A future Yugoslav Community for the Yugosphere?

By Johan Galtung

April 10, 2010 – Belgrade

Oh yes, Yugoslavia is ex, will the nostalgics please accept that it was not viable, and that out of the ashes six-seven countries have emerged!

And yet it is on everybody’s mind, on the inner map, not as unitary state or a more or less loose federation, but as an idea, a relation, a configuration; not as political actor but as some kind of togetherness, a Hegelian spirit searching for a place to come to rest.  The countries were born in deep anger, much too quickly, much too violently, traumas being heaped on top of old and new trauma mountains.  Time passes, no wounds are healed, but a new decade has sedimented new events on top of the 1990s horrors.

For a new generation this is already history.  But history has much to tell.  Stories of conviviality come up. Dreams of something more than a sphere, yet less than a community start getting contours and colors. [Read more…]

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Serbia – Past and future

By Johan Galtung

February 15, 2010

In Belgrade: The NATO attack May-June 1999 left scars still not healed, like the bombed out Ministry of the Interior (Israelis want to invest in a hotel at that site).  But the place is as vibrant with culture and restaurants-cafes and intellectualisms of all kinds as ever.  An enviable resilience.  Orthodox optimism?

Processing the past is not easy.  This authors’s summary of Serbian history adds up to three words: defeat, retreat, return.  There is the Abrahamic idea of Chosen People with a Promised Land from Genesis, focused on today’s Kosovo-Kosova. Hypothesis: whatever else happens, there will be some kind of return.  To put this author’s cards on the table I see only one relatively stable equilibrium not maintained by violence and the threat thereof (1):

• an independent Kosova in the name of self-determination,
• with a Swiss type constitution and a flexible number of cantons,
• maybe three Serbian cantons in the North and close to Pristina,
• each canton governed in that nation’s idiom as a federation,
• with open borders to the key motherlands Serbia and Albania, and
• those three countries woven together in a confederation.

The present “independence” – using a Finn as an instrument for US-Western goals and based on three points is of course not sustainable: [Read more…]

Montenegro – A state is born

By Håkan Wiberg and Jan Oberg

Originally published here

The 192nd member has recently been admitted to the United Nations. Montenegro with its 600,000 inhabitants recently had a referendum, where 86.6 per cent of those enfranchised voted. Out of these, 55.5 per cent voted for independence, and 44.5 against. Another way of presenting the same data is that 48.1 per cent voted for, 38.5 against and 13.4 not at all.



There are reasons to dig deeper into what happened. What is the internal and external background to this event? Does it increase or decrease the stability of the region? Could this decision cause trouble at some point in the future? Could it have an impact on the question of independence for Kosovo? Indeed, is the Montenegrin drive for independence mainly a result of external – at the time, anti-Milosevic – pressures by the West and, thus, an unintended result of short-sighted policies years ago? And what about the fact that there live about as many Montenegrins in Serbia as in Montenegro, but the former could not vote?

 
A few historical notes



Two Balkan states managed to preserve their independence throughout the Ottoman period. Republica Ragusa (Dubrovnik) did so by being rich and having a vast navy, very thick walls and a very complex diplomacy, cautiously balancing among all the surrounding powers, that earned it the nickname “Cittá delle sette bandiere” – the city of seven flags. Montenegro also had an impressive international diplomacy, but otherwise its security basis was just the opposite of Ragusa: it was very poor, had mountains instead of walls and could mobilise most of the male population within days. A small army entering it would quickly face defeat, a big one would slowly starve to death. [Read more…]

Economic sanctions – social and economic effects

By Johan Galtung

Written 1993 and edited 2006

The following six points are based on observations and dialogues in the conflict area:

[1]  The Security Council has succeeded where the Milosevic regime might have failed: in unifying the population and thereby prolonging the war.  The Democratic Opposition, very much at odds with the regime and especially over issues of violence, shares the basic view of the government: the sanctions are unjust, based on a misreading of the situation (that Belgrade is behind everything Serbs do), possibly against international law (the conflict is more a civil than an inter-state war although there are aspects of both).  Since the sanctions are an important part of everyday life, more important than the war itself in non-war zones, attitudes toward sanctions may overshadow other attitudes, and unify.

