Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Balkans and Europe: Testing Times

From The Economist print edition
Why nerves are jangling from Croatia to Macedonia

FOR the countries of former Yugoslavia, 2006 will be busy—and perhaps dangerous. This time next year, the map may look quite different. In Kosovo, there is a risk of violence linked to talks over the province's future status. Montenegro will bid for independence. As all countries in the western Balkans prepare for talks to join the European Union, one source in Brussels talks of “a giant ‘to-do’ list”.

Last week's arrest of Ante Gotovina, a former Croatian general, has at least crossed one item off the list. Mr Gotovina was the only Croat fugitive still wanted by the UN's war-crimes tribunal in The Hague. He faces charges of murder and ethnic cleansing during the operation to end Serb rule in Krajina in 1995 that saw the flight of up to 200,000 Serbs. That he was picked up in Spain, after a tip-off from the Croatian government, suggests that it has at last regained control over its security services, which have helped Mr Gotovina in the past. The threat of suspending Croatia's talks on EU accession, which began in October, for failure to co-operate with The Hague tribunal has now been lifted.

Such a threat still hangs over Serbia and Montenegro. All six remaining fugitives from The Hague are Serbs. It seems more than likely that some parts of the country's security services know the whereabouts of the two biggest fish, Radovan Karadzic, leader of the Bosnian Serbs in the war of 1992-95, and Ratko Mladic, his military commander.

In October Serbia and Montenegro began talks on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU, a prelude to membership talks. With Mr Gotovina behind bars, pressure to find the other fugitives will increase—and, if the Serbian authorities are not judged to be doing enough, the talks could halt. They may in any case have to pause for the country to disintegrate. A commission of the Council of Europe has just written a draft opinion finding Montenegro's referendum law acceptable. Montenegro may hold its vote next April. If the opposition boycotts it, independence (and instability) may be the result—though, with luck, not violence.

Few would be so sanguine about Kosovo. Since the end of the war in 1999, it has been under the jurisdiction of the UN even though it is technically part of Serbia. A large majority of its people, over 90% of whom are ethnic Albanian, want full independence. Serbia's leaders are against. A UN-led group under the leadership of Martti Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president, has now started discussions on Kosovo's future status. He may recommend “conditional independence”, ending the sovereign link with Serbia and offering a form of independence to Kosovo, but with residual powers being given to an international mission that would take over from the UN.

The EU does not want to run Kosovo but it knows it must play a big role in its future and may have to pay a lot of the costs of running the place. Javier Solana and Olli Rehn, respectively the EU's foreign-policy supremo and its enlargement commissioner, have begun planning. In a recent letter to colleagues, they have given warning of the need to make “adequate” provision for Kosovo, although nobody knows how much it might cost.

Equally, nobody knows what would happen if the “disaster scenario” struck, with the talks led by Mr Ahtisaari stalling and hard-line Albanian (or Serb) nationalists provoking violence. That could conceivably lead to the flight of the province's entire Serbian population of 100,000 people (out of some 2m). As one western diplomat says, “we're terrified silly.”

Meanwhile Macedonia, which in 2001 almost descended into civil war between the majority Macedonians and minority ethnic Albanians, is on tenterhooks. Only the prospect of EU membership now holds the country together. This week's EU summit will decide whether to give Macedonia the prize of candidate status. In advance of the meeting, France has signalled its opposition, on the grounds that the EU needs to sort out its budget and future direction before expanding any more. That may just be negotiating tactics, but a failure to win candidate status would be a heavy blow for Macedonia—and for the rest of the western Balkans, which will be watching the Brussels summit unusually closely this week.


Anonymous said...

You should be ashame!!!
Outting that so called Kraina region in map of Croatia!!!

Before war Serbs as only a small manority in that region that they occupied, they killed some 30 000 Croats during their occupation and as a reward you out that so called kraina on the map?????

It is the a sahme!!!
In that way you can put half of berlin or london to be turkish becouse there lives more turks than serb lived in this part of croatia!!!!!!

Soma 80 years ago Croatia has its borders on upskirts of Belgrade and mostly Croats lived in that area! Why does not anybody talks about that 3 milions Croats that was killed during this 80 years by serbs (helped by Britain) !!!!!!

If we must pay becouse we are catolic then OK!!! But we are praud people and will never atack anybody and we never had attacked anybody!!!

It is not Croatia who stolen gold, diamonds from India, Africa, America... and now plays some big policemen on bons of their slaves (wifes and children)!!!

While your countries raped and killed in africa, india, america our people defended europa from the turks and muslims!!! Not searbs who was turkish vasal and atacked Wiena !!!!!!!!! Croats never atacked anybodey but allways we was to blaim only becouse we was and will for ever be a catolic!!!!!!!!

Shame on you!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Krajina is a self proclaimed region which was set up by the serbs after ethnically cleansing the area of the Croats. It does not exist nor has it ever.

It was founded on genocide for which its 'then time leaders' are now is the hague awaiting trial for war crimes.

This so called 'krajina' region is not recognised as a legitimate region by history, or by the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia. Please respect that.

Anonymous said...

Krajina is the region were the Austrians payed the serbs to protect the austrians and croats from the ottomans,the conflict with the croats started because the Serbs didnt come under the same serfdom laws the cros did,croats were farmers and paid taxes were the Serbs were warriors who just had to fight every now and plus they didnt convert to catholism which caused great anguish among the croats.Genocide thats what the nazi loving croats tried in ww2 under ante pavlovic and ustasa,just type in his name in google and im sure you will find him and adolf arm in arm.So considering Croatia were slaves for 1000 years(warriors alright) they should a little more thankfull to the Serbs for setting them free from Austro-Hungarian Empire considering they never managed it in 1000 years,history never lies.

Anonymous said...

If you would like to know more about the croatian mentality just type in Croatian Ustasa,Ante Pavlovic(WW2 leader),nazism,fascism,church sponsered genocide in google.

"the croats were more nazi than the nazi ss"
quote Winston Churchill 1945

Balkan Update said...

I think you criticism is directed in wrong place. I just republished this article without any editing. The article was written by The Economist.

Just to clarify, I do no think Krajina is a separate entity within Croatia. K. was a failed Serb attempt to expand Serbia. To be frank with you all, I didn’t even notice that Krajina was on the map when I submitted this article. I just didn’t pay attention to it. Now that looked at the map more closely I am shocked to see that The Economist would publish such a misleading map. They don’t show Vojvodina in the map but they show a non-existing Krajina? This is baffling to me. If you like to complain please write to: or fax 020-7839-2968. Sorry for misunderstanding.