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Commentary: Picking The EU For The Nobel Peace Prize Was Wrong

Muslim women in the town of Vlasenica, in an ethnically Serbian part of Bosnia-Herzegovina, sit before a mass funeral in April 2012 for victims of the Bosnian conflict.
Muslim women in the town of Vlasenica, in an ethnically Serbian part of Bosnia-Herzegovina, sit before a mass funeral in April 2012 for victims of the Bosnian conflict.

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Video EU Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

The European Union has been awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize for "over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe."
By Tanya Domi
As the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced it had selected the European Union as the winner of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, a news story from Bosnia-Herzegovina reported the remains of 11 people had been recovered from a mass grave in northeastern Bosnia.

The International Commission on Missing Persons said the bodies were found in shallow graves near Trnovo, and were believed to be Muslim civilians from the area of Vlasenica, a former Bosniak-populated municipality in eastern Bosnia where hundreds of war crimes were committed by Bosnian Serbs between May and June 1992. By the time those soldiers were done with their lethal handiwork, more than 3,000 Muslims had been killed and thousands more imprisoned -- in addition to the thousands who fled into exile with only the clothes on their backs. Within a month of the Serb takeover there in June 1992, there were very few, if any, Muslims left in Vlasenica.

Similar scenes played out in hundreds of other villages from Croatia to Kosovo. Men were routinely imprisoned, tortured, and executed. Women were tortured and raped -- a form of ethnic cleansing committed in the most violent and humiliating manner. Many rape survivors subsequently took their own lives, unable to tolerate the shame or overcome the deadening depression that took over their lives in those attacks' destructive aftermath.

In a decade of war in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, unspeakable crimes were carried out by armies, soldiers, and irregulars under the leaderships of Slobodan Milosevic and Franjo Tudjman. Together and apart, they plundered, pillaged, and raped their way across Marshal Tito's highway of "brotherhood and unity" destroying lives, uprooting families and entire villages, in order ultimately to forge an independent state in Croatia during the first war. To be sure, crimes were committed by the army under Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, but there is no evidence of systematic abuse and atrocities approaching the level of the Bosnian Serb Army, known as the VRS, or Serbian Army, once known as the JNA.

Milosevic's march toward a "greater Serbia" was finally stopped by NATO aircraft that engaged in a 78-day bombardment of Serbia led by the U.S. Air Force.

These wars are notable for concentration camps, the systematic rape and enslavement of women, and a massive genocide in Srebrenica, where some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were executed and cast into open graves littering the countryside of eastern Bosnia. Mass graves of Kosovar Albanian victims dot the Serbian countryside. Milosevic and his cronies went to great lengths to hide them, including by burying 50 victims in a refrigerator truck that was dumped into the Danube River.

Prosecution of the most egregious of these crimes is handled at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague and in various national human rights and war crimes courts in the region.

These heinous crimes are familiar to Europeans.

That's what makes the Nobel Committee's selection of the EU as this year's Peace Prize laureate simply unbelievable to me. I read and re-read the citation: "for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe." Knowing what happened and did not happen to stop the wars in the Balkans, how can the EU claim it has carried out an honorable diplomatic and military effort in the Balkans?

Indeed, the late U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke, who brokered the Dayton peace accords that ended the Bosnian war in 1995, once called the Bosnian war "the greatest collective security failure of the West since the 1930s." Surely Europeans bear major responsibility for telling the Americans to "butt out" of business in their backyard at the beginning of the Balkan unraveling. According to the late U.S. congressman Frank McCloskey's account captured in Samantha Power's book "Genocide:  The Problem from Hell," President Bill Clinton wanted to engage in a bombing campaign in Bosnia as early as 1993 but complained to McCloskey that he was effectively thwarted by British Prime Minister John Major, whose government obstructed all efforts to launch a military intervention under the auspices of the UN Security Council.

Now a political unraveling is unfolding in Sarajevo once again, calling into question this Nobel Peace Prize and its delusional citation. Indeed, the EU presence in Bosnia has persisted with weak, appeasing overtures to Milorad Dodik, the president of Bosnia's Serb entity, who has cried foul for months, repeatedly claiming that Republika Srpska will someday be its own country.

