Mainstream, VOL LIII No 1, December 27, 2014 - Annual Number
Yugoslavia — What Happened To It? Can It Re-emerge? : Interview with Branislav Gosovic
Saturday 27 December 2014
(Branislav Gosovic, who holds a Ph.D in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, is a retired UN career official. From 1991 to 2005, he was in charge of the Secretariat of the South Centre, an intergovernmental think-tank of developing countries. His book, The South Shaping the Global Future, Six Decades of the South-North Development Struggle in the UN, has just been published by the Transcend University Press. He was in New Delhi recently to attend a seminar on BRICS and South-South Cooperation. At that time the Mainstream editor presented him with a set of questions relating to the dismemberment of Yugoslavia so as to get his views on the subject for the benefit of our readers. He sent his answers to the questions from abroad; those are being published here in the form of an interview.)
1. While speaking at the recent seminar on BRICS and South-South cooperation in New Delhi, you had observed that the metamorphosis which former Yugoslavia underwent alongside the collapse of the bipolar global arrangement awaits the whole world. Would you kindly elaborate on this for our benefit?
At the time when SFR Yugoslavia began to undergo its traumas and eventually broke up, I used to comment that our country was a “microcosm of the macrocosm”, that is, a world at large on a small scale. What I meant was that what was happening in this, until-then peaceful, country was of global significance and impli-cations anda bad omen for the coming epoch.
Most of the problems and fractures bedevilling the international community were present and intersected within this country’s borders. The former Yugoslavia was a developing, multiethnic federal country which believed in the United Nations, embraced the basic values of the UN Charter and in a constructive fashion tried to overcome and accommodate various divisions and contradictions, including East-West and North-South ones,all concentrated at this crossroads of different civilisations, cultures and religions.It had to deal with legacies not only of the two World Wars but also of centuries of conflicts, imperialism and foreign power hegemony on its territory.
This effort and process were undermined and terminated by the forcible, unnecessary dismembering of the country, with existing and buried problems and divisions exacerbated and revived, the clock turned back, the progress and achievements made over decades negated, and the positiveprocess prevented from continuing, fully maturing and further bearing fruit.The failure of this in a number of ways pioneering effort to build a different, positive future was unfortunate also for the international commu-nity and humankind. Like SFR Yugoslavia, it has to deal with and solve challenges of development, peace and cooperation in a highly diverse family of nations.
What happened in SFR Yugoslavia, I implied, can easily occur elsewhere and be a harbinger of things to come, and signalled possible blowups elsewhere, including conflagrations on a planetary scale. This can occur if a given mix of conditions happens to come together, or is created deliberately, including by those with global power and ambitions, iffuses exist to make it catch fire, and the initial conflict is further fuelled and sustained.
In those early days, this statement could have sounded Cassandra-like. Today, some 25 years later, my prescient hypothesis, linking and projecting the Yu-local to the global, is vindicated by theworldwide disorder and chronic crises. It is validated by the events on the ground, by a pre-decided global rollback and negation of progressive political and social achievements made in the 20th century, including in the United Nations, by the deepening divides within, between and/or among countries, and by rising militarism and the ever mounting threats to world peace.
As a result of this development of the global geopolitical environment and its own rather specific traits accentuated by the emergence of a number of sovereign mini-states within its confines, the Yugoslav épicentre has gradually been teleported back to the past and has become a modern-day textbook version of what is known as the“balkanisation” syndrome.
It has once again been transformed into an arena of geopolitical conflict as part of the resumed, or new, Cold War and jockeying between foreign powers who consider it their hereditary entitlement to decide on the destinies of these peoples and land. Their massive presence and interference in all domains of national affairs, their frequent preying on and exacerbating oflocal differences and often turmoil are reminiscent of the situation in the late 19th century and the years preceding World War I. It is far more intense and strongly felt in daily life thanksto the modern media and instant connectivity, a public vulnerable to manipulation, and the political passions inflamed on demand.
