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  • Europe shifting further right (III)

    The far right is gaining strength in the European Parliament, now claiming almost a quarter of MEPs. Commission President von der Leyen seeks ultra-right support to water down the Green Deal.

    BRUSSELS/BERLIN (own report) - Following the European elections, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is continuing her efforts to attract at least some individual far-right parties into future majority voting arrangements in the European Parliament. In particular, von der Leyen and allied German politicians have their sights set on closer cooperation with the Fratelli d’Italia party of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and possibly even with the wider ECR parliamentary group, which Meloni’s party supports. Behind this move is a desire shown by EU member states and the Commission to water down the Green Deal. Business-friendly reversals and delays could prove difficult to implement in cooperation with the Green Group and sections of the Social Democratic Group. Much of the ultra-right spectrum, on the other hand, is willing to help. Indeed, the experience of recent years has shown that the Commission was only capable of pushing a whole series of climate-damaging measures through Parliament by gaining the support of the ECR Group. Discussions of the future of the Commission and its political direction are expected to take place on the fringes of the G7 summit in Italy from Thursday. Read more


War against China

There is a reflex in Europe that is detrimental to China. It is the downside of the respectful awe at China's vastness, its size, its culture, and statehood. By comparison, Europe appears tiny. The comparison mitigates the error of being incomparable. China is greater.

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  • The next Zeitenwende

    Berlin think-tank calls for the Bundeswehr to switch from small-scale military operations around the world to a total focus – military and societal – on war with Russia. This aligns with US strategists’ ideas on fighting three parallel wars.

    BERLIN/WASHINGTON (own report) - Germany and Europe are on the brink of a second ‘Zeitenwende’ – another epochal turning point. At least this is a scenario predicted by the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in a recent study. The think-tank points out the likelihood of a significant reduction in US military activities in Europe after the US presidential election on 5 November – not only if Donald Trump wins but also if Joe Biden emerges victorious. When it comes to the crunch, Biden will, according to the SWP’s analysis, prioritise preparation for a war against China over Taiwan over any future support for Ukraine in its war against Russia. The authors argue that ‘the main task’ of German foreign and military policy should be to ‘secure’ the EU and the NATO states of Europe against Russia in the future. ‘All aspects’ of the ongoing arms build-up in Europe must be ‘geared to this objective’. Berlin should, therefore, step away from small-scale military missions all around the world. This policy recommendation dovetails with strategic deliberations in the US on the feasibility of waging three wars simultaneously: against Russia, against adversaries in the Middle East, and against China. The threat of such a military scenario could only be realised with the support of US allies and a massive arms build-up. Read more

  • Colonies in the 21st century (II)

    German companies are complicit in Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara in violation of international law. Formerly a Spanish colonial territory, Western Sahara is categorised by the UN to this day as one of the last remaining colonies.

    BERLIN/RABAT (own report) - German companies are complicit in the occupation of one of the few remaining colonial territories of the 21st century, Western Sahara, in violation of international law. The territory has been under the control of Morocco for almost fifty years. Tthe International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ruled in 1975 that Western Sahara, in accordance with its classification by the UN as a ‘territory without self-government’, has the right to self-determination and independence as a state entity. Western Sahara had initially been a colony of Spain from 1884. Under its dictator, Franco, Spain had been repressing a growing anti-colonial rebellion since the 1950s, but finally withdrew from the occupied territory at the beginning of 1976. That was then the signal for Moroccan troops to move in. They continue to illegally occupy and exploit the territory to this day. Only the US and Israel officially recognise Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. One of the tactics pursued by Rabat to secure Moroccan rule in the face of diplomatic pressure is to involve companies from third countries in the economic plundering of the territory. Among others, German corporations, such as Heidelberg Materials and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, have seized this opportunity. Read more

  • The German “cold base” in Niger

    The Bundeswehr can maintain its military presence in Niger for the present. Berlin hopes for a permanent deal with the ruling junta on operations in the Sahel – not least to counter Russia in a geostrategic struggle with Moscow.

    BERLIN/ROME/NIAMEY (own report) - The German armed forces are now, for the time being at least, able to maintain a military presence in Niger. Berlin now hopes for a more permanent agreement on the stationing of its forces at the airport outside the capital Niamey. The provisional arrangement has resulted from secret negotiations conducted by Germany’s Defence Ministry over recent months. Going forward, the aim is to operate a “manned cold base”, a kind of small-scale facility run by a low double-digit number of soldiers that will have periods of inactivity but can be used when necessary for military operations, such as evacuations on the African continent. The primary interest for Berlin, however, is that such a base would, to some extent, offer a counterweight to Moscow in Niger. Russia has been deploying military personnel to Niger and the region, gradually establishing itself as the leading military cooperation partner for states in the central Sahel and beyond. France and the United States have had to withdraw their troops from the region or been told to do so. Apart from Germany, Italy is the only Western country that still has a military presence in Niger. Read more

  • Over Dead Bodies for a Profit

    According to a recently published inquiry report, between 1970 and 1998, 3,000 people have died in the United Kingdom from virus-contaminated blood products. The Bayer Group was one of the largest manufacturers.

