Page 1

Southeast European Integration Perspectives


Petritsch | Džihi´c (Eds.)

Conflict and Memory presents a collection of essays focusing reconstructed past in Europe. The book approaches the Balkans as integral part of the common European history. In fact, many countries that are already European Union members also have conflicting memories and are to this very day involved in a complex process of, first, coming to terms with their own past; second, acknowledging each other‘s conflicting memories; and, third, trying to (re)construct a common European memory as part of transnational memory spaces. The essays highlight the different memory discourses. Against the background of country-specific and comparative studies, they offer convincing analyses and arguments as to why the process of dealing with the past has to be seen both against the background of European history and in the context of the European Union integration process.

About the Editors: Conflict and Memory: bridging past and future in [ South East ] Europe is edited by Wolfgang Petritsch, former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Special Envoy of the EU for Kosovo; and Vedran Džihić, lecturer and researcher at the Department for Political Sciences at the Univer-sity of Vienna. The Authors: Franz-Lothar Altmann | Damir Arsenijević | Murat Belge | Martin Dangerfield | Isabelle de le Court | Jasna Dragović-Soso | Vedran Džihić | Ute Frevert | Konstanty Gebert | Edin Hajdarpašić | Florence Hartmann | Nataša Kandić | Dragan Klaić | Denisa Kostovicova | Filip Kovačević | Sophie Milquet | Wolfgang Petritsch | Milan Popović | Oliver Rathkolb | Mirsad Tokača | Milica Tomić | Leonora Visoka Weller | Peter Vodopivec | Gottfried Wagner | Paola Yacoub.

Conflict and Memory: Bridging Past and Future in [South East] Europe

Wolfgang Petritsch | Vedran Džihi´c (Eds.)

Conflict and Memory: Bridging Past and Future in [South East] Europe

ISBN 978-3-8329-4879-5

Nomos BUC_Petritsch_ua_4879-5.indd 1

01.07.10 08:33

Southeast European Integration Perspectives Edited by Wolfgang Petritsch,

former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Special Envoy of the EU for Kosovo

Christophe Solioz,

Secretary-General of the Center for European Integration Strategies

Wolfgang Petritsch | Vedran Džihić (Eds.)

Conflict and Memory: Bridging Past and Future in [South East] Europe

The Authors: Franz-Lothar Altmann | Damir Arsenijević | Murat Belge | Martin Dangerfield | Isabelle de le Court | Jasna Dragović-Soso | Vedran Džihić | Ute Frevert | Konstanty Gebert | Edin Hajdarpašić | Florence Hartmann | Nataša Kandić | Dragan Klaić | Denisa Kostovicova | Filip Kovačević | Sophie Milquet | Wolfgang Petritsch | Milan Popović | Oliver Rathkolb | Mirsad Tokača | Milica Tomić | Leonora Visoka Weller | Peter Vodopivec | Gottfried Wagner | Paola Yacoub.


sponsored by – Ville de Genève – Loterie romande – Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research – Kulturabteilung der Stadt Wien (MA 7)

Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek verzeichnet diese Publikation in der Deutschen Nationalbibliografie; detaillierte bibliografische Daten sind im Internet über abrufbar. Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data is available in the Internet at ISBN 978-3-8329-4879-5

1. Auflage 2010 © Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, Baden-Baden 2010. Printed in Germany. Alle Rechte, auch die des Nachdrucks von Auszügen, der fotomechanischen Wiedergabe und der Übersetzung, vorbehalten. Gedruckt auf alterungsbeständigem Papier. This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically those of translation, reprinting, re-use of illus­trations, broadcasting, reproduction by photocopying machine or similar means, and storage in data banks. Under § 54 of the German Copyright Law where copies are made for other than private use a fee is payable to »Verwertungsgesellschaft Wort«, Munich.


Acknowledgements List of Abbreviations and Acronyms

9 11

Introduction Wolfgang Petritsch and Vedran Džihić Confronting Conflicting Memories in [South East] Europe: An Introduction


Jasna Dragović-Soso Conflict, Memory, Accountability: What Does Coming to Terms with the Past Mean?


Conflict and Memory — European Experiences Oliver Rathkolb Politics of Memory and the Shadows of the Hidden Past


Martin Dangerfield Searching the Central Europe: Region-building Processes after the End of the Cold War and the Role of European Integration


Ute Frevert Conflicting Memories and Emotions — Germany West, East and United


Konstanty Gebert Separate Narratives: Polish and Jewish Perceptions of the Shoah


Murat Belge Time to Remember


Sophie Milquet “Don’t let my name fade into history”: La voz dormida by Dulce Chacón, a Feminine “Site of Memory”?



