International Crisis Group: State Of The Balkans
More than seven years after the outbreak of the wars of Yugoslav dissolution, most of the region remains in crisis, conflict continues to spread and international involvement continues to grow. Some 2,000 unarmed "verifiers" are currently moving into the southern Serbian province of Kosovo in an attempt to contain fighting between Serbs and ethnic Albanians as part of the latest international agreement to be brokered with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic; some 35,000 peace-keepers are deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnia) as part of a Stabilisation Force (SFOR) providing security for implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA); and numerous international missions monitor and/or promote compliance with international agreements throughout the Balkans from Croatia in the north to Albania in the south, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), various UN agencies and departments, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the European Community Monitoring Mission (ECMM) and, within Bosnia, the Office of the High Representative (OHR).
Despite intensive media focus on the region for the better part of a decade, the many conflicts, claims and counter-claims, are generally not well understood. The Balkans simply do not translate easily into journalism. The mushrooming of acronyms associated with new entities, armies and inter-governmental agencies add a further layer of complexity. This paper offers a brief assessment of the state of the Balkans. It considers the background to today's situation; it examines every crisis region in the former Yugoslavia and Albania in turn; and it concludes with proposals for international approaches to head off, or at least minimise, future conflict.
Today's political geography of the Balkans is the result of four separate wars -- in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo -- and a series of partially-implemented, internationally-brokered peace agreements. It reflects the failure, on the one hand, of the former Yugoslavia to come to terms with the transition from one-party, Marxist rule to democracy, and, on the other hand, of the international community to manage the disintegration of the country.
The international community, led by the European Community (EC) as the European Union (EU) was then called, became involved in the wars of Yugoslav dissolution on its very first day, 27 June 1991, when the European Council, the summit of heads of government of member states and European Commission President, dispatched a Troika of foreign ministers to broker a cease-fire in Slovenia, the first republic to be engulfed in war following independence declaration two days earlier. The decision to intervene in Yugoslavia was in part taken in haste as a knee-jerk reaction to the first full-scale fighting in mainland Europe since the Second World War. Given Yugoslavia's geography -- it physically separates 14 EU states from Greece, the fifteenth -- and a nascent common European security and foreign policy, non-involvement was not a serious option. On 7 July 1991 the Troika brokered the Brioni Accord ending the war in Slovenia and dispatching the ECMM to monitor the peace. By then, however, conflict had already spread into neighbouring Croatia, which had also declared independence on 25 June 1991, and successive cease-fire agreements failed to halt the fighting.
On 7 September 1991, the European Community convened a conference on Yugoslavia in The Hague, under the chairmanship of Lord Peter Carrington on the basis of three principles: no unilateral changes of borders, protection of the rights of all minorities, and full respect for all legitimate interests and aspirations. Although Lord Carrington insisted that a lasting cease-fire was a prerequisite for the conference to proceed, he, nevertheless, embarked on negotiations, despite the violence. In the absence of the political resolve in key international capitals to intervene and thus neutralise the use of force, the fighting inevitably escalated.
After the addition of the UN, in the person of Cyrus Vance, to the international negotiating effort, the Sarajevo Accord of 2 January 1992 brought the war in Croatia to a halt. The peace agreement envisaged deployment of 14,000 UN peace-keepers and eventual reintegration of Serb-held regions of the republic into Croatia. EC recognition of Slovenia and Croatia on 15 January 1992 signified a shift in approach. Instead of working towards an overall settlement for the entire country, international envoys were effectively dealing piecemeal with each individual region. Special talks began on Bosnia in January 1992, but, in the absence of the political will for preventive deployment of peace-keepers, they failed to head off another war. Fighting began at the end of March 1992, within a month of a referendum which was supposed to determine Bosnia's fate, but which simply saw Bosnians divide along ethnic lines. Lord Carrington's diplomacy failed to halt the fighting and was superseded in September 1992 by a joint EU-UN International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia (ICFY) meeting in permanent session in Geneva under Lord David Owen and Cyrus Vance. Despite a series of proposals and the deployment of 36,000 UN peace-keepers, however, the conference failed to secure a settlement. The United States did not support the most realistic peace plan, since it entailed recognising many of the gains of ethnic cleansing. And no country was willing to risk deploying forces to reverse Bosnian Serb military gains.
