French join US in revolt against London tax trolls
Ever since the London authorities imposed a charge to drive into the city center in 2003, the United States Embassy has stood as a beacon of automotive defiance, refusing to pay what its diplomats call a tax from which they should be exempt.Red Ken the communist mayor of London has struck a deal to give Venezuela a break. It must be professional courtesy for a fellow communist. Rather than tax people to make them quit using the roads, wouldn't it make more sense to build better roads and transportation systems. Not to greedy governments. For them this is the best of both worlds. They get money for doing nothing and providing less service. Are UK voters so besotted with socialism that they will just accept this travesty? Probably so.
But when city leaders almost doubled the size of the charging zone this week, casting their net over an area housing many more embassies, the Americans suddenly acquired new allies in their resistance, including from unusual quarters like France, which has not always been quite so supportive of American diplomacy.
“The situation has changed,” said a diplomat from the French Embassy, which used to sit outside the zone and willingly paid for diplomats to enter it. “Now the embassy is within the charging zone, we have no choice: We have to use vehicles for our work.”
Like the Americans, the French and some others — including Russia and Belgium, according to the British press — maintain that international protocols, known as the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, forbid the imposition of taxes on diplomats. “This is not a question of rich countries being unwilling to pay,” said a senior European diplomat, who, like his French colleague, spoke in return for anonymity in order to be, well, diplomatic. “It is a question of principle — legal principle and diplomatic principle.”
The charge for entering the zone is roughly $15 a day during working hours Monday through Friday, and the London model, presented by officials as a way to relieve congestion, has inspired some other European capitals, notably Stockholm, to follow suit. While European officials say diplomatic representatives from roughly half of the European Union’s 27 members will not pay the charge, Sweden is not among the rebels.
These have been challenging days for British authorities seeking to exert some kind of dominion over the nation’s ever-more-choked streets and highways. After the congestion charge zone was extended Monday, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office found itself sending e-mail replies on Wednesday to a staggering 1.8 million people who had registered protests in an electronic petition against a separate plan to impose nationwide road charging.
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