Joblessness in Germany refuses to go away and there are now 5.2 million on the country’s unemployment rolls. On Thursday, rival politicians are planning to hold hands and come up with a plan to solve the problem, but German commentators pull back the curtain and show that behind all the magic talk, there is little substance.
With well over 5 million people on the country’s unemployment rolls, one can hardly blame Germany for being preoccupied by its economic woes. And nowhere is the preoccupation more noticible than in the higher echelons of government.
On Thursday, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s government is meeting with the opposition in a so-called “job summit” to address the problem. The meeting is being billed as a sort of temporary peace conference, in which both sides — each gearing up for elections next year — will put down their daggers and work together to solve the nagging problem of 5.2 million Germans needing jobs. Both parties have said they hope to reduce taxes for small and medium-sized companies. There has also been talk of making it easier to lay off workers (thereby making it more attractive for companies to hire them in the first place), reducing unemployment compensation and pushing through a comprehensive tax reform. On Tuesday, commentators from Germany’s major dailies analyze the possible outcomes of the job summit.
But I don’t see the opposition having any great ideas on it either…..
on the proposed policy – why not lay off everyone, offer no unemployment insurance, and then see how Darwin applies in real life? :-
There doesn’t seem currently enough work to go round unless a plan to generate work is really thought out.
I don’t think anyone in Germany really thought out how to integrate economically the sudden influx of former East Germans and then Turks etc into that nice tidy post-post-War West German republic – but it’s been a long time, I haven’t read up on it in years, so what I’m posting may be complete rubbish…..
The Greens are strongly opposing the Chirac-Schroeder plan to end the EU arms embargo on China. They were always very uneasy, now they’re using the recent Taiwan law as an excuse to get very vocal.
I was sure he was gone in the last election, then Rumsfeld decided he really wanted Schroeder reelected
No idea how Germany can solve its unemployment problem. Maybe just hope that there will be a silver lining from the coming demographic decline.
One correction – minimal post unification immigration from Turkey. Lots from the ex Soviet Union, a fair amount from ex-Yugo and from Poland. To be clearer, a fair amount of Turks came (though a lot less than people from EE), but plenty left as well leaving a negligible net immigration.
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: March 16, 2005
Filed at 5:18 p.m. ET
ROME (AP) — With his bulging eyes staring out from beneath a big black wig, comedian Paolo Rossi plays a quack doctor selling useless cure-alls to gullible people — in an undisguised mimicry of Premier Silvio Berlusconi.
That was in the first part of “This Evening We Perform Moliere.”
Then state television canceled the second and final part.
Because of foul language, the broadcaster maintains.
Because it makes fun of Berlusconi, free-speech advocates allege.
Whatever the true answer, Rossi’s lampooning of the media mogul-turned-premier as an unscrupulous charlatan has become the latest case in which Berlusconi’s critics accuse him of muzzling criticism on the airwaves.
The satire, loosely adapted from a work by the 17th century French playwright Moliere, aired in January and drew more than 700,000 viewers, a healthy figure for Italy. The next program had some light swearing — “the kind of words my 10-year-old son uses,” said Rossi’s producer, Paolo Guerra, adding that it was nothing scandalous for a program aired after midnight.
Rossi says he’s suing broadcaster RAI for $6.6 million, claiming breach of contract and repression of constitutionally protected liberties.
“Since our premier has been head of the government and boss of the Italian TV networks, no (TV) director has allowed a voice that’s divergent from the boss’ chorus,” Guerra said.
Berlusconi, Italy’s richest man, has direct or indirect control over 90 percent of Italy’s television market: His family owns Mediaset, the country’s largest private broadcaster with three national channels, and as premier, he holds influence over state-funded RAI’s three channels.
Berlusconi has always denied any conflict of interest, insisting he never calls the directors at Mediaset or RAI to comment on their content.
He also points out that it’s the Italian parliament, not he, who names the board of RAI and oversees it.
RAI insists it was only the language, not the political content, that killed the second show.
Asked to comment, Berlusconi’s office said it knew nothing about Rossi’s show and took no interest in RAI’s programming.
Rossi’s case is the latest in a string of media controversies that began when Berlusconi entered politics in the early 1990s and continued after he won another term in 2001 as head of a conservative government.
