REGIONAL SECURITY IN SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE
1 - 4 July 1999
LAKE OHRID (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)
9 September 1999
This Secretariat Report is presented for information only and does not necessarily represent the official view of the Assembly.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
HISTORY AS MIRROR: THE ROOTS OF THE CONFLICT
RAMBOUILLET AND THE INTERVENTION
BUILDING DEMOCRACY OR ACHIEVING SOVEREIGNTY: WESTERN POLICY TOWARD KOSOVO
THE CURRENT SITUATION IN KOSOVO
WESTERN POLICY TOWARD SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO
THE BURDENS ON OTHER COUNTRIES IN THE REGION
ASSISTING THE REGION
THE ROLE OF RUSSIA
- In recent years, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly has focused a great deal of attention on developments in south-eastern Europe. The reasons are obvious. Many of the most compelling security questions on the European continent since the end of the Cold War have emanated from a region where the collapse of the old Yugoslavian State helped spawn a decade of violence, war, massive refugee flows, and economic decline. Instability in the region, in turn, posed a genuine challenge to NATO, an Alliance created some fifty years ago to defend its members from any possible Soviet military incursion. In the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse, NATO's fundamental mission of ensuring security for its members has remained unchanged, but the challenges have shifted significantly. Nowhere has that challenge been more stark than in Balkans, where NATO for the first time in its history engaged in direct military combat.
- NATO's increasing engagement in the region has compelled all NATO and NATO Associate Parliaments to focus attention and resources on the Balkans over the last decade. Accordingly, the NATO PA has endeavoured to organise a number of fora to discuss the various dimensions of the many challenges associated with building a more stable South-Eastern Europe. These have included what has become an annual Rose-Roth seminar in Lake Ohrid in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a recent Rose-Roth seminar held in Borovitz and another seminar to be held in Tirana in October 1999 as well as numerous Committee missions and reports.
- This particular seminar was held at a critical moment soon after the conclusion of NATO's military campaign against Yugoslavia Ð a campaign which the full Assembly had endorsed in a resolution voted on at the Annual Session in Warsaw, Poland. At the time of the meeting, KFOR troops were occupying all of Kosovo, and Kosovar Albanian refugees were streaming back to the province. Reprisal attacks against Serbs had already begun, and the countryside was littered with mines and unexploded ordinance. NATO governments were nevertheless rapidly shifting their focus from the military campaign to regional reconstruction and reconciliation. The Ohrid seminar sought to take stock of both the military campaign and the end game.
II. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
- This Secretariat Report will attempt to capture the essence of the exchanges that took place in Ohrid, and is organised on a thematic basis rather than simply summarising each speaker's contribution.
- The first of these themes concerned the origins of the crisis. Here participants considered Balkan history to discern if there are some particularly exceptional elements that leave the region prone to ethnic violence. In the views of many, however, the Balkans are not exceptional in this regard. Much of the violence that has beset the region over the course of the decade can be traced to specific policies pursued by the Milosevic regime. Tito's failure to construct a democratic culture and an institutional foundation for his own succession was also seen as a contributing factor.
- A second set of themes concerned the NATO decision to intervene in the conflict. Seminar participants reviewed the negotiations at Rambouillet. Here it was suggested that Yugoslavia's refusal even to consider the military annex tabled at those talks led to the collapse of negotiations and the onset of the conflict. According to a number of speakers, the West had never set out to engage in a conflict with Yugoslavia, if for no other reason than because the nature of war is so unpredictable. But in the views of most of those who addressed this topic, ultimately Milosevic's policies and his negotiating position had made that conflict inevitable. That said, there were those who argued either that the West had backed itself into a diplomatic corner or even negotiated in bad faith. These charges, however, were strongly rejected by one of the key negotiators at Rambouillet.
- NATO's conduct of the war and the moral implications of NATO's tactics were also considered. One speaker argued that only the bombing of "dual use" assets with civilian and military functions had brought the war to a conclusion. In other words, because NATO was not willing to risk the lives of its soldiers in a campaign against the Yugoslav military, it had resorted to a bombing strategy that destroyed numerous Yugoslav plants, much infrastructure and thereby directly threatened the lives and livelihoods of the civilian population. Yugoslav forces ultimately pulled out of the province in reasonably good order, and, in the eyes of many observers, relatively unscathed. At the same time, Milosevic was once again able to quit the battle on terms partly of his own making and with his own power intact, at least for the moment. NATO's victory thus contains within it several fundamentally paradoxical elements.
- A fourth set of themes included the potential tensions between building democracy in Kosovo and creating a sovereign state out of this once autonomous province of Yugoslavia. This discussion included an analysis of the legal and constitutional foundations behind the argument that Kosovo should enjoy full sovereignty. These foundations partly hinge on interpretations of the 1974 constitution but also include practical considerations of political developments in Kosovo and Yugoslavia over the last decade which might render Yugoslavian claims on Kosovo essentially moot. But there was a great deal of debate over this particular set of points, with several participants strongly asserting that to grant Kosovo full sovereignty would establish a very dangerous precedent for the international system and open a Pandora's box of separatist claims. Several participants also argued that any discussion about sovereignty at this juncture is premature. To engage in such discussions could well distract attention from the delicate yet vital task of creating the institutions and nourishing the broader cultural antecedents that would allow genuine democracy to take root in the province, and possibly in Yugoslavia at large. But here too a consensus was not apparent, with some arguing that Kosovo is operating in a legal void that threatens to render institution-building fully elusive. In this view, the sovereignty question must be settled sooner rather than later for it is the foundation upon which democratic reform will be constructed.
