Brussels briefing

Blasphemous friends and thespians

Greece, in the midst of cleaning up its economy, has turned its attention to actors breaking its blasphemy laws.

Like Ireland, it prosecutes for any attempt to send up religion.

Ireland, thanks to its three-year old-law, threatens fines of up to €25,000 while the Greeks promise up to two years in jail.

A play, Corpus Christi, written by award-winning US dramatist Terrence McNally, that portrays Jesus Christ and his disciples as gay, led to the arrest of three actors in Athens.

The European Humanist Federation points out that Greece, like

Ireland, clearly protects freedom of speech in its constitution, but then limits it in its laws on religion.

Fine Gael, before coming to power, said it did not support the law introduced by Dermot Ahern (pictured) in the last days of power, while Labour said it would favour a referendum on abolishing it. Let’s see.

Firms fishing for subsidies and fines

Companies owned by the Vidal family of Galicia in northern Spain have received almost €10m of fishing subsidies from the local and central Spanish government and the EU over the last 15 years.

This is despite being on a blacklist of those guilty of illegally fishing deep-sea sharks and Patagonian toothfish among other offences.

In 2006, on foot of information from the environmental NGO Oceana, a Florida court sentenced one of the company owners to four years probation and fined him $400,000. His son turned himself in to the US authorities in April after Interpol issued a warrant for his arrest.

However, British courts really hit them this week when they fined them almost €2m for falsifying documents on catches of overexploited hake.

It might give some encouragement to those currently fighting for a new, more sensible and longer-term EU fishing policy.

School’s out

Nessa Childers, the Labour MEP who insists on being a thorn in the side of the Government, has released her ‘end of year’ report.

She hit out at the Government for sending the then head of the Department of Finance, Kevin Cardiff, to a well-paid job in Europe, and also the ‘government within the government’.

This is a committee comprising the masters of world finance of Dublin’s Financial Services Centre. It meets regularly with officials in the Department of the Taoiseach that provides them with secretarial services.

Kurdish Spring throws up fresh problems

Stateless peoples are at the root of many of the power and terror plays around the world. The Catholics of the North could have been classified as such before power-sharing came into being.

The Kurds have been an issue in the EU’s relations with Turkey and its membership process, as this sizeable minority has been the victim of discrimination and has retaliated militarily.

With the Kurds gaining more power in the region — they are to be found not just in the east of Turkey but in Iraq and in Syria — experts are speaking of a Kurdish Spring, with these people having their own autonomous regions. Both Turkey and the EU will have to find a way of maintaining good relations in this new evolving Middle East.

Murder appeal

Europol, one of the many EU-linked organisations, has appealed for anybody who was living in the Lound area of Lincoln-shire in Oct 2009 to help with investigating the murder of 50-year-old Alan Wood in his home.

He was bound, tortured, mutilated, and murdered, and all apparently for his bank cards and a few hundred pounds. One of the perpetrators left some blood behind but the DNA it yielded has not been matched to anyone on British databases so far.

Now Eurojust and the British police have turned to the rest of the EU to ask for anybody who may have been in the area at the time to come forward. There is a €76,000 reward for help through phoning (+44) 1529 308612 or emailing

Super Mario's tough talking

EU leaders have a nail-biting few days ahead, waiting to see what exactly Mario Draghi meant by his few enigmatic phrases last week.

Will he start up the ECB’s bond-buying programme again?

Some analysts say the former Goldman Sachs executive sounded very Goldman Sachs when he said the ECB “is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro. And believe me it will be enough.”

Israel’s human rights double standards

Following an EU-Israeli Association Council meeting, Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s deputy prime minister, linked Syria’s chemical weapons to Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant and political organisation, adding it was a clear “casus belli” — a justification for war.

He demanded that the EU put them on the terror list, saying it had enough information “about their desire, their attempt to achieve chemical and biological weapons”.

Amnesty International pointed out that the EU endorsed 60 new areas of co-operation with Israel without insisting on their own human rights demands being met. This includes Israel’s continued violation of international law in relation to the Palestinians, and deportation of African migrants.

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