The horrors of Mariupol should remind us of a new danger to Sarajevo

This letter to the Guardian entirely ignores they key factual points established since the end of the Balkan wars of the 1990s.  

It has now been established, for example, that no professional independent examination was ever carried out into what happened at Srebrenica in July 1995.  Not even the scientific evidence, allegedly gathered by the American-controlled, Bosnian Muslim run International Commission for Missing Persons, was ever disclosed to The Hague Tribunal, the defendants or the legal advisors, or to anyone else because laws passed in Bosnia and Croatia gave the ICMP complete immunity to refuse any request for this information to be handed over.

Similarly, it is now known for a fact that stories about Serbian ‘death camps’ in Bosnia were entirely untrue [Alijah Izetbegovic confessed this to Bernard Kouchner and Richard Holbrooke when they visited him on his deathbed], as were claims that 50,000 Bosnian Muslim women had been raped by Bosnian Serbs in 1992 [when reporters from every UK national newspaper descended on Bosnia to tell this story, they all returned home without writing anything because no convincing victims could be produced.

Finally, all the claimed atrocities in Sarajevo, such as the so-called ‘bread queue’ massacre have been quietly put to bed because UN inquiries [disgracefully kept secret] revealed that all these outrages were carried out by the Bosnian Muslims themselves.

We have added further comments below to address other points in the letter.

The horrors of Mariupol should remind us of a new danger to Sarajevo

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Timothy Garton Ash, Ireneusz Pawel Karolewski and Claus Leggewie

Peace in the Balkans is again under threat. EU governments must confront the Serb government before it is too late


The Guardian, 12:05 Tuesday, 22 March 2022

The recent European summit in Versailles missed a great opportunity: to launch, in a symbolic place, a new postwar order for Europe. We are not dreamers; we know that joining the European Union is no walk in the park and that the same procedures apply, in principle, to Ukraine as to the candidate countries in the Balkans. But there was an opportunity to establish a political union that would bridge the gap between a looser association and full membership. Instead, European leaders proceeded as if regular peacetime EU procedures are still appropriate in the extreme case of war in Europe. The freedom and peace project gave way to the EU of bureaucrats and officials.

[Europe has already intervened in a highly partisan way by forcing the illegal recognition of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia as independent states.  The EU had absolutely no mandate or legal right to do this. This was compounded in 1999 by the illegal 78-day bombing of Serbia, where just 2% of NATO’s ordinance hit military targets.]  

But the EU is no longer the economic union of recent years; Vladimir Putin has unintentionally turned it back into the normative and institutional alliance of its founding years. It should become that again, since the task now is not only to protect Ukraine against Russian aggression, but also to strengthen the protection of its newer members, especially the Baltic states, and to include all those states that want to join the EU in that protection. 

What is needed is an “expanded Weimar Triangle” (which since 1991 has linked Germany, France and Poland). This would pay particular attention to the regional expansion of the security dimension within the EU. Germany, France, Poland and the Baltic states must enter into stronger security policy cooperation, if necessary also in the field of nuclear deterrence.

The UK must move closer again to Europe’s political community, an association that was carelessly squandered by Brexit. But stronger protection against Russia also means that Putin’s Trojan horses, such as Viktor Orbán’s Hungary and Aleksandar Vučić’s Serbia, should be opposed more decisively. This raises questions above all about enforcing the fundamental legal commitments of Hungary’s EU membership and Serbia’s continued status as an EU candidate country.  [After the illegal US-led toppling of Serbia’s democratically-elected regime, the successive Serbian governments have been essentially puppet regimes.  As time has gone by – and many US promises to Serbia have been broken – opinion in Serbia has, understandably, tended to harden against the US and its allies].

Bosnia-Herzegovina deserves special attention in this context. Serbian politicians in Belgrade and in Banja Luka (capital of the autonomous Bosnian Serb Republic) are fuelling divisive tendencies that, 30 years after the start of the war in Yugoslavia, are breaking up Bosnia-Herzegovina’s fragile confederation. They are even making a new war between country’s ethnic groups seem possible. Greater Serb separatists can be sure of the active support of the Putin regime. [From the moment the Dayton agreement was made, under the greatest pressure, successive US-appointed High Representatives have run Bosnia on the basis of total bias against the Serbs.  During his term as HR, Paddy Ashdown ordered Republic Srpska to conduct a full inquiry into Srebrenica massacre allegations.  When they did so in a highly conscientious way, he rejected their findings entirely, dismissed various RS ministers because he had the power to do so and then had a new, totally Serb-damning report written by a Bosnian-Muslim.  If Serbs don’t look to the US or EU for support, it is hardly surprising.

