Jonathan Fryer

Posts Tagged ‘France’

LibDems Have Done Lots on FGM

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 4th September, 2013

Sue Lloyd-RobertsLynne FeatherstoneBBC Newsnight last night ran a feature on female genital mutilation (FGM), which is still a huge problem in Africa and some parts of the Arab world. It was clear from Sue Lloyd-Roberts’ interviews in the field that there is still great cultural resistance to ending the practice in traditional societies, and not only among the men.  The report mentioned that although there have been prosecutions in France against people involved in FGM there have been no such cases in Britain, despite the large numbers of girls potentially at risk in the UK. I know I wasn’t the only person startled at the end of the item when presenter Jeremy Paxman said that Newsnight had approached the Home Secretary Theresa May and International Development Secretary Justine Greening, as well as her deputy Lynne Featherstone, but that none of these ladies (as he rather sneeringly called them) had been available to come on the programme. Knowing how much work on the subject that Lynne has been doing on FGM in Africa — including publicising the abuse — I suspected there must be something wrong somewhere. Sure enough, Lynne’s office got in touch to say that as the issue directly concerned related to the UK Border Agency, a Home Office Minister would have been the personal responsible to appear on the programme (assuming they were available at short notice), i.e. Theresa May or Jeremy Browne. By coincidence I sat next to Lynne at a meeting this afternoon, and I can well understand while she felt browned off by the way Jeremy Paxman had handled the situation, not only implying that she did not care enough about the subject to come on to the programme, but also by his sneer about the “ladies”. I shall have words with him next time we meet!

Link: Ending Female Geneital Cutting in a Generation, by Lynne Featherstone: www.http://t.co/ZCzBI3tVUt

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Syria Dilemma

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 27th August, 2013

Bashar al-AssadSyria casualtiesBritain’s armed forces are preparing themselves for an armed strike against Syria, following the recent use of chemical weapons inside the country, probably by the Assad regime’s forces. As I said in a live interview on the al-Etejah (Iraqi Arab) TV channel last night, the justification for the UK, US, France and maybe Germany taking such a step, along with sympathetic Middle Eastern countries including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, without UN approval, would be the relatively new concept within International Law, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), about which I have written extensively. This asserts that if a government is unable or unwilling to protect its own people, then the international community has a responsibility to intervene on humanitarian grounds, providing there are reasonable prospects of success. Of course it would be preferable if the UN Security Council backed such a move, but that is currently impossible given the fact that Russia and to a lesser extent China are standing behind Bashar al-Assad — though in China’s case this is mainly because of its strong belief in the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. The humanitarian need in Syria is self-evident. More than 110,000 Syrians have been killed, a high proportion of them civilians. There are now between four and five million Syrian refugees and whole swaths of cities such as Aleppo and Homs are a wasteland. Yet still Assad and his thugs continue to try to pound the people into submission. The situation is complicated by the fact that this is not a fight between good and evil, however. Evil the Assad regime certainly is — and has been for over 40 years — but the disparate rebel forces contain some pretty unpleasant characters and radical groups that seek to impose an alien, fundamentalist creed that is alien to the modern Syrian secular society. But things have now reached a stage at which the world cannot just sit by and watch a people and a country be annihilated. The problem is what exactly should be done, now that what President Obama described as the “red line” of chemical weapon use has been crossed? The imposition of a no fly zone is one obvious option, or carefully targeted use of cruise missiles against the regime’s military installations. But there is no guarantee of effectiveness. What certainly needs to be avoided is sending foreign — and especially Western — troops on the ground, which would not only lead to heavy casualties but also risks turning some of the anti-Assad population against the intervention. Russia meanwhile has warned the West against intervention. But I think the momentum now is unstoppable. Unless the Assad clique stands aside — which it has shown no willingness to do — Syria is going to be the latest in a string of Middle Eastern/North African Wars. And the poor United Nations will look even more impotent and marginalised than ever.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