Paola Yacoub The Holiday Inn Cycle


Gottfried Wagner Memory and the Future: European Narratives


The Balkans between the Past and the Future — Dealing with Conflicting Memories Isabelle de le Court A Tale of Two Cities: Amnesia or Nostalgia in Post-conflict Art in Beirut and Sarajevo?


Milica Tomić The Container/Transporter of Truth


Dragan Klaić War and Peace in the Strudel House — A Late Winter Travelogue


Edin Hajdarpašić “But my memory betrays me”: National Master Narratives and the Ambiguities of History in Bosnia and Herzegovina


Damir Arsenijević A Politics of Memory and Knowledge Production in Bosnia and Herzegovina: The Case for Studije Jugoslavije


Mirsad Tokača The Bosnian Culture of Commemorative Memory — Why and How?


Nataša Kandić Dealing with the Past — Step by Step


Milan Popović and Filip Kovačević Montenegrin Counter-Lustration, 1991–2009


Peter Vodopivec On Slovene Troubles with the Recent Past and Historical Memory


Nora V. Weller The Failure to Face the Past in Relation to Kosovo



Denisa Kostovicova Civil Society in the Western Balkans: Vehicle for or Obstacle to Transitional Justice?


Franz-Lothar Altmann Regional Cooperation as a Means of Linking the Pre-wars Past with the Future


Florence Hartmann (Re)Constructing Europe and the Balkans in the Shadow of Their Pasts






Conflict and Memory: Bridging Past and Future in [South East] Europe presents a series of essays focusing on the “reconstructed past” in Europe and the process of coming to terms with the past in the Balkans in particular. The essays highlight memory discourses in different European countries with a focus on South East Europe. This book would not have been possible without the excellent editing skills of Alex Potter. We greatly appreciate the support of the City of Geneva and the Loterie Romande, as well as the essential funding for the project provided by Kulturabteilung der Stadt Wien (MA 7) and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research. The views expressed in this publication are, of course, entirely those of the respective authors. We are deeply thankful to our sponsors for their largesse in encouraging broad discussion on the subject matter at hand.

Wolfgang Petritsch | Vedran Džihić Paris | Vienna, July 2010



active labour market policy Army of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia Central and Eastern Europe/European Central European Free Trade Agreement Central European Initiative Central European University Council for Mutual Economic Assistance Communist Party of Yugoslavia Democratic Party Democratic Party of Serbia European Commission European Economic Community European Union EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo euro Financial Information Exchange (protocol) Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (Austrian Freedom Party) German Democratic Republic Humanitarian Law Centre International Committee of the Red Cross International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia Yugoslav National Army Kosovo Force Kosovo Liberation Army Austrian Communist Party Labour Force Survey North Atlantic Treaty Organisation non-governmental organisation (Serbian) National Programme for Integration (into the EU) Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers’ Party or Nazi Party) Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Österreichische Volkspartei (Austrian People’s Party) Regional Cooperation Council Regional Commission for Establishing the Facts about War Crimes and Other Serious Human Rights Violations in the Former Yugoslavia Republika Srpska 11



Stabilisation and Association Process Sandžak Democratic Party/Social Democratic Party (Montenegro) Social Democratic Party (Slovenia)/Slovene Democratic Party Securities Exchange Commission South East European Cooperation Process Serbian European Integration Office Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca Stability Pact Serbian Orthodox Church Sozialistische Partei Österreichs (Social Democratic Party of Austria) Socialist Party of Serbia Serbian Radical Party Truth and Reconciliation Commission Liberation Army of Preševo, Medvedja and Bujanovac United States dollar Verband der Unabhängigen (Federation of Independents) Visegrád Group Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland Zemaljsko antifašističko vijeće narodnog oslobođenja Bosne i Hercegovine (Regional Anti-Fascist Council of the People’s Liberation of Bosnia-Herzegovina) Združena lista socialnih demokratov (United List of Social Democrats) (Slovenia)


