From Fri Jan 13 13:00:29 2006
From: Le Monde diplomatique <>
To: Le Monde diplomatique <>
Subject: The Balkans before and after Dayton
Date: Fri, 13 Jan 2006 18:24:51 +0100 (CET)

The Balkans before and after Dayton: Disintegrating states destabilised by their neighbors

By Catherine Samary, Le Monde diplomatique, January 2006

Ten years after the Dayton accords, accession or pre-accession negotiations are beginning between the European Union and all the former Yugoslav countries in the western Balkans. Only Kosovo, whose status has yet to be decided, is the exception.

Big manoeuvres between the European Union and the states of the former Yugoslav Federation are now under way, though not without difficulty. EU accession negotiations with Croatia had been blocked because of prosecutor Carla Del Ponte's complaint that the Croatian authorities were refusing to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. That complaint was dealt with on 5 October 2005, even before General Ante Gotovina was arrested on 8 December on charges of crimes against humanity, to clear the way for the start of accession negotiations along with Turkey. Macedonia now also has candidate status. Brussels is drawing up a stabilisation and association agreement with Serbia and Montenegro that would grant Belgrade the status of potential candidate.

Bosnia-Herzegovina had been refused that status on the grounds that the police force in the Republika Srpska did not meet proper standards. Last October that objection too was dropped to get the Bosnian Serbs to agree to renegotiate the constitution adopted 10 years ago following the Dayton compromise.

As Jacques Rupnik writes: “The paradox in the former Yugoslav Balkans is that the countries that are in the greatest need of European integration are those that are the least ready for it . . . they are disintegrating states that are no longer able to cope with the violence fomented on part of their territory, and destabilisation by their neighbours” (1).

In fact, all the former Yugoslav republics are now almost protectorates. Except for Slovenia and Croatia, they are governed by constitutional-type documents that place them under the control of the great powers (2).

The central issue

When Yugoslavia's socialist self-management system was dismantled, the free-marketeers were faced with a paradox. The nature of the state had become the central issue. What state, and on what territory, would now assume ownership of the income from foreign trade? Most importantly, how could it win the allegiance of peoples who set great store by their social rights? The liberal non-nationalist movements that supported the last Yugoslav prime minister, Ante Markovic, in 1989, had wanted the replacement of the former system by market competition and privatisation to take place at federal level. This approach was maintained until 1991 by the International Monetary Fund and the western countries, which, with the exception of Germany and the Vatican, were opposed to the breakup of the federation. But the governments of the dominant republics of Slovenia, Croatia and, in a different way, Serbia, were bent on carving it up. If privatisation was to work to their benefit, they had first to consolidate their state structures. Slovenia was already preparing its own currency when it left the sinking ship in 1991. Unlike the other republics, it had no large national minorities. But that alone was not enough to ensure prosperity.

Of all the countries claiming to be socialist, Slovenia made the least use of free-market concepts during the 1990s (3). The initial political and social resistance to privatisation was proportional to the advantages its citizens had acquired under the old system: a high standard of living and only 2% unemployment at the end of the 1980s (compared with 20% in Kosovo). Throughout the 1990s Slovenia also resisted pressure from the European Commission (EC) to reduce wages and capital taxation to attract foreign capital.

All the other republics, like Yugoslavia itself, were multinational. They were also less developed. Bureaucratic management had generated waste and encouraged an attitude of every man for himself, which widened the gaps between living standards. Following the paralysis and break-up of the federation, minority communities in all the republics were faced with state policies imposed by the locally dominant nation, which sought to consolidate, and if possible enlarge, its territory (4) and legitimacy on the basis of nationalism, to the detriment of social solidarity.

Worse still, constitutional revisions in Serbia, Croatia and Macedonia in the early 1990s confirmed the degraded status of minority communities, which, as a result, boycotted the revision process.

A cautious approach

Faced with declarations of independence, the great powers sought to prevent further proliferation by asserting that maintaining the borders of the former Yugoslav republics was a matter of principle and intrinsic to the right of self-determination. That was the only criterion they recognised. The arbitration committee set up at the request of the EC under the chairmanship of Robert Badinter, president of the French Constitutional Council, delivered a favourable opinion on recognition of the independence of Slovenia and Macedonia (where the Albanian parties were involved in the government), but it recommended a cautious approach to the conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

International law provided no readymade solution to the issues raised. The main factor in ensuring a systematic, even-handed approach to national issues ought to have been involvement of all the communities concerned. Nothing of the sort was attempted.

Bosnia was pushed into holding a referendum on independence in the hope that this would avoid war. But the referendum was boycotted en masse by the Serbs, though not by the Croats, who kept quiet about their plans to set up a separate Croatian state, Herceg-Bosna, alongside the Republika Srpska. Like the United States, the European powers looked the other way when Croatia subsequently reduced the Serbian population to less than 5% in the summer of 1995. Pursuing the geostrategic aims of the moment, they sought to defuse explosive situations by peace plans that avoided involvement in the conflicts. As at Dayton, they relied on the strong states of the region, a policy that fanned the flames of future conflicts.

