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Vol 2, No 38
6 November 2000
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German News News from Germany
All the important news since 28 October 2000
Jens Boysen

View today's updated headlines from Germany

 

Dispute over cultural hegemony

The leadership of the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is struggling to define a concept paper of the party's views on immigration. Last week, Peter Müller, minister president of Saarland and head of the party's "immigration committee," proposed a rather liberal draft. The party's right-wing faction called for a stance more distinct from that of the centre-left federal government.

The bone of contentionand cause of harsh criticism from the ruling parties and other left-of-centre groupswas the use of the term "deutsche Leitkultur," which could be translated as a defining or hegemonic German culture, by opposition leader Friedrich Merz in his attack against the government. Merz did not define this term very clearly.

 

What is "culture"?

In the media a doubtful, but traditional, cleavage of German post-war political culture opened up: that between a "cultural hegemony," which calls for at least partial assimilation of foreigners into German customs, and a "constitutional culture." The former view is suspected by some of having ethno-nationalist connotations; the latter is aimed at the creation of a political community through focusing on the legally defined polity without regard for the ethnic make-up of the population.

Currently, the state of the discussion is unclear. The latest draft of the CDU's "basic principles on immigration policy," issued on Friday 3 November, contains the term "Leitkultur again." At an extraordinary meeting of the party just days earlier, an ethno-hegemonic interpretation received more support than a "republican" one.

The discussion is in itself evidence of the CDU's desperate attempt to address political topics in the face of a strong, self-assured Social Democratic government. It is likely to have consequences for the future policy on asylum as well. Chairwoman of the CDU, Angela Merkel, now appears to be taking a stronger personal role in defining CDU policy in order to secure her lead at the top. It was she who ordered the reworking of the first draft of the paper on immigration.

 

Back to normal?

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's decision to meet officially with his Austrian counterpart, Wolfgang Schüssel, on 21 November in Berlin, could mean that a brotherhood between these nations has almost been re-established. Germany was sharply criticised in Vienna for siding with the other 13 EU countries against Austria during the "boycott crisis" earlier this year.

The Austrian government was disappointed that Berlin had not shown the slightest disposition toward acting as a mediator between Vienna and the "hard-line" countries, such as France and Belgium, choosing rather to simply follow their anti-Austrian lead.

This German attitude is a typical one and stems from a general aversion to taking the lead internationally. It stems also from the "habitual fear" (which is especially predominant in a left-wing government) of being suspected of any "Greater Germany" sympathies. At the time of the sanctions, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer did not even respond to Austrian suggestions or requests for support.

 

Steel helmets to blue helmets

Germany will assist United Nations activities in the future not only by providing funds, equipment and policemen but also by deploying soldiers as blue helmets in peace-keeping or peace-making missions. Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping has signed an agreement to this effect in New York.

This decision marks another step toward Berlin claiming "full international responsibilities" for the return of leading powers to the UN. A few years after the repeal of the "enemy clauses" of the UN Charter, Germany is shedding the remnants of discrimination toward its European counterparts Britain and France one after another. These clauses were directed in 1945 against a resurgence of German or Japanese might. The next step is likely to be the acquisition of a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Jens Boysen, 3 November

Moving on:

Sources:

ZDF Online News(Public German TV) Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Frankfurter Rundschau
Süddeutsche Zeitung
Der Spiegel
Die Zeit

Today's updated headlines from Germany

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