Yesterday David Cameron held the EU referendum that he had promised during the 2015 Parliamentary election. All UK citizens of voting age were asked to vote on whether the UK should leave or stay within the European Union. At the end of the day, leave won 52% to 48%. It is notable that though England voted strongly for Brexit (53.4% to 46.6%), Scotland and Ireland both strongly backed remaining, and now Scotland is poised to hold a referendum vote of their own, advocating an exit from the UK and the ability to negotiate with the EU on their own terms. The world’s reaction to this vote has characterized by shock and panic, mirrored in the strained faces of stock market traders and David Cameron in front of Downing Street close to tears. Immediately after the vote the pound plunged to levels not seen since 1985, and Wall Street began today with some of the lowest averages seen in months. The aftershocks of the UK’s decisions are still reverberating, but here’s a couple things we can take away amidst the chaos.
In order for the UK to leave the EU is has to invoke article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the amended treaty that makes up the constitutional basis of the EU. Invoking article 50 is a formal legal process, and gives the UK two years to negotiate the terms of its withdrawal. The article has been in force since late 2009, but because no country has yet withdrawn from the EU, the specifics haven’t been tested yet. It will be up to David Cameron or his successor or start that process, and nothing is official until they do. The president of the European parliament, Martin Schulz, has said that he wants the UK to leave as soon as possible. As far as how things might look after Britain formerly leaves, a lot rides upon how the UK’s participation in the EU’s ‘single market’ will be negotiated. The EU’s single market operates as if the EU were one country, allowing the free movement of goods, services, money and people. Should the UK be outside of that market, a lot of that flexibility will be lost, and such economic barriers as tariffs may be put in place that could damage the UK’s highly globalized businesses. However, regardless of the single market decision, the EU will remain an essential component of the UK’s trading network, and the UK has now lost an important seat at a negotiating table that holds substantial power over its economic future.
Could the UK’s decision to leave the EU spark other referendum votes throughout the European continent? Far-right national parties have been on the rise in Europe, and such leaders as Marine Le Pen, the head of the far-right Front National Party in France have responded to the UK’s vote with, “Now we need to have the same referendum in France and in the countries of the EU.” Geert Wilders, the head of the Dutch Freedom Party, echoed this sentiment with the statement, “Now it is our turn. Time for a Dutch Referendum!” With the rise of these calls for referendums comes the question, was this more about Britain than the EU? Was this decision based on fear that due to such factors as the large influx of immigrants the ‘essence’ of Britain is being lost? Might similar referendums in other countries be based on the same brand of fear? Amidst these questions one things remains clear: Europe’s current problems aren’t going anywhere, and the UK won’t be able to shut them out even with a stronger political barrier.
For an additional perspective on what’s at stake in Britain’s decision, please follow this link to a statement by the Director of the Institute for European Studies, IU Professor of Political Science Timothy Hellwig.
On June 2nd the German parliament passed a resolution officially recognizing the 1915 mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish government as genocide. The resolution also states that Germany, an ally of the Ottomons at the time, bears some guilt for doing nothing to stop the killings. Cem Oezdemir, a German politician in the Greens Party and one of the initiators of the resolution, acknowledged Germany’s role in the killings during deliberations preceding the vote, stating that “working through the Shoah is the basis of democracy in Germany. This genocide is also waiting to be worked through.” Oezdemir’s additional reference to the Holocaust is echoed also in Turkey’s negative response to the resolution. Shortly after the resolution was passed, Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavuslogu tweeted, “The way to close the dark pages in your own history is not by defaming the histories of other countries with irresponsible and baseless decisions.” Most recently, in a speech given at the graduation ceremony of a university in Istanbul, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated,
“Germany, I am saying this again; first you will be held accountable for the Holocaust, then you will be held accountable on how you killed and destroyed more than 100,000 Namibians in Namibia. You are the last country who should conduct a parliamentary vote for Turkey on the so called Armenian genocide. We have no issues, no problem in our history on this topic.”
His reference is to the massacre of up to 100,000 Herero and 10,000 Namal peoples in modern day Namibia by German colonial forces between 1904 and 1907, a massacre that such politicians as Oezdemir are pushing for the German parliament to recognize. Erdogan’s statement depicts a modern Turkey that is doing exactly what it accuses Germany of doing: trying to disguise its own past by attacking the dark past of another country.
