19 October 2011
ESI in Bratislava: Lecture at the Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic
Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic

"Can the EU run protectorates?" This question was explored by ESI's Kristof Bender in a lecture to officials of the Slovak Foreign Ministry on 19 October 2011 in Bratislava. The lecture was part of a training programme on multi-lateral diplomacy and international organisations run by the ministry and the Institute of European Studies and International Relations of the Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences of Comenius University Bratislava for a group of 26 selected diplomats.

Recent developments in Libya have rendered the question of intervention very relevant. What can the EU and its member states do? What should it do?

Kristof argued that the wrong lessons have been drawn from Bosnia for Afghanistan and Iraq. While often portrayed differently, international engagement in Bosnia started off very carefully, with a very limited mandate for international troops and no executive powers for the civilian head of the mission. Disarmament of combatants, the arrest of military and political war-time leaders, assuring the right of refugees to return to their properties – all this did not belong to the initial priorities. Progress was made slowly, step by step, through negotiations with local leaders, isolating the most radical ones, and the seizure of local initiatives like return movements. A crucial contribution also played the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Today low crime rates, practically no inter-ethnic violence and orderly democratic elections are all taken for granted. The principal challenge for Bosnia is now how to move closer to EU membership. The contrast to Afghanistan and Iraq could hardly be more pronounced, in particular as all this was achieved without the death of a single international soldier.

To read more about lessons from the Balkans for international interventions visit: