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Balkans in the UN Security Council
Monday February 28th I briefed the UN Security Council in open session in New York on the overall situation in the Balkans. Here are my opening remarks, which were followed by an extensive exchange of views with the different members of the Security Council.

Mr. Carl Bildt
Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Balkans.

Remarks to the 4105th meeting of the UN Security Council
Monday, February 28th, 2000

Mr. President,

It is an honour to be able to address you on the search for self-sustaining stability, as well as human rights and democracy, in the Balkans.

Kosovo is once again the centre of public attention. But it is not my task to go into the details of the challenges we are facing there. Dr. Kouchner will be briefing you on these on March 6th.

It is enough for me to repeat what I remarked to you last year: this is the most complex and challenging operation of this sort the United Nations has ever been asked to undertake.

Kosovo is only one small part of a region which is in search of stability. And my task as Special Envoy is to see what can be done to prevent new conflicts, as well as to see what can be done to pave the way for self-sustaining stability in the region as a whole.

Instability and conflict are not recent phenomena in this region. We often tend to forget that conflicts and instabilities in the Balkans dominated the first decade of the 20th century as much as they dominated the last.

To find a stable political order for this region with its rich mosaic of peoples, cultures and traditions, the result of millennia of rule by multi-national empires, has been a most difficult task.

It was a decade ago that we were confronted with these issues again. Old regimes and old structures of repression were thrown away. The international community was faced with the task of helping the region transit to a new order of stability, now also built on respect for human rights and democracy.

This has proved to be a most challenging task. Some would describe it as a succession of failures: the failure to prevent war in Croatia, the failure to prevent war in Bosnia and the failure to prevent war in Kosovo.

Those wars devastated the lives of people and devastated the region. And the United Nations system, from the very beginning, has been at the forefront of the efforts to alleviate the suffering and help the ordinary people. It was often a thankless task.

As we look at the situation in the region now, I do not think it is possible to say that we have managed to achieve a situation of self-sustaining stability in the region.

Indeed, our combined political, humanitarian, economic and military involvement in the different parts of the region is larger and more demanding than ever before.

Were it to be withdrawn today, we would face new wars tomorrow.

The larger issue in the region is the conflict between the forces of integration and the forces of disintegration.

The conflict is between those who favour, or at least accept, integration within their societies as well as between them, and those who favour, often in the name of nationalism, disintegration within their societies and between the nations.

We know from bitter experience, that virtually every step of disintegration in the region has been associated with violent conflict of the one sort of the other, more often than not resulting in massive violations of human rights, massive ethnic cleansing and massive destruction of economic and social infrastructure.

This has not been the region of velvet divorces. This has been a region of violent divorces.

As we look at the region today, we must conclude that the forces of disintegration are still stronger than the forces of integration.

And as long as that is the case, a self-sustaining stability that also conforms to our other values will be most difficult to achieve.

This makes it even more important to press on with our search for such stability.

In 1995, after massive failures and massive efforts, we managed to achieve a political settlement in Bosnia. The Dayton peace agreement remains one of the most ambitious agreements of its kind in modern history.

But in 1999, efforts to seek a political settlement to the conflict in Kosovo failed. The war that resulted ended with SCR1244 as well as with a military-technical agreement. But there was and there is no proper peace agreement.

This is the key factor which has made the task of the UN Mission in Kosovo so demanding and difficult.

And, since the core issues of the conflict concerning the long-term position of Kosovo are not seen as settled, it has also made it much more difficult to move towards stability for the region as a whole.

There are too many expectations, and too many fears, generated by the apparently unresolved core issues of the conflict.

It is thus imperative, if we are not going to give up our search for self-sustaining stability, that we are ready to resume the search for a peaceful settlement to the conflict. Time might not yet be ripe for more concrete moves, but time is certainly ripe for discussion on the core issues.

Let me indicate four starting points for such a search for a settlement. And they, in turn, come on top of the most obvious one, to take into account the wishes of all those having their roots in Kosovo.

First, I believe the search for a regional settlement must have the solid support of this Council.

This is not just an abstract principle. It is based on concrete experience in the region. For only when there has been a solid consensus among the key international actors often the United States, the countries of the European Union and the Russian Federation has it been possible to achieve political agreements between the different warring parties. Any lesser combination has, as a rule, been doomed to failure.

It is thus important for there to be a dialogue within this Council on the shape of the regional settlement that must come.

Second, I believe that the states of the region must be active participants in the search for this settlement.

In Rambouillet a year ago, the search for a settlement was primarily between Belgrade and the political representatives of the Kosovo Albanians. Although this remains the core conflict yet to be settled, it is no longer enough. The future of Kosovo affects the region as a whole in a very profound way.

We must thus be clear in seeking the voice and the involvement of the leaders in Skopje and Tirana, as well as other regional capitals. We must take into account the views expressed in Podgorica and Sarajevo. We must treat it as a truly regional issue.

Third, I believe it is fundamental that we are ready to make it clear that a true deal will be one that meets the minimum demands of everyone, but the maximum demands of no-one.

This was the essence of the political deal that resulted in the peace agreement for Bosnia. It answered to the minimum demands of everyone while it met the maximum demands of no-one. Only thus could it be achieved, and only thus can it be carried forward.

And fourth, and perhaps most difficult, we must be able to set an agreement firmly within the context of a wider arrangement for the region as a whole and, preferably, for the region within the wider European context.

There are obvious interrelationships between the different conflicts in the region. And there is an obvious need to create a wider framework, which not only guarantees the different deals in the region, but also promotes the common policies of reform, reconciliation and reintegration, which will be crucial.

There have been, and there are, important regional initiatives. In the early 1990s, there was the UN- and EU-sponsored International Conference on Former Yugoslavia (ICFY) and, since the summer of last year, there has been the Stability Pact, sponsored by the OSCE and initiated by the EU.

The European Union has also offered to conclude Stabilisation and Association Agreements with each of the countries of the region.

These efforts notwithstanding, it is my belief that there will be a need for a structure that in its scope, firmness and perspective goes well beyond what has so far been contemplated.

All this being said, we all know that there are no possibilities at the moment to proceed along this path of peace. We are, mildly speaking, handicapped by the regime in Belgrade.

The fact that the key political and military leaders of what is left of Yugoslavia have been indicted by ICTY for crimes against humanity means that they are de facto excommunicated from any sort of dialogue or diplomatic contact.

This is undoubtedly a major dilemma. We can neither make peace without Belgrade, nor can we talk about the different issues of the region as a whole without taking in Serbia. But nor is there any way in which we can deal with those personalities indicted by the ICTY or their close associates.

We are thus in a situation in which many of our efforts in the region can be seen as little more than a gigantic holding operation until change in Serbia opens up the prospect of moving forward with a proper peace process as well as with the wider regional agenda of reform, reconciliation and reintegration.

But to sit and wait is not enough. If we do that, we might well be faced with further conflicts. We must actively seek change, meet the provocations that will certainly come and actively try to prevent existing tensions from boiling over into open conflict.

In this context, let me mention in particular the situation between Serbia and Montenegro.

As long as there is no change of regime in Belgrade, these two republics of Yugoslavia are set on a somewhat slow but very steady collision course.

President Milosevic has grossly misused the federal institutions and grossly violated the rights of Montenegro within the federation. That the leadership of Montenegro has reacted to these violations not by seceding outright, but by proposing, instead, a reformed relationship between Serbia and Montenegro, is an indication of responsibility and statesmanship that should not go unrewarded.

And the position of Montenegro is difficult. In a way, it suffers from double sanctions.

From one side they suffer the sanctions against all of Yugoslavia, blocking their access to the international financial institutions. From the other side they face the de facto sanctions against them from Serbia, forcing them to rely on expensive food imports from abroad.

I believe we must all accelerate our efforts to give them help.

The confrontation between Montenegro and Serbia is a confrontation over the future of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. As such, it has obvious implications for the way in which SCR 1244 can one day be fully implemented.

A regional settlement is not possible until key questions of the future shape of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia have been settled.

Such a regional settlement will have to balance the wider interests of the Serbs or other Slavs and Albanians in the region. We certainly want to build democracy and civil society in the entire region, but this will not be enough to make all these issues go away. Nationalism and democracy are not necessarily incompatible.

We must be aware of the tensions that are there along the fault lines between these wider interests. We see them now in Mitrovica in northern Kosovo.

And we must not pretend that we can not recognize those extremists groups or individuals who are determined to exploit these tensions to the full along all the fault lines, be they in northern Kosovo, in southern Serbia or perhaps even in Macedonia.

Again, we are dealing with the clash between the forces of integration and the forces of disintegration.

If the latter are allowed to have the upper hand for long enough, we will see tensions building up even more, bringing further conflicts, and perhaps even paving the way for conflicts every bit as brutal as those we have already witnessed.

We are thus faced with a complex situation in the region. There are positive developments. The political changes in Croatia certainly count prominently among those. And we are, in spite of all the difficulties, making progress in Bosnia.

But overall, we are still far from achieving the self-sustaining stability which we have been seeking for the past decade, and about which all the individuals of the different countries of the region, irrespective of belief, creed or nationality, are dreaming.

Bildt Blog Comments

In addition to this webpage, and the email letters ongoing since 1994, I have now started a blog as well.

You find it at

At you will continue to find articles, speeches and different documents.

At the blog there will be the shorter and perhaps somewhat faster comments.

And the e-letter continues to give at the least an attempt at analys.

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