The Balkans - A Never Ending Story?

Posted in Other | 09-Oct-05 | Author: Dieter Farwick

The book “Die Brücke über die Drina” (The Bridge Over the Drina) written by Nobel Prize winner Ivo Andric after WWII is still the best possible introduction to the Balkans – a region with permanent crises and conflicts. If one wants to study how a network of ethnic, religious, social and historic problems as well as territorial claims of ethic minorities leads to crises and conflicts, the Balkans has been an ideal case study for almost two millenniums.

It’s a shame that Europe so far has not been able to mitigate the problems. The European pundits agreed upon the axiom that Yugoslavia would be split after Tito’s death; but nothing happened which deserves the title “crisis prevention.” Europeans preferred to look to distant crises in Asia, Africa and Latin America, but did not care for the emerging conflict in their own backyard. The result of this strategic failure can now be seen in the Balkans.

Without the NATO-led political-military operation “IFOR” – based upon US military supremacy - the Balkans would have been left in a total chaos of genocide and civil war. The Dayton Agreement stopped the hot war, but it has not brought peace to the Balkans.

There has been no agreement among the treaty partners about the “desired end state”. How should the Balkans look after 10 years? Which political entities should emerge? Should people live in multiethnic countries? Should some areas gain independence or a higher degree of autonomy? Military and police forces from many countries have been stationed in the Balkans for more than a decade already.

The uproar in Kosovo in March 2004 was a clear signal that stability and security are still very fragile. The recent decision of the EU to start membership negotiations with Croatia brings some light into the tunnel.

In his newsletter, Bernd Papenkort, who has been working and living in the Balkans for many years, is a good example of a skilled officer with the capability of political thinking. Based upon his experience in the region, he offers a very thoughtful analysis and clear recommendations on what could and should be done.

We need a "Dayton II" for the Balkans with a clearly defined “desired end state” that might be another decade away.

We add a book review from another German academic who focuses on Kosovo and has served there for some time. Unfortunately, his book “Lehrjahre im Kosovo: Das Scheitern der internationalen Krisenprävention vor Kriegsausbruch” (Years of Apprenticeship in Kosovo: Failed International Crisis Prevention Before the Outbreak of War) is only available in German. International experts should try to get it translated because this book is a real eye-opener.