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The political challenges of administering Eastern Slavonia.

The United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES) was established by the Security Council on 15 January 1996 and ended on 15 January 1998. Given the task of administering a disputed territory, it was later described in the following terms:
 With the weight of a 5,000-strong mechanized peacekeeping force and
 the watchful eyes of NATO behind it, the U.N. oversaw--in one of the
 most successful multifaceted peacekeeping operations in its
 history--the peaceful restoration of Croatian sovereignty while
 creating the conditions necessary for the maintenance of the
 region's multiethnic character. (1)

UNTAES was neither the first nor the largest UN operation charged with territorial administration, and subsequent operations such as in Kosovo and in East Timor have certainly been more complex. Indeed, both geographically and temporally it was a small mission. But in several respects, and always bearing in mind that no two peace operations are ever the same, UNTAES turned out to be something of a proving ground for ideas, methods, and procedures and a highly useful demonstration of the extent to which multilateral organizations, in this case the United Nations, can assist war-torn territories on the long road to the return of peace and stability.

Following the declaration of independence by Croatia in the summer of 1991, fighting broke out, and the parts of Croatia with significant Serb populations--the Krajina, Western Slavonia, and Eastern Slavonia--fell under the control of local Serbs assisted by Serb paramilitaries and the troops of the Yugoslav National Army (JNA). The local Serb administration of the three geographically separated areas gave itself the name of Republika Srpska Krajina. From September to November 1991, the rich agricultural and industrial town of Vukovar in Eastern Slavonia was besieged and subjected to savage fighting that resulted in extensive structural damage. Almost all the Croats in the region fled to Osijek and Croatian-held territory and were replaced by Serbs who were similarly displaced from their homes and took refuge in Serb-controlled Eastern Slavonia. In May and July 1995, operations by the Croatian Army recovered the Krajina and Western Slavonia and brought additional numbers of displaced Serbs into Eastern Slavonia. Thus, at the time when UNTAES was established in January 1996, there were some 125,000 people living in the region, predominantly either indigenous or displaced Serbs with comparatively small numbers of Hungarians, Ruthenes, and other minorities.

In the autumn of 1995, as the Dayton agreement was being hammered out to bring an end to the war in Bosnia, there was still a danger that President Tudjman of Croatia might be tempted to recover Eastern Slavonia militarily and thereby probably precipitate renewed conflict between Croatia and Serbia, which in turn might unravel the tenuous peace in Bosnia. (2) The U.S. ambassador to Croatia, Peter Galbraith, and UN mediator Thorvald Stoltenberg worked with the authorities in Zagreb and Belgrade to negotiate an agreement for Eastern Slavonia, and the result was the Basic Agreement signed in Erdut, on the western bank of the Danube, on 12 November 1995.

The Basic Agreement and Security Council Resolution 1037 of 15 January 1996

Unlike the Dayton agreement, with its hundreds of pages and detailed maps, the Basic Agreement consisted of only fourteen paragraphs. In essence, it called upon the Security Council to authorize an international force to maintain peace and security in the region and to "establish a Transitional Administration, which shall govern the region during the transitional period in the interest of all persons resident in or returning to the Region." The Transitional Administration was given the tasks of reestablishing the normal functioning of all public services "without delay," helping to establish and train temporary police forces, ensuring the possibility for the return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes of origin, and in due course organizing elections. The Basic Agreement, also known as the Erdut agreement, declared that the transitional period should be twelve months, "which may be extended at most to another period of the same duration if so requested by one of the parties."

The paucity of language in the agreement offered great opportunities for imaginative interpretation and, at the same time, for wide political misunderstanding and potential mischief. There was no definition of the verb govern, no guidance on how the public services should be reestablished without delay, no pointers on how the police should be created and who should pay their salaries, and no explanation of what was meant politically by the word may in the context of extending the transitional period.

