What is the connection between the “powder- keg of Europe” and the reality? What is it like to live there? Are the peoples there happy? Do they enjoy war? What can they do to improve their life and country?
It is true, that even one of the most beautiful, and the most historic parts, and for sure the fountain of modern Western culture part of Europe, the Southeastern Europe - known as Balkans for simplifying reasons-, is considered as a differed piece of another world. And it is. It’s the only part of Europe that suffered the Ottoman Turk’s yoke for four hundred years more or less. It’s the only place where the spiritual development went through centuries of uncivilized reaction, in the time that action was needed. It’s the most unhappy fact in the region, that when in the rest of Europe the Renaissance was occurring, Southeastern Europe was coming under the Ottoman yoke. Unfortunately for the whole humanity, Western Europeans got the message when Mehmet II, was in front of the gates of Vienna and not some time earlier, when he was in front of the gates of Constantinople.
My main concern will be not to formulate the Balkan problems theoretically, but to exhibit them in their historical development, so they will be obviously understandable.
The main reason this part of the world looks different, is the different religion. It’s really Catholicism, against Orthodoxy that distinguishes Southeastern Europeans (called “Balkanians”) from Europeans.
In this paper, I’ll try to describe the Southeastern Europe’s geography. I’ll refer to the history, from the very beginning to our days. I will try to make an assessment of the geopolitical, economic and social significance of the region. I will look in the international environment, and the international law that rules it. I will refer to the relationships and the disputes off the region’s states. I’ll try to see what’s the potential and the dynamics of the region and the populace. Coming at least in conclusions, I’ll try to recommend what I see as solution to disputes, to rationale my belief that the peoples there are ordinary people, that their lives cost the same as everywhere in this planet, that if someone wants to help them to bypass their current (mainly economic) problems, it is much better to inform and to educate them, to arm their brains and feelings, than to arm their hands and armies, and finally to describe what I think is the future of this region.
|Map of Europe|
Southeastern Europe, is limited from the Alps to the northwest, the Carpathian Mts. to the northeast, Black Sea, Marmara Sea and Aegean Sea to the east, Mediterranean to the south, and Ionian and Adriatic Seas to the west. The independent states included, are: Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) -that is Serbia and Montenegro-, Albania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Bulgaria, Cyprus (indeed part of Hellenism) and Hellas (Greece),as shown on the map below. We need to say, that Turkey has retained as Ottoman heritage, a part of Europe, according to the super-powers’ will, to control the Straits of Bosporus, the Marmara Sea, and the Straits of Hellespont. Even if part of Turkey belongs geographically to Europe, Turkey should not referred as a European country, because it’s not mainly in Europe (Turkish Thrace consists 3% of Turkish territory), and the Turkish culture, people and life is absolutely “Asian” and not at all “European”.
|South - Eastern Countries|
From these eleven states, one is NATO and EU member, one has applied for EU membership, nine used to be communist-ruled some years ago and five of them, used to consist the (made by Tito) Yugoslavia (“Land of the South Slavs”).
The predominant nationalities living in these countries, are: Slavic in Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro. Slavoturranic in Bulgaria and FYROM. Romanian in Romania. Magyar in Hungary. Hellenic in Hellas and Cyprus.
The predominant religions in these countries, are: Roman-Catholic in Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary. Islamic in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania. In the rest countries (Romania, Bulgaria, FYROM, Serbia-Montenegro, Hellas and Cyprus), the main religion is the Eastern Orthodox, even under a different name in each country.
The languages mostly spoken are: Servocroatic, Hellenic, Bulgarian, Romanian, Magyar and Albanian.
The geography of the whole region is characterized by the high occupation of mountainous areas. These mountains, are mostly part and extension of the main body of the Alps (the predominant European mountain volume). In the northern Slovenia, the Julian Alps. In Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia, the Dinaric Alps. In Albania, the North Albanian Alps. In Hellas, Pindus Mt. to the west, Olympus Mt. to the east, and Rhodope Mt. to the east. In Hungary and Romania, the Transylvanian Mts. In Romania, the Carpathian Mts. In Bulgaria, the Balkan Mts., and Rhodope Mt.
These mountains, shape the drainage system of the region, that consists mainly of the rivers Danube, Morava, Mures, Drava, Tisza, Sava, Prut, Evros (Maritsa), Axios, Strymon, Aheloos, and Aliakmon. The main lakes existed, are Scutari, Ohrid, Doiran, and Prespes.
