Germans Won’t Prosecute Somali Pirates

Monday, March 9th, 2009

piratesIt’s the old conundrum of the dog chasing a car in the street: What do you do once you actually succeed in catching it? Now it seems the German government has run into the same problem regarding the nine Somali pirates its navy recently captured on the high seas off the east coast of Africa. The answer it has come up with is – contrary to what one might have expected – not putting them on trial, as the Frankfurt Algemeine Zeitung reports (Somalis not to come before court in Germany). The decision fell on the prosecuting authorities of the German city/federal state of Hamburg, presumably because the maritime courts there have jurisdiction over things happening on the high seas involving Germans, and they concluded “after weighing all interests as well as under consultation with four federal ministries, no more public interest exists in prosecution.”

Spokesman Wilhelm Möllers further asserted that within Kenya “minimum standards for the carrying-out of a punitive process” are assured, so it looks like the German military authorities will simply sail into a Kenyan port and turn over the prisoners to authorities there.

The German Defense Ministry – surely one of the four ministries cited above which was consulted in this decision? – is keeping a stiff upper lip for now, saying “nothing at all” has changed in their naval operations off the Somali coast as a result of this ruling, so the German frigate Rheinland-Pfalz will remain there (and in fact is due shortly to escort a ship from the World Food Program). Still, you have to wonder what sort of “justice” those captured pirates can expect in Kenya – keep in mind that their organizations are already in possession of millions of dollars in ship-ransom money, and I’m not necessarily suggesting they’ll use some of that on lawyers – and, therefore, what the ultimate point is of that Western naval presence off of Somalia if this is all they can look forward to achieving.

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Russia Feels the Obama Effect

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Even amid the general euphoria last Election Day at the gaining of America’s highest office by an African-American, there was still a sprinkle of rain on that parade. (Here at €S we are always on the look-out for the rain on the parade!) Do you remember? It was right on November 5, the day after, that Russian President Dmitri Medvedev offered his own form of congratulations by announcing that Russia intended to deploy short-range missiles (presumably nuclear-capable) to Kaliningrad, that little piece of Russia lying on the Baltic Sea, to the West of Lithuania – and just to the North of Poland, where the US still has signed a treaty paving the way for it to install an anti-missile system, controlled by radar itself stationed within the Czech Republic. Russia has always been sore about that anti-missile system, apparently fearing that it is aimed against itself some way and/or that the deployment would hinder her own capability to sway/intimidate her former satellite states in Eastern Europe, so that this deployment to the Kaliningrad enclave threatened to become the start of a Cold War-like missiles confrontation.

Now a somewhat more reassuring word comes from Germany’s paper-of-record, the FAZ: Russia stops rocket-deployment in Kaliningrad. The article cites the Russian news-agency Interfax as quoting a unnamed member of the Russian General Staff to the effect that this step was taken “since the new American government seemingly is distancing itself from forcing through the setting-up of parts of the planned anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.” (more…)

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German Stimulus Plan: Too Little, Too Late?

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

It’s over: they caved. Maybe some of us had been looking forward to a real-world macroeconomic experiment with Germany boldly carrying the banner for that strain of economic opinion – that is still out there, loud and boisterous – according to which massive government spending is the wrong way to counter the current economic crisis. But now, with the €50 billion Konjunkturpaket II it just announced, the German federal government has hopped on the mega-spending bandwagon with everybody else. It seems it’s just too hard, even for Germans, to be prudent and thrifty in front of the voters when you face a general election later in the year.

The FAZ gives a good summary of what is involved – as you would expect from the FAZ: The main points of the Konjunkturpaket: Car turn-in premium, debt-limitation, and rescue-shield – and at its core lies the usual combination of infrastructure investment and tax-cuts, just this time auf deutsch. Most of the infrastructure investment will go into schools; to help the auto industry, people will get a payment of €2,500 if, upon buying a new car, they turn in their old one; and there will be set up to assist small businesses finding it hard these days to get credit a counterpart to that “Soffin” we’ve discussed here so much lately, i.e. the government-run fund for bailing out troubled banks. (more…)

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German Bank Bailout Demand Low

Monday, January 5th, 2009

It’s a New Year, and now time for us all to head back to work. But I did want to call forth to the light an interesting article of 31 December 2008 from the Frankfurther Allgemeine Zeitung about the experience so far with the structures the German government put in place last fall to prop up its banks (Few banks seek State protection).

