Equal right to self-determination – A dialogue

By Johan Galtung

March 2010

Conflict Worker: What is it you really want? What are the goals?

Slovene: We are a nation with the same right as any other nation, through self-determination for the first time to have our own state. We want to be ruled neither from Vienna nor from Belgrade, but from Ljubljana and, in a broader European context, from Brussels. Our small minorities are safe in a democracy with human rights.

Croat: We are a nation with the same right as any other nation, through self-determination, again to have our own state. We want to be ruled neither from Vienna nor from Belgrade, but from Zagreb and, in a broader European context, from Brussels. Our minorities can feel safe in a democracy with human rights.

Serb in Croatia:  The Croats can have their own state, but they have no right to take the Serbs in Croatia with them. We do not want to be ruled from Zagreb that killed us during the war, in an alliance with Nazi Germany.

Bosniak:  We are a nation with the same right as any other nation, through self-determination, once again to have our own state. We want to be governed neither from Istanbul, Vienna nor Belgrade, but from Sarajevo, and, in a broader European context, from Brussels. Our minorities can feel safe in a democracy with human rights. [Read more…]

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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…]

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…]

Peace by peaceful means (Book launch)

By Johan Galtung

December 2009 – Foreword to Serbian edition of Peace By Peaceful Means.

Let me first express my deep gratitude to Professor Radmila Nakarada and her colleagues for this Serbian edition of my book Peace By Peaceful Means.  And let me then try to say something about the message of the book for the conflict over Yugoslavia, a country I still love, well knowing its sustainability was limited.  And that will be done from the four angles of the four parts of the book: peace, conflict, development and civilization.

Peace has direct, structural and cultural conditions, and Yugoslavia had many components. There was a terrible history of direct violence related to the German-Italian attacks and some cooperation with the attackers, particularly in Croatia, BiH and Kosovo. There was never any real conciliation, hoping that time will mend the wounds, that they were “quits”.  Instead they were reopened, and new wounds added.  Direct peace was not achieved. [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…]

Kosovo: Many options but independence

By Jan Oberg & Aleksandar Mitic

TFF PressInfo 228 – October 27, 2005

Originally published here.

 

The Serbian province of Kosovo, largely populated by the Albanian separatist-minded majority, has failed to meet basic human rights and political standards set as prerequisites by the international community, but it should nevertheless enter in the months to come talks on its future status.

This basic conclusion of the long-awaited report by UN special envoy Kai Eide was approved by the UN secretary general Kofi Annan and fully supported by the EU and the US, but it fails to demystify the paradox.

Only two a half years ago, the international community had charged that talks on status could not start before a set of basic human rights standards was achieved.

Since then, however, as it became clearer that the Kosovo Albanian majority was unwilling to meet the criteria and the UN unable to enforce them, there was a permanent watering down of prerequisites, until the proclaimed policy of “standards before status” was finally buried with Mr. Eide’s report.

Why has it failed? Is it because of the fear of the Kosovo Albanian threat of inciting violence if talks on status did not start soon, or was this policy a bluff from the start?

What kind of signal does it offer for the fairness of the upcoming talks? Will threats of ethnic violence in case “the only option for Kosovo Albanians – independence” – is not achieved again play a role? Or will the international community overcome its fear and offer both Pristina and Belgrade reasons to believe that the solution would negotiated and long-lasting rather than imposed, one-sided and conflict-prone?

Advocates of Kosovo’s independence such as the International Crisis Group, Wesley Clark, Richard Holbrooke and various US members of Congress argue “independence is the only solution.” The U.S. has more urgent problems elsewhere. But full independence cannot be negotiated, it can only be imposed. “Independent Kosova” implies that the Kosovo-Albanians achieve their maximalist goal with military means while Belgrade and the Kosovo Serbs and Roma would not even get their minimum — a recipe for future troubles. [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…]

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…]

The continued reverse ethnic cleansing in Kosovo

Too embarrassing for the international community

 

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 195 – March 29, 2004

Originally published here.

 

Time to give Reality Show politics a reality check

Back to Square One. A few days before the 5th Anniversary of the war against what was then called Yugoslavia, ethnic cleansing again reared its ugly head in the Balkans. Carl Bildt, most knowledgeable and clear-sighted former diplomat in the region, said that we saw five years of international policy go up in flames. Bildt is right in substance but his time perspective is too short; it is 15 years of Western conflict (mis)management policies that has gone up in flames.

And indeed, some have reasons to try to play down this catastrophe and its consequences: the international so-called community and its allies, the Albanian leadership in Kosovo.

When Milosevic and extremists on the Serb side committed crimes there in the 1990s, they were pointed out as the perpetrators, often before anyone had checked the events and circumstances. Whenever extremists on the Albanian side have committed crimes since 1999, it goes virtually unnoticed and unpunished and is described as “inter-ethnic” or “ethnically-motivated” violence that must – for the sake of appearances – be condemned.

The UN’s chief of mission, Harri Holkeri, called it mob violence and criminal activity in an misguided attempt to de-politicise the events. Then follows the mantras and the “shoulds” – the local parties should work for a multi-ethnic Kosovo, work closely with KFOR and UNMIK, respect Resolution 1244, work to realise (European) Standards before Status and should see to it that such bad things don’t happen again.