Wolfgang Petritsch and Vedran Džihić

Confronting Conflicting Memories in [South East] Europe: An Introduction

It was more than 70 years ago that the so-called Kristallnacht — the terrible euphemism for Nazi Germany’s large-scale and systematic pogrom — took place. This barbaric event, among many others, represents the darkest chapter of European history of the 20th century and led straight into the Shoah. Sixtyone years later, in 1989, the moribund German Democratic Republic was forced to open checkpoints through the Berlin Wall, allowing its citizens to spontaneously visit West Germany. People power seized the moment and started literally tearing down the Berlin Wall, the symbol of a divided Europe. A new chapter in European and world history was thus opened; some even envisioned ‘The End of History’ and the victory of Western liberal democracy. Roughly around this time, not all that far away from the demolished Berlin Wall, on the territory of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a fundamental crisis of the communist state system, triggered by a breakdown of intra-society communication, was unfolding. Within a few weeks an implosion of unprecedented dimensions swept away the foundations of this state. At its 14th Congress, the once all-powerful League of Communists of Yugoslavia split along the lines of the country’s constituent republics, and the bloody dissolution of Yugoslavia had begun. This conflict in the southeastern region of the European continent soon turned into a major crisis of the European project. Europe failed to act decisively and consistently and the much-touted Hour of Europe (to quote Luxembourg’s foreign minister and acting president of the European Community, Jacques Poos) saw the playing out of the worst conflict in Europe since 1945. Yet another stark reminder: Almost two decades ago, on 9 November 1993, Stari Most, Mostar’s magnificent old bridge, built in 1566 by the Ottomans, collapsed after several days of bombing and shelling by Croat forces. (The general in charge presently stands trial at The Hague’s International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia — ICTY). The traces of the Berlin Wall are mostly gone and Germany is reunited; Bosnia’s destroyed physical infrastructure is more or less rebuilt; so is the bridge in Mostar. Questions, however, remain: Has trust and reconciliation among the various ethnic communities been re-established? Is the committed search for truth part of the national agenda? Have the root causes of the conflict been addressed by the political elites and civil society? Such questions abound, and there are no easy answers. 15

As the European experience of the 20th century clearly demonstrates, rebuilding a bridge, a house or a country’s physical infrastructure is mainly a matter of money and resolve. However, rebuilding trust, establishing confidence between the former warring parties and finding a way to deal with the now divided past in a constructive way need much more time and a continuous effort by all parties and actors involved in this cumbersome process. It above all requires enormous political will and readiness on the part of both the elites and the citizenry for critical reflection, combined with the capacity for self-criticism. Looking at the lessons coming from the dark side of Europe’s history, Germany, Austria and Spain clearly demonstrate how different the way from dictatorship to democracy can be. While the German and Austrian examples are better known, Spain is also an interesting case. Only some years ago — in November 2007 — the 40-year dictatorship of Spain’s General Francisco Franco was formally condemned by the democratically elected parliament in Madrid. Franco died in 1975, yet after his death and the successful transition to democracy, Spain did not engage in a systematic soul searching — or embark on even a minimal purge of Franco supporters from top government positions, for that matter. It instead engaged in an officially sanctioned exercise in collective amnesia. Spain’s fascist past, the civil war and its thousands of victims were all subordinated to the peaceful transition to democratic rule and economic recovery. In the Spanish case, this pact of oblivion was made by the country’s elites in order to ensure political stability, fearing that any attempt to sully Franco’s reputation and purge the military and security forces of his supporters would lead to a destabilising crisis of the divided Spanish society. It took the Spanish parliament more than 30 years to approve a highly controversial historical memory law that acknowledges in the most comprehensive form to date the atrocities of the Franco regime. Only then were all symbols of the fascist regime in power from 1936 to 1975 ordered to be removed from public buildings. Since then, local authorities have been obliged to search for mass graves from the 1930s Civil War. Finally, official recognition of Franco’s victims became possible. This is said to have meant a new start for the country. The issue of the memory of Franco’s regime is still a sensitive matter in Spain, as Sophie Milquet explains in her chapter on conflict and memory in Spain in this volume, but at least the politicians gathered up enough courage to take a first step after such a long time. The Spanish example clearly demonstrates that the process of confronting the past and overcoming the ghosts of history primarily needs time. But time alone cannot heal the wounds — this is the lesson from the Yugoslav tragedy. Confronting the past needs a multifaceted approach, a combination of the general and the specific. It needs a stable state and dedicated political stakeholders, like the current Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who, it seems, is ready to free Spain from the lingering wounds of


its past. This courageous effort is also intrinsically linked to the socioeconomic progress of the country itself. Present-day Spain is a well-to-do society, in spite of the many problems among the main ethnic communities and the current (2010) economic crisis. Obviously, politics has managed to achieve equilibrium among the various national, ethnic and political groupings, and between past and present. Clearly also, membership in the European Union (EU), not least the continued substantial financial support from Brussels, has provided the economic framework for a successful sociopolitical transformation. Generally speaking, the success story of EU membership has changed the parameters for the political classes in Europe and created a framework for active involvement in the politics of managing — if not overcoming — the consequences of civil war and ethnic conflict, as well as their concomitant consequences of political dysfunction and continued economic underdevelopment. Against this background, Conflict and Memory: Bridging Past and Future in [South East] Europe presents some twenty essays focusing on the “reconstructed past” in Europe and the process of coming to terms with the past in the Balkans in particular. Thus, the volume approaches the Balkans as an integral part of the common European history. In fact, however, many countries that are already EU members also have conflicting memories and are to this very day involved in a complex process of, firstly, coming to terms with their own past; secondly, acknowledging one another’s conflicting memories; and, thirdly, trying to (re)construct a common European memory as part of transnational memory spaces. The phrase “coming to terms with the past” has gone through many mutations since it came into use many decades ago. In various European countries the debate related to their recent history — particularly World War II — has grown rather than diminished over time, yet it has also changed its emphasis. This applies not only to France, Germany, Austria and Italy, but also to Poland and Spain, to mention only the most prominent examples. When looking at Europe’s recent history, we firstly observe that most concerned countries are members of the EU, which proves to be a stabilising factor, and, secondly, we realise that coming to terms with the past requires time, a stable state and, before all, political will. These three conditions are hardly present in the Balkans, and we will refer back to them later after making some general remarks on the state of the debate on memory in the following section. Some General Remarks on Dealing with Memory: Memories Are Dynamic and Constructed What does it mean to “come to terms with the past”, asks Jasna DragovićSoso in her introductory chapter to this volume. Dragović-Soso provides an


