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U.S. and Europe Listing in the Same Boat

A Commentary By Debra J. Saunders

Friday, July 08, 2011

Three years ago this month, then-Sen. Barack Obama told an enthusiastic throng in Berlin, "In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common."

I have to hand this to Obama: the bond between Americans and Europeans is stronger than ever. On both sides of the Atlantic, national governments are forced to cut spending, private homes are underwater and public employee pension plans are unsustainable. The United States and Europe are in the same sticky soup, but instead of blaming George W. Bush, Our Betters in Europe are sniping at each other.

On June 30, British workers engaged in a general strike to protest proposed changes -- such as raising the retirement age to 66 by 2020 -- in public-sector pensions. The protests kicked off the country's "Summer of Discontent" by shutting down schools. The tactic doesn't seem to be working. Even Labor Party leader Ed Miliband opposed the strike. Greek activists have been protesting in the street against austerity measures proposed by leaders desperately trying to win financial backing for a second Greek bailout. The French have been fighting the Germans about the terms of the Greek debt rollover.

The Germans haven't wanted to be part of the French and U.K. push that led to NATO's mission to liberate Libya.

How's that going?

On March 24, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe observed that it would take "days or weeks, certainly not months" to take down Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. More than three months, 100 days of air strikes and 2,000 bombings later, NATO ran out of shells. Germany has agreed to donate ammo to the NATO effort.

French intellectuals have railed against New York authorities' gauche and too-public arrest of disgraced former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn on sexual assault charges. Yet however the DSK case is resolved, Euro critics must acknowledge that prosecutors shared information damaging to the alleged victim.

If they truly care about injustice, they might look within the European Union. Thanks to the European Arrest Warrant, Scotland Yard's Extradition Unit arrested Andrew Symeou, then 20, at his parents' London home on Greek charges concerning a 2007 murder that were so flimsy that the prosecutor eventually argued in favor of acquittal. Symeou was exonerated -- but only after a nearly four-year fight that landed him in Greece's infamous Korydallos prison for seven months.

Now, the European Court of Human Rights can pounce into action when it comes to protecting the guilty. The court ruled last month that the U.K. cannot deport two Somalis convicted of burglary, threats to kill, robbery and drug dealing because Europe's "prohibition of torture and of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment was absolute, irrespective of the victims' conduct."

The BBC reports that the ruling applies to 214 similar cases.

In 1987, also in Berlin, President Reagan intoned, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." Today the walls are entrenched institutions that cannot change to save themselves. Reagan's injunction, at least, was doable.

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