BalkansEuropean historyReport

[Yugoslavia Memory of a disaster] 1990-2008 The idea of ​​a story

In Jajce (© NGV)
In Jajce (© NGV)

(BRUSSELS2) The idea for such a story came from the first upheavals in Yugoslavia, in 1990-1991. When I witnessed, as an attentive spectator, but overall a passive spectator, not only the collapse of a regime and a State but also the return of the unspeakable, of barbarism, based on the worst idea : that of an ethnically pure country.

We left, in August 1990, – with two other colleagues – for a “study” vacation in this country, so close, but where strange boot noises were already being produced. Our three-week tour took us from Ljubljana to Belgrade, via Sarajevo, the sanjak (Novi Pazar), Pristina. When we returned from our trip, we were convinced that there was a lot to tell. And I visited the editorial offices in Paris. But… Saddam Hussein had just invaded Kuwait and, in reaction, the United States, helping the Arab monarchies (or the opposite), had started the (first) Gulf War with their Western allies. And, suffice to say that we were “a little declared”. One of our interlocutors had the foresight – cynicism or frankness (it depends) – to tell us “very interesting, ... but hey... Come back and see us. When there are deaths”...

One year later, there were beginning to be deaths. I was following the topic “Eastern Europe – USSR” for La Truffe, a short-lived French daily. It must be said that Yugoslavia, where everyone took sides, for the besieged Croats, for the liberated Slovenes, the imprisoned Kosovars or the minoritized Serbs seemed incomprehensible to our Western eyes... much more captivated by the “coup d'état” in the USSR which put an end to the Gorbachevian experiment (read on this subject what Gorbachev of the Nation State)… And yet, already present, came questions: was Europe responsible? How is she guilty? Nagging questions to which I have so far not found an answer. Because, like many, at the time, I let it happen... other than writing a few articles.

Today, the years have passed. Time is up. Many works have been written on the Balkans. I read some of them. Some identify the responsibilities of the UN. The others testify to the difficult conditions for surviving in these times. The latest highlight the demonic Serbian part in this collective shipwreck. Few were interested in Europe's role, except to say that it had no weight. This assertion deserves to be qualified.

The subject of this story (summer) is therefore to highlight the context of the time and to bring together as many testimonies as possible from the different European actors (political leaders, diplomats, soldiers, etc.) on their vision of the time. How could we let such a situation escape? How, when Europe was effectively “dwarfed” on the international scene, did it intervene? …

Few years later,
the time for witnessing and taking responsibility seems to have come.


This story is made up of three parts: short analyses, of the different Yugoslav periods; the words of certain actors of the moment;

Lire aussi


1914-1990 A land with a turbulent history

1990, Vaclav Havel: the journey of “collective hatred” (Quote)

1990-1999: Europe responsible, incapable or ignorant

2000-2010: managerial, stabilizing, unifying Europe?

1990s ex-Yugoslavia, Europe's ten missteps?

The military option at the start of the Yugoslav conflict

The first "deaths on mission" of the EU, it was 20 years ago

Srebrenica, When Europe fails in its duty...

Interviews (2008-2010)

Alain Lamassoure (Fr): French diplomacy was nil

Doris Pack (Ger.): no one seriously believed in war

Michel Rocard (Fr): the European problem, the disagreement…

Hannes Swoboda (Aut.): a possible preventive strategy

Alojze Peterle (Slo):

Jacques Poos (Lux):

Paul Garde: Yugoslavia 1990, a somewhat muddled Europe

Olli Rehn: We learned a lot from the failure of the 1990s in the Balkans

Articles (1990)

1991, friendly diplomats in the Yugoslav trenches

1991, ordinary Yugoslav divorce scene at the Council of Europe

1991. On Yugoslavia, the mentors have nothing to say.

1991. When the Bosnian Sandzak proclaims itself autonomous

1991, The Yugoslav army, really powerful?

1991, the Yugoslav army attacks Dubrovnik

1991. Vukovar feels abandoned

1991, the dispersed recognition of the former countries of Yugoslavia


Peace agreement in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Dayton-Paris 21 Nov 1995)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).