excellent overview of the main theoretical questions and perspectives from an academic viewpoint literature. She stresses the important fact that has been endorsed and enhanced by the constructivist turn in the scholarship of identity and nationalism by scholars like Eric Hobsbawm and Benedict Anderson, i.e., that memory is a construct and the process of remembering is intersubjective. Referring to the works of major scholars like Maurice Halbwachs, Dragović-Soso creates a common framework for the volume at hand, focusing once again on the fact that memory is never fixed but constantly “being constructed and reconstructed in reference to the evolving needs of the present.” Given the extraordinary violence that characterised the 20th century in Europe, many nations’ pasts are marked by episodes of wars, extreme atrocities and trauma. These pasts are remembered, avenged and adjudicated in many different ways in a comparative, cross-cultural context. But the paradigmatic act of extraordinary collective violence perpetrated in the last century and a starting point for discourses about the European past is the Holocaust. This unprecedented crime and its worldwide consequences opened a new chapter in the collective memory of Europe that precisely identified the regime and ideology responsible for the Holocaust. Starting with the Holocaust, three different ways or modes of confronting the traumatic past can be differentiated — legal, economic and cultural. The first focuses on the process that is also of importance for the Western Balkans, i.e., to bring the perpetrators of criminal deeds to justice and hold them legally and, in the end, morally accountable for their criminal actions. In some other cases, like in post-communist Eastern Europe, South Africa or some countries in Latin America, rather different approaches have been adopted in the search for justice, ranging from processes of lustration to installing “truth commissions.” Starting in the 1990s, a huge literature emerged focusing on the relationship between memory and justice and the various mechanisms available to actors involved in dealing with the past. Under the term “transitional justice,” various mechanisms like prosecutions, lustration, trials or truth commissions received the greatest attention in this literature and have been debated intensively worldwide, and particularly in the Balkans. “Transitional justice” has become, as Jasna Dragović-Soso concludes in her chapter, “an important ingredient of peace-making and democracy promotion around the world.” The second major approach can be described as a cultural one that includes a set of cultural practices of remembrance, representation and commemoration. The focus here is on the attempt to come to terms with a difficult past by implementing various cultural strategies and means of expression like novels, films, music, performances, monuments or museum exhibitions.


The third and final approach in confronting divisive pasts has been the economically based strategy of reparations, which was used after World Wars I and II. If we go a step further and examine general ways of dealing with a traumatic past, the first reference should be made to the work of Avishai Margalit, who in her The Ethics of Memory presents two paradigmatic and mutually exclusive models for dealing with the past — remembering and forgetting.1 One of the leading scholars in the field of memory studies, Aleida Assmann, stresses the need for widening Margalit’s model, arguing that today we are no longer dealing with two mutually exclusive models, but rather experimenting with the following four: (1) dialogic forgetting, (2) remembering in order to prevent forgetting, (3) remembering in order to forget, and (4) dialogic remembering.2 Dialogic forgetting can be described as a pragmatic attempt to contain the explosive force of memory by implementing a kind of dialogic silence as “a model for peace designed and agreed upon by two parties connected through actions of mutual violence in order to keep an explosive past at bay.”3 Whereas this model works in situations of asymmetric conflicts between combatants, it fails in asymmetric situations of extreme violence like the Holocaust or in some specific circumstances in the former Yugoslavia (Srebrenica comes to mind). The shift from forgetting to remembering is directly related to the memory of the Holocaust in the period after the Eichmann trial, when the discourse in Germany was gradually transformed from amnesia to anamnesis, i.e., to active remembering in order never to forget. The third model, remembering in order to forget, emerged in the 1980s and 1990s and represents a new policy of memory in alliance with forgetting in order to master the past (“Vergangenheitsbewältigung”) and leave it behind. So Assmann states: In this model, the aim is also “forgetting”, but the way to achieve this aim paradoxically leads through remembering. In this case, remembering is not implemented to memorialize an event of the past into an indefinite future but is introduced as a therapeutic tool to cleanse, to purge, to heal, to reconcile. It is not pursued as an end in itself but as a means to an end, which is not forging of a new beginning.4

Last but not least, Assmann defines dialogic remembering as the fourth model for dealing with the past, which applies in cases where two or more states share a common legacy of a traumatic and violent past. According to 1 2

3 4

Avishai Margalit, The Ethics of Memory (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003). Aleida Assmann, “From collective violence to a common future: Four models for dealing with a traumatic past,” in Ruth Wodak and Gertraud Auer Borea (eds.), Justice and Memory: Confronting Traumatic Pasts: An International Comparison (Wien: Passagen Verlag, 2009), pp. 31–48. Assmann, “From collective violence to a common future,” p. 33. Assmann, “From collective violence to a common future,” p. 37.


this rather utopian model, the traumatic past can be transformed into a mutual acknowledgment of guilt as a foundation for peaceful coexistence. The Former Yugoslavia: Living through Conflicting Memories Fifteen years have passed since the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and eleven years since the conflict in Kosovo was brought to an end by NATO’s unilateral intervention, but diverging memories and selective narratives of the recent past are still dominant in the successor states of Yugoslavia. There are still no traces of dialogic remembering at all, and history in the Balkans continues to be an instrument of political manipulation, directed to the strengthening of ethnic communities in a continuous mode of quasiautomatic opposition. The difference in reactions and public opinions across the region to events such as the Kosovo declaration of independence, the arrest of the indicted war criminal Radovan Karadžić, the denials of the responsibilities – on all sides, and the Srebrenica massacre show to what extent the past haunts the Balkan states in their road towards the EU integration. At the same time, it is difficult to imagine an active regional cooperation and good neighbourhood policy — needed in order to speed up the steps towards EU integration — without constant and sincere efforts in the reconciliation process. What is the burden of the past in the Balkans today? Is it possible to envisage a common European future without confronting the delicate issue of a memory that is still fragmented, selective and diverging? And how do the Western Balkans’ discourses about the past and memory fit into the broader European experience of dealing with conflicts and creating a European memory, still fragmented and fought over, but ultimately accepted as common? Similar to the rest of Europe, the discussion on memory in the Western Balkans took World War II and the brutal atrocities that took place on Yugoslavian territory as a starting point for debates about the past and memory. The debate itself has been firstly marked more by discussion of the relation between the memory of World War II and the Tito era and the wars in the 1990s; than obviously by a discourse about the wars in the 1990s themselves and their consequences, and, finally, by the question of the politics of memory in the successor states of the former Yugoslavia. Generally speaking, the process of coming to terms with the past in the countries of the Western Balkans has not yet really begun; or it is — according to the optimists — about to unfold. The larger part of the Western Balkans’ societies are still waiting for a fresh beginning, an impetus that Spain received when it was accepted into the European integration process in spite of its lingering fascist ghosts. The reasons why this process has not yet begun in the Yugoslav successor states are obvious: conflicting issues of statehood like those in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, belated state building, frequent renegotiation of the national question, pervasive political instrumentalisation of the past, political elites exclusively engaged in the expansion of


their power base; in short, an enduring transformation crisis and a frustrated search for “identity.” There are some rather visible contextual factors that affect the extent to which the political class and the citizenry in the Western Balkans consider the process of facing the past to be trustworthy and legitimate. These factors range from the shape of the post-war environment and the extent to which people believe that dealing with the past benefits them personally to the degree of trust people have in their state and in politics in general. These factors are compounded by a pervasive feeling among the peoples of the region that their respective collective being is under threat. A careful examination of the status of the various Western Balkan societies after the crisis of the 1990s shows that most of the contextual factors mentioned above are overly detrimental to the necessary process of healing: • The post-war environment is still dominated by ethno-nationalist argumentation and mistrust of the “Other.” • The majority of citizens do not really believe that facing the past will bring them any benefits or change their dismal social and economic status; they thus stick to divisive narratives and self-victimisation. • The degree of trust people have in the state and its representatives is rather small. • In an environment where the “Local Others” (be they Albanians, Bosniaks, Croats or Serbs, not to speak of the Roma) are still demonised, the irrational fear of losing one’s own identity is highly prevalent. One of the major obstacles to the process of coming to terms with the past lies precisely with the issue of political instrumentalisation. Over the past few years the tendency for a renewed and highly dubious way of ideological house cleaning could be observed in Central Europe, notably in Poland. Politically motivated and constitutionally dubious efforts were under way to get rid of the remnants of the old communist elites who — actually or allegedly — took advantage of the tumultuous (and, indeed, problematic) transition from communist rule to democracy and a market economy. In Poland at the height of the Twin Regime, for example, the Institute for National Remembrance promotes national values, thereby espousing authoritarian methods and nationalist rhetoric. This is but one illustration of the fact that even successful European integration does not automatically exclude the abuse of history for sinister political gains. No doubt, a set of stringent rules based on European values (the EU Copenhagen Criteria, and Council of Europe and UN human rights and other relevant covenants), which take into account the specificities and sensitivities of Europe’s diverse ethno-linguistic set-up, could indeed help remedy the situation. After a war characterised by unspeakable atrocities and — in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina — genocide, there is an (understandable) tendency


