Letter: After the war

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I recently returned from a non-Nato meeting in Washington on the future of the Balkans at which the speakers included the Presidents of Bulgaria and Albania, the foreign ministers of Romania, Croatia and Bosnia and a representative of the Montenegrin government. While the governments of all Yugoslavia's neighbours supported Nato action, even if many of their people do not, they are extremely worried about the future.

Three things particularly need stressing. The first is the heavy economic cost of the war to countries already very poor by European standards. This is not only due to the influx of refugees but, far more widely, to such factors as the closing of the Danube, particularly serious for Romania.

The second is the consequent need for a strategic post-war "Marshall Plan" for the Balkans as a whole to fight poverty and integrate their economies into Europe. This can only be managed by the European Union. It is however generally recognised that any such hope is illusory if Serbia, at the heart of the Balkans, continues to be ruled by Milosevic.

The third is that all these governments are trying hard to integrate their own ethnic minorities politically, but every time ethnic cleansing is allowed to succeed in one place (as is still the case in post-Dayton Bosnia) it encourages repeats elsewhere.

The conclusion is clear: any sort of "compromise" which leaves Milosevic with a plausible claim to have "won" (such as division of Kosovo would signify) could be disastrous, not only for Kosovo but for the future of all Serbia's neighbours.