Reflections on the prospects of peace for Yugoslavia

By Johan Galtung

Yugoslavia Conference, OIFF, Stadtschlaining, 13-17 November 1991

1.  Conflict genesis; conflict processes, conflict perception

To see bombs fall on Dubrovnik and the presidential palace in Zagreb, to see Vukovar and Osijek in ruins, is to see ourselves as the Europeans we are: aggressive, unable to handle conflict in a mature manner, destroying some of the best in ourselves. For one who lived over a period of four years (1973-1977) in Dubrovnik as the first Director-General of the Inter-University Centre this holds no surprise.  The tension was there all the time.  The emotions are centuries deep.  But that in no way diminishes the tragedy, and does not explain why Yugoslavia had a generation of relative peace.

There were many reasons: the function of Italian fascism, and particularly of German Nazism as common enemy strong enough to bridge the many gaps, of which the Serb-Croat gap may be the broadest; the charismatic leadership of Tito the Croat; the myth, and reality, of the partizan movement as all-Yugoslav in spite of the strong Croat leanings toward Italy-Hungary and Austria-Germany. The idea of building a New Man through a Third Way socialism, including samo upravljenje, the self-management which in principle was a gigantic decentralization effort, decreasingly credible, was also used to transcend these gaps.  So was nonalignment as foreign policy, building links to all countries.

This lasted Tito’s lifetime.  After that most forces became centrifugal, not centripetal; particularly after the end of the Cold War made nonalignment meaningless.  By the end of the 1980s the Second world war was more or less forgotten, the charisma died before its physical carrier died in 1980, socialism of any kind was no match to the market capitalism of some neighbor countries.  But nonalignment still gave Yugoslavia and Yugoslavs some identity, and a world political platform.  With one pole of the bipolar system gone, nonalignment between two poles became meaningless even if neutrality still remains an option.

The second unquiet corner in Europe, the first being the London-Dublin-Ulster triangle, is now in ever higher flames, with neighbors killing each other and people engaging in futile games of deciding who fired the first shot, declaring and breaking a dozen armistices.  Let us try some reflections instead.

And the first introductory reflection would be how unaware Western politicians, media and people seem to be of how their deeply embedded, unreflected anti-Serbian attitudes, are being produced and reproduced daily, and not only because the Croats are more talented than the Serbs at public relations.  Several factors underlying this general syndrome should be identified.

Of course there are the coinciding historical divides onto which such prejudices can easily be grafted: Serbs are Orthodox (Schism of 1054), use Cyrillic letters and were under Ottoman rule (from 1459); Croats (like the Slovenes) are Catholic, use Latin letters and were under Austro-Hungarian rule (from 1102).

The latter welcomed hundreds of thousands of the former as refugees into what today is Croatia as a frontier bulwark of Serbian peasants (Grenzer) against further Turkish advances. These were the (2 million) Serbs that were seen as being in the way during the Second world war, leading to the genocide (much like Hitler exterminated Jews and others “in the way”) in the concentration camp Jasenovac of as many as 700.000 (the total possibly being one million) Serbs [1].  This certainly led to Serbian retribution, killing Croats in Serbia.  But there is an asymmetry here, and not only in numbers.  The Ustasha program was to convert one third, expel one third, kill one third of the Serbs in Croatia, and they were also exterminating Jews and Gypsies.  To forget this is as misleading as to base attitudes to the conflicts in Yugoslavia on nothing else.  But the West often seems to take over Croat attitudes, lumping all Serbs together as expansionist, neglecting that most effective communicator through generations, centuries of history: traumas – traumas wrapped in myths.

One victim of this anti-Serbian bias is the failure to see the present conflict as triangular between Croats, Serbs and Serbs in Croatia, personified by President Tudjman, President Milosevic and General Adzic, who as a young boy experienced the massacre of 37 members of his family by the Ustashi.  With 85% of the Yugoslav Federal army being Serbs from outside Serbia, the army becomes an instrument for their protection, particularly for the 600.000 Serbs living in Croatia (in Slavonia and Krajina; perhaps one million as they may conceal their identity).

