Updated: 24-Oct-2005 NATO Speeches


24 Oct. 2005

STOPWATCH 2 , Debate 2:
The future of the Balkans

Special interactive video forum series with Jamie Shea

Audio file
Video forum

JAMIE SHEA (Director, Policy Planning, NATO): Good day everybody, and welcome to this latest edition of Stopwatch. I'm Jamie Shea, and once again it will be my pleasure to moderate the discussion here at NATO Headquarters in Brussels .

Those of you who follow Stopwatch will know that in recent weeks we've discussed very much the new global responsibilities of the Alliance . We've looked at Afghanistan , we've looked at transatlantic relations, we've looked at NATO's role in North Africa and the broader Middle East .

But today we're going to go back to the Balkans. Why do I say back to the Balkans? Well, because this is where NATO first began its missions beyond its traditional geographical zone ten years ago in the 1990s. And at the same time the Balkans is unfinished business. Certainly the spotlight may have been away from this region in recent years, but lately some very significant developments have happened.

The European Union has decided to begin accession negotiations with Croatia , to invite Serbia and Montenegro to conclude a Stabilization and Association Agreement. Kosovo, we see the imminent beginning of talks on the final status of that province. And a discussion of NATO enlargement for the countries in this region, EU enlargement, is very much back on the agenda.

So today to help me explore this issue with you I have two very distinguished guests. First of all, Dr. Nicholas Whyte, who is the director of the Europe Program at the International Crisis Group, very well-known non-governmental organization, and that's based here in Brussels .

So Nicholas, thank you very much. Welcome to the program.

And also Chris Bennett, who used to work at the International Crisis Group before we fortunately managed to persuade him to come and join us here at NATO. Chris is the editor of the NATO Review, but he's also a well-known commentator on Balkan issues, and the author of a book on the collapse of Yugoslavia .

So gentlemen, again, thank you for joining us.

We're going to look forward, but I thought we'd start off by looking back, because in a few weeks time, Chris, we're going to mark the tenth anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement. Looking back, how would you evaluate NATO's response to the collapse of Yugoslavia ? What did we get right and what did we get wrong?

CHRIS BENNETT (NATO Review Editor): I think the disintegration of Yugoslavia saw NATO at its worst and eventually NATO at its best. I'm thinking here of the time it took to become involved. When there was eventually intervention the time it took, I think, to get to grips with actually dealing with the peacekeeping process, which wasn't easy, and eventually though coming to terms with it.

And I think what's most remarkable if we look at the course of a decade, whereas it took three and a half years for the Alliance to intervene in Bosnia and Herzegovina and four and a half years of fighting in the former Yugoslavia from that initial intervention, there was one year before an air campaign in Kosovo, one year of fighting, and then in 2001, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, we saw intervention to head off what would have likely have degenerated into yet another war.

And I think we saw that through the process that goes on at NATO, the countries analyzing what is a successful policy, what's an unsuccessful policy, why is one policy successful etc. etc. until the Alliance got to those best policies.

So I think, as I say, it shows NATO at both its worst in the time it took to become involved, and eventually at its best.

SHEA: But Chris, we had to keep troops in Bosnia for nine years after Dayton and they're still there, although these days of course under an EU hat. Why did it take so long? I mean, nine years is a long time. Could we have done the reconstruction, the reconciliation job, faster?

BENNETT: Well, the reconstruction, reconciliation job isn't over in Bosnia-Herzegovina. There will be an international presence there for an extremely long time, as there will be in Kosovo.

So I think we shouldn't underestimate the complexity of such challenges if we take an area which obviously Nicholas knows much better than me, but Northern Ireland, we had British troops moving into Northern Ireland in the last 1960s, 1969 and those troops were there for 30 years before we had some sort of effective agreement there, and troops clearly remain in Northern Ireland today, obviously being reduced at this moment.

So I think we shouldn't assume we can resolve what are extremely complex issues in a particularly narrow time frame.

