Başlangıç > International Relations > GERMAN INVOLVEMENT TO BALKAN CRISIS


First, in order to understand the involvement of Germany to the Balkan Crisis, we should analyze German Foreign Policy motives brought by the reunification. There are three important shifts in GFP. First, re-Germanization Process started with reunification. Before it, Germany had been determining its foreign policy within institutional framework, like NATO and the UN. After unification, especially in immediate-unification period, Germany wanted to be a universal leader. Secondly, Germany always wanted an integrated European Union however, as being the biggest economy of the Union, Germany wanted to be the determinator of foreign policy of the Union. And thirdly, German domestic policies after unification played an important role in formulating German foreign policy.

Now, in the light of those information above let me to pass about the first phase of German involvement to the Balkan crisis. In the first phase, it is about the recognition dispute. In June 1991, Slovenia and Croatia, former Yugoslavia Republics, declared their independence. In pre-declaration period, Germany’s behavior was not different in any way from that of European partners. European countries all decided that Yugoslavia should remain united. However, in autumn 1991, something changed and Germany decided to recognize their independence. Hans-Dietrich Genscher declared that “If those peoples of Yugoslavia who want to become independent are unable to achieve independence trough negotiations, then we will recognize their unilateral declarations of independence under international law.” In the mean time, a commission chaired by Robert Badinter was assigned. This commission was working for to what extent those countries which want to be independent become mature. This commissions report was supposed to be declared on January 15, 1992. However, Germany did something surprising and recognized Slovenia and Croatia on December 23, 1991, out of hand, without waiting the Badinter report.

Now, what are the reasons lay behind this immediate recognition of Croatia and Slovenia. Why did Germans hurry to recognize them?  First, Germany’s primary concern was to stop fighting in Yugoslavia immediately. Secondly, in parallel with this, if the clash did not stop, the refugee problem of Germany would increase. Because, whenever a clash occurred in the Balkan’s refugees in Germany increased. Thirdly, there were also approximately 400 thousand Yugoslavian people were living in Germany at that time and they implement pressure on the Bundestag. Fourthly, on the other hand, German public also implemented pressure on government to recognize. Because, German people were seeing war on TV in Croatia and Slovenia where lots of German people spent their holidays.

And now what is the importance of the immediate recognition for German Foreign policy. Begin with; this recognition was a very very important turning for German Foreign Policy, because it was the first time after WW2, Germany acted very assertive towards an international crisis. Secondly, Germany pursued a “go it alone policy” as Professor Huseyin Bagcı states, with disregarding “never go it alone” meanly multilateralist policy of pre-unification period. Thirdly, German politicians believed that the recognition of right to self-determination of nations. And the last point why the recognition is important is, other EU countries unwillingly pursued the German way, they all recognized Croatia and Slovenia.

On the other hand, however, there were also criticisms to Germany’s early recognition. First, as Professor Mustafa Türkeş also states Germany’s foolish immediate recognition, let Yugoslavia to disintegrate. Secondly, recognition of Germany contributed to the outbreak of fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

When we come to the second phase, from January 1992 until 1994, unlike from the first phase, rather than the EU countries, the UN and the NATO appeared as the only institutions able to mandate and implement economic and military actions.  Germany played a much quieter role in international discussions concerning the war in Croatia and Bosnia. In this phase, Germany maintained a very low profile. Germany just concentrated on support for sanctions against Serbia. We can explain the German passivity in two reasons. First, Germany strongly preferred a multilateral settlement of crisis, and secondly the constitutional barrier to send military forces abroad. Article 87 was saying that “….apart from defense, the armed forces may only be used to the extent explicitly permitted by the Basic Law.”

In third phase, by early 1994, two things had become clear. First, NATO demanded Germany to contribute to operations around Bosnia. Secondly, many deputies and ministers were reluctant for such a contribution. On July 12, 1994, the German Constitutional Court (Verfassungsgericht) judges that “the Bundeswehr may take part in an out-of-area operation if the Bundestag gives its authorization and if this operation is conducted within the framework of a system of collective security and for humanitarian reasons”. In the other words, German troops may participate outside of Germany in security missions.

In the fourth phase there was almost no opposition for sending troops to Bosnia in Bundestag. In the light of Srebrenica, the German political elite thought that it was legitimate. Those elites not only called for “no more wars”, but also for “no more Auschwitz!”  Because the UN security umbrella was unsuccessful, UNPROFOR, NATO decided to deploy troops in Bosnia in order to monitor the Dayton Peace Accord. In December 1995, Bundestag authorized the German participation in IFOR, by 3000 German troops mainly for medical and logistic assistance.  SFOR took over the functions of IFOR in 1996. Germany’s participation to the SFOR continued by including combat forces stationed in Bosnia. This point is important because, for the first time since WW2 that German combat troops had marched on foreign territory.

In the fifth phase, there was a change in German government. Kohl-Kinkel coalition, CDU- FDP, was replaced by Schroder-Fischer, SDP-Green coalition. In the mean time, the Serbian attacks started on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, in 1999. As a response to Serbian attack, NATO decided to begin a military operation on Serbia. And NATO requested full participation of Bundeswehr into the operation. Schroder and Fischer accepted the request of NATO. Germany participated to the operation with combat forces which directly bombed Serbian targets. The importance of Germany’s participation is, it was for the first time since WW2, 1945, German forces took part in offensive combat mission against a sovereign state. So what were the motives for participating in the bombing campaign? First, Germany felt responsible to NATO’s request of military contribution. Secondly, Germans strong sense of moral and political responsibility towards the human suffering in Kosovo. Thirdly, Germany was worried about a flux of refugees coming from Kosovo. In the other words, as Chancellor Schroder declared: “In the Balkans, for the first time since the end of the Second World War, German soldiers have been fighting. …not for blinding nationalism, not for conquering of foreign countries, not for the pursuit of strategic interests, but German soldiers are fighting for one of the highest goals as such: for saving human lives and the protection of Human Rights.”

In conclusion, German involvement to the Balkan crisis might have a limited effect to the international politics, however as I stated in my presentation, German involvement had profound effect on shaping German Foreign Policy after unification.

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