Some people have been contacting me asking if there is any English translation of two books written by Thorvald Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian foreign minister and from 1993-96 the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the former Yugoslavia. The two books of interest for people interested in the former Yugoslavia are Det handler om mennesker or It’s all about people from 2001 and De tusen dagene, fredsmeklere på Balkan or Thousand Days, Peace Negotiators in the Balkans in English. I have been talking to Stoltenberg, and he wants a wider audience for his books. Therefore I am publishing my summary of the two books, and it would be great if an English publisher would be interested in publishing the books in English.
It’s All About People, 2001
287. When the bombing began on 24 March 1999, Norway was in war for the first time since 1945. I tried to put myself in the place of the Foreign Minister, Mr. Knut Vollebæk, and was in no doubt: I would have done like him and supported the NATO bombing, despite my resistance.
287. In such a dramatic situation, one consideration that weighs heavier than all others for a Norwegian foreign minister, and that is what serves the interests of Norway. A reservation from Norwegian side would have undermined our credibility our credibility within the alliance and reduced our chances of getting NATO’s help if we would ever need it. Therefore, the government had in fact no choice.
287. However, what I do is question is how the Kosovo crisis was handled before it came to the bombing. The decision of bombing came quite abruptly, if one is to believe the report by the government security committee became known through the newspaper Aftenposten almost two years later. Here it reads:
287. “One of the main problems for Norway was that informal bodies outside NATO, especially the G8 and the Contact Group, took control at the expense of NATO’s own organs. The result was that the NATO member Norway, like other countries in the alliance, not only landed on the sidelines – they also risked not getting the information.”
287. If the description is correct, then the crisis management failed. This is something that NATO must take when it comes to the internal cohesion of the alliance. Small member states cannot participate in a war without having been involved in the political process in advance.
Messenger in Belgrade
291. The shift of power in Belgrade in 2000 changed the situation in the Balkans. The Milošević period was finally over.
291. Fortunately, Vojislav Koštunica was among the leaders of the democracy movement. For many years he had been a sincere and courageous advocate for policy changes, which had shown that he was willing to pay the price for standing up for those in power. Already in 1974, he was against Tito because he disagreed with the new constitution. The feud led to him losing his position as professor at the University of Belgrade, and for a time he was also imprisoned.
291. Koštunica is a true democrat. It is also said that he was a nationalist. That’s right, in the sense that he is concerned about his people’s dignity, that no one should be forced to kowtow to the other. So he was not prepared to give in to the intense pressure to extradite Milošević, a pressure that immediately materialized when Koštunica was elected president. He wanted to prosecute Milošević in a Yugoslav court and prosecute him for fraud against the Yugoslav people – before an extradition to The Hague. On the way he wanted to prevent a myth within Serbia about the victimization of Milošević, based on a suspicion that they would send Milošević to the Hague Tribunal as part of a horse trade with the West.¨
291. The new U.S. President George W. Bush and his administration led on the pressure on Koštunica. The cooperation with the ICTY in The Hague was a condition for Yugoslavia to get the financial support the country sorely needed. Hague tribunal chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte also believed extradition had to be immediate.
291-292. I believe that Koštunica’s assessment was the wisest. In order to strengthen the democratic forces in Yugoslavia, it was important not to take initiative or make any claim that could crack the Democratic Front.
292. I expressed appreciation for Koštunica attitude, even in public. This was picked up in Washington, and an idea must have stuck in the new administration. Could I, who obviously was on good terms with Yugoslavia’s new leader, be used as a messenger and mediator to convey the American views to Belgrade?
292. Late one evening in April 2001, the phone rang at home Mogens Thorsens street in Oslo. The president of the prestigious East-West Institute in New York, John Mroz, was on the line. Bush’s national security adviser Condoleezza Rice had asked Mroz to contact me to get me to convince Koštunica that an informal working visit to the U.S. would be beneficial for both parties, simply to get to know each other better. Koštunica had expressed an interest in traveling to Washington – but only on an official visit with Bush himself as host.
292. It was not difficult for me to follow up the request from Mroz. I was convinced that it was unwise that prestige considerations would prevent Koštunica to travel to the U.S., and I felt sure that a working visit would give Americans a greater understanding of his attitudes. Similarly, I hoped that he would get a more nuanced view of American foreign policy.
292. I contacted Koštunica immediately. He is a man of few words, but having known Trygve Bratteli it is not difficult for me to deal with silent men. “Give me the night to think about it,” he said. Early the next morning his foreign policy adviser called and said that Koštunica had decided to travel to the United States.
292. The visit took place shortly after and lasted four days. All the reports I got from conversations he had with Secretary of State Colin Powell, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and representatives of the Congress, convinced me that he had taken a wise step. He gave a great speech at the Council of Foreign Affairs in New York with heavyweights in the foreign policy environment present. Afterwards, many expressed surprise that a Serb could express so liberal views. During the visit Koštunica was also named Man of the Year at the annual meeting of the East West Institute.
292-293. About one month later, in early May, I received another call from the Bush administration. I was told to go to Belgrade in confidence and tell Koštunica that the most important thing he could do in the short term was to show concrete cooperation with the Hague Tribunal. An immediate extradition of Milošević was not strictly necessary, but as a sign of his favor, he had to hand over the two other people who were suspected of war crimes. Who was not essential, but Washington emphasized that there must be two. With only one extradition, the gesture would be too weak. But as the Americans said, “two is a trend.”
293. I was willing to contact with Koštunica again, but I made it clear to Americans that I was not going to make any attempt to persuade him because I thought it was wrong to exercise any kind of pressure.
293. The next day I flew to Belgrade. In the meeting with Koštunica, I emphasized that I this time I was solely a messenger. I assumed that it was helpful for him to know the Americans’ attitude and hear their call, but I said that this time would not give any advice. I would not wait for an answer that I would take back to the Americans. The conversation lasted fifteen minutes – not all important meetings are long. As usual Koštunica was pleasant and accommodating, but also silent. Therefore it was fitting that I was only a messenger not expecting any response there and then.
293. A few weeks later, Slobodan Milošević was escorted from his prison cell into a helicopter and flown to the Hague in a carefully planned flash operation where Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić pulled the strings. Koštunica said that he was not aware that the extradition took place the day before a major donor conference would decide the question of credits to Yugoslavia.
293. The day after the dramatic operation, I got a request from Washington, the third in the series. Now I was asked to consult with Koštunica to the Yugoslav about supporting the campaign to publicly support the extradition.
293. I said no. I didn’t want to be the one who requested the Yugoslav president to support the operation when I myself was doubtful to how wise it was. Of course the Americans respected this.
293-294. The fact that Zoran Đinđić, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia and Vojislav Koštunica, the President of the Federation of Yugoslavia, was disagreeing in such an important issue tells a lot about the challenges the country faces. There is little doubt that Đinđić behaved as the U.S. men in the game about the Milošević extradition, and that he the the concern about country’s broken economy would dominate. It was understandable, but a flexible new policy driven by economic interests could easily backfire on Đinđić although he was perceived as vacillating.
294. When Đinđić’s role in extradition was known, I came to think of an episode from the time I was the UN Balkan mediator and regularly met Slobodan Milošević. One evening after the day’s negotiation meeting was over, he and I were sitting privately and talked a bit about this and that.
“Is there no politician in Yugoslavia you can cooperate with?” I asked.
Milošević immediately responded without hesitation: “Zoran Đinđić.”
“Because he is flexible.”
Peace negotiators in the Balkans, 1996
A “European” conflict
35. As foreign minister, I had followed developments in the conflict and negotiation efforts for over two years. Already in 1991, the EU declared that this was a European conflict and that therefore it was the Europeans who had to solve it. With an unclear mandate and inadequate support the EU’s first envoy, Lord Carrington, worked with various peace plans since 1991. (Stoltenberg was the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1987-89 and 1990-93 before he became the In 1993 appointed Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, serving in the position as the UN peace negotiator in Bosnia-Herzegovina until 1996.)
35. On June 25th 1991 Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence. The war had started. In Slovenia it was over after just ten days. The Yugoslav army withdrew. Here there were no Serbian minority to speak of.
35. Croatia was something different entirely. Approximately 13% of the population was Serbian. Many of them did not want secession from Yugoslavia and Belgrade. In some areas along the border with Bosnia, Serbs were in majority. The fighting was already underway in many parts of Croatia.
35. Lord Carrington had been the British Defense and Foreign Minister and NATO Secretary General. Very few Western politicians had such an experience. Yet he had left the former Yugoslavia as a disappointed man.
35. He had taken the only proper starting point, namely that Yugoslavia was already on the verge of collapse. He understood that neither Slovenia nor Croatia would give up their desire for independence.
35-36. In early October 1991, it appeared that Lord Carrington had achieved a breakthrough. He had collected the Yugoslav defense minister Kadijević and Presidents Tuđman and Milošević in Hague. The main elements of a political solution were carved out. The former Yugoslavia was to be made into a loose association of sovereign and independent republics.
36. Lord Carrington presented a more detailed draft agreement. The republics that wanted independence would get it. Thereafter, they could join together as far as they wanted to ensure the each others’ joint interests. Those who didn’t wanted independence could remain in Yugoslavia.
36. He put great emphasis on protecting minority rights in the new republics. Some areas could have a special status, such as Serbs in the areas of Croatia where they were in the majority. The draft also contained a provision which in reality meant that Milošević would give back Kosovo and Vojvodina their status as self-ruled provinces within Serbia.
36. During another meeting in Hague the same month, Carrington asked the three presidents, Izetbegović from Bosnia -Herzegovina, Milošević from Serbia, Tuđman from Croatia for their reactions. Milošević made it clear that he could not accept the starting point. He could not accept that at the stroke of a pen, Yugoslavia would become a nonexistent country. For the Serbs, it was important to continue to live in a state, not in several independent republics.
36. Milošević could not accept that Kosovo and Vojvodina would regain their autonomous positions. Under the pretext of having to protect the Serbs in Kosovo, he had abolished the autonomy Tito had made to this province (and Vojvodina ) in 1974. He had come to power by exploiting the Kosovo Serbs’ situation. Milošević would not risk what had been the springboard for his onslaught for power.
36. The other presidents probably also had their objections to Lord Carrington’s proposal. Slovenians wanted no institutional ties to their old Yugoslav partners. The Croats did not like the idea of a special status for the Serb-dominated Krajina area of Croatia.
36. But it was Milošević who went ahead and protested loudly. Lord Carrington negotiations were about to jam.
Battle for recognition
37. Myself, I believe that Lord Carrington’s approach is one of the best that has been tested in the Yugoslavia conflict. Maybe it came too late. And it was not given sufficient time. In the autumn of 1991, the fighting in Croatia became more intense. The brutal Serb attacks on Vukovar and Dubrovnik caught West’s attention. A number of truces were signed and broken almost immediately.
37. The lack of progress in the negotiations and the increasingly fierce fighting was the Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van den Broek to set an unrealistic deadline of two months to find a peaceful solution. The Netherlands had the Presidency of the EU at this time, and thus significant influence.
37. The tapering situation also led to a sharp political attack from the German side. Chancellor Kohl and Foreign Minister Genscher had decided that a quick recognition of Croatia and Slovenia could stop the Serbs and an end to the conflict.
37. Lord Carrington warned as strongly as he could. An early recognition of Slovenia and Croatia would mean the death knell of negotiations. At the same time one had to ask whether the other Yugoslav republics also wanted independence. The Bosnian leadership, with President Izetbegovic at the helm, would then be forced to answer yes, although the Serbs in Bosnia were against secession from Yugoslavia.
37. The result would be an immediate civil war in Bosnia.
37. Lord Carrington received strong support from the UN Secretary General, Pérez de Cuéllar. Originally, he had also received support from the other EU countries. But the Germans kept up the pressure, and the others succumbed. On January 15th, Slovenia and Croatia were recognized.
37. In early January 1992, the newly appointed UN special envoy, Cyrus Vance, finally succeeded in organizing to a ceasefire in Croatia. At the same time, he made the parties to accept a broader plan, which was given the name Vance Plan. As a result of this plan, 14.000 UN troops were deployed in the Serb controlled areas of Croatia within the spring. There was no peace treaty, but at least the guns fell silent in Croatia.
37-38. At the same time storm clouds gathered over Bosnia, as Lord Carrington and others had predicted. Therefore, the EU initiated new negotiations under the auspices of the Portuguese diplomat José Cutileiro in February. The goal was to achieve a division of Bosnia-Herzegovina into cantons. The separation would mainly carried out by ethnic criteria.
38. But there was no question of an ethnic division of the country. Bosnia-Herzegovina was an ethnic patchwork, where almost every town and village was composed of several nationalities. For centuries people had been streaming back and forth over this small territory, in line with the historical changes. And in recent decades, urbanization process had shaken the various nationalities even closer together.
38. After a long tug of war President Izetbegović, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, the so-called “president” Radovan Karadžić, and the leader of the Bosnian Croats, Mate Boban, signed a principled statement in Lisbon. Bosnia and Herzegovina should be one state, but each nation should have its regions with considerable autonomy.
38. Within a week had passed, however, Izetbegović had changed his view and rejected the agreement. Soon, he was also followed by the Croatian leaders in Bosnia.
38. Negotiations continued admittedly, but without results.
38. While the negotiations continued, there was an ongoing pressure from the United States for Europeans to recognize Bosnia-Herzegovina. EU made it clear that recognition would be easier if a significant part of all communities in the republic, Muslims, Serbs and Croats, indicated that they wanted independence through a referendum. The referendum took place on February 29th and March 1st 1992. The count showed that 63 % of the eligible voters had participated. Of these, 99.4 % voted for independence. But the Serb population, which was almost a third of Bosnia’s population, did not vote.
38. The referendum was thus simply not shown that all population groups wanted independence. On the contrary. It had confirmed that the Bosnian Serbs did not want to be part of a Bosnia that was torn apart from Yugoslavia and from other Serbs. One faced a serious political controversy, in which both sides had good and understandable arguments for their stance.
The Serbs attack
39. That same day as the referendum ended, unrest broke out in Sarajevo. During a Serbian wedding came shooting started. The bridegroom’s father was killed and a priest was injured. Radical Serbs took advantage of the event to show their opposition to the referendum. Barricades were set up at the main entrances to the city and in the city center. After a week, the situation was almost normal. However, throughout the Bosnia there were new reports of unrest. Towards the end of the month, the situation had again deteriorated.
39. The Bosnian Serbs formally established their own republic, “Republika Srpska” in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Serious fighting broke out in Bosanski Brod north of the country and near several other cities. A few days later caught the notorious Serb nationalist and militia leader Arkan (Željko Ražnatović) and his people entered Bijeljina, a town near the border with Serbia where there was a large Muslim population.
39. On April 5th, the situation in Sarajevo was chaotic. It was known that the U.S. and EU countries would recognize Bosnia-Herzegovina the following day. At the airport, the Yugoslav army took control. All warning lights flashed red. Then the recognition came. Soon the artillery attacks on Sarajevo started fully. The war was a fact.
39. It was no coincidence that the first battles took place in Bosanski Brod. Near this Croat dominated town in northern Bosnia, the so-called Posavina corridor was located, tying the Serbs in Banja Luka area in Bosnia with Serbia itself. Both Serbs and Croats knew this would be a strategically vital corridor for the Serbs if a serious conflict should break out.
39. The first refugee streams entered the roads, Croats and Muslims over the Sava River into Croatia, Serbs along the roads to Serbia. Refugees began to flow northwards to Europe. The conflict gradually came closer.
39-40. Karadžić had stated that he would take 65 % of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was a territory that stretched in a huge arc from eastern Herzegovina in the south along the border with Serbia and Montenegro and along the border with Croatia in the north and the west. These were areas with large Muslim and Croat populations. In several of the towns in this area, Zvornik and Višegrad the east, about 60 % of the population were Muslims. In the Banja Luka area in the north, there were 30 % Muslims and Croatians.
40. Mostar, in the southwest, was surrounded by Serb forces, who began shelling of the city. At the same time, the Serbs fasted their grip around Sarajevo. The ethnic cleansing, that had already struck in Croatia, stroke fully in Bosnia. Refugee flows increased and the first camps were established. Names like Omarska flew around the world.
40. The Serb attacks were carried out by a mix of forces from the Yugoslav army, Bosnian Serb units and militia forces under the leadership of extreme nationalists who Arkan and Vojislav Šešelj. In early May, authorities in Belgrade ordered that the Yugoslav Army should be withdrawn from Bosnia. Then, however, the Serbs had ensured that over 80 % of the officers who served in the Yugoslav Army in Bosnia, were in fact Bosnian Serbs.
40. As the Yugoslav Army “pulled out,” much of the officer corps and the heavy weapons could in other words remain in Bosnia. A few days later, the Bosnian Serb forces also had a new commander, General Ratko Mladić . Until then, he had led the Yugoslav Army during the war in Croatia.
40. In October 1992, the major Serbian offensive ended. Then, only three isolated Muslim enclaves remained in eastern Bosnia, Srebrenica, Žepa and Goražde and a Muslim area of Bihać in the northwest. Furthermore, the Bosnian Serbs controlled the arc Karadžić had talked about. They now possessed about 70 % of the territory.
40-41. A year earlier, in late 1991, the Bosnian Croats also established their own autonomous areas in Bosnia: Bosanska Posavina along the Sava in the north and Herzeg-Bosna in areas around Mostar. Muslims in these areas had set themselves against the Croats, and thez established their own political organs. In March of 1993, the Croats decided to to use military force to enforce their will. They began a cruel offensive against the Muslims in the area. The old city of Mostar was destroyed. Following the Serbian pattern, the Croats started their own ethnic cleansing directed against the Muslim population. Croatian concentration camps were revealed.