On 30 November 1995, (3) the Security Council requested the secretary-general to submit by 14 December a report on all aspects of the establishment of a transitional administration and a transitional peace-keeping force. The civilian aspects of his subsequent report (4) were accepted by the Security Council and became, in effect, the blueprint for the implementation of the transitional administration by UNTAES over the ensuing two years. The Council did not, however, accept the secretary-general's view that the military force should be approximately 9,300 troops plus logistic support and entrusted to a coalition of willing states not under UN command, and instead authorized UNTAES with a military component of up to 5,000 troops. The mandate for UNTAES was set out in Security Council Resolution 1037 (1996) of 15 January 1996 and, at the suggestion of the U.S. State Department, the secretary-general appointed a U.S. national, Jacques Paul Klein, as transitional administrator.

Establishing the Image

The senior members of UNTAES began to take up their duties in February 1996, and from the start it was made clear to all concerned that UNTAES was not going to be "son-of-UNCRO" (UN Confidence Restoration Operation), the previous UN peacekeeping mission in Croatia. This in itself was a political statement of intent. With the signing of the Basic Agreement, Belgrade had indicated its recognition that the territory was no longer under Yugoslav control, and Zagreb had recognized that it would not be able to assert Croatian control until after the period of transitional administration. In the interregnum, UNTAES was in effect the government, and the transitional administrator was the proconsul (5) --even if no one knew quite what that entailed.

By late April 1996, the former UNCRO presence in Eastern Slavonia had increased from 1,600 Belgian and Russian troops to more than 4,500 with the addition of Jordanian and Pakistani mechanized battalions, Ukrainian helicopter gunships, and other units. The robustness of UNTAES military capabilities was made clear to local Serbs and to the Croatian authorities alike. (6) The force commander made plans with the Serb military to supervise the demilitarization (7) of the Serb forces, and UNTAES patrols were deliberately made more frequent and vigorous to reassure the Serb civilian population that, once Serb troops had left, UNTAES would be there to provide security.

Although UNTAES began operations from the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) headquarters in Zagreb, it was clear that as soon as practicable UNTAES should have its own headquarters in Eastern Slavonia. Croatia offered to provide premises in nearby Osijek, but the transitional administrator declined because politically it would be interpreted by Serbs that UNTAES would be pro-Croat. Instead, he chose deliberately to set up headquarters in heavily damaged Vukovar. In March and April 1996, container offices were quickly constructed on land adjoining the Serb military compound. This proximity was also wonderfully good for encouraging the Serb military to leave.

The unity of command in UNTAES proved to be a great asset. In the newly constructed container headquarters, the political, military, police, legal, civil affairs, and administrative leaderships were all colocated. This facilitated joint daily meetings and the quick arrangement of operational discussions as needed. Simple though this may appear, it proved to be of great value in establishing a holistic mission profile and reducing the risks of bad communication and misunderstanding. At times of tension or emergency, this headquarters co-location was politically and operationally invaluable.

Local Authority and "Governing"

A major element of politics arises from the interaction of personalities. Success or failure may depend a great deal on the interplay of individual character and personality but, at the same time, it should be recognized that strengths in the personality of mission leadership cannot be expected to make up completely for lack of clarity in the mandate or weaknesses in organization. On the other hand, when the mandates for new operations are being developed, there will inevitably be a large number of unknown elements. UNTAES found this to be particularly true in implementing its responsibilities for "governing" the region, and the press of experience often required ingenuity and imagination on the part of individuals to find solutions to political and other problems not envisaged in the mandate.

In the absence of any definition of the very govern, each party had a different interpretation: the Croats wanted UNTAES to assert authoritative control over all aspects of local government, whereas the local Republika Srpska officials wanted as little change and interference as possible.

Governing would seem to imply taking over responsibility for the public services and institutions, but the UNTAES staff had no experts in urban government, town administration, or local finance. The challenges of setting up a new mission; establishing a headquarters; accommodating personnel as they arrived; creating district offices; finding sites for incoming military units; solving problems of transport, communications, stores and logistics; and establishing contacts with local authorities and communities were initially more than enough to keep UNTAES personnel busy. Considerations of governance meant finding answers to a myriad of questions: What was the educational system and who ran the schools? What was the health system and who ran the hospitals? What was the local government system and how did it operate? What were the costs? Who paid town staff, teachers, and medical staff? Where did the money come from? How was it accounted for? Was there a tax system and, if so, how did it work? How was the Republika Srpska being financially supported by Belgrade? If UNTAES tried to take over such operations, who would run them? And from where would we get the money? Did govern mean that UNTAES could raise taxes? If so, how? And from whom?