Through the Office of High Commissioner Valentin Inzko, the EU has repeatedly failed to stop an escalating war of words and deeds, resulting in continuous obstructions of federal governance in Bosnia, paralyzing its ability to function at all.

So when the EU accepts the Nobel Peace Prize in December, will it do so mindful of the 30,000 people who remain missing and unidentified in the Balkans? Will it accept this prestigious prize knowing that 20,000 to 50,000 women were raped during the Bosnian war? Will it acknowledge that European refugees from the Balkans fled the European continent to more than 80 countries around the world in the 20th century?

The most decent thing the EU could do now is to contribute a substantial portion of the Nobel Peace Prize's financial award to those humanitarian organizations that continue to support the survivors of three major wars on the European continent in the past 20 years. Until there is justice, there will be no peace, despite the Nobel Committee's belief to the contrary.

Tanya Domi is an adjunct professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, where she teaches human rights in the Balkans for the Harriman Institute.  Domi served in the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1996-2000. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.
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by: Balkan Expat from: Kosovo
October 14, 2012 18:57
Great article Tanya! Your analysis on the break up of Jugoslavia and the war in Bosnia is right on target.

IMO, the Nobel Peace Prize really lost its luster it was awarded to Obama upon his entrance into office. Shortly afterwards, he began arbitrarily executing people, including Americans, with his pet "drone strike" project. No trial, no defense, just Hellfire missiles guided by some computer geek holding a joystick half a world away.

Awarding the Peace Prize to the EU completely annuls any credibility the Nobel Prize had left. The EU will accept it for sure. They need every pat on the back they can get to justify their never-ending thirst for more centralized power in Brussels.
In Response

by: Tanya Domi from: New York City
October 15, 2012 09:26
I share your views on the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Obama. Terrible decision and so overtly political. I think the barbarity of crimes and the feeble response by the EU at the time of the breakout of wars in the Balkans and the EU's continued feeble and quite frankly, political and diplomatic negligence in the Balkans, particularly with respect to Bosnia, constitutes a disqualification of the award. This award is baldly political. It is regrettable, because so many individuals would have brought much more regard to the Nobel Committee.
In Response

by: Abdulmajid
October 18, 2012 22:25
You're spot on. Thank you. I think exactly the same. Keep up the good work.

by: Abdulmajid
October 20, 2012 13:52
I think what bugs me most about the whole sad affair of Bosnia is that when it happened, not only was it served to us as a snuff movie every evening in the news, and later the Srebrenica snuff movie turned up, BUT... I myself had the chance to talk to people who had been expelled from there, whose neighbors turned to beasts of prey from evening to morning, war wounded evacuated to the hospitals of my town whose injuries were real, their stories were not fabrications. Yet today the enemies of the Bosniak people still have the NERVE to say that it was all faked, that the Bosniaks are guilty of the war and only got what was coming at them, that Serbs were just defending themselves and European values from the "jihadists", they try to smear the victims as liars and as perpetrators saying "genocide in the Balkans was only that of WWII against the Serbs, and what happened then and in Ottoman times is more than enough justification for Srebrenica and other such horrors", and they say it with all brahsness and brazenness, especially after Karadzic and Mladic say that in the Hague as grandstanding for the folks back home. It bugs me that somebody considers such genocidal monsters as heroes and that teh Bosnioaks, for being Muslims deserved what they got and should "move to Saudi Arabia". At Nuremberg the Nazi paladins were esposed as the pathetic, insignificant, hateful, criminal figures they were and I do hope Karadzic and Mladic will be too. But the evil is that so many people among the Serbs still share the same racist, fascist, xenophobic, misanthropic, sociopathic ideas. Until these ideas are not extirpated from the Serb mind there can be no peace in the Balkans and the EU or generally the whole Western world is showing its continuing utter incompetence and lack of will at that.
Of course it's not easy. It worked only in Japan through the Allied or rather American occupation from 1945 to 1953. In the case of Serbia it is my impression, given the sheer volume of anti-Bosniak and anti-Albanian hate speech I have been reading every day in the last 20 years, and there are no signs of it abating, that the required occupation and reeducation of the Serb people and society would take at least 50 if not 200 years, with enforced daily schooling from cradle to grave that they must respect the neighboring people and not bully them around and much less commit genocide. A truly titanic effort. No wonder they are reluctant.