The Bosnian war was eventually halted in November 1995 after three years and nine months of fighting following marathon talks in Dayton, Ohio brokered principally by the then US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke. The DPA succeeded where earlier peace plans had failed because of the determination of the US negotiating team and the backing they received from other countries; because, after years of humiliation, there was a genuine threat that European troops (in particular British and French) who made up the backbone of the UN peace-keeping force in Bosnia would be withdrawn in the event of failure; and because of a fundamental shift in the military balance. In the course of 1995 the tide of battle changed, first in neighbouring Croatia and then in Bosnia. Two out of three Serb-held enclaves in Croatia were overrun by the Croatian Army in lightning strikes in May and August 1995 and, with the support of Bosnian Croat forces and the predominantly-Bosniac Bosnian Army, the offensive rolled forward into Bosnia reversing many of the early Serb war gains, resulting in a territorial division within the country similar to those envisaged in earlier peace plans. In addition, Britain, France and the Netherlands deployed a war-fighting Rapid Reaction Force within Bosnia and, following the second Sarajevo market place massacre on 28 August 1995, NATO systematically bombed strategic points from the air, destroying Bosnian Serb communications.
While the DPA succeeded in ending the fighting in Bosnia with the help of a 60,000-strong, NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR), it was another piecemeal solution and failed to address the other conflicts or potential conflicts in the region, such as Kosovo. The UN remained in Croatia with two missions, one in Prevlaka along Croatia's southern border with Montenegro and the other in Eastern Slavonia, along the border with Vojvodina, as well as in Macedonia where peace-keepers were first deployed in January 1993.
Serbia: The Key 1
The one factor common to all four wars of Yugoslav dissolution is Serbian involvement. This suggests that the evolution of all these conflicts depends, above all, on developments within Serbia, or, to be precise, on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who during more than a decade in power has moulded Serbian society in his own image. Nevertheless, international envoys continue to shuttle between their capitals and Belgrade hoping that despite his track record, despite the benefits he personally reaps from conflict, indeed despite all logic, Milosevic will provide a solution. The latest example of this syndrome is the Kosovo agreement brokered on 12 October 1998 by Holbrooke.
The options open to policy-makers obliged to deal with dictators of Milosevic's ilk are undeniably limited. That said, Milosevic's position at home is no longer as unassailable as it once was. More than six years of economic sanctions have taken their toll on Serbia and its increasingly destitute population. Yugoslavia's GDP is now roughly that of 1970 with real wages at the level of 1959. In 1997 Milosevic bought himself some economic breathing space by selling 49 per cent of the state telephone company Serbia Telekom to Stet of Italy and OTE of Greece for $1.2 billion. This year, the re-imposition of more stringent sanctions in response to the war in Kosovo has blocked further sales of state assets. Moreover, the expense of the war in Kosovo alone is pushing Yugoslavia inexorably closer to total economic collapse.
Milosevic used Kosovo and the alleged mistreatment of the province's Serbs to propel himself to absolute power within Serbia in the mid-1980s and the fighting there this year has, temporarily at least, boosted his standing at home. During the winter of 1996-1997, Milosevic's rule was challenged by daily demonstrations involving tens of thousands of protesters, and in January 1998 Belgrade's transport network was brought to a standstill as employees went on strike. Today, however, Milosevic stands at the head of another national crusade, this time in the struggle against "Albanian terrorism". Moreover, Milosevic has used the war in Kosovo as an excuse to clamp down further on dissenting voices. Since reaching agreement with Holbrooke on Kosovo, several newspapers and radio stations have been closed and a new law passed banning media reports which spread defeatism. Milosevic also dismissed the head of state security who, despite an often unsavoury past, was generally considered a restraining influence.
Given his track record, it is hard to envisage Yugoslavia at peace with Milosevic still at the helm. The country has effectively been on a war footing ever since he came to power, and national hysteria remains the essence of Milosevic's rule. Conflict has been the key to his government and, apart from conflict, he has little to offer. Indeed, many Serbs fear that as soon as Milosevic extricates himself from the war in Kosovo he will have to find another conflict to divert attention away from the deficiencies of his rule. In Yugoslavia itself, he still has a Pandora's box of unresolved national questions to open.