The Turkish government gives multiple reasons for not accepting the term genocide for the mass killings of Armenians, one of the most notable being that genocide wasn’t codified into international law until 1951, many years after the killings took place in 1915. It also denies the systematic nature of the campaign to slaughter Armenians, a requirement in the legal definition of genocide, stating that many ethnic groups, including Turks, were killed also in the violence that preceded the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
Turkey has expressed outrage in the past when other European nations have recognized the killings in Armenia as genocide. After the current resolution was passed, Turkey’s Ambassador was called back to Ankara for consultations, echoing exactly Turkey’s response when a similar resolution passed in France. Presently 12 of the Europeans Union’s 28 members have recognized the genocide, and Turkey has maintained good relations with these countries despite initial protest. However, Turkey’s negative response to this particular resolution is seen as especially worrisome in light of the EU-Turkey migrant deal that passed this last March. Though Chancellor Angela Merkel recently tried to diffuse the primacy of resolution in Germany’s relationship with Turkey, stating “there is a lot that binds Germany to Turkey and even if we have a difference of opinion on an individual matter, the breadth of our links, our friendship, or strategic ties, is great”, the centrality of Turkish cooperation in the migrant deal still leaves plenty of room for worry.
On March 20th, the EU and Turkey signed a migrant deal in hopes of alleviating the number of migrant deaths in crossings between Turkey and Greece. In the “one in, one out” deal, Syrian refugees arriving in Greece who do not apply for asylum or are rejected are sent back to Turkey. In exchange, a Syrian refugee already housed in Turkey will be granted entry into Europe. This process will be in place until 72,000 refugees are taken into the EU, after which the deal will need to be renegotiated. In exchange for its cooperation, Turkey has been promised that by the end of this month Turkish citizens will be granted visa-free travel within Europe. Also, the payment of 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) that the EU promised to pay to Turkey to help it manage the influx of refugees has been speed up.
Even in the short amount of time that the deal has been in place, many of the worries initially expressed during its negotiation are coming to light. For example, there has been ample concern regarding the living conditions of the camps both in Greece and in Turkey. Eyewitness accounts state that the conditions in both are poor, and that these terrible conditions are causing migrants on both sides to still try and make the Mediterranean crossing, either in attempts to get to other nations in Europe or return to Turkey. Applying for Asylum status is also a slow process, amplifying the time that refugees spend in the camps, and the ever present threat of deportation increases low morale. Though the amount of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean have decreased since March, long term effects of the deal, both positive and negative, are still being addressed, and Turkey’s continued cooperation is vital.
When the debates about the German resolution began, the president of the Bundestag Norbert Lammert stated that the current Turkish government “is not responsible for what happened 100 years ago, but it does have responsibility for what becomes of this.” The primary component of this resolution is emphasis not just on historical events, but most importantly, how we remember them today. In that sense, it seems incredibly vital that both Turkey and Germany honor the atrocities of the past by aiding those fleeing atrocity today. The ability of both countries to remember rests on their ability to continue to negotiate the terms of the EU migrant deal, and should Turkey refuse continued cooperation, we should all take it as a warning for what may follow.
Recently, a report, dubbed the Panama Papers, reveled a great deal of wealth hidden by powerful figures from all over the world in this esposé of millions of documents from a “boutique Panamanian law firm”, Mossack Fonesca, which exposed great fortunes hidden away in shell companies and offshore tax shelters. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists states, (the main host and second recipient of the leaked documents – the first being the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung), “There are legitimate uses for offshore companies, foundations and trusts. We do not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities… have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.” Though this may be true, many people are very upset that political and social leaders have been, at least in the minds of the people, underhanded and overly-secretive. While people from almost every continent were implicated in the Panama Papers, this article will attempt to highlight some of the biggest names from Europe who were named (or whose families, friends, or companies were named) in the leak.
Former government minister in France, Jérôme Cahuzac
Jérôme Cahuzac had already been in hot water when in 2013, Cahuzac had to admit that he lied to the president of France and former colleagues in Parliament when he said he did not own foreign bank accounts, when in fact, he had over three quarters of a million dollars in a Swiss bank account (moved to an account in Singapore in 2009. He is currently awaiting trial for tax fraud, where his lawyer says, “his client is reserving his explanation for his trial, which is scheduled for September 2016.”
Former Prime Minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili
Bidzina Ivanishvili is a billionaire who made a majority of his fortune in the metals and banking industries in Russia, who moved back to Georgia and began taking a more political role in the government. Within the papers, Ivanishvili is cited as the owner of an offshore company. As a response to the Papers, a Swiss law firm which represents him stated that Ivanishvili is, “willing to be transparent about his use of offshore companies and that banks like Credit Suisse [a bank in which there is a trust of which he is a beneficiary of] “systematically propose offshore companies to their clients though it may not serve the client’s interest.”
Stavros Papastavrou, Advisor of former Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras
Stavros Papstavrou served as the International Affairs Secretary of the Nea Demokratia political party (2004-2015) and as the Deputy Chief of Staff for European and International Affairs, for the Office of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (2012-2015). Papastavrous eventually became Samaras’ chief negotiator with the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank during Greece’s economic crisis and eventual bailout. The Papers show that he was involved in multiple offshore foundations as a member of their councils, and as deputy chairman. In response, Papastavrou has said that he had “no ownership interest in these entities of any kind”. Furthermore, a law firm for the Aisios foundation has stated that Papstavrou never had a “right to the foundation’s assets and never received any remuneration.”
