Book Reviews
Report of the International Commission on the Balkans (1996). - Unfinished Peace.
(Volume 1, Number 1, Spring 2000.)
18 tra 2000 06:47:00
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Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. pp. 222.
ISBN 0-8700-3118-X

/Croatian edition: Izvješće Međunarodne komisije za Balkan (1997). Zagreb: Hrvatski helsinški odbor za ljudska prava i Pravni centar FOD BiH. pp. 205. ISBN 953-96343-5-0/

"Unfinished Peace" is the title of a study, or rather a Report, published by the International Commission for the Balkans, which comprises of a group of eminent authors. The Report was issued in the Croatian language in 1997 in Zagreb by the Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights FOD B-H. The original Report was published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1996, Washington.

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The Report claims to be an analysis of the situation and suggests its own kind of integral strategy for the international community toward the area which it calls the "Balkans", which incorporates Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. However, Montenegro and Romania are hardly mentioned in the Report. Some countries mentioned in the Report are discussed in elaborate detail as opposed to others because those countries represent the two epicentres of conflict in the Balkans. The first is considered as "being in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which incorporates wider Croatian-Serbian relations," and the other being in Kosovo, which is "directly related to Serbia, Albania and Macedonia… and potentially incorporates Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey."

The Report also gives 57 recommendations relating to the conduct of the above mentioned countries with respect to the activity of the UN, NATO members, the US, various bodies of the European Union and international non-government organizations. The declared wish of the authors of the Report is for their recommendations to be completely realized, bringing lasting peace and prosperity to the Balkans.

Two hundred pages of text are structured in a number of sections. The Report contains an introduction by Lea Tindemans, the President of the International Commission for the Balkans, a summary the Report, an introduction and four chapters entitled, "Balkan Troubles," "War and the Reactions of the United Nations", "The situation in the Countries, Trends and Recommendations," and "The Region - Conclusions and Recommendations." Annexed to the Report are easy-to-survey maps, a supplement about the study mission and encounters by the International Commission for the Balkans, and the epilogue by Ivo Banac contained in the Croatian edition.

he first chapter, metaphorically titled "Balkan Troubles," considers the causes of the recent war, or rather a review of the historical development of the state of affairs in the countries of the former Yugoslavia which led to war. As for the historical review of the events in the Balkans up until the Second World War given in that chapter, we cannot help but feel that the Report is subject to prejudices similar to those that we come across in literature such as "Grey Falcon and White Lamb" by Rebecca West. As for the analysis of the causes for the recent war in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina given in the same chapter, the Report does not consider the relevant foreign factors for its outbreak, and all the more categorically states that "the causes of this war were not outside of the Balkans, rather inside of it." The main culprits for the war, according to the Report, were old "inherited hatreds", which due to changing international surroundings, given the disintegration of communist systems, brought about crude nationalism. The Report rejects the thesis about a "conflict of civilizations," and accepts that nationalist politicians skilfully used, rather abused, the Church and religious symbols for their own aims. According to this, the Serbs and Croats were ascribed to as being nationalistic politicians, whilst the Moslems "despite all their shortcomings and mistakes, came the closest to defending European principles of tolerance and open societies from those who, in the name of Christian Europe, endeavoured to exterminate them," (p. 22). The authors of the Report do not mention nor attempt to explain the phenomena that during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina the Moslems fled in the hundreds of thousands to those "who endeavored to exterminate them," i.e., Croatia, which unselfishly sheltered them. We believe that the failure to mention this is not accidental as it questions Croatia's tolerance and openness.