FAZ reporter Manfred Schäfers gives an interesting outline of the monetary amounts and structure involved there. First the former: the German government is ready to issue bank-guarantees in the amount of around €400 billion (the exact amount is unclear because Schäfers mentions two different figures even within the confines of this relatively-short article) and is making available an additional €80 billion in outright capital-injections. The program, run out of the federal Finance Ministry, is the Sonderfonds Finanzmarktstabilisierung (meaning “Special Fund for Financial Market Stabilization,” abbreviated as Soffin), headed by a three-person committee of banking worthies that includes Gerhard Stratthaus, former Finance Miniser for the state government of Baden-Württemberg and Schäfers’ main information source. Strangely, the participation on that committee of two other named individuals, who are supposed to be Stratthaus’ colleagues, is still up in the air.

I guess that’s OK, though, because the point of the article is that Soffin’s agenda is not really chock-full. “Up to now we’ve got 15 applications,” Stratthaus reveals, “and most [financial] institutions are interested in the guarantees.” Of those that are seeking a chunk of actual money – i.e. a piece of the €80 million budgeted for capital injections – their requests to this point add up only to less than €15 billion, and other indications point to Commerzbank as responsible for €8.2 billion out of that alone. (more…)

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Merkel Awaits Obama

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

I’d like to take up again the subject of the rather unconventional German governmental response – so far – to the surging economic troubles to be found in Germany as well as more widely, prompted as I am to do so by the reader response I’ve received. You might recall that we can summarize that response as “Times might be tough, but there’s no need for this government or any other to spend huge sums, go way into debt, or otherwise endanger the EU’s Stability Pact that is supposed to underpin the euro.” (But also remember that this unorthodox position seems to be held only at the German government’s top levels, with plenty of insistent calls to start spending coming from elsewhere, including lower-down in that same government.)

This whole question in its broader sense – which could be phrased, ¡¿Caramba!, what can we do to stop the onrushing Great Depression? – is put into sharp relief by a commentary from Thursday in the Financial Times by the historian Niall Ferguson* (in English of course: The age of obligation, h/t to Naked Capitalism). (more…)

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Detroit Auto Execs Lay An Egg

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

The CEOs of Detroit’s “Big Three” automakers (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) made their pilgrimage to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, to make a plea for their own bailout from the federal government. You’d have to say that their show was a flop; media coverage afterwards included accusations of “tone deafness”, together with particular scorn for the fact that the execs had each traveled to Washington to beg for public money on their company private jets.

The foreign press was watching this performance, too, and from the pages of France’s leading newspaper Le Monde, Dominique Dhombres did not even need any mention of the private jets to quite effectively skewer the auto-bosses with an article entitled Ask for pardon? Out of the question! (more…)

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Low Expectations, Indeed

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Once the upcoming election has been conducted and the results made known, and as we get closer to inauguration on 20 January 2009, you can expect the usual flood of articles in all the world’s media evaluating the eight-year presidency of the departing George W. Bush. It’s been an eventful eight years, no? For some reason or another, though – apparently because he recently caught sight of Bush on TV looking “tired” and “grey” during his latest address to the nation about the financial crisis – the Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung’s Washington correspondent Matthias Rüb has decided to get a jump on the competition with a new piece: What remains of George W. Bush? A man of great expectations.

But don’t worry: the FAZ will surely find itself having to try again later. For what Rüb has come up with is an article that may offer a few interesting perspectives, but which first and foremost suffers from a worrying short-sightedness about what this man has done to the country for which he served as president. (Could it be a coincidence that the pronunciation of this journalist’s last name is basically “rube”? And as to that illustration at the top of his article: it’s obviously supposed to be George W., but in fact looks nothing like him.) (more…)

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Will Bush Win in Iraq?

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

The “surge” has succeeded, we are all told. Iraq is now a much more peaceful place; the government of Nuri al-Maliki is now in good shape, they say, increasingly able to take over the task of providing internal security with its own native forces. But “they”? “They” is primarily those with an interest in pushing the image of a peaceable Iraq today as a way somehow (and finally!) to justify the expenditure of thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Americans wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars since March of 2003. In other words, “they” is namely the Bush administration, and also the McCain presidential campaign – and the credibility of at least the first of those has been running on empty for quite some time.

