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Germany Boycotts EU Meeting

July 2, 1999

BONN, Germany (AP) _ Germany flexed its muscle in the European Union on Thursday, announcing it will boycott an EU meeting in Finland this weekend because no German translation was planned.

Germany acted after Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder sent a letter to Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen asking that all EU meetings be translated into German, as well as English, French and Finnish. Finland took over the rotating EU presidency from Germany on Thursday.

``I don’t know if this is a matter of the bigger nation making demands on a smaller one, but it seems that Germany wants to strengthen the status of German compared with French and English,″ Finnish Secretary of EU Affairs Alec Aalto said in Helsinki.

Germany will not attend an informal meeting of industry ministers Friday and Saturday in Oulu, Finland. The decision could also affect all ministerial meetings during Finland’s six-month presidency.

``There is a clear letter from the chancellor that says German should be used as a conference language,″ said German Economics Ministry spokesman Frank Bonaldo. ``So we will not take part.″

He said Finland so far had shown no sign of responding to Schroeder’s letter. As a rule, informal meetings are translated into English, French and the language of the presidency holder for simplicity.

A government spokeswoman, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity, said the German request had precedents. She noted that all EU meetings had been translated into German during the presidencies of Britain and Luxembourg.

Schroeder, in power since October, irritated his European partners already last spring with vocal demands for a cut in Germany’s EU dues.

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