Saturday, June 21, 2008

La creperie

La crêperie is the best crepes place in Brussels. If you feel like having something interesting, simple but sophisticated at the same time all you need to do is go at La creperie in rue haute 35, 1000 bruxelles. Right near Sablon area...all you need to do is go there. The staff will take care of any other details. If interested about the menu, this is la carte. For other details and reservations go to the contact page.

Bon apetit!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

La Ballade des Antiquaires

Right in the middle of Bruxelles, the best restaurant, La Ballade des Antiquaires is finally opened. The gastronomic wonders wait to be discovered in La Carte. For info and reservations please feel free to use the contact page.
Bon apetit!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Europeans against freedom

Last Saturday, a few days after Lebanese people had demonstrated for freedom, some 60,000 Europeans were demonstrating in Brussels against more freedom. The target of their protest: the liberalization and deregulation of services, addressed by the European Commission in the so-called "Bolkestein directive". But first, here's a visual impression of this anti-freedom march, with pictures courtesy of the Bruxelles Ma Ville blog.


THE BOLKESTEIN DIRECTIVE AND THE PRINCIPLE OF THE COUNTRY OF ORIGIN
The directive for the liberalization of services was written by Frits Bolkestein, the previous European Commissioner for the Internal Market. According to his directive, European service providers should be able to deliver their services in each European country on the basis of their statute in their country of origin, and based on the rules of their country of origin. Trade unions say that this will lead to "social dumping" practices, as rules in Eastern European countries are often less rigid than in Western Europe. So, they say, Eastern European construction companies would be able to let their low-wage employees work in high-wage countries. Which is simply not true, because labor regulations are not part of the Bolkestein directive.
FRENCH PUBLIC OPINION IS TURNING AGAINST THE NEW EUROPE

Photo: Council of the European Union

Barroso, Chirac

The funny thing is that this Bolkestein directive was unanymously approved in January 2004 by the previous "leftist" European Commission lead by Romano Prodi. But now that the new "right-wing, pro free market" commission Barroso has to implement the directive, the left is protesting. In Belgium and Germany, trade unions and antiglobalists are against it. And in France, all of the establishment is against the directive, including French president Jacques Chirac. The issue is causing such havoc in French media, that the French are turning against the proposed European Constitution because of the Bolkestein directive. Most of the French second thoughts are based on half-truths, lies and hysteria. Tonight, Belgian minister of foreign affairs Karel De Gucht explained that France is a very 'etatist' country where Colbertism (strong cooperation between state and corporations) is still alive and well. In fact, the French senate issued an official report that openly pleads for "a European neo-colbertism" to fight delocalization of French and European industries towards low-wage countries.
ESSENTIAL PART OF THE LISBON STRATEGY
The Bolkestein directive is the most vital part of the Lisbon Strategy, the great plan of the European Commission to make Europe the most competitive economy in the world by 2010. While the Lisbon Strategy was issued in 2000, by now it has become clear that the target is impossible to reach by 2010, with or without the Bolkestein directive. But it remains clear that the liberalization of services is the most important tool for working towards the Lisbon Strategy, as 70% of the European economy consists of services.
HAYEK INSTITUTE: "UNSUSTAINABLE SOCIAL PRIVILEGES"

Drieu Godefridi

Drieu Godefridi, founder and director of the Brussels-based Hayek Institute, writes:

There is an element of truth in the sad slogans of this tired nation: The Bolkestein directive poses a direct treath to the crest of social privileges in Western Europe, which is simply unsustainable from an economic viewpoint. The creative forces of competition which will be liberated by the directive, will force Western Europe to purify its legislation, to lower its labor-parasiting taxes, and to diminish the cost of labor. The Bolkestein directive will only accelerate an evolution that can never be stopped by the incantations of Old Europe, an evolution that is called "globalization", i.e. free trade between individuals, wherever they are on the planet.

NOT RETRACTED, BUT TO BE REWRITTEN
At the European summit on Wednesday, heads-of-state and government leaders have not retracted the Bolkestein directive, but they have decided that it will be "rewritten". Changes are that its implementation will be delayed for months if not years. The Financial Times writes:
The dispute over the services directive is a symptom of the political resistance to free market solutions to Europe's woes, particularly in countries such as France and Germany where unemployment is close to 10 percent.

