War In The Balkans: Nightmare of a ruined land lies in wait

Analysis

JUST POSSIBLY, yesterday's outline agreement in Bonn between Russia and the Western powers could be the start of a diplomatic process resolving the Kosovo conflict. But even so, the aftermath of war could be even messier and more complicated than the war itself.

In some respects, Kosovo faces a Stunde Null, an Hour Zero, to rival that of Germany in May 1945. Many of those who will be returning have been deliberately stripped by the Serbs of their papers, and their every documented legal claim on what they once owned, and their every connection with where they lived - making even the basic task of returning more than 800,000 displaced people to their homes a potential administrative nightmare.

The land itself, according to refugee and eyewitness accounts, is a wasteland. After the orgy of Serb destruction, livestock roams the countryside untended. This year's crops have not been planted. And then there are the human problems, of coaxing Serbs and Albanians to co-exist in peace.

The effort will fall into several phases. The first consists of recreating an environment in which people can live at all. This means demining, and making safe buildings and factories booby-trapped in anticipation of a Nato ground invasion. It also means providing basic accommodation, food and a subsistence income to people who have lost everything.

The medium term relief effort must set about the rebuilding of towns and villages. After the damage inflicted on fuel dumps, power stations, communication and transport facilities, an entire infrastructure must be restored. That process will take years, even before the final challenge - of having Kosovo stand on its political as well as economic feet.

Already, Western diplomats have sketched out a rough division of labour for what happens when the bombing stops and an international peace-keeping force has moved in.

Humanitarian issues and policing would be looked after by the United Nations and its agencies. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe would oversee the rebuilding of Kosovo's institutions, while the European Union would take the lead in promoting longer term economic recovery.

Romano Prodi, the incoming president of the EU Commission, has already called for an EU aid package worth over $5bn (pounds 3bn) a year for the Balkans. EU experts reckon the war may already have caused $30bn of damage to Yugoslavia.

Like many others, Mr Prodi thinks nothing less than a full-scale Balkan conference will be needed. In Bosnia, and its reconstruction after the 1992 to 1995 war, the international community does have a precedent of sorts. But, as officials at the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), set up to help the former states of Eastern Europe make the transition to the market economy, acknowledge Kosovo will be more difficult than Bosnia.

"The damage is greater, and Bosnia had the advantage of joining the EBRD the year after the war ended," one said. "But look at Bosnia now. Three years on, it's still far from being rebuilt."

There are legal difficulties too. The declared aim is for Kosovo to remain within the borders of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia is not a member of the ERBD and has no dealings with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones