Spiegel's Daily Take: Turkey in the EU Becomes German Election Issue

Just days before the German elections, it would be nice to have a sensible debate on how to solve the country's dire economic problems. Instead the daily tabloid Bild Zeitung has decided to focus the fight on Turkish EU accession. Meanwhile, in London, the British authorities attempt to arrest an Israeli general for war crimes. And Prince Harry hits 21. But will he be hitting the bottle?

A Green Party election campaign poster, showing Foreign Minister Fischer, in the window of a Turkish fast food restaurant in Eastern Germany. The slogan at the top of the poster is in Turkish and reads "Turkey belongs to Europe. Turkey is important for Europe's security."
DDP

A Green Party election campaign poster, showing Foreign Minister Fischer, in the window of a Turkish fast food restaurant in Eastern Germany. The slogan at the top of the poster is in Turkish and reads "Turkey belongs to Europe. Turkey is important for Europe's security."

There's nothing like a bit of xenophobia to get a slow election campaign moving. And if anyone has the ability, and the circulation, to get people all riled up, it's the popular trashy tabloid Bild Zeitung. Despite the fact that Germans of Turkish origin make up barely more than one percent of the electorate, the daily newspaper has decided that "German Turks" are the ones who will "possibly decide on Sunday who will and who will not rule Germany for the next few years."

The visit on Tuesday by Gerhard Schröder to the office of Germany's largest Turkish newspaper Hürriyet has made Turkey's admission to the EU a major election issue. Or rather Bild Zeitung has decided to spin it that way. On Wednesday the paper's front-page headline screamed, "Will Turks decide the election?" -- under a picture of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in front of a Turkish flag.

Thursday's edition takes the debate a step further by having Green Party Foreign Minister Joshka Fischer and CDU regional Minister President Roland Koch write about the pros and cons of Turkish EU accession. "A few days before the election, Germans are once again discussing Turkey's entry to the EU," says the paper. Well, thanks to Bild Zeitung banging on about the matter day after day, yes they are.

The tabloid appears to be scandalized that more offspring of Turkish immigrants are now able to vote this time round than was the case in the last elections, saying that "more Turks are now over 18 than in 2002. Out of the 840,000 Turks with German citizenship, 600,000 are now eligible to vote." The paper doesn't come right out and say that certain people with German citizenship should be kept from the polls simply because their parents are immigrants -- but the implication is hard to miss.

The Christian Democrat CDU opposition candidate Angela Merkel has categorically ruled out EU membership for Turkey, talking instead of a rather vague "privileged partnership." But the CDU and CSU parties, while feeling free at party conferences to get cheap applause by saying "no to Turkey," have wisely stopped short of making the issue a xenophobic central point of the election campaign. Looks like they didn't need to. Bild Zeitung has done it for them.

Israeli General Faces Arrest for War Crimes

One man's fight against terror is another man's war crime -- especially when the fight includes bulldozing people's homes. That, at least, is what one Israeli general, Doron Almog, found out this week when he flew to England. Before he even got to passport control he was tipped off that he faced arrest for alleged war crimes.

Fortunately for Almog, he was still on the plane when Israel's military attaché warned him about the warrant. This enabled the general to escape detention by turning round and flying right back to Israel. His case has no doubt been helped by the fact that he was coming to London in the first place to raise money for a center for brain-damaged children.

While Israel is basking in well-deserved approbation for leaving the Gaza strip, a few questions remain regarding the methods the country has in the past used in the fight against suicide bombers -- the most controversial being the destruction of civilians' homes. The charges against Major General Almog refer to the bulldozing of more than 50 houses in the Gaza strip, which was a reaction to the killing of four Israeli soldiers. The charges were raised by London-based lawyers representing Palestinians whose homes had been destroyed. They have expressed outrage at the tip-off, saying that it was not acceptable.

Needless to say the Israeli government is not impressed by the attempted arrest. The Israeli foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, has said that he will raise the matter with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Almog himself has complained that any Israeli soldier who has served in the army over the past five years could now find himself open to arrest by the British authorities. Although this is blatant hyperbole -- there is after all a slight difference between a private who carries out orders and a general who decides to knock down 50 houses -- Almog does raise a valid point: not every country's definition of a legitimate war or a crime against humanity is the same. The role of the British in Iraq being probably the best current example of this gray area.

The Palace's Party Prince

Prince Harry's learning the ropes of how to be a royal.
DPA

Prince Harry's learning the ropes of how to be a royal.

He may only be third in line to the British throne, but Prince Harry's 21st birthday is still an occasion to be marked by lots of media attention. Hopes have been dashed that he would throw a massive party, punch a bouncer and dress up as something really inappropriate (the Nazi has been done, but maybe an Islamic suicide bomber?).

So far the prince has fulfilled his patriotic duty by providing juicy copy for the country's less-than-salubrious publications. But while the odd scandal or two does give the royal family a valid reason for existence, it seems Harry has listened to the Palace's army of PR advisors and looks set to tone things down.

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In a BBC interview he apologized for donning a Nazi uniform to a "natives and colonials" party -- for most people even the name of such a party would be bad enough. The outfit created much delighted horror in the German press and almost pushed the naked girls off the tabloid front pages. "It was a very stupid thing to do and I've learnt my lesson," he said. "Maybe it was a sign of my own immaturity. That was then and this is now." He also said that he would carry on the humanitarian work of his mother, in particular by returning to southern Africa to work with AIDS orphans. As mentions of charity work and Diana in one sentence always tend to go down well, it is clear that Harry is fast becoming a pro at the media game.

But for those of us with a salacious streak, all is not lost. Harry stands by his reputation as a party prince. "Does everyone expect me to be just the caring person and not have a cigarette, not to have a beer?" he asked, certainly an unrealistic proposition for any 21-year-old Brit. "I am what I am," he also declared, sounding scarily like a drag-queen mime artist. He said that on the day of his birthday he'll "probably be in a ditch in the middle of Wales." One can only hope that he's referring to army drills, not the end result of too much booze.

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