German Press Review: Ulterior Motives Behind Afghan Aid | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 31.03.2004
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German Press Review: Ulterior Motives Behind Afghan Aid

German editorialists weighed in Wednesday on the international donors conference on Afghanistan in Berlin and resolution of the dispute between Germany's economics and environment ministers over carbon dioxide emissions.

The Financial Times Deutschland explained that just a few days before the opening of the international donors conference on Afghanistan in Berlin the United States started to take a renewed interest in the country. Washington was spending 40 million dollars on fighting the opium trade and was sending in more troops. Domestic considerations had prompted this switch in U.S. foreign policy, the paper said. The situation in Iraq was unlikely to improve before the U.S. presidential elections in November. If President George W. Bush wanted to show voters he was winning the war on terror, then Afghanistan was his only option. The elections in that country in September, assuming there is not too much friction on the ground, would take place at exactly the right time. America's new interest in Afghanistan was also in keeping with its plans for closer engagement with the rest of the international community. The United States would use the opportunity to strike up a dialogue with France and Germany, two opponents of the Iraq War, so as to improve the chances of a NATO mission to the Persian Gulf.

The business daily Handelsblatt focused on Afghanistan itself, noting that the Afghan National Army consisted of just 7,000 men as opposed to the 70,000 that were planned. This discrepancy was due to the large number of desertions, the paper wrote. Moreover, Afghan roads were unsafe. Eleven aid workers were killed in four separate attacks in February and March this year. Proceeds from the sale of opium were more or less the only source of finance and one that kept the provincial commanders in control. Afghan leader Hamid Karzai could swap as many governors as he chose, the paper said, but that wouldn't help secure the loyalty of those who have the real power.

Germany is to make a slight reduction in its carbon dioxide emissions between 2005 and 2007 in a deal announced by Chancellor Schröder on Tuesday. The decision settled a dispute between Social Democrat Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement and Greens Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin, and has been seen as a victory of industry lobbyists over ecologists. The Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger commented that it had detected a change in public mood. In the days when everybody was talking about "acid rain," and when the Chernobyl disaster caused genuine anxiety, the search was on for sources of renewable energy, the paper recalled. But now we have the cold logic of free market economics. What is the point of a country forging ahead with climate protection on its own, when clean, pollution-free air blows across industrial estates that are dilapidated and deserted?

Die Welt said the Greens had suffered a political defeat, and they largely had themselves to blame. A country -- Germany -- that has already fulfilled 90 percent of its climate protection obligations cannot be held responsible for global warming, the paper wrote. Germany has not sinned against future generations by permitting its industry to emit merely 3 percent more carbon dioxide than was originally intended.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung said the row between Clement and Trittin had largely obscured the purpose behind the emissions trading system. Vested interests were trying to create the impression that the environment minister was at work on some devilish plan to make a martyr out of German industry. But what was really at stake, the paper explained, was a bid by Brussels to ensure fair competition between the economies of EU member states. At every climate conference, all EU states were seen as loyal supporters of the Kyoto Protocol. But the reality was rather different. Only Britain, Germany, Luxembourg and Sweden were on track. For the rest the trade in emissions will mean a considerable burden, assuming that Brussels can force them into abiding by the agreements they have made.

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