Monday, 24 February 2014

Is History About to Repeat Itself?

With Russia making threatening noises about foreign intervention in neighbouring Ukraine and the the European Union sending in its foreign affairs supremo, the Baroness Cathy Ashton, I was reminded of events 22 years ago which arguably helped to provoke the first war on the European mainland since 1945.

But because I am a bear of astoundingly little brain I thought I'd better Google back to refresh my diminishing little grey cells. In 1992 the New York Times carried a report, parts of which I reproduce here:-

In a triumph for German foreign policy, all 12 members of the European Community, as well as Austria and Switzerland, recognized the independence of the former Yugoslav republics of Slovenia and Croatia today.
In a series of separate statements, various European governments asserted that the Belgrade Government no longer had a right to rule the two republics.
"Slovenia and Croatia have held referendums that showed clearly that their people want independence," a statement issued by the Danish Foreign Ministry said. "It is now time to fulfill the desire their people have expressed."
In Belgrade, the Serbian-dominated Government denounced the decision on recognition as "contrary to the sovereign rights of Yugoslavia." The Government said it would continue to function until all six Yugoslav republics reached an agreement on their future relations.
The action by the European Community marked an important diplomatic victory for Germany, which has vigorously supported Slovenian and Croatian independence. German officials announced last month that they would recognize the two republics regardless of the wishes of other European countries, and Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher lobbied intensely for the breakup of Yugoslavia.
Mr. Genscher said in a radio interview today that he was "very happy" with his success. He asserted that Croatia "has achieved the highest imaginable standard of respect for minority rights."
Leaders of Croatia and Slovenia today expressed gratitude for Germany's support. Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel of Slovenia said recognition of his republic's independence was due largely to "the wise policy of the German Government."
But Serbian leaders deplored the European Community's decision and singled out Germany for special criticism. Vladislav Jovanovic, the Serbian Foreign Minister, described Germany's role as "particularly negative," and said he regretted that other European Community leaders had decided to follow the German lead.
"It is a very serious precedent to encourage unilateral secession in one multinational state," Mr. Jovanovic said in an interview broadcast on British television.
 Although most European governments favored eventual recognition of Slovenia and Croatia, some had sought to postpone today's announcement so recognition could be part of an overall peace settlement in the Balkans. But German officials insisted that recognition was the only way to force the Serbs to accept a settlement.
Germany's decision to press for quick recognition of the two republics, disregarding appeals from the United States and the United Nations, marked a new assertiveness that some Europeans find disconcerting.

Quite apart from the novelty of European Community members, as they were called then, taking the moral high ground on the principle of supporting the outcome of referendums, there is the suggestion that the EC embodies the principle of national sovereignty. I fear that people in the western half of Ukraine, at least, believe that. We should not encourage them in that chimera. But I daresay we will.

Remember what happened next in what was then Yugoslavia between 1992 and 1999? I can remember Srebrinicia, the term "ethnic cleansing", and television pictures of Sarajevo under Serbian artillery bombardment and sniper fire. I remember NATO warplanes over Belgrade and Kosovo. I daresay centuries of sectarian hatred and tribal mistrust played a big part in the killings - more than 100,000 - and the destruction. You would have thought the wise men of Europe would have realised that after the death of a strong leader, in this case Yugoslavia's President Tito, the destructive forces that he had contained were bound to explode at the slightest encouragement. Newly reunited Germany gave it, and boom!

If the freedom fighters on the barricades in Kiev ever do get their way and find themselves embedded in the European Union they will find that they have swapped the devil they know for one they are not familiar with. 


Edward Spalton said...

This was a curious episode, not unconnected with the Maastricht treaty negotiations as far as Britain was concerned . Under the Helsinki accords, the EU member states stayed out of Yugoslav affairs and then apparently did an about face at the command of their German drill sergeant.

I first heard from a former British cabinet minister, Norman Tebbit, that it happened like this. Under the fine print of the Single European Act Britain was (and is) signed up to join the euro currency "in principle" . The Germans were pushing for principle to become practice but Mr Major knew he could not sell it to his party or the country. So the Germans insisted on recognition of the breakaway states as a condition of relenting.

This explanation was later confirmed to me by Dr Miroslav Polreich, who had been Czech ambassador to the OSCE in Vienna. Dr Polreich believed that his country could later have brokered a peaceful compromise in Kosovo but was firmly warned off by German pressure on his government. Germany wanted a bloody break up so that it would never be possible to put Yugoslavia together again. Ruefully, he said "Now my country's only possible foreign policy is to find the nicest Germans and hope they will be kind to us".
I cannot immediately put my hands on the exultant German response to British and EU approval of the secessions but it was along these lines "By this, Germany has regained diplomatically all that it lost in Eastern Europe as a result of two world wars" . The door was open for the renewed Drang nach Osten.

Edward Spalton said...


The atrocities at Srebrenica were nothing like as one-sided as the "official" account maintains. Major General Lewis Mackenzie of the Canadian army, who was a UN commander in Yugoslavia, has given a balanced account.
I have not met General Mackenzie but have had the opportunity of discussing the matter with James Bissett, the former Canadian Ambassador to Yugoslavia who confirmed General Mackenzie's account. Whilst neither of these gentlemen had " a dog in the fight" they have been subjected to the most extreme vilification for departing from the official EU line of unique Serb guilt . Srebrenica is invoked lto obtain knee-jerk support for Western "humanitarian interventions" and as a justification for German Europe's Balkan colonial empire.

Indeed it was nearly made the subject of a German-inspired EU "holocaust denial" law which could have seen both the former Ambassador and the General made the subjects of European Arrest Warrants if their feet touched EU soil! For the time being, wiser counsels prevailed