Prepared for the IISS/CEPS European Security Forum, Brussels, May 28, 2001
by Nicholas Whyte, Research Fellow, CEPS
For most of the last ten years, Europeans have been embarrassed by Jacques Poos' rash promise of 1991; during the conflicts in Bosnia and Croatia from 1991 to 1995, the phrase seemed only to sum up the ineffectiveness and the pomposity of the European Union's pretensions to be an actor of importance in its own backyard. The Dayton Agreement of 1995 was achieved only when Richard Holbrooke threatened to pull the US out of the process and 'leave it to the Europeans'. Terrified by this awful prospect (at least, according to Holbrooke's version), the warring parties agreed to the deal.
However from the latest Macedonia crisis, it is apparent that 'l'heure de l'Europe', at least in the south-eastern part of the continent, actually has arrived. Rather than pompous and ineffective statements from the Council of Ministers, Europe is now sending in Javier Solana, a figure with almost the authority of an American Secretary of State, and providing a prospect for future coexistence with and between the Balkan states. The latest confusion surrounding the activities of Robert Frowick may indicate that the time for personal missions brokering deals between tribal leaders may be over, and that the more systemic approach of European integration has become the dominant paradigm for the region. This paper examines why and how this has come about.
This year's fighting in Macedonia has both indigenous and external causes. Internally, the problems of building a viable state have been huge. The costs of the economic transition for Macedonia will include a massive slimming down of the public service, and the privatisation of formerly state-owned factories. As a result of the legacy of past discrimination, this will mean that many ethnic Macedonians will lose their jobs. The ethnic Macedonians resent the apparent wealth of their ethnic Albanian neighbours, fuelled by what is called the 'informal economy', and apparently not very vigorously taxed (though of course tax evasion is endemic on all sides).
Ethnic Albanians feel that they have yet again been incorporated into a state against their will, where they cannot use their own language for official purposes, where the security forces are dedicated not to keeping the peace but to keeping them down, and where the existence of a few token ministers and ambassadors from their community has done little to address the underlying problems of the 'national state of the Macedonian people' (as it is described in the Preamble to the Constitution). Ten years of playing by the democratic rules have brought little reward.
The external situation has been shaped by the protracted disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. Macedonia's historical experience of constitutional change has been entirely imposed by outside forces. In particular, the continuing uncertainty over the status of Kosovo has encouraged wishful thinking by militants who remember the days not very long ago when the ethnic Albanian population in Western Macedonia, and also in the Presevo Valley in southern Serbia formed a single social and economic space with Kosovo. In this view the fact that UN Security Council Resolution 1244 extends only to the territory of the former autonomous province of Kosovo is an unfortunate mistake, which should be corrected. It is surely no coincidence that the outbreak of violence in Macedonia at the end of February came the day after the border between Kosovo and Macedonia had been fixed (after negotiations which did not involve anyone from Kosovo), and that the village of Tanusevac, where it all began, is literally divided in two by the frontier.
To this, we add the perception on both sides that the international community recognized Slovenian and Croatian independence in 1991 after they began to fight the Serbs; that the Bosnian Croats and Serbs defended themselves against the threat of a Muslim state in Bosnia by fighting a war; and that the Albanians in Kosovo gained the support of the international community only through fighting a guerrilla war, after years of ineffective passive and pacifist opposition. We may respond that the diplomatic recognition of Slovenia and Croatia, and for that matter Bosnia and Macedonia, was the result not of violence but of the recommendations of the Badinter commission coupled with the collapse of the institutions of the Yugoslav state; we may point out that any political gains made by Bosnian Serbs and Croats came at a truly horrible cost; we may point out that the Western intervention in Kosovo came about only after the Milosevic regime adopted genocide as a state policy; but it is still very difficult to construct an argument that violence is counterproductive.
Of course, that should not stop us from trying. And the record of the last few months is in fact rather encouraging. The insurgency in the Presevo valley has now been resolved, partly through the external mediation of NATO and the European Union Javier Solana appointed a Personal Representative to be the EU's 'point man' on the ground, the first time this post has ever existed and partly because there was genuine good will from both the government of Serbia (in the person of Nebojsa Covic) and from moderate Albanian politicians, who actually consented to the return of Yugoslav troops to the 'buffer zone' along the Kosovo border.
Likewise, it seems that both sides in Macedonia are groping towards a similar accommodation. All the major political parties of both main ethnic groups are now included in the government; unlike any of the factions in previous Balkan conflicts, the Macedonian army has not engaged in wholesale slaughter of civilians; violence from ethnic Macedonians in the cities directed against their Albanian neighbours has been very localized (though none the less regrettable); and ethnic Albanians in the cities have remained remarkably quiet almost all of the actual fighting has been in villages in the mountainous Kosovo border.
However there is still potential for disaster. Last week's news of an agreement brokered by Robert Frowick, an American diplomat with much Balkan experience on secondment to the OSCE, which tied the 'National Liberation Army' to the political agenda of the ethnic Albanian political parties, produced chaos in the Macedonian government. Ethnic Macedonian leaders are terrified of being seen by their constituents as having surrendered to terrorism, and the perceived effect of the 'Frowick agreement' was to tie the ethnic Albanian negotiating agenda to the threat of violence.
This must have come as an unwelcome surprise to Frowick, who presumably thought he had managed to get the NLA to agree to a ceasefire on terms which were identical to what was on offer anyway. The text of the Frowick agreement is annexed to this paper; the substantive proposals are ambitious but would be perfectly acceptable in a peacetime situation. (The whole affair is reminiscent of the 1994-7 period in Ireland, when John Hume of the moderate SDLP used to present John Major with the latest text which would be acceptable to the IRA in order to bring peace, and Major would then reject it on the grounds that he was not going to cave in to terrorist demands).
This diplomatic row is probably resolvable. More serious is the possibility that the intensified military activities of the Macedonian army might result in extensive civilian casualties among ethnic Albanians, which certainly would inflame the situation; or, as Saso Ordanoski has warned, that extremists among the ethnic Macedonians, whose faith in their political leaders is already low, take the law into their own hands and begin a campaign of sectarian violence. Equally serious is the likelihood that the grand coalition government, once it has got over the Frowick affair, fails to deliver on any sort of reform agenda. This is where the international community has a real role to play.
James Baker's 1992 quip that "we don't have a dog in that fight" has become almost as notorious as Jacques Poos' 'l'heure de l'Europe'. The European perspective is different; Europeans no longer support one dog or other, but are interested in the entire pack. One could begin by listing obvious factors, such as the geographical location of the Balkans across major transport routes, the proximity to EU member states such as Greece, Italy and Austria, and the interest of European states in both humanitarian aid and peace-keeping activities in their immediate neighbourhood. But that is beside the point. The extent of European interest in the Balkans has fluctuated in the last ten years, but the fundamentals remain the same.
What has changed is the ability of the European Union as an actor to take effective action. The ineffectiveness of the 1990s reflected the priority of bringing the Central and Eastern European countries to become credible applicants for EU membership, the momentous project of the single currency, and the lack of institutional support for the CFSP. Two policy instruments are important here, one of which developed gradually in the 1990s, the other arriving suddenly in 1999 as a result of the ratification of the Amsterdam Treaty. Together, the enlargement process and the institutional strengthening of the CFSP have made the EU a more visible player in the security of the Balkans.
For the first time in centuries, all of the political elites in south-eastern Europe are looking the same way towards the West. This is matched by the emotional commitment of Western European political leaders to reuniting the continent. The prospect of EU membership, worryingly distant even for Romania and Bulgaria, may be distinctly long-term for the countries of the Western Balkans, but the fact that it is definitely on offer has already had a stabilizing effect.
Consider the case of Albania, whose government has taken a strong line against the violence in Macedonia, and appears much more interested in the 21st century game of integration rather than the 19th century game of territorial aggrandizement. For the first time in the history of the Balkans, an ethnic rebellion has failed to get support from the 'mother country', and this is largely because of the policy alternatives given to the Albanian government by the Euro-Atlantic integration process. Likewise, the fact that Macedonia has actually signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU denies credibility to the suspicion that the international community would countenance a division of the country. And the forces of nationalism in Croatia remain in disarray in the face of the integration process their performance in the recent local elections was only a slight improvement on their disastrous results in January 2000.
In addition, to adapt Henry Kissinger's famous question, Europe now has a phone number. (It is +32 2 285 6111.) The personification of the CFSP in the shape of Javier Solana could perhaps have led to a series of Holbrooke-style (or perhaps Frowick-style) confrontations with the local tough guys, intended to browbeat them into a settlement which they then would have to be continually reminded of. Instead we have seen a more systematic approach, where Europe's political support for the Macedonian government's security actions is heavily conditioned on progress on other fronts, and where Javier Solana found himself facilitating the formation of the new government in Skopje surely the first time an EU official has played such a role. We have also seen institutional innovation from the EU, where Personal Representatives of Solana have been appointed for the Presevo Valley and Macedonia both of them professional diplomats with other responsibilities, who are part of the battery of institutional resources that the EU's High Representative can draw on.
Strategic problems remain. To integrate into the EU, it is necessary first to be in a state whose structures are credible; Croatia and Albania are obvious examples. Macedonia quite possibly could have met this criterion, before the current violence began. Bosnia, where the word of the international community's High Representative is law, does not. It is impossible to see a Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the EU and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under its current constitutional mess, simply because it is not clear which competences can be expected to be exercised by the governments of Serbia and Montenegro, and which competences (if any) belong to the internationally recognized state. And the unresolved future status of Kosovo leaves open not only the issue of 'sovereignty' but also the question of how a sub-national protectorate can have a credible perspective of European integration. (The same question is also faced by the component parts of Bosnia, but at least there the answer that they must learn to work the institutions of the Dayton state more effectively is more obvious.)
The other huge strategic issue raised here is the effectiveness of EU-NATO cooperation. The United States cannot offer an integration process to the Balkans. Only Europe can propose inserting the region, bit by bit, into a trajectory that leads, through regional cooperation and external assistance, ultimately to full participation in the EU. Therefore there will always be a tension between the US instinct to keep things quiet, even if that means creating 'democracies' which leave the local thugs in control, and the European agenda of civilizing the region in preparation for its integration.
Already we see a divergence of interests both at the macro level, with Secretary Rumsfeld muttering once more about withdrawing US troops from the Balkans, and also at the micro level, with US troops too wary of putting themselves in harm's way on the Kosovo/Macedonia border to effectively keep the peace. The frequent presence of Lord Robertson at Javier Solana's side in the region is comforting, but it is also a reminder that the responsibility of maintaining a secure environment for the European integration of the Balkans lies in the hands of a completely separate institution.
A final note. If Macedonia can be prevented from disaster, and if (as seems more likely) the relationship between Montenegro and Serbia is resolved reasonably peacefully, the challenge of maintaining order in Kosovo will remain. At present, the majority population of the protectorate passively assents to international peace-keeping because many are personally profiting from the situation and because they believe that the international community will some day deliver independence. A doomsday scenario is all too plausible, where if Kosovars perceive an international policy of restoring Yugoslav sovereignty, they will again take up arms, but this time against KFOR. The only way to avoid this is for serious talks between the political representatives of Pristina and Belgrade on Kosovo's future status, to begin sooner rather than later and to be facilitated by the international community led by the EU. Conflict prevention is much better than crisis management.
(Note: This is the text of the agreement between the political leaders of the two main ethnic Albanian political parties in Macedonia, and the leadership of the 'National Liberation Army', with the mediation of US Ambassador Robert Frowick, who is the OSCE Chairman-in-Office's Personal Representative for the situation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. News of the agreement caused a major crisis in the Macedonian government and evoked denunciations from the international community, though Arben Xhaferi and Ymer Ymeri maintain that they were only responding to requests from the Macedonian government and others; a European official commented to me that on this occasion the international community's 'co-ordination was sub-optimal'. The document has now been made public Nicholas Whyte)
At noon local time on Wednesday, 23 May 2001, the following actions will take place:
The Albanian leaders of Macedonia, conscious of the historic moment for the Republic of Macedonia and its peoples , have agreed on a joint action based on a national consensus which should reform the Republic of Macedonia so it can be a democratic state of all of its citizens and all of the ethnic communities.
The consensus of the Albanian leaders is based on these principled positions:
Based on these principles, the Albanian leaders of Macedonia are fully intended to participate in the process of reformist dialogue, dealing with these issues:
Also pertaining the negotiations are measures for the transformation of the of NLA members into various forms of civilian life occupation/duties, including those within the state institutions.
Within this debate, a special focus will be on:
In the dialogue that will be conducted within the round table of leaders of the political parties making up the present Government coalition, headed by the president of the Republic, and through the facilitation of the US and OSCE, e consensual form of presentation of the Albanian factor will be created.
political and military leader
Ushtria Çlirimtare Kombëtare