Making Her Name in the West

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

A surprising summer TV ratings hit, in many countries, was the Women’s Football European Championship Tournament, just concluded this past Sunday and held at various stadiums in the Netherlands starting on 16 July.

As with all such tournaments, things only start to get really serious when it comes to the knock-out rounds, here the quarter-finals which were held on the weekend of 29-30 July. I tuned in then to the Germany-vs.-Denmark game, and was taken by surprise at the beginning when the stadium band played the Danish national anthem and – as is standard – the TV camera panned the line of starting Denmark players. One of them was definitely not like the others: not fair-skinned and blonde or standard brunette, but quite dark-skinned and dark-haired indeed. That was number 9, Nadia Nadim (also nothing near the typical Danish first or last name), who it turned out played as one of the forward strikers within Denmark’s 4-4-2 system.

Nadim actually scored, with a header, the goal that brought Denmark back to 1-1 against the Germans (cancelling out their goalkeeper’s terrible mistake that had allowed in a long-range strike for the Germans’ one goal), in a game the Danes would go on to win 2-1, a spectacular upset against the German women’s team that had won the last six such tournaments. She also scored Denmark’s first goal – an unstoppable penalty-kick – in the final against the Netherlands that the Danish team ultimately lost 2-4. And throughout the tournament (at least the games I watched) she was a dynamo of energy up there at the front of the Danish line.

But the equally interesting thing here is the back-story. Where is this lady from? This piece from The Local.dk explains things well enough, in English: She was born in Herat, Afghanistan, to a father who was an officer in the Afghan Army and was executed by the Taliban in 2000, whereupon she fled with her mother and siblings to Europe, to Denmark. (I believe hearing during a game broadcast that the original plan was actually to carry on to go live in England.)

Now 29 years old, she is starting striker for the Denmark women’s national team, as well as for the Portland Thorns in the (American) National Women’s Soccer League. But that’s not all: she ultimately will become a doctor, as she is also studying in Denmark towards her medical degree. (For those not in the know, that requires abilities in math and science.) PLUS, as this piece from the website of a Danish sports TV channel puts it, she speaks seven languages (Danish, English, German, French, Farsi, Urdu and Hindi) and can be interviewed in at least the first three listed. (Nadia quote from that sports-site piece: “I’m quite bright. You would hardly believe it – surprise!”)

Inevitably, then, she embodies themes that go far beyond the mere persona of Nadia Nadim herself, in several directions. There is the elevation of international women’s football in the general public interest that this particular tournament has helped achieve, with the related and important aspect that now, for once, girls interested in playing football finally have heroes there performing on TV to which they can relate, of their same gender. Except that these particular feats, of course, were pretty much achieved collectively by all the women players participating in that Euros tournament.

For Nadim, in addition, there is the refugee aspect, the fact that she certainly does not “look” very Danish – and indeed only became a citizen when she was 12-13 years old. I daresay, however, that you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone calling for her to be thrown out of the country, even among Denmark’s most rabid anti-foreigner rabble (all tattoos, piercings and Viking-horns). Denmark has certainly had a problem within the context of the Europe-wide refugee crisis that exploded in mid-2015, and it’s fair to say the country has mainly tried to keep its doors closed; it’s anti-foreigner party, the Danish People’s Party, has had strong influence on each government since the turn of the century. In Germany, similar anti-foreigner sentiment has to some degree been tamped down through nation-wide delight at the success of the men’s football team, which features stars of Turkish, Tunisian, Ghanaian lineage and the like. Might the same thing happen in Denmark via Nadia Nadim?

Yet I feel there is an even greater point to be made here, by looking back to where she originally came from. My thoughts were turned in this direction when I recently came across this piece from De Volkskrant:


“In some parts of Afghanistan women aren’t even referred to by name.” First paragraph of the article:

Women in Afghanistan are often indicated as “mother,” “daughter,” “wife” or “grandma.” In some parts of the land the name is not even denoted on birth-certificates, and on the marriage license only the name of the groom and the father of the bride are to be read. It even happens that the name of a woman who has died is not put on her gravestone, but she is rather referred to as “wife of.” Certainly within conservative circles, it is just not done to use a woman’s name within the family environment.

That is what Nadia Nadim escaped when she fled with her family. Does anyone think she would have played football (there is no Afghan national women’s football team), learned seven languages, become a doctor had she stayed in Afghanistan? We all know that the chances are overwhelming that she would have been kept illiterate and barefoot, restricted her whole life long to the usual roles of child-bearer and household servant. For we know that one of the things the Taliban are quite serious about is that girls are not to be educated – just ask Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala. (Admittedly, Malala herself is Pakistani, but the point still applies. By the way, that sort of outside-imposed upholding of women’s rights still does not justify the continued presence in that country of foreign military forces, nor the trillions of dollars or many thousands of lives – native and foreign – that have been wasted there since 2001.)

It was only by escaping to the West that Nadim could develop and display her quite impressive personal potential – and only in these comparatively rich (could one say: “comparatively civilized”?) countries where the society that took her in could also benefit from her many gifts. Why are these other countries so poor? Admittedly, it is a complicated question, which certainly involves somewhat of a history of colonial exploitation. But Nadia Nadim shows that an important reason they are still poor is their unwillingness to allow women to contribute to society in all the ways that they can; and this has to be specified as a very grave problem centered around a certain religion, namely Islam.

P.S.: For those interested in hearing her speak English, here is an interview she did in Oregon as a Portland Thorns player. (When I have time, I’ll see if I can embed that here in this post – thanks for making it so difficult, WordPress.)

Also: It seems she mostly tweets in English, for whatever reason. Sure, that reason may be “because that’s not really her account” (it’s not verified), but take a look, it has pictures you imagine only she and her team-mates had access to, and the like.

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Polar Role-Reversal

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Among the world turmoil occupying us in this run-up to the 2014 Christmas period, one alarming development that you may well have missed was Denmark’s filing of a formal claim on Monday to the area of the North Pole. For some years – and particularly now that the melting of the Northern icecap is laying them bare – the considerable oil & gas natural resources said to be just under the Arctic Sea floor have piqued the interest of those countries lying along its periphery in trying to extend their sovereignties as far as possible into that area, consistent with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

You’re right, Denmark does not itself border the Arctic Ocean; what does is Greenland, whose foreign and defense policies Denmark still controls, even as it otherwise enjoys self-government. Indeed, it is an underwater ridge that extends from Greenland through the Arctic area that constitutes the legal basis for Denmark’s claim.

So now we have this self-reflective comment from the website of DR, or Danmarks Radio, the Danish government-owned national TV and radio network.

Forsker_Nordpol
You could say this is a bold, even audacious, move and those interests it challenges directly (aside from the well-known seasonal actors – Hello Santa!) are mainly Canada and Russia. Particularly Russia, as we realize from this quote in the linked DR piece from a Danish journalist who has written extensively about the Arctic:

This is a gigantic piece of the sea-floor that Denmark and Greenland are now claiming. This extends – and this is the surprising thing – the entire way over to Russia’s nautical border. Danish politicians have therefore chosen to use all means provided to them by the UN’s oceans commission.

It is a surprise; this is Denmark we are talking about here. Or, as the comedian Craig Ferguson just put it:

The Danes are causing a bit of trouble. The kingdom of Denmark claimed the North Pole as their own. Hey, you can’t just reach out and take something if you want it, Denmark. That’s Russia’s job.

Indeed. That DR Nyheder tweet literally reads “Russia as meek as a lamb in the Arctic – we are the aggressive ones.” How could this be? This is Putin’s Russia we are talking about, after all, and the Danes, whose neighbors haven’t had anything to complain about since Viking times.

Could it have something to do with the very recent drastic weakening of Putin’s geopolitical position brought about by the collapse of the oil price and the ruble? Is the lack (so far) of Russian reaction the first sign we have that these troubles will likely tone down Russia’s behavior after all? Not according to Jakob Busk Olsen, who wrote this DR piece; he instead reckons that Russian decision-makers are too aware how the region is so hostile to man that absolute lack of conflict is necessary for anyone to be able to safely make the substantial investments (in offshore drilling platforms, etc.) to exploit those resources. Better to not rock the boat.

