When Francois Hollande, the newly elected president of France, arrives today in Berlin for his first meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, it will kindle memories of the long history of Franco-German partnership in leading the European Union. In France, it may even trigger the traditional condescension Parisian politicians feel towards their neighbors: the lumbering German economic giant that relies on French diplomatic, military, and nuclear savoir faire to achieve political clout. Increasingly, however, such sentiments are mere nostalgia.
Berlin, Germany—When the Merkel government abstained from the U.N. Security Council vote on using military force against Muammar Qaddafi, many international observers were shocked. In the election campaign of 2005, Merkel had lambasted then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder for damaging the transatlantic alliance by opting out of Washington’s plan to topple Saddam Hussein.
In early February, the top financial officials of seven major industrialized countries gathered in Canada to mull the state of the world economy. To grease their interactions, the Canadians had created an intimate setting in Iqaluit, an Inuit town near the Arctic Circle. A planning document waxed on about fireside chats at a cozy inn and decreed that the attire would be casual.
Two weeks ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voted to refer the matter of Iran's nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council. There is plenty to like about the IAEA resolution, starting with the large majority it commanded among the organization's member states--even the usually recalcitrant Russians and Chinese signed on.
Berlin, Germany Over the past few months Americans have awakened to the right-wing, anti-immigrant nationalism growing across Europe. On April 21, far-right presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen garnered a shocking second place in the first round of French elections. Barely two weeks later Dutch anti-immigrant leader Pim Fortuyn was assassinated; in elections nine days after that, his party joined the Christian Democrats (CDA) in ousting Holland's long-standing Labor government.
In July, 1994, when Bill Clinton was touring Europe, the president's aides were, well, awestruck by the tenacity of Richard Holbrooke, then the United States Ambassador to Germany. What accounted for this reaction? During the president's visit to Germany, Holbrooke was, as one official put it, "a whirling dervish." He managed to wangle his way into top-level meetings and hounded White House staff to get airplane and helicopter seats close to Clinton.