German Participation in NATO's Bosnia Mission

Speeches by Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Kinkel to the Bundestag

Dec. 6, 1995

Chancellor Kohl and the members of his cabinet approved plans on November 28 to commit 4,000 members of Germany's armed forces, the Bundeswehr, to the NATO mission to implement the Dayton agreement for ending Bosnian conflict. According to a 1994 ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court, the government can send troops to participate in peacekeeping operations under the aegis of NATO and the United Nations, subject to the approval of a simple majority in the Bundestag. On December 6, the parliament approved the goverment's plans on a vote of 543 to 107, with six abstentions. ***

(Chancellor Helmut Kohl)

Madam President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have come together today to decide on Germany's participation in the implementation of the peace agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina. We all sense that this is a special day and a special hour. We should conduct this debate with the necessary seriousness and objectivity. The soldiers to be deployed there in the service of peace rightly expect this of us.

You have before you the government's decision to deploy armed forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The government made this decision in full awareness of the great responsibility that it entails.

The task of our Federal Armed Forces has changed fundamentally since the end of the East-West conflict. The expectations the international community has of reunited Germany are different from those it had of the old Federal Republic. That means we Germans are expected to make our contribution towards safeguarding peace in Europe together with our partners and allies.

We [the members of the cabinet] have thought very carefully about this decision. Many families, including our own, still have vivid memories of the Second World War. Nevertheless, we cannot refuse to participate in a peace mission in the heart of Europe in which all our friends and partners expect us to take part. We are aware of the demands this deployment may place on our soldiers. Those participating in the military operation to safeguard the road to peace after four years of bloody war will be risking their lives.

The dimension of the suffering on the European continent caused by the war in the former Yugoslavia is inconceivable to many of us who went through the terrible experiences of the Second World War. 250,000 dead, two million refugees and displaced persons, thousands of women raped, hundreds of thousands injured, destruction and hardship on an unimaginable scale - we must not forget any of this when it comes to helping to safeguard peace. Justice dictates that those who have committed such horrific crimes during the last few years are tried and convicted.

The Dayton agreement has created a framework which at long last offers the people of Bosnia a realistic prospect of peace. After four and a half years of suffering, the population in the former Yugoslavia can finally look forward once more to the New Year with hope. We all have reason to rejoice at this and to thank those who contributed to the successful conclusion of the difficult negotiations in Dayton. Above all, we express our warm thanks and appreciation to President Clinton and the American administration. Without the commitment of our American friends, the negotiations in Dayton could not have been concluded successfully. I reaffirmed this to President Clinton last weekend during our joint visit to American troops in Baumholder.

We also extend our thanks to the members of the Contact Group. We have good reason to be grateful to the German representatives for their excellent work. As other participants have confirmed, they played a decisive role in this success. Finally, we owe thanks to all those who embarked on the road of understanding through their readiness to compromise and to further reconciliation. Whether the negotiated peace becomes reality will depend first and foremost on them.

This conflict has been taking place on our doorstep for more than four years. Many of us know the former Yugoslavia and its people. Many Germans have formed personal contacts during visits. The approximately 700,000 Yugoslavs living in our country have also contributed towards this. Many of our citizens have, through their personal efforts during the last few years, endeavored to help alleviate the suffering of those in the war zone. Much has been done to make the lot of the 400,000 refugees from the civil war who have found shelter in our country easier to bear.

From the outset, the government, together with its partners in the European Union, has worked resolutely towards finding a political solution to the conflict. It has provided a considerable amount of humanitarian relief. Furthermore, it has already lent vital assistance to the United Nations during this conflict. I would like to mention here the Transall supply flights to Sarajevo and the part played by the German navy in monitoring the arms embargo in the Adriatic.

All this was done in recognition of the fact that peace in Europe is in the interests of us all. Not to help now would ultimately pose a greater threat to us all in Europe than if we all help together. Peace on our continent will be at risk in the long term if peace prevails only in one part of Europe while a bloody conflict is being fought in another. The United States of America is therefore now prepared, together with Britain, France and other allies, to send troops to preserve peace in the former Yugoslavia. We must consider this, too, in our decision today on the deployment of 4,000 German troops to support the implementation force under NATO's command.