For UNTAES, there was often little guidance to be derived from the mandate. The mandate of the UNTAES civilian component given by the Security Council simply authorized the tasks set out in the secretary-general's report of 13 December, which had proposed setting up a number of implementation committees to identify how various aspects of local government worked and to oversee their functioning. Such tasks may be described as supervision and oversight, but they are not governing, which implies the direction and control over the actions and affairs of a community. In retrospect, some commentators have questioned whether UNTAES was really ever expected to govern at all, but that--yet again--takes us back to ambiguity in the mandate.

Conscious that the period of transition would pass very quickly, the transitional administrator and his political and civil affairs colleagues made efforts to find Serbs who would command local support and who would be willing to take the political risks of finding a future as part of Croatia. To this end, a UNTAES liaison office was established in the summer of 1996 in the offices of the Regional Executive Council, proving to be a vital link with the Serb political machinery that made policy decisions affecting the whole region. A second liaison office in Beli Manastir in the Baranja part of the region played a similar role in the north. UNTAES civil affairs officers attended the sessions of the Serb Executive Councils and assemblies, serving as conduits for the exchange of information on political and other developments and constantly gathering a greater understanding of Serb political personalities, concerns, and priorities.

The absence of political guidance in the mandate often turned out to be a benefit. It left much to the interpretation and leadership of the transitional administrator who, in turn, demanded UNTAES staff to be firm, imaginative, and proactive. The system of almost thirty joint implementation committees and subcommittees, composed of Serb and Croat representatives and led by UNTAES officials, addressed a wide range of practical problems from public utilities to property records, and from human rights to agricultural issues. These mechanisms also provided opportunities for Serbs and Croats to begin the difficult and hesitant process of political and social reintegration on a personal level, a process that simply did not exist before the advent of UNTAES.

From time to time, errors were made that had, or would have had, political impact. For example, in the Balkans it is customary for the license plates on vehicles to carry a small national flag, and in Eastern Slavonia the flag on private cars was invariably that of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. As the region was now officially part of Croatia, this was no longer appropriate, but it was equally out of the question to expect the Serbs to accept the Croatian flag. For a brief period, plans were made within UNTAES to issue decals bearing the UN flag to cover the Yugoslav flag, until the arrangement came to the attention of UN headquarters in New York, where legal advice halted the initiative because the wearing of UN emblems on non-UN vehicles might carry considerable legal and insurance liabilities and also convey a political message of UN responsibility.

The Challenge of the Police and the Maintenance of Law and Order

The requirement to establish and train a transitional police force imposed political and practical problems of its own. In early 1996, the local Serb police continued to be dressed in the uniforms of the Yugolsav milicja, with Serb shoulder patches. UNTAES civilian police (UNCIVPOL) were established to monitor the activities of the milicja but did not have executive authority and were unarmed. Monitoring required sufficient UNCIVPOL to maintain a presence in every milicja station in the region, together with locally engaged interpreters. At its height, UNTAES had more than 500 UNCIVPOL officers from over twenty countries.

It was apparent that by the time that UNTAES ended its mandate and handed the region over to Croatian government authority, there would have to be a police force composed of Serbs and Croats who would wear Croatian police uniforms and who could be subsumed as part of the national police force under the Croatian Ministry of the Interior. The challenge was how to overcome the recalcitrance of the existing Serbs and make the necessary changes step by step, particularly in light of the fact that the outbreak of fighting in the region in 1991 had been among the police themselves.

The first step was to change the physical appearance of the milicja to that of an UNTAES Transitional Police Force by replacing the uniforms of the milicja. The challenge was compounded by the complete absence of any financial provision in the UNTAES budget for providing uniforms, equipment, operational expenditures, or even salaries. The uniform problem was resolved by the expedient of choosing a bland dark blue uniform from a commercial catalog of U.S. police equipment and then having the transitional administrator use his influence through U.S. channels to persuade the U.S. Department of Justice to fund the necessary purchase.