And another thing I would like to offer as food for thought:
The Ottoman Empire was started about one thousand years ago and it lasted until 1918. Alone in the Balkans for 600 years. The Soviet Empire was imposed on the nations devastated by Hitler's war (and we were indeed lucky it never got to reach further west or they could probably have stopped it only at the Marne or the Channel) by brute force and it ruled over them with a brutality not seen since teh times of Gengis Khan. And liek Gengis Khan's empire it was short-lived. It lasted from 1945 to 1989 to be precise. Even Putin's "Soviet Union light", dreadful as it is, is just a shadow of Stalin's." Lukashenko and Yanukovich, as representants of the "ancien régime" cannot last. Oh yes, after Louis Philippe was overthrown, aristocracy ruled in large parts of Europe until 1918, but it was just a shadow of itself. What remains of communist rule today is just as insignificant as the arisocracy was after,say, 1848, even though it continued to exist and to rule until 1918. The Ottoman Empire was a superpower for seven centuries. The Soviet Empire just for 44 years. Think about that dum dums.
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
October 21, 2012 22:15
Hello Abdulmajid, regarding your earlier comment to me, please do not put your words into my mouth - I said none of the things that you have stated. My point was that the western press took an anti-Serb position because the Serbs were not complying with US direction. Additionally, it is difficult to reply to you when RFERL does not provide a REPLY button. My position on SW Europe remains the same as I have always stated on this website, as follows:

Tomorrow, or one hundred years from tomorrow, the tiny countries in South West Europe will come together to form something bigger. There will be no more “Croatia" nor “Kosovo” nor "Serbia". There will be no more celebrations of battles long past, memorials for those long buried, and your sons and daughters will intermarry - they will have more pressing matters to attend to. This tomorrow can begin just as soon as people living in the region stop listening to politicians that manipulate their populations for political purposes - they too can be a thing of the past.
In Response

by: Abdulmajid
October 22, 2012 16:54
Hm. I don't see that happening. Of course it would be better if the peoples if teh former Yugoslavia came together again BUT... will Bosniaks and Albanians be condeisered second-class cItizens? Will the Sewrbs forget their hatred of everybody who isn't Serb Orthodox? I don't see that happening. Even though there are individuals who do. There are even Serbs who are quite friendly to Bosniaks. Good for them. What is absolutey unacceptable is when someone puts the existence and identity of the Bosniaks in doubt, because this is a call for genocide. If they say they don't exist they must make it come true by annihilating them. And why should the Bosniaks be a tiny minority in a reunited Yugoslavia? No way. As for the egoist and greedy politicians who sow ethnic hate so they can line their pockets unhindered, I know that. But it's up to the people to do something against that and if they don't they should not complain. And if the Western media have, as you say, an anti-Serb bias, then only because of the sheer number and magnitude of the atrocities the Serbs committed. Or did the Bosniaks systematically rape Serb women? No, they didn't! Did they murder 8347 disarmed prisoners in a few days? No, they didn't! they say "the dead of Srebrenica were executed soldiers" Hah! Then why did they rebury them or dump their other victims into the Drina if not to cover up their crimes? The Germans have distanced themselves from Nazism and removed milizarism and fascism from their political agenda. The Serbs haven't! Unless they leave Bosnia in peace I will not accept their friendship nor will I allow any of my family to marry one of them, nor will I go to their country, nor want them as neighbors. And I will continue to refute their false propaganda lies and genocidal anti-Muslim jingoism and throw my own "J'accuse!" against them. And against anybody who in any which ever way supports the genocidal anti-Bosniak crusade.
In Response

