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German elections Tuesday, 29 September, 1998, 18:47 GMT 19:47 UK
Disquiet on the eastern front
The German capital's move to Berlin will cement Germany's links to the east.
By BBC Central European Analyst Jan Repa

German Elections
Chancellor Helmut Kohl's defeat by the Social Democrats in the German parliamentary elections has evoked a mixed response from Germany's eastern neighbours, who have counted on Germany's economic and political support.

Germany under Mr Kohl has been one of the strongest advocates of integrating Central European countries like the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland into the European Union and Nato - to produce what German government spokesmen referred to as a "zone of stability" beyond Germany's eastern border.

Poland's Prime Minister, Jerzy Buzek, put a predictably positive gloss on the German election result: "We are expecting absolutely no change in this respect," he said. "We envisage that Polish-German relations will be at least as good as they have been so far."

Other Polish observers are not being so sanguine. They point out that Chancellor-elect Gerhard Schröder has limited experience in foreign affairs - and suggest that he may be tempted to resort to protectionist measures in order to shield German workers from Central European economic competition. The result, they say, could be a further slowing down of European Union enlargement.

If Poland's centre-right government is ideologically close in some ways to Mr Kohl's outgoing coalition, the Czech Republic's own Social Democrat government is sounding more enthusiastic about Mr Schröder's victory.

Frictions 'diminish'

Relations with Germany have been strained by demands for compensation and a "right of return" put forward by the "Sudeten expellees" - members of the three-million-strong German minority, which was expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II.

The Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, confirmed this in an interview with the BBC. "An SPD government will probably pay less attention to the views of certain Sudeten German organisations, which had the support of the Christian Social Union (Mr Kohl's coalition partner) and were listened to by Chancellor Kohl's government," Mr Kavan said.

"That's why I think frictions that existed will considerably diminish.

Like the Russian Government, the central Europeans are hoping that German interest - and German investments - will not diminish.

The impending move by Germany's Government and federal parliament from Bonn to Berlin - a mere 80km from the Polish border - should help maintain those links.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC News
Mr Schr¿der talks to the BBC after his election victory
BBC News
Caroline Wyatt reports on Gerhard Schr¿der's path to to the top
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