The provision of money for police salaries and operational expenditures proved to be a political issue with the Croatian government. At first the Croatian government balked at paying money to Serb police but eventually accepted the argument that because the region was regarded in Zagreb as part of Croatia, they had a certain responsibility to help UNTAES establish and maintain acceptable law and order. An additional argument, not articulated but silently recognized, was that by providing money for the Transitional Police Force, Zagreb could expedite or delay monthly payments, thereby exerting leverage over UNTAES acceptance of Croats in place of Serbs. As an aside, a further political challenge concerned the currency of payment: the Croats refused to pay in Yugoslav dinars, and until UNTAES forced the acceptance of the Croatian currency into the region, the Serb police refused to be paid in Croatian kuna. For several months the solution was payment in German marks.

As months passed, efforts were constantly made to move the standard and conduct of the Transitional Police Force toward those of the Croatian police. Croats were increasingly brought to serve with Serbs, and those Serbs who were uncooperative or unwilling to accept Croats were dismissed. Arrangements for joint training were made with the assistance of the Hungarian Police Academy in Budapest, and training in community policing was organized in Eastern Slavonia with the assistance of U.S. funds and police expertise.

Recognizing that there was a gap in police capacity and that the possibility of arming the UNCIVPOL was politically unacceptable in New York, the transitional administrator sought an alternative solution. Stemming from his own initiative, a Polish Special Police Group of some fifty strong joined UNTAES to provide security for visiting VIPs and for any special operations that might be required. It was this group that made the first arrest of an indicted war criminal--before any similar arrest by NATO-led troops in Bosnia--by apprehending the former mayor of Vukovar and delivering him to the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague.

A separate aspect that was never wholly resolved was the matter of civil arrest, trial, and imprisonment of criminals, which is sometimes described as "the whole legal chain." Although the UNTAES mandate provided for establishiing and conducting a Transitional Police Force and for monitoring the treatment of offenders and the prison system, there was no mention of the legal process. The mandate called on UNTAES to undertake tasks relating to civil administration as set out in paragraph 16(b) of the secretary-general's report S/1995/1028 of 13 December 1995. The relevant guidance in that paragraph was sparse: it provided for the establishment of an implementation committee on civil administration that would, inter alia, "oversee local judicial procedures."

The local courts in place in the region were still those of the traditional Yugoslav system, with judges abiding by Yugoslav law (with the flag of the Republika Srpska in the courtroom) and the prison subject to the authority of the chief justice. Understandably, this system was not recognized by the Croatian authorities, but neither could there be any question of imposing the Croatian system and symbols on the local courts.

Again, the definition of govern became an issue to which there was no comprehensive answer. Certainly the requirement to "oversee local judicial procedures" fell far short of governance, but UNTAES had neither the political guidance nor the expert capacity to take over the whole legal chain. In the circumstances, the legal officers on the UNTAES staff exercised as much of a monitoring role as they could and intervened when they felt it necessary to do so. The many issues of reestablishing and administering the whole legal chain have continued to present political, legal, and practical problems in subsequent missions of transitional administration and deserve much closer consideration. For some months after the end of UNTAES, an extension of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) office in Zagreb took over the task of monitoring the integration of Serbs and Croats into the police force of the Danube Region, but the small OSCE staff were neither mandated nor equipped to monitor the whole legal chain.

The Application of Chapter VII

The UNTAES mandate contained the following preambular paragraph: "Determined to ensure the security and freedom of movement of the personnel of the United Nations peacekeeping operation in the Republic of Croatia, and to these ends, acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations." (8)

The authorization of UNTAES under this limited extent of Chapter VII was not achieved without much discussion within the Security Council. China was reluctant to approve the mission under Chapter VII at all and eventually acquiesced only on the basis of the constraints spelled out above (which subsequently became widely known as Chinese Chapter VII).

Clearly the operational judgment regarding the application of such a provision is the responsibility of the special representative of the secretary-general (SRSG) or, in the case of UNTAES, the transitional administrator. If there is any doubt, or when time permits, it may be reasonable to expect that advance consultation may be conducted with UN headquarters in New York, but this is not specified as a requirement and in general the decision is left to the senior person in authority in the field.