[2]  The Security Council and foreign governments are seen as responsible for the economic predicament, not the government.  The idea that the sanctions are due to government policy stretches the causal chain. The immediate cause, the Security Council resolution, will more easily be held responsible.  But the major reason is deeper: a feeling that the aim is to bring down the government which, right or wrong, then becomes “our government”.  The sanctions are seen as illegitimate intervention in internal affairs, going beyond what the government has done: “they are out to get us, not just trying to change some policy.”

[3]  The sanctions confirm rather than counteract Serbian images of the outside world and strengthen their resolve.
The Serbs have a richly developed and well internalized CGT-complex (a sense of being chosen, with glories and trauma).  The sanctions have been nicely integrated into the long litanies about suffering imposed from the outside. But at the same time strength is derived from the Orthodox faith that Justice and Truth will prevail, with Redemption; Orthodoxy being the most optimistic of the three Christianities.  One day the world will understand how unjustly the Serbs have been treated, the sanctions will be lifted, and Serbs will live in their homeland.  The injustice that has fallen on the Serbs is what one can expect from the outside world (except Orthodox countries); but even so injustice will run up against its limits.

In other words, the sanctions are interpreted in a historical and symbolic context; probably incomprehensible to people with economic material cost-benefit analysis driving out any sense of history and symbolism. [Read more…]

The challenges we failed – some lessons to be learnt

By Johan Galtung

Written erly in the 1990s, edited in 2006

Nothing good has come out of this conflict “over and in Yugoslavia”.  The conflict left not only B-i-H and Yugoslavia but also Europe and the world a poorer place. Of course, some kind of Yugoslavia will ultimately come together again, hopefully as a community, at most a loose confederation the third time. Yugoslav love-hatred dialectic is a good illustration of yin/yang:  if the love is overdone hatred comes up, if hatred is overdone, love comes up. It was like that in the past, no reason to believe otherwise.  First more division and separation, then – loosely please! – together.

But Europe will not easily come together for the simple reason that there is so little love across the two fault-lines into the heart of Slavic Orthodoxy and Islam. If Yugoslavia is micro-Europe, then Europe is macro-Yugoslavia with the difference due to scale. Sarajevo, B-i-H and Yugoslavia have much more training in living together than Western Europe with Russia and Turkey, and we know what happened. And yet, communication/transportation shrink Europe and the world.  They will have to relate to each other, and for that they better put into practice Pérez de Cuéllar’s advice: Go slow, have a long-term plan and listen to the parties!

However, the leading Western powers are likely to interpret what happened as a “success”, only that they should have intervened and mediated with muscle at an earlier stage. They are highly unlikely to admit that they made a catastrophic mistake that night between December 15 and 16, 1991 against the sound advice of a Peruvian Secretary General. Hopefully others will draw the opposite type of conclusions. What the present authors thinks would have worked much better is developed in another blog entry here – “What could be done: The politics of conflict-resolution”.  And it is not too late, a realistic process of peace-keeping, -making, -building can still be initiated, as opposed to a “realist” techno-orgy.

Modern society can be seen in terms of four components: State, Capital, Media and Civil Society.  There are people everywhere, but only few of us are running the first three.  Most people are in civil society, organized by kinship, vicinity and affinity.  Yugoslavia has suffered, hit by a Euro-quake of immense proportions.  How did the four stand up to this challenge? [Read more…]

The disasters of December 15-16, 1991 and April 6, 1992 and its consequences

By Johan Galtung

Germany, meaning here the former foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher (and behind him the chancellor, Helmut Kohl, and Alois Mock of Austria) were the key responsible for the recognition of Croatia and Slovenia 15 January 1992, actually agreed upon 16 December 1991, and of Bosnia-Herzegovina 6 April 1992.

There were enough clear warnings, however. Lord Peter Carrington, then the EC negotiator, wrote in a letter of 2 December 1991 to Hans van den Broek, foreign minister of the Netherlands, then President of the EU (then still EC) Council of Ministers:

“There is also a real danger, perhaps even a probability, that Bosnia-Herzegovina would also ask for independence and recognition, which would be wholly unacceptable to the Serbs in that republic in which there are something like 100,000 JNA troops, some of whom have withdrawn there from Croatia.  Milosevic has hinted that military action would take place there if Croatia and Slovenia were recognized.  This might well be the spark that sets Bosnia-Herzegovina alight”.

