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Last Updated: Friday, 13 October 2006, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
Europe diary: German might

12 October 2006

BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell on German attitudes to the swastika and the use of military force, and Nicolas Sarkozy's plans for a mini-treaty to replace the European constitution.


Green Party poster
Outside the Green Party headquarters in Berlin, there's a big banner that would be unexceptional in any other country but here is both provocative and perhaps a sign of a new confidence. It's not the slogan "Nazis? No thanks!" that causes heads to swivel but the logo of a swastika being dumped in a dustbin.

Why is this significant? Ever since 1945, the swastika has been banned in Germany. Even on children's model aeroplanes. Last week a court in Stuttgart went a stage further. A man was fined more than 7,000 euros for selling anti-Nazi badges that showed a swastika with a line through it, as in a traffic sign.

He is going to appeal and the government is considering whether to amend the law. The Greens hope to provoke a debate but some Germans strongly argue that the symbol is still too uncomfortable to be seen, whatever the meaning or context.


In a few days' time, the German navy will take over the duty of patrolling the Med off Lebanon for the UN. This German force will have a stronger mandate than any of its other nine current peacekeeping forces (including the two people in Ethiopia and 11 in Georgia). The German soldiers in Afghanistan are very definitely peacekeepers not war fighters, and the German government refused to send them chasing after al-Qaeda. But the navy will be allowed to chase and board potential arms smugglers and use their guns to stop them.

The debate was specially agonised because of where it was. While there is very little real prospect that the sailors will have to turn their guns on Israelis, the slim theoretical possibility made some argue the mission was impossible because of Germany's history. They were in the end ignored. Of course, German planes bombed Serbia so it's not the first or most extreme example of the modern German military in action. But these things go in fits and starts and I feel there is a new determination that Germany will pull its weight in the world.

Angela Merkel made very sure she was seen, snapped and filmed climbing down a ladder of a submarine, and watching warships go by. Although Schroeder met the troops, no-one I speak to can remember other chancellors so obviously posing for the press in a military setting. Certainly, the military are pleased that their budget has increased in real terms for the first time since the Cold War. But others I talk to hope Germany will not forget the lessons of history - not in some crass sense about its own role in the world, but in regard to the dangers of military action and jingoism, whether that of a country or a region.


German film makers are currently in Munich cutting a first: a war film with a German hero made in English for an international audience.

Baron von Richthofen
Baron von Richthofen: Above the mud, blood and gangrene?
The Red Baron is about the life of Manfred Von Richthofen and it's evidently the first drama about the life of this World War I flying ace, who had 80 "kills" to his name before he himself was shot down. Perhaps those dog fights, then and now, provide a comfort blanket to those who would rather see war as glorious than sordid: they literally soared above the stinking mud and blood-drenched conflict below, echoing the quick skilful cuts of a duel rather than the drawn-out horror of gangrene and mustard gas.

But the director and producer insist that this is an anti-war film, with the theme of a hunter who relied on his keen sight but was blind to the way those in power manipulated his idol-like status.


Talking of matinee idols, Nicolas Sarkozy, perhaps worried that the British media hadn't taken umbrage at his recent Brussels speech and articles in the French press, has jabbed his finger in Eurosceptic eyes by writing an article in the Telegraph.

Nicolas Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy envisages reduced powers for nation states
He must know that his series of suggestions will make Telegraph readers splutter over their marmalade and cause some nervous tea-spilling in the Foreign Office. He proposes a single Europe-wide tax to fund the European Union, for a start. The French people may have killed off the European constitution but he wants it back in the guise of a mini-treaty.

It would create an EU foreign minister, cut nation states' right to vote down policies, and make it easier for the EU to replace individual countries on international bodies. Mr Sarkozy repeats his opposition to Turkey joining the EU, suggesting that full membership is not appropriate for "non-European" nations. He'd turn Euro-elections into a sort of indirect contest for the job of Commission president, with Euro-groupings, not national parties, competing for seats.

All of these ideas are diametrically opposed to what the current British government would like to see, whether led by Blair or Brown.