The seas in contact with the southeastern Europe’s countries, are: Ionian Sea, where the Otrado Straits are shaped between Italy and Hellas. Adriatic Sea, where the Kerkyra (Corfu) Straits are shaped, between Italy and Hellas. Libyan Sea, between Crete Island (Hellas) and Libya. The Southeastern Mediterranean Basin, shaped between Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt, where Cyprus is located. Aegean Sea, between Hellas and Turkey. Aegean Sea, connects the vast majority of the Hellenic islands, that shape successive lines of defense against northward, southward, eastward, or westward axes of approach. Marmara Sea, where Hellespont to the south and Bosporus Straits to the north are shaped, under Turkish domination.
The history of the region, is mostly the history of Hellas, and it is mainly connected to the Aegean Sea, this vital -for Hellenism- sea, since whenever Hellenism lost control of this area, it also lost it’s own independence.
Aegean Civilization, is a term used to denote the Bronze Age civilization that developed (circa 3000-1200 BC) in the basin of the Aegean Sea, mainly on Crete, the Cyclades Islands, and the mainland of Greece. It had two major cultures: the Minoan, which flourished in Crete and reached its height in the Middle Bronze period, and the Mycenaean, which developed in the Late Bronze period on the mainland.
According to Greek mythology, there once was a time when great events had occurred and the gods had involved themselves in human affairs. The story of King Minos and Theseus, may be the mythic rendering of the battle for hegemony in the Aegean in which Mycenae took over Knossos. Homer's epic the Iliad describes events of the Trojan War, which is believed to have brought about the fall of Troy at the hands of the Achaeans. The poet also mentions well-known places believed to be the centers of the Mycenaean period, such as “golden Mycenae,” Pylos, Thessaly, and many other places.
|The Byzantine Empire|
About 2200-1800 BC another wave of newcomers arrived in the Cyclades and on the mainland. They caused considerable destruction, and for about two centuries civilization was disrupted, especially on the mainland. The invaders were of the Indo-European language family, to which Greek belong. The destruction of the Cretan palaces, was followed by the decline of the Minoans and the subsequent rise of the Mycenaeans. Shortly after 1200 BC the Aegean civilization collapsed, most likely due to the invasion of the Dorians, one of the three principal peoples of ancient Greece. Dorians invaded and occupied Aegean islands, and Pelopónnisos. From there, they colonized the southwestern corner of Asia Minor and the neighboring islands and planted settlements in Sicily and southern Italy.
All the Hellens (Greeks), independently but simultaneously and always having in mind their common origin and nationality, developed the very well known political system of city-state and later they established democracy. Famous city-states were Athens, Sparta, Thoebai, and many others, and their colonies as well, all over the Mediterranean coast.
A short history of democracy, is mirrored in the history of Athens, whose Acropolis has been inhabited since Neolithic times. When the monarchy was replaced by an aristocracy of nobles, the common people had few rights. The city was controlled by the Areios Pagos (Council of Elders), who appointed the archons. Discontent with this system led to a tyranny (dictatorship). When Solon was elected as archon in 594 BC, established a council, a popular assembly and law courts. In 560 BC the tyrant Pisistratus, supported by the aristocracy, gained control of Athens. In 509 BC Cleisthenes led a democratic revolution, reorganizing the city's tribal structure so that the base of his support was in the more democratic urban center and in Piraeus. The powerful popular assembly met on the Pnyx hill below the Acropolis. In 480 BC Athens was sacked and nearly destroyed by the Persians. The Athenian leader Themistocles, having defeated the Persian invaders at Salamis, along with the rest of Greeks, began the restoration of the city, building walls around both Athens and Piraeus and also connecting Athens with the port. His work was continued by Pericles in the 450s BC. Pericles, more than any other democratic leader, made Athens a great city. Public funds were used to build the Parthenon, and other great monuments. As head of the Delian League of Greek city-states (first attempt to unite the Greek city-states), Athens was now an imperial power; its courts tried cases from all over the Aegean. The city, with its democratic constitution and brilliant way of life, became the “school of Hellas.”
