Ex Yugoslavia

Peter Handke poses outside his home near Paris after winning the Nobel prize for literature. Photograph: Julien de Rosa/EPA

So, the highest award in literature goes to a writer who denies the existence of concentration camps that it was my accursed honour to find in Bosnia in 1992, who lauded Slobodan Milošević, mastermind of the hurricane of violence of which they were part, and contests the massacre at Srebrenica in 1995.

Peter Handke is an apologist for genocide within living memory, at the heart of Europe. He says one thing, while earth across the Balkans gives up its mass graves. While Handke proffers his views, the bones are facts.

Does this matter? Literature must exist independent of politics; the Nobel prize could be awarded regardless of morals or ideology.…  Seguir leyendo »

Police forces mark the 26th anniversary of the creation of Republika Srpska, which ignited the devastating Bosnia war. Photograph: Amel Emric/AP

In the opening scenes of Danis Tanović’s Oscar-winning film No Man’s Land, set in Bosnia during the 1992-95 war, a soldier in the Bosnian army reads the newspaper in a trench. Worriedly, he exclaims: “Look at this shit in Rwanda.”

This scene, said to be based on a true anecdote, turned out to be a litmus test for viewers.

Whether you laughed or not, you could read it in two ways. First, as a testament to the ability of Bosnians to empathise with the misfortune of others, even amid their own dire circumstances. The second reading is less flattering: might the unnamed soldier be so insensible to his own desperate situation, the death and destruction that defined the early days of Bosnia’s independence that the Rwandan genocide loomed larger in his mind?…  Seguir leyendo »

Europe Died in Pristina?

Not to be accused of plagiarism, I at once confess that this title was prompted by the excellent book by Jacques Hogard’s1, I read already some years ago. This highly decorated French colonel, a participant of the 1999 NATO war against Serbia over Kosovo, became utterly disillusioned by double standards of Western countries in the process of this so-called ‘humanitarian war’. I do not know whether the damage done to the body, and especially to the soul, of the Old Continent is indeed mortal, but the wounds inflicted by this cowardly aerial bombardment in alliance on the ground with a terrorist organisation (recognised earlier as such by the US State Department) has indeed left deep scars on the body politic of Europe and beyond.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Russian President Vladimir Putin wait for their arrival in front of Belgrade’s Saint Sava Church this month. Credit Vladimir Zivojinovic/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“In the Balkans the transition is over,” Remzi Lani, an Albanian political analyst, told me some time ago. But unlike in many post-Communist countries, Mr. Lani didn’t mean a transformation from dictatorship to democracy. “We transitioned from repressive to depressive regimes.” He is right. The old Communists and radical ethnic nationalists are largely gone; in their places is stagnation — economic, social and political.

The question now is how these depressive regimes fit into a growing geopolitical rivalry.

A day before his recent visit to Belgrade, Serbia, President Vladimir Putin of Russia expressed his great displeasure with Macedonia’s name change and accused “the United States and certain Western countries” of “destabilizing” the region; the Russian foreign minister, meanwhile, denounced “the willingness of the United States to lead all Balkan states into NATO as soon as possible and to remove any Russian influence in this region.” Russia wants to make clear that this is not what the people in the region want.…  Seguir leyendo »

El síndrome esloveno de Quim Torra

Cuando emigré de la antigua Yugoslavia en 1992, iba resignada a la idea de que el país en el que había vivido se reduciría en adelante a dos cosas: la casilla de «lugar de nacimiento», inevitable en todos los formularios que me aguardaban, y las quejas de los editores de mapas y libreros, porque la balcanización que tocaba entonces les perjudicaría, ya que las cartas geográficas de la región, con la velocidad de la destrucción y creación de Estados, quedarían pronto obsoletas.

Sin embargo, en España los nacionalistas vascos y catalanes han introducido la balcanización en el discurso político, cada uno a su manera.…  Seguir leyendo »

El modelo esloveno

Según informa la prensa, con unanimidad no desmentida por nadie, el president, Quim Torra, en Bruselas, en la presentación del Consell per la Republica, ha dicho que “los eslovenos decidieron autodeterminarse y tirar hacia adelante en el camino de la libertad con todas su consecuencias. Hagamos como ellos y estemos dispuestos a todo para vivir libres”. Es una vieja idealización del caso esloveno, aparecida ya antes en el independentismo catalán, y que, en efecto, transcurrido ya algún tiempo desde el momento culminante del procés en septiembre-octubre de 2017, pudo ser el modelo en el que pensaron, sobre todo en la extraña declaración de independencia con suspensión inmediata de sus efectos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kosovo Albanians block roads on Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s planned route to the village of Banje on Sept. 9. (Visar Kryeziu/AP)