No, far better to seek a judgment on the current state of Iraq from experts with a higher quotient of objectivity. One long-standing authority is Juan Cole, professor at the University of Michigan and both Arabic- and Farsi-speaker, mainly through his weblog Informed Comment. He recently offered his own summing-up of where we are now: “The level of violence at this moment in Iraq is similar to what prevailed on average during one of the 20th century’s worst ethnic civil wars [the Lebanese Civil War of 1975-1990]! It is still higher than the casualty rates in Sri Lanka and Kashmir, two of the worst ongoing conflicts in the world.” On the other hand, New York Times correspondent Dexter Filkins has to know something about conditions in Iraq, from where he reported from 2004 to 2006. (He also has a book coming out soon about that, The Forever War.) In a recent e-mail interview (The Progress in Iraq is Remarkable) he asserts that much of the improvement of conditions in Iraq is “astonishing,” that “parts of [the country] are difficult for me recognize,” although “the calm is very fragile.”

A large part of the basis for optimism is the hand-over last Monday of responsibility for the security of Anbar province to the Iraqi government, which Filkins himself reported on for the NYT. This is also covered by Rainer Hermann of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (From sanctuary for terrorists to model province), who adds some telling details. (more…)

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IOC-for-Hire

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Back now to the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games. I mentioned before their rampant commercialism. That is certainly not a recent phenomenon by any means, but nonetheless an ever-growing annoyance, clearly at variance with the original “Olympic spirit” and quite possibly a major reason behind the awarding of the Games to Beijing in the first place (that huge Chinese market!), despite the country’s deficiencies in the area of human rights and free information that we have already seen, as well as Beijing’s own deficiencies in sheer clean air which we may be about to witness.

The guardian of the Games and their “Olympic spirit” is supposed to be the 110 members of the International Olympic Committee, lead by its president, the Belgian Jacques Rogge. For anyone who might have any confidence in that body as a defender of the Olympics against the seductions of money, the recent article by Evi Simeoni in the leading German daily the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (or FAZ) should provide a bracing corrective (The Rivalry of the Applicants). (more…)

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Train Travel Not So Green

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

Over here on the European continent we perhaps a bit self-righteously presume that we’re in a somewhat better position to act against global warning – and to deal with the inevitable coming gasoline price-hikes, whether there is a war with Iran or no – than, say, North America due to a transport network that is not so predicated on the personal automobile. But then the German newspaper-of-record, the FAZ, comes out like it did today with an article entitled Train Travel Does Not Protect the Environment. (more…)

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PC Prize in Oslo

Sunday, December 12th, 2004

Nobel Peace Prizes are awarded not in Stockholm but in Oslo, and so that is where this past Friday the 2004 winner, the Kenyan vice-minister for the environment Wangari Maathai, was the honored guest of the Norwegian royal family for her awards ceremony. Naturally, she was given the floor in Oslo’s City Hall, and made use of it to deliver various remarks, reported by among others Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Maathi [sic]: Africans Must Resolve Conflicts Themselves). The first African woman ever to win the prize, and at the same time the first environmentalist, whose organization is credited with planting more than 30 million trees on that continent, asserted in her remarks the tight relationship between conservation of the environment and conservation of peace. But ultimately, solutions for Africa’s many conflicts, and for its poverty, must come out of Africa itself. She also expressed her hope that her accomplishment inspire other African women and girls to fulfill their own potential.

The Berliner Morgenpost account (Nobel Prize for Peace to African Woman) added further interesting details. For the first time the awards ceremony there in Oslo featured African rhythms and dances. The 64-year-old Mrs. Maathai declared that “Industry and international institutions must understand that economic justice and ecological soundness are worth more than profit at any price,” and that “much still remains to leave a world full of beauty and wonder to our children.” (Oh, words of absolute music to the left-wing German audience to which the Berliner Morgenpost caters!)

I’m glad to see this coverage, as it offers me another chance that I missed back in October when all the Nobel prize-winners were announced – namely the chance to pronounce my own judgment on the Peace Prize search committee’s work, which is: “Not bad – but.” (more…)

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Another Hitler-Alert in Britain

Tuesday, August 31st, 2004

This is a first: if anything, EuroSavant is a “foreign press review” weblog, of course, but today’s entry is itself about a “foreign press review” article. There’s a new movie coming out of Germany that you are sure to hear much more of, if only from what has been heard of it already before it even opened in its home-market. It’s called Der Untergang (“The Downfall”), and its depiction of the last days of the Nazi regime in the spring of 1945 is based upon the book of the same name by noted Hitler scholar Joachim Fest, supplemented by the diary of Hitler’s secretary Traudl Junge.

You can well imagine the consternation in Germany over the making of a film that depicts the Führer in even a remotely-human light. But this is a weblog with an international bent, and the point of the article in today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung by London correspondent Gina Thomas (British Fears: Does Germany Forgive Hitler?) is that the British media are already getting upset about the whole thing themselves. This when the rights for showing the film in the UK haven’t even been bought yet!

(By the way, that photo – from dpa/dpaweb – is not of the real historical article, but rather of the movie’s star, Bruno Ganz.) (more…)

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The New EU Commission: Germany A Relative Winner

Saturday, August 14th, 2004

On Thursday the new European Union Commission President José Manuel Barroso unveiled his scheme for dividing Commission portfolios among the commissioners named by the other 24 EU member-states (other than his own Portugal, that is). Not only did he do this a full two weeks before the deadline he himself had promised for presenting his portfolio distribution, by most accounts he did a rather good job with his decisions of whom to put where. As the Financial Times Deutschland put it, he rather skillfully reconciled the different goals of “fulfilling a wish for everyone, yet remaining the chief at the center, all while forming a competent team.”

German Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schröder (currently visiting Romania, among other reasons to visit for the first time the grave of his father, killed there in the Second World War), for one, is happy with what Barroso has come up with. This is despite the new Commission President’s evident shunting aside of pressures by the Union’s bigger countries to name a “supercommissioner” in charge of industry and economic affairs, i.e. one with authority over other commissioners. The Germans particularly thought that that would be appropriate for their own commissioner, Günter Verheugen, but it didn’t happen – or did it? This question constitutes the core of most German press coverage of the new Commission roster. (more…)

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The Reagan Legacy in German Eyes

Tuesday, June 8th, 2004

Ronald Reagan died late last Saturday, just in time for reactions in all the big Sunday editions of American newspapers. But Sunday editions of European newspapers are rare (let alone – to temporarily borrow a term from McDonalds – “super-sized” editions; those appear on Saturdays, if at all). Rather, reactions and assessments of the meaning of Ronald Reagan’s presidency appeared on Monday, meaning that today, Tuesday, it’s time for EuroSavant to step in and give you a flavor of those.

From the other usual-suspect sources you can get briefed, scattered reaction from English, Arabic, French, and Spanish sources. (But really: only a brief mention from Libération for the French press? No Le Figaro, no Le Monde? We wouldn’t stand for that here at this web-site!) So let’s give the EuroSavant treatment to German coverage. That’s very appropriate, as Reagan’s relations with that country during his eight-year presidency were extremely interesting, with wild highs and lows. (more…)

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Bush Speech Leaves Germans, Iraqis Unimpressed

Wednesday, May 26th, 2004

President Bush kicked off on Monday night his five-speech offensive to demonstrate to American voters (primarily) and also to the rest of the world that he has a plan for effectively handing off “sovereignty” to some native Iraqi administration at the end of June. That same day Britain and the US had tabled a proposed UN Security Council resolution which, if adopted in the proposed form, would leave occupation troops able to remain in Iraq indefinitely even as that native administration would supposedly be granted the “responsibility and authority to lead a sovereign Iraq.”

Coverage of the President’s speech in the German press generally found it less than fully convincing. (more…)

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Guantanamo in Hamburg? The Mzoudi Terrorism Case

Friday, February 6th, 2004

Yesterday a court in Hamburg, Germany, found a 31-year-old native Moroccan, Abdelghani Mzoudi, innocent of charges that he had been involved in the Hamburg-based terrorist cell behind the September 11 attacks on New York City and Washington. Naturally, American officials are hardly pleased by this verdict. Turning first to the account you’ve all probably already seen in the New York Times establishes the basic facts here: presiding judge Klaus Rühle ordered Mzoudi acquitted not because he thought him innocent, but because not enough evidence had been presented to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. And that was partly due to the refusal by American authorities to make intelligence information available to the German prosecutors working for Mzoudi’s conviction.

What does the German press say? (more…)

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Controversy over the Head-Scarf Ban

Friday, January 23rd, 2004

Wow: the split-up of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez is homepage news even for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (“Jennifer Lopez Gives Ben Afflek Walking-Papers), with column titles such as Doch wieder Puffy? (“So It’s Back to Puffy?”). That’s pretty tempting to get into. But it’s not like there isn’t anything else a bit more “legitimate” to discuss – like recent setbacks for the idea of banning the wearing of religious symbolism (primarily the Muslim head-scarf for females), in both France and Germany. (more…)

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Achtung, Baby! No Contracts!

Saturday, December 13th, 2003

A collective Aber was ist denn los?! issued from the German government last Wednesday, the day after the Pentagon’s new policy excluding as primary bidders on Iraqi reconstruction contracts companies from “peace camp” countries was disclosed – not by any formal notification to the countries thus excluded, mind you, but simply by a posting on the Internet, to the “Rebuilding-Iraq.net” site, of the “Determination and Findings” text, signed by Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. That’s why government spokesman Béla Anda (a very Hungarian name, by the way) qualified his qualification of the American action as “not acceptable” with the proviso that what he had been hearing from the press would turn out in fact to be true. We can make our first plunge into the facts of this case with the authoritative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s Wednesday article, Berlin Criticizes Washington: Decision Unacceptable. That’s also why German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer was only willing to say that he had heard the news “with amazement” (“mit Erstaunen zur Kenntnis genommen“), and that he was going to get with his American contacts to find out what the hell was going on. (more…)

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German Angst Before Group D

Thursday, December 4th, 2003

Today we finish up our look at the Euro 2004 Group D (“Group of Death”) reactions, this time out of the German press. And there’s certainly plenty there – aided by the fact that the German on-line newspapers, helpfully, don’t follow the practice of enclosing their articles behind for-pay barriers once they get the least bit old.

Die Welt probably has the most complete coverage, headed by an article eloquently entitled Ausgerechnet Holland, or “Of All Teams – Holland!”, complete with a photo at the top of German national team coach Rudi Völler looking very anxious. (more…)

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The Jackson Affair in German Eyes

Saturday, November 22nd, 2003

Time to go back to the €S bread-and-butter: the media survey. Of the recent spate of bombings in Istanbul, perhaps? Much too serious (e.g. Turkey’s September 11 – from the NRC Handelsblad); maybe later.

Instead, now that popstar Michael Jackson has run afoul of California’s “Three-Tykes-You’re-Out” law (not my line, alas; it’s Jay’s), it should be interesting to see what the press has to say about that in one country where his fans are probably even thicker-on-the-ground than they are in the US, namely Germany. There is indeed plenty of coverage to choose from the German mainstream (on-line) press; we’re not going to be able to get to it all.

But wait: One of the many articles is from the Süddeutsche Zeitung describing the American media as “Obsessed” with Michael Jackson. (more…)

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Private Lynch Emerges

Tuesday, November 11th, 2003

Jessica Lynch’s book, I Was a Soldier, Too, is being published today by Alfred A. Knopf, and that fact has not escaped the German press. But the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s treatment (The Iraqis Love Their Children Too) doesn’t go very far beyond reminding its German readers what the fuss over this US Army private originally was about, and noting that this is probably not the best point in time for the American authorities to have her brought back to the American public’s attention. What with televised pictures of the shot-down Chinook helicopter of last week, which killed sixteen US soldiers, followed closely by the crash of a Blackhawk which killed a further six, “‘Black Hawk Down’ is the film of the hour” for Americans now when they think about Iraq, the FAZ reports. It is not “Saving Private Ryan” – the obvious inspiration for the “Saving Jessica Lynch” TV-movie broadcast on NBC last Sunday.

But the FAZ doesn’t deal with what Private Lynch has to say herself about her experiences. And after all, after many months of silence, as of today she is starting to write (or at least have another – namely former NYT reporter Rick Bragg – write for her) and speak (on network talk shows, naturally, and for pay). Die Welt managed a sneak peek at one of these rounds of interviews (which will be rounded off by an appearance on Letterman – “Top Ten Things to Say to the Special Forces Crashing Through Your Door,” anyone?). So it covers that angle in Die beschämte Heldin, which I think is best translated, not by anything actually having to do with “shame,” but as “The Abashed Heroine”. (more…)

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The Madrid Donor’s Conference for Iraq (German View)

Friday, October 24th, 2003

Yesterday marked the first day of the two-day Iraq donors’ conference in Madrid. I’ve chosen the German press as the prism through which to review events at and surrounding that conference; it usually gives good, comprehensive coverage, and what’s more, in this situation it represents a country which you suspect doesn’t want to be at that Madrid conference in the first place. (Germany’s delegation there is headed not by a political minister – the Minister for Developmental Aid, Heidemarie Wieczoreck-Zeul, might at least have been appropriate – but by her top civil servant, state-secretary Erich Stather.)

