Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Yugoslav Crisis Tests Limits of European Unity

EC falls short of defining common policy, as members back away from deeper military role

EUROPEAN Community action to help pacify fractious, post-Communist Yugoslavia leaves uncertain just what policy the Community's 12 members are applying in this crucial test of the EC's future political integration.Facing the first truly European conflict since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the EC demonstrated this week why it will be difficult for its 12 nations to move to a more tightly integrated foreign policy, as the Community is now trying to do. "This [Yugoslav] crisis comes as the EC is searching to move from political cooperation to becoming a strong international actor," says Otto Smuck, deputy director of the Institute for European Politics in Bonn. "It's a transition that was already difficult, but this shows how deep particular problems, such as the strength of individual national perspectives, remain." After the EC's fourth diplomatic mission in a month failed Sunday to cement a cease-fire in Croatia, an emergency meeting of EC foreign ministers Tuesday was notable for its efforts to move discussion of the Yugoslav crisis to broader international institutions. EC officials discussed alternatives but were perhaps saved from taking more immediate action by the announcement, even as they met, of a new cease-fire agreement. The Yugoslav presidency said Tuesday it had reached an agreement with Croatian nationalists, neighboring Serbs, and the Serbian minority within Croatia's borders on a cease-fire to begin early yesterday. At this writing yesterday, the cease-fire was holding. EC wrestlings resulted in foreign ministers supporting a French proposal to take the issue to the United Nations Security Council, while endorsing Germany's request for a meeting of the 35-member Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). The CSCE, which includes the United States and the Soviet Union, was to meet in Prague today. Any UN action on the crisis appeared doubtful, however, since neither the Soviet Union nor China - both of which hold veto power on the Security Council - look favorably on international involvement in what they view as one country's internal affairs. The Soviet Union is also mindful of difficulties it faces with its independence-minded republics. The foreign ministers also decided to consider reestablishing aid to Yugoslavia. The aid was cut when fighting, which has killed more than 300 in just over a month, broke out. Acting pointedly to counter Serbian designs for a "greater Serbia," EC foreign ministers said aid totaling more than $1 billion would not be restored to those republics refusing a cease-fire or to those trying "to modify international or national borders by force." At France's request, the EC also asked the nine EC nations that make up the Western European Union to begin discussing how it might help maintain "an agreed cease-fire." France has wanted to involve the WEU since the crisis began, in part to show its usefulness as an eventual defensive arm of an integrated European foreign policy. Yet even though the WEU received the green light for a meeting in London yesterday to discuss its possible peacekeeping role, disagreements remained deep on what the WEU might do. Germany has already made clear that its Constitution forbids its military involvement beyond NATO concerns - a point, already made during the Gulf conflict, which obviates direct German military involvement in a country to which it has long ties. The British, too, are extremely cautious about involvement by it or the EC in a conflict involving warring communities within national borders. "We've already got one Northern Ireland on our hands, and we think we know that neither the Community nor anyone else should want to become involved in something like that," says one British official. Even as EC leaders continue to weigh their interest in European stability against the right they recognize to self-determination, there are growing signs of a realization that Yugoslavia, like other parts of Eastern Europe, has passed the point of no return. EC foreign ministers Tuesday said the Community was ready to sponsor a conference on Yugoslavia's future. "We are satisfied with the EC's evolution on this crisis," says a spokesman for the Austrian Foreign Ministry, whose country, supportive of Yugoslavia's northern republics, has long advocated "internationalization" of what it says is no longer an internal conflict. "You can't just stick to old lines and patterns when so much else has changed." For countries like Spain and France, for example, responding to the changes in Yugoslavia will not be easy. Spain has its own separatist Basque movement to worry about, and France worries about growing German dominance. Camping on the side of the status quo in Yugoslavia, observers say, is no more plausible now than it was for France to say in November 1989 that German reunification would not be on Europe's agenda any time soon. "The Baltic states, Armenia, Slovenia, Croatia - for France, these little countries are guilty of introducing disorder in a liberated Europe," said Alain Finkielkraut, a prominent French philosopher in a recent interview in Le Monde newspaper. "To say, like our diplomats, 'Hoorah, the end of communism, and don't anyone move,' is not to avoid catastrophe but to encourage it."

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.