The faint hope of the government is that any mini-treaty will be so titchy that it won't cause too much political fuss. Some hope. Of course, they would have little trouble getting it through parliament. But having granted a referendum on the constitution, there will be those who argue that the mini-treaty deserves the same democratic stamp of approval.

The shadow foreign secretary, William Hague, made it clear to the Conservative conference that in government he would ensure a referendum on anything that transferred competences to the European Union. In case there's any doubt, I check with his office that this includes a Sarko-style mini-treaty. It does.

At first sight, any subject that evokes such genuine passion and also offers such an opportunity for mischief-making is just a gift for the opposition. But the government's hope is that such a campaign would come within the scope of "banging on about Europe", something that Mr Cameron has banned.

Your comments:

My parents and I fled from the Nazi takeover of the Sudetenland in the fall of 1938. I still recall with a sense of horror the Hakenkreuz emblazoned on buildings, flags and uniforms. I doubt, however, whether the hiding of that symbol accomplishes much. I am more concerned about the forms of fascism that seem so virulent in all our societies.
Hanns F. Skoutajan, Ottawa, Canada

As a Brit, one of the things I find most frustrating about living here in Germany is that Germans are seriously afraid of their past. From school they are brought up to believe they are the bad people of the world and must live a life of shame. Due to this indoctrination, they get very nervous when their nation comes up in an international context - especially military! The sole exception in my experience, was the recent World Cup (which was great to see). This whole thing overshadows everything they do on the world stage. As long as they insist on making innocents feel guilt for their forbears' actions, it'll always hold back this great country. Oh, and freedom of speech? Giving the Nazi salute here is a criminal offence as is displaying a swastika (not that I'd want to!). Ironically, this sort of thought control mimics part of the Gestapo's mandate and has no place in a democracy.
Darran, Munich

It's clutching at straws to ban the symbol but allow the revivalist political parties. Germans of all ages are very touchy about all this (although they never admit it). They have taken cultural amnesia to new levels and regularly innoculate themselves with Jewish museums and Jewish memorials. But it's time to forgive and forget, since none of the subsequent genocides have been avoided by the Nazi defeat, and now we stand by and watch Darfur and Iraq both suffer. The Green Party mocks these Nazi revivalist parties and that is to be commended.
Oliver Higson, Berlin, Germany

I think a "United States of Europe" is just what is needed, but I still believe hundreds of years of fighting and disagreements between us sour our ability to get along. The British and French are still at it today. I left the UK many years ago and consider myself to be a European Citizen. The UK should stop pandering to the will of the US and join forces with its real trading partners, to create a power strong enough to force America to capitulate to the will of the international community, instead of the current way it stands. We are all aware that the UN is toothless and is used by each of the permanent members for their own ends...
Steve, Spain

The swastika is an ancient symbol that has been used for over 3,000 years. (That even predates the ancient Egyptian symbol, the Ankh!) Artifacts such as pottery and coins from ancient Troy show that the swastika was a commonly used symbol as far back as 1,000 BCE. Until the Nazis used this symbol, the swastika was used by many cultures throughout the past 3,000 years to represent life, sun, power, strength, and good luck. There is a great debate as to what the swastika means now. For 3,000 years, the swastika meant life and good luck. But because of the Nazis, it has also taken on a meaning of death and hate. These conflicting meanings are causing problems in today's society. For Buddhists and Hindus, the swastika is a very religious symbol that is commonly used.
Abhinav Mohta, Dubai, UAE

I find it quite short-sighted of the German government to continue to associate such a sacred symbol for so many people around the world with the horrors of the Holocaust. I imagine the Nazis had its positive connotation in mind when using it as well, but it only applied to a certain "people". I feel humour regarding that period in time would be quite healthy for Germany. So far, I only see it coming from Jewish Americans and some of the media there. It would certainly help the German youth distance themselves from that period in time, for which many of them still carry feelings of guilt as many have mentioned here. And what better way is there to display the idiotic and ridiculous nature of the Nazi philosophy then to be humorous about it, and I mean brutally?
Florian, Heidelberg, Germany

One could only watch with anxiety and dread the rearming of Japan and Germany. We should not forget the brutalities inflicted by these countries on unarmed peace-loving countries.
Francis, Port Blair, Andamans