by: Abdulmajid
October 25, 2012 17:05
One hundred years from tomorrow is too late for me and even for my grandchildren. Are they supposed to have their lives made miserable by the likes of Dodik and Nikolic until then? That their right to live in freedom or at all is disputed by the likes of Vojislav Seselj and that the next Karadzic or Mladic will come along to commit genocide on them again? And who has blood of my brethren on his hands can never be my friend. The irrepentent and spiteful chetniks who are still proud of the genocide they have committed, and at the same time deny they have committed it, can never be my friends and I'm not interested in shaking hands with them, much less seeing the situation in Bosnia from their perspective. They are as wrong as the Japanese military were about ruling East Asia. Like them they must be stamped out. As for the politicians I agree. Unfortunately I see no responsible leadership on any side. People complain of their greedy and egoist leaders all the time yet always suck up to them and rally behind them whenever the canard of ethnic fear is invoked. As for the Serbs, from the statements of the majority who still support the anti-Bosniak genocide and re-interpret it as self-defense I sense a deep feeling of bad conscience for the atrocities committed, and fear of eventually having to answer for them. Thst is why they hide behind visceral rage and blind hate. But that's no way to build a country or to live in peace, not even with oneself. As for the Serb man who lost his son in the war and justifies his hate of Bosniaks with that, I still would like to ask him how he would like it if his wife and daughter had been raped as countless Bosniak women were, or not that his son has fallen but his whole family had been wiped out, as was so often the case. And that falling while fulfilling his duty as a soldier is one thing; being foully murdered and dumped in a mass grave is something completely different. And after what they went through no Bosniak can accept being again a small minority in a majority Serb state. So we must stand our ground no matter what it costs and we will not be the Palestinians of Europe. Given their way, the Serbs would allow us even less freedom and space than the Israelis to the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. As for Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs coming together in friendship in exile, you may have seen that, but the reality is different.The most offensive, crude and jingoistic anti-Bosniak and anti-Muslim hate speech never comes from posters in Banja Luka or Belgrade, but from chetniks in Canada, USA, Australia and the UK. Even there, in exile, far away from Bosnia, they continue to deny the Bosniaks their right to exist and to have a national identity. I don't look down on non-Muslims; only on those who believe that it is righteous to wage a violent crusade against Muslims. And think about it: peace between Germany and France only came after WWII. Peace between Bosniaks and Serbs can only come when, like Germany had to admit its guilt about the Holocaust and then distance itself from Nazism after WWII, the Serbs distance themselves from Greater Serbia and apologize for the genocidal anti-Bosniak crusade. That also includes Serbia relinquishing all and any claims over Bosnia-Herzegovina, her territories and her populations. Unless they are willing to do that I see no reason to stretch out my hand to them. Your friend who was in the Bosnian army simply moved his family out because he doesn't want a bunch of Serb ultranationalist maniacs go hunting for them. And the alternative is not a good one if the Bosniaks are ground under the Serbs' heel. Besides that you haven't answered my question. I will put it to you thus: Are the Bosniaks supposed to forget and forgive Visegrad and Srebrenica when the Serbs always invoke Jasenovac to justify their crimes against non-Serbs?
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
October 23, 2012 22:07
I understand your feelings - a friend of mine served in the Bosnian army and after the war packed up his family and moved far away from what he described as "the madness he did not understand". He told of how before the war he and his friends - some of whom were Serbs, would meet in the local coffee shop. Then the war came and all parties fought on their repective sides. Then the war ended and they came together in the same coffee shop but could not talk to each other as they had before - something had changed deeply. They all agreed that something crazy had just happened but none of them understood it.

