The re-election of Angela Merkel as German chancellor in a grand coalition government means the return of Frank-Walter Steinmeier to the Foreign Ministry in Berlin. Among his main challenges is the need to recalibrate Germany’s – and, by extension, Europe’s – foreign policy towards Russia.
The opening act for this year’s Eurovision song contest is a war of words. State-controlled media outlets in the host country, Azerbaijan, are assailing Germany, complaining that Berlin is behind a “large-scale aggressive campaign” to politicize the Eurovision event and discredit Baku.
In what appears to be an awkward attempt to humor Uzbekistan, the German Ministry of Defense has classified information already in the public domain concerning Berlin’s payments to Uzbekistan for the use of a military base in Termez, near the Afghan border.
As a senior Uzbek government official touches down in Berlin on May 24, he is heading into a storm of controversy over Uzbekistan’s human rights record. The release of an Uzbek dissident ahead of the trip has not tempered the row, with revelations of his ill treatment behind bars further stoking the ire of activists.
The German government appears willing to pay a very high price for use of the Termez air base in Uzbekistan, more than doubling its yearly payments to the authoritarian but strategic Central Asian state.
At a time when Uzbekistan was under European Union sanctions relating to the Andijan massacre, the German government paid 67.9 million euros from 2005-2009 for use of the Termez air base in the Central Asian nation.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake visited Uzbekistan November 9-10, 2010, his third trip since assuming his current position. Little information was provided from the U.S.
In a landmark statement coming from a European official, Markus Löning, Germany’s federal commissioner for human rights, has demanded that Uzbekistan cease using child labor in harvesting cotton, and has called for inspections to be carried out by the International Organization of Labor (ILO).