I remember seeing lots of swastikas in a museum of Roman artifacts. Are we to ban Roman museums as well then? I think not. Best to remember the symbol and what extremism can do.
Bry Barnes, Somerset, UK

As an expat I always find it funny that so many British people will be champing at the bit to stick a boot into Germany for its xenophobic past but will in the same breath use this argument to distance themselves from 'those jolly untrustworthy Europeans'... From some of the threads on this Euro discussion it is not only Germany that needs to reconcile its past but maybe Britain as well. Only then will the British people as a race and culture be comfortable with their place in the world and Europe.
Matt, Auckland, New Zealand

Banning symbols, flags, and paraphernalia just heightens the power of them... particularly amongst those who the rest of us were hoping might get locked up. Sure, the red flag, white centre and black cross are symbols of the Nazis but it's the Nazis and their attitudes we don't want back. If it's a choice between symbols of the Nazis and Nazis give me symbols any day. The bottom line is, it's history. Every country has some skeletons in its collective cupboards. Some are still painful in some quarters but as a people, you face up to your history, admit it, deal with it... hiding it will just cause you longer term grief.
Rod Main, Newhaven UK

To ban the use of such a symbol is empowering its meaning in the sense of Hitler's Nazi party. By banning the symbol they are not only trying to forget what happened and therefore being ignorant, but creating a society which will forever only associate the image with evil.
Philip Longstaff, Billingham, England

Never mind swastikas on toys or posters, we have neo-Nazis in the parliament and city halls. One out of four Flemings votes for the extreme-right Vlaams Belang (ex Vlaams Blok). It's about time Vlaams Belang-voting Flemings did some soul-searching and stopped being wilfully blind about the party they are voting into power: a party preaching racism, racial segregation and a strong police state has no place in a democratic, open society.
Tom, Kortrijk, Belgium

The Swastika was a symbol for Cape Town many years ago though the symbol was reversed.
Peter, Cape Town, South Africa

Curious this has come up when so much of the 'western media' is involved in a steady onslaught against the current citizens of Russia. Like Germany, there has been much anguish and discussion in Russia about the symbolism associated with tragic historical events. The Russians I know and respect are united in their determination to prevent an extreme ideology staining their regained democratic rights. As the swastika was a perversion of a 3,000-year-old symbol of good luck, so the hammer and sickle represented a system that enabled two Georgians (Stalin and Beria) to inflict massive harm on a group of nations, and murder millions of people.

Modern Germans and Austrians have bent over backwards to apologise, nearly every time they were demanded to do so over the last sixty or so years, by foreign media or foreign governments, themselves not squeaky clean by any means. And Russia has done this too. But enough is enough. How much longer do the people of Germany and Russia have to accede to demands for 'yet another apology' from those who have their own agenda for continuing to try and humiliate these people? The people of Germany and Russia today are the LAST people on the planet who want war again in Europe, or anywhere else. They demonstrated that when they refused to go to Iraq.
alex stone, studying in Moscow

A symbol with two meanings; we know the evil one. How do we develop and come to know its other meaning? We can see a symbol which existed for an incredible time across northern Europe and Asia; used in a similar way by cultures which knew nothing of each other. A symbol of good which crossed ethnic and cultural boundaries. A symbol which does not belong to any one group. How does humanity reclaim this symbolic message of good, which can represent a positive value shared in common by humanity? Fascinating that Nazi haters tried to claim a symbol of human spiritual goodness.
Philip, London

Not surprisingly, nobody ever mentions the fact that while about 50 million people died during the Second World War (directly and indirectly as a result of one madman's influence), if it were not for the US... most of you would be either enslaved or dead by now, or would have never been born, because you don't belong to the "Aryan" or "Super Race"! I was here during that period and have a very good memory of it all. I know what they were like. So, many, many thanks to the Americans. They saved Europe from the Germans and saved Asia from the Japanese evil empires.
Ed Gabor, Budapest, Hungary

If you ban the swastika it will only be used by others. As it has been used for so long banning it because a group in history used it for evil will only create the desire for it to be used by others intent on destruction. Also you are giving the sign power by banning and hiding it as if it was powerful. It gets its power by spreading fear. Locking it away just creates more fear and therefore more power for the swastika.
Callum MacNeill, Denmark & Copenhagen

Japan and Germany are invaluable to the world peace process BECAUSE they are level-headed and sensible. Germany was one of only a dozen or so voices of reason at the UN before the Iraq war began and they command respect now because they stood up.