The Basque Country

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 24th July, 2013

The Basque CountryGuggenheim Museum BilbaoThe Basque Country is a land of mountains and valleys — and the sea. The early 16th century Basque navigator Juan Sebastián de Elcano accompanied the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan on his historic sail westwards in search of the East Indies, and unlike Magellan, he survived. The Basques are among the oldest, if not the very oldest, peoples of Europe and their language is unlike any other. Of course it was suppressed under General Franco and for decades Basque separatists — mainly in Spain, but with a few allies in the smaller Basque lands of France — have agitated for independence, sometimes violently. It was while Franco was in decline, in 1975, that the Irish writer and specialist on Spain, Paddy Woodworth, first set foot in Euskal Herria — the land of the Basques. But he became fascinated and over the next 30 years and more penetrated the Basque lands and mentality more than most foreign observers. One result is his book The Basque Country (Signal, 2007), which is far more than just a guidebook or even a cultural history. It is a song of one man’s love for a tiny corner of Europe that has been often misunderstood. Paddy is a canny and opinionated (in the best sense of the world) companion, who relishes the Basque love of food and drink (wine and cider), the echoes of pre-Christian rituals and beliefs and the magic realism of some of its literature and folklore. He bemoans the noisiness of post-modern life in village bars, while at the same time — in a major, central chapter — celebrating aspects of the post-modern transformation of Bilbao (the “Guggenheim Effect”). While decrying the carnage of ETA’s terror campaign, as well as the torture and killings of Basque activists by various Spanish regimes, he remains neutral in his position regarding Basque separatism, at the same time drawing some interesting comparisons with Northern Ireland. Above all, he invites the reader to celebrate an land and its people before they irrevocably change, just as the whales that used to swim off the coast have disappeared and many species of fish have been driven to the verge of extinction.

Link: http://www.paddywoodworth.com & http://www.signalbooks.co.uk

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Grape Expectations

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 2nd July, 2013

Grape ExpectionsLike many urban-dwelling wine lovers I had never given much thought about how the stuff is made. I suppose if pressed I would have gueseds that you need the right climate and soil, must pick the grapes when they are ready, then put them in a blender and hey presto! Of course, it is nowhere near as simple as that, but just how complex the process is — especially when French red tape also plays a part — came as quite a shock, as I read Caro Feely’s account of her young family’s “vineyard adventure” in the Dordogne, “Grape Expectations” (Summersdale, £8.99). She and her husband Sean had a dream of a rural idyll in which they would become owners of their own château-label wines while escaping the rat race of a desk-based employee´s existence. But they ended up working far harder than they ever had before, while the sword of possible insolvency hung over their head. It is surprising their marriage survived the pressure, and indeed it barely did. Yet they persevered and overcame the hurdles, both natural and human. And even if the wine-making business doesn’t make one rich they achieved their goal, branching out later into wine tourism and holiday lets. Caro Feely’s style is at times breathless but the central message of this revelatory book is clear: viticulture is not for wimps.

Link: www.summersdale.com ,

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why the EU Needs to Integrate More

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 3rd January, 2013

José Manuel BarrosoIt’s 40 years since Britain joined the EU and siren voices among UKIP and the Tory right are arguing that it’s time to turn the clock back and pull out. They couldn’t be more wrong. On the contrary, this is the time for the EU to integrate more — as the eurozone now seems destined to do — and Britain should be an enthusiastic participant. In the 1950s it was clear to the Founding Fathers (sorry, ladies, they were all men) of what developed into the EU that a degree of economic integration, notably between France and Germany, was necessary to make wars between western European states impossible. That goal was so smoothly achieved that European peace is taken for granted, especially by the young. A second huge victory since 1989 has been the absorption of formerly Communist states of central and eastern Europe ino the EU. This year, Croatia will be the next. But there is an urgent reason why EU integration should move ahead, namely the way that the global economy is developing, with the rise of new heavyweights including Brazil, Russia, India and China — the BRICs. As EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso has rightly pointed out, by 2050 not a single individual European country will be among the world’s top 10 economies* — not even Germany. So in order to compete — indeed, to survive as an economic force — Europe must unite further and start operating more as not just a single market but also a single economic force. It would be madness for Britain to stay out of that, condemning itself to a form of offshore irrelevance. It is not the Europhiles in Britain who are unpatriotic, as some of our critics allege, but rather UKIP and the Europhobic Tory right who want to consign us to the role of an historical theme park. 