And why is Denmark acting so aggressively to safeguard to itself access to those presumed oil and gas deposits, when that country is among the world’s pioneers in transitioning away from fossil fuels? The key thing to remember here is that the Kingdom is actually acting on behalf of its semi-ward Greenland; it clearly would like to be rid of its remaining obligations there, but Greenland will eventually be able to stand on its own feet economically mainly with its own trousseau of fossil-fuel assets.

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Nemesis

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

That’s the name for the spirit of divine retribution in Greek mythology, we are told, which exacted its vengeance against those exhibiting hubris, another classic mythological concept.

Nemesis is now knocking on the door of the British government, specificallly the British Ministry of Defense, as is apparent from revelations over the past weekend from the Süddeutsche Zeitung:
Irak_gefoltert
Abu Ghraib, it would seem, was no isolated incident; if these allegations hold true, then the British Army was itself engaged in the systematic torture of Iraqi prisoners – although not at Abu Ghraib, it had built its own prisons of horrors, most nearer to Basra. This included death while in captivity:

The 26-year-old widower Baha Mousa died after two days in British captivity. The autopsy reported 93 injuries – abrasions, lacerations and broken ribs. Listed cause of death: suffocation.

“A regrettable, isolated incident,” was the explanation for this from the British authorities. Others beg to differ, specifically the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), with offices in Berlin, which has teamed up with the Birmingham-based human rights law firm Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), in particular to prove not isolated but systematic mistreatment of detainees in British custody in Iraq to the satisfaction of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. They’ve brought together testimony from 109 former prisoners, with complaints spanning various time-periods within 2003-2008, and at differing locations – which would seem to tend towards the “systematic.” (more…)

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Latest Danish Super-Bridge

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Denmark (see the adjoining map, click to enlarge) is very much, if not exclusively, an island-nation. And Denmark remains quite prosperous as well, having so far weathered the financial crises and “Great Recession” of the past few years with aplomb. These two facts have combined to produce a wave of bridge-building projects over the past fifteen years or so – after all, if there’s plenty of government money, why not use some of it to ease inter-island communications? First the Danish authorities built the Great Belt Bridge (almost 7 km long) connecting the island of Fyn with that of Sjælland (where Copenhagen is situated) in 1998. (On the map, it’s in the middle, linking up “Nyborg” on the left/West with “Korsør” on the right/East.) Then in 2000 the Øresund Bridge (almost 8km long) was opened connecting Copenhagen with the Swedish mainland city of Malmö.

The next project will be creating a link ultimately to connect Copenhagen with Hamburg, one that crosses that strait you see there at bottom labeled “Fehmarn Bælt” between the Danish Rødby Havn (North) and the German Puttgarden (South). Right now a couple of commercial ferries serve cars, trains, bicycles and pedestrians for crossing that distance of about 18.6km in about 45 minutes. But that is increasingly not good enough for the requirements of 2010, at least in the eyes of the Danish Transport Ministry which has taken over the project’s leadership – supervised, of course, by the Danish legislature, or Folketing. (more…)

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Copenhagen Climate Conference Failure: Post-Mortem

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

As all of us realize who care to recall, that COP15 “Hopenhagen” Climate Summit of last December was a failure, despite the personal involvement of nearly all top world leaders, including President Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. No clear agreement on worldwide action to act against global warming and the emission of greenhouse gases – much less one with any binding force – was arrived at. Official commitment to such action on the part of most governments since then has mostly just dwindled away. The question naturally arises, “How could it have failed?”, but that is an inquiry that naturally invites a lot of finger-pointing. As for the host Danish government, the Prime Minister’s Office (Statsministeriet) has conducted its own classified analysis of the question – something which reporters Martin Aagaard and Mette Østergaard of the mainstream newspaper Politiken nonetheless managed to get a hold of and discuss in an article in that newspaper. (more…)

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Olympians Playing Stoned

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

This post is intended as a shout-out to Jay, to Letterman, to comedy-writing staffs everywhere. Here’s the deal: I give you the straight line, culled from a real live news-piece – Women’s curling team receives psychological help, reports the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten – and you take it from there. It doesn’t have to mean sending me your women’s curling jokes (it wouldn’t have to be “Danish”) by e-mail*; I’d be satisfied just with hearing a good one – just one! – from Leno’s monologue, or simply having it come back home here to Papa through the Internets somehow.