This is the remarkably inept and evasive political response of the UN Security Council President of March 18, the EU’s European Council of March 26, the US and of the governments in Europe. There are reasons to believe that the situation is much worse and ominous than we are told, both inside Kosovo and for the international community that has taken responsibility for the province.

In fairness, NATO commander Admiral Gregory Johnson called the spade a spade. He stated that the bloody clashes was “ethnic cleansing,” that it was “orchestrated” and added, most appropriately, that he knew that “Kosovars are better than this.”

 

From honeymoon to divorce

It seems that the international community is now facing a situation quite similar to the one Milosevic was facing: being seen by hardline Kosovo-Albanians (i.e. not by everyone) as an occupier that must be forced out to permit the emergence of the independent state of Kosova. The international community has no better solution when violence flares up but to send more troops, as did Milosevic. [Read more…]

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. [Read more…]

The politics of strength: Humanitarian intervention, pretexts and the alternatives

By Johan Galtung

Written January 2002

1.  The issue: humanitarian intervention in Yugoslavia
We cannot stand by, watching a government committing serious crimes against humanity, even genocide, on its own population.

Certainly not! The doctrine of national sovereignty “within recognized borders”, like the doctrine of patria potesta giving the pater familias a carte blanche for terrorism within the walls of a recognized home, are cultural crimes against humanity, drawing artificial borders for human solidarity, delivering the subjects to the dominio of whoever are the tyrants.  The Roman law construct relating owners to whatever can be owned paved the way for such institutionalized crimes against humanity as slavery and colonialism. The problem arises when “whatever can be owned” includes human beings, for almost any definition of “ownership”.  The individual ownership takes precedence over the communal.

Humanitarian intervention, in all such cases, coming to the assistance of human beings in distress, is a human duty, flowing from norms of solidarity with human beings anywhere, regardless of artificial borders.  Of course, if action under that heading is done for such selfish goals as access to raw materials or to establish military bases, it should be better known as conquest.  But abuse is no excuse for doing nothing. Two wrongs do not make one right. [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…]

Good news: Yugoslavia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 139 – December 11, 2001

Originally published here.

 

At least three recent pieces of good news from the Balkans have passed virtually unnoticed:

– Yugoslavia has established a Commission for Truth and Reconciliation.

– Dr. Ibrahim Rugova’s and LDK’s election victory opens new prospects for reconciliation in Kosovo/a.

– Non-violence has proved to be stronger than police repression and authoritarian rule in Serbia and stronger than extremist violence by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA/UCK) in Kosovo.

Contrary to violence and war, non-violence and opportunities for reconciliation don’t make it to the headlines. As a matter of fact, they don’t make it to the media at all. Destructive news furthers pessimism and the feeling of powerlessness. Constructive or good news furthers the opposite and signals that peace may, in spite of all, be possible. In short, those in power, as well as power-loyal media, naturally prefer the former rather than the latter.

These three news items contain important evidence that should begin a debate about the lessons to be learned by the international community regarding its conflict-management in the Balkans since 1991. Regrettably, such a debate – broad-based, democratic and multi-ethnic – does not yet exist.

TFF PressInfo 139, 140 and 141 will deal with each of these news items. PressInfo 142 will address why reconciliation inside Kosovo is absolutely essential for the future.

 

A few words about reconciliation and forgiveness

Every hope for peace in the Balkans, as well as in every other war-torn region, rests on the willingness of the local parties to eventually reach out and deal openly with what happened and why. Reconciliation is not about forgetting. It is about learning to live with the facts, the memory and the pain. It takes two or more people and it can be achieved neither by loans and credits, reconstruction of houses, nor by people in uniform or promises about future integration in international organisations.

Reconstruction of souls is ‘soft.’ It takes much longer time than other types of post-war reconstruction. We have no international ‘armies’ or pools of experts and specialised humanitarian workers on stand-by anywhere.

The other human dimension of post-war healing is forgiveness. It’s basically a unilateral initiative. I decide to forgive someone who has killed my loved ones or hurt me because I consciously want to free myself from the all-absorbing hate; I abstain from the ‘right’ or wish to retaliate or get revenge . I thereby signal that I say ‘no’ to these options in order to invite others to do the same. We can choose to forgive for the sake of our own healthy living in the future or because we recognise that is what will help future generations to live together with tolerance and respect. [Read more…]

Conflict in and around Kosovo – and some resolution proposals

By Johan Galtung

Written 2001

The present illegal NATO war on Serbia is not conducive to any lasting solution. The only road passes through negotiation, not diktat and, pending that, immediate cessation of the hostilities and atrocities, and agreement on a massive UN peacekeeping operation.

For a political solution consider the points made by former UN Secretary General Pérez de Cuéllar in his correspondence with former German Minister of Foreign Affairs Hans Dietrich Genscher December 1991:

“Do not favor any party, develop a plan for all of ex-Yugoslavia, make sure that plans are acceptable to minorities”.

In this spirit TRANSCEND suggests: [Read more…]