- A fifth set of themes revolved around the practical problems associated with KFOR's current mission in Kosovo. These problems included dealing with refugee return, liaising with Yugoslavian military and political leaders as well as various Kosovar military and political groups, policing the streets, and co-ordinating activities with the UN, the OSCE, the EU as well as with various NGOs.
- Seminar participants also considered the options Western countries face in framing a policy toward Serbia and Montenegro. A general although not complete consensus emerged that Serbia should not be excluded from humanitarian assistance; yet, as long as the present regime maintains its grip on the state, it should not be granted reconstruction assistance. Where the line between the two should be drawn was nonetheless a subject of some controversy. Some participants pointed out that isolation tends only to reinforce precisely those criminal elements in Serbia who enjoy the blessing of the regime and who have, in turn, become a critical buttress to the unpopular Milosevic regime. There was general support for differentiating between democratically inclined Montenegro and authoritarian Serbia, and the possibility that Montenegrin leaders may eventually push for full sovereignty was also laid on the table. Several speakers and participants speculated as to whether the West can play any role in supporting the emergence of a viable democratic opposition force in Serbia. It was suggested by one Serb participant that even an intimation of Western support would represent the kiss of death for those groups given Milosevic's capacity to exploit Serb suspicions toward the West and the rather pervasive sense of Serb exceptionalism. Whether a viable opposition emerges could possibly also be linked to the degree to which Serbs confront the crimes that have been committed in their name Ð a topic which sparked a discussion of the nature of individual versus collective guilt.
- Finally, much time was spent considering both the burdens this conflict has imposed on other countries in the region and possible strategies for providing assistance and deepening the ties between the Balkans and the rest of Europe. Ministers from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia outlined the serious impact this crisis has had in economic and political terms Ð and their observations were echoed by officials from other countries in the region. Sanctions and military conflict engendered a huge exodus of refugees and cut much of the region off from the key markets of Western Europe. For countries like the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, regional upheaval has wrought a desperate economic situation. This discussion led into a more general reflection on how reconstruction and reintegration should be approached. Here the most important theme was that any approach the West adopts should be regional in scope. An excessive focus on bilateralism in the Balkans over the past decade has done little to stem the slide into war and economic collapse. Lastly, several participants expressed their conviction that assistance must be linked to economic and political reform and should not provide cover to those dedicated to preserving the status quo.
III. HISTORY AS MIRROR: THE ROOTS OF THE CONFLICT
- Dr. Noel Malcom led a discussion on the manner in which Balkan history, or varying interpretations of that history, shapes contemporary Balkan politics. Western analysis of the Balkans, he argued, is frequently informed by notions that the region is almost helplessly in the grip of ancient hostilities. Yet such simplistic notions invariably lead to the dispiriting conclusion that securing regional peace will ultimately prove impossible.
- In the opinion of several speakers including Dr. Malcom, this analysis is, at best, misleading and should not constitute the intellectual foundation for Western policy toward the region. Genuine ethnic hatred in the Balkans only reared its ugly head in this century, while the battles that over the centuries ripped apart the region were largely a consequence of great power rivalries. In other words, centuries of Habsburg-Ottoman conflict, rather than some indigenous and deeply ingrained ethnic hostility, constituted the source of much of the bloodshed.
- According to Dr. Malcom, in the modern period, only the adoption of a rather crude model of the Western nation state in the Balkans began the process of ethnically inspired war. Beforehand, Serbs and Albanians were just as likely to fight together than on opposite sides. The Balkan wars of this century, however, saw the beginnings of ethnically based mass expulsions and forced conversions. Thus several of the most compelling problems that have beset the region in this century might well be traced to the "Europeanisation" of Balkan politics. Obviously, the ways in which the past is interpreted can have important consequences on contemporary political life just as contemporary politics tends to shape historical interpretation. The relationship is organic, and this dynamic is evident in the Balkans.
- According to Ambassador Tore Bogh, the Head of the OSCE Task Force in Kosovo, there is a tendency today among some to look back with nostalgia to Tito's Yugoslavia, largely because that regime was able to suppress the kinds of ethnic disputes that have riddled South-Eastern Europe over the last decade. Yet, Tito's approach, which was fundamentally undemocratic, involved little in the way of inter-ethnic reconciliation. Serious efforts to deal with outstanding tensions were supplanted by a kind of persistent reverence for Tito and the resistance legacy, a phenomenon which only made it easier for the regime to squelch dissent and which contributed to Tito's own failure to prepare a new generation of leaders. The result was an essentially disaffected populace and an utterly unprepared political elite, two conditions that Milosevic so ably exploited.
- Only with the amendments to the constitution in 1974 were Kosovar Albanians able to achieve a reasonable degree of control over their own affairs. Although Kosovo was not made a full-fledged republic, it came to enjoy most of the privileges of that status such as control over its high courts and direct representation in the federal presidency. Autonomy also triggered something of a Kosovar Albanian renaissance that culminated with the establishment of an Albanian language university. Meanwhile, the high birth rate of Kosovar Albanians suggested to some Serbs that their influence over this province was doomed to diminish even further over time.
- Yet, any attempt to understand the sources of the Kosovo conflict in all its dimensions - the concentration camps, the seemingly random acts of violence, the mass expulsions - ultimately must emphasise the central role played by Milosevic and his regime's policies. Seminar speakers and participants repeatedly asserted that fomenting nationalist resentments represented the central feature of that regime's political strategy, and the results have been catastrophic.
