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K

Kangaroo Group

A cross-party group of MEPs dedicated to the removal of non-tariff trade barriers within the EC.

Karlsruhe (German Constitutional Court)

Karlsruhe is the home of the German Federal Constitutional Court. In 1993 anti-Maastricht campaigners led by Manfred Brunner, a former chef de cabinet to a German commissioner, Martin Bangemann, challenged the compatibility of the Treaty with the Basic Law of the Federal Republic. At issue was whether the Basic Law, which allows the transfer of sovereign powers to intergovernmental institutions, would also allow the transfer of such powers (including the management of the currency) to the EU, which was supranational. The Court ruled that, since two of its pillars were intergovernmental, the EU was not a genuine state; the Treaty could therefore be ratified. In the Court's view, the EU was a confederation, not a federal state. On a second issue, the Court held that the democratic guarantees of the Basic Law were protected by the supervisory powers of the European Parliament.

The alleged manipulation of national accounts in the run-up to EMU led in 1998 to a renewed challenge in the Constitutional Court, on the grounds that the safeguards contained in the Maastricht Treaty had been evaded. The Court, however, declined to accept the case, doubtless reluctant to overturn a decision of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat (Germany's lower and upper houses), despite the expressed reservations of the Bundesbank and the apparent unpopularity of the euro among voters. (See also Ratification.)

Kohl, Helmut (1930-)

A man of vast physical bulk and uncomplicated political beliefs, Helmut Kohl was for many years a dominating figure in Europe, though perhaps underrated in Germany, where the demise of his career was frequently predicted and as frequently falsified by events.

As a boy Kohl saw at first hand the final throes of a war in which his brother was killed and which he attributed to nationalism. During his formative years the idea of a natural connection between the nation state and political confrontation - even armed conflict - became fixed in the German consciousness, informing Kohl's lifelong approach to the development of the EU and leading to repeated clashes with the British prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major, both of whom saw national sovereignty, expressed through elected parliaments, as the bastion of democratic legitimacy.

Kohl joined the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) at 17, serving his political apprenticeship as a centrist conservative in the Rhineland-Palatinate Land and becoming the party leader in 1973. In 1982 he became chancellor of the Federal Republic when the Free Democrats switched coalition allegiance from the Socialists to the CDU. Thereafter he remained chancellor for 16 years, winning four elections and becoming the longest-serving German head of government since Bismarck. He owed his political longevity partly to the weakness of his opposition and partly to his skill and indefatigability in behind-the-scenes bargaining, an essential feature of his coalition administration.

In foreign affairs, Kohl was a strong supporter both of NATO and of the Franco-German alliance. He never wavered in pushing forward European integration, a cause in which he found his staunchest ally in the socialist Jacques Delors. He was one of the architects, and the most vehement proponent, of EMU, which he saw as a milepost on the road to European political union. He did not allow the occasional disagreement with France (for example, over French protectionism or nuclear testing) to overshadow a relationship which he conceived, like former chancellors Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Schmidt, as the power-house of Europe.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was a defining moment for Kohl. His single-minded determination to seize the opportunity to achieve German reunification was rewarded in 1990 when, despite the misgivings of Mitterrand, Thatcher and Italy's Giulio Andreotti, he incorporated the former communist German Democratic Republic first into the Federal Republic and then into the EC. This triumph, however, carried with it the seeds of future problems. The poverty of the new eastern Länder of Germany became a severe financial burden, exacerbated by Kohl's decision to overrule the Bundesbank and exchange the Ostmark at parity with the D-Mark. The run-up to EMU also created economic difficulties, and Kohl's obsessive concentration on European affairs, combined with the virtual paralysis of decision-making within his coalition, led to postponement of much needed domestic reforms in tax and labour markets.

Kohl did not share with France's new president Jacques Chirac the same sense of common purpose he had enjoyed with his predecessor François Mitterrand. The return to power of the socialists in the French National Assembly elections of 1997, combined with the realisation that Italy and Spain would participate in the single currency, raised concern in Germany that the euro would be less strong than Kohl had promised to voters reared on the solid D-Mark. Moreover, with unemployment rising to some 4.5 million, a level not seen since Hitler's years, the country's once unquestioned European economic supremacy looked less assured.

In the federal election of 1998, Kohl was comprehensively defeated by the Social Democrat Gerhard Schroder. Just three months later the euro was launched. But far from basking in retrospective triumph Kohl was soon engulfed in scandal, with the revelation that under his chairmanship the CDU had long been the secret beneficiary of corrupt slush funds - a reminder that in the last analysis he was less an idealist than an old-fashioned political operator.

Kosovo crisis

Over 90% populated by ethnically Albanian Muslims, Kosovo is a province of the Republic of Yugoslavia. The break-up of the former Yugoslavia at the end of the Cold War led to demands for the province to become independent of Serb rule. When democratic methods failed, popular support grew for the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). In 1998 the Serb military began to attack civilians, on the grounds that they were aiding the KLA, and as President Slobodan Milosevic poured in troops the situation soon deteriorated into civil war.

In 1999, after Milosevic had rejected an offer (mediated by NATO and Russia) that would have given Kosovo a high degree of autonomy backed by a NATO peacekeeping force, the terrorisation campaign escalated. To mounting international horror, the Serbs drove Kosovar Albanian families from their homes in pursuit of Milosevic's dream of an ethnically pure Greater Serbia. After numerous warnings had been ignored, NATO began a high altitude bombing campaign, first attacking military targets, then switching to infrastructure installations in Yugoslavia. The tens of thousands of Albanians seeking refuge in neighbouring countries swelled to hundreds of thousands, before Milosevic suddenly conceded defeat after 10 weeks of aerial bombardment. The reasons for his capitulation were obscure. Perhaps he wished to forestall a ground invasion; perhaps he was alarmed by the withdrawal of Russian diplomatic support.

The refugees returned to scenes of pillage and devastation. How many had been massacred was not clear (around 8,000 seemed a plausible estimate) but the evidence of crimes against humanity was strong enough to warrant the indictment of Milosevic and other Serb officials. Nevertheless, doubts remained about the NATO action, whose unpopularity in many European countries had strained the Atlantic Alliance. During the war the Western media had exaggerated both the extent of Serb atrocities and the pin-point accuracy of the NATO bombing. The air attacks were a breach of Yugoslavia's sovereignty and had caused too many civilian casualties - by contrast, the Serb military casualties had been slight. Victory was predictably followed by revenge against the minority Serb population and a mafioso reign of KLA violence which an international peacekeeping force was powerless to control. Doubtless the prospect of a viable solution to the Kosovo question had already been lost during the previous Bosnian crisis, when the appeasement of Milosevic had allowed him to believe that he could flout human rights and international opinion with impunity.

 
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