Putin has provided the blueprint for such shameful manoeuvres before all our eyes since 2008 in the case of Georgia, and since 2014 in Ukraine. The EU turned a blind eye to it, ignoring Kremlin provocations and the divisive manoeuvres of opponents of European unity, from Marine Le Pen to Orbán. As Putin meticulously prepared his attack plans, Europe’s energy dependence increased dramatically while German defence spending decreased. All of this was actively promoted, not least in Germany, by frontline political actors despite clear evidence of Russian neo-imperialism. This gives rise to a special obligation today.

European citizens have now heard shots fired in anger and their governments are once again standing closer together in defence of democratic values and institutions. Together they have decided on sanctions against Russia and arms deliveries to Ukraine, but they cannot prevent the suffering of the Ukrainian civilian population. Just as sanctions and arms deliveries should have come, at the very latest, when the Russian army deployed on the borders of Ukraine in 2021, we must not wait now in the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina until it is too late there, too. [There are some parallels between what is happening in Ukraine and the events that took place in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.  But the Balkan reality is that neither the US nor the EU should be surprised that they have few supporters in Serbia.  Western politicians and media used false propaganda to blame Serbia for everything that happened, inverting the truth to suggest that Serbia – the only Yugoslav republic to try to keep Yugoslavia united – had broken up Yugoslavia as part of a ‘Greater Serbia’ policy.  Even the Chief Prosecutor at the Milosevic trial eventually conceded that his team had been unable to find a single use of the term ‘Greater Serbia’ in any speech or document.  The famous ‘Operation Horseshoe’ document turned out to be a crude fake authored by German intelligence.]

We spoke out in 1992 for Europe to take decisive action for the besieged city of Sarajevo, in vain. Only a genocide then triggered a belated intervention, which was not followed by a stable order in the Balkans. Today, the EU should be more vigilant and declare its clear intention to include Bosnia-Herzegovina in a political community that includes assistance against possible provocations and aggression. It should support an alliance that warns the Serbian separatists and commits Croatia, like Slovenia, to support the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to participate in a stable postwar order throughout the Balkans. [Sarajevo was not a besieged city in the sense of Stalingrad.  Throughout the Bosnian war people were able to move in and out of the city with little difficulty.  Supplies were also brought in without great problem.  The ‘belated intervention’ by the US was to use allegations of a massacre at Srebrenica to impose and end-game on the Bosnian conflict.] 

The Serbian government must realise that its option to join the EU will be forfeited if it jeopardises the precarious peace order in the Balkans and seeks to gain ground in the slipstream of the Ukraine war. Putin’s project of a “Russian world” famously had a precursor in Slobodan Milošević’s “Serbian world”, in which compatriots in Bosnia and Montenegro were to be brought home into the mother empire, just as ethnic Russians in Crimea and the Donbas region were brought “home” in 2014. Milošević’s dream famously ended at the international criminal court.  [Milosevic had no ‘Serbian world’ policy – unlike Tudjman and Izetbegovic who, respectively, made no secret of wanting to create Croatian-only and Bosnian-only states.  Serbia, under Milosevic and ever since, is by far the most multi-cultural society in the former Yugoslavia.  And, incidentally, The Hague Tribunal eventually slipped out an admission that they had no grounds for their genocide charges against Milosevic].

The Serbs in Banja Luka and Belgrade must decide on which side they belong. Milorad Dodik, the Bosnian Serb leader, has refused sanctions against Russia, and Russian (and Chinese) interested parties are coming and going in Belgrade. A clear signal to Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as to Nato member Montenegro, would show that these two states are counted as part of the democratic world and belong in an enlarged European community. Efforts to stop basing electoral laws and state administration on ethnic proportionality are increasingly resonating in Bosnian civil society, especially among the younger generation for whom ethnic nationalism offers no chance for peace and prosperity. In this way, Putin can end up inadvertently strengthening the European Union. [Serbs are bound to be conscious that the US and its allies launched through Nato an entirely illegal 78-day bombing campaign which, at the time, independent economists estimated had done around $100 billion of damage to Serbia’s infrastructure.  Ironically, of course, this was the mirror image of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.]

• Daniel Cohn-Bendit was chair of the Green Group in the European parliament; Timothy Garton Ash is professor of European studies at Oxford University; Ireneusz Pawel Karolewski is professor of political theory and democracy studies at Leipzig University; Claus Leggewie is Ludwig Börne professor at Gießen University