The German media is very critical of any wrong doing by the US government, a few US soldiers and many US companies. Hedge funds were not just characterized as bloodsuckers, but as American bloodsuckers. German companies receive less criticism. Sometimes they even receive government support for doing business with rogue states.
The Sudanese government is complicit in the genocide in the western province of Darfur, but the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Labor sponsored a "German Pavilion" at a trade fair in the Sudanese capital in February 2005 and will do so again in February 2006 due to "the positive feedback from the German participants," according to one chamber of commerce.
Neokomplott has exposed another chamber of commerce, which calls the genocide "political disturbances," praises Sudan's dynamic oil industry and the improved business climate and mentions the German government's support of the fair.
Whereas Germany wants to increase business relations with Sudan, the U.S. Senate called last week for multilateral sanctions against the Sudanese government, a strengthening of the arms embargo and accelerated and expanded assistance to the African Union, whose peacekeeping troops patrol Darfur. The U.S. added Sudan to its terrorism list in 1993 because it was a safe haven for terrorist groups. According to Businessweek:
U.S. terrorism sanctions have kept American companies out of Sudan since 1997, except for sales of humanitarian goods. No other government has imposed curbs. Plenty of big European blue chips that are mainstays of global portfolios, such as Germany's Siemens (SI ) and Alcatel (ALA ) of France, have ties to Sudan. A Siemens spokesman says the company has "very limited business, mainly focused on infrastructure and medical products."
The trade fair in 2006 will not be about medical products. According to Eric Reeves, professor at Smith College and respected Darfur activist, Siemens is "presently building outside Khartoum the world’s largest diesel-powered electrical generating plan." He concludes:
Europe, despite apparently tough talk in some quarters, is still far from prepared to jeopardize its own economic interests. Germany is a case in point. German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul was reported over a year ago (September 13, 2004) as saying she "favours tough sanctions against Sudan." The German minister said that contradictory promises from the Sudanese leadership had not help improve security in Sudan's troubled Darfur region where Arab militias are accused of carrying out a campaign of genocide. Wieczorek-Zeul recommended an arms and oil embargo along with the freezing of Sudan's assets. (Deutsche Welle, September 13, 2004) But notably, Wieczorek-Zeul says nothing about the German commercial presence in Khartoum, of the sort emblematized by giant Siemens AG: it is this presence that does so much to sustain the National Islamic Front and convince the regime that ultimately petrodollars speak louder than the cries of death and suffering in Darfur.Many Americans appeal to the boards of university endowments and pension funds to sell their stocks of Siemens and of other European companies that do business with Sudan. According to the divestment campaigners, Siemens has "substantial operations, projects and infrastructure in the country of Sudan, totaling well over $180 million." They argue:
Were a respected international company such as Siemens to withdraw from Sudan in protest of the genocide, it would set an important precedent. Put simply, the Sudanese government will not stop the genocide as long as Western companies continue to help underwrite Sudan's economic growth.
More on divestment from Siemens at Passion of the Present and loveamericafirst.
The German Federal Foreign Office seems to regret that the there are not yet German governmental loan guarantees for doing business with Sudan. ("Da bislang noch keine Hermesdeckung der Bundesregierung für Auslandgeschäfte mit Sudan möglich ist...")
The editors of Neokomplott and Extrablog have written protest letters to the Africa Verein and the Federal Ministry of Economics and Labor.
DIE ZEIT-Blogger Ulrich Speck criticizes that the German media reports in detail about the violence in Iraq, but did not care about Iraq under Saddam's rule and does not care about mass murder in Darfur today. The German media would only pay more attention to Darfur, if the US would intervene. Speck contends that the Europeans are not interested in engaging in world politics, but prefer to sit back, condemn US mistakes and pretend moral superiority. [via Deutschling]
More about the genocide in Darfur at Freunde der offenen Gesellschaft, Al Sharq,
Sleepless in Sudan, Cuppa Politics, and Corporate Engagement.
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