COMMISSION ON SECURITY & COOPERATION IN EUROPE: U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION
MITIGATING INTER-ETHNIC CONFLICT IN OSCE REGION
LEAD, 2010 ELECTION OBSERVATION MISSION, OSCE
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE SOUTH CAUCASUS,
FORMER SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR KOSOVO,
THE HEARING WAS HELD FROM 10:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M. IN CAPITOL VISITORS CENTER
ROOMS 208-209, WASHINGTON, D.C., [SEN. BEN CARDIN, CHAIRMAN, CSCE], MODERATING
TUESDAY, MAY 4, 2010
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): Well, good morning. The Helsinki Commission will come
to order and let me thank particularly our witnesses. I know they traveled a
long distance to be with us and we thank them very much for appearing before
the Helsinki Commission.
I can’t think of a more important, fundamental role for the creation of the
Helsinki process, for the U.S.-Helsinki Commission and for the OSCE today than
the issue of trying to mitigate inter-ethnic conflicts in the OSCE region.
When the organization was originally created, this was one of its primary
functions. We had been through wars, we had been through ethnic episodes and I
think our hope was that by signing onto the fundamental principles within OSCE
related to human rights security and economic issues that we would ease the
ethnic problems in the region.
And in fact, I believe OSCE has been responsible for mitigating problems around
the region and has been used as an example throughout the universe. So I think
it has had its impact. But clearly, we are still being challenged today. And
that is why we want to have regular hearings to bring us up to date as to what
is happening as far as inter-ethnic conflict within the OSCE region. And
that’s why I’m particularly pleased that our three witnesses could be with us
today. They are truly experts in the area that we examine today.
The witnesses’ full bios are available outside the hearing room but, briefly,
Ambassador Tagliavini led the European Union’s investigation into the causes of
the Russia-Georgia conflict in 2008 and prepared an excellent report which we
have found to be extremely helpful. Ambassador Semneby is presently the EU
special representative on the South Caucasus and has served as OSCE head of
mission in Croatia. Ambassador Jessen-Petersen is a distinguished
international diplomat with extensive experience in the Balkans. So we really
do have with us today three individuals who can, I hope, help us understand the
current status within the OSCE on this issue.
I do want to note that we did invite the OSCE high commissioner on national
minorities to participate in this hearing and, while that was not possible, I
did have the opportunity to meet with the high commissioner when he visited
Washington in March. Among other issues, we discussed the “Recommendations on
National Minorities in Inter-State Relations,” prepared under the auspices of
the high commissioner. These 19 guidelines provided greater clarity on how
states can pursue their interests with regards to minorities without
jeopardizing peace and good neighborly relations. They constitute yet another
outstanding contribution of the High Commissioner’s Office to the work of the
OSCE and should serve as a foundation for the OSCE’s efforts in this area.
Ethnic conflicts continue to break out within the OSCE region at great cost to
the affected countries and populations. In this connection, we are closely
watching developments in Kyrgyzstan, where amidst the turmoil and ouster of a
government in the last few weeks, land grabs and following attacks were
directed against Russians, Kazakhs and other minorities.
Ethnic conflicted combined with territorial disputes have erupted in the
Caucasus as well, causing many thousands of casualties with hundreds of
thousands of civilians remain displaced and unable to return to their homes.
As a result, security within the region is seriously undermined, while economic
development is stymied by the insecurity and unsettled legal issues,
particularly where the conflicts are inter¬state in character.
The Crimea region of the Ukraine still bears the wounds of the 1944 mass
deportation of thousands of Crimean Tatars and other ethnic minorities in
Ukraine by Joseph Stalin. The government of Ukraine and the affected
population in Crimea continue to be challenged with finding mutually acceptable
settlements on property rights, as well as the exercise of educational and
language rights of the Ukrainians, Russians, Tatars and other minorities in the
This July, we will commemorate the genocide which occurred at Srebrenica in
Bosnia 15 years ago, the senseless slaughter of 8,000 Bosniak men and boys
trapped by Serb militants in what the U.N. declared safe haven. This horrific
event should be kept in mind as we proceed with today’s hearing.
Srebrenica demonstrates, in our own time, the degree in which even relatively
small ethnic differences can generate fears and prejudices that, in turn, can
lead dangerously to hatred, violence and aggression quite literally against
innocent neighbors. Perhaps the most important lesson of Srebrenica, however,
is that it made evident the folly of blaming ethnic differences themselves for
There was absolutely nothing inevitable about Srebrenica and the ethnic
cleansing that occurred in Bosnia. It was orchestrated by individuals, not
history, and was therefore preventable – had there been the political will to
While we insist, and do, on bringing those responsible like Ratko Mladic to
justice, we must also acknowledge our own burden of having failed to intervene
to stop him and his murderous minions. If we do not learn from this mistake,
human rights violations, ethnic conflicts and possibly even genocide will
continue to occur. These are only some of the very good reasons for conducting
With that, we are going to turn to our witnesses and I look forward to a
discussion. I can assure our witnesses that your entire statements will be
made part of the record of the commission and you may proceed as you would
like. We’ll start out with Ambassador Tagliavini.
HEIDI TAGLIAVINI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, members of the
Helsinki Commission, ladies and gentlemen, let me take this opportunity to
express my gratitude for having been invited to address this eminent body on a
topic which, contrary to many expectations, continues to be of top actuality
whenever we talk about security and the current challenges to peace and
stability in Europe.
I am honored to have this opportunity today to share with you some
concentrations and findings which emanate from the report on the conflict in
Georgia in August 2008. As you well know, the report which I will introduce
today has been submitted to the Council of the European Union more than half a
year ago. On the same occasion, the report has also been handed over to the
parties to the conflict – the Georgia and the Russian Federations – to the OSCE
and the U.N. as stipulated in the mission’s mandate. The report has also been
given to the conflicting parties, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. For a number of
reasons, not the least to avoid misquotations and misinterpretation, the report
has been made publicly available on the Internet immediately after its release.
The report has found wide international attention. The reaction in the press
and in the public have almost always been positive or factual and neutral. The
conflicting parties reacted in the overwhelming majority in a moderate way
although we unfortunately could observe some rather selective reading. I mean,
each party presenting those parts of the report which were to their liking.
Allow me to briefly record the origin and mandate of the report: By its
decision of 2 December 2008, the EU Council commissioned an independent
international fact-finding mission to investigate the August 2008 conflict in
Georgia. The council appointed me as the head of the fact-finding mission,
leaving to me all decisions as to its working methods and proceedings. The
mandate’s terms of reference request the commission to investigate the origins
and the causes of the conflict of August 2008 in Georgia.
So the mandate was a three-fold mandate: investigate the origins and the
causes and the course of the August 2008 conflict in Georgia, including with
regard to international law, including the Helsinki Final Act with regard to
humanitarian law and human rights and the accusations made in that context,
including allegations of war crimes.
