International Spectator

The International Spectator

Volume XXXIII No. 2 (April-June 1998)


Internal and External Challenges for FR Yugoslavia
By Predrag Simic


A whole series of major challenges which affect not only the current policy of the new Yugoslav federation but also its future have characterised the political agenda of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the year 1998. Three are the issues most prominent among them right now. The first is Kosovo and Metohija, that is, Serbian-Albanian ethnic and territorial strife in Serbia’s southern province which has escalated into armed conflict between the newly created Albanian paramilitary and the Serbian security forces. The second problem concerns relations between the two members of the Federation—Serbia and Montenegro—which have deteriorated following the presidential elections held in Montenegro, because of differences in the way the state’s future development is envisaged. The third relates to the Bosnian Serb Republic and Bosnia-Herzegovina, that is, the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords, upon whose successful realisation the country’s international position as well as its internal policy greatly depends. A fourth problem which hung over Serbia in the second half of 1997 has meanwhile been resolved: namely, after four rounds of presidential elections lasting a whole four months, subsequent to parliamentary elections, the Republic of Serbia got a new president, a new parliament and a new government, hopefully stabilising the political scene for some time to come. The turbulent political developments at the end of 1997 and in early 1998 showed that the three problems enumerated above are intertwined and that whatever change takes place on one side of the “triangle” will immediately affect the other two sides. However, a whole range of long-term issues that were postponed on account of the civil war in the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) have been eclipsed by them for the present.

The political agenda of the new Yugoslav federation for 1998 and succeeding years will, in short, be determined to a large extent by the problems arising as a consequence of the crises and armed conflicts in ex-SFRY and the “recomposition” of the Balkans after 1989. Compared with the SFRY which enjoyed the privileged status of a “strategic buffer” between NATO and the Warsaw Pact and was a respected leader of the non-aligned movement, the international standing of the new state is exceedingly vulnerable. Even now, in the middle of 1998, FR Yugoslavia is still shut off by an “outer wall” of sanctions which is blocking its return to the UN, the OSCE and other international organisations, as well as its membership in the IMF, the World Bank and other financial organisations whose support is essential to back the process of reconstruction, transition of the Yugoslav economy and building of the new social structure it needs.

As a result of the break-up of SFRY, two subregions—one western and one southern—emerged in the Balkans, each with its own peculiarities which greatly affect the international position and security of the FRY. And, whilst there has been remarkable stabilisation in the western Balkans in the two years since the signing of the Dayton Accords, the main security issues for FRY relate to the open ethnic disputes which are currently having a strong impact on stability in Kosovo and Metohija, Macedonia and Albania. Apart from having three “new” neighbours (Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia), FRY borders on four “old” neighbours (Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania), whose quest for or admission to Euro-Atlantic institutions will soon bring European and Euro-Atlantic integration up to Yugoslavia’s borders and whose reforms will affect FRY in various ways.


The Domestic Political Agenda

The problems mentioned have caused a polarisation of the Yugoslav political scene. On the one side are those parties which, regardless of their political profile, give priority to the reconstruction of the state and its institutions, that is, to the state and national interests (the parties in the ruling coalition in Serbia and the Socialist People’s Party in Montenegro). On the other side are the parties which maintain that the building of a civil society and of market-oriented reforms supported by European organisations is a precondition for the reform of the state and the only way to achieve national interests (leading opposition parties in Serbia and the ruling Democratic Socialist Party of Montenegro).

Although both of these options favour the “European orientation” and Yugoslavia’s opening up to the world (but for a few exceptions), the political platform of the former can be taken to stand for “the state and national interests first, Europe later”, whereas the platform of the latter can be summarised as being “Europe—a precondition for state and national interests”. These differences among political parties notwithstanding, a new coalition government was created which, besides the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and the Yugoslav Left (JUL), incorporates the rightist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) with its profoundly nationalistic orientation. Although it is not a part of the government, the Serbian Restoration Movement (SPO) supports the government program on matters concerning state and national interests. Opposed to the government coalition are those parties which boycotted the elections and are now outside the Serbian parliament. These are the Democratic Party (DS), the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and the Civic Alliance (GS), in addition to New Democracy (ND), which was a coalition partner of the SPS and JUL in the previous government.

