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South Slavic: May 17, 2001

17 May 2001, Volume 3, Number 17


Part I. Part II will appear on 31 May 2001.

Omer Karabeg: In today's Radio Most (Bridge) we are going to discuss whether we are due for a redrawing of Balkan frontiers. Our guests are: in London, Chris Cviic, who is a political analyst at the Royal Institute for International Affairs and former editor of "The Economist" for Central and Southeastern Europe; and in Belgrade, Dusan Janjic, who is a sociologist and director of the Forum for Ethnic Relations.

One can hear talk these days on the international scene that Balkan borders should be redrawn. Articles with such themes have appeared in the most respected newspapers. Mr. Cviic, are these voices isolated ones, or do they reflect the views of some influential political circles?

Chris Cviic: If you had asked me this, let us say four or five years ago, when the Dayton peace accords were signed or even later, up until 1997, maybe 1998, I would have told you that in the West there are still many who shared these views.

Now these voices are rare, and, as far as I know, have no support whatsoever among serious politicians, within ministries, and inside governments of the West.

I do not think that another redrawing of borders is on the agenda now. I would rather say that what is going on now is setting in stone the existing borders, in order to forestall further changes.

Dusan Janjic: I think that the main preoccupation of the international community right now is to ensure that the Helsinki charter on the immutability of borders is obeyed, and, at the same time, to acknowledge the reality on the ground.

Let me take the example of Kosovo. In reality, a new relation between Kosovo and Serbia has been established, and the problem now is how to fix the border.... That does not necessarily mean that state borders should be redrawn. There are many people, even in the Belgrade establishment, who advocate a sort of internal division, which would not affect state borders.

Personally, I think that in the case of Kosovo a sort of a regional agreement is needed, some sort of the "mini Dayton 2." Its purpose would not be to redraw the borders, but to reach an agreement that would help prevent the violence caused by those who do want to modify the borders.

Omer Karabeg: Mr. Cviic, do you agree that there is more and more discussion about internal borders, such as, for example, those in Bosnia-Herzegovina? One could say that the West has become bored with the Balkans. The fighting in Macedonia shocked Western politicians, since it broke out at a moment when the West started to hope that the situation would calm down after the fall of Milosevic. Many asked themselves: "We will face open warfare all over again?" This is why it became legitimate to think: "Let us divide them, so they cannot fight anymore."

Chris Cviic: There is a great risk, not that there could be another race for domination over Southeast Europe or another fight to establish spheres of influence, but that the world, already bored with the Balkans, could give up and start doing what I have always feared most -- to marginalize the region.

Only an utterly desperate situation could make the world's politicians start thinking how to divide Bosnia-Herzegovina again. Some commentators have nonetheless said: "Let us unite the Republika Srpska with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; Herzegovina and some other parts of Bosnia with a majority Croat population with Croatia; and leave a sort of a mini Muslim or Bosniac state."

Can you imagine what sort of task that would be for the foreign ministries, military commanders, economic institutions, etc? What a crazy thing it would be if that small country of Bosnia -- which is barely surviving thanks to foreign aid -- were divided again into God knows how many parts!

The international community will not accept any substantial change. They might make an effort to confirm the status quo in the case of Kosovo, but there will be no big changes.... This is why the present situation is going to be confirmed, perhaps with some final modifications.

I also think that there is one more reason: people in the Balkans are weary, too. There are no more grand schemes, there is no more of the enthusiasm for changes that existed in former Yugoslavia in the early '90s. People used to have full bellies and jobs, and they were enthusiastic about many different things -- all those things are gone now.

I think that the Balkans is facing a period of at least several decades of real peace. I do not think that another war could start in that region during that period.

Dusan Janjic: When I said that this situation reminds me of the early '90s, I was referring to certain authors and to the extremists, who want to create their own states before the status quo becomes institutionalized.... I am referring to Ante Jelavic and the HDZ in Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as to the extremists in southern Serbia and in Macedonia....

It seems that the entire process of the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the internal conflicts that emerged from that process are coming to an end. The moment has come to regulate all that according to the norms of international law. That is what is causing this nervousness on the ground, as well as -- I must say -- in some ministries around the world.

For instance, let us take the example of Montenegro. The European Union's stand -- which they are apparently revising right now -- was: "We support democratic solutions, which means those chosen by the citizens of both federal units, but the solution must be found within a democratic Yugoslavia."

This "but" made me recall the behavior of the international community in the '90s. I had an opportunity to discuss this in an important European ministry and told them that, if they want to be helpful in a conflict, then they should establish a procedure and help people stick to that procedure, instead of specifying what the bottom line must be. If they say "within Yugoslavia," then that is the bottom line. One man from that ministry then told me that they fear that Montenegrin independence could lead to the independence of Kosovo, which might then cause the disintegration of Bosnia.

Omer Karabeg: Mr. Janjic has just mentioned the so-called domino theory. The advocates of that theory think this way: if Montenegro became independent, then Kosovo also has the right to an independent state, and if Kosovo becomes independent, then the Republika Srpska and the Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina have the right to secede from Bosnia-Herzegovina and join their respective states of origin -- Serbia and Croatia. Mr. Cviic, can this domino theory be applied in the Balkans?

Chris Cviic: I know this theory very well [and can say that] has no basis whatsoever in this region. I think that those in Western ministries who are afraid of Montenegrin independence are wrong. If, for example, Montenegro votes for independence in a referendum, many people in Montenegro and in Serbia would be unhappy with it, but it is out of the question -- especially after the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic -- that someone in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia would consider using force against Montenegro...

Let us not paint too bleak a picture. I am saying this bearing in mind the fears of some Western governments, which Mr. Janjic has already mentioned. The domino theory cannot be applied to the independence of Montenegro.

However, the case of Kosovo is somewhat different. I think that independence for Kosovo is out of the question, but there must be some form of autonomy for it. This is necessary in order to mobilize the existing political energy there -- both positive and negative -- in a positive way.

As far as Bosnia-Herzegovina is concerned, I doubt that Croatia or the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia would want to welcome [their respective] problematic units. All things considered, I think that, in the case of former Yugoslavia, all those domino scenarios have no basis in reality.