In the 2002 elections, Gerhard Schroeder had argued strongly against involvement in the war against Iraq, and he had performed quite well in dealing with the floods that during August had ravaged much of central Europe and parts of Germany (Dalgaard-Nielsen 2003, p99). Schroeder argued that war in Iraq could lead to mass civilian casualties, increase tensions with the Arab and Muslim worlds, and possibly lead to new rounds of terrorism (Dalgaard-Nielsen 2003, p100). Likewise, he made other economic stimulus plans, including tax cuts that will come into play through 2004, a reduction of income tax of around 10% (Deutsche Welle 2003). The election had been very close, with the retention of government by the Social Democrats based on the strong performance of their Green alliance partners, winning over conservative parties led by Edmund Stoiber: -
Only in the middle of the night did it become become clear that the Social Democrats had gained more votes than predicted in the former East Germany, where the votes were counted more slowly and where the PDS - the successor to the East German communist party - suffered heavy losses. At one in the morning, Mr Schroeder appeared before his party at its headquarters in Willy Brandt House accompanied by Joschka Fischer, the foreign minister and leader of the Greens. Then triumphant cries of `Joschka, Joschka' resounded from the assembled Social Democrats, for the Greens had rescued them by putting on nearly two percentage points compared to 1998, which was enough to give the two parties 306 seats in a parliament where 302 seats are needed for a majority. The full election results showed the Social Democrats had won a mere 8,864 votes more than their conservative opponents, with the difference between the two camps resting on the success or failure of the minor parties. The Greens, who are generally pacifist, beat the Liberals, who are the nearest thing Germany has to a free-market party. (Gimson 2002)
This led to later charges of opportunism and 'peace-mongering' in relation to Iraq and the UN Security Council, but there is no doubt that Chancellor Schroeder's policies struck a strong accord with a large segment of the electorate (Dalgaard-Nielsen 2003, p101). However, his government will now have to perform strongly in the areas of stimulating the economy, reducing unemployment, and retaining a strong role for Germany within the EU in order to retain office in future. Likewise, Germany, along with France and the UK, has played an extremely active role through late 2003 in persuading Iran to cease its uranium enrichment programs (Strategic Comments 2004), and was one of the main diplomatic resources and donors in the Afghanistan peace process, especially via the Bonn conference in late 2001 (Jalali 2003, pp175-176).
5. German’s Prospects in the 21st Century
Germany is now a strong player on the European and world stage. Germany has been willing to take on a wider international role, e.g. financial negotiations with China, visits by leading Germany officials to Israel and Singapore, a strong presence in the Asia-Europe meeting of March 1996, a high level visits to Australia in May 1997, and a leadership role in attempting to bring Eastern Europe into the fold of Europe through 1997-2004. Germany remains committed to the Kyoto protocol in reducing green-house gases, as well as to supporting peace processes in the Middle East and through June 2004 called for wider involvement of Gulf states in the reconstruction and stabilization of Iraq. Germany's international interests support this expansion of