And from Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, then Secretary General of the United Nations, in a letter to him of 10 December 1991:

“In his report to me today, Mr Vance has described widely expressed apprehensions about the possibility of premature recognition of the independence of some of the Yugoslav republics and the effect that such a move might have on the remaining republics.  Leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia were among the many political and military figures who last week underscored to Mr. Vance their own strong fears in this regard.  More than one of his high-level interlocutors described the possibly explosive consequences of such a development as being a “potential time bomb”. [Read more…]

Kosovo: Conflict-mismanagement in-the-making

By Jan Oberg

August 10, 2005

By spring 2004 it became obvious that slowly, surely and sadly the efforts of the international community to create peace in Kosovo/a would come to an end rather soon. The reasons are simple: mediation and conflict-resolution in complex conflicts cannot be done the way it was between 1989 and 1999. And you won’t succeed with peace-making the way it was done by the bombings in 1999 and the efforts since then.

Had anyone in the EU and the U.S. had the intellectual will and the political courage to draw conflict-management lessons from the Balkans, we would hardly have experienced the succeeding quagmires called Afghanistan and Iraq where the opportunities for peace and reconciliation are also decaying by the day.

The community’s self-appointed conflict-managers and mediators probably hope that their “condemnations” of the most recent bout of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in March 2004 will do the trick, prevent Albanian extremists from further attacks and keep the Kosovo calamity away from the headlines. If so, there is a high probability that they are in for nasty surprises 2005-2006.

The international community doesn’t seem to have any solid and realistic idea about what to do with Kosovo. There are no solutions anymore that will be fair in the eyes of the parties, the Albanians, the Serbs, the Romas and other, smaller group. Any imaginable future status will create serious problems in the region and possibly for the international community. To put it crudely – if the international conflict-managers are doctors, their patient is dying because of a bad diagnosis and a seriously failed surgery.

Embarrassing as they are, the reasons are quite simple but remain virtually untold:  they would require an ounce of self-criticism in a series of European ministries of foreign affairs, in Washington and Brussels. For the decade 1989-1999 the international community operated on a standardised, one-truth, black-and-white explanation of what this conflict was about. They blamed the Serbs in general and Slobodan Milosevic in particular for the Kosovo conflict. They conveniently ignored the complex framework in space and time of which Kosovo was a part: the dissolution mechanisms of former Yugoslavia, the wider context of the Balkans and the restructuring of the world order as well as the  transition from the Cold War paradigm to something  different.

Like we see in today’s Iraq, there were no limits to the political hubris-cum-ignorance. Both Albanian and Serb citizens were treated as pawns in much larger games and they are realising it now.

Below follows a list of some of the conflict mismanagement and long-term root causes that explain the unfolding dissolution of the peace-making efforts in Kosovo that we are now witnessing. (Numbers do not indicate priority or relative importance.) [Read more…]

What lessons to learn? Particularly about the UN and its members?

By Jan Oberg
August 2, 2005

The international community’s conflict-management:
Short status by 2005

This blog explains why, by and large, the security approach – as described in the Prologue – has been a failure. The reasons for judging it a failure are many and pointed out through both the blog and book. They have to do with the paradigm/discourse itself but also with concrete, fatefully counterproductive decisions made throughout the crisis, one tying the hands of decision-makers when approaching the next situation.

Some of the – rather simple – methods and principles we suggest in our writings could have been used irrespective of whether the security or the peace approach had been followed. [Read more…]

Srebrenica Muslims remembered – the rest silenced

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 222 – July 11, 2005

Originally published here.

 

There is every reason to commemorate the massacre by Serb soldiers on innocent Muslim civilians in Srebrenica ten years ago today. But unless it is considered acceptable to quantify crimes and politically misuse human suffering, there is no plausible reason to forget or silence other cases of massacres, ethnic cleansing and terror bombings in which other innocent people lost their lives.

 

Other crimes silenced

In September 2003, mainstream media around the world forgot to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the Croatian Army’s killing of civilian Serbs in the Medak Pocket in Croatia.

