Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Germany Slammed by French Left, Domestic Press on Libya Vote

The French left has damning words for German foreign policy. The country, which recently decided to abstain from armed intervention in Libya in a March 17 UN Security Council vote, has since faced withering rebukes from the international community. 

Jean Quatremer, a star writer of the left-leaning newspaper La Libération, takes a decidedly EU-focused approach to his criticism, dismayed that "the [European] Union must, therefore, stay confined to what's humanitarian..." He echoed the words of new foreign minister Alain Juppé, who on Wednesday lamented, "must we resign ourselves to the EU remaining a humanitarian NGO?" He also quoted ex-foreign affairs minister Hubert Védrine, who lamented while in office that the EU must not grow into a kind of "giant Switzerland." When the Libé's top name aligns with the center-right French government's official voice on foreign affairs, Germany faces a uniformly hostile neighbor, which will also rally outside opinion into France's camp and against Germany's.

Der Spiegel, Germany's best-known English-language newspaper, has little better to say about the response to Libya by Angela Merkel and the German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle. In an article written collectively by Spiegel staff, the newspaper presents a symbolically potent show of solidarity against their government's latest foreign affairs calls.

"The general sense of consternation," they emphatically write, "raises the question of whether this government is simply out of its depth when it comes to foreign policy." They signal that Germany missed a great opportunity to forge a "yes, but" alternative. The team quotes a German diplomat's accusation that his government is guilty of "historical cynicism," and they surmise that "Merkel's administration now welcomes any bad news from Libya that suggests its partners were wrong to intervene." 

And as if Merkel thought it would alleviate anything, Germany unveiled a conciliatory gesture to send more surveillance planes to NATO operations in Afghanistan as a way to free up allied materiel and military hardware for the Libyan campaign.