German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer will hold talks in Washington on Wednesday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Transatlantic ties and Germany's bid for a UN Security Coucil seat top the agenda.
Will this be Fischer's last trip to Washington as foreign minister?
Fischer left Germany on Monday and briefly stopped over in Lisbon for talks with Portuguese leaders on the crisis of the EU after French and Dutch voters rejected the bloc's new constitution in referendums last week.
Discussions in Washington, scheduled to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, will focus on transatlantic relations as well as on the situation in Germany after Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has said he wants early elections in the fall.
Fischer welcomed Rice in Berlin in 2004
That's why Fischer will have to dispel the impression that he is a lame duck foreign minister as his Greens party is highly likely not to be in power come September. As a result, Fischer's first visit to Condoleezza Rice in her capacity as United States secretary of state could well be his fare-well trip to Washington.
Useless veto rights?
But there are a number of unresolved issues on the bilateral agenda -- most notably the Schröder government's bid to win a permanent seat in the Security Council of a reformed United Nations. With German-American relations barely mended after a major fallout over the Iraq war, the Bush administration is reluctant to give support to the idea. Germany, Japan, Brazil and India have teamed up in a joint effort to become permanent council members.
The Security Council at United Nations Headquarters in New York
In his talks with Rice, Fischer is expected to elaborate on a new German proposal that the country should be given privileged veto rights but combined with a German commitment not to exercise them. Germany is the third biggest financial contributor to the United Nations and
its UN ambassador Gunther Pleuger is confident that the plan will find enough support in the world body.
"Our proposal hasn't meet resistance so far," he said. "Quite the contrary, there is increasing support for the idea in our discussions with all United Nations' members and in the political debates with major governments."
However, it's still far from certain if Fischer can win the support of the Bush administration, which is said to favor the bids of Japan and India. And time is fast running out for Schröder to achieve this key goal of his foreign policy agenda. UN secretary general Kofi Annan is expected to present final recommendations for reform in September, only a few days before early elections in Germany.
Don't mention the nukes
In an attempt to further improve transatlantic ties, Joschka Fischer will also refrain from touching the hot domestic issue of American nuclear weapons based in Germany. German regional leaders have urged Fischer to press for the total withdrawal of such weapons which have remained in the country after the collapse of the Iron Curtain.
Greenpeace activists protesting against US nuclear warheads in Europe
Earlier this year defense minister Peter Struck still vowed to make the nukes an issue during NATO meetings. But he has shied away from it after the United States secretly began repatriating most of their 150 nuclear missiles in Germany. At the moment 20 such weapons remain here.
Iran's nuclear weapons program as well as support for Iraqi reconstruction will also be on Fischer's agenda. German assistance in training Iraqi military and security personnel welcomed by Washington and has contributed to a thaw in relations. There was talk of a new chapter that should be opened in bilateral relations.
With the prospect of a more Bush-friendly conservative German government looming large on the horizon, this could happen faster than Joschka Fischer might have wished.