The Kosovo—Metohija crisis

Such a grouping of political parties emerged as a result of the problem of Kosovo and Metohija which has been a focal point of Yugoslav politics in 1998. At the beginning of the year, the Albanian terrorist organisation called the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) intensified its attacks on the police, the local Serbs and those Albanians displaying loyalty towards the Serbian authorities. The Serbian security forces carried out their first big raid against the UÇK in February in the district of Drenica, on which occasion scores of Albanians, including a number of civilians, were killed.

Faced with the threat of a new Balkan war, the international community quickly reacted and already on 9 March the Contact Group 1 convened in London and condemned Albanian terrorism and the harsh repression on the part of the Serbian authorities, taking measures to prevent the escalation of the conflict, including the threat of fresh sanctions against the FRY. The reaction of the Serbian authorities was negative: the standpoint of the Contact Group was considered to be biased and Felipe Gonzales’ mediation mission undertaken for the Contact Group viewed as interference into Serbia’s internal affairs, more likely to inflame than calm the situation. It was the fear of armed conflict and that the internationalisation of the Kosovo problem could cause a chain reaction like the one in 1991 leading to the disintegration of the country that stimulated political consolidation within Serbia. The new coalition government joins the three strongest political parties (the SPS, JUL and SRS). In March, a referendum was held upon the proposal of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, which rejected foreign mediation in the solution of the Kosovo problem by a majority of votes. At the same time, an invitation was addressed to the Kosovar Albanians to enter into talks about the questions in dispute.

The escalation of violence in the region of Kosovo and Metohija exacerbated the political scene for Kosovo’s Albanians as well. From the beginning of the nineties, the Albanian national movement in the province achieved political consensus in regard to its ultimate objective: the secession of Kosovo and Metohija from Serbia and Yugoslavia. Until the beginning of 1996, this was based on three premises: non-violence, support for political changes in Albania (above all for the regime of Sali Berisha 2 ) and demands for internationalisation of the problem of Kosovo. The Dayton talks which did not slate Kosovo on the agenda (one of the conditions for Yugoslavia’s participation), dealt a first blow to that policy, whereas the fall of Berisha’s regime in Albania did irreparable damage to the Albanian national movement of Kosovo and Metohija. 3

Disappointed by the failure of the Democratic Union of Kosovo (LDK), and its leader, Ibrahim Rugova, to fulfill the objectives that had been proclaimed in 1991, the Albanian national movement split. Criticism was first forthcoming from the ranks of Rugova’s compatriots, who demanded more radical methods, including political violence. A few months after the signing of the Dayton Accords, the previously unknown Kosovo Liberation Army appeared on the scene with a series of attacks against the Serbian police and some civilians. Albanian students also came onto the Kosovar Albanian political scene in the autumn of 1997 with independent demands for implementation of an agreement on the normalisation of education in Albanian which had been signed between Slobodan Milosevic and Ibrahim Rugova the previous year.

The UCK’s strongholds are in the northeastern cities of Albania (Tropoya, Kukes, Bayram Curi and so on), as they have by and large remained under the influence of Sali Berisha’s Democratic Party, even after last year’s riots. Indeed, the conflicts in Kosovo and Metohija have been weakening the position of the moderate central government in Tirana 4 and strengthening the influence of the traditionally nationalist and right-wing north, which has strong linguistic, cultural, religious and above all family ties with the Kosovar Albanians. 5

The spread of violence in Kosovo and Metohija likewise awakened fears in neighbouring Macedonia (which also has a considerable ethnic Albanian population) that the conflict might overflow and cause a wider Balkan war. A war in Kosovo and Metohija would involve Albania and Macedonia from the start and inevitably draw in Bulgaria, and two NATO countries, Greece and Turkey.

At the meeting of the Contact Group in Bonn at the end of March, divergences became noticeable between the United States, Russia and the four European countries. Just before the Rome meeting of the Group on 29 April 1998, commentary that the United States might withdraw from the Contact Group if Russia and France were not to uphold America’s hard line towards Belgrade was rife in the American media. In the statement issued by the meeting, Moscow formally refused to endorse new sanctions against Yugoslavia. This diminished the credibility of the Contact Group which, at the beginning of May, introduced new sanctions against FRY, although these have not been backed by a UN Security Council resolution. US diplomacy thus got a free rein for independent action. A few days after the London Contact Group placed a ban on investments in Yugoslavia, US envoys Richard Holbrooke and Robert Gelbard promoted a meeting between Ibrahim Rugova and Slobodan Milosevic to initiate Serbo-Albanian talks. The meeting took place on 15 May and, despite the inimical standpoints of the two sides and the waning influence of Rugova and the LDK, brought a long awaited turnaround in the Kosovo crisis. For the LDK, this move was probably its last chance of being the Kosovo’s international interlocutor, given the ever growing pressure from the UCK and radical Albanian parties. For Serbia and Yugoslavia, this was an important confirmation that they can still control the situation in Kosovo and Metohija (that is, limit its internationalisation), and opened the way to the lifting of the Contact Group’s sanctions.