FLEMISH LIBERALS DIVIDED

Dewi Van De Vyver

The Flemish Liberal Party VLD, which is the most pro free market party in Belgium (though "least anti-free market party" would probably be a more accurate description), is "very satisfied" with the decision to rewrite the Bolkestein directive. "We must fight the risks for social dumping", party president Bart Somers said. "It is our ambition to lift e.g. health services in Lithuania and Polen to a higher level, not to lower the Belgian level of services", he added.
As a member of VLD, I'm disappointed by this insult to the principle of free trade, another example of a center-right politician trying to please the left while being ashamed of his own ideology.
Dewi Van De Vyver, the president of the Young Liberals, is as shocked as I am:

We urge prime minister Guy Verhofstadt to read the Bolkestein directive again, to dust off his free market principles, and to stop howling with the antiglobalist, protectionist and economically conservative wolves. The risk for social dumping does not exist. The directive, diabolized by trade unions, does not deregulate minimum wages, labor conditions, holiday regulations, nor work hazard, health and safety regulations. For all these crucial aspects, the regulations of the country where the work is carried out will be applicable.


FRENCH XENOPHOBIA
Frits Bolkestein, a Dutch liberal and author of the directive, says it is not exceptional that a directive is rewritten. But he accuses the French of xenophobic feelings towards his person, as the protesters used the slogan "Bolkestein = Frankenstein". "They clearly stressed the fact that my name is not a French name, and they played on the anti-germanic and anti-anglosaxon feelings of the French public", Bolkestein said. He added that the French are feeling that they are not at the center of Europe any more. French is loosing ground as a language within European institutions, and Europe is not following the direction that France had in mind.
BLEAK FUTURE FOR EUROPE
The patient is ill, but he does not like the taste of his medicine. The patient would like to become healthy and strong again. He even dreams of becoming the strongest man in the world by 2010. But, on the other hand, he likes his warm bed, his hot chocolate and his caring nurse, and it's so damn cold outside. The medicine is called "free markets", the warm bed is called "social protection", the hot chocolate is called "state-enforced redistribution of wealth", and the caring nurse is called "welfare state". European growth rates are averaging less than 2% this year, half the U.S. rate. Will Europe be in the top-3 of world economies by 2020? As things are standing now, I don't think so. Anyone wanna bet?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

U.S. STATEMENT ON FREEDOM OF THOUGHT, CONSCIENCE, RELIGION AND BELIEF

T. Geremy Gunn, Executive Fellow, United States Institute of Peace, delivered the following speech on freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on 1999-SEP-23 on behalf of the U.S. Mission to the OSCE. He deals with governments' role in the preservation of religious freedom.

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Ten years ago, in this building, the CSCE participating states accepted responsibility for implementing some of the most important human rights commitments to religious freedom that have ever been made. In the Vienna Concluding Document, the participating states agreed to "take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination against individuals or communities on the grounds of religion or belief [and to] foster a climate of mutual tolerance and respect between believers of different communities." (Vienna Concluding Document 16.1)

There have been many welcome changes for religious freedom in the OSCE region since January 1989. The Orthodox Church can now freely practice its faith not only in Russia, but throughout the area of former Communist domination. Catholics can attend Mass in Poland without fear. Most Muslims in the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia may now worship openly. It would have been unimaginable to the delegates meeting here in 1989 that such developments might occur within ten years. Many states have been extremely effective in reducing -- and often eliminating -- religious discrimination against majority religions.

While much progress has been made, and many millions more people are now free to practice their religion throughout the OSCE region, we cannot help but observe that these freedoms have not always extended to minority religious and belief groups. Indeed, in many places throughout the OSCE, governments are actively engaged in "discrimination against individuals or communities on the grounds of religion or belief ..."

I. Vienna Commitment 16.1:

"take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination against individuals or communities on the grounds of religion or belief in the recognition, exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all fields of civil, political, economic, social and cultural life"

Although Uzbekistan is among the countries with the worst legacies regarding rights of religion and belief, there has been some progress. On the positive side, the Muslim majority may now practice its religion in relative freedom. Last month, six Christian prisoners of conscience were pardoned and released from prison. The government also has modified and expedited the registration process (a process we still believe to be unnecessary and easily subject to abuse) and has agreed to review its law on religion. Despite these welcome signs, the number of prisoners of conscience in Uzbekistan has increased dramatically since the beginning of the year. Over 200 individuals remain imprisoned for their faith. Today, arbitrary arrests and abuse are pervasive, and judicial proceedings have become rubber stamps. The pattern of harassment and detention of members of unregistered Muslim groups is alarming. Recent closed trials that fail to meet standards of basic due process have attempted to discredit members of unregistered religious groups as dangerous extremists or criminals. Defendants have been convicted of criminal offenses, reportedly based on forced confessions and planted evidence. These Soviet-era tactics, which are serious violations of OSCE commitments, should be stopped without delay. The threat of terrorist attacks is no justification -- either in the United States or in Uzbekistan -- for indiscriminate arrests of people and torture of prisoners.

