October 17, 2012
If the leaders of the European Union had any honor, they would have to decline the Nobel Peace Prize. In doing so they would pay tribute the memory of at least 300 thousand citizens killed quite recently in European wars. Less than 20 years ago, ethnic cleansing, mass murder, unbridled rape and other war atrocities took place right under the noses of the indecisive and cowardly population of Europe and its cynical leaders. And what did Europeans do about it? There were endless meetings, but when the horror erupted, we were told to put down our weapons and simply turn our backs.
And has this cowardly cynicism ended? No. The leading nations of Europe continue to enrich themselves by collaborating with undemocratic regimes. In the event, accepting the Peace Prize devalues the Nobel name and insults those who have in the past received the Prize for genuine courage and self-sacrifice.
The flattering pleasantries exchanged between the Nobel Peace Prize Committee and the leaders of the EU amount to bargaining in grotesque hypocrisy. In a joint announcement, the presidents of the Council of Europe the European Commission congratulated themselves: “This Prize is the strongest possible recognition of the deep political motives behind our Union: the unique effort by ever more European states to overcome war and divisions and to jointly shape a continent of peace and prosperity.” The Norwegian Nobel Committee chimed in, emphasizing – “EU’s contribution for over six decades to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.” (1)
A glance at very recent history suffices to give the gentlemen the lie. What “six decades” are they talking about? The Nobel Committee could not have forgotten the terribly destructive wars, not one, not two, but five wars altogether, that took place in the territory of former Yugoslavia from 1991 until as recently as 1999. The European Union proved itself utterly impotent, unable to prevent them. In some cases the actions of the European nations were pathetic to the point of being criminal. In 1990, just before the bloody conflict erupted, the United States urged the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to place the growing threat of danger on its summit meeting agenda. French president Francois Mitterrand chided the Americans for “overly dramatizing” the situation and rejected the idea. A short time later the situation literally exploded, initiating one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts in Europe’s recent history. It is estimated that as many as 300 thousand people were killed, and millions were driven into exile.
France is also culpable for one of the most horrific episodes in this conflict. French general Bernard Janvier, the commander of the UN military contingent in Bosnia, ordered a ban on air attacks on Bosnian Serb forces in Srebrenica. His decision was soon followed by the most horrendous mass murder in Europe since the Second World War.
British historian Tony Judt writes: “... Encouraged by the cowardice of the West, Bosnian Serb forces under the leadership of Ratko Mladic on June 11 (1995) moved into one of the so-called ‘secure zones’ – the eastern Bosnian city of Srebrenica, which at the time was crowded with frightened moslem refugees. Srebrenica was officially ‘protected’ by a UN mandate and by a contingent of 400 Dutch peacekeepers. However, upon the arrival of Mladic’s soldiers, the Dutch battalion lay down their arms without resistance, whereupon the Serbs systematically separated men and boys from the rest of the moslem population. The very next day, after having given his “officer’s word of honor” that they would not be harmed, his soldiers led the men, including boys aged 13 and older, out of the city into the countryside, and, over the following four days, slaughtered most of them – 7400 people. The Dutch soldiers returned home to Holland.” (2) This was made possible by the government of Holland, which vetoed any sort of attack on Serb strongholds until all Dutch soldiers were safely removed from danger.
Was it Europeans who put an end to these death orgies? No. Only seven weeks later, when the Serbs had attacked a market in Sarajevo, killing tens of people, mostly children, the US government headed by president Bill Clinton sanctioned the bombing of the aggressor. For a time this did force the Serbian paramilitary groups to take cover. Sadly, however, it was not the end. The conflict continued to smolder and occasionally flared up again. Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, taking advantage of the helplessness of European diplomats and the unwillingness of the Americans to get involved in European affairs, continued his aggressive policies. This led to a string of merciless mass murders in Kosovo in the spring of 1999.
Again – it took the active initiative of the US and NATO to put a stop to it. The slaughter in Kosovo ended only after a prolonged bombing of Serbian forces by NATO. The holocaust in former Yugoslavia ended on July 9, 1999, when the government in Belgrade agreed to remove its forces from Kosovo. The European Union’s role in the resolution of the conflict was nothing but dithering impotence. For eight long years, literally a couple of hundred kilometers from Vienna, the Balkan wars raged in indescribably merciless and bloody conflicts in which people were indiscriminately raped, flayed alive and slaughtered, including women and children. Has the Nobel Committee forgotten this, or has it simply decided to ignore the recent past?
