The avowed aim of the Sarajevo summit Aug. 6 was simple in its grandeur: to promote peace and prosperity in the war-ravaged region and prepare it for eventual membership in the European Union and NATO. Whether the means and the commitment exist to achieve this lofty goal remains to be seen.
Over 40 world leaders pledged in the summit declaration to work with each other to cooperate in political, economic and social issues, ranging from promoting free trade to countering crime and creating civilian control of armed forces. Acknowledging the crucial role economic reconstruction will play in bringing stability to the region, the leading industrialized powers pledged to prepare to grant unilateral trade preferences to Balkan countries and promised to provide general financial assistance.
While most countries will announce their contributions at a donor’s conference to be held later this year, France and the United States chose to unveil their assistance programs in Sarajevo. Reflecting the EU’s stance that European nations should provide the bulk of financing for Balkans reconstruction, France pledged $1.06 million in assistance. U.S. President Bill Clinton announced an aid package worth nearly $700 million to reconstruct the war-torn region. The bulk of the assistance consists of private-sector funds to finance private companies in the Balkans, a credit line for projects in which U.S. firms participate and a loan program for small businesses. In addition, countries in southeast Europe, including Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania and Slovenia — as well as the Yugoslav provinces of Montenegro and Kosovo — will be granted expanded duty-free access for five years to export to the U.S. Notably absent from the list is Serbia, which will remain ineligible for U.S. aid as long as Yugoslav President Slobadan Milosevic remains in power.
While economic reconstruction is vital to the region’s recovery, it is equally true that there can be no stability in the Balkans as long as Mr. Milosevic remains in power. As leader of Serbia, and then of Yugoslavia, Mr. Milosevic bears primary responsibility for a decade of war that has brought ruin to the region. He has ruthlessly promoted Serb nationalism to stay in power, and is likely to continue to pursue similar policies in the future if he is not checked.
This fact was not lost on the summit’s participants. Although a rift between the West and Russia over how to treat Serbia prevented the use of stronger language, the summit declaration’s appeal to Serbs to overthrow their leader was clear enough: “We appeal to the people of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to embrace democratic change and to work actively for regional reconciliation.”
Unfortunately, given Mr. Milosevic’s tight grip on the media, it will take considerable effort to drive that message home to ordinary Serbs. The West must do its utmost to assist the forces of democratization inside Serbia. In addition, not only must Western governments make it clear that no reconstruction aid will be forthcoming to Serbia as long as Mr. Milosevic remains at the helm, they must also make it known that generous assistance awaits Serbia once it demonstrates its intent to embark on the path toward democracy and become a productive member of the region.
Some progress in this direction was made at Friday’s meeting. Mr. Clinton indicated that he will request the U.S. Congress to provide $10 million this year to assist independent media, trade unions and democratic opposition forces in Serbia. Similarly, Britain announced that it will put up $4.7 million to build contacts with Serb universities, independent media and opposition-held towns. However, the timely distribution of aid to nations, and parts of nations, that already qualify for such assistance is necessary if this pledge is to be made credible to Serbs.
While there was no shortage of idealism and good intentions in Sarajevo, the ultimate success of the stability pact depends on Europe honoring its commitment to take the lead in rebuilding the region. Even more important than financial assistance will be the EU’s willingness to open up its own institutions and markets — particularly the agricultural sector — to the countries of southeastern Europe so they can aspire to join in the prosperity that another international assistance plan helped launch a half century ago.
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