The high volatility of the local political environment has been fuelled by a chronic economic and social crisis, intensified by the dismantling of the earlier socio-economic system and its being replaced by neo-liberal structures and practices. As in the past, this has given rise to extreme Right-wing political views and movements, and createdconditions that fan simmering nationalisms, intolerance and aggression. The NATO military bases, already strategically implanted in the Balkans and the additional ones being planned, as part of NATO’s eastward creep, do not promise peace and happiness in this part of the world, despite all the marketing alleging the contrary.
2. Former Yugoslavia was a leading non-aligned country and the only major non-aligned state in Europe. What was the necessity or urgency for the countries of the First World, that is, the developed Western states —the US and its European allies—to dismember it?
My article “Yugo-Nostalgie: For a Compre-hensive Approach to the Problems of theWest Balkans”, reprinted by Mainstream in autumn 2008 (in this journal’s October 11, 2008 and October 18, 2008 issues—editor), was written to draw attention to the exogenous forces which were party to the tragedy that befell this country. A flood of writings and reports, academic and in the media, propagated the policy-line of the chief policy-brokers in the West, according to whom what happened was entirely due to Yugoslavia’s internal failures and its “bad guys”, who by definition did not include those who had declared their loyalty to the new order. I was relatively diplomatic in choosing the title of the article, by calling fora “comprehensive approach” to the problems of the West Balkans. I was cautious and argued that the key developed countries of the First World, had they wanted, could have prevented the break-up of Yugoslavia, but did not try to do so and passively watched or helped its descent into chaos.
In my opinion, the subsequent events there and elsewhere in the world, as well as revelations, offer more than sufficient evidence for the conclusion implied in this question, and for one also to argue thatSFR Yugoslavia was deliberately dismembered and its disintegration and civil war were aided, with nationalism used as the deus ex machina or silver bullet.
The aim was in part to blot out this country from the world map because of its symbolic and political importance, given its unfalteringpolicy and determined efforts to remain sovereign and independent, and being that it represented a seed, or “virus”, of a potentially systemic threat to the Western imperialist-capitalist global order. It was also part of the ongoing, broader drive to achieve regime and system changes in the Socialist countries of the East Bloc, where the non-aligned Yugoslavia was also classified by the Western Cold-War strategists.
In sum, what was done to and happened in Yugoslavia was the first concrete and major step on the road to a new West-dominated geopolitical order. It was conceived by Western “far-sighted” and “deep-thinking” strategists, as part of the Cold War “victory”. The dismembering of Yugoslavia also marked the initiation of the post-Cold War era, one of subduing, co-opting and controlling of the planet. Yugoslavia, as a non-aligned country, was not an acceptable option to the underlying mindset,summed up, a decade later, in the now familiar motto: “You are with us, or against us”.
The disappearance of SFR Yugoslavia was wanted by and advantageous to the West for more than one reason, including:
a) Yugoslavia, inspiredby its anti-Fascist resistance and national liberation struggle during World War II, wanted to be independent and out of the embrace of the hegemonic powers. Often, it openly refused to submit to their diktat and pressures. This goal, or dream, was and is shared byall countries and peoples that have chaffed under colonialism, imperialism and aggression during centuries, and continue to suffer under thenew, advanced and sophisticated forms of dominance and interventionism, including via multilateral means and instruments and global regimes. Yugoslavia demonstrated, to a significant degree, that this goal was possible, thus gaining respect and admiration among Third World countries and peoples. Its disappearance and fragmentation into half-a-dozen weak, vulnerable and dependent client-states meant that a “rebel” country in the midst of Europe, which had tried “to punch above its weight” and be a vocal, influential “nursery” of an alternative vision and of “subversive” ideas, was stamped out.
b) Yugoslavia was at a globally strategic Europe-Asia crossroads and the Mediterranean underbelly of the opposing superpower, a space coveted by the West and its military arm, NATO, which it had to control and take over by all available means in the planned eastward expansion of its Eurasian sphere of influence. Yugoslavia’s disappearance and fragmentation made this task easier, as has been demonstrated by what has followed since.
