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The Kosovo War and the Greens (May 13, 1999)

Only six months after the start of the red-green coalition, the governing parties faced a litmus test. For the first time since the Second World War, the Federal Republic declared its readiness to deploy troops and military airplanes in support of a military intervention – in this case, the NATO operation in Kosovo. The decision met with resistance, especially within the Green Party. Foreign minister Joschka Fischer delivered the following speech at a special Green Party congress that had convened specifically to discuss this issue. Fischer appealed to fellow party members to support the military operations in Kosovo.

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Speech by the Foreign Minister on the NATO Deployment in Kosovo

Dear friends, dear opponents, dearest opponents, we have already been part of the government coalition for half a year, half a year [shouting: “warmonger!”] – yes, that’s just what I’ve been waiting for – a warmonger is speaking here and soon you’ll be recommending Mr. Milosevic for the Nobel Peace Prize. When a fellow party member stood here and said that the party leadership is discussing its internal discord, well I don’t know how you all feel when you see the photographs. I never would have dreamt that we’d be having a Green Party congress after only six months. [ . . . ]

I thought that we wanted to have a discussion here, and that the friends of peace are interested first and foremost in peace. And if you’re so sure of yourselves, then you should at least listen to the arguments and then present your counterarguments. This matter will not be resolved with chants and paint bombs, not among ourselves and not in a larger context. And we are experiencing that here at this party congress; and inasmuch it is not internal discord but rather external discord. I also never would have dreamt that we Greens would ever need to hold a party congress under police protection. But why do we need to have our discussion under police protection? Not because we want to have a discussion, but rather because some people here obviously don’t want to have a discussion, as we just experienced. But that is precisely the point! I know, as foreign minister, I have to hold myself back; for well-considered reasons I cannot comment on certain things. It’s hard for me to hold back in light of things that I’ve heard recently. Yes, “give democracy a chance”; I support that wholeheartedly. But let me tell you: I visited Milosevic; I spoke with him for two and a half hours; I pleaded with him to refrain from using force in Kosovo. Now there is war, yes. And I never would have dreamt that the red-green government would have a part in this war. But this war did not just start fifty-one days ago; it has been going on since 1992, dear friends, since 1992! And let me tell you, in the meantime, it has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands, and that is the point where Alliance 90/The Greens is no longer a protest party. We decided to be part of the federal government, in a situation where it was clear that the absolute culmination of the Yugoslavian war of succession could take place. I can still remember. [ . . . ] – No, I won’t shut up! I won’t do you that favor! – [ . . . ] I can still remember: it was right after the Bundestag elections, and [Gerhard] Schröder and I flew to Washington. We were still in the opposition, and it was already clear that we would inherit a legacy that under certain circumstances could lead to a bloody confrontation, to a war. And at this point I can only say one thing: even back then, when we decided to form the coalition, it was clear to us that we were taking office in a difficult situation.

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