European Press Review: When Gerhard Met George | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 26.09.2003
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European Press Review: When Gerhard Met George

The meeting between Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and President George W. Bush dominated a number of European papers with many commenting on the steps made by both men to resolve the problems between them.

Taking stock of the United Nations General Assembly debate on Iraq, the Russian daily, Kommersant emphasized the symbolic importance of the meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush and the German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. It was not the fact that this was their first encounter in over a year, the paper noted, but that they have put their differences behind them. That is the most important message. In doing so, the paper wrote, Germany is following Russia’s example. Germany remains part of the “European Troika”, but has openly approached the Americans. Washington’s only principal opponent now is France, the paper said.

The Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant looked at the reconciliation between Schröder and Bush and commented that with a portion of goodwill one could interpret Schröder’s earlier revolt against his American protectors as evidence that a united Germany had ultimately grown up. He has extricated Germany from the tutelage of Washington and Paris. But, the paper added that Schröder must be careful that this new self-confidence does not mutate into over-confidence. Germany could never respond if, unexpectedly, ethnic conflict broke out in its political hinterland of Eastern Europe. Good relations with America are even in a grown-up Germany’s interest, the paper emphasized.

The Austrian daily, Der Standard, agreed and viewed Chancellor Schröder’s now more moderate positions as expanding Germany’s foreign policy maneuvering room, but more in the direction of Bush and a step away from French President Jacques Chirac. However, the paper questioned whether this will help Germany in the long term or ultimately weaken Schröder’s hand.

The French daily, Le Monde, on the other hand, was concerned about Schröder’s more moderate tone and urged that the new Franco-German entente be maintained. But it recognized that many in Germany feel the anti-war position weakened Europe, because Berlin could no longer play its traditional role as a mediator between Paris and Washington. The entente deserves to be nurtured, the paper insisted, because if this front develops fissures it will be a disaster for Europe as a whole and will strengthen the opponents of European integration in Washington.

Germany’s Rheinische Post newspaper said the shrill voices that once opposed the Iraq war in the German parliament have grown silent. Gerhard and George now like each other again. But the lessons must be learned, the paper warned. Alluding to France, the paper wrote that those who build an axis against America have not contributed to unifying Europe - they have divided it. With the wave of a hand, the whole foundation can collapse on which everything in decades of hard work has been built.