c) Yugoslavia was a founding, important member of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77. It played a leading role in inspiring their policies and actions in the world arena and the United Nations, including ofthe concepts of a New International Economic Order and a New World Information Order, and ofmany other important initiatives and concrete proposals, one of which was the international regulation of the TNCs. As such, it was considered troublesome. The disappearance of SFR Yugoslavia helped the weakening of the two Third World groupings. Indeed, its own problems and fractures were reflected in divisions within both NAM and G-77, with neither being able to take a stand, or even make a statement, on the dismantling of one of its key members and the broader implications of this for the nature of the world order, the shared objectives of the Global South and for individual developing countries. The undermining of NAM and G-77 was a global strategic objective of the developed countries. They have pursued it systematically over decades and aggressively so since 1980, that is, since the rise of the neo-liberal globalisation and neo-con realpolitik. Frequently,they have tried to influence and use individual developing countries to achieve their own ends and interfere with G-77 and/or NAM actions from within. Indeed, one can argue that SFR Yugoslavia’s removal from the international scene marked the stalling of the Third World liberation project and, as it has become evident, the beginning of the eclipse of the United Nations as the progressive world organisation and a platform for developing countries.
d) The West had to satisfy its local political allies in the Balkans, especially the nationalist, reactionary and Right-wing circles. It nurtured and prompted these after World War II in the shadows. They were kept in reserve, just in case, and stood ready, waiting for the promised and opportune time for the overthrow of the socialist system. This clientele included the local followers and collaborators of the WWII Nazi and Fascist occupiers, and the offshoots of these abroad who emigrated at the end of the war, thatwere amply supported and funded by Western secret services. The rolling back of the social and political achievements, the disempowerment of the labour, and the imposition of a savage variant of neo-liberal capitalism, has been part of this deal and payback.
e) Also, Yugoslavia was a model of a develop-mental state, of a policy of self-reliance in development, of diversification of national economyand building of an independent national industrial, agricultural, educational, health and cultural base, and of a quest for alternative social and economic solutions to development challenges. Its introduction and institutionalisation of workers’ self-management in all sectors of economy and society, and also of an alternative type of ownership, neither state, public or private but “social ownership”. All these had broad political appeal beyond the country’s borders and in the mind of those wedded to the West-dominated systemic status quo had to be eliminated. This has in fact taken place in the “transition” process that hasfollowed, and the deindustrialisation, closing down of factories and enterprises, liberalisation of thework force, massive unemployment, aggressive privatisation, at fire-sale prices, of land, natural resources, factories, hotels, public services, telecommunications, banking, etc., and takeovers of public and social property by foreign capital or the new breed of local tycoons. The process has been accompanied by progressive class stratification, social insecurity, pauperisation, unrest, tensions and conflicts in the space of what was an egalitarian society for decades. All along, a campaign has been sustained of belittling, discrediting and deriding the pioneering under-takings and major achievements of SFR Yugoslavia, and of often shifting the blame for the ongoing problems, including rampant corruption, to the former state. A sustained effort has been launched to condemn SFR Yugoslaviato oblivion, including even the major contribution made by the Yugoslav anti-Fascist national liberation struggle in World War II. Indeed, from a wider perspective, the “transition” process in the former Yugoslav republics offers a good pilot case study of the ongoing global drive of asystemic and systematic destruction, and snuffing out, of the widely shared progressive and forward looking ideas in the world. The demise of SFR Yugoslavia is used as “proof” that no road similar to the one taken by this country is viable or should be treaded.
Importantly, from the geopolitical and longer-term point of view, SFR Yugoslavia was used for testing the set of elaborated theories, policies, strategies and practices, and their legal/juridical justifications, that were ready and waiting in a tool kit to be applied in the emerging, West-dominated unilateral setting without encountering serious outcries and resistance. It was also used as a range for a “live ammunition drill” and unilateral use of force, including air strikes against civilian, industrial and infrastructural targets.
What happened in the former Yugoslav space in the 1990-2000 period, and how those actions were justified and marketed, was also an effective “vaccine” for immunising, numbing and accusto-ming the international community, the UN, NAM and, especially, the Third World countries to interventionism, including unilateral use of force and military aggression, carving up of countries, regime change and domestic subversion, to be primarily directed against them. It paved the way for what has followed, under various pretexts, on what is referred to as the “global chessboard” by those who play games with the destiny of humankind. It was an integral part of the broader geopolitical strategy of hegemony, expansion and full-spectrum global domination, including in the sphere of ideas and ideology, emanating from a single centre.
