31 August 1999                                  

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Ex-president criticises West’s policies in Yugoslavia

The role of the international community comes under severe criticism in ex-president Mauno Koivisto’s analysis of the events in Yugoslavia during the 1990s. Koivisto’s views appear in an interview jointly published by two leading Finnish regional newspapers, Aamulehti and Turun Sanomat (29 August 1999).

After a decade of questionable policy decisions, there is now, according to Koivisto, serious doubts about whether the West and international organisations will be able to collect the billions which have been promised to rebuild the Balkans. He describes the recent Sarajevo conference as a "meeting of promises".

"The stage has been set up reasonably well but no credible organisation seems to be emerging", Koivisto says.

The ex-president also asks what the cost of the air strikes was.

"How much did this all cost the perpetrators of the destruction and those who suffered because of it? One may ask what else all this money could have been used for."

Koivisto does not believe that the promised aid billions will be found in either EU or US purses. He does not believe that Serbia will be helped even if President Slobodan Milosevic is toppled.

The ex-president has especially harsh words about the role of the outside world in adding to the problems of Yugoslavia’s disintegration process.

"First the outside world adopted a negative attitude towards Yugoslavia’s disintegration. Slowly Germany, Austria and even Hungary began a forceful agitation and vilification of the Serbs", Koivisto says.

"I do accept the fact of disintegration. The outside world cannot force people to live together. But it is a different matter when one begins to help disintegration from outside."

Koivisto acknowledges that Finland went along with these policies. He says that this is partly explained by the fact that events in Russia took so much of his attention.

He also expresses puzzlement about the readiness of the outside world to use force.

"The threshold should be terribly high before one begins to use force from outside. One should have a clear idea of what one is trying to achieve. The damage caused must not be bigger and the conditions of people must not deteriorate but improve."

Koivisto, who was Finland’s president between 1982-1994, has earlier criticised the NATO air strikes in ex-Yugoslavia. In this he has been at odds with his successor, Martti Ahtisaari, who helped to broker the agreement which ended the air strikes.

In a leading article, Aamulehti (31 August 1999) says that it is possible that the stabilisation agreement in the Balkans "turns out to be an empty shell".

"The irony is that there is enough money for war but when it comes to securing peace and rebuilding there is a shortage of resources. The governments with tight budgets are not enthusiastic. Also, the work of aid organisations will become difficult when the public slowly loses its interest."

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