Το νέο μας blog είναι http://havdata.blogspot.com/ ****** [επιλογές από την ειδησεογραφία του διαδικτύου, σχόλια, νέα τοπικού ενδιαφέροντος, ¨κι¨ ό,τι άλλο τύχει]. [A selection of news, comments, and topics of interest]. [ Ελα να ζήσεις την ζωή σου έξω κάμποσες δεκαετίες νεοέλληνα για να καταλάβεις την προνομιακή της Ελλάδας ύπαρξη, στον χώρο στον χρόνο στο κλίμα στη θάλασσα στο αρχιπέλαγος και στην ζωή]. λορνιόν

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Corruption /28.01.2010 /DW


Clearstream ruling bolsters Villepin's chances of a political comeback

France's ex-prime minister Dominique de Villepin has been cleared of being part of a conspiracy to smear Nicolas Sarkozy and sabotage his campaign to become president in 2007.

Former French president Dominique de Villepin was cleared on Thursday of charges that he had tried to smear Nicoloas Sarkozy. In the ruling read out to a Paris court, the presiding judge said there was "no clear evidence."

Villepin smiled and shook hands with supporters as he walked out of the Paris courtroom. "My innocence has been recognized," Villepin told reporters outside.

"I don't bear any grudges or rancour. I want to turn the page ... I want to look to the future, to serve the French people and continue in a spirit of unity," Villepin said.

Slap in the face for Sarkozy

The acquittal was a clear victory for the former prime minister, who has set his sights on the 2012 presidential elections and hopes the ruling will help revive his political career at a time when his long-time rival Sarkozy is struggling with poor approval ratings.

Sarkozy, a civil plaintiff in the case, had reportedly vowed to hang those responsible for the scandal by a "butcher's hook". He said, however, in a statement following the ruling that he was satisfied by the verdict and would not appeal.

French intrigue

In the so-called Clearstream case, Villepin was accused of using faked documents as part of a plot to sabotage the campaign of his long-time rival Nicolas Sarkozy to win the presidency in 2007, when both politicians were vying to succeed President Jacques Chirac.

Prosecutors in the trial that has gripped France were asking for a suspended jail sentence of 18 months and a 45,000 euro ($70,000) fine for Villepin, 56, on charges of complicity to slander Sarkozy.

The Clearstream affair made front page news across France in 2005. It centred on a list of account holders at the Luxembourg-based securities clearing house Clearstream who were alleged to have taken bribes from the sale of French warships to Taiwan. Sarkozy's name was on the list, which later turned out to have been fabricated.

The former prime minister always denied the charges. During the month-long trial, he defended himself vigorously, saying he never knew that the list was false and never planned to use it against Sarkozy.

However, the court found three of Villepin's co-defendants guilty. Former EADS executive Jean-Louis Gergorin and computer specialist Imad Lahoud were both found guilty on the major counts of slander and use of false documents. The pair received a jail sentence and a fine. The auditor who obtained the false documents, Florian Bourges, was found guilty of breach of trust and theft.

db/AFP/Reuters/AP
Editor: Michael Lawton

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Παγκόσμιο Οικονομικό Φόρουμ
Το δίλημμα «περισσότερες μεταρρυθμίσεις ή λιγότερο κράτος» διχάζει το Νταβός
Αυστηρότερο κανονιστικό πλαίσιο για τις τράπεζες ζήτητε ο Γάλλος πρόεδρος, Νικολά Σαρκοζί, στην εναρκτήρια ομιλία του
Νταβός
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Η διαφωνία των απαισιόδοξων οικονομολόγων με τους αισιόδοξους τραπεζίτες έδωσε τον τόνο την πρώτη ημέρα του Φόρουμ στο Νταβός την Τετάρτη, με τους μεν να τάσσονται υπέρ μεταρρυθμίσεων στη λειτουργία των χρηματοπιστωτικών οργανισμών και τους δε να υποστηρίζουν ότι ο δρόμος θα οδηγεί τις τράπεζες και την ανάκαμψη σε «ασφυξία».

Λίγες ώρες πριν την ομιλία του Αμερικανού προέδρου, ο οποίος αναμένεται να ζητήσει ακόμη περισσότερες μεταρρυθμίσεις, διευθυντικά στελέχη από τραπεζικούς γίγαντες επαναλάμβαναν στο Φόρουμ ότι επιπλέον ρυθμίσεις θα οδηγήσουν σε καταστροφική «κανονιστική ασφυξία». Οι συζητήσεις αντανακλούν την γενικότερη ανησυχία για την παγκόσμια οικονομία και την προτιμότερη στάση απέναντι σε μία άνιση ανάπτυξη που ωθείται από την Κίνα και περιορίζεται από την ανεργία σε ΗΠΑ και Ευρώπη.

«Ας φτιάξουμε καλύτερους κανονισμούς, αλλά όχι περισσότερους κανονισμούς» δηλώνει ενδεικτικά ο Πίτερ Λίβεν της βρετανικής Lloyds, συμφωνώντας με τον Γιόζεφ Ακερμαν της Deutsche Bank που υποστήριξε ότι «όλοι θα βγούμε χαμένοι» αν οι κυβερνήσεις περιορίσουν το περιθώριο κινήσεων των τραπεζικών οργανισμών. «Συνεπείς κανόνες που θα ισχύουν για όλους διεθνώς και δεν θα δίνουν πλεονεκτήμα σε κανέναν είναι το κλειδί για την παγκόσμια οικονομία» συνέχισε ο Γ.Ακερμαν.

Μπροστά στα αυξανόμενα ποσοστά ανεργίας όμως, η πίεση για περιορισμούς εις βάρος των τραπεζών που φαίνονται «δημιουργοί της κρίσης» μεγαλώνει. Αρκετοί αναλυτές ζητούν εντονότερα μέτρα: «Οι προτάσεις του Ομπάμα για τις τράπεζες βρίσκονται στη σωστή κατεύθυνση, αλλά δεν επαρκούν» ανέφερε ο οικονομολόγος Νουριέλ Ρουμπινί, που οφείλει την εξέχουσα θέση του ανάμεσα στους συναδέλφους του στην επιτυχία του να προβλέψει την κρίση.