3. What has puzzled me most is that the principle of brotherhood of peoples (which forms the bedrock of any socialist society) was trampled underfeet once chauvinism and regionalism gripped the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (that was quite distinct from the Socialist Republics of the Soviet Union and did not experience the kind of regimentation in vogue in the USSR). Does that mean that no genuine ideological education was imparted to the citizens of the SFRY or that it was a mechanical arrangement to keep the party apparatus intact? Doesn’t this signify a basic internal weakness the Yugoslav socialist system was suffering from?
The principle of “brotherhood and unity” was genuine. It was forged during the National Liberation Struggle against the Nazi and Fascist occupying forces and their collaborators, and was the foundation stone of the Yugoslav socialist revolution and the Yugoslav federation.
It may be interesting to mention that having grown up during the post-WWII period when “brotherhood and unity” was strong and central theme, I was shaken up upon arriving to the US in the late 1950s for university studies to read books, listen to professors and hear people argue that Yugoslavia was an artificial creation, not viable and bound to fall apart. I also became aware of the hate-imbued, chauvinist discourse and arguments of the Croat and Serb post-WWII diasporas and of their ambitions to regain what they had lost in the war.
And indeed, the principle of “brotherhood and unity” was gradually eroded and gave way under external pressures and appetites, intensifying nationalisms and kindled local ambitions for greater authority and more power. The decentra-lisation of the party, that is, it becoming a “League” of the parties of each of the six republics and two provinces, the centrifugal tendencies present and encouraged in the progressively more self-governing republics and provinces and in the party bureaucracies, which also saw an opportunity to assume functions that were within the remit of the federal state, and the erosion or end of the cohesive practices and institutions, all had a share in the weakening of “brotherhood and unity”.
The centrifugal tendencies prevailed once the defences and floodgates against nationalisms were dismantled. Nationalisms started being encouraged and stoked from all sides and they became politically legitimate. The situation and inter-ethnic tensions were further aggravated by a serious and chronic economic crisis in the final years, a crisis which also intensified the usual disagreements concerning economic policies, allocation of resources available in the federation for various projects, and division and use of hard currencies earned. Inflammatory chauvinist discourse and imagery inundated the media, public and private life and found expression in strong, organised political forces. There was no serious and successful way or counter-force to oppose them.
On the margins of the government and public institutions, intensive sub rosa pro-saparatist and -chauvinist activities of the three dominant faiths, a flood of writings and media output that fanned nationalisms, deliberate acts of violence and aggression to inspire mutual hatred and vengeance, the emergence on the political scene of offshoots of the forces aligned with the Axis during WW-II and their legitimisation, also helped create a fertile ground for the weakening of the cohesion and eventual break-up of the country.
The centrifugal forces and nationalistic/chauvinist circles systematically tried to discredit the principle of “brotherhood and unity” as a “communist”, undemocratic invention forced on the country’s peoples and “nationalities” and different ethnic groups. Eventually, it was no longer politically correct to declare oneself as a “Yugoslav” (ethnically), neither were “Yugoslavs” entitled to a quota when jobs and positions were allocated at the federal level. In chauvinist quarters, “Yugoslavs” were looked upon as political enemies and a major threat to their identities and nationalistic aspirations, while the nationalists and chauvinists in other camps were seen as allies in the common quest to break up the country.
One can argue that instead of building solid and lasting foundations needed for “brotherhood and unity” and nurturing this principle in society as a whole, as was done during the immediate post-war period, a somewhat superficial approach was adopted next. Namely, nationalism was publicly censured and not allowed on the political arena, “brotherhood and unity” was ceremo-niously reiterated, and extreme nationalistic excesses were punishable by law.
