Opening the Balkans

NEW YORK: Yugoslavia's President Milosevic has succumbed to the military might of NATO and we can sigh with relief. To justify our intervention, however, we must now assure a better future not only for the people of Kosovo, but for the whole region, including the rump of Yugoslavia which remains in Mr Milosovic's hands. We cannot go on reacting to crises as they arise in the Balkans, especially as our actions can have such severe unintended and adverse consequences. We must bring a positive, constructive vision to bear, the vision that has created the European Union.

The Balkans cannot be reconstructed on the basis of nation states. We have seen that the attempt to establish ethnic homogeneity can lead to intolerable atrocities, human suffering and destruction. It is also impractical. The population of Yugoslavia, even after the exclusion of Kosovo, remains about 25% non-Serb. The only way to peace and prosperity is to create an open society in which the state plays a less dominant role and borders diminish in importance. That is the road that the European Union has chosen.

The idea of the open society was first proposed by Henry Bergson in his "Two Sources of Religion and Morality" (1932). He distinguished between a tribal idea of morality and a universal idea. The former leads to a closed society; the latter to an open society. The concept was further developed by Karl Popper in his famous book "The Open Society and its Enemies" where he showed that the open society may also be threatened by universal ideas if they claim a monopoly of the truth; but the problems of the region are best understood in terms of Bergson's formulation. In the wars of the Yugoslav succession we have seen a struggle between the ethnic and the civic concepts of citizenship. In Yugoslavia the civic concept lost out and Yugoslavia disintegrated. In Western Europe the civic concept prevailed and the integration of Europe stands in stark contrast with the disintegration of Yugoslavia. The European Union must now extend its protective umbrella over the region.

The region itself must be seen to be larger than the former Yugoslavia because humpty-dumpty cannot be put together again. It must include Albania and Bulgaria and it ought to be open to countries like Romania and Moldova. We must not repeat the mistakes made in Bosnia. Reconstruction efforts in Bosnia failed to generate momentum because the size of the territory is too small and the various governmental entities, from federal to local, insist on having their not-so-clean fingers in every pie.