In 2002 the shows of left-leaning political commentator Michele Santoro and veteran journalist Enzo Biagi were suddenly canceled by RAI after the premier and his political allies accused them of making “criminal use” of RAI to push their agendas.
Poles, let us not feel hatred to normal peace-loving Jews. Let us, however, be aware of the dangers and injustices that flow from the greedy and depraved Jewish and anti-Polish milieus of the European Union that seek to take over the world and our Poland
From a leaflet put out by a local branch of Poland’s “League of Polish Families” (far right party) and its youth organization “All-Polish Youth” (they conveniently took the name of an interwar fascist youth group)
What dangerous threat prompted this warning? Well the deputy mayor of some two bit poor town in Eastern Poland wanted to name a small side street for I. B. Singer the Lit. Nobel Prize winner. Singer happened to live there for a few years.
And guess what Euro readers – these wingnuts are coming soon to an EU summit near you, right after the upcoming elections.
Unemployment may be sky high and the economy foundering, but if there is one thing the Germans do well, it’s good old-fashioned angst. Surveys show that Germany beats other countries hands down when it comes to pessimism. And that isn’t helping matters at a time when the country desperately needs reforms.
Hardly the most cheerful thinker to ever walk the face of the earth, philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once described the human existence like this: “We are like lambs in a field, disporting themselves under the eye of the butcher, who chooses out first one and then the other for his prey.” Judging by the general mood here these days, it comes as little surprise that Schopenhauer was German. With 5.2 million unemployed, a stagnant economy and a steady stream of bad news daily, the average German seems more pessimistic than ever — and that in the country that coined the term Sturm und Drang.
A recent poll of 70 countries found that when it comes to pessimism, Germany is the world’s leader. The February survey by the German market research institute TMS Emnid found that only 25 percent of Germans are optimistic about their prospects for the future compared with a chipper 65 percent of Americans. A full 85 percent of Germans say they worry about the future, 48 percent believe the economic situation will get worse before it gets better and 37 percent fear losing their jobs.
This constant pessimism has fueled such a climate of despair for politicians in Berlin that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder this week held a job summit in an attempt to spark optimism. Improving his party’s prospects in upcoming elections wouldn’t be so bad, either, especially after a flood of negative poll data. But with 82 percent of Germans saying they didn’t think the meeting would do anything to improve the job situation, the government’s chances of boosting its image were limited from the start.
But how justified is Germany’s gloomy mood? In many respects, you could argue that Germans are over-exaggerating their hardships. Germany is one of the few countries in the world with booming exports. Despite recent mass protests against benefit cuts, the social system here is still more generous than that of most other Western countries. And even the general standard of living doesn’t seem to be showing signs of cracking. In a quality of life survey published by Mercer Human Resource Consulting this week, out of 215 cities world-wide, Munich, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt all shared fifth place, with other German cities also faring well. So what’s wrong? Is this just a bad case of the angst and weltschmerz Germans seem to excel at?
An almost Biblical saga of disappointment and betrayal has stunned Germany, and has left everyone scrambling to find the traitor who unseated Germany’s only female premier.
“Et Tu Brute!”
What should have been a perfunctory German state election on Thursday transformed into a gripping political “who dunnit” with a plot line that merges James Bond, Julius Caesar and the New Testament. The question is, who is Judas? Or Brutus? In other words, which one of the 69 parliamentarians in the northern, cow-dotted German state of Schleswig-Holstein is a traitor? The suspect list can be narrowed by about half. That’s the number of parliamentarians who were lined up to re-elect Heide Simonis — Germany’s only female state premier — to another term in office. The other 34 were expected to vote against her. Yet, when the secret ballots were tallied Thursday evening, Simonis only got 34 votes, one short of that needed for a hair-splitting majority. The opposition Christian Democratic Union party got 33 votes. Audaciously, two members had abstained. Stunned and certain there had been a mistake, Simonis, in an ultimate “Et tu Brute!” moment, eyed her troops suspiciously and insisted on a revote.