*A new entry at number 10, however, could well be Turkey, which makes it all the more important that Turkey be embraced into the European family.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Germany’s Despair at Cameron

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 13th December, 2011

When Angela Merkel met David Cameron 10 days ago, she told him, ‘I want to help you!’ She understood that he had problems with his Europhobic backbenchers and was offering to work with him quietly to help sort out some way that last week’s EU summit in Brussels could help find a structure in which to strengthen the euro (and the eurozone with it) while meeting some of Britain’s particular concerns. But instead of welcoming this offer, when the summit’s opening dinner went on well into the night, the British Prime Minister threw his toys out of the pram, actually jeopardising Britain’s best interests in the process. He had of course already marginalised his party from the European mainstream by pulling it out of the EPP — to which Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and many of the EU’s other big hitters belong — so he wasn’t even present at the crucial EPP Leaders’ pre-meeting in Marseilles, or even properly plugged in to what was happening on the Continent in recent weeks. The Germans were aghast at his behaviour, I am reliably informed from the highest source — and not especially delighted that this allowed Sarkozy to prance around crowing like a cockerel ruling the roost. Nonetheless, the Germans have decided to keep schtum, as they believe that openly attacking Cameron would only make matters worse. They will remain silent while praying that Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats manage to row the Coalition Government at least a little way back from the disastrous place that Cameron has landed us in. German banks based in the City are horrified by the way things are going; far from helping the City of London, they say, the PM risks undermining it. And a final comment from my high-level source from Berlin (with which I can only concur): ‘Those politicians and newspapers in Britain who describe themselves as Eurosceptics are not sceptical at all. Scepticism implies a healthy determination not to accept something until one has examined it thoroughly. They are actually Europhobes, who blatantly ignore or distort the truth unless it happens to fit in with their own prejudices.’

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Cannes Washout

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 5th November, 2011

The G20 met in Cannes in pouring rain and failed to exude glamour, despite the best efforts of host Nicolas Sarkozy, who is in a fine state of PR denial, beaming as if all in the world is rosy. Of course, it isn’t. Cannes was a washout, in more ways than one, not least because the Big Boys (and a few Girls) of the world failed to address adequately the problems facing not just the eurozone but the global economy. It didn’t help that Italy’s PM Silvio Berlusconi was wandering around with his usual clownish antics, as if global summits are a sort of It’s A Knockout, with a bit of bunga bunga thrown in. The Danish Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, should have worn a sign on her derriere, proclaiming ‘Any fellow Prime Minister giving me an inappropriate leer will be given a red card — and go straight to jail. Do not pass Go. And above all, do not collect any backhanders.’ The other oddity was to see how totally marginalised Barack Obama was in all this. This is inevitable, of course, now that the United States is well on its way downhill after a half-century (at least) of global domination. The Chinese are not grinning, however — they have too much to lose — but after Cannes the name of the game has changed.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Don’t Forget the Western Sahara