The terrifying military might of the United States has been misused by our warmonger president since he took power and the world is a much more dangerous place because of it. In a time like this I really don't understand why you would advocate more military action to somehow achieve peace in the end. Also, Germany IS a world power and I cannot think of a better use for a military than directing traffic, handing out food, or helping people.

My countrymen, how many people do we need to kill before we will all be safe? You might be able to keep reading the names and looking at the faces of the US and UK boys that are on the news every night, but I would rather bring them home.
C. DiMeo-Ediger, Portland, OR, USA

I think Germany as the second most powerful country should use this power to make order in the world and don't wash their hands saying they can't do it because of their past. It's important to remember the past but the Germans don't have anything in common with the Nazis, they are all just like France or the UK, so they should help more in the world .
Constantin , Barcelona/Spain// Frankfurt Germany

I am of Basque decent (northern Spain), and we have a symbol virtually if not identical to the Swastika but on its corner. After WWII it was rounded and given a more Celtic appearance. This symbol represents Basque people and their 4 gods (Lauburu)it is a National symbol. It goes to show what an event such as the Nazi regime can do.. alter traditions, and in some cases even mythology.
Aitor Porro, London, UK

I am currently in Germany and I find this amusing, there is a real fear about this symbol and when I showed my (German) girlfriend an animation that had the logo on she nearly had a fit. I think that this being outlawed can only bring up bad feelings and old debates. Let the past stay in the past and instead look forward!
Liam Deeney, Portland, UK

What I'm interested to know is what happens to Hindus in Germany??? The swastika, while being the symbol of evil for the past 60 years(and more recently a symbol of ridicule by the talented comedy styles of Mel Brooks and the Monty Python team), was for centuries before that, a holy symbol of Hinduism, and still is. So what happens if a Hindu uses the swastika in its religious context in Germany? Quite a conundrum, this is.
Chiraag Tolani, Sydney, Australia

So sad to read this one. The freedom of speech as per the standards of west for Muslim world dictates that Natzis should be able to express themselves as much as Republicans in USA. If a sacred prophet of 1.3Billion people can be ridiculed and their religion attacked and mocked all under the presumed freedom of speech then why cant Natzis express themselves despite the fact that no current Natzi was ever involved in Holocaust? Getting fined for wearing a swastika is really funny. There is so much self censorship in west. Even thinking about a revision of holocaust is considered a crime akin a sin in west. So much so for freedom and democracy.
Sher Moli, Pakistan

I live in Berlin, and have long thought that the German ban on the swastika gives it an almost pagan power here that it otherwise wouldn't have. Germans literally gasp and get chills when they see it depicted in inappropriate places abroad. I was in the German History Museum recently and seeing a large Nazi flag there in an otherwise swastika-free country gave me a strange frisson.
JacobH, Berlin, Germany

Anyone querying the antiqity or pervasiveness of 'that' geometric symbol might care to visit the Römisch-Germanisches Museum in Köln. Please note the dominant motif in the border of the large mosaic floor fragment that you encounter immediately after entering the exhibition space!
James, Stockport, UK

I would like to rembemer at Swastika as ornament was used by Coca-cola company inthe 20s and was used on all bottles of Carlsberg beer in Danmark and it was widely accepted symbol...The use as expression of swastika as the symbol of a party that promoted an utopic aryan future this period 1920-1945 made the difference! Germans should use swastikas everywhere and in all colors and shapes and de-toxicate this symbol from 20 years period of nightmares...forbidding swastika by law, can have just one effect, it will give this symbol the power that really never had in the long term!! Politically it's just making the neo-nazis a big favour!!
italienicus, Rome italy

As a mark of respect to all religions that had used the Swastika before Hitler, can we please stop calling the Nazi symbol by the same name. Hitler said Hakenkreuz, Germans still say Hakenkreuz, why do we ignorant anglophones have to use an Indian Sanskrit word for such a European evil?
Alex, Prague

