Analysis - By Ramesh Jaura
BONN, Apr 2 (IPS) - There is a growing anxiety across Europe as NATO extends its air assaults on Yugoslavia and the number of refugees from Kosovo swells, reviving memories of World War II.
The disquiet, which analysts expect to grow the longer the war -with its unforeseen consequences- drags on, has already been manifested in protests held, among others, in Greece, Italy, Spain and Germany.
In Italy, a wide alliance of unions, non-governmental organisations and political parties -including three members of the ruling centre-left coalition- is organising a huge protest Saturday in Rome, demanding both the end of bombardments and the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.
A similar situation has developed within the ruling coalition in France, where unions, NGOs, the Communists and a faction of the Socialist party oppose France's involvement in the war.
Further protests were planned by the Network of Peace Cooperatives through Monday all over Germany as part of the traditional Easter Marches.
Against this backdrop, Germany's foreign minister Joschka Fischer convened a so-called 'Balkan Conference' Thursday on the Petersberg hill, close to Bonn. It was joined by the Foreign Ministers of Austria and Finland, and their colleagues from Albania, Hungary, Croatia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and Bosnia.
The meeting - called to coordinate European Union relief to Kosovars, 130,000 of whom had fled the Serbian province in a week since since NATO began air assaults on March 24 - was also joined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Sadako Ogata.
Fischer told reporters the Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was perpetrating ''ethnic cleansing'' by driving out of Kosovo hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians. His objective in ''escalating the ethnic war'' was also to destabilise the entire Balkan region , he said.
The Balkans through history has become an acronym for states being invaded and atomised. ''Balkanisation'' is the word often used to describe that phenomenon.
The meeting stated that the EU would not leave Albania and Macedonia - two states immediately affected by the growing influx of refugees from Kosovo, and would work in close coordination with relief agencies.
Fischer mingled his report on the Balkan Conference with repeated references to the responsibility that laid with Milosevic for leaving the NATO with no alternative to ''intervene against the ethnic war'' . In fact, he said, Milosevic had become guilty of ''war crimes''.
NATO was not an aggressor, he said. It was undertaking air raids to put an end to the ''brutal'' methods deployed by Milosevic.
Analysts say the need for repeated explanations is becoming increasingly pressing as a winning strategy eludes NATO and voices of protest become louder against Germany's involvement in an armed conflict against a sovereign state for the first time since World War II (1939-45).
''NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia have not been authorised by the United Nations. Such authority was not even sought. They are therefore acts of aggression against a sovereign nation,'' former Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson and Shridath Ramphal, former Secretary General of the British Commonwealth, wrote Thursday in the International Herald Tribune.
''This temptation to assume police powers on the basis of righteousness and military strength is dangerous for world order and world peace. What results is a world run by vigilante action,'' they say.
The historic departure from policies pursued by post-war Germany has been made under a 'red-green' government coalition comprising the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and and the Greens who launched strong protests against the stationing of U.S. Pershing II and cruise missiles end of the 70s and early 1980s.
Himself an eminent leader of the Green Party, who grew up amidst campaigns against the U.S. involvement in the war against Vietnam, Fischer is also coming under pressure from within the rank and file of his party .
While some have quit the party in protest, others are working hard for a showdown. A Green member of the German parliament, Hans-Christian Stroeble, announced this week that he had collected 500 signatures from within the party, asking for an end to the bombardment of Yugoslavia.
Also one of the two spokeswomen of the Green party, Antje Radcke, said this week, she was unwilling to support ''the logic of military escalation''.
However, Fischer is convinced that there was no alternative. ''I have asked myself several times, whether I had done everything possible to avoid the armed conflict,'' he told reporters this week. ''And I have come to the conclusion that I did everything possible.''
Similar doubts seem to burden the mind of Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping, who joined the SPD at the age of 19, has held high offices within the party, was Prime Minister of the German federal state Rhineland-Palatinate and heads the Socialist International since 1995 .
The third in what is being termed by detractors as the ''war triumvirate'' in Bonn is Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. He joined the SPD at the age of 19, rose to become the chairman of the Jusos (Young Socialists), opposed the Vietnam war and replaced Helmut Kohl as head of the government, ending the conservative CDU-CSU parties' sixteen years of political hegemony.
But Schroeder, who is to be elected as chairman of the SPD on April 12 - in the wake of Oscar Lafontaine having resigned in a surprise move last month - is now beginning to hear murmurings of protest from among senior social democrats.
''I consider your way wrong,'' a former mayor of the city state of Hamburg, Henning Voscherau, was quoted saying in a meeting of the SPD party leadership Monday.
Serious doubts have also been expressed reportedly by SPD stalwarts like former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and Egon Bahr, who engineered the process of reconciliation with Eastern Europe known as Ostpolitk, in the 1970s, with Willy Brandt as Chancellor.
Like Schroeder and Scharping, NATO secretary general Javier Solana is a social democrat. He joined Spain's underground Socialist Party in 1964, under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.
In his younger days, Solana was in fact a strong campaigner against NATO, and finds now himself on top of the first war the alliance has launched in its 50 years of existence.
Some analysts associate the metamorphosis in the thinking undergone by social democrats and socialists at the helm of affairs in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, with the mounting belief that human rights are paramount and that no leader has the right to slaughter its citizens.
The unresolved question, however, is: what after Yugoslavia? Will NATO become a ''global sheriff'' policing implementation of human rights led by the United States? What conclusions will Russia draw?
Sidetracked by the U.S.-led 'Operation Allied Force', with officials dismissing it in private as a ''second-rate nuclear power'' - Russia is now sending warships to the Mediterranean.
The reason, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said, was that NATO attacks against Yugoslavia had ''raised new objectives for the Russian armed forces,''
At the same time, President Boris Yeltsin assured this week that Russia will not become involved in the conflict militarily. However, observers see increasing discontent in Moscow, especially in the aftermath of the wry response Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov was given in Bonn after his talks with Milosevic.
Against this backdrop, there is fear that deployment of warships by Russia could increase the possibility of an unintentional confrontation, said the German TV ARD in a report this week from Moscow.