The most realistic alternative to Milosevic in Serbia at present appears even worse. The ultra-nationalist leader of the Serbian Radical Party Vojislav Seselj -- who led para-military forces during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and advocates ethnic cleansing as a solution in Kosovo -- entered government at the end of last year as Deputy Prime Minister. Moreover, he was only narrowly defeated in a controversial election last year for the Serbian Presidency by Milosevic's preferred candidate, amid allegations of vote-rigging. Seselj is currently biding his time in the wings, staking out a populist position vis-à-vis Kosovo and gaining experience of government.
ICG proposes a twin-track international policy towards Serbia aimed at, on the one hand, maximising pressure on/further isolating Milosevic and, on the other, boosting the democratic alternative. After so many years of broken promises and deception, Milosevic must be viewed and treated as the problem, not as the key to a potential solution. However, given the possibility of a Seselj succession in the event of Milosevic's demise, it is critical, at the same time, to nurture other forces within Serbian society.
Kosovo: Savage Reality 2
The Kosovo powder keg whose explosion was so long predicted, finally ignited at the end of February this year. Since then, international media have focused attention on this, the fourth war of Yugoslav dissolution, and the inability of international negotiators to halt the fighting and the emptiness of their threats. To be fair, finding a political formula which reconciles the legitimate interests of Serbs, who comprise less than 10 per cent of Kosovo's population, and the Albanian majority is a remarkably difficult objective, especially now that the conflict has escalated into a war. Those working towards a settlement have to balance the relative strengths of arguments concerning the inviolability of existing international borders, on the one hand, and the principle of self-determination on the other. They also have to consider the impact of the conflict on the rest of the region.
The exact terms of the accord reached between Holbrooke and Milosevic of 12 October 1998 remain unclear. Though parts have been made public and others leaked, many operational details are, it seems, still being worked out. Milosevic has, nevertheless, agreed both to let 2,000 unarmed foreign observers or "verifiers" enter Kosovo to monitor the withdrawal of the additional Serbian troops and special police deployed in the province since March this year, and also take part in political talks that would restore greater self-rule to the province. In essence, the accord is a holding operation which should enable humanitarian workers to distribute aid to displaced ethnic Albanians, thus keeping them alive during the winter, and to enable them to return to their homes. It is not a lasting political settlement.
Despite the obvious stake Kosovo's ethnic Albanians had in the Milosevic-Holbrooke talks, they were not represented and are not party to the accord. This is clearly problematic. Whereas OSCE verifiers may attempt to hold Serbian troops to the letter of the accord Milosevic has signed, ethnic Albanian fighters in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) have not agreed to anything. Moreover, despite recent reverses, they have at times during the past eight months achieved military successes. Indeed, at one point early in the summer they claimed to control some 40 percent of Kosovo. Having already sensed that liberation was within their grasp, many fighters are determined to continue the armed struggle, irrespective of peace agreements or the wishes of the mainstream ethnic Albanian leadership in Pristina.
Logistically, the Milosevic-Holbrooke accord also appears fraught with difficulties. Given that, despite a leisurely lead time, the OSCE struggled to recruit some 300 staff for its Croatian mission, and that it has had recurring staffing problems in Bosnia during the past three years, assembling 2,000 qualified verifiers at short notice is a massive undertaking. Moreover, these unarmed observers may in practice end up as little more than potential hostages. Critically, despite the threats, it is unclear how NATO would respond in the event the verifiers report that Serbian troops were refusing to withdraw.
It is difficult to be optimistic about the prospects for peace in Kosovo. The current fighting must be viewed in the light of almost a decade of apartheid-like oppression since Kosovo was forcibly stripped of its autonomy in 1989. The time for negotiations was before the conflict escalated into a war. Moreover, the possibility of the conflict spreading beyond Kosovo is great. In Bosnia, fall-out from the fighting has already been felt as Serb media coverage of the conflict, in particular the opinions expressed about the international community and Islam, has strengthened the position of ultra-nationalists, thus further undermining already-difficult prospects for reconciliation. Meanwhile, prospects for peace and democracy in Albania and Macedonia, with its large ethnic Albanian minority in the west of the country, are inextricably linked to events in Kosovo.