Has anything changed in Europe since? Undeniably, the European Union is trying gradually to become a more serious organization. But old habits are still strong. The leading nations of the EU still talk the talk, but deep down they are just as cynical and duplicitous as ever. The Nobel Committee was unable to bring itself to notice a recent scandal in Sweden. Only half a year after taking office, Swedish defense minister Sten Tolgfors was forced to resign when it turned out that, under his leadership, negotiations were underway with Saudi Arabia for construction of facilities to repair and modernize antitank weapons. More recently, Sweden has lifted its ban on arms sales to nations led by undemocratic regimes. (3)
The Swedes were outdone many times over by the Germans and the Brits. It is well known that the mightiest of member states of the European Union – Germany, has been supporting, directly and over a long period of time, the regime of Europe’ s last dictator Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus. This support has been of a most cynical sort – German police have been involved in training his secret police, trading secrets and sharing experience. This was going on as recently as 2011, ignoring the fact that Belarusian forces in 2010 had brutally suppressed opposition protests, entailing more than 500 casualties. As reported by the German periodical “Der Spiegel”, representatives of the German security services had actively been involved in training these forces. (4) It is hard to imagine the feelings of the Belarusian citizens opposed to their regime, imprisoned and beaten with “German experience”, upon hearing the Nobel Committee’s fine words about “EU’s contribution for over six decades to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”
The goings-on in Belarusian prisons are well known in another EU superpower – Great Britain. Its Foreign Ministry has reported that it has received credible testimony about torture and mistreatment imprisoned members of the opposition in those prisons. It has never been a secret to the EU and to Great Britain that Lukashenko is no “last Santa Claus of Europe”, but rather he is its last dictator. However, as reported by British TV Channel 4, this has not hindered Great Britain from selling him military arms worth 3 million pounds sterling. These arms deals were stopped only after the imposition of an embargo in July of 2011. (5)
However, this did not put a stop to all opportunities for the Brits to enrich themselves in Belarus. Great Britain has become the second biggest foreign investor in Belarus. British TV Channel 4 reports that British exports to Belarus have doubled in the last five years – from 67 million pounds sterling in 2007 to 125 million in 2011. The trend continues – in the last five months these exports were worth 77 million pounds. Of course the Brits try counter criticism by saying that business is business, and that they try to avoid dealing with Belarusian state authorities. They seem not to understand the meaning of the word “dictatorship”.
In that case, the Nobel Committee might as well invite Lukashenka, the president of Belarus, as guest of honor, personally to deliver the Peace Prize to the representatives of the leading nations of the EU, Germany and Great Britain. And if Milosevic had not passed away prematurely in his prison cell, then he might have been invited to shake hands with the French and Dutch representative. But maybe the leaders of the EU might yet manage to be sufficiently self-critical to realize, that the Prize is not deserved, at least out of respect for the victims of the Balkan holocaust, the political prisoners of Belarus, and other true idealists willing to sacrifice themselves in the long, hard struggle for world-wide peace and democracy.
Translated into English by Juris Žagariņš.
1. 2012. gada Nobela Miera prēmija piešķirta Eiropas Savienībai - 12/10/2012 http://ec.europa.eu/news/eu_explained/121012_lv.htm
2. Tony Judt. “Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945”
3. Diena.lv – Ieroču skandāla dēļ atkāpjas Zviedrijas aizsardzības ministrs http://www.diena.lv/pasaule/ierocu-skandala-del-atkapjas-zviedrijas-aizsardzibas-ministrs-13939410
4. „Der Spiegel” – Minsk lobt Polizei-Hilfe aus Deutschland http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/weissrussland-bestreitet-schlagstock-lieferung-aus-deutschland-a-852806.html
5. „Channel 4 News” – How the UK props up Europe’s ‘last dictatorship’ http://www.channel4.com/news/how-the-uk-props-up-europes-last-dictatorship
Otto Ozols is a writer and publicist. He is the author of the 2011 Latvian best-seller Latvieši ir visur.
The article may be found online at http://latviansonline.com/commentary/article/8362/
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