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Monday, January 28, 2013

Palestinian babies are just as precious as my new daughter

It is six days since my beautiful daughter Caitríona was born. These past six days have been the happiest in my life.

For many years, I have heard other parents rhapsodize about the joy of seeing their little one enter the world safely. But it was only when I held Caitríona for the first time that I fully understood what they were talking about. The warm glow I felt was better than any previous sensation I have ever had. Magic.

Caitríona was delivered to us a week earlier than expected. I am deeply indebted to the gynaecologist who checked Caitríona's progress in her mother's womb so meticulously. When this gynaecologist spotted that Caitríona was not growing quickly enough last week, she promptly arranged for a caesarean to be performed. Her professionalism and kindness -- and that of many fellow doctors and nurses -- helped settle our nerves as we waited for Caitríona to emerge.

It is marvellous to live at a time when medicine has become so advanced that every step of a pregnancy can be monitored, so that potential risks to a mother and her child can be averted. It is marvellous, too, that my adopted country, Belgium, has a world-class system of health care, as well as generous child benefits. Some American friends of mine were surprised to learn that it is standard for a mother and her baby to remain in hospital here for a full five days after a birth.

Explaining why -- irrespective of income -- Europeans tend to have access to better quality care than Americans doesn't require a doctorate in economics. Belgium spends only half as much per capita on health as the US. Yet though medical insurance here is largely handled by a confusing network of "mutual associations" (often linked to political groups), government supervision has meant that each of them offer almost identical services. Fortunately, we have been spared the marauding behaviour that is so rampant among American insurers, who have been known to block patients from undergoing vital procedures based on considerations of profit and "efficiency."

Defending decency

My daughter's birth has underscored for me why we must fight to protect our health systems from the "reforms" imposed by the European and international institutions. Such "reforms" have fundamentally altered the nature of healthcare in Greece and Spain recently, meaning that the jobless and poor in those countries are finding themselves uninsured. Steadily, our "political masters" are dismantling Europe's welfare states and the decencies that distinguish us from America.

As Naomi Klein explained in The Shock Doctrine, slash-and-burn measures ostensibly aimed at reducing the role of the state are often accompanied by state violence. This partly explains why Europe has been developing stronger bonds with Israel. During both his terms as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has presided over a weakening of the social safety net for Israeli citizens and the tightening of the noose around the necks of Palestinians. Despite claiming to be upset by some of his actions, the EU has been willing to step up its cooperation with him.

Becoming a dad has underscored to me why it is so important to express solidarity with the Palestinian people, without dictating to them how they should resist the Israeli occupation. The most distressing image I saw during Israel's eight-day bombardment of Gaza in November was of Jihad Masharawi weeping as he carried the corpse of his 11-month-old son, Omar. No parent should have to go through the pain that was so evident on that man's face.

No threat

There is a high probability that the weapons used to kill Omar were made by an Israeli company that receives EU scientific research grants. Certainly, other Palestinian children have been murdered with bombs dropped by EU-subsidized firms. That is why I have decided to concentrate on exposing how my tax euros are being used to abet crimes against humanity. And that's why I intend to demand that my money is spent on saving lives, not helping to destroy them.

Palestinian babies are every bit as precious as Israeli, American or European babies or as my darling Caitríona. Israeli apartheid -- a system that treats Palestinian babies as a "demographic threat" -- must be opposed.

I have learned many things in the past few days: how to change a diaper; how every item of clothing designed for babies buttons up differently; how to cope with sleep deprivation. Just as it is important to learn new skills, it's also sometimes important to be reminded of things we knew previously. The advent of fatherhood has reminded me that ultimately we are all equal; that discrimination is the result of decisions by the powerful, not by laws of nature.

Irrespective of what we do in adulthood, we all come into the world naked and squawking. We all need to be cuddled and nourished. We all need love.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 28 January 2013.

Monday, January 21, 2013

France's power games in Africa

Supporters of France's military intervention in Mali want us to applaud it as a great act of charity. François Hollande, their argument goes, is protecting the government in Bamako from armed extremists. The "free world" should be grateful that he has taken this selfless stance.

The problem with this "analysis" is that it is wrong.

