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Vol 3, No 3
22 January 2001
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German Press Review Germany's Fears
Review of Central and East European issues in the German press from 15 to 19 January 2001
Andrea Mrozek

There were at least three headlines on EU enlargement in the German press this week. On 16 January, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) wrote about the Carpathian region ("Between a Regional Search for Identity and Enlargement"); on 17 January, Der Tagesspiegel ran the headline "Schily: More Security After Enlargement"; and also on 17 January, the Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote "Verheugen Warns against Hurrying on EU Enlargement."

Where the borders of Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and Hungary meet lies the Carpathian Euroregion. Six countries in total, of which two—Poland and Hungary—are frontrunners in the race toward the European Union, two others—Slovakia and Romania—are on the enlargement list and a further two—Ukraine and Moldova—are not yet in the picture at all.

Fear of a new Iron Curtain

"Most of all in Ukraine, but also in Romania, the fear of a new 'Iron Curtain' that would divide the region is growing," the author of the FAZ article, Dr Stefan Troebst, writes. "A Ukraine shut out from Brussels... could lean more strongly toward Moscow and thus would become a neighbour of immeasurable proportions for the enlarged EU, with over 1000 kilometres of shared border."

In this small geographic area, many different ethnicities and nationalities come together, some of whom will in the near future become part of the European Union. Could this conjure tensions where formerly none existed? The last paragraph of the article draws on the example of the Balkans. The author points out that most in the region are adamant about insisting that their home is not like Bosnia. To which the author replies: "Which expert on Southeastern Europe, even which Bosnian, Croat, Muslim or Serb, could have imagined ten years ago what would happen between 1992 and 1995 in Bosnia-Hercegovina?"

Fear of moving too quickly

The author of the FAZ article called for care and caution in the region of the Carpathians. And, as if in reply, Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, on 17 January, reported that Commissioner for Enlargement Günter Verheugen is warning against rushing into EU enlargement("Verheugen Warns against Hurrying on EU Enlargement"). True enough, the bureaucrats in Brussels have been working feverishly, barrelling rashly toward the goal of enlargement: the blurring of signposts, a veritable flurry of activity, caution thrown to the wind. Thank you, Günter, for putting the brakes on a process that was soon to spin out of control.

"No one should have illusions: We will not trade speed for a lack of quality. Those who are ready for entry will be so based only on whether or not they have fulfilled the requirements," said Verheugen. This apparently comes in reaction to the recent handover of the EU presidency to Sweden, which has identified enlargement as a high priority. It also comes as a sort of warning: Stockholm should not give an inch with regards to completion of entry criteria.

Diminishing security concerns

"The EU must hold strictly to standards," this was the sentiment echoed by Otto Schily, minister of the interior, in a different article ("Schily: More Security After Enlargement," Der Tagesspiegel, 17 January), in which he refuted the notion that security in Germany would decline with the entry of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into the Union. The theme of internal security and EU enlargement was broached at a gathering of the Bavarian faction of the Social Democrats (SPD). There, Schily said that currently the security conditions and legalities in the candidate countries are being carefully checked. The article reports that Germany is one of the safest countries in the world, and, in Schily's view, it will only get safer as a result of EU enlargement.

Scared of uranium

What about safety with regards to depleted uranium (DU)? Both the left-of-centre Tagesspiegel and the right-of-centre Frankfurter Allgemeine ran articles on this subject on 17 January—arriving, in different ways, at the same conclusion. The doctors of the 19 NATO countries see no connection between the use of DU in the Balkans and cancer, reported Der Tagesspiegel ("NATO Missiles: No cancer from Uranium ammunition"). There was no disproportional tendency toward illness in soldiers stationed in the Balkans, as compared with those stationed elsewhere.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine ran the headline "Against a Premature Ban of Depleted Uranium." In summary, the article presents the fear of DU as irrational and questions whether or not the present "crisis" is warranted. Probably not, the article concludes, and whether one agrees with that view or not, some sensible questions are raised.

"How could the question of depleted uranium take on the characteristics of panic so quickly?" asks the author. He presents the following explanations: one reason is that the words "uranium" and "atomic"—no matter the connection—have led to an exaggerated response ever since the 1970s. Some people, the article indicates, would also like to continue the Kosovo war in the confines of the media, in order to show the frivolous nature of the bombing campaign.

It seems reasonable to suggest political motivation behind the fear of DU, which, according to Der Tagesspiegel, has been used in Europe since 1980.

Russia in peril on the sea— but expanding nonetheless

Another item with security implications was raised in an article in Die Welt on 16 January about Russia's fleet ("Moscow Wants To Put Ships in Mediterranean"). The article discussed the current poor state of Russia's navy and President Putin's efforts to revive it. "Russia shall show it's prowess on the seas of the world," the paper quotes President Vladimir Putin as saying.

The article is sceptical of this measure: "What should Russian ships be doing on the seas of the world?" the author asks. It seems to be a matter of pride. The article cites the words of Admiral Georgi Kostjew, from an interview with the Russian newspaper Sewodnja, who is critical of developments in the Russian navy. He points out that the Russian navy has lost four atomic submarines in the past 30 years and with them 500 men.

The admiral goes on to say that while the Americans have lost no ships, they have pulled subs out of action in order to study how these accidents occur. The admiral comes to this conclusion: "Obviously, they are learning not only from their own mistakes but from ours. We, on the other hand, have taken no precautionary measures."

Security was the overarching theme this week: security in Europe in the face of EU expansion, depleted uranium and a growing Russian navy and nationalism.

Andrea Mrozek, 19 January 2001

Moving on:


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Süddeutsche Zeitung
Die Welt
Die Tagesspiegel


Jan Čulík
TV Spies

T J Majcherkiewicz
Poland's Central Banker

Sam Vaknin

Gusztáv Kosztolányi
Swedes in Charge

Bernhard Seliger
Deutschmark und Ostmark

Brian J Požun
Carving up Slovenia

Jana Altman
New Czech Media Law

Beth Kampschror
War Criminals Roaming Free

Alex Smailes
Environmental Nightmare

Mel Huang
A Mosque for Tallinn

Wojtek Kość
Poland's Muslims

Dan Damon
A Rediscovery of Faith

Jonathan Bolton
Scott Spector's Prague Territories

Charles Sabatos
Josef Škvorecký's When Eve Was Naked

Peter Hames
Slovak Film

Andrew James Horton
Jerzy Stuhr's Latest

Štěpán Kotrba NEW!
Sow and Reap

Brian J Požun
Shedding the Balkan Skin

Martin D Brown
Czech Historical Amnesia

Dejan Anastasijević (ed)
Out of Time

Gusztáv Kosztolányi
Hungarian Oil Scandal

Sam Vaknin
After the Rain

Press Reviews:
Andrea Mrozek
Germany: Fears Abound

Oliver Craske
UK: Nukes Getting Nearer


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