SHEA: But Nicholas, turning to you, some people say that the international community has stayed too long in Bosnia nonetheless, that we've created a kind of dependency culture and it would have been better if we'd handed it off to the locals a long time ago already.

NICHOLAS WHYTE (Europe Program Director, International Crisis Group, Brussels ): I don't completely agree with that, I must say. First of all, going back to the question of intervention, it seems to me that if you get in early... it's better to get in early and it's better to get in quite vigorously in the first place. And the failure to do that at an early stage in Bosnia is something for which we've been paying essentially for the last 10 years, probably for the last 13 years.

Having said that, I think it was right for the international community to protect its investments by enforcing its will in Bosnia to the extent that it has done through having a high representative who's empowered to enact legislation if local institutions are blocked.

When we set up the peace mission in Bosnia in 1995 there was no functioning government. There was no functioning persons, you know, functioning parliament. Now Bosnia 's getting close to having all of those things.

It seems to me though that while there remain open security questions in Bosnia, and there are three, it's necessary for the international community to keep its role there and the three open security questions, all three of them possibly being closed quite soon, but they're still open: reform of the Bosnian army, which has been legislated but not yet implemented, to bring the entire... the former warring factions under a single administrative umbrella; the reform of the Bosnian police where again we've had a rhetorical commitment to do that in the last couple of weeks from the various sites in Bosnia, but that again is very essential to remove that power of coercion from ethnic chieftains; and dealing with the remaining war criminals. And that's just essential.

Until you've done those three things then I think the international community needs to remain in Bosnia . All three of those look like they may be solved quite soon though.

SHEA: Nicholas, the EU has decided to open a Stabilization and Association Agreement negotiation with Serbia-Montenegro, but not yet with Bosnia , and yet some of the conditions that you describe would seem to be sort of similar in both countries.

WHYTE: I've good news for you. The green light is actually imminent for Bosnia . They will be starting negotiations quite soon because of their agreement on the police reform.

SHEA: That, indeed, good news. So in terms of the lessons learned though, from the role of the international community in Bosnia, I mean, if we had to do it again, or if we want to apply those lessons to other places like Afghanistan or Iraq or whatever, what would you sort of think would have been the things that we did right and the things that we did wrong, in terms of the political process and the reconstruction?

WHYTE: One thing that was certainly got right was in ending the combat, and you mentioned about international troops having stayed in Bosnia for nine years, I don't think there's been a single combat-related fatality in Bosnia during that entire period. The same, I think, with Kosovo for the last six years.

That's very significant and it says something that you can put a large number of foreign soldiers into an environment without actually any serious risk of harm to them. That clearly must be a success.

Failures, however, I think, as I said, the unwillingness to get to grips with the difficulty of running Bosnia . That's a clear lesson for other countries. If you're setting up a protectorate you have to do it seriously and you can't go half measures.

And the other thing that was missing in Bosnia , still not really there, and still a big problem in Kosovo, is setting up a functioning law and order system, police, courts, prosecutors. Not really so much NATO competence, I know, but I think it's essentially if you're going to a viable stage coming out of the end of it.

SHEA: Yeah, Chris, do you believe that now looking at the tenth anniversary of Dayton it's time to sort of move beyond the Dayton constitutional framework in Bosnia, to make Bosnia really a fully-functioning state, or is Dayton really the bedrock that we have to live with in order to guarantee stability there.

BENNETT: Well Dayton was negotiated in three weeks, exactly a year ago, as talks were going on and at the end of the day it was agreed by Franjo Tudjman, Slobodan Milosevic and Alija Izetbegovic; one who's on trial, two who have since died, but they're not really the people I would wish to have as architects of my country if I was Bosnian. I think they can certainly improve on that.

