anonymous | 25.11.2001 19:18
Greens Back Deployment in War on Terror, Save German Government Coalition
The Green party backed the planned deployment of German troops in the US-led war on terrorism, preventing the collapse of the center-left government.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (C) looks on after the Green party reluctantly voted to support German military involvement in Afghanistan as party leaders (L to R) Kerstin Heyme, parliamentary floor leader Rezzo Schlauch, Andrea Fischer, Katrin Goering-Eckardt and Environmental Minister Renate Kuenast applaud during the convention of the environmental German Green Party in Rostock, November 24, 2001. Germany's Greens averted the collapse of the government coalition on Saturday after the pacifist party's members reluctantly backed their leaders' support of German military involvement in Afghanistan. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
A clear majority of delegates at the party congress in this northern German city voted for a declaration that "accepts" a vote by parliament earlier this month to send up to 3,900 German troops to aid the campaign in Afghanistan.
The measure also explicitly supports the continuation of the ruling coalition.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of the Social Democrats and leaders of the Greens, junior partners in the ruling coalition, had warned that a vote rejecting the deployment would bring about the end of the government and new elections.
The vote came after a nearly 11-hour heated debate devoted to the war in Afghanistan and the Greens' identity as a party in government.
The decision to offer German troops for the operation is heavily disputed within the party, born out of the pacifist and environmentalist movements of the 1970s.
The declaration stopped short of the promise made by Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer of the Greens of "unlimited solidarity" with the United States following the terrorist assault of September 11, calling rather for "critical solidarity".
Schroeder had put extraordinary pressure on the party to back the deployment to maintain Germany's image as a trusted partner abroad.
Fischer, the leftist party's unofficial leader and most prominent member, told delegates that the events of September 11 had changed the world and with it, transformed German foreign policy.
He said the Greens were faced with a stark choice: accept new international responsibilities as a result of the attacks or withdraw from government.
"What we cannot do is say we are going to stay in this coalition but reject this policy," Fischer said.
Fischer's ultimatum, delivered in a tone ranging from paternal to exasperated, marked a final attempt to convince pacifist party delegates to abandon what he called positions that did nothing to foster peace.
"With all the frustration, I ask for your trust. I want you to support my policies and not leave me standing alone."
Fischer, himself a former leftist street fighter, was frequently interrupted by hecklers and greeted after the 30-minute speech with an even mix of cheers and boos from delegates.
Pacifist delegates warned that the party was compromising its principles by giving its blessing to the war, which they warned would only create new civilian victims and a new breed of terrorists.
"I do not want the condition for serving in government to be the ability to wage war," said Greens member of parliament Steffi Lemke.
Party leader Claudia Roth said she saw it as the Greens' obligation to shape foreign policy focused on humanitarian and diplomatic principles.
She viewed it as a coup for Fischer and the Greens that the UN conference on the political future of Afghanistan beginning next week will be held in the former German capital of Bonn.
The prospect of Germany deploying troops outside Europe for the first time since World War II has threatened to deepen the cleft between the Greens leadership and the party rank-and-file.
The debate comes at a time in which Greens membership has declined 10 percent since the last general election in 1998 and less than one year before the next federal poll in September 2002.
The Greens are also to debate campaign strategy for the general election, policy in the poorer former communist states of eastern Germany, and the effects of globalization. The congress runs through Sunday afternoon.
Copyright © 2001 AFP