The slackening of tension in Kosovo and Metohija immediately reflected on the other two major problems in current Yugoslav politics: relations between the two members of the new Yugoslav federation.and relations with the Republika Srpska.

Divergences inside the Yugoslav Federation

The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was established by Serbia and Montenegro on 27 April 1992 after four of the republics comprising the former SFRY seceded. From its very inception, the new state was exposed to the pressure of the war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as international sanctions. This is why the new Yugoslav federation is still, even now, an “incomplete state” in many ways, in particular as concerns relations between the two constituent states. The differences in the size of their respective territories, populations, national products and other features make relations asymmetrical and often cause friction and problems in the functioning of the federal government. Historical factors also affect the situation, for until the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was formed in 1918, Serbia and Montenegro had been the only sovereign and internationally recognized states and there was rivalry between their reigning dynasties in the struggle for power in the newly founded common state. These are only some of the reasons why rather diverse standpoints have appeared in the last few years in Serbia and Montenegro concerning the future of FRY, its character and its place in the international community.

In 1997, these differences caused a rift within the ranks of the ruling Socialist Democratic Party of Montenegro, separating those under the leadership of the former Montenegrin President, Momir Bulatovic (a faction which has meanwhile become the National Socialist Party), and the faction led by the current Montenegrin President, Milo Djukanovic. The fact that the candidate which Serbia supported, Momir Bulatovic, lost the Montenegrin presidential elections held at the end of 1997 to Milo Djukanovic introduced a serious crisis in relations between the two states of the federation. Major political differences appeared between Serbia and Montenegro over the direction and rate at which economic and political reforms should be effected and concerning relations with the international community. Whereas a firmly integrated federation is what is largely called for in the governing circles of Serbia, Montenegro is insisting on a greater degree of autonomy which has brought on criticism that the new authorities in Montenegro have separatist ambitions.

Implementation of the Dayton Accords

The third issue that has prevailed in the first half of 1998, is the question of relations with the Republika Srpska and implementation of the Dayton Accords in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Here there has been a positive trend. With Belgrade’s support, Milorad Dodik was chosen as the new prime minister of the Republika Srpska at the beginning of the year, thus strengthening the reformist policy of its president, Biljana Plavsic. Through intensive diplomatic activity, the new prime minister quickly succeeded in breaking through the international isolation in which the Republika Srpska had been engulfed, winning the trust of Western countries and, more important still, of Western public investors, and thus getting the civilian aspects of the Dayton Peace Accords off the ground. Despite the Banja Luka government’s strained relations with the Serbian Democratic Party, Milorad Dodik successfully passed his first serious parliamentary test in early May 1998, opening the way for the reformists in the Bosnian Serb leadership in the September 1998 elections. According to American sources, 6 Belgrade assisted the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords in other ways as well, which is why the US administration slackened the regime of its “outer wall” of sanctions in mid-February and opened up possibilities for FRY’s reintegration into the international community. This process was soon cut short however, when Washington withdrew its recommendations because of the events in Kosovo and Metohija.


The Foreign Policy Agenda

The Dayton Peace Accords which brought an end to the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and initially created conditions for the suspension and subsequent lifting of the UN Security Council’s sanctions against FR Yugoslavia, constituted a turning point for Yugoslav foreign policy. After the signing of the peace agreement in Paris and the suspension of sanctions, FRY was for the first time confronted with its new international environment and began searching for its place in a new Europe and the world, which no longer had any need for “strategic buffers”, a policy of non-alignment or other components of the former Yugoslavia’s internal and foreign policy. Thus, the Dayton Accords and the political compromise which it sketched out for southeastern Europe became the departure point of FR Yugoslavia’s new foreign policy. In spring 1996, relations between Belgrade and Skopje were normalised, as were relations with Croatia and Bosnia in summer of the same year. Relations with many European and non-European countries were elevated to the ambassadorial level in summer and autumn 1996, 7 and negotiations were started with a number of international organisations on the normalisation of Yugoslavia’s membership.