to reduce the past to the gruesome facts of these atrocities. However, the victimisation of history would be as wrongheaded as mere oblivion. We have to deeply appreciate the desperation of the victims and their need to be listened to, recognise their suffering, and, above all, acknowledge the urgent need to bring the perpetrators to justice. However, an exclusive focus on the atrocities and the suffering caused by the war may contribute to an unwelcome “depolitisation” in post-conflict societies. It is once again the context that matters. The broader picture, not least a clear perspective on the future, is needed in order to avoid vacuous repetition, to give sense to history and, ultimately, to make reconciliation feasible. This is the point where democratic and accountable politics comes back into the game, and why a novel form of confronting the past at a distinctly political level — a sort of repolitisation of memory — is needed. In order to leave the pain and trauma of the past behind and approach reconciliation in the deeper sense of the word — by establishing a new narrative — it is unavoidably necessary to address the structures of political power, social inequality and exclusion that constituted the framework within which the violence of the old order was both perpetrated and endured. Ordinary people can start to move towards a shared future only if their everyday lives no longer constantly remind them of the pain of the past. Therefore, only if political stakeholders stop reinventing and manipulating the past for their own purposes will they create conditions for reconciliation. For people to move together along the path of reconciliation it is crucial that a sustained effort be made to transform the structures and circumstances of everyday life that embody and perpetuate the old divisions between “us and them,” between perpetrators and victims. Only when people feel that the evils of the past will not return and believe that things are moving in the right direction will they be in a position to loosen the bonds of the past, relinquish the impulse for revenge and realign their mindsets towards the future. To make this possible, a proper political framework has to be established, including stable statehood, a functioning economy and accountable politicians. Without the latter in particular, the necessary transformation of everyday life will not be sustainable. The need for a constructive politicisation of memory as a way to bypass the tactics of widespread manipulation of the past for short-term gains — as is still the case in the Western Balkans — has one crucial limitation: the political elites themselves. As long as irresponsibility and egotism, ethnonationalist argumentation, and well-directed misuse of the past based on the principle of constant blaming of the Other for all the ills of the present remain the striking characteristics of Western Balkans politics, there will be no open and true confrontation of the past, no reconciliation and no way to achieve “dialogic remembering” as defined by Aleida Assmann.


Conflicting Paths of Reconciliation in the Western Balkans When looking at the countries of the former Yugoslavia, one of the key words in the public and academic debate about the past is “reconciliation,” which is commonly declared as a crucial element of normalisation in the Yugoslav post-conflict societies. To reconcile, i.e., to come to terms with the past, indicates a process based on facing and accepting the past, involving in an ideal case all sides and trying to reach a consensus, or at least an understanding, regarding the painful issues of the past. This is largely not the case, as Milan Popović and Filip Kovačević’s chapter on Montenegrin counterlustration, Edin Hajdarpasic’s and Mirsad Tokaca’s contributions on Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Nora V. Weller’s chapter on “The Failure to Face the Past in Relation to Kosovo” show. For the process of reconciliation to be successful, the rules, frameworks of debate and institutional setting should be established and agreed upon in advance by all the parties involved. This process, which should be considered as permanent, requires stable relations among the parties concerned, together with well-functioning channels and rules of communication and cooperation. This argument demonstrates the obvious — that the process of reconciliation in the Balkans lacks even a minimum consensus about key historical events, issues, actors, etc., while the basic precondition for reconciliation, namely the readiness and willingness of the former conflicting parties to engage in the process at least formally, is non-existent. As some chapters in this books demonstrate (e.g., those by Edin Hajdarpašić, Peter Vodopivec, Milan Popović and Filip Kovačević, Nora V. Weller, Mirsad Tokača, Nataša Kandić, and Florence Hartmann), the political will to engage in the process of reconciliation in most countries of the region has, until recently, been very limited. Willingness to cooperate or not with the ICTY in The Hague can be seen as a decisive indicator of the lack of political will to deal with the past in a constructive way. The ICTY has long been the core of the international community’s efforts to see justice done for atrocities committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. The court was established in 1993 and has certainly played a central and very often controversial role in coming to terms with the past and fostering reconciliation in the region. Intense resistance by many in the region to the reality that their own ethnic group or nation committed crimes together with unresolved political questions have proved to be major obstacles preventing the ICTY from achieving its major goal. The culture of denial of one’s own crimes (see the chapter by Denisa Kostovicova) is still widespread and fits perfectly into the exclusive grand national story of each nation in the Balkans of being better and morally superior. “The perpetrators are hiding behind the active promotion of a collective conception of nationhood,” says Kostovicova in her contribution. However, some new initiatives have been taken recently by the newly elected Croatian president, Ivo Josipović, while new modes of regional com-