Hollande may try to give the impression that he has launched some kind of "humanitarian" mission. This idea falls apart when you realise that the Malian authorities - which Hollande is so determined to help - stand accused of many human rights violations. Amnesty International has documented how the Malian security forces have carried out extrajudicial executions of Touareg civilians, killings of farm animals on which nomads depend for their livelihood and an indiscriminate attack on a Touareg camp.

In reality, Hollande is pursuing a policy that can be traced back to Charles de Gaulle, who believed that - despite granting its colonies independence - France must retain a strong influence in sub-Saharan Africa.

Indeed, the French elite seems to have had trouble accepting that it no longer "owns" a big chunk of Africa. When the Cold War ended, France had 10,000 troops and a number of military bases in Africa. This presence has been largely retained, even if the pretexts that "justified" it have disappeared. Recent history is also littered with cases of France meddling in the continent: it undertook 45 military operations in its former colonies between 1960 and 2005.

A "new El Dorado"

A glance at a map is sufficient to understand how Mali fits into France's ambit. It borders other ex-colonies like Algeria, which Hollande visited in December, accompanied by 40 senior businessmen, and Niger, a major source of uranium used by the French nuclear firm Areva.

Total, the French energy giant, has indicated that there may be an abundance of oil and gas to explore in northern Mali and neighbouring Mauritania. Jean François Arrighi de Casanova, a Total representative, has even spoken of a "new El Dorado" in that area.

Northern Mali is - according to the EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton - a hotbed "for all kinds of trafficking, drugs, arms smuggling" by those "terrorists" (her word) that France is fighting. One does not need to be a conspiracy theorist to suspect that the French elite is more interested in preventing insurgents from interfering with Total's work than in championing Mali's population.

It is interesting that Ashton is perturbed only about arms smuggling and not the wider weapons trade. The latest official EU report on weapons sales shows that France is the Union's top exporter, issuing 9.9 billion euros worth of licenses in 2011. The Mali operation has provided France with an opportunity to showcase its Mirage and Rafale planes and Sagaie tanks.

I have no doubt that the insurgents in northern Mali have done appalling things - including, it seems, recruiting child soldiers. But is France solely motivated by revulsion at their human rights abuses?

Of course, it isn't. France was willing to tolerate the activities of insurgents in other parts of Africa, whenever it was deemed politically expedient to do so. France had little difficulty with how insurgents controlled the northern part of Côte d'Ivoire between 2002 and 2011. In that case, the insurgents were described as "rebels", not "terrorists" in Europe. That was because they backed Alassane Outtara, the one-time International Monetary Fund staffer who is now his country's president. France had been eager to have Outarra in power. The official narrative says that France was acting against the brutality of his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo. Yet there are good reasons to surmise that France's real aim was to have someone in office who could be relied on to look after its commercial interests, particularly in Côte d'Ivoire's electricity and water networks.

Some MEPs have lamented lately how the European Union has not collectively rushed to assist France in Mali. France's neo-imperial machinations have nonetheless left their mark on EU foreign policy.

Committed to help?

In 2008, the Union undertook an operation in Chad that was presented as a response to the refugee crisis caused by violence in Darfur, western Sudan. It appeared, though, that the primary purpose of the operation was to shore up the Chadian dictator Idriss Déby. More than half of the troops deployed were from France - Chad's former colonial overlord. To give the mission a fig-leaf of impartiality, an Irish soldier was appointed its commander.

If France was truly committed to helping sub-Saharan Africa, it would have honoured its decades-old pledge to devote at least 0.7 percent of its gross domestic product to alleviating global poverty. As things stand, France allocates less than 0.5 percent of its GDP for that purpose. And the proportion of its development aid going to vital health and education projects is below 20 percent. The life expectancy of a Malian is just 51 years, compared to 81 for a French person.

By contrast, France spends more than 2 percent of its GDP on the military. Despite how it was vilified in the US a decade ago for Jacques Chirac's opposition to the Iraq war, France rivals Britain for the title of Western Europe's most trigger-happy nation. Two years ago, it was the first to attack Libya. Now it has bombed Mali on equally spurious grounds.

Let us be clear: France's policies towards Africa are not about altruism. They are about power.

•First published by New Europe

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Israel named "world humanitarian leader" in EU propaganda blitz

I wasn't sure whether to laugh or scream when tipped off about the latest propaganda blitz planned by European Friends of Israel, a key lobby group in Brussels.

