Germany: A global motor and chequebook

10th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

Sixth in an occasional series on Germany's G8 and EU presidencies

Angela Merkel wants to push an ambitous agenda in the next months

 As Europe's biggest economy and a strong backer of joint approaches to dealing with global issues, Germany is both a motor and a chequebook for the world's international institutions.

Since the Nazi defeat in World War II, Germany has rebuilt itself not merely as leading democracy but also as a lead-nation in the push for multi-lateral institutions.

Former West Germany played a crucial role in founding the European Union (EU) forerunners, the 1951 European Coal and Steel Community and the 1957 Treaty of Rome which created the common market.

Germany has long been the EU's biggest paymaster and contributes about 20 per cent of the 27-nation bloc's annual 112-billion-euro (149 billion dollar) budget.

Staunch supporter

The German government is a staunch supporter of the United Nations and the third largest payer to the UN (after the United States and Japan). Berlin provided 148 million dollars for the organization's operating costs in 2006.

The Group of Eight (G8) industrial nations does not have its own secretariat so the main funding of the elite club takes place when a member country holds the rotating presidency.

Germany will pay at least 92 million euros for hosting this year's G8 summit at the luxury Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm on June 6 to 8. Much of this money is for the massive police and security operation to protect leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany,

Italy, Japan, Russia and the US who are due to attend.

Low military spending and an unwillingness to send troops into combat zones for peacekeeping missions is the one area where Germany cuts a weaker figure in comparison to other medium-sized and great powers.

According to NATO figures, Germany paid only about 1.2 per cent of its GDP for defence in 2005, compared to the US which paid some 3.6 per cent, Britain with 2.4 per cent, Canada 2.8 per cent and France 1.8 per cent.

'This is not acceptable,' says Karl-Heinz Kamp, security policy coordinator of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation which has close ties to Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats.

Growing anger

Kamp warns that German spending on the three key ministries for dealing with global issues - defence, foreign and development aid - has fallen from comprising 21.5 per cent of the total annual federal budget to just 12 per cent.

Germany has deployed about 9,000 troops abroad on peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan, off the Lebanese coast with UNIFIL forces and in the Balkans.

 But Berlin's refusal allow its Afghan troops support allies fighting the Taliban on southern Afghanistan has led to growing anger. Germany insists that its 2,700 soldiers remain in mainly peaceful northern Afghanistan.

A British Foreign Office minister, Kim Howells, earlier this month lashed out at NATO allies, including Germany, for seeking to keep their troops out of combat while British, Canadian and US soldiers are fighting and dying.

'What makes me more angry than anything else is the notion that somehow if you're not targeted at the moment then you really shouldn't get involved, said Howells during a trip to Canada.

NATO has deployed about 32,000 troops in Afghanistan. Leaders at a NATO summit in Riga last month agreed that all troops would come to the aid of others in case of 'emergencies.'

However, Chancellor Merkel was quick to point out that there had been no discussion on how to define an emergency among leaders of the 26 NATO member states at the two-day meeting.


February 16, 2007

Copyright DPA with Expatica 2007

Subject: German, Germany, EU, government, G8, Merkel

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