- In fact, Milosevic has pursued two distinct strategies over the course of the last decade. Initially, as the leader of Serbia within the old Yugoslavia, he sought to gain control over the entire federal system first by subverting the governments of Montenegro, Vojvodina and Kosovo. Within the federal presidency, he was only one vote shy of achieving this domination. But his actions had already aroused nationalist reactions throughout Yugoslavia which ultimately led both Slovenian and Croatian leaders to secede from the federation.
- The commitment of these republics to their independence inspired Milosevic to change tack. He subsequently resurrected the time-worn idea of a Greater Serbia - a notion with powerful historical resonance in Serbia, a prospect of growing interest to Serb intellectuals and nationalists, and one that aroused dark suspicion and fear beyond Serbia. From Milosevic's perspective, if he could not dominate the old Yugoslavia, then he would redraw the map to extend Serbia well beyond its legal borders so that it would incorporate all territories inhabited by Serb populations, regardless of whether they were in the majority or the minority or if they wished to be part of this project. Milosevic was also convinced that his capacity to exercise political and economic control over this Greater Serbia demanded a degree of ethnic purity. Finally, he showed himself willing to achieve these ends through political manipulation, the exercise of military power and what he euphemistically labelled "ethnic cleansing".
- The seminar included some discussion about what the West might have done at an earlier juncture to prevent what now seems to have been like an almost inexorable slide into regional war. It is possible, for example, that had the West shown more support for Milan Panic in 1992, that slide might have been averted. But the West essentially boycotted him, and this may have paved the way for Milosevic to assert ever greater control over Serbian political life. More forceful reaction to Serb shelling of Croatian cities in 1991 or inclusion of the Kosovo question at Dayton might also have made it possible to address some of the region's most serious security problems without the kind of violence that would eventually tear the peninsula asunder.
IV. RAMBOUILLET AND THE INTERVENTION
- Ambassador Christopher Hill discussed in detail the efforts he undertook as a principal Western negotiator at Rambouillet to reach an agreement with Milosevic on Kosovo. He noted that the Kosovar Albanians had endorsed Western military proposals but not the political ones, while Yugoslavian officials were willing to accept the political outline that the West had tabled, but Milosevic would not even discuss the military annex - a document over which the West would have been willing to bargain, according to Ambassador Hill. The Serb leader probably sensed that he could never sell the idea of foreign troops in Kosovo to his nationalist supporters and finally decided in a typically fatalistic fashion that it was better to invite the conflict with NATO than to have accepted NATO's security proposals. Hill strenuously rejected the accusation that the West had approached Rambouillet in "bad faith". He reported that Western governments wanted to avoid a military conflict precisely because war itself is terribly unpredictable and can never be carefully calibrated to yield desired political outcomes. The problem was simply that Milosevic would not even countenance Western proposals. Moreover, during the negotiations, he was preparing a broad programme of violent ethnic expulsion - which, among other things, suggested that he himself was negotiating in bad faith. According to Ambassador Hill, NATO entered the conflict precisely because ethnic expulsions were already underway in the province.
- Ambassador Hill described NATO's military intervention as an extremely difficult and risky operation in which the stakes were inordinately high. Those risks were obvious, not only to Kosovar Albanians but also to NATO cohesion, public support for the engagement, and the internal order of other states in the region. Yet the risks of inaction outweighed the potential hazards of action. Clearly, by setting out to redraw the ethnic map of the Balkans, Milosevic directly threatened to destabilise the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. From the start, he explicitly sought to widen the war by generating the greatest humanitarian crisis that Europe had seen since the Second World War. The resulting flood of refugees placed enormous economic, social and political strains on Serbia's neighbours which could have easily resulted in a broader war.
- The moral issue of the intervention was also taken up, and Michael Ignatieff's remarks on this subject sparked a particularly rewarding discussion. He first defended the principal of the intervention, arguing that Milosevic's Yugoslavia, which he characterised as Europe's last Communist-style regime, has posed a genuine threat to regional stability for a decade. He as well as other speakers noted the broadly destabilising impact of Milosevic's policy of ethnic polarisation and argued that intervention was therefore justified. Yet, Ignatieff also voiced his own unease with some of the consequences of the NATO campaign - namely that the tactics employed had failed in purely military terms, and that only the bombing of "dual use" assets - or those with both civilian and military uses like power grids, bridges, etc. - as well as strong political pressures on Milosevic brought the military intervention to a conclusion. Nevertheless, it did so on terms which were largely dictated by Milosevic. In this sense, the victory was somewhat paradoxical. Milosevic's forces left the province in reasonably good order and largely intact. (This was confirmed by several other speakers who noted that there was little evidence that NATO inflicted much military damage on Yugoslav forces in Kosovo. It should be noted, however, that assessments of the military consequences of the war are ongoing. ) According to Ignatieff, the means by which the victory was achieved has taken some of the moral wind out of NATO's sails, and this, in turn, has raised a prickly moral dilemma which demands serious reflection on the part of Western military planners and political leaders alike.
- Several speakers, however, argued that the Kosovo conflict was not a war in any real sense, and that NATO's intervention was so anomalous as to make it exceedingly difficult to draw general conclusions that might be of use to those engaged in military planning. One participant noted that this brief war might be best characterised as a campaign to change one man's mind.
- Ignatieff also suggested that in contrast to the predictions of many pundits, the Hague Tribunal's indictment of Milosevic hastened NATO's victory as it made clear to the Serb leader that he would have very little room to deal diplomatically with Western governments and particularly with the United States. That indictment obliterated the notion that Western leaders, who had cultivated their links to Milosevic after Dayton, could continue to do business with him. The indictment also reduced the political options for the Russians who, despite their pro-Serb orientation, did not want to be linked too closely to an indicted war criminal. Nevertheless, the Serb leader still managed to set the terms and timing of the war's end and thereby spared himself the humiliation of an unconditional surrender.