My country, Kosovo, is being asked to make an impossible choice that would cheapen the sacrifice made by U.S. soldiers, undermine the stability of the region and threaten America’s allies. In the face of sustained attack from Serbia meant to undermine our sovereignty, security and prosperity, there are some who would like Kosovo to engage in so-called “peaceful” ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. This is a shortsighted attempt to give in to a bully in the hope that the bullying will stop. We will not do this — we will instead stand up against those who would seek to take advantage of us, while simultaneously working toward a long-lasting and comprehensive peace.…  Seguir leyendo »

El año 2018 está siendo, sin duda, un periodo en el que los Balcanes, tras un tiempo en silencio, han vuelto a la agenda política de la UE. Las presidencias de Bulgaria y Austria a lo largo de este año están siendo determinantes para impulsar la perspectiva europea de estos países. La cumbre informal de Sofía el pasado mayo, la publicación del documento de la Comisión sobre la Perspectiva europea de los Balcanes, el referéndum sobre la cuestión del nombre de Macedonia, las elecciones en Bosnia-Herzegovina o la cobertura que la presidencia austriaca está dando a las negociaciones bilaterales entre los presidentes serbio Aleksandar Vucic y kosovar Hashim Thaci son una buena muestra de ello.…  Seguir leyendo »

En esta misma página publiqué el 13 de septiembre de 2007 un articulo titulado «El error Kosovo» en el que analizaba el proceso que había de culminar en la independencia del que había sido territorio integrante de la República Federal de Yugoslavia, y luego de Serbia, antes y después de la disolución del conjunto de Yugoslavia. En él reflejaba las consecuencias de la intervención militar de la OTAN que desde el 23 de Marzo del 99 hasta el 10 de Junio del mismo año había actuado en contra de la política de limpieza étnica practicada contra los albaneses en el territorio y lanzada contra el todavía líder serbio Slobodan Milosevic y recordaba que habiendo sido ese el motivo de la intervención, llevada a cabo sin autorización del Consejo de Seguridad, este mismo organismo, en su Resolución 1244 había establecido la obligación de respetar la integridad territorial y la independencia política de la República Federativa de Yugoslavia al intentar resolver el conflicto de Kosovo.…  Seguir leyendo »

Children ride bicycles next to a wall painted with the European Union flag last month in the southern Serbian town of Presevo. (Armend Nimani/AFP/Getty Images)

Serbia and Kosovo have been talking about a grand bargain to defuse lingering ethnic conflicts. Critics have been quick to weigh in. Some argue that the risks are simply too substantial for the international community to entertain the idea of “border adjustments,” or territorial exchanges, involving Serb-populated territories in northern Kosovo and Albanian-populated territories in southern Serbia, which is being subtly pushed by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and his Kosovar counterpart, Hashim Thaci.

The crux of the critics’ argument rests on the potential for spillover throughout the Balkans. If Belgrade and Pristina exchange territory, this will show Croats and Serbs in Bosnia that they, too, can find a way to secede and join their ethnic kin in Croatia and Serbia, breaking up Bosnia in the process.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man sits at a roadblock in Vojtesh, Kosovo, on Sept. 9. (Visar Kryeziu/AP)

The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo are planning to swap territory. They say it will ease ethnic tensions and contribute to stability in the western Balkans. Some commentators and politicians think it is a great idea.

Don’t bet on it. The proposals present enormous risks — not only for the countries themselves but also for the broader region. Indeed, they could set an ominous precedent for leaders who harbor separatist ambitions.

What Kosovo President Hashim Thaci refers to as a “border adjustment” could easily prompt nationalists in this part of Europe to demand similar changes. It could offer destructive inspiration to Croatia, Albania, Bosnia and Macedonia, where nationalist movements and some of the leaders yearn to have their own ethnically homogeneous countries.…  Seguir leyendo »

1. Una ventana de oportunidad

Veinte años después del final de la guerra, cuarenta años después del comienzo del conflicto, serbios y albaneses kosovares están por fin negociando. Y parece que esta vez las negociaciones van por buena vía y que existen esperanzas fundadas de que las partes lleguen a un acuerdo basado en el reconocimiento serbio de la independencia de Kósovo, acompañado, quizá, por una corrección de fronteras en busca la máxima homogeneidad étnica de los dos estados.

Y no es tan raro como a primera vista parece. Hay, desde luego, conflictos que terminan con la victoria total de una parte y el aplastamiento de la otra, pero es mucho más frecuente que los conflictos concluyan con algún tipo de negociación.…  Seguir leyendo »

Discussions between Serbia and Kosovo about the possibility of agreeing on border adjustments to settle a solution to the current frozen situation will be ephemeral, a short-lived romance. Not because the presidents of both countries could not finally agree on a deal, but because Europeans suspect the return of ‘Balkan ghosts’. The proposal discomforts the European Union and its member states. International leaders and analysts have already demonised this option, condemned their consequences and warned that another tragedy might befall Balkan people.

The weekend of September 8 and 9, Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vučić, made a trip to Kosovo. On Saturday, he visited the Gazivode Lake – located in the majority-Serb northwest region, which is strategic for the supply of water and electricity.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Offensive Plan for the Balkans That the U.S. Should Get Behind

The Balkans remains in strategic limbo. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia 10 years ago, but Serbia has yet to come to terms with its loss — refusing to recognize Kosovo and stirring trouble between the country’s ethnic Serbs and the ethnic Albanian majority. Almost two decades after the NATO bombing campaign to drive Yugoslav forces from Kosovo, some 4,000 NATO troops remain there to keep the peace.

A breakthrough may now be in the making. It is a morally offensive one, but nonetheless the United States and the European Union should get behind it.

President Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia and President Hashim Thaci of Kosovo are apparently working on a proposal to engage in a land swap that could bring the simmering conflict to an end.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last month, national security adviser John Bolton said the United States “would not stand in the way” of a land swap deal between Serbia and Kosovo. Recent reports suggest the two countries are close to an agreement that would resolve one of Europe’s most challenging political standoffs since the end of the Cold War.

The plan would redraw the Serbia-Kosovo partition to allow a Serbian-speaking territory in Kosovo’s north to join Serbia, while an Albanian-speaking region in Serbia’s south would join Kosovo. The stakes are high: Resolving this impasse probably would pave the way for Kosovo to gain a seat at the United Nations.…  Seguir leyendo »

Srebrenica es recordado como un enclave en Bosnia-Herzegovina donde, a partir del 11 de julio de 1995, se cometió el mayor genocidio acontecido en Europa después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, cuando en un par de días fuerzas serbias masacraron a cerca de 8.000 musulmanes bosnios.

A pesar de haber transcurrido 23 años de estos hechos, solo se habla de los principales criminales responsables, Slobodan Milosevic, el general Ratko Mladic y Radovan Karadzic, pero poco o nada de la enorme responsabilidad de la comunidad internacional en este abominable crimen cometido en la Europa de Maastricht .

Indiferencia , prejuicios anti musulmanes y hasta complicidades de algunos de los principales países, y hasta del entonces secretario general de las Naciones Unidas Boutros Ghali, se sumaron para no detener semejante tragedia.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man passes in front of a graffiti with an old map of Macedoni in Skopje on Wednesday.CreditRobert Atanasovski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Image

It has taken almost 25 years to get an agreement between the governments in Athens and Skopje on what to call the entity once known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. It would be a mistake to dismiss this as a minor development — particularly now, when the unity of the trans-Atlantic alliance is at its lowest point since World War II and the unity of the European Union is under challenge in every national election.

In fact, the historic compromise to rename the country the Republic of Northern Macedonia, thus softening a rivalry over national histories, opens a window of opportunity for leaders in Europe and the United States to defy current trends and begin shaping a secure future for the Balkans, an achievement that would help secure stability for all of Europe.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kosovo police block a street last month in the northern, Serb-dominated part of Mitrovica, Kosovo. (Bojan Slavkovic/AP)

It has been more than two decades since I worked with Richard Holbrooke and our team to negotiate an end to the war in Bosnia. NATO deployed and then acted to halt Serb ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

Today, three Western Balkan states (Croatia, Albania and Slovenia) have become members of NATO. Croatia and Slovenia have joined the European Union. Kosovo is now an independent nation. Most Americans and Europeans have mentally filed away that brutal conflict as a problem solved.

Sadly, this is far from true. Lingering political conflicts over the ethno-religious character of these nations consistently threaten to metastasize into national and regional crises, making the region a prime target for meddling by foreign powers.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ce 21 décembre, le Tribunal pénal international pour l’ex-Yougoslavie (TPIY) fermera ses portes. Jamais tant de crimes ont suscité un tel travail d’enquête. Jamais une guerre n’a été aussi documentée, scrutée, analysée par le pouvoir judiciaire depuis la Seconde Guerre mondiale. L’heure des bilans et des analyses, sur les succès et les limites du premier tribunal pénal international, est venue. Ce travail d’historicisation du TPIY est indispensable, ne serait-ce que pour tirer les leçons pour l’avenir de la justice internationale.

Ce qui frappe avant tout, c’est l’infinie distance entre la vérité judiciaire et l’écho que celle-ci suscite dans les sociétés, les premières concernées.…  Seguir leyendo »

Dans quelle mesure la destruction d’un chef d’œuvre architectural constitue-t-elle un crime de guerre, si ce chef d’œuvre est aussi utilisé à des fins militaires ? Quid encore si la destruction d’un tel édifice, tel le Vieux Pont de Mostar, entraîne des dommages psychologiques et physiques sur une population civile désormais assiégée ? Comment peser à la fois objectif militaire, dommage au patrimoine culturel, blessures psychologiques et physiques ? Retour sur le dernier jugement du Tribunal pénal international pour l’ex-Yougoslavie, un casse-tête chinois dans les Balkans.

L’ultime jugement du TPIY le 29 novembre restera dans les mémoires par le suicide en direct et télévisé de l’un des six accusés, Slobodan Praljak, au moment de l’énoncé de la sentence.…  Seguir leyendo »