At the same time, Illyrians, Paeonians and Thracians had settled the region south of Danube, and north of Greece, as Phrygians, Mysians, Lydians and Kares did in Asia Minor.
|The Campaigns of Alexander the Great|
The region named today as Hungary and former Yugoslavia, was dominated by Germanic tribes, and what was later known as Austrohungary, by this time (aprox. 4th and 5th centuries AD) was the Ostrogothic Kingdom. That was the situation (a very “fluid” one) in Southeastern Europe, with differed ideas and aspects and people coming and going, when Seljuk Turks, crushed an imperial (Byzantine) army at the Battle of Manzikert (1071) and overran most of Byzantine Asia Minor. Meanwhile, the Byzantines lost their last foothold in Italy and were alienated from the Christian West by a schism (1054) between the Orthodox church and the papacy. When Byzantines appealed to the pope for aid against the Turks, Western Europe responded with the First Crusade (1096-99).
Although Byzantium initially benefited from the Crusades, in the long run they hastened the empire's decline. Italian merchant cities won special trading privileges in Byzantine territory and gained control of much of the empire's commerce and wealth. The Byzantines experienced a superficial prosperity in the 12th century, but their political and military power waned.
Crusaders allied with Venice, then took advantage of internal Byzantine strife to seize and plunder Constantinople in 1204. Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus recaptured Constantinople from the Latins in 1261 and founded the Palaeologan dynasty, which ruled the empire until 1453.
The emergent Ottoman Turks conquered the remnants of Byzantine Asia Minor early in the 14th century. After 1354 they overran the Balkans and finally took Constantinople, bringing the empire to an end in 1453.
The conception of Byzantine imperial authority, together with the creation of the Cyrillic alphabet for the Slavs by Byzantine missionaries, and the preservation of ancient Greek manuscripts and culture by Byzantine scholars, were the most important contributions of Byzantium to posterity.
The Byzantine intellectual tradition did not die in 1453: Byzantine scholars who visited Italy as individuals or imperial envoys in the 14th and 15th centuries exerted a strong influence on the Italian Renaissance.
The Palaeologan revival of elements of Greek classicism, especially in encyclopedism, history, literature, philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy, was transmitted to a rarefied audience of Italian scholars and Greek residents of Italy, and in this fashion Byzantine scholarship long survived the disappearance of the Byzantine Empire. Byzantine traditions and procedures also survived among the Greek and Slavic peoples.
|Inside Hagia Sophia temple|
Meanwhile, the former territories of Byzantine Empire, were dominated by: Serbs, making the Great Serbia of Stephen Dushan (1330-1355), and Great Bulgaria (1186-1242). These states became parts of Ottoman Empire, by the late 13th century.
Since the whole region consisted the northwestern part of the Ottoman Empire, any development aspect was gone. At the same time the Europeans were diving again in the ancient Hellenic spirit, discovering again philosophy, geometry, mathematics and all scientific aspects, the Eastern Europeans, were trying to keep their religion, their nationality and their belief that each one of them, was different from the conquerors, the Turks.
Some people (Albanians, some Bulgarians, Bosnians and Pomacs), became Muslims to have an easy life (equal opportunity in the -then- status quo), denying their nationality and religion. The Turks of course settled the fertile or of well-being territories, pushing the owners to mountainous or poor areas. They did it then, and everybody pays the price today with all these confrontations between religious groups of the same nation, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kossovo, Albania, Bulgaria, everywhere.
|The Ottoman Empire|
The Ottoman rule was long and painful for all the peoples under yoke. The whole building of the region’s civilization was disappeared and only religion remained to people, to remind them who they were. No schools were allowed or built. No education was available. In Greece, priests were eventually conducting “late night schools” in churches and monasteries, when and where the conquerors could not discover them. All that, had their share to the unrest of the region. In Hellas only, more than one hundred, of smaller or larger scale revolutions happened, during the Turkish yoke. At last starting early 1821, Hellas was the first country to kick away the conquerors. Some decades later, the rest of Southeastern European countries won independence, between years from 1871 and 1908 that are characterized as the Age of National States for southeastern Europe, since national consensus was strongly developed and drove to the liberation of the region’s countries from the Turkish yoke, and (to the Balkan Wars as well). The geopolitical value of the region, had for long attracted the Great Powers there, and everyone was trying to take advantage of the conflicts and the disadvantages of the other. A large number of so called “nations” was developed just before, during and after the World Wars.
I can summarize the history of Southeastern Europe, in five periods: The Hellenic (from pre-historic times to 1st BC century) , the Roman (1st century BC to 320 AD) , the Byzantine (320 to 14th century), the Ottoman (late 14th to early 19th century) and the Liberation (19th century to our days, since the region is still in unrest). In the next chapters, we will analyze all the recent and important facts, all the international implications and interests that formed this mess we know as “Balkans”.
“ Balkania is split into so many geographic divisions separated from one another by natural barriers, that the different peoples settled on the soil have been greatly aided in an instinctive desire to maintain their separate individualities, and down to this day have successfully resisted all efforts made to bring about their political unification”.
This paragraph from the book “A history of the Balkans” by Ferdinand Schevill, gives a simplified but satisfactory icon of Southeastern Europe. As described in the chapter about geography of this paper, mountains and valleys and rivers, are the main geographical characteristics of the region.
The main ranges are: HAEMUS (in Greek), or Rila Planina (in Slavic), or Balkans (in Turkish) in Bulgaria, the Rhodope range between Hellas and Bulgaria, and the coastal ranges of Adriatic and Ionian Seas.
The mountains form highlands like: The Serb and Kossovo in Serbia, the Pelagonia-Kozani between Hellas and FYROM, and the Sofian in Bulgaria.
The existing rivers are the natural lines of penetration. The Ionian and Adriatic rivers, are unimportant. The Aegean rivers are of high importance for the communication of Southeastern Europe to the North, and the Black Sea rivers as well, mainly the Danube river that’s the only navigable river of the region.
The main railroads, go parallel to the roads.
The leading harbors, are Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Constantinople, while of low importance are some Black sea harbors and on Danube as well. For NATO, the most important facility in the eastern Mediterranean, is the Souda-bay complex in Crete, the largest deep-water port of the region, that can accommodate the whole US 6th fleet.
With respect to plains, only the Romanian is of some importance (it’s one of the most fertile on the earth).
But overall, there is one word that best describes everything about the geopolitics of the region: STRAITS. This is the word that is all about there. Mountain straits, highland straits, river straits, sea straits, and sometimes mind straits. Everything that happens there, is about the domination of straits, and especially the sea straits that give the controller a broader view and potential. The main straits, are the valleys and mountain passes (Kustendil, Rupel, Shipka, Predeal, …) in mainland, and the sea-straits, like: Bosporus, Hellespont, Kafireos, Mikonou, Karpathou, Otrado, Corfu, etc. The Aegean Archipelago, could be characterized as a series of successive straits between islands.
The islands of special strategic importance for the whole region, are: Cyprus, Crete, and Limnos.
Above anything else, the Haemus peninsula, is the bridge and the border between Europe and Asia, between Mediterranean and Black Sea.
(Thucydides, 2500 years ago).Looking back in the past, we can see that during any historic epoch, each time’s superpower(s), great power(s), and even regional power(s), were and still are concerned about the happenings in Haemus peninsula, about their influence there.
The “Yalta” agreement, named the “players” and their role percentage in each one of the Southeastern Europe’s countries: USA, UK, USSR.
Let’s start with Russia that always needed access to “warm waters”. So, the ports of Thessaloniki and Kavala were the targets of all the Slavic raids to the south, and from time to time they gained control over those. Of course, the long-term cure for the problems, was the domination over the Greek peninsula. In order to gain it, Russia discovered Pan-Slavism, trying to convince Greeks that they are Slavs and not Greeks any more (Falmereyer theory), when its attempt to create the Great Bulgaria (via San Stefano Treaty) failed. When the Pan-Slavism theory failed, the Slavs discovered the “Macedonian” nation, and its not for nothing that before the revision of San Stefano Treaty, nobody had even heard anything about such a “nation”.
United Kingdom is involved there -since the imperial times-, when it used to dominate the whole Mediterranean, having bases in several countries, islands and strategic points. During both World Wars, it had the predominant role, between the Allies. There still exist British bases in Dekeleia and Akrotiri, Cyprus. UK used to influence Greece (and Turkey) until 1947, when it gave space to United States of America.
United States of America, replaced United Kingdom in influencing Greece since 1947, even before the NATO constitution. As the leading NATO power, US never stopped to be interested in the making of the facts there, and as (US) Ambassador Monteagle Stearns says in his book “Entangled Allies”: “if the central front of NATO in Germany represented the military heart of the Alliance, it’s Achilles heel was assuredly located where Homer placed his wounded hero, in the Aegean waters of the southeastern sector”. US play their role in the region, supporting their vital (?) national interests, as they are expressed in their National Security Strategy. So far, what we can see as the main point of the American policy in the region, can be characterized with one word: CONTAINMENT. Containment of wars, containment of conflicts, containment of disputes, containment of ideas. It’s probably the taste of success from the Cold War outcome still in the mouth of American diplomacy, that calls for containment.