- Ambassador Hill agreed with Ignatieff that the indictment ultimately helped NATO, but he additionally indicated that Milosevic finally folded his cards because he was on the verge of a political disaster which threatened the "kleptocracy" that he had constructed for himself and his closest supporters. Indeed, the bombing of economic assets had begun to inspire Milosevic's economically powerful supporters to question his bellicose strategy. The political stakes had ultimately risen too high for Milosevic, and in the end he had no choice but to withdraw his forces from the province in order to save his regime.
- Yugoslavia is now a pariah, and as long as Milosevic dominates the life of that state, the government will be unable to establish normal relations with the international community. The country is virtually bankrupt and cannot even pay the salaries of many reservists who participated in the Kosovo campaign. Yugoslavia is certainly in no position to finance its own reconstruction. This enervated condition has already reduced the temptation to seek a military solution to the Montenegrin problem. In the end, the disaster that has befallen Serbia is largely Milosevic's doing and, according to Hill, it could ultimately bring him down.
V. BUILDING DEMOCRACY OR ACHIEVING SOVEREIGNTY: WESTERN POLICY TOWARD KOSOVO
- The terms on which the war ended have raised numerous dilemmas for those now seeking to build stability in Kosovo and lay the foundations for a more stable, democratic and prosperous region. There is no Dayton-like agreement in place and, thus, no legal and political foundation to affect a regional transition. All that exists at this juncture is a military-technical agreement, a military occupation and a gaping juridical void. In the final analysis, a regional settlement will be essential to solving many of the outstanding questions such as the status of Kosovo and Montenegro and their place in or outside Yugoslavia. This settlement, in turn, should provide a kind of blueprint for regional integration and the region's deeper involvement in European structures.
- Some analysts see a choice emerging in Kosovo between democracy and independence. Participants mulled over the implications of focusing on Kosovo's eventual sovereignty versus strategies to lay the foundations for democratic institutions informed by a democratically oriented civil society. Those who above all desire democracy stress the need for honest and representative government; in a sense, achieving good governance and a vibrant democratic life from the ground up could even render a large question like full sovereignty for the province essentially irrelevant to the lives of most Kosovars. Michael Ignatieff put it this way: "It may be that we will end up with independence, but what we need first is democracy." Several speakers also noted that were Kosovo to be granted full sovereignty too abruptly, democracy itself could be neglected, particularly if achieving that sovereignty were to involve any effort to render Kosovo ethnically "pure".
- Yet, there were also those who insisted during the seminar that no viable solution to the most intractable social, political and economic problems in Kosovo will be found unless the province is granted full independence. In this view, as long as Kosovo's future within the FRY remains an open question, it will be very difficult to create an institutional framework for resolving outstanding political, social and economic problems, and this alone invites ongoing instability. Indeed, Kosovo is an institutional vacuum that the international community itself must fill, and a legal framework is an essential element.
- Noel Malcom resolutely maintained that although the old Yugoslav constitution formally placed Kosovo within Serbia as an autonomous province, Kosovo operated as a de facto republic and therefore now possesses a legitimate claim to full sovereignty. He noted that the Badinter Commission had not been asked to designate which republics actually constitute today's Yugoslavia, but only to determine whether the republics were entitled to secede. He also suggested that that the federal institutions have become largely irrelevant and that Kosovo should therefore be considered free to establish its independence. Finally, Malcom argued, given what has transpired in Kosovo over the last year, it seems impossible in practical terms to ask the Kosovar Albanians to stay within the Yugoslav state or to accept Serbian domination. Several participants strongly objected to this argument. To redraw the map along ethnic lines, they argued, would establish a particularly dangerous precedent that would only open up dormant border questions throughout the continent. Consequently, few Western countries would sign on to any project to redraw Balkan borders.
- Ambassador Hill related the two ideas in a somewhat different fashion when he suggested that if Serbia itself does not democratise quickly, Kosovo will very likely become independent. He too noted that it would be foolish to rely on the 1974 constitution to resolve the sovereignty question. That constitution, he said, is a product of a fundamentally non-democratic process. But he argued that focusing on the final status at this juncture is unhelpful and he, as well as Michael Ignatieff, stated that it was too early to discuss redrawing the map whether or not there were legal precedents for doing so. Both men suggested that any discussion of Kosovo's status along the lines outlined by Noel Malcom would tend to distract attention away from the central task of creating a context, from the bottom up, for economic revival and democratisation. Grass roots reconciliation efforts, democracy building and economic reconstruction constitute the building blocks for Kosovo's ultimate revival, and its final legal status is essentially irrelevant given the immediate crisis. The West should help people in the region learn that government intersects with their lives at various levels and, therefore, that a narrow focus upon the central power is not the only or even the best way to build democracy. This idea emerged as one of the seminar's central themes. Ambassador Hill did suggest, however, that if Serbia itself does not democratise quickly, Kosovo will most likely become independent. This discussion also opened up the question of how quickly elections should be organised in Kosovo given both the current instability and the need to ensure that those who have designated themselves as local leaders actually enjoy democratic legitimacy.
- Participants were also interested in how the Kosovo question can be set in a regional framework. Many participants asserted that this war has reflected a failure to achieve an overall regional settlement. It is high time to do so, and the international community must now set out to achieve this end. At the same time, it was generally recognised that the European Union should focus more attention and resources on the region as a whole and, as the Commission proposed in late spring 1999, ultimately frame its approach in the context of enlargement. In other words, the countries of South-Eastern Europe must develop a sense that their participation in EU institutions remains a distinct possibility and that Europe will provide support to make this possible.
- At several junctures, participants reflected upon the relevance of the Benelux model for building stronger relations between Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo; but it was generally felt that importing this type of model into the Balkans would not necessarily be helpful. One participant discounted the fears among many in the region of Albanian aspirations to build a greater Albania. He suggested that this was not a genuinely powerful impulse in Albania proper, and insofar as it has manifested itself in Kosovo, it is largely a response to the terrible treatment the Kosovar Albanian community has suffered at the hands of Milosevic's henchmen.
- The tension between focusing on democracy or on sovereignty is obvious, and it is one that NATO's members have essentially skirted but will eventually have to confront. As Michael Ignatieff argued, the West has no choice but to remain fully engaged in the region if they genuinely want to secure an enduring peace throughout the continent. But tough challenges are ahead. Ethnic cleansing against Serbs in Kosovo is underway, and KFOR has so far shown itself unable to put a stop to this. There have been open clashes between the two ethnic groups in cities such as Mitrovica, where French forces have placed themselves between the two groups - something that has led to accusations that KFOR is actually preventing Kosovar Albanians from returning to their homes. Achieving some degree of ethnic reconciliation will ultimately demand a different approach. At the same time, the UCK is not likely to be a pliant partner for the West, and its agenda, or at least the agenda of some UCK adherents, could render the task of reconstruction and reconciliation all the more complex.
VI. THE CURRENT SITUATION IN KOSOVO
- The Deputy Commander of KFOR General Klaus Olhausen, who is specifically responsible for Humanitarian Operations, spoke about the current situation on the ground in Kosovo and KFOR co-operation with other institutions and NGOs.
- KFOR itself is a genuinely international force which includes multinational battalions. There are, for example, Austrian-Swiss and Slovakian-Slovenian battalions. Forces are assigned to areas of responsibility, but these are not designated as "sectors" for a number of reasons. Obviously that term raises the spectre of Cold-War divisions - a spectre which is hardly welcome given the engagement of Russian forces. At the same time, there has been an effort to ensure that these military areas of responsibility coincide with civilian areas of responsibility to ensure a high degree of coherence between military and civilian authorities.
- The legal basis for that force's presence in Kosovo, the General noted, lies in UN Security Council Resolution 1244. KFOR commanders worked closely with Yugoslavian military and certain Yugoslavian political leaders to orchestrate the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces. A joint implementation commission was also established to communicate with FRY and UCK forces. The goal was for KFOR to enter promptly into those regions from which Yugoslav forces had just vacated.
- KFOR is now working with Kosovo's emerging leaders including the UCK's Thaci and the Chief of the UCK General Staff Ceku, as well as potential political leaders whose names are less familiar but who are in a position to ensure a degree of democratic dynamism in the war-torn province. At the time of the seminar, Mr. Rugova had not yet visited post-war Kosovo. General Olhausen was pleased that the UCK was so far co-operating with KFOR, but noted as well that violence continues to plague the region, and Serbian civilians continue their exodus despite pleas from KFOR officers to stay. KFOR Commander General Jackson was working diligently to provide reassurance to the Serb population. Yet extending full protection so far had proved particularly difficult in many areas.
- The General also pointed to potential problems in fully demilitarising the UCK, which is now active throughout the province. The numbers of UCK personnel still remain a mystery, and so it may prove difficult to ensure that all weapons have been turned over by the 20 September deadline. For its part, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) had at least 600 fighters deployed throughout Kosovo at the time of the conference and had agreed to participate in demilitarisation. The Serbian military has turned over mine maps, but these are far from complete, and scattered mines are creating a nightmare for civilians as well as KFOR troops. There was also evidence that some Serbian paramilitary forces had stayed behind and were not complying with the Security Council resolution.
- KFOR is co-ordinating its efforts with the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo to advance reconciliation, for example, by encouraging Serb dominated energy utilities to rehire Kosovar Albanian employees who, over the last decade, had been systematically excluded from the province's economic life. But the task of achieving even a minimal degree of reconciliation is enormous and will demand time, patience and a great deal of effort on all sides.
- Military forces do not generally have rules of engagement to carry out police work, and KFOR has consequently had to rely on common sense to stabilise a province beset by lawlessness and fuelled by a climate of revenge. The OSCE is setting up a police academy and will introduce a six-week instruction programme to train a cadre of police officers who will eventually relieve KFOR from its current policing responsibilities. Two thousand international police officers are eventually to be deployed throughout the province, although this will take time.
- KFOR has also had to work closely with UNHCR to ensure a safe and orderly refugee return - a task that proved particularly difficult given the surprisingly hasty repatriation after the end of the conflict. General Olhausen admitted that few expected such a large and quick return of refugees from the camps, and the almost unprecedented speed of repatriation had only further complicated the task of stabilising the province in the immediate aftermath of the fighting. Refugee return made it imperative that all institutions work closely to meet the basic needs of this population and begin preparations for the coming winter.
- Mr. Afrim Ethemi, from the Centre for Reconstruction of Kosovo in Pristina, indicated that a registry of Kosovar Albanian houses was put together in 1998 and that this has been very helpful in assessing the massive damage throughout the province, where some 42,000 homes had been destroyed. He noted that Serbian forces systematically destroyed the Kosovar Albanian housing stock and that the resulting wasteland was not due to NATO bombing as Milosevic's regime had implied.
- Mr. Ethemi also discussed a possible phased approach to reconstruction, beginning with meeting basic needs, building first a "family" economy and then restoring infrastructure which would permit the revival of medium-sized firms. Mr. Ethemi noted that the people of Kosovo are well educated and capable but are in dire need of foreign assistance to get back on their feet.
VII. WESTERN POLICY TOWARD SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO
- Over the course of the seminar, there was also much discussion regarding what approach the West should now take to Serbia. Again, there was a consensus that the approach must be set in a regional framework and must comprise political, diplomatic and economic initiatives. The piecemeal approach of the last ten years, according to several speakers, has done little to foster the preconditions for regional peace.
- The Serbian economy has collapsed as a result of sanctions, the lack of reform, criminalisation, and the bombing campaign. The regime is now extremely isolated. Seminar speakers deliberated on the prospect of Serbian participation in Western-funded reconstruction efforts. Most, but not all, agreed that while some degree of humanitarian assistance is essential, it would be ill-advised to provide reconstruction support to the current government. Nevertheless several speakers suggested that repairing the damaged electrical grids falls under the rubric of humanitarian assistance. There was some question as to whether other countries in the region depend upon this grid. Trade in food products might also be encouraged, particularly as other countries in the region to varying degrees depend on food trade with Serbia. To impose blanket bans on such activity might only grease the wheels of the black market and thereby benefit those enjoying government protection. At the same time, ensuring a large international NGO presence in Serbia to counter Milosevic's message that the international community is anti-Serb would be helpful. Obviously, subtle Western support to local NGOs can also be of great potential benefit.
- The prospects for regime change at the time of the seminar did not appear to be propitious. The opposition was fractured and lacked the means, coherence and infrastructure to pose a serious alternative to Milosevic. He, in turn, has shown himself perfectly capable and willing to exploit and exacerbate those divisions and deficiencies. The government holds power through the exercise of pure force and has used martial law to outlaw dissent. But it has also capably exploited the power of patronage and controlled certain channels of corruption to achieve its ends.
- Milosevic has been perfectly willing to equate opposition with treason and to crack down accordingly. There is therefore a genuine risk of civil war. Yet, the anti-regime demonstrations breaking out in the south at the time of the seminar largely reflected general suffering as well as the government's refusal to pay reservists. There has been little public reckoning with the human rights abuses that this regime undertook in Kosovo. Milosevic controls the police, and his cronies have managed to profit even as the economy as a whole has suffered. Given the personal stakes of those in power, it is possible that this regime will only fall through violent means, but it is not clear if the public itself would rise up against it or if certain elements of the inner circle might contemplate a coup.
- Mr. Dejan Anastasijevic, a journalist with Vreme and a correspondent for Time Magazine, warned that it would be a fatal error for Western governments to designate which opposition forces were acceptable to it. Given widely shared Serb suspicions about Western motives and the regime's tendency to delegitimise opposition forces by suggesting that they constitute a kind of fifth column in support of Western interests, Western governments ought to keep a very low profile in domestic Serbian politics. British Foreign Minister Robin Cook's praise of the independent radio station B92, for example, almost certainly led to its shutdown. On the other hand, ways must be found to engage the Serbian people economically as the regime only seems to profit from efforts to impose blanket sanctions.
- Within Serbia there has been a kind of collective refusal to confront the atrocities that have taken place. Until this happens, Serbia's political democratisation may prove elusive. One participant noted that it will be hard to build democracy in Serbia without some degree of repentance for crimes committed in the name of the Serbian people. At this juncture, there are very few people in Serbia willing to confront the reality of these terrible crimes, and there is still some degree of ignorance about what transpired in Kosovo because of Milosevic's control of the media. Serbian intellectuals have also been slow to acknowledge these crimes, and so far have even failed to recognise their own contribution to fostering the myths that inspired the utterly destructive project for a Greater Serbia. It should be recalled that the Serbian Academy of Sciences helped fuel a climate of intolerance and hyper-nationalism in Serbia by issuing a document calling for the restoration of a Greater Serbia. The Serbs must now accommodate themselves to the notion that Serbia is no longer a regional superpower but only a normal Balkan state. In Malcom's view, this process of accommodation will be akin to what the British and French underwent after the loss of their empires earlier this century.
- On the other hand, the Serbian Orthodox Church has now begun to confront the moral issues related to the mass killing, and this could be a harbinger of mounting awareness of the crimes that have taken place and a willingness to confront the legacy of this regime. Along these lines, several participants also suggested that war crimes prosecutions constitute an essential building block for democracy throughout the region, and the innumerable missed opportunities to apprehend key war crimes suspects is therefore particularly lamentable.
- This particular discussion also sparked off a debate on the question of individual versus collective guilt - a debate which was perhaps finally settled when one participant suggested that one could trace the problem to a series of individual acts, while solutions would only be found in the assumption of "collective responsibility". Mr. Ethemi agreed that the notion of collective responsibility was not particularly helpful, but he also noted that the crimes carried out in Kosovo required the active participation of many people. It is something, he asserted, that the Kosovar Albanians will not forget. Michael Ignatieff added that ultimately the need to achieve reconciliation makes it imperative that notions of collective guilt be avoided; this is precisely why the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has an important role to play in building a climate of peace.
- Mr. Predrag Popovic, the Vice-President of the Montenegrin Parliament, discussed the unique case of Montenegro which, although part of the FRY, is moving along a democratic path. The ruling coalition in Montenegro, he asserted, is attempting to build a more open society and is generally supported by the Montenegrin public. His government is seeking to establish close relations with its neighbours, forge deeper links to the EU, Russia and the United States and participate in IMF and World Bank programmes. According to Mr. Popovic, Montenegrin authorities are intent on furthering the process of privatisation and extending market-oriented policies. Along these lines, it welcomes recent proposals for a Stability Pact (see below) designed to shore up the region's economies, while deepening links to Europe.
