The former minister of defence, Volker Ruhe, wrote in an article for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the hotly debated Osterweiterung (enlargement of the European Union to the east- should be "realistic." ("For a realistic enlargement," Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 18 September) The problems that many Germans have with enlargement, a profound distrust of "European" politics in general, along with the belief that enlargement will not benefit Germany or Europe as a whole, are reiterated in this article. Presently, 54 percent of Germans think that enlargement would "weaken Europe." (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 20 September)
At the same time, the former president of the European Commission, Jacques Delors, warned that further delays regarding enlargement would have negative effects. ("Don't postpone enlargement any further," Frankfurter Allgemeine, 19 September) This came in reaction to the suggestion that an additional conference for the EU member states be held before any further progression toward a completely united Europe is made.
Verheugen has a friend
Two weeks ago, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Günter Verheugen, much to the dismay of European Union Chairman Romano Prodi and probably the majority of European politicians (both of member and non-member states), recently suggested that there be more debate on the subject of enlargement so that the citizens of Europe be included in the decision-making process. Shunned throughout Europe for this suggestion, Verheugen should be pleased to know that he is now being met with quiet agreement, coming especially from the Netherlands.
"Citizens should be able to tip EU-decisions," reads the headline in the Berliner Zeitung of 20 September. The Dutch government suggests that "corrective referendums" should be introduced. Fundamentally, this idea is no less shocking than those voiced by Verheugen. Not only should Europeans have a greater say in the affairs of the European Union, says European State Secretary Dick Benschop, but this say should also apply retroactively. "Personally, I am pro-referendum... It is not good to say 'please don't bring in the citizens'," says Benschop. Does this also apply to the decision on European enlargement? You bet it does: "If the instrument of the referendum were used in the Netherlands, it would also apply to such a decision [that of enlargement]," says Benschop.
There has been little reaction to this latest statement. While Jean Monnet, early visionary of a united Europe, turns in his grave, his successor, Romano Prodi, instead prefers to comment on the failed sanctions against Austria. Germans of the new century question the benefits that a further enlargement of the Union would bring. Furthermore, it is one thing to suggest that the European Union be more dependent on referenda and the participation of its citizens and another entirely to consider that even such "populist" democracy may bring little resolution. Specifically in the Netherlands, only 29 percent of citizens participated in the last Europe-wide vote.(Berliner Zeitung, 20 September)
There's the rub for both EU enthusiasts and those who worry about responsibility and accountability in the mounting bureaucracy: either way you look at it, apathy for EU affairs runs rampant among its citizens.
Any time you're ready
So when will enlargement take place? It appears as though no one can decide on a date. Rühe's proposal for "realistic enlargement" is 1 January 2003. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is all for a new conference that would push acceptance of the first round back to 2004. And one final article in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung announced that "at the latest, a group of ten new EU states could be accepted by 2005." ("Big solution for the eastward enlargement of the EU?" Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 20 September).It appears that for Germans a definitive resolution on the "imminent" European expansion is not forthcoming.
Do Jews want to live in Germany?
On the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Central Board for Jews in Germany, the president of this foundation, Paul Spiegel, declared that "Jews want to live in Germany again."(Süddeutsche Zeitung, 21 September) Compare and contrast with an article from the Tagesspiegel on 22 September, in which the headline read "Jews See Open Anti-Semitism." Is Spiegel being overly optimistic? The Central Board for Jews in Germany has only 85,000 members (Die Tageszeitung, 21 September). Furthermore, an opinion piece by Philipp Gessler in Die Tageszeitung discusses the exclusive nature of this largely orthodox group and the fact that Russian Jews, who have tripled the Jewish population in Germany, do not feel themselves to be represented by it. Russian Jews say that the board, "does what it wants"; so Russian Jews are a minority within a minority.
In the same Süddeutsche Zeitung article Spiegel identifies various sources of anti-Jewish prejudice around him. Two sources in particluar lie in the Roman Catholic Church: the statement of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the move of Pope John Paul II toward the sainthood of Pius IX. Fair enough. The last lies in the lifting of sanctions against Austria. This lifting of sanctions apparently "sends the wrong signal." Chairman of the European Commission Romano Prodi disagrees.
No more sanctions
Prodi finally unambiguously stated that sanctions of the variety declared against Austria "will not happen again." ("Prodi: That will not happen again," Die Berliner Zeitung, 18 September) Prodi said that as long as the rules of democracy were not being broken there would be no sanctions. After eastward enlargement, Prodi said, the EU would have to deal with "problematic election results" - not exactly a statement of support for enlargement itself.
Uproar about fuel prices and taxes also abounded; other newspapers discussed the World Trade talks in Prague. ("There is fear of a second Seattle in Prague," Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Zeitung,19 September; "Door closed, be quiet, get out of Prague," Tageszeitung, 22 September) Finally, there was some discussion in the German press about the elections in Serbia, once again linking the results of those elections to entry into the European Union. Discussion does not seem to stray very far from that of the European Union, which leaves one wondering when this will evolve into action.
Andrea Mrozek, 23 September 2000
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Die Berliner Zeitung
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