ICG believes that averting renewed conflict in Kosovo will require swift and decisive action to establish genuine, all-party negotiations on the future constitutional status of the province. Such talks should proceed according to a strict timetable, under close international supervision. ICG further believes that the international community should drop its opposition to discussion of independence for Kosovo. Explicitly including independence as a legitimate proposal for negotiation would be a powerful way of demonstrating that radical constitutional change, of the kind supported by the vast majority of Kosovo Albanians, is possible through peaceful rather than violent means.3
Vojvodina, Montenegro 4 and the Sandzak: 5 Milosevic's Pandora's Box
Vojvodina and Montenegro were the first two federal units of the former Yugoslavia to fall under Milosevic's control in October 1988 and January 1989 respectively. As a result of military failure, economic collapse and the isolation imposed on them by international sanctions, opposition to the link with Serbia has grown to the point that it is a realistic proposition, especially in Montenegro. Vojvodina and Montenegro were prepared to tie their fortunes to Serbia while they were deriving some benefit from the link, but as the disadvantages of association have come to outweigh the advantages, both have sought to distance themselves from Milosevic.
Relations among Vojvodina's many peoples came under strain as soon as pro-Milosevic supporters toppled the province's government in 1988. All Vojvodina's non-Serbs complain that, since hard-line nationalists seized power, their rights have been slashed and their position in society diminished. According to the 1981 census, 56.6 percent of Vojvodina's 1.15 million population were Serbs or Montenegrins, and the remaining 43.4 percent a mixture of peoples, including Hungarians (19 percent), Croats (5.4 percent), Slovaks and Romanians. However, in the intervening years Vojvodina's non-Serb population has declined sharply. The number of Hungarians, for example, slipped to 340,000 in the 1991 census from 385,000 a decade earlier and the decline has continued throughout the 1990s. Given the situation in Kosovo, Hungary has this year begun to voice concern for the fate of the Hungarian minority with the foreign ministry publishing its first strong statement on the issue in June 1998.
Though smaller than Vojvodina, Montenegro was a fully-fledged republic in the former Yugoslavia and is now officially an equal partner with Serbia in the new Yugoslav federation. The nature of the relationship between Montenegro and Serbia and whether a separate Montenegrin identity exists, are perennial questions in Montenegrin politics. According to the 1991 census, about 380,000 (61.8 percent) of the republic's 615,000 population considered themselves Montenegrin, while about 57,000 or 9.2 percent declared their nationality as Serb. In many ways, the relationship is akin to that between Austria and Germany, and Austrians and Germans. Serbs and Montenegrins speak the same language and theoretically belong to the same Church, but have different historical experiences. The precise nature of the relationship depends not on historical and cultural ties but on whether it is advantageous, and as far as many Montenegrins are concerned they now have little to gain from the alliance and much to lose. Moreover, in elections a majority of the population, including the republic's Albanians and Muslim Slavs, backed the anti-Milosevic candidate Milo Djukanovic for president last year and his supporters for parliament this year. Although the rift between Serbia and Montenegro appears to be growing by the day and has been exacerbated by the war in Kosovo, Djukanovic is aware that he must tread warily since Serbia is land-locked and will not easily give up its last remaining outlet on the sea.
The Sandzak is a little-known former Ottoman province or military district sandwiched between Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo, where, in the 1991census, some 230,000 Muslim Slavs formed about 54 percent of the population. It was conquered in 1912 in the First Balkan War and divided between Serbia and Montenegro. The Sandzak is significant, in particular, for its geography since it separates Serbia from Montenegro and in the past has been used to keep the two apart. At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, for example, the Habsburgs decided to station a garrison there to prevent the unification of Serbia and Montenegro. Conditions for the Sandzak's Muslim Slavs depend on which side of the Serbian-Montenegrin border they live. In the Sandzak's six Montenegrin municipalities, Muslim Slavs have relatively few complaints about their status and generally support Djukanovic's anti-Milosevic ruling coalition. In the Sandzak's 16 Serbian municipalities, by contrast, the Muslim Slav population has been subject to arbitrary justice for much of the past decade.
Despite the presence of so many Muslim Slavs and the fighting in neighbouring Kosovo, the chances of conflict spreading to the Sandzak appear, for now at least, minimal. This is because of a coincidence of interests between the Serbian authorities and wealthy Muslim Slav entrepreneurs who have built a large apparel and shoe-manufacturing industry in Novi Pazar, the region's largest town, during the past 10 years. The Muslim Slav entrepreneurs produce bogus designer jeans, including Levis, Versace and Bugle Boy, as well as shoes that mimic famous Italian designs but sell for a fraction of the price. Western analysts estimate the annual output to be worth between $50 million and $100 million and the Muslim Slav entrepreneurs boast that Serbia's tax authorities collect more money in Novi Pazar than in any other district in the republic.
