Letter: A Marshall Plan to save Bosnia

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Sir: With the threatened French pull-out, the search for peace in Bosnia enters a new, almost desperate, phase. Astonishingly for those working on the problem, the economic option is being almost totally ignored. But our reluctance to use the stick makes a sizeable carrot essential.

Almost unnoticed, a European Union co-ordination meeting is to be held at official level in Brussels early next week. This is due to be followed by a 'pledging conference' in June. This process needs to be upgraded and a mini Marshall Plan for Bosnia announced by the EU governments. On the same scale as the Marshall Plan, this would cost the Twelve a modest pounds 1bn or so over four years.

Offered to both sides, as the Marshall Plan was, many Serbs would wish to participate. If their leaders accepted, the plan would be a powerful lever in obtaining a reasonable peace. If they refused (as the Communist bloc did in 1950), divisions among the Serbs would be widened.

Either way, a mini Marshall Plan for Bosnia would greatly help in consolidating the tenuous Croat/

Bosnian government agreement; in making the rump of Bosnia viable; in checking the appeal of Islamic fundamentalism; in persuading the Bosnians to seek peace, not reconquest; and in 'keeping the Russians on board' - they have no money to give, so are constrained to suggest the relaxation of sanctions on Serbia as the only carrot available to them. Not least, such a plan would go far to restore confidence in Western leadership and in Europe's long-term commitment to the former Yugoslavia.

There is no need to delay. The success of the Nato ultimatum has already made possible a joint Franco-British-American initiative to start repairing Sarajevo's infrastructure, and the Croat Bosnia agreement affords access to the sea for the contiguous areas of Bosnia, so a start can be made there, too.

Yours sincerely,


Kew, Surrey

12 May