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Beyond Protectorates: Possibilities for Peace in Southeastern Europe

Anförande vid United States Institute of Peace

"The Balkans are -- once again -- at the very top of the international agenda. And by 'once again,' I mean more than just a couple of weeks or a couple of years ago. If we go back to the last part of the previous century, the handling of crises and conflicts in Southeastern Europe was just as much the center of attention of the international system as it is now.

"Back then, the Concert of Europe -- the three dominating empires -- met from time to time to deal with one crisis after another in the area. The order of the Ottoman Empire was coming to its end, and no other order was in sight.

"Then, the problem of Bosnia was handled through a protectorate under direct rule of Vienna. A corps of international civil servants, backed by foreign troops, managed the complicated affairs of the country.

"At that time, the issue of the Albanian areas had not yet fully surfaced. But soon it was to cause both crises and conflicts. In the end, it was up to ambassadors from the outside powers to define the borders delimiting the Serb state from the Albanian state. A century later, it is striking how much remains the same. In the meantime, two attempts this century to set up a common state for the southern Slavs -- that is, Yugoslavia -- have ended in civil war and human carnage.

"We have not yet found a stable political order for that important area to the south of Slovenia and to the north of Greece. And in much the same way as the Concert of Europe met to try to solve these issues, we now have the Contact Group with its attempted concert between the European Union, the United States, and Russia to address some of the same issues again.

"Efforts during the 1990s have essentially been short-term in nature, trying to contain one or another particular part of the conflict. It has been crisis management without a clear-cut and comprehensible regional strategy.

"The first major conflict in the area was the conflict between Serbs and Albanians. And it has so far been handled through a massive ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Croatia in combination with a soft protectorate in Bosnia that represents the historical bone of contention between the two. No self-sustaining peace process exists yet in Bosnia. The argument can be made that the country is farther away from self-sustaining peace today than it was a year ago. The recent arbitration decision on the disputed city of Brcko has moved the country farther away from peace and now risks starting a new and destabilizing debate about the very basis of the Dayton peace agreement.

"Furthermore, fundamental framework issues in the areas dominated by this part of the conflict have not been solved. As yet, no agreed framework exists either for the important special relationship between the Federation of Bosnia and Croatia or for the parallel relationship between the Republika Srpska and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Indeed, diplomatic relations have not yet been established between Sarajevo and Belgrade in spite of numerous pledges from both sides to do so.

"But now, the other major conflict of the area -- the one between Slavs and Albanians -- is increasingly dominant. The issue is certainly not new. The issue of Kosovo has constantly been on the agenda during the past century. The deal now offered to the parties to the conflict is a three-year hard protectorate that will build the structures for local self-government for Albanians, Serbs, and others in the disputed province. After that, an international conference will decide on the fate of the area.

"Thus, we have been seeking to handle the disputes of the area by a patchwork of protectorates, one of them at the critical intersection of Serb and Croat interests in Bosnia and the other at the equally critical intersection of Serb and Albanian ambitions in Kosovo.

"Protectorates of this sort have obvious short-term advantages. They can certainly be defended as an alternative better than war. However, their long-term disadvantages are clear. They tend to lift responsibility for the necessary compromises between competing interests from the local parties themselves to the international community, thus delaying rather than speeding up the necessary process of local reconciliation. A patchwork of protectorates can never be a substitute for a true policy for the region. While such an approach can avert war, it can hardly be the basis for long-term peace in the region.

"Although it is necessary to deal with the conflicts in the areas where the major national interests intersect, peace can not be built if we are not prepared to look at the structure of the larger Croatian, Serbian, and Albanian areas at the same time. Protectorates between them will never be enough. For far too long, we have neglected the shaping of a proper political and economic strategy for the region as a whole. We have not addressed the critical question of the political order of the area in a sufficiently clear and comprehensible way.

"During my time as High Representative in Bosnia, I wasted no opportunity telling governments that we needed a policy that was longer in time and wider in geographic perspective than what was discussed at the time. But domestic political constraints in the United States at the time forced us to work within a framework that was too short in time and too narrow in perspective. And the dynamics inside the European Union led to a policy of selective bilateralism rather than the necessary regional approach.

"Now, we must start to address these issues. If for no other reason, at least the open-ended nature of the offered deal for Kosovo, and the international conference laid down for later, should force us into considering them.

"The key issues in the strategy for a regional framework include deterrence of war and integration of the countries into the European Union.

"First, I want to address the military issues. Not that those are the most difficult -- I consider them to be among the easier ones. The military is needed because a credible deterrence of war in the region constitutes the basic precondition for getting everyone to focus on the issues of peace.

"When the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meets in Washington DC for its 50th anniversary, it must recognize that the Balkans represent their new Central Front in Europe for the foreseeable future. No other part of Europe has such an acute need for military forces to deter war.

"Today, we have SFOR in Bosnia and XFOR in Macedonia, which will probably be soon followed by KFOR in Kosovo. And there is no one who believes that any of these forces can be withdrawn in the foreseeable future. We might as well consolidate them into a

"BFOR -- Balkans Force -- coming under a separate NATO land command dealing with this particular area.