New neighbours

FR Yugoslavia’s relations with its three “new” neighbours—Macedonia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina—are developing unevenly, with various problems and different objectives.

In this regard, Belgrade and Skopje have had the least problems in their relations, as Macedonia is the only Yugoslav republic which withdrew from the SFRY by agreement, without the use of force, and whose borders were kept open during the whole course of the armed conflict in the western republics. Of Macedonia’s four neighbours, FRY was the only one which forthrightly recognised the existence of a Macedonian state and a Macedonian nation, 8 even though international sanctions against FRY and Yugoslavia’s considerations for the interests of Greece postponed mutual recognition and full normalisation of their relations until 8 April 1996. Once established, relations progressed quickly, thanks to their close economic ties, 9 and the interest both countries had in taking advantage of their strategic transit corridors to Western Europe (for Macedonia) and the Aegean Sea (for Yugoslavia). Due to the complementarity of their interests, FR Yugoslavia and Macedonia signed an agreement on the establishment of a free trade zone which came into force in October 1996, thereby removing tariff and non-tariff barriers in trade between the two countries. As for security, the fear that Yugoslavia and Macedonia share of Albanian irredentism is a binding factor, although their outlooks on the matter are quite different.

Relations between FR Yugoslavia and Croatia are much more complicated. The Serbs and Croats were the two most numerous nations in the former Yugoslavia, and their relations were as decisive for the cohesion and stability of the former Yugoslavia as they are for FRY today and most likely will be for stability in the western Balkans in the future. Three disputed issues are still open: a) the status of the strategically important Prevlaka Peninsula, at the mouth of the gulf of Boka Kotorska; b) the question of protection of the rights of the ethnic Serbs living in Eastern Slavonia and c) the problem of the return of more than 300,000 Serbian refugees to their homes in Krajina. Nevertheless, the two countries recognised each other on 23 August 1996 and established relations at the ambassadorial level. Apart from international pressure, this development was influenced by economic interests, among other things, given Yugoslavia’s need to use the Adria pipeline for supply of crude oil from the Rijeka terminal to Serbian oil plants, and Croatia’s demand for electricity from Yugoslav power plants. It must be emphasised that Serbo-Croat relations affect the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina to a large extent.

Of its three new neighbours, Yugoslavia definitely has the most complicated relations with Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to the Dayton Accords, Bosnia-Herzegovina comprises three national groups (Serbs, Croats and ethnic Moslems—the Bosniaks), two state entities (the Moslem-Croat Federation and the Republika Srpska), in a single union (Bosnia-Herzegovina). As a signatory of the Dayton Accords, FR Yugoslavia shares the responsibility for their implementation and, consequently, for the survival of this entity, but it is at the same time confronted with contradictory interests: on the one hand, it is responsible for the fate of the Serbian people outside its borders and has the wish to establish the closest of ties with them; on the other hand, the dissolution of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the creation of a revisionist Moslem state in central Bosnia would threaten its security and most likely incite the separatist inclinations of the Moslems of the Rashka (Sandjak) region and of the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo and Metohija. The Dayton compromise prevented such a scenario and allowed the FRY to work toward coming out of its international isolation.

Old neighbours

FR Yugoslavia’s relations with its “old” neighbours likewise underwent changes in the 1991-96 period, although not as dramatic as those with the former Yugoslav republics.

A special case is Slovenia, the first former Yugoslav republic to step out of the Federation and now the one taking the most “rigid” stand in dealings with FRY. 10 The previous government of the FRY, headed by Milan Panic, had unilaterally recognised the independence of Slovenia on 25 August 1992, but Ljubljana rejected this as coming from “a country that was not internationally recognised”, so relations between FR Yugoslavia and Slovenia remained cold and limited to trade until the end of 1996. Renewed attempts to overcome differences between Belgrade and Ljubljana led to contacts in 1997 that again ended in failure.

Throughout the period, Yugoslavia’s relations with Romania remained stable, despite the internal and foreign political changes in the latter and its switch toward the European Union and NATO. What’s more, the changes in this country contributed to the solution of some earlier problems, apparent, for instance, in the improved position of the Serbian minority in Romania. The two countries share long-term interests (for example, exploitation of the Danube); they have no open issues and there is no likelihood that their mutual relations could be disturbed in the foreseeable future.