When Germany recognised the independence of Croatia and Slovenia, the EU pursued its great power ambitions by attempting to arrive at a common foreign policy. In January 1992 it aligned itself with Germany's position. At first the US kept its distance, relishing the difficulties of the Europeans and the United Nations. Following dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, it exploited the crises in Bosnia and Kosovo to achieve redefinition and redeployment of Nato. But it took care not to commit ground troops to those conflicts: the protection of local populations and respect for national rights were the least of its worries.

At the Rambouillet conference in February 1999, Belgrade supported the European plans for autonomy for Kosovo, which the Albanian separatists opposed, and refused the presence of Nato ground troops, which the Albanians were hoping for (5). The European governments were unwilling to admit the failure of the first phase of the round-table talks, although there had been no real contact between Albanians and Serbs. Instead, they placed their hopes in the hardline policy of the US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright. She was counting on the Kosovo Liberation Army to deliver the goods.

After three months of war UN Security Council resolution 1244 imposed a ceasefire. But, like the Dayton accords, the resolution was flawed by contradictions that remain wholly unresolved today. The Atlantic alliance had preserved its unity (although it had been seriously undermined, as subsequent events in Iraq were to show); the US had established a huge military base at Bondsteel (denounced today as a local Guantánamo); but Kosovo, far from becoming independent, remained both a protectorate and a province of Yugoslavia.

At last an agreement

Six years later, Washington got what Slobodan Milosevic had refused to give it. On 18 July 2005 the foreign minister, Vuk Draskovic, signed an agreement opening the country to Nato troops “until the completion of all peacekeeping operations in the Balkan region, unless the parties decide otherwise” (6).

Unlike the Kosovo Albanians, Belgrade is able to rely on another UN resolution that keeps Kosovo within the borders of the rump federation of Serbia and Montenegro. It was to preserve those borders, while salvaging resolution 1244, that Javier Solana removed his Nato hat and, in EU garb, ensured that Montenegro stayed within the Yugoslav federation led by Vojislav Kostunica after the defeat of Milosevic in December 2000. The rickety compromise state of Serbia-Montenegro, jokingly named “Solania” by the Serbs, solved nothing. Belgrade continued to assert that Kosovo was a province of Serbia.

That status is more unacceptable than ever to the Albanians, although that would not justify their appropriation of the province against the wishes of the non-Albanian population.

The military and civil institutions of the protectorate are bogged down in Kosovo and Bosnia, having failed to promote multi-ethnic cooperation and make the local population responsible for achieving it. Fearing a domino effect, the West has generalised the use of the protectorate system, but has failed to take a consistent approach to national rights in the republics.

Following revision of the 1991 constitution after the Ohrid accords of 2001, Macedonia became the only Balkan state in which the double-majority principle—a majority of citizens at state level and a national majority at ethnic community level, irrespective of numbers and geographical location - enables the Albanians to block measures they consider threatening (7). The presence of more Albanians in state institutions such as the police force, ethnically mixed administration of local authorities, and the promotion of Albanians, especially at the University of Tetovo, have helped to create a more peaceful atmosphere. But finding a job, whether in a first language or a second, is a different matter. Like all societies grappling with neoliberal policies, Macedonia is in growing social crisis, and the gap between the people and their political representatives widens all the time. That is the weakness of the Ohrid accords, despite their other achievements. When it comes to the economy, Macedonia is encountering the same problems as all the other republics.

The search for confederal or federal links between neighbours, along with reduction of the importance of national borders through the increase of social and national rights within each state, was an alternative approach put forward in the past. It remains possible today (8), and a European framework based on such principles could help promote it.

But the EU in its present form, cutting budgets as it announces further enlargement, is an explosive factor.

(1) See “L’Europe centrale et les Balkans à la recherche d’un substitut d’empire” in Anne-Marie Le Gloannec and Aleksander Smolar, eds, `Kant et Kosovo, Etudes offertes à Pierre Hassner’, Presses de Sciences Po, Paris, 2003.

(2) Only Kosovo is a declared protectorate. But documents or agreements of a constitutional nature drafted and applied under direct western control govern Bosnia (Dayton accords of 1995), Macedonia (Ohrid accords of 2001), and Serbia and Montenegro (Constitutional charter of 2003).

(3) See Jean-Pierre Pagé and Julien Verceuil, De la chute du Mur à la nouvelle Europe, L’Harmattan, Paris, 2004; for a comparative approach by states to property and social relations in the Yugoslav transition, see Revue d’études comparatives Est/Ouest, no 1-2, vol 35, Paris, March-June 2004.

(4) See Yann Richard and André-Louis Sanguin, L’Europe de l’Est quinze ans après la chute du Mur—des pays baltes à l’ex-Yougoslavie, L’Harmattan, Paris, 2004, part two: “Les pays de l’ex-Yougoslavie entre incertitudes et recompositions”.

(5) See Joël Hubrecht, Kosovo: établir les faits, Edition Esprit, Paris, 2001.

(6) See Balkan Info, no 102, Paris, September 2005.

(7) This system resulted from deletion of the reference to the Slavo-Macedonians as the country's sole founding people.

(8) On this see Andreja Zivkovic and Dragan Plavsic (eds),”The Balkan socialist tradition”, a special issue of the review Revolutionary History, vol 8, no 3, Porcupine Press, London, 2004 ; also Catherine Samary “Confederation or explosion”, Le Monde diplomatique, English language edition, May 1999.