|Updated: 06-Dec-2000||NATO Review|
Taking responsibility for Balkan security
Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini (right) and his Chef de Cabinet, Silvio Fagiolo, get set to take off in a helicopter from Skopje airport on their way to join the British, French, and German foreign ministers for a meeting with KFOR Commander Lt. General Sir Mike Jackson in Kosovo on 23 June.
(Belga photo 56Kb)
The Kosovo crisis provided a new urgency in
European security and defence, while at the same time demonstrating the
primacy of human rights in international politics. Foreign Minister Dini
argues that the intersection of these two realities has broad implications
for NATO and for the entire system of international institutions. These
institutions, with the United Nations in the forefront, must become more
effective and more inclusive if we are to prevent future Kosovos from
I welcome NATO Review's invitation to reflect on the prospects for security
and stability in the Balkans in the aftermath of the Kosovo conflict.
Even though it only ended a short time ago, the time has come to take
stock of the situation, albeit on a provisional basis.
The war that has just ended in Italy's backyard also raises questions
about our own future. The events in the Balkans point to the need to improve
our crisis prevention capabilities in a world that is necessarily violent,
imperfect, and prey to conflicting interests. This is by no means an easy
task, but one that certainly cannot be avoided.
Security and defence have once again become a vital priority for Europe.
The assumption that the end of the Cold War and the waning importance
of nuclear deterrence would make it unnecessary to maintain our military
guard and strength has been shown to be wishful thinking. The Kosovo war
seems to have given much greater urgency to the need to create a common
European defence force, which was only implicitly enshrined in the Amsterdam
The Balkans are part of the still unfinished history of the three great
fault lines of our century: two World Wars and the collapse of the Communist
system. Old and new strains of nationalism are seeking protection against
growing pressure from a new, changing, but above all alien, world. And
they are being fuelled by the unprecedented liberty we enjoy today. In
the Balkans, people still feel centuries-old events as if they had taken
place yesterday. They live out their history, even their ancient history,
like a recent past that is still closely bound up with the present.
After having been for so many years under the influence of the great
empires of European history - Ottoman, Hapsburg and Soviet - the countries
in the Balkans need a higher authority which will force them to live together
in peace and enable their societies to advance in a civilised manner.
They are asking NATO to defend them not so much from some external enemy
but from themselves, from their own temptations, and from their own ghosts.
They are asking the European Union to lead them to the promised land of
a healthy economy and democracy.
There are many lessons for Atlantic security and European defence to
be taken from the unprecedented experience of the Kosovo war, in terms
of substance, relevance and complementarity. The psychological value of
the conflict - the first to involve the Atlantic Alliance in its 50 years
of existence - stems from its geographic location, the circumstances which
justified the casus belli, and the manner in which it was brought to an
end. Only the Korean war had a comparable impact on Euro-Atlantic security.
It was after that war that NATO's integrated structure was created, an
attempt was made, albeit unsuccessful, to establish the European Defence
Community; the Federal Republic of Germany acceded to the Alliance; and
a new doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons, known as "massive
retaliation", was formulated.
Today, having come to terms with the collapse of the Berlin Wall ten
years ago and undertaken the first large-scale deployment of Allied forces,
we are faced with an equally radical change of direction. This new departure
was already partly codified at the NATO Summit in Washington last April
and by the European Council in Cologne the following June. The Kosovo
war coincided with the final drafting of the new strategic doctrine which
has enabled NATO to redefine its roles, purpose, geographic boundaries,
modalities for operating in relation to the other institutions, and its
decision-making powers and internal equilibrium.
Looking ahead to the reconstruction of the whole region I would like
to sum up the lessons we have learned from the Kosovo crisis in the following
terms: the primacy of human rights in government policies; the need for
an updated Alliance strategy; the evidence of Europe's broader ambitions;
and the establishment of a new stability through the leading international
With the Kosovo war over, it will now become increasingly evident that
the principles of the United Nations put the individual at the centre
of everything, and that the protection of the individual is the real raison
d'état in our times. We must certainly improve our prevention capability
considerably. And we must more finely tune the instruments for enforcement.
Only a few weeks ago the Italian Parliament ratified the convention establishing
the United Nations International Criminal Court. It will be one of our
top priorities to urge other countries to do likewise, so that we can
soon reach the required 60 ratifying states, allowing the Court to be
Human rights are paramount, then, but at all times the scale of violations
of those rights in terms of their gravity should be kept in mind, as well
as the need to bring the culprits to justice, which will sometimes be
a quite lengthy process.
Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and President Jacques Chirac of France, and Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar (left to right, in front) hurry to take their places for the group photo with other leaders at the EU Summit in Cologne, Germany, on 3 June.
(Reuters photo 64Kb)
As was again apparent from the Stability Pact Conference in Sarajevo
on 30 July, Europe is taking primary responsibility for the post-war situation
in Kosovo and in the Balkans. Of course, without the United States the
war could not have been won. But it falls above all to Europe to build
the peace. This will perhaps be the first real touchstone of a common
foreign policy, without which the European Union will never come of age.
The Kosovo crisis has highlighted the need to shift the balance in favour
of Europe for the future of Euro-Atlantic security by creating a credible
common foreign and security policy to give the Union a political language
of its own, backed up when necessary by force. The declarations issued
by the Cologne European Council must therefore be followed up in practice.
