An Unquiet Germany Evokes a Wider Unease

WILLIAM PFAFF

June 14, 1993|By WILLIAM PFAFF

PARIS — Paris.--The West European problem remains, at its vital core, the German problem, and to an important extent this is the all-European problem as well. Germany still is not comfortable with itself, nor confident of its future, and this German insecurity fuels an anxiousness about Germany elsewhere, above all in countries of the East.

In these circumstances, it is bizarre for the United States to put forward a proposal to make Germany a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, at a moment when the Germans are failing to deal responsibly with their most important internal problem, and when their one major independent foreign-policy initiative, promoting European Community recognition of Yugoslavia's breakup in 1991, has ended in unimaginable tragedy.

The permanent Security Council seats were never meant to recognize economic strength. They are for those states that play the largest independent political roles in world affairs, and devote major resources to this effort. By those criteria, Sweden has a better claim than Germany to a Security Council place.

United Germany finds itself today with three major problems. None is insoluble. But in none of the three cases has there yet been a coherent, intellectually and morally responsible attempt to find the solution.

The first is xenophobia -- the violent racist attacks now taking place nearly every night. Five Turkish women and girls were burned to death in a fire-bomb attack in the city of Solingen May 29. Another home was set afire June 4; a mother and five children in it escaped. A Turkish restaurant was burned the same night, and there were attacks in two other towns. Two days later a Lebanese family was fire-bombed, and two more homes were attacked Monday, and two restaurants. Tuesday, in the town of Wulfrath, a Turkish family's home was burned and 14 had to be hospitalized. And Wednesday a hospice for asylum-seekers was set afire.

North Rhine-Westphalia reported 70 acts of violence against foreigners in the 10 days between May 29 and June 8. Federal government figures report 561 attacks on foreigners, in addition to 24 of an anti-Semitic character, between the first of this year and May 27. The Turkish community now is organizing and fighting back in the streets, attacking neo-Nazis and the police.

The police have grossly failed both to prevent these racist attacks and adequately to deal with those making them. Yet the local hooligans and skinheads and Nazi sympathizers usually responsible are surely known in their neighborhoods. The national organizations inciting violence seem never to have been adequately tracked or penetrated by the police. Police and domestic intelligence authorities seem never to have taken the matter seriously until now, allowing an atmosphere of indifference and even complicity to develop.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl, unlike President Richard von Weizsacker, has seemed to want to avoid involvement in the matter, as if it were someone else's affair. As the departing American ambassador, Robert Kimmitt, said Tuesday, the Kohl government has failed to make it understood that this violence ''is unacceptable in a modern democracy,'' or that it will be punished harshly.

There as yet has been no firm government action to address the issue exacerbating German xenophobia, the unscientific proposition, that a German ''race'' exists, and that German nationality properly belongs only to members of this race. This is the opposite of the principle respected elsewhere in the modern Western democracies, that nationality is a matter of secular citizenship.

The second German problem contributing to social unrest and conflict is economic recession. Since Mr. Kohl -- for demagogic reasons -- promised East Germans the riches of the west, and made their currency equal to that of West Germany, the German economy has been in great difficulties. Unification on such terms put most major East German enterprises out of business, sending workers into an unemployment which, for most, may prove permanent. There was a 3.7 percent fall in GNP in the first quarter of this year -- the worst performance in 25 years -- and there has been a 21.5 percent rise in unemployment.

The Bundesbank, obsessed with inflation, has imposed unending deflation on Germany (and most of the rest of Europe), producing an overvalued deutschemark, uncompetitive labor costs, and low productivity. Add to that the crisis of rising social expenditure experienced across Western Europe, and the result a situation in which German morale and confidence have plummeted. Forty-six percent of the Germans tell pollsters that the country has ''large problems,'' 38 percent say it is in a ''difficult crisis,'' and 12 percent think it is ''facing catastrophe.'' Only 4 percent feel secure.

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