Letter: After the carnage in Bosnia: long-term solution; fate of children without hope; Muslim radicalism

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article 'The test of the Bosnia deal' (24 May) is excellent in principle but short on knowledge and practicality. You say that 'if history teaches us anything it is that a settlement based on manifest and deeply felt injustice is not a settlement at all but a source of further conflict'. Right - but terribly wrong in the way you apply it to ex-Yugoslavia.

You show understandable concern for the future of Bosnia's two million Muslims, who are ethnically about 90 per cent Slav - Serbs who were converted to Islam after the fall of the Bosnian Serb kingdom in 1463. (There never has been a Bosnian nation.) But I cannot recall your having written a leading article showing similar concern when it was proposed to include over two million Serbs - Orthodox Christian Serbs, in name at any rate - in 'states', Croatia and Bosnia, in which they were absolutely opposed to being incorporated.

There were, before ethnic cleansing, some 600,000 Serbs in Croatia, and nearly 1.5 million in Bosnia- Herzegovina. No one even bothered to consult them, or tried to ensure their minority rights, when the European Community, under heavy German pressure, recognised as independent these areas of Yugoslavia. They were included in them, totally against their will.

Anyone who knew the Serbs and the history of relations between Serbs and Yugoslav Muslims, and between Serbs and Croats, knew what their reaction would be. The horrors of the Serbs' fight for freedom against the Nazis and their murderous puppet state of Croatia in the 1939-45 war, in which most Bosnian Muslims sided with the Germans, was too close to be forgotten.

Yes, it was a pity our chancelleries did not see it earlier; a settlement built on manifest and deeply felt injustice is not a settlement at all, but a source of further conflict. But justice alone is not enough. Practicality and durability are also crucial. The only virtue of the Vance-Owen plan was the possibility that it could stop the fighting. As a long-term solution, it was a cartographer's dream and an administrator's nightmare; a blueprint for further wars.

The present division of Bosnia- Herzegovina is not satisfactory, and much innocent blood was shed to produce it. But at least the fighting and the carnage are virtually over, and a sensible, long-term, political solution may be in sight, in which Bosnia would be divided into three areas - Croat, Muslim and Serb.

Our aim must now be to provide peace and justice, in so far as it is a practical possibility, for all the people of former Yugoslavia, particularly the Muslims. That will surely require exchanges of population and property, and - whether the people of Bosnia are currently enamoured of the idea or not - far-reaching economic co-operation at the very least, possibly in a customs union with Croatia and Serbia.

Yours faithfully,

DEREK PRAG

MEP for Hertfordshire (Con)

Welwyn, Hertfordshire

24 May

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