This choice of topic is not accidental, although its further elaboration in the Danish press is serendipitous. And to a great extent I am offering my find here in gratitude for some great introductory curling material already enjoyed. I’m referring specifically to Letterman, Wednesday night, February 17, and his material could also be of help in providing some background for those of you who may have no idea what this Olympic sport of “curling” is all about.

In curling, they get a 40 lb. granite stone and send it down the ice and then they sweep the debris from in front of it. It’s all the fun of shuffleboard, plus household chores.

(more…)

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Good for the New Citizen, Good for the Dansker

Monday, August 17th, 2009

The issue hasn’t recently cropped up spectacularly for a while, like it did during 2005-2006’s Muhammed cartoons controversy, but the problem of integrating immigrants – particularly from non-Western cultures – has certainly never left Denmark, not to mention most other Western European countries. Now the head of one of the main Danish political parties, one that is actually part of the current ruling coalition, Det Konservative Folkeparti (the Conservative People’s Party), Lene Espersen, has put forward a solution, as reported by Anita Sørensen in Berlingske Tidende.

(Please don’t confuse Det Konservative Folkeparti with Dansk Folkeparti, or the Danish People’s Party, which made its name with its aggressively anti-immigrant stance and is not currently in the government – although it effectively is, since its support enables the current coalition to carry on without being voted down in the Parliament. Also of note: Lene Espersen, a woman, is consistently labeled in the newspapers as the Conservative People’s Party’s formand or “spokesman”; I guess they don’t get all hung up about gender- or politically-correct terminology in Denmark.) (more…)

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Denmark as Non-Inquisitive Fugleman

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

fugleman – noun, plural -men. 1. (formerly) a soldier placed in front of a military company as a good model during training drills. 2. a person who heads a group.

dansk_supermodel1So I’m taking my usual stroll through my RSS reader . . . and what do I come across? Something from the Danish daily Berlingske Tidende, entitled The Danish supermodel! Hey, click on that sucker . . . !

To my disappointment, it turns out to have nothing to do at all with anything like the efforts of some lithe, shapely (and probably under-fed) young Miss from, say, the Jutland hinterlands to displace Claudia Schiffer or Gisele Bundchen (she wears the pants!) from the catwalk. But you realize that the parlous times we’re currently in don’t really allow for such idle distractions, right? (Not that EuroSavant has followed, or even is able to follow, this line consistently . . .)

You’ll be glad to know that the “Supermodel” that this article discusses is indeed of an economic nature, namely the Danes’ way of putting together and running their economy, which seems to work extremely well in a time when we are all looking for extremely good solutions. For we have Business Week not long ago plaintively blazing the headline “What is capitalism’s future?” And as this Berlingske article proclaims, “The USA has disappointed the world. The American model, with its irrepressible belief in free-market forces where everyone forges his own success, has loudly broken own.” What could replace it? Why, possibly that Danish “supermodel”! (more…)

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High-Tech Poker Conquers Denmark

Sunday, April 17th, 2005

Ludomani – there’s your Danish word for the day, meaning “compulsive gambling.” Plagues to society are one of my fascinations, and so will often be encountered on these pages, but make that plagues to rich societies. Europe is after all my self-appointed beat. So don’t expect to come to EuroSavant and find anything about the mysterious Marburg virus stalking Angola, for example. Instead, take a situation where national payment systems evolve to the point where you can send money almost anywhere, almost instantly; and where you can receive anywhere, on your mobile telephone, attractive, easy-to-look-at data. Two “goods,” right?, which must characterize a nation riding modern technology’s leading edge. Unfortunately, as the Danes are now finding out, what all this must also mean, sooner or later, is an explosion of high-tech gambling – and ludomani. (more…)

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(Back) Into Iraq? Ummm . . . You First!

Sunday, July 25th, 2004

Remember back last winter, when a big fuss hit over the Pentagon announcing a policy prohibiting the awarding of contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq to states which hadn’t been active participants in the Coalition? (€S covered the reaction in both Germany and France.) It sure seemed a good idea then to be among the “ins” rather then the “outs” and so to look forward to the awarding of juicy reconstruction contracts to firms from out of your country.

Well, first of all doubts set in early – particularly in the Polish press – as to whether the Pentagon was really willing to steer those contracts to any other than American firms, with maybe the occasional British company thrown in. Of course, with the transfer-of-sovereignty last month, now it’s supposed to be the Iraqis themselves in charge of such decisions. But things have instead reached a stage where commercial calculations have taken another turn entirely. For instance, those in the transport business might be interested to know of a contract for trucking services that might be coming up for tender soon. The present holder, the Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport Company, is under a bit of pressure – seven of its drivers were abducted in one day, last Wednesday, and are now being held hostage, under the threat of being beheaded, by Islamic militants! (more…)

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Foreigners Dominate Denmark’s Criminals

Friday, July 16th, 2004

Results of a recently-released survey conducted last May 4 among the population of Denmark’s jails by the Institute for Prisoner Welfare (Kriminalforsorgen) and the Danish State Statistical Bureau (Danmarks Statistik) have raised some eyebrows. That study found that a full one-quarter of Denmark’s imprisoned criminals (specifically: 955 out of 3,741) are either of foreign nationality or the direct descendants of foreigners. (more…)

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The Danish “People’s Strike” (1944)

Tuesday, July 13th, 2004

Today EuroSavant extends its definition of the “European non-English-language” press a slight bit to include a radio station, or at least that radio station’s website. I’m speaking in particular here of the Danish public radio station “P1,” which broadcasts news and public affairs.

(“P2” broadcasts mainly classical music and literature/arts-related programs, while “P3” is the public radio station devoted to pop music. At the same time, there exist a number of private radio stations broadcasting in the country – quite legally – which unlike the public stations can broadcast commercials, and which tend to concentrate on pop music.)

In particular, P1 broadcast a few weeks ago a series of commemorative programs to recount the Danish “people’s strike” against the Nazi occupation that occurred just over sixty years ago, at the end of June/beginning of July of 1944. There remain a series of webpages devoted to this subject just off of the main P1 homepage (this is the Folkestrejken homepage), and their high quotient of audio-visual content make them worth a look to anyone interested in this bit of World War II history, even if s/he doesn’t know the language. (more…)

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Europa XL: A Cultural Portrait of Denmark

Wednesday, February 25th, 2004

Yes, I haven’t been around for a while. The reason is that I’ve been busy setting up my other weblog, SegwayEuroTour, a process which I confess is as yet still incomplete. Still, the writings over there is rather different from what you’re accustomed to finding here on EuroSavant, so I can make at least a theoretical case that I should be able to pursue both simultaneously. I’ve just had a brand new Segway HT (a p-Series, for those of you in-the-know) shipped over here to me in the Netherlands, you see, where such things are as scarce as hen’s teeth. I’ve already had great fun taking her (her name’s “Marleen,” by the way) out in public, and so far that has just been to take around to show to acquaintances! There are surely many more adventures to come, and they will be chronicled over at that other site.

In the meantime – just to be further selfish about things, but I guess this website here is also basically about me – I have some paid work translating from Danish into English, so I have this renewed interest in the Danish press. It’s lucky that I do, for an Internet-journey over there alerts me to a very interesting series currently going on in the webpages of the main Danish daily Politiken, called Europa XL. (What does that “XL” mean? I can’t quite tell: I suppose it could be Roman numerals for “40” – but that doesn’t seem to make any sense – or it could mean “extra large.”)

“We know the EU as a big bureaucratic system. Nations without any face, without body,” begins that introductory article. The point of this series is to do something about that for Politiken’s readers, to provide precisely that face to each of the EU’s fifteen current members (in articles appearing up to the big May 1, 2004, expansion date) and then to the ten new members (in articles after that). “How do these different lands see themselves? What are their special values? And how can each enrich a common European culture?” – Politiken intends to approach one “characteristic voice” from each country – generally a prominent cultural figure of that land – to provide the following concerning their respective country (with their commentary, of course): a painting, a photograph, a person, an object, a text, a piece of music or song, a poem, a food-dish, a place, and an event. (more…)

