Posts tagged with: european union

Blog author: jcouretas
Monday, January 26, 2015
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It gets really interesting now in the wake of Syriza’s stunning victory in yesterday’s Greek elections, widely interpreted as a populist rejection of austerity programs that could spread to other indebted European Union basket cases. All eyes on are Alexis Tsipras, the newly-sworn in prime minister (in a highly unusual secular ceremony), with a lot of unanswered questions about how his party will govern. (Syriza is the transliterated Greek acronym for Coalition of the Radical Left). I’ve been following this story – indeed the long gut-wrenching meltdown of the Greek economy – in recent years with more than casual interest. I grew up in a Greek immigrant household and have retraced my grandparents’ steps back to the family villages (I’m what real Greeks refer to as a “two week Greek”).

On the Forbes site, Charles Calomiris paints a picture of what is in store for Greeks if Tsipras follows through on his promises to magically wish away debt (176 percent of GDP), go after “the rich” (Greek shipowners) and give away more free stuff (electrical power, health care, higher minimum wage, etc.) paid for with other people’s money:

… the likely consequences for Greece of Sunday’s election are a chaotic future of bank runs, devaluation, capital flight, and even more worrying, new radical leftist policies to respond to the economic collapse produced by the crisis (e.g., huge expansions of government spending, and nationalizations). Nothing can be ruled out when someone like Mr. Tsipras is in charge – a European version of Hugo Chavez.

Calomiris concludes by observing that “although it is likely that Mr. Tsipras’s victory will soon be regarded as a major electoral error by Greeks, it could be a helpful wake up call for the rest of Europe.” (more…)

Arthur Brooks

Arthur Brooks

Arthur Brooks is not the first to notice the demographic deterioration of Europe (Acton’s Sam Gregg wrote about it in his book, Becoming Europe), but Brooks points out that Europe isn’t just getting old, but “dotty” as well. Brooks writes in The New York Times about Europe’s aging population, and its loss of vibrancy.

As important as good economic policies are, they will not fix Europe’s core problems, which are demographic, not economic. This was the point made in a speech to the European Parliament in November by none other than Pope Francis. As the pontiff put it, “In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe which is now a ‘grandmother,’ no longer fertile and vibrant.”

But wait, it gets worse: Grandma Europe is not merely growing old. She is also getting dotty. She is, as the pope sadly explained in an earlier speech to a conference of bishops, “weary with disorientation.”

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Blog author: ehilton
Monday, December 1, 2014
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European-Parliament-StrasbourgPope Francis spoke to members of the European Parliament on November 25. The focus of his speech was “dignity:” specifically the transcendent dignity of the human person.

He reminded his audience that the protection of dignity was key to rebuilding Europe following World War II, but now, the pope says, ” there are still too many situations in which human beings are treated as objects whose conception, configuration and utility can be programmed, and who can then be discarded when no longer useful, due to weakness, illness or old age.”

Pope Francis then declared that dignity is intimately intertwined with faith, and the governments of Europe must protect the right to practice one’s faith. (more…)

Vladimir PutinOn Tuesday, Acton’s Todd Huizinga took part in a West Michigan World Trade Association panel discussion on “US and EU Sanctions on Russia: How They Affect You.” He was joined by three other panelists who focused respectively on the legal, economic, and political ramifications of the current Russian/Ukrainian conflict and the sanctions it has evoked.

Though each of the panelists focused on a different angle of the conflict, a common thread emerged: the desire of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his political regime to return Russia to a position of dominance on the world stage.

Signaling this desire for increased power was the Russian annexation of Ukrainian territory, Crimea, in March and its military intervention in Ukraine thereafter, among other events. While these are significant actions in their own right, they also serve a broader purpose in drawing attention from the international community. As Huizinga stated, “they test Western resolve to act.”

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shackledIt is a business that exists in the shadows. You won’t see a billboard for a domestic slave, nor a glossy magazine spread for the latest in forced labor.  While cities struggle to rid their streets of prostitutes, they forget these people are victims of crime. Yet, make no doubt: human trafficking is big, big business.

The International Labor Organization (ILO), a United Nation’s agency dealing with labor issues, has released a report makes clear the financial aspects of human trafficking. The report takes some time to clearly define human trafficking/forced labor, stating that this includes debt bondage, but makes clear that things like mandatory military service does not constitute forced labor.

