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Synthesis/Regeneration 20   (Fall, 1999)

Second Extraordinary Assembly of Federal Delegates of May 13, 1999, in Bielefeld

Toward a Genuine Peace in Kosovo:
Resolution of the Federal Board
of the German Greens on Kosovo

Let's conciliate peace and human rights— Toward a Genuine Peace in Kosovo

In Kosovo the Milosevic regime is waging a war of destruction and expulsion against the large Albanian majority. We are witnessing there a repetition of the atrocities and humanitarian disasters of the war in Bosnia for which, yet again, the Serbian government and its accomplices bear the main responsibility.

Since March 24, 1999 NATO units have been bombing targets throughout Yugoslavia with the declared aim of enforcing a peace agreement between representatives of the Kosovo-Albanian majority and the Yugoslav government. Thus put an end to decades of repression of the Albanians, halt the expulsions—which have been going on for a long time—and push through a settlement granting them autonomy. The Yugoslav president Milosevic could have put an end to the air attacks had he shown himself more willing to negotiate. Instead, he has intensified his active expulsions in a monstrous campaign against the entire Kosovar civilian population.

In foreign policy, Bundnis 90/The Greens have always based their position on two fundamental principles: demilitarization of politics and rejection of violence, and safeguarding and enforcing human rights. In the evaluation of the Kosovo conflict these two basic principles lead to a conflict of objectives. Serious objections and counter-arguments of international law accentuate the conflict; especially because there is no UN mandate for NATO's military action.

We are also facing another dilemma. On the one hand, Red-Green foreign policy must develop effective strategies against the genocidal policy of the Milosevic regime. On the other hand, it faces a situation that has been partly brought about by decades of mistakes and failures on the part of the West. Mistakes that had, by the time the new German government took office, already escalated to such a point that concepts such as civilian conflict prevention could obviously no longer work.

The decision whether to support or reject intervention in Yugoslavia against the degrading policies of the Yugoslav government must for most of us have been the most difficult political decision ever. Many have come to realize that the point cannot be to decide which principle of Green policy has a higher priority: safeguarding and protecting human rights or declaring one's adherence to pacifism and anti-militarism. There is no single objectively right answer to this situation. On this point we expressly respect the fact that members of our party came to divergent conclusions. We do not dispute the political seriousness or moral will of either side. We are convinced that we can continue to work together on the basis of mutual respect, notwithstanding significant political differences.

We stand united in our abhorrence of political crime, acts of murder, torture, rape, taking the civilian population hostage and ethnic cleansing. We stand united in our determination to put an end to violence and the hundreds and thousands of violations of human rights. We stand united in seeking to make Germany a land open to refugees from the embattled region. To us, therefore, the moral legitimacy of stopping the actions of the Milosevic regime is beyond any doubt. Nonetheless, we reject any attempts made to present its policies of expulsion and genocide as equivalent to German fascism through historically questionable arguments.

There is no doubt that the West, in particular the German Federal government, shares a great deal of responsibility for the critical situation that had existed since October 1998. The policy of Kohl and Genscher, with their recognition of the former Yugoslav republics, proved disastrous. In recent years the West has neither managed to formulate a common medium- and long-term position vis-a-vis Milosevic, nor did the principal European allies come up with a clear stance to contain Serb policy, or was there an overall strategy towards South East Europe. Over the past decade, the indecision, inconstancy and volatility of Western policy has in the disintegrated Yugoslavia repeatedly resulted in too little, too late, thereby further fostering the aggressiveness of the state terrorism of the Serb regime. The long-standing disregard of and lack of support for civilian Albanian resistance on the part of other countries was a significant cause for the emergence of (Greater) Albanian nationalists and the worsening of tensions in Kosovo in the last two years.

...we were faced with conditions for which we bore no responsibility but which pushed us towards a decision in our new role as coalition partner.

We Greens have actively supported Rugova's non-violent policy and pressed for the inclusion of the entire South East European region in the movement towards European integration. We have invariably criticized the wrong policies pursued by the West towards the Milosevic regime and drawn attention to the potential disastrous consequences. Unfortunately our proposals for timely civilian conflict prevention and intervention strategies have not met with a majority in Parliament and our warnings have therefore proved largely right. However, this in no way changes the fact that we were faced with conditions for which we bore no responsibility but which pushed us towards a decision in our new role as coalition partner.

After the failure of the Rambouillet deliberations, the majority of the Bundnis 90/Green leaders and members of Parliament came out in favor of the use of military force. By this time, political realities were such that the conduct of the Milosevic regime left room for a decision other than the one taken only at the price of being unable in any way to counter the massive expulsions and the murders which were already in progress. Many members of our party and, witness the opinion polls, many voters resigned themselves to the need for air strikes in the hope that it would prevent or at least contain the expulsion and murder of thousands of Kosovo Albanians.

However, the policy pursued by NATO, the Federal government and our party must at every step not only be judged by its intentions but also by the results. In other words, the decision must therefore be constantly reevaluated. Are all non-military opportunities used to the full or is policy determined by military logic? Are the objectives being attained? Is there any opportunity of ending military force? The UN and its monopoly on the use of force have been severely damaged politically. The new NATO strategy, with its widened security concept and the statement that in the future it intends "in exceptional cases" to intervene also without a UN mandate, reinforce the impression that NATO wishes to put itself in the UN's place. NATO's action in Kosovo seems to be an anticipatory precedent for this. Without explicit moves towards strengthening the UN¾whether through the involvement of the Secretary General Kofi Annan as mediator in the Balkan conflict or through prior common crisis control in the Security Council the¾UN remains weakened.