munication between Serbia and Croatia and partly Bosnia and Herzegovina have been established, which can be considered as the first small steps towards overcoming the usual lip service and attempts to please the international community (which continues to promote the idea) and to substantially engage in the process of regional reconciliation. The process of reconciliation is seen as “a moral imperative” said Boris Tadić on the occasion of the Serbian parliament’s adoption of the declaration condemning the massacre carried out in Srebrenica in 1995 by Bosnian Serb forces. “For us, reconciliation is seen as a moral imperative to tell the truth — the unadorned, factual, horrible truth of the bloodshed that must never return to our lands,” he said. At the same time, the declaration was largely criticised by the Bosniaks, Srebrenica victims organisations and many international commentators for being a pragmatic act forced on Serbia by the demands of the EU. At the same time, as critics spelt out, the refusal of the Serbian parliament to explicitly use the word “genocide” demonstrated how difficult it is to take a decisive step towards reconciliation in a society where large parts of the population and political classes still continue to deny that an act of genocide occurred in Srebrenica. As this example from Serbia clearly shows, reconciliation is possible, but is still a work in progress. Generally speaking, the process of reconciliation can only be fostered by open and all-encompassing introspection into recent history and not by neutralising the past by stating — as is very often the case in the Balkans — that one should turn away from the past and only look forward to the promise of European integration. The Architecture of the Volume This volume is built on academic contributions and essays. The opening chapter by Jasna Dragović-Soso sets the scene by presenting and discussing the academic state of the art in memory studies. The first part of the book presents both country-specific and comparative academic articles and essays on lessons from Europe, reviewing the evolution and the present state of affairs of the debates related to the past’s reinterpretation and reconstruction. The essays in this part of the book focus on various cross-cutting issues that highlight the variety of conflicting memories and question the possibility of a common European memory. Topics like dealing with the Holocaust, interaction between official politics and communicative memories, the role of art and culture, transnational justice, etc. in Europe generally and in countries like Spain, Germany, Austria, Turkey, the Visegrád countries, etc. are thoroughly scrutinised. The politics of memory in Austria is profoundly examined by Oliver Rathkolb in his chapter “Politics of Memory and the Shadows of the Hidden Past.” Rathkolb describes the journey from the Nazi past to the present and


still very “hot” discourses on the Austrian past. He shows how lively the politics of memory in an EU member has been and still is. Martin Dangerfield focuses in his chapter on a rather successful post-Cold War regional initiative of the Visegrád group, which has proved to be a key anchor for the return to Europe of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. The Visegrád group gradually became established as “the main repository of the ‘new’ Central European identity”, argues Dangerfield. Ute Frevert emphasises conflicting memories and emotions between the former Western and Eastern parts of Germany and points out that building up transnational memories, as has been done in some cases in Europe after World War II, is an opportunity for the European project. Konstanty Gebert presents separate narratives of the Shoah by Poles and Jews, pointing out that different perspectives on historical events should not automatically be seen as a result of ill will or denying responsibility, but much more as a consequence of the “different and incompatible historical circumstances in which the two groups found themselves in the period of World War II.” Murat Belge deals with the legacy of the Ottoman Empire and speaks forcefully of the need to confront long-suppressed issues like the 1915 Armenian Genocide and other painful aspects of Turkey’s past largely neglected in today’s Turkey. There is a need to remember, Belge says. Sophie Milquet focuses on Spain, whereas Paola Yacoub takes the history of the conflict in Lebanon as a starting point to discuss the architecture of memories in her chapter “The Holiday Inn Cycle.” Gottfried Wagner argues that the “politics of memory” can form the essence of legitimising collective policies, which often claim to “encapsulate” memories and use them to produce and reproduce the power of the forces “leading” the collective. Wagner reminds us of the fact that Europe reemerged from one of the darkest chapters of the history of humankind through people living out their hope of becoming a “New Europe success story.” But nonetheless, a new and powerful common European narrative, argues Wagner, able to match the new level of political organisation of the “New Europe” has not yet been developed. Wagner counts on citizens and individuals from all parts of Europe, and thus also from the Balkans: “Maybe it is time to weave together these millions of strands into a common narrative of hope: Europe can play an outstanding role in transforming sheer power into energy for all, in mutually respectful cosmopolitan commonwealth.” The Balkans as an integral part of Europe deserves a place within a new common Europe. Against the background of country-specific and comparative studies and essays, authors in both sections of the book offer convincing analyses and arguments as to why the process of dealing with the past has to be seen both against the background of European history and in the context of the wider European past. The second part of the book in turn focuses on the countries that emerged from the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia and examines the state


of “Conflict and Memory” affairs and processes of dealing with the past in the Balkans. Similar to the first section, articles presenting in-depth academic case studies are complemented by essays dealing with memory in a creative way. This part of the book starts by exploring different aspects of conflicting memories from the cultural point of view, bridging the international and European experiences with those gained in the Balkans. Isabelle de le Court addresses the conditions in which art practices appeared in Sarajevo and Beirut in the mid-1990s, focusing on which aspects of the war, peace and the conditions of multiple identities they touch upon; while Milica Tomić in her piece “The Container/Transporter of Truth” explores the manifold meanings and forms of personal and collective identities. Dragan Klaić presents his “Late Winter Travelogue”, leading us from Berlin through Budapest, Subotica, Novi Sad, Belgrade, back to Budapest, and then on to Vienna, and reflects on changing memories in different European contexts. Following the cultural approaches to conflicting memories of the past, a number of case studies dealing with the past in specific countries of the Balkans, as well as some crucial regional aspects of the issue, are presented. In his chapter, Edin Hajdarpašić presents an in-depth account of specific areas of conflict and memory disputes in Bosnia by focusing on World War II, the era of communism and the 1992–95 war. Damir Arsenijević continues by exploring the socialist period and the politics of memory and knowledge production in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and presents the case for “Studije Jugoslavije.” In dealing with the past, as Nataša Kandić explains it, an important role belongs to non-governmental organisations and, particularly in the Western Balkans, to regional initiatives like RECOM (Regional Commission for Establishing the Facts about War Crimes and Other Serious Human Rights Violations in the Former Yugoslavia). RECOM’s first and most important goal is to establish and publish the facts related to the victims of the Balkan wars. Establishing facts is precisely the approach chosen by the Research and Documentation Centre in Sarajevo led by Mirsad Tokača, one of the contributors to the volume. Regional cooperation as a means of overcoming the ghosts of the past is also the central topic of Franz-Lothar Altmann’s contribution. Milan Popović and Filip Kovačević present a case study of Montenegrin counter-lustration between 1991 and 2009, which is followed by Peter Vodopivec’s exploration of Slovene troubles with the recent past and historical memory. An in-depth analysis of the youngest European state, Kosovo, and its failure to face the past is presented by Nora V. Weller. Denisa Kostovicova discusses the question of whether civil society in the Western Balkans can be regarded as a vehicle for or obstacle to transitional justice. The concluding chapter is written by Florence Hartmann. At the beginning of her chapter on “(Re)Constructing Europe and the Balkans in the Shadow of Their Pasts,” Hartmann describes how on the occasion of the


anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the new president of the European Parliament, Jerzi Buzek, defined reconciliation as lying at the core of the European project. Several weeks later, Hartmann continues, some leading non-governmental organisations dealing with the past in the Western Balkans gathered in the European Parliament to present their project to establish a “truth-telling trans-border commission” aimed at fostering reconciliation in the Balkans. In the light of Buzek’s earlier statement, what strikes Hartmann the most about this is the fact that only one senior EU official attended this meeting. The story tells us a great deal: primarily, it shows the discrepancy between official statements and what actually happens — a reality that is evident not only in the Balkans, but also across the wider Europe. And, according to Hartmann, it points to Europe’s reluctance to share its experience with the Balkans and to enhance its efforts to promote transitional justice and bring this particular European region closer to the EU. In Search of the Coexistence of Past and Future The past is not something that is fixed, with an independent existence — a firmly established, once-and-for-all set of events. The past is the remembered past, and as such it is constructed and reproduced in a multitude of ways. In other words, what we refer to as the past is our historical — and very often conflicting — memory of a particular period of the past. This particular memory is just one in a range of alternative memories (or interpretations) that it is possible to have. Consequently, by dealing with the past, we are referring to an individual process comparable to that of forgiveness. Thus, individual revisiting of the past remains essential. Exploring the deeper worlds of our memories and doing our best to understand the fears and prejudices we have requires self-criticism, courage and intellectual perseverance. But in the end, it is only confronting the content of our fears and prejudices that enables us to become conscious of our past, and by doing so to think more freely about our future. Only the coexistence of past and future can guarantee a decent present — a present in which the past is seen as a positive part of its own memory and where the future is seen as a common place for all citizens. Ignorance, prejudice, fear, and the lack of a capacity for honest communication and meaningful dialogue are ingredients for new confrontations — both rhetorical and real. The past is a construct; let us deconstruct it in a European way in order to build a common European future with a common narrative.


2010 SEIP 3 cover  

Conflict and Memory: Bridging Past and Future in | South East | Europe, edited by Wolfgang Petritsch | Vedran Dzihic (Baden-Baden: Nomos Ver...

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