I have many German friends, and many of those think its a joke that say for example games they play have to be modified so they don't include german swastikas. A lot of people in germany play WW2 Games. It is all a bti farcical
Chris, Barnsley

We Germans are quite double-faced. No Hakenkreuz (swastika) but Nazis in the parliaments! I am more worried about the Nazis, Antisemites and their wide range of relatives rather than using any symbols.
Eric, Frankfurt am Main

I think the swastika will forever have multiple meanings and people will simply have to know the difference. Here in the states there is a well-known hate group; the Klu Klux Klan. Their symbol is the cross. They claim it is a religious symbol. No one is fooled by this.
Kathy, Dayton, Ohio, USA

Airfix German WWII models - a lot of it was very cool (Me-109, Heinkel 111, King Tiger, Bismarck, etc) - have had swastikas in the UK. What people do with real equipment is terrible, but really, did Airfix turn the UK nazi with realistic models? Pity the German kids denied realism.
Nick, Belfast

What the Swastika symbolized before Germany is one thing, but Germany's actions in WWII forever changed the view/meaning of this symbol. To argue about the symbol's history or use by other countries flies in the face of reality -- that things have changed. Germany changed its meaning. The end.
Stanislav, Frankfurt am Main

The swastika is an ancient symbol that was used in many places, long before the Nazis adopted it in the 1930s. For example, The Finnish airforce used it on their aircraft from 1918. Of course the Nazi hijacking of the symbol meant the Finns had to change it subsequently! Presumably, it would be illegal at the moment to reproduce a photo of a 1920s Finnish airforce craft in a German publication.
Bede Dunlop, Oxford, UK

In answer to Bede Dunlop: no, that wouldn't be illegal. Use of the swastika in a historical, academic or dramatic/theatrical context isn't illegal. See the 2002 film "Der Untergang" ("The Downfall") for an example of this.
Jon Bright, Sprockhövel, Germany

Re. Bede Dunlops comment: There are substantial differences between the swastikas used in Finland (even today!) and the Nazi symbol; coloring, length of arms, and mainly, the orientation. The Nazi swastika balances on a corner, the Finnish sits "square".
J-E Nystrom, Helsinki, Finland

The Finnish emblem turned to the left. The German emblem to the right.... More confusion. In Labuan in Malaysia at least one Budhist temple has the "Finish Cross" displayed....
kent hall, labuan east Malaysia

Unless my history is out, before the Nazis used the swastika it was a symbol of strength and good luck dating back nearly 3000 years. During WWI it was used in badges worn by the American 45th division, and by the Finnish Air Force until after of WWII. It therefore seems foolish to me to brand such a historic symbol as 'evil' when it has been used for millenia to represent evil's direct opposite.
Andrew Petley-Jones, Kendal, Cumbria, UK

The Nazi holocaust of 12 million (6 million of whom were Jews) certainly ranks among the most evil events in history. The Soviet Union ranks up there as well. Under Stalin alone estimates vary from 20 to 100 million killed, most averaging around 50 million. Yet the Soviet insignia is still commonly seen in Russian demonstrations and among the naive in Europe who try to rehabilitate communism. By contrast, I think Germany is a model that countries like Russia and Japan should follow. Germany has done exceptionally well in admiting guilt and sincerely asking for forgiveness and as a result, Germany should be allowed to move on.
Mark Nelson, Tallinn, Estonia

A swastika is a sacred sysmbol in Hindu culture hence its not very nice to link a holocast regime toa symbol so as in case of Soviet symbol. However such symbols become entrenched in the collective memories of the people who suffered.
Prabhu21, Chennai, India

Swastika is a religious symbol in Hindu culture, and it can be found on both sides of the entrance in many houses all around India. It is also a symbol which is put on our temples. Also, I don't think many of us here in India, really associate it with Nazis. On the contrary many feels why they used a symbol which is ours.
Vikas Saxena, Pune, India

Having grown up in India the "Swastik" was one of the most common emblems in India. It is used commonly in a religious context. The swastika originates from a sanskrit word "Swastik" meaning "Good Existence". Its a pure and revered symbol which has come to be associated with the most evil of ideology. Shame.
Abhinav, Camberley