The initial hope of averting a humanitarian catastrophe has not been fulfilled. NATO apparently committed an error of judgement as regards the duration of the war and the effects of bombing. What we find today is that the humanitarian disaster is aggravated, it got worse than most actually feared, and it is still going on. We, the Greens, have from the outset drawn specific attention to this and voiced persistent criticism. We further criticize the fact that NATO has failed to test seriously the political opportunities that a temporary halt to air attacks could bring. This would have made sense on a number of counts, to underpin diplomatic activity and enable taking care of refugees within the war zone. Nor did NATO consider restricting the targets of air attacks, which would likewise have made political sense. Attacks in Montenegro or on apparently civilian targets in Serbia are to most of us hardly justifiable. All this makes it all the more imperative to seek a political solution.

Now that it is proved impossible to avert a humanitarian disaster, the humanitarian objectives in the new situation must be redefined. Essentially, the aim ought to be that the refugees and victims of expulsion should as soon as possible be able to return home and to prevent the remaining Kosovo Albanians from likewise being driven out. This objective can only be achieved through negotiations. In light of experience to date with Milosevic it would appear utterly doubtful that he would be prepared to negotiate without due pressure. Yet, the course of the war shows that this can at any rate not be brought about through military pressure alone. Consequently we on the one hand do not share demands for a general end to NATO military action, while on the other hand we criticize trends within NATO towards an inflexible all-or-nothing policy. It is absolutely necessary to get back to politics and get out of the spiral of military escalation.

We are convinced that the Fischer plan contains the essential components of a political solution, and we therefore support it.

We are convinced that the Fischer plan contains the essential components of a political solution, and we therefore support it. Not only was the Green foreign minister the first leading politician in the West to draw up a specific proposal for a diplomatic solution; his conception has since the G8 meeting in Bonn also become the joint approach of the West and Russia. We take a positive view of and lend our support to the shift from the implementation of the return of refugees by NATO troops to guarantees for a peace plan for Kosovo secured by a peace-keeping force under a UN mandate in accordance with Chapter VII of the UN Charter. We particularly welcome the fact that the Federal government, here too, intensively seeks to involve Russia in the solution to the conflict. Without Russian participation there is no prospect for peace in Kosovo and throughout Southeast Europe.

In order to strengthen the diplomatic opportunity now before us, NATO should declare a temporary halt to the bombing. During this period, Yugoslavia should cease the expulsions and begin withdrawing its armed forces. The suspension of hostilities may be extended if the Belgrade regime proceeds in this manner. The interruption of air attacks may also be matched by a humanitarian cease-fire to enable the ICRC to act to improve the miserable circumstances of the war victims in the area.

In contrast, it would be utterly wrong to follow the logic of military escalation and send in ground troops. In our opinion, a NATO ground war in Kosovo or in other parts of Yugoslavia lies for various reasons beyond the line that must not be overstepped. It is highly questionable whether and when it would help the people expelled.

It is equally questionable whether the humanitarian consequences and political dangers of a ground war would not be greater and more serious than what has gone before. We therefore reject it and would not agree to the use of German troops for this purpose. NATO's strategy of giving itself a mandate for action may well cause many countries to build up their armaments. In many Eastern and southeastern European countries there is a risk that militant nationalist tendencies will gain the upper hand. There is a danger in Europe that the conflict will spread.

Of pivotal importance for ending the war is the restoration of the UN's monopoly on the use of force.

In the imminent debate on principles, we will have to focus on a large number of fundamental questions concerning the objectives of our foreign, security and peace policies. We will not abandon our fundamental stance favoring pacifism. We wish to transform it into political pacifism with the aim of reducing the use of force in international relations by developing an effective monopoly on the use of force by the United Nations. This includes specific steps towards UN reform and reinforcement of the OSCE. We must raise the points of our program for UN reform and the further development of international law safeguarding human rights to the level of practical politics. We must see that the participation of the Greens in government yields concrete results in the institutionalization and utilization of new instruments of conflict prevention and civilian conflict management.

The credibility of Green foreign policy will in the future also have to be evaluated by the degree to which we pay serious attention to human rights criteria in other parts of the world and under other political conditions.

Last but not least: the present conflict once again highlights the importance of the statement contained in the European elections program that the countries of Europe will progressively have to shoulder more responsibility in common foreign and security policy. Of pivotal importance for ending the war is the restoration of the UN's monopoly on the use of force. To this end the monopoly on the use of force in Kosovo must be delegated to a neutral peacekeeping force with a UN mandate.

Such troops may be assigned both peacekeeping tasks and tasks of peace enforcement. However, it stands to reason that it cannot operate under NATO command. They should mainly be composed of troops from countries not currently involved in warfare. Making the stationing of NATO troops in Kosovo or a NATO supreme command over UN troops a condition in a cease-fire agreement can only be construed as an attempt to torpedo a negotiated settlement.

The same is true for the mutual demands of Yugoslavia and NATO to make the cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of troops by the other side into preconditions to a negotiated settlement. Initial progress will be possible only if it is clear from the outset that in the end a peacekeeping force under a UN mandate will be stationed in Kosovo.

In view of the need and the above-mentioned opportunities of finding a political solution to the Kosovo war via negotiations, the Federal Assembly of Bundnis 90/The Greens calls upon the Federal Governments to ensure that:

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