Former member of Hungarian Assembly, Zsolt Horváth
Zsolt Horváth served as a member of Hungary’s National Asembly from 1998-2014 for the Fidesz party. He is mentioned in the Panama Papers because he acquired offshore firms before and after his time in the Hungary National Assmeblt. His most recent declaration of financial interests to the Hungarian parliament (2014) do not mention his involvement with them.
Iceland’s Prime Minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson
Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson has had some of the biggest fall-out from the publication of the Panama Papers. One of the major issues with the information that came to light in the Panama Papers was that Gunnlaugsson and his wife owned an offshore company, which held millions of dollars worth of bond in several Iceland banks that failed and were at the center of the financial crisis of 2008 in Iceland. The ICIJ states that “It is unclear whether Gunnlauggson’s political positions benefited or hurt the value of the bonds held by Wintris [his company]. Gunnlaugsson failed to declare his ownership of Wintris when he entered parliament, and sold his 50% share to his wife for a dollar.
When asked about his ownership and association with an offshore company in a television interview, Gunnlaugsson said, “Myself? No. Well, the Icelandic companies I have worked with had connections with offshore companies, even the … The worker’s unions. So it would have been through such arrangements, but I have always given all of my assets and that of my family up for taxes.” Later, a spokesman for Gunnlaugsson issued a later statement saying, “The Prime Minister and his wife have adhered to Icelandic law, including declaring all assets, securities and income in Icelandic tax returns since 2008.”
On Tuesday, April 5, amid mass protests, Gunnlaugsson resigned from his position as Prime Minister – though at first it looked to be temporary, Iceland is now scheduling emergency elections.
Iceland’s Minister of finance, Bjarni Benediktsson
Bjarni Benediktsson has served as Chariman of the Independence Party (2009-present), a Member of Iceland’s Parliament (2003-present), and as Iceland’s Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs (2013-present). Benediktsson and his partners owned a Seychelles shell company (Falson & Co). He and his partners owned a shell company during Iceland’s banking crisis, and this has caused unrest among those living in Iceland. According to a Reuters report, Benediktsson has said that he has absolutely no plans to resign from his position as Iceland’s minister of finance, though a poll last week showed that 69% of respondents wanted him to resign. When speaking about Falson & Co, Benediktsson said that “I had no intention or need to hide ownership… I declared my ownership of the company to the tax authorities in Iceland.”
Iceland’s Interior Minister, Ólōf Nordal
Ólōf Nordal, another member of the Independence Party mentioned in the Panama Papers, is a member of parliament (2007-present) and serves as the Interior Minister of Iceland (2014-present). In the past, Nordal has worked as an attorney for the Iceland Stock Exchange (1999-2001), and taught law and chaired the business Law Department at Bifrōst University.Shares of the company Dooley Securities SA, were held in the name of a unit of Landsbanki, one of the big banks at the center of Iceland’s financial crisis in 2008. Nordal’s husband, Tómas Már Sigurdsson has said that, “the company [Dooley Securities SA] was created to hold proceeds from his Alcoa stock options, but they were never exercised and no funds were transferred to the company. He said that neither he nor his wife were shareholders in Dooley Securities. “We do not own and have never owned any offshore companies.”
Giuseppe Donaldo Nicosia , the man charged in fraud along with Italian senator (Marcello Dell’Utri)
Guiseppe Donaldo Nicosia, has been on the run from authorities after being accused of being involved with a $50 million tax fraud scheme. One of his partners in the alleged advertising scheme and tax fraud was Marcello Dell’Utri, who is a former senator, and an ally of former Italian President Silvio Berlusconi. Nicosia is related to the Panama Papers because he is the sole shareholder of offshore companies which traded ownership of two apartments across from Carnegie Hall for over $3.2 million.
Malta’s minister of energy and health, Konrad Mizzi
Konrad Mizzi is the Maltese Minister for Energy and Health (2014-present) and the Deputy Leader for Party Affairs for the Labour Party of Malta. After being elected, Mizzi announced that he would close an offshore company of his in Panama and clarified that he closed it in the interest of transparency, but had already declared the company. A law firm representing Mizzi said that the current company that he holds, Hearnvill Inc. was owned by a family trust, and was used to “hold a London property”. They said that it was declared on New Zealand tax forms, whose information was shared with the Maltese government. Once again, it was emphasized that Mizzi “declared his interest in the company and the trust in his 2015 Ministerial Declaration of Assets at the first available opportunity.” Furthermore, Mizzi has asked tax authorities to audit him to show that he is not breaking any laws.
