Prague, 22 June 1999 (RFE/RL) - Czech President Vaclav Havel has told RFE/RL that peace in the Balkans is unlikely so long as Slobodan Milosevic remains president of Yugoslavia.
Havel made the comment in an interview yesterday with Omer Karabeg of RFE/RL's South Slavic Service. The interview comes ahead of a planned visit by the Czech president to Serbia's Kosovo province. No date for the visit has been set.
Havel said Milosevic had been responsible for "several Balkans wars over more than a decade, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dead."
"I am afraid that with [Milosevic in power] it would be very hard to build a good peace based on justice and civic co-existence. All the more because he stands accused by the International Court for war crimes in Yugoslavia, a court that has no political biases because it was created by the United Nations on the decision of the Security Council, with the agreement of both the Russian Federation and China."
Havel also defended the use of NATO air strikes to end operations by Serb military and paramilitary forces in Kosovo against the province's majority ethnic Albanian population. NATO's air strikes were officially terminated last weekend after the last Serb uniformed forces withdrew from the province.
"Alas, the world is such and people are such that evil has to be checked with fire and sword -- evil must be met by force. That is why all countries except Costa Rica have armies. That is the way the world goes, and in this case a great evil was met with the relatively lesser evil. Not one of the critics [of air strikes] offered a better solution."
Havel expressed regret that some civilians were killed by NATO bombs but said the number of such deaths was relatively limited:
"NATO conducted thousands of raids and hit some civilian targets, killing innocent civilians -- everyone regrets that. But relatively, compared to most previous wars, the percentage of innocent victims was small, thanks to modern technology."
Still, the Czech president suggested that NATO could have planned its military intervention in the Balkans better and said he shares part of the blame.
Finally, Havel dismissed the arguments of those who say NATO should not have used force against Yugoslavia because the international community recognizes Kosovo as part of Yugoslavia:
"I believe unequivocally that human rights prevail over state sovereignty. Man is the creation of God, existing tens of thousands of years. The state is the creation of man -- an administrative unit existing several hundred years in the form we know today. It seems that in future, in the next millennium, in view of the global nature of our civilization and other factors and threats, the significance of people and their rights will grow in significance over the rights of the state."
Havel predicted that "many functions now carried out by the state will in the future be handled at a lower level by various civic groups." He said other powers will likely "become functions of higher, super-national or trans-regional units." He cited the European Union as an example.
Regarding international efforts to rebuild the economies of the Balkan region, Havel welcomed plans to hold a series of conferences on the subject. He said the first conference -- to be held in Sarajevo next month -- could mark the beginning of a stable peace and peaceful coexistence among the ethnic groups of the former Yugoslavia.
Havel said the hard task now facing the international community in Kosovo is to break the seemingly endless cycle of bloodshed, revenge and counter-revenge. He said NATO must create confidence in the international civil administration that will be established in the province so that people will trust the new law-and-order forces there. He said that would allow ethnic Serbs now fleeing the region to return, just as ethnic Albanians are now returning.
(Translation provided by RFE/RL's Sonia Winter.)