I never would have dreamt that the first six months [of our coalition] would witness not only Agenda 2000* and the [European] Commission crisis but also the Rambouillet issue** and finally the failure of Rambouillet and the war over there. I can only reiterate what I’m not prepared to accept: the prerequisite for peace is that people are not murdered, that people are not expelled, that women are not raped. That is the prerequisite for peace! And I’d be the last to say that I’ve made no mistakes. Especially recently when reference has been made to status reports. Yes, it was a mistake, and I have to accept that. In the first six months I wasn’t able to do everything, especially under all the pressure, but I carry the responsibility for that and am therefore rightly criticized.. Other mistakes were also made. But on the other hand I want to say to this you, and here I would like also to tell the party about my own personal situation. The crucial point, however, is that we really did try everything to prevent this confrontation. And let me say, God knows I’m not a delicate flower, I can take a lot and I dish it out, God knows, but it really hurt to be personally accused of dragging the Federal Republic of Germany into war. I can only say one thing: The G8 has agreed on a common foundation, a declaration of principles based entirely on Rambouillet. And I can only assure you that I did everything in my power to prevent this confrontation. And if anyone thinks he’d be able to take a blameless position on this issue, then we need to look at this position step by step. I was accused of moral overkill and of trying to eradicate Germany’s history and things like that. Let me say: for me, two central points in my own biography played a crucial role, and I cannot ignore my own personal history. And I have to ask myself, in this matter, who can?! In Solingen, when there was this terrible, murderous attack on a foreign family, a Turkish family, came the racist attacks, neo-Nazism, skinheads. Of course, for me, too, this always brings up our history and that plays a role. And I have to ask myself, if all of us have always used this argument in domestic matters, then why aren’t we using it now that expulsions and ethnic warfare have returned to Europe and bloody consequences have already been registered. It that a moral arms race? Is that overkill? Auschwitz is beyond comparison. But I believe in two principles: never again war and never again Auschwitz. Never again genocide and never again fascism. Both belong together for me, dear friends, and that is why I joined the Green Party. I have to wonder why you’re refusing to participate in this discussion. Why are you rejecting this discussion by blowing whistles if you identify yourselves as the Left or even the radical Left? You may very well think that everything this federal government and NATO have done is totally wrong. But I would be interested in hearing how, from a left-wing perspective, we can refer to everything that has gone on in Yugoslavia since 1992, including ethnic warfare and nationalistic policies; what do you call this from a left-wing perspective, from your point of view? Could it be that we have become accustomed to old conceptions of the enemy and that Mr. Milosevic doesn’t fit into these conceptions very well? Let me tell you that with the end of the Cold War there has been a return to ethnic warfare and to nationalistic policies that Europe must not accept.
[ . . . ]
* Agenda 2000 was an action program for the European Union. Its objectives were to strengthen common policies and to give the European Union a new financial framework for the period 2000-06 with a view to Eastern expansion – trans.
** The Rambouillet Agreement was an interim peace agreement between the former Yugoslavia and a delegation representing the ethnic-Albanian majority population of Kosovo. The agreement was brokered by U.S., E.U., and Russian negotiators. They proposed a compromise that would have given Kosovo more autonomy while upholding Yugoslavia’s territorial integrity. Yugoslavia’s refusal to sign it and the escalation of Serb repression in Kosovo led to NATO air attacks on Yugoslavian and Serbian troops in Kosovo – trans.
Source of original German text: Speech by Joschka Fischer at the Green Party Congress in Bielefeld (May 13, 1999), reprinted in Eberhard Rathgeb, Die engagierte Nation. Deutsche Debatten 1945-2005 [The Engaged Nation. German Debates, 1945-2005]. Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag, 2005, pp. 415-16.