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung covers Madrid thoroughly, in two on-line articles, the lead one of which is entitled At the Construction-Site of an Iraqi Marshall Plan. (more…)

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Polish-German Relations Dampened by Expellee Dispute

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2003

Meetings, meetings, meetings! But maybe that’s a foretaste of the soon-to-be EU of twenty-five members. As we noted, Tony Blair met on Saturday (20 Sept.) with Gerhard Schröder and Jacques Chirac in Berlin. Then on Sunday he met back at Chequers (the British Prime Minister’s country residence) with Spanish premier José Maria Aznar. (Those were surely discussions most suited to Blair’s day of rest, as he and Aznar see much more eye-to-eye on international issues these days than do his interlocutors in Berlin.) As for Gerhard Schröder, he met yesterday with Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller – just before flying yesterday evening to New York, for that all-important opening of the UN General Assembly and tête-à-tête with President Bush.

The German papers hardly gave front-page coverage to this meeting between Schröder and Miller (which took place at the conference center attached to the Schalke stadium in Gelsenkirchen, in the Ruhr area – Schalke are a famous German first-division football team, by the way). By and large that treatment was devoted to the overwhelming victory in the Bavarian state elections over the weekend for Edmund Stoiber’s Christian Socialist Union party – something that, unfortunately, EuroSavant isn’t all that interested in, although it has given rise to speculation that Stoiber is now rarin’ to take on Gerhard Schröder again in an electoral fight for the Chancellorship, when the time for that comes ’round again, of course.

That lack of press coverage was unfortunate, because Schröder and Miller had a lot to talk about in Gelsenkirchen. For one, they seem to have some hard-to-bridge differences over the draft EU Constitution, and this just a little over a week before the big EU Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) opens on October 4. Interestingly, according to an article previewing the Schröder/Miller summit in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung entitled No Unbundling of the EU Constitution-Package, it looks like Germany is considering deploying its big financial guns to try to get its way here. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is quoted by the FAZ as saying as early as the beginning of September that, in his view, EU expansion, the adoption of the draft Constitution, and negotiations over EU finances – which have much to do with how much financial help of various kinds Poland gets upon entering the EU – all constitute an interrelated package. Subtext: If you want to get the money you expect, you better show some give on the Constitution. But let’s leave any further discussion of those negotiations to the near future. With the start of the IGC coming up soon, it’s guaranteed that we’ll get back to this subject soon, and in considerably more detail.

At their meeting, the German and Polish heads of government also devoted considerable time to a controversy that arose over the summer – but is still simmering – about a proposal to erect a memorial called the Zentrum gegen Vertreibungen or “Center Against Expulsions,” in Berlin. This has considerably strained relations with Germany’s neighbors to the east, not just Poland; and it’s a dispute that gives me the opportunity to display a neat picture on these pages – a magazine cover, sorta kinky! – for the first time. (But you’ll have to click on “More…” to see it – ha ha!) (more…)

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The Summit of Three in Berlin

Sunday, September 21st, 2003

Today’s topic for a press review is of course the summit held yesterday in Berlin between the leaders of the EU’s “Big Three” – Germany’s Schröder, France’s Chirac, and Britain’s Blair. The subject on the table (but, as it turned out, not the only subject) was Iraq – where to go with regard to that country’s rebuilding process, what posture to take going into the crucial meetings around the opening of the UN General Assembly to occur this following week, and how to respond generally to the Americans’ patent need for a bit of assistance there.

You remember from our past discussion, here, that two of those three (Schröder and Chirac) already met last week, also in Berlin. Now, that occasion was supposedly not for the express purpose of meeting one-on-one per se, but rather to mark the first-ever joint session of the combined German and French cabinets in the German capital. That event had been planned in advance, but nonetheless it gave the two heads-of-cabinet a convenient opportunity to confer in advance of their meeting yesterday with Tony Blair, and confer they did.

