Economy

The Bailout Delusion: European Summits Can't Fix Economy, Only Jobs Can

Op-Ed: Rescue plans were the focus of this week’s high-stakes EU summit in Brussels. But anyone really wanting to know how Europe is doing should stop looking to its leaders, and talk instead with the region’s struggling business owners and unemployed wor

A homeless man in Barcelona, Spain (2009)
A homeless man in Barcelona, Spain (2009)
Günther Lachmann

BERLIN -- Amidst all this economic turmoil, no one's thought to ask how Emmanouel Kastanakis is doing. That's a shame, because the answer to that question says more about the future of Europe than all the official summit press releases of European leaders promising bailout after bailout. Who is Mr. Kastanakis? He is the owner of a medium-sized business – in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Among other things, Kastanakis sells gas heating. He also represents several well-known German companies, such as Thyssen, Wolf and Stiebel Eltron. His company was just about to go public, when, in 2010, the sovereign debt crisis broke. Today, his firm still exists – but is in a daily struggle not to go bankrupt.

Kastanakis' reality is that of countless business owners in the construction, transportation, carpentry, plumbing, electrical and manufacturing sectors all over Greece, Spain or Portugal. Like Kastanakis' heating company, medium-sized enterprises across southern Europe have cracked from the crisis, putting their employees out of work. With one fell swoop, millions saw the very foundations of their existence disappear.

In the whole of Europe, 23 million people are presently unemployed. In May of this year, the jobless rate in the euro zone for those under 25 years of age was 20%. In Spain, 44.4% of young people are jobless, in Greece 38.5%. The situation isn't much better in countries that are presently off the radar: Slovakia, for example, where the number of unemployed young people stands at 33.7%. In Lithuania it is 32.9%. The future does not look good for these unemployed.

The dangers of a "rescue mentality"

Anyone curious to know how Europe is doing shouldn't look for the answer at summits of state or gatherings of government heads. They'd do better asking the European citizens themselves. The questions to be asking are about the millions of unemployed, the thousands of companies on the brink of ruin. Only those who truly understand just how seriously weakened the European economy is can speak with any authority about how the continent feels, about its democratic stability, and about the quality of the politics responsible for all this.

European leaders can unfurl three, four, even 10 bailout schemes. But in the end they're not going to have an impact on economic development. Of all the billions that have been handed out under the pretext of saving Europe, not a cent has gone to the people. On the contrary, every euro that relieves the speculators' hunger is not going into the real economy -- which is to say, to the citizens of Europe. It is nothing short of a joke to imagine that this is the way to save Europe.

No mechanism will end the debt crisis unless it also sees to people getting salaries and food. Where else are governments supposed to get the money to pay off their huge piles of debt if not from their businesses and citizens? They depend on the tax revenues from a flourishing economy.

So where's the plan to create jobs and prosperity in the crisis countries? There isn't one. The politicians whole rescue mentality is reminiscent of someone who sees an injured traffic accident victim, and without looking, runs out into the road to help them – only to get hit by a bus.

The politicians are overlooking the greatest danger: the decline of the real economy. And yet the indications are obvious. The European Central Bank just adjusted its economic forecast markedly downwards. That means that for millions of people in Europe, there's no hope in the near future. And that will just speed up Europe's decline.

Read the original article in German

Photo – Arrels Fundacio

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Society

Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.


The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.

Hollandse-Hoogte/ZUMA

Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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