After a brief crisis in the autumn of 1991, Yugoslav-Hungarian relations are now stable and developing successfully; Hungary has a special concern for the status of around 350,000 Hungarians living in the northern province of Serbia—Vojvodina—whilst Yugoslavia is particularly interested in the transit corridor through Hungary towards Central and Western Europe. Hungary’s inclusion in NATO and the stationing of American armed forces in the south of this country on a long-term basis will affect Yugoslavia’s international position and could, possibly, cause a threat perception, especially if the latter remains outside of the “Partnership for Peace” program and without relations with NATO for any length of time.

Despite a rather negative past, Yugoslavia’s relations with Bulgaria have improved considerably since 1991, due to various factors including the dissolution of the Warsaw Treaty; Macedonia’s independence; a common fear of Islam in the Balkans; and the consequences of UN sanctions against Yugoslavia on their economies. Yugoslavia and Bulgaria are on the main transit corridor between Western Europe, Turkey and the Middle East, and, with Romania, share a common interest in developing and exploiting the River Danube. The interests of these two countries are thus complementary to a large degree, and could lead to the establishment of a free trade zone between them or common regional projects in the future.

Albania’s relations with FR Yugoslavia are still strained because of the Serbian-Albanian ethnic dispute in Kosovo and Metohija and the backing Tirana is giving to proponents of irredentism among Kosovar Albanians. Albania is the only country in the world which has recognised the so-called Republic of Kosovo and allowed it to have its “diplomatic offices” in Tirana. After a certain warming up of Yugoslav-Albanian relations in the late eighties and early nineties, 11 Albanian-Yugoslav relations fell into a crisis once again when Sali Berisha’s Democratic Party won the 1992 elections in Albania. More recently, Albania’s hope to draw closer to the EU and NATO has led it to adopt a more cautious policy concerning Kosovo denying support for secessionist claims, and this has rather calmed relations between the two neighbouring countries, although they are still far from being normal.

The extended neighbourhood

Of the countries in its broader neighbourhood, mention must be made of Italy and Greece—both members of the European Union and NATO—as they are important political and economic partners for Yugoslavia, 12 and are likely to play an important role in bridging the gap between FRY and these groups in the future. For geographic reasons, relations with Turkey, on the one hand, and Austria (and Germany), on the other, will likewise be important, due to the fact that transit corridors between these countries pass through its territory and should therefore increase traffic and trade. FRY’s political relations with these countries have, however, been rather strained by the political attitude these countries had in relation to the crisis and civil war in SFRY. 13 The situation is quite different in regard to the newly independent countries of the broader region, such as Ukraine and Moldavia, with which relations are developing without any great problem.

Regional cooperation

The implementation of the Peace Accords and the first postwar elections held in Bosnia, mutual recognition between FRY and the three former Yugoslav republics, and the return of ambassadors to Belgrade made a debate on the strategic objectives of Yugoslavia’s foreign policy possible for the first time since 1991. As early as January 1996, a proposal was launched by New Democracy for FR Yugoslavia to apply for participation in the Partnership for Peace. This triggered heated debate and the issue was soon stricken off the agenda without a decision either in favour or against. By mid-year, considerable attention was accorded various initiatives for establishing multilateral cooperation in the area of former Yugoslavia and the broader region of Southeast Europe. Despite the old slogan that prevailed in the Yugoslav public opinion over the years, namely, “the Balkans to the Balkan peoples”, conveying the opinion that Balkan cooperation could substitute for its entry into European integration, the lessening of tension in Belgrade’s relations with EU member states created the feeling that regional cooperation in Southeast Europe could and should be just a step leading the entire region into Europe’s integration processes.

In the decision of the EU Council of Ministers of 28 October 1996, the “regional approach” encompasses all the former Yugoslav republics (with the exception of Slovenia), and Albania. They are divided into two groups: Yugoslavia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose relations with the EU are conditioned by their commitments under the Dayton Accords, in the first, and Macedonia and Albania in the second, subject to the general terms applied by the EU to all the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe. For its part, the United States suggests a similar policy under its Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI), with a somewhat different geographic set-up covering Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Yugoslavia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia and Albania—an area with a total population of about 150 million people. In its original form, the SECI was to be a self-help program among the countries of the region, directed at infrastructural projects. Russia had expressed interest in the Balkan Ministerial Conference and for a sort of “Balkan OSCE”; Austria and Germany are interested in Danubian cooperation, whereas Turkey would like to see a linkage of the Black Sea and Southeast European regions.