Ο Ν.Ρουμπινί πρότεινε να διαχωριστούν οι εμπορικές από τις επενδυτικές δραστηριότητες των τραπεζών μαζί με άλλα μέτρα που θα εμπόδιζαν ό,τι μέχρι σήμερα αποτελεί «υπόθεση ρουτίνας» για τους χρηματοπιστωτικούς οργανισμούς --προτάσεις που απορρίπτουν οι τραπεζίτες, υποστηρίζοντας ότι θα πλήξουν οποιαδήποτε ουσιαστική ανάκαμψη.

Ο Γάλλος πρόεδρος Νικολά Σαρκοζί, ο οποίος κήρυξε την τυπική έναρξη του Φόρουμ με την ομιλία του το απόγευμα της Τετάρτης, τάχθηκε υπέρ αυστηρότερων κανονισμών και επιβολή ορίων σε μπόνους και αμοιβές υψηλά ιστάμενων μάνατζερ, ενώ τόνισε ότι «το ρίσκο αν δεν αλλάξουμε τα ρυθμιστικά πλαίσια των τραπεζών και τους κανονισμούς εποπτείας είναι τεράστιο».

«Τα υπέρογκα μπόνους δεν θα γίνουν ανεκτά αν δεν έχουν σχέση με τη δημιουργία πλούτου και θέσεων εργασίας» συνέχισε, προσθέτοντας επίσης ότι «η προτεραιότητα που έχει δοθεί στο ελεύθερο εμπόριο έχει αποδυναμώσει τη δημοκρατία».

To Φόορυμ του 2010 στοχεύει στη χάραξη στρατηγικής για θωράκιση της ανάκαμψης και αποτροπή επανάληψης κρίσεων έκτασης όπως η πιο πρόσφατη. Σύμφωνα με τα στοιχεία του ΟΗΕ, τον προηγούμενο χρόνο οι άνεργοι αυξήθηκαν κατά 27 εκατομμύρια, οι μισοί από τους οποίους στις ΗΠΑ, τη δυτική Ευρώπη και την Ιαπωνία.

Ανάμεσα στους περίπου 2.500 συμμετέχοντες του Φόρουμ στο Νταβός θα βρίσκονται ο πρόεδρος της Βραζιλίας Λούλα ντα Σίλβα, ο πρώην Αμερικανός πρόεδρος Μπιλ Κλίντον, αλλά και καλλιτέχνες, όπως ο σκηνοθέτης Τζέιμς Κάμερον και ο πιανίστας Λανγκ Λανγκ.

Newsroom ΔΟΛ, με πληροφορίες από Associated Press



Την «οικουμενικότητα» του Πατριαρχείου αποδέχεται το Συμβούλιο της Ευρώπης

ΑΠΕ
Ο Οικουμενικός Πατριάρχης Βαρθολομαίος
Παρίσι
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Η Κοινοβουλευτική Συνέλευση του Συμβουλίου της Ευρώπης αποδέχθηκε τον «οικουμενικό» χαρακτήρα του Πατριαρχείου στην Κωνσταντινούπολη, με την έγκριση, το απόγευμα της Τετάρτης, ψηφίσματος της Επιτροπής των Νομικών Υποθέσεων και Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων.

Με το ίδιο ψήφισμα οι βουλευτές χαρακτηρίζουν ως «αναχρονιστική» την έννοια της «αμοιβαιότητας» που συνιστάται με το άρθρο 45 της Συνθήκης της Λωζάνης (1923), για την αντιμετώπιση των μειονοτήτων και ζητούν την εγκατάλειψή της.

Το ψήφισμα έχει τίτλο «Θρησκευτική ελευθερία και ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα των μη μουσουλμανικών μειονοτήτων στην Τουρκία και την μουσουλμανική μειονότητα στην Θράκη» και εγκρίθηκε με σημαντική πλειοψηφία 102 ψήφους υπέρ, 18 κατά και 4 αποχές.

Τη σχετική έκθεση εισηγήθηκε ο Γάλλος βουλευτής Μισέλ Υνό (Michel Hunault), από την ομάδα των Ευρωπαίων Δημοκρατών. Κατά την ψηφοφορία εγκρίθηκαν έξι από τις 14 τροποποιήσεις που είχαν υποβληθεί.

Η ΚΣΣΕ καλεί την Ελλάδα και την Τουρκία να αντιμετωπίζουν όλους τους πολίτες χωρίς διακρίσεις και χωρίς να επηρεάζονται από τον τρόπο που η γειτονική χώρα αντιμετωπίζει τους δικούς της πολίτες.

«Η συνεχής προσφυγή των δύο αυτών χωρών στην έννοια της αμοιβαιότητας, προκειμένου να αρνηθούν στις μειονότητές τους τα δικαιώματα που τους εξασφαλίζει η Συνθήκη της Λωζάνης, είναι αναχρονιστική και μπορεί να ζημιώσει την εθνική ενότητα της κάθε χώρας στις αρχές αυτές του 21ου αιώνα», υποστηρίζουν οι βουλευτές με το ψήφισμα. Ζητούν η αντιμετώπιση των μειονοτήτων να γίνεται πλέον από κάθε χώρα, βάσει της Ευρωπαϊκής Συνθήκης των Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων.

Καλούν τις δύο χώρες να πάρουν μέτρα υπέρ των θρησκευτικών μειονοτήτων, στα θέματα εκπαίδευσης και ιδιοκτησίας και να συμβάλλουν ώστε η πλειοψηφία να μην αντιμετωπίζει τις μειοψηφίες αυτές ως να είναι ξένες στην χώρα τους.

Συνιστούν επίσης στις δύο χώρες να προχωρήσουν στην τελική επικύρωση της «Σύμβασης πλαίσιο για την προστασία των μειονοτήτων» (STE-157) και της Ευρωπαϊκής Χάρτας για τις Περιφερειακές και Μειονοτικές Γλώσσες.

Με τροπολογίες που εγκρίθηκαν και που είχαν υποβληθεί κυρίως με την πρωτοβουλία Βουλγάρων βουλευτών, αναγνωρίσθηκε το νομικό πρόσωπο του Πατριαρχείου της Κωνσταντινούπολης, η δε έκφραση «Ελληνικό Ορθόδοξο Πατριαρχείο», αντικατεστάθη με την έκφραση «Οικουμενικό Ορθόδοξο Πατριαρχείο».

