Petar Boskovic, Senior Fellow, Institute for Strategic Studies and Development, Belgrade
This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.
PETAR BOSKOVIC: If the Republic, the Serbska Republic were to be cut off in a sense, I think, would have a very negative
political implications. And I don’t think that this would help the cause of those forces who are in ascendancy in the Republic of
Serbska who are declared to work for the implementation of the Dayton Agreements.
KEITH PORTER: This week on Common Ground, one former diplomats view of war and peace in the former Yugoslavia.
BOSKOVIC: I have a feeling that European Union countries would like to have the United States detachment of forces being
there and staying there. It’s for a practical reason, but I think for symbolic reason as well.
PORTER: Common Ground is a program on world affairs and the people who shape events. It’s produced by the Stanley
Foundation. I’m Keith Porter. News from the former Yugoslavia doesn’t appear on the front pages of world newspapers as often as
it did just a few years ago. Having a peace process play out is evidently not as media friendly as a shooting war. But it is just
as newsworthy. To catch us up with current events and give us a particular point of view on the region, we hear today from former
Ambassador Petar Boskovic. A member of the Yugoslavian Foreign Service since the 1960’s, Boskovic is now a Senior Fellow at the
Institute for Strategic Studies and Development in Belgrade. Understanding someone from the former Yugoslavia often means finding
out just which region he or she is from. Ambassador Boskovic is a Montenegran.
BOSKOVIC: Montenegro is the southernmost part of the former Yugoslavia and of the current one. It is a small area about
13,000-some square kilometers. It’s small with a population around 700,000. Small but in any case it is very diversified—climate-wise
and otherwise. It has a long tradition and history of, it’s history goes into the Roman and pre-Roman times. And of course it, as a
state, although small, it has existed and been recognized multilaterally 1878 at the Congress of Berlin. Today it is one of the two
federal republic—what make Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
PORTER: It was integrated into the larger Yugoslavia following World War I?
BOSKOVIC: Yes, it was integrated in 1918. And it still is and remains, and I’m sure will stay within what is left of Yugoslavia
PORTER: All right. Well, now that we’re up to the current time, let me ask you some questions about the current situation.
What do you think is the current status of the Dayton Peace Accords?
BOSKOVIC: Well, current status of Dayton Peace Accords I believe that we can say that in certain area, commendable results have
been achieved. The important thing is in spite of all the criticisms that are made from various [?] levels at the content of the, of
those Accords. But the important thing is that the war has stopped. [?] has stopped in that former Yugoslavia Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
And hopefully that the situation has related to the Dayton Agreements for some other parts of Yugoslavia is improving. And I am, I would
like to hope and believe that process will continue. Of course there are many problems to be resolved in the area of functioning of the
common institutions in Bosnia-Herzegovina between the two entities. And there are of course serious efforts that will have to be made
into the reconstruction of this ravaged part of former Yugoslavia. And reconciliation will need to really take place in Bosnia-Herzegovina,
former Yugoslavia. I would like to hope that the international community will encourage such a cooperation between the former republics of
Yugoslavia, Balkans in general, seeing that as the only way really, in a way, to build a basis for a stable peace in the region of Balkan,
Southeastern Europe and by extension, Europe in general.
PORTER: Any estimate on how long you think American forces will be needed in the area?
BOSKOVIC: It would be difficult to specify, to set a cut-off date and things like that. But your President seems to have said that
the need for American forces present in the former Yugoslavia/Bosnia-Herzegovina would extend to the point that until the peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina
becomes self-sustained. In other words, until the adequate and well-trained police force of all three communities is in place and until the general
climate over there improves, which I think would come along when people see that the process of rebuilding and reconstruction, reactivating of the
economy of the Republic and the area. And another important aspect would be in my estimation, encouraging of cooperation between the former Yugoslavia
republics. Because after all having lived 72 years together into one state, certain links and interdependence had been created. Having said this I
don’t mean, I don’t have a view, any sort of effort to recreate a Yugoslavia, anything like that. But I believe the free flow of men and ideas and
free travel and trade, would go a long way in setting the basis for the good relations in the Balkan and bringing the Balkans closer to European
Union. I believe that European Union has here a very important role to play to help and encourage such a process, as your government has done in
the, come with one very interesting initiative. It’s called SEECE, Southeast European Cooperation in Energy, which I think means really encouraging
the Balkan countries of the area to cooperate, some ten of them, you know, to cooperate on the economic, in the economic field, and otherwise,
culture are another. So in this way I think in view of the fact that there are large national minority in the area, one could make the borders in
a sense politically irrelevant if they are transparent and if the people could cooperate in the process.
