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Europe

Generous or Showing Off?

German editorials on Thursday weighed in on Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's announcement that Germany would donate €500 million ($659 million) to the regions in South Asia devastated by the Dec. 26 tsunamis.

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Offering help: Foreign Minister Fischer (l.) and Schröder

"Along with the mourning and dismay over the disaster in southeastern Asia, two factors explain the generous German reconstruction aid: The federal government had to pay tribute to Germans' phenomenal readiness to donate…," Bonn's General-Anzeiger daily remarked. "And, directly before the donors' conference, the cabinet provided a dimension that is meant to be emulated internationally with the €500 million fund. Admittedly, (Chancellor Gerhard) Schröder and (Foreign Minister Joschka) Fischer merely wrote a blank check (Wednesday). The details of financing the half billion -- through higher taxes, for instance -- must be quickly delivered."

"Gerhard Schröder is the master of floods," wrote national daily Die Welt. Two years ago, the Elbe River floods saved his chancellorship, now he's skillfully using the catastrophe in southeastern Asia to present himself as a sensitive politician and an international man of action. … It's certainly right that the federal government has supplemented its initially modest commitment. But did it have to bring into play amounts that give the impression the nation is in the midst of a thoroughly self-serving donor competition? The enormous private donor sum of more than €150 million is welcome all around. Especially in light of the private aid, it's permissible to ask whether the state shouldn't have been moderate. … For, the federal government is spending money it doesn't have. That is the difference between it and private donors."

"According to the principle 'do good and talk about it,' the German federal government put itself at the top of the money sources for the flood victims, and already the floor is open for insinuations," the Frankfurter Rundschau daily commented. "One may conjecture and polemicize about the calculation behind such generosity: the Social Democratic-Green party coalition's desire to distinguish itself, election campaigning, an expensively bought entry ticket to the UN Security Council. Of all these ulterior motives, clear trace elements may well have gone into (Wednesday's) decision. … Still the insinuation that supplementing German aid is purely political calculation is unfair and cynical. Conversely, that must mean the government that is the stingiest with its purse-strings must be the most upstanding."

Seebeben Aufräumarbeiten in Thailand

An earth mover clears debris near a boat swept on the land in the devastated fishing village of Ban Nam Khem in Phuket, Thailand, on Wednesday.

"The chancellor is making a great mistake," the Stuttgarter Nachrichten newspaper declared. "Gerhard Schröder doesn’t merely want to give, he also wants to show off. … A large aid package isn't enough for him. It has to be the world's largest. … At the moment, one doesn't have the impression that money is the most important thing. Worldwide, the readiness for private people to donate is enormous; there's no lack of aid and offers of aid. What's missing is profession coordination of the aid. This is where the actual field of activity of politics lies. It must create the conditions so that help is effective all-around. But that doesn't allow one to shine so brightly on the international stage."

"Germany now stands at the top of the donor states, even ahead of the USA," observed Berlin's Tagesspiegel daily. "That is a signal in many directions. First, domestically: Look here, it means to say, with the state's donor behavior we are on a par with the outstanding private donor behavior. Secondly, to the outside world: Look here, since we Germans are masters at reconstruction, since we know what worldwide solidarity means, we also know what we have to do now. Not just with money, but not least because comparatively we're doing well. And, thirdly, the signal to the bigwigs of international politics, particularly the USA: Look here, at what we do, we who you once offered a partnership in leading the West."

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