Best columns: Europe
No longer a tax haven
Is the European Union trying to push the Swiss toward the far right? asked Philippe Kenel. Because that could well be the effect of the bloc putting Switzerland on its “gray list” of countries that only partly comply with the EU on tax matters. This insult is apparently meant to punish Swiss voters for rejecting, in a referendum last February, the government’s attempt to bring Swiss corporate tax law fully in line with international standards. Yet all this labeling will do is alienate them from the EU, further emboldening the xenophobic Swiss People’s Party. The truth is that Switzerland began dismantling banking secrecy in 2009 and is well on its way to full tax compliance. Yet EU officials continue to see Switzerland’s financial apparatus as it once was, “like a star whose light continues to shine though it has been dead for thousands of years.” Switzerland, though not a member, has a uniquely close relationship with the EU, and we abide by most EU norms on the free movement of people. To preserve this status, it’s vital that the EU not only “be seen as a reliable neighbor, but also perceived emotionally as a true partner.” Putting us on a gray list, under financial surveillance, is like “hiring a private detective to spy on your spouse.” At that point, the marriage is surely in trouble.
Pizza: our gift to the world
Neapolitan pizza is now officially a world treasure, said Elisabetta Moro. UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, has just added the Naples-born art of the pizzaiuolo to the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It’s a welcome recognition of how a people “transformed a meal born of poverty into the most famous comfort food in the world.” Mediterranean peoples have for centuries baked quick-fired bread, “but only the Neapolitan pizza makers made it a masterpiece of taste.” The breakthrough came in the 18th century, when bakers in Naples began selling a flattened, round focaccia topped with anchovies, oil, garlic, and oregano. The buyers were “the workers of the poorer classes, such as carters, bricklayers, and washerwomen.” Pizza was a cheap street food that could keep you satisfied all day. Beloved by all, affordable to all, it is ideal for sharing, which “makes it an authentic community product.” That—more than its inherent deliciousness—is what the heritage award honors. Pizza is a food that “creates forms of conviviality, exchange, and mutuality.” It is now made all over the globe, and while every culture has adapted it, none has improved upon it. Thanks to UNESCO, “we know that the only authentic one is ours.” ■