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 1st November, 2011

I spent the weekend at a spa hotel outside Algiers at the Second International Solidarity Conference with the Sahraoui people, which drew two or three hundred participants from countries as diverse as Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Ethiopia, France, Lebanon, Mexico, Namibia, Russia, South Africa and Tunisia. The Algerian TV and other media wee there in force, as the Algerian government has been the firmest friend of the Western Sahara and its independence movement, the Polisario, since Morocco ocupied the phosphate-rich western half of the territory after it ceased to be a Spanish colony. It is often wrongly said that Namibia was the final African country to gain independence, whereas actually the Sahraouis have been struggling for theirs for nearly 40 years — almost as long as the Palestinians. The Sahraoui Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), as the Western Sahara is formally known, is a full member of the African Union and has been recognised by a growing number of countries round the world, though not as yet by Britain. I shall be arguing that Britain should raise the status of the Polisario representation in London to that of an Embassy — as HMG has already done for the Palestinians — which would be an important step towards statehood. There have been numerous UN resolutions about the Sahraouis’ right to self-determination, but the Moroccans have dragged their feet for many years, thereby preventing a referendum of the people of the territory that is meant to settle the issue one way or the other. Libeal Democrats (and the old Liberal Party before) have had longstanding relations with the Westen Sahara; the late Chris (Earl of) Winchilsea was a particularly active campaigner and organiser of aid to the Sahraoui refugee camps deep in the Algerian desert. And I was pleased that LibDem MEPs — not least Andrew Duff — recently opposed the renewal of the EU fisheries agreement with Morocco because it also covers the waters off the Western Sahara. Indeed, the Coalition government has taken a more progressive line on related issues than its Labour predecessor did, but it still has the task of standing up to France in the European context, as the French are staunch supporters of Morocco and its colonial occupation. But standing up to the French is something Brits have often done rather well in the past, so perhaps on this issue we should return to our traditions!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Libya and the Responsibility to Protect

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 19th March, 2011

UN Security Council resolution 1973 regarding Libya is a milestone in the development not only of the concept of the Responsibility to Protect but also the realisation of its practical implications. Muammar Gaddafi had shown such flagrant disregard for the well-being of his people, in his brutal attempts to suppress the popular uprising against him, that the international community could not just sit back and watch a massacre take place. This of course goes counter to a longstanding principle in force really since the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648: the concept of the sovereignty of the nation state — in other words, that other countries should not interefere in the internal affairs of sovereign states. That is a principle that both Russia and China are keen to see maintained (because of their fears over restless regions such as Chechnya and Tibet) and explains why they both abstained on Resolution 1973. At least they did not veto it, thus giving a green light to international action, with UN backing. Britain, France and Lebanon took the lead on this, with the United States coming on board soon after. At least two other Arab states — the UAE and Qatar — have also indicated their willingness to be involved in the operation to protect the Libyan people. But inevitably the main thrust will come from NATO, with France and Britain again taking the lead. Like many who opposed the Iraq War, I feel that UN action on Libya was essential. But the challenge will be to bring a swift end to Gaddafi’s attacks on the rebels without things escalating or becoming too protracted. And then ideally Gaddafi must go — perferably pushed out by his own people.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Eurozone Meat for the G7 Skeleton

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 12th October, 2008

The leaders of the 15 eurozone countries are meeting in Paris today, to discuss emergency measures to deal with the financial crisis. France currently holds the presidency of the European Union, and the French Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde, says the summit will put ‘meat’ on the ‘skeleton’ of the agreement reached by the G7 group of major industrialised nations in Washington on Friday. The British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, would not normally be involved in the eurozone meeting, as Britain has not adopted the single currency. But French President Nicolas Sarkozy has invited Mr Brown to be present for part of the meeting, so he can brief everyone about Britain’s attempted rescue plan. This is indicative of just how seriously the situation is being viewed; the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, warned earlier this weekend that rich countries have so far failed to restore confidence, and that the world’s financial system is teetering on the brink of systemic meltdown.

Looking at things more optimistically, one thing that might emerge from this crisis could be a firm commitment in Europe to coordinate relevant policies and strategies more closely in the future. But as far as the global situation is concerned, we probably need another Bretton Woods. The IMF and the World Bank were not designed for the needs of the 21st century, and new big players including China and India need to be brought on board.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96 other followers