In May 2005, they forgot to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of Operation Flash in Croatia and in August this year they are likely to remain silent about Operation Storm in Croatia. Here is what Amnesty International has to say about the fate of civilian Serbs in Croatia in the years 1991-95 during which 300.000 Croatian Serbs were forced to leave and/or actively driven out with violence from their country. Today’s Croatian leaders are proud of this – and of course present at the Srebrenica ceremony together with diplomats from the United States that, at the time, assisted the Croatian Army in its crimes.

On March 24 this year the international community passed over the 6th Anniversary of NATO’s bombings of Serbia and Kosovo in silence. These bombs killed more people propotionately than the terror attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001. There has been no coverage of the innocents who suffered there, no silent minutes and no speeches of solidarity – neither has there for the suffering in Afghanistan and Iraq. [Read more…]

The Kosovo Solution series

Broad framework, many roads

By Jan Oberg & Aleksandar Mitic

Published March 2005

 

Table of content

# 1   Why the solution in Kosovo matters to the world

Executive summary

# 2   The media – strategic considerations

# 3   The main preconditions for a sustainable solution of the Kosovo conflicts

# 4   The situation as seen from Serbia

# 5   The arguments for quick and total independence  are not credible

# 6   What must be Belgrade’s minimum conditions and its media strategy

# 7   Nations and states, sovereignty and self-determination

# 8   Positive scenarios: Turn to the future, look at the broader perspectives

# 9   Many models for Kosovo

# 10  Summary: From “Only one solution” towards democracy and peace

About the authors

[Read more…]

Peace-prevention: Western conflict management as the continuation of power politics by other means

The Violent Dissolution and Its Underlying Conflicts

By Jan Oberg
June 2004

The breakdown of former Yugoslavia has been explained in dozens of books the last five years with reference to ethnic war, aggression, traumas, nationalism, the dissolution of Communist ideology and the Soviet Union, the impossibility of non-alignment when the blocs disappeared, by expansionist national myths (Greater Serbia) etc. In short, black and white images, reduction to two parties — one good and one bad — in conflict and a need for ”third” parties to intervene to judge and set things right.

My first observation is that there may well be an element of truth in each but that they are surface appearances or instrumental features of the war through which deeper lying, essentially political-economic root causes of the conflict were played out.

My second, perhaps to some provocative, argument is that the international so-called community (1) is fundamentally incapable of perceiving and diagnosing conflicts as conflicts but see events such as Croatia, Bosnia, Iraq, Rwanda, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq in the perspective of foreign policy, security, alliance-building, world domination, national interests, or in the light of the division of labour among international organisations. [Read more…]

The 10 deadly Western sins: The acts of omission – and U.S. military culture

By Johan Galtung

Written 2002

[1]  The failure to take seriously the European macro-divides, Catholic-Orthodox and Christian-Muslim, playing with fire inside Croatia, Serbia and B-i-H, playing with fire in the near context and in the remote context; EU, Russia, Ottoman/Muslim countries; and the USA that ultimately came down on the side of the latter. To get an “anchor” in Eurasia? An oil corridor? An Osman empire?

[2]  The failure to take seriously Yugoslav divides: the Croat spring 1971, Serbian action 1987-89, minority autonomy demands in Kraina/Slavonia, B-i-H and Kosovo/a; the fascism of Ustasha and Chetnik para-military forces. Atrocities were predictable.

[3]  The failure to take seriously outside party histories, like Austria and Germany wanting revenge for the First and Second world wars and their loss of empire, possibly also Italy. [Read more…]

It’s time to prepare reconciliation between Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 141 – December 21, 2001

Originally published here.

 

This time of the year provides us all with an opportunity to reflect. Reconciliation and forgiveness, peace of mind and compassion come to our minds. We send season’s greetings to each other and express hopes for a better new year.

The latest PressInfos and this one circle around these issues in a concrete manner, applied to a concrete case. That is important in itself. But by focusing on the Balkans we also want to make the point that there are other problems than the September 11 terror that merit attention. That is, if we embrace all of humanity in our compassionate thoughts and deeds and not just the few.
It has gone unnoticed that non-violence proved stronger than police repression and authoritarian rule in Serbia and stronger than extremist violence by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA/UCK) in Kosovo.

Milosevic went the militant, repressive way. He finally lost when citizens and police stopped supporting and obeying him in last year’s “October Revolution.” Extremist KLA/UCK chose weapons to “liberate” Kosovo, but since they entered politics they have failed to gain the support of the majority of citizens ever since.