Αναγνωρίσθηκε επίσης ότι «η Ορθόδοξη Βουλγαρική κοινότητα εντάσσεται στο Οικουμενικό ορθόδοξο Πατριαρχείο» και απορρίφθηκε η έκφραση «Βουλγαρική Ορθόδοξη Εξαρχεία».

Σχετικά με τη Σχολή της Χάλκης, οι βουλευτές ζητούν την επαναλειτουργία της και την αναγνώρισή της ως παράρτημα της θεολογικής σχολής του Γαλατά Σαράϊ.

Με τροπολογία που απορρίφθηκε είχε ζητηθεί να μετονομασθεί η «Ελληνορθόδοξη Θεολογική Σχολή της Χάλκης» σε «Ανώτατο θεολογικό Ινστιτούτο ανήκον στο Οικουμενικό Πατριαρχείο».

Οι βουλευτές ζητούν επίσης να ξεκαθαρισθεί πλήρως το θέμα των ιδιοκτησιών που ανήκαν στα θρησκευτικά ιδρύματα και τα οποία κατασχέθηκαν το 1974.

Επίσης, να υλοποιηθούν οι αποφάσεις που πήρε η ΚΣΣΕ το 2008 για την Ίμβρο και την Τένεδο, με στόχο τη διατήρηση του διπλού πολιτιστικού χαρακτήρα των δύο νήσων, οι οποίες θα μπορούσαν να μετατραπούν σε σύμβολο της ελληνο-τουρκικής συνεργασίας.

Οι κυβερνήσεις των δύο χωρών, καλούνται τέλος να ενημερώσουν την ΚΣΣΕ για τις προόδους που θα πετύχουν μέσα σε ένα χρόνο, γύρω από τα βασικά αιτήματα του ψηφίσματος, ήτοι τον Φεβρουάριο του 2011.

Newsroom ΔΟΛ, με πληροφορίες από ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ

Thursday, January 21, 2010

History | 16.11.2009

The introduction of the euro - January 1, 2002

One of the biggest economic areas sharing a common currency was created with the introduction of the euro. Overnight, some 320 million people began carrying the same money in their wallets.

But the skepticism was enormous. Many people were afraid that the stable Deutschmark would be replaced with a currency that would usher in an era of high inflation rates. Others were concerned about the influence of those national economies that produced less than Germany. What influence would their inflation rates have on the stability of the common currency?

Starter kits

Euro notes and coinsBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: How stable would the new currency be? Many feared inflation

The euro was made available at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 2001, but the run-up period was lengthy. The retail sector and banks had been using the new currency since September. Prices had to be listed in both currencies so that people could start to develop a sense of the euro's value. In Germany, the rule of thumb was: two D-marks equal one euro.

Posters and campaigns helped spread the word about the coming currency conversion, and on December 17, 2001, starter kits went on sale at bank counters. For 20 D-marks, you could buy just over 10 euros in coins. But you couldn't use them yet to pay for anything - that only began on January 1, 2002.

Historic dimensions

The euro sculpture outside the ECBBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: The euro sculpture outside the ECB

The introduction of the euro was the subject of many lengthy debates held by politicians throughout the EU member states. A dedicated European, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl had already voted in favor of the common currency during the negotiations over the Maastricht Treaty in February of 1992. His agreement carried enormous weight, as evidenced by the fact that many countries made their approval of German reunification dependent on Germany remaining firmly anchored in the western community of values. A common European currency seemed to the participating heads of state the best means of ensuring that this decision would be irreversible.

Helmut KohlBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: A dedicated European: Helmut Kohl

During Germany's parliamentary debate about the introduction of the euro, Chancellor Kohl highlighted the decision's historic dimensions. "The realization of the European economic and currency union is, in its consequences, the most significant decision since German reunification. It is the most deeply reaching change on our European continent since the collapse of Communism."

It was not the first time that a common currency had been introduced on the continent. Around 1,150 years before, Frankish King Charlemagne (747 - 814) had had the same idea. Everyone everywhere was able to pay for goods with the silver denier. It made it possible to compare prices and to find out what price your services had in another place. Then as now, people on the continent profited from the ability to carry out transactions anywhere without having to change money. But it was an advantage that vanished again with the division of Franconia at the end of the ninth century.

Stable currency

The original skepticism about the euro has disappeared. Seven years after its introduction, the euro is one of the most stable currencies in the world. Many countries hold their currency reserves in euros, which have been gaining more and more in value against the US dollar. That's mainly due to a common European Central Bank, of which Germany was a vocal advocate. Common fiscal policy is - in part due to historical reasons - aimed at keeping inflation low. The alarming inflation rates seen in Europe in the past are still firmly embedded in the collective conscience, and are even capable of provoking fear and worry among those who didn't personally experience such times.

 Hans Eichel Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Hans Eichel oversaw the introduction of the euro in Germany

The euro has passed its initial tests, and it now plays a respected role in the global financial system. The eurozone has also helped secure peace on the continent. Waging war against one's own currency makes just as little sense as a company that would destroy its own factories. Former German Finance Minister Hans Eichel (1941) summed up the significance of the day of the introduction of the euro as follows: "This is a historic day because European unity has become a tangible reality for every person. For us Europeans, this is a great project for prosperity and peace in the 21st century."


Author: Matthias von Hellfeld (dc)

Editor: Andreas Illmer

DW

History | 16.11.2009

The Maastricht Treaty - February 7, 1992

The "Treaty on the European Union" which was signed in Maastricht, the Netherlands, was the biggest step taken on the path to a political union in Europe since the Treaties of Rome in 1957.

In 1989/90, European politics entered a somewhat icy phase. The Germans were being accused of forging ahead with reunification without showing any regard for the concerns of their neighbors. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1925) was anxious about the prospect of an overly powerful Germany in the heart of Europe. More than 80 million Germans would be living in a single state and - so she feared - would likely dominate over other European countries. French President Francois Mitterrand (1916 - 1996) was also not especially thrilled at the prospect of a unified Germany on France's eastern border.

