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Schröder Criticises German General's Comments

Schröder: German armed forces have a special responsibility for democracy

In a speech to army officer training school cadets Chancellor Gerhard Schröder outlined the new tasks facing the armed forces. He made reference to the firing of Brigadier General Günzel, noting that the latter's "foolish comments on a dangerous speech by a member of parliament" are not compatible with the responsibilities of a military officer.

Chancellor Schröder said he felt confident that these comments are those of an individual and that they do not in any way reflect the general thinking of high-ranking officers in the German armed forces. He noted that comments such as those made by Günzel are not in keeping with the special responsibility the German armed forces have for democracy and cannot be tolerated. "Our armed forces are based on and stand for democratic values," Schröder told his audience of army officer candidates.

The Chancellor emphasized that the tasks of armed forces today are no longer restricted to national territories. In this context he reiterated his support of a joint European defense policy within the NATO framework, adding that Germany favors a "foreign and security policy in Europe, for Europe, and from a European perspective" as well as intensive international cooperation.

Schröder noted that countries can play an important role in the international community only if they are willing to assume international responsibilities themselves and not merely expect to be assisted by their friends. He observed that there is more to guaranteeing security in trouble spots than deploying police or military forces there: "This is why Germany is active around the world in the fields of humanitarian aid and development assistance." The reconstruction process in Afghanistan is a confirmation of the success that can be achieved with these efforts and it also shows that this is something no one nation can do alone.

The Chancellor underscored the importance of intensive cooperation in fighting international terrorism in the United Nations framework as well as with alliance partners, adding that efforts to prevent conflicts and to take action where peace is being threatened and where human rights are being violated are priority tasks in the endeavor to protect peace in the world. He noted that Macedonia is a good example of the fact that efforts on the part of the international community can be successful in preventing the outbreak of armed conflicts.

Schröder reiterated his desire to keep the present draft system in place and assured the Defense Minister of his support in connection with the structural reforms now being addressed in the armed forces. He told the 800 candidates currently in the army officer training school program, including 53 woman, that they should include in their perceptions of their future role as officers things like mediating in disputes, acting as intermediaries between opposing parties, or providing emergency assistance.

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