FR Yugoslavia has, in principle, taken a positive attitude to all these initiatives, counting on the significance of its central geographic position in Southeast Europe; the chance to consolidate its international position and the possibility of initiatives in relation to its neighbours, other European countries and even the US. In contrast with the other former republics of SFRY, which are sceptical of the EU “regional approach”, fearing that it might lead to re-establishment of some form of Yugoslav community, 14 there is strong support for these initiatives in FRY, both in political circles and public opinion. 15 Deeper motives for regional cooperation can be found in FRY’s desire to re-establish the broken economic ties with the republics of former Yugoslavia, to establish new links with old neighbours, especially those that were members of the COMECON until 1989, as the expansion of the markets is vital for its economic development.

For FR Yugoslavia, regional cooperation could also mean the revival of social and other ties that have been severed with the republics of the former Yugoslavia, thus possibly enabling the solution of a number of problems including refugees, broken families, property rights, and so forth. It could also be an important step towards confidence building and security, as it would remove some of the greatest problems that exist between FRY and those republics. The creation of a regional security community within the framework of the OSCE or the Partnership for Peace program, could be the next logical step in stabilising the region and it is most probable that FRY will soon have to concern itself with these matters which are momentarily not the subject of any political debate. A political dialogue concerning such open issues as, for instance, ethnic and territorial disputes, could be initiated within such a framework just as the West European countries did at the end of the forties and beginning of the fifties when they created the European communities. Indeed, one of the most complicated problems of the kind for the Balkans—the Serb-Albanian ethnic dispute in Kosovo-Metohija—could be resolved within this context, for instance, in the way Austria and Italy settled the problem of South Tyrol.

Farther afield

Yugoslavia’s foreign policy and its position in international relations will for some time depend to a great extent on progress in the peace process in Bosnia-Herzegovina, that is, on the development of relations within the Belgrade-Zagreb-Sarajevo triangle. The five member states of the so-called International Contact Group (US, Russia, UK, France and Germany), have a special role in this process and will, therefore, greatly influence the speed and manner in which Yugoslavia may be integrated into the international community.

Yugoslavia’s relations with the United States are complex and, in a way, contradictory. On the one hand, the US, as the only “real” contemporary super-power and a country under whose patronage the peace agreement for Bosnia and the Erdut agreement on Eastern Slavonia were concluded and implemented, is interested in the stability of the region and the role FR Yugoslavia must play in these processes. On the other hand, however, the US attitude towards Yugoslavia is marked by internal political differences and the fact that its place in the new international order in Europe has still not been defined. The US has sought and is developing partnership relations with Albania and Croatia, as well as Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia and other countries of the region, most of which have joined the “Partnership for Peace” and have established close ties with Washington. In the short term, the US will condition its relations with Yugoslavia and its support for the latter’s return to international organisations on the role it plays in the peace process in Bosnia and Eastern Slavonia, the normalisation of its relations with the republics of former Yugoslavia, the solution of the problem of Kosovo and other related issues. The US has to that end retained the so-called “outer wall” of sanctions against Yugoslavia and partially resumed its trade embargo of 1997.

Compared with its relationship with the United States, relations between FR Yugoslavia and Russia are developing successfully on both the political and economic plane. Moscow’s attitude towards the Yugoslav crisis after 1991 was greatly influenced by developments on the Russian domestic political scene and its relations with the West. 16

The political crisis in Russia in 1991 decisively affected the course of events in Yugoslavia, irrevocably changing the international environment in which Yugoslavia had lived for the last half century. Russia’s absence from the Balkans (1992-93) and its attempts to reach a common stance with Western countries towards the Yugoslav crisis during this period caused enormous controversy on the home front and sharply polarised executive and legislative authorities in Moscow. NATO’s plans for eastward expansion, however, brought a change in Russia’s standpoint on the Yugoslav crisis and FRY. Russia returned to the Balkans in 1994, opposing the use of NATO forces in Bosnia (the 1994 Sarajevo crisis), yet cooperating with the West in the framework of the International Contact Group. Nevertheless, due to its moderate stance towards the various local actors, Moscow managed to be a channel of communication between FRY and the West, which facilitated a turn of events in the area and opened the way for the peace process.

FRY’s relations with other key European states—United Kingdom, France and Germany—differ considerably, but, during 1996, relations with all three countries improved.

