All traces of wind removed from their sails, Berlin and EU officials were stunned at Libya’s sudden release of the six foreign medics orchestrated by French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Cecilia. After eight years of patient EU effort to buy the hostages off in a slow and orderly manner, much of it under German leadership, the impatient Sarkozy did an end run and bought the hostages off in a fast and spectacular manner instead.

“Look, we’ve been in this business for years,” said one irritated Berlin hostage purchasing agent. “And we have established procedures for established procedures like this. Am I supposed to jump for joy when this new kid on the block throws everything overboard and ruins it all by actually doing what we’ve been meaning to do all along? I don’t think so.”

Sarkozy’s gate-crashing escapade was indeed a resounding success, by European standards. It was a moral and diplomatic fiasco, in other words. Not only will the EU be rewarding Libya with 10 million euros for having falsely held a number of its citizens (Bulgaria joined the EU after the arrests) hostage under the threat of death for eight long years, by agreeing to use these funds to support the Aids-infected children Libya claims were purposely infected by the nurses, the EU admits its own guilt. But money isn’t everything. Because the Libyans are so wonderful and open to reason and, well, have lots of oil, Europe is also planning to discuss discussing becoming “full partners” with them in upcoming discussions.

Well at least the rest of the world knows now that crime – as in hostage taking crime – simply doesn’t pay. Not unless the hostages taken are European, that is.

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