supported the NATO intervention in Kosovo. This was largely done on the basis of explicit humanitarian grounds, and with the agreement of key opposition parties. However, this 'fragile consensus' has had to be carefully maintained (Stratfor Update 2000). Germany is also concerned about the 180,000 Kosovar Albanian refugees it has allowed to stay in Germany with initial refugee visas down to March 2000. Likewise, guest workers from the Balkans regions peaking at a total of 400,000 in the 1990s (Dalgaard-Nielsen 2003, p106). Through June 2002, German interior ministers have suggested that Kosovo refugees should be repatriated by the end of the year, though this has resulted in strong protests from Gypsy (Roma) refugees who say they still would be in great danger if returned (Deutsche Welle 2002a). In this context, Germany strongly supports stabilizations plans that would help rebuild the states of former Yugoslavia.
Likewise, the Social Democrats have had to carefully managed their coalition with the ecologist Green party, both at the federal and local level. One of the problems which confronts the Greens is a sense that they may have left their oppositional and radical roles behind them. Likewise, the Greens have had to moderate some of their demands, but has since gained support from the government for the closure of all of Germany's nineteen nuclear power stations (that provide one-third of the country's electricity) by the year 2018 while new laws may place a ban on reprocessing nuclear waste by 2005 (Energy Europe 2001).
In fact the Green-SPD coalition can be disturbed by various controversies within their own ranks, including charges of corruption within the Social Democrats, potential splits within the Greens, by a decline of social service resources, the restructuring of the state pension scheme, and by simple things like the increase of fuel taxes. As a result, in voter surveys during 2000, the SPD dropped to a 38% approval rating, while their opposition the Christian Democrats (CDU) rose to 37%. With the Greens at 6%, and the Free Democrats (FDP) at 9%, this means that the current government alliance slipped somewhat behind its opposition in popularity (Deutsche Welle 2000), though this may include a certain protest effect which will not necessarily be carried through in major elections.
At the same time, from 2001, the chairwoman of the Christian Democrats (CDU), Angela Merkel, had begun to run a strong campaign designed to mobilise support among a range of voters in Germany: she has been critical of the current immigration policy, has argued for the return of a strong state able to support law and order, and has criticised any emerging multiculturalism within the German context, and argued for a return to an active German ‘national pride’ (Cohen 2001; for problems with this unless set within the context of European sensibilities, see Haas 2002). In May 2002 she called for serious reform in the German labour market, arguing that a reduction in bureaucratic blockages would cause a boost in employment in following years (Deutsche Welle 2002c).
One of the issues that has emerged in the last two years has been the status of foreign policy. In general, Germany under Schroeder has followed the path towards integration within Europe, but with a slight left of centre approach that tries to give extra protection to the environment and vulnerable groups within German society. However, it has been difficult to fund all levels of government spending at pre-1998 levels, especially while undertaking areas of reform. This has meant that