Europe Soul-searches After Lampedusa Exposes Tensions

Europe needs Germany to form government soon: ECB’s Asmussen

Baby undergoes circumcision Photo: REUTERS The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, a body composed of five left-wing political organization that include the Socialist Group, the Alliance of Liberal Democrats for Europe and the Group of the Unified European Left, has identified circumcision as a violation of male childrens physical integrity. Luckily, PACE, which has called to adopt specific legal provisions to ensure that certain operations and practices will not be carried out before a child is old enough to be consulted, is powerless to make binding laws. Nevertheless, PACEs resolution reflects a growing trend in Europe against religious practices such as circumcisions and ritual slaughter that Europeans deem barbaric or inhumane. Increasingly, the approximately 1.4 million Jews living in Eastern and Western Europe are being made to feel unwelcome. As French journalist and writer Michel Gurfinkiel noted in an essay that appeared in August in Mosaic, an online magazine of Jewish thought: Once again, Jews are accepted on condition: that they separate themselves from their brethren in Israel and join the official European consensus in demonizing the Jewish state; that they learn to accommodate the reality that so many ethnic Europeans hate them and wish them ill, and that Islamists on European soil seek their extinction; and that in the interest of justifying their continued claim to European citizenship, they accept Europes proscription of some of the most basic practices of their faith. Reading through the report Marlene Rupprecht, a member of the German Bundestag for the Social Democratic Party, prepared for PACE, one gets the distinct impression of tendentiousness, as if her real goal was to proscribe a basic practice of the Jewish faith and in the process she did not allow the facts to get in her way. In a section titled Arguments regularly presented in favor of male circumcision and its legal authorization, Rupprecht rightly notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Circumcision in 2012 found the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, because it prevents urinary tract infections, acquisition of HIV, transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, and penile cancer. She also notes that the World Health Organization recommends circumcision because it reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60 percent. So far so good. But then, inexplicably, under the same section where she is supposed to be arguing in favor of circumcision, without warning while discussing religious justifications for the practice, she refers to circumcision as the dark side of their [Jews and Muslims] own religion, traditions and, finally, identity. So much for objectivity. Even more bewildering are the arguments Rupprecht marshaled against circumcision. She manages to find a slightly out-of-date British Medical Journal article from 1949 that found no medical justification for routine neonatal circumcision. (She failed to mention a 2002 BMJ article that found circumcision to be linked to lower rates of cervical cancer.) Bizarrely, she cites a well-known TV documentary by Victor Schonfeld, called Its a Boy, that sought out, and found, some of the negative aspects of circumcision. And though she claims repeatedly that circumcision may have serious short-term and long-term consequences for the health and well-being of boys and men, no where in her report does she bring evidence to this effect. Reading Rupprechts report, which was endorsed in a 78 to 13 vote with 15 abstentions by left-wing lawmakers from 47 European countries, one cannot help but wonder whether PACE in a dubious invocation of childrens rights is attempting to create a European continent with no Jews. And if this is coming from Europes Left, which should be more sensitive to the infringement of Jews basic religious liberties, what should be expected of the xenophobic Right and the fast-growing Muslim minorities with their blatant anti-Jewish/anti-Israel agendas? In short, Europe is fast becoming an inhospitable place for Jews yet again.

“Swift formation of a government would certainly be helpful from a European point of view as there are important decision to be taken for Europe, for example on banking union,” Asmussen told Reuters. Time was short in the run up to the European Parliament elections next year, he said. Asmussen, who was a deputy finance minister before joining the ECB last year, has been tipped by some media to become the next German finance minister, but said recently that he planned to fulfill his ECB contract, which lasts until the end of 2019. The most pressing decision now was to agree by December on a common mechanism to wind down or restore ailing euro zone banks and Asmussen said the timetable was “ambitious, but manageable”. The ECB is particularly interested in having a single resolution mechanism in place by the time it starts supervising euro zone banks from late next year. “Without doubt it is preferable for the common European supervision and the common European resolution to start roughly at the same time,” Asmussen said. EMERGING FROM CRISIS Asmussen said Germany’s international partners recognized the euro zone has made progress on emerging from the crisis. Spain was set to complete its bailout program by the end of the year and probably Ireland as well, he said. If Greece was not able to regain sufficient market access by the second half of next year, additional aid would be needed, as agreed in November last year, Asmussen said. He reiterated that the ECB’s Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) bond purchase program was still ready to be activated once the necessary preconditions were met – which was currently not the case for Italy. “I would also like to point out that the OMT program aims to counter unjustified fears about a breakup of the euro zone, rather than justified concerns about the functional capability of a political system,” Asmussen said.

