BERLIN/WASHINGTON/BEIJING | | usa

BERLIN/WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Own report) - Just before the opening of this years annual Munich Security Conference, German government advisors are assessing US global policy in the aftermath of the Bush era. The German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin writes that President Obama, upon taking office, aroused "great expectations" in terms of an intensified cooperation with Berlin and the EU. But in fact, there has been "little more than a shift of accents". Washington still merely concedes an instrumental role to "multilateralism" - a codeword for the German-EU ambition to share world power with the USA. Yet some strategists are calling for caution in the transatlantic rivalry. If the USA loses its predominating role this could cause grave "problems" for Germany. The warning refers to China's rapid rise, which appears to have been accelerated by the economic crisis. Economists see the possibility of Europe's abrupt decline and are predicting a global rivalry solely between the USA and China. In such a case, according to Berlin, Germany could at best have influence as the United States' junior partner. more…

BERLIN/LONDON/KABUL | | afghanistan

BERLIN/LONDON/KABUL (Own report) - Afghanistan Experts are heavily criticizing the Afghanistan Conference that opens in London today. The meeting, that for months has been billed as significant, has been insufficiently prepared, the majority of the participants are mainly "concerned with initiating a face-saving retreat" says Conrad Schetter a prominent authority on that country and the West's intervention policy. To set the mood for the conference in London, Berlin has announced that Germany would increase its occupation contingent by 850 troops. The German government's planning is designed to support local militias with military and police measures ("regionalization of security structures"). Through bribery, they hope to immobilize the enemy ("dropout program"). If these plans work, then Afghanistan, following the retreat of the occupation forces, would remain a country ruled by regional warlords, nothing more than the situation following the withdrawal of Soviet troops at the end of the 1980s. The ruthless warfare that ensued between the warlords led soon afterwards to the rise of the Taliban. more…

TEHERAN/BERLIN | | iran

TEHERAN/BERLIN (Own report) - New reprisals against Iran will be among the main topics to be discussed with the Israeli president, during his visit, which begins today. The German chancellor has announced her willingness to apply stiffer economic sanctions, even without a UN mandate. The EU and the USA have made similar declarations. With a fear of losing out in the long-run to the People's Republic of China, German export enterprises are still putting up resistance. The question of how to handle Teheran's striving to become the major power at the Persian Gulf, in the aftermath of the extensive destruction of Iraq, is at the heart of the dispute among the Germans. One alternative, supported for example by the state-financed Deutsche Welle radio station, is the replacement of the current government by forces imputed to be more acquiescent to Western demands. Germany is also involved in the US war preparations, aimed at applying pressure on Iran. This provides Berlin several variations for compelling the recalcitrant military regime in Teheran to comply with German hegemonic plans for this resource-rich region bordering on the Persian Gulf. more…

BERLIN/WARSAW | | polen

BERLIN/WARSAW (Own report) - The German Minister of Transportation, Peter Ramsauer (CSU) is member of a student fraternity that has ties to circles of the right extremist National Democratic Party of Germany - NPD. The umbrella fraternity "Deutsche Burschenschaft," (DB) not only has Minister Ramsauer as a member, but also two NPD members of regional parliaments. The alleged historical merits of Nazi criminals Hess and Hitler are debated in the DB's newspaper. The fraternity, in which Ramsauer is referred to as a "fraternity brother", places Poland's territorial integrity into question. In the next few weeks, Transportation Minister Ramsauer is due to reach a decision concerning Nazi victims in Poland, who are demanding reparations from his ministry for damages incurred during Nazi deportation carried out with the "Deutsche Reichsbahn" (German state railroad in WW II). Cabinet member Ramsauer is not alone. Hans-Peter Uhl is also a member of a fraternity with NPD ties. Uhl is the spokesperson for domestic affairs of the conservative CDU/CSU parliamentary caucus in the German Parliament (Bundestag). Legislation concerning the surveillance of the country's right-wing extremists is among Uhl's functions. more…

WARSAW/BERLIN | | polen

WARSAW/BERLIN (Own report) - Victims of unpunished German war crimes in Poland are making progress in their struggle for reparations. The lawsuit brought by a survivor, who had been badly burned when his village was liquidated, has been accepted as a case to be decided by Poland's Supreme Court. The 71 year-old is one of a group of victims, who have never received any form of reparations from the Federal Republic of Germany. Berlin justifies its rejection of similar claims with the reasoning that Nazi massacres are to be seen as sovereign German acts of warfare, therefore immune to individual claims ("State immunity"). After a court in Italy ruled in late 2008 that states cannot benefit from immunity for their crimes against humanity, the possibility of winning redress in court was also opened in Poland. In Warsaw victims associations, representing "Reichsbahn" (German state railroad in WW II) deportees simultaneously voiced their claims, demanding the creation of an aid fund from the company's heirs. Several hundreds of thousand Poles were taken with the "Reichsbahn" and its subsidiary the "Gedob" (General Direction Ostbahn [Eastern Railroad]) to Nazi camps or slave labor. The legal heir of the "Reichsbahn" is the German government, which is represented in affairs of the railroad by the Ministries of Transportation and of Finance. According to the calculations of the "Train of Commemoration" Association, in the course of the deportations throughout Europe the "Reichsbahn" made receipts of at least 445 million Euros at current exchange rates. more…