The second chapter, entitled "The War and the Reactions of the International Community," analyses the course of the war in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and the endeavours of the international community to end it. It is telling that the aggression in Croatia is depicted very briefly and bleakly, without mention of the destruction (apart from Vukovar and Dubrovnik), while the number of killed (only 2,000 dead in Vukovar is mentioned) and exiled (only 247,000 is mentioned) Croats is decreased. Particularly unrealistic and biased is the part of the Report about the operations that liberated the occupied regions of the Republic of Croatia, which the Report describes as "attacks on Krajina" that was followed by "a campaign of ethnic cleansing" (p. 41). Most space and statistics in this chapter of the Report is dedicated to the military conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As a whole, given the way in which the Report presents the course of the war, it is hard not to think that this part of the Report more intensely blames the Croats for the fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while it marginalizes the contribution of the Croatian Army in liberating Bihać and parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Serbian aggressors, which were the preconditions for the Dayton Accords.

The description of the international community's efforts is reasonably objective, and at times even overtly critical of Western countries. The events in Slovenia that preceded the aggression in Croatia are lucidly assessed as being the intentions of the Serbian politicians in allowing the independence of Slovenia, in relation to the nature of the 1991 Brioni Declaration as a means for gaining time for the deployment of the Yugoslav Army in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, i.e. preparing for an aggressive war and the European Community's failure to recognize the nature of the problems. An objective but brief depiction is given of the endeavours of the United Nations between 1992 and 1994 in Croatia, i.e. during the period of the so-called Vance Plan (the UN Secretary General's envoy, former US State Secretary, Cyrus Vance), rather the origins of the Z-4 plan (the draft agreement on Knin, southern Baranja and western Srijem) which the Serbian side rejected.

The war and participation of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina is discussed much more widely and is given much more importance, which is best evidenced in the statement, "the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina provoked the most serious crisis in trans-Atlantic relations since the Suez crisis…" (p. 55). With geographical maps, all initiatives were reviewed, from the Vance-Owen plan from January 1993, the Owen-Stoltenberg plan from July 1993, the Contact Group plan from July 1994, to the Dayton Accord from November of 1995. Nevertheless, the entire chapter leaves the perception of a greater contribution by NATO compared to the inefficiency of the EU, rather the EC. Significant criticism is given of western countries in not recognizing the aggression, the indecisiveness and use of force and generally for inaction in preventing the conflict. Criticism for belated action in light of defending safe areas is clear but remains fairly unclear in light of the statement given in the Report; "no attention was directed toward constructive ideas for transforming Yugoslavia from a communist federation to a democratic one…" (p. 56) and even the hypothesis that Croatia was recognized prematurely as "recognition excluded from play the important lever with which Croatia could have been restrained in its conduct toward the Serbs in Krajina" (p. 60). Does this mean that the authors of the Report consider that Yugoslavia could have been, with more determined participation from the West, safeguarded from disintegration?

It is particularly worth highlighting the lack of recognising the decisive role of the Croatian Army operation in 1995 in achieving the Dayton Accord. This most likely stems from not knowing the principle facts, for how can one explain formulations such as "the successful offensive of Bosnian and Croatian forces in Western Slavonia" (p. 73).

The third chapter, "The Situation in the Countries, Trends and Recommendations", together with the fourth chapter, "The Region Conclusions and Recommen-dations", are the most important and most pretentious parts to the Report. These chapters, along with an analysis of the situation and detailed explanations, give 57 explicit recommendations concerning the function of the UN, NATO, the US, and various bodies of the European Union, international non-government organizations and the countries in the "region" themselves. All the recommendations in the Report can be organized in a number of groups; security, reconstruction and development, democracy (civil society and media), inter-ethnic relations and conduct toward minorities, and regional cooperation. The recommendations in the third chapter are directed individually toward the countries in the region, while the recommendations in the fourth chapter are mainly directed toward the region as a whole. It is interesting that, judging by the number and content of the recommendations given in the third chapter, the Report considers Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Croatia as being the most problematic countries.

