Schroeder Allays Fears in Germany: Says Coalition with Greens Won't Change Foreign Policy

Article excerpt

BONN - Chancellor-elect Gerhard Schroeder insisted repeatedly yesterday that there will be no change in German foreign policy, even if the post of foreign minister goes to his likely coalition partner, the Greens environmental party.

Beaming and joking with reporters less than 24 hours after his historic defeat of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader also proposed to work with other countries to reform the world economic system.

"I assure you that Germany will do everything to maintain good relations within NATO," said Mr. Schroeder, whose SPD toppled Mr. Kohl's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) by nearly six points in Sunday's election. "Germany will not be a bad partner in NATO."

He did not rule out giving the foreign minister's job to Joschka Fischer, the boyish-looking Greens leader who regularly appears at public functions dressed in a T-shirt or leather jacket.

"It is not the first time that I have said that I could imagine Joschka Fischer in that office," Mr. Schroeder told a news conference.

But pairing the pragmatic Social Democrats with the ecologically minded Greens presents unique challenges for Europe's largest nation.

The future chancellor avoided committing his government to specific plans before opening coalition negotiations Friday with the Greens. The Social Democrats and Greens have some sharp policy differences in key areas such as defense and energy policies.

On one point Mr. Schroeder was emphatic: Drawing the Greens into government would not compromise any of the Social Democrats' center-left policies and campaign pledges. "The Greens are going to have to prepare for a clear and tough round of talks," he said.

Mr. Schroeder said he expected the Greens, which stands to enter a national government for the first time in any country, to behave responsibly.

"We need a coalition agreement that binds everyone without ifs, ands or buts," he said. "I have the impression that the Greens leadership is not entertaining the idea of forming a government contract for less than four years."

Eager to enter government for the first time, the Greens emphasized ideas the parties share: combating unemployment, scrapping nuclear energy and granting longtime foreign residents of Germany dual nationality.

Mr. Fischer, a former 1960s radical, is now considered the most moderate leader in a party deeply divided between its fundamentalists and its realists.

A so-called "Red-Green" coalition would command a 21-seat majority in parliament, according to incomplete results, far better than even the Social Democrats had dared hope before the election.

The outcome, widely seen as a reflection of the voters' exhaustion with Mr. Kohl after 16 years, was the SPD's best result since the founding of the federal republic in 1949. Mr. Schroeder said he would "put caution before haste" in the coalition talks, which could stretch out for several weeks.

"They should move forward at a brisk pace, but there won't be any pressure. …