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Schroeder to boost influence in Africa

19 January 2004

ADDIS ABEBA – German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder met on Monday with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi during the first stop on his six-day tour of Africa.

Schroeder was welcomed in the capital with military honours at the national palace, once the emperor’s palace, before holding discussions with Zenawi on economic co-operation and security.

According to an official, the chancellor is expected to make it clear that Germany and other western states are expecting Ethiopia’s compliance with the border commission recommendations over boundary conflicts with neighbouring Eritrea. Ethiopia refuses to accept that the provincial town of Badme now belongs to Eritrea.

Later Monday Schroeder is expected to address the newly formed African Union, based in Ethiopia, on German-African politics.

Schroeder’s trip, running through 24 January, also takes him to Kenya, South Africa and Ghana.

It is Schroeder’s first official tour of Africa with the Chancellor hoping to boost German influence in the region and bolstering his standing back home.

A government official told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa the goodwill tour was aimed as much at increasing German political influence as at the traditional goal of increasing trade.

Germany, stripped of its African colonies in 1918 after defeat in World War I, was no longer content to play a lesser role in Africa than other former European colonial powers, said the official.

“We want to play a role as a middle-ranking European power,” the official insisted.

Germany has the biggest economy in the European Union and the third biggest in the world after the US and Japan.

Countries to be visited on Schroeder’s African tour were picked because they were seen as hopes for the future, the official said, adding the trip was starting in Ethiopia because it was the home of the African Union (AU), which Berlin strongly backs.

Founded in 1999, the AU project is based loosely on that of the European Union and aims to promote peace, security and solidarity among its 53 member states.

“The chancellor wants to show support for reform oriented states,” said the official.

Talks in Ethiopia will centre on development issues such as providing clean water and sewage treatment, while Schroeder will also urge the country’s leaders to push forward with market economy reforms. Ethiopia is one of Africa’s most impoverished nations.

The German leader will be accompanied by a 23-member delegation of business leaders and bankers.

Schroeder’s visit to Kenya is aimed at spotlighting the country’s progress toward reform, the official said.

“The Chancellor wants to found a privileged partnership with Kenya,” said the official, adding that aid will be doubled to EUR 50 million for 2004 and 2005.

Germany wants to provide police training for Kenya, both to deal with terrorist threats – the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi killed almost 300 people – and to help the fight against violent crime.

South Africa remains Germany’s most important friend in the region and a major trade partner. Some 450 German firms in South Africa employ up to 70,000 people.

Schroeder will meet current South African President Thabo Mbeki and former leader Nelson Mandela.

The German leader plans to discuss South Africa’s HIV/AIDS crisis and the worsening situation in Zimbabwe, the official said.

Mbeki faces criticism from some quarters for his handling of both situations. He is said to maintain contacts with a minority group of scientists who say HIV is not the cause of AIDS and has taken a quiet, diplomatic approach to Zimbabwe’s economic and political collapse.

In West Africa, Ghana is viewed by Berlin as one of the major beacons of hope.

Aside from its relatively robust economy, Ghana is seen as an example of progress due to its constructive role in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).


Subject: German news