“The Breakup of Yugoslavia”, the 2011 Eugene Schuyler Lecture offered by former U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria H.E. James Pardew

(October 24th, 2011, American Research Center, Sofia)

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The Atlantic Club of Bulgaria and the American Research Center organized the 2011 Eugene Schuyler Lecture offered by the former U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria H.E. James Pardew, entitled “The Breakup of Yugoslavia”

Ambassador Pardew divided his lecture into several important topics and he discussed all the significant regional events in the last 20 years. He began his speech with the negotiations preceding the Dayton Accords, saying that they turned out to be very tense, because of the complex configuration of the parties involved. The lector did not forget to point out the decisive role of Richard Holbrooke, whose personal qualities were crucial for reaching an agreement. According to Mr. Pardew, the U.S. and their European partners assisted in bringing security to the Balkans, and therefore the intervention is more or less a success. As far as Bosnia’s future is concerned, the former Ambassador declared that the main goal of the Dayton Accords was to give the people of Bosnia a chance to turn their war-torn country into a European center. “There are many obstacles to achieving this, including Serbia’s interference, although it’s not the only problem. The country still has a long way to go before it could show any tangible results”. By the end of his presentation the Ambassador said that the progress in the country is too slow, but nevertheless he remains optimistic about Bosnia’s future.

The Kosovo topic was also widely discussed during Ambassador Pardew’s lecture. He declared that the Serbian position is absolutely wrong and it is the main reason for Belgrade’s continuing international isolation. “The sooner the Serbian leaders come to recognize that they need integration in the European structures and NATO, instead of arguing over Kosovo’s independence, the sooner we could have progress in the bilateral relations. Unfortunately, I don’t think that this could happen any time soon”. Mr. Pardew said that creating borders, which carve off ethnic groups, does not bring security to the region, but on the contrary, it exacerbates tensions. “I, personally, don’t believe that it was possible to stop Kosovo’s proclamation of independence, especially when you bear in mind all the other countries which have dissociated – Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia”. The Ambassador categorically rejected the idea for land exchange between Kosovo and Serbia, since this will not end the discrepancies. The lector added that it is impossible to expect the EU and NATO to withdraw from Kosovo, because of the existing tension in the region.

Mr. Pardew didn’t forget to pay attention on Russia’s role on the Balkans. He declared that during the 1990’s the Russian Federation sought to cooperate with Washington, but this approach was gradually abandoned. “Russia remains part of the Contact group, because she sees it as an opportunity to pressure the EU and NATO but I would say that Moscow is less willing to cooperate than it was before”.

Ambassador Pardew finished his lecture by concentrating on some of the more recent developments. In his opinion, the main threats to Southeast Europe remain economic. “Europe, as well as the U.S., is trying to improve its economic condition. Therefore, the gravest risks for long-term stability are related to economic challenges. Of course, the threat from extremist groups and terrorism still remains, so I would say that these are the two main perils to security at the moment.”