Political unity

German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Finance Minister Theo Waigel sign the treatyBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Finance Minister Theo Waigel sign the treaty

In Brussels, Jacques Delors (1925) had been president of the European Commission since 1985. Behind the scenes, he was masterfully directing a negotiation process which eventually succeeded in reversing an initial mutual mistrust. Mitterrand and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl (1930) were the most vocal proponents of European unification. The European Union was not only meant to be a political union; it should also have a common currency. A common foreign and security policy was to be agreed, and this was to be represented by European "foreign ministers." All citizens of the European Union were also to be granted common European citizenship. At its core, Europe was to be further democratized and - via a protocol on social policy - offer improved social conditions for its citizens.

Common currency

Euro notesBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: The euro replaced the national currencies

The political arenas in which future European policy was to be unified and commonly represented to the outside world didn't have as much emotional resonance as the decision to introduce a common currency. By January 1, 1999, the banking sector would be operating with a virtual common currency known as the euro, and by January 1, 2002, it would be introduced to the public for cash transactions. The thought of bidding farewell to deutschmarks, francs and guilders sparked fears about inflation and instability. Across Europe, people debated the pros and cons. Older people in particular could still remember the devastating inflation of decades past. Politicians were barely able to calm these fears. The Stability and Growth Pact which the German government introduced at the 1996 EU summit in Dublin managed to calm the situation somewhat. The pact was designed to avoid extensive deficits and resulting high inflation rates. As the years passed, the pact proved to be an effective instrument to maintain balance in most of the EU's national budgets.

Criticism

In Germany, Chancellor Kohl was accused of sacrificing the stable deutschmark in order to win acceptance of Germany's neighbors for reunification. Additionally, the treaty was said to be suited to creating a bureaucratic monster which would undemocratically and opaquely rule over Europe from its seat in Brussels. There was no doubt that the treaty was the product of compromise, and for this reason, quite complex. For the Germans, however, the benefits of being part of a political union in Europe outweighed the disadvantages. In 1992, Chancellor Kohl defended the treaty at a CDU party conference: "I would say that Europe is a vital question for Germany. As the country at the center of our continent, we have more borders and neighbors than the others. And much more than the others, our national future is linked to the development of Europe. That's why we must not be apathetic to the path Europe takes; whether it irrevocably commits to a political and economic union, or whether it once again falls back into the national rivalries of earlier times."

View to Eastern Europe

The Vrijthof, a big square in the old city centre from Maastricht, The NetherlandsBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Eastern European states were eager to join the union created in Maastricht

The discussions about a new treaty framework for Europe were also influenced by events in Eastern Europe. In 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist, and one after the other, former Eastern Bloc countries made the transition to democratic forms of government, expressing the desire to be allowed to join the European Union created in Maastricht as quickly as possible.

The EU expanded in several phases, and now includes 27 member states. EU membership continues to be an attractive goal for non-member states. From the outside looking in, at least, the advantages of belonging to a geopolitical entity with some 500 million citizens far outweigh the difficulties and disadvantages.


Author: Matthias von Hellfeld (dc)

Editor: Andreas Illmer

History | 16.11.2009

The fall of the Berlin Wall - November 9, 1989

On the evening of November 9, East Germany's government spokesman Guenter Schabowski (1929) mistakenly announced that East Germans could travel to the West. It was the beginning of the end of the GDR

This prime time press conference is now one of the most memorable in the history of the continent. Due to a misunderstanding, Guenter Schabowski incorrectly answered a follow-up question from an Italian journalist, who wanted to know when the GDR's new travel laws - which Schabowski had just announced - would come into effect. "According to my knowledge…immediately, without delay," Schabowski said, in a statement that is now infamous. As the press conference was being broadcast live, and watched in both East and West Germany, his words had enormous significance for the global political situation.

After the Wall was opened, a Berliner offered to shake hands with two border guards Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: After the Wall was opened, a Berliner offered to shake hands with two border guards

Immediately following the press conference, East Germans began congregating along the inner-German border in Berlin, curious to cross over and visit the western part of the city. The border guards, who hadn't been informed of the new travel rules, managed to hold the crowds at bay for about three hours. But as soon as "western television" had set up their cameras and reported the sensational news, it was clear that on this night, the division of Germany which had begun with the building of the Berlin Wall on August 21, 1961, would come to an end. During the late evening hours on November 9, 1989, the border guards gave up their resistance and opened the city's border crossings to allow unchecked travel back and forth between East and West Berlin.

"We are the people!"

Young people march during a Monday demo in Berlin in October 1989 Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Young people march during a Monday demo in Berlin in October 1989

In the preceding months, thousands of East German citizens had begun taking to the streets to demonstrate for political reforms. In particular, the Monday demonstrations held in Leipzig had become notorious. Protesters there adopted the slogan "We are the people!" and chanted "Gorbi! Gorbi!" - calls to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (1931). Since 1985, he'd been introducing reforms throughout the Soviet Union. People in the GDR wanted the same kind of change. But the unwillingness of Erich Honecker's (1912 - 1994) regime to listen to the people prevented reform. As a result, the East German government brought about its own demise.

Erich Honecker and Egon Krenz during a GDR peace march in Potsdam, 1983Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Erich Honecker and Egon Krenz during a GDR peace march in Potsdam, 1983

On October 18, 1989, Honecker was replaced by Egon Krenz (1937) as the head of the GDR's regime. But not even that move could stop the GDR's collapse. On November 4, half a million people joined a demonstration demanding state reform at East Berlin's Alexanderplatz. This powerful gathering made it clear that the new government did not have the trust of the people. Five days later, the Wall was opened, and at the same time, the voices demanding the reunification of the two Germanys grew louder.

German unity and European integration

A few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall and in the midst of calls for German unity, a period of intense shuttle diplomacy broke out in the GDR shortly before Christmas 1989.

In particular, France and Britain were wary of the idea of a large, economically powerful Germany in the center of the European continent. While they didn't outright try to prevent unification, they did require it to be linked to certain political conditions.

