Friday, April 22, 2011

As Finland Goes, So Goes the Union ...

Finland? What has Finland got to do with France? In US politics there was once the adage, "As Maine goes, so goes the nation." Like Finland, Maine is a cold, northern excrescence upon the continent, but it was once taken to be a political bellwether. And now Finland has taken a sharp veer to the right, as anti-immigrant, anti-EU sentiment there catapulted the extreme-right True Finn party to an 800% gain in parliamentary seats. Worse,

Finland is not alone. Anti-European Union and anti-immigration parties have been on the rise in Sweden, Italy, Hungary and the Netherlands in the past year, and more may follow. It is a worrisome trend for supporters of the union, and for efforts to safeguard the euro by offering emergency loans to the weakest member nations and to better coordinate budget and spending policies in the countries that use it.
Will France be the next country added to this list? Or, as in 1981, will it buck the rightward turn and go its own way?

Professor Arrested in Abu Dhabi, French Look the Other Way

Nasser Bin Ghaith, a professor of economics, has been arrested in Abu Dhabi, apparently for stating on a blog that he favored a transition to democracy. The professor may or may not be employed by the Abu Dhabi branch of the Sorbonne. His relatives tell Rue89 that he lectures weekly on the campus there, whereas two Sorbonne officials in Paris claim that he has merely been an invited guest lecturer from time to time. In any case, no one at the Sorbonne seems willing to intervene on behalf of Prof. Bin Ghaith even as a colleague. This is a rather odd position to take at a time when French forces are engaged elsewhere in the Arab world in support of the very transition to democracy that Prof. Bin Ghaith advocates. About the attitude of French university authorities, Amnesty International says this:

« C'est une honte. On aurait pensé que la Sorbonne, qui agit en temps normal pour le développement d'une certaine culture, aurait au contraire soutenu Nasser bin Ghaith sans son combat et pour sa libération. »
(h/t JB)