Current Events

Germany in the News

During the last several weeks, interesting information was reported in the German press, related to Germany’s position within the EU and toward the rest of the world.

Die Rhein Neckar-Zeitung (RNZ) stated on June 28 and 29, 2004, that Chancellor Schroeder reconfirmed his position not to send any German soldiers into Iraq. At the same time, he said that he was willing to train Iraqi soldiers at German academies.

Bild ran a commentary, dated June 29, 2004, telling President Bush to keep his nose out of European affairs. It stated: “Europe alone decides — not the United States — whether and when Turkey becomes a European member.”

The RNZ wrote on June 11, 2004: “Sunday remains holy… Sunday rest is part of the fundamental values of the [German] Constitution and cannot be revoked.” On June 12, the paper added that the German prohibition against driving of trucks on Sundays remains the law, at least for the time being.

In addition, as the euobserver reported on July 7, 2004, “the socialists have elected Martin Schulz to head their group in the European Parliament. The German was overwhelmingly chosen – by 158 votes out of 179 – to head the group following a meeting on Monday (5 July). The 48-year old, who came to European-wide fame last year after being insulted with a Nazi slur by Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, will take over from Spaniard Enrique Baron Crespo. He was also the only candidate for the post.” The article continued to point out: “Monday’s vote also means that the two biggest groups in the European Parliament, the centre-right European People’s Party and Socialists, will be headed by Germans as Hans-Gert Pöttering was voted in by his group last week.”

The predominant role of Germany in the European Parliament, under the new Constitution, was also explained and stressed in the following article by, dated July 1, 2004: “As Britain prepares to make its mind up over the proposed European Constitution, Physics World reveals new research by physicists in Poland that claims the most controversial aspect of the new constitution, the voting rules at the EU Council of Ministers, are fatally flawed and will give some countries unfair clout in the decision-making process.

“Karol Zyczkowski and Wojciech Slomczynski, physicists from the Jagielonian University in Krakow, have used existing techniques in game theory to calculate how much power each country will have if the new constitution is adopted, i.e., what their ability to influence the decisions of the Council of Ministers will be… The key problem is that voting power does not relate to the number of votes a member state has, but rather depends on their ability to get decisions passed by forming coalitions with other states to push decisions through the Council… Under the proposed new constitution, new legislation will only have to satisfy two criteria to pass into law: the member states voting for it must account for at least 65% of the total population of the EU; and at least 15 member states must vote for it. Zyczkowski and Slomczynski have shown that this system is effectively the same as one in which ‘voting weight’ is directly proportional to population, and that such a system gives an unfair advantage to larger countries. If the proposed new constitution is adopted, Germany will gain the most voting power by far, followed by France, the UK and Italy. Spain and Poland will be the biggest losers.”

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France in the News

France’s president Chirac becomes more and more America’s opponent. As RNZ reported on June 30: “Chirac has taken the leading role to unambiguously oppose Bush. The [French] president has become more and more Bush’s opponent, and he thereby puts the brakes on any reconciliation between Europe and the U.S.”

U.S. in the News

In regard to America’s dealings with the torturers in Iraqi prison camps, Bild wrote on June 22, 2004:

“America is an old democracy… Crime is not dismissed or ignored. Crime is being punished… America lives because of its Constitution, its humanity, its honor… This is not self-evident. Great critics of America, especially in Europe, had to learn through the bitter lessons of war what law means. They should look at America and be astonished.”

On June 11, 2004, Bild wrote, commenting on the meeting between President Bush and Chancellor Schroeder:

“Friends again?… We should have no illusions… Let us hope that the German governments will never again jeopardize our friendship with the United States. And that America will nurture its relationship with Europe better in the future.”

On July 3, 2004, Associated Press published an article, reporting about Europe’s reassessment of its relationship with the United States. The article pointed out: “The question across the Old Continent is not the oft-asked, ‘Why do they hate us?’ In fact, not that many Europeans do. More thoughtful Americans ask, ‘Why have they lost respect for us?’ Iraq is the obvious short answer. In polls and conversations, a clear majority of Europeans excoriate President Bush for charging on alone into a widening quagmire that is reshaping the world around them.”

The article continued: “But analysts see something many describe as deep and troubling, a sea change from the usual ups and downs of trans-Atlantic sentiment. This is particularly critical now, they say, as 25 European states are trying hard to build a more perfect union that is largely shaped, even if often at an unconscious level, on the American model. ‘When Europeans look over at the roots they planted in America, they see root rot,’ said Barry Goodfield, an American psychotherapist and conflict specialist who has worked in Europe since 1972… By giving Europe a take-it-or-leave-it option on Iraq, Goodfield said, Bush insulted old allies at a deep level. ‘We bypassed the U.N. and diplomacy, and they’re reacting to a slap in the face,’ Goodfield concluded. ‘They see us as not playing by the rules, ignoring institutions that stand for justice and morality.'”

The article added the following comments: “For many in Europe, it is a question of style and attitude. At an official level, European diplomats say, Bush manages to jab continually at sore spots. Just as EU leaders reached a fragile accord on expansion, he visited Istanbul and told them they left out Turkey. Yet, unlike earlier times when U.S. and European governments disagreed on issues, feelings run deep into every level of society. European newspapers carry accounts of outraged travelers to the United States who end up in handcuffs and overnight cells before being sent home for what turns out to be a simple mistake. While EU airport police barely glance at U.S. passports before stamping six-month entry permits, U.S. authorities require fingerprints and visas with pages of questions delving far into the past. Americans familiar with Europe over the years almost invariably describe symptoms of a changing attitude.”

The Catholic Church in the News

The Vatican regretted the wording of the European Constitution, according to RNZ of June 21, due to Europe’s failure to make a clear reference to Christian, that is, Catholic beliefs. Bild wrote on June 20: “It is too bad that there is no place for God in Europe… Only Poland was determined until the end to include a reference to God in the Constitution… The European house must stand on a firm foundation; otherwise it is built on sand, as the Bible says. It is absurd not to mention God and Christianity… The common goals and values are dictated by the Bible and Christianity… When there are no roots, we can’t survive… To mention God in the Constitution would be good, because it would make a reference to the Judeo-Christian roots, and it would clarify that our conduct is always secondary and preliminary, and that no human being must take to himself absolute power. When man does not realize that he is second at best, then very soon the devil is there.”

On June 21, 2004, Bild wrote: “Worldwide, religion is on the rise, headed by Islam, and sadly, also by its radical components. Only the Europeans think that they can live without their Christian roots… Only he who knows of his roots will be accepted by others.”

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