41. Now the Muslims fought on two fronts.
41. Gradually, the international community also become stronger involved into the conflict. Already on September 25th, 1991 – before the war broke out in Bosnia – UN had decided to introduce a ban on the sale of weapons. The ban covered the whole of Yugoslavia. The aim of this was to curb the arms embargo warfare.
41. As the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina developed in 1992, there were quickly demands for stronger sanctions, particularly against the so-called rump Yugoslavia, i.e. Serbia and Montenegro. In mid May 1992, the UN Security Council required that all outside interference in the war in Bosnia had to cease. This was directed both towards the Yugoslav Army and the military units from Croatia. Two weeks later, the Security Council established that the Yugoslav Army continued its interference, despite assurances that it would withdraw.
41. Comprehensive economic sanctions were therefore implemented against Serbia and Montenegro.
41. At the same Izetbegović asked that the UN had to send military observers to the country as soon as possible. There was already a UN headquarters in Sarajevo. But it was the headquarters of the UN forces in Croatia. The Security Council had decided to add it to Sarajevo before the war in Bosnia broke out. Now Boutros Boutros-Ghali also sent 40 military observers to Bosnia, specifically the Mostar area.
41. But the fighting became more intense. Soon the unarmed UN observers were in such a vulnerable position that they were pulled out of the area. At the same time, two-thirds of the UN headquarters in Sarajevo was moved. Only a hundred UN personnel remained in the city.
41-42. In early June, the development changed direction. UN forces had been successful in getting the parties to agree that the airport in Sarajevo should be given to the UN. Thus, it could be used for humanitarian flights with UN forces in control.
42. Although the fighting continued around the airport, UN forces gradually increased their presence. French and Canadian UN troops arrived. Egyptians and Ukrainians followed. On July 3rd the airport reopened. Thus, the longest humanitarian airlift operation in history began.
42. From then, the tasks of the UN forces grew gradually. They were primarily related to humanitarian targets, such as securing the airport, escorting convoys and other support to the relief efforts.
42. Efforts related to the former Yugoslavia evolved to become the largest and most complex peacekeeping operation ever. When the UN forces were at their highest number, over 40.000 men were placed in the former Yugoslavia. There were 26.000 in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 14.000 in Croatia and 1.200 in Macedonia.
42. Not only was the UN force the largest of its kind. In order to enforce the arms embargo organized NATO and the Western European Union organized a comprehensive blockade of the Adriatic. To prevent that the combatants used planes in the Bosnian war, a no-fly zone was declared over Bosnia-Herzegovina. And to prevent the war from spreading, the first preventive UN force in history was sent into Macedonia.
42. But despite all this, and despite the constant attempts to find a solution at the negotiating table, the war continued.
42. The last few months before I was to take on my new mission, the situation escalated. The Muslim enclave of Srebrenica was under attack by Bosnian Serb forces. In mid-March 1993, two villages near Srebrenica were also attacked by Serb forces.
42. The UN Security Council immediately asked member states to ensure that the no-fly zone was enforced. The following month, NATO was ready to shoot down aircrafts that defied Security Council resolutions. On April 16th Srebrenica was declared a safe area. Further west in the country, fighting between Croats and Muslims became ever more intense.
The fateful recognition
43. There were seldom simple answers to the many questions that arose in connection with the Yugoslavia conflict. One of the most difficult issues I faced in my time as Norwegian foreign minister was about when we would recognize Slovenia and Croatia as independent states. For it was not a question of whether or not we should recognize them. The discussion was about timing.
43. Slovenia always had the lead when it came to the secession from Yugoslavia. When it became clear that Slovenia would declare their independence in June 1991, also set Croatian president Franjo Tuđman also followed up. On June 25th, the parliaments of Croatia and Slovenia declared their countries as independent states.
43. As Slovenia had no significant minorities, Milošević and the other Serb leaders had – at least tacitly – come to terms with the fact that Slovenia came to leave Yugoslavia. But Croatia was something else. The nearly 600.000 Serbs in the country accounted for 13 % of the total population. The Serbian leaders in Belgrade could probably accept that Croatia left Yugoslavia, but without the areas where the majority of the Serbian population was located.
43. Before the Croats managed to recover after their independence celebration, a Serbian militia force under the leadership of Milan Martić attacked the police station in the sleepy little town of Glina, located 45 minutes drive from Zagreb. Here, Serbs were massacred by Croat Ustaša in 1941. The war was already underway. As the Vance Plan was approved, Croatian Serbs controlled nearly a third of Croatia. They would not accept being under Croatian control from Zagreb.
43-44. Even earlier this fall, the Germans had begun their argument to recognize Slovenia and Croatia as independent states. They believed that there could be no doubt about who was the aggressor in the war, namely the Serbs. Therefore, it would be wrong to treat republics alike, such as Lord Carrington’s starting point had been.
44. Recognition would be a cautionary forefinger against the Serbs. It would involve a threat that great powers could intervene in Croatia if Serbs would not restrain themselves. In other words: recognition could stop the war, the Germans thought.
44. Lord Carrington and UN Secretary General responded quickly and strongly to the German sentiments. In early December Lord Carrington indicated that a premature recognition of Croatia would mean that the negotiations were going to collapse. Serbs, Croats and Slovenes would not be interested in continuing negotiations, but for very different reasons. The Croats and the Slovenes would get what they wanted, namely independence, without offering anything on the table. The Serbs would argue that the only way to defend the Serbian minority i/pa href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milan_Martić”n Croatia was to continue the war.
44. At the same time there was a serious risk that Bosnia-Herzegovina would also see itself forced to apply for recognition against the will of the Bosnian Serbs. Recognition of Croatia and Slovenia could be the spark to light Bosnia -Herzegovina on fire. Lord Carrington pointed out that the countries that had or were planning to send peacekeepers to the area should be aware that these forces could find themselves in a far more dangerous situations.
44. The UN Secretary General Pérez de Cuéllar, referred to leaders in Bosnia and Macedonia that had expressed fear of what might happen there – if Croatia and Slovenia were recognized too early. It could provoke a terrible war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He maintained that recognition should come as part of an overall solution to the Yugoslav conflict. Therefore he asked the Germans to change their minds.
Deep divisions within the EU
44-45. Most EU countries agreed with Lord Carrington and the UN Secretary General. And also the United States. President Izetbegović also understood that he himself would be put in a very difficult situation if Croatia and Slovenia were recognized. Even when the two republics declared their independence in June 1991, Izetbegović made it clear in the Bosnian parliament that he did not like what they did.
45. None of these reactions made the Germans to change their minds.
45. The controversy among EU countries was becoming acute. Meanwhile, the Maastricht Treaty was adopted on December 10th. One of the main points revolved around developing a common foreign and security policy. The objective of the formal documents was greater consensus and joint action. In practice, the EU countries were involved in a harrowing battle in the most important foreign policy issue they now faced.
45. The Germans made it clear that they in any case would recognize Slovenia and Croatia before Christmas. But other EU countries succeeded at last to get Germans to agree on some sort of a compromise. An arbitration commission, headed by the chairman of the French Constitutional Court, Robert Badinter, would consider the case. It was to find out if the Yugoslav republics that wanted independence satisfied the requirements the EU countries had set up. If the answer was positive, recognition should take place within a month.
45. The Badinter Commission released its report on 11 January 1992. It concluded that Slovenia fulfilled all the criteria for recognition as an independent state. The same was true of Macedonia. As for Croatia and Bosnia, the situation was different. Croatia’s legislation with regard to the protection of minorities was not in line with EU requirements. At the same time, the country’s authorities did not control the country’s territory, which is a recognized demand for recognition of new states. When it came to Bosnia, it wasn’t proved that all population groups in the country (i.e. Serbs) wanted independence. This could be clarified through a referendum.
45. Four days later, the EU countries ignored the advice they themselves had requested. Both Slovenia and Croatia were recognized as independent states. The Germans had decided, no matter what the Badinter Commission had to say. To avoid a divide one month after the Maastricht Treaty had been signed, the other countries others to follow. However, Macedonia that had met the criteria, was not recognized because one country, Greece, vetoed.
46. There have been many speculations about why the other EU countries – particularly the UK – decided to give in. Did the Brits and Germans sign an agreement in connection with the Maastricht Treaty? Should Britain give surrender in the question of recognition if the Germans supported the UK’s desire to be exempt from the so-called Social Charter?
46. Former Secretary Douglas Hurd has denied that there was any such trade. It is probably also correct. Yet there can be no doubt that the Germans put a heavy pressure on the other member states. The vast majority of them strongly disagreed with the Germans in the matter. They still believed that the recognition came too soon.
46. But the Germans had repeatedly helped other large and small EU countries when they had domestic issues with an EU decision. As a rule, it was the Germans who had gone to the greatest lengths for the sake of the others. Now it was the Germans’ turn to get help. The others had to settle a political debt.
46. Probably arguments like these were crucial. Everyone probably believed that the EU countries could not possibly go their ways in such an important matter soon after the Maastricht Treaty had been signed. Thus, the government in Bonn got their will.
Towards full war
46. The development towards recognition of Slovenia and Croatia put the Bosnian President Izetbegović in a choice between “the plague and cholera,” between being left in a Yugoslavia that was heavily Serb dominated, and without the counterweight Croats and Slovenes contributed, or ask for recognition against the Serbian population’s will and the risk of civil war. A third option also lured in the background. (Plague and cholera is a Norwegian expression. The English translation would be to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea.)
46. Tuđman and Milošević came together several times in January, March and April 1991, in Karađorđevo, Vojvodina among the places they met. These meetings were surrounded with great mystery. But there is little doubt that the two presidents discussed a division of Bosnia between them. It was also admitted publicly by one of Tuđman’s advisors. Mario Nobilo, who later became Croatian UN Ambassador, spoke about the secret talks and a division of Bosnia to the London Times newspaper.
47. Thus, three options existed – division, independence or to continue as a part of Yugoslavia. Common for all of these options was that at least one of the three people groups would oppose each of them.
47. Muslims would not accept a division. Neither they nor the Croats would be accept to remain in a Yugoslavia dominated by Serbia and Milošević. And the Serbs would not accept independence from Yugoslavia.
47. Peace in Bosnia was dependent on stability prevailing between the three ethnic groups. Now there was no wider Yugoslavia that could help to preserve the stability. And there was no party or political force in Bosnia-Herzegovina that could encompass of all three ethnic groups and keep them together. However, there was a deep political disagreement about the direction of the republic.
47. There was no doubt that Lord Carrington’s and others’ warnings were well founded. When the National Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted its resolution on sovereignty on October 15th, the Serbian members left the meeting. Barely one month later, the Bosnian Serbs held a referendum, with a vast majority voting to stay in Yugoslavia.
47. But despite the atmosphere became increasingly tense – and despite the fighting in Croatia already raging in full – the peace in Bosnia was kept throughout the autumn of 1991 and during the first months of 1992. The rhetoric became increasingly brutal though. The clouds were getting darker. But the storm did not break out. Maybe it was – as Misha Glenny suggests in his book “The fall of Yugoslavia” – because everyone were still too intimidated by the idea of the dimensions of a war in Bosnia-Herzegovina would get .
47. Izetbegović must of course have been aware of all this. Nevertheless, it appears that he was carried away by the development. The EU had actually already invited Bosnia-Herzegovina to request recognition. But the EU countries had also stated that it was not proved that all ethnic groups wanted independence. The Badinter Commission had given the advice that a referendum could be what was needed to pass this final obstacle. Thus, the stage was set, although it was quite obvious that a referendum would only confirm the deep divisions in the population.
48. The referendum resulted as mentioned that the situation in Bosnia became more chaotic, with scattered battles around the country. I have no doubt that many really believed that recognition would provide protection and get the Bosnian Serbs on the other thoughts. After Izetbegović had expressed concern about the development for a long time, he said during a press conference on April 2nd that fighting was artificially provoked because the recognition approached, but the fighting would stop when it was a fact.
48. On April 6th the recognition came, but it gave no protection. There were no indications that the Bosnian Serbs would accept independence for Bosnia. And there were no signs that the European Union or the United States or any other would protect the Muslim and Croat population.
48 The recognition of Bosnia was also – as it had been for Croatia – contrary to common international practice, namely that the government should have control over the country’s territory. In this case, it only controlled a little more than half.
48. Bosnia soon found itself in full war. There is no doubt that the Bosnian Serbs must bear the primary responsibility for the horrors that followed. Nothing can take away the responsibility for such abuses. But at the same time, there cannot be much doubt that serious political foolishness was committed in this process. All warning lights shone red. The warnings that the war would come were strong and clear. Yet these warnings were not given crucial importance.
48 The former British diplomat, Anthony Parsons, wrote in his book “From Cold War to Hot Peace” that Izetbegović should have been told by the EU that it was madness to take the step towards independence on the basis of a constitution that was rejected by a large minority, which, furthermore, controlled almost all heavy weapons and had the support of the Yugoslav Army. He should have been denied recognition until he could demonstrate that the structure of the new state was acceptable to all three communities (in Bosnia), including the Bosnian Serbs. Parsons claimed that it was frivolous to proceed on the basis of a majority decision with regard to the military reality.
49. The issue of recognition has time and again come back to my own thoughts about the Yugoslavia conflict. As the debate unfolded in full, I warned against a premature recognition. No one can say with certainty that the war would have been avoided if the great powers had deferred the recognition of Slovenia, Croatia and then Bosnia until a peaceful solution had been found at the negotiating table. But Carrington’s argument, namely that a premature recognition reduced the parties’ interest in negotiations, is convincing for me. In any event, the recognition was like “pouring gasoline on a smoldering fire,” as David Owen put it.
49. For me, the treatment of the recognition question stands as one of the greatest failures of the international community during the Yugoslav conflict. But I must add that I am not in doubt that the Germans genuinely believed that an early recognition would stop the war. This also became evident in the conversations I had with Foreign Minister Genscher during this period.
49. It is easier to make statements on these questions in retrospect. Therefore, one should also be cautious. When the conflict seriously broke out, knowledge of Yugoslavia was relatively limited in both Western Europe and the United States. It was easy to underestimate the complexity of the Yugoslav society was in its balance between different nationalities and minorities. And it was easy to underestimate how heavy the history rests upon this society, where old wars and battles as far as six hundred years ago are referred to as if they had occurred yesterday.
49. At the same time we see the recognition in a wider European perspective. The Soviet Union was about to disintegrate. New states claimed its independence and gained its recognition. Yes, recognition was virtually the “topic of the time.” Therefore, it is also understandable that it got such a central place in the debate about the Yugoslav conflict.
49. This does not make the misjudgment, which in my opinion was in a too early recognition, less severe. But it becomes more understandable.
126. The plan we had prepared would mean that the Serbs had to withdraw from 23.9% of the territory they then held. It accounted for 16.7% of the entire Bosnia-Herzegovina, or almost as much as the areas in the Bosnian Croats were intended. There was a minor withdrawal than what was proposed in the Vance / Owen plan. But this was still considerable. Sometimes I hear that peace negotiators did nothing but draw “boundaries” where the confrontation lines between the parties’ military forces stood. It is certainly far from reality.
126. We had the impression that Alija Izetbegović was in any case sympathetic. He had said that he had to put the plan before the National Assembly, and he had promised that he would not speak against it. This time we have not dared to hope. We just waited.
126. The answer came quickly: the Bosnian Serb Assembly accepted the agreement with 55 against 12 votes. The Bosnian Croats accepted it with only one vote against. But the Muslim-dominated Bosnian parliament voted unanimously to go into further negotiations. Thus, we still had no peace agreement.
126. As expected, it was the map which gave the Muslims the biggest problems. Izetbegović would have returned a number of cities that had been Muslim before the war – Prijedor, Sanski Most, Kozarac, Foča, Bratunac and Višegrad. Moreover, he still insisted to have access to the sea at Neum.
126. We had previously agreed to meet in Geneva on Aug. 31 and Sept 1. But David and I did not expect that this meeting would bring us further. We had come so far as we could at this cross road.
126-127. Our work was not made easy by Hans van den Broek, who was now the EU commissioner for foreign policy. He publicly claimed that David and I had chosen a “capitulation strategy” and that we had legitimized aggression. It was a strange statement in a critical phase. Strange, not least because David and he had the same employers, who had never said anything like that. Van den Broek had full opportunity to submit his views to known within the in the European circuit. He had not done so.
127. Moreover, the claim was wrong. The plan demanded that the Bosnian Serbs should withdraw from nearly a quarter of the territory they now sat with. How could we be accused of a “capitulation strategy”?
127. The Geneva meeting did not lead to anything. It was first and foremost a new clash between Tuđman and Izetbegović. Tuđman did not intend to give in to demands of Izetbegović for access to the sea at Neum. On the other hand, Izetbegović accused the Croats of trying to be war winners. While the Serbs moved in the direction of a deal, he saw no movement of Tuđman. If the Croatian president was now able to stretch out a bit, we would be closer to a deal than ever, said Izetbegović. But to no avail.
127. We must now find a way to create new movement in the negotiations. After initial discussions with the Bosnian Serbs, we went back to Geneva on Sept. 15. That evening we sat down with Izetbegović and his foreign minister Haris Silajdžić, and two of the closest associates of Karadžić, namely Momčilo Krajišnik and Aleksa Buha.
127. After long discussions, we agreed on a joint declaration. The three republics of Bosnia-Herzegovina could hold a referendum after two years if they wanted to remain in the union or not. The condition for leaving the union was that there was agreement on the territorial division of the country. In this statement this was an important new element. If the Serbs showed the necessary courtesy to Izetbegović in terms of land, the Muslims would in turn not set themselves against if the Serbs later decided to leave the Union.
127-128. The Croats were certainly not at the meeting and had not given their consent to the statement. Nevertheless, we felt it was a new movement and we had to find out if this could help us reaching the target line. (When this statement was t be signed, Silajdžić was not there. The end result of the statement could be a separate Muslim state in Bosnia. Apparently Silajdžić did not have a desire to contribute to this. The episode is interesting, not least in light of the breach between Silajdžić and Izetbegović in 1996.)
Negotiations on the “HMS Invincible”
128. With this starting point, David and I started a new tour. The goal was first and foremost, Belgrade. We asked Milošević to persuade the Bosnian Serbs to give up more land – especially in eastern Bosnia. There were several of the cities Izetbegović would have returned, Foča, Bratunac and Višegrad.
128. Then we went down to the coast to study the other major issue, access to the sea. We had a group of French and German experts to look into the port options. Now they could tell us that it was almost impossible that Neum could be developed into a major port, as Izetbegović wanted. Instead, the experts recommended that we should concentrate on Ploče.
128. David had been in contact with the authorities in London to make use of a British aircraft carrier in a final attempt to get the plan to succeed. As always, when we asked the British and the Norwegian government about something, the answer was immediately yes. After the visit to Belgrade, we felt that was possible to get ahead. We decided to try.
128. On Sept. 20, the Bosnian parties, and Milošević, Tuđman and Bulatović were taken out to the aircraft carrier “HMS Invincible” out in the Adriatic Sea. Here they had to concentrate on the negotiations and not run back and forth between the bargaining table and television cameras in the ongoing effort to win points in the propaganda war.
128-130. In over eight hours, we sat alone out there. Slowly, we managed to push the Serbs and Croats to adjustments on the map. Tuđman had stretched a bit fither when it came to access to the sea. In addition to the free port at Ploče, Muslims would get a harbor at the Nereta River. Pressured by Milošević, the Serbian leaders gave away yet another piece of land along the Drina River in Goražde and up to Višegrad. It was a modest concession. On the map, this was only consisting of only about 0.3% additional territory.
130. Tuđman had been the main target of the pressure from Izetbegović during the entire meeting. In return, he wanted Izetbegović to sign there and then. But the Bosnian president refused. He would first submit the results to parliament in Sarajevo a week later, on Sept. 27.
130. Izetbegović and Silajdžić flew back together with David and me. Izetbegović was clearly more positive and committed than he had been after the Geneva meeting a month earlier. Both he and Silajdžić claimed that they would go for the Invincible package and tried to get the parliament with them. They took themselves the initiative for a plan for implementation. It would, among other things, be presented to their contacts in the U.S. Congress.
130. The Bosnian government had not gotten so much more territory than a month ago. But the joint declaration with the Serbs was a new card. A Serb referendum on secession could only take place if Izetbegović and his colleagues were satisfied with their share of the territory.
130. But a cold shower came again faster than expected. The day after we said goodbye to Izetbegović, the Bosnian parliament reversed completely. He was not prepared to recommend the package, he told the media in Sarajevo.
130. David and I were sure that Izetbegović was really positive to the Invincible Plan. But he was not prepared to fight for it. In Sarajevo, there were powerful forces who thought there was more to be gained on the battlefield or at the negotiating table. The opponents were to be found among military leaders and politicians. The President’s second in command, Vice President Ejup Ganić, was among the most unforgiving. The United States had not come out and supported the plan either.
130-131. This was a development that led to open conflict among the Muslim leaders. In the autumn, Fikret Abdić, which until then had worked relatively well with Izetbegović, declared of his own independent province in the Bihać area with the capital in the small town of Velika Kladuša. Abdić had a good relationship with the Serbs and Croats. Under the cover of this, he continued his business in the area. So he bought peace and greater prosperity for themselves and the small Muslim enclave.
131. But this was a peace and prosperity that was to be short-lived. Already in the summer of 1994, Abdić and his followers were chased fleeing into the “Krajina Republic” by the forces of Izetbegović. Soon, Muslims fought against Muslims.
No U.S. support
131. After the Invincible package was rejected, both David and I feared that the fighting would pick up again. The winter was just around the corner. To move forward, we needed more solid support from major powers.
131. On Oct. 4, we met the EU countries’ foreign ministers in Brussels and went through the situation with them. All the ministers addressed an appeal to the parties to accept the plan we had long aboard the aircraft carrier “HMS Invincible” Thus, Germany and the Netherlands were onboard as well. In the meanwhile the foreign ministers made it clear that resolving the conflict by military intervention was not an option. It had to be resolved at the negotiating table.
131. Over the Atlantic, it was not the same degree of consensus. Both President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Warren Christopher were more concerned about criticizing the Europeans for their reluctance to lift the arms embargo than to give support to the negotiations.
131. David and I had done everything we could to draw the U.S. administration into the negotiation process. We had kept Washington informed through the President’s Special Envoy Reginald Bartholomew and his successor Charles Redman. But it had been difficult to engage Americans in any real dialogue. There were seldom any suggestions or comments while negotiations were ongoing. Therefore, the disappointment was greater when Americans spent much more time to place blame on the United Nations and the Europeans when the negotiations did not succeed.
132. It started to become a regular ritual that the negotiators did not get the support they needed while negotiations were ongoing, but often got the blame when they broke down. And those who were most reluctant to help were the ones who later criticized us the strongest. Thus, we were scapegoated rather than used as tools.
132. We had, however, the Europeans’ support for further work on the basis of the Invincible package. Therefore, we went back on a tour to the capitals in the region. Belgrade and Milošević was the first stop.
132. The president was in a bad mood. He had negotiated seriously and put considerable pressure on the Bosnian Serbs. Milošević claimed that the sanctions had weakened the influence he had on the Bosnian and Croatian Serbs. They could see that it did not pay to pursue a moderate policy, the way Milošević did. This did not lead to an easier life. Instead of being rewarded, he was just pushed even harder. None, however, was prepared to put pressure on the Muslims, said the Serbian President.
132. We continued to Zagreb. In clear terms, we protested against the Bosnian Croat’s attacks on humanitarian convoys in Bosnia and the Croats against the brutal conduct against the Serb-controlled villages in the Medak pocket in Croatia. But Tuđman was in no mood to apologize. He immediately went on the offensive: Tuđman knew that Izetbegović oriented towards full-scale war.
132. Izetbegović wanted to take the port of Neum military since he could not get the city through negotiations. The Muslims were now flying weapons and equipment from abroad, in violation of the arms embargo. Izetbegović was convinced that the time worked in his favor. It was devastating to the prospects for a peaceful solution in Bosnia, Tuđman said.
132. Tuđman said that if we were to continue negotiations on every little detail, we would never reach an agreement. Instead, the UN and the EU should declare Bosnia as a protectorate and inserting NATO forces to keep the peace. That way you could stop the war and have time to solve the problems.
132. The proposal had undoubtedly its attractive sides. But there was one crucial weakness: Neither the UN, EU nor NATO was prepared to accept something close to such a role.
133. After a long time, I could now spend a few days in Zagreb with the others in the UNPROFOR management. The days at the office in Zagreb seemed to be clarifying my own position on what role I could play: The UN organization needed a full-time leader – both physically and mentally.
133. This was the biggest operation in UN history. Then, then leader could not be absent and at the same time have his head full of other issues. Admittedly, I had competent people in Zagreb, not least Vigleik Eide. But the boss was still in charge, no matter how you twisted and turned on it. I could no longer bear the feeling of inadequacy because I could not be two places at the same time.
133. All the arguments that it would be easier to coordinate the work if the same person was both head of the peace talks and UN forces were all right in theory. In practice, I felt that it was increasingly difficult to keep track of what happened in UNPROFOR. And I needed all the strength I could mobilize in the negotiation efforts. I decided to take the issue up with Boutros Boutros-Ghali at the next opportunity.
133. David and I had spent much time thinking through the strategy for further proceedings. It resulted in a document sent David to the EU foreign ministers with a wide range of issues (28 to be exact) that he asked them to answer.
133. A few days later, on Nov. 7, Klaus Kinkel and Alain Juppé sent a letter to the Belgian Willy Claes, who had the presidency among EU foreign ministers.
133. They expressed the view that the Muslim-dominated republic in Bosnia had to get another 3% land, so that it covered a third of Bosnia. Secondly, the Croatian government and Serbs in the “Krajina Republic” should negotiate a ceasefire and the reopening of a certain economic relations, something the two foreign ministers termed as a “modus vivendi”. As a concession sanctions would be eased towards the rump Yugoslavia (ie Serbia and Montenegro).
134. Milošević was in other words, asked to push both the Bosnian and Croatian Serbs to new concessions. In return he was promised a reward. Thus was the foundation in place for what soon became the EU’s Action Plan.
134. For David and me, this was an important development. We had become used to formulate proposals and ideas and then struggle to gain support among the EU countries and other major powers. This time the great powers that had taken the initiative.
134. The content builds on the Invincible package and on the work we had started in Krajinaa negotiations. We always had the pressure on both to Serbs and Croats that Muslims have a sufficiently large area. And the so-called “modus vivendi” formula was stumbling near the approach that we had followed the fall of Croatia through negotiations. The new thing here was the connection and the clear signal of sanctions relief. Thus, Milošević got impetus to put more pressure on Karadžić and his people.
134. The initiative from Kinkel and Juppé was no break from the line we had followed. On the contrary, they asked us to continue the process we had initiated in June / July. Also in form of the two ministers gave us their support. They did not want to establish some alternative negotiation channel but to give the ICFY talks new strength (International Conference for the Former Yugoslavia, led by EU and UN in cooperation). Thus, we hopefully had a better starting point for negotiations to get going again.
134. At the same time, it was important for us to keep the UN Security Council informed, particularly the Americans and Russians. Therefore, on Nov. 17, I went back to New York. In the Security Council, I said that the war was certainly less intense than ever, with the exception of central Bosnia, where Croats and Muslims still fought hard battles. But humanitarian convoys were still blocked by the parties and the international community’s willingness to contribute to the shipments of food and medicines had been less. UNHCR was missing 62 million USD to continue the planned shipments until the end of 1993. We could be facing a humanitarian disaster unless the Parties and among donor countries changed their attitudes. At the same time, I put emphasis on gathering forces behind a new negotiating approach.
134-135. I had again asked for a meeting in Washington to explain our approach. But as the previous times, we were not able to have agreements with leading American representatives. Washington still didn’t want to commit – neither to David or me, nor to the new proposals that had begun to take shape in Europe. The Americans were probably very concerned about the idea of giving Milošević easing of sanctions.
135. During my stay in New York, I explained my own situation to Boutros-Ghali. I explained to him that the situation now was completely different from the time when I took upon myself I both functions. At that time everyone thought that negotiating the job was soon done. Now it turned out that we work hard uphill both in negotiations and in UNPROFOR. I asked him to release me from the job as boss for the UN forces, so that I could concentrate on the negotiations. It was not very urgent that I was relieved that day, but it could not delay too long. He understood, and the Secretary promised to find a replacement that UNPROFOR commander.
135. While I was in New York, David began meeting with the Bosnian parties, Karadžić, Boban and Silajdžić. Now Silajdžić would not meet the Croat leader Boban. The relationship between the two was one of mutual contempt. It was never easy to predict who was willing to meet with whom in this conflict.
135. I arrived from New York in time to submit some UNPROFOR cases and to ascertain that the meetings are did not bring us much further. Nevertheless, we kept the dialogue going. That in itself was now important. At the same time, the work with the the EU Action Plan continued.
Negotiations under EU auspices
135. The EU foreign ministers met first on Nov. 22 and then again a week later. The main points were now clear: the Muslim-dominated republic would have 33.3% of the territory. All parties should have access to the sea. When it came to easing the sanctions, the EU ministers agreed not to go into details. It was important to ensure that the Americans were onboard. Therefore, American and European experts should meet before they presented more precise proposals.
136. The EU foreign ministerps had invited the parties to the Bosnian conflict to negotiations on Nov. 29 after the internal EU meeting was over. David and I were also present, along with U.S. spe/ppcipal envoy Redman and the Russian special envoy Vitaly Churkin.
136. Willy Claes, who spoke on behalf of the EU ministers, presented the main points of action: The Bosnian Serbs were asked to give back more land to the Muslims. If the Serbs agreed to a deal in Bosnia and the so-called “modus vivendi” in Croatia, EU member states committed themselves to working for a gradual lifting of the sanctions.
136. Izetbegović was asked to confirm that he would accept an agreement if the Muslims got the land he had claimed just before the meeting at the “HMS Invincible” in September. The Croats were asked to stand firm with its earlier concessions when it came to the port facilities and access to the sea for the Muslims. At the same time, they were asked to contribute to the result in the Krajina negotiations.
136. If the EU Action Plan was accepted, the EU countries promised to provide aid for the reconstruction of Bosnia and Croatia. Should the Croats on the other hand use the military force used against the Krajina Serbs, they would be met with counter-reactions from the EU side.
136. The parties’ response was not exactly promising. Milošević demanded the immediate lifting of sanctions. He would not wait until a peace agreement was in place.
136. There was no indication that the Bosnian Serbs would give up more land, as the EU had requested. Izetbegović confirmed that all the occupied territories had to be returned, as he had requested ahead of the Invincible meeting. Access to the sea at Ploče was also not enough. He wanted back the sovereignty over the port town of Neum. At the same time he demanded that his NATO and U.S. forces just only be stationed in the Muslim-dominated republic after the Treaty was implemented.
136-137. The Croatian President Tuđman rejected the demand for Muslim sovereignty over Neum. He made it clear that he could accept the EU’s proposal for a so-called “modus vivendi” of the Krajina issue, but on one condition: It had to set a deadline for implementation of the Vance Plan of 1992. This plan contained provisions on the demilitarization of the Serb-controlled areas of Croatia, on the return of Croats who had been forced to leave their homes and for negotiations on political status areas. Tuđman would not accept a so-called “modus vivendi” because it just made it easier for Serbs to retain control over almost a third of Croatian territory.
137. This was not an encouraging start, but we were at least agreed to meet again in Thessaloniki on Dec. 12. In the meanwhile, David and I continued the discussions in Belgrade with Milošević, Karadžić and Hrvoje Šarinić, Tuđman’s new counsel, that we brought with us to Belgrade.
The magic of 33.3%
137. During these meetings, we started actually moving in the right direction. Admittedly the Croats maintained that Muslim sovereignty over Neum was unacceptable, but they agreed to move the boundary between the Croat and the Muslim-dominated republic to the south along the Nereta River. Slowly we approached the magic 33.3% of the Muslim-dominated republic.
137. While we were still in Belgrade, we were told that Silajdžić stood firm on the demand for access to the sea at Neum. Moreover, Izetbegović announced that he still could not get to Thessaloniki as we had agreed on.
137. The signals from the Bosnian leaders were ominous. It seemed that they simply did not feel under pressure to negotiate, but believed they could achieve more in continuing the war. Silajdžić reinforced this impression a few days later when he said it was not possible with a peace agreement now. Silajdžić had just been on tour, including the UAE and Malaysia. (Later it would turn out that Malaysia and Iran had been suppliers of weapons and military equipment to the Bosnian government forces.)
137. In light of these developments, David and I had to change plans. We had to mobilize a greater political pressure behind the next thrust, and we invited the parties to the Geneva on Dec. 21 for negotiations under our management. The next day we would all travel to Brussels for another meeting with the EU foreign ministers.
139. Just before the meeting in Geneva, we received a letter from Tuđman. Now the Croats also tightened their demands. In addition to a number of other claims, Tuđman also insisted that the Croat-dominated republic in Bosnia had to get 17.5% of the territory.
139. We agreed to present four variants, all of which would give the Muslim-dominated republic 33.3%. On Dec. 21, the Serbian and Croatian leaders met for a series of meetings in Geneva. The atmosphere between Tuđman and Milošević was the amp. But late in the evening, just before we had to fly to Brussels, they agreed on a map proposal. Our maps experts checked it quickly. They could confirm that the Muslim-dominated republic had now gained 33.5%. It seemed that the goal might be reached.
139. In order to find land enough for the Muslims, Milošević and Tuđman lay their own controversies aside. The Serbs had committed to the Croats in Bosnia to have 17.5%, as Tuđman wanted. In order to give the Croats 17.5%, the Serbs would take the necessary areas from “their” own territory in Bosnia.
139. For the first time we talked about the distribution formula 51/49, with 51% of the territory of the Croats and the Muslims and 49% to the Serbs. This formula would follow any future peace plan – including the Dayton Agreement.
139. But on an important point the Croats and the Serbs had taken a dangerous step in the wrong direction. The Bosnian Croats did not anymore accept the EU administration of Mostar. They insisted on having the western part of the city as a Croatian area. And the Bosnian Serbs would not accept UN administration of Sarajevo. They insisted that the capital and surrounding area should be divided into two cities, a Muslim and a Serb part.
139. Now we got Izetbegović and Silajdžić into the negotiating room. They went immediately into the attack. The demands were well known and well-reasoned: Access to the sea and the Sava River, no sharing of Sarajevo and Mostar and an adequate corridor between the secure areas in eastern Bosnia.
139. David and I felt after all that we had made progress. Both Croats and Serbs had the stretched their positions. Maybe now there was a willingness to solve the problems that remained.
140. As we flew to Brussels at midnight, I had a hope of a deal that was within reach.
140. The morning after Willy Claes opened the meetings in the Egemont Palace in Brussels by summing up the situation as it now existed. He went through the points where it seemed to be agreement and the problems that remained unsolved.
140. After that, the parties gave their views. There were no signs of movement. During the lunch break, Kinkel tried to push Izetbegović and his people, but without result.
140. In the afternoon most things went wrong. First, the Russian special envoy, Churkin, asked to speak. He suggested that the sanctions against the Serbs would be lifted if the negotiations were blocked by the other. It was a serious breach of EU countries’ line and led to a sharp reaction from Claes, who said Churkin had undermined the EU’s policies. Claes was furious and threw documents around him. Then he tried to summarize the meeting.
140. He repeated division of the territory with 33.5% of the Muslims and 17.5% to the Croats. He held on to a temporary UN administration of Sarajevo and the EU administration of Mostar. The Muslims would have a free port in Ploče and also harbor on Nereta River. At the same time, they had access to the Sava River at Brčko. Finally the airport in Tuzla had to be opened for humanitarian flights.
140. Now there was really trouble. Karadžić did not want any UN administration of Sarajevo. He was against the opening of the airport in Tuzla. It was already smuggled weapons to the Muslims through this airport, he claimed. Boban argued that the EU administration of Mostar was only logical if the EU would also manage Zenica and Tuzla. The Croatian population in these cities was greater than the Muslim population in Mostar, he said. Boban knew that such a proposal was completely unacceptable to both Izetbegović and the EU.
140-141. Now it was Juppé’s turn to lose his temper. He attacked Karadžić in strong terms and criticized him for his intransigence to Sarajevo and the Tuzla airport. When Karadžić defended himself by saying that 12 million Serbs were held hostage by EU policies, Claes exploded once more.
141. The meeting was in full resolution. It was a shameful affair. Milošević stated that he would never attend such a meeting again. But it was not just this meeting was dissolved. The whole negotiation process was in danger.
141. The parties were about to leave Egemont Palace. We could not let them go their way. After most of the day had gone into the allegations and accusations, David and I had to try to get negotiations going again. Tuđman had already left Brussels. At the last minute I got hold of Milošević. He was willing to meet with Izetbegović. But he had to go back to Belgrade during the night.
141. So we sat down, we were again. And contrary to all expectation, there was sudden movement of the situation. Soon there was only one percent separating the Serbs and the Muslims. Izetbegović made it clear that if the Serbs could give him 0.5% in eastern Bosnia, they would have a deal. Milošević assured us this would be OK, and then went back to Belgrade. Karadžić promised to come back with another offer the next morning.
141. The offer came. But in true style Karadžić contained only 0.25 to 0.3% in the eastern part and nothing in the West. Now it was no where Milošević to pressure the Bosnian Serbs.
141. We had failed yet again. Or rather, the parties had failed. For it was their land, their people and their future.
141. Later, Milošević often came back to that night in conversations. If there is anything I regret it is that I went home that night, he said. And we never came closer to a deal before the Dayton agreement was signed, two years and so many lives later.
141. Milošević is not a person that usually admits mistakes, but I think he is sincere when he blames himself for having gone back to Belgrade late-December night in 1993.
142. Between June and December, we had negotiated a package consisting of an agreement on constitutional issues, and an agreement on ceasefire and an agreement on 99% of the map. It was agreed that Bosnia-Herzegovina was organized as a union of three republics. It was agreed that the Muslim-dominated republic would have 33.3% and the Croat-dominated republic 17, 5%. Thus, the Serb-dominated part consist of 49.2% of the territory. And so would all fall apart because of one percent.
394. The map of the Dayton Agreement is based on the distribution of the territory which was adopted by the EU’s Action Plan: It meant that 49% of the territory was placed under Serb control and 51% under the control of the Croats and the Muslims. In 1993 the Muslims had gained 33.3% and 17.5% Croats. Now the Muslims down to about 30% again, and the Croats had reached about 20%. In theory it should be insignificant because the Croats and Muslims in the meantime had joined forces in the Federation. But everybody saw that the Federation was a fragile structure, held together by external pressure – especially from the United States.
394. The constitution of the Dayton Agreement set up the framework for a weak central government with the construction of powerful entities, the Federation and the Republika Srpska. This was not new. When the Europeans had gone in for such solutions, however, the U.S. criticized them for dividing up Bosnia. And the Americans were against the existence of a separate Republika Srpska. Now it was the United States who negotiated the agreement in place.
394. Over the next few weeks, they worked hard in NATO, UN, OSCE and other international organizations to prepare for the implementation of the Dayton Agreement. NATO had taken command of the 60,000-man force, IFOR, which was to ensure that the military part of the agreement was implemented. After intense negotiations over the command structure, the Russians also joined the force. The UNHCR had the primary responsibility for the refugees return. The OSCE would take care of the elections. And the UN was responsible for the international police force. It was clear that the Americans wanted to reduce UN’s role in the implementation as much as possible.
394-396. While U.S. General Leighton Smith led the military force, Carl Bildt got the task as head of the civilian implementation. There was however an important difference between the two: Admiral Smith had full control of his forces. Carl Bildt, according to the Dayton agreement, could not instruct any of the civilian organizations. He had to settle for coordinating and persuade organizations that often spent much time and effort to protect their own independence. In Dayton, Europeans wanted greater power for the civilian head of, but the United States had opposed such a solution.
401. What if the UN force had sufficient resources to perform the tasks that were required? How many lives could then have been spared? And above all – could peace have come earlier?
401. As the war continued UN forces were strongly associated with support from NATO, the international efforts stretched between two almost irreconcilable poles: the UN’s impartiality on the one hand, and NATO air operations against one of the parties on the other side. After the hostage drama in May / June 1995 could no longer be any doubt that this was an impossible situation. Hundreds of UN soldiers were taken hostage after air operations conducted by NATO.
401-402. The hostage drama was a turning point. Either it would have to be a peaceful solution, or the UN forces had to withdraw from Bosnia. The UN forces would not have managed such a withdrawal on “its own power.” They would need a large and effective international force, led by NATO, to retrieve them and protect them during the retreat. This would imply a significant number of American soldiers had to go into Bosnia who was still at war. It was a far more risky option than to bring about a peace settlement and then send a large military force after the peace was a fact.
402. With the U.S. in the driver’s seat, all power was therefore put into finding a negotiated solution. Fortunately this was possible. The alternative could have been the total collapse of both Bosnia and the international community in this conflict. The chances of an extension of the war would have been greater.
Words and actions – power and responsibility
402. Ad nauseam, I come back to the mismatch between words and deeds, between resolutions and resources. During my time as a UN mediator, it is probably what has bothered me the most. To promise more than you can hold is a sin, most of us commit from time to time. But sometimes the consequences are large and dramatic.
402. The UN Secretary General warned repeatedly against the totally inadequate sources that were devoted to the safe areas. He pointed out again and again that the great powers had to take responsibility by maintaining a more robust military force rather than leave it up to a UN force which was not only too small but also too poorly equipped and trained.
402. Here we arrive at one of the main problems to how the UN Security Council is now working. The countries that decide to create peacekeeping forces – and especially the great powers within the Security Council – don’t have any obligation to participate with their own sons and daughters. After the Security Council has made its decision to create such a force, the UN Secretariat, with the Secretary General at the helm, looks hard to find countries willing to participate with troops.
402-403. The further management of a peacekeeping operation, the force’s mandate, tasks and work, however, left again to the Security Council and countries that do not necessarily even participate. It creates a mismatch between power and responsibility. Members of the Security Council make decisions that can put other countries’ young people – and not their own – at risk.
403. During the conflict in Bosnia, this problem was particularly acute. The USA took the lead in implementing aircraft operations that would put UN troops on the ground in mortal danger. But there were no American youths down there. The strong disagreement both in the UN Security Council and NATO on these issues is not because Americans were bold and the Europeans and Canadians were cowards. It was due to the simple fact that many Europeans – and Canada – had UN troops on the ground, while the U.S. had refused to participate.
403. For a long time, The Netherlands was the exception to this pattern. The government in The Hague was among the countries that argued strongly for a more powerful use of NATO aircrafts. But that was only until their own children were in danger in Srebrenica. Then the Dutch politicians changed their opinion.
403. It becomes even more worrisome when American politicians claim that American soldiers should never be placed under the command of the UN Secretary General, but shall only be under the command of the U.S. president and his top military. If all countries were to follow such a policy would not be possible for the UN to stack a peacekeeping operation on the legs. The world will need the UN – to peacekeeping operations and to so many other tasks. But then the major powers in the lead and take their share of responsibility.
403. Lack of consistency between words and action is not a new problem. During the crisis in Hungary in 1956, where I first got to see an international conflict pretty close, Radio Free Europe appealed to the Hungarians to endure. It was created an expectation that the West would come to help the Hungarians. Thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands fled. Maybe this time the costs become so large that it will spur to greater caution at the next crossroad.
404. During meetings and interviews, I’m often been asked if the international community should set hard against hard to put an end to the conflict. Some believe military action is already under attack on Vukovar and Dubrovnik in 1991 could have stopped the war before it broke out in Bosnia.
