Year XLI, 1999, Number 2, Page 71
Europe and the War in Kosovo
The war in Kosovo has once again laid bare the total impotence of the states of the European Union, and with these states finding themselves, for the first time, directly involved in a conflict which is unfolding at the very heart of Europe, it has been a dramatic exposure.
The image of the European Union has been very badly damaged by the crisis in Kosovo. It was Europe, through its divisions and through the “power policy” which its governments chose to pursue in the region, that actively promoted the disintegration of Yugoslavia in 1991; it was Europe, recognising the inability of its own governments to solve the problem, that first called the Americans into Bosnia in 1995 — and the Americans, let us not forget, were actually very reluctant to become involved in the tangle of ethnic conflicts in the Balkan region. As a result, Europe, which would gladly have avoided a war, found itself obliged to enter into one as the Americans, having been called into the Balkans, were not willing to go home defeated and thus to risk losing their credibility as the only power in a position lo shoulder the weight of responsibility for maintaining some kind of order at world level.
One effect of the conflict has been the emergence of growing and increasingly vociferous support throughout the continent for the creation of a “European defence identity”. But as this issue is being approached without calling into question the principle of sovereignty. The establishment of any kind of European defence is envisaged solely within the confines of intergovernmental methods: in other words, it is viewed as a question of integrating the various military commands, of standardising weaponry, of strengthening multinational corps and, above all, of increasing cooperation among governments (for example, through the incorporation of the W.E.U. into the European Union, i.e., through the incorporation of one intergovernmental entity into another intergovernmental entity). But the fact is that defence, or the monopoly on physical strength, is an element central to the principle of national sovereignty. It therefore follows that as long as the European Union is made up of many different sovereign states, there can be no single European defence, only numerous national defences, all inefficient and quixotic. In this context, the only element uniting the security policies of the various European states is their common dependence on the United States. However, unlike the situation which generally prevailed during the Cold War, America’s current strategic interests no longer coincide with those of Europe.
Clearly then, the existence of a single European defence is dependent upon the existence of a federal European state, and until this is recognised, all talk of a European defence can only generate confusion and promote the idea that the tragic situation in Kosovo might have been solved more easily by dropping European bombs instead of American ones.
This is, of course, an erroneous idea. While there can be no doubt that a strong European presence in the Balkans is now essential, it must be appreciated that what is needed is a political presence and not a military one. In other words, a general design which might allow the people of the former Yugoslavia to envisage, as a very real possibility, a future that is not conditioned by nationalism, underdevelopment and dictatorship but, rather, by democracy and the union of peoples.
A federally united Europe could offer them this prospect by introducing a policy of unity to replace the strategy of bombing, thereby circumventing the need for recourse to troops employed in anything other than a humanitarian capacity or in the carrying out of peace-keeping functions.
Naturally, this does not mean that a European federal state should not have an efficient military apparatus. The creation of a European federal state would require, first and foremost, the disarmament of all the nation-states; the monopoly of legitimate strength would then be transferred to European level. Just as no European defence can exist in the absence of a European state, no European state can be established without a European defence. After all, to guarantee the effectiveness of any foreign policy that will, in whatever future circumstances, be conducted by a European federation, there must be a universal realisation that this policy will be pursued by a power not subject to any external hegemonic force, in other words, by a power which has full control over the means needed to ensure, independently, its own security.
Having said that, Europe will be born as a power whose foreign policy will, at least for an initial and probably extended phase, be based mainly on its peaceful enlargement, on the promotion of the federal model as an instrument for the organisation of international democracy, on the strengthening of the United Nations and on political and economic cooperation among nations; it will certainly not be based on the use of military might. In fact, the less it has to be used, the more a European army will be seen as a factor crucial to progress and stability in Europe and in the world.
What Europe should do, in the wake of its federal unification, is launch a programme to rebuild the areas devastated by the war and, at the same time, offer all the republics of the former Yugoslavia the possibility to enter the European federation. As well as making provision for a transitional period — this would inevitably be required in order to make it possible, in part through the rebuilding programme, for these countries to meet the necessary economic convergence criteria — this proposal should also contain at least two political conditions. First, all the republics would be required, unequivocally, to adopt democratic institutions. Second, they would have to be willing, together, to form a regional federation which would become a single member of the greater European federation. It goes without saying that this latter condition should not prevent the admittance of some of the republics ahead of others which may still be unable to meet the criteria for entry. But any republics which were granted entry would have to accept that they would subsequently merge, in the way described above, with any other republics of the former Yugoslavia which may, at a later date, also be admitted.
It is worth pausing a moment to dwell upon this condition which, at first glance, might appear unrealistic. In fact, it is justified two considerations: the first is the need to make sure that the admission to the European federation of a large number of small states, which have very little political weight, does not upset the federal balance between the central government and the member states, and thus drive the federation towards centralisation. The second and more important consideration is based on the fact that the very legitimacy of the European federation is founded on the overcoming of nationalism. It would certainly be an extremely grave state of affairs if the European federation were to repudiate this basic principle by admitting as member states entities whose very existence as states is the result of the ugliest explosion of nationalism that Europe has witnessed since the end of the Second World War. Moreover, in this regard, we cannot fail to highlight the deplorable demonstration of weakness and irrationality given by the European governments when they declared their willingness to grant Slovenia admittance to the Union, thereby showing themselves ready to embrace a republic which, by its act of secession, started the long and bloody Yugoslavian tragedy.
In the former Yugoslavia, there remains a large section of public opinion that is open to the values of democracy and of the union of peoples. It must not be forgotten that prior to the fall of the Berlin wall, Yugoslavia was considered by far the most open and advanced of all the Communist nations. Certainly, there existed nationalist tensions within the country, but the overwhelming majority of its citizens regarded themselves as Yugoslavian first and foremost, and “mixed marriages” between men and women of its different regions were just as common as they are in any other European country. But with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Communism lost all its credibility as the basis for the legitimacy of the state, and this had the effect of weakening severely the central power in all the countries of central-eastern Europe, leaving nationalism as the only alternative basis for the legitimisation of power. And in Yugoslavia, it gave the go-ahead to violent minorities which acted in the name of nationalism. These minority groups, aided and abetted by the irresponsible policy pursued by the countries of western Europe, managed to seize power throughout Yugoslavia and thus turned what had been a peaceful country, one that was showing a strong inclination towards economic development and a degree of openness towards international cooperation, into the stage on which to play out a horrendous war, a war which has already dragged on for eight long years. This “silent majority” of Yugoslavian citizens has not gone away, of course, but in the absence of any political design with which it is able to identify, and for whose realisation it might strive, it is forced to remain inert.
Europe could create such a design, and with it, offer some hope to those belonging to this silent majority. It is not hard to imagine the impact that the launch, by a federally united Europe, of a plan like the one outlined above, would have throughout the former Yugoslavia. It is not hard either to imagine the sheer force of the energies that would be released or the incredible difficulties that the region’s dictators would find themselves up against. But it must be emphasised strongly that there can be no hope that these same effects might be achieved by the extension, to some of the republics of the former Yugoslavia, of a general invitation to enter the Union, structured as it presently is, even if such an invitation were accompanied by an aid programme. Until the European Union has, through the creation of a federal government, given proof of its own independence, it will continue to be regarded in the Balkans as a mere appendage to the United States, and will go on lacking the capacity to propose a model for cohabitation that might allow the hostilities between the various ethnic groups to be overcome and the region to be set securely and definitively on the road towards stability, peace and democracy.