Worlds apart

News items on two prominent European politicians grabbed yesterday’s headlines around the world. The two cases’ common denominator is that both men faced corruption charges. On the other hand, there was a striking difference in the manner in which they were treated by their respective parliaments – the most fundamental body in a democratic system. The first figure is Juergen Moellemann, former German economics minister and deputy chairman of the Free Democratic Party. A charismatic, ambitious and dynamic personality, he fell from grace when he criticized the Palestine policy of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon – a taboo issue in Germany because of the country’s Nazi past. Moellemann was accused of tax evasion and came under fire for issuing an anti-Sharon pamphlet that was allegedly financed by anonymous, perhaps Arab, donations. Insignificant as these acts may sound, German lawmakers lifted his parliamentary immunity. A day later, during a parachute jump Thursday, Moellemann, an experienced jumper, jettisoned his parachute in what was an apparent suicide. The other figure is Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who faces a series of fraud charges. One of his close aides has already been sentenced to 11 years in prison for bribing judges. Berlusconi decided to clear all charges at once and had the Senate – which is controlled by his coalition – approve an immunity bill. Two different politicians, two diametrically opposed mentalities, two separate worlds – but still part of one Europe. The question is, where do we belong? Which of the two worlds do we want to be part of? We are not, of course, calling on government officials, corrupt as these may be, to follow Moellemann’s example in order to prove their moral responsibility. But we are really fed up with the scores of Berlusconi imitators around us – meaning those who use the mechanisms of political power to render themselves unaccountable and be left undistracted to continue unimpeded. It’s time that some got punished for their wrongdoings in this country. If they are unwilling to, then someone else, perhaps their political superiors or the responsible officials, must get them to face up to their responsibilities, even if that means taking them to court.

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