What’s going on when there’s to be a three-way meeting, but two of the three have their own little meeting ahead of time? In such a case the suspicion has to arise that the thing has really metamorphosed into, in effect, a two-way meeting, between the already-met (in a posture of solidarity forged during their previous get-together) and the third, late arrival. And don’t forget yet another meeting still, that huge meeting later this week at the UN General Assembly, which will be attended by most of the involved heads of state, and which will be marked by meetings between Chirac and Schröder on the one hand and President Bush on the other – separate meetings with each. This three-way meeting in Berlin looks an awful lot like a training-session for those all-the-marbles meetings in New York. A by-now-common preparatory technique among politicians preparing for a big debate is to find a preliminary sparring partner who can best imitate the opponent that politician will face when he is later debating for real – could Tony Blair have unwittingly been fooled into assuming this role for Messrs. Schröder and Chirac, ahead of their one-on-one conversations with George W. Bush in New York?

Among the many English-language dispatches covering the summit, the Washington Post’s report ends by recounting the “embarrassing question” the three leaders encountered at their joint news conference: Was Blair seen by the other two as simply “Bush’s envoy to the talks.” Oh no, no, they hastened to answer – Chirac even magnanimously said “I want to pay tribute to the vivid imagination of the last journalist,” i.e. the poser of the question. The other common elements you’ll be able to read about in most all the coverage were that all three agreed that the UN must be given a “key role” in Iraq, but disagreed on how long it should take to do that, Chirac demanding that this take place “within a few months”; and they all at least agreed that “we all want to see a stable Iraq,” in Blair’s words. Nothing very radical there.

But the English-language press – usually – is not EuroSavant’s happy hunting-ground, nor are the common elements that everybody is reporting the usual grist for its mill. Let’s take a look at reporting and commentary from the host nation – Germany – to see what wrinkles and unique aspects of the summit are presented there. (more…)

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Michael Moore and Wesley Clark

Sunday, September 21st, 2003

Just a brief mention here of something I ran across while trawling the Germany Sunday press: Under the headling Bush muß weg! (or “Bush must go!”), the authoritative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is publishing today in its “Feuilleton” section (roughly equivalent to, say, a “Style” section) Michael Moore’s open letter to (ret.) General Wesley Clark of Friday, 12 Sept. In it, he thanks Clark for the support he expressed for Moore at the time of his controversial remarks at the Oscar ceremonies last spring, and urges him to run for president against Bush, whom Moore lambasts with some pretty bitter invective.

Obviously, the letter was originally written in English, not in German, so that link above is only for those more comfortable reading in German, or who want to practice it. The original English version is available at a number of places on-line, but probably the best source is Michael Moore’s own website, here. And, in case you’re in the mood for a rebuttal to that (but not from any Bush partisan, but rather from the leftist lunatic fringe), you could go here, to “An Open Letter to Michael Moore,” of 17 Sept., which warns Moore that he is endorsing a war-criminal, from General Clark’s role in the 1999 Kosovo War. I certainly don’t agree with this; if you’re interested in why, simply click on “More…” (more…)

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The Implications of Sweden’s “No” – A Dutch View

Monday, September 15th, 2003

The votes are in, the Swedish people have spoken: 56% of the voters said “No,” and so they prevail, for a while at least.

I had hoped to find something interesting to tell you about the referendum’s result in the national press of Germany: the nation that, after all, was once the guiding power behind the idea of one single currency for all of the EU, yet which now, by its misbehavior in getting its own fiscal house in order and staying under the 3%-of-GDP limit for government budget deficits, is quite possibly driving away those EU members (such as Sweden) who do not use the euro but are/were contemplating that. But the on-line German newspapers that I’ve looked at for today aren’t very on-the-ball: they’ll tell you little else than what you already will have been able to find out from your own newspaper of choice (with one exception, noted below). OK, they quote Bundeskanzler Schröder lamenting the continued absence of Sweden from the ranks of EU countries using the euro. Well, he would lament, wouldn’t he? I’d definitely file that bit of news under “dog-bites-man.” (more…)

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German Reactions to the Baghdad Bombing

Tuesday, August 26th, 2003

That bomb-blast in Baghdad that killed UN special envoy to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello also tolled an early end to this summer’s “silly season,” i.e. the period when nothing much of note happens. (Not that we had much of a “silly season” anyway, what with the thousands of abandoned elderly in France – and elsewhere – dying of the extreme heat at the beginning of August, an occurrence covered in EuroSavant here.) That blast brought into sharp relief the question: What to do about Iraq? Riding this theme in the typical €S way, yesterday I presented some reporting and commentary on that question from out of the Dutch press, and today I turn to the German. (more…)

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Whither Germany in Afghanistan?

