Statesmen express caution vis-à-vis enlargement
In a talk with Die Zeit, former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and Bavarian Minister President Edmund Stoiber have warned against too hasty and unqualified an approach to EU enlargement.
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They called it "irresponsible" on the part of the Fifteen to have started accession negotiations with all twelve candidate countries since the December 1999 EU summit at Helsinki. Likewise, they denounced the offer of candidate status made to Turkey in 1999 in Luxemburg. This meant a transgression of the "clear cultural limits" of Europe.
In their eyes, the Nice Treaty is insufficient to make the EU system, designed in 1957 for a club of six, fit for a union of 27 states—many of which will for a long time to come remain way below present EU standards in economic performance and democratic stability.
Fischer treads carefully between Washington and Moscow
On his recent visit to Moscow, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, effectively representing not only Germany, but also the European Union, has had to keep a delicate balance between topical discussion and NATO loyalty.
Fischer's Russian colleague Igor Ivanov and President Vladimir Putin sought to establish a common line of Europeans and Russians who both had voiced their criticisms of the US initiative for a National Missile Defense (NMD) programme, notably on the occasion of the 37th Munich International Conference on Security Policy the week before.
The German minister, known to be himself rather sceptical of the American conduct in this respect, nevertheless made it his priority to underline NATO's internal solidarity in any given situation and that there was no way of creating a European-Russian common counterposition to the United States.
Fischer ruled out a role for Germany as "broker" between Moscow and Washington, yet stressed his country's continued determination to help defusing any tensions between the two powers.
Legal limits to right-wing extremists' freedom of assembly
The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe has ruled that the fundamental right of all Germans "to assemble freely and without weapons under the open sky" can be restricted by the courts in some very specific situations.
The case at hand was a complaint on the part of a number of right-wing organisations forbidden to hold rallies on 27 January, the day of remembrance of the Auschwitz concentration camp's liberation in 1945. Germany's highest court stated that on this and other days "invested by society with an unequivocal and weighty symbolism" the authorities are entitled to restrict activities "seriously at odds with the social and ethical views" underlying the German state.
This ruling may also have repercussions with respect to voiced demands to ban extremists from rallying in certain places of high national significance such as the Brandenburg Gate.
Jens Boysen, 16 February 2001
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