Its calendar for the next few weeks -- not yet posted on the EFI website -- features a number of events designed to present Israel as a caring and liberal country, which has managed to inoculate itself from financial crises.

Later this month (23 January) the EFI will host a mini-conference titled Humanitarian aid - Israel as a world leader. According to the EFI's blurb, Israel has "aid teams poised to respond in the wake of natural or man-made disasters anywhere in the world." One of these teams, apparently, was "first on the scene in January 2010 after the earthquake hit Haiti."

Have those few words broken all previous records for chutzpah? At the time Israel was rushing to help Haiti (or so we are told), it was enforcing a medieval siege on more than 1.5 million people in Gaza. Israel was in no hurry to address the "man-made disaster" its own policies had caused. Rather, it was only after Israeli troops murdered nine activists trying to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza on a flotilla in May 2010 that it moved to ease, but not lift, the blockade.

"Self-congratulation"

Nor, it should be added, is there anything heroic about having the first aid workers in Haiti. As a short new book -- L'échec humanitaire: le cas haïtien (The humanitarian failure: the Haitian case -- by Frédéric Thomas illustrates, that Caribbean nation has been betrayed and misled by the Western aid industry. Of $10 billion pledged to Haiti at an international donors' conference in New York during March 2010, less than $2.5 billion had been released by July 2012.

Thomas is especially scathing of how aid pledges are made for purposes of "self-congratulation", in which the "first recipient of the message is not the Haitian people but voters in the donor country, who are invited to agree with their governments, so generous and effective." While he does not mention Israel, the criticism can be applied to it.

Israel sent over 250 soldiers to Haiti after the earthquake, and posted videos in their honor on Facebook. Not only was this a clear case of hasbara -- as propaganda is called in Hebrew -- it violated a principle which genuine humanitarians regard as fundamental: that emergency assistance should be of a civilian nature and be seen as impartial.

Sandy solidarity?

The EFI is a cross-party alliance of members of the European Parliament (MEPs). Its conference -- to be hold in the Parliament's headquarters -- will be addressed by Navonel Glick from the Israeli Forum for International Humanitarian Aid (IsraAid). Glick has been in New York lately in an apparent gesture of solidarity with victims of Hurricane Sandy.

IsraAid took advantage of that catastrophe by claiming that having a strong military enables Israel to undertake emergency missions. Of course, the less humane side of the same army was displayed when Israel rained its bombs down on Gaza for eight consecutive days in November, again making a mockery of its claim to be a "world leader" in humanitarianism.

Soon after mythologizing about Israel's aid operations, the EFI will turn the spotlight on Israel's economic prowess. A promotional note for a 29 January meeting says that though Israel is small "a host of reforms aimed at liberalizing the economy have allowed it to stand out as one of the world's most competitive economies." The main speaker will be Chaim Hurvitz from Israel's top pharmaceutical firm Teva.

In a March 2012 study, Who Profits? -- a project set up by Palestinian and Israeli women -- documented how Teva benefits from the occupation. The construction of Israel's apartheid wall has meant that pharmacies and hospitals in occupied East Jerusalem have been prevented from dispensing medicines manufactured in the West Bank. As a result, healthcare services on which all Palestinians in East Jerusalem and many others from across the West Bank rely have been forced to buy Israeli and foreign drugs.

Ironic twist

In an ironic twist, EFI will switch from applauding "competitiveness" -- a doctrine which holds that social protections should be dismantled -- to embracing young Israelis who demand that the welfare state be preserved. On 20 February, its special guest will be Daphne Leef, who the EFI has appointed "leader" of last year's Tel Aviv protests against the right-wing policies of Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

Leef has a skewed sense of justice. In a much-circulated speech delivered during September 2011, she grew emotional over how "one million Israelis were living under the threat of missiles" fired from Gaza, without saying anything about how four million Palestinians live under a brutal occupation.

It is not hard to see why the EFI is happy to court her. Leef is a useful pawn for lobbyists determined to perpetuate the lie that Israel is a vibrant democracy.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 14 January 2013.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Europe caves in to Big Tobacco

A few days before Christmas, the tobacco industry chalked up a small but significant victory.

When the European Commission published a new anti-smoking plan on 19 December, it backed away from recommending that cigarettes should be sold in plain packets. Compulsory pictorial warnings of disease will be introduced, yet 30% of the surface area in a box of fags will be reserved for branding.