- The government of Montenegro opposed the war and has consistently sought to find diplomatic solutions to an array of outstanding regional problems. At the same time, however, it fully opposed the policy of ethnic expulsions carried out by the Milosevic regime. The government of Montenegro endorses all policies which might enhance Serbia's democratic development and sees a flourishing Serbian democracy as a precondition for the preservation of some form of union with Yugoslavia. That union must be rooted in a new legal framework which grants autonomy to its constituent members while enhancing democracy. Montenegro has its own representative body, and the government sees the current Serbian Parliament as totally illegitimate. Mr. Popovic suggested that if the system is not changed, Montenegrin authorities will organise a referendum that would ask Montenegrins whether the Republic of Montenegro should break all ties with Serbia. Montenegro has outlined a proposal to transform the federal structure into a "union of states" (and formally conveyed this to Serbia in August.) There is one party in Montenegro which is sympathetic to Milosevic, which still has cards to play in Montenegro, and it is no coincidence and indeed quite ominous that a number of troops withdrawing from Kosovo were redeployed in Montenegro. On the other hand, the regime is so weak that it might not risk another military incursion, particularly one launched against ethnic Serbs.
VIII. THE BURDENS ON OTHER COUNTRIES IN THE REGION
- All the Macedonian speakers pointed to the great burdens the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and other states in the region have shouldered as a result of the war and the refugee crisis. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, for example, has hosted the extraction force and the peacekeeping force as well as roughly 300,000 refugees, equivalent to 15% of the population. The influx of Kosovar Albanians was potentially destabilising given the potentially delicate ethnic balance in that country. In recent years, the government has made herculean efforts to foster inter-ethnic reconciliation, and the war and the influx of refugees potentially could have undermined those endeavours. Fortunately, it did not.
- According to Nikola Kljusev, Minister of Defence, Macedonian willingness to accept these burdens has reflected a broadly shared commitment to regional stability and economic integration with Europe. Alliance leaders, in turn, recognised and appreciated the sacrifices that countries like the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had taken on and, for that reason, extended unprecedented security guarantees to several front line states during the conflict, something which the Foreign Minister, Aleksandar Dimitrov, considered virtually equivalent to the guarantees among NATO members. But perhaps more should have been done on the Western side. It was suggested, for example, that NATO would have been well advised to have sent a political ambassador to the region early on in the conflict to explain NATO policies and, in turn, to generate greater Western understanding of the potential implications for the region.
- Virtually all Macedonian exports pass through Yugoslavia, and war has therefore curtailed much of the country's commercial life. According to Nikola Gruevski, Minister of Trade, total trade has fallen by roughly 18-20% as a direct result of the conflict. Agricultural exports, which have real potential to generate foreign exchange for the country, have been obliterated. Many of the factories destroyed in Serbia regularly purchased supplies from Macedonian producers so their shut-down has had a large knock-on effect across the border. Macedonian firms imported countless raw materials from Yugoslavia and now face much higher supply costs. Thousands of Macedonians have lost their jobs since the conflict began, worker unrest is evident, and at least 28 large firms have temporarily closed according to Mr. Aleksandar Dimitrov. These problems have only added to the burdens of transition, the terribly adverse consequences of Yugoslavia's break-up on the region, and the recently ended Greek trade boycott stemming from disputes about the country's name - precisely the kind of dispute, Ambassador Hill noted, that the region simply does not need. Moreover, insurance prices and capital costs have skyrocketed because of increased risk factors. Yet, despite these problems, the government has introduced tough liberalisation measures which has made it possible to bring down inflation and the budget deficit, stabilise the Dinar's exchange rate and service the national debt. The country has been working with the IMF and World Bank to build upon these vital structural changes. But according to the Minister of Finance, Mr. Boris Stojmenov, recent events have made these policies more difficult to sustain and undermined the government's capacity to make the country "a zone of stability".
- Unemployment now stands at 40%, and the balance of payments deficit is rising sharply. In the wake of the war, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is no longer in a position to service its debt and must pay debts totalling $188 million this year.
- The government has therefore appealed for greater foreign assistance and access to new lines of credit to help meet the financial pressures which have accrued as a direct result of the war. This is why the government has attached so much importance to the Stability Pact, while insisting that it should evolve into a system of genuine regional economic aid designed to speed up South-Eastern Europe's integration into the EU. The degree to which the region as a whole achieves a higher degree of economic integration might well prove the most telling measure of this initiative's ultimate success. The government has recently signed a number of bilateral trade liberalisation agreements throughout the region and is in the midst of negotiations with other states. The government also hopes to see Serbia eventually integrated into any scheme of regional co-operation, if for no other reason than the fact that it conducted roughly $680 million of trade with the FRY before the conflict.
- Several speakers stressed the great sensitivity of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to events in Kosovo. Given the ethnic mix in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the government did a remarkable job in preserving domestic calm throughout the war. But credit must also be given to the Albanian political parties which maintained an admirable sense of responsibility throughout the crisis. The OSCE mission was involved in monitoring the border with Kosovo where much of the press was concentrated during the conflict. Given the serious pressure that the country was under, the state did a reasonably good job in managing the huge influx of refugees. The international press, according to one speaker, over-stated the problems on the border and did not provide a fair portrayal of what was actually transpiring. He argued that Macedonian authorities performed admirably considering the conditions they faced.
