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Vol 2, No 41
27 November 2000
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News from Germany News from

All the important news
since 20 November

Jens Boysen

View today's updated headlines from Germany


Chancellor wants strong EC

At a meeting in Brussels with the 20 members of the European Commission on Wednesday, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder expressed his wish that the Commission remain the main generator of policy initiatives within the European Community framework, as already outlined in the Treaty on the European Union.

Schröder's statement is seen as an explicit backing of Commission President Romano Prodi, who has been denouncing ideas of a possible solution to the problem of flexibility in an enlarged and more complex EU by increasing the scope of intergovernmental decision-making. This would effectively mean a sidelining of both the Commission and the European Parliament.


Tricky bargaining ahead at Nice

On the same occasion, Schröder endorsed a different concept, that of the "double majority." This is presently being discussed as a solution to one of the so-called "Amsterdam left-overs." Under this scheme, future decisions could only be taken by the Council of Ministers if there were both a qualified majority of votes and a majority of member states backing a proposal.

As the Nice Summit approaches, the two major EU countries, France and Germany, are at loggerheads over the re-weighing of votes in the Council, which is meant to compensate the bigger countries for their giving up one of two Commissioners.

France is apparantly anxious that, in spite of a population of 58 million and all overt co-operation, the re-weighing and double majority principle might result in a loss of influence compared with Germany's 82 million.


Dangerous destination Germany?

The US State Department issued a formal warning to US citizens travelling to Germany regarding the (limited) danger of right-wing youth attacks on "foreign-looking" persons.

Though the warning is considered to be "mild," this is the first time that American diplomacy has felt compelled to list one of the USA's closest allies as a potentially dangerous place to travel—at least for non-white citizens.


Christian Democrats split on "Leitkultur"

An important regional branch of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has defected from the hard-line course steered by the national leadership over the issue of "Leitkultur" (hegemonic culture). This is the latest stage in the ongoing political battle triggered by Friedrich Merz, parliamentary opposition leader of the CDU. He used the term, claiming a need for a German "Leitkultur" in order to better integrate foreign immigrants.

Jürgen Rüttgers, CDU chairman and leader of the opposition in North-Rhine Westfalia, issued the official party programme on the improved integration of foreigners. The sensitive term Leitkultur was, according to Rüttgers, "left out deliberately." This way, the CDU in North-Rhine Westfalia (one of the strongest branches in Germany) is siding with another rebel branch in tiny Saarland. Saarland Minister President and CDU leader Peter Müller objected to the national party line at a very early stage. Furthermore, he announced possible support for the centre-left federal government in its efforts to draft a more liberal immigration policy.

This recent move by Rüttgers is especially remarkable. In his election campaign in North-Rhine Westfalia earlier this year, he unsuccessfully sought to exploit anti-foreigner sentiment by denouncing the government's attempts to issue special work and residence permits to computer scientists from Asia and Central and Eastern Europe. His slogan at the time was "Kinder statt Inder," which can be read as "Have more children instead of calling in foreigners." (literally, "Children Instead of Indians")


Neo-Nazis arm…

The President of the Bundesverfassungsschutz (Federal Agency for Protection of the Constitution) has warned against the growing capacity of right-wing extremist groups to execute professional terrorist acts.

Although the organisation of most of these groups is rather informal, their numbers are increasing. Moreover, police have recently uncovered an increasing array of weapons and equipment for laying bombs in the possession of such groups. On top of this, the ongoing effort among neo-Nazi groups to network via the Internet has led to a greater degree of intercommunicative and intelligence skills— even in circles of people usually regarded as "dumb thugs."


…but have to give way

The National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), whose prohibition will be sought by the federal government before the Federal Constitutional Court, has had to withdraw due to pressure from the Berlin City authorities concerning a planned demonstration on Saturday 25 November.

In an attempt to "neutralise" the 9 November anti-right-wing demonstration headed by President Johannes Rau and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the NPD had applied to the municipal administration to be allowed to take the same path down the Unter den Linden main boulevard and through the Gate. The senator for internal affairs of Berlin, Eckart Werthebach, persuaded the party leadership to accept an alternative route. He is now pressing for a general banning of political demonstrations in a zone around the Brandenburg Gate in order to avoid identification of this easily recognisable national symbol with questionable causes in the media.

Jens Boysen, 23 November 2000

Moving on:


ZDF Online News(Public German TV)
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Frankfurter Rundschau
Süddeutsche Zeitung
Der Spiegel
Die Zeit
CNN Europe

Today's updated headlines from Germany

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