Thus, while genuine feelings of brotherhood and unity were gradually fading, the mutually antagonistic and aggressive nationalisms were on the rise and waiting for the opportune time, when strong defences against them no longer existed, to erupt on the stage. The opportune time came with the arrival of the “magic bullet”, that is, multiparty elections, a highly divisive practice. Nationalist electoral platforms emerged victorious in different republics and provinces, as could have been expected in the existing circumstances, while those who believed in and were supportive of SFR Yugoslavia found themselves marginalised, relegated to an electoral “minority”, and not seen without an all-Yugoslav party or platform to support. The well-oiled road tothe country’s disintegration was now wide open.
The Yugoslav option would have probably won had an appropriately formulated question been posed in a countrywide election or referendum, and had there been an all-Yugoslav political party and force to exercise leadership, argue and fight for the country’s integrity, and rally popular support for this cause. Importantly, the support, or as a minimum not open enmity, of the key powers and of the United Nations would have also been necessary.
Naturally, such ademocratic, countrywide exercisewas ruled out by local and exogenous power structures. The Yugoslav option, besieged and negated from all sides, was obviously in a minority in each republic and province. It was literally persecuted and practically evaporated from the political scene, since, in their quest for votes and shoring up their positions for the period that was to follow, all political parties, including the League of Communists of different republics, played nationalist and particularist cards and began embracing a pro-West stance,thus contributing to the demise of one of the structures that was to assure the survival of the federation. Not only that there was no significant support from the international community for the integrity of SFR Yugoslavia, but au contraire...
It bears noting at this point, as an interesting sidelight, that the former President of Tanzania, Julius K. Nyerere, forcefully argued against regional- and tribal-based political parties in his country when the electoral law was being drafted for multiparty elections which were being introduced for the first time. He felt that this safeguard was essential for sparing Tanzania the fate met by SFR Yugoslavia. President Nyerere’s wise counsel carried the day, despite some opposition and doubts.
The “brotherhood and unity” principle was undone from within with the full support and coaching of the masters in the West, using institutional and procedural arrangements, multiparty elections, referendums, promises of better life in the fold of the West, specifically the European Union, and significant, although from behind the scene, highly damaging influence of the religious and émigré organizations.
The party, through its own practices, gradually weakened and eventually sacrificed the principle to the powerful siren song of the “sovereignty” of the federation’s republics and “democratisation” through fragmentation.
Perhaps it failed to sustain the principle, because it failed fully to understand and prepare against the lurking dangers, including the fact that the country’s diversity wouldbe used to break it up. The nationalist and chauvinist populist rhetoric and promises, of politicians, clerics, media and intellectuals, found fertile ground among an angry and dissatisfied population at a time of escalating economic problems, social and political conflicts and “no development”, which became acute as the generalised crisis, including external debt, began to affect Yugoslavia like many other developing countries.
This overall geopolitical setting was reflected most acutely in SFR Yugoslavia, which had its own pronounced internal fractures and was additionally vulnerable due to its position in the context of the collapse of the East Bloc.In other words, SFR Yugoslavia was also a collateral victim of the end of theCold War and disappearance of the bipolar balance of power, having been cast down the river by the other superpower, now weak and facing its own existential problems.
One can argue that had SFR Yugoslavia been a client state, solidly grounded in the Western camp, it would have been helpedto remain in one piece and indeed would have never been allowed to fragment and implode. No doubt, had the West shown the same passionate support for and commitment to the integrity of SFR Yugoslavia as it did subsequently in the case of Canada (Quebec), Belgium, theUnited Kingdom (Scotland), and Spain (Catalonia),the outcome would have been different.
4. Socialist and Marxist intellectuals in former Yugoslavia, for example, the Belgrade School of socialist scholars, most notably Mihailo Markovic, had earned a niche for themselves among socialist intellectuals worldwide. How and why did they vanish into thin air or merge themselves into the national chauvinist stream that emerged to precipitate a countrywide conflagration?