The geographical scope and the time span was to be sufficiently broad to
determine all possible causes of the conflict – a very extensive task, for
which the mission was assigned a relatively timeframe of just about nine
The report contains over 1,000 pages. This seems to be fairly voluminous.
However, the main results of the report are summarized on some 25 pages at its
very beginning under the heading of “The Conflict in Georgia in August 2008.”
This summary includes the main events that occurred and their underlying
reasons in terms of their political, historical, military and legal relevance –
and the latter both in the context of international law and international
humanitarian law as well as human rights law. They include the most
substantial elements, facts and findings of the report, followed by a dozen of
the most important observations – sort of lessons learned – which have emerged
in the course of the work.
Preceding this summary, there is also a short introduction explaining the
context, the methods and the purpose of the mission’s work. The summary is
followed by an acknowledgment of the efforts of all those who contributed to
the mission’s work. These chapters together with a few additional pages of a
more technical context, such as maps and a list of the mission’s visit and
meetings, represent most of volume one of the report, then followed by two
additional volumes – two and three.
Volume two includes about 450 pages of expert opinions and analysis which were
among the most important but not the only foundations for the report’s facts
and conclusions. These 450 pages contain all the relevant information which in
one way or another has to do with the conflict in Georgia.
Volume three with around 650 pages contains mainly the unabridged and unaltered
statements and answers to the mission’s questions as received from the
different sides to the conflict and other sources. Hence, the total report
comprises around 1,150 pages divided into three volumes, as just explained.
Let me point out some further elements related to the mission’s work and its
report. First among these is the political context. It needs to be recalled
that the European Union played an important role in stopping the fighting in
Georgia in August 2008 and in negotiating the agreements necessary for a
ceasefire. This was largely due to the persistent efforts of the then-French
EU presidency led by President Sarkozy.
Even now, the European Union continues to be actively engaged in stabilizing
efforts such as the EU monitoring mission and in the Geneva talks. We
understand that our mission was also part of this overall European Union policy
which aims at securing a peaceful and lasting solution to the conflict in
Another important point I would like to stress that our fact-finding mission
was the first fact-finding mission of its kind in the history of the European
Union. Our aim was to prepare a fair and nonpartisan presentation of the
events and an equally balanced evaluation in terms of international and
Our hope was that the report will make a valid contribution to a negotiated
solution of the conflict. Yet, it is not enough to approach this conflict in
terms of its political, legal and military aspects. It is even more so a
matter of minds.
Those who were involved in the conflict are usually focusing only on their own
truths. They were hardly ever sufficiently prepared to look at the truth of
the others. It must be understood, however, that no solution to the conflict
is possible unless it comes from the principals themselves and unless it
reflects not only their own perceptions but those of the other side as well.
The report wishes to encourage this process of reorientation.
In this context, it needs to be underlined that the fact-finding mission was
not leading an investigation relevant to judicial proceedings of any sort. It
was a strictly fact-finding mission. In keeping with the mandate conferred by
the EU Council, this report should not be seen as a tribunal and it was not
preparing any legal action in favor or against any side or anyone.
The mission’s task was to establish to the best of its knowledge, the facts and
their relevance under international and humanitarian law. There is hardly any
chance for a future peace without the facts being presented in a sober and
impartial manner. This was the main purpose of the report.
Indeed, the objective, unbiased and nonpartisan approach has been one of the
most basic and most important guidelines of the mission’s work. The impact of
the mission’s report and, with it, the contribution it can make towards peace
and stability largely depends on its acceptance by the sides to the conflict.
And this, again, is contingent upon the report’s fairness. This is what the
mission has tried to achieve.
If there is any basic message of the report apart from drawing attention to the
human dimension of the conflict and all the tragedy of the events, then it is
in the form of a renewed call upon all conflicting sides to comply with the
basic rules of international law, such as the respect of sovereignty and
territorial integrity and the nonuse of force or the threat of force, as these
principles are enshrined in the charter of the United Nations.
At the same level, there is a similar need for uncompromising observance of the
guidelines for international interaction and behavior which is linked in a
European context to the OSCE and its landmark documents, beginning with the
Helsinki Final Act of 1975 through to the Charter for the European Security as
well as all of the relevant documents of the Council of Europe and, of course,
the U.N. Charter. All of these have suffered as a result of the August 2008
fighting in Georgia and all sides to the conflict must do their utmost to give
these political and legal instruments their rightful places of decisiveness in
international relations again.
At the same time, it derives from these observations that this conflict has not
only a local or regional relevance but that it has a direct bearing on the
security architecture of Europe. While fairness and nonpartisan and
even-handed approach are the (pivots ?) of the mission’s working methods, a
similar effort has been made to provide clear-cut answers when it comes to the
results of the mission’s work.
Let me start with the answer to the question which in the past has been asked
most frequently. In the mission’s view, it was Georgia which triggered off the
war when it attacked Tskhinvali with heavy artillery on the night of 7 to 8
None of the explanations given by the Georgian authorities in order to provide
some form of legal justification for the attack lended (sic) to valid
explanation. In particular, to the best of our knowledge, there was no massive
Russian military invasion on the way which had to be stopped by Georgian
military forces shelling Tskhinvali.
This said, it needs to be stressed that the Georgian attack against Tskhinvali
on 7 to 8 August 2008, was by no means an isolated event. It was but the
culminating point of months and years of mounting tension, of armed incidents
and a steadily deteriorating situation. All sides to the conflict bear
responsibility for these ever-more-serious developments. Indeed, the conflict
has deep roots in the history of the region, in people’s national traditions
and aspirations as well as in age-old perceptions, or rather misperceptions, of
each other which were never mended and sometimes exploited.
The report on the conflict in Georgia has shown that any explanation of the
origins of the conflict cannot focus solely on the artillery attack on
Tskhinvali in the night of 7 to 8 August and on what then developed into a
Georgian offensive against South Ossetia and the ensuing Russian military
response. Such an evaluation needs always to take into account the run-up to
the open hostilities during the years before and the mounting tension in the
months and weeks immediately preceding the outbreak of hostilities.
It must also, as stressed earlier, take into consideration years of
provocations, mutual accusations, military and political threats, and acts of
violence both inside and outside the conflict zones. It has to consider, too,
the impact of a great power’s politics and diplomacy against a small and
insubordinate neighbor, together with the small neighbor’s penchant for acting
in the heat of the moment without careful consideration of the final outcome;
not to mention its fear that it might permanently lose an important part of its
territory through what it used to call a creeping annexation.