- Mr. Amin Awad, the representative of UNHCR in Skopje, however, noted that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was not always able to follow the "first country principle" for refugee acceptance. For its part, the UNHCR strove to follow two principles in its treatment of refugees: 1) the top priority was to save lives; and 2) supreme efforts were made not to destabilise the host country. This meant that some refugees had to be sent to third countries, unfortunately not always in full respect of their dignity. Part of the movement to third countries may have also been due to the fact that many Kosovar Albanians had relatives in third countries. Mr. Awad also regretted the excessive media attention to the refugee crossings and noted that refugees had been essentially well cared for, in contrast to situations in other war-torn areas of the world. He also expressed his concern that interest in the plight of the refugees might dwindle just as UNHCR needs support for efforts to resettle them.
- Several speakers and participants explored the situation in other countries in the region including Albania, Bulgaria and Romania (This was also a central theme of a special NATO PA Report The Economic Consequences of the War and Reconstruction in South-Eastern Europe - [AS 120 EC/EW (99) 7] by Harry Cohen, which was distributed at the seminar). As in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia , these countries have all shouldered enormous economic burdens as a result of sanctions against the FRY and the recent conflict.
- But there is a potentially positive development emerging from the crisis. It has finally attracted concerted Western attention to the situation in south-eastern Europe. While NATO has focused on the need to create a more viable foundation for long-term security, the European Union as well as North American governments now recognise the imperative of integrating this region with Europe and the international community.
IX. ASSISTING THE REGION
- Accordingly, another core theme of the seminar was the need for Europe and North America to develop a comprehensive regional approach to south-eastern Europe and to work to integrate the Balkans into the institutional and economic life of the West. The challenges are numerous because of the south-eastern Europe's sheer heterogeneity and the legacy of ten years of civil strife and war. Europe, however, is keenly interested in advancing economic, political and social development in the Balkans. The Stability Pact could make advances on these fronts by reinforcing the region's institutional life, developing markets and ultimately building new links between the Balkans and the rest of Europe. As stated at the meeting of the European Council in Cologne in June 1999, the Stability Pact will consist of three roundtables on democracy and human rights; economic reconstruction, development and co-operation; and security.
- According to Ambassador Burkhart, the German Ambassador to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Stability Pact envisions political assistance to the region which should foster comprehensive regional integration and thereby lay the foundation for a more broadly integrated Europe. But he cautioned that full accession to the European Union will take time because the stringent criteria and provisions for accession laid out in Copenhagen in 1992 remain valid and are probably not within immediate reach for most of the states in the region. The first order of priority therefore involves measures to stabilise the region while, over the longer term, the goal for both Europe and the region should be to create a single Europe.
- Craig Buck of USAID discussed the potential American role in reconstruction. He noted that the US Administration sees economic reform as a vital element of economic and political revival. Bank reform, privatisation, effective prudential regulation, and the adoption of international accounting procedures, he argued, will all be essential to ensuring efficient capital allocation, and by extension, would help streamline Western aid-giving and thus maximise its impact. A key problem for the Agency, however, is that until the war's end it had not been operating in Kosovo, and thus must now work quickly to familiarise itself with conditions there. USAID is also intent on assisting the process of political reform and sees this as an integral element of economic revitalisation. Bolstering democratic institutions, strengthening the free media, raising judicial standards, and fighting corruption can all be seen as initiatives that would contribute directly to economic as well as democratic development. But immediate and more basic needs are compelling and include the imperative of providing winter shelter for many of those who lost their homes.
X. THE ROLE OF RUSSIA
- The role of Russia was discussed throughout the seminar. It was naturally recognised that Western relations with Russia have suffered enormously as a result of the conflict. Nevertheless, several speakers asserted that Russia had ultimately helped the West out of a very difficult situation by putting pressure on Milosevic and agreeing to participate in KFOR. But this benign view was not universally accepted. One speaker argued that Russia had not been at all helpful and that it had initially encouraged Serbia simply to create problems for NATO. Russia's frustration at no longer being a global superpower, another participant suggested, had inspired a rather desperate attempt to preserve its influence in the region - the occupation of the Pristina airfield being only the latest illustration of this psychology at work. It should be noted that the Russians chose not to send a delegation to the seminar so their own perspective was not represented in the discussions.
XI. CONCLUDING IMPRESSIONS
- Mr. Frank Cook briefly concluded the seminar by highlighting the key themes that had been discussed over the course of the seminar. He also asserted that one of the most important lessons issuing from the recent conflict, and indeed from developments in the Balkans over the last ten years, is that the West needs a regional and not a strictly bilateral approach to south-eastern Europe. Only in this fashion can the various governments in south-eastern Europe address the plethora of strategic, political and economic challenges they are currently confronting. At the same time, NATO's capacity to respond to the security problem posed by Milosevic and the general support for this difficult operation lent by states in the region vindicated both the integration process that has occurred within NATO and the changes NATO has undergone since the Cold War's end. The high degree of co-operation among the member states made it possible to hold together politically and militarily throughout this extremely trying challenge, and ultimately helped NATO prevail over Milosevic. Mr. Cook asserted that such cohesion must be preserved and further developed to ensure the reconstruction of Kosovo and the integration of the entire region into Euro-Atlantic structures. In addition, the enormous sacrifices that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and other states in the region have made throughout this crisis must be acknowledged. In so doing, the Western community should extend a helping hand to states like the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which has been hemmed in for too long, and which, in order to achieve a higher degree of development, desperately needs new opportunities to deepen its ties to the international community.