Western European News Digest
German Neocons To Host Hitler-Lover Arnie
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a professed Hitler-admirer, plans to visit Germany, where he will meet with his new friends in the circle of German "neoconservatives." The date has not been announced, but there is talk about a time in late spring or early summer. Whether Arnie will meet his big fan Juergen Ruettgers (CDU) in Northrhine-Westphalia is not yet certain, but he will definitely meet the CSU's Edmund Stoiber in Bavaria. Arnie already sent a message to Stoiber, praising the latter's alleged "successful budgeting policy," especially the target of reaching a "balanced budget" for the state of Bavaria by FY 2006. The right-wing Stoiber, as governor of Bavaria, is leading a campaign to rid Germany of immigrants.
Arnie also wants to visit Austria, where both he and Hitler were born, and other states as well, on his tour, which is described as "European."
Red-Green Coalition Still Leads CDU/CSU in Polls
The unpopularity of the neocon faction in the CDU has surpassed the unpopularity of the Social Democrats.
The latest opinion polls in Germany show a widening gap in popularity between the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the German Socialist Party (SPD), with the SPD falling more than 10% behind. However, if voters are asked for preferences among leading politicians, the entire pack of CDU neocons falls visibly behind SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
On the other hand, a new poll by the FORSA institute shows that 77% of the German electorate believes the red-green (SPD/Green Party) coalition will be voted out in the next scheduled national elections, in September 2006. Although a majority of voters considers the red-green government as incapable of solving the economic and financial problems, 41% would still prefer Schroeder as Chancellor. Only 32% prefer the CDU's Angela Merkel.
Among CDU supporters and members, Merkel only has the backing of 32%, Edmund Stoiber 28%, and even Christian Wulff, the rising star in the CDU, only has 35% of backers in his own party.
The situation is not much better for Juergen Ruettgers, the would-be rising star of Northrhine-Westphalia: although 52% of the voters in that state expect the red-green state coalition government to be voted out on May 22, 38% would still prefer incumbent SPD Governor Peer Steinbrueck as Governor to Ruettgers, who is backed by only 32%.
European Commission Urges Overhaul of Myanmar Relations
An independent report commissioned by the European Union (EU) made available on March 28 urges the EU to overhaul its policies on Myanmar in favor of an approach that would boost Myanmar's economy and political situation. This flies in the face of the hostile US policy toward Myanmar.
The report says that: "Fifteen years of Western censure and sanctions have had no visible impact on the will or the capacity of the military rulers to maintain power. Whatever policies and attitudes the outside world adopts towards Burma/Myanmar, the military will remain in power for the foreseeable future. The failure to effectively understand and work with the government undermines the EU's strategic and humanitarian objectives."
The report calls for sweeping changes in the EU's ties to the country, outlining 12 proposals, including: recognizing Myanmar instead of Burma as the official name of the country; resuming regular high-level visits; revising the use of sanctions; and restoring some aid programs aimed at easing crushing poverty and improving basic education.
The report was written by Robert Taylor, who is a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, and Morten Pederson, an analyst for the International Crisis Group.
Schroeder: Freedom Is More than Just Free Trade
In an interview with the German weekly Die Zeit March 31, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder made some interesting remarks on the notion of freedom, and on Russia. Schroeder said that for him, what is valid is not the "freedom of the market" so worshipped by the neoliberals. "Freedom is more than just the freedom of trade," he said, adding that real freedom includes a social dimension.
Asked about Russia and the wave of anti-authoritarian criticism against Russian President Vladimir Putin, Schroeder said that one should compare the Putin era to the "chaos in the Yeltsin era": "Everybody knows quite well that in the Yeltsin era, there was an exploitation of the national Russian property." Putin first had to restore security for the citizens and for investors, "which only could be done through restoring the authority of the state."