In May 1996, in the southern part of the region, the Djeletovci oil fields remained in the possession of a group of paramilitaries called the Scorpions. The oil fields comprised some seventy wells and since 1991 had supplied oil product transported by truck to Belgrade, in partial exchange for which Belgrade provided financial subsidies to the Republika Srpska government. By May, the demilitarization of the Army of the Republika Srpska Krajina (ARSK) had begun, but the Scorpions had refused to participate and had continued to deny UNTAES access to and occupation of the oil fields.

The transitional administrator judged that because the attitude of the Scorpions amounted to preventing the freedom of UNTAES to move in that specific part of the region, action under Chapter VII was appropriate. On the morning of 14 May 1996, the Belgian chief of staff, Colonel Jean-Marie Jockin, presented himself at the gate of Djeletovci with an ultimatum to the Scorpions that they must leave the oil fields by that afternoon or take the consequences. "We would like to do this peacefully--it's up to you" was his invitation. At the same time, UNTAES tanks and artillery from the Jordanian battalion drew up outside the main gate of the installation, and Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopter gunships arrived overhead in a show of strength to help the commander of the Scorpions reach the right decision.

High activity among the Scorpions was observed over the following several hours. Short extensions to the deadline were requested and approved, and that evening the Scorpions emerged and were escorted to the Yugoslav border. Not a shot was fired and the Jordanian battalion took possession of the oil fields. Subsequently, for several nights there was intermittent firing against the Jordanian positions, presumably by some of the ex-Scorpions who resented their defeat. The Jordanian battalion was instructed to return fire with higher caliber until it stopped.

Once the operation had been successful, the transitional administrator reported it to UN headquarters in New York. There was some informal remonstrance that the operation should have been previously cleared with New York, or at least there should have been advance information in case firing had broken out during the operation and UNTAES had sustained casualties. There was also some questioning as to whether such an operation was really covered by the Chapter VII provision in the mandate in that it appeared to stretch the definition of freedom of movement rather unduly.

The response of the transitional administrator was to the effect that he had the political and operational authority and responsibility for the operation and that he had proceeded with it accordingly. A major element of success was surprise, and he had therefore instructed that the operation be carried out with the absolute minimum of advance information. He had judged that there was no need to inform UN headquarters beforehand.

The incident amply illustrates the old adage that nothing succeeds like success. Whether the transitional administrator would have been rewarded with support from the secretary-general and the Security Council in New York if there had been UNTAES casualties will always remain an unknown, but there can be little doubt that the SRSG of a complex peace operation will at times have to take operational decisions that involve heavy political responsibility and risk. The availability of modern communications between field and headquarters and the possibility of the news being reported in the media before it can be checked and reported authoritatively up the chain of command complicate the judgment calls of the SRSG. The more military and other capabilities the SRSG has access to, the more there may be a tendency for New York to keep the SRSG under tight political control. While this may seem to err wisely on the side of caution, it can also be argued that it would err on the side of political timidity at headquarters when what is needed is boldness in the field. In essence, it points to the importance of making the right choice of candidate for the position of SRSG or transitional administrator in the first place.

International, National, and Local Relations

Among the many demands on the time of a transitional administrator and senior staff is the need to nurture appropriate relations with international and national interlocutors and with the various dimensions of the local community. The following comments focus on some of the political aspects of such tasks.

An SRSG or transitional administrator is required to request the secretary-general's permission to be absent from his or her station. If such requests are received too frequently, questions are asked as to why such absences are necessary and doubts may arise about the incumbent's sense of responsibility. What is sometimes not recognized is that administrators of war-torn territories have a major requirement to keep their situations and needs as high as practicable on the political radar screens of their international supporters and donors. In the early days of a mission, international attention will be high, but as time passes it will wane as other crises and priorities occur. Financial pledges at the initial donor conference will fade into the background and will need to be chased to obtain real money, donor fatigue will set in, governments may change, and initial political support may be gradually replaced by jaded inattention.

In 1996 and 1997, much international attention and financial support was directed to Bosnia. UNTAES was a small operation but it still needed external support, understanding, and financial assistance from governments and international organizations; and it needed to develop good relations with UN and other agencies on such issues as refugees, human rights, economic assistance, health, and police matters. The transitional administrator energetically cultivated not only the governments of troop-contributing countries by visiting their capitals, but also the European Union (EU) and NATO headquarters in Brussels, the OSCE in Vienna, the UN in Geneva, and (regularly) UN headquarters in New York.

