International Papers

The Courtship of Germany

If you missed the most recent installments of this column, here they are: posted Friday, Oct. 30, and Tuesday, Oct. 27.

As Gerhard Schröder arrived in London Monday for his first foreign trip as German chancellor, Britain and France were vying for the affection of the new leader of Europe’s largest and most powerful nation. Sunday in Germany’s Welt am Sonntag, British Prime Minister Tony Blair claimed that he wasn’t “in any way threatening the relationship between Germany and France,” which has always been the cornerstone of the European Union, but he nevertheless made proposals that were in direct opposition to France’s stated national interests. Calling for a more dynamic Anglo-German partnership to tackle Europe’s problems, Blair wrote that he and Schröder wanted to discuss the pace of enlarging Europe eastward, how to reform and restore confidence in financial institutions, how to combat over-regulation in Europe, develop a European defense identity, reform the common agricultural policy, and correct European budget imbalances.

Meanwhile, Le Monde of Paris carried a front-page article by Luc Rosenzweig lamenting Schröder’s apparently excessive Anglo-Saxon leanings. While welcoming the fact that he paid his first postelection foreign visit (but before he took over as chancellor) to France, the article noted that Schröder’s French wasn’t any better than that of his predecessor, Helmut Kohl. An article titled “The Difficult Profession of Francophile” said that, in contrast to other countries, France “starts from the principle that ‘francophilia is a natural and normal thing for other peoples’ ” It asked, “Are we not the fatherland of the rights of man? Haven’t we in the past raised high the standard of political and social emancipation for which the whole planet owes us recognition?”

Rosenzweig went on to point out that France did little to succor its fans. While France was cutting back on its cultural exports, Germany under Kohl had created “five chairs of European studies in the most prestigious universities in the United States. … The result: eminent American academics have noted that, across the Atlantic, they ‘read’ Europe more and more with German eye-glasses.”

In London, the Times ran an editorial Monday noting that Schröder had spoken of “an Anglo-German-French ‘triangle’–a key element of which, it goes without saying in Germany, is his confidence that Mr. Blair will soon come down firmly on the side of British entry into economic and monetary union.” The Times, which is strongly against European monetary integration, said that “the new German government’s programme is too heavily stamped with the trademarks of traditional tax-and-spend socialism to bear scrutiny as a modernising agenda. … Herr Schroeder may have won over Germany’s inherently conservative voters with his talk of a ‘new centre,’ but his election swings Europe firmly leftward.” It added, “Far from strengthening the case for British entry into the European Monetary Union, it strongly reinforces the many good arguments for staying out.”

In Israel, the conservative Jerusalem Post expressed the hope Monday that the decision made at the Wye Plantation talks to establish “a strategic planning committee” between Israel and the United States might strengthen the American commitment to protect Israel’s security against its Middle East neighbors with nuclear capabilities. But it said that “if Saddam Hussein’s recent announcement that he is suspending US inspections entirely–coupled with new evidence that he lied about not arming warheads with the chemical weapon VX–is not enough to spur US action, it is hard to imagine that closer consultations with Israel will do so either.”

In London, the conservative Daily Telegraph called for a tough line against Saddam. Saying in an editorial Monday that “Saddam means terror, confrontation and war,” that “[h]e is bent on building Iraq into a dominant regional power with the assistance of weapons of mass destruction,” and that the authority of the United Nations would be “in tatters if he is allowed to terminate Unscom operations.” The paper said that “[g]iving money to the Iraqi resistance is little more than a symbolic gesture. What is needed is the will to hit Iraq repeatedly from the air until Saddam backs down.” It added, “He must now believe he can defy the UN with impunity. It is time that he was sharply disabused.”

After a period since the first anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, during which the British press more or less honored a public appeal by her sons, Princes William and Harry, that it respect her memory, it is now open season against her with the serialization of new books in the Sunday tabloids. The Mail on Sunday has been running extracts from a biography of Prince Charles by Penny Junor, claiming that Diana had an affair with her personal bodyguard early in the marriage and that she issued death threats against her husband’s mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles. The Sunday Mirror, in the serialization of a book by Diana’s “close confidante” Simone Simmons, said this week that she had mutilated her body with a fork, wanted to run off to South Africa with a heart surgeon named Hasnat Khan, and voted 250 times against the monarchy during a televised debate about its future by pressing the redial button on her mobile phone.