Just to put the whole thing into perspective, let’s remember that Simonis and her Social Democratic-Greens coalition had already toughed out a brutal popular election on Feb. 20 and had eked out a victory. That race was so tight that newspapers across Germany wrote headlines announcing her defeat and a major blow to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s bedraggled Social Democratic Party. But the next day — after all the votes were counted — she learned her coalition had won 33 seats. Newspapers then proceeded to make red-faced apologies, while Schroeder beamed for the cameras and Simonis struggled to get enough seats to have a parliamentary majority. She did so by enlisting the support of a quirky pro-Danish party who happen to have the two parliamentary seats she needed to scratch out a 35-seat majority. After all that hard work, it’s no wonder she thought she was a shoo-in.
But alas. It wasn’t the fateful ides of March, (more like St. Patrick’s Day) but the omens were against her. The second round of voting was tighter than the first. It turned up an absolute stalemate: 34 for Simonis, 34 for the opposition. There was still one obstinate, agonizing abstention. Who?
Hitler not only fattened his adoring “Volk” with jobs and low taxes, he also fed his war machine through robbery and murder, says a German historian in a stunning new book. Far from considering Nazism oppressive, most Germans thought of it as warm-hearted, asserts Goetz Aly. The book is generating significant buzz in Germany and it may mark the beginning of a new level of Holocaust discourse.
A well-respected German historian has a radical new theory to explain a nagging question: Why did average Germans so heartily support the Nazis and Third Reich? Hitler, says Goetz Aly, was a “feel good dictator,” a leader who not only made Germans feel important, but also made sure they were well cared-for by the state.
To do so, he gave them huge tax breaks and introduced social benefits that even today anchor the society. He also ensured that even in the last days of the war not a single German went hungry. Despite near-constant warfare, never once during his 12 years in power did Hitler raise taxes for working class people. He also — in great contrast to World War I — particularly pampered soldiers and their families, offering them more than double the salaries and benefits that American and British families received. As such, most Germans saw Nazism as a “warm-hearted” protector, says Aly, author of the new book “Hitler’s People’s State: Robbery, Racial War and National Socialism” and currently a guest lecturer at the University of Frankfurt. They were only too happy to overlook the Third Reich’s unsavory, murderous side.
Financing such home front “happiness” was not simple and Hitler essentially achieved it by robbing and murdering others, Aly claims. Jews. Slave laborers. Conquered lands. All offered tremendous opportunities for plunder, and the Nazis exploited it fully, he says.
Once the robberies had begun, a sort of “snowball effect” ensued and in order to stay afloat, he says Germany had to conquer and pilfer from more territory and victims. “That’s why Hitler couldn’t stop and glory comfortably in his role as victor after France’s 1940 surrender.” Peace would have meant the end of his predatory practices and would have spelled “certain bankruptcy for the Reich.”
That Goetz Aly, one of the best and most productive German historians over the past fifteen years, doesn’t have a real university position is a travesty showing that there is something fundamentally wrong with German academia
For those interested in this sort of stuff I strongly recommend Architicts of Annihilation by him and Suzanne Heim about the technocrats behind the Holocaust.
In the trans-Atlantic fray over the arms embargo against China, the European Union’s arguments have come out dodgy at best. In an article published in December, we characterized the lifting of the embargo as a “opportunistic” move by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who was keen to pick up lucrative Chinese contracts for German businesses feeling the pinch of a stagnant economy. Europe imposed the embargo after the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 and even today human rights still have “little meaning” in China, where a free press, freedom of expression, a fair legal system and even free labor unions are lacking. And what about those weapons? “Even if the EU attaches strict conditions to the sale of weapons to China from now on, Beijing would still have its foot in the door, and it could use economic incentives to push it open even further over time,” we wrote.
That thinking, apparently, as well as very serious warnings from Washington about tough retaliatory measures that may be taken if the EU lifts it, are apparently fulminating in the minds of German politicians. The passage last week by the Chinese People’s Congress of a law that gives Beijing the power to go to war against Taiwan — if the island doesn’t agree to reunification with the Chinese mainland — has created tremendous domestic political problems for Schroeder as well as French President Jacques Chirac, who were both leading the charge to have the ban lifted. Now, European and American officials have told various newspapers that any decision will be put off until later this year and possibly even next year. At a meeting last week of the German parliament’s foreign policy committee, even loyalists to Schroeder backed away from lifting the embargo — especially in light of Beijing’s sabre-rattling towards Taipei. “Lifting the embargo now would send the wrong signal,” Hans-Ulrich Klose, the committee’s deputy chair and a member of Schroeder’s Social Democrats told DER SPIEGEL. “This isn’t the appropriate time.”