404. In the autumn of 1991, the conflict was still new. It was natural that politicians believed that it could be resolved through negotiations. The idea of using NATO in peacekeeping operations was still fairly remote. NATO had indeed begun its transformation process. But the alliance was primarily concerned with finding their way eastward in their political approach in the new Europe, and to the southwards in a military engagement. The military dimension of NATO was toned down, and there was greater emphasis on political cooperation.
404. There were very few – if any – which were keen to use NATO military now that the Cold War was over. Many more asked if NATO had outplayed its role. East of the old Iron Curtain, the attention was related to the Soviet Union’s gradual breakdown and the emergence of new democracies. And the United States had been just completed a military involvement in Kuwait and was not very keen to take on a new and costly engagement in Europe.
404. Some seem to think that the UN or NATO should have put into fighting forces on the ground, instead of a peacekeeping operation. I agree that a peacekeeping operation faces difficult problems if it staying for a long time in an area where there is peace. Yet, I would warn against the cry of fighting forces. Where would they in that case come from? In the United States, it took a long time before they agreed to participate with a force in Bosnia. The condition was that there had to be peace before U.S. forces were in place.
404-405. Should the Europeans have entered the fighting forces? In that case, would that mean Norway? Would Norwegian parents, spouses or children to accept that their families were put into the fighting in Bosnia against an opponent with superior combat experience and knowledge of the terrain? The answer is no. But can we expect the parents, spouses and children in other Western countries to make such sacrifices?
405. I often hear that such arguments are pure demagogy. No, this is the harsh reality. For such issues have to be decided in the thousands of homes around the kitchen tables where families gather – even though the final decisions are probably made by the nation’s top authorities. The reality is that no Western country – and very few others – said they were willing to contribute with the fighting forces. The issue was never really relevant.
405. The UN has experienced a lot of criticism for his role in the former Yugoslavia. But one of the lessons of the Yugoslav conflict should be the following: Do not give the UN tasks that the organization neither can nor have the resources to implement. It can destroy the United Nations and the organization’s credibility. We will need the UN for many tasks around the world. Therefore it is important that we take care of the UN, and we must not expose the organization to stress it will not endure.
NATO and the UN
405. The relationship between NATO and the UN has been described as a relationship between fire and water. In Bosnia, the two organizations came in close contact with each other for the first time. There have been tensions and conflicts. But we must also remember how quickly the two organizations were thrown into this relationship to each other.
405-406. A little story illustrates how surprising it was: In June 1992, I had invited the NATO foreign ministers in Oslo for their biannual meeting. Kai Eide was Norway’s representative in the committee responsible to formulate the final declaration of the meeting. A key issue was whether NATO should say their willingness to make their forces available for peace-keeping operations. The discussion ran high as they sat at the SAS Hotel and filing the final communiqué version. It was finally agreed that the alliance would make their resources available for peacekeeping operations. But only for one organization, namely the CSCE (later OSCE).
406. A single representative asked: Should we not join the UN? The answer came quickly and clearly around the table: There will be limits! Let’s take one thing at a time.
406. A few months later, NATO was at full speed into a close relationship with the United Nations in the largest peacekeeping operation in UN’s history.
406. No one was prepared. The new security policy was new and different. Hope was replaced by despair. But both came as a surprise to us. We must not forget when we judge – and all too often condemn – the efforts the United Nations and others have conducted in the Balkans and when we consider the relationship between the UN and NATO.
406. In the meanwhile, the relationship between the UN and NATO was in more than one way a collision between two cultures. There were organizations that were formed with very different aims. The UN should be unifying and building bridges between opposites. Its credibility depends on its ability to win broad support for its policies in the international community.
406. NATO was to provide a security umbrella to a group of countries with a enemies in another group of countries. For most, NATO’s credibility is defined by the ability to avert war and to repel attacks if deterrence fails.
406. In NATO circles, the UN was regarded with considerable skepticism throughout the Cold War. But NATO countries were all members of the UN. The skepticism that prevailed in the United Nations was many times lower. For most, NATO was a complete unknown organization, and for a number of UN member states, NATO had been the enemy for 40 years.
406-407. In the management of UN forces in the former Yugoslavia were senior representatives from Japan and Brazil. They had little or no knowledge of how NATO worked. At NATO headquarters in Brussels, the knowledge of the UN and the situation the UN forces was also for a long time surprisingly low. Even in the national foreign ministries, it is often a cultural difference between those who work with the UN and those dealing with NATO issues. In light of all this, things could have gone much worse. For this, we can thank prominent military officers like the U.S. NATO commander General John Shalikashvili and Admiral Jeremy Michael Boorda, as well as leaders of the UN forces, the French General Bertrand de Sauville de La Presle and the British General Michael Rose.
407. There are many aspects of cooperation between the UN and NATO in Bosnia. One night in the winter of 1994-95, we sat together with a Ukrainian general in Zagreb. We asked him about Ukraine’s relationship with NATO’s “Partnership for Peace” program. The general said that Ukraine had signed several documents, and in time, they would also get something practical out of it. But here in the former Yugoslavia, he had already worked together with officers from several NATO countries. He learned their methods, their mindset. That, he said, was far more valuable than some papers that were signed in Brussels.
407. I mention this because I feel sure that not only NATO, which have “provided” something to the UN in the Balkans. I also believe that NATO has “received” some from the UN in this operation, and much more than our brief conversation with the Ukrainian General could tell. Through cooperation between the military from NATO countries and from former Warsaw Pact countries – first with the UN forces in IFOR and then – they have learned to know each other. That in itself is a contribution to stability in Europe.
407. Quite a few are claiming that the weapons finally made peace – not “bargaining power”. I disagree with this conclusion. Of course it can be no doubt that the Croat military offensive changed the balance of power in Bosnia. And there can be no doubt that NATO aircraft bombing of Serb targets in Bosnia led to severe damage and weakened General Ratko Mladić and his troops.
407. But the most important news was not military but political in nature. In Washington, the American leaders had for the first time committed themselves fully to a negotiating strategy, which was very close to the strategy of European governments had followed for several years. And not only that: They took the lead. It turned out to be crucial.
407-408. American representatives have since argued that it was wrong to “leave” the Yugoslavia conflict with the EU when it broke out. Perhaps this is a correct description of what happened in 1991. But the United States participated very soon as a major international player in the conflict. The Americans, however, went in a different direction than the West Europeans. The United States was not without politics, but first a different policy.
408. In Washington, the leaders were active with shouts from the sidelines, but they refused to come on the court despite several requests from both the Europeans and the UN leadership. They did not contribute with forces in the area and refrained from giving the peace negotiations and plans their full support. I was among those who long tried get the U.S. stronger into the negotiation process. Therefore, I am glad that Washington finally changed politics and engaged fully. But it should be done long before.
408. I have often stated that the main difference between the Dayton Peace Agreement and the Agreement of December 1993, was to find in cemeteries and in refugee camps. Of course there are also other differences. In the agreements from the autumn of 1993, Bosnia was in a country consisting of three units. In the Dayton Agreement, however, it was built on three devices. But one of them – the Federation between Croats and Muslims – exists more on paper than in reality. There is still no real integration between Croats and Muslims. Still they have their own army. They have placed their weapons aimed at each other, and they put obstacles in the way that the Croats will have to move back to “Muslim” villages and vice versa.
408. Both the Dayton Agreement and the EU Action Plan gave the Serbs 49% of the country and the Croats and Muslims 51%. The difference is that Muslims – within the Federation – now has less than the 33.3% they were promised in the EU’s Action Plan. The Croats, however, have received more.
408. Muslims are currently in effect down to about 30%, as they had in the plans from August / September 1993, that Izetbegović rejected, and the time that the U.S. would not support.
408-409. The most striking difference between the Dayton Peace Agreement and the Agreement from December 1993 terms of the maps is about Sarajevo. In the EU Action Plan in December 1993 Sarajevo was under a two-year UN administration, while according to the Dayton agreement, the capital was given entirely to the Federation. If this was a better solution can be discussed.
409. In February / March 1996 60,000 Serbs fled Sarajevo when the Federation took control of the city. For days were queues of cars, tractors, horses and carts with the Serbs over the ridge in the direction of Pale. Serbs set fire to their own homes. It was a blow to hopes for a multi-ethnic Sarajevo. The responsibility lay on both the propaganda of the Bosnian Serb leaders and the lack of signals from the Federation’s leaders that they really wanted a capital city where Serbs were welcome. However, this migration could have been avoided with a two-year UN administration of the city. Moving from Sarajevo also contributed to a new ethnic cleansing of Muslims from the Serbian side.
PS: Updated on Nov. 13, 2013 to include more pages and precise page references for those who want to cite Stoltenberg’s books academically.
402-403. The further management of a peacekeeping operation, the force’s mandate, tasks and work, however, left again to the Security Council and countries that do not necessarily even participate. It creates a mismatch between power and responsibility. Members of the Security Council make decisions that can put other countries’ young people – and not their own – at risk.