>From the outbreak of the crisis and civil war in SFRY, the United Kingdom took an active role as witnessed by the various international conferences on the Yugoslav crisis held in London (1992, 1995, 1996), large number of British soldiers participating in all peace-keeping operations (UNPROFOR, IFOR, SFOR), and British diplomats leading the mediation efforts of the international community (Peter Carrington, David Owen, and others). The UK had taken a realistic stance on the crisis, thanks to which it maintained active relations with all its local actors, which in turn helped its to quickly renew relations with FRY at the beginning of 1996.

France was likewise actively involved in seeking solutions for the Yugoslav crisis and had considerable influence over the international community’s peace efforts (François Mitterrand’s visit to Sarajevo, the Kinkel-Juppe’s initiative, military presence in Bosnia, etc.). Traditionally close relations between Paris and Belgrade were the reason why France sent its ambassador to FRY months before the other European countries, but despite all mutual efforts, economic relations did not produce anticipated results.

Because of the strong support it gave to Slovenia and Croatia, and its critical attitude towards the Serbs, relations between Bonn and Belgrade were extremely strained until the Dayton Peace Accords. Since December 1995, however, political relations between Germany and FR Yugoslavia took an upward trend, so that negotiations on many critical issues were very quickly resumed and some resolved (for example, the problem of asylum seekers from Yugoslavia), whilst the growth in trade indicates that Germany could again become Yugoslavia’s leading economic partner.

Among non-European countries, Yugoslavia has developed comprehensive relations with China, the only permanent member of the Security Council that did not vote for any of the resolutions against Yugoslavia, and, apart from Russia, the only big power which kept its ambassador in Belgrade from 1992 to 1996. Despite geographic distance, China followed the course of events in former SFRY closely, trying to keep an equidistance towards local actors. Thanks to this, FRY and China signed a series of economic, scientific and cultural agreements immediately upon the suspension of economic sanctions, and the FRY president made his first official visit abroad to China once the sanctions were lifted.

Yugoslavia’s relations with Third World countries are in part being reinstated (sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America), 17 and are in part at a standstill (Islamic countries), indicating that, in FRY’s relations, this group of countries will not take the key position it had in relations with the SFRY. This could be fundamentally changed if and when relations between Belgrade and Sarajevo are finally normalised as a result of the peace process in Bosnia-Herzegovina.



Yugoslavia’s internal and foreign political agenda is largely determined by such problems as have arisen as a consequence of the break-up of the former SFRY, the years of civil strife and international sanctions, in addition to the political changes occurring in the Balkans and Europe since 1989. Constitutionally, FR Yugoslavia is still an “unfinished state” which needs to find solutions for numerous questions that emanate from its multinational and multiconfessional composition (actually, FRY is today by far the largest multiethnical and multiconfessional society in Southeastern Europe). Furthermore, FRY is still just at the beginning of a transition process from its specific form of socialist society ( “socialist self-management”) to an open market economy, civil society and stabilisation of its multiparty political system. The break-up of former Yugoslavia and the war, as well as open ethnic and territorial problems within FRY itself, the problem of Kosovo and Metohija above all, have deferred these processes and, at least for the present, have deprived the new Yugoslav federation of the support it needs from abroad. As a result, the Yugoslav political parties have polarised over the development strategy to be exercised—those who favour a strong and firmly integrated state as the only way for the new federation to subsist and those who feel that the way to resolve these problems is to center upon the European and Euro-Atlantic organisations, as the Central European countries have done.

As a signatory and guarantor for the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords, the FRY still wields a certain degree of influence on developments in the Republika Srpska and Bosnia-Herzegovina and it is that particular role which constituted a decisive factor for the marked progress which came about at the beginning of 1998 in the fulfilment of the Agreement on the Civilian Implementation of the Dayton Accords and a reduction of tension in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The FRY is, however, confronted with the “Albanian national issue” in the south of the Balkans which is most explosive in the region of Kosovo and Metohija, but which likewise affects Macedonia, Albania and the entire area. Thus, the FRY is a key factor in the establishment of peace and stability in Southeastern Europe. Although Yugoslavia has not come close to the EU and NATO, their eastward expansion has brought these European and Euro-Atlantic groups close to Yugoslavia’s frontiers. Adapting to this reality will, doubtlessly, be the greatest challenge to its internal and foreign policy in the years ahead.


Predrag Simic is Professor at Belgrade University and Research Fellow at the Institute of International Politics and Economics, Belgrade.


Note 1: France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the UK and the US.  Back.