Other actors, are countries that are close to the region, or they declare they have interests there, or they have interests but they don’t say a word about it, or are related to the region through alliances, treaties, economic agreements, or any other kind of international relations. Such countries, are: Austria (since the times of Metternich), Italy (that sometime annexed Albania), Turkey -“a deceiving friend, a dangerous neighbor” according to history- (that wants to establish an Islamic arch around Greece), Iran and other Arabic countries (that sent money and warriors in Bosnia), Germany (traditionally is strongly involved with Turkey, it was a Bulgarian and a Romanian ally during WW II) , France, all NATO countries, all EU members, WEU members, UN and so many other factors, that are almost uncountable.
At last but not least, I would like to refer to a special category of intervening factors, that I call “mapmakers”. They are mainly persons (not only), coming from the intervening countries -especially the more powerful- but also from the region’s countries. They are the people and services and countries, that meet and decide the trace of borders between countries, or even the making of new countries. They look to be the least aware of the reality. Think about that: “Albania was formed at late WWI, to prevent Serbia from absorbing the former Ottoman territory”.- According to P. Shoup and G. Hoffman “Problems of Balkan security”.
RELATIONS BETWEEN STATES
The relations between the states, are guided by the points that diverge them and the points that bring them together. In Southeastern Europe, the diverging points look to be more in number and more powerful than the common points.
The diverging points, are: Disputed territories, different religions, different ethnic groups and languages, shared history.
The common points, are mainly: The share of common economic faith caused by the geography. The sense of the existence of common enemies. Common religion. Common ethnic group. Common interests.
All these series of differences, interests and particularities, make the very complex net of the relationships between the Haemus’ peninsula countries, even within each country. The overall result is a high explosive mixture. This one, that characterizes Southeastern part of Europe, as the “powder keg” of it.
As with any powder keg, the Balkan case should impose certain very strict safety regulations that need to be respected by all parties involved, in order to minimize the possibility of an explosion. Of course, these regulations apply also to those who rush into the area of the powder keg, no matter how good their intentions. This is the case today with the United States whose presence in the Balkans is indeed catalytic and decisive.The first rule that must apply is that national borders are and should remain, inviolable. This is an axiom that was applied even for the states within Former Yugoslavia, despite the fact that those were internal borders of a multi-ethnic state, map-drafted arbitrarily by a totalitarian regime. The same rule constitutes the basis for the smooth co-existence between the Balkan nations.
The second rule involves the rights and obligations of minorities. The Balkans are pre-eminently a region of the world where the presence of ethnic and religious minorities is very strong. This is due, historically, to the presence in the region, for 2,000 years, of three multi-ethnic empires: the pure Roman, the Byzantine and the Ottoman. During the last 150 years, the Balkan states have gradually acquired their separate national identities through forced large-scale population displacement.
This process, intertwined with military operations and the blatant violation of human rights - the ethnic cleansing that occurred in Constantinople, Imvros, Tenedos, and more recently in Yugoslavia, is a perfect recipe for an explosion of the powder keg.
In the greater area of the Balkans there are still many minorities. Albanians in Kossovo and FYROM, Greeks in Albania, Hungarians in Romania, Turks and Pomaks in Bulgaria, Kurds in Turkey, Serbs in Croatia, Greeks in Turkey, Turks and other Muslims in Greece, and others. If we wish to limit the danger of an explosion, then there should be sacred respect for the rights of minorities and treatment of equity and equality towards them by the international community. When this does not occur and, we tolerate for any reason, a widespread violation of human rights, then we only cultivate a breeding ground for tension and we intensify the danger of local conflicts.The third condition is that the international community must act preventively, before a crisis is developed , and not to rush in after it has been unleashed. There is of course a prerequisite: Well rounded and in depth understanding of the complex local and regional conditions and careful evaluation of all nuances of the historical particularities of the whole region.
For the sake of the region, the United States and the European Union should develop and adopt policies that are only to be based on international law and existing treaties. Keeping as much as possible away from calculated "military" interests.
