hugely unfortunate yet isolated case of madness?

Well, it turns out to be a bit of everything.
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Priceless

This is really too good to be true, but we got pictorial evidence.

IT WAS not until midway through the live television interview that the BBC interviewer started to grow suspicious. The man whom she believed to be an expert on internet music downloads seemed to know precious little about his subject.

Not only that, but the stocky black man with the strong French accent bore little resemblance to the picture on the expert’s website, which showed a slim white man with blue eyes and blond hair.

The interview’s here.

Via Nick Whyte

Forget It Jacques, It’s Clearstream

It never stops when your blog has to cover an entire continent. Hardly had the Italian left taken AFOE’s advice to get Giorgio Napolitano elected as president than the Clearstream scandal in France was getting out of hand, and nothing at all on the blog! Fortunately, at the moment the news from that quarter is coming so thick and at such a howling rate of speed that it wasn’t going to be hard to catch up. The latest despatches suggest that, firstly, it was De Villepin and Chirac, and secondly, that the victim-Nicolas Sarkozy-probably has something to hide too, as in any good film noir.

And that’s before you get on to the 300 million francs in the president’s secret Japanese bank account. Allegedly.

So what is a Clearstream and why is it a scandal? Clearstream is a bank clearing house in Luxembourg that permits banks to carry out international payments on a net basis, paying just the balance of their transactions in cash every business day. It has a bad reputation in France because of one Denis Robert, who has written three books alleging that it’s responsible for money laundering on a vast scale. But more relevantly, it’s also the supposed cause of a major political crisis.
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Belgium yet again in turmoil over killings

In the night between May 6th and 7th 2006 five skinheads, coming from De Kastelein, a known extreme right café in West Flanders, beat up Raphaël Mensah, a fifty year old Parisian artist of Gabonese descent, and his thirty seven year old Belgian friend Alain Bouillon. Bouillon was heavily wounded and Mensah is now lying in a coma. According to Bouillon “the skinheads weren’t after money, they went after us because my friend has the wrong skin colour”. In fact, according to Belgian French-language La Dernière Heure, Mensah’s wallet was recovered on the crime scene with the 150 euros he carried on him still in it.

On May 11th, in an Antwerp street very close to where I used to live, an 18-year old man, Hans Van Themsche, went on a killing spree. His first victim, 46-year old Sonhul Koç, a Turkish woman who was sitting on a park bench reading a book, was heavily wounded. Van Themsche had shot her in the back from a distance of six meters (6.5 yards).

The second and third victims were both killed. They were a 24-year old Malinese woman called Oulemata Niangadou who worked as an au pair and the little Belgian girl she was looking after, two year old Luna. Van Themsche had spotted Oulemata and Luna walking down the street, he passed them, turned around and fired at them, in theirs backs, from point blank range. When he was later questioned about his motive for killing the little girl, he is reported to have said: “She was in the wrong place at the wrong time”. In all it took Van Themsche just four minutes to destroy three lives. He was stopped by a policeman who arrived at the scene and shot Van Themsche, apparently a willing target since he shouted “just shoot me”, in the stomach. Van Themsche is now in the hospital, but he will survive.
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