Following a week which has been dominated by East-West tensions, Maria Wokurka provides the central European view on an increasingly divisive situation in this week’s Bottom Line from Germany.
Kyiv – voices from Germany
The world’s community has been focusing on the Ukraine and Kyiv. The protests and riots have led to the “Crimea crisis”.
Now Kyiv is in the urgent need of financial aid – and the EU is willing to help. The President of the commission, José Manuel Barroso, announced help in the form of eleven billion Euros. Russian’s president Vladimir Putin spoke of economic collaboration, in spite of the crisis.
In France, the foreign ministers of different EU states, including John Kerry and Frank-Walter Steinmeier as well as Sergej Lawrow, have met to diplomatically negotiate the crisis: some have claimed Moscow must eventually face international sanctions if it doesn’t end its involvement in Ukraine.
Germany’s federal government wants to abandon sanctions against Russia if today’s negotiations spawn a possible contact group. Without this contact group the sanctions will be on the agenda at the EU summit. While the German armed forces puts collaboration with the Russian armed forces on the test, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the foreign minister have sought to find a political loophole out of the drastic situation in the Ukraine.
The East-Europe-expert Hans-Henning Schröder said in an Interview with tagesschau.de that he is convinced that the good relationship between Russia and Germany could lead to a de-escalation in terms of the Ukraine. “Indeed, there is a really good connection between Berlin and Moscow. Even though there has been lots of criticism the last years, a big chance lies in this relationship.” According to Schröder, Germany is capable of acting as a negotiator between the West and the East. The online magazine Die Welt speaks of “Merkel’s walk on a tightrope between Putin and Obama.
There will be no easy solution. The foreign minister Steinmeier calls the critical situation in the Ukraine “the most problematic crisis in Europe since the Fall of the Wall.”
Has Syria been forgotten?
Since January the death count in Syria has stopped being recorded by Uno. The situation is a war but has become less prominent in the global media. The violence in Syria is part of the every-day-life. Every second Syrian citizen was forced to leave their home. Germany’s magazine Spiegel Online fears that Syria is becoming one of the forgotten conflicts such as Somalia or Iraq.
The Uno commissioner Antonio Guterres says: “Five years ago Syria has been the second most important country to receive refugees.” Now there is a dramatic change. “So far Afghanistan counted as the biggest refugee population, Syria is close to displacing Afghanistan.”
What is the current situation? The peace negotiations have temporarily failed. Assad has tried to reconquer districts in Aleppo but 10,000 inhabitants of the city have fled during the last months. The German authorities have said that 300 Germans are currently in Syria. How many of them are involved in fighting however is not known.
Export vs import – does Germany export debt?
Germany is currently being described as the trade world champion. Indeed, this name is flattering for a country that bases its political self-confidence on its economic strength. Brussels is skeptical and critical towards Germany’s economic imbalance.
Germany’s government has always referred to the country as remarkably competitive and that has been the best argument so far. But during the last few years the government signed several summit declarations. According to these declarations the huge economic imbalances worldwide are a central cause for recent crises. If Chancellor Angela Merkel appeals to, for instance, Greece to improve the competitiveness in terms of export numbers, there is no other way that countries such as Germany have to reduce their exports and increase their imports instead.
More export than import or vice versa – in general that is not the biggest problem as long as the imbalances stay within the bounds of possibility. That means that higher import countries must be able to afford these higher imports. Higher export countries, however, are exporting debts together with their commodities.