Ten recommendations directly concern Bosnia and Herzegovina. In stating that in the Dayton solution "there exists a hidden contradiction" as it "accepts the ethnic division of Bosnia and Herzegovina which was achieved with the help of military force" and at the same time wishes to "protect and reintegrate the pre-war multiethnic Bosnia" (p. 78), the Report also reveals the meaning of some recommendations as being a means for supplementing, rather redefining, Dayton. The final aim of the recommendations is the entire reconstruction of multiethnic Bosnia, i.e. avoiding the possibility of separating the three sides in Bosnia and Herzegovina into three separate states. With this end in mind, the Report recommends the military presence of the international community, supporting joint institutions, i.e. non-government organizations, complying to the obligations of the tribunal in The Hague, freedom of the media, the economic reconstruction of the country, strengthening the civil aspect of the West's presence, achieving the right of refugees for return, etc.

Five recommendations relate to the Republic of Croatia. Following a very critical exposition on Croatia, broad assessments and inaccurate consternations, the Report concludes how "much more stringent measures must be applied to this country" (p. 106). The recommendations suggest that the US Government demand(s) of the Republic of Croatia an improvement in its relations toward minorities, the return of refugee Serbs, the complete freedom of the media, decentralization and regionalism, and dissolving Herceg-Bosna along with "taking a share of the economic recovery of Bosnia and Herzegovina."

Serbia is termed as the "most important state in South-eastern Europe" and is given surprisingly little recommendation. The Report suggests the implementation of the Dayton Accords, extraditing war criminals, accepting the draft agreement on succession, freedom of the media, and devising the western strategy for recognizing a new Yugoslavia and its inclusion in international institutions.

Four recommendations are dedicated to Kosovo. They encompass the return of autonomy, abstaining from independence and a start to negotiations, and the return of normal civil life through the work of non-government organizations.

Three recommendations pertain to Albania: pro-western orientation, the building of infrastructure and joining with the Balkans and not Islamic countries.

Macedonia must increase the proportion of Albanians in its government, decentralize, and retain UNPREDEP so as to decrease the tensions around the university in Tetovo.

As for Montenegro, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, there are no particular recommendations. Romania is not at all mentioned.

It can be concluded that in its review of the situation in individual countries in the region, i.e. before drafting the recommendations, the Commission acted with bias and impartially. How else can the considerably more critical stance toward some countries in comparison to others be explained, that is passing over in silence the evident violations of human rights perpetrated by some and magnified in others. Why is it that for some countries, where even laymen can perceive great problems, no recommendations are given at all?

The 28th recommendation given in the fourth chapter is dedicated to the region as a whole. It relates to the problems of regional cooperation, economic cooperation, reconstruction and development, democracy in relation to civil society and the media, multi-ethnic relations and conduct toward minorities, and security, i.e. the control of armaments. All imply the importance of creating a regional framework for resolving potentially dangerous issues and controversies, i.e. the need to strengthen the role of non-government organizations in the region.

Concerning the abovementioned recommendations, from today's perspective, four years after the first Report was issued, importance is drawn to the fact that nevertheless the conduct of the international community toward the countries encompassed in the Report coincide in some elements with the recommendations given in this Report. Realized in particular are recommendations concerning the reinforcement of "civil society," that is the role of non-government organizations. This indicates that the recommendations of the Commission are taken seriously. We won't dwell on the question why this is so. What are the consequences of the moves taken under those recommendations provokes another question.

It is particularly important to emphasize the relatively mild judgements and small demands made upon the Serbs in comparison to the very sharp judgment of Croatia. In this light it would be very revealing, in a separate study, to compare the first Report of the International Commission for the Balkans of the Carnegie Foundation from 1914 with the events that transpired later in the "Balkan" region in the context of the First and Second World Wars. The authors themselves in the introduction to this Report recognize the fact that the views of the first and second Commissions are similar.

The first Report from 1914 and this one published in 1996 are equally concerned and have the justified conclusion (and their lack of will) of the urgency for the timely engagement of Europe and the US in resolving problems in the Balkans.