Why have Brussels officials decided to allow Marlboro and Silk Cut entice young people with their distinctive colour schemes? Why couldn't the EU follow the example set by Australia where tobacco is now wrapped in a shade of green so hideous it reminds me of the uniforms worn in schools run by nuns?

Based on the information I've been able to gather, it appears that the Commission has capitulated to cigarette firms.

Over the past few years tobacco lobbyists have been playing a game of "divide and conquer". After they learned that EU health officials were entertaining the idea of plain packaging, the lobbyists turned to staff in the Commission's trade department. Reading between the lines of the correspondence that I've obtained, it is clear that the lobbyists perceived civil servants handling commercial matters as bigger allies than their colleagues tasked with preventing cancer and heart disease.

Threats

In October 2011, the "public relations" consultancy Bell Pottinger - working on behalf of Imperial Tobacco - contacted various trade officials, expressing its unease about the planned strengthening of the EU's anti-smoking legislation. One letter argued that plain packaging would "compromise European business as a whole". Such a measure would run counter to "fundamental spirit" of EU law on protecting trademarks and designs, according to Tobias Ghersetti from Bell Pottinger's Brussels office.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) - a corporate-funded group that once boasted Donald Rumsfeld as chairman of its policy board - made a bizarre plea to Karel de Gucht, the EU's trade commissioner, in late 2010. ALEC's Karla Jones sent de Gucht a policy paper which contended that "the institution of plain packaging regulations amounts to a government's seizure of, what is in many cases, a corporation's most valuable asset - its trademark". Having made that hard-headed observation, ALEC dismissed all suggestions that putting cigarettes in unattractive wrappers dominated by images of disease could be beneficial for public health. It referred to "reports of smokers in some EU countries" collecting and exchanging pictorial warnings that have been introduced at national level as if they were macabre bubblegum cards.

Not surprisingly, ALEC didn't cite any actual data to support its inference that robust public health laws encourage perverse fetishes. Contrary to what ALEC implied, there is data available to demonstrate that sound legislation leads to a reduction in smoking. As a follow-up to its ratification of the World Health Organisation's framework convention on tobacco control in 2004, Uruguay banned indoor smoking in all public places, increased tobacco taxes and stipulated that 80% of both sides of a cigarette box should be covered by pictorial images and health warnings. In 2003, 39% of Uruguay's men and 28% of its women smoked. By 2009, the rates had fallen to 31% for men and 20% for women.

It is particularly telling that in 2010 Uruguay became the first country to outlaw "differentiated branding", under which lighter shading could be used to distinguish "mild" cigarettes from those with a higher tar content. A 2012 study by the International Tobacco Control Evaluation Project concluded that the proportion of Uruguayans who believed the myth that some cigarettes were less harmful than others decreased from 29% to 15%.

Could the European Commission's decision to allow tobacco firms preserve their brand identities be the result of cowardice? Almost certainly, the answer is "yes". Industry has bombarded officials with papers from lawyers lately, giving less than subtle hints that it would take any plain packaging initiative to court.

Messenger boy

Both EU health and trade officials have held many closed-door discussions with tobacco representatives. This amounts to a rejection of World Health Organisation guidelines, which emphasise that any contact between regulatory authorities and the tobacco industry should be kept to a minimum and should be conducted in public as much as possible.

The Commission's trade department has been broadly helpful to tobacco lobbyists. Rather than rowing behind Australia's efforts, de Gucht and his team made enquiries in 2011 about whether or not plain packaging would constitute a "technical barrier to trade". This stance was at odds with that of Brazil, Cuba and India, all of which defended Australia's right to restrict corporate activities on public health grounds when a case was brought against its anti-smoking law at the World Trade Organisation.

A year earlier, the EU acted as a messenger boy for Big Tobacco. When Canada introduced new rules against tobacco marketing aimed at young people, the Union demanded that it submit a formal notification to the WTO.

Nor should it be forgotten that de Gucht is tacitly encouraging tobacco firms to sue governments whenever their profits are at stake. The trade agreement he is hoping to clinch with Canada shortly looks set to have provisions that will enable corporations contest health, environmental or labour rules perceived as impediments to business. Philip Morris has used comparable provisions in other trade agreements to litigate against Uruguay and Australia.

We should not delude ourselves into thinking that the EU is at war with the tobacco industry. Sadly, it isn't.

•First published by New Europe, 13-20 January 2013.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Apartheid college inspires EU "terrorism" project

Haifa University underscored its support for Israeli apartheid during the eight-day offensive against Gaza in November. While Palestinians at the college were banned from expressing solidarity with those under attack, the academic authorities seemed to have no difficulty with Jewish Israeli students chanting "Death to the Arabs."

So why is this racist institution considered a good source on "terrorism" by a European Union-financed project on internet surveillance?

For the past few years, the Clean IT (information technology) forum has been organizing discussions between private companies and public bodies about how websites and chat rooms are allegedly used to recruit young people to "terrorist" groups. The project is coordinated by the Dutch ministry for justice and security and has received a grant of more than €300,000 ($400,000) from the EU.

To guide its work, the initiative has collected a number of studies. One of the latest additions --- Al-Qaeda has sent you a friend request -- was written by Gabriel Weimann, a professor of communications at Haifa. It kicks off with an anecdote about Hamas giving lessons in bomb-making techniques online before recycling reports that Palestinian resistance fighters have set up video-sharing sites modelled on YouTube. (Needless to say, Weimann doesn't use the word "resistance").

Affront to civil liberties

Weimann's analysis is, to be charitable, not exactly incisive. But what's significant is that it is being taken seriously by a forum that is studying proposals which represent an affront to civil liberties. A leaked paper drawn up by the Clean IT project last year recommended that "knowingly providing hyperlinks on websites to terrorist content must be defined by law as illegal."

I asked But Klassen, chief administrator with the project, why documents posted on the Clean IT website depicted Hamas as a "terrorist" organization, when there is ample evidence that it has perpetrated far less violence than the State of Israel. He replied that the documents (including the Haifa study) had been posted "because we received questions about terrorism, what it is and if it really exists."

He added: "As these are documents from others, the Clean IT project does not have a responsibility for the content of these documents. We realize this might be confusing, so we will clarify this on our website."

Klassen also said that his project "does not have a policy with regard to any (possible) terrorist organization." Yet that assertion is somewhat misleading. As a Dutch civil servant, Klassen is bound by the policy of his government, which -- like all EU countries -- has blacklisted Hamas as "terrorist." Moreover, the project has reported that there is "consensus" among its participants about accepting the EU's definition of "terrorism", which contains the caveat that the "t" word can never be applied to any act committed by a state. According to the Union, then, people who fight oppression by Israel can be labelled "terrorists" but the oppressor cannot be.

Clean IT should be viewed in the broader context of attempts by the EU to nurture the development of a "homeland security" industry. The European Commission has advocated that €3.8 billion from is science programme be spent on subsidizing "security research" between 2014 and 2020.

Racial profiling

Some of the companies taking part in Clean IT seem to be hoping that their innovations will foment xenophobia.

Euvison Technologies, one such firm, says it has the "exclusive right" to sublicense Impala, a video search engine pioneered by researchers in the Netherlands. The firm's website gives an "impressive list" of "concepts" that Impact can "detect" in digital media.

When I clicked on the section "faces," I learned that the technology can distinguish people based on their skin pigmentation. Showing various photos and screen grabs, the section told me that Impala can be used for "ranking Caucasians." The underlying message was unmistakable: Arabs and Africans could just as readily be "detected" or "ranked."

A similarly implicit message was delivered by the section titled "people with beards." Several brown-hued men, one clearly a Muslim, featured in the head-shots on display.

This means that a firm marketing "racial profiling" software is trying to benefit from an EU-supported scheme.

Distance

After I and a few other journalists wrote articles critical of Clean IT during the autumn, the European Commission sought to distance itself from the project. Responding to a number of queries, Cecilia Malmstrӧm, the EU's internal affairs commissioner, said that the "conclusions of the project will only reflect the opinions of the authors and will not represent the views of the European Commission."

The Commission is not as aloof from the project as she wants us to think. Clean IT reflects the mania for "public-private partnerships" in Brussels and throughout the EU. Under this rubric, services that ought to be under democratic control are handed over to corporations with just one aim: making profits by any means necessary.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 11 January 2013.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Thatcher haunts Europe's healthcare 'reforms'

Shoulder pads are less prominent. Filofaxes have been replaced by iPhones. And a whole generation has grown up without being subjected to Kajagoogoo.

