The war in Kosovo, together with the atrocities of the ethnic cleansing which it has brought with it and the ceaseless destruction that it is provoking, inevitably prompt a number of reflections on our part.
1) The governments of the European Union shoulder a considerable burden of responsibility for the events which led to the disintegration of Yugoslavia and culminated in the madness of the current conflict. Prior to 1991, Yugoslavia was certainly a country rife with tensions, but it was also one in which the federation still enjoyed widespread and deep-rooted consensus and in which the drive towards democracy was emerging with considerably more vigour than in the countries of central-eastern Europe directly under the hegemony of the Soviet Union. If the European Union had actively discouraged the secessionist tendencies that emerged in Yugoslavia, nurturing instead the growing trend towards democratisation, using as a weapon and an incentive the prospect of Yugoslavia’s entry into the Union, the Yugoslavian crisis would have been avoided, and with it the ruin and grief it has generated. Instead, the western European governments chose to pursue an incredibly short-sighted “power policy” in the region, concealing their own provincial ambitions behind the smoke screen of their support for the ill-omened principle of the self-determination of peoples. In this way, they promoted the disintegration of a country which had before it a future of freedom and prosperity and effectively endorsed the barbarity of ethnic cleansing.
2) The war,however soon and in whatever way it reaches its conclusion, will leave Yugoslavia in a worse situation than that in which it found itself before its outbreak. A “protectorate” in the colonial mould would inevitablyprove fragile and short-lived. Equally, it is fanciful to suppose that Yugoslavia might suddenly turn into a western style democracy after the end of the hostilities, because, regardless of what fate holds in store for Milosevic personally, the war is certainly fuelling Serb nationalism and increasing the people’s feelings of animosity towards the West. Independence for Kosovo, whether or not it were annexed to Albania, would constitute yet another senseless affirmation of the right of peoples to self-determination and would trigger a phase of ethnic cleansing of a kind opposite to that which we are currently witnessing. Any attempt to justify this war on the basis of ideals is thus pure expedience.
3) However, it is inappropriate to use the current war as a pretext for fruitless exercises in anti-Americanism. The Americans would have been perfectly happy not to become involved in the Yugoslavian crisis. It was, in fact, a Europe alarmed at its own powerlessness and at its inability to resolve a conflict of its own making that, in 1995, called them into Bosnia in the first place. Rather it must be stressed that never before has it been so glaringly obvious that the governments of Europe have absolutely no say when it comes to deciding on peace and war in Europe, and thus to making decisions which condition the lives of the continent’s citizens. But the fact remains that the only political design governing the Americans’ handling of the war is that of demonstrating, through bombs, the indisputability of their country’s hegemony over the world. In fact, what the war in Kosovo has actually demonstrated is quite the opposite. A hegemonic power which has to affirm its position through recourse to bombs is a hegemonic power in crisis, because its domination is no longer accepted by those who are subjected to it. The irrational behaviour of the United States in triggering and pursuing this war can only be seen as a demonstration of the fact that the responsibilities, on a world scale, that it is forced to face up to have become too great for its effective power.
4) The key to the solution of the tragic Yugoslavian tangle lies, in fact, in the hands of the European governments, provided the same, rendered wiser by the tragedy of the war, realise that it is only through political unity that Europe can offer Yugoslavia a way out of its current blind alley, guarantee peace in the continent and relieve the United States of a considerable share of the weight of world responsibility which currently threatens to crush it. The governments of Europe need to muster the courage and to have the clear-sightedness to take, in the short term, a number of radical decisions, aware that public opinion in Yugoslavia, faced with an evolutionary design rather than simply with bombs, will not fail to express a clear inclination in favour of democracy and the union of peoples. Having obtained from the United States an end to the bombings, or having distanced themselves from military operations, should the United States refuse to comply, the governments of the European Union should agree upon and launch a plan which will see them:
a) declaring the transformation of the European Union into a federal union (bringing this for ratification before the competent national bodies) and, at the same time, empowering the European Parliament to draw up its constitution (or alternatively calling the election of a constituent assembly);
b) offering, at the same time, all the republics of the former Yugoslavia the possibility to become, after a transitory period of fixed length, and providing they adopt democratic institutions, a single member (itself endowed with a federal structure) of the European federation. This offer must be accompanied by an appeal to all the citizens of all the republics of the former Yugoslavia to lend their active support to Europe and to democracy;
c) begining, as soon as the American bombing has ceased, a hefty European programme to rebuild the whole of the area devastated by the present war in the framework of a larger development plan embracing the entire Balkan region.
It goes without saying that should any European government fail to accept this plan, the others should proceed without them.
It is a radical proposal, one which many will consider impossible to realise. But if it is not realised, this failure will depend only on the lack of the will, on the part of the governments of the Union, to carry it through. It represents the only way out of this crisis. In crucial historical times, all choices are difficult. It all depends on whether there are, in such times, politicians with the calibre and stature needed to rise to the momentous challenge.