The notion of lifting the embargo has also driven a wedge between the Social Democrats and their junior coalition partner, the Greens, who, with the exception of Foreign Minister Joschke Fischer, widely oppose the lifting of the embargo. “Considering the current situation in China, the lifting of the embargo is out of the question,” Claudia Roth, the Greens’s chairwoman said last week.
This week, the diplomatic relationship between Germany and Israel reaches its 40th anniversary. The marriage hasn’t always been easy; history’s heavy weight often leads to bickering and nagging. And yet, the sheer normality of the bond provides the true surprise.
In Hollywood, marriage is usually presented as the bliss-filled culmination of a romantic love story: the very beginning of “happily-ever-after.” What the films don’t show you, however, is what happens after the rice is thrown: the constant mini-negotiations — and occasional full-throated arguments — that take place to solve problems that invariably crop up following the formal exchanging of vows.
It’s this post-honeymoon day-to-day that serves as an apt model for the German-Israeli relationship. Forty years after establishing diplomatic relations in 1965, the two have a solid foundation, but the nagging and incessant nitpicking — and periodic bickering — make them seem more like Homer and Marge than two sovereign states.
No love in this marriage
But the metaphor only goes so far. In this marriage, there was no pre-altar love affair. It is a marriage of convenience based on mutual exploitation and one that, a few dysfunctionalities aside, admirably serve the purposes of both countries. Germany wants to escape from the shadow of its past by proving to the world its good will toward the Jews. Israel, for its part, needs a strong partner in Europe that can be relied upon to take its side — and one that, if needed, is susceptible to a bit of historical blackmail.
Many have called it a “special relationship,” and indeed, the rituals framing the bond are many. Every German politician who travels to Israel first visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, looks appropriately upset as though he’s never heard of the Holocaust before, lays a wreath and writes an entry in the guest book: “Never again!”
Every Israeli politician who comes to Germany first visits either Dachau or Buchenwald, looks appropriately upset as though he’s never heard of the Nazis before, lays a wreath and writes an entry in the guest book: “Never again!”
After the brief nod to history though, it’s business as usual. Whether in Berlin or Jerusalem, the guest and the host rush off to their lunch meeting and spend the afternoon signing contracts improving scientific or economic cooperation. Everyone is happy.
Normality is the name of the game
In fact, if people didn’t continue harping on the “special relationship” mantra, they might actually notice how truly abnormally normal the bond between Germany and Israel has become. Berlin in the summertime is full of Israelis either in Germany for a short visit or as part of a longer study program. And on the beach promenades in Tel Aviv you run into German tourists who have no hang-ups about ordering a beer in German, just as they do in tourist resorts across the Mediterranean. Germans head to Israel for bus tours around the Sea of Galilee, Israelis head to Berlin to study German history. “Critical Israelis,” like Uri Aveneri, Moshe Zimmermann, Moshe Zuckermann and Felicja Langer, have made Germany their second homes and have been swamped with honors. Israelis sit in their living rooms watching German TV shows and documentaries broadcast by Israeli television. Be it tourism, trade or scientific exchange, the relationship is working.
German papers lash out at European Union leaders for their spinless retraction of monetary and service sector laws. Europe’s high-tax social models clearly aren’t working, commentators say, yet leaders seem intent on sticking with them. Why?
Germany on Thursday reverberated with news from the European Union summit. Most opinions, however, oozed anger and frustration, after EU leaders gleefully announced that they were backpedaling on laws designed to make it easier for people from various EU nations to move about and find work. Instead of deregulating and uniting, the EU more deeply entrenched itself in its high-tax social model by insisting it would not loosen the laws in its services sector to allow more cross border competition. The decision was made largely to appease German and particularly French voters who fear such deregulation would allow cheap laborers from Eastern Europe to sweep in and steal their jobs. The idea is that the laborers would be paying lower taxes in their home countries and therefore could afford to undercut the higher-taxed French and Germans. Leaders also agreed to weaken the fiscal rules underpinning the euro, known as the growth and stability pact, largely because euro biggies like Germany and France have had trouble sticking to it.
To set the tone of the day, the left-leaning Berliner Zeitung features a large comic at the top of its editorial page showing EU leaders trying to blow up the EU hot air balloon. The tattered and partly patched fabric lies on the ground as various leaders get big-cheeked trying vainly to fill it. Meanwhile, high in the sky, the US and China balloons float peacefully by.
The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung makes no bones about expressing its contempt for the EU’s latest show of spinelessness. “The Franco-German tandem that is supposed to be essential to the progress of European unity has been ‘successful’ in two ways: it has demolished a key European institution (the stability pact) and robbed the European growth strategy its most dynamic part.” By doing so, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac may be winning votes at home, but “is this a good result for Europe?” the paper asks, rhetorically. It is also annoyed with the rigidity of politicians and their inability to change or adapt a system that clearly doesn’t work. “One of the truths of the European social model is unpleasant,” the paper writes. “In Germany, there are over five million jobless, and in France, unemployment numbers are over 10 percent. Yet this is the model which Europeans are sticking to and for which they won’t let anything change.” The paper reprimands leaders for just looking at the present and ignoring the larger picture. “Without growth, it won’t only be the social model that erodes, but also the positive feelings toward a united Europe.”
The latest corruption trial of the French president’s cronies leaves the public shaking their heads, yet again.
It is a case of déjà vu for millions of French people: forty-seven politicians and other officials are on trial this week over a vast kickback scheme. For several years in the early 1990s, construction companies are said to have paid 90 million euros ($116 million) in bribes, swelling the coffers of political parties. Their reward: contracts to build and maintain secondary schools in the Paris area.
And yet again, the trials involve President Chirac when he served as mayor of Paris and his allies, politicians from the entire spectrum. Mr Chirac invoked presidential immunity to escape investigation over other affairs, but his allies didn’t have that option.
“It was very organized,” said Nicolas Lecaussin of the IFRAP in Paris – a private think tank that aims to hold France’s public administration to account.
A widening match-fixing scandal and revelation of politicians’ corporate salaries have sullied Germany’s once clean image. Experts say the country has been slow to tackle corruption and are calling for tougher laws.
There was a time when Germany was known as a country stubbornly resistant to corruption, where even the mere whiff of scandal or sleaze would spell the end of a public or political career.
Not anymore. In recent months, the country has been rocked by allegations of soccer match-fixing and revelations of high-ranking politicians making money on the side by being on the payrolls of large companies. The events have further tainted Germany’s once squeaky-clean reputation, which was already dealt a blow in 1999 when a financing scandal involving the conservative Christian Democratic Party came to light.
Now, experts say that Germany’s problem with corruption may be worse than previously thought. “The perception that Germany has no corruption problem has absolutely nothing to do with reality, but rather with the fact that a maximum of five percent of all corruption cases come to light,” said Uwe Dolata, press spokesman for the trade union representing Germany’s criminal police (BDK).
The Berlin-based arm of Transparency International, a corruption watchdog, defines corruption as “the misuse of public or private economic power for private use.” According to economists, corruption in Germany results in lower tax revenues and higher state spending, amounting to losses of some €200 billion ($259 billion) yearly.
Chancellor says issue is his responsibility
01. April 2005 F.A.Z. Weekly. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder says he is prepared to overlook the views of the German parliament in his effort to get the European Union to lift its embargo on weapons sales to China.
“I take every vote by the parliament seriously,” Schröder said in an interview that appeared on Wednesday in the weekly newspaper Die Zeit. “But the constitution is clear. … The constitution says that foreign policy is conducted by the federal government.”
France warns of crisis on EU constitution
By Stephen Castle in Brussels
07 April 2005
A “no” vote in France’s referendum on the European constitution next month would kill off the treaty and provoke a “crisis” for the EU, the country’s Foreign Minister, Michel Barnier, has warned.
M. Barnier said the French referendum campaign had been dragged off course by confusion, fears over globalisation and a lack of clarity over Europe’s direction. But, in an interview with The Independent, he insisted there is “no Plan B” in the event of a “no” vote which, he said, would cause a type of institutional “breakdown”.
One of those who helped draw up the constitution, M. Barnier said he takes seriously a series of opinion polls predicting a “no”, though he believes supporters of the text will ultimately prevail.
His comments illustrate how the constitution has been caught in the crossfire of the EU’s ideological battle between advocates of a Blairite, free-market path, and those wanting to preserve Europe’s traditions of strong social protection.
Asked to explain recent surveys predicting a “no”, the minister cited “social and economic worries in France, fears associated with Turkey [which is due to open EU membership talks] and, in effect, a lack of understanding about the way in which Europe is moving.
He added there was “a feeling that Europe is not providing enough protection against the risks of globalisation”.
While the EU is a buffer against the perils of a globalised economy, M. Barnier argued Europe “could operate better, in a more democratic manner, a more political manner, and which could be explained better to people.”
Across France much of the opposition to the constitution has come from the left, parts of which see it as a triumph for Blairite, Anglo-Saxon, liberalising values at the expense of the European social model.
One main symbol – ironically not connected to the constitution – has been a proposed directive to open services to competition, something many fear would allow firms from eastern Europe to undercut French companies.
How a ‘Non’ from France could throw Europe’s future into crisis
French voters are in the mood to sink the EU constitution
Alex Duval Smith in Paris
Sunday April 10, 2005
Once they were seen as the most loyal of all Europeans, but this week President Jacques Chirac faces one of the biggest battles of his political career as he launches a crusade to persuade the French to vote ‘Oui’ in next month’s referendum on the EU constitution.
Chirac will use a televised debate on Thursday to lay out his arguments in favour of the draft European constitution, amid mounting hostility. Yesterday the president of the European parliament, Josep Borrell, warned the French that they would plunge Europe into crisis if they rejected the constitution. Alarmed by opinion polls which show the ‘Non’ campaign in the lead, Borrell warned that rejecting the treaty on 29 May would have far more serious implications for the future of Europe than they imagine.
‘Everywhere in Europe I come across a feeling of serious concern. People thought the problem would come from the British, but are discovering it is coming from a founding (EU) member state without which you cannot imagine the European project continuing,’ Borrell told Le Monde .
‘The “no” supporters in France think their rejection will cause a salutary crisis or even salvation without a crisis. I think there will be a crisis and it will not be salutary.’
Successive opinion polls have bolstered the ‘no’ campaign – the latest, released last week, showed 55 per cent of the French public were opposed to the constitution, against 40 per cent a month ago – and the government and mainstream Socialists have redoubled their efforts to win over the electorate. They have resorted to gimmicks such as a tour of Casino supermarkets by astronaut-turned-minister Claudie Haigneré, visits by foreign politicians and explanatory meetings for homeless people.
The ‘yes’ campaign launched réunions d’appartement, at which leading politicians will be beamed into homes to answer questions by video conference. Chirac’s two-hour televised question time with young people – delayed by a week because of the Pope’s death – aims to counter the most persistent trend: only the over-65s seem to be emerging as pro-constitution.
At the same time, many of Chirac’s allies – such as former President and constitution campaigner Valéry Giscard d’Estaing – are warning him against taking too prominent a role. They say the President, at a disadvantage for being in mid-term, could go the same way as his mentor, General Charles de Gaulle, who resigned after losing a 1969 referendum on regionalisation.
Some observers point out that the fact that the rightwing government and opposition are teaming up in favour of the constitution has awakened anti-establishment feelings among the electorate. While Chirac takes the credit for having forced Brussels last month to reconsider the ‘overly liberal’ EU services directorate, his government’s tendency to blame Europe for France’s 10.1 per cent unemployment rate could now be backfiring.
Poll puts French opposition to EU constitution at 60 per cent
By John Lichfield in Paris
23 April 2005
Signs of deep alarm have appeared in the leadership of the European Union as new polls show a hardening of French opposition to the EU constitution.
A European Commission spokeswoman said: “It is clear the Commission is worried by the statistics.” Peter Mandelson, the EU trade commissioner, said of rejection: “At best [the EU], would stagnate. At worst, we would see a form of chaos. It could have damaging economic consequences.”
Quietly sprouting: A European identity
By Katrin Bennhold International Herald Tribune
TUESDAY, APRIL 26, 2005
Jorgo Riss was born and raised in Germany: He has a weakness for bratwurst and a thoroughly Germanic seriousness about issues like solar power. But he also has an Italian casualness about punctuality and loves his 5 o’clock tea, a habit he picked up in London.
“I feel European rather than German,” said Riss, 34, who has lived in five European countries, speaks five languages and now runs Greenpeace’s office in Brussels. “I feel at home anywhere in Europe.”