The question that comes in mind now, is: OK Balkans is a mess. Who is the one that should dive deep into the problem and solve it? The answer is: The one that can do it. Next question: Who can solve it? Final answer: US in cooperation with EU, using countries like Hellas, because it has a very good reputation in the region (never invaded another country, never declared war against any of its neighbors, never conducted atrocities in a war), its strategic interests do not come in conflict with the strategic interests of US, always (WWI, Ukraine, WWII, Korea) fought along with its western allies, it is member of EU, WEU and NATO, it is the most developed country in the region, it is the only country with long democratic tradition, it is the most “experienced” country in the region, since it has gone through a civil war, a dictatorship and after that conducted a transition to modern democratic forms, in a very successful way. Therefore, Hellas is obviously the only vehicle for stability and peace in the region. If Hellas is to get such a role, then no implications are likely to happen, since the region will have avoided the making of an unforeseen and uncontrollable regional power, (as the one that’s now under creation -unfortunately for the peace and stability of the region), and no new problems would have risen.One could argue that during the past few years Greece has given the impression that it created, rather than solved, problems in the region. However, before criticizing, lets take into account the particular conditions of the world and the time. If the Hellenic positions were taken seriously in mind before the dissolution of Yugoslavia, or even forty years ago, when Hellas reacted to Tito’s making of a new “Macedonia”, to his discover of a new “nation”, to his making of a new language and grammar. If instead of the euphoria of EU and US for the fall of the Communism, the global community was more concerned about the next day. Then no problems would have been arisen in the region. Those problems were made obvious -not created by Greece. A timeline should have been made and followed. A scheduled transition would be in progress right now, and the problems would be anticipated instead of confronted. Then Greece would not have given the impression that it created, rather than solved, problems in the region.
The next point is that the international community, been sensitive in the needs of the peoples for humanitarian assistance, development and stability, has to consider that Southeastern Europe, is an undeveloped region (the most developed country there is Greece, one of the least developed countries of EU).It is obvious that the more a country gets developed and the more the peoples get educated and informed, the less the nationalist or chauvinist-type leaders have a change to get the power, and so one of the conflict reasons can be diminished. That means, that if instead of the easiest technology to transfer (military), the technology to be transferred was educational, then the likelihood of war would be farther away.
The above is true, as it is true that the information means, played the most important role in the termination of Cold War. It was impossible for the communist regimes to keep control over their slaves, when the people was informed about the goodies it could not purchase, about the shows it could not see. They had their substance, but they could not enjoy that. So, the ancient Roman saying “bread and show” was not fulfilled, so communism collapsed.
Some other causes of conflict, come straight from the communist past: In most of the countries, the communists renamed themselves to democrats and they still are in power, with all their disabilities. The clerks and mid-level factors of the communist regimes, are now the top-leaders of democracy. Same names, same persons, same minds, different titles, different costumes, golden bracelets. The changes in the ex-communist Balkan countries came from above rather than from down. No Polish-style revolution happened there. The transition, just happened. It was that simple. One morning, the people woke up and the communist regime was not there. The communists signed papers that they wouldn’t be communists any more and they kept on living the known way. But the transition proved harder than that. If nobody cares about ruling you, nobody cares about your survive, too. That was very hard for some people. Riots and wars started and everybody wanted his share of the old glory, that unfortunately was not there. Refugees started fleeing from different countries to Germany, France, Greece, Italy, UK. What needed a lot of time and wars and treaties and population exchange and people’s tears, seems to has been lost again. The immigrations of peoples was the big problem for Byzantium. This time 500,000 Albanian illegal immigrants have fled Greece. What’s the next stage? This month the Greek Justice minister asked and his Albanian counterpart accepted, to return the Albanian prisoners from Greek jails, because of their excessive number and the troubles they cause in the prisons.
Another trouble-maker in the region, is the cheep strategy of some leaders, (i.e. Tchiller) to “export” their problems. When they confront a problem in their country that they cannot solve, they just try to turn their country’s public opinion against their “traditional enemy, that is responsible for all these bad things that happen to us”, blaming the others for their inability.
In my personal opinion, the policy that international community applies right now, will heal the problems temporarily only. I do not see long-range solution given so far. OK . Politics is complicated. But the more clear it is, the more problems it can solve, and the less problems it will create. In order to be respected and accepted, politics and diplomacy should be open (just as Kissinger said, even he didn’t practice).
The international community should be very careful when making “buffer” zones and states, since a buffer state is supposed to solve and not to create problems. When Albania was founded, it was supposed to prevent the over-expansion of Serbia. Now, Albania is a possible trouble-maker regarding to Kossovo and Tetovo. When FYROM declared its independence, US troops installed at its north borders, to contain the Yugoslav war. Right after that, these Slavs, declared their “alytrotism” against Greece, they used Greek symbols in their flag, they used a Greek name, they started their propaganda against Greece, they became a destabilizing factor in the region. The international diplomacy was not on its best planning mood.
Another very important factor, is that US, through the American-German and the American-British partnerships, will react decisively to a political and military independence of EU or WEU, if it is accompanied with a weakening of NATO forms.
