Geert-Hinrich Ahrens. Diplomacy on the Edge, Containment of Ethnic Conflict and the Minorities Working Group of the Conferences on Yugoslavia. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Baltimore, Maryland: The John Hopkins University Press, 2007. 672 pp. Maps. Table. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $69.00, cloth.
Geert-Hinrich Ahrens is a senior German diplomat who participated in several of the international mediations that accompanied the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the wars of Yugoslav succession that took place in the 1990s. In fact, the narrative of his book covers the Western Balkans up to 2004. In addition to analyzing in great detail the diplomatic activities of various international actors such as the European Community (EC), the International Conference on the former Yugoslavia (ICFY), the United Nations (UN) and many others, the author also provides an historical background to help the reader to understand the Yugoslav crisis of the 1990s. As Ahrens writes, the book "is a hybrid between a memoir and a scholarly work" (p. xiii). I consider Ahrens' s book one of the best analyses of diplomatic activities undertaken by the international community following Yugoslavia's meltdown. The book is a primary source, a gold mine for historians and political scientists. It contains excerpts and notes taken by Ahrens during numerous diplomatic negotiations he participated in. Ahrens was well equipped to undertake the writing of this ambitious book. The author belongs to the small group of German professional diplomats who acquired linguistic skills and knowledge of Yugoslavia well before political and military conflicts tore Yugoslavia apart. Ahrens worked in the 1970s in Belgrade, as a cultural attaché at the German Embassy (p. 511), and travelled extensively not only in Yugoslavia but in Southeastern Europe as well. Thus, when Ahrens arrived in Zagreb in July 199 1 at the beginning of the Serbo-Croatian war as a European Community monitor, he was in a position to inform the German government and the high echelons of the EC about the nature of the conflict in Croatia.
The book is divided into six parts consisting of twenty-nine chapters. It concentrates on the years 1991 to 1996, but also gives a survey of major developments in the region from 1996 to 2004.
Ahrens first analyzes international mediation within the framework of the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia (ICFY). Parts Two to Five cover international mediations in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia. …