But moving on, and actually building an effective system, which successfully helps to balance the legitimate interests of different communities who share the same territories, is an essentially difficult task, and this is the reason why the international community has been so reluctant to in many ways initiate this process. But there are, of course, moves towards that, and I think it is time to take stock, understand why we have such, in many ways, dysfunctional state there, and then look at processes for taking this forward, because it's very important that all communities buy into whatever solutions are eventually agreed, whether it's in Bosnia-Herzegovina or it is in Kosovo, for those to be lasting peace settlements.

SHEA: Nicholas, turning to sort of Serbia and Montenegro , NATO, unfortunately, but that's what happened, spent a lot of the 1990s confronting Serbia over Bosnia . Of course, then later on in 1999 over the fate of Kosovo. So we have had a fairly difficult history.

But do you think now there is a chance that NATO could normalize its relationships with Serbia and Montenegro, integrate that country into NATO structures in a way that we're trying to do with countries such as Albania or Macedonia?

WHYTE: First of all, there's those of us who wish that NATO had confronted Serbia a good deal sooner in the 1990s, rather than leaving it until '95 or indeed, '99 by some people's calculation.

Having said that, there's clearly a strong desire from what's left of the Serbian military to get stuck into the NATO structures and to be treated as ordinary members of the human race, and they have a proud indigenous military culture which they want to feel more widely recognized.

If anything my concern is that I sometimes get vibes from the NATO force in Kosovo that they're pleased with how well they're getting on with the Serbian military and I think that's perhaps not the message that I'd like to see coming out of Kosovo. I'd prefer to see a slightly more robust instinctive attitude there.

But it's clear that for Serbia it's an essential mark of progress, moving on, as it has been for other Eastern European countries. And I think actually that the NATO conditionality, the insistence on certain things being done before NATO membership, has been responsible for some of the movement we've seen in recent months on war criminals, which has been very welcome.

SHEA: Chris, what exactly is the status of our relationship with Serbia-Montenegro at the moment?

BENNETT: Well at present there is a security cooperation program with Serbia and Montenegro , which in essence allows Serbia-Montenegro to participate in many of exactly the same activities as the country would if it was within the Partnership for Peace Program. But it isn't within the Partnership for Peace Program yet.

However, what I think here has been very important with Serbia is the conditionality showed to Croatia, because it's in fact in responding and seeing how the international community has treated Croatia that I think in Belgrade they've decided to take the war criminals issue so seriously, because Ante Gotovina is in no way as significant an individual as Karadzic in Bosnia-Herzegovina or Ratko Mladic in Serbia-Montenegro.

But the (inaudible)...has been categorical. Croatia has had to make progress in this area as well before it could start association agreements with the European Union and likewise before it could take its relationship forward with NATO.

So I think that's been very important. Serbia has a hell of a lot to gain from a relationship with NATO. I'm thinking here of the sort of programs that have been put together in Bulgaria, Romania, in neighbouring countries, programs assisting the demobilization of officers and preparing them for civilian life. Programs to reform or change the use of former military buildings for civilian purposes. Serbia can gain a hell of a lot, but we're going to have to take this relationship forward once the war criminals issue is behind us.

SHEA: I can understand NATO insisting on this conditionality, particularly this year marking the tenth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, of course. It brought all of those painful memories back.

And of course, the tribunal has done an increasingly effective job of bringing these people to justice, but in terms, Chris, of the other aspects of war crimes trials promoting a sense of the historical record, or willingness to face up to what happened, to accept guilt or responsibility, promoting reconciliation, do you believe that the tribunal has really been able to do that in the Balkans, so that eventually these animosities can be overcome?

BENNETT: Well, I think that the tribunal is part of a process here, and a process that has to go further. And if we look at Bosnia-Herzegovina, for example, there is a big movement now pressing for some sort of truth and reconciliation commission as a next step perhaps within Bosnia and Herzegovina .

I think what's been interesting, both Croatia, and Serbia-Montenegro, is the domestic trials that have been taking place, and some of the information that has come forth from The Hague, like the video tape of certain executions...

SHEA: The execution, yeah.