Helmut Kohl (r) with Mikhail GorbachevBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Helmut Kohl (r) with Mikhail Gorbachev

West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl (1930) acknowledged these concerns on December 19, 1989, when he delivered a much-watched speech in front of the ruins of Dresden's Church of Our Lady. In the speech, he said he would respect the will of the East German people - no matter what decision they reached. On that same evening, Kohl also said that the house of a united Germany could only be "built under a European roof." German and European unity were two sides of the same coin. With that, he also delivered a clear rejection of the idea of united but neutral Germany. Kohl's speech was met with thunderous applause from the GDR citizens in attendance.

Despite this, French President Francois Mitterand (1916 - 1996) arrived in East Germany two days later, in order to prevent the GDR from being "annexed" by West Germany. At the beginning of 1990, the reunification process of the two German states was embedded in an international process, in which the interests of the German people were given equal consideration with the interests of the victorious Allied powers of World War II.


Author: Matthias von Hellfeld (dc)

Editor: Andreas Illmer

History | 16.11.2009

The Helsinki Accords - August 1, 1975

Thirty-five countries signed the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe - also known as the Helsinki Accords, promising respect for human rights, and political and economic cooperation.

Delegates at the CSCE in HelsinkiBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Thirty-five nations took part in the CSCE

On the initiative of the Warsaw Pact, the first Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) was held in Helsinki on July 3, 1973. All European nations, with the exception of Albania, were in attendance. The goal was to improve relations between the Communist bloc and the West (NATO and the EEC).

While Western Europe was organized in capitalist, democratic forms of government, Eastern Europe was made up of Communist or socialist states. The series of conferences was meant to contribute to peace and de-escalation in Europe, but without negating the different political mindsets of the two blocs, or making propagandistic judgments about the other side's views.

From confrontation to cooperation

Former German Chancellor Helmut SchmidtBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt

On August 1, 1975, after two years of negotiations, the signatories guaranteed the following: inviolability of frontiers; territorial integrity of states; peaceful settlement of disputes; non-intervention in internal affairs, avoidance of threat or use of force; sovereign equality; equal rights and self-determination of peoples; and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.

What sounded like dry diplomatic speak was in fact a political sea change on the European continent - from confrontation to cooperation. The signatories were in effect promising to stop pursuing each other's downfall, and instead to emphasize the superiority of their own political system.

A 1989 photo of former East German leader Erich HoneckerBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: East German leader Erich Honecker

For the first time since the end of World War II, the western states accepted the borders on the continent. That also went for the controversial German-Polish border on the Oder-Neisse line, which had previously been recognized in a treaty (Treaty of Warsaw) between Poland and the social-liberal coalition of West Germany. While Eastern European states saw this part of the Helsinki Accords as a political breakthrough, the Western European states played up the commitment to upholding human rights in the states of the Communist bloc. Both contributed to a de-escalation on the European continent.

The following morning, as agreed upon in Helsinki, every signing country published the text of the accords.

Consequences

Vaclav Havel Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Vaclav Havel

The effect was enormous, as people all across the continent could see in black and white that borders had been granted inviolability, and that human rights were to be respected even in places where that had hitherto not been the case. In the initial months after the CSCE, many observers were of the opinion that the Eastern bloc was the actual winner of the process. But a few years later, it became clear that the Eastern European states' promise to uphold human rights was of ever-increasing significance. It wasn't long before dissident groups in East Germany (Swords into Plowshares) and Poland (Solidarity) were referring to the Helsinki Accords. The "Charter 77," which was signed by future Czechoslovakian President Vaclav Havel mong others, referenced the fact that the Czech government had committed to safeguarding human rights in Helsinki. This situation prevented governments in the Eastern bloc from repressing opposition movements with military means, as had been the case in East Berlin (1953), Hungary (1956) or Prague (1968).

Even though some Eastern European states attempted to silence civil rights movements with massive state violence, the Helsinki Accords remain the most significant document on Europe's path from a divided to a united continent. The CSCE process, which began at the behest of the Eastern bloc with the aim of securing their territorial integrity, ended up becoming a significant factor in the bloc's collapse between 1975 and 1990. As a result of this geo-strategic change, the East-West conflict - which had repeatedly brought Europe to the brink of a third, atomic world war since the end of World War II - was finally resolved.


Author: Matthias von Hellfeld (dc)

Editor: Andreas Illmer

History | 16.11.2009

The Treaties of Rome - March 25, 1957

With the Treaties of Rome, which established the European Economic Community (EEC), the centuries-old animosity between France and German ended, paving the way for European unification.

German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (left) places his signature on the treatiesBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (left) places his signature on the treaties

The events that took place in Rome's Capitoline Museum on March 25, 1957 would have been unconceivable only years before. German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (1876 - 1967) and his counterparts from France, Italy and the Benelux countries signed the Roman Treaties, officially establishing the European Economic Community. But more than that, the treaties signaled a new friendship between Germany and its former war enemies - only 12 years since the end of World War II.

In particular, the Franco-German alliance proved to be the motor driving the European unification movement forward. From this point on, German and French politicians were the main forces behind first the EEC and, starting in 1965, other "European communities," for example, the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC or "Montanunion"), and finally, the European Union, founded in 1992. Through politics, they showed that a friendly relationship between Germany and France could stabilize the once turbulent center of the European continent.

Economic cooperation

Robert SchumanBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Robert Schuman

The idea of establishing a common European market reaches back to 1951. That's when the "Montanunion" was created to give member states duty-free access to coal and steel during the reconstruction period after World War II. The Montanunion proved to be a cornerstone of Germany's post-war recovery, but it also fulfilled another important function. French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman (1886 - 1963) was convinced that inner-European peace could only be sustained if goods essential to war - such as coal and steel - were subject to communal controls. At the same time, the basic conditions for recovery in Western Europe were guaranteed through this equal access to the most important means of production. The young Federal Republic of Germany profited greatly from the Montanunion. Its introduction ended the British occupation authority in the Ruhr region, which at that time was rich in coal. It also brought about the end of sanctions imposed by the Allied powers after World War II.

