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EAPC Briefing on Balkans
On June 8 2001 I briefed the European-Atlantic Partnership Council, meeting at the level of Defence Ministers in Brussels, on the challenges in the Balkans.

Remarks by Mr Carl Bildt, Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the UN to the Balkans, to the Defence Ministers of the European-Atlantic Partnership Council, Brussels, June 8, 2001.

Six months ago, as we met here for the EAPC meeting, I addressed you on the second chance for stability in Southeast Europe that had been given us as a result of the important political changes in first Croatia and then Serbia during that year.

But I also cautioned that there was a risk that the second chance for self-sustaining stability would instead turn into a second round of disintegration with devastating consequences for our efforts throughout the region. The key, I said, lay in a well-coordinated international strategy focusing on what we sought to achieve in the region as a whole.

And Secretary General Kofi Annan had earlier very clearly given the same message to the members of the Security Council in New York. It is not enough to deal reactively with the different parts of the picture Ė it is essential to develop a proactive policy for the picture as a whole.

Then, in December, I focused on the emerging challenge in Southern Serbia, and the implications of a failure to address the situation there for the long-term future of the two most vulnerable areas of the region Ė the two different, but fragile multi-ethnic regions of FYROM/Macedonia and Bosnia.

Today, I have reason to congratulate the Secretary General and his Personal Representative Peter Feith for what they did in order to defuse the dangerous situation in Southern Serbia during the past few months. There are certainly remaining challenges areas in the area, but the very acute risks of outright war in that area are now gone.

Success was achieved as a result of a very close coordination of all the international actors. We sat down, devised a strategy, agreed on responsibilities, and then step by step sought to carry it through. NATO was in the lead, and we from the UN, as well as the EU and the OSCE, were supporting in the different ways we could. There was never any doubt concerning our collective determination to carry through on the strategy agreed upon.

Iím mentioning this in some detail, because I do believe that we have once more relearnt one of the very basic lessons of peace preservation or peace making in this volatile region. It is only when the international community is united, when it clearly speaks with one voice, when there is an agreed political strategy carried out in a coordinated way, that we have any chance of success.

We are certainly not guaranteed success when that is the case, but we are guaranteed failure when that is not the case.

Since three months back, there is war in parts of FYROM/Macedonia. We knew from the very start that continued uncertainty in the region, inability to check the forces of disintegration and the continued belief in determined groups in the force of arms would sooner or later strain the fragile structures of this state.

Macedonia deserves peace more than most. It has weathered the storms of a turbulent decade while preserving democracy, developing inter-ethnic relations and taking steps towards economic reform. None of this is perfect, and most of this requires much more, but all of this stands out in comparison with the rest of the region. Macedonia does deserve the peace.

Instead, there are warlike situations in part of the country. Macedonia is in mortal danger of disintegration. And we should be fully aware of the full consequences of this happening.

Right from the outset, there were two ways of dealing with the political issues of the region. One was to seek to divide it up into smaller and smaller, more and more mono-ethnic states, and hope that at the end of the day this would result in some sort of new stability. The other was to try to facilitate the emergence out of the ruins of the old Socialist Yugoslavia a series of states within which different national and ethnic groups could live peacefully together, thus preparing them also for joining the mainstream of European developments.

We chose this second course. And rightly so.

We did so not only because we would never accept the continued ethnic dislocation and cleansing associated with the first course of action, but also because it would run contrary to what we are seeking to achieve in our respective societies at home.

Living together or living apart is an issue not only in the valleys of the Balkans, but also in the suburbs of Brussels, or Birmingham, or Berlin, or BorlšngeÖ.

It has not been easy. Tensions continue in a Bosnia were pessimism on the future abound. We succeeded in getting close to a million Albanian refugees back to Kosovo after the war two years ago, but we could not prevent the flight of a quarter million people of different minorities out of Kosovo after we had taken over responsibility. Refugee return in Croatia has been beset with the one difficulty after the other. We faced the situation in Southern Serbia. And now Macedonia.

If we were to fail in preventing the continued slide towards the de facto disintegration in Macedonia, it would endanger everything we have sought to achieve in the region as a whole. Because disintegration here will, as we should have learnt, encourage disintegration elsewhere. Success for the armed forces of division here would encourage the armed forces of disintegration elsewhere.

We would be further from our goal of self-sustained stability for the region that perhaps ever before. We would have missed the second chance for stability, and instead entered the second round of disintegration.

As we speak, High Representative Javier Solana is once again in Skopje. Earlier this year, we agreed that the European Union should be in the lead in the political efforts in Macedonia. That was and remains the right decision.

But we must all be ready to discuss whether we have done enough and what can be done more. We must ask ourselves if we have been coherent and clear enough in what we collectively have been doing. I personally donít think so, and I believe we are paying a heavy price for that.

Today, we have in the order of 40 000 refugees and displaced persons from the fighting in Macedonia. There are areas were the humanitarian situation is very grave. The long-term economic fall-out for the fragile economies should not be underestimated.

The situation in Macedonia cannot be seen in isolation from the situation in Kosovo. Were we to fail in our efforts to build, step by step, a mature society and political system there, it is bound to destabilize what might be referred to the Greater Kosovo area of the region.

SRSG Hans Haekkerup has moved decisively forward with the interim constitutional framework and called Kosovo-wide elections for November 17. But we should not underestimate his difficulties in dealing with the issues there.

Enough is perhaps to note that the military commander of the so-called National Liberation Army in Macedonia previously served as chief of staff of the Kosovo Protection Corps. Failure to curb extremism in one place will force us to deal with extremism also elsewhere.

We must understand whatís at stake in Macedonia, and we must do everything we can to help. At the end of the day, however, responsibility rests with the elected political leaders of the country. It is there peace, their country and their future that is at stake. But the coherence, clarity and force of our efforts can at times be decisive.

We succeed in southern Serbia. So far, we have not succeeded in Macedonia. We must.

But our policy must be more than putting out the fires of the day. Six months ago, I outlined the core issues we need to address in the region. We ended the war over Kosovo without a peace agreement, and we will never have true peace until we have an agreement, and that agreement will at the end of the day have to be between Prishtina and Belgrade. That can not be isolated from the future of the present Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which is clearly unsustainable, and which clearly needs to be reformed. The issue of Montenegro remains very much on the table.

I believe we have a duty to facilitate the building of structures of integration and cooperation within the existing states and between the existing states of the region. I do not believe that the solution lies in the setting up of new states. But I donít believe there is any possibility of building these structures of integration until such time as we are able to develop more coherent long-term policies for the region as a whole.

Thatís been the message of the Secretary General to the Security Council, and thatís a message that deserves repeating.

Let me finally, Mr Secretary General, express my appreciation, on behalf of my Secretary General as well as myself, for the excellent cooperation that has developed between us, between the United Nations and NATO, including also the European Union, and the OSCE, on these and other issues.

I believe we have taken significant steps forward in the last six months, and I do know that we will have to develop cooperation even further in order to deal with the obvious challenges of today and the emerging challenges of tomorrow.

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.