While the onus of having actually triggered the war lies with the Georgian
side, the Russian side, too, carries the blame for a substantial number of
violations of international law. These include – even prior to the armed
conflict – the mass conferral of Russian citizenship to a majority of the
population living in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It also includes, in terms of
an additional violation of international law, the military action by the
Russian armed forces on Georgian territory far beyond the needs of a
proportionate defense of Russian peacekeepers in Tskhinvali who had come under
In addition, the Russian recognition of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia as
independent states must be considered as being not valid in the context of
international law and as a violation of Georgia’s territorial integrity and
As far as the contentious issues under international humanitarian law and human
rights law are concerned, it is among the main conclusions of the fact-finding
mission that Russian and Ossetian allegations claiming that Georgia was
carrying out a genocide against the South Ossetian population are not
On the other side, there are serious indications that ethnic cleansing did take
place in many instances against ethnic Georgians and their religious
settlements in South Ossetia as well as other violations of international
humanitarian law which have been attributed to all sides.
Furthermore, there are serious question marks behind the attitude of the
Russian armed forces who would not or could not stop atrocities committed by
armed groups or even individual fighting on the South Ossetian side against the
civilian population in those territories which were controlled by the Russian
In our report, we noted with regret an erosion of the respect of established
principles of international law such as territorial integrity, and at the same
time, an increased willingness on all sides to accept the use of force as a
means to reach one’s political goals, and to act unilaterally instead of
seeking a negotiated solution, as difficult and cumbersome as such a
negotiation might be.
And finally, we have seen the long trail of human suffering and misery in the
wake of armed action.
As our mission was created as a fact-finding mission and not as a political
consultative body, the mission has abstained from laying out a political
roadmap on how to handle and possibly to resolve the still-ongoing conflict.
While describing the events and their causes, the mission has noted, however, a
number of elements which contributed to the steady escalation of tension and,
finally, to the armed conflict of August 2008. The mission has tried to
identify these elements in the report’s chapter on observations and it has
added brief suggestions to each of them.
Number one, first and foremost, I would recommend abstaining from assigning an
overall responsibility for what has happened in Georgia in 2008. The conflicts
in South Ossetia and Abkhazia are rooted in a profusion of causes comprising
different layers in time and actions combined. While it is possible to
identify the authorship of some important events and decisions marking its
course, there is no way to assign an overall responsibility for the conflict to
one side alone. All parties to the conflict have failed and it should be their
responsibility to make good for it.
Second, in the 2008 conflict in Georgia, preventive diplomacy and international
conflict management was not successful, partly because of what I would call a
gradual erosion of previously negotiated and agreed common parameters as well
as an increasing disrespect of international commitment. In order to keep
peace or even just the effectiveness of a ceasefire agreement, we don’t need
any new agreements or treaties apart from those existing already.
Another important point are the existing provisions when it comes to the supply
of arms and military equipment as well as military training in a conflict
region. Even when done within the limits established by international law or
by commitments of a nonbinding nature such as the relevant OSCE and U.N.
principles of the – (inaudible) – arrangements, military support should stay
within the limits set by common sense and due diligence. Upmost care should be
taken by providers of military aid to refrain from giving their support even
unintentionally to any actions or developments detrimental to the stability in
Another point is the virtually passive and non-innovative approach to the peace
processes adopted by the international community present in the area. I mean
the OSCE in South Ossetia and the U.N. in Abkhazia. They did not help to bring
about a peaceful settlement of the conflict. When, in early spring 2008, the
international community eventually realized the seriousness of the situation
and deployed intense, high-diplomacy with U.S. State Secretary Condoleezza
Rice, EU High Representative Javier Solana and German Foreign Minister
Frank-Walter Steinmeier presenting one diplomatic initiative after the other,
it was too late and not enough to prevent the forthcoming crisis.
The international context in which the August 2008 events were unfolding was,
without any doubt, complicated by decisions on Kosovo’s independence and its
international recognition. Together with the Bucharest NATO summit of April
2008 with its promise of Georgia’s future NATO membership, these events
complicated the international context in which the events were unfolding.
The decision by the Russian Federation to withdraw the 1996 CIS restrictions on
Abkhazia and to authorize direct relations with the Abkhaz and the South
Ossetian sides in a number of fields in spring 2008 added another dimension to
an already-complex situation in the area. This added to the lack of timely and
sufficiently determined action by the international community; and as already
mentioned, to some degree, the non-innovative approach to the peace process in
Abkhazia and South Ossetia adopted by the international organizations
contributed to the unfolding of the crisis.
There is another important and a favorite topic of mine which I have
experienced in many years of work in conflict zones. It concerns the
arrangements made to end an open conflict. It is my deep belief that any
ceasefire agreement as unsatisfactory as it may be for all sides is still
better than a war or open hostilities.
However, it needs also to be said that all ceasefire arrangements sooner or
later are worn out or overtaken by events. As in the case of the U.N. in
Abkhazia or the OSCE in South Ossetia, mandates become inadequate or even
instrumental in cementing uncompromising position. What may have been an
effective tool for ending the hostilities in, in our case, the conflict in the
early ’90s, may turn out to be obsolete 15 years later and even lead directly
to open hostilities.
Finally, it must be noted that there are no winners in this conflict. Everyone
has lost, if not in terms of life and property alone, at least in the fields of
hopes and prospects for the future. This is true not only of the relations
between Tbilisi on one side and Sukhumi and Tskhinvali on the other side where
the August 2008 conflict has not settled any of the contentious issues.
The situation in the conflict region continues to remain tense. Relations
between Georgia and Russia have come to an all-time low. And the international
community is among the losers, too.
The political culture of cooperativeness that have developed in Europe since
the 1970s on the basis of already-mentioned landmark documents of the CSCE and
the OSCE has suffered. The threats and use of force have now returned to
European politics. Established principles of international law such as the
respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of states were ignored.
Violations of international humanitarian and human rights law such as ethnic
cleansing have resurfaced as elements of political reality. And last but not
least, the relations between the Western powers and Russia have suffered.
The international community as well as other regional or non-regional actors
involved in the conflict should make every conceivable effort not only to bring
the sides to the negotiating table but also to address the urgent political
question on how to overcome the gap that was created by the conflict in Georgia
in August 2008. The successful outcome of such negotiations should also do
much to mend the relations between Western powers and Russia.
There is little hope, however – and here I’m quoting the conclusion of our
report: “There is little hope, however, for a peaceful future in the conflict
region unless the two main contenders, Russia and Georgia, make bilateral
efforts themselves to solve their disputes. This needs to be done now.”
It is our sincere hope that the report may contribute to a better understanding
and, most importantly, to a sober assessment of the situation by the
conflicting sides and, through that, to be instrumental in creating peace and
stability in the conflict region and beyond. I thank you for your attention.