Allow me to take this opportunity to say a few words to our soldiers. Those who have sworn on oath that they will faithfully serve the Federal Republic of Germany have a right to the backing of the entire population. Those who are prepared to risk their health and lives in order to make peace possible do not stand alone! Our soldiers should know that the vast majority of our people support them. They should know that they are fulfilling their important and dangerous task for a good cause, namely for peace. I call upon our fellow citizens to do whatever they can to assist where necessary the families of our soldiers, when fathers, sons or other relatives are serving in the former Yugoslavia. Naturally, this also applies to the families of our British and American allies living in Germany.

Of course, the peace implementation force cannot bring about peace on its own. The decisive contributions must come from all parties to the conflict. However, the implementation force can help ensure that the Dayton agreement is translated into reality. We Germans must not stand aloof from this mission, in which the USA, European states, Russia and states from the Islamic world are participating under NATO leadership.

During the last few decades, Germany has always been able to rely on the solidarity of its allies. Today we in turn are called upon to show our solidarity by helping to preserve peace in the changed political environment following the end of the Cold War in Europe. To stand on the sidelines here would mean denying the people of the former Yugoslavia any hope of peace.

The inclusion of Russia in the peace process has enhanced relations between Russia and NATO. This cooperation between Western states and Russia represents a tremendous, historic change. Who could have imagined only a few years ago that NATO and Russia would cooperate within such a framework to safeguard peace in the former Yugoslavia and to create the prerequisites for reconstruction. Traditional enemy-images have thus been overcome. The partnership between NATO and Russia is given substance in this manner. This can help us to make considerable progress in further developing European security.

Although the Dayton agreement offers a great opportunity for peace, it does not yet represent peace itself. Apart from ensuring peace with military means, the international community's task now is to make a concerted effort to create conditions conducive to reconstruction and the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees. In addition to its military contribution within the framework of the multinational implementation force, Germany will do all it can to contribute towards reconstruction and the return of the refugees. However, this can only be accomplished through a fair distribution of the burden among the Europeans and other parties concerned. I am thinking here in particular of the Islamic world, as well as the USA.

Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, together with our partners we are pursuing essentially four major objectives with the deployment of the multinational implementation force:

First, we must separate the conflicting parties from one another and reliably prevent military conflicts from flaring up again. It is important that an early agreement be reached on the military monitoring of the accord between the Serbs and Croats on the future of Eastern Slavonia which was also concluded in Dayton. Otherwise, the peace process in Bosnia would be under threat of a renewed conflict between Croats and Serbs.

Second, the peace safeguarded in this way will ensure that human and minority rights are respected once more and become part of the legal system. We are particularly concerned about the return of refugees as envisaged in the Dayton agreements. This is a joint task for all Europeans. Furthermore, we must not forget that respect for human and minority rights, especially in Kosovo, will remain a central demand addressed to Belgrade. A comprehensive and equitable peace in the former Yugoslavia is not possible in the long term without a fair solution in Kosovo.

Third, the presence of the multinational implementation force creates the conditions for further necessary humanitarian assistance and the start of reconstruction. Peace cannot be stable if people have no food, no housing and no economic future.

Fourth, the implementation force should ensure peace and stability not only in Bosnia, but also in the entire region. The danger that the Bosnian conflict with its ethnic and religious roots could spread to bordering countries can be effectively countered in this way. Stability in the former Yugoslavia is inconceivable with the existing enormous arms arsenals. For this reason, we Germans have strongly advocated a comprehensive system of confidence-building measures as well as arms control in this region.

Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, in more than four years of war in the former Yugoslavia much has been irretrievably lost - lives, cultural property, and many homes. The most important lesson to be learned from the war in the former Yugoslavia is that we must win recognition and respect for the principle of effective protection of minorities all over Europe.

The Dayton agreement must now be implemented since a continuation of the war would cause new destruction, new suffering and hardship. This is the mandate for our armed forces: together with our allies we must nourish the hope of a better future and the belief that peace is within reach.

(Foreign Minister Kinkel)

Ladies and gentlemen,

Yesterday, the 32 NATO ministers of defense and foreign affairs launched the largest international peacekeeping operation since the alliance's inception. There is a strong consensus within the alliance in support of the Bosnia peace mission. Our contribution is greatly respected by our partners. The alliance is resolved to help shore up the still fragile peace in the region. Lest anyone forget: we are going their not to conduct, but to prevent war. That is our sole aim.