Belgrade control seems to be low in spite of the Federal Army being the recipient of 60-80% of the federal funds.  These Serbs may fear a sell-out and, consequently, declare their own independence [2], and may be very hostile to any form of “peacekeeping”, also by the UN.  But such points do not fit the bilateral model most people entertain in conflicts and consequently tend to be neglected.  History can only be neglected at considerable risk.

In recent history three more factors reinforce the historical divides:  Belgrade, in Serbia, was the capital of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ, still on the caps of the police in Belgrade); Serbs were probably more Communist; and privatization/market economy is seen in the West as having been embraced with more enthusiasm in Slovenia-Croatia.

The distant past is with us in everyday life, in material and symbolic culture.  The recent past is present as memory.  But then there is the intermediate past which has not yet sedimented archaeologically and is no longer so easily recalled. Slovenia was absorbed under Nazism, and Croatia was a puppet and fascist regime now hailed by the Croatian President Tudjman.  There was a German/Nazi and an Italian/fascist project in Yugoslavia (with its origin in the 1915 London Treaty, rewarding Italy for fighting Austria-Hungary); aborted by the defeat of those two regimes.  The Yugoslavs killed by the Germans during the war were mainly Serbs, to the point of working them to death building roads and railroads in Northern Norway; the Germans killed by Yugoslav partisans during the war were mainly killed by Serbs.  Are those Germans today seen, by both parties, as the instruments of Nazi ambitions to be repudiated by Bonn and Belgrade alike, or are they seen just as Germans?

The ambiguity of this situation should lead to some withdrawal.  But in this case the only withdrawal is verbal, not behavioral like when the European Community recognizes Slovenia and Croatia, at the behest of Germany, from 15 January 1992; with little or no public justification.  The painful intermediate past is known to most. But it is spoken by very few.

A little deeper in the archaeology of neither recent, nor past history is, of course, the beginning of the First World War.  If we accept the theory that the shot in Sarajevo 28 June 1914, killing Arch Duke Francis Ferdinand and his wife precipitated that war, and eventually also led to the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, then this must have been a world record in political effect per bullet.  The ressentiment left behind must have been enormous, including the hatred of that Serbian student, Gavrilo Princip, a member of “Young Bosnia”, with weapons supplied by the Serbian organization “Black Hand”.  This organization seems not to have been controlled by the Serbian government; but was perceived as such by Vienna, with deep consequences for the First world war.  One more triangular situation that was construed as bilateral, with Serbs lumped together?  Or is this a more general habit of the West,  and what are the political consequences? [3]

This all comes together as a reconstruction of the Cold War drama on Yugoslav soil, with Serbia as East, encroaching on everybody, Croatia as West, and Muslim, Hungarian and Albanian minorities as nonaligned (so far).  Cancelling the autonomy for Vojvodina (Hungarians) and Kosovo (Albanians) paves the way for Greater Serbia.  But cancelling constitutional clauses protecting the Serbian minority also paves the way for Greater Croatia.  The two concepts overlap for vast territories of the country of the South Slavs; spelling major civil war after recognition. [4]

The point here, however, is the ease with which the Yugoslav complex of conflicts seems to have fitted into the dying Cold War East-West syndrome, with Serbia having the major vice of being to the East and Croatia the virtue of being to the West.  There was a mental framework available and enough factors that fitted, including the ambiguity, encased in silence, of the “aggressive” Russians/Serbs as the victims of German Nazism.

Is somebody now missing a chance to win a mini Cold War militarily? Is Germany seeking revenge for the many Germans killed by Serbian partisans?  Is Austria seeking revenge over Gavrilo Princip in addition to trying to recreate some of ties to Slovenia and Croatia? For the Cold War was not really won by the West.  What happened was that one side self-destroyed and might have done so earlier had the stalinist regimes not been legitimized by Western threats, not imaginary as seen by the Western forces, U.S., U.K. and France, contemplating the “risk of war if necessary” over the Berlin Wall August 1961. [5]

Was the ending of the Cold War 1989 too peaceful, too much the work of civil society (dissident movement, peace movement) and of a statesman on the wrong side (Gorbachev)?  If so this would be one more enactment of the old adage that diplomats and generals tend to fight the last war [6].  Within the same framework the present author, a peace researcher, may contribute his piece: Greater Serbia will self-destroy, not as a result of outside pressure, but as the result of the joint working of the dissident movements, such as the opposition parties and the peace movement inside Serbia. [7]  In other words, there are parallels, the problem is which ones the peoples of former Yugoslavia could ride on towards a more peaceful situation.