SEN. CARDIN: Ambassador Tagliavini, first of all, thank you very much for that
detailed explanation of the Russian-Georgia issues. I don’t think anyone has
as much experience on this than you do, so we very much appreciate the personal
PETER SEMNEBY: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Ladies and gentlemen, I
very much appreciate this opportunity to testify before the U.S. Helsinki
Commission on this very timely topic.
I would like to start where my colleague Ambassador Tagliavini finished. And
that is with the Russian-Georgian war. There was undoubtedly a war between two
states but where the foundations – the deeper foundations – lay in the fraught
inter-ethnic relations between Georgians on the one hand and Abkhaz and South
Ossetians on the other hand, which was a result of the wars of the 1990s.
These inter-ethnic conflicts gradually became hijacked as part of a larger
inter-state conflict, and I would even say, to some extent, a geostrategic
The European Union, as Ambassador Tagliavini mentioned, responded to this
challenge in August of 2008 by brokering the ceasefire between Russia and
Georgia by deploying a monitoring mission, launching talks between the parties,
hosting a donor’s conference and then sponsoring the independent commission
that Ambassador Tagliavini led.
The European Union also responded at the more strategic level by launching the
so-called Eastern Partnership in the spring of 2009. The purpose of this
initiative, which covers not only the three countries in the South Caucasus but
also Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine, is to promote a prosperous and stable
neighborhood to be able to better respond to specific concerns and aspirations
of the Eastern neighbors through EU approximation, stronger political
relationships, free trade, liberalization of travel and so on. And also as
part of this relationship, promoting rule of law, human rights, good
governance, which includes also minority rights that are the topic of our
The war demonstrated that the status quo that we had seen emerge in the
Caucasus was a dangerous one. A status quo can always delude policymakers
outside a region like this, especially if it’s a far-away region, to conclude
that all is fine and attention can be paid elsewhere. If there was any lesson
of the Russian-Georgia war, though, it was that frozen does not mean safe.
I would also mention another factor here and that is the closed borders of the
South Caucasus that we have seen as a consequence of this status quo. There
are obviously consequences of the conflict but they are increasingly also
becoming sources of conflict, as many of them have now been closed for more
than a decade. People on each side of these borders are, at best, growing up
in ignorance about each other, but at worst, with reinforced enemy images.
The new generation on each side of these borders, or, administrative
boundaries, as they sometimes may be as well, will not only be divided by
ethnicity but also by a lack of knowledge about each other and often not even
sharing a common language anymore.
I believe that the European Union and other partners of the countries in the
region have a huge role to play in contributing to a culture of dialogue in the
region, promoting regional cooperation and development opportunities across
these borders and boundaries.
Let me mention a few words on each one of the conflicts that we are facing in
the region. I would start briefly with the Turkey-Armenia conflict. The EU as
well as the United States and Switzerland as well – in particular, Switzerland,
I would mention as the mediator in this longstanding conflict – have focused a
good deal of political and diplomatic attention on the rapprochement between
Turkey and Armenia.
This is a conflict that has a long and difficult history. It is obviously much
more than an inter-state conflict. It has strong historical roots going back
to the very tragic history of the late Ottoman Empire. As I said, it is more
than an inter-state conflict but it also doesn’t fall in the classical
kin-state pattern. But as anybody here in Congress is aware, it very much
involves the large Armenian diaspora residing both in the United States and in
the European Union and elsewhere.
We find ourselves now at a critical moment in the efforts to normalize
relations between the two states and open the common border. The protocols
that were signed in October of 2009 have been submitted to the Turkish and
Armenian parliaments but have yet to be ratified. Both sides, given the
charged background, history, apprehensions, will have to take courageous steps
which will be, indeed, controversial among parts of their respective
constituencies in order to move towards the ratification and the implementation
of the protocol.
From the beginning here, the reaction of Azerbaijan was predictably negative,
with many in Azerbaijan regarding this even as a step of betrayal by their
brethren and ethnic kin in Turkey. The EU has made it clear that this process
is not – we believe this process is not against the interests of Azerbaijan and
that ultimately the stability of the region, with open borders, will be to the
benefit of all, including Azerbaijan. It’s important together with our
partners including the United States that we continue to work with Azerbaijan
to reassure the leadership of our continued commitment to Azerbaijan – to
dialogue with Azerbaijan and our commitment to Azerbaijan as a strategically
On a positive note on the protocols, I would say that even in this difficult
situation we’re facing now, they may already have contributed positively to
improved relations between Turks and Armenians. Although the border does
remain closed, we have observed a dismantling of what I would call mental
barriers, including an increasing number of visits in both directions by civil
society representatives, journalists, together with an intensified exchange of
ideas and opinions, something that makes me cautiously positive as to the
On Nagorno-Karabakh, this conflict is perhaps the most fraught in terms of
inter-ethnic antagonism in the region. The war in the early 1990s was an
exceptionally bloody one that left deep and painful wounds with many dead and
hundreds of thousands driven from their homes. This conflict is also a
classical example of the difficulty of reconciling the principles of the
Helsinki Final Act with each other – in particular, territorial integrity with
the right of self-determination.
The EU does not have a direct role in the peace talks under the OSCE Minsk
Group but the increasing engagement of the European Union bilaterally with the
countries in the region and collectively also with the EU’s eastern partners
suggests that the EU could indeed play a larger and more assertive role. I
believe that we can make important practical and political contributions in
support of the resolution of the conflict and in support of the efforts of the
There’s a particular need here to work with the populations of the two
countries, and this includes also Nagorno-Karabakh. There is a disconnect
today between the highest levels – those conducting the negotiations – and the
wider populations, which are still very much entrenched in their positions,
relying on old stereotypes of the enemy. Without the shift in perspectives in
these societies, it will be very difficult for the respective leaders to sell
an eventual peace to their respective electorates. And the more time passes,
the more difficult this will become.
As to the Georgia conflict, this needs to be analyzed, as I mentioned, at two
levels: the inter-state conflict between Georgia and Russia and the
inter-ethnic and inter-communal conflict between the Georgians and the Abkhaz.
I will not go into any detail here. I believe you have received as good a
presentation as one can get from Ambassador Tagliavini.
But I would just like to recall that Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South
Ossetia as independent states and the continued presence of significant Russian
forces in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in areas where such forces were not
present to August of 2008, and which remain there in violation of the six-point
ceasefire agreement, that all of this means that the prospect of normalization
in the near and medium term between Russia and Georgia is unlikely.
I would also recall that the recognition by Russia of the independence of
Abkhazia and South Ossetia followed upon a long history of increasing tensions,
as has been described, including the controversial granting of citizenship to
the populations of these – Russian citizenship to the populations of these
There have, at the same time, been some positive steps between Russia and
Georgia, notably the opening of a border crossing point in March of this year.
