SPIEGEL's Daily Take Europe Goes Cold on Lifting China Arms Embargo
Europe puts the kibosh on its plan to lift its weapons ban against Beijing. Support is waning for the plan across party lines, especially after China's latest sabre rattling against Taiwan. Germany's Gerhard Schroeder gives Paul Wolfowitz his tepid blessings and Camilla Parker-Bowles will be "Queen on Paper."
The Embargo Remains, For Now
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao
In the trans-Atlantic fray over the arms embargo against China, the European Union's arguments have come out dodgy at best. In an article published in December, we characterized the lifting of the embargo as a "opportunistic" move by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who was keen to pick up lucrative Chinese contracts for German businesses feeling the pinch of a stagnant economy. Europe imposed the embargo after the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 and even today human rights still have "little meaning" in China, where a free press, freedom of expression, a fair legal system and even free labor unions are lacking. And what about those weapons? "Even if the EU attaches strict conditions to the sale of weapons to China from now on, Beijing would still have its foot in the door, and it could use economic incentives to push it open even further over time," we wrote.
That thinking, apparently, as well as very serious warnings from Washington about tough retaliatory measures that may be taken if the EU lifts it, are apparently fulminating in the minds of German politicians. The passage last week by the Chinese People's Congress of a law that gives Beijing the power to go to war against Taiwan -- if the island doesn't agree to reunification with the Chinese mainland -- has created tremendous domestic political problems for Schroeder as well as French President Jacques Chirac, who were both leading the charge to have the ban lifted. Now, European and American officials have told various newspapers that any decision will be put off until later this year and possibly even next year. At a meeting last week of the German parliament's foreign policy committee, even loyalists to Schroeder backed away from lifting the embargo -- especially in light of Beijing's sabre-rattling towards Taipei. "Lifting the embargo now would send the wrong signal," Hans-Ulrich Klose, the committee's deputy chair and a member of Schroeder's Social Democrats told DER SPIEGEL. "This isn't the appropriate time."
The notion of lifting the embargo has also driven a wedge between the Social Democrats and their junior coalition partner, the Greens, who, with the exception of Foreign Minister Joschke Fischer, widely oppose the lifting of the embargo. "Considering the current situation in China, the lifting of the embargo is out of the question," Claudia Roth, the Greens's chairwoman said last week.
At the end of the day, Germany and France may not have the will to stomach this argument with Washington. There is still no consensus in the expanded EU over the embargo, and there's a danger that, under pressure from Washington, Donald Rumsfeld's "New Europe," -- e.g. Poland and the Baltic states -- could foil the plan to lift it. As Werner Hoyer of the opposition Free Democrats puts it: "If Europe is once again fractured down Rumsfeld's lines, it would become a Euro-political meltdown for Germany." (2:30 p.m. CET)
Will Germany Learn to Love Wolfowitz?
When we first heard Paul Wolfowitz, the "intellectual architect" of the United States' war in Iraq, had been tapped as the next president of the World Bank, our immediate reaction was to pick up the phone and call around Berlin to get some reactions. We got some pretty hot ones -- indeed, the anger in some quarters was so great you could practically feel the receiver burning. Most ridiculed him as a known unilateralist on foreign policy with ties to big oil, little if no experience in development work and little care for the Third World. "A truly terrifying appointment," said one. "A disastrous decision," said another. "What qualifies him for this job at all?" asked one. DER SPIEGEL's own correspondent in Washington noted in a piece Monday that senior World Bank officials say despite his intellectual vigor, Wolfowitz knows nothing about the business of finance and that his experience in the developing world is limited to a four-year gig as US ambassador to Indonesia, "plus a few helicopter flights over the Asian regions devastated by last year's tsunami." So, it comes as little surprise that Germany's development minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, whose office works closer with the World Bank than any other in the German government, had this to say last week of Wolfowitz's nomination: "Enthusiasm in Old Europe is not exactly overwhelming." Frankly, we were more surprised when we tuned into German newscaster n-tv on Monday to see German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder singing Wolfowitz's praises. Last week, Bush gave Schroeder a short phone call, and apparently he said the right things. "The American president called me and made the proposal, and I told him that it would not fail because of Germany," Schroeder told the news channel. "I even have the impression that we will be positively surprised." The chancellor also played down any speculation that the current selection processes for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund might be changed because of ruffled feathers over the Wolfowitz nomination. Currently, the US taps the head of the World Bank and Europe chooses the IMF leader. (1:30 p.m. CET)
Queen on Paper
It looks like Camilla Parker-Bowles could be getting more than a fat rock from Prince Charles after their wedding day in April.
Queen of Pop
Australian pop star Kylie Minogue -- Europe's long-reigning Queen of Pop -- kicked off her latest world tour this week in Britain. She'll be coming to Germany at the end of the month, with shows in Munich, Hamburg and Cologne. Papers across Europe are filled this week with statistics big enough to make the diminutive pop star seem even more like a pixie than her petit 5 feet. The "Showgirl" tour has so many feather plumes, writes Britain's Guardian, tongue-in-cheek, that it might be the world's first-ever tour to draw criticism from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. (10 a.m. CET)