But with far-right parties peddling xenophobia across Europe and a tough economic climate, hopes are slim that the Lampedusa disaster will spawn a long hoped-for single EU migration policy that could avert further tragedy. Experts in Brussels believe the sympathetic words of politicians all too often clash with the complex and politically explosive issue of illegal immigration in Europe. “We need a new policy at the European level,” said Michele Cercone, spokesman for home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem. “Migration policies are fragmented, inward-looking, left in the hands of member states and subject to domestic political considerations.” A black flag reading “Shame” in Italian flies in the Lampedusa harbour on October 4, 2013, in Italy, In the short term such a move is unlikely, as asylum-seekers in the European Union must appeal for help in the country through which they enter. This system is frequently criticised by Europe’s southern states, particularly Italy, Greece and Spain, which want a redistribution of asylum applications to even out the burden. But Europe’s northern states say they more than do their bit, as two-thirds of the 102,700 successful applications made to the EU in 2012 were granted by Germany, France, Britain, Sweden and Belgium. Strategies to combat the criminal networks exploiting desperate migrants, as well as maintaining maritime borders, are particularly contentious. Italy is agitating for better surveillance of the coast of Libya, where there has been a marked increase in boats containing migrants since the chaos that followed the fall of the Khadafi regime. Members of the Italian Financial police work in the small harbor of Lampedusa on October 3, 2013 aft Thursday’s incident began on a boat that had set sail from Libya. In 2004, to tighten surveillance along its long borders, the EU set up Frontex, an agency based in Warsaw whose assets such as ships are all donated by member states. Frontex is reported to have saved 16,000 lives in the Mediterranean over the last two years. But due to crisis-era belt-tightening its budget has slipped from 118 million euros ($160 million) in 2011 to 90 million in 2012 and 85 this year. The Commission meanwhile plans to launch a new state-of-the-art surveillance system in December “to track, identify and save” ships in danger carrying migrants.

Europe stocks tumble as debt stalemate digs in

And Alcoa, Yum Brands, Wells Fargo are set to report next week. Laura Mandaro has the Next 24. There were few gainers and plenty of decliners, including LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA /quotes/zigman/165816 FR:MC -1.70% /quotes/zigman/165816 FR:MC -1.70% , which fell more than 2%. In a report published Sunday , Reuters said analysts are growing increasingly concerned about the luxury groups brands and are worried these wont be able to provide alternative growth as the cash cow Louis Vuitton has fallen on tough times. Staying on luxury goods, shares of Burberry Group PLC /quotes/zigman/307688 UK:BRBY -1.66% fell 1.7% after Chief Executive Angela Ahrendts warned in an interview with Les Echoes that the Chinese slowdown may be the new reality rather than a temporary lull. Weekend interviews with top politicians and a warning from Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew that Congress is playing with fire if it doesnt increase the debt ceiling in time only increased investors anxiety about the U.S. budget stalemate and looming deadline to raise the countrys debt ceiling. Over the weekend, House Speaker John Boehner told ABC in his first interview since the shutdown began that he sees no end to the standoff without broader deficit negotiations. While Fridays modest gains in U.S. equities were driven by a glimmer of hope that leaders are getting closer, this seems to have waned over the weekend, said Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG. He said Boehners comments are a direct cause of Mondays selloff. This has really rattled markets and is likely to result in further near-term weakness for global equities. Drug stocks were among Mondays big losers with French drugmaker Sanofi SA /quotes/zigman/187276 FR:SAN -0.42% /quotes/zigman/307926/quotes/nls/sny SNY +0.18% down 1.7%. Sanofi Chief Executive Officer Chris Viehbacher told Bloomberg TV in an interview that he expects the company will return to growth in the fourth quarter.