Albania: Anarchy and Poverty 6
As the war in Kosovo refuses to die down and Kosovo Albanian refugees continue making their way to neighbouring Albania, that country -- Europe's most impoverished -- has inexorably been drawn into the conflict. Indeed, given the nature of the fighting in Kosovo and the ethnic and, in some cases, family ties between Kosovo Albanians and Albanians from Albania proper, it is almost impossible for Tirana to stand passively by. Moreover, since a violent outbreak of anarchy in spring 1997 in the wake of the collapse of a series of pyramid investment schemes, parts of northern Albania on Kosovo's border have been largely beyond Tirana's control and thus fertile soil for insurgents, whether from Kosovo or Albania. In the wake of the anarchy, some 750,000 weapons were stolen from military depots and much of the army deserted. Many of the missing weapons have ended up in the hands of the KLA.
Although Tirana's initial response to the fighting in Kosovo was restrained, the government has found itself under increasing pressure to adopt a more aggressive stance. A policy of restraint may win international approval, but it brings into question the administration's nationalist credentials, both with Kosovo Albanians and within Albania proper. It has also played into the hands of ex-president Sali Berisha who has exploited the Kosovo conflict to mount a political comeback. Tension between Berisha's Democratic Party and the ruling Socialist Party erupted into violence in September 1998 with an attempted coup d'etat, political arrests and the assassination of a key Berisha ally. In response, Prime Minister Fatos Nano resigned on 28 September 1998. The unrest has paralysed the work of the parliament, derailed the constitutional reform process, and, with an exodus of foreigners, led to the scaling down of international aid projects.
The political crisis in Tirana has, in part, deflected attention away from a new wave of Kosovo refugees who have been expelled from Montenegro. On 12 September 1998, Montenegro, which had already accepted some 45,000 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, closed its borders to further refugees and sent some 3,000 recent arrivals across the border into Albania. Montenegro says that it cannot take in any more refugees since its reception centres are severely over-stretched. Facilities for refugees in Albania, however, are virtually non-existent, and as winter approaches the humanitarian situation is likely to deteriorate. With average income only $32 a month, the country is not equipped to deal with the scale of the crisis.
ICG proposes increased humanitarian aid for Kosovo refugees fleeing to Albania and the deployment of an international peace-keeping force in the country. The deployment should be along the lines of the Italian-led Operation Alba, which oversaw the restoration of law and order there in 1997, and it should patrol the entire country, including the crime-ridden regions along the Greek border as well as the northern border with Kosovo.
Macedonia: Ethnic Tensions 7
As the one former Yugoslav republic which has managed to keep itself out of the wars of Yugoslav dissolution, Macedonia has often appeared to outsiders as a beacon of hope in the Balkans. Despite difficulties, Macedonia has held together as a country since the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. However, almost everything about the country, from its borders, to its language, history and flag, even its name and ethnic composition is controversial. Hence fears persist about its long-term viability. Inter-ethnic relations in the young state -- in particular those between ethnic Albanians, who make up at least 23 percent of the population, and ethnic Macedonians, who make up 61 percent -- are poor. In the event of continued fighting in Kosovo and the influx of large numbers of refugees fleeing southward, Macedonia is poorly prepared, despite the presence of UN peace-keepers, and the country's very existence may be imperilled.
Fall-out from the violence in Kosovo has already begun to be felt in Macedonia. Five bombings have been blamed on the KLA; Macedonian police and suspected KLA activists were involved in a shoot-out in September 1998; and the head of Macedonia's intelligence agency has stated on the record that KLA cells are operating in the country. Ethnic Albanians overwhelmingly support their kin in Kosovo. Ethnic Macedonians tend to draw parallels between Kosovo Albanian demands for independence and ethnic Albanian politics in Macedonia, believing that ethnic Albanian demands for increased rights in Macedonia undermine the ethnic Macedonian identity and by extension the Macedonian nation and the Macedonian state. They therefore increasingly identify with the Serbian side. Ethnic Macedonians tend also to view Albanians as a minority that, while entitled to certain rights under the constitution -- a constitution which declares Macedonian the sole official language and the Macedonian Orthodox Church the official creed -- should not be granted greater rights than those accorded to other minorities.