This is now the only legal crossing point between the two countries, since
other roads and the now-defunct rail link all run through either Abkhazia or
South Ossetia. The opening of this border could have positive implications,
not only for the Russian-Georgian relationship, but also regionally, beyond
Georgia’s borders, notably for Armenia.
As for the inter-community conflict, this conflict naturally was in the
background – has been in the background since the Russian-Georgian war. But it
needs to be recalled that, from the point of view of the population of the
breakaway regions, there are serious concerns regarding, in particular,
security in the broadest sense, including for language and culture. From the
point of view of the Georgian side, the main issue is the right of return of
the displaced Georgian population, and in particular, after the war, also the
rights of the remaining Georgian population in the conflict regions, including
their freedom of movement across the administrative boundary lines.
At the end of last year, the European Union adopted a policy vis-à-vis
Georgia’s breakaway regions based on two principles of non-recognition and
engagement. And indeed, we consider these two principles to be indispensable
parts of one integral policy. While it’s imperative to remain unequivocally
committed to the – (inaudible) – principle – the respect for Georgian integrity
– it’s also essential to be flexible and pragmatic in practice, for example by
promoting contacts with the population of the breakaway regions.
It’s only through engagement and establishing a footprint in the breakaway
regions that the European Union can provide an alternative perspective for
Abkhazia – could provide a perspective for the populations in Abkhazia and
South Ossetia that is similar to the vision shared by the Georgians, and how
the European Union in this way, also, can ensure that its soft power can
function. All of this also requires that Georgia reaches out, and we are
working closely with the Georgian government in order to encourage such an
approach, including through support for a state strategy – the implementation
of a state strategy that was adopted to this effect some time ago.
I spent three years – more than three years also in the Balkans, as you
mentioned, Mr. Chairman, in the beginning. And in conclusion, this leads me to
make some reflections on parallels between the South Caucasus and the Balkans.
The conflicts in these two areas were both caused by the collapse of
multiethnic super-states with a dominating metropolis.
Both the Soviet Union and the old Yugoslavia acknowledged and even supported
ethnic identities as a kind of safety valve, but at the same time, they tried
to keep the ethnic groups in check by carefully balancing their interests and
suppressing any expression of ethnic interests that threaten the legitimacy of
the super-state. In both cases, there were also attempts to artificially
develop a common, non-ethnic and fairly ideological identity on the top of and
as an eventual alternative to the ethnic identities – that is, the Soviet and
These strategies ultimately imploded, and both in the Soviet Union and in the
former Yugoslavia, the inter-ethnic conflicts were then hijacked as part of
interstate conflicts between the countries that emerged – conflicts that were
more about dividing up resources, revising maps and projecting power than
anything else. Most of the conflicts in the Balkans were put to rest fairly
rapidly because this region was located in the heart of Europe and was the
subject of intensive attention from the European Union, NATO, United States and
The European accession agenda that was launched at the European Union summit at
Thessaloniki in 2003 gave the countries in this region a vision to strive for,
while it also underlined the attention of the European Union and its member
states to this region and its problems, including the inter-ethnic conflicts.
It paved the way for the re-establishment of economic relations and trade,
cooperation on war crimes and symbolic acts of reconciliation.
The countries of the South Caucasus do not have a membership perspective, but
it’s also important to notice that the Eastern Partnership does not exclude the
possibility of a membership perspective at some future – at some time in the
future. The – I have focused this presentation on conflict management, but
both regions contain further conflict potential, which makes prevention an
indispensable priority, alongside the handling of the existing protracted
There are many potential hotspots in the South Caucasus, in particular, that
I’m dealing with at the moment – the Azerian and Armenian minorities in
Georgia, where unemployment and social problems could acquire an ethnic
conflict dimension if not handled correctly; some areas of Azerbaijan, where
religious revival, both Sunni and Shiite, is creating concerns; the dangerous
spillover from the increasingly precarious situation in the economically
depressed and ethnically diverse Russian North Caucasus.
Many European Union programs are geared towards regional development in
depressed minority areas, and we’re also working on legislation,
institution-building, education and other rights issues, together with the
OSCE, including the high commissioner on national minorities and the Council of
Europe. So in the longer run, how can we overcome these inter-ethnic divisions
and avoid that they become instruments, again, in larger conflicts?
I would highlight two concepts here: shared identity and common interests.
Ethnicity is very much about identity, and one of the visions closest at hand
would therefore be to try to adjust the identities that have pitched people in
these two regions against each other. As the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia
waned, the superficial Soviet and Yugoslav identities rapidly disappeared, but
only to be replaced by narrow and exclusive national, and I would even say
nationalist, identities in the successor states.
Only with the gradually increasing role of the European Union has the prospect
of a new, larger identity emerged that could ultimately contribute to a common
purpose and become a compliment to the national identities, softening them and
adding a layer to them, but without replacing them. We’ve already seen this in
the Balkans, and I’m confident that this transformation will also take place,
ultimately, in the South Caucasus, as long as the European Union has the will
to deliver relevant benefits to the countries and engage with the conflict
The other concept here would be to nurture common interests between the
countries and areas populated by different ethnicities. This requires, first
and foremost, open borders, not least since both the Balkans and the South
Caucasus are located right on strategic communications roads for goods, energy
and peoples. All the South Caucasus conflicts, in fact – Abkhazia, South
Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh – are almost literally roadblocks sitting on and
preventing traffic on important strategic communications routes.
With a renewed paradigm for the South Caucasus of – and I would say this
paradigm would be a region of intersecting, strategic communications routes –
it may be possible for the states in the region to focus on the benefits of
cooperation as an alternative to the continuing practice of instrumentalizing
differences among the inter-ethnic and holding these hostages to wider
This paradigm would be similar to the rationale behind the functional
integration that led to the decision, 50 years ago, to pull Europe’s strategic
resources to prevent further conflict – a momentous decision that soon led to
the emergence of the European Communities, and later, to the European Union.
Thank you very much for your attention.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. I particularly appreciated your
observations on prevention. Once the conflicts become frozen or active, it’s
very difficult to deal with the displacements and all the problems that come
with it. So thank you very much for that. We’ll now turn to Mr.
SOREN JESSEN-PETERSEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you very much for
convening this meeting. This is my third opportunity to appear before this
commission. I did it in 1996, when I was a special envoy of the U.N. High
Commission for Refugees in what was then called the former Yugoslavia; then
again in 2005, when I was the special representative of the U.N.
secretary-general and administrator of Kosovo.
