- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 24, 2002

VIENNA, Austria German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder faced accusations from European officials yesterday that the anti-American tones of his campaign threatened to isolate Germany and undermine the European Union's common security policy.
U.S. officials, meanwhile, said Berlin had a lot of work to do to repair the damage to bilateral ties caused by some of Mr. Schroeder's statements, and especially by his justice minister's reported comparison of President Bush's political style with that of Adolf Hitler.
The chancellor announced yesterday that the minister, Herta Daeubler-Gmelin, would not be part of his new Cabinet, but he stuck to his opposition to U.S. military action against Iraq while saying that U.S.-German relations were too solid to be shaken by campaign rhetoric.
"I think this difference of opinion will remain," Mr. Schroeder said. "We will have it out in a fair and open way, without in any way endangering the basis of German-American relations. That is my firm intention."
Some European leaders notably fellow center-left politicians such as British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Swedish counterpart, Goran Persson sent Mr. Schroeder their warm congratulations on his narrow election victory Sunday.
Others, however, took the celebrating chancellor to task for opposing Mr. Bush's policies so vocally.
"It will have a bad effect on the EU's security policy," Italian European Union Affairs Minister Rocco Buttiglione said in an interview in the Corriere della Sera newspaper. "We will have to split on this point because it is important that there are no divisions between the United States, the United Nations and Europe over Iraq."
A Danish official, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, is quoted by wire reports as saying that Germany "now stands practically isolated in Europe on an issue in trans-Atlantic relations and solidarity." He added: "How are they going to step back from that?"
But Mr. Blair, Mr. Bush's staunchest ally in the anti-Iraq campaign, played down the differences with Mr. Schroeder. A spokesman for the prime minister said London "has its position and the German government has its own position."
"In terms of his own dealings with Chancellor Schroeder on important international matters, he has always valued that relationship and will continue to engage with the German government in the months to come," he told reporters, noting that the two leaders were eager to meet soon.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, in Warsaw for a meeting of NATO defense ministers today and tomorrow, said he had no plans to meet with his German counterpart, Peter Struck, who had expressed a desire for a meeting.
"I would have to say that the way [the campaign] was conducted was definitely unhelpful and, as the White House indicated, has had the effect of poisoning the relationship," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
European Commission President Romano Prodi responded: "If there is a poisoning of relations, then there is a misunderstanding of democracy in Germany. We must be prepared to work together to discuss issues publicly."
Mr. Schroeder's governing coalition of Social Democrats and Greens won Sunday's election with slim margins, taking 47.1 percent of the vote, compared with 45.9 percent for a potential alliance between the conservative Christian-Democratic Union and the liberal Free Democratic Party.
The "Red-Green" coalition won 306 out of the 601 seats in the new parliament, while the challengers won 295.
The Party of Democratic Socialism, or the former East German communists, failed to reach the minimum level of 5 percent and remained out of the Bundestag.


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