However that may be there is no doubt that the terrible mutual killing of South Slavs also carry the seeds of diachronic and synchronic escalation.  Many must be the young boys [8] today who are so traumatized by the horrors happening to their families that they are already contemplating revenge.  The danger that violence, including pre-emptive violence, will also burst out along intra-Yugoslav Hungarian-Serbian, Albanian-Serbian, Macedonian-Serbian and Muslim-Serbian lines is considerable.  It is difficult to see how this can happen without involving, one way or the other, most of the direct and indirect neighbors: Hungary, Albania, Bulgaria-Greece over Macedonia, and, more remotely, Turkey.  Serbia, with Montenegro certainly a topdog inside the old Yugoslavia, is an underdog in a European context where the West automatically sides with the most similar and homologous, acting out old conflict readiness, and even in the Balkans because of the fault lines between Serbian communities and all others.  Except for Romania Serbia would have few friends, and present day Romania may not count for much.

But the danger of escalation goes beyond the Balkans. The Yugoslav conflict sets a pattern for conflicts with real or perceived similarities elsewhere.  Hungary/Romania also embody the Catholic/Orthodox and Habsburg/Ottoman divides; Poland and (West) Ukraine/Russia only the former.  Identification processes might easily lead to imitative role-playing.  Violent conflicts are very easily imagined.[9]

But the possibility of violence goes beyond that.  All of this is embedded, as has so often been the case, in big power politics.  Obviously, there is a German-Austrian/Catholic implicit alliance backing Slovenia and Croatia, with (Catholic) Hungary providing the Croats with surplus Kalashnikovs (origin Eastern Germany?).  But who is backing Serbia? The only neighbor not at odds with Serbia would be Romania, backing Serbia with Remington rifles, possibly as a result of the present close cooperation with the British army. [10]  Who else?

Obviously the Yugoslav conflict offers a tremendous opportunity to the new Germany, after the unification of East and West.  Old spaces for political-economic-cultural penetration open up and become like new.  The European Community, hesitatingly, but with an urge “to talk with one voice”, yields to the strongest member and follows up.  Who might be skeptical?

The United States, of course.  But exactly what form that will take is difficult to predict.  One important negative fact (in the sense of a fact not there, a non-fact) is the absence of U.S. interventionism, the U.S. contenting itself with a former foreign secretary, Cyrus Vance, playing a very positive third party role under UN auspices, unlike what Lord Carrington is doing under EC auspices.  It is hard to imagine that the U.S. will simply stand by letting Germany have a de facto expansion eastward, on behalf of the European Community, or alone.  After all, was the Second World War not exactly about that?

The problem is that many of the Allies are now in the European Community in an “ever closer union”, including – although with some hesitation – the country with a “special relationship” to the U.S.  In a sense the U.S. would be the only one left to stem the German tide after the demise of the Soviet Union.  In so doing they might also be inspired by the old German tradition of trying to build a Berlin-Baghdad axis, passing through Turkey. Even if Istanbul moved to Ankara, and Berlin (so far) to Bonn, the Germany-Turkey-Iraq connection may still make some geo-political sense.

Yugoslavia as the Balkan superpower was not only too close but also too capable of absorbing what could be German Hinterland. With Turkey as an ally and Austria cut down to size (like at present) the in-between countries are easily controlled militarily-politically and penetrated economically-culturally by Germany.  And Iraq might offer access to the Arab/Persian Gulf with a regime more amenable to Turkish interests than the present one.  Was that the reason why Germany so eagerly provided Saddam Hussein with arms, even with weapons of mass destruction? Possibly doing the same for Tudjman?

In other words, the Yugoslav “situation”, to use a slight euphemism current in UN circles, has broad implications. One implication is negative: the more the conflict escalates in terms of violence, the worse for the future and for other conflicts.  But the corollary may also be true:  If this conflict could be processed in a reasonable way a model might be formed for other nationalities conflicts.  No doubt all the parties are keenly aware of both implications and use them for all they are worth; for their nuisance value (“if you do not submit to me, I cannot guarantee the consequences”) and for their edifying value (“if we solve this one, maybe we do not have to worry about the three possible fields of escalation, within the old Yugoslavia, relative to the neighbors and even beyond that”).

But how?
2.  Conflict processing

The following are ten reflections not so much on what the solution might be, but on some of the Randbedingungen for these solutions.  Nobody knows today what the final outcome will be except that it will not be final.  There is too much conflict material in the area to talk about final sustainable solutions.  Moreover, this may be a conflict so deep and so complex, much like in the Middle East, that the best is to talk about process rather than goal; about who and how, when and where rather than what and why.

[1] To maintain the Yugoslav federation is not a goal in itself. Obviously, the federal construction of 6+2 republics is no longer viable; the marriage has gone stale, the federation was too close.  Like for the Soviet Union the conditions bringing them into existence, some acceptable, some not, are no longer there.

For the strongest group, the Serbs, to impose its will on the rest is equally nonviable.  All three Yugoslavias of the past, December 1918, November 1943 and 1974, are exactly that, of the past. [11]  The last one was not a confederation as currency, foreign policy and armed forces were common even if some of the army was divided by the institution of territorial defense.

Is this a tragedy? Not necessarily; the tragedy is in the way the break-up is acted out.  There are good divorces and bad ones; this is a bad one.  Moreover, the bigger the states the bigger wars are they capable of making, a good argument in favor of smaller states.  Those who raise the question of viability should have a look at Iceland.  There is no virtue to size as such. Virtue is the ability to minimize direct and structural violence within and between states; not easily available to the big.

[2] A Yugoslav confederation is a reasonable goal, meaning a construction where each part has its own financial policy, foreign policy (with separate UN membership) and security policy (preferably based on defensive forces only, building on the territorial defense/militia tradition) and yet keeps borders open, for all kinds of personal, commercial, cultural, even political cooperation, some of them stipulated in a treaty, some decided ad hoc.  For a country so dependent on tourism to close its borders is suicidal economically, as they will soon see.  The alternative to marriage is not total divorce but to live together as good friends, calibrating the level of closeness to the circumstances. And as they change rapidly the structure should be flexible.

It should be pointed out that the units confederating do not have to be the six or eight usually talked about.  Some might prefer to remain together in a Yugoslav federation, even with that name.  Serbia and Montenegro, with a record of recent independence as monarchies, may feel more inclined to yield sovereignty to a federation than Slovenija and Croatia with no such record.  In a sense national independence is like personal independence, much pursued during puberty, then gradually yielding to marriage and a new family, with surrender of some “sovereignty”.  Thus, it is hardly by coincidence that the two Nordic countries with the longest record of independence, Denmark and Sweden, are entering the European Community/Union whereas the three with independence only from this century, Iceland, Norway and Finland (so far) are hesitating.

[3] There is no alternative to self-determination for the republics, and that also holds for the minorities within them.  The Serbs are both majority and minority, much like Russians in the Soviet Union.  Of course the Croats must give to the Serbs in Croatia the same as they want for Croats in Yugoslavia: the right
to be ruled by themselves.  Some redrawing of borders and some population transfers are probably inevitable, to the point that Croats may even repent they started it all with their June 1991 independence declaration.

Slovenija is not the problem, having no comparable minority situation; handling their own situation skillfully.  Croats and Serbs seem to join in seeing them as rats leaving the sinking ship; possibly in search of a new ship, Austria and/or the EC.

In principle there are four solutions to the problem posed by extending the principle of self-determination not only to the republics, but to the minorities inside the republics, and  not only for Croatia but also for the much more complicated Serbian situation even though the Serbs do not have the fascist reputation of the Ustashi regime.  Croatia will serve as an example.

First, Croatian rule. Given the gruesome record of the recent past the Serbs in Croatia have no reason to accept a guarantee of “minority rights” based on signatures and pledges only.  Something more solid is needed; as evidenced by the independentism of the Serbs in Croatia. This option is ruled out.

Second, Serbian rule. This option is also ruled out.  A reason commonly given is not to “reward aggression”.  But what happened cannot be understood merely as a Serbian invasion of Croatia.  These were internal administrative borders drawn under great haste, partly by Tito the Croat (and hence repudiated today in Serbia with pledges to send his remains to Croatia “where he belongs”.)  To change them would not have been impossible under  international law. But any major redrawing of the borders under Serbian rule would expose a Croatian minority to the same problems; there being no simple arithmetical/geographical formula available.

Third, condominium, joint Croatian-Serbian rule over the contested areas.  This would have been the ideal solution, but the option is no longer available (it might have been even as late as sometime during the first half of 1991).  A highly cooperative and tolerant relationship would be needed, like joint custody of children.

Fourth, the areas where Serbs are living would belong neither to Croatia, nor to Serbia; but to the inhabitants themselves, to the Serbs in Croatia who are already experimenting with ministries of agriculture, defense, etc.  Whether real or imagined, they would feel the need for continued military protection against Croatian violence; to get rid of this “inconvenience” in their midst, or as revenge for Serbian violence committed recently.

A Yugoslav federal army, or the remains thereof, might serve them but would, for good reasons, not be trusted by the Croats.  The best alternative is certainly UN peacekeeping forces, but not only along the old Croatia-Serbia border.  They have to constitute a densely woven guarantee against violence  in all directions so that civilian life can be resumed and civil society be reconstituted; possibly preparing for a referendum, in all municipalities concerned.

[4] The outside world should not withhold recognition from governments based on self-determination and democracy. More particularly, the European Community as a whole is now undergoing a transition from confederation to federation, the “ever closer” European Union, so what happens in Yugoslavia may look counter-historical to them. Moreover, major EC member states do not grant self-determination to important minorities inside their own borders (England for Ulster and Scotland, France for Corsica, Spain for the Basque country and Catalonia, only to mention some).

Any precedent might boomerang on them.  But these were never valid reasons for the EC to try to withhold recognition from, for instance, Slovenia and Croatia.  Rather, they should encourage and help in any process freely determined by those peoples.

The valid reason to withhold recognition would be if the internal problems have not been adequately sorted out. Recognition defines the former republics as independent states, meaning that the borders are no longer internal administrative borders but international borders.  That, in turn, means in principle that Serbian military activity inside Croatia can be construed as aggression of Serbia on Croatia, triggering the whole machinery available to the international community, such as open military assistance from powerful allies, UN Charter Chapter 7 enforcement processes legitimized by the UN Security Council, etc.  Given the anti-Serbian bias of the West Serbian visions of a Gulf type operation with Serbia-Milosevic prepared by Western media for the roles of Iraq and Saddam Hussein cannot be dismissed simply as paranoid.  Moreover, mainly due to policies of their own making Serbia might be attacked from Albania and Hungary in addition to Croatia, even with U.S. naval support if rumors that the U.S. is buying into the old Soviet Flora base on the Albanian coast prove to be true.

Through Hungary foreign troops would have access to the Serbian heartland when the roads from Slovenia-Croatia are blocked.  In other words, premature recognition without an adequate peace process running at the same time could endanger peace for a very long period.  Obviously Serbia is very lonely in this context. But the Serbian tradition, given the historical record is not to submit but to become more pugnacious.  Like Iraq they may be forced into a state of temporary submission only to reemerge later with more grievances than ever.

[5] The peoples of the former Yugoslavia, so far not able to sort this out with other means than the primitivism of violence, need the help of third parties.  The European Community has too many vested interests; much better would be the United Nations, the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or both of them combined; in addition to the peace movement and civil society in general.

First, and most basic, it does not take much reflection to see what is going on: the enactment of the basic principles of the New World Order.  The EC stays off the Middle East playing only a very marginal role in return for the U.S. keeping off this issue, in accordance with old “backyard” concepts.  The EC is using the situation to gain a foothold as political hegemon in Eastern Europe.  In other words, the Yugoslav crisis came just in time after the U.S. had established de facto her hegemony in the (part of) the Middle East for the EC to try to do the same in (part of) Eastern Europe.

The UN has no such hegemonial role to play in specific regions.  However, making use of the good services of a former U.S. Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, there may be the suspicion that the U.S. plays on the UN as an instrument not so much to promote own interests as to block the economic advances of Germany/EC in Eastern Europe.

Second, there is the importance for the EC to prove to itself and the world their ability to have a joint foreign policy, meaning a unanimous foreign policy, speaking with one voice.  The EC did not pass that test in the Gulf crisis; doing better in the Yugoslav case. [12]

However, this means that as a third party it becomes more important for the EC to achieve consensus than to design a third party policy helpful for the peoples of Yugoslavia in their predicament.  Occasionally the two criteria may produce the same result.  But given the anti-Serbian bias in the EC countries a consensus platform is more likely than not to be loaded against the Serbs; an example being the German-led EC consensus on recognition of Croatia from 15 January 1992.  The date is ominous whether chosen for that reason or not: the anniversary of the ultimatum to Iraq, introducing the brutal, if not unjustified, attack on Iraq.  However, with the act of recognition the EC has evidently overcome the fear of the counter-historical and the precedent for secession even if unable to handle adequately the Serbian minority. [13]

The UN, with a nonaligned majority presumably with great sympathy for the Yugoslav peoples (although perhaps with an anti-Croat bias, Croatia possibly being seen as ruining the old co-founder of the nonaligned movement through its declaration of independence) has no problem of this kind; consensus politics is not a part of the system except for Security Council veto powers.

Third, the European Community is rich and easily falls into the temptation to use economic rewards and punishment to steer the complex conflict process the way they want where issues should better be decided on their own merits.  “You do as I say and you’ll get more trade, you don’t do it and you’ll get less” is an easy, but lazy and very often irrelevant approach to conflict, more in the interest of the third party than of the first and the second.  In addition, it does not even look as if  the economic sanctions have worked.

At this point the UN has the obvious advantage of having insufficient funds available for carrot economics.  On the other hand, stick economics (sanctions) can be used, the costs being less to the wielder of the stick than of the purse.  In general the UN may be said to be almost forced to deal with an issue on its own merits as a deed of necessity.

The objection to the UN and the CSCE is that these bodies are not quick at acting.  But look at the EC: it acted quickly, and wrongly, first neglecting the recognition issue, then jumping into it prematurely, all the time using sticks and carrots, getting nowhere.  Also, it is much more beneficial for Europe as a whole to strengthen the conflict resolution capacity of these universal organizations (seeing the CSCE, then, as linked to the UN) than to use a conflict to build a hegemonic system in the old European tradition.  In addition, the hegemon is now entirely Western European, unlike the Vienna Congress system from 1815 with Austria and Russia as members (in addition to Britain, Prussia, France and the Papacy).  There is also the crucial difference that Yugoslavia is a member of these organizations and not of the EC; a difference the Serbs would do well not to exploit too much to their advantage lest it would drive the Croats even more toward the EC.

[6] There is obviously a need for peacekeeping in Yugoslavia preferably as a Chapter 6 UN operation and delegated to CSCE as regional body.  One problem is the nationality of the blue helmets to be deployed in Yugoslavia.  Any country that has occupied parts of Yugoslavia in the past, like Austria-Hungary, Italy and above all Germany (and Russia!) should be ruled out lest freedom fighters like Gavrilo Princip (the shot in Sarajevo) and Josip Broz (Tito) reemerge, and not only on the soil of former Yugoslavia.

To insist on total ceasefire before any troops can be deployed will probably be counterproductive given the complex combination of the Serb-dominated Federal army forces, the Croatian National Guard, the Serbian territorial defense forces and Serbian (and Croatian) irregulars.  Rather, that desirable state has to be created through the, mainly moral, presence of lightly armed forces in (parts of) Slavonia and Krajina, with observers on the spot, not in hotel rooms in Zagreb etc. depriving EC observers of legitimacy. [14]

The CSCE has disappeared from this process possibly because it is neither in the interest of the EC/Britain/Lord Carrington nor the UN/U.S./Cyrus Vance.  More will probably be known about this later.  In the meantime this is to be regretted since third party experience in peacemaking and peacekeeping would then have been deposited right in the heart of Europe, not with a Western European coming superpower, nor with the UN in New York.  The linkage to the UN could have been obtained through Article 52 of the UN Charter.

Any stationing of UN peacekeeping forces in Yugoslavia is going to be costly, among other reasons because of the duration factor.  The healing and negotiation processes will be time consuming; hopefully to be handled better than for the Cyprus case.  The funds should come from general UN funding, already in the red where peacekeeping is concerned. Heavy  EC contributions might be counterproductive for the many reasons mentioned above.

One possibility would be for Yugoslavia to pay for much of the operation of being “peace kept”.  Given the ambivalence of the governments an interesting possibility could be for municipalities to come forward, offering board and accommodation.  Civil society in general could offer hospitality and helpfulness in ways not too incompatible with government interests.

[7] The role of the media has been mainly counterproductive during the entire conflict, and must be improved for peace to have a chance.  The sensationalist aspects of a cruel war are obvious, whether the media have the partisan interest of showing the cruelty of the other side and the suffering of one’s own, or the nonpartisan interest of simply showing high drama.  The pattern of war as TV porno, of CNN Gulf War fame, has been reproduced.  Of analysis there is little, of debates about the conflict and the diagnosis-prognosis-therapy triangle even less.  Little attention is paid to peace forces. The heroic work of civil society in bridge-building, normalizing relations has been given very little prominence, both abroad and in Yugoslavia.  The anti-Serbian bias has set the tone and the discourse.

[8] The process of peacebuilding in former Yugoslavia will essentially have to be the work of the peoples themselves; what outsiders can do is very limited.  Let one thousand conferences blossom, at the level of governmental organizations and governments, at the level of people’s organizations and people; above all between the two levels.  A permanent conference modeled after the Helsinki Conference with all issues on the table and all parties around the table, with much time at their disposal, would be excellent.  Another model would be the roundtable of governmental and opposition forces from all over, already tried.

Outsiders can ask questions, suggest inputs to the Diagnosis-Prognosis-Therapy triangle, serve as catalysts and media within which the concerned parties can meet and feel welcome.  But they cannot impose any solution, backing it up with threats and promises.  And outsiders would do great damage to the peoples of Yugoslavia by treating them differently.  More particularly, the EC should give them the same status, eg as “associate member”, not treating some as more “European” than others because they prefer Catholics to Orthodox, and Latin writing to Cyrillic (which actually, from the EC point of view, constitutes bridge between the two alphabets already used, Latin and Greek).  But much better would be a Balkan federation.

One condition for peace is that the images the parties to the conflict have of the future coincide.  There is a negative version to this: they agree on the outcome of a violent conflict; A wins, in which case B submits; B wins, in which case A submits; there is a stalemate, in which case they both stop fighting.  The positive version is a view of the future that both or all parties find acceptable; in other words, they can cohabit the future.  We might even add a version which is neither negative, nor positive: both parties get equally tired of the conflict and withdraw from it.  But this conflict is too important to permit that to happen.

[9] The rest of Europe should reflect more on why the Balkan countries are so “unquiet”, blame them less and blame their own interventions more, and above all the failure to build adequate pan-European institutions.  Solutions are located in the future, not in distributing blame for the past.  But to detach what happens in the Balkans from centuries of Central-Western European meddling in the region can only lead to distorted perspectives.  The same applies to Turkey, although their interests may be more in the direction of the Islamic republics of the former Soviet Union than toward the Ottoman part of the former Yugoslavia.

In other words, the track record of the outsiders leaves much to be desired.  Is there any reason to believe that the present generation of rulers in those countries have developed more sense of diversity and equity, enjoying differences rather than wanting themselves reproduced through submissive acceptance by other countries of Western values and patterns, particularly the 19th century values of liberalism and nationalism?  The German/EC rush into the conflict, handling it badly and then exacerbating it through premature recognition does not bode well for the future.

[10] The peoples of Yugoslavia should not reject their own recent past since the present and possibly also the future are not that much better.  To use the divorce metaphor again: neglecting the good aspects of the past partnership is to kill a part of oneself.  They can build on a tradition of nonalignment and multi-culturalism with contacts all over the world, and a relatively healthy and well educated population.  The country is rich. The Yugoslav system was not functioning that badly in  the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.  Relative to today the absence of direct violence, the economic growth, the roads, and the railroads, the cars and the buses, the PTT, all that worked bear witness to the potential, also of a confederation.  The country was a one party state, but the League of Communists was in itself a relatively pluralistic body.

True, the issue of nationalities, with the class aspects of at least potential repression and exploitation, and the horrible memories from the past, were looming over the country. Nobody would belittle its real significance. And those who talk disparagingly about the Balkans should have a look at their own  history and compare the nationalities maps of Western and Eastern Europe: near coincidence with the borders so many places in the West, a patched quilt in the East.

How do the critics of the Balkans think that nation-state map came about in the West?  The bloodshed in Britain, France and Germany, to mention the three most arrogant countries in the West, was unspeakable, possibly much more so than has ever been the case for the Balkans.  Tolerance was an unknown commodity; tolerance in the vacuum produced by centuries of intolerance is more easily practiced.

What can and should be regretted, however, is the lack of foresight when the leaders of former Yugoslavia built politics only on the negative and not on the positive aspect of the Yugoslavia of yesterday.  To see this much more of the conflict energy has to go into visioning the future.  The richer the visions, and the more options, the higher the chances that the conflict energy will turn toward the future, away from the counterproductive concern with guilt distribution.


* A first version of this paper was presented at the international conference “Non-violent Conflict Resolution in Yugoslavia: Domestic and International Concepts and Strategies”, Austrian Institute for Peace Research and Peace Education, Stadtschlaining, November 13-17 1991. I am grateful to participants in the meeting for their comments, particularly Stipe Mesic, Zarko Puhovski and Sonja Licht. A second version was presented at a meeting at the Institute for European studies Beograd December 13-14 1991, where I am particularly grateful to Mihajlo Markovic, Radmila Nakarada and all the members of the Institute for European studies for comments.

[1]  Figure mentioned in the museum pamphlets of the former concentration camp.

[2]  Thus, the International Herald Tribune reported (14-15 December 1991), from Erdut, a “Defense Ministry” and an “Agriculture Ministry”, and a deputy minister of information saying “We are our own little state.  We have our own parliament and ministries”.

[3]  Thus, a political commentator in the Vienna Die Presse (16-17 November), Andreas Unterberger, compares the attack on Dubrovnik 1991 with Lockerbie 1988, and welcomes U.S. calls for action but deplores the lack of action against Serbs, compares Milosevic with Hitler and is totally silent on the pre-history.

[4]  This point is made very forcefully by Milovan Djilas in an article in Aftenposten (Oslo), 14 July 1991.

[5]  See “Allies Were Ready to Risk War Over Berlin, Paper Shows”, International Herald Tribune, 2 January 1991.

[6]  Like Stalin being seen by the West as Hitler, ie., not only as despotic but also as expansionist; like the Chinese expecting interventionist war after the 1949 revolution and identified the Korean War this way.  On the other hand, such factors are rather natural given the power of a mental Gestalt shaped by forceful events on youthful, receptive minds.

[7]  Contrary to impressions in Western media opposition seems not only to be more frequent but also more tolerated in Belgrade than in Zagreb.

[8]  One is struck by the practical absence of girls and women among the combatants. If this is different from the Second World War situation, then what is the implication?  Violence becoming less legitimate, having to survive as Manerspiele? Is this linked to the high proportion of women in the Yugoslav peace movement?

[9] “The Ukraine Resolves to Create Army of 400,000” was headline 23 October in the International Herald Tribune. Then came the Commonwealth of Independent States.  Then came the decision to have separate armies.

[10]  See “Britain to Train Romanian Army”, The Guardian Weekly, 16 June 1991.

[11] For a good overview, see Zoran Djindjic, “Jugoslawien: Nationalitateneintopf”, Transit, No. 1, pp. 153-166.

[12]  “Whatever the outcome of the crisis, the community cannot now be accused, as it was during the Gulf crisis, of impotence and a failure to act”; N. Gnesotto, “Political Union After the Revolutions”, Western European Union Institute for Security Studies, Quarterly Newsletter, No. 3 1991, pp. 1-4.

[13]  Thus, reading the Hague Process document Treaty Provisions for the Convention, Corrected Version 3 November 1991 (about “the new relations between the republics”) there is no guarantee given to the minorities beyond pledges.

[14]  A frequently made point in Yugoslavia.  On the other hand, the excerpt from the diary of a Danish observation team member, Georg Petersen, in Politiken, 15 December 1991, certainly indicates that they have been very close to the horrors of war, and at their own considerable risk.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: