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the September 2001 issue of World Press Review (VOL.
48, No. 9).
Troubled Times, 10 Years On
From Slovenia to Macedonia
weekly), Belgrade, Yugoslavia, June 20, 2001.
When it all started, nobody expected it to last as long as
it did. Especially considering the fact that the developments
in Slovenia in June 1991 resembled an opera fashioned in the
spirit of the famous words of an anonymous soldier who, explaining
to a reporter what was happening, said in irony and desperation:
Its as if they are trying to become independent
and we are letting them. Afterward, the famous as
if became the typical characteristic of the many bloody
events that have unfolded for 10 long years, spinning out
like film from a reel, until Macedonia this June. The events
followed the same road the naive Yugoslavs proudly called
the road of Brotherhood and Unity. In this way,
from northwest to southeast, the flames of war, directed as
though by a secret hand pulling the strings of evil, engulfed
the countries of the former Yugoslavia one by one.
1991: In June, the Slovenian
and Croatian parliaments declare independence. Slovenian governmental
organs begin to assume the competencies of the federal state,
and Yugoslav authorities decide to mobilize the Yugoslav army.
The war between the Slovenian territorial guard and Yugoslav
army troops is short, with many cease-fires. The Yugoslav
army withdraws from Slovenia, Slovenians celebrate their victory
and their new hero[former Slovenian Minister of Defense]
After a series of incidents involving heavy fighting (Plitvice,
Borovo Selo), war engulfs Croatia. [Croatian President Franjo]
Tudjman calls a meeting of the national guard and appoints
a fugitive from the Yugoslav army, Anton Tus, as its new head.
Attacks on [federal] army barracks begin. The Yugoslav army
withdraws to the ethnic Serbian territories of Croatia, and
the bloody autumn ends with the fall of Vukovar. The years
bloody drama ends with the division of Croatia into two parts,
with the Serb-held territories under the name Republika Srpska
Krajina and the entrance of U.N. peacekeeping troops (the
blue helmets that were deployed according to the inkstain
principle). That Christmas, the Vatican and Germany recognize
the independence of Slovenia and Croatia. Other European states
follow; the United States withholds recognition.
1992: After a period of
relative calm following the war in Croatia, Bosnia comes next.
The United States, followed by the other powers, recognizes
the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The leadership
of the Bosnian Serbs is transferred from Sarajevo to Pale,
and Yugoslav troops, thus abandoned, die on the streets of
Sarajevo. The bloody multiethnic war among Serbs, Muslims,
and Croats begins with the Serbian occupation of Sarajevo,
followed by volleys of mortar shells from across the rivers
Drina, Una, Vrbas, and Bosna.
With the outbreak of the war in Bosnia, the Socialist Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia formally ceases to exist. Serbia and
Montenegro form the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav
army ceases to exist after peacefully withdrawing from Macedonia.
The United Nations introduces sanctions against the new Yugoslav
state because of its assistance to Croatian and Bosnian Serbs.
1993: The first sign of
conflict between Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic and the
leadership of the Bosnian Serbs. This is the yearafter
Radovan Karadzics failed attempt to accept the Vance-Owen
planthat the Milosevic regime imposes its blockade on
the Drina River.
1995: Key year in the
unfolding of the crisis west of the river Drina. Croatian
forces, first in operation Flash (May) and then
Storm(August), expel nearly all Serbs from western
Slavonia and Knin Krajina. In the fall, Muslim-Croat forces
seize much of Serb-held territory in western Bosnia. Dayton
follows. At the U.S. base in Ohio, Slobodan Milosevic, Franjo
Tudjman, and [Bosnian Muslim leader] Alija Izetbegovic sign
the [Dayton peace agreement]. The war ends.
1996: The first half of
the year passes amid the blessings of Dayton.
In the second half, the first signs appear of the existence
of a terrorist organization called the Kosovo Liberation Army
(KLA). Killing begins in Kosovo.
1998: KLA members intensify
their terrorist activity. Their target is everything that
represents and reflects Serbian power. In October, after one
of many visits by the U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke to Milosevic,
the direct threat of air attacks is broached for the first
time. Armed intervention hangs in the air.
1999: After the failure
of talks in Rambouillet, France, NATO intervention becomes
a reality. For 78 days, the air forces of the Western alliance
bomb targets in Yugoslavia. In Kosovo, the KLA is engaged
in a ground war with the army and police. NATO considers ground
intervention, but the signing of the Kumanovo agreement after
the initiative of [then-Russian Prime Minister Viktor] Chernomyrdin
and [former Finnish President Marti] Ahtisaari prevents this
from happening. The Yugoslav army and the Serbian police withdraw
from Kosovo, and NATO troops enter Serbias southern
2000: A small-scale war
develops in southern Serbia, where Albanian extremists attempted
to liberate the area that they call eastern
Kosovo. Their activities are thwarted by military means
and, above all by, the diplomatic efforts of the new authorities
in Serbia and Yugoslavia.
2001: The war finally
targets the last Yugoslav republic to escape its horrors:
Macedonia. After calm returned to southern Serbia, Albanian
extremists brought the evil of the war to a country that had
been patiently struggling, by peaceful means, to avoid fiery
national passions. This spring, the fatal hand of the god
Mars touches the last oasis of peace in the former Yugoslavia.
Incidentally, this turn of events occurred at the same moment
that Milosevic, the one most responsible for the outbreak
of wars in the Balkans, was arrested and imprisoned in Belgrade.
In the territory of the former Yugoslavia, or in the so-called
Second Yugoslavia, there are five countriesat least
Slovenia: A monoethnic
country that, despite relative economic stability, has difficulty
in approaching [Western] Europe, mainly because of restrictive
laws that ban foreigners from owning property.
Croatia: After many years
of Tudjmans rule, this monoethnic country has been shaken
by frequent corruption scandals. Power is in the hands of
the liberal-nationalists and the former communists disguised
as social democrats.
Bosnia: The two-part Dayton
state, with conflicts between Muslims and Croats within
the federation. A country under a sort of international tutelage.
It could hardly survive without generous help from abroad.
Macedonia: A country that
remains unrecognized in the world under this name (formally,
it is still called FORYOM: Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia).
Yugoslavia: The fragile
federation includes an international protectorate (Kosovo).
The country is economically exhausted and has been battered
by years of isolation.