LE FIGARO - The Yugoslav impasse

The recognition of Slovenia and Croatia by the European Community is a mistake * Non-viable states * Partition is the worst solution * Peoples absent from decisions

One should bear in mind: the recognition of Croatia and Slovenia by the European Community is a serious mistake that the Community will pay dearly in the future. Obtained by Germany against the will of France and Great Britain, it does not facilitate the settlement of the Yugoslav crisis and is a cowardly precedent in a region wracked by post-communist convulsions. What do we see today?

By Boris Vukobrat*

* First observation: entities recognized or about to be recognized by Europe are not viable as states. The interweaving of peoples in Yugoslavia is such that no authority will succeed in imposing itself if it is not of a federal nature.

* Second observation: Europe has not been able to take a clear stand on the Yugoslav question. They have enacted precise rules for the diplomatic recognition of the belligerents but hastened to forget them when their own interests dictated them.

* Third observation: the recognition of the Yugoslav Regions-Republics-States (we do not know exactly which name to attribute to these entities) has given Europe the image of a Community incapable of agreeing on the essential and subject to the law of the strongest.

All of this has as result that the chosen solution, namely the partition of Yugoslavia is the worst of all. It does not solve any problem on the ground, gives rise to ghost states, calls into question one of the fundamental principles of the European equilibrium - the inviolability of borders - and establishes a wall of incomprehension between the member states of the Community.

While it would have been prudent to wait for the civil war to calm down on itself, Europe has acted with a lack of discernment that bodes ill for its future ability to intervene in the affairs of the world. More serious fact: Russia is about to imitate it, while Yugoslavia is a dangerous example for its own people.

In this case did only the United States prove to be reasonable and consistent with themselves since they refused to follow Europe in the process of recognizing Slovenia and Croatia. It is true that they have had a long experience of federalism.

Contrary to appearances, however, not everything is lost. Whatever the turn of events on the ground, it will be necessary one day for the Yugoslavians to lay the foundations of a new political organization. The exacerbated nationalism they have demonstrated having shown its limits after a year of violence, it has become clear that it is not the peoples who clash on the ground, but small armed groups whose ambitions are personal and not national. The peoples, be they Slovenian, Croatian or Serb, are all at once notably absent from the decisions concerning the war or the peace and represent the victims of this tragedy. Questioned during biased electoral consultations - who would have answered "no" to questions about freedom, independence, sovereignty? – they have never had their say. If they are now asked for their opinion, they will affirm their profound unity, there is no doubt about that.

The whole question, precisely, is who can today speak the language of reason and propose a political project reconciling the aspirations for the autonomy of each people and the necessary independence of all.

To square the circle, there is no alternative but to return to the essential, that is to say to the peoples that make up the country and are, in their diversity, its true wealth. It does not matter, indeed, the exact form of the entities that will bring them together in the future: what matters is that each one of them democratically decides on the political, economic and social organization that suits him best.

Yugoslavia is not the first nation to be confronted with this problem: Switzerland with its Cantons, Germany with its Landers, the United States with their States, knew well beforehand how to harmoniously reconcile the requirements of diversity and unity. Nothing prevents us from imagining that the regions composing the Federation have the full possession of their natural resources, of their geographical space, of their economic assets; but there is nothing to prevent us from imagining that the Yugoslav nation delegates to common instances the responsibilities which, by definition, cannot be fragmented: economic space, currency and security in particular.

(*) Yugoslav businessman.

the first French national daily newspaper
Tuesday, March 2, 1992 (No. 14783)