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Options for Peace in Kosovo
We have won the war - but can we win the peace? Remarks by Carl Bildt to a conference in Rome December 12 1999 on where we are heading with the peace efforts.

Remarks by Mr Carl Bildt, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the UN to the Balkans, at the UNUSA/IAI conference on ”Options for Kosovo’s Final Status”, Rome, December 12, 1999.

This conference has to assess one of the most difficult of the many difficult questions which will face policy-makers in Europe as well as the United States during the first years of the new century.

It touches upon core issues of peace, security and stability in this part Europe. It goes to the hearth of the ambitions to set up a new order of integration and co-operation in Europe as a whole. It has important ramifications for the overall global efforts at securing peace and the system of the United Nations.

The issues are certainly not new. Indeed, we have been faced with the unresolved issues of the political order of this part of Europe all through this century.

And, in contrast to many other issues that the one way or the other has been sorted out during this century, some of these issues remain as difficult today as when they first emerged on the international agenda less than a century ago.

Then, we were faced with the consequences of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and with the assertion of nationalism in this part of Europe as well. But the multi-ethnic mosaic left by the millennia of rule by multi-ethnic empires in this part of Europe – and this is what makes it so different from other parts of our Continent – created a most difficult situation.

Indeed, I believe that we can view most of the conflicts we have faced in South-eastern Europe during this century as a result of the clash between the realities created by the millennia of multi-cultural empires and the principle of the nation state.

We have seen conflicts over the external borders and the internal structures of practically all of the states in the region as a consequence of the complicated mosaic of cultural, national and religious traditions. The 1999 war over Kosovo was certainly not the first war fought over these issues in this region.

In Kosovo today, the United Nations has been asked to take responsibility for what must be the most complex and demanding operation of this sort ever undertaken in modern times.

It is uniquely challenging in three different respects.

First, because it entails the setting up of an interim administration from virtually ground zero. With the local populations effectively out of government for the last decade and with the Serb administration effectively gone, all public powers rests with the UN mission. No other UN or other mission has ever before had such a broad mandate.

Second, because the future of Kosovo is very much dependent on the region as a whole, and this region is today characterised by instability and tensions to a degree which is even higher than we have seen in the past. We can never succeed in Kosovo alone. We are dependent upon success in the region as a whole.

And third, because there is no Peace Agreement for Kosovo. This fundamental fact is much too often forgotten. We won a war over Kosovo, but we failed to secure the peace we sought. And we are now in a situation in which we must start to explore the options for winning the peace without which the victory in the war will turn out to have been of little long-term value.

The absence of a Peace Agreement naturally makes the situation in Kosovo fundamentally different from the situation in Bosnia. Here, we have an agreement that sets the internal as well as external framework for the developments in this part of the region.

In Kosovo, we have neither an internal nor any external framework. But we know that both of these must be secured if we shall be able to go from a short-term military victory to a long-term political achievement.

There are different ways to approach this issue. We can talk about looking at Kosovo and then try to shape the region as a consequence of the choices that are made for the future of Kosovo. Or we can talk about the region, and then try to secure a future for Kosovo within a stable and coherent regional framework.

After the war over Kosovo, the international community has become much more aware of the regional and long-term nature of the issues involved than was the case after the Bosnian war. The setting up of the Stability Pact is a concrete expression of this. And I belong to those who have always preached that it is futile to try to solve the one or the other of the problems of the region without looking at the structures of the region as a whole. If we fail to see the regional dimension and seek the regional solutions, the solution to one isolated problem only risks creating a new one.

The strategic conflict in the region during this century has been the conflict between the forces of disintegration and the forces of integration. The latter have been associated with the different national agendas of the region – mainly Croat, Serb or Albanian – while the other have been associated with the different attempts to set up structures bridging the gap between the different nationalist agendas.

In much the same way as we saw in the beginning of the century, the last decade of it has seen the one process of disintegration after the other, and in almost all of the cases they have been associated with conflicts, wars and major ethnic cleansings or changes.

Most of the conflicts that preoccupied the 1990’s in the region were associated with the process of disintegration between the Serb and the Croat interests.

It was the conflict over Serb minority interests in Croatia when that nation sought its independence, fuelled by fears that had their background in the horrible memories from the 1940’s, which led to these wars. And it was in essence the rivalry between the Serb and the Croat interests that brought the war into that complex country of Bosnia with all its in-built tensions.

Although there is now peace, we are still struggling with key political issues coming out of these conflicts. Starting by the Adriatic Sea, where the old dividing line between Rome and Constantinople was once drawn; the issue of the future of the Prevlaka peninsula is still open. Moving through Bosnia, we can only note that the three national agendas of that country remain strong, and that the international community has been reassessing its previous policy of disengagement in favour of increasingly heavy involvement in the politics of Bosnia. In the north of the country, the issue of Brcko is only handled through an even more intrusive international presence. And further to the north, efforts at achieving a possibility of Croats and Serbs living peacefully together in Eastern Slavonia have certainly not come towards their end. And political relations between the states of this part of the region are still very tense.

