Paris, October 2007
Wich future for Balkans?
BY 1992 the Yugoslav Federation was falling apart. Nationalism had once again replaced communism as the dominant force in the Balkans. Slovenia and then Croatia were the first to break away but only at the cost of renewed conflict with Serbia.
Keywords: | To analyse conflicts from a cultural point of view | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | Ex Yugoslavia | Kosovo | Bosnia | Sarajevo | Serbia
The Nationalisme instead of Communisme: a new domination
BY 1992 the Yugoslav Federation was falling apart. Nationalism had once again replaced communism as the dominant force in the Balkans. Slovenia and then Croatia were the first to break away but only at the cost of renewed conflict with Serbia. The war in Croatia led to hundreds of thousands of refugees and re-awakened memories of the brutality of the 1940s. By 1992 a further conflict had broken out in Bosnia, which had also declared independence. The Serbs who lived there were determined to remain within Yugoslavia and to help build a greater Serbia. They received strong backing from extremist groups in Belgrade. Muslims were driven from their homes in carefully planned operations that become known as ‘ethnic cleansing’.
The Bosnian muslim governement
By 1993 the Bosnian Muslim government was besieged in the capital Sarajevo, surrounded by Bosnian Serb forces who controlled around 70% of Bosnia. In Central Bosnia, the mainly Muslim army was fighting a separate war against Bosnian Croats who wished to be part of a greater Croatia. The presence of UN peacekeepers to contain the situation proved ineffective.
The Dayton agreement
American pressure to end the war eventually led to the Dayton agreement of November 1995 which created two self-governing entities within Bosnia - the Bosnian Serb Republic and the Muslim(Bosnjak)-Croat Federation. The settlement’s aims were to bring about the reintegration of Bosnia and to protect the human rights but the agreement has been criticised for not reversing the results of ethnic cleansing.
The Muslim-Croat and Serb entities have their own governments, parliaments and armies. A Nato-led peacekeeping force is charged with implementing the military aspects of the peace agreement, primarily overseeing the separation of forces. But the force was also granted extensive additional powers, including the authority to arrest indicted war criminals when encountered in the normal course of its duties.
Croatia, meanwhile, took back most of the territory earlier captured by Serbs when it waged lightning military campaigns in 1995 which also resulted in the mass exodus of around 200,000 Serbs from Croatia.
The Kosovo crisis
In 1998, nine years after the abolition of Kosovo’s autonomy, the Kosovo Liberation Army - supported by the majority ethnic Albanians - came out in open rebellion against Serbian rule. The international community, while supporting greater autonomy, opposed the Kosovar Albanians’ demand for independence. But international pressure grew on Serbian strongman, Slobodan Milosevic, to bring an end to the escalating violence in the province
Threats of military action by the West over the crisis culminated in the launching of Nato air strikes against Yugoslavia in March 1999, the first attack on a sovereign European country in the alliance’s history. The strikes focused primarily on military targets in Kosovo and Serbia, but extended to a wide range of other facilities, including bridges, oil refineries, power supplies and communications.
Within days of the strikes starting, tens of thousands of Kosovo Albanian refugees were pouring out of the province with accounts of killings, atrocities and forced expulsions at the hands of Serb forces.
Returning them to their homes, along with those who had fled in the months of fighting before the strikes, became a top priority for the Nato countries.
Meanwhile, relations between Serbia and the only other remaining Yugoslav republic, Montenegro, hit rock bottom, with Montenegrin leaders seeking to distance themselves from Slobodan Milosevic’s handling of Kosovo
Yugoslavia has disappeared from the map of Europe, after 83 years of existence, to be replaced by a looser union called simply Serbia and Montenegro, after the two remaining republics.
The European Union intervention
The arrangement was reached under pressure from the European Union, which wanted to halt Montenegro’s progress towards full independence. However, Montenegrin politicians say they will hold a referendum on independence in 2006.
The death of Yugoslavia is only one of many momentous changes that have occurred since the end of the Kosovo conflict.
Slobodan Milosevic lost a presidential election in 2000. He refused to accept the result but was forced out of office by strikes and massive street protests, which culminated in the storming of parliament. He was handed over to a UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, and put on trial for crimes against humanity and genocide.
Kosovo a UN protectorate
Kosovo itself became a UN protectorate, though some powers have begun to be handed back to elected local authorities. One of the main problems in the province is getting Serbs who fled as Yugoslav security forces withdrew in 1999, to return to their homes.
Conflict between Serbs and ethnic Albanians threatened to erupt in late 2000 in the Presevo valley, on the Serbian side of the Kosovo border, but dialogue between Albanian guerrillas and the new democratic authorities in Belgrade allowed tensions to evaporate. There was, however, a major outbreak of inter-ethnic violence in Macedonia in 2001, again involving the Albanian minority. This was contained by Nato peacekeepers and ultimately resolved by political means.
Books and analysis on the Balkan crisis
Some books analisis presents the political role of European Union in the Balkan crisis during the nineties. In particular the dossier deals with the recognition of new States used as a conflict management mechanism by EU and with the consequences of this strategy.
Other books describes one of the unsolved problems of Balkan Region, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, through accounts of Bosnian women who reclaiming the peace. The choice of this book (2004) is because of unsolved political situation in Bosnia, a country that is now an independent state, but under international administration, backed at first by NATO forces and later by a smaller European Union-led peacekeeping force. International administration has helped the country consolidate stability. But early in 2007 the International Crisis Group, a think tank, warned: « Bosnia remains unready for unguided ownership of its own future - ethnic nationalism remains too strong. »
We tried also to focus on another unsolved Balkan problem: Kosovo. After eight years of UN rule and ambiguity about its legal relationship to Serbia, the province’s status finally appears to be on the road to resolution. That resolution will be accompanied by an international “change of guard” in Kosovo, with a central role for the European Union (EU), as outlined in the status proposal by UN Special Envoy for Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari. And probably the recent draft of the Stabilisation and Association Agreements which regards Serbia is part of the solution.
Two « fiches » describes the role of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
The other dossiers deal with the importance of a peace culture and a peace theory, in terms of success of political strategies based on non-violent conflict’s resolution. And with the importance of our role in this success, of our choices against the fear’s culture and the rhetoric of democracy exportation.