Refugee crisis goes far beyond Europe
When it comes to the point where it is hurt or be hurt, something vital has been broken. And that is the point at which Europe has arrived in its handling of the humanitarian tragedy sweeping the continent.
Chancellor Merkel’s plan to open the borders of the wealthiest nation in the EU to those displaced by decades of war in the Middle East could only ever be a temporary stop-gap. Now the barriers are going back up across Europe.
By effectively over-riding the Schengen Agreement and the Dublin Agreement, Mrs Merkel finds herself caught up in a terrible game without rules. The crux is that wars are asymmetrical, their consequences are atypical and the only certainty that comes with them is chaos.
The first Gulf War began in 1991 after Iraq invaded Kuwait, and the US intervened. In 2003 the US invaded Iraq again. Syria has been in turmoil since 2011 when the first protests were held, calling for the overthrow of President Assad.
More than 200,000 Syrians have died in four years of armed conflict. While the loss of life is appalling, some 11 million others have been forced from their homes as forces loyal to Assad and those opposed to his rule battle each other – as well as Isil militants. Every human right has been breached. As chemical weapons and barrel bombs coupled with massive aerial bombardments by the US and its allies are added to the mix, we have before us a vision of hell for civilians.
It is plain that the unfolding refugee tragedy can only be accelerated by the new terrors being visited on the people of the region each day. Justice ministers can meet in Europe, but unless Isil is confronted and the region stabilised, the bodies of children whose parents have been driven from their homes will continue to be washed up on the beaches of Europe. Safe zones must be established in the Middle East.
It is obvious that what we are witnessing is a disaster of global proportions that demands a global solution. The US, the EU, China and Russia must engage with each other and with the leaders of the Gulf states. The lack of leadership and a clear strategy merely serves the dark interests of Isil. History has shown us that the military doesn’t start wars. Politicians start wars, and politicians must also finish them.
At last, a break for small businesses
At long last, the Government is getting around to recognising the contribution of the self-employed and small businesses to the economy right across the country. Businesspeople who struggled to
keep their heads above water during the economic downturn are to be rewarded with a move towards ironing out the inequity in the tax system.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan will give a new tax credit to the self-employed and farmers worth up to €150 in the Budget.
PAYE workers already get a tax credit worth €500, and this will not be affected by the partial extension of the relief in the Budget to the self-employed and farmers.
Over the coming years, the relief should be extended further, but it is a worthwhile gesture which will set the tone for future Budgets.
An internal Fine Gael committee has also recommended that the self-employed also get benefits immediately if they become unemployed, like PAYE workers. It won’t happen in this Budget but the principle is worth debating at least.
Although not lauded as much as the multinational sector, small businesses provide the backbone of the economy in communities of various sizes.
Those who take the risk to invest their time and money in their own business, often with little enough reward, deserve to have State support for their enterprise.