Terra Incognita: FIFA, guns, refugees: The EU’s fake culture of legality
Europe is a continent of chaos and feigned laws.
By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
In 2011, soccer’s governing body FIFA president Sepp Blatter was re-elected. His opponent from Qatar had been suspended for bribery before the vote. Blatter promised reforms. There would be enlarged “ethics” committees, a committee on “corporate governance” and a “committee on solutions,” according to reports.The Guardian noted that FIFA “enjoys historic exemptions from tax, and immunity from anti-corruption treaties” in Switzerland, where it is based. Blatter is a Swiss native.His 2011 election came amid numerous corruption scandals, in which almost half of the members of executive committee of the organization were accused or suspended for corruption. At the time representatives from various countries claimed that the problem was not with FIFA, but with “lies” propagated by “journalism.” Argentinian Julio Grondoma made the accusation that there was a conspiracy from England, and that if only they would “leave the FIFA family alone,” things would be okay.After his election, Blatter insisted that there would be “zero tolerance” for corruption.Some soccer honchos had asked undercover reporters for cash in return for support, but that kind of corruption would be stopped now. Then, four years later, in May 2015, before yet another re-election to head FIFA, Blatter was still talking about doing away with new corruption scandals. “Actions of individuals, if proven, bring shame and humiliation on soccer and demand action and change.We cannot allow the reputation of FIFA to be dragged in the mud.” There would be “no place” for corruption. In that election the controversy was over US meddling in FIFA, with claims that the Americans was daring to investigate corruption to get back at Russia.Days after being re-elected, Blatter decided to step aside, claiming he did not have a “mandate” from the entire world to run the organization. But the disgrace of FIFA was not yet over. In December, US attorney general Loretta Lynch announced a 92-count indictment against 16 soccer officials. “The woman who took down FIFA” and the “FIFA slayer” was what press called Lynch. She accused the body of engaging in “rampant, systematic and deep-rooted” corruption. Months later Swiss police conducted pre-dawn raids on FIFA officials. The stories of “zero tolerance” for corruption were over. Words would be met by action, and not by those officials who had pretended to ferret out corruption, but by outsiders who would finally hold this organization to account.How did this happen? How is it that former presidents of FIFA in six South American countries, 41 individuals from other countries and entities, all of them were involved in corruption? Bribes, massive payoffs of millions, world cup bids were bought and sold like cans of soda.There was always a hint of racism and orientalism behind the “Swiss” management of FIFA. In the 2011 elections there was a whiff that the “foreigners” were corrupt. It was those third-world countries where corruption is endemic, so the narrative went, that had brought shame on FIFA, not the good Europeans who run it. Then it was accusations that jealous “outsiders” such as British journalists and Americans, were “out to ruin” world soccer.After all, what do Americans know about soccer? Not much. But Americans do know about corruption, and British journalists know about doing undercover work. The fact is that FIFA’s disgrace was made in Europe. It was a product of a culture that prizes declarative statements over reality. “No place for corruption” and “zero tolerance” are the watchwords – but empty ones.CONTINENTAL EUROPE has a problem with action. FIFA is just a symbol of a wider cultural problem. The same feigned strictures that underpin UN declarations, underpin not only FIFA, but the struggle against terrorism and the inability to deal with refugees. Why this laissez-faire attitude to enforcement? It is an interesting culture that creates committees on committees, massive bureaucracy and a plethora of regulations, but doesn’t enforce them.Is the reason merely that these international and inter-state governing bodies are cumbersome? Is it that the Schengen zone of free trade and lax borders is simply difficult to police in practice? The evidence points to a deeper European problem. Why is it that terrorists in Europe, from the killers at Charlie Hebdo, the Paris attacks, the Toulouse murders, the French train shooter or the Copenhagen terrorist, all had relatively easy access to guns? Europe prides itself on gun laws, unlike those “gun-loving” Americans.Yet, “it was unclear how Abdel-Hamed el-Hussein obtained the weapon,” wrote USA Today. In fact it was three weapons: An M95 assault rifle, a 9mm pistol and 7.65mm pistol.The French train shooter had a 9mm Luger and also an AKM rifle. The AK-47s used in the Paris attacks were produced in Serbia, some of them decades ago. The rocket-launcher, rifles and submachine guns used in the Hebdo attacks were purchased in Belgium.Why is it in Europe, under the “strict” gun laws, that all the criminals and terrorists have guns? Not just old handguns, but easy access to automatic rifles and rocket-launchers. Do you ever hear about gun dealers being arrested often in Europe? No. You hear about laws against guns, but not about enforcement of those laws. Prices for these weapons are not even outrageous. About $770 for an AK-47, more for a rocket launcher. French police estimate that “4,000 war weapons” are circulating in France. A German guns dealer has been detained following the Paris attacks, and 800 shotguns “moving from Turkey” have been seized.In Maryland you can buy a semi-automatic Yugoslav Zastava AK-47 with a 16-inch wooden side mount with adjustable sights, of the kind used in Paris, for $579. How is it possible that in the US, with an open gun market, that a similar rifle (semi-automatic as opposed to full-automatic) can be bought for almost the same price? One would think that when things are “illegal” they would be more expensive. But not in Europe, where gun laws mean nothing. Google the phrase “gun dealer sentenced” in Europe and you won’t find a lot of news stories. The Guardian writes that pistols are “easily and cheaply available on the streets of the UK’s big cities.”There are thought to be 150,000 unregistered guns in Ireland.It seems if you want convictions for illegal sale of guns, you have to go to gun-loving America. In March 2015, for example, a New York court sentenced two men to three years in prison for trying to sell guns illegally to the Philippines.LET’S LOOK at how the EU has dealt with immigration. It was revealed that eight migrants got into Europe with the same fake passport as the one used by a terrorist in Paris. Most people see the porous borders now through the lens of terrorism. But the reason to document who is coming into Europe is not about terrorism, it’s about the 99.9 percent who are not terrorists, but whose first experience with Europe should be through the process of legality, waiting in line and being processed properly.Is it really so hard for the EU, with a budget of $160 billion, to set up border controls on Greek islands to process immigrants the way people are processed at an airport? Fingerprint scans, retina scans, issuing proper “migrant laissez-passer” or travel documents, short interview and registration are in order.The authorities may have no way of knowing if Ahmed Almohammed is indeed Ahmed Almohammed, but at least, having created a record of him at the point of entry, he can now be traced later when he applies for asylum in Germany. Many immigrants to the US in the 19th century changed their names or became “new” people at Ellis Island. But from then on there was a record of them.Instead, Europe threw open its borders to millions of people (not just Syrians, but also all those entering from North Africa and other places) without even a modest pretense of law enforcement. It is the same chaos of lies and platitudes that underlie the FIFA corruption scandal, and that underpin the illegal arms trade in Europe. It is the reason 5,000 volunteers for Islamic State came from Europe, and some went back without any attempt to prosecute them.Europe is a continent of chaos and feigned laws. People present in racist terms a concept that the global south is lawless and chaotic, but given the present evidence, it seems the only difference is in the amount of lies about enforcing the law. At least in some countries in the global south people admit there is no law and everything is corrupt.In Europe, everyone talks “zero tolerance” as AK-47s, millions of people, and corrupt soccer officials walk through the revolving door.Follow the author @Sfrantzman
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