Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The European Union has enough money to promote human rights and democracy — in America

In the extensive list of stories fitting inside the If you're not harmed by an American, your suffering doesn't count department, the Wall Street Journal reacts to a London Telegraph report on the fact that
in 2009 the EU gave at least €2.6 million ($3.6 million) to groups lobbying against the death penalty in America. The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, a project of the unelected European Commission, has given six-figure handouts to groups such as the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Witness to Innocence and—the list's largest stateside recipient—€708,162 to the poverty-stricken lawyers at the American Bar Association Fund for Justice and Education.

This concern for convicted American murderers is touching, given that its normal recipients are civil-society groups in the likes of Sudan and Zimbabwe. Somehow North Korea and Cuba didn't make the EU's list, perhaps because they execute people without a trial.

Europe's secular populations mostly oppose capital punishment, though a September 2010 YouGov poll reported that 51% of Brits favored executing murderers. In 2006 Poland's then-newly elected president, the late Lech Kaczynski, noted on Polish radio that abolishing the death penalty awarded "an unimaginable advantage to the criminal over his victim, the advantage of life over death," adding "We need to discuss this in Europe."

The Commission soon ended the discussion: "The death penalty is not compatible with European values," its spokesman said at the time.

American states are free to decide their own penal codes, which vary widely and change as facts and public values evolve. Europe won't allow such a debate at home but feels the moral afflatus to tax its own citizens to promote one side of the argument in America. Europe can't find the money to pay for its fair share of NATO but it can spare a dime to hector its main defense benefactor on criminal law. This is why fewer and fewer Americans take Europe seriously.