FECL 57 (March 1999):This issue of the FECL was ready to go to press the same day NATO launched its air raids against Yugoslavia. In view of these dramatic developments, reports in this issue concerning asylum and immigration appear in a new light. The new war in Yugoslavia can but lead to a massive rise in refugees. The question is where they will find protection, considering the EU governments' firm determination to prevent new mass-arrivals of refugees. Be that as it may, the EU's asylum and immigration policy objectives might prove unviable and dangerous much sooner than anyone would have expected. This is one conclusion to be drawn from the following contribution by Jan Øberg, head of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research (TFF) in Lund, Sweden.
NATO's unwise, counterproductive and non-legal bombing of sovereign Yugoslavia is justified by President Bill Clinton, EU and other Western leaders, as well as media, with reference to humanitarian concerns. We are told that air strikes serve to stop ethnic cleansing, future massacres and refugee flows, and to prevent innocent children and women from being killed. This comes from the NATO's marketing department. Diplomatically expressed, bombings will produce what they are said to prevent. NATOs justification of the bombings lacks credibility for the following reasons.
Why did the West do absolutely nothing before this crisis became violent?
There were many opportunities for a negotiated solution. TFF, for instance, has suggested a variety of options since 1992 that could have prevented violence and the killing we have seen the last year. In no other conflict have there been so many early warnings and so little preventive diplomacy. The Kosovo catastrophe was among the most predictable of all. It is intellectual nonsense to claim that 'everything else has been tried and NATO bombings was the only option left'.
The immediate consequence of the threats of NATO air strikes is that OSCE's verification mission had to be withdrawn and that almost all humanitarian organizations withdrew to protect their staff. More refugees are now fleeing over the border to Macedonia. With fewer ears and eyes on the ground, all sides - NATO included - can feel free to step up the killing.
NATO bombings will be perceived as a punishment of Serbs and a clear support to Albanian hardliners. Serbs will feel that it was the Albanian side that called this hell upon them. Thus, the little hope we may have had about Serbs and Albanians living peacefuly together or as trustful neighbours in the foreseeable future, is now gone. Producing hate is the opposite of a humanitarian effort.
The Kosovo war has caused the death of about 2.000 people during the last year. This is serious. Every human life is sacred. However, the international community has chosen not to intervene:
More than 1 million people have died as a result of the Western sanctions against the Iraqi people. Perhaps as many as 500,000 have died in Burma since 1948.
An estimated 100.000 people's die per day, around the world - not in wars but because they lack the most basic daily needs such as water, clothes, shelter, food, medicine. Hundred million people have no home. There are already some 40 million refugees; Seventy Third World countries have lower standards of living today than 30 years ago; at least 800 million people go to bed hungry, every night. In economic terms, a fraction of the world's military expenditures could alleviate most of that suffering.
The world's military expenditures - NATO making up most of it - equals the combined income of the fifty per cent poorest of the world's population. Pentagon alone spends 20 times more than the entire budget of the United Nations.
And the UN - the world's most important humanitarian organization - is completely ignored in the Kosovo conflict and, these very days, being forced out of Macedonia. When will the media begin to ask what this type of "peace-making" costs - and what we could do in terms of real relief and promotion of peace for a similar amount of money?
250,000 citizens are now displaced inside Kosovo or refugees in Macedonia - about ten per cent of the Kosovo-Serbs and ten per cent of the Kosovo-Albanians. They certainly need help. But so do the 650,000 mostly Serb refugees (according to UNHCR) who have fled from Croatia, Bosnia and elsewhere during the dissolution of ex-Yugoslavia, about half of them as a result of "ethnical cleansing" in Croatia, in 1995. This is Europe's largest refugee problem, but it goes largely unnoticed.
Why has the West upheld various types of sanctions against the people of Yugoslavia since 1991? The majority of citizens suffer one way or the other from these sanctions, not the least the sick and the pensioners. They, and everybody else, will stand behind President Milosevic in this crisis.
All the 'soft' humanitarian coating of this type of militaristic policies is probably an attempt to convince women, soldiers' and pilots' wives and mothers and the general do-good sentiment in the American public. But will they still believe this when the casualty figures rise?
24, March, 1999 Dr. Jan Øberg, TFF
Contact: TFF, Vegagatan 25, S-22357 Lund; Tel: +46/46 145909; Fax: +46/46 144512; E-mail: email@example.com