And now, I’m delighted to be back. I know the role that this commission has
been playing, is playing in its constant focus on not-the-least, the human
dimensions of conflicts, which, over the last seven or eight years, we have
tended, very often, to ignore or forget in our pursuit of what we call state
There were seven conflicts in the Western Balkans from 1991 – (coughs) – excuse
me – to 2001. They had, as their objective, the forcible displacement of other
groups, be they political, ethnic, social, religious or a community, or what we
also call the ethnic cleansing of other groups. When the first of these
conflicts erupted in 1991, there was the by-now-infamous statement by the
Luxembourg foreign minister, then-chair of the EU, that the hour of Europe is
now. We know today that, that hour never came.
We know that, unfortunately, Europe failed to prevent and stop the conflicts
that was done thanks to an initial hesitant involvement on the part of the
United States, and then NATO leadership, also. And the role of the EU during
the conflict was mainly relegated to humanitarian assistance, which, at the
time, as a senior official in UNHCR, I, of course, appreciated, although, as
many, were concerned that the humanitarian efforts during the war became a
substitute for decisive political action.
Now, in the post-conflict rebuilding, Europe has, as it should indeed, taken
the lead, and working very closely with the not only European Union and
European Commission but with the OSCE and the U.N. have played prominent roles
in reverting the goals of what those seven conflicts were all about. That
means focusing on rebuilding the physical and human scars of the destruction
during the war, working on reverting the displacement by helping refugees
displaced to return, or to relocate elsewhere, and then thirdly, working on
trying to heal the divisions through coexistence, reconciliation and judicial
We have come a long way, over the last 10 years. I have always been convinced
that the best way to address inter-ethnic tensions in that region have been by
addressing the past through a forward-looking strategy by locking all the
countries of the western Balkans into a future, larger Europe. As Ambassador
Semneby just mentioned, that policy was confirmed at the summit of the European
Union in Thessaloniki, Greece, in 2003, when the EU confirmed the European
perspective of countries of the Western Balkans.
That means, in normal language, confirming that they will all one day be
members of the European Union. Since then, Slovenia moved in, as we know, in
2004. Croatia is now in the final stages of its accession process. Macedonia
has embarked on this process, but is being delayed by the continued dispute
with Greece over the name issue. And the other countries in the region –
Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia – are in various stages – rather
early stages – of the accession process. But there must be no doubt, there is
no doubt, that they will all one day be members of the European Union.
There are three major, outstanding issues in the way of progress. The first is
the continued constitutional mess in Bosnia-Herzegovina that hampers progress
and still leaves worrying questions of whether the forces of integration or the
forces of separation in that country will prevail.
The second outstanding issue is Serbia’s continued objections to the
independence of Kosovo – an independence which is a reality, recognized, now,
by 67 of the U.N. member states, but still not recognized by five member states
of the European Union. Serbia, of course has a right to object to the
independence of Kosovo, but in my view, the European Union should not move
forward with Serbia’s progress into the European Union as long as there is this
unresolved bilateral issue between Serbia and Kosovo, because that would risk
EU unity, Western Balkan states’ cooperation.
And as we have seen already, having made the mistake in the past inviting in
countries involved in bilateral conflicts – for example, Cyprus, or the name
issue over Macedonia and, until recently, also a bilateral issue between
Slovenia and Croatia – these are all detrimental to the main focus on
integrating the countries of Europe into EU. And it delays the accession
process. So EU, I hope, would not make that mistake again.
Thirdly, the third, last, I believe major outstanding issue is based on a very
positive development. Over the last couple of years, EU has finally moved to
liberalize visa procedures, allowing citizens from the countries of the Western
Balkans to travel freely also into and around Europe. That is important
because they need to see and learn and take back exactly what an EU perspective
means. So it’s a very welcome development.
Unfortunately, the citizens of Bosnia and Kosovo are still not benefiting from
the visa liberalization. Those two countries are not considered ready. One
could say that is quite strange, in view of the fact that we have a very heavy
European Union involvement exactly in those two countries. And it is a pity,
because leaving two countries behind in the very welcome liberalization of the
visas do, to a certain extent, defeat the purpose, because if there are gaps in
the areas of the freedom of movement, we will still fail in bringing states of
the region together, and also together with the EU.
And I hope that the leaving out of Bosnia and Kosovo will be rectified in the
very early future. Let me just, then, sum up by addressing the need to
mitigate those ethnic tensions that still remain. But I want to underline, I
think we have come a considerable way in addressing those tensions. And also,
I would like to agree with you, Mr. Chairman, in your opening remarks, that
those ethnic tensions have mostly been those fed by the political leadership
and not really cultivated by the citizens of the region.
The first point that we need to continue paying very important attention to is
the need for accountability for the crimes committed during the war. We have
to continue doing it through the International Criminal Tribunal on former
Yugoslavia and through local judicial institutions. We know that a lot of work
has been done very good; unfortunately, on three of the principal actors
responsible for the crimes, we never got the sentencing of President Milosevic,
Ratko Mladic, as you said, Mr. Chairman, is still at large, and the process of
Mr. Karadzic is just underway. I think to complete that process to send a
clear message, it is very important that the work continues.
Secondly, in order to address still-remaining interethnic tensions, we need to
focus much more on economic opportunities and jobs on the ground. We need to
do that to move the people from an understandable focus that they still have on
the past and, as Ambassador Semneby mentioned, to bring them together around
common economic interest – not just shared identity, but shared, common
interests in building the future. Too little attention has been paid to the
importance of economic development in interethnic reconciliation and
The third point is, we need to continue promoting and consolidating all the key
aspects of a modern democracy. That is the good governance, the rule of law,
freedom of expression, freedom of media, continue in combating organized crime
and corruption, respect for minorities, respect for human rights. These are
all, or mostly all, the things that OSCE has been focusing on from the period
during the conflicts.
And I have personally worked very closely with OSCE, both in Bosnia and as
administrator of Kosovo, and seen the work on the ground. This is why the role
of the OSCE in mitigating and addressing these still-remaining tensions are
absolutely crucial, not only in consolidating the still-fractured peace in
certain areas, but turning that fragile peace into sustainable peace and
prosperity in the region.
I believe we are moving in the right direction. There are still a few concerns
there, but if we continue maintaining our focus and our attention on the
region, working and locking all these formerly conflicting states into Europe,
I believe that may not have to need this again five years from now, and I may
not need to be invited back, although, once again, I enjoy being here. Thank
you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. CARDIN: Well, thank you. I can assure you we will invite you back to
celebrate all of the problems being solved. So you’re – you’ll get an
invitation, in either case. We hope it’s one to report progress. Let me tell
you just how, I think, helpful all of your testimonies have been to the work of
our commission, and to the work of OSCE. I must tell you, I don’t see a
conflict between principle four, dealing with territorial integrity and the
principle that deals with self-determination. To me, they’re very compatible.
And I think the point made about the shared purpose and the shared identity is
critically important. Georgia, in territorial integrity, should be maintained.