Unfortunately, those who share consideration of the civilizational superiority, rather intellectual arrogance, prevent an objective, empathetic perception of the problems in the countries of the region. What to say about the first Report which states that the "civilization layer is very thin and that the liberation of the beast in man is always possible when force turns patriotism into crime and heroism into savagery," but that they were prophetic, not only in the relations in the Balkans but in the relations of all participating countries of the First and Second World Wars. The objective perception of the Balkan issues can only be shaped by a commission that accepts the "thin civilizational layer" as inherent in every man in every country in the world, even (as was shown by the events during the two world wars) in the developed West.

In any case, the individual moves made by the international community after 1996, intentional or accidental, coincide with the recommendations in the Report. At the same time, some important moves by the international community, such as the bombing of Serbia because of the events in Kosovo, are not at all predicted nor suggested in the Report.

Generally viewed, the Report is superficial where the Republic of Croatia is concerned. For example, the Report correctly concludes that "leading international powers, up until the summer of 1995, were not prepared to convincingly threaten force so as to enforce a solution", that is that they were late. However, the aforementioned is written in the context of the killings in Srebrenica, whilst it does not mention the recent war crimes during the aggression against Croatia. Already in this approach to the problem, it is evident that Croatia is considered within a welter of Balkan events and whose politics primarily bring about the consequences in the Balkans, in comparison to Slovenia (which is altogether not mentioned in the Report). Croatia is not considered as a country that has powerful roots and powerful contacts in the Central European region. Croatia is not perceived as a bridge between Europe and the Balkans, rather only as an integral part of the Balkans. This sort of consideration about Croatia does not give the true picture and does not find a useful solution, not only for Croatia, but also for the entire Balkans and the Central European region.

In considering the reasons as to what prompted the establishment of this study, by all means assuming the commendable desire to assist the region, the thesis on the possible influence of fighting in the region and the events in other countries in Eastern Europe and the former USSR mentioned in the introductory summary of the Report itself must also be taken into consideration: "The worsening multi-ethnic relations and the ever worsening situation for national minorities in the Balkans would have negative consequences in other parts of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, where demography does not coincide with political borders. Moreover, the fate of the Muslims - their political integration or isolation - could become an acid test of relations between Europe and the Islamic world." Not disputing the justification of this argument, it is nonetheless difficult, four years after the end to the serious fighting in the region and writing of this Report, to note a more serious link between the events in Bosnia and Herzegovina and current events in Chechnya.

In any case, most likely the important reason for writing the Report lies also in the concern for possible implications of the events in Bosnia and Herzegovina with an important NATO member - Turkey. The Report itself states that the "Bosnian issue has become the powerful weapon in the hands of Turkish Islamists who at present have the position of presidency in the government and, who have achieved success upon success on the domestic political stage, which is without precedence in Turkish contemporary history" (cit. summary XXVI).

Numerous incorrect citations in the Report are most likely the fruit of a number of previously shaped strong stances, so strong that they have become the prejudgment and limit the scope, and inhibit the freedom and innovation, of the recommendations themselves.

The first is the strong beliefs in the incapability of the countries in the region to solve their mutual problems on their own, that is the belief that they cannot solve those problems without various forms, including military, of western intervention. The Report even directly suggests the "uninterrupted and consistent military arrangement of NATO" up until the establishment of the "Balkan Partnership for Peace association." This stance is expressed at the very beginning of the Report, already in the second paragraph of the summarised review in the introduction. Namely, the statement that, "this Commission believes that, if we pretend that we do not see the problems in the Balkans, it will be shown that it will be the equally successful recipe for a catastrophe at the end to the twentieth century as it was at its start. Foreign sponsors and even the factors which forcefully impose peace will have to remain in that region for a long time," clearly shows that the Commission does not wish to recognise that the main cause of the problems in the region even prior to the outbreak of World War One was not only the historical inheritance of the peoples in the region, rather the "Balkan ethnic conflicts," but that that to a large extent was the interests of factors outside the region, primarily the Ottoman and Austrian empires and up until the present day, which obstructs free individualization and development of the countries in the region.

