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Tokyo on Peace in the Balkans
This year, Japan is the Chairman of the G8 group of leading nations. Because of this, a High-Level Conference on Southeastern Europe was organized in Tokyo, and I was asked to be keynote speaker. Here is my contribution.

Towards Self-Sustaining Stability in the Balkans.

Remarks by Mr Carl Bildt
Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the UN to the Balkans

South-East Europe High Level Conference, Tokyo, May 15, 2000.

Let me start by expressing the appreciation of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for this important initiative of the Government of Japan.

Japan has been, and continues to be, an important partner in the overall international efforts to secure stability in South-eastern Europe, and this important conference is testimony to that fact.

Not only in financial terms, but also in more political terms, Japan has over the years been an important contributor to these efforts. Japan has demonstrated its own important global role as well as the importance of strengthening the links between Japan and Europe in different fields, here noting the personal efforts of Foreign Minister Kono.

As we meet here in Tokyo over these two days, our common task is to look at the possibilities of moving forwards towards a system of self-sustaining stability in that troubled part of Europe often referred to as the Balkans.

This is a task that is certainly not new.

We can look back for some in this room in a very personal way - on a decade of efforts ever since it became clear that the old Yugoslav federation had no future.

But we can look back even further than that. It is often forgotten that the first decade of the century that has just passed was as preoccupied with the issues of peace, war and stability in the Balkans as was the last decade of the same century.

Although some of the issues of the different conflicts we are dealing with are undoubtedly related to the personalities and the political conflict of more recent times, we would be foolish to ignore that the roots of the conflicts go much deeper.

There is no other part of Europe that has been governed longer by multi-national and multi-ethnic empires.

A thousand years of the Byzantine Empire in different forms and configurations. Half a millennium of the Ottoman Empire. For some parts of the region centuries of rule by the Habsburg Empire.

And this part of Europe is also a meeting-place between cultures and traditions in a way that few other parts of Europe are. The dividing lines between Eastern and Western Christianity between Rome and Constantinople can be seen as running along the River Drina in Bosnia. And it was here that Christianity also met Islam in Europe in perhaps a more profound way than anywhere else. Here, traders as well as armies moved back and forth during the centuries.

The result was a mosaic of cultures, traditions and peoples without parallel in any other part of Europe as large as the Balkans. And along the valleys, across the plains and up among the mountain meadows, languages and cultures often continued to be mixed, with one village often different from the next.

It was with the emergence of the idea of setting up unitary nation states to replace the old empires in Europe that the troubles of the Balkans really started. Before that it is difficult to define this area as having been more greatly plagued by conflicts and wars than any other parts of Europe.

It sometimes bordered on the impossible to draw clear lines dividing different nation states from each other in this region. The mosaic was everywhere.

But since the dream of uniform and unitary nation states were everywhere in this region, the result was often war, more often than not associated with and resulting in large-scale ethnic cleansings and ethnic dislocations.

And during the past century and a half we have seen a pattern that has been very clear.

Whenever the political framework for the region or part of it is seen as unclear, fragile or open, there tends to develop a cycle of fears on one side and expectations on the other, often driven by extremists, and nearly always resulting in conflict and war.

This was the case as the Ottoman Empire went through its drawn-out agony and end.

This was once again the case as the Second World War brought major although short-lived changes to the political structures of the region.

And this was most certainly the case as old Yugoslavia collapsed, and the battle for what was going to replace it was seen as wide open. Competing and overlapping claims for independence and sovereignty threw the region into a state of crisis and conflict from which it has not yet recovered.

The events since then could be described as a series of failures to prevent war.

We failed to prevent the war in Croatia in 1991. Then, we failed to prevent the war in Bosnia that started in 1992. And then we failed to prevent the war in and over Kosovo in 1999.

We will never know whether there was ever a possibility for the international community to prevent these wars. We were up against powerful forces of antagonism and hatred in all the respective societies.

But I belong to those who are convinced that there might have been a chance, and that what we did was often too little and too late.

At the very beginning of the drama of the dissolution of Yugoslavia, there was an attempt to forge a regional solution to what was in reality a regional crisis.

But soon, national concerns took over from the regional considerations, and we were thrown into the maelstrom of one conflict after another, forcing us to deal with one crisis after another, often losing that regional perspective which I believe is absolutely fundamental to any resolution of the different conflicts.

Today, we are far from the aim of self-sustaining stability that has been at the core of our political attempts during the last decade.

Indeed, the combined involvement of the international community in terms of the resources we commit has probably never been higher.

If we look only at the military burden, we now have a quarter of a million men and women in uniform actively preparing for service in the Balkans, actually serving in the Balkans or just recovering from recent service there. We are talking about a very substantial military commitment on the behalf of our different nations.

In Kosovo, the United Nations has been entrusted with one of its most difficult and demanding missions ever, serving as the interim administration, and gradually taking Kosovo towards self-government and autonomy. However, the United Nations must do all of this in the absence of a proper peace agreement.

In Bosnia, we continue to be faced with difficult tasks. Nearly five years and more than five billion dollars after the peace agreement, Bosnia has not yet been able to agree on an election law on its own, forcing the international community into continued responsibility for key parts of that country's political development.

All over the region, we are facing severe economic and humanitarian challenges. More than one and a half million people have still not been able to return home after the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. The largest concentration of these is in Serbia, where the humanitarian situation in more general terms is grave.

Although much of our attention continues to be occupied by all of the issues of the day, we have an obligation to look also at the broader issue of how to try to move the region as a whole towards some sort of self-sustaining stability.

I am not talking in terms of exit strategies for the international community from the challenges of the region. On the contrary, I have talked over the years of the need for a proper entry strategy for the region into the wider frameworks of European and global integration. Only thus can we start to see the possibility of a more lasting stability in this region.

But in order to frame such an entry strategy, we must be able to address the key political issues of the entire region to the south of Slovenia and to the north of Greece, with increasing emphasis on the region's southern parts.

There are very many such issues.

The internal structure and the external position of Kosovo is only one of them, although one of the more difficult. The entire future of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will have to be addressed as well. We have still not settled the small but important issue of the Prevlaka Peninsula with potentially important implications for the relationships between Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro. The succession negotiations have been going nowhere during the past few years. There are still a number of issues outstanding from the Dayton peace agreement for Bosnia.

And to this more formal list could of course be added other issues. The issue of refugee return remains central to the entire process of future political stability. Questions of reform, reintegration and reconciliation remain crucial to the possibilities of economic and social progress in all of the countries concerned. And we all know that there are serious issues concerning the respect for the rule of law in more or less all of these countries.

Today, our efforts are focused on the setting up of the institutions of self-government and autonomy in Kosovo, supporting the reform process in Montenegro and facilitating necessary change in Serbia. But in doing this, we cannot for long avoid some of the key issues that relate to the political order throughout the region.

When addressing these issues, two points are of paramount importance:

First, we must deal with the region as a whole. It will not suffice to contain or solve the tensions in one part of the region without taking the entire region into account. We need a political framework that provides for the stability of the entire region.

Secondly, a political framework of this sort will not be possible if there is not international consensus on what we are trying to achieve.

This is not just a question of noting the fact that since the end of the conflict over Kosovo, the matter rests with the UN Security Council, or that UNSCR 1244 rests on the consensus that was achieved between the countries of the G8.

This is also a question of exactly how we can make progress in the region as a whole. As long as the different parts of the international community cannot agree on the structures for stability in the region, it is futile at best and foolish at worst to expect the different political forces in the region itself to be able to agree among themselves.

As long as there is no international consensus between the key countries and actors, there will always be a tendency for one group or another to hold out for a better deal somewhat further down the road. The tragic story of the much-too-long conflict in Bosnia gives far too many examples of the brutal consequences of this.

We know from bitter experience that any effort to promote peace that does not have the support of the main actors is almost bound to fail. There were many differences between Dayton in 1995 and Rambouillet in 1999, but clearly this was one of the more important of them.

I believe that the most pressing political issue concerning the structure of the region is the future of the present Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. And this goes well beyond the question of the present regime in Belgrade.

There is a need to develop a concept for the future of this present Yugoslavia that can be accepted both by a democratic Serbia and by the rest of the region. If we fail in this, there will be no stability.

We must recognize that the structure of this present Yugoslavia is unsustainable. This certainly applies now with the conflict between Serbia and Montenegro, but it will continue to apply also after the Milosevic regime is long gone until that time when a new power-sharing deal between them moves this present Yugoslavia in the direction of a confederation of sovereign republics.

This should be in their mutual interest. Indeed, to achieve such a deal is the stated objective of the present government of Montenegro. And a democratic Serbia must recognize that its important relationship with Montenegro can only be built on consent between the two republics.

In this context, the question of the future of Kosovo will sooner or later have to be addressed as well.

Resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council reaffirms the respect for the territorial integrity of this present Yugoslavia. An independent Kosovo is not on the agenda of the international community.

There will one day have to be an arrangement and agreement between Serbia and Kosovo that makes peace in the region possible. This might look difficult today, but it is unavoidable tomorrow.

In my opinion, such an arrangement and agreement must include a constitutional separation between the two, making certain that Kosovo is no more ruled by Serbia, although leaving the option of shared responsibility for certain issues in a rearranged relationship that includes Montenegro.

At the moment, attention is focused on the development of the internal structures of Kosovo. With a regime in Belgrade led and dominated by persons indicted by the International Tribunal in the Hague, no dialogue or deal on the longer-term issues is possible. It goes without saying that this is to the detriment not only of the region as a whole, but also of Serbia itself.

But the day will come when these circumstances no longer prevail. I belong to those who believe that that day might come sooner rather than later. Serbia is a system in serious decay which, day by day, shows increasing signs of severe instability and lawlessness.

On that day, we must be ready to initiate a dialogue on the political structures of the region, including the issues I have mentioned here. The reform of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as well as the reintegration of Serbia into the region and into the wider European structures - the Stability Pact being one of them - will then be immediately on the agenda. But these issues are directly linked to the issues of the political structure of the region, including the position of Kosovo.

When searching for these sustainable structures for stability in the region, some key factors must therefore be taken into account.

I have already mentioned the crucial importance of an international consensus on what we are trying to achieve. This is also of key importance in assuring that any arrangements arrived at are seen as permanent.

I also believe it is important that we listen to and try to get the active involvement of all of the countries and governments in the region. The Rambouillet format is no longer enough. We are dealing with the structure of the region, and we should accordingly also listen to and seek the involvement of Skopje and Tirana, Podgorica and Sarajevo.

This is important also for Kosovo itself. It can only survive and prosper if it is seen as a source of stability by the other countries and territories of the region. It cannot afford to shape its future in confrontation with the rest of the region.

Thus, at the end of the day, the international community will approach the issue of Kosovo as part of its approach to the region as a whole. This is quite different from regional policy being merely a consequence of its policy towards Kosovo.

It must also be recognized that any deal which is struck will have to be a deal that meets the minimum demands of everyone while meeting the maximum demands of no one. Peace will not be possible if there is not an element of compromise, difficult as that is.

This element of compromise was what made the peace in Bosnia possible, and which has made it possible to sustain a peace process, although at a slow pace, in that country. This is what has assured the success of the internal structure of Macedonia during the turbulent years that have passed. And this is what must be applied to the future of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and to the future of Kosovo as well.

But to these considerations and starting points must be added the critical importance of the structures of European cooperation and integration. We must look far more actively than we have had reason to do so far at the possibility of building structures that make the prospect of European integration more than just a distant dream.

In the Balkans, most of the discussions on political structures are phrased in terms of concepts that dominated the debate in the 19th century. It is still the national state and its sovereignty that is seen as the core political concept.

But this has already changed in the rest of Europe, and the sooner it starts to change in the Balkans the better.

Instead of discussing possible futures in terms of old-style sovereignty, I believe the discussion concerning the future should be phrased in terms of the twin concepts of autonomy and integration.

It is around these two key concepts that we must shape the future political order of the Balkans.

Phrased somewhat differently, there will have to be a structure of layered sovereignty covering the region, taking the special circumstances of the different parts of the region into account.

Only thus can we have any possibility of reconciling the different, competing aspirations of the region within a structure of stability that is both self-sustaining and capable of taking the region step-by-step into the framework of the European Union.

Such a structure will have to have different components.

The layers of sovereignty must be firmly defined and embedded in a European framework with international guarantees. The structures and institutions of integration must be firmly tied to the corresponding structures and institutions of the European Union. And there must be a new approach to disarmament throughout the region, assuring that the resources of peace are not once again squandered on the instruments of war.

After a decade where our failures have unfortunately been more noticeable than our successes in the region, we are far from the self-sustaining order we were seeking. But very soon we might once again have an opportunity to move towards a comprehensive political settlement in the region.

This might succeed or it might fail.

If it fails, we all know that there are sufficient fears and expectations in different parts of the region to move us rapidly towards new and devastating wars.

But if we succeed, then the failures of the past can at least be said to have led us forward towards that grand European deal for the Balkans which is the only long-term means of assuring entirely the peace and stability of this part of Europe.

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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