IT has been less than a year since a planeload of European
Community leaders responded to the first shots signaling
Yugoslavia's breakup and flew off to mediate the conflict,
declaring this was "the hour of Europe" - as if the EC alone
possessed the formula for defusing the centuries-old Balkan
What a difference 10 months make. As the freshly recognized
republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina takes its turn as martyr in the
Yugoslav war, the days of EC enthusiasm for its role in a fragile
international peace effort are long past.
This week the representative of Lord Carrington, who presides
over the EC's eight-month-old Yugoslav peace conference, declared
during a visit to the Bosnian republic that negotiations might be
suspended if the situation continued to deteriorate.
Earlier this month EC foreign ministers held out the "carrot" of
reduced economic sanctions to Serbia to coax it away from pursuing
attacks on the ethnically mixed Bosnia. With those overtures
unheeded, however, and the United States suggesting harsher
measures against Serbia - including breaking off diplomatic
relations - some EC officials say Community foreign ministers could
"change their tune" and approve tougher sanctions against Serbia at
their May 2 meeting.
The change in the Community's attitude toward its role in
Yugoslavia has more to do with a loss of naivete than a loss of
interest, some observers say. "It's true that Yugoslavia has
revealed the Community's limits," an EC official says. "But it's
also true, and we've learned once again, that you can't force
people to cooperate."
Dealing with Yugoslavia has indeed been a learning experience
for the EC.
First, the conflict revealed that the Community is still far
from a unified foreign policy. Its current system of "political
cooperation" reflects above all the national interests of 12
This became apparent when Germany, largely for domestic
political reasons, pushed its EC partners to recognize Croatia and
Slovenia last December, faster than some wanted to. Similarly, the
EC's foot-dragging on recognizing Macedonia stems from Greece's
domestic political considerations.
Second, with its elements of civil conflict and ethnic strife,
the Yugoslav war is not readily susceptible to outside mediation.
Once it became clear that neither the US nor the United Nations
could put an end to the conflict, the EC understood what it was up
Finally, the realization that a Balkans war no longer had
historic potential for a chain reaction across Europe caused the
EC's shift to realism about the conflict. …