The Bundeswehr regroups
Due to continued fighting between the Macedonian army and the ethnic Albanian militia, the German army command has decided to transfer some of its troops from Tetovo in northern Macedonia back to Kosovo.
This is to serve two ends: on the one hand, KFOR may need any number of troops to keep the UN mandate area of Kosovo stable in the face of Albanian unrest on its borders; on the other, German and other NATO troops in Macedonia—deployed there as "invitees" of the Skopje government—are limited in their freedom to use force and are effectively only allowed to defend themselves and their equipment against direct attacks. Previous experience shows this is a rather poor position to be in when faced with a "small war" and snipers' actions.
...and the nation faces a different kind of German-Albanian battle
The German national football team had to defeat Albania in the Saturday night match if it is to qualify for the next World Cup finals in 2002.
An all-time low, which started in 1998, has led the former football "world power" down into the valley of shadows in sports. For the first time in World Cup history, the German team is in danger of failing to qualify for a World Championship after two humiliating defeats at the hands of France and Denmark.
It would also mean the end of the surprise career as national team coach of former national player Rudi Völler. One of the last heroes for the German nation to look up to, he must lead his team either to the heights of victory or into the abyss of history.
A German lesson
Federal President Johannes Rau felt urged to lecture the nation, especially the youth, on what is patriotic and what nationalistic. He did it rather well, but nobody should expect the other leading figures to stop scolding and blaming each other for the bad state of public confidence in the democratic system and the "alarming rise" of right-wing extremism.
To illustrate this point, a Green minister recently remarked that this rise would not have happened had the Christian Democrats steered clearer of the extremists. To which the Christian Democrats so charged reacted by collecting signatures for the Green minister to resign. They are joined in this action by the leading right-wing extremist party&—currently under scrutiny by the Federal Consitutional Court in light of a possible prohibition. All of which happens on the eve of two important regional elections that might foreshadow the Federal elections of next year. To be continued...
FMD ad portas
Apparently, foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is about to cross into Germany—primarily from the Netherlands. According to Bärbel Höhn, the Green minister of the environment in the land of North-Rhine Westfalia there is little left to prevent the further spreading of the disease throughout EU territory. As of last week, no positive cases of FMD had been reported in Germany, after an alleged case at Verden (Lower Saxony) was tested by a Federal agency and found to be negative.
As a last resort, Höhn has called for the prophylactic vaccination of all German cattle. However, her suggestion does not, for the time being, have the support of her party colleague, the Federal minister for consumer protection and the environment, Renate Künast, who is pinning her hopes on a strict control of movements and transports of cattle. The background to this is that the competencies for agricultural policy lie by definition with the European Union and that, under EU law, vaccinations are prohibited.
Künast did, however, agree with her länder colleagues at a meeting this Friday on emergency vaccinations in the case of possible local occurences of the disease. In this case, she seems to be ready to face EU sanctions against Germany.
No more cattle on German Rail
German Rail (Deutsche Bahn) will no longer accept cattle for transport on its routes. The company has come under public criticism for the allegedly "unsafe" conditions of its transport system. A spokesperson explained that German Rail was not the actual culprit, but a victim of growing hysteria about the spread of BSE and foot-and-mouth disease in the European Union. It now is up to the government(s) to provide better legal and administrative conditions
Nuclear waste comes home
French and German authorities are busy preparing the transport, scheduled for Monday 26 March, of recycled nuclear waste from the French recycling factory of La Hague to the German storage site at Gorleben (Lower Saxony).
The main problem will be, as was the case with earlier transports of this kind, possible and even likely blockages of the transport route by anti-nuclear protesters, most of whom are supporters of the Green party. Their announced resistance to the forthcoming transports had thrown the Green cabinet ministers in dire straits: while putting an end to the use of nuclear energy is a core issue of Green policies, the current circumstances make it impossible for the German government to refuse to take back the waste that had already been left at La Hague considerably longer than expected by the French side.
The police of Lower Saxony has already been—and is very likely to continue beeing—busy keeping the prospected route free from potential trouble-makers. As part of their efforts, two protesters' camps along the route have been dissolved—peacefully. But the police know from previous experience that this is not necessarily the end of the matter. About 15,000 police officers have been assigned to this protection task.
Jens Boysen, 23 March 2001
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