You will be pleased to know that in far off lands, people from the former Yugoslavia come together again. They have shared backgrounds, shared customs and cuisine, and know of similar local places. I am hopeful that my forecast for the region will prevail in the end my friend - else the alternative is not a good one.
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
October 25, 2012 22:12
Hello Abdulmajid, thank you for your further elaboration. To answer your direct question to me: "Are the Bosniaks supposed to forget and forgive Visegrad and Srebrenica when the Serbs always invoke Jasenovac to justify their crimes against non-Serbs?" then let me answer with what is my personal opinion, based on my troubled and violent Irish ancestory - forgive now, forget never.
In Response

by: Abdulmajid
October 29, 2012 19:20
forgive now, forget never.
Sorry but not good enough. The Serbs will always say how horrible the Turks were to their ancestors next time around they feel like wasting the Bosniaks. Read all Serb literature from Njegos to Dobrica Cosic, and not to forget Ivo Andric, to see what I'm talking about. Besides that, why should the Bosniaks be content with one quarter of a country, and the Serbs have theirs AND part or all of four others as well? Let the Serbs give up their nightmarish pipe dream of velika srbija and then maybe we can talk about forgiving. What I have seen in Bosnia is the same that happened in Spain 500 years ago. The Christians whittled the Muslims down until there were none left. First by war, then by oppression and persecution. The descendants of the Spanish Muslims now live in North Africa. They too have never forgotten. At least when they arrived over there as refugees 400 years ago, they weree among fellow Arabic speaking people. And even then they ween't made to feel welcome. They never recovered their homeland. Are the Bosniaks supposed to relinquish their homeland too? Where are the Bosniaks supposed to go? Since exile is not an option I suggest they fight to get their country back. Since their enemies will never stop dreaming of chasing them away from the Balkans and from building up velika srbija on the ruins of Bosnia and Albania they must become like the Spartans - every man, woman and child (I mean from 16 to 60 years) a soldier. It's either that or suffer the fate of Carthage. Of course I too would like to live in peace, but to qoute Bertolt Brecht, "the circumstances, they ain't so."

by: Stian from: Belgium
October 25, 2012 21:34
Dear Ms Domi,

Your perspective is a Bosnian one (regardless of your nationality) and an understandable one given the horrors this beautiful country has seen ( I in fact worked in the same mission at the same time as you), albeit farther north in the country.

Still, it is also one that misses the point on two accounts. Firstly, your quote from the Nobel Committee says something else – it didn’t award the EU the prize for European failures in the Balkans in the 90s (which in fact was a dramatic wake up call to many Europeans and caused significant reforms in CFSP and brought about the birth of CSDP). Reading all of the text you will see that what it got it for was its success in tying formerly warring parties in Western Europe together, then Central/Eastern Europe and in fact also awards the prize to encourage enlargement, something the majority in all Balkan countries want. And honestly, if you were to judge the list of winners since the creation of the prize on their failures rather than on their successes, none would ever have been handed out.

Secondly, you commit the transatlantic mistake, which is by now also a common problem in Europe, to judge the EU by what its members did (and does). In the 90s an EU Common Foreign and Security Policy was a faint dream. As you correctly point out it was Major, and not Delors, or any presidency of the EU at the time. It was probably also other European leaders but not the EU. Precisely because foreign policy then, and even now, is mainly a national domain.

Again, assuming this is what the Nobel Committee awarded the prize for is failing to read their statement and thereby naturally making the wrong conclusion. It is also failing to give the EU due credit for what it in fact has delivered big parts of Europe( 500 million citizens) , by pointing to the remaining most difficult chapter in European history.

Stian
In Response

by: Abdulmajid
October 29, 2012 19:33
The EU achieved peace between Germany and France so we're told. In truth, both governments of France and (West) Germany saw so shortly after WWII that the circle of enmity and hatred had to be unbroken; just as the warring parties of the Thirty Years' war after 1648. That's why the EEC, which late became the EC was created. OK, there will be no more war between Germany and France, and Great Britain. That is good. I could understand if the EU had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for that. But in the 1990s, like the UN it failed miserably at preventing the anti-Bosniak genocidal crusade. Whether this is the fault of the EU or rather because some of its members wanted the Serbs(or Milosevic) to win - well of course, as you - and Ms. Domi - correctly say it was rather John Major than Jacques Delors. Anyway the Peace Nobel Prize has lost much of its prestige since it was awarded to President Obama for his words, not for his deeds. Maybe Karadzic in his delusion believes he deserves it too, and how long will it take until we hear some inhuman greater Serb chauvinist claim just that?
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