A year after 10 new members joined the European Union, euroskepticism and doubts about the new European constitution may be dominating headlines. But beyond politics and institutional battles, the everyday reality of Europe’s open borders is quietly forging a European identity.
A growing number of young Europeans like Riss study, work and date across the Continent. Unlike their parents, who grew up within the confines of nationhood, they are multilingual and multicultural.
Most of the EU citizens who say they feel “European” still rank their national identity higher than their European one, opinion polls show. But among those aged 21 to 35, almost a third say they feel more European than German, French or Italian, according to a survey by Time magazine in 2001.
Stefan Wolff, a professor of political science at the University of Bath, in England, calls them the “Erasmus generation,” after the EU’s university exchange program. Over the last 18 years, Erasmus has allowed 1.2 million young people to study abroad within Europe during their university years.
When this generation takes the reins in coming decades, both in Brussels and in national capitals, it could produce a profound cultural shift, he says.
“For the first time in history, we’re seeing the seeds of a truly European identity,” Wolff said.
“Give it 15, 20 or 25 years, and Europe will be run by leaders with a completely different socialization from those of today,” he added. “I’m quite optimistic that in the future there will be less national wrangling, less Brussels-bashing and more unity in EU policy making – even if that is hard to picture today.”
The state of Bavaria has filed a lawsuit in Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court in an effort to prevent homosexual couples from being allowed to adopt children.
When two Bavarian lesbians set out to start a family, they wanted a sperm donor, not a father. When they describe what the father did to help them have their baby, they call it “friendly assistance.” Today their three-year-old daughter calls them “Mama” and “Mami.” And under new legislation enacted in Germany at the start of the year, the two hope to finally obtain equal parental rights to their child. “Mami,” who stroked her partner’s belly during the pregnancy, has filed a petition to adopt the child.
But then another man came into the picture, throwing a wrench into this modern family’s chance at happiness. He’s Bavarian governor Edmund Stoiber, a member of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU). His state government is taking a case to the Federal Constitutional Court, Germany’s highest court, in an attempt to reverse the new law, which permits homosexual partners to adopt children, as long as they satisfy certain requirements. The Bavarian officials are trying to preserve what they call the “traditional trinity” of the German family — father, mother, child.
Guido Westerwelle, leader of the opposition Free Democratic Party (FDP), has characterized Stoiber’s move as nothing short of a “renaissance of narrow-mindedness.” Stoiber, in turn, is convinced it is his duty to rescue the German constitution. For the benefit of the child, he says, the state should prevent people from becoming adoptive parents when their living situation “is incompatible with the guiding principles of the constitution and with the role of mother and father.” In other words, adoption should be reserved for married people.
Budapest’s decision to break ranks over Croatian accession underlines the fact that it sees itself as an increasingly important player in the Balkans.
By Neil Barnett in Budapest (BCR No 554, 27-Apr-05)
The delay in Croatia’s accession talks with the European Union is causing growing friction within the union, as several of its neighbours lobby in support of Zagreb’s application against strong opposition from Britain and others.
While most of the debates have taken place in closed committee rooms in Brussels, Hungary’s prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, has infuriated Britain, France and Germany by publicly disputing their policy on Croatia.
In March, EU foreign ministers decided to delay talks on Croatia’s accession, saying Zagreb was not fully cooperating with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY.
They specifically accused Croatia of not doing enough to secure the arrest of the former Croatian army general, Ante Gotovina, indicted by the Hague court for the death and displacement of Serb civilians in the 1995 offensive, known as Operation Oluja (Storm).
Croatia’s prime minister, Ivo Sanader, in March said Zagreb was not in a position to arrest Gotovina. “According to all our information, he is not in Croatia. This is the only and full truth,” he said.
But while Britain, above all, disputes this assertion, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia and Slovenia have taken the opposite line and strongly backed Croatia’s case for immediate talks.
None, however, has gone as far as Hungary’s leader who told the BBC last week that the EU decision against Croatia was based on rumours and allegations and was not supported by any evidence.
France swings back to favouring EU constitution: poll
PARIS : French voters would approve the proposed European Union constitution in a referendum next month, the first opinion poll to give a swing in favour since mid-March showed.
The TNS-Sofres-Unilog poll for the RTL radio station indicated 52 percent of decided voters would back the constitution in the May 29 referendum.
