Japan's Contribution to Peace & Development in the Balkans
John de Boer (University of Tokyo & GLOCOM Platform)
Stability in Southeastern Europe has been an EU priority for the past several years and although many Japanese may not know it, their government has been an active participant in peace and development efforts on going in that part of Europe. Southeastern Europe commonly refers to the Balkan region, which as many are aware has been virtually destroyed by a decade of war. Some of the most horrific massacres took place in countries such as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. To this date, people are suffering the effects of the wars that took place under Milosevic's regime with mass graves still being discovered, ethnic friction continuing, and justice yet to be served.
Today, Japan and the EU are helping in the effort to rebuild the area in part because they realize that peace in the Balkans is fundamental to stability in all of Europe but also because the international community was partly at fault for not having stopped Milosevic earlier. Although this week's EU report will not go into the details on how the international community failed to act, it is important to point this fact out for the sake of accuracy.
Over the past ten years, Japan has participated in the EU designed "Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe" which aims to support democratization, encourage economic recovery, give humanitarian assistance and provide peace and security in the region. To this end Japan has extended approximately ten billion US dollars in Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) to Southeastern European countries for various reconstruction and reconciliation projects. Judging from documents published by Japan's delegation at the EU, its main priority for doing so has been motivated by the desire to integrate the region into the international economic system and to promote peace and stability. Towards this end, Japanese aid has focused on infrastructure development, encouraging private investment, security and democratization.
In terms of infrastructure, Japan provided a yen loan to finance port maintenance projects in Bulgaria and Romania, it built an electric power network in Bosnia and also extended a yen loan worth 220 million US dollars to Romania for a "Railway Rehabilitation Project of Bucharest-Constantza". Last year Japan also provided a 50 million US dollar grant to Yugoslavia in order to fund projects in the fields of electricity, public transportation, health and medical treatment, urban environment, agriculture and social welfare.
In order to aid the approximately 800,000 displaced persons in Yugoslavia, Japan has also actively engaged in refugee resettlement programs, which have not been without their difficulties. The main problem preventing refugees from returning to their homes has been caused by existing and in some cases reinforced ethnic tension. Japan has tried to deal with this problem by encouraging the creation of multi-ethnic police forces, reconstructing houses, building schools and hospitals and funding various community based initiatives that promote inter-ethnic dialogue. However, the process towards reintegration and reconciliation has been aggravatingly slow.
The results of the "Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe" seem to indicate that Southeast European economies have made considerable advances towards the market economy with businesses and investment moving in at a rapid pace. However, human reconciliation in the region has yet to develop. It is true that this process requires time. It is also true that the arrest of former President, Mr. Slobodan Milosevic, and his transfer to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on the 28 June 2001 was a major victory in this sense. Nevertheless, the ravages of conflict, the pain and suffering caused by gross human rights violations and the losses that the people have incurred have not been addressed.
Japan's contributions to the Stability Pact have been very much appreciated by the European Union and by Balkan governments. However, considering that the roots of the conflict have yet to be resolved, it is hoped that Japan will engage in efforts to promote ethnic harmonization in the Balkans with much more impetus in the years to come.