Western European News Digest
Munich-Based Paper Notes the Revival of FDR in U.S. Politics After Katrina Disaster
The Sueddeutsche Zeitung noted, in an article in its cultural-historical section Oct. 6, that the Katrina catastrophe has created a broad momentum for a New Deal approach. The Republicans almost succeeded in getting rid of the FDR heritage which they hated all the time, but Katrina has changed the situation dramatically. Now, there is a demand for the Democrats, and for a revival of the New Deal paradigm, the author write.
When Sen. Edward Kennedy proposed a "Gulf Coast Regional Development Authority," it was clearly modelled on FDR's Tennessee Valley Authority, and former vice-presidential candidate John Edwards called for a job creation program which resembled very much FDR's Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps. Other Senators and Congressmen are thinking in the same direction. And, it meets an increasing "hunger for reforms among the public," as leftist commentator William Greider noted in an article in The Nation. Greider forecast that a bit more public relations work of the Democrats among the electorate would help to make the "old ideas" of the New Deal acceptable again.
Brits Not Pleased That the Nobel Peace Prize went to ElBaradei
On Oct. 8, the day after the announcement that the Nobel Peace Prize was going to the International Atomic Energy Agency and its head Mohamed ElBaradei, someone leaked an MI5 report on alleged covert arms procurement networks, in an attempt to give the impression that the IAEA is incompetent. Second, the Times of London ran an editorial accusing the Nobel Prize Committee of "bad judgment" in its choice, since ElBaradei "sounds sympathetic to the nuclear ambitions of developing nations."
In a front-page headline, "MI5 Unmasks Covert Arms Program," the Guardian wrote that the MI5 report names 360 companies involved in covert procurement of weapons of mass destruction technology. The report concentrated on Pakistan and Iran, but included India, Israel, Egypt, and Syria. Yet the report stated, "It is not suggested that the companies or organizations on the list have committed an offense under U.K. legislation," but nonetheless asserted the companies have traded in WMD technology.
Henry Kissinger Comments on the 'German Problem'
In the Oct. 10 issue of Der Spiegel, Henry Kissinger comments that as soon as a new government takes power in Berlin, "We will take care of the criticism," especially from Schroeder's government, against the U.S. war in Iraq. Kissinger, who only speaks out on rare occasions in Germany, was giving an interview to Der Spiegel. Kissinger blamed Germany, and especially Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, for having acted as a "leader against American unilateralism." Describing himself as "realist" in foreign policy, he said that no timetable for withdrawing American troops from Iraq should be fixed. What is more important is an internal debate in the U.S.A. What we see in the Mideast, he added, is a replication of the "Great Game."
Schroeder Defends General Welfare in Resignation Speech
As expected, Germany's Chancellor of eight years announced Oct. 12 that he would not be a part of the grand coalition under CDU party chief Angela Merkel's leadership. An emotional Gerhard Schroeder made the announcement to an audience of labor representatives in his hometown of Hanover.
Still combative, Schroeder made direct references to the failed "Anglo-Saxon" economic policies, which he insisted had "no chance" of taking hold in Europe. Without naming Katrina, he faulted the "hands-off" policies of economic liberalism that left a state "exposed" in times of crisis. According to a Reuters wire, he said, "I do not want to name any catastrophes where you can see what happens if organized state action is absent." Schroeder said. "I could name countries, but the position I still hold forbids itbut everyone knows I mean America...." [applause]. He made additional references to Franco-German cooperation, saying it was necessary for the defense of Europe's social model.
Germany's Prime European Partners Expect Continuity of Cooperation from New Government
The situation in Germany after the election ranks high on the agenda of France and Russia, as well as Turkey. Outgoing German Chancellor Schroeder was invited to Ankara Oct. 12, for a review of relations and common projects that have to be continued, with Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan. The two were to discuss the situation in the Caucasus, besides the Mideast, Iraq, and Iran problems. On Oct. 14, Schroeder was to be the guest of French President Jacques Chirac, whom he was expected to brief on his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, the previous Friday. Chirac also invited the designated new German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to visit Paris as soon as possible, after taking office.
An interesting, related episode in this diplomacy was the "private" Moscow visit of former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who told the press there Oct. 11 that the genuine economic interests of German industry in Russia are so strong that "every government of Germany" will have no alternative to deepening relations with Russia.
German Metalworkers Call for Changes in Maastricht Rules
In an interview with the Berliner Zeitung Oct. 13, Juergen Peters, chairman of the metal workers union, called for a state-funded program for conjunctural incentives, emphasizing infrastructure development in the municipal sector. Peters said the program should be funded with 20 billion euros, per year, and it should be a priority of the incoming Grand Coalition government.
Asked how this were possible under the Maastricht rules, Peters said that these rules "are made by politicians, they are not god-given, therefore they can also be changed politically." With five million officially-registered unemployed in Germany, a state intervention to create jobs was urgent, Peters said.
Sarkozy Under Massive Pressure from de Villepin, Chirac
Beyond his emotional problems, French Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy, who aspires to replace Jacques Chirac as President, is being brought down to size by President Chirac and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who have launched a bulldozer attack against him. Press reported recently that prior to the UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) convention on Europe (Sept. 23), Chirac had several yelling matches on the phone with him, even threatening to kick him out of the government. The arguments were prompted by the fact that Sarkozy tried to come out strongly against Turkey's integration into the EU (something Chirac is strongly in favor of). Sarkozy finally caved in and watered down his line.
On Oct. 10 a trip to London which Sarkozy wanted to use as a trampoline for his Presidential bid, turned into a total flop. First, at a joint press conference with Charles Clarke, his counterpart at the British interior ministry, Clarke interrupted him twice as a he was speaking, which was seen as particularly rude. Worse, Tony Blair, who was supposed to give Sarkozy the red carpet treatment, by meeting him at Downing Street, was apparently dissuaded by pressures coming directly from the Elysee, according to Le Figaro and other media. Instead, Blair met with Sarkozy as with a mistress, at the Marriott hotel in the evening, with no press or protocol. Blair merely stated something like "nobody can attack us if we meet this way."
Italian Government Assigns the First Contract for the Messina Bridge
The "Stretto di Messina SpA", the state corporation in charge, on Oct. 13 appointed the Impregilo Corp, the largest Italian construction company, to build the 3.9-billion-euro bridge. Construction will start in 2006 and will end in 2012. The Messina bridge connecting Sicily with the Italian mainland will be the longest suspension bridge in the world at 3.7 kilometers, or 2.3 miles. The two towers, standing 383 meters tall, will be higher than the Eiffel Tower. Construction will generate 40,000 jobs.
The opposition candidate in Messina for the next political elections is the owner of the largest ferry boat company and opposes the bridge. However, Raffaele Monorchio, head of Infrastrutture SpA holding, declared to the press that "At this point, I say that it is impossible not to build the bridge. The state would pay, through penalties, as much money as it spends to build it." What is lacking, however, is an overall "grand design" for Europe, into which such a huge project should fit.