Recent parliamentary elections -- which took place in two rounds on 18 October and 1 November 1998 -- heightened ethnic tensions and did little to alleviate fears that Macedonia is institutionally ill-equipped to reconcile the legitimate interests of its various communities. Neither ethnic Macedonian nor ethnic Albanian political leaders made any attempt to appeal across the ethnic divide in the course of the electoral campaign. Instead, they appeared to be outbidding each other on ethnic issues and the manner in which they intend to defend the interests of their own communities.
ICG proposes an increased international presence, both military and political, in Macedonia in order to head off future conflict, and the maintenance and expansion of international assistance programmes. In return for increased aid, the international community should demand a greater commitment from the Macedonian authorities to fostering better relations between the country's communities.
Bosnia and Herzegovina: $9 Billion Annual Holding Operation 8
Although originally scheduled to remain in Bosnia for only one year, the NATO-led peace-keeping mission is still there almost three years after the DPA came into force. Moreover, it has little prospect of withdrawing in the near future lest the country slide back into war. Despite a prolonged period without fighting and five separate internationally-supervised elections, the peace process is far from self-sustaining. It is no exaggeration to state that to date domestic political institutions have failed to function; that every issue has been viewed in "zero-sum" terms; and that almost all "breakthroughs" have required disproportionate, indeed often ridiculous, amounts of time and effort on the part of the international community. In practice, the political impasse has created a position in which, on the one hand, most public offices have to be filled simultaneously by three Bosnians (a Serb, Croat and Bosniac); and, on the other hand, these Bosnians do less and less work of any substance because they cannot reach accord. Meanwhile, refugee return to areas controlled by the armed forces of a different ethnic group is disappointing. Fewer than 52,000 so-called minority returns have been registered in total since the DPA came into force, of which only some 2,000 have been to Republika Srpska. Although 28 out of 57 public indictees have been removed to The Hague, the key war crimes suspects, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, as well as 22 other Bosnian Serbs, three Yugoslav citizens, and two Bosnian Croats, remain at liberty. The annual cost of this holding operation is some $9 billion.
The peace process began in earnest in July 1997 with the first snatch operation against a key indicted war criminal by British NATO troops. As the cycle of impunity which had hitherto characterised the wars of Yugoslav disintegration, was broken, the political climate in Bosnia changed overnight. Moreover, in order to speed implementation of the DPA, the powers of the High Representative were augmented in December 1997 so that he now has the authority to dismiss any officials, elected or otherwise, who oppose the peace process and impose solutions in intractable disputes.
With his new authority, the High Representative has pushed through a series of key measures aimed at bringing communities together. These include a common vehicle licence plate, which has made it possible for Bosnians to travel throughout the country with a reasonable degree of security (knowing that their ethnic identity is not on public display), a new Bosnian flag and passport. He has also dismissed obstructionist officials. And increasingly he is appointing special envoys to supervise DPA implementation in strategic parts of the country. The OHR has also begun the systematic restructuring of the Bosnian media, wresting control of the principal television stations from the ruling parties, placing international supervisors in the stations, and imposing a new regulatory framework. As a result, Bosnia closely resembles a protectorate in which ever increasing numbers of foreigners are imposing decisions by decree, thus allowing Bosnian politicians to wash their hands of responsibility for the reconstruction of their own country.
Given the nature of the Bosnian war and the entrenched and opposed positions of the various factions, international involvement was always intended to be a fundamental part of the DPA with overall co-ordination entrusted to the High Representative, under the authority of the UN Security Council. The OSCE has a four-pronged mandate in Bosnia. It monitors the human rights situation; it promotes civil society and democratic government; it supervises elections; and it oversees arms reduction. A UN International Police Task Force (IPTF), made up of 2,500 unarmed foreign police officers, assists, advises, monitors and observes the work of local police. Foreign influence is equally crucial in a host of ostensibly domestic institutions. For example, a foreign Human Rights Ombudsperson was appointed by the OSCE for the first five years of DPA implementation, the Governor of the Central Bank is a foreigner appointed by the International Monetary fund (IMF) for the first six years; and three out of nine members of the Constitutional Court and three out of nine members of the Commission for Real Property Claims are foreigners appointed by the President of the European Court of Human Rights for five-year terms. This massive presence is made palatable by a five-year $5.1 billion reconstruction plan, designed and guided by the World Bank.
