By Duncan Harley
As the barriers again go up between Croatia and neighbouring Slovenia it is worth remembering the Dayton Agreement. Known mainly as an accord it led to a bitter peace indeed.
The leaders of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia signed the Dayton Accord in Paris to end three-and-a-half years of war in the Balkans.
In the bloodiest conflict seen in Europe since World War II, President Clinton led the NATO forces into the war torn Balkans to broker an aid dependant peace deal following the deaths of at least 200,000 people.
The deal had a limited success and the Balkans continue to simmer.
This time round the barriers are migrant led but they are a symptom of continuing mistrust between neighbours.
Two decades ago we were treated to the spectacle of a set of little nations at war with each other – yet again – a failed intervention by those who know best and of course blood soaked scandals such as that at the safe haven of Srebrenica where eight thousand people were murdered as we all looked on daytime TV.
When in Croatia recently it was obvious that past differences remained unresolved. We looked at the shell torn buildings on the border in disbelief. Some 19 years on there are still burned out houses and shrapnel rendered buildings. The border areas are still referred to as the front line.
Locals talked about the good days before Tito died. One young man commented “Most families lost people in the war. We welcome our neighbours but they come to our country as if nothing happened. We go to their country and say nothing also, it can’t last, it is unreal.”
In far off Alford in 2001 the local transport museum hosted a Dayton Agreement ex-Balkan tank. With a hole drilled through the gun muzzle to immobilise it, this symbol of peace was as I recall a tired veteran of some middle-east war or other. Probably Israeli, a US Sherman based gun platform of a 1944 design. God knows how many saw the bad end of the bloody thing.
No matter, it is long gone and no doubt resides in some armoured vehicle collection or other as a revered piece of the military past.
My point? There is none. Time marches on and people make choices.
Personally I would start avoiding the Balkans yet again. After all, dismal failures in the region led directly to the slaughter of the First World War.
If only Archduke Ferdinand had varied his route to the palace.