BERLIN/WARSAW | | polen

BERLIN/WARSAW (Own Report) - Poland's serious protests of Germany's not abiding by treaties and agreements are overshadowing Berlin's Coordinator for German Polish Cooperation's inaugural visit to Warsaw tomorrow. The protests in Poland are aimed at Germany's disregard for the terms of the German-Polish Good Neighbor Policy Treaty, resulting in, the much less prosperous, Poland allocating a multiple per capita for the German-speaking minority in Poland in its national budget than what Germany is willing to allot for the Polish-speaking minority in Germany. The German revisionist "Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation Foundation" is another cause of discontent. Warsaw insists that Germany live up to its engagement in the agreements on personnel questions, which Germany is now threatening to violate, including providing the President of the German League of Expellees, Erika Steinbach, a position on the staff of the foundation. The historian Tomasz Szarota has raised grave criticism of the institution, which plans to erect a memorial in the German capital at a prominent location. Szarota was a member of the foundation's scientific advisory council, from which he resigned in protest. Through his knowledge of the structure of the foundation, Szarota sees the foundation as a "propaganda ploy" that, even without Erika Steinbach's collaboration, will present the developments at the end of World War II with bias. more…

RIYADH/DOHA/BERLIN | | saudi-arabienyemen

RIYADH/DOHA/BERLIN (Own report) - Germany is further reinforcing its relations to the dictatorships on the Arabian Peninsular and will roll back Iran's influence with their help. This was the primary result of German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle's trip to the Persian Gulf, which terminated today with a detour to the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. In Riyadh, Westerwelle declared that Saudi Arabia, Iran's traditional rival, is the "regional leading power" having, therefore a "key role to play for the region, as a whole." In cooperation with the oil monarchy and several emirates at the Gulf, Berlin is seeking to also keep the Yemeni regime in power, which is threatened by local anti-western domestic forces, some of which are in contact with Iran. The German government is linking its political stabilizing measures to business projects, carrying prospects of tighter bonds between the Gulf countries and Germany, as well as lucrative profits and globally reinforcing the competitive position of German companies. For example the "Deutsche Bahn" wants to establish a railroad system on the Arabian Peninsular. Solar energy boom companies are seeking billions in contracts in the Arabian Desert to help them hold their ground against their Chinese rivals. more…

BUDAPEST/BERLIN/ULM | | ungarn

BUDAPEST/BERLIN/ULM (Own report) - The Hungarian government has announced a "Danube Summit Meeting" for next month to implement the - German inspired - "Danube Strategy". Following in depth talks in Berlin, the Hungarian foreign minister announced that the "Danube Summit" will be held in Budapest at the end of February. The summit will prepare closer ties of the Danube region to the EU's hegemonic power, which should be adopted, as the EU's Danube Strategy, during Hungary's EU Council presidency in the first half of 2011. The Hungarian government's Danube activities are in line with demands of German economic interests, seeking to significantly extend their range of activities into their traditional region of expansion. Bavarian trade with countries along the Danube, beyond Austria, already surpasses its trade with France or China. Due to the predominant position of German companies in Hungary, Budapest is now benefiting from serving German economic interests. To demonstrate the economic dependence of his country, the Hungarian ambassador explained that "when Germany sneezes, Hungary is already bedridden." The close German-Hungarian cooperation ostentatiously reinforces Budapest's position - which this spring could lead to serious tensions in Eastern Europe. The April parliamentary elections could bring an authoritarian government to power that uses aggressive, ethno chauvinist, anti-Semitic intonations. more…

SANAA/WASHINGTON/BERLIN | | yemen

SANAA/WASHINGTON/BERLIN (Own report) - Germany is taking part in the US government's intensification of the so-called "war on terror" in Yemen. As Washington dispatches detachments of Special Forces to the country and directs bombing raids carried out by the Yemeni military, Berlin is engaged in building up Yemen's coast guard and training its police. This cooperation with Yemen's repressive institutions is of strategic significance and was intensified last year, when the USA began to step up its "anti-terror" measures in this country located at the southern most corner of the Arabic Peninsular. The German Bundeswehr maintains a "group of advisors" with the Yemeni military. The Yemeni armed forces are alleged to have committed a massacre of civilians last December. The German Navy, in operation off the Yemeni coast, is also implicated in these "war on terror" intensification measures. Somali militias, just across the narrow Gulf of Aden from this new front, have announced their intention to enter this conflict. Berlin's local partner in the war is the Yemeni government - known for decades for its use of torture. more…