"Such an arrangement, and the more or less permanent deployment of deterrent forces in the region, would send a clear message to all actors in the region that war will simply not be tolerated in the future. The clearer the message, the lesser the temptation for the parties in the region to plan military options in the regions. As a result, the resource needs we face will be less demanding.

"Such a NATO commitment to the area should also include cooperative arrangements with the national military forces of the region. Under such an arrangement, it would be counterproductive to have privileged relations with only one army in the region. All the armies should be offered a package of partnership arrangements that might also include modernization of their forces. With a NATO commitment to deter war in place, the European Union will have to devise the policies that can gradually build peace.

"Now let us look at the other key issue -- integration.

"All of these nations are striving to fully become a part of Europe. Tied down to their history as they often are, they nevertheless wish to become recognized as normal European countries and be offered all the possibilities that the process of European integration can bring. But none of them are even close to the start of a process that might one day open up the possibility of European Union memberships for them. Although they differ in important aspects, they all are lacking in democratic political structures, respect for human rights, and commitment to true economic reforms.

"Just to wait for time to pass and peace to possibly take hold would, however, not be a responsible policy. I am firmly convinced that only by offering all of these nations and states a firm European perspective, thus gradually shifting attention from the problems of the past to the possibilities of the future, will we have any hope of replacing the cycle of conflict and disintegration with a cycle of peace and integration.

"But more than just a perspective is needed. I believe we should offer all of them a European deal that is comprehensive and clear and that not only jump-starts them on the process of entering European integration, but also facilitates the necessary process of building down barriers in the region itself and creating networks of integration.

"The economic and social situation throughout the region ranges from extremely difficult to near desperate. And given present trends, it is difficult to see any possibilities for significant improvement. The downside risks for all of them are substantially higher than the upside possibilities for the next few years.

"It is not primarily a question of offering them massive new amounts of economic aid. Such offers can often be counterproductive when it comes to the necessary restructuring of their economies. Bosnia proves this point: the presence of massive aid and the absence of credible reforms have led to a larger losses from corruption than gains from international aid.

"Instead, we should focus on opening up our markets for their produce, which is of paramount importance from both the economic and political point of view. We should offer them a gradual integration into the customs union of the European Union and then the integrated single European market. Thus, we would open up the markets they need, build down many of the barriers that have gone up throughout the region, and pave the way for a gradual integration of their societies and economies in the region itself.

"Such integration would involve the transfer of partial sovereignty from these countries to the European institutions. But I am certain that all of them would be prepared to pay this price as a consequence of becoming part of the process of European integration.

"Different arrangements are needed, however, to ensure to assure that such an opening up would really work. Existing European Commission arrangements for customs monitoring in the region would have to be strengthened in order to make certain that a European deal also includes respect for European rules. Needless to say, an arrangement like this is not compatible with continued sanctions of one sort or another against any of these countries. We should try to foster change through a policy of inclusion rather than exclusion.

"As part of the regional trade and economic arrangement, all these countries should commit to economic reform with the prospect of economic aid as these reforms make progress. Aid after reforms -- not aid instead of reform.

"Such a combination of open markets and economic reforms presents the only way available to prevent the entire region from sinking further into social and economic despair. But it likely will not succeed without a parallel commitment to credible political reforms in all these countries.

"Today, we often see political and economic interests in these countries coming together to protect established economic privileges, more often than not based on practices fundamentally incompatible with the principles of free trade and open markets. The Serbian economy is the most clear-cut example of a combination of a nomenclature and a mafioso system of economic mismanagement, yet differences between the economies of the region in this respect are more a matter of degree.

"With a military structure to deter war in the region, a trade arrangement, and commitment to economic reform to restart the countries on the move toward prosperity, the basic political structures of the region must also be internationally guaranteed. We must embed the complicated patterns of states, entities, and autonomous areas, and the relationships among them, in an international framework that we are prepared to guarantee.

"With the issue of the future of the autonomous region of Kosovo coming up in early 2002 at the latest, and with a number of issues related to the framework for Bosnia not yet solved, it is high time to explore possible arrangements.

"There can never be a question of recreating Yugoslavia. The process of European integration has gone beyond the point at which independent regional arrangements of that sort would have any value. It is a question of finding political arrangements that fit into the wider pattern of European integration.

"Thus I see a European option for the region as resting on three legs:

  • First, a military structure for the region tied to NATO;

  • Second, an economic and trade structure tied to the European Union; and

  • Third, a political structure under which the European Union, the United States, and Russia guarantee the sovereignty, integrity, and autonomy of the different parts of the region.

"Together, these three structures offer us a policy for peace in the region beyond the protectorates, and they offer the peoples of these countries a perspective toward a better future that they have lacked so far.

"However, the extent to which an arrangement like this can be imposed from above is limited. Although I see a major international conference on the area laying down this new structure, perhaps next year this European option must be legitimized in all countries concerned, perhaps by referendum."

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