Statement at press conference, Tanjug, Belgrade 2002

By Johan Galtung
June 21, 2002

Wilfried Graf from the Austrian Center for Peace Studies and I, both from the TRANSCEND network for conflict mediation, have just completed dialogues with the President and Vice-President of the Slovenian Parliament, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Croatia, the President and Vice-President of Republika Srpska, the President and Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia, distinguished representatives of the civil society; with a visit to Jasenovac and a consultation with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I will not quote anyone, only present our reflections.

Permit me first on my own behalf to apologize for the acts of aggression committed by the Norwegian government against Yugoslavia March-June 1999 – based on a decision without any element of the democratic process that government advocates.

From my first visit in 1954 as a student on a motorbike through my term as Director General of the Inter-University Centre in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia has been like a second fatherland for me. We have suffered Yugoslavia’s suffering, caught by the giant forces of the nations/state dialectic in a world with, say, 200 states, 2000 nations with a territorial connection, and only 20 nation-states.

There is truth to all the explanations for the violence in Yugoslavia: unprocessed fear and hatred from past atrocities; cynical instrumentalization by leaders with power ambitions; and cynical instrumentalization of their instrumentalization by outside powers. But the West landed on the second explanation only, and, in its individualism and anti-Serbianism, mainly on one man; unlike the prudent advise by the then UN Secretary-General, Pérez de Cuéllar in December 1991.

There are, generally, three approaches to the nation/state problem: redrawing borders and moving people, with the Danish-German process in 1920 as a peaceful example; creating a broader framework with open borders and peacebuilding capacity; and a Truth and Reconciliation process to heal the trauma created by violence, to establish peaceful relations and to bring about closure of the terrible cycle of retaliation.

These have been the three themes of our consultations. All three are needed.

Redrawing borders, moving people.
Yugoslav borders became inter- instead of intra-state, and people were moved in the most cruel manner, the major ethnic cleansing being Operation Storm 4-7 August 1995 with 180,000 civilian Serbs displaced and 22,000 houses burnt.

The only stable, realistic outcome is Slovenia, with no minorities to speak of and border problems that probably can be solved peacefully. Historical experience is that the human right to self-determination is a force that will find its way whether it is “recognized” or not.

Thus, it is difficult to believe that there will be stability in Macedonia without some kind of federation with Tetova as Albanian capital and Skopje as federal territory; a similar formula for Montenegro; then an independent Kosovo/a with a Serbian canton with high level of autonomy; the same for Croatia, with maybe two Serbian cantons.

Concerning Bosnia-Herzegovina, we would ask: if the Croatian part wants to become part of Croatia, then why not? If Srpska wants independence in some kind of association with Serbia, then why not? And why should about 44% of the population with about 24% of the territory, the Bosniaks, not have their own (city-)state? Those who want to create a Bosnia-Herzegovina identity might try a UK identity based on the Irish, Scots, Welsh and English before they experiment with this country.

Creating a broader framework.
For any one of these points the list of arguments for and against is long. There will be tensions in any process. A super-structure may help. However, the ex-Yugoslav nations have experienced major super-structures such as the Roman, Habsburg and Ottoman Empires, not to mention Yugoslavia I and Yugoslavia II, and in all cases the centrifugal forces proved stronger than the centripetal forces.

It is also worth remembering that UK/Irish, and French/Spanish, membership of the European Union has not solved the Basque and Ulster problems, although it may possibly have softened them. EU membership for some and not for other countries of former Yugoslavia may even aggravate the situation; cementing First world war divisions.

There is a need for a soft superstructure for bilateral and multilateral problems among the countries of ex-Yugoslavia. The Sava regime is one interesting example. Regimes to facilitate border crossings for persons, services and goods is another, eliminating the shocking lines of trucks. A regime for refugees and IDPs a third. And a condominium for territories a fourth?

The sum of bilateral and multilateral regimes constitute a community, like the Nordic Community or European Community. Based on the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of which there still is much, while at the same time rejecting unity? In no way does this exclude EU memberships, and tighter arrangements further south, say, in the Serbia-Kosova-Albania triangle, possibly adding Macedonia-Montenegro. Large superstructures with centers outside the region may look impressive, and maybe long-lasting as the examples indicate. But, do they serve the interests of the peoples of ex-Yugoslavia, or primarily some military, economic and political interests of those powerful centers?

Truth and Reconciliation (TR)
A giant step – not excluding judicial processes respecting the principle of equality for the law, so far missing in the ICTFY process in the Hague – has been made by the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of South Africa. Letting truth speak through school textbooks, and through the testimonies of victims and perpetrators alike, has had major reconciling effects.

This was not done in East Germany which by definition was anti-fascist, nor in an acceptable way by Japan; omissions related to the growth of neo-nazism in East Germany and to Japan’s bad relations with China and the Koreas.

A TR process would focus more on sharing responsibility than on attributing guilt, not only on acts of commission but also on acts of omission (like not using the Albanian nonviolence in Kosovo/a to arrive at a political solution (there are many such examples from the badly mishandled Yugoslav conflict complex). And: not only on “bad” actors but also on “dangerous” myths (of them there are also many, on all sides).

A truth and reconciliation process would bring in all actors who had and have a stake in the outcome, in and around Yugoslavia, to establish their goals and the way they went about achieving them. The process will also, inevitably, bring us back in time. Thus, there is no way to truth and reconciliation that does not also lead through Jasenovac and related processes, and the cooperative effort to establish that truth is admirable.

The process will be painful. But not so painful as repeating the error of Yugoslavia II, brushing the problem under the carpet, declaring reconciliation by definition. Moreover, reconciliation is a spiritual, not only a fact-finding process.

These were my major points. Questions and comments, please.

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