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Reform - Reintegration - Reconstruction
I am against the reconstruction of the Balkans. What we need is a policy of renewal based on the three R's of reform, reintegration and reconciliation. Remarks by Carl Bildt in Paris November 24 1999.

Carl Bildt
Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations
To the Balkans

Remarks to the Forum Interparlementaire on “Les Balkans: de la Stabilite a la Reconstruction”, Paris, November 24, 1999

Let me start by being somewhat provocative: I am a firm opponent to the very theme of this meeting, the reconstruction of the Balkans.

And the reason should be clear: the Balkans as we have seen it in the past is not something to be reconstructed and be brought back to life again. If we frame our policies for this important region in the concept of reconstruction, I fear that our policies will fail to achieve the purposes that they should really serve.

If I am thus a firm opponent of the reconstruction of the Balkans, I would like to be seen as an even stronger proponent of the renewal of this part of Europe.

This does not mean that there are not important micro issues of reconstruction to be addressed in the region. To restore housing in Kosovo. To rebuild bridges and re-establish the traffic on the Danube. To help with the emergence repairs of the electricity systems in Serbia. To restore communities to make refugee returns possible. These are important issues.

But the macro issue of the region is not reconstruction. And an international policy for the region based primarily on the concept of reconstruction is bound to lead us astray.

That is why I see a strategy for renewal as important. Only such a strategy can take the region beyond the wars and conflicts and divisions of the past. It is on that I’d like to say a few words.

A strategy for renewal must, in my opinion, be based on policies of reform, of reintegration and of reconciliation in the region. We can talk about a strategy based on these three R’s.

First, the necessity of policies of reform.

If we go a decade back in time, the area of what was then Yugoslavia was in many ways one of the better places of the socialist parts of Europe. There was somewhat more of freedom in cultural life, a limited element of market in the economy and a greater openness towards the outside world than in all other countries of this model of development.

But the last decade has been disastrous.

While politics in the other socialist countries have focused on the issues of transition and reform, creating political and economic systems which makes a rapprochement with the rest of Europe and the world possible, the politics of this region has been almost exclusively focused on nationalist political issues, and issues of transition and reform have been excluded from the political agendas of the region by design or be default.

Thus, we are now in a situation where countries that a decade ago could be seen as the vanguards, are now very much behind everyone else. Old structures have kept their influence longer and stronger than in practically all other parts of former socialist Europe, although now serving nationalist rather than other political goals.

While countries like Poland and Hungary, which a decade ago was behind much of then Yugoslavia, have raced forward after their decisive transitions, all the successor states of Yugoslavia, with Slovenia as the exception, have fallen disastrously behind.

Serbia is certainly the worst case. With the possible exception of Belarus, Serbia today is the least reformed of any country in Europe proper. State and party control institutions over the economy have been retained, and privatisation has remained a paper and a party product.

But if Serbia is the worst case, it is certainly not the only. All these countries are lagging substantially behind seen in relation to all other former socialist countries. With its own problems, it can be argued that even Albania has gone further than most of them.

This has important consequences for the possibilities of economic and social development. Even large-scale foreign aid is unlikely to have more than short-term effects as long as the economic structures are fundamentally flawed. Without decisive reforms, there is a risk of the Balkans turning into a big black hole for our aid efforts.

Bosnia illustrates the problem. Here the international community has by now spent app $5bn in different forms of aid during the last four years, to which should be added the very substantial effects of local procurement by the massive international presence in the country.

There has certainly been reconstruction. Sarajevo looks very much different today.

But there has been a notable absence of economic reforms, and the consequence is that Bosnia today is entering the period when the international efforts will start to decline without having an economy capable of self-sustaining growth. There have been virtually no foreign direct investments and very limited domestic private investment. Focus has been on reconstruction rather than on reform, and the result is that Bosnia today in economic terms is a house of cards but not very much more.

We must learn from the imbalance between reform and reconstruction in Bosnia when we are now widening our perspective towards the entire Balkans. Reconstruction without reform will turn the region into a big black hole for international efforts.

Policies for decisive internal reforms in all of the countries must thus be a key component of our strategy for the renewal of the Balkans.

Second, the importance of policies of reintegration.

In the past, this was a region with a more or less integrated economy.

During most of its history, trade in addition to farming has dominated the economies of the region, with mines being of importance in some places. And when socialist Yugoslavia tried to bring industry to the area, it was a question of industrial structures integrated across the region.

The last decade of disintegration has been profoundly disastrous also from the economic point of view. Trade patterns have been disrupted. Patterns of industrial co-operation have been destroyed. The economic disintegration has contributed to the economic decline.

Economic sanctions have certainly played an important part in this process. Here, it was a question of deliberately destroying trading opportunities and trade patterns. The economic sanctions against Yugoslavia between 1992 and 1994 lead not only to a disruption of the internal Yugoslav economy, but also to the trade patterns of the region and accordingly the economies of all of the countries.

It is, in my opinion, high time for a more searching debate than we have seen so far of the pros and cons of a policy of sanctions. Easy to impose, they are notoriously difficult to lift. Elusive in their possibilities of achieving their desired objectives, they are certain to produce effects which are often unintended, and which remain also long after a sanctions regime eventually has contributed towards its political goal.

The pattern of sanctions against Yugoslavia is a complex one.

Today, the only sanctions decided by the UN Security Council are those relating to the export of arms. In addition, there are de facto-sanctions resulting from the still to be resolved disputes over the succession to the assets and debts of old Yugoslavia. All other sanctions are unilateral sanctions undertaken by the United States or, to somewhat lesser degree, the European Union.

Sanctions distort societies.

Their nature is to create hell for those trying to be honest, but at the same time heaven for the sanctions-busters, the criminals and the thugs. And if those are not already present in the society against which sanctions are directed, they are certain to appear and to thrive giving the strong economic incentives for them which sanctions provide.

Take Serbia as an example. Here, the emerging middle class, traditionally seen as the backbone of any stable democracy, has been thrown into poverty, forced into emigration or driven into criminality.

There can certainly be situations where this can be seen as a prize worth paying for achieving other and more important political ends. But in many of the cases where sanctions have been applied, their success in achieving their stated goals have been debatable, while their side effects in the form of long-term distortion of society have been profound.

To reintegrate the region is imperative in order to get the economies going, without which the social problems will continue to mount, with the possibility and perhaps even probability that these at some point in time will translate into further national tensions.

But reintegration is impossible as long as the present patchwork of sanctions is in place. It is only by creating the conditions for the lifting of these sanctions that we can start to make the reintegration of the region possible. Until this is possible, attempts to achieve self-sustaining economic development in the different countries will by necessity be less successful.

Third, the importance of policies of reconciliation.

There is no denying that international efforts in the region so far more have been characterised by selective bilateralism than by true multilateralism. There has been the tendency for the countries of the region to develop relations with particular countries in the outside world – and the other way around.

This has not contributed to the reconciliation that is so necessary. If former friends and former foes can’t sit down and start doing business together, there is no hope for the long-term peace and stability in the region. But this process will not come about without firm support and guidance from the international community.

But it must be done.

What the rest of Europe has been able to do over Verdun, Auschwitz, Dresden and Katyn must be done in this part of Europe over Knin, Vukovar, Srebrenica and Racak.

This in no way implies that we should ask them to forget what has happened. But the international community has set up the International Tribunal as the instrument that will contribute to reconciliation through justice. This task should be left to them, and the political leaders of the region should seek policies towards each other based on reconciliation rather than retribution.

We have a long way to go in all of these three respects. There is profound resistance to reform as well as reintegration and reconciliation throughout the region.

Not always among the ordinary people who did not fare that badly during the days of Yugoslavia, but more often among political leaders who see the past, present and future mainly through the prisms of the different national conflicts. For too many of them, peace often means little more than the continuation of war by other means.

The key conflict in the area remains the conflict between the forces of integration and the forces of disintegration.

This is true today, and this has been true for this entire century. The history of the last bloody century in the Balkans can be seen in this perspective.

In Kosovo this spring, the international community did win a war, but we failed to get the peace we so eagerly sought. Indeed, we might well be significantly further from a peace agreement for Kosovo now than we were a year ago.

And we would fool ourselves if we did not realise, that the forces of disintegration are still substantially stronger than the forces of integration in the region. And that nearly every step towards disintegration that we have seen not only during this decade, but during this entire century in the region, have been steps taken in blood. This is a lesson we must not forget.

I do not see any alternative to the policies of reform, reintegration and reconciliation if we are to be able to reverse the trends of the last century, stop the process of disintegration with all that it has been associated with, and pave the way for true peace and stability.

The choice, as the region enters the new century, is thus between further Balkan disintegration and new European integration.

It all sounds easy. But to take this from just a phrase of rhetoric to a policy of realism in the months and years ahead will require policies of strength, determination and vision beyond what the international community has been able to demonstrate so far.

It will require a major mobilisation of both vision and will by all the key international actors.

The United Nations to prevent new conflicts, to help people in need and to try to rebuild shattered societies. NATO to help in deterring war and new conflicts. The OSCE in helping across a wide range of issues.

And the European Union in giving that vision for the future which might one day succeed in turning the politics of the region away from the problems of the past towards the possibilities of the future.

The first war in Europe in the century, which is now rapidly coming towards its end, was a war in the Balkans. And so was the last war of this century in Europe proper.

Now, it’s up to us to prevent the new century from starting in the same way as the old.

Bildt Blog Comments

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