UN Role is Crucial to Stability in Balkans

A region that has sparked world wars, the Balkans is again aflame with the most devasting conflict in half a cnetury. East Europe correspondent Eric Bourne talked with the presidents of four newly democratic, neighboring states on the crisis and what should be done.

MILAN KUCAN, a Communist reformer in the 1970s, has been the father figure of politics in the former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia since winning the presi- dency as an independent in 1990. Mr. Kucan was a strong supporter of Yugoslavia's last federal prime minister, Ante Markovic, a Croat who tried to hold the country together in a loose confederation of sovereign republic-states based on democratic pluralism and a free-market economy.

Mr. Markovic's sweeping plan for reorganization was endorsed by the European Community and international financial institutions, but was blocked by hard-liners in Serbia, who finally forced him from office in 1991.

When the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav Army invaded Slovenia in 1991 after Markovic's ouster, Kucan led a successful resistance, opening the way for his country to secede from Yugoslavia.

Was the breakup of Yugoslavia inevitable?

Yugoslavia was from the very beginning an artificial state based on ... the great powers' reactions [in 1918] to the collapse of three empires: the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman.

Such a multinational state can only exist when all the nations involved are equally respected. But Serb dictatorship in 1929 undermined this concept ... and Yugoslavia quickly succumbed to Hitler and Mussolini in World War II. The second Yugoslavia [formed after the war], was based on the ideology of a socialist movement and the ideological division of the world into two blocs. Now the ideology is dead and the two blocs exist no more.

After the breakup of communism, an integrated Yugoslavia could exist only as a "common market" based on equality for all concerned. The Serbs, however, turned the whole question to the ambitions of Serb nationalism. The moment they chose this road, dissolution was unavoidable. Now war has rendered any future Yugoslavia out of the question.

Many in the West talk of a civil war in Bosnia.

That is totally wrong. It is a war of aggression against a sovereign state - a war of expansion and conquest of territory by Serbia. The West committed a grave mistake in ... according the leaders of aggression the same footing as [Bosnian President] Alija Izetbegovic, the head of an internationally recognized state.

What can be done now?

Only the United Nations can protect this state. The only way to save the Muslim state is as a UN-guaranteed protectorate. The alternative is partition, which will amount to UN acceptance of a military power [Serbia], which will dominate and destabilize the whole region. That can prove catastrophic for Europe.

Is Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic genuinely for peace?

That is utter cynicism. Yugoslavia's collapse stemmed from Serb nationalism, and he is its instrument. It was he who said that in no state can Serbs be a minority. He is now prepared to negotiate because he has reached his strategic goals. He knows that negotiation never starts from the situation prevailing at the start of a war, but with the consequences at its end. He knows negotiation will turn on acceptance, or non-acceptance, of what he has conquered, not with his responsibility in starting the war.

Is Slovenia threatened if the war spreads?

I don't think the Serbs have ambitions against us. There is no Serb minority here.

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