BENNETT: ...in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Srebrenica. So these have been having an impact. I've been disappointed that The Hague tribunal has not had a greater impact in the course of its existence so far, but I think it's only part of the story and I think The Hague tribunal can still play a significant role in precisely this area.

SHEA: Okay. Well, I'd like now to turn to the next big topic, of course, which is Kosovo, the imminent beginning, it looks like, anyway, of the talks on final status after the Eide report has been submitted to the UN Secretary General.

Nicholas, this is going to be a tough one, yes? I mean, how do you see the prospects of getting through this without more violence?

WHYTE: It's very difficult. Certainly there is a fundamental problem between Belgrade and Pristina, in that Serbia doesn't quite seem to have caught on to the fact that it has lost Kosovo and that it's going to have to recognize that fact sooner or later.

And we see senior Serbian officials making all kinds of bizarre statements to the effect that just because the people living there want to be independent why should that make any difference? When in fact in world history it usually does.

SHEA: Well, I mean, it's tough for the Serbs, though, is it not? In the sense they've got Montenegro also with a potential referendum on independence at the same time.

WHYTE: I think that's right. So it's difficult for them to grasp it. At the same time I think what I say to my Serbian friends is, you know, folks if you're serious about offering Kosovo autonomy that means you're going to have a Kosovar as your defence minister one year out of three.

SHEA: Because of the power-sharing arrangement.

WHYTE: Because there'll be some kind of power sharing arrangement that would give them that right. And you will have Kosovo officials in all of your embassies able to sit in on all of your diplomats' meeting with external forces.

I think put to Serbia in those terms it suddenly becomes a much less attractive prospect for them. But that's just one side of the problem. The other side is within Kosovo itself, where you have a divided and inexperienced political elite that hasn't really yet worked out what deal is going to be on the table for them and how they'll be able to sell it to their own public.

SHEA: But Chris, do you think it would have been better to postpone talks on the status of Kosovo, given these difficulties, and obviously the fact that the standards that everybody keeps referring to haven't really been met in Kosovo yet? Is this the best time to move forward?

BENNETT: In the wake of March, last year's violence, Kai Eide carried out another report in Kosovo looking at the situation there, and there was a clear conclusion, namely that we couldn't simply indefinitely postpone talks on Kosovo's future status.

But then we implemented the process of picking out selected standards, and Kai Eide's gone back and looked at this particular issue. There hasn't been the progress that we would like to see, but at the same time you've got to start talking about processes.

I think what's going to be so important is getting this process right. This process is still unclear how it might actually operate. That is the really difficult thing to put together and that we are tasked for a new UN peacemaker.

SHEA: I mean, what should NATO's position be while all of this is going on? I imagine therefore this is not really the time for NATO to think of drawing its forces down at Kosovo.

BENNETT: Well, NATO isn't drawing its forces down. NATO's maintaining the same number of troops in Kosovo in the coming year because the security situation is so important to maintain. However, it is possible to work even more effectively, so the Alliance is looking at different operating patterns to keep on lid on any potential violence because violence could really undermine a process at this key moment.

So that's the Alliance 's key job. I think there is another role here. NATO has a lot of political credibility here. Kai Eide is, of course, a NATO ambassador, Norway 's Ambassador. So he's played a big role here, but I think if we're trying to build a more political Alliance, as this Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is, we've go to be making the most of the political credibility we actually have in this particular area and seeing if there isn't actually a more political role that perhaps the Alliance could play in this process.

SHEA: What do you mean, Nicholas, NATO playing a more political role, as Chris mentioned. Do you see there's any scope for that, or are we really there basically as a troop provider while others get on with the negotiating?

WHYTE: There's one specific role that only NATO can actually play a part in, and we're working on research on this at the moment in our organization, and it's the question of what sort of defence system a future status Kosovo would have. At present the former Kosovo Liberation Army has been transitioned into a think called the Kosovo Protection Corps, which does civilian defence and emergency relief operations.

Which is all very well, but it's not actually what they thought they were getting at the end of the 1999 conflict.