But it’s the responsibility of government leaders to instill a shared identity
and pride in the country. I would add another point to that. To me, there’s
also a responsibility to protect the human rights and the ability to protect
your ethnic identity within the state. And that has not been as strong as it
needs to be.
We saw that not just in what happened between Russia and Georgia, but also in
Bosnia. And it continues to this day. I mean, there’s a real risk, in Bosnia,
as to whether the state will succeed in its integration into Europe. And to me,
the key is going to be whether there is this pride and a shared identity and a
shared purpose, understanding the ethnic differences of the population, which
is, to me, part of the richness of Bosnia, part of the richness of the United
So I think these are struggles that we’re going to have to continue to figure
out how to deal with. I want to talk about, I guess, one political side to
OSCE, and then one substantive question on a policy that seems to be moving
forward. Russia is obviously a critical player in many of these issues.
Russia has been pretty open about its concern that OSCE seems to concentrate
more on the Eastern Europe, east of Vienna, on the countries of the former
Soviet Union, than it does on the other members states of OSCE. That’s
certainly been its concern on election monitoring, on human rights issues.
But yet, most of the ethnic conflicts are taking place in countries of the
former Soviet Union. So it would seem to me that Russia, which has a lot of
minorities in these populations, has to be very interested in this issue. Does
this present an opportunity, using the OSCE framework, to get Russia more
engaged in dealing with the protection of minorities, or not? Or do they just
see it as the conflict with Georgia, and therefore, can’t get beyond that?
That’s the political question; I’ll get on to substantive ones. (Pause.) Who
wants to take a shot at that – the politics of Russia? (Pause.) You
volunteered. (Laughter.) Ambassador Semneby?
MR. SEMNEBY: Senator, I thank you very much. Well, as I mentioned in my
testimony, unfortunately, the ethnic conflicts have been hijacked as part of
other conflicts, including interstate conflicts. And I think we need to
address the conflicts at all levels at the same time.
I think it’s only natural – and I hope that this is a message, also, that will
be – that is understood in Moscow – that, given the fact that we have had a
momentous change happening in the former Soviet Union, as the republics of the
Soviet Union became independent, had a momentous change that changed, also, the
relationships between ethnic majority, ethnic minority. Many former minorities
became majorities and vice versa.
And it’s only natural that it is in this area, as you say, that we have most of
the ethnic issues, ethnic conflicts taking place, because of the need to
redefine relationships. Indeed, Russia has many issues of this kind, also, in
its own territory, and some of which I believe that Russia itself is very
I mentioned the North Caucasus, which is a case in point here. And we have
seen some measures taken from Moscow that indicate a greater degree of
awareness of the challenges, of the issues that Russia is facing in this area
with obvious, also, spillover effects and mutual influences between the North
and the South. And I do indeed believe that there could be considerable
opportunities here to work.
SEN. CARDIN: Well, it will be a challenge, but I think it is a – we’re looking
for ways of getting a more effective participation of Russia within the OSCE.
We thought the Corfu process, which came about at their request, would be an
avenue to move forward, but to date, it’s still – the jury’s out, as to whether
that process will be effective. I guess a related question is whether the
Corfu process can work, in regards to mitigating the ethnic conflicts in
regions using this type of effort. Any thought as to Russia – what the best
strategy is? Ambassador?
MS. TAGLIAVINI: Well, it’s very difficult to compare this Corfu process, which
is sort of a new approach, which has been, actually, convened by an initiative
by one of the presidents of these OSCE member states. I think the minority
conflict and the ethnic tensions in the region – in the Southern Caucasus, but
also in the Northern Caucasus – lay well beyond that layer.
The difficulty to tackle them is really this combination of factors that need
to be taken into account – these wrong perceptions of history, these
mythologies of my own history and it’s incompatible with all the proposals that
can be made from outside. And that, of course, embedded, first of all, in the
country, and then in the OSCE or in any structure, makes it extremely difficult
to get even cooperation from those who should cooperate, and that would be the
We see these many layers of obstacles, and so I don’t think that process will
be able to tackle these things. Rather, I would turn it around, that I believe
there is some homework to be done on the ground, and there, I think EU
engagement – not recognition, but engagement at the civil society level, at any
level that may not cut off these minorities from the political course of the
developments is very important.
As we have seen, there is a combination of – it’s almost a fatal combination of
simply lack of willingness to come to a solution which is not in line with what
one ethnic group, ethnic minority wishes for itself, and where it has become
totally fixed in an idea that this is independence, and nothing less than
And that was, I think, one of the weak points of all the peace processes, peace
initiatives, negotiation processes – that the parties that were negotiating did
not really look at the possibility of a solution, but only at the aim of the
fulfilling of their requests, be it independence, be it sovereignty, be it a
request for a particular territory. And what was complicated this request was
looking for outside support.
That was true for Abkhazia and the South Ossetians looking for Russian support
for their strife for secession and for their strife for independence, and
getting the support. The same goes with Georgia. Tbilisi also hoped that the
outside world, not least NATO, Western Europe and the United States, would be
in its support. And there, we get into this very, very complicated, complex
game where you don’t really distinguish where is actually the platform on which
you can operate. It’s always mixed.
SEN. CARDIN: Well, thank you for that. I want to – Mr. Jessen-Petersen, I’d
like to ask you a question. I think your point about the ability to transition
into Europe – into the EU, perhaps NATO – is the carrot that is the – gives us
the opportunity to really bring about change. You mentioned it in regards to
Serbia. I could mention it also in regards to Bosnia – and not just the
constitutional reform that’s needed in that country, but the political
leadership that’s needed in that country to really represent a functioning
state. It’s certainly going to be critically important, I know, in the NATO
discussions, that you have a state that there’s confidence in that can speak
for the integrity of the entire geographical area.
I want to talk about a development – if a country becomes a member of the EU,
of course, it gives them certain rights within all the EU states. There seems
to be a trend, though, in many of these developing countries, to grant
citizenship to ethnic communities outside of their territorial state. And I’m
curious whether you know whether – how that is – is that a growing trend? Is
Russia doing that, as far as ethnic minorities in other parts of Eastern
Europe? And does that present an issue that, perhaps, could complicate full
integration into Europe for some of the former states of the Soviet Union or
the former Yugoslavia?
MR. JESSEN-PETERSEN: I’m not aware that it applies to any of the states in the
former Yugoslavia. And as to the former Soviet Union, I will sort of think
Ambassador Tagliavini is in a better position.
SEN. CARDIN: Ambassador?