Political cooperation

The assembled heads of state at the signing of the Treaties of RomeBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: The assembled heads of state at the signing of the Treaties of Rome

The Montanunion contributed greatly to reconstruction on the European continent. Now, after this example of economic cooperation, the Treaties of Rome followed up with political cooperation. The negotiations were tough; they were almost abandoned with no outcome several times. But at the beginning of June 1955, a breakthrough was achieved at a conference held in Messina, Sicily. The delegates from the six states (Germany, France, Italy, and the Benelux countries) agreed to create a European domestic market, and establish the European Atomic Energy Community, or Euratom. After two years, the contracts were finally ready. The Treaties of Rome ensured free trade, the harmonization of social standards, and the unfettered movement of labor, services and capital. In future, trade and economic relations with third parties would be organized communally. Common "supranational" institutions would oversee the activities of the European Economic Community, as well as the common, peaceful use of atomic energy, which was seen by many at the end of the 1950s as the energy source of the future.

Foes become friends

In addition to the economic benefits that unification offered to all those involved, the decision by five European countries to extend the olive branch to Germany was a decisive factor. Unlike the Treaty of Versailles after World War I, cooperation - not conflict - would be used to deal with the fallout of war. Within the framework of common European development, the country responsible for the war was given the chance to rehabilitate itself. The Germans grasped this chance with a surprising amount of initiative, creating the widely admired Economic Miracle - something that would not have been possible without the European network. On March 25, 1957, the Treaties of Rome became the birth certificate of a unified Europe, which over 50 years later, continues to build on political unification.


Author: Matthias von Hellfeld (dc)

Editor: Andreas Illmer

History | 16.11.2009

The start of World War II – September 1, 1939

In the morning hours of this day, the first shots were fired. After Germany's initial success, the page turned in 1941: the Allies gained the upper hand and defeated Germany in 1945.

Since the fire in the Reichstag at the end of February 1933, the parliamentarians had been meeting at the Kroll Opera House in Berlin. Six years after the NSDAP and its leader, Adolf Hitler, seized power in an intrigue known as the "Machergreifung," all they really did was nod their assent to the laws the government wanted. They weren't really a part of the decision-making process anymore. All MPs were members of NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers' Party); other parties were forbidden and their leaders either killed, arrested, exiled or silenced in some other way. On September 1, 1939, there was a tense calm before the session began.

The Gleiwitz incident

Adolf HitlerBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Adolf Hitler

Hitler took to the podium at around 10 am, and said that the Polish army had sent "regular soldiers" into German territory and opened fire. "Since 5:45 am" Germany had been returning fire and "meeting bombs with bombs." He'd barely uttered the words when the parliamentarians began jumping from their chairs and shouting "Heil Hitler!"

Later, a supposed attack in which Polish saboteurs seized the German radio station Sender Gleiwitz near the Polish border was cited as the cause for war. During the incident, anti-German messages were broadcast and a technician killed. But the "attack" was staged, and likely unfolded at the command of the head of the Security Office, Reinhard Heydrich (1904 – 1942).

While the enthusiasm among the parliamentarians was great, the population was comparatively quiet. For many, the memories of World War I were still too fresh for them to react with excitement to the news that Germany had invaded Poland.

Blitzkrieg

The German army in PragueBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: The German army in Prague

In the early stages of the war, their worries were unfounded, as the German armed forces took Poland in just a little over six weeks. In 1940, the occupation of Denmark and Norway followed. On May 10, 1940, German troops invaded first the neutral states of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and eventually France. On June 21, 1940, French negotiators signed a ceasefire agreement. After exactly six weeks and three days, the Blitzkrieg in the West was over, and Hitler, the "greatest commander of all time" was at the height of his popularity.

While the attempt to conquer England from the air failed in 1941, in the same year, German troops took the whole of the Balkans and, with their Italian allies, gained a foothold in northern Africa.

Invasion of the Soviet Union

The Germans and their allies seemed impossible to beat. The same held true in the initial phases of the war against the Soviet Union. On June 22, 1941, "Operation Barbarossa" began. The German troops steadily advanced until the summer of 1942. But the air raid carried out by German ally Japan on the American military base in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 changed the military situation completely. As a consequence of Pearl Harbor, the US joined the war against Germany. Within a few months, the entire American economy was focused on the production of goods for the war effort.

The Battle of Stalingrad, 1943 Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: The Battle of Stalingrad, 1943

In addition to this added boost to the Allied campaign against Germany, the Germans began suffering their first military defeats. At the end of January 1943, the Battle of Stalingrad ended in total defeat for the German army under General Friedrich Paulus (1890 – 1957). This defeat marked a turnaround in the second World War, with Soviet troops from the east and the Allied troops closing in on Germany. By mid-April 1945, they had advanced from all sides to the city limits of Berlin, and began burying the German capital in soot and ashes. The Germans capitulated on May 9, 1945.

Consequences of war

Children in AuschwitzBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Children in Auschwitz

Some 100 million people suffered as a result of World War II. Some 50 million died on the battlefields stretching from Africa to the northern tip of Norway, or in the Nazi death camps as victims of racial persecution. A further 50 million survived the war only to become orphans, homeless, disabled or expellees. The people of Europe were traumatized by six years of fighting, and their cities and villages lay in ruin. Nobody knew how they were going to survive tomorrow.

Shortly after the fighting ended, the European continent was divided. In the East, the Soviet Union ruled, while the West was ruled by the US. The "demarcation line" ran through Germany and Berlin. The "Cold War" that quickly developed between the socialist countries in the eastern bloc and the “"ree democratic states" in the West had its front along the border separating the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). At the end of August 1961, this separation seemed to be cemented forever by the erection of the Berlin Wall and a barbed wire fence through the whole of Germany.


Author: Matthias von Hellfeld (dc)

Editor: Andreas Illmer

DW

History | 16.11.2009

Long live the republic – November 9, 1918

The first German Republic was called into being twice within a matter of hours on this day: first by Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann (1865 – 1939), and again by communist Karl Liebknecht (1871 – 1919).

German Emperor William IIBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: German Emperor William II

It was an exciting day. In Berlin and in other cities, people started to gather, as they had heard about the abdication of Emperor William II (1859 – 1941). Imperial Chancellor Prince Max of Baden (1867 – 1929) announced the abdication against William's will – he had never even been asked. But a short time later, William agreed, thus ending the imperial age in Germany. As a reaction to this development, it was said that the Communists would proclaim a Republic.