Former Warsaw mayor and former member of the EU parliament, Paweł Piskorski
Paweł Piskorski was the mayor of Warsaw from 199-2002, and then served as a member of the European Parliament from 2004-2009. He was pressured to leave his party when, in 2005 it came to light that he had potentially not declared all of his assets as a member of the European Parliament. He has other financial bumps and legal matters in the past, most of which have either not really been pursued, or have been acquitted. He is associated with the Panama Papers because he acquired a Panamanian company in 2012, which then tried to open several bank accounts (apparently unsuccessfully).
Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, Childhood friends of Russian President, Vladimir Putin
These billionaire brothers, while maintaining that they get no special treatment, from their childhood friend, Vladimir Putin, have earned millions of dollars through contracts with state and state-owned companies. They are also associated with offshore companies’ investments. They owned at least seven companies in the British Virgin Islands. The firms participated in everything: from investing in a pipeline construction company, to buying equipment for the construction of Arkady Rotenberg’s son’s Italian villa.
Close friend of Vladimir Putin, Sergey Roldugin
Sergey Roldugin is a world-famous classical cellist and the current Artistic Director of the St. Petersburg House of Music. Unfortunately for him, he is also the owner of three offshore companies handled by Mossack Fonesca. These companies received advantageous loans. Bank Rossiya, Russia’s “personal bank for senior officials” assigned International Media Overseas (on of Roldugin’s offshore companies) the rights to a $200 million load for $1.
Between these the reports on these three close friends of Putin, Putin has responded that he has felt attacked by the media and that there must be some sort of international effort to sully his name.
Pilar de Borbón, the sister of Juan Carlos, the former King of Spain
As well as being the Infanta of Spain and Duchess of Badajoz, Pilar de Borbón has spent most of her life raising money for charity, pursuing her love of horses, served as president of Europa Nostra for two years, and managed her family’s business investments.
The issue that Panama Papers found with her family’s business investments is that they were associated with an offshore company since the 1970s. In August 1974, Pilar de Borbón became president and directory of Delantera Financiera SA, originally registered in 1969. After March 1993, neither she nor her husband (who had served as secretary-treasurer) appeared as the directors. However, in 1993, it was indicated that Pilar de Borbón was the owner of the company, and her son, Bruno Alejandro Gómez-Acebo Borbón was director and treasurer of the company from July 2006 until June 2014, when it was dissolved.
On April 6, 2016, Pilar de Borbón made a public statement, saying that the firm that she and her husband owned had no revenues “outside the control of local tax authorities,” and that it had complied with “any obligation requested by Spanish tax legislation.”
Micaela Domecq Solís-Beaumont, Wife of Spain’s agriculture minister, Miguel Arias Cañete
Micaela Domecq Solís-Beaumont and her husband, Miguel Arias Cañete are no strangers to somewhat shady overlaps between money and power. While serving on the European Parliament’s agriculture committee, he urged expansion of agriculture subsidies to cover bull breeding – which just happens to be the family trade of Solís-Beaumont. During his time as minister, Jandilla bull operations, Solís-Beaumont’s company, received over a $1 million in farm subsidies.
The main problem an analysis of the Panama Papers presents for Solís Beaumont is that, while her husband held political posts, she was empowered to approve transactions of Rinconada Investments Group SA, thus presenting a potential conflict of interest.
A representative for Arias Cañete has responded, saying that he and his wife manage their accounts separately, and that he has always kept his declarations in full compliance with the Code of Conduct for members of the European Parliament and European Commission. A lawyer representing Solís-Beaumont said that she declared all of her income and assets to Spanish tax authorities, that Rinconada is not active, and that Domecq is not “an authorized signatory for the company.”
Barcelona FC footballer, Lionel Messi
While both Lionel Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio, are already on trial for tax evasion, they were named in the papers because they own Mega Star Enterprises, which is registered with Mossack Fonesca.
Convicted former Ukraine Prime Minister, Pavlo Lazarenko
Pavlo Lazarenko was the Prime Minister of Ukraine from 1996-1997. He was named as one of the world’s 10 most corrupt politicians by Transparency International. From 2004-2012, he was under house arrest and in prison in the United States due to a conviction in money laundering and conspiracy.
The offshore companies of Lazarenko were the focus of multiple corruption investigations, beginning in 1998, with U.S. authorities still seeking $250 million from some of these accounts. He has been tied to Metalrussia Corp Ltd., Southeast Asia Metal Limited, Bainfield Company Ltd., and Bassington Ltd. He has been convicted of money laundering in both Switzerland and the United States.
President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko
President Petro Poroshenko, estimated in May as being worth $720 million, was elected in 2014, after serving as the Economic Development and Trade Minister in 2012. He made his money through automotive plants, a shipyard, a TV channel, and most notably, Ukraine’s largest candy company, which landed him the nickname, the “chocolate king.” He was a supporter of the 2004 pro-Europe, pro-democracy Orange Revolution, and has slowly tried to extricate any of his affiliations with the corrupt leaders and oligarchs that are found scattered in Ukraine’s political history.