The Swastika, as others have mentioned has been around for 3000 years and has been a symbol of positive nature. The Swastika is still used in Buddhism and many statues and books have them. It is also a font for Chinese, Japanese and Korean computer users. The Nazi Swastika turns anti-clockwise and it has been more than 50 years since WWII. If the Germans are sorry, I say we can accept the use of the Swastika as a fact and academic value, but not allow Swastikas to be abused by Neo-Nazis and other far-right groups. Civilised and informed people do not need such bans, we know and understand what is and is not acceptable.
CS Zeng, Tunbridge Wells, UK

Swastika is considered an auspicious symbol in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. Swastika is taken as a symbol of goodluck and fortune and is ritually made on every new possession whether a car or a house and even on account books. Not only that, a saffron swastika is made on the head of a newborn in the naming ceremony. Its presence in their places of worship is so important. Considering its religious significance and its presence dating back to more than 3000 years in the Indian cultue , how inappropriate and how insensitive it is on part of the government in any country to formally acknowledge the Swastika as a hallmark of evil.
Sona, Bangalore, India

When I first visited Iceland in 1978, the swastika was used as a symbol, in blue, not black, by the shipping company Heimskip. I was shocked. They dropped it later.
Joop, Ouderkerk, The Netherlands

As a foreigner in Germany it amazes me how German society seems to try to avoid their past rather than confront it head on. The current generation cannot be blamed for what happened 60-70 years ago but it still seems that many of this new generation are forced to carry a urden of guilt. The banning of symbols does not and will not hinder the extreme right groups but it does hinder the ordinary German because the with ban comes the guilt pseudo-responsibility for something that they had nothing to do with. I think the law is the wrong way round. Ban the rights extremists and allow symbolism (especially if it is anti-nazi).
Karl Lynch, Hamburg, Germany

I see it's ok for the Green party to use the swastika but as soon as someone else uses it in a similar fashion he's fined 7000 euro. That says it all really....
Andy, Stuttgart, Germany

A symbol like the swastica represents racial hatred and Nazism, that is what people relate it to when they see it. Any academic argument portraying it's past meanings are irrelavent and it is what it is today a symbol of hate.
Mark Israel, London UK

The swastika is still a sacred symbol in East and South Asia, not just historically - go into any temple in China and you're likely to find one somewhere. In South Korea the swastika is used as the standard symbol on maps for a temple, like the cross or crescent are used in Europe for churches and mosques. While I understand people in Germany, Poland or Russia being sensitive about it, they'll have to get used to the fact that it wasn't Europe's to start with.
Brian, Dublin, Ireland

As an American, I'm troubled to see the American flag slowly being elevated in the same, ritualistic manner as the German hakenkreuz to the position of a sacred icon. In fact, it was Nazi oppression of Jehovah's Witnesses in the 1930s that set off our modern flag debate in the United States. (Gobitis vs. Minersville School Board) It's compelling to see a forum in which a discussion of the swastika appears alongside a discussion of pan-Europeanism. The greatest hindrance for a dynamic European Union are the unresolved and oft ignored roots of 20th Century European conflict, namely the elevation of national identity as a religious construct. The swastika constituted the highest icon of the 3rd Reich, which is oft called "scientific" and "rational" by modern theorists who want to avoid the uncomfortable truth that Nazism was a faith-based religion, complete with a chosen people, a Promised Land, an ethnic pact with a higher power and a Teutonic saviour-figure. That is, I think, the real lesson of the swastika-debate. And we ignore it, the resurgence of the European right and the modern American experiment to mix nationalism and religion, at our own peril.
Atticus Mullikin, Maastricht, The Netherlands

As a British soldier I served alongside German troops during the Cold War. Most of those I met were friendly, professional and most of all trustworthy. The German people I know today are kind, generous and intelligent. Whilst we must never forget the lessons learnt from the past we must not compare modern Germany with the old. The ultimate question is whether the Germans trust themselves? I know I trust them.
Jim, Glasgow, UK

I think it's about time we put the past in the past. Germany (and Japan), need to start pulling there weight by using their economic power (and money) by making the world a safer place. Even if its with their military might. Germany could be a real world power and needs to stop worrying about what people will think if they use there military for something other than directing traffic and handing out food for the UN.
William Gallant, Marlborough, Ma. USA

To William Gallant, Marlborough, Ma. USA: Excellent logic; Germany and Japan should use their military to make the world a safer place. America might have a different take if they ever saw the tragedies of war on their homeland.
Miranda, London

With the current rate of unemployment and the uprising of NPD and other right-wing parties in Germany, it is imperative that the Green party and others make their voices heard.
Marjan, London

'German and Japan need to start pulling their weight to make the world a safer place.' Would this be on their terms, or the terms of the US? The interests of the US are not the interests of the world. The German aversion to using military force and being associated with symbols of their military past is an intensely emotional issue, and to reduce that to the need to police the world is naive US-centrism. The Germans have been commendable in their facing up to past crimes, and the illegality of the swastika was part of that process. The fact the point is up for debate shows the strides they, and we, have made.
Darren, Liverpool

In reply to William Gallant's comment; Germany IS a 'real world power' (as is Japan). The economic might of both those countries ensures their place in the list of 'world powers'. Why should they use 'their military might' except in circumstances that they believe such action is appropriate? Surely a 'world power' is a country that has influence and can devise their policy on a topic, without following another country's lead, such as Germany's strong opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Or does Mr. Gallant believe that they would only be a true world power if they didn't think for themselves and blithely followed the American policy for the 'War on Terror'?
Shane, Dublin, Eire

"The debate was specially agonised because of where it was. While there is very little real prospect that the sailors will have to turn their guns on Israelis, the slim theoretical possibility made some argue the mission was impossible because of Germany's history." this concept is the real plight of the Arabs. while we know that israel has already killed deliberatly over the last 30 years more than 150 UNIFIL soldiers, all the media is focussing on how not to upset Israel and how to avoid 'dangerous' arabs... Israelis know that the West feels guilty...
rachelle aractingi, Beirut Lebanon

In response to Rachelle Aractingi: you're probably right that "Israelis know the West feels guilty", but possibly the Germans also know that Israel has been surrounded by nations that, 58 years after its foundation, still wish to destroy it. This doesn't excuse the killing of those UNIFIL troops, but were it not for Hizbollah, et al, they wouldn't have to be there at all.
Simon Jackson, Barnet, Hertfordshire, UK

What drivel to suggest that Israelis "deliberately" kill UNIFIL soldiers when the opposite is so patently true. But how typical of the Israel-haters to completely miss the point of these articles and turn it into yet another anti-Israel rant - "Israel delendum est" at the end of every statement. Why do we have to listen to this irrelevant nonsense, and why do the BBC bother to publish it?
Joel, London, UK

What the "EU Foreign Minister" affair is all about is to get a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, replacing Britain & France. Madness; instead of 2 votes, they'd only get one. I for one want Britain to continue to have an independent voice, not be spoken for by some EU appointee who is not accountable to the British electorate.
Mark, Durham, UK

In response to what Mark said, I would strongly contest that the EU Foreign Minister has anything to do with an EU bid for a UN Security Council permanent seat. Any move away from British and French seats would have to be agreed by those countries, and there is certainly no real discussion of that in either France or the UK. The role of EU Foriegn Minister is not so different from what we currently have in Javier Solana, who is High Representative of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The only different is that the EU Foreign Minister would have a seat on the Commission. The EU Foreign Minister would be the spokesperson for the CFSP, not the designer of it. The EU's foreign policy would continue to be made as it is today - by unanimity.
Phil McComish, Bruges, Belgium

Does Mark think that Britain would continue to have a permanent Security Council seat if it were not an EU member?
G, Newcastle, UK

It is now quite evident that the EU is determined to set up a european state. As such, the UK must now consider its future. Our government has been elected to do just that, not to delegate the governance of the UK to another authority. I, for one, would like to see the UK sever ties with the EU -we CAN go it alone!
John Douglas, Denny, Scotland

This article is very typical for British media. Whenever Germany pops up all they think about is the second world war. One could think that in a European diary other things would pop up. It is not that Germans define themselves entirely through WWII. It is more the rest of the world which does that.
Val, London


Mark Mardell Mardell's Euroblog
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