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Germany

Germany, Brazil Look for Common Ground

An old accord on nuclear energy and a new partnership with UN ambitions are on the agenda for German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's meeting with Brazilian President Lula da Silva on Thursday.

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At Brazil's political helm for two years now: Lula da Silva

Brazil and Germany are sure to agree on at least one point during Fischer's stop in Brasilia: Both countries are eager to have a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. To increase their chances, the governments have joined an alliance with two other hopefuls -- Japan and India.

Schröder in Brasilien

A show of unity: Chancellor Gerhard Schroder with former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso in February 2002.

The decision by Germany and Brazil to pursue permanent seats dates back to February 2002, when the two governments entered a "strategic partnership" as part of an overall bilateral action plan.

Political ties

According to Reiner Radermacher of Germany's Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the German-Brazilian relationship took on an added dimension with the election of Lula da Silva's leftist government in October 2003.

"This relationship is not dependent on the individual actors, even though Schröder and Lula come from the same direction politically," Radermacher said, adding that it is the increasingly unipolar world driving the two nations toward common action.

Long tradition

Close ties between Germany and Brazil are nothing new. In 1824, just two years after Brazil's declaration of independence, the country was already a magnet for German migrants destined for South America. Today, Brazil is home to as many as three million descendants of German immigrants.

Volkswagen Brasilien

Volkswagen workers in Sao Paulo

For over 50 years, Germany and Brazil have been building close economic ties. Sao Paulo, with its Volkswagen, Bayer and BASF factories, is the largest "German" industrial city in the world. It's the economic ties that have laid the foundation for more political cooperation, said Radermacher.

"Objectionable accord"

Political decisions have in the past frequently been motivated by economic considerations, as was the case when in 1975, former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (SPD) signed the Brazil-Germany Cooperation Accord on Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. The accord regulated state support of the export of nuclear technology. Back then, Brazil -- far from being a democracy -- was under military rule. In Radermacher's view, there was always something objectionable about the nuclear accord.

But Martin Traine, political scientist at the University of Cologne, sees the issue differently. The accord came about at the time of the Cold War, when Germany didn't get involved in the political affairs of other nations.

"Brazil is Germany's most important trading partner in South America, and economic relations were always more relevant than political relations," Traine said.

Angra 2 Atomkraftwerk Brasilien

The Angra 2 nuclear reactor dome in Angra dos Reis, Brazil

While Germany is now planning its long-term phase-out of nuclear energy in favour of alternative forms of energy, the Brazilian government is hoping to extend the accord.

If the accord isn't cancelled soon, it will automatically be extended for another five years. A group of parliamentarians from Germany's junior coalition partner, the Greens, have demanded that the accord be nullified, though Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement (SPD) has spoken out against the move.

Diplomatic manoeuvres

The Brazilian government has struck a diplomatic note, agreeing to replace the accord with an energy cooperation pact that would include the use of renewable energy sources.

The exact conditions of such a new pact are something for Fischer to hammer out behind closed doors in his meetings with President Lula. Currently, Brazil gets only 4 percent of its energy from nuclear reactors. Lula and his government wish to increase this figure to 25 percent over the next 12 years.

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