The deployment of peacekeeping forces is justified on moral grounds. Its purpose is to contribute to safeguarding of peace in an oppressed region for the sake of people in great distress. NATO must create a safe environment for the return of refugees, an environment in which human and minority rights can be exercised and in which it will be possible to hold democratic elections. And above all, the people there must learn that Croats, Serbs and Bosnians will have to get on with one another again if they want to have a worthwhile future. This will take time.

Many international organizations will make contributions, each where its particular strengths lie. The European Union and the World Bank will concentrate on the general economic framework and the country's economic recovery.

The UN and UNHCR will take care of the refugees and, through an International Police Task Force, help restore internal security. We of course want to see the refugees repatriated as quickly as possible, but, as I said last week, we will not send anyone back until local conditions have been clarified.

The OSCE will assume an important role in the organization of democratic elections and will be able to bring its experience to bear in ensuring the protection of minorities. We attach special importance to the establishment of an arms control program in the region. A conference on this matter will take place in Bonn on December 18.

It cannot be argued that the civilian recovery effort is being overshadowed by the military operations. Without military backup for the implementation of the peace agreement, economic recovery and democracy would have no chance at all.

The result of today's vote will also show whether we are a dependable ally, whether Germany's position is credible. Where peacekeeping and the deployment of German forces are concerned, we have had a difficult time in the WEU and NATO - as have our servicemen, too, by the way.

Monday's meeting of the European Council and yesterday's meeting of the NATO Council were for me further evidence that the climate has completely changed. Through our contribution to the Peace Implementation Force, we have achieved a degree of normalcy that is good for our country and enhances its standing. I hope that we shall now also be able to convince those who have so far been against Germany's participation in peacekeeping operations. Precisely because our involvement in the PIF is not without danger to our servicemen, it is most important that the largest possible majority in the Bundestag show their support.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The peace efforts of the international community, which were unproductive for so long but finally led to Dayton, have implications beyond the Bosnian conflict as a regional and European problem. Peacekeeping opportunities in Bosnia also open up new opportunities for strengthening the transatlantic relationship, for redefining the relationship between France and NATO, and eventually for developing relations between NATO and Russia. These prospects also touch on fundamental aspects and aims of German foreign and security policy and for that reason deserve to be mentioned in this debate.

1. The transatlantic relationship

As a result of America's willingness to deploy 20,000 troops in Bosnia, the concept of "alliance solidarity" acquires a new significance in the transatlantic relationship. By launching its biggest operation to date, NATO is demonstrating that it still has strong roots on both sides of the Atlantic and is capable of facing the new challenges that have emerged since the end of the East-West confrontation.

The alliance needs American leadership and the American presence in Europe. But it also needs Europe's support, which it has received in whole. France, the United Kingdom and Germany alone are providing 27,000 troops. And let us remember that NATO is not operating alone. Austria, Finland, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Egypt and many other countries have offered their help and will be involved.

2. The relationship with France

France's announcement to NATO yesterday that it intends to return to full participation in the alliance's military institutions, meetings of defense ministers and of the Military Committee, after an absence of nearly thirty years is a significant, indeed an historic, step and one which Germany has been encouraging for many years. With this

decision, France has enhanced the operational efficiency of the whole alliance and, at the same time, it has opened the door to new options in defining Europe's security and defense identity. We should appreciate the historical dimension of this decision, which we hope will be followed by further substantial steps.

3. The relationship between NATO and Russia

I am glad we have been proven right in urging that Russia play a full and equal part in settling the Bosnia conflict. Only through unrestricted Russian participation in the Contact Group was it possible to find a formula for the military involvement of Russian forces in the alliance's operations for the first time since the war. This is extremely important not only for the success of the NATO mission: it also opens up new prospects for defining the overall relationship between NATO and Russia.

We can now move on from the abstract and fruitless argument over NATO's enlargement, which Russia rejects, to a discussion of specific cooperation between NATO, on the one hand, and, on the other, Russian generals and troops in the service of peace in Bosnia. And I very much hope that this will help dispel the Russians' fears about NATO.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are voting today on Germany's participation in the task of establishing lasting peace in the former Yugoslavia. The outcome will also be a signal to Europe and the rest of the world that Germany practices what it preaches. This century opened with a war that began in Sarajevo : it must not be allowed to close with a war in Sarajevo.

In last Thursday's debate, Mr. Verheugen [G|nter Verheugen, deputy parliamentay leader of the opposition Social Democrats] ended his speech with the words, "It is not sufficient to call for peace. We must do everything to make it possible." I can not but fully endorse this appeal.

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