Though critical to the peace process, the scale of the international presence is in some ways counter-productive to Bosnia's long-term future. On the one hand, domestic institutions and politicians have to a large extent given up responsibility for governing their own country. On the other, the massive international stake has led key players to declare the peace process a success, irrespective of how it is actually evolving, since failure would reflect badly on those states-persons, organisations and countries responsible for the agreement. This has been especially evident in the case of elections, all of which have been declared democratic advances, irrespective of reality. In Bosnia's most recent September 1998 elections, for example, the international strategy of favouring certain candidates and parties, in particular the then President of Republika Srpska, Biljana Plavsic, was clearly dealt a massive blow by an electorate which refused to reject nationalism.
Democratic elections are all too often simplistically presented in the West as a panacea. It is as if any violence-free vote will produce leaders who are freely chosen even where those leaders control the media, the police, and most voters' jobs and benefits. Here, it is worth bearing in mind that both Bosnia and the rest of the former Yugoslavia had already held democratic elections when they fell apart in war. Indeed, the disintegration both of the former Yugoslavia and of Bosnia can, in part at least, be attributed to the nature of the democracy which emerged. In Bosnia, for example, in the 1990 elections, the voting corresponded to a poor ethnic census. Bosniacs voted for the Bosniac party, Serbs for the Serb party and Croats for the Croat party. Moreover, although the three ethnically-based parties were ostensibly in coalition, they rapidly fell out with each other after the poll. As politicians exclusively represented the narrow interests of their own ethnic group and not the entire electorate, Bosnian society polarised and politics degenerated into a "zero-sum" affair.
Given Bosnia's unfortunate experience of democracy to date, observers must inevitably wonder how it may be made to work more successfully, or whether it can work at all. Indeed, a cursory examination might suggest that Bosnians rejected both ethnic reconciliation and the international community's peace-building efforts in the most recent election. But this is not the case. The results are simply the latest manifestation of a political system which panders to extremists and does not afford Bosnians the luxury of forsaking nationalism. Electors fear living under the ethnic rule of another community and therefore vote for the most robust defence of their own interests, thus sustaining a vicious cycle of fear and insecurity. Though it is possible to contain the Bosnian conflict almost indefinitely with a sufficient NATO presence, this requires policing and is extremely costly. Moreover, international leaders who have troops deployed in Bosnia are acutely aware of the political risks they are running domestically, should any of their soldiers be killed. In addition to containing the conflict, therefore, they are hoping to find an exit strategy.
ICG proposes a fundamental redesign of Bosnia's political and, in particular, electoral system in such a way as to offer incentives to encourage moderate, multi-ethnic behaviour.9 Only after such reform has taken place, will there be any prospect of a self-sustaining peace process which may, in time, enable peace-keepers to withdraw confident that the country will not slide back into war.
Croatia: Impending Change 10
Whereas Serbia's strongman Milosevic has led Serbs to successive defeats, his Croatian counterpart Franjo Tudjman has been, in comparison, remarkably successful achieving most of his nationalist aims. As a result, like many politicians who have been in power for too long, Tudjman is convinced that what is good for him must also be good for Croatia and confuses his own interests and those of his party with the national interest. This has contributed to the emergence of sleaze as a factor in Croatian politics, with revelations about the Tudjman family's private fortune, a series of banking scandals and the removal of the title of Miss Croatia from the winning contestant when it was discovered she was a Muslim. As long as Tudjman remains in power, prospects for change are minimal. However, he is already 76 years old and has been reported to be suffering from stomach cancer since 1996.
Despite military set-backs in 1991 and the existence for four years of a Serb mini-state within its borders, Croatia now controls all of its territory. This follows victories over Croatian Serb rebels in 1995 and the hand-over of Eastern Slavonia at the beginning of 1998 to Zagreb's rule after two years of transitional UN authority. The solution to the national question in Croatia has, however, consisted largely of the expulsion of the Serb population. Serbs who remain in Croatia complain of being second-class citizens and Serb refugees find it exceptionally difficult to return. An OSCE mission is currently in Croatia monitoring these and other human rights' issues. With a weak mandate, however, it finds itself in an especially uncomfortable position, effectively observing an on-going exodus of Serbs.
Since the end of the wars in Croatia and Bosnia, the ruling Croat Democratic Union (HDZ) has struggled to define its place in peace-time politics. The HDZ resembles a movement, representing a wide range of views, united behind Tudjman with the aim of asserting Croatian statehood, more than a modern political party. Long-standing divisions within the HDZ may broadly be characterised as being between relative moderates committed to integration in western institutions and nationalists with links to the so-called Herzegovina lobby, that is the hard-line Bosnian Croat position. Tudjman has sought to maintain a balance between the two wings of the party, but this has proved increasingly difficult especially since the death of Tudjman's most trusted lieutenant, the then defence minister Gojko Susak in May 1998. The HDZ is currently haemorrhaging senior figures every week. Meanwhile, politicians inside and outside the HDZ are jostling for position in preparation for the succession battle. As economic issues increasingly become the focus of politics, the goal of reviving tourism will assume greater significance. This will require regional stability, and to achieve that Croatia will likely have to change its current policy towards its neighbours and, in particular, towards Bosnia.
ICG proposes maintaining pressure on Zagreb to democratise society and accept the return of Serb refugees. Although the current administration is unlikely to adopt a more enlightened approach, other trends in Croatian politics are encouraging and should, in time, lead to positive changes.
The international response to the wars of Yugoslav dissolution has been a case study in the way the world is ordered. It illustrates, above all, the lack of cohesion in the international community, and even within NATO, the failings of short-term approaches aimed at dealing with the crisis of the moment, and the consequences of inactivity at critical junctures. Instead of extricating itself from the region, the international community is being sucked in ever more deeply, with little prospect of withdrawal in the next several years. The key lesson to be learned is that there are no quick-fix solutions and that regional stability will require a long-term international presence and sustained, well thought-out policies backed by the credible threat of force. The piecemeal approach, treating every conflict in isolation, has failed since what takes place in one region will inevitably have an impact elsewhere. It must therefore be dropped for a strategy which addresses the region as a whole, much like the now defunct EC-UN International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia. This time, however, such a conference should have teeth and, if necessary, be able to neutralise the use of force via, for example, preventive military intervention, including deployment of ground troops. Mediation alone is simply not sufficient.
Convening a permanent international conference on the Balkans and locating it within the region in, say, Skopje, could be the starting point for an overall settlement. In addition to being backed by a credible threat of the use of force, such a conference would have to adopt a highly original approach to conflict resolution, including examining the very concept of democracy in divided societies. The issue throughout the region is essentially the same, namely how to find a political framework which reconciles the legitimate interests of different ethnic groups sharing the same territory. The solution may be democratisation, but this entails more that just elections. To date processes which have served to promote democracy elsewhere have largely proved destabilising in the region. Mechanisms tailored to local conditions should be explored, including redesigned electoral systems, regional security and disarmament treaties, the creation of a regional broadcasting network and regional and/or reciprocal commitments to "special measures" to protect the employment, property, educational and other rights of minorities.
Sarajevo, 4 November 1998
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1 For an analysis of Serbian politics, see ICG papers Serbia: The Milosevic Factor of February 1998 and Again, the Visible Hand: Milosevic's Manipulation of the Kosovo Dispute of May 1998.
2 For a comprehensive analysis of the issues in Kosovo on the eve of bloodshed, see ICG paper Kosovo Spring of March 1998 and for an examination of the course of the war, see ICG paper Kosovo's Long Hot Summer of September 1998.
3 ICG will shortly publish a discussion paper prepared by the Public International Law and Policy Group examining the legal arguments for and implications of an independent Kosovo.
4 For a partial discussion of Montenegrin politics in the run-up to Montenegro's parliamentary elections of May 1998, see ICG paper Inventory of a Windfall: Milosevic's Gains from the Kosovo Dialogue of May 1998.
5 ICG is currently preparing an examination of politics in the Sandzak.
6 For an examination of the impact of the Kosovo conflict on Albania, see ICG paper The View from Tirana: The Albanian Dimension of the Kosovo Crisis of July 1998, and for an analysis of recent internal political developments, see ICG paper Albania Crisis Briefing of October 1998.
7 For analyses of the politics of ethnicity and conflict in Macedonia, see ICG papers The Albanian Question in Macedonia of August 1998 and 1998 Elections in Macedonia of October 1998.
8 For an analysis of the current situation in Bosnia and where it is heading, see ICG papers, Whither Bosnia? and Doing Democracy a Disservice of September 1998.
9 For a comparative analysis of electoral systems in Bosnia, see ICG paper Changing the Logic of Bosnian Politics: Discussion Paper on Electoral Reform of March 1998.
10 ICG is currently preparing two papers on Croatia, one examining the position of Serbs there, the other a look forward at Croatian political developments.