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Germany

Not Cleared For Takeoff

Consensus won out against partisan politics on Tuesday as Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's government compromised with opposition politicians on the purchase of new military transport. planes

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Still virtual reality

A diplomatically important plan by the German government to acquire bigger and faster transport planes passed a major domestic test in Germany's highest court on Tuesday.

The consitutional court in Karlsruhe heard a protest brought by opposition parties to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s coalition government after coalition parliamentarians approved buying the planes without a hearing in the Parliament’s budgetary committee.

Politicians walk out of Parliament

The move, taken last Thursday, was met by anger by the Christian Democratic Union, the Christian Social Union and the Free Democratic Party. Politicians from all three parties stormed out of the German Parliament after Schröder’s Social Democrats and Greens voted to include the 3.5 billion euro ($3.01 billion) to purchase the A400M Airbus military transport planes in next year’s budget.

But Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping compromised before the court on Tuesday morning, assuring opposition politicians that the vote was not binding. Schröder's government would make sure there was a consensus across party lines before telling the seven other partners in the purchase plan that they were ready.

Being good Europeans

Turkey, Portugal, France, Great Britain, Luxembourg, Spain and Belgium have all agreed to a 18 billion euro purchase of the new planes, which could create 40,000 new jobs in Europe. The Airbus is considered a vital piece of Europe’s plans to assemble a rapid reaction force that could be deployed in crisis regions.

Great Britain has already said the plan would have to be abandoned if Germany didn’t get the money together by Jan. 31. France, which plans to buy 50 of the planes, said they would bow out as well.

Bigger, better, costlier

The military transport planes are bigger and faster than Germany’s Transall plane, which has been in service for about three decades. The Parliament has so far approved only 5.1 billion euro towards the 8.6 billion euro purchase price. That amount would buy only 40 planes, instead of the intended 73.

Wary of the consequences, Schröder and his Defense Minister, Rudolf Scharping, used their coalition government’s parliamentary majority to rush the approval through. They ignored requests by the opposition to approve the party in a supplementary budget this year.

"You are castrating the parliament!" CDU politician Paul Breuer shouted before walking out.

Even members of Schröder’s coalition partner, the Greens, had reservations.

"Just like the opposition, I am angry at the government fo5 the way it conducted the process and its arrogance toward the parliament," said Angelika Beer, the Green Party’s military expert in an interview with a Berlin radio station over the weekend.

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