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Hitler's act repeated by NATO countries:

On the same date in 1992, as if comemorating Hitler's savage onslaught on Yugoslavia in April 6, 1941, the United States and NATO allies decided to recognize Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia as separate countries pried off multi-ethnic Yugoslavia on April 6, 1992. This act also meant derecognition of Yugoslavia as we used to know her.

To some educated people like Sir Alfred Sherman the intention was loud and clear. Only days after this attack on sovereignty of Yugoslavia he managed to publish this article.

    The bloodshed will continue as long as Germany dominates EC foreign policy, argues Sir Alfred Sherman:


    By Sir Alfred Sherman

    [British] The Independent,
    30 April 1992

    Writing in The Independent in 1988, I traced how the imminent collapse of Communism in Yugoslavia would follow ethnic fault lines and threaten the integrity of the Yugoslav multinational state. Like many observers, I feared that whatever the shortcomings of the Versailles creation, it's disintegration was likely to lead to ethno-religious wars generating mass blood-letting, which would feed on itself and claim hundreds of thousands of innocent victims.

    And the worst is yet to come.

    Nato and the Western European Union ignored the prospect, preferring to wait on events. Worse still, the European Community chose Yugoslavia as an anvil on which to hammer out its "common foreign policy", based less on raison d'etat than on corporate egotism, designed to permit politicians from Luxembourg, Italy, The Netherlands, and Ireland to parade before the television cameras.

    The result was subordination to Germany, with its interests in the Balkans and a foreign minister who enjoyed wide license from his colleagues. This reproduced the historical pattern of the Drang nach Osten. Germany's anti-Serb orientation was reinforced by the side-effects of its defeat in 1945, when part of its Protestant heartland was annexed to the Soviet Union and Poland and the rest it reduced to a status that has downgraded its role in German politics and strengthened the Catholic influence in policy- making, which supports Croatian Catholic Nationalism.

    Whitehall's view was more balanced but also more detached thanks to geography and pressures for concessions to Germany in the name of Europeanness. So, the recognition relay began. Slovenia's recognition was logical enough, the more so since Serbian intransigence had antagonized the Slovenes, their traditional allies in maintaining a Yugoslav entity. Linking Croatia's recognition with Slovenia's helped obviate objections based on differences between the two, stemming from Croatia's attitude towards its Serb minority. Were it not for the Serbian question, Croat independence would meet the usual preconditions. This does not hold good for Bosnia.

    There never has been a Bosnian nation. The Muslims, who overtook the Serbs as largest ethnos only after the Second World War, hanker for a return to their status under Ottoman rule. Their new leadership wishes to recreate Bosnia as a Muslim fundamentalist state, with Pakistan as its role-model and little room for Christians at all, and then only as second-class citizens. President Alija Izetbegovic put his cards on the table in his 1990 Islamic Declaration. He envisages a pure Moslem state with the religious, political and social dimensions wholly integrated. He regards Islam as timeless, above consideration of reform.

    His associates share his foreign clericalist background, Haris Silajdzic, his Foreign Minister, who until recently was Secretary to the Islamic Council of Bosnia, has close links with Tripoli.

    The very idea that a large indigenous Christian community, whose history and psychology are shaped by their fight for national and religious survival under the Ottoman yoke and subsequently for independence, should be expected to submit to being turned into a minority in a Muslim fundamentalist state demonstrates how little the German Minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, and his Dutch counterpart, Hans Van den Broek, understand of the Balkans.

    At present, the Muslims enjoy Croat support against their Serb fellow-Christians. This is no novelty. From the Crusades onwards, there has been a tendency in the Catholic Church to regard Muslim infidels as a lesser evil than the Orthodox "Schismatic" Serbs. Croats and Muslims worked hand in glove in the massacres of Bosnia Serbs in the Independent State of Croatia during the Second World War. Croatian opinion is far from monolithic on this matter. But atrocities perpetrated by the Yugoslav federal army in Slavonia and Dalmatia, egged on by President Slobodan Milosevic, for whom the Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina are pawns, hardened Croatian hearts. Bloodshed breeds bloodshed. Demonising the Serbs only reinforces the hardliners' argument that they have nothing to lose by blood-and-fire policies.

    It is fashionable to blame Versailles for the unviable states that generated inter-ethnic conflict and invited revanchist intervention by Germany and Hungary. But whatever their shortcomings, Poland, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia were paragons of rationality and stability compared with the European Community's proteges of Bosnia and (if Greek objections are overcome) Macedonia.

    A century ago, British politicians, media, and public opinion were keenly aware of the "Eastern Question" and actively sympathized with Turkey's subject Christian populations. Nowadays, they may no longer care, but they cannot afford to ignore it, when religious and ethnic conflict flares up on the shores of the Adriatic.

    In foreign and in economic affairs, we cannot afford to let Germany continue to make the running, least of all when Mr. Genscher is retiring and Chancellor Helmut Kohl is too busy fighting for his political life to worry about the Balkans.

    Whatever the intrinsic merits of the concept of a common European foreign policy, it will be judged by its fruits. Britain, whose government has just bought a new lease of life, is in a position to argue that since German-initiated policies have led to a bloody impasse, the EC must help to work out bespoke constitutional arrangements suitable to the Balkans peoples' character and circumstances. Otherwise, the Serbs of the Dinaric Alps will fight on regardless, and others will be drawn in, as has happened in the past.

Note: Sir Alfred Sherman is a former advisor to Margaret Thatcher.


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Last revised: May 24, 2004