THE NEXT STEP
JUNE 3, 1996
Six months into the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, the political efforts to rebuild that shattered nation continues. Elections that many see as critical to the mission's success are slated for September. Yet, standing in the way of elections are the failure to arrest war criminals and other issues. Elizabeth Farnsworth discusses whether elections will be able to occur on time.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Setting up free and fair elections in Bosnia was a major goal of the Dayton peace plan signed last December, but there has been growing debate in Washington and other capitals whether such elections can be organized by the September deadline called for in the Dayton Accords. The elections are supposed to pave the way for the departure of U.S. and other international troops by the end of the year.
The issue is whether elections can be held, given major human rights and other problems in Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia. Hundreds of thousands of refugees remain displaced because of continued ethnic strife or lack of housing, and the indicted war crime suspects, Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic, leaders of the Bosnian Serbs, remain dominant and at large. Other problems include access for outside election monitors and freedom of the press and association, all mandated by the Dayton Agreement. Yesterday in Geneva, Secretary of State Christopher held meetings with Balkan leaders. They issued a statement emphasizing the importance of holding elections by September 14th.
WARREN CHRISTOPHER, Secretary of State: (June 2) In our talks today we advanced the peace process even further. First and foremost, three Presidents joined together to call for elections in Bosnia by September 14th, the date established. They also agreed that an exact date would be announced to provide a focus for the work that remains prior to the election.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Today the Bosnian government released a statement that reiterated support for elections but said they could not be held until the Bosnian Serb leaders Karadzic and Mladic are arrested. And Sec. Christopher told a news conference that the troops of the international force, IFOR, would patrol more actively in pursuit of war criminals. We get two views now.
Robert Gallucci was ambassador at large in the Clinton administration responsible for the civilian rebuilding project in Bosnia, among other things. He is now dean of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, and George Soros is founder and chairman of the Open Society Institute, an organization working to promote open societies throughout the world, most recently in the former Yugoslavia. Thank you both very much for being with us. Amb. Gallucci, tell me why the elections are so important.
ROBERT GALLUCCI, Former State Department Official: Well, I think in the, in the first instance, the elections are a way to put pressure, keep pressure on the parties to do what they have not yet done, and that is to really create the conditions for free and fair elections, somewhat ironically. The elections are sought by, I think, all parties and by the United States because it drives the parties to do what they need to do, the conditions with respect to refugees, return of refugees, free movement of people, access to media, everything we need for democratic elections. Secondly, I think certainly the institutions that would be created by the elections that would be created by the elections, that will be created by the elections, the parliament, the Presidency, the two entities that make up Bosnia, the federation and republic of Serbska, these institutions need to be stood up, and they cannot be stood up until these elections are held. Can I--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Go ahead.
AMB. GALLUCCI: --make--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Yes.
AMB. GALLUCCI: --another point or two? Third, of course, they are the identified war criminals, those indicted by the tribunal in the Hague and the most famous, uh, Mladic and Karadzic. We need to get to a situation where war criminals, those indicted, cannot hold any office authority in Bosnia and the elections will make sure that that happens, because these people cannot stand for election. And I think finally, a very important point is that it creates a continuous momentum for the implementation of Dayton. The elections are not a minor data point in the agreement.
They are essentially and all of us believe, I think, who have been involved in the negotiation in Dayton that the holding of the elections will sustain the momentum and without the elections there will be a question about the burden and where it resides. It needs to reside with the people of Bosnia. They need to have their elections. They need to come into political authority.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And at this point, do you think the elections should go--should be held before September 14th, which is the deadline under the accords?
AMB. GALLUCCI: Well, I think, uh, that under the terms of Dayton there needs to be a determination by the OSCE that conditions for free and fair elections exist.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe which oversees the elections?
AMB. GALLUCCI: Thank you. And that organization will do that, I suspect, based on the recent, recent meeting probably in about some weeks time. When that happens, when that determination is made, then we will understand that the OSCE, at least, believes that those conditions exist. I'm not about to make a judgment myself.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Soros, what do you think? Do you think that conditions exist for free and fair elections?
GEORGE SOROS, Open Society Institute: (New York) No. I think everybody agrees that they don't exist. And to hold the election under the present circumstances would be a very fateful step because it would legitimize ethnic cleansing, and it would confirm in power those who--effectively the war criminals. They might not stand for election in person but they will dominate the scene.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Explain, explain first how it would legitimate ethnic cleansing.
MR. SOROS: Because there are 2.4 million refugees of which only 60,000 have returned. And even the people who are in Bosnia can't move around because freedom of movement is not assured. Uh, there is no free press, no media. There is no freedom of association. For instance, there is a party in Bosnia and a party in the Serb part who used to be one party before the war. They would like to have a common platform again but they can't even talk to each other because there are no telephone communications.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: They're in different parts of Bosnia?
MR. SOROS: Yes. One is in the Serb part and the other one is in the Bosnian part.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You heard Amb. Gallucci lay out all the reasons he thinks the elections are so important. How do you respond to some of those points, for example, that they're so important because it's a way of holding everybody's feet to the fire so to speak?