In the region itself, in addition to close political and operational contacts with the authorities in Zagreb and Belgrade, great efforts were made to keep ambassadors assigned to Croatia and residing in Zagreb frequently informed of developments so that they would be able to report back to their respective capitals. On the grounds that Eastern Slavonia was legally part of Croatia, ambassadors were invited to make visits to the region as often as they wished.

For contacts with the local community, efforts were made at all levels. In addition to meeting local leaders, Serbs and displaced Croats, the transitional administrator made a weekly habit of attending Serb Orthodox church services and the two Catholic churches that were still in operation. Other senior staff undertook an extensive program of town and community meetings, visiting every village and community to listen to their concerns and to spread the UNTAES message: "There is nothing we can do about the past, but together we can help to build a future."

Throughout all these contacts, there was also a conscious effort made to present the UNTAES story to the media. Within the region, UNTAES issued a newspaper every ten days or so, printed in both Serbian and Croatian. In addition to UNTAES radio broadcasts, every Sunday a senior member of the UNTAES staff would spend up to two hours on local radio informing the population about developments and then taking telephone calls with questions, comments, criticisms, and suggestions. Outside the region, to counteract virulent Croatian political propaganda, UNTAES representatives would appear on radio, television, or in print at every reasonable opportunity.

None of this was unique, and other peace operations have adopted similar approaches. But in administrations of war-torn territories, as broad-based efforts are made to reestablish the roots of peace and stability, the need to communicate with the various sectors of the local and international communities is of high importance. Among all the information of a practical and informative nature, there has to be a consistent and focused political message aimed at energizing the recipients and encouraging them to develop hope for the future. In Eastern Slavonia, UNTAES had the benefit of having total authority, whereas in other circumstances the SRSG or transitional administrator may have to operate through or under a sovereign government.

Measuring Success

A transitional administration is a dynamic endeavor. It is not there to maintain the status quo but to change it dramatically and for the better, and then to leave. It will therefore go through several phases and stages, and one of the responsibilities of the administrator and staff is to recognize the opportunities for those changes and respond accordingly.

The UNTAES mandate has often been described as an example of a good and clear mandate, but as shown above there were many aspects that were either unclear or totally absent. The implementation of any mandate is, however, largely in the hands of those on the ground, with the political responsibility in the hands of the mission leadership. There are broadly two ways of interpreting a mandate--either as a ceiling or as a floor. If the mandate is taken as the ceiling, the leadership, when faced with an action, often poses the question "Is it in the mandate? If not, we shouldn't do it." But if the mandate is taken as the floor, the question is posed differently: "Is there anything in the mandate to say that we should not do it? If not, let us proceed." The latter course is proactive and was generally the course adopted in UNTAES.

Demilitarization of the Army of the Republika Srpkska Krajina was formally declared as complete on 21 June 1996, only five months after the start of the mission. On the strength of that achievement, the transitional administrator requested and obtained the withdrawal of the Croatian Army from its forward positions, and the process of a return of stability and security was steadily maintained for the rest of the mission.

Other objectives were not so straightforward. As described earlier, the mutual hostility between Serbs and Croats was at first so high that it was often difficult to get them into the same room and have a meaningful exchange. The development of confidence was a slow process, although in the second year a sentiment frequently expressed by Serbs at town meetings was, "We feel safe while UNTAES is here, but what shall we do once you are gone?"

As other international administrations have found, it is a mistake to hold elections too early, because they will usually only give legitimacy to the existing warlords, power brokers, and mafias. There needs to be time for moderate political leaders to emerge and organize their support. In the case of Eastern Slavonia, it was established that in accordance with Croatian electoral law, all voters had to have Croatian citizenship papers. First, persuading Serbs to accept Croatian citizenship, then making arrangements to issue the relevant papers, then establishing voter rolls and constituencies all took significant time. The situation and outcome were further complicated by the Croatian provision for absentee Croats displaced from the region, even if living in Australia or Canada or elsewhere, to be able to vote. Elections were eventually held in April 1997.