Under the best of conditions, diversity alone poses significant challenges to finding tolerable solutions. But the history of the Balkans, particularly the recent history, complicates the ability of leaders to devise acceptable ones. George Schultz pointed out, that the basic problem to overcome in the Balkans "... is learning how to govern over diversity: Ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic diversity."
The peoples of Southeastern Europe hold their history close to their hearts. They believe that peoples that forget their history, they just don’t have future. A very realistic approach to the region’s problems, is found in William Johnson’s monograph: “Deciphering the Balkan Enigma: Using History to Inform Policy” : “If long-term solutions are to succeed, a thorough reform of political systems and institutions must occur. Long-term progress will be possible only if governments can instill sufficient confidence in their populations to overcome the profound mistrust and deep animosity that have developed over the centuries, and have been violently reinforced over the past 4 years. Ethnic and religious minorities will have to be convinced that governments will safeguard their interests. Nationalist and irredentism demands, particularly an expansionist Croatia or the long drive for a "Greater Serbia," will have to be contained. At the same time, the oftentimes legitimate fears of ethnic Serbs in Bosnia, Kossovo, FYROM, and Croatia of living under the political control of another ethnic group will have to be acknowledged and addressed. All of these matters are much easier said than done.
To effect a break from the past, the United States and Europe will have to invest considerable long-term economic, political, intellectual, and military capital to support the development of democratic institutions within the region. The European Union (EU) represents an important mechanism in this regard. The prospect of substantial EU reconstruction funds offers a powerful incentive for belligerents to reach an agreement. Similarly, membership in the EU–and the future economic development it entails–will not be offered until the parties conform to EU standards of conduct. In other words, those nations seeking EU membership will have to learn to settle their differences through negotiation–not through violence. Finally, should states within the former Yugoslavia become EU members, the penalties for operating outside the norms of the European community can be significant, thereby exercising a dampening factor on any future conflicts. All of this presumes, of course, that the EU and its members are willing to devote the time, money, and effort that will be required to see these initiatives through to fruition.
Given the past history of the Balkans and the current ethnic, religious, and cultural divisions, this course will prove daunting. The level of political, economic, and intellectual commitment needed, however, cannot be forecast with any accuracy–but it will be considerable. Governments must begin now to lay the groundwork with publics and parliaments for the level and duration of commitment that may be required. Events in the Balkan crisis have demonstrated that U.S. leadership in Europe is essential to secure U.S. national interests in the region and Europe. This will require a level of engagement in Europe and in European security organizations larger than U.S. political leaders have previously anticipated. Such a degree of involvement will also require U.S. political leaders to explain to the American public the interests involved, and why such a commitment of U.S. capital–time, prestige, fiscal resources–is necessary to sustain those interests.
Diplomatic actions, alone, are not likely to bring about a settlement, and military power will be required to establish conditions suitable to build a lasting peace settlement. Diplomatic initiatives, political pressure, and economic embargoes and sanctions have not yet yielded success. Granted, such options take time and economic sanctions appear to be having an effect on Serbia and Montenegro, but these efforts alone have not brought an end to the conflict and forced a political settlement in the former Yugoslavia. Conversely, Croatian and Bosnian military successes of recent months, coupled with a firm display of NATO political will and military air-power, have redressed the strategic balance in the region and brought the parties to the negotiating table in earnest. To be sure, diplomatic and economic initiatives laid the groundwork and set the stage for successful application of military power, but military power is the decisive catalyst that brought all parties to a potential solution.
Should U.S. political leaders decide to commit ground troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina, they will have to convince the American public and Congress that it is in U.S. national interests to make the size of investments–intellectual, political, economic, and military–required to achieve an acceptable solution in the Balkans. This effort will prove to be no easy task if the United States becomes increasingly preoccupied with its own domestic difficulties. But, without such a level and duration of commitment, acceptable solutions may not be found.
Substantial time–perhaps decades or generations–will be necessary to build and sustain the political ethos, organizations, and governmental structures needed for a lasting solution in the Balkans. Problems that developed over centuries cannot be transformed overnight. This is not to argue that long-term solutions are not possible, but only to point out the difficulties involved. The post-World War II Franco-German model offers hope, but even that case indicates the time, effort, and leadership dedicated to good will on all sides that are necessary. Such examples are absent from the historical political landscape of the former Yugoslavia. And, the events of the last 4 years are unlikely to generate favorable conditions or leaders capable of dramatic policy reversals.