    BERLIN/LONDON (own report) – According to an inquiry report published last week, contaminated blood plasma products from the Bayer Group in Germany, and others, caused the deaths of around 3,000 people. 30,000 people – mainly hemophiliacs who are dependent on blood clotting products – were infected with HIV or Hepatitis C. The report speaks in terms of avoidable deaths and raises serious accusations of the health system and politicians in authority. On the other hand, it refrains from criticising the pharmceutical industry. That Bayer and other companies had had detailed information about the risks of transmission, is apparent from company internal documents. In addition, for a prolonged period, they had refused to adopt virus inactivation methods to preserve their profits. When the USA and a growing number of European countries were making heat treatment of blood products a condition for certification, the companies exported their old stockpiles to Asia and Latin America. Victims are demanding an official apology. Initiatives critical of the company are demanding that the company assume a share of the compensation payments of around eleven billion euros promised by London. Read more

  • Colonies in the 21st century (I)

    New Caledonia: Violent unrest shakes a remaining colony as clamor for independence grows. Germany also benefits from France’s hold over the archipelago.

    PARIS/NOUMÉA/BERLIN (own report) - Violent unrest has sent shockwaves through New Caledonia, one of the remaining colonial territories of the 21st century, which is still controlled by France. On the archipelago, located east of Australia in the southwest Pacific Ocean, sections of the indigenous population are in revolt after the French government decided to introduce a revised electoral law that disadvantages those communities. The reform would ensure a stable majority for the inhabitants who have moved there from France and tend to be politically aligned with Paris. It effectively downgrades the indigenous population to the status of a minority in their own country and, above all, worsens their prospects of decolonisation. New Caledonia is one of those places classified by the United Nations as “non-self-governing territories”, while Paris regards the archipelo as French soil. Under UN policy, a NSGT should move towards decolonisation without delay, but Paris refuses to budge. The islands have considerable geostrategic importance, enabling France to maintain a permanent military presence in the Pacific. The German armed forces have also benefited from the French military presence. If France were to release the colony, China could gain in influence there – a scenario that runs directly counter to Berlin’s strategic interests. Read more

  • Review: Le choix de la défaite

    Annie Lacroix-Riz analyses the portentous orientation of influential sections of the French elites towards Germany in the 1930s and the fluid transition to collaboration.

    “The day will come,” wrote the French historian Marc Bloch in April 1944, “and perhaps quite soon, when it will be possible to shed light on the machinations that took place in our country from 1933 to 1939 in support of the Berlin-Rome axis so that it could rule over Europe.” Shortly beforehand, on 8 March, Bloch, who had joined the Resistance to fight against the German occupation regime, had been arrested, imprisoned and severely tortured by the Gestapo in Lyon. Facing death, he was gripped by a question that he had already addressed back in the summer of 1940, shortly after the German Reich’s rapid military conquest of France. In his essay L'étrange défaite (Strange Defeat), he concluded that the French elites – military leaders, politicians, journalists, and above all industrialists – were prepared to “single-handedly destroy the entire edifice of our alliances and our partnerships” and enter into open collaboration with the Germans. Bloch, too, like so many others, fell victim to that collaboration: the Nazis murdered him on 16 June 1944. Read more

  • Rheinmetall, a “global player”

    German weapons manufacturer Rheinmetall aims to become a “global player” in the arms sector. Group CEO Papperger envisages a “European systems house” eventually joining the ranks of the big three US defence industry giants.

    DÜSSELDORF (own report) - Ahead of this year’s annual general meeting, on 14 May, the Rheinmetall military technology group announced its intention to become a “global player” in the arms industry. Its ambitious plans are rooted in a rapid increase in the demand for weapons and ammunition triggered by the war in Ukraine. The upward spiral in military spending has seen the sales and profits of the Düsseldorf-headquartered arms manufacturer skyrocket. Its weapons and ammunition division was able to boost turnover to 5.69 billion euros last year, generating a profit of 828 million euros – a significant increase on the 2021 figure (491 million euros). With a backlog of orders-in-hand that could reach 60 billion euros by the end of this year, the business appears to be very secure for years to come. A part of the upcoming orders is attributable the German government’s 100 billion euro “special fund” to upgrade the Bundeswehr. For around a third of this military expenditure is likely to flow into Rheinmetall. Group CEO Armin Papperger has wider ambitions for Europe-wide mergers. He is now advocating the creation of “a European systems house” capable of generating annual sales of 30 to 35 billion euros. Rheinmetall could then catch up with US defence industry giants, above all Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. This rapid expansion is driving the growing importance of the arms sector for policymaking and in the wider society. Read more