With that, the ILO says human trafficking accounts for $150 billion of annual global profit. That’s more than tobacco ($35B), Google ($50B), Big Oil ($120B) and even the U.S. banking system ($141.3B). It is most profitable in economically-stable, developed areas, such as those of the European Union and the United States. Sexual exploitation is the most profitable form of human trafficking but the most common form of trafficking is labor in areas such as agriculture, manufacturing, mining and domestic service. (more…)

Meyer Levinson, Chicago butcher, late 1800s

Meyer Levinson, Chicago butcher, late 1800s

I am not concerned how my meat is butchered. I prefer my meat to be raised organically, and I like it cooked. Other than that, I’m not too fussy, but I don’t have to be. My religious faith doesn’t have anything to say about how meat is butchered.

If a person is Jewish or Muslim, however, this is a big deal. And many Jews and Muslims take it as seriously as I take the tenets of my faith. And while they do not ask me to eat only meat that has been prepared in the way prescribed for them, I do believe they have the right to prepare their food the way they see fit.

Seems like a “no-brainer,” doesn’t it? Never underestimate human beings ability to muck things up.

Last month the Danish government banned all animal slaughter conducted without first stunning the animal, forcing anyone seeking to obey dietary restrictions by eating kosher or halal meat to import it from other countries. Jewish and Muslim rituals require, in addition to greater sanitation than is found in a typical slaughterhouse, that the animal be conscious…

What is most worrisome about this latest development is the breezy manner in which it is deemed a run-of-the-mill regulatory change. Apparently, all the Danish government did was eliminate a special dispensation from European Union rules that would ban Jewish and Muslim practices throughout Europe. To be clear: the European Union, a semi-sovereign government for most of Europe, specifically makes kosher and halal slaughter illegal, but allows member countries (like Denmark) to provide a special “dispensation” for religious reasons, if it so chooses. Denmark no longer so chooses—as is becoming more the case in more countries, regarding more religious issues.

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Daniel Hannan, Member of the European Parliament and writer, says he believes the European Union is “making its peoples poorer, less democratic and less free.” In the short video below, he explains why, when it comes to government, smaller is better.

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On March 4, Acton’s Director of International Outreach, Todd Huizinga, participated on a panel discussion hosted by Calvin College on Ukraine and the Cold War. Huizinga focused on the EU during the discussion; he was joined by Prof. Becca McBride who focused on Russia; Prof. Joel Westra, who focused on the Global Security Implications; and  Dr. Olena Shkatulo, assistant professor of Spanish at Calvin, who is from Ukraine. The  moderator was Prof. Kevin den Dulk.

Ukraine – The Last Frontier of the Cold War from Calvin College on Vimeo.

A brothel corridor in Pascha, Cologne

A brothel corridor in Pascha, Cologne

It’s the oldest profession, right? It’s worldwide, and attempts to criminalize it don’t seem to work. Does legalizing prostitution solve any problems?

That’s the question Nisha Lilia Diu of The Telegraph set out to answer. In a lengthy piece that focuses on Germany, Diu visited brothels, talked to their owners, visited with prostitutes – all in order to see if the legalization of prostitution “works.”

Germany legalized prostitution in 2002. The law was meant to to do a number of things, but primarily it was meant to give prostitutes legal standing, making their job like any other. Was it effective?

The idea of the law, passed by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s Social Democrat-Green coalition, was to recognise prostitution as a job like any other. Sex workers could now enter into employment contracts, sue for payment and register for health insurance, pension plans and other benefits. Exploiting prostitutes was still criminal but everything else was now above board. Two female politicians and a Berlin madam were pictured clinking their champagne glasses in celebration.

It didn’t work. “Nobody employs prostitutes in Germany,” says Beretin. None of the authorities I spoke to had ever heard of a prostitute suing for payment, either. And only 44 prostitutes have registered for benefits.

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ukraine flagThe rapidly changing events in the Ukraine are causing concern throughout the world.  On March 4 at 3 p.m., a panel discussion entitled Ukraine: The Last Frontier in the Cold War?will be held at the Calvin College DeVos Communications Center Lobby area in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The panel will feature Todd Huizinga (Senior Research Fellow at the Henry Institute, Acton Institute Fellow, and co-founder of the Transatlantic Christian Council, with expertise on the European Union), Becca McBride (professor of Political Science at Calvin College, with research focus on Russia), and Joel Westra (professor of Political Science at Calvin College, with research focus on international relations and global security issues).  Kevin den Dulk (Executive Director of the Henry Institute and professor of Political Science at Calvin College) will serve as the moderator.