It seems to me absurd to suggest that a future status Kosovo is not going to have some kind of army; in which case that's going to need to be very firmly plumbed into NATO machinery, trained by NATO.

SHEA: Do you think... you mean, NATO could sort of doing something in the framework of the Partnership for Peace here.

WHYTE: Very much so, yes. I mean, exactly that. And there would, of course, have to continue to be external security guarantees given by NATO during that time period.

Of course one hopes that a future Kosovo would be one that would be living in peace with its neighbours anyway, so the necessity for an army other than as a participant of good will and international peacekeeping wouldn't be such a big issue. But it seems to me that's a role that really only NATO can play.

SHEA: I mean, look, Chris, again looking at Kosovo, we saw in south of the border in Macedonia a few years ago, when there was a situation which was broadly similar in terms of an ethnic Albanian community, though this time in the minority of course, unlike Kosovo, eventually agreeing to a number of compromises in order to live with a Slav Macedonian majority.

Do you think that sort of framework, it was called the "Ochrid Framework", wasn't it, which eventually brought about a peace settlement based on ethnic rights, electoral reform, decentralization, that kind of Ochrid Framework is what we're looking at in Kosovo?

BENNETT: I think that as definitive a framework that was agreed extremely rapidly, is unrealistic in the Kosovo situation. Some very, very different circumstances. Very small Serb population, but dotted across lots of Kosovars. So how does one actually build in some mechanisms that effectively balance their minority rights against the rights of the Albanian majority there.

It's a lot more complicated than the Macedonian situation where you do have sort of geographic areas which are largely Albanian or largely Macedonian. You've got Skopje , which is a complicated city, but we're looking at different situations. And I think that...

SHEA: So there's no sort of parallel that fits like a glove.

BENNETT: Not automatically.

WHYTE: I think there is a reason why the Dayton Agreement is 65 pages and the Ochrid Agreement in Macedonia is only three. And it's because the Macedonian problem was actually a great deal simpler to sort out. We knew where the state was. Nobody was actually challenging its legitimacy, and there was no question but that the Macedonian state was going to continue to exercise most of the functions that an ordinary state does. That wasn't the case in Bosnia , and I don't think it'll be the case in Kosovo either.

SHEA: Nicholas, come back to something you said earlier about the position of Serbia and accepting the reality that, of course, it can't be returned to 1999 or before. The international community has ruled out, as you know, the return to the status quo ante. I mean, what can NATO, what can the EU, what can we do to make this more palatable to Belgrade ? For example, the EU has now offered to negotiate on the Stabilization and Association Agreement. Is this idea of bringing Serbia into Euro-Atlantic integration the answer here, do you think?

WHYTE: Oh, it's certainly the answer in general, no matter what the final status of Kosovo might happen to be. The Stabilization and Association Agreement negotiations are very interesting because they specifically exclude Kosovo for the scope of that agreement. That is while the UN Security Council resolution establishing the Kosovo regime remains in force.

And I actually can't think of any UN Security Council resolutions that are no longer in force. Maybe you know better than I do, but it seems to me that that means that the EU has accepted Kosovo has a separate track from Serbia 's into membership.

But in general I think we have to say to Serbia that actually getting rid of Kosovo is good for Serbia and we have to make sure that it's also something that can be absorbed by the Serbs remaining in Kosovo and we have to make sure that their rights are looked after, protected, perhaps even by international measures as well.

But I think for Serbia it ought to be sold to them on the basis that this is actually going to be very good for the country as a whole and for the region.

SHEA: Chris, we spend a lot of time when we look at the Balkans, of course, focusing on just one or two places, which are the hot spots. Bosnia in the past, though we've been saying that's going much better now. Obviously Serbia , and Kosovo. But of course, there's a lot more in that region. For example, looking at the southern tier, Albania , Macedonia . Do you get the impression that they may feel a little bit left out of all of these developments in terms of invitations to join the EU, invitations to join NATO? What should we be doing to reassure them?