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Belgian IGC Play-by-Play

Tuesday, October 7th, 2003

Yes, I’ve managed to kick my recent Danish fixation. And yes, that EU Constitutional Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) got underway this past weekend, starting with a one-day EU summit meeting on Saturday attended by heads of state and/or heads of government of all 15 current EU members, the 10 members-states which will join the EU at the beginning of next May, and 3 other states slated to join somewhat later as well (namely Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey). They were welcomed by current EU President Silvio Berlusconi, who called for an “act of will” from out of the assembled delegations, to come up with a version of the Constitution acceptable to all by Christmas. As President, Berlusconi got to speak first, and got to speak a little longer, and he was followed by five minutes’ remarks from European Commission president Romano Prodi, then European Parliament president Pat Cox, then from leaders of each of the 28 national delegations. “After everyone had spoken, basically nothing had been said, much less discussed,” comments Die Zeit’s article on the proceedings, Strength-of-Will, At Least up until Christmas, which, although I’m indebted to it for many of the above details, I found otherwise disappointing in its low quotient of actual analysis.

Maybe it was just too early to be able to say anything truly profound. Those heads of state/government couldn’t hang around for long – they’re a busy bunch of Euro-men and -women – meaning that it was their representatives, generally the foreign ministers, who were left behind to roll up their sleeves and start getting into the details. I’ve found good coverage about this part – the rest of the story, so to speak – in a series of articles from the Belgian on-line Gazet van Antwerpen. (more…)

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Denmark Rejoins the EU’s Small Countries

Sunday, October 5th, 2003

Yes, its “Denmark Day,” but time now to go in a more serious direction, which is the Danish government’s approach to the EU Constitutional Intergovernmental Conference that opened this weekend in Rome. This event is naturally at the top of the Danish news, and is covered in all three leading nationwide, general-interest dailies, Politiken, Belingske Tidende, and Jyllands-Posten.

It turns out that there is important news to report, as it seems that Danish premier Anders Fogh Rasmussen has altered his government’s policy towards the draft Constitution in a notable way as the IGC begins. (more…)

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Lindh and the Euro – The View from Denmark

Sunday, September 14th, 2003

Outside reality intruded for a while to hold up my planned survey of commentary in the Danish press over the murder of Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh and the effect of that incident on the upcoming Swedish referendum over whether to adopt the euro. But I did gather the relevant URLs on the subject from the main Danish on-line dailies, and am posting this early enough for there still to be suspense about the referendum’s outcome (for prompt EuroSavant readers, anyway.)

I start with Berlingske Tidende’s rather simplistic editorial leader, Svenskernes valg, or “The Swedes’ Choice.” (more…)

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“The Sinners are We”

Sunday, September 7th, 2003

That’s the title of an interesting commentary piece in the latest Die Zeit by Uwe Jean Heuser – a remarkable mea culpa for Germany from a German writer, which puts into stark relief the striking (if rather unfortunate) ironies attending the birth of the Euro and the current state of finances in Euroland (that is, in those twelve-out-of-fifteen EU countries that have adopted it as their common currency). (more…)

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Not to Be Ignored

Sunday, May 11th, 2003

“Punish France, ignore Germany, forgive Russia”: that was US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice’s formulation last month of Washington’s post-war approach towards those major European powers which had proven so uncooperative to America’s designs in the run-up to the War in Iraq. Germany could well count itself lucky to fall under “ignore” rather than “punish”; at least that leaves the field open for Gerhard Schröder’s government to take initiatives of its own to try to reconstruct the formerly close American-German relationship and have Schröder and President Bush officially speaking to each other again.

It’s true that German Defense Minister Peter Struck’s visit last week to Washington was uncharacteristically low-key – not one photo of a smiling Struck shaking hands with his American counterpart Donald Rumsfeld to be seen, for example. And the Germans do not help their case by letting acid comments by their high officials slip out into the light of international press scrutiny, as we discussed here in EuroSavant, although it seems that that one did not slip out very far. (Who knows? Maybe the incident never happened at all – but I tend to grant the Times of London, which reported it, a large share of benefit-of-the-doubt.) But the German press is continuing to report and analyze this effort by its government to get back into the American good graces. (more…)

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