Prime Asset Partners Limited holds many of Poroshenko’s assets, including his European candy manufacturer. In 2015, after pledging to sell his assets while campaigning, Poroshenko transferred his assets to Prime Assets Capital.
While the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office said that his actions were not against the law, people are beginning to strongly question Poroshenko’s commitment to fighting corruption. Another strong blow to his character is that, supposedly an offshore company was registered by Poroshenko on the day of the deadly battle of Ilovaysk in August 2014. There have been calls in parliament for his resignation, especially since he was cheating the system at a time when the Ukrainian government (under Poroshenko) was suffering from an estimated loss of $12 billion in tax revenue due to offshore companies. In a Facebook post responding to criticism, Poroshenko said that he is “the first top office official in Ukraine who treats declaring of assets, paying taxes and conflict of interest issues profoundly and seriously.”
The problems stemming from the reports of Poroshenko in the Panama Papers aren’t just limited to him, his office, or his party, but to Ukraine as a whole. Daragh McDowell, Principal Europe and Central Asia Analyst at risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft said, “The revelations of Poroshenko’s offshore accounts will further destabilize the Ukrainian government, which has been in a state of crisis for over a month.” And that “Corruption scandals have been particularly corrosive to the government’s credibility and public support. The release of the Panama Papers significantly increases the risk of early elections. Additionally, this sign of corruption puts into jeopardy Ukraine’s relationships with its Western allies (and the funds that come with that.)
Ian Cameron, Father of British Prime Minister, David Cameron
Ian Cameron who died in 2010, is the father of British PM, David Cameron. He made his fortune as a stockbroker and investor, and earned a role of senior partner in the brokerage Panmure Gordon, following in the steps of his father and grandfather.
Sources say that it is understood that Ian Cameron used Mossack Fonesca in order to protect Blairmore Holdings – his investment fund – from UK taxes. According to the ICIJ, this offshore investment firm was “highlighted to investors that it was managed to avoid taxes.” Though there is no evidence that he was director before 1989, a prospectus states that he was “instrumental in the formation of Blairmore Holdings Inc. in the early 1980s.” Promotional literature noted that the fund was “not liable to taxation on its income or capital gains” and that it “will not be subject to United Kingdom corporation tax or income tax on its profits.” In 1998, Blairmore Holdings was valued at nearly $20 million.
Part of the legacy of Ian Cameron, including money from this fund, was inherited by David Camron. David Cameron has admitted in an ITV interview that he sold his stake in the Blairmore fund for more than $50,000 in January 2010, just before he became Prime Minister. The hypocrisy of this situation has been noted, since “Cameron promised and has failed to end tax secrecy and crack down on ‘morally unacceptable offshore schemes” by shadow chancellor John McDonell.
Baroness and lifetime member of the U.K. Parliament, Pamela Sharples
Baroness Pamela Sharples was given a life peerage in the House of Lords in 1973, after the murder of her husband while walking the grounds of the Government House. She is a member of the Conservative Party. After the death of her husband, she told the Daily Mail that she had to sell the family home to pay death duties, since it was ruled that her husband “was not killed in the line of duty.”
Baroness Pamela Sharples was named because it is said she has links to Mossack Fonesca through Nunswell Investements Limited, a company used for investments, which she became the sole shareholder of in 1995. Allegedly she asked in 2013 if it “made sense to defer a distribution from her Nunswell account, if she didn’t need the funds, to postpone paying taxes on it,” but her current law firm says she had “no renumeration…nor any income or capital from that company”. According to reports, Baroness Sharples did not deal directly with Mossack Fonesca, but worked through an employee of a British law firm.
Former Member of the UK House of Lords, Michael Ashcroft
This Tory Lord was named because a subsidiary of his company worked with Mossack Fonesca in Belize. A spokesman, Alan Kilkenny said, “These allegations are completely untrue and the events as described never happened the records upon which you claim to rely for those allegations either do not exist or have been falsified.”
Member of British Parliament, Michael Mates
The former Tory MP – a member of the British Parliament from 1974-2010 – is linked since he is chairman of Haylandale Limited, which invested in property development in the Caribbean. His parliamentary disclosures listed him as the chairman of Haylandale Limited until (at least) April 2010, when he stepped down from his parliamentary seat. Haylandale Limited was primarily used for real estate development in Antigua and Barbuda.
Mates contends that he did nothing wrong, and that he wouldn’t receive any funds, “unless and until the development took place” and that the company “never really had any value”.