So why I am worried that 2013 will feel like the 1980s?

This year will result in a fundamental transformation of European healthcare. By October, all EU countries are required to put a new law on "patients' rights" onto their statute books. At first glance, the law seems laudable. People who travel from one state in the Union to another for treatment will be entitled to have their medical bills reimbursed by their home country.

The small-print to the law is more revealing. Because it has been introduced as a "single market" initiative, it paves the way for healthcare to be treated primarily as a business. This is a retrograde step; it runs counter to the philosophy on which a welfare state should be based, namely that everyone should receive the same quality of treatment regardless of his or her income. The reference to "patient's rights" is Orwellian: those who can afford to go abroad for an operation will be accorded more rights than those who can't.

Where does the idea of a "single market" or "internal market" in healthcare come from? In 1984, the American economist Alain Enthoven spent a month in Britain on the invitation of Nuffield, a group of private hospitals. He recommended applying "internal market" principles to the National Health Service in an attempt to "capture some of the virtues we generally associate with the private sector and combine them with the social responsibility and concern for equity we associate with democratic government".

Choice?

Enthoven also complained that the British system of medicine lacked the elements of "consumer choice" and "competition" found in America. Although Margaret Thatcher didn't get around to implementing all these suggestions, many of them were found in a policy paper on NHS "reform" published by Ken Clarke, health secretary in her government, in 1989.

Supporters of the EU's "patient's rights" law have used the same terminology and arguments as Enthoven. Graham Watson, then head of the Liberal grouping in the European Parliament, told me in 2009 that "the best way to improve services for all" is "to ensure that there is a healthy competition among suppliers so that patients and authorities are free to choose the best offer among several".

That same year, a study was published by the American Journal of Public Health, stating that almost 45,000 people died per annum in the US because they have no medical insurance. This is what happens when legislators decide the provision of medicine should be determined by "choice", rather than need.

We should not kid ourselves into thinking that we are immune from these problems in Europe. Greece used to treat its jobless citizens without charge. Cutbacks introduced as a result of pressure from the EU and International Monetary Fund have meant that the unemployed now have to pay for treatment once benefits linked to their old jobs expire. Similar changes have been made in Spain.

"Tough love"

Even though 1.2 million Greeks are now uninsured, these measures have gladdened the denizens of think tank land. The Lisbon Council, an outfit committed to "competitiveness" is headquartered in the Residence Palace, a former luxury hotel in Brussels. It recently published a "state of the Union" assessment written by two economists from Berenberg, Germany's oldest private bank. Holger Schmieding and Christian Schulz, the two analysts in question, cited the austerity measures imposed on Greece and as an example of "tough love" in that "close-knit family of nations" called the euro-zone. While the analysts warned that the "love" risked being a little too "tough" at times, they broadly approved of it. The Athens government, they concluded, had made "exceptional progress" on "adjustment" towards "competitiveness" (a byword for destroying the welfare state).

Bruegel, another Brussels "tank tank", has been striving to make satire redundant. It has been busy lately promoting a book by its one-time chief Mario Monti. In the book, Monti addresses the need to enhance democracy. Few people are less qualified to make this case: Monti spent a year between 2011 and 2012 leading an unelected government in Italy, where one of his first acts was to announce that health spending would be cut by 5 billion euros.

The UN's World Development Report for 2010 ranked countries based on public satisfaction with their healthcare systems. Five of the top ten - Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Britain - belonged to the European Union.

This finding indicates that Europe has made enormous strides towards providing high quality and affordable (in some cases, free) treatment. The achievement is all the more remarkable when you realise that Europe's welfare states were founded following the destruction of the Second World War. As there is no demand for health "reforms" (another despicable euphemism) among voters, it's no wonder that they are being undertaken by anti-democratic means.

Nye Bevan, the Labour Party politician who was instrumental in setting up Britain's NHS, once said that no society can call itself civilised if it deprives a sick person of care because he or she is poor. The US remains uncivilised, partly due to the unflagging efforts of Alain Enthoven. At the age of 82, Enthoven continues to urge that public spending on health be "curtailed".

His inhuman thinking has caused immense suffering in America. His vision should not be realised in Europe, too.

•First published in Our World in 2013, special edition of New Europe, January 2013.