MS. TAGLIAVINI: I think this is indeed a worrying – a worrisome tendency. And
I’m very glad that in our report, we had a very detailed description of this
practice of conferring citizenship to people living in another country. After
the dissolution of the Soviet Union – being considered similar citizens of the
Soviet Union, but the Soviet Union did not exist anymore. A similar example
may be Crimea. And I don’t have any figures about the situation in Crimea, but
my guess is that the case of the – what we call the passport-ization issue in
Georgia and the disastrous effects that it had has probably put the brake on
this practice. We don’t hear many more such distributions in Crimea, nor in
Another worrying tendency, I believe, for the European Union is, of course the
massive distribution of Romanian passports to citizens of Moldova and Ukraine.
And this goes exactly in this direction, and I think this is also a challenge
for the European Union on how to handle such disrespect of international law.
We have clearly said, in the case of Georgia, that the massive conferral of
Russian citizenship to citizens in another country was a violation of the
sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia.
So this applies, also, to these countries that are, by now, members of the
European Union. I believe it is a very dangerous tendency, and it has the
potential of creating many more conflicts on that kind of basis – creating
liabilities for partners that actually do not want to be liable. Who wants to
go to war in Moldova on Romanian passport to fight for Romanian citizens? It’s
certainly not the European Union’s aims to be engaged in such a situation. So
these are dangerous trends, and I believe utmost care should be taken to
prevent such a thing.
SEN. CARDIN: It’s an interesting development, and there are reasons for this
to be done by countries, but it can cause the additional burdens or additional
obstacles that you have mentioned towards ethnic harmony. I want to bring you
in on this, Mr. Jessen-Petersen, but also, we’ll just make an observation.
I was in Montenegro last year, was also in Bosnia and Croatia. And there’s a
great deal of interest in Croatia and Montenegro for Bosnia to work out its
problems, because every time problems develop, there’s more people who flee and
go into Croatia – (chuckles) – and Montenegro. And we talk about – and I like
the way you put it – the forced displacement.
I think you’re absolutely right. That’s part of the ethnic conflict, is to
cleanse. And yes, it may be through murder. But more likely, it’s going to be
through displacement, which not only is a human result in and of itself, but
then causes another country or another state to have a burden that can lead to
other types of human rights problems and instability in a country.
And Montenegro, which is a very young country, very small country – a few
thousand people coming in from Bosnia can have a major impact on its economy,
can have a major impact on its political system. So it’s a major concern
towards their integration and development. So I think the whole dimension here
needs to be understood because prevention is clearly our chief objective. So I
guess my question to you – and you can certainly respond more to the last
question, if you like, is, are we seeing an impact among Montenegro and the
other countries in the region, as a result of Bosnia being still unsettled?
MR. JESSEN-PETERSEN: Well, I certainly think we are seeing an impact, because
the very fact that, as I mentioned in my remarks, because of the constitutional
situation – I called it a constitutional mess – in Bosnia, I think that there
are still very worrying signs that what I call the forces of separation in
Bosnia may prevail. And that is a risk that is very often reinforced by
irresponsible statements from some of the neighboring states.
It has certainly also been linked to the independence of Kosovo in that, that
has been used by both politicians inside Bosnia, or Republica Srpska, but also
in some of the neighboring states, to sort of issue threats that they could go
in the same direction. We know that during the war, or wars, rather, in the
region, but also in the situation right after, and also during and after the
very brief war in Macedonia, which was the seventh and last war – but there, we
had finally learned our lessons and the EU, NATO, U.S. intervened immediately
to stop it and the war lasted only 30 days.
But both during the other conflicts and the war, in particular, in Macedonia
and after, there was a lot of talk about greater Serbia and greater Albania.
That, I think, is another reason why it’s so important to lock these countries
into a larger European Union. Because the moment that they are part of a
larger community of states, of interests, then, in my view, all this talk about
greater Albania – it doesn’t really matter whether you are a Macedonian
Albanian, whether you are Kosovar Albanian, or an Albanian in Albania.
The moment you are part of a larger community, the borders come down and you
move. That’s the whole idea. You move freely around. So – and the same – we
have Serb populations, certainly a fairly large on in Bosnia, as you know, in
Montenegro – I mean, Serb descent – in Kosovo, a very important minority and
all that – again, bringing them into a larger community would, in my view, do
away with this focus on bringing various groups together in a larger – be it
Serbia, Albania, whatever.
And if you speak to the people – because all this, as I said, is fed by
irresponsible political leadership – but if you speak, as I know you have been
doing, Mr. Chairman, in your travels, with citizens on the ground, what they
want is, as they could do when Yugoslavia existed, travel around freely, get
together again with people now in another country and in the larger Europe.
That’s what they want to do, and that’s why it’s so important that not only
this European perspective is confirmed, but that Europe move forward on it.
It’s obvious that states need to be ready. There are, of course, many, many
requirements to be met. But sometime, I would wish that one could maybe jump
over a few of the obstacles, because the only safe way to address the risks in
Bosnia, in my view, is to lock Bosnia into a larger European community. So a
little bit risky, courageous policymaking, but at the same time, I recognize
that there are conditions to be met, there are requirements. But after all,
that’s how the European community started, with the European Coal and Steel
That was to lock two countries that had been conflicting and in war many times
over the last 100, 200 years – lock them into a larger community. We need that
for Western Balkans. That’s what the people want. You speak to citizens of
Serbia – in particular, the young population – they are, frankly, not that
interested in Kosovo. The political leadership of Serbia certainly is. They
want to be European citizens. So I believe that is the best response to these
concerns, and the concerns do exist.
SEN. CARDIN: Well, we strongly support that. We want to see Serbia part of
the EU; we want to see Bosnia part of the EU; we want to see Kosovo recognized
and its geographic territory respected. And we – our delegation met with
students in Bosnia from all ethnic communities, and you would not have known
what ethnic community they were from. I mean, that’s – they have pride. And
it takes political leadership. And yes, they need constitutional reform, as
I’ve said before.
It’s critical, I mean, considering the way it’s currently organized, to have a
functioning state. But they need political leadership, and that’s something
that I think the people are going to demand, and ultimately will be there, and
we will see the full integration. To me, having a state that reflects what
you’re suggesting – that common identity – but still respects the
individualities of the ethnic communities and the right to protect their
identity is critical for mitigating the ethnic conflicts, in not only the OSCE
region, but in the world.
And that’s what we’re going to work for, and that’s what we’re going to
continue to do. This hearing has been extremely helpful in us filling in a lot
of the blanks, particularly an update on what’s happening in Georgia and what’s
happening in Bosnia. We very much appreciate that. I hope we’re getting
reliable information in Georgia without the mission being there.
We are concerned that we may not be getting the type of objective information
on the condition of the populations, and we’re – to the extent that we can get
reliable information, feel free to continue to supply us with that. It’s
helpful to our commission. Congressman Hastings, the co-chair of the
commission, has asked that his statement be made part of the record, and
Congressman Smith, the ranking Republican member, has also asked for that. And
those requests will be granted. And with that, the hearing will stand
adjourned. Thank you all very much.