Socialist and Marxist intellectuals well-known internationally during the days of SFR Yugoslavia were a motley crew. Some among them were also “dissidents” in the sense that they were critical of the existing power structure and its practices, and were aiming for regime- and even system-change. Once Yugoslavia imploded, they vanished from public view. Some of them embraced nationalist agendas or found apolicy space in their ownrepublics, by making compromises with the nationalistic agenda. Others fell silent, probably realising that what had taken place was a complete negation of socialism, and that the new policy-environment was hostile to progressive thought and the Left and to their own scholarship and public presence. In general, they were no longer relevant in the new setting. Also, they had lost platforms from which to speak and address the public and policy-circles. For example, annual events and summer schools, like those in Korcula and Cavtat, were discontinued. No financial or political support was forthcoming from any source for this type of intellectual discourse, since there was no SFR Yugoslavia or socialism to rally around.
What was obviously a counter-revolutionary tide and a 180-degree ideological turn, which reflected global processes and systemic changes, condemned them to silence in the newly dominant political atmosphere. Indeed, what happened to the Left intellectuals was symptomatic of what happened to the country itself. Fragmented and disunited, which seems to be typical of the Left in general, without adequate resilience, will and ability to defend important achievements made over the decades and to resist the ideological tide and exogenous and endogenous forces that were closing in, they, similar to the Yugoslav experiment, were forced to withdraw.
Striking in today’s West Balkans, is a marked absence of an organised, genuine Left, and of progressive parties that have a significant following, and are politically influential and matter in the political arena. Were it not for a few isolated voices, often belonging to those who still value the Yugoslav road to socialism, one could begin to wonder whether SFR Yugoslavia is remembered in a positive light at all.
5. Is there hope for Yugoslavia to re-emerge one day?
I would like to answer this question in the affirmative and to argue that such a develop-ment is in the realm of the possible, is needed from the global perspective, and would be beneficial for international relations and the international community in general.
The piece of global real estate occupied by Yugoslavia was carved up and/or put together in the past through repeated wars and conflicts, whileits destiny was mainly decided by the big players at “green felt” table or in “smoke filled rooms” in Berlin, Vienna, Versailles, Yalta, and more recently possibly on a warship moored off Malta. It is the “big ones”—as they drew the lines of their own spheres of influence—that played the decisive role in the creation and disappearance of Yugoslavia. They can now again do the same and this time be conducive to bringing it back to life.
It is something that is needed. Within Yugoslavia’s individual former republics nationalistic and religious ghosts are coming back to life, political and social conflicts are flaring, and Cold War tensions are brewing—all fanned by highly populist, confrontational multiparty politics and electoral processes. In what is a pincer movement, the developments in the Middle East and Ukraine are strongly reflected and felt in the West Balkans, where they are also contributing to dissensions and heightened tensions. I feel that the ‘Yu-successor states’, that is, the West Balkans’ region’s problems should and can best be dealt with and resolved within a single community or union of existing states, peoples and ethnic minorities.
How to get there? It would be an illusion to think that the powers which were responsible for and/or helped the crumbling of Yugoslavia and which have been “feasting” on the outcomes of its collapse would consider or agree to such an option voluntarily. It is also not likely that the current superpower would elect a President who, like one of his/her predecessors, would propose and push through such an enlightened option.
But the world is changing andit is likely that the existing world order will also change. In a different global and geopolitical constellation, the status-quo Atlantic powers may have to reconsider and modify their position.
Now, let us look ahead and think aloud of how this could come about. One must first begin to reflect and act outside the box or silo imposed and dictated by the hegemonic West.
The memory of and sympathy for SFR Yugoslavia are widespread in Third World countries. It was a symbol and will remain a symbol for them. They appreciated this country, what it stood for and its contribution to the United Nations and to the cause and struggle of what is today referred to as the Global South. And, in the recent period some of them have experienced infringement on their sovereignty and military aggression patterned and patented on what was developed in Yugoslavia first. Others feel growing pressures and an overwhelming presence of Western powers in every domain of their supposedly sovereign space.
What happened in Yugoslavia is of concern to the Global South. It can happen to any developing country, and not only a developing country. It is likely that a solid majority of developing countries would be prepared to support the idea of bringing back to life, in some form, what used to be Yugoslavia. This was a NAM and G-77 member that was parcelled up. The practices applied and the precedent set were then used in pursuit of West’s geopolitical objectives elsewhere in the South. The restoring ofa Yugoslavia would be welcomed in developing countries,also as an indication of a positive way how to deal with international problems and a step in the direction of replacing the old-order practices.
Since power counts in real life, one can think of BRICS as a possible leader in the recomposing of a new community or union out of the former Yugoslav republics. Each one of BRICS five rising global powers aspires for a role and influence on the world scene, and favours a world order that would no longer be dominated by the West and its geopolitical interests and vision. They are also potentially exposed and need to be ready to defend against strangulation and fragmentation in what has been recently referred to as a “Yugoslavia scenario”.
Is it too far-fetched to think of a joint BRICS and NAM initiative to place on the UN General Assembly agenda, as a regular item, a “nation-rebuilding” proposal of how to put together again Yugoslavia, a “failed state” as it is euphemistically referred to, implying its sole responsibility for all the problems and the subsequent ill-fate it met? This would definitely help change the discourse and offer a UN platform and opportunity for this objective to be considered and discussed on a regular basis. The “rebuilding” of this country should become a joint task of the United Nations and the international community, with the participation of all who favour and support such an outcome. It would represent a shot in the arm for the United Nations and allow it gain greater freedom of initiative and action, without the tutelage of the West.
And what about the West Balkans? A loud outcry of indignation, incredulity and even shock would meet such an idea from different quarters. But, there is no need for despair. The silent and voiceless many would welcome it. Disenchantment and dissatisfaction is brewing in the West Balkans among the people, with the outcomes and effects of the transition process, with the neo-colonial status and subservient position of their own countries which have become a privileged turf, especially, of those powers that played key roles in SFR Yugoslavia’s saga and its sad ending.
The Homo-Balcanicus is always ready to rebel and resist foreign domination, and in a new larger community would see a chance for greater autonomy and sovereignty. More importantly, the economic, political and social benefits of a single, large economy and market, closer ties and cooperation between the existing republics, and their better position to exercise influence in the world arena, negotiate, resist various pressures, and gain breathing space would make this option attractive.
This should be accompanied with a major,UN-sponsored infusion of capital and assistance of several billion dollars from the international community for projects and activities that restore and strengthen ties, including infrastructure and removal of existing barriers that divide.
The proposed effort would need to include the restoring of the positive image of SFR Yugoslavia and undoing ofthe damage done by decades-long unfouvarable media output, history rewrite and chauvinist/Right-wing propaganda that this country and its record and legacy have been subjected to and that have impacted the young and those born after the country disappeared. A few hundred million dollars to engage PR firms (the same ones that were hired to undermine the country at an earlier date!?) to “market” the new community could in quick order reshape the public opinion and get the majority to support the idea. In the region where conditions in favour of such a solution are gradually maturing, a groundswell of popular support is a possibility.
The future of the West Balkans is in the hands of the young who will inherit its problems, and they should be relied on to push forward the idea. A core group of young leaders from all republics and all domains of life should be assembled by the UNto work together, generate ideas and assist the international community in this challenging task, instead of leaving it to grey suit bureaucrats and intelligence services of traditional powers. On the ground in the countries concerned, institutions, meeting points and civil-society activities should be legitimised, established, financed and encouraged. This would allow those favouring the proposed road, including the small numbers of the fading generation of “Yugo-nostalgics” who lived in and knew SFR Yugoslavia, to assemble, communicate, work together, spread the message and serve as a rallying point for the new, positive undertaking.
A long march towards building and establishing a world order of the future could be started by putting Yugoslavia together again, as was done after WWI and WWII.
While, as I believe, in the long run, the breaking-up of SFR Yugoslavia and how this was done de facto marked the beginning of the end of the existing world order, this country’s “renewal” would mean a symbolic beginning of the ascendance of a new democratic and equitable world order that has been stalled and is struggling to emerge ever since the United Nations was established.
Keep on dreaming, many will say. But what is a world without dreams and starry-eyed optimism?! And it is not a dream but a realistic possibility, which calls for vision, global statesmanship, courage, and change in basic geopolitical parameters which are within reach and coming.