MR. SOROS: Well, I think it is tremendously important, I entirely agree, and actually I'm doing whatever I can to create the conditions that free and fair elections could be held. But if you hold free elections in these conditions, I think that you are--it will be a travesty for what the elections ought to be. You know, it reminds me of what the United Nations did three and a half years ago, sending in peacekeepers when there was no peace to keep. And the results were three and a half years of suffering.
Now--and actually a tremendous blow to the prestige of the United Nations--now we are about to hold free and fair elections when, when free and fair elections cannot be held, and I think it will be the beginning of the next phase of tragedy in Bosnia, and since it is now NATO that is on the line, I think it will tremendously damage our position in the world and also NATO's.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think about that, Mr. Ambassador?
AMB. GALLUCCI: Well, the first thing that occurs to me is that Mr. Soros is, indeed, taking or playing a role with the effort to create conditions for free and fair elections with his activity in the area of media.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We'll get back to that in a minute.
AMB. GALLUCCI: One of the key elements, I think, in having the atmosphere. I wouldn't want to be in a position of saying that all the refugees can return at will, that there's freedom of movement in, in the way we need to see it, that people can vote where they would like to vote in a universal way. The argument I'm making this evening really is that we are moving in the direction in which we are accomplishing all the things we wish to accomplish. We are not where we want to be. A judgment has to be made about how far along we are when the time comes, and we have to assess whether sticking to the Dayton deadline is going to serve the interest that we all have of creating a unitary, multiethnic society. My judgment is it does, and we need to have those elections.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So you're saying no matter what the problems, I mean, the deadline is basically upon us because the organization overseeing the elections has said to have them in September, you've got to say by June 15th or so that you're going to have them so people can start organizing, you're saying that whatever the problems, it's better to have them now than not?
AMB. GALLUCCI: I think that's, that is too low a bar, not whatever the problems--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Uh-huh.
AMB. GALLUCCI: --and I think this may strike you as a minor point but there is no fighting right now in Bosnia. This is not a place of great violence. It's not that there aren't intermittent violent acts, but there are in civilized societies everywhere intermittent violent acts. We have come a very long way, and we shouldn't forget that. And one of the things that drives me to the conclusion we should have the elections is I don't want to lose momentum, and I think the elections are critical to that momentum, to putting a burden on the Bosnian people to establish these democratic institutions. I don't claim that these elections will be perfect. Few elections are, but I think the weight, the balance here clearly comes out on the side of elections.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Soros.
MR. SOROS: Well, I'm afraid that the momentum is all going in the wrong direction, and if we now pursue the elections, I think we should set the date by all means, but if the conditions don't improve, we can't hold them. And I think we could do a lot to improve the conditions because already now the NATO troops have--the IFOR troops have been told to be more active. I don't think that it's beyond their capacity to capture the war criminals. It would totally change the situation, so I'm not opposed to elections. I'm all for elections, but I think let's work on bringing about the conditions that they are free and fair. Otherwise, we will have again--this will be an interlude--and we will have fighting again as soon as we leave.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What other conditions do you think must be there, besides the rest of the Bosnian Serb leaders? What must change?
MR. SOROS: That I think is most important, freedom of movement, freedom of association, and of course, freedom of, of press.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What have you found in that regard--
MR. SOROS: And information.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: --with your work?
MR. SOROS: Well, we have designed a program to establish pluralistic media in Bosnia. It's a $15 million program, and the fund-raising is currently going on. I think we will be able to start in a, in a few weeks. So we'll probably have it in place, but not in time for the elections. There ought to be some delay because I think having that work I think would make a major contribution to changing the conditions.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Mr. Soros, it sounds like you believe that if certain conditions are met, that there's still time to meet those conditions and in that case, elections would not be a sham, is that right?
MR. SOROS: That is right. I think that before the war criminals were arrested there that the, the--this television system is put in--that the IFOR--the IFOR guarantees movement of people. Uh, I think that the elections should take place.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What about arresting the Bosnian Serb leaders? Not so easy to do, huh?
MR. SOROS: It wouldn't be very difficult. The problem is that we had a terrible experience in Somalia, and, uh, the military is dead set against chasing war criminals. And for the President to give an order against the advice of the military in an election season is a risk that the President is not willing to take. I think that if he took that risk, those war criminals would have been arrested already.
AMB. GALLUCCI: Let me interrupt rapidly, if I could, Mr. Soros, because I do believe there's a question about what's prudent for IFOR to do, but I wouldn't want to trivialize that, which it would be to do, to say it is a domestic political issue, an electoral issue. The President has the responsibility to the men and women who serve in the, in IFOR, internationally we do, and I think Mr. Soros is quite correct, that there is an historical metaphor in people's minds about Somalia and chasing of Adid.
But there are also other metaphors that go back at least as far as an earlier deployment in Lebanon, about the politicization or the taking of sides of it, of an international military presence. So this is not a minor issue, and it's one that I think we should be glad the President and the military and NATO have moved with prudence. Adm. Smith's and Gen. Joulwan's conclusion that now they can take a more aggressive posture I think is just about right, that they needed first to establish themselves on the ground, and they did.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, that's all the time we have. They you both very much for being with us.