The measurement of political success of the UNTAES mission is difficult to identify and evaluate. As the transitional administrator remarked in his closing address at the end of UNTAES in January 1998, "Much has been achieved, much remains to be done."

If success is measured by the fact that war did not take place between Serbs and Croats and at the end of the mission the region, demilitarized and secure, was handed over to Croatian sovereign control, then the success was total. If success is measured by the extent of retained multiethnicity, the answer is mixed. Of the 125,000 residents in the region in January 1996, some 45,000 were displaced from elsewhere in Croatia and therefore did not regard Eastern Slavonia as home. Toward the end of the UNTAES mission and afterwards, many of them moved on again to parts of Serbia. For indigenous Serbs, staying meant living in political discomfort under Croat authority or leaving their homes for a highly doubtful future in Serbia; several thousands took the second option. Some of the indigenous Croats have since returned, but many people with young families have now made their lives elsewhere and therefore have not returned to the region. The result is that the region, now called the Danube Region, is multiethnic, but uncomfortably so, and poor.

If success is measured by the extent of reconciliation, then it is probably still too soon to make a measurement. The scars of war, particularly civil war, take many years to heal and even then ugly memories remain. It is understood that the Croat mayor and the Serb deputy mayor in Vukovar are not on speaking terms. The power-sharing agreement between the two major political Croat and Serb parties following the elections in 1997 has not been fully implemented, with elected officials continuing to hold inflexible positions. Serbs are reported as feeling that they are discriminated against by the Croatian authorities in jobs, economic assistance, and other areas. The reluctance of Croats to return to the region has also meant that Zagreb has been slow in providing public and private economic assistance for general redevelopment and reconstruction, which in turn adds to the suspicions of the Serbs.

In the end, a transitional administration is well advised to be modest about its aims and about its claims of success. Transitional authorities are faced with highly complex political, social, cultural, economic, and other challenges. By harnessing the will and resources of the international community, they can help to set a war-torn society back on its feet and pointed down the road to a better future. But how far and how fast the people travel down that road is up to the people themselves.


(1.) Kofi A. Annan, "Peacekeeping and National Sovereignty," in Jonathan Moore, ed., Hard Choices: Moral Dilemmas in Humanitarian Intervention (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998), p. 61.

(2.) This was certainly clear to Richard Holbrooke in Dayton. "Events had given [Tudjman] a central role in the peace process .... Tudjman could prevent a settlement in Bosnia until he got control of Eastern Slavonia. Given his previous behavior, his threats to go to war again soon after Dayton if he did not get the region back peacefully had to be taken seriously." Richard Holbrooke, To End a War (New York: Random House, 1998), pp. 238-239.

(3.) Security Council Resolution 1025 (1995), 30 November 1995.

(4.) S/1995/1028, 13 December 1995.

(5.) In a Roman sense, the proconsul was an officer who, as the governor of a Roman province, acted on behalf of the supreme authority of Rome.

(6.) The Pakistani and Jordanian battalions and their heavy weapons arrived by ship at the Croatian port of Rjeka. The Pakistani T95 tanks and 130mm howitzers and the Jordanian M60A3 tanks and 155mm howitzers were moved by tank transporters across Croatia from west to east. The open view of these arriving UNTAES capabilities deliberately given to the Croatian press and public did not pass unnoticed.

(7.) "Demilitarization" was another vague word in the Basic Agreement and the Security Council mandate. It was left entirely to the transitional administrator to determine whether it meant disarming, demobilization, or withdrawal. As it turned out, it entailed all three.

(8.) Security Council Resolution 1037 (1996), 15 January 1996, final preambular paragraph (italics in original).

Derek Boothby joined the UN in 1978, after serving as a career officer in the Royal Navy. During the following twenty years, he specialized in arms limitation and disarmament issues, took part in weapons inspections in Iraq, and in 1992 became the director of the Europe Division in the Department of Political Affairs. He was deputy transitional administrator of UNTAES from 1996 to 1997.
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Author:Boothby, Derek
Publication:Global Governance
Date:Jan 1, 2004
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