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Germany

Green Signal for Future of Coalition?

Much soul searching and heated debates are expected at the annual party conference of the Greens in Germany. The continuance of the Red-Green coalition hangs in the balance.

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Readying for the Green conference in Rostock

It’s now the turn of the Green party to deliberate over the German military involvement in Afghanistan and with it the future of the Red-Green coalition.

This weekend the junior coalition partner of the ruling Social Democrats will hold their annual conference in the northern port city of Rostock, little more than a week after Chancellor Gerhard Schröder managed to squeak through with a confidence vote over the issue in German parliament.

The conference will be dominated by much soul searching as party members still remain divided over the mobilization of German troops for the US-led war against terrorism.

In a draft resolution, the Greens executive will urge 800 delegates to accept the mobilization of 3,900 troops - despite the party's pacifist origins - and remain in coalition with Schroeder's Social Democrats.

But the going will not be easy. Opposition to German military deployment is expected from several staunchly pacifist members.

Coalition expected to survive

Political anaylsts predict heated debates, though the overriding feeling is that the party will not throw away its place in the government. But many of the ecological and pacifist party's 800 delegates are expected to condemn both their leaders and German military support of the US-led Afghan campaign.

In a sign of things to come, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer of the Green Party said during a visit to the United States that rebellious Greens in the ruling coalition can make "trouble, trouble, trouble" over the German government's backing of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, but he predicted that the coalition would survive.

The grass roots could force the party's 47 members of parliament to withdraw from the coalition, prompting Schröder to seek another partner or call an early election – a scenario that the party’s leaders shudder to think of.

If leaders fails to convince grass roots members to fall into line, the party faces an uncertain future. Recent opinion polls have showed Greens support hovering around five percent, the minimum required for representation in parliament.

Persuasive powers of Green leaders?

"I take the view it makes sense to stay in the coalition during such difficult times. We want to get back from pure military solutions to political ones. That's why it's important the Greens continue to co-govern," Greens co-chairwoman Claudia Roth told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.

The leadership is stressing the upcoming Afghan meeting in Bonn as well as the scope for humanitarian contributions in Afghanistan.

Other leaders have adopted a similar stance, urging members not to risk a three-year alliance that has pushed through major Green policies - phasing out nuclear power, introducing energy tax hikes and legalizing same-sex marriages.

German Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin, also a member of the Greens, resented demands from the Social Democrats that the Greens unequivocally support German troop mobilization in Afghanistan.

In an interview with the radio channel, Deutschland Radio, Berlin, he said, "It’s not the business of the SPD (Social Democrats) to place any demands on the party conference of the Greens, we don’t do that to them either".

Schröder: keen observer

Meanwhile Chancellor Schröder will be keeping a watchful eye on proceedings in Rostock from the comfort of his home after receiving resounding backing from his SPD party this week.

"I'm not concerned...It's not only my policy, but that of the foreign minister which is under discussion. They have to realize they need to support their own minister," he said.

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