However nearly a quarter of the 1,000 people quizzed said they had still not made up their minds.
In recent days three opinion polls have shown the ‘no’ lead dropping from a high of 58 percent on April 21, as alarmed top French and European politicians scrambled to secure the constitution’s future.
If such a heavyweight EU member as France rejects the constitution many observers believe it will effectively be killed off.
The latest poll was taken after an unsuccessful television appearance by French President Jacques Chirac but before an intervention Thursday night by former Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin urging a ‘yes’ vote.
But it showed that supporters of the divided opposition Socialist Party were changing their minds, with only 51 percent against the constitution, against 63 percent in a survey by the same organisation published on April 20.
All 25 states have to approve the constitution for it to come into effect.
the french are mixing local and continental politics .They are showing their anger at Raffarin’s governement by saying no to the constitution. The support of the socialist did not seem to make it either.
When the phone ring at home and the poller ask you about the referendum , what comes to your mind is Raffarin, Chirac, the establishment, so it is sure people answers is loaded with their feeling about this very unpopular governement. Raffarin was even joking with Jean Charest about who was the least popular !
That’s why Chirac went in full spin mode, to try to break the association of Raffarin with the referendum.
So their may be a bias in all those poll, unless the voter carry their anger at the poles.
Can EU, born from war, survive peace?
By Graham Bowley International Herald Tribune
SATURDAY, MAY 7, 2005
LONDON More than 50 million dead. A continent where, in the words of Winston Churchill, “a vast quivering mass of tormented, hungry, care-worn and bewildered human beings gape at the ruins of their cities and homes.”
Amid the devastation left by World War II, Europe looked around after 1945 for a way to make sure such a disaster never happened again, and found an answer in the European Union.
Over the next 50 years, the EU would become an unprecedented experiment in the pooling of national sovereignty and the falling of borders, a sophisticated system of transparency and mutual interference by independent nations in each other’s economic and political affairs.
As a result, Europe’s once-warring nation-states are now so closely knit through the institutions, laws and councils of the EU that war across Western Europe has become unimaginable.
“The European Union, despite hiccups along the way, has been an overwhelming success,” said Craig Kennedy, president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “It has integrated a Europe that for centuries was at odds with itself, and homogenized it in a positive way with a common set of values and common outlook on the world.”
Yet for all the EU’s success, the memory of a war half a century ago is fading, which threatens to stall or even unravel the Union.
A united Europe failed to stop war on its borders in the Balkans in the 1990s.
And when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of the United States visited Brussels in February and described a continent “unified around democratic values,” where “the chances for war” would be “diminished and, indeed, eliminated,” the rhetoric was jarring and strange to a European public that takes peace and democracy for granted, associating Brussels more with petty policy disputes and intrusive laws.
Attitudes toward the EU are complicated by a growing view, in France, of the Union as a threatening face of globalization, and by Germans’ re-examination of their historical guilt.
A French rejection of the EU’s new constitutional treaty in a national referendum on May 29 is not impossible. The Germans, in a new assertiveness, no longer want to be the biggest contributor to the EU’s budget.
If the EU is to survive, Europeans must remember the founding mission behind the glass towers in Brussels: an ever-closer union among the people of Europe, in the interests of security.
Indeed, perhaps the most important achievement of what became known as the EU was the stability it brought in Western Europe’s heartland between France and Germany.
Growing skepticism from Dutch on EU charter
By Graham Bowley International Herald Tribune
FRIDAY, MAY 13, 2005
THE HAGUE Outside the Dutch Parliament one morning this week, Michiel van Hulten, 36, a pro-EU campaigner, was trying to persuade eight skeptical Dutch tourists to vote for the new constitutional treaty.
“The Netherlands will stay the Netherlands and Europe will work better,” he said, hopefully, holding a garish placard that declared: “A stronger Netherlands in a better Europe.”
But Lobi van der Gragt, from a flower-growing region in northwest Holland, said she wasn’t happy with the EU, so why vote for a constitution that cemented it? “We see our money going abroad,” she said, waving her finger.
The seven women around her tut-tutted, looking equally unconvinced.
Their skepticism is borne out by opinion polls which suggest that, in a national referendum in the Netherlands on June 1, a majority of voters will reject the EU treaty.