Italy and the United Kingdom approved a common document at the recent
bilateral Summit in London, under which it was agreed that a Joint Council
of Foreign and Defence Ministers would be convened at least twice a year.
Looking still further ahead, the Europeans will need to ensure much closer
coordination of their research, the structure of their forces and their
Will the European Union prove itself capable of becoming a de facto political
and economic guardian of the Balkans? Will it be able to contribute to
ensuring free elections, rebuilding the civil institutions and financing
The first affirmative and specific answers to these questions are emerging,
firstly from Sarajevo at the end of July and then from Bari in early October
at the Summit for the Reconstruction of the Balkans.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair listens to his Italian counterpart, Massimo D'Alema, during a press conference on 20 July, after a British-Italian bilateral summit to discuss European defence policy issues.
(Belga photo 27Kb)
Kosovo was the first time that the Alliance intervened militarily to
put an end to wholesale violations of human rights, repressions and expulsions,
which had provoked horror and indignation throughout the world, generating
a strong sense of moral solidarity with the victims. And herein lies the
crux of the new missions which form part of the broader concept of "enhancing
the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area", which is of
prime importance because it defines the future scope of action of the
Alliance. These new missions are the natural outcome of updating the mission
of collective defence developed by the Alliance throughout its 50-year
existence. And they are missions that constitute a dynamic, modern defence
which is better able to confront threats that are no longer static or
easily identifiable, as was the case during the Cold War.
These new missions are to be carried out within a clearly limited strategic
boundary, deal with new types of risks (the proliferation of arms of mass
destruction, regional and even local conflicts), and are set within the
precise legal framework of the United Nations Charter or international
law. In the transition following the end of the Cold War, these new missions,
particularly the use of force to protect human rights, are bound to broaden
the social consensus within the Alliance. This will confirm NATO's specific
character as a community of values, values which it is capable of imposing
Affluent Europe is taking responsibility for a piece of the Continent
which would otherwise be cut adrift, to demonstrate to those people that
there is a future for them after the war, to indicate the path that will
also lead the southern Slavs into Europe, although not immediately. Some
people might be astonished to hear the governments of Europe now making
such bold promises to such backward countries, despite the slow progress
made towards the accession of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.
But the war has had the effect of accelerating and changing the timing
of European construction, and it has also shown how fragile an edifice
can be, when its foundations are economics and currency concerns alone.
"It was thanks to the G8 that the combination of force and diplomacy was possible." Russian President Boris Yeltsin (front left) is pictured with his G8 counterparts at their Summit in Cologne on 20 June, where they called on both Serbs and Kosovar Albanians to respect the cease-fire in Kosovo.
(Reuters photo 46Kb)
The tragedy of Kosovo has given a whole new lease of life to the system
of international institutions. Even at the height of the war, the future
of the Balkans was already being debated and when it was over, the debate
took the form of the Stability Pact and led the United Nations to take
on responsibilities for reconciliation and reconstruction. But similarly,
the world economic architecture that has guaranteed our welfare for half
a century was launched at Bretton Woods in 1944, well before the Second
World War was won. It was a measure of the Allies' far-sightedness that,
even without the certainty of victory, they were already preparing the
path to lasting peace.
From the failure of Rambouillet to the resumption of negotiations through
the G8(1), the Atlantic Alliance was the only international
institution involved in the Kosovo crisis. It was thanks to the G8, and
at its initiative, that the combination of force and diplomacy was possible,
reviving prospects for a political solution and, in the longer term, for
bringing Yugoslavia back into the fold of democratic nations.
Recourse to the G8 confirmed that it would have been a grave blunder
to have kept Russia out of the process of defining the shape of Europe.
Russians, like Serbs, are Europeans, but the empires from which they have
both descended were only European in part. The Russians and the Serbs
are the two luckless nations of post-Communist Europe, traumatised and
wounded in their pride through the collapse of the political systems that
they had imposed on others.
But it is precisely because Moscow is no longer ruled by a totalitarian
regime that it would have been wrong to push Russia to the sidelines of
the Continent, ignoring its security interests and its wish to participate
in taking decisions that affect Europe. While the negotiations were triggered
by the G8, they were concluded within the context of the United Nations.
It was the United Nations that set the seal of a higher authority on the
There are two considerations I believe to be important for the future.
First of all, the G8 is playing an increasingly prominent role as an instrument
for international crisis prevention and management. We saw this in Kosovo,
but it has been seen previously in the conflict between India and Pakistan,
and in future we may well be seeing it in other unresolved conflicts.
Secondly, the Alliance is right to intervene in crisis situations, and
it must be able to act promptly and unhampered by unwarranted UN Security
Council vetoes. Yet in the longer term, any lasting peace must inevitably
be modelled around the universally accepted rationale of the United Nations.
During the Kosovo crisis, it was very instructive to see the way in which
the G8 was able to dovetail its work with that of the Security Council.
And this brings us to the last lesson we should learn from Kosovo: the
need to push ahead with the reform of the United Nations to enhance its
effectiveness and make it more inclusive, particularly with regard
to the institution with primary responsibility for ensuring international peace and stability: the Security Council.