While focusing on the issues further South, we must thus always be aware of the fragility of some of the areas and solutions somewhat more to the North of the region. And we must be aware of the relationships between both the issues and the solutions.

The conflict over Kosovo can not be seen in through the prism of the conflict between Serb and Croat interests, but must be viewed through the prism of the clash between Slav and Albanian interests in this part of the region. And we all know that we are here dealing with a difference in nationality and language far more profound that is the case between Serb and Croat.

When, after the First Balkan War in 1912, the border issues of this part of the region had to be settled, it was done by the Great Powers of the day at a conference in London. And when Sir Edward Grey in August 1913 introduced the solution achieved to the House of Commons, he was frank in his assessment of what had been achieved:

“We have now come to an agreement for the delimitation of the southern and southeastern borders of Albania, which will complete the whole frontiers of this state. I am quite aware that, when the whole comes to be stated, it will be open on many points to a great deal of criticism from any one with local knowledge, who looks at it purely on the merits of the locality itself.. It is to be borne in mind that in making that agreement the primary essential was to preserve agreement between the Great Powers themselves; and if the agreement about Albania has secured that, it has done the work which is most essential in the interest of peace in Europe.”

Since then, the agreement between those particular Great Powers have gone, as has indeed several of those Great Powers themselves. But the solution to these particular issues of delimitation agreed then has been confirmed in its essence time after time. That was the case after the First World War, and that was the case after the Second World War, when history had suddenly produced regimes of parallel political nature in both Belgrade and Tirana.

But the tension has always been there. In Kosovo, we have seen waves of repression and rebellion swinging back and forth during large parts of this century. And Kosovo has only been the focal point of this wider conflict.

Now, we will have to confront the issue again, and try to do it within the broader regional framework.

There is no going back to where we were a year ago. It is my firm personal belief that Kosovo will never again be accepted by the international community as an integral part of Serbia. The horrors of the war and what preceded it have made this unthinkable, but the fundamentals of the issues involved have already de facto started to make it impossible. And in was the failure of the leadership in Belgrade to understand and accept this fact, which lead us into the present situations.

But if there is no going back to where we started, neither are there any easy options for the future. There are no options for the future, which do not have vast ramifications for the region as a whole.

I mentioned that the strategic issue of the region is the issue of disintegration versus integration.

And it is important to recognise both that the forces of disintegration are still substantially stronger than the forces of disintegration, and that failure by the international community to check the further advance of these forces and feelings are likely to produce not more of peace, but rather more of war in the region.

A peace agreement for Kosovo will in essence have to be an agreement and accommodation between the wider Slav and the wider Albanian issues in the region.

It was impossible to find a solution for Bosnia only within Bosnia, and in much the same way it will not be possible to find a solution for Kosovo that does not bring into the surrounding areas and interests in the one way or the other.

And in much the same way as in Bosnia, a peace agreement will have to be an accommodation that meets the minimum demands of everyone while not meeting the maximum demands of anyone. If we are to aim for self-sustaining structures of stability in the region, there is in effect no other formula for peace that is possible.

Today, we are further from a peace agreement for Kosovo that we were a year ago, and we are in a situation in which the forces of nationalism and disintegration might be even stronger than they were then.

But we are also in a situation in which there is an increasing understanding of the need to turn the region from disintegration towards integration in order to prevent further wars and prepare the ground for a lasting peace.

UNMIK and KFOR will obviously have to continue their missions, although priorities and policies will change over time, for years to come. But increasingly, we will see that the absence of a peace agreement which meets the minimum demands of everyone while meetings the maximum demands of no one in the region will make its task of securing the internal democracy and the external position of the region increasingly challenging.

Yesterday in Helsinki, the leaders of the 15 countries of the European Union opened the door to membership of the Union for further countries, stretching eventually to the northern parts of the plains of Mesopotamia. Not only Romania and Bulgaria, but also Turkey was accepted fully as candidates which must now orient their policies towards the goal of eventual integration into the European Union.

A Europe that stretches from the Arctic Ocean to the northern plains of Mesopotamia will obviously be a different union from the one originally set up at the Capitol here in Rome in 1957.

But it will be a union with the same aim – to secure peace and democracy – and the same basic means towards that aim – a policy of integration encompassing every broader parts of the economic, political and social life of the participating nations.

With a European Union that stretches as wide as this, there will be no reasons of principle not to include all of the countries of Southeastern Europe within its structures. Indeed, the region encompasses very many of the same social, political and economic tensions as we see in the Turkey of today. Some of its challenges seems less daunting – some of them more so.