Thursday, August 14th, 2003

Reviewing recent EuroSavant coverage, one subject clearly stands out: Iraq. “Democracy in Iraq,” “It’s Hot in Iraq,” “Iraq Through Spanish Eyes,” etc. Maybe I should just change the name of this weblog to something like “IraqSavant” – is the .com domain name still available? (If it was, it isn’t by now!) I do try to avoid excessive concentration on one subject, or on one particular national press. But to a great extent what continues to happen in Iraq remains of great concern and interest, especially in August (the “silly season” or “cucumber time,” etc., when little else that’s truly attention-worthy ever happens, except maybe for travel accidents: crashing airliners, the Russian submarine Kursk, etc.), and especially now that more nations are being drawn into involvement, having generously agreed to assist the Americans and the British in occupation duties.

So here’s a change: How about a fairly in-depth treatment from the recent German press about what’s been going on in . . . um, Afghanistan? No wait, this is truly interesting, especially from the German point of view. You see, the Germans and Dutch last Monday finally came to the end of their six months of joint responsibility for the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), charged with helping Hamid Karzai and his Afghan Transitional Administration with establishing security in the country. So were there sighs of relief all around last Monday from the Deutsch and the Dutch? Not exactly: next to take up the ISAF baton is NATO, and of course both Germany and the Netherlands are long-standing members of NATO. In fact, at last Monday’s handover ceremony German lieutenant general Norbert van Heyst formally handed over ISAF’s green banner . . . to German lieutenant general Goetz Gliemeroth, acting for NATO! (more…)

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Gerhard Schröder Returns to Italy

Wednesday, August 13th, 2003

Bundeskanzler Schröder gave up his usual yearly vacation in Italy this year, you’ll recall, shortly after the row Silvio Berlusconi caused in the European Parliament with German MEP Martin Schulz in the first week of July, followed by rather insensitive comments about German tourists from (former) Italian state secretary for economic affairs Stefano Stefani. (If you need to catch up on this subject, you can start your review of EuroSavant coverage here.) But soon he’ll be heading back to Italy for a visit.

This good news about the dawning of German-Italian reconciliation comes not from the German press, but from the Dutch newspaper Het Parool. (And I got the news that Schröder would give Italy a pass this summer originally from the Flemish newspaper Gazet van Antwerpen: How is it that LowLands journals can keep scooping their German counterparts like this when it comes to practical details that we want to know, like just where the Bundeskanzler will be and will not be? Although it looks like Het Parool got this information from the BBC.) There’s a catch: Schröder will be travelling to Italy on 22 August not for some delayed vacation (too late for that: the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that his cabinet returns to work today), but to meet with president of the European Commission Romano Prodi in Verona, ostensibly to attend a showing of the opera “Carmen” there. Prodi is a leading rival of the Italian premier. But there’s also a counter-catch: the mayor of Verona has also invited Berlusconi to attend that same opera performance. No word yet on whether he intends to accept this invitation.

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Some Anti-Cynicism from Die Zeit

Monday, August 11th, 2003

A welcome antidote to the half-hearted support for Coalition (and particularly American) efforts in Iraq of Frenchman Georges Suffert, discussed in my last €S posting, comes from Germany, and specifically from Richard Herzinger writing in Die Zeit: Der Moralismus des Zynikers, or “The Morality of the Cynic.” The key fact so often overlooked by Germans watching from the sidelines, Herzinger claims, is that, slowly but surely, real progress is being made in Iraq. Rather than view events through “the eyeglasses of an anti-imperialistic resistance-romanticism,” as he accuses many of his compatriots of doing – or worse, actively hoping for failure there, so that German resistance to the war against Saddam Hussein can in the end be proved “right” – Germans (and all Europeans) have a duty to support the occupation authorities to ensure that Iraq is ultimately rebuilt as prosperous and democratic, a goal which lies no less in the interest of the Old Continent as it does of America. (more…)

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