Earlier this month in Azerbaijan, there was a raid on a Baptist service in Baku. Several Azeri Baptists were imprisoned on Soviet-style charges, and the subsequent expulsion of several foreign Baptists raise grave concerns about the rights of religious minorities.

Despite a number of judgments against Greece in the European Court of Human Rights, its Constitution and Laws of Necessity continue to be used against religious minorities in contravention of the freedom to express religious beliefs and to convince others of their views. The United States notes that the Greek Government's tolerance of minority religious groups has improved since the end of 1997 and there have been fewer arrests for proselytizing. Still, the United States urges the Government of Greece to bring its laws and regulations into conformity with OSCE standards.

Turkey continues to restrict religious speech and manifestations of religious faith, including the wearing of head scarves in public buildings and universities. The United States remains concerned by the continued closure of facilities for religious higher education for minority religious communities, including the world-renowned Orthodox Seminary at Halki. The right to establish and maintain places of worship must be protected.

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II. Vienna Commitment 16.3:

"grant upon their request to communities of believers, practising or prepared to practise their faith within the constitutional framework of their States, recognition of the status provided for them in their respective countries"

Most OSCE participating states require religions to register with the state. Since 1989, a continuing problem has been the use of the registration process to discriminate against minority religions. There have been, of course, some positive developments. The Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, have now been officially recognized in Russia, Latvia, Bulgaria, and Kazakhstan. But there are many negative signs as well.

Russia's restrictive 1997 law on religion creates categories of religious communities with differing levels of legal status and privilege. The vagueness of the law and regulations, as well as contradictions between interpretations of the 1997 law and other federal and local laws, have permitted an intensification of discriminatory practices at the local level. Federal authorities have not taken sufficient action to reverse discriminatory actions taken at the local level, or to discipline those officials responsible. We hope that Russia's Duma will take every opportunity to guarantee religious freedom for its citizens and visitors and will enact the government's proposal to extend the deadline for registering religious organizations.

We have heard discouraging reports that new laws that might further restrict registration are now under consideration in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Ukraine. The United States urges parliamentary and governmental officials to be mindful of their countries' commitments to take measures to prevent discrimination and to facilitate registration.

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III. Vienna Commitment 16.5:

"engage in consultations with religious faiths, institutions and organizations in order to achieve a better understanding of the requirements of religious freedom"

In his famous study of religious discrimination, the distinguished UN Rapporteur, Arcot Krishnaswami, stated: "Greater intolerance is usually shown towards the new groups, especially if they are splinters of the predominant religion or belief which attempt to win converts to what the predominant religion considers to be a schism or a heresy." (Study of Discrimination [1960], p. 22) Three European countries, Austria, Belgium, and France, have established government "anti-sect" agencies that give rise to the very concerns about tolerance raised by Mr. Krishnaswami forty years ago. A delegation from the United States met with officials from these commissions to learn how the agencies would operate and what steps would be taken to ensure that the agencies do not become vehicles for promoting prejudice and stereotypes. In several cases, we were pleased to hear assurances that the agencies would be open-minded and fair. One official stated, however, that his agency would refuse to meet with the groups that it describes as "sects" - thereby giving the groups no official opportunity to respond to the allegations that are made against them. Parliamentary reports in Belgium and France attached lists of "sects" without giving the groups the full opportunity to respond to allegations against them. By failing to hear directly from the groups that are being criticized, governments and parliaments are falling short of the repeated advice provided at the OSCE Supplementary Meeting earlier this year to engage in a dialogue with the groups.

The United States urges the new agencies in Austria, Belgium, and France to demonstrate their commitment to the principles of tolerance by:

  1. Avoiding use of the pejorative terms "sect" and "cult" when speaking of new religious movements.
  2. Refraining from implying that most new or small religious and belief-based groups are dangerous or threatening.
  3. Engaging in a serious and open dialogue with all religious and belief-based groups that are of concern to governments.
  4. Establishing open, transparent, and fair procedures, including the right to respond to allegations, when investigations are conducted against groups.
  5. Publicly announcing support for the principles of tolerance and discouraging citizens from discriminating against minority groups.
Showing tolerance, fairness, and open-mindedness is not always easy -- but such is the responsibility of governments -- including the United States. The Vienna Concluding Document obligates states to "foster a climate of mutual tolerance and respect between believers of different communities as well as believers and non-believers." We must all work harder to do so.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Freedom for Europe’s Prisoners of Conscience!

Europeans are proud of their record of support for freedom of speech, and tolerance of dissident views. But there is a glaring exception to this record.

In Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland and several other European countries, as well as in Israel, it is a crime to publicly dispute the official version of Holocaust history. Those who express dissident views about this chapter of history are routinely imprisoned, fined or forced into exile.

Currently three prominent “Holocaust deniers” are being held behind bars in Europe।

Europe’s best known “thought criminal” is David Irving, an author of numerous books on military history and World War II, including several international bestsellers. The 68-year-old British historian has been held since November 11, 2005, when he was arrested during a visit in Austria for the “crime” -- committed 16 (!) years earlier -- of having referred to “mythical” gas chambers in Auschwitz during talks in the country. Denied bail, he was held until his trial on February 20, 2006, when a court in Vienna sentenced him to three years in prison for his “denial” remarks.

Newspapers, political leaders and intellectuals around the world immediately denounced the surprisingly harsh sentence, as well as the laws under which he and other “deniers” have been imprisoned and fined. (The only voices of approval were the predictable Zionist ones.)

During his months behind bars, Irving has been devoting time to history writing, to reading, to his correspondence, and to a memoir of his prison ordeal. He has appealed his sentence, and hopes for an early release.

His prison address is:

David Irving
Gef. Nr. 70306
Justizanstalt Josefstadt
Wickenburggasse 18-20
1082 Vienna
Austria



Ernst Zundel

Ernst Zundel -- a German-born publicist, graphic artist and publisher -- was arrested on February 5, 2003, at the home in rural eastern Tennessee where he had been living quietly with his wife, Ingrid Rimland. He was seized on the pretext that he had missed an interview date with US immigration authorities, even though he had entered the US legally, was married to a US citizen, had no criminal record, and was acting diligently, and in full accord with the law, to secure status as a permanent legal resident.

After being held for two weeks, he was deported to Canada. For two years -- from mid-February 2003 to March 2005 -- he was held in solitary confinement as a supposed threat to “national security.” His arrest and detention generated wide media attention. A few Canadian newspapers, including Toronto’s prestigious Globe and Mail, and several independent analysts, acknowledged the injustice of his incarceration on an empty pretext. On March 1, 2005, Zundel was deported to Germany, and since then has been held in the Mannheim prison.

He was charged with inciting “hatred” by having written or distributed texts that “approve, deny or play down” genocidal actions carried out by Germany’s wartime regime, and which “denigrate the memory of the [Jewish] dead.” The first and foremost of the writings cited in the indictment are texts posted on the “Zundelsite” website, which is registered and maintained by his wife in the United States, where all such writings are entirely legal. The indictment warned that he could be punished with four years imprisonment.

Zundel’s trial in Germany began on November 8, 2005, with a dramatic clash between his attorneys and the presiding judge. In the months since then, the drawn-out proceedings have sometimes been contentious, but more often have bogged down in disputes over evidentiary and procedural issues.

For some time the many Zundel supporters who routinely appeared in the courtroom showed their respect for the defendant at the start of each session by rising when he entered the chamber. But the judge eventually prohibited this and all other expressions of sympathy.

The trial is set to continue at least into early December.

The 67-year-old Zundel has been held behind bars for nearly three years now -- without ever having been found guilty of any crime! In his prison cell, he closely follows international news and trends, writes letters, and reads. His diet and living conditions, he reports, are at least better than they were during his incarceration in Canada.

Letters reach him at:

Ernst Zündel
JVA Mannheim
Herzogenrieder Str. 111
D - 68169 Mannheim
Germany



Germar Rudolf

Born in Germany in 1964, Germar Rudolf began a serious investigation of the “gas chamber” issue while enrolled in a doctoral program at the prestigious Max Planck Institute for Solid State Physics. The youthful chemist carried out a forensic examination of the alleged gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau and concluded for a variety of technical reasons that they could not have been used for executions.

After the publication in 1993 of his findings, he was dismissed from the institute, and a court in Stuttgart ruled that his report “denies the systematic mass murder of the Jewish population in gas chambers,” and therefore constitutes “popular incitement,” “incitement to racial hatred,” and “defamation.”

In 1996 he was sentenced to 14 months in prison. Rather than serve the sentence, he fled the country, first to England and then to the United States. While in the US he ran a publishing firm that issued an impressive array of scholarly revisionist titles, and he oversaw the publication of two revisionist periodicals, one in German and one in English.

In October 2005 he was arrested in Chicago, and a few weeks later was deported to Germany, even though he and his American wife (a US citizen) were parents of a young daughter. Since then he has been serving his “original” 1996 sentence in German prisons. His trial on more recent “denial” crimes began in Mannheim on November 14, 2006, and is expected to last at least two months.

Letters reach him at:

Germar Rudolf
JVA Heidelberg
Oberer Fauler Pelz 1
69117 Heidelberg
Germany