German Greens divided on Balkans conflict


By Jim Green

The German Greens, junior partners in the coalition government led by the Social Democratic Party (SPD), are divided over German involvement in NATO air strikes on Serbia and Kosova.

The Greens' policy of calling for the dissolution of NATO was dropped when drawing up a coalition contract with the SPD last year. Despite that concession, a conference of the Greens in Erfurt on March 7 passed a resolution which stated, "The Greens fundamentally oppose an exclusive NATO mandate for military operations".

However, after the bombing began, a majority of Green deputies in parliament, including party leader and foreign minister Joschka Fischer, backed the strikes despite widespread anger from the party's rank and file membership.

The March 25 edition of the Frankfurter Rundschau reports that the regional and national headquarters of the Greens were bombarded with letters and e-mails from members and sympathisers expressing their anger and disgust at the Greens' support for the war. An April 2 report by Ulrich Rippert on the World Socialist Web Site reports that each new wave of NATO air strikes is being followed by waves of resignations from the German Greens.

An April 3 report from the Deutsche Presse-Agentur quotes Roland Appel, a spokesperson for the Greens in the regional parliament in Dusseldorf, as saying there is a real threat the Greens could split in two over the Kosova issue.

A report in the April 19 Time magazine said 50,000 anti-war demonstrators across Germany took part in an Easter march against the NATO bombing. Time also reports that in mid-April, anti-war ecologists broke into the Greens' headquarters in Hamburg, spraying "Green warmongers" on the walls and firing pistol shots at photos of Fischer and Clinton.

According to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur, the Greens' speaker on defence policy, Angelika Beer, has repudiated her previous support for NATO air attacks.

The Greens will hold a special party congress on Kosova on May 13. Party manager Reinhard Butikofer said he believed the congress would not adopt positions liable to hamper the Greens' parliamentary faction or the federal cabinet in foreign policy dealings. He said that if the party congress took positions detrimental to the government's foreign policy, this would mean the end of the Green's coalition with the Social Democrats. The congress was "very, very likely" to support the policies of Fischer and the government, Butikofer said.

According to an article in the April 11 Washington Post, Fischer said that fighting the war will help Germany overcome its reluctance to assert itself, a legacy of its Nazi past. "If we accept Milosevic as a winner, it would be the end of the Europe I believe in. The dream of Milosevic is a bloody nightmare. It's a dream that there should be ethnic purity in the Balkans — all Serbians in one state and Albanians in another." Fischer does not rule out support for the use of NATO ground forces in Kosova.

Fischer said he met Milosevic in March: "I warned Milosevic that you will start a war with the US. I told him Germany did this twice in this century, and our experience was terrible." On Madeleine Albright, US secretary of state, Fischer said, "Albright is doing a very difficult but good job. All of us underestimated the readiness of Milosevic to go to a full-scale war. All of us."

Daniel Cohn-Bendit — the famed "Danny the Red", a leader in the French May-June 1968 uprising — is now in the German Greens. While acknowledging the failure of the NATO air attacks, Cohn-Bendit is quoted in Le Monde (April 3) arguing for ground troops.

"Faced with an unproductive pacifism", Cohn-Bendit said, "it is necessary to develop a form of non-violence oriented to the resolution of the conflicts." He does not explain how NATO militarism can be classified as "non-violence".

Chancellor Gerherd Schröder is demanding government unity over the air strikes, but faces divisions within his party. The April 19 Time quotes SPD deputy parliamentary leader Gernot Erler as saying the alleged link between NATO bombing and stopping Serb atrocities "must be made clearer in the next few days or it won't just be a problem of the SPD but a total breakdown of the consensus of public opinion."

In France, "Socialist" prime minister Lionel Jospin is a strong supporter of NATO bombing. Jospin has been criticised for saying that to accept a large contingent of Kosovar refugees would be "playing into Milosevic's hands", according to Time.

The French Communist Party, which holds two cabinet portfolios, has called for an immediate halt to the bombing and a mediation role for Russia. However, the two Communist ministers have not resigned from the French government.

A national meeting of the French Greens was held on April 17 and 18. More than 70% of delegates voted in favour of a motion which called for the transformation of Kosova into a "humanitarian zone", a peacekeeping force, urgent aid for refugees and a "Balkans conference" to discuss the issues.

The French Greens' resolution did not condemn NATO for its military attacks.