Double declaration

Philipp Scheidemann during his speech in BerlinBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Scheidemann declares a republic

But Social Democrat Reichstag delegate Philipp Scheidemann beat the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) to the punch. At midday on November 9, 1918, he proclaimed Germany a republic from the balcony of the Reichstag in Berlin, even though he'd not been authorized to do so, and not all SPD officials were on his side. "The people have triumphed," he said to the throng of cheering people below. But from its first day on, the newly proclaimed republic had a heavy burden to bear. At 4 pm, an equally large crowd had gathered at the Imperial Palace in Berlin. There, Karl Liebknecht also proclaimed a republic. His speech culminated in the proclamation of a "free socialist Republic of Germany" which would bring an end to the Hohenzollern dynasty. Instead of the hated Imperial standard, the "red flag of the free Republic of Germany" should fly from now on.

Karl Liebknecht speaks to the peopleBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Karl Liebknecht speaks to the people

The young republic was trapped in a dilemma, as the people were divided. For some, the Russian Revolution in November 1917 was an enlightening model of a socialist society based on equality. For others, it was a portentous omen of a coming downfall. Between these two positions there was no common ground. Both left- and right-wing parties supported armed gangs which fought openly in the streets. The attempt to introduce a new era after the ravages of World War I was a total failure. Soldiers returning from the front were confronted with sheer chaos in which it was impossible for them to find their bearings. Many of them joined the right-wing Freikorps movement.

Christmas Crisis 1918

By the year's end, the unrest had reached such heights that the imperial chancellor had to act. Friedrich Ebert (1871 – 1925) decreed that the "Bloody Christmas" as it came to be known, should be suppressed with military means. On December 29, 1918, the transitional government collapsed, and the situation escalated. Ebert appointed Gustav Noske (1868 – 1946) to oversee the security of the government. As defense minister, he was responsible for the military. However, his tough approach to the unrest failed to bring peace; rather, the opposite was the case. At the beginning of 1919, the fighting had spread even further.

The Spartacist uprising saw riots consume BerlinBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: The Spartacist uprising saw riots consume Berlin

The Spartacist uprising resulted in conditions akin to a civil war. The uprising began after the discharge of the Berlin Chief of Police Emil Eichhorn (1863 – 1925). Eichhorn was a member of the communist KPD, which had merged with Liebknecht's Spartacus League at the end of 1918. Eichhorn's refusal to resign from his post sparked the uprising, causing riots in Berlin from January 8 – 10, 1919.

The imperial army was strengthened by the addition of the right-wing paramilitary Freikorps, which carried out a campaign against members of the Communist Party. After the defeat of the Spartacist uprising, the Freikorps went on a spree to "cleanse" the city of communists. As a result of this illegal mission, two of the KPD's icons, Rosa Luxemburg (1871 – 1919) and Karl Liebknect were murdered on January 15 and thrown into Berlin's Landwehr Canal.

Weimar Republic

German socialist Rosa Luxemburg Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: German socialist Rosa Luxemburg

Because of the unrest, the government decided to move its seat to neighboring Weimar. In addition, the choice of this city has also meant to send a signal for the new democratic republic. Friedrich Schiller (1759 – 1805), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832) and Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744 – 1803) had all lived and worked in Weimar. The new republic should have nothing more in common with the old imperial state.

On January 19, 1919, the Weimar National Assembly met. Its task was to work out the details of a new democratic constitution. After six months of intense debate, the new constitution was ratified on July 31, and went into effect shortly thereafter. Germany was now a parliamentary democracy. But the constitution had several weak points. In particular, the powers given to the president, who could pass emergency decrees and govern without the consent of parliament, would prove to be the greatest danger.


Author: Matthias von Hellfeld (dc)

Editor: Andreas Illmer

DW

History | 16.11.2009

The Russian Revolution – October 25, 1917

With the siege of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, the Russian Revolution was victorious. The Bolsheviks took power, ruling for more than seven decades over Russia and large parts of Eastern Europe.

The thundering of a cannon from the armored tank "Aurora," gave the starting signal for the glorious October revolution. The vibrations were still ringing in the air as the soldiers of the Red Army boldly pushed their way into the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg – the seat of the government – sweeping aside defenders of the old system. That was the picture of the event painted later by Soviet propaganda. In reality, government members were sitting, scared and defenseless, inside the palace. They didn't put up much of a defense – they'd stood too long in the critique of both right-wing extremists and the Bolsheviks, or Communists.

Lenin and Trotsky

Vladimir Ilich LeninBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Vladimir Ilich Lenin

Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924) and Leo Bronstein, known as Trotsky (1879–1940) were the figureheads of the insurgency. In October 1917, they led their followers into a revolution. Under Trotsky's command, the most important buildings in St. Petersburg (later, Leningrad) were occupied, and the members of the government arrested. A hastily gathered "All-Russian Congress of Soviets" approved the overthrow on the eve of the revolution, as well as the next steps of the new government: disappropriation of land owners and a truce with Germany.

The war of attrition on Russia's western front was to be ended immediately, so that Trotsky could begin negotiations with German military leaders immediately after the successful revolution.

Brest-Litovsk Treaty

Postcard with an original photo of Lenin and Trotsky in MoscowBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Postcard with an original photo of Lenin and Trotsky in Moscow

The Germans had approved of and supported the overthrow of the government in Russia. Now, they wanted to reach a convenient peace with Russia so that they could assemble their full military power on the western front against the French and British armies. But the negotiations proved difficult, and on November 17, 1917, all that had been agreed was a ceasefire. The actual peace negotiations began on December 9, 1917 near Warsaw – in Brest-Litovsk.

The fruitless negotiations were broken off at the end of January 1918. Trotsky would not accept the Germans' demand that they be permitted to annex large parts of territory occupied by the German army. As a consequence, fighting resumed. The German army progressed further, occupying ever more territory, with the result that a peace treaty was finally signed on March 3, 1918.