Note 2: The main stronghold of Sali Berisha’s Democratic Party is in the north of the country which has strong linguistic, cultural and family ties with the Kosovar Albanians. This is why the Kosovar Albanians extended political and material support to the Democratic Party during the 1992 and 1996 parliamentary elections in Albania. In return, Berisha’s regime recognised the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo and permitted its “diplomatic mission” to operate in Tirana, giving wide leverage to businessmen, politicians and other public figures coming from Kosovo and Metohija. On this point, see: M. Vickers and J. Petifer, Albania: From Anarchy to Balkan Identity (London: Viking, 1998).  Back.

Note 3: During the Serbian-Albanian talks held in New York in spring 1997, American participants made it clear that after the failure of Berisha’s regime and the dissolution of state institutions in Albania, Kosovar Albanians could no longer count on international support for the creation of a greater Albanian state.  Back.

Note 4: A number of ministers in Nano’s government resigned in April 1998 because of their disagreement with his policy concerning Kosovo and Metohija.  Back.

Note 5: The same (Gheg) dialect is spoken in Kosovo and in northern Albania, which is different from the dialect spoken in southern Albania (Tosk). Most northern Albanians (the Kosovars as well) are Moslem, but for a few Catholics, whereas much of the population in the south is Orthodox Christian. Politically, the nationalist regimes (e.g. those of King Zogu or Sali Berisha) originated in the north, whilst the leftist regimes (e.g. that of Enver Hoxha) came from the south.  Back.

Note 6: Serbia—The Milosevic Factor, International Crisis Group, 24 February 1998.  Back.

Note 7: By December 1996, 42 countries had completely normalised their relations and sent ambassadors to FR Yugoslavia. See P. Simic, “Ambassadors Return to Belgrade”, Review of International Affairs, no. 1044, pp. 4-8.  Back.

Note 8: Greece is not ready to recognise Macedonia by the name which it considers is part of its own historical and cultural heritage and, therefore, fears the new state might cherish irredentist pretensions towards northern Greece. Bulgaria was the first country that recognised the Macedonian state but not the Macedonian nation, considering Macedonians as part of the Bulgarian nation. A large number of Albanians living in western Macedonia (particularly in the regions of Tetovo, Kichevo and Gostivar), are seeking autonomy for their self-proclaimed “Illyrida”, and in the long run, its accession to neighbouring Albania, although this dispute has not attained the magnitude of the Serb-Albanian dispute in Kosovo and Metohija.  Back.

Note 9: Before the war, as much as 60% of Macedonia’s trade was with Serbia.  Back.

Note 10: Slovenia is the informal leader of the four former Yugoslav republics in negotiations with FRY over succession to the SFRY.  Back.

Note 11: After Enver Hoxha died, Ramiz Alia tried to pull Albania out of its international isolation, which also brought a certain degree of relaxation in Yugoslav-Albanian relations. Albania took part in the First Balkan Ministerial Conference in Belgrade in 1988 and hosted the Second Balkan Ministerial Conference in 1990.  Back.

Note 12: Italy was for many years the principal importer of Yugoslav goods among EC countries. After the suspension and final lifting of UN sanctions, trade with Italy started to pick up quickly and it is probable that this country will again figure as one of Yugoslavia’s major economic partners in the future.  Back.

Note 13: It is interesting to note that Serbia’s status in the Working Community of the Danubian Regions ( Arbeitschgemeinschaft Donauländer ) was re-established in October 1996. It had been one of the founders of this regional group and the first country to hold its chair (1991-1992).  Back.

Note 14: For instance, the idea of a “Euroslavia” launched by Lucio Caracciolo and Michel Corinman, editors of the Italian periodical Limes, met with sharp criticism from President Tudjman and other Croatian politicians. See “The Euroslavia Project”, Eurobalkans, no. 24, 1996.  Back.

Note 15: See “Zbli‘avanje usporeno ratnim traumama” (War Traumas Hamper the Restoration of Relations), Naca Borba, 7-8 December 1996, p. XIII.  Back.

Note 16: Jelena Guskova gives a most comprehensive analysis of Russia’s attitude towards Yugoslavia in the first half of the nineties in her book Jugoslovenska kriza i Rusija (The Yugoslav Crisis and Russia) (Beograd: Institut za medunarodnu politiku i privredu, 1996).  Back.

Note 17: The visits of several Yugoslav delegations to Latin America and the first official tour of African countries by former FRY President, Zoran Lilic, in 1996 confirmed that Yugoslavia could count on the support of a large number of its old partners from the non-alignment movement.  Back.