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German report German report
by Euro Reporter
2011-03-30 09:45:22
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Nuclear tensions erupt

Tensions within Germany’s centre-right coalition government have burst into the open in Berlin, with leading members of the ruling parties competing in calls for ever more drastic moves to abandon nuclear energy in the country after they suffered bruising election defeats at the weekend. The moves to reverse the government’s previous cautiously pro-nuclear energy sance in the wake of the Japanese nuclear crisis brought an instant reaction from business and economic spokesmen in the party ranks, warning of rising electricity prices and dire economic consequences of any precipitate action.

The most radical anti-nuclear move on Tuesday came from Christian Lindner, secretary general of the liberal Free Democratic Party, who called for the permanent closure of eight of the country’s 17 nuclear power stations. “We’ve got to reach an agreement with the utilities in which the old reactors won’t be put back on line,” Mr Lindner said. “We want to move quickly to change the energy policies.” The FDP, junior partner in the Berlin coalition and normally strong defenders of nuclear power, suffered a collapse in support in the two western state elections in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate on Sunday, in the face of a big swing to the anti-nuclear Green party.

But the shift in government policy was also underlined by Norbert Röttgen, the environment minister and a deputy leader of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, who called for the swiftest possible exit from nuclear power in favour of renewable energy sources. While Mr Röttgen has long been one of the least enthusiastic supporters of nuclear power in the government, his position appears to have been strengthened by Mrs Merkel, the chancellor, who admitted on Monday that her attitude had been transformed by the consequences of the Japanese earthquake aftermath. Mrs Merkel announced a three-month moratorium for the German government’s plans to extend the life of nuclear power stations for an average of 12 years before Sunday’s elections, but the move failed to prevent a surge in support for the anti-nuclear opponents. Yet the issue has already triggered a fierce debate within the government. Volker Kauder, parliamentary leader of the CDU, warned that the moratorium must be concluded before any final decisions were taken.


Angela’s Walk of Shame

A shame. A Farce. Cowardly. Isolationist. These are just some criticisms haunting the German leadership after its abstention from the UNSC resolution 1973 authorising the allied intervention in Libya. The resolution is the most important one since a beamingly proud Westerwelle announced Germany’s non-permanent seat at the council; observers hoped it would become the European seat, a welcome addition to an often nationally minded England and France.  The German abstention attracted praise from Colonel Gaddafi himself; and from Germany’s leftist party. Any wry laughter that the prospect of such company might invite is likely to remain stuck in our throats, however, if we review the consequences of the decision: a dire loss of credibility for Germany (on the global stage as well as in the Middle East), and a serious blow to Germany’s transatlantic relationship, the EU’s foreign policy and Franco-German amity. It is thus more than a political “stupid accident,” as some moderate critics suggest. Rather, the lack of judgment Westerwelle and Merkel displayed over the UN resolution stems from something much more troubling: their painful lack of vision for German Foreign Policy and that is, indeed, a shame.

The non-vote has sparked a political debate in Germany that has blurred party lines, with criticism coming even from Merkel’s own ranks, and praise coming from politicians such as Gregor Gysi, head of the German leftist party. In a scathing commentary in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, former foreign minister Fischer called the German action a scandalous mistake that will cause serious collateral damage for EU foreign policy. Ruprecht Polenz, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the German parliament and a senior member of the Chancellor’s Christian Democrats, reportedly lamented the “catastrophic signal” the non-vote would send to Germany’s partners and warned of the political isolation that such a go-it alone stance would bring about. “Germany’s rebuff to the Europeans, the Americans and the Arabs is condescending, stubbornly isolationist, and strategically confused,” writes the newspaper Welt. Confusion about the reasons and rationale for Germany’s vote is giving birth to a hobbled domestic debate about Germany’s use of military force and its place in the world. German foreign policy is in desperate need of a road map presented by inspired political leaders. That Westerwelle was not the perfect candidate to provide this sort of leadership was clear from the day he took office; but Merkel, it seemed, had potential to draft at least the contours of such a map when she began to lead (albeit unwillingly at first) on stabilising mechanisms for the euro-zone. Germany’s non-participation in resolution 1973 has destroyed even this faint hope.

Merkel stated she was “saddened” by the political discussions. But the almost frantic defensive moves of the chancellor and her foreign minister – Merkel’s hasty trip to Paris where she confirmed German support, Westerwelle’s awkward use of the Arab League’s criticism to defend the German non-vote, and the German commitment to bolster its engagement in Afghanistan on AWACS airplanes instead – only deepened the impression that the government’s actions are not grounded in anything that could be construed as principled, nor do they reflect a small part of a broader policy.


Germany pushes Muslims to spy

The German government seeks to pressure Islamic groups in the country to spy on Muslims in a discriminatory attempt to undermine Islam in the country, a report says. The issue was to be discussed on Tuesday in the Germany-Islam conference chaired by Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported. Security cooperation of the Islamic groups is high on the agenda of the conference, said the newly selected Friedrich, who irritated the Muslim population in Germany earlier this month by asserting that "Islam does not belong in Germany."

The remark by the German minister came on the heels of demands by several major security figures in the country, urging that Muslims should spy on mosques. Also last year, Berlin's interior minister Erhart Kurting had called on German citizens be cautious about persons with a bizarre appearance. He also went as far to caution Germans to tip off authorities in case they came across someone with a veiled face, or speaking Arabic or other languages. Friedrich's Islamophobic remark triggered serious protests by the influential Turkish community in Germany and deepened tensions in the relations between Berlin and major Islamic groups in the country.

The Germany-Islam conference continued on Tuesday in the face of a boycott by a Muslim group who described the discussions as nothing but a "talking shop." Another mosque group was thrown out by the government due to allegations that it may be a criminal organization. Meanwhile, Aiman Mazyek, head of the multi-ethnic Central Council of Muslims, expressed pessimism over the achievements reached in the conference. The talks have achieved little to overcome discrimination against Muslims and are just "a security conference in disguise."

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