These insights are not intended to provide an overly pessimistic portrait of the difficulties inherent in resolving the crisis in the Balkans. They do, however, illuminate the root causes of the ongoing conflict, reflect the perceptions of Balkan leaders, and provide a fuller context for policy-makers as they deliberate U.S. policy. Leaders, however, not only must recognize these insights, they must assimilate and factor them into their decision-making calculus as they assess policy options for the Balkans. It is to this issue that the discussion next turns”.
OVERALL ASSESSMENT / CONCLUSIONS / PROPOSALS
This not good economic situation of all the region’s countries, their bad heritage from history -remote and recent-, the Ottoman and communist past, are not the best materials to build viable, developed economies, educated peoples and reliable neighbors.
The main actors must use all the means they have in their disposition. Diplomatic, informational, military, and economic. But in the RIGHT MIXTURE and for the RIGHT PURPOSE every time. Peace mediation is like doctor’s medication. If you don’t use the right dosage, the patient will be dead instead of cured.
Reviewing the recent facts, I see that it is not by lack that even the major players of the Balkan stage agree with the Greek position, that everything happened very fast and we shouldn’t let it be done this way: Lord David Owen, in his book “Balkan Odyssey” (published in 1995), writes: “The December 1991 recognition decision by the EC is a sombre warning of how a dangerous decision, with predicted consequences, can be made in an atmosphere where maintaining unity among the member states becomes an end in itself.” Thucydides, wrote: “People go to war out of honor, fear, and interest. Wars are but rarely fought solely between the forces of good and evil where there are only villains and victims”. That is very true. In civil wars, the things go worse. You have to try hard to see who is the good and who is the bad guy (if there is any). So, the matter of war criminals of the Bosnian civil war, could be another cause of conflict, instead of justice, if it is not fair for everyone.
The French have a saying that for all the ‘ifs’ in the world, you can put Paris in a bottle, but if Maastriht had happened earlier, if EC was EU, if Europeans reacted early and properly, then the results could be different. Any way. The main point is that the regional peace was disturbed so far, but not the global, and so, humanity has the resources to react and settle the situation properly. The solution that will be given, should refer to all the Southeastern Europe’s countries, and should anticipate the next conditions, should set the stage for the future. Does the Dayton agreement do that? Does the Hollbrook mediation between Greece and Turkey do that? I personally doubt. I think that the long-term solution, should be a political one, whose main parts would be the real and deep and not in name democratization of the former-communist countries. The democracy they have now, is given and not produced, therefore it is fragile, and this is a destabilizing factor.
These countries need desperately, an economic reformation, and their economies’ incorporation in the market-economy. Economic reformation does not only mean money to go in these countries, and investments to be done. It mainly means that these countries, need people to know what to do with the money, and how to incorporate their economy in the international market. That is, these countries need first of all, educational reformation, so they will be able to produce people that will handle the money.
In the whole region, all intervening factors, should behave on specific codes of conduct , -what the military would call Roules of Engagement-. These codes should be made overt, and common to all countries. Impartiality in its real sense, is a must in Balkans, if you want to produce a viable solution. But real impartiality. Not to be impartial and not acting when there is a unilateral violation of the international law and after that, to treat both sides the same way.
I also have to say that respect to borders, to international law and treaties, whatever they are, is a necessary condition. This way, the new map-maker will prove that his predecessor was a good guy, that knew his job, that acted right, and so will do the new one.
At last and overall, there is a magic phrase that should be translated in the proper way, not the Russian way, not the American way, not even the western European way. It should be translated, and applied the Southeastern European way. That is, respect to human rights, with special care to protecting the minorities.
1. Alifantis, Stelios. “New situation in the Balkans” Notes from his lectures.
2. Microsoft Corporation. “Encarta 96 Encyclopedia”.
3. Jane’s SENTINEL. “The Balkans 1995 Regional Assessment”.
4. Johnson, William. “Deciphering the Balkan Enigma: Using history to inform policy”.
5. Owen, David, (Lord). “Balkan Odyssey”.
6. Schevill, Ferdinand. “A history of the Balkans”.
7. Shoup, Paul. “Problems of Balkan security”.
8. Stearns, Monteagle. “Entangled Allies”.
9. Woodward, Suzan. “Balkan tragedy”.
Major, GRC Army
Kostas B. Konstantaras
CGCS class 1996, staff group A2D
Fort Leavenworth, KS, USA
Blochberger Terrace 33