But for this prospect to be realistic during the years to come, we need not only prevent new wars in the region, and to secure a peace agreement according to the principles I indicated, but also to start the process of renewal of the region as a whole.

We should stop to talk about the reconstruction of the Balkans. What we need is a policy for the renewal of Southeastern Europé. And such a policy of renewal must be based on the three R’s of reform, reintegration and reconciliation.

The need for fundamental economic as well as political reform is profound throughout the region. If large parts of this region could be seen as being ahead of most of the rest of Central and Southeastern Europé a decade ago, all parts of it has since then fallen very substantially behind.

This is most pronounced in the case of Serbia. Today, the policies of its leadership has taken it to the situation where it competes with Belarus for the position as the least reformed of all the economies of Europe. And it must of course be seen as the ultimate insult this leadership has inflicted upon Serbia that the country today falls well behind Turkey in the queue for granting full European status and membership.

But if Serbia is the most serious case, it is by no means alone. All of these countries fall far short of what is needed if they are to be seen as serious contenders for membership in the European Union. It is by profound policies of reform that they themselves will have to change this.

And these policies for reform must be associated with policies for reintegration. If borders and barriers have gone up all over the region in the last decade, they must start to come down, become less relevant and change their meaning in the coming ones. Their economies can only recover and prosper through trade and investments, and this will never come if they continue as protectionist enclaves in confrontation with each other.

Here, the European Union can and must help. It must move from a policy of barriers to trade through sanctions to a policy of free trade for all, and be ready to go from there over a customs union, which Turkey already has, to a full inclusion into the integrated single market of the European Union.

But the countries of the region must understand that free trade, a customs union and the single market comes also with conditions which must be meet by them in the same way as they are meet by everyone else sharing the fruits of these arrangements.

And in much the same way as a policy of reform will not work without a policy for reintegration, a policy for reintegration will not work without a policy of reconciliation.

It is unlikely that the countries of the region will be able to accomplish this on their own. The setting up of the International Tribunal is a reflection of the need to base reconciliation on justice.

But in order to achieve a lasting reconciliation and a self-sustaining peace, we need not only a peace agreement for Kosovo, but in all probability also a framework agreement that covers the region as a whole.

Such a region-wide agreement should directly link the solutions of the different outstanding issues to the path of the region towards the structures for integration of the European Union.

It would thus seek a solution to the outstanding questions of the political order of the region not by through an old process of Balkan disintegration but instead through a new process of European integration. It would also bring hope to the people of the region that their economic and social problems will be overcome.

Thus, a peace settlement for Kosovo would be linked to an form an integral part of a much wider effort to build structures of integration for the region as a whole, taking it through policies of reform, reintegration and reconciliation step by step into the rest of the European family.

In such a context, the contested issues of borders and of independence should be seen as of less importance. Borders will be of diminishing importance to the contacts between peoples and to the functioning of the economies, and there will emerge a pattern of dependencies and interdependencies in the region and within it and the rest of Europe that makes the classical concepts of sovereignty loose much of its relevance.

Needless to say, we are far from the situation in which we can start to move along this road.

There is much work to be done in Kosovo during the coming year and the year thereafter to set up the structures of autonomy and self-government that resolution 1244 of the Security Council calls for. There is the urgent need for political changes in Belgrade, since the key parts of the political and military leadership of Serbia have been indicted for war crimes by the International Tribunal, thus de facto having been excommunicated from all political and economic efforts in the region. There is the need to look more carefully at also other of the outstanding issues in the region to see how they could fit into a broader pattern of peace. And there is the need to bring the international dialogue on the fundamental political issues of the region and how they can be solved forward.

This conference will be a valuable contribution, to some extent even a start to this process.

The European century that is now drawing towards its end to some extent started and ended in the Balkans.

The first major European political crisis of this century was the Bosnia crisis of 1908. And the first European war of this century was the First Balkan War of 1912, which was quickly followed by the Second Balkan War and then all what followed as a consequence of the shots fired in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.

The day, of course, of the battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389.

And the century ended with us winning a war over Kosovo.

The new century in Europe should begin with us winning the peace in the region through a process of integration. The alternative, which is the continuation of the trends we see up to this very day, is a series of new wars and conflicts in the region.

Kosovo has seen many decisive battle in the past. The battle in 1389 has often been seen, perhaps somewhat unfairly, as a key battle between European and Turkish forces in the region.

Now, the European vocation of also Turkey has been confirmed, and step by step this great country will be brought into the wider structures.

Perhaps Kosovo can once again be of historical importance, but now in providing the impetus for policies which brings the region as a whole together within that framework of integration that will stretch from the Arctic Ocean to the northern plains of Mesopotamia.

Bildt Blog Comments

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