Germany stretched to limit on European aid, Kohl says

May 06, 1992|By Paul Lewis | Paul Lewis,New York Times News Service

UNITED NATIONS -- Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany said yesterday that his country had "reached the limit of our capacity" to help the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and he made an unusually blunt appeal to Japan to offer them more aid.

Addressing members of the American Newspaper Publishers Association gathered at the United Nations, Mr. Kohl said that Germany had done as much as it could to finance economic and political change in these countries.

He said the time had come for Japan "to contribute more than it has up to now toward this reform effort."

This is not the first time that Germany has indicated displeasure with the level of assistance offered to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union by Japan and by other Western countries. But yesterday's speech represented one of the chancellor's strongest and most direct criticisms of Japan so far.

Although Mr. Kohl spoke of the "hardy state" of the German economy, his appeal to Japan for more help comes when the country's growing economic difficulties clearly limit his room to maneuver. The costs of unification with East Germany have sent the German budget deficit soaring, while a public sector strike is paralyzing the country's transportation system and many other services.

In Germany yesterday, strikes shut down Frankfurt airport, continental Europe's busiest hub, dealing a damaging economic and psychological blow in a carefully orchestrated campaign by German public sector employees.

The 9-day-old wave of work stoppages has created mountains of uncollected trash and undelivered mail while paralyzing bus, rail and air transportation throughout western Germany.

The strike at Frankfurt airport was lifted at midnight, and the German airline Lufthansa quickly resumed service.

Negotiations with the public sector unions were due to resume today. The largest public sector strike since the end of World War II has had a powerfully negative impact on the country and Mr. Kohl's personal commitment to full support for unification and help for the emerging former Communist bloc countries.

The German chancellor warned here yesterday that without more help, the world could face new risks that are "primarily of an economic and social nature."

But if Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are left to cope with their economic problems alone, Mr. Kohl said, the rest of the world could face "uncontrollable political developments" as well as destabilizing new flows of refugees.

"For a long time to come," the German chancellor continued, "there will be enormous stocks of nuclear,biological and chemical weapons in the successor republics of the former Soviet Union. They remain a source of danger against a background of political instability and hence conflict."

As long as such risks remain, he said, a "substantial presence of North American forces in Western Europe and Germany remains indispensable for the security of our two nations."

Mr. Kohl said Germany had pledged the equivalent of $47 billion to the former Soviet Union and a further $65 billion to the Eastern European nations, with most of this second sum going to the territories of the former East Germany.

"Now especially it is time for Japan, an exporting nation, to assume a larger share of the West's common responsibility and, in keeping with her economic strength, to help insure the success of the reforms in Central, Eastern and Southeast Europe and in the Commonwealth of Independent States," he said.

The International Monetary Fund warned this month that the former Soviet republics will need $44 billion in foreign aid this year, and as much as $100 billion in outside assistance over the next four years, to insure that their transition to market economies does not break down.

"To play a waiting game and save in the wrong place would be the worst of all possible investments in our common future," the chancellor said.

Japan appeared upset earlier this month when President Bush and Chancellor Kohl announced a $24 billion aid package for Russia in the name of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations, of which Japan is a member.

Diplomats say Germany is particularly worried that Japan, which has offered only modest aid so far, may drag its feet further in an effort to pressure Moscow to return a handful of islands at the southern end of the Kuril chain, seized by Stalin at the end of World War II.

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