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Restive Germany

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GERMAN plans to deport 20,000 Romanian Gypsies, following widespread anti-foreigner violence by skinheads with swastikas, may portend a larger German move to the right. If a stable Germany is requisite for a stable Europe - and it is - this is a bit unsettling.

The main worry in Europe since the Berlin Wall fell is a powerful Germany not well anchored in the European Community. A unified Germany is at the heart of European integration, embodied in the Maastricht treaty and pushed by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Yet a Maastricht referendum would likely be voted down in Germany today: Mr. Kohl's approval rating is 30 percent, down from the heady days when East and West Berliners sang at the Brandenburg Gate.

Germany has serious new social tensions. Unification is far more costly than Kohl promised (against all logic) it would be in his 1989 reelection campaign. The general currents in Europe seem darker, more treacherous. Russia is shaky. A few hundred miles away, Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians act out a macabre play - a haunting medieval throwback viewed nightly on the news.

Europe can no longer move on cold-war autopilot. In the relatively secure 1980s, the main issues were economic - creating a better standard of living. The issues are suddenly more complex: how to build freedom and security without the comfortable certainties of the cold-war world, and with East Europe knocking on the door.

The Germans must now face what, as a people, they have always least wanted to face: the question of sicherheit - individual security. Jobs aren't assured in a country accustomed to full employment. Bonn seems to be negotiating away its control over the deutsche mark, through the Maastricht treaty, for a union requiring Germany to subsidize countries less wealthy. The number of foreigners escalates. What happened, a good German might ask, to the West Germany of 1988 - so stable and prosperous?

German leaders realize the game has changed. They know that when citizens stand and applaud violence against non-Germans, the world gasps. But so far German leaders, particularly Kohl, have been silent. This silence must end, and soon.

Yet other EC member states have a responsibility, too. They must not scapegoat Germany for outbreaks of anti-foreigner violence - when they have taken hardly any refugees. Germany houses 500,000 refugees; 350,000 from Yugoslavia. By contrast, France has 2,000; Holland, 6,000; Italy, 1,000; Britain, 1,000; Denmark, 1,500. It is time some burdens were shared.

But the first step is Bonn's. -PATHNAME- /usr/local/etc/httpd/plweb/DBGROUPS/paper/database/tape/92/sep/day30/30203.


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