Delegation at the Brest-Litovsk negotiationsBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Delegation at the Brest-Litovsk negotiations

Ukraine and Finland received sovereignty, and Russia gave up its territorial claims to Poland and the Baltics. Armenia was promised to Turkey. This truce weakened Russia: 60 million citizens left the country, which was now some 1.4 million square kilometers smaller. The loss of bread basket Ukraine as well as that country's coal and iron industries were catastrophic to the Russian economy. The economic situation quickly proved to be a heavy price to pay for the Soviet government.

Stalin

Joseph StalinBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Joseph Stalin

While Lenin and Trotsky, fueled with revolutionary fervor, pushed ahead with the overthrow, Joseph Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili – otherwise known as Stalin – was hesitant. As the Commissar of Nationalities, he had several objections to the revolution and took pains to distance himself from events related to the coup. After Lenin's death on Jan. 21, 1924, he was able to assume power within the party and the state. For almost 30 years, he was the leader of the Soviet Union. On the one hand, he successfully led his country throughout World War II, transforming Russia from an agricultural country into a world power. On the other hand, he was only able to achieve this via a regime of terror and suppression, and was responsible for the deaths of millions of people. According to the latest estimates, around 10 million farmers who were accused of being "capitalist peasants" (kulaks) exploiting the land were killed at Stalin's command during a campaign against them that lasted from 1928 to 1937.

Former Soviet Union President Mikhail GorbachevBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev

The USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) lasted until 1991. Michael Gorbachev's (1931) politics of reform – which became familiar to the world as "perestroika" and "glasnost" – were originally meant to only reform the Soviet state. However, Gorbachev's policies led to domestic difficulties and tough economic conditions which eventually consumed the whole of the USSR. In August 1991, the Baltic states declared their independence, and further members of the union followed their example. On December 8, 1991, the USSR was officially dissolved, and the remaining 12 member states joined together to form the Commonwealth of Independent States, or CIS.


Author: Matthias von Hellfeld (dc)

Editor: Andreas Illmer

DW

History | 16.11.2009

The Sarajevo attack

The attack by Serbian extremists on the heirs to the Austrian throne on June 28, 1914 sparked what was called the "July Crisis" in Europe. A month later, World War I began.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand (1863 – 1914) and his wife, Sophie (1868 – 1914) had just arrived in Sarajevo after a visit with German Emperor William II (1859 – 1941). They were invited to watch the maneuvers of the Austrian troops in Bosnia. On the way into the city, their procession of cars had to drive relatively slowly, which played into the hands of the attackers that lay in wait.

First attempt fails

The young assassin whose shots set off World War I is taken by police to the police station in SarajevoBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: The young assassin whose shots set off World War I is taken by police to the police station in Sarajevo

The first assassination attempt failed due to the quick reaction of the Austrian heir-apparent. Out of the corner of his eye, Franz Ferdinand saw something black flying towards him and raised his hand in a protective gesture, thus knocking the hand grenade out of the car. It landed on the car behind him, injuring two of that car's passengers. The perpetrator tried to commit suicide by swallowing a cyanide pill, but as the pill was old, the poison failed to work and only made him sick. He was stopped by people on the street and arrested. The archduke's procession sped quickly to City Hall. There, it was decided that they would take a different route to the grounds of the military parade.

Not long after starting off for the grounds, the driver of one of the cars leading the procession noticed that they were going the wrong way. The cars had to slowly turn back. Meanwhile, a second conspirator had taken up position. He seized his opportunity, and fired his pistol twice into the car. Franz Ferdinand was shot in the neck; Sophie in the abdomen. Their attacker also swallowed a cyanide pill, which also failed to work. While the second attacker was held by passersby, Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie died in their car from their injuries.

At the trial of the two attackers, they admitted to being followers of the "Pan-Slavist" movement. With the support of Russia, this organization aimed for national unity for all Slavic people. As many Slavs lived in the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy, the heir to the Austrian throne had long been identified as a potential assassination victim.

July Crisis in Europe

US troops in the trenches in France during World War IBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: US troops in the trenches in France during World War I

The attack wasn't handled as what it really was, namely an incident which weighed on diplomatic relations between Austria-Hungary and Serbia and which could potentially lead to domestic conflicts with several minority groups. The Austrian military instead acted as if it had been waiting for just such an opportunity to push Emperor Francis Joseph I (1830 – 1916) into an immediate military reprisal against Serbia. In this, he had the support of the German military command. German Imperial Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg (1856 – 1921) sent a missive to Vienna that was the equivalent of an open letter making the case for war against Serbia: his majesty, the German Emperor, stood "in accord with his federal duties and his old friendship" loyal and brave on the side of Austria, the letter read. William II's whisperings aside, there was still enough time to prevent Europe from being burnt in a large-scale fire. But the governments decided otherwise.

Seminal catastrophe of the 20th century

On July 23, 1914, Austria delivered a 48-hour ultimatum to Belgrade, demanding that Austrian investigators be appointed to pursue those behind the assassination. Even though the Serbian government fulfilled this request as well as various others, the response was not enough for the government in Vienna. Francis Joseph I also backed a declaration of war against Serbia. The chain of diplomatic and military reactions could no longer be halted.

Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914. The next day, Russia reacted, mobilizing its army. On July 31, 1914, the German Empire gave France an ultimatum: in the case of a war between Germany and Russia, France was to remain neutral. At the same time, Czar Nicholas II was requested – also per ultimatum – to halt the Russian mobilization. When this ultimatum was ignored and the Russian government did not recall its army, the German military issued a declaration of war against Russia. On August 1, 1914, Emperor William II signed the war declaration.

Bombing campaign on London, 1917 Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Bombing campaign on London, 1917

This day marked the beginning of what the American historian George F. Kennan (1904 – 2005) described as the 20th century's "seminal catastrophe" – World War I. As if gripped by madness, Europe's political leaders gave up the continent's relative wealth, stable political relations and cultural hegemony over large parts of the world in the summer of 1914. In what seemed to be some sort of secret pact, the crowned rulers of Europe transformed the continent into a battlefield of unimagined proportions, all because of an incident which was insignificant in comparison to its consequences. They were entranced by the prospect of what they stood to gain at the end of the war, and didn't hear the foreboding voices warning them of their own demise.


Author: Matthias von Hellfeld (dc)

Editor: Andreas Illmer

DW