The international community, comprised of a few European countries, NATO and the U.S., decided to use violence after having lost a decade of mitigation and negotiation opportunities. It has used diplomatic isolation, caused suffering among millions due to economic sanctions (mass violence), it bombed Yugoslavia and made it even more difficult for the opposition to topple Milosevic.

The U.S., in particular, destabilised Macedonia by formal and under cover introduction of violence into the domestic conflict of that country; Macedonia is now further from peaceful co-existence between Macedonians and Albanians than at any time since its independence. [Read more…]

Moving Macedonia toward peace

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 123 – June 2001

Originally published here.

 

The following proposals are presented exclusively out of a deep concern over the deteriorating situation in Macedonia/FYROM. It’s an act of goodwill from TFF.

We want to help everyone in Macedonia strengthen their belief in peace and work for it with hope and persistence. The aim of this PressInfo is to stimulate concerned citizen and political leaders in Macedonia, in the region and elsewhere around the world to produce ideas that can help turn Macedonia away from the abyss.

You may find some of the ideas and proposals “unrealistic.” But please look deeply into the problem; then you will also recognise that the idea of war and killing to solve social and psychological problems and bring about peace is even more unrealistic.

Those who insist on solving conflict predominantly, or exclusively, by peaceful means are at one with the Charter of the United Nations. Conflicts simply happen and are legitimate parts of any human group in development. But we must begin to recognise that violence is just an added problem, not the solution. It is easy to abstain from violence when we are at peace and in harmony. The test of civilisation, of whether we have learnt to clash as civilised creatures or not, stands exactly when we are most prone to pull a trigger.

The peoples in the Balkans and the so-called international community have pulled enough triggers. Macedonia’s problems are more dangerous than most we have seen as they could spill over, for the first time, to countries which are not part of former Yugoslavia. Handling the complex conflicts in today’s Macedonia therefore requires new thinking and courageous initiatives.

To put it bluntly, it won’t be enough to have single diplomats come visiting a few hours wringing their empty hands Solana style. The sounds of war drown their press conference mantras about “progress” and “understanding” and “stopping violence.”

The numbers below do not indicate priorities. Some of the things can be done by some actors, while others do other things. That is precisely what peace is about: a plurality of mutually supporting initiatives rather than a linear process.

 

1. Establish a National Truth and Co-Existence Commission

Most wars are made possible by propaganda, lies, stereotyping, rumours, threats and deception. They are fuelled by untruth. [Read more…]

Macedonia – not innocent

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 120 – May 17, 2001

Originally published here.

 

PressInfo 118 offers an independent analysis of 11 reasons why Macedonia is at the brink of war. Number 119 deals with the way the United Nations was forced out of Macedonia and not employed in Kosovo at the time when it could have made a difference. In short, there was a hidden agenda. This one deals mainly with the obvious question:

 

Is Macedonia and its various groups totally innocent?

Of course not! In some respects there is more repression of the Albanians in Macedonia than in Kosovo. Thus, for instance, Pristina University was the centre of learning for Albanians while for almost a decade the issue of higher education for Albanians have been controversial and, since 1997, the Tetovo University considered illegal by the majority. Albanians do not play a role commensurate to the proportion they make up of the population (25 – 40 pct depending on sources); whether this is a relevant criteria is another matter. If you go to the National Museum in Skopje you will not see a trace of Albanian culture. The constitution is ethnic-oriented rather than citizens-oriented.

In spite of all this, it is important to emphasise that the situation in no way justifies armed struggle or the extremist claims on both sides that ‘the others’ understand only weapons. True, it is not a perfect world, but the de facto presence of Albanians in politics, trade, schools and media in today’s Macedonia make the claim that “we are so repressed and nothing else will help so we must take to weapons” one that borders on hysteria or propaganda.

Those in Macedonia who had it in their power to do so never really sustained an honest inter-ethnic dialogue throughout society or at a government level. Informal segregation is practised by both sides in schools, media, clubs, restaurants and residential areas: “We don’t mix with ‘them’ – “we can’t live together but perhaps as neighbours” – “I would never have a boyfriend among them” – are statements visitors have heard repeated year after year. [Read more…]