The Report foresees that almost all the conflicts in the region were quickly initiated, primarily at the times of confrontation of the great powers in this region. In that context it is completely correct to state that this region is an eternal battleground for the interests of the great powers, and when these battles come ablaze they remind us of Samuel P. Huntington's "conflict of civilizations". As opposed to that, the Report relativises the aforementioned by stating that "renewed nationalistic conflicts reflect the ambitions of the great powers to reinstate their sphere of influence in the Balkans," merely as an "attitude in which many in the Balkans believe." At the same time the theory that "the issue deals with a resurgence of ancient hatred and a resurgence of repressed nations" is given as an "interpretation that is widespread in the West."
Subsequently the authors of the Report synthesize the aforementioned by stating, "there is some truth to all of this and nobody should underestimate the importance of history in the Balkans. However, the main reasons for this war were that the sparks of aggressive nationalism were stirred by those political leaders of the Yugoslav federation who, in their desire to realize their own nationalistic aims, appealed to ancient hatreds and who intentionally set in motion their own propaganda machinery…" (cit. summary p. XVI).

The second prejudice emanates from the first, which is the belief in equal guilt for the fighting in the region. One would have to be truly blind not to be able to differentiate between the aggressor (Serbia) and the victims (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina), or not be able to recognize which of the countries of the former Yugoslavia had the necessary means for aggression (armament) at the beginning of the nineties and the aspiration for domination over others (the ideology of Greater Serbia). There is no differentiation between the negative aggressive nationalism that was based on a desire to conquer and dominate over others, and nationalism as a defensive reaction to protect one's own existence from the aggression of the other.

The third prejudice is the belief that the synthesis, rather various forms of linking and integration as opposed to the sovereignty of states in the region, automatically contributes to solving the problem. History tells us otherwise; the bloodiest conflicts originated directly from the downfall of old or the formation of new - either forcefully or artificially created - 'integration' entities in this region (Ottoman Empire, Austro-Hungary, both Yugoslav states).

Nonetheless, in regards to regional cooperation the Commission recommends, but also doubts, in the "possibility of maintaining an international conference on security in the Balkans, and even an ambitious conferences that would have the aim of creating a south-Balkan confederation," (p. 140). The Commission recommends the formation of "free trade zones" as being the most realistic and economically most useful solution, which would in the end become a part of CEFTA.

It is even more uncertain of how they plan on implementing one of the key proposals in the Report in regards to creating "a Partnership for Peace Balkan association" and its "linking to the broader structures of NATO," (recommendation No. 53, p. 170).

Instead of the conclusion, let's return to the beginning, the title; "Report of the Commission for the Balkans."

When we state "Report" we ask - for whom? Normally, for those who paid. In this case, among others, the Carnegie Foundation and the Open Society Institute. Neither is a government organization or institute, which opens a series of interesting questions on the mutual relations of the mentioned non-government organizations and the governments of specific countries, and even the possible influences of these organizations on the governments themselves.

When we state "commission" we ask - what kind? This one is comprised of undoubtedly eminent experts, intellectuals and politicians (Leo Tindemans - President, Lloyd Cutler, Bronislaw Geremek, John Roper, Theo Sommer, Simone Veil, David Anderson). Our questions in an atmosphere of support for multiculturalism, equality and objectivity are: why is it that not one of the seven members of the Commission on the Balkans does not originate from the Balkans, and why is it that only one of the Commission's 21 advisors originates from the countries of the former Yugoslavia?

When we state "Balkans" we ask - what is it and where is it? This Report does not even attempt to differentiate between where Asia begins and where the Balkans ends, but it does suggest that Europe ends and the Balkans begins at the Slovenian-Croatian border. This is an assertion with which numerous Croats would not agree, and which could evoke antagonism toward the Report, regardless of the value of the work of the Commission and the usefulness of individual recommendations, notwithstanding a certain intellectual arrogance within the Commission.

 

Predrag Haramija, Zagreb, Croatia

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