BENNETT: Well, there is a process here at NATO, the Membership Action Plan, preparing countries for NATO membership. The Macedonian ambassador to NATO likes to refer to the last wave of expansion as being the "Big Bang" expansion, and to refer to the next wave as the "Big Mac" expansion, the Macedonia , Albania , Croatia expansion. It's not immediately on the cards. Probably not on the cards till 2008. So there's clearly disappointment in these countries.

But let's face it, these countries are actually on a track towards NATO membership which is becoming increasingly clear. They're working together very closely with each other, within the Adriatic Charter, as well as with NATO in a variety of operations, including contributing forces in Afghanistan to NATO-led operations.

So these countries are becoming closer and closer all the time to NATO. And I think that perspective is assisting the whole Ochrid process in the former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia. So I think in the scheme of things three years before likely NATO membership is actually a pretty good deal right now.

WHYTE: I'm not sure I'd go all the way with that.

SHEA: Yeah?

WHYTE: I think there is a genuine sense of disappointment from certainly Macedonia and Albania who had gained the strong impression, because it was what everybody was saying, that they would get a firm invitation to membership next year, rather than in three years time, and you know, it's quite difficult for them to understand that this is essentially, as I read it, because of a change in American attitudes towards Ukraine. It's quite difficult to tell people in Skopje that because of a change of government in Kyiv their path towards NATO has been slowed down.

SHEA: I understand this, and I was in Skopje myself just a couple of weeks ago and I certainly heard that from a number of sources. But my reply was that even though they may be disappointed it's 2008 rather than 2006 as the date for the next sort of NATO enlargement, at least this has put enlargement back on the NATO agenda in a way that maybe it hasn't been recently with the focus on Iraq and Afghanistan, and the greater Middle East. And so at least there is now a clear perspective and a firm promise maybe a little bit later is better than a very vague promise a little bit earlier maybe.

Would you agree with that?

WHYTE: I'm glad you were trying to sell that, not me.


SHEA: But no, but you're right also, certainly Chris, as you say, that we have to remain engaged with these countries and not simply sort of take this as freezing the situation, awaiting for 2008 to arrive.

BENNETT: There is a NATO presence in Skopje , and in fact, defence reform, NATO's been very involved with... in fact, defence reform is going extremely well in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia today and I think this is extremely important. It's important to maintain reforms in Albania and in Croatia . It's important that Croatia cooperates with The Hague tribunal. These are all key elements of this process of bringing these countries into NATO eventually.

And I think what we should not be doing here is actually relaxing standards, bringing in countries that may actually simply be storing up problems for the future. We've got to get enlargement right when we actually go for it.

SHEA: Nicholas, as I was saying, NATO now is under a lot of pressure. We've got nine operations going on. Even humanitarian relief in Pakistan at the moment after the earthquake, and some may say that maybe it's time now for the EU to take over the full responsibility in the Balkans. NATO did the early bit with the stabilization missions, but you yourself were saying that with regard to Bosnia that the emphasis now has to be on economic reconstruction, judiciary, police reform.

In Kosovo, shouldn't the EU now take that over from NATO and...

WHYTE: No, as I said, in Bosnia it's the case of once you've sorted out the basic security agenda then yes, of course, move on to the other stuff... well we're doing the other stuff already, but we can concentrate exclusively on the other stuff.

Kosovo is not there yet, and it's not going to be there yet for a good while. And it's... I don't... I mix quite a lot with the people in the EU who are keying to EU military operations all over the place. They never mention Kosovo to me. I find that quite significant.

SHEA: Because the prospect of tension is still very much there, huh?

WHYTE: Well, it's quite specifically because NATO includes the Americans and the Americans have got credibility with the ethnic Albanian population of Kosovo.

SHEA: Oh, after what happened in 1999.

WHYTE: And there's... precisely because of 1999. And so if NATO... if the international military presence is to be a factor of stability then I think it should rather be NATO than be EU.

