bosnia report
New Series No. 5 August - 1998
 
Bosnia and Kosova: Plus ça change...

Since the former Yugoslavia broke apart, successive British foreign ministers - Conservative and Labour - have colluded with the politics of ethnic partition in its successor states, however much they have claimed the contrary. After a succession of peace plans based on ethnic separation of one kind or another, the Dayton Accords ratified the essential results of aggression and ethnic cleansing, above all by their endorsement of a 'Serb Republic'. It is true that, since then, there has been much talk of return of refugees and 'two multi-ethnic entities'. But the reality is that refugees cannot go home so long as those who expelled them still hold power on the ground - and that does not just mean a handful of prominent Hague indictees (though the failure to arrest even these has, of course, sent an immensely powerful negative message).

As for 'multi-ethnic entities', the reality of these is thrown into sharp relief by the voting forms for the upcoming elections. Quite apart from their ludicrous (and anti-democratic) complexity, they enshrine with crystal clarity the principle of ethnic separation, with second - class status for citizens of the 'wrong' ethnicity. A Bosniak, say, who has been ethnically cleansed from Prijedor or Brcko, spent time in Omarska or Trnopolje, lost family members massacred at Srebrenica or Foca, in order to register a postal vote will be presented with an explanatory letter from the OSCE written exclusively in the Serb language and the Cyrillic script. So much for their rights as citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina!

And now in Kosova, as Milosevic's machinery of murder, looting and devastation rampages unimpeded through the territory, displacing hundreds of thousands and systematically destroying their homes and crops, a team of British officials today following an allegedly 'ethical' foreign policy have drawn up a series of options for a settlement, all of which apparently fall short of the autonomy that Kosova enjoyed in the former Yugoslavia, before Milosevic took it away illegally and by force. Denying the legitimate aspirations of the Kosovars in this way is not just immoral, it is stupid. Bad for all the population of the province, not just the Albanian majority. Bad for Macedonia. Bad for Serbia itself. Hardly surprisingly, the Belgrade regime welcomed the European/British proposals as 'positive', while the Kosovars could hardly contain their dismay and contempt. Plus ça change ...

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