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Germany

Chance to Start Again With Washington?

With George W. Bush sworn in as the 43rd US president, Germans are wondering if the second term will be as turbulent as the first one. Despite differences, the Schröder government now wants to smooth out relations.

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President Bush's inauguration -- honeymoon or hangover?

The fanfare with the champagne and caviar is over. Those who attended the inauguration balls and those who watched the spectacle live on television will most certainly have fond memories of the event -- a second honeymoon of sorts for Bush supporters. But for those who opposed the Texan's re-election, the ceremony is more likely to be compared with a hangover minus the good time the evening before.

Bush's detractors in Germany are no different. Although the president's swearing-in ceremony and his speech were televised live, few Germans chose to tune in. Instead anti-Bush protests were staged across the country. Never before has an American president been so unpopular among the Germans.

Pressekonferenz zur deutschen Hilfe für die Flutopfer in Südostasien

Gerhard Schröder (left) and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer have not always agreed with Bush's policies

The animosity to the American leader poses a serious challenge to the center-left coalition government of Gerhard Schröder as it struggles to make the best of the situation. Karsten Voigt, coordinator for German-American Cooperation in the German Foreign Ministry, told Deutsche Welle that Berlin is determined to improve relations with Washington.

During Bush's first term, Schröder and his party of Social Democrats as well as the Greens made no secret of their opposition to the president's foreign policy in Iraq and elsewhere and frequently locked heads on the internatioal stage. Now Berlin is eager to patch things up, Voigt said.

"We always made it clear that this was a difference about a specific issue. It was not a turning point in German-American relations," he said. "We made it clear by objecting against the use of force but at the same time the Americans could use bases in Germany."

Common ground with the opposition

The opposition agrees with the Schröder administration on that point. Ruprecht Polenz, a Christian Democratic (CDU) member of the Bundestag who also sits on the Bundestag's Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, described international relations as an effort to maintain interests between countries. In that regard, both Germany and the US have much in common, he said.

Polenz believes that Germany has to put the disagreement about the Iraq war behind it. Voigt agrees and thinks it is time to start anew with Washington.

Look to the future

Amtseinführung von George Bush

George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush during the inauguration

Christian Democratic party vice-chairman Wolfgang Schäuble, in a recent interview with the Neue Presse, said that mistakes had been made on both sides of the Atlantic that both the US and Germany should take a close look at them and learn from the past. Germany for its part must be more consistent in foreign policy, the CDU foreign affairs expert claimed.

He said that Berlin's accusations that the US needed to act multilaterally were unjust because Germany does not implement the multilateral decisions made by the UN Security Council, such as the Iraq resolution. Such actions only strengthen the American drive to act unilaterally.

And George W. Bush? In his inauguration speech, he made a brief reference to allies, honoring them for their friendship and saying the US relies on their help.

Although very sweeping in its address, those are welcoming words for Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who will be meeting with Bush in February.

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