The Nobel Peace Prize and the EU in the Balkans
by Stephen Schwartz
The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the European Union (EU), was lauded by the Norwegian selection committee for having "contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe." Among various attainments, some decades in the past and others arguable, the Norwegians also praised the EU for its purported achievements in the Balkans, in a manner that appears simply dishonest. Specifically, the Norwegians credited the EU with three current policies in the region, all incomplete, and none a credit to the EU's reputation.
In May 2012, however, an investigation by the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project disclosed documents the British media said "cast serious doubt" on Montenegro's EU accession bid. The BBC noted insistent and authoritative denunciations of Montenegro as a "mafia state," with the euro as its currency making the profits of smuggling easily exported.
But Montenegro, aside from endemic corruption, has failed to secure freedom of the press, a primary consideration for EU membership. The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), repeatedly condemns attacks on journalists in Montenegro. Most recently, on October 8, SEEMO called attention to an assault on a reporter for the daily Vijesti (News), after prime minister Igor Luksic, whose government is dominated by the ex-Communist Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), accused the newspaper and another daily of supporting the opposition. SEEMO protested continual physical aggression against Vijesti staff and other Montenegrin news-gatherers, and the organization's secretary general, Oliver Vujović, declared, "I strongly condemn attacks against journalists. They happen too often in Montenegro."
Treating an ardent desire to admit Serbia, the initiator of the atrocious Balkan wars two decades ago, as a source of pride for the EU, is especially dismaying. Rather than "strengthening the process of reconciliation in the Balkans," EU enthusiasm for an allegedly cleaned-up Belgrade regime complicates it further. Serbia is now governed by Tomislav Nikolić, a former associate of Vojislav Šešelj, one of the most extreme agitators for war in Yugoslavia in the phase leading to its commencement in 1991. (Šešelj is on trial at the Hague Yugoslavia Tribunal for crimes against humanity and war crimes.) Nikolić has maintained desultory relations with the EU chief official responsible for foreign and security policy, Catherine Ashton, who coaxes the Serbs to recognize the Kosova government, in a series of "status-neutral Belgrade-Prishtina talks" held in Brussels. Nikolić, however, is happy to say no to such entreaties.
Indeed, Serbia's former foreign minister Vuk Jeremić, who became, incredibly, United Nations General Assembly president in September 2012, commented on October 15, on Serbian television, "here in the U.N. we care about the respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states. Serbia is one of such member states, while Kosova is not and I don't expect it will ever be." When Jeremić offered this comment, 92 countries worldwide had granted Kosova diplomatic recognition.
The most disturbing aspect of the Norwegian Nobel Committee's praise for EU activities in the Balkans was the absence from its Peace Prize announcement of any mention of the two countries that, since the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, have been most heavily subjected to EU monitoring: Bosnia-Hercegovina and Kosova.
Bosnia-Hercegovina, thanks to the EU, will apparently remain forever partitioned. The so-called "Republic of Serbs" in its north and east was seized during the 1992-95 combat, leaving the "Federation of Bosnia-Hercegovina," made up of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, in the center and southwest. The failure to abolish the Serbian conquest line and to reunify the country within its prewar borders encourages Croatian nationalists to imagine that they can demarcate a section of western Bosnia and much of Hercegovina, within the "federation," as a third "republic" of their own.
According to the Economist, Bosnia-Hercegovina leads the world in brain-drain, as university graduates find employment impossible to obtain. With a population of 3.8 million, unemployment stood at 44 percent in 2011, the fourth highest rate in the world, as stated in the CIA World Factbook. Bosnians claim the figure is closer to 60 percent, and the CIA reference volume notes laconically that the "actual rate may be larger." A recent news report illustrates the death of Bosnian culture, as the EU looks on passively: The Bosnian National Museum, which houses the Sarajevo Haggadah, a 500-plus year old Jewish manuscript precious to Muslims and Christians as well as Jews as a symbol of Bosnian interfaith cooperation, has closed.
The foreign apparatus ruling Kosova includes the EU Rule of Law Mission for Kosovo (EULEX), which directs the judicial structure, and the EU Office in Kosovo/European Special Representative in Kosovo. The latter is headed by Samuel Žbogar, a Slovenian diplomat. EU profligacy with money in financing its own bureaucratic activities in Kosova, rather than the Kosovar enterprises it was supposed to rehabilitate, is notorious, and encourages Kosova officials to similar habits. Kosova government overindulgence was described this way on October 5 by the nationalist movement Vetëvendosje! (Self-Determination), which is widely popular and represented in the Kosova parliament: "On September 30, activists of VETËVENDOSJE! organized a symbolic action to highlight the expense of the visit by a large Kosova Government delegation to New York, to follow the UN General Assembly meeting. The visit was estimated to have cost 200,000 Euros of public funds."
Notwithstanding the Nobel Prize granted the EU for, among other accomplishments, its alleged good works in the Balkans, neither Bosnia-Hercegovina nor Kosova has been helped in significant reconstruction. Corruption is ubiquitous, discontent is spreading, and fundamentalist agitators have penetrated the Muslim community leadership in both places. Bosnia-Hercegovina is between 40 and 50 percent Muslim, while Kosova is 90 percent Muslim. These lands deserve more attention and care.
But given the disaster of EU "humanitarianism" in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Kosova, it is understandable that they would not be mentioned in the Norwegian Nobel Committee's encomium. It is disgraceful, and illustrates the capacity of the committee for self-deception.
[Note: Excerpts from this article in Albanian, published in the Tirana daily Shekulli, may be read at http://www.islamicpluralism.org/2118/nje-nobel-per-paqen-e-munguar-ne-ballkan.]
[Shënim: Fragmente nga ky artikull në gjuhën shqipe, botuar në të përditshmen Shekulli, Tiranë, mund të lexohet në http://www.islamicpluralism.org/2118/nje-nobel-per-paqen-e-munguar-ne-ballkan].