SHEA: Chris, one of the things that I often ask myself is that it's clear that what the responsibilities of the international organizations are, vis-à-vis the Balkans, but you know, often one wonders, what are these people doing to help themselves? You remember that before we had the European Community we had the Benelux and it was countries took the lead in helping themselves regionally. Is there much evidence of that in the Balkans, or are they all sort of waiting individually for the phone call from Brussels ?

BENNETT: Well, there are initiatives. There is this Adriatic Charter in which Croatia , Albania , Macedonia are actually working together. It was U.S. sponsored. We at NATO sponsored a Southeast Europe Initiative which has actually brought countries together and to work on security issues and to build transparency among countries here.

Just last week there was a meeting of heads of state of many of the countries of Southeastern Europe and some of the adjacent European Union countries in Zagreb, in Croatia, which many of these issues were worked out among these countries.

So in fact, I think we're seeing a lot more cooperation within the region. I think what's most interesting is if you look at economic ties now, if you look at, for example, the role of Slovenia now in the region and the large investments that are coming in from Slovenia and Austria in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia-Montenegro and there's this re-establishment of economic links throughout the region which is actually extremely encouraging.

SHEA: Because that really is the big worry, isn't it, that you can have security, but if you don't have economic development, if you had 50 percent unemployment, corruption and organized crime, then you're going to be faced with a difficult situation. And Nicholas, you're optimistic regarding the economic outlook for the region?

WHYTE: I think it's very problematic, and one big thing that the Western European countries are doing wrong, in my view, is this restrictive visa policy. Apart from Albania , everybody else remembers a time that they could travel to Western Europe quite freely. They find it humiliating to have to queue in front of embassies for three days to get a visa and spend vast amounts of money and without even the guarantee of getting it in the end. And it seems to me that the EU is unwittingly facilitating people traffickers by imposing these harsh penalties.

Having said that, I think once the overall political situation becomes clearly a more settled one then you will find, as Chris said, from the north you've got Slovenia and Austria , from the south you've got Italy and Greece investing very strongly in Albanian and Macedonia .

So this region is on the way between different parts of Europe . It's on the main route from Western Europe to Turkey .

SHEA: But would you say that we have to sort of have Euro-Atlantic integration first, and then economic success putting a little bit like the cart before the horse, or can we do it the other way around and have some economic success before...

WHYTE: I think the history of the EU shows that you do the integration first and then you will get some. Look at the history of Ireland recently, for example. Less... to a slightly lesser extent, Greece , Portugal , maybe also Spain . But it shows that once you've got the integration perspective there then it's much easier to get people to have confidence in the economy.

This is part of the Kosovo problem. Until you've got final status sorted out it's going to be very difficult to persuade anybody with any sense to invest there.

SHEA: Well, Chris, a final question to you as we come to the end of this program. In the 1990s there weren't many sort of Sadats willing to go to Jerusalem , or Nelson Mandelas willing to reach out to the white minority. We had a lot of leaders who seemed to preach hatred and ethnic divide.

Looking at the quality of the leadership today are you more optimistic that there's a younger generation that really does look to the future, that understands the modern world, that's willing to reach out for reconciliation?

BENNETT: I think there are extremely few Nelson Mandelas anywhere at any time. I certainly can't see one in the Balkans today.

Having said that, time heals to a certain extent, and there are people whose attitudes are clearly mellowing in the core(?) over the years. If we look at some of the leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina who've come to power, they are very, very different to those war-time leaders. Clearly Serbia 's no longer under Slobodan Milosevic, so I think this is a much better situation than it was ten years ago.

SHEA: Nicholas Whyte, Chris Bennett, my special guests today, thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, thanks always for watching the program. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed moderating it.

Next month we're going to be looking at NATO's relations with Ukraine , a subject that was mentioned briefly by Nicholas Whyte and where NATO now has an individual dialogue with a possible option of future membership. Where are we...

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