PORTER: The same process we see in the rest of the European Union? Western Europe?
PORTER: I’ve heard you say in the past that you think perhaps a small U.S. force will be needed for quite some time.
BOSKOVIC: Yes, I think, I have a feeling that European Union countries would like to have the United States detachment of forces being there
and staying there. It’s for a practical reason, but I think for symbolic reason as well, to see that you have a, the western allies and alliance,
you know, it’s probably NATO and even broader, forces from the countries, not only NATO but the others as well, it would be very positive and encouraging sign.
PORTER: I know one sticking point has been the city of Brcko. It’s vital to Serbs, Muslims, Croats. It’s geopolitically important for all three
of them. It remains a major point of disagreement in long-term talks. What do you think will happen with Brcko?
BOSKOVIC: You have really hit the nail on the head. You know, it’s one of the very, very, very sensitive questions. My feeling is that it
is most likely that at this point of time extended kind of a status, current status, may be done. Because it is difficult for me at least to envision
what would be the reaction if the decision was in one way or the other. If the Republic, the Serbska Republic were to be cut off in a sense, I think
would have a very negative political implications and I don’t think that this would help the cause of those forces who are in ascendancy in the
Republic of Serbska who are declared to work for the implementation of the Dayton Agreements.
PORTER: Right now there’s three-part city council that’s set up?
PORTER: You see that continuing?
BOSKOVIC: Yeah, I, this is my personal opinion, that I see it, at least for the next year or so, you know. Because you never know, maybe in a
year or two when the situation improves that it will be easier to take an, a even different kind of a decision. Or at least we could be wiser in a year or two.
PORTER: I have a question for you about the War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. There have been some failures and successes there,
but it seems to me that the main goal was to fix blame on certain individuals instead of allowing people to blame entire ethnic groups for some atrocity
that happened to them or to their families. Do you think there will be some success there?
BOSKOVIC: I personally do believe that all those that have committed war crimes should be called to answer for those crimes. Now the how and what
is the dynamics of their appearing before the Court and the mode of having them brought there is quite a different story. But I think the process has been
opened and I would think and hope that that will continue with the cooperation. The cooperation of both entities in Bosnia-Herzegovina will be needed
with the Hague Tribunal. As far as the other countries, or other parts of the former Yugoslavia are concerned, there are, the Croat government has delivered
some of the war crimes indicted. There is one standing request for a couple from the former Yugoslavia, federal army officers who were at the time, that is
were involved. They are indicted for the problems that occurred in eastern Slovenia and Croatia. It is even from the constitutional standpoint, in spite of
the fact that all the governments had committed themselves to cooperate with the Hague Tribunal, it is, there are cases of, and difficulties of, constitutions
of countries which rendered, don’t render that very easily—how should I say—very lightly, to be delivered to be tried in a country. And as I understand, there
are some serious investigations being carried on out in regard to some of those that are, have been, nominated for the….
PORTER: So you’re talking about individual countries that would rather an indicted war criminal within the country and try them using the national justice
system instead of sending them to the War Crimes Tribunal?
BOSKOVIC: Yes. Definitely. I, definitely this is the case. As a matter of fact some of those that have been identified as alleged war criminals, you
know, as I understand Mr. Karadjic himself, leader, former leader….
BOSKOVIC: …former leader of the Bosnian Serbs, has said that he would be willing to present himself to, even to the Hague Tribunal if it was, if the
process were to take part in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
PORTER: That sounds like game playing, doesn’t it, I guess?
PORTER: It seems like your, like he’s not facing the main issue here, which is providing a sense of justice to people who feel wronged.
BOSKOVIC: It’s one of those things that, that are not easy to resolve, anyway.
PORTER: There is the perception, the people in the Tribunal refute the perception, but there is the perception that the Tribunal is anti-Serbian.
BOSKOVIC: There are people of course who do believe that, you know. And, frankly speaking, I believe that to this perception, which you are rightly said
that is present, I believe that unfortunately your colleagues, the media, have contributed quite a bit to this perception. The Serbska have felt that they have been
labeled as the only culprit in this, these [?], and I certainly don’t believe that. There are no innocent, you know the, in this conflict that we had in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Therefore I am sure that there are those among the Serbska who have committed crimes. But certainly they are not the only ones, you know.
PORTER: We’re talking in this edition of Common Ground with former Ambassador Petar Boskovic of Yugoslavia. Printed transcripts and audio cassettes of this
program are available. Listen at the end of the broadcast for details. Common Ground is a service of the Stanley Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan organization
that conducts a wide a range of programs meant to provoke thought and encourage dialogue on world affairs.
PORTER: Getting back to the political situation, just to remind our listeners we talked earlier about Montenegro. The current state of Yugoslavia is made up of Serbia
and Montenegro, the smaller of the two being Montenegro. Recently they held free and fair elections there. A pro-democracy, pro-Western candidate was elected President, Milo
Djukanovic. And he is a supporter of the Dayton Accords. Tell us what you know about the new President.
BOSKOVIC: Well, I will tell you Mr. Djukanovic has been a Prime Minister of Montenegro in two terms, so it’s almost ten years you know. And I think he was the youngest
prime minister in Europe. He is now 37.
PORTER: He is now 37, and he’s been elected President.
BOSKOVIC: Now 37. He is a very capable young man; ambitious; reform-oriented; and a man who is also working and is holding a position that Yugoslav Federation, that is
Serbia and Montenegro, should do their utmost to accelerate the process of transformation, privatization of economy, a real linking with the International Monetary Fund and other
international monetary institutions—in other words a reintegration of Yugoslavia within the world community, United Nations and otherwise. And he has made himself clear that he
will put all his efforts in this direction. And democratization of the, acceleration of the democratization in Montenegro and to the extent that the Republic of Montenegro as an
equal partner in the two-part federation, will do the same thing to help this process within broader Yugoslavia as such.
PORTER: And you know President Jukonovic?
BOSKOVIC: Yes, I have known him and met him a number of times you know. And he is, as I said, a very capable young man. And 37, until 37 he has experienced—acquired
substantial experience in government business, you know.
PORTER: I have a few more questions for you. I read recently that Yugoslavian veterans returning from participating in the wars are not doing so well. And perhaps
they’re not being treated well when they return home. Have you observed this at all?
BOSKOVIC: Do you mean the Yugoslav veterans from….
PORTER: From Bosnia and Croatia, who fought in wars in the federal army. Coming back are not necessarily treated so well.
BOSKOVIC: One thing, you know, we have to bear in mind, that fighting of the federal army, if we take the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina started in April, in the
beginning of April 1992, right? And the federal army, Yugoslavia, was proclaimed, restructured Yugoslavia, on 27th of April 1992. Up to that time, I think if
you want to look fairly into the issue, Yugoslav Army, whatever military activities it took, I think most of them in Bosnia at that time were in self-defense. Was legitimately
the army of the, of the federal arm of the country, as far as I know, any army of any country, one of it’s duties is to work for the preservation of the territorial integrity
of the country. You know, I always come back with my American friends and I go back to 1833 when Andrew Jackson, you know, was asked what he will do when North Carolina was
about to nullify a federal act on trade, on customs or something like that. When the journalists asked him, “Mr. President, but what will you do if they carry this out?”
He said, “Well,” he said, “I will send them Army.”
PORTER: The article that I read compared this to the way perhaps American soldiers who served in Vietnam were treated when they came back to this country. That it was
an unpopular war, and therefore they were seen as symbols of that unpopular war. Do you see any of that sort of treatment inside Yugoslavia?
BOSKOVIC: Well, I agree. To a large extent what you have just said. You know, I think that the people are not looking at this past war as usually people have been looking
in the World War II war or before, you know. Not, there were no hero welcomes or things like that. Of course, the soldiers are fought from, Serbia, there were some volunteers that
went over there, but Yugoslav Army has of 27th of April, 1992, completely withdrew from over there. But there are of course some refugees. You know, refugees from other
parts, from Croatian Krijina, from eastern Slovenia, from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbs who have status as refugees, you know now in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia-Serbia.
PORTER: And how are they being treated?
BOSKOVIC: Well, there is under the economic sanctions and difficult economic situation that exists in the country, no one really could have reasonably good condition, life
conditions you know. And I’m sure that they, that they are in similar situation.
PORTER: All right. Many people are concerned about the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, everywhere in the world, but certainly in the former Yugoslavia. Do you see this as a problem?
BOSKOVIC: Well, I will tell you. I think like any other problem that this is a little bit perhaps exaggerated. It is true that in Bosnia-Herzegovina some of the Islamic countries and
more radical one, and I will say, for example Iran and some others, have been present over there. Certain number of holy warriors, mujahaddin, have come over there. Their number is not
PORTER: Have come into….
BOSKOVIC: Into Bosnia-Herzegovina and fought on the Muslim side. But some of them have married and even attained a citizenship by the virtue of marriages they have taken in Bosnia.
But I wouldn’t say that the radicalization of Islam in Bosnia has very likely, because Bosnia-Herzegovina was one of the most secular countries. And I think Bosnian leadership is aware of
the fact that an orientation in that direction would be equal to a sort of political suicide, you know. So I don’t, frankly speaking I don’t believe in this. There are changes, definitely,
I mean. But I think that in Bosnia-Herzegovina you will still find, among all three communities, majority which would opt for a secular, of course, and for a multi-ethnic Bosnia-Herzegovina.
PORTER: Even there, even in a country you think of as, like Turkey, very secular state, yet Islamic fundamentalism has found roots in Turkey and elsewhere. So even with the secular
state though, it’s a danger.
BOSKOVIC: Yes, definitely. There is, I agree with you, it is a danger, but I think the Bosnian reality, and reality, the fact that it is found in Europe and predominantly Christian
countries and things like that, I believe that resolution of the, to oppose such a possible trend is present over there. After all the people in that part of the world have a fairly long
experience of it, with this.
PORTER: I have one last question for you, one last area I want to ask you about. Press reports seem to indicate that the next Balkan war may take place in Kosovo, when the ethnic
Albanians decide to rise up against the Serbs. What do you think about that? Is that a likely scenario? And can it be stopped?
BOSKOVIC: The Kosovo is a serious problem in Yugoslavia today. But I would hope and like to think that the worst would be avoided. Because if the war were to break out in Kosovo
it would be a tragedy. It would be a big bloodshed with the great possibility to spread around. Because one should remember that in addition to two million Albanians, about two million Albanians
that there are in Kosovo, there is around 600,000 of them live also in Macedonia which is today an independent state. The problem of Kosovo is very, very, serious, I agree, and something should
be done in the near future. Negotiations should be started. The Albanians should, human rights should be, I mean autonomy to them should be restored. But also I believe that they will have to
recognize the fact that they live, that they are citizens of Serbia and Yugoslavia and that therefore their civic loyalty to the state should be recognized. Currently they are insisting on proclamation
of Kosovo as a republic as a first step toward the possible unification with Albania. I think that a lesson should have been learned that tampering with international borders cannot go without very,
very serious problems. And war in Kosovo and this part of the Balkans would be very dangerous, not only for Yugoslavia, Albania and Macedonia, but I think the Balkans in general. And it could have
even much, much broader implications, negative implications.
PORTER: That is former Yugoslavian Ambassador Petar Boskovic. He is now a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Strategic Studies and Development in Belgrade. For Common Ground,
I’m Keith Porter.
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