Peace order in Europe? Lessons from Yugoslavia

By Håkan Wiberg

Background paper to the symposium “Challenges for Peace and Security” at the International Institute for Peace in Vienna, 21-22 November 1992. Second draft, documentation not yet completed, not for quotation without the prior permission of the author – criticisms and comments are most welcome.

1. Introduction

This paper does not attempt to analyze in detail the extremely convoluted conflict complex in Yugoslavia; except for the unraveling of the former USSR, there is no set of conflicts in Europe even remotely as complicated as this. For such details and overviews, I therefore have to refer to the standard literature. The present paper is a first attempt at capturing some of the interaction between the conflict parties in Yugoslavia and various external parties, in particular the EC, trying to understand how this interaction has contributed to escalating some contradictions that it had been possible to handle relatively peacefully for decades into a war so sanguinary that the Greek Civil War in the 1940s and the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 are the only postwar European counterparts.

One of the central problems in the present paper is therefore the following: What factors have affected the position of the EC in different phases of the development of the conflicts? The main groups of factors are taken to be (without any internal ranking to be read into the numbers):  1) The development in Yugoslavia, 2) the propaganda war, 3) factors that have affected the positions of individual states in the EC and 4) factors in the power games and in the internal and to some extent autonomous dynamics of the EC.

In order to have a background to the international interaction, it is nevertheless necessary to paint the broader background with a very broad brush in section 2, and the recent history with an equally broad brush in section 3. Section 4 then gives an overview of the specifically Balkan setting of the conflicts and section 5 analyses the propaganda war, before the remaining sections try to solve, or at least chart, the puzzles surrounding the strategies and the development of behaviour of the EC. These are discussed in sections 6 and 7; section 8 then looks at the primus motor (in this context): The FRG, section 9 looks at the problems encountered by Realpolitik in the Yugoslav context, section 10 at international law and politics, section 11 at the Eigendynamik elements of great power politics and, finally, section 12 tries to assess the situation now. [Read more…]