For more information about the Panama Papers, check out where they are being hosted on the International Consortium of investigative Journalists’ webpage: https://panamapapers.icij.org/the_power_players/
And to view the various press coverage about the fall-out from the Panama Papers, please see the following articles:
Information presented by Erin Arnold
During this past Spring Break, Alvin Rosenfeld, Director of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, Irving M. Glazer Chair in Jewish Studies, and affiliated faculty of the Institute for European Studies, traveled to Berlin to present four talks on European contemporary antisemitism. One of the highlights of these talks was the International Parliamentary Conference on Combating Antisemitism, March 13-15 at the Bundestag in Berlin, attended by parliamentarians and other government officials from thirty-five countries. Angela Merkel gave the keynote address. Before leaving for Berlin, Rosenfeld told me that he believed the conference would produce a draft of a resolution against antisemitism that Parliamentarians could take back to their home countries. He participated in the Conference’s first panel entitled “Setting the Scene”, where alongside three other scholars he informed Parliamentarians about the present character of antisemitism. During his panel, Rosenfeld focused on “street-level” antisemitism, meaning antisemitism that effects the day to day life of European Jews, and identified two different forms of this antisemitism: Anti-Zionist Antisemitism and antisemitism that arises from radicalized elements of Muslim Communities. Some of the other sessions, entitled “Internet Hate and Possible European Approaches”, “Combatting Antisemitism in Muslim communities”, and “Legal Responses to Antisemitism” served to further educate parliamentarians on contemporary antisemitism and what should be included in the resolution. As for Rosenfeld, before his departure he shared with me his hope that the resolution will contain not only legislation, but educational programs and plans to work with European communal, political, and religious organizations.
Before leaving for Berlin, Rosenfeld told me that it’s very challenging to get the current pulse of antisemitism when living in the U.S., and that he was looking forward to getting a more accurate reading of the current climate in Europe. One of his events in Berlin was a meeting with German scholars at the IU Europe Gateway Office to discuss current developments in antisemitism. The Gateway also hosted a talk by Rosenfeld on “The Perils of Rising Antisemitism in Europe and Elsewhere”, which examined the intersection of antisemitism and antizionism. Opened in November 2015, the brand new IU Europe Gateway office aims to serve as a home base for IU research and educational opportunities in Europe. Rosenfeld sees ample opportunity to utilize this Gateway office beyond this trip to further the study and awareness of contemporary antisemitism. In June or July of this year, Günther Jikeli, another professor in the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, will host a talk about his latest book, Muslim Antisemitism in Europe, also at the Gateway office.
Before his trip, Rosenfeld told me that every scholar/intellectual hopes that their work will matter, and that in the case of his work on contemporary antisemitism, he sees the potential to make a substantial impact. From reports of anti-Semitic violence such as the attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris to headlines about the BDS Movement against Israel (a topic Rosenfeld addressed in another one of his Berlin talks), antisemitism and its relationship with current political trends remains a pressing issue. Rosenfeld’s trip represents the importance of encouraging ongoing dialogue about these issues, and is a reminder that antisemitism is a political as well as a social issue.
On March 4, 2016 in east Belfast, a bomb exploded under the van of a 52-year-old prison officer. A group calling itself the new IRA claimed responsibility, and police have four suspects in custody, including three men and one woman, all of which are in their 30s and 40s. According to the new IRA, they targeted the officer because “he was responsible for training prison officers who work in a wing housing dissident republicans at Maghaberry Prison.” The officer was badly wounded, but has been hospitalized and is in stable condition.
The new IRA was formed in the summer of 2012 as an “an amalgamation of a number of dissident republican organizations.” In November 2012, they murdered prison officer David Black when he was driving from work at Maghaberry Prison. The new IRA has been carrying out attacks ever since. The group’s spokesman said that the 2016 attacks are in protest to the poor treatment of Maghaberry’s imprisoned dissidents.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland has publically stated its deep concern that dissident republicans were committed to serious attacks to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising. Stephan Martin, the Assistant Chief Constable, warned “I believe another attack is highly likely. There are people within dissident republican groupings who want to mark this centenary by killing prison officers, police officers or soldiers… We believe the threat is extremely high, at the upper end of severe.”
From the conclusion of the Williamite War in 1691, the minority group called the Anglican Protestant Ascendancy established the Church of Ireland that was loyal to the British Crown. It ruled in a discriminatory manor against Catholics and non-Anglican Protestants. Although the Irish had their own parliament, the Declaratory Act of 1719 gave the English veto power over Irish legislation deemed unacceptable.
When France supported the Americans in the American Revolutionary War, the English feared a French invasion of Ireland and called for Irish Volunteers to defend it. The Irish aristocracy used this as leverage to get concessions for voting rights for property owners. The Society of United Irishmen was formed in 1791, which included Catholics and Protestants in opposition to the Anglican British.
With the French Revolution and execution of Louis XVI in 1793, the opposition went underground. They later attempted to work in conjunction with France to launch an invasion and remove the English from Ireland in 1796, but the weather prevented the 14,000 French veteran troops from landing, forcing the French fleet to return to France.
In response, the English began a counterinsurgency campaign of repression. One of its key methods was to use religion to divide the United Irishmen, continuing a divide and conquer technique used throughout the empire. This all resulted in the United Irishman Rebellion of 1798, influenced by the French and American Revolutions.
Following the various revolutions and insurgencies, England passed the Acts of Union 1800, which united the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. This move eliminated the Irish Parliament and instead merely gave Ireland representation in Westminster, thereby diluting its power.
Opposition over British rule took may forms over the next hundred years, including revolutionary (Rebellion of 1848 and Fenian Rising), social (disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, and the Land League), and constitutional (the Repeal Association, and the Home Rule League). When the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) succeeded in having the First Home Rule Bill of 1886 introduced by the Liberal government of William Ewart Gladstone, constitutional nationalism seemed to be about to bear fruit. However, not only was it defeated in the House of Commons, but the Second Home Rule Bill of 1893 was passed by the Commons and then rejected by the House of Lords.
It was at this point that frustration over the failed attempts of legitimate legal change lead to the 1916 Easter Rising. The failure of the Third Home Run Bill in 1912, the formation of conflicting armed forces (including the Ulster Volunteer Force, the Irish Citizen Army, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and Sinn Fein), and the outbreak of World War I in 1914 created an environment ripe with tension. The last straw was the issue of conscription in Ireland for the war.
In 1915 The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) sought to receive German military assistance. The socialist leaning Irish Citizen Army (ICA) convinced the IRB to work together and have a united uprising on Easter 1916.
Finally, on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, they proclaimed the establishment of the Irish Republic. 1,600 followers helped stage the rebellion, in which they seized prominent buildings in Dublin and clashed with British troops. After a week, the rebels were suppressed and more than 2,000 people were dead or injured. Soon after the leaders of the rebellion were executed. Although there was little support initially for the Easter Rising from the Irish people, public opinion later shifted and the executed leaders were eventually hailed as martyrs. Finally a peace treaty established the Irish Free State in 1922, which eventually became the modern-day Republic of Ireland.
Heather Humphreys, Ireland’s culture minister, has stated that the Irish government will not allow republican hardliners to exploit the 100-year anniversary to justify terror attacks in Northern Ireland. “Unionists and some historians are fearful that the centenary may be used by anti-peace process republicans to claim the 1916 rebellion is ‘unfinished business.’”
The birth of a baby is typically time for celebration for its family. However, the recent birth of a newborn is being celebrating by his entire town. Baby Pablo, born to a family residing in the small Italian town of Ostana, holds a very special place in the town’s heart – he raised their town population to 85, and is the first baby born in the town since 1987. Pablo’s parents, Silvia Rovere and Josè Berdugo Vallelago, moved to the small town from Turin a few years ago, and Josè is originally from Madrid Spain.
Before they moved to Ostana, they had been thinking of moving to Reunion, but were given the chance to manage an alpine refuge in Ostana, an attempt by the mayor of the small town to keep young families there. Along with his two sisters, and his parents, Pablo’s family makes up about 10% of the “permanent” residents of this small town, since only about half of the population lives there year round.
This birth is the faintest heartbeat giving hope not just to this tiny town, who saw its permanent population drop to 5 in the mid-80s, but to small mountain towns all over Italy, who, almost across the board, have seen their populations decline.
Town after town is having to close up, after residents move to bigger cities in search of jobs, and life becomes untenable to support an entire community in small villages nestled in the mountainside. This accelerated population decline leads to drastic measures being taken by government officials. Some of these measures include, giving businesses tax exemptions, “banning” residents from falling ill, selling homes for less than $2, and offering €10,000 “baby bonuses” to incentivize families to have more children.
Though this decline in population is more evident – and more extreme – in small villages, Italy, and Europe as a whole, are at a threshold “where people who die are not being replaced by newborns.” While Europe’s birthrate is around 9.9%, its population growth is almost negligible, sitting at 0.2%. This leads to many social and political changes. Whereas countries with young populations tend to invest more in schools, countries with older populations find they need to invest more in the health sector. Alejandro, Macarrón, a Spanish business consultant who is observing the numbers behind his own country’s change in demographics, says regarding the political power of the gray vote, “During the same time frame [of the crippling austerity measures put in place during the economic crisis], expenditures on pensions rose by more than 40%. We’re moving closer to being a gerontocratic society – it’s a government of the old.”
There are manifold causes of this decline in European population, and the reasons for decline in specific regions and countries differ. For instance, in Germany (and many Eastern European countries), there is a strong social stigma against working mothers, there’s a term in German: “Rabenmutter” (“raven mother”) which is very negative, referencing the fact that ravens push their chicks out of the nest and relating that to women who don’t mother enough, meaning that they send their children to all-day schooling, instead of the half-day, like “good” mothers. Interestingly enough, in other countries low birth-rates have been attributed to women bucking social norms and choosing to be professional women, not having children at all, or at the very least, having fewer children, and having them later in life. An additional problem that many countries, especially those in Southern Europe have faced is the rise in youth unemployment. This leads young adults to live with their parents well into their thirties, which then discourages having children until later in life, and lessens how many children, on average, each couple has. Additionally, since young people tend to have to take lower-paying jobs, they also feel like they don’t have enough money to support having children.
There have been varied efforts at trying to slow, and eventually reverse, this decline in population. In addition to the previously mentioned methods within Italy involving monetary rewards for having more children, helping businesses thrive, and forbidding illness, countries have taken various measures. Scandinavian countries, the United Kingdom, and France have all lessened the impact of declines in birth rates by allowing more immigration into their countries; Germany has also recently increased how many immigrants they have per year with the incorporation of Syrian refugees. Additionally, besides “baby bonuses”, many countries, like Germany, are offering free or highly discounted daycare centers and afterschool programming so that mothers can work more without feeling so much pressure to take care of their children.
This trend cannot be immediately fixed, and requires governmental and economic effort and change, as well as social norms to be amended (being more accepting of working mothers and an necessitates an increase in positive feelings about nuclear families), but with effort, many researchers say that this trend can be turned around, but only if it is addressed quickly.
While European governments – both local and state – might currently be worrying about how to turn around this very concerning trend, moment by moment, across the continent, new sparks of hope for the future are born, including one in the small town of Ostana.
Blog post by Erin Arnold
By Conner Clark
A thorough “reset” played out two weeks ago between France and Iran as global sanctions on the latter were lifted, restoring Tehran’s access to the world banking system. Even as the two nations remain embroiled in contentious issues, Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Paris focused on the positive. This was the first such trip by any Iranian president to France since 1999, and it carried weight in both style and substance. Leaders at the bi-lateral talks promised a “new chapter” – not because relations are likely to become particularly close, but because until recently, they were in such a sharp chill.
France, in fact, took the hardest line against Iran’s nuclear program of all countries present, including the United States. (Israel was not party to the negotiations.) After the November 2015 Paris attacks, France joined the US in extending airstrikes from Iraq into Syria. Tehran, which supports, to different degrees, the governments still standing in Baghdad and Damascus, was implicitly cast as the “enemy of my enemy”. Yet President Hollande resisted German calls to begin talks with the regime of Bashar al-Assad, insisting instead that he step down. Meanwhile, Rouhani’s visit was met with protests from a mix of human rights activists, French citizens sympathetic to Israel, and Iranian exiles.
This all stood in stark contrast to the state reception granted the 120-strong Iranian delegation, setting a wholly positive diplomatic tone and a return to business-as-usual. Already, the implementation of the “JCPOA” nuclear agreement has unfrozen $100 billion of Iran’s oil wealth, 10% of which was held in Eurozone banks. Hollande in particular set to work alongside his counterpart with the formalities of sealing multiple deals. Iran agreed to purchase 100 civilian aircraft from European manufacturer Airbus for around $24 billion, and opened itself to car companies such as Renault and Peugot. For its part, Peugot is now slated to manufacture and sell cars in Iran through a local partnership.
Longer-term, Iran seeks foreign direct investment (FDI) in its infrastructure and energy sector, keys to rebuilding its battered economy. To that end, French oil giant Total signed contracts to buy 150,000-200,000 barrels of crude each day from Iran, a substantial fraction of Iran’s overall plans to increase its daily exports by up to 500,000 barrels. The French National Railway Company (SNCF) quickly formalized a partnership with Iranian railways to provide human expertise and physical capital for numerous goals: improving suburban mass transportation, developing high-speed rail, and rebuilding aging train stations.
High-tech firms in France and throughout Europe still face a double-edged sword in Iranian markets due to sanctions unrelated to JCPOA. US companies are barred from most commercial sectors in Iran, outside agricultural, medical and other fields with “humanitarian” aspects. This may cordon off the competition for France, but any French entities who do business with bad actors, as labeled by remaining laws, become blacklisted from operating on American soil. Such actors include the Revolutionary Guard Corps, which continues to control large swaths of Iran’s economy. Paris is also standing in firm agreement with Washington over new sanctions on Iran, after the country’s recent seaboard ballistic missile tests. No sooner had Rouhani departed than French foreign minister Laurent Fabius appeared to request that the EU consider levying its own additional penalties. Amidst such uncertainty, it seems doubtful that enterprises in France would risk access to their American market shares for the tenuous prospect of higher profits in Iran. Instead, they will have to tread carefully in all their mid-eastern dealings to avoid running afoul of sanctions, whether old and new.