Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey helped arrange for this interview with the Europeancourier.org and assisted in us conveying it directly to our readers at Bosnjaci.net. President-elect Danilo Turk also expressed to Ambassador Sacirbey his appreciation for the support of the Bosniaks of Slovenia for their support as well as Bosnjaci.net. (E.K., Editor)
Dr. Danilo Turk, the President of Slovenia
Sebastian Aulich: France and Great Britain are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, while countries like Japan, India or Brazil, have no permanent representation and the right of veto. Do you believe that the Security Council should reform, and if yes, what kind of reform would be the best?
Danilo Turk: Yes, I think there is a valid reason to reform the Security Council. One option would be to have additional permanent members, what would give greater continuity to some of those actors, who are very relevant on the international scene. In other words, continuity is the key factor here and not so much the veto power. That is also important, however continuity is more important. I would be in favor of this, however, the latest proposals, which were laid by Secretary General, Kofi Annan, in 2005, did not produce results. There was no agreement among the member states. So I donâ€™t think that the momentum for the reform exists, right now. Itâ€™s more likely that the organization will continue in its current shape.
SA: Do you think that Europe is over-represented in the Security Council? We have France and Great Britain as permanent members, while we do not have over there those big countries like India, Brazil or Japan?
DT: I am not sure if â€œover-representationâ€ is a right definition of the problem. Europe has also changed. Europe is now largely about the European Union. The real question is not the number of the European members among the permanent members of the Security Council but rather the way Europe is represented in the Security Council. When Europe becomes capable of forming single foreign policy or foreign policy, which could be represented by one permanent seat of the European Union, I think that it would be a new era. In such a case, the authority of European presence in the Security Council, would not be diminished, it would just look different from what it is now. I donâ€™t know how much longer this kind of process may take and it may take quite a while. We have seen efforts to reform Security Council with additional permanent members starting in 1992 and going on for thirteen years until 2005. They did not succeed and now we are waiting for a new wave of proposals for Security Councilâ€™s reform. They may very well include a single European Union seat. But if that will succeed is hard to say.
SA: Do you believe that the European Union may form one single foreign policy having 27 members with different national interests?
DT: European Union has now a common foreign and security policy. â€œCommonâ€ is lower than â€œsingleâ€, what means that it is not as united as one would hope it to be. It will take time. The European Union has also a need to speak with one European voice on global issues. So, I think there is a base for single European policy. I also do not think that the interest of the member states are so divergent that it would be completely impossible. I think it will take time.
SA: The reason I asked is because one can see that for example Germany is very much pro-Russian, while Poland or Lithuania are very distant to Russia. On the other hand there is Great Britain, which is very pro-American, while the rest of continental Europe is not. So it may be hard to form a single foreign policy.
DT: Correct. But things also change. In Germany, right now, there is debate between the Chancellor and Ministers about the nuances of their policy toward Russia and the place of human rights in the foreign policy. It is an example how things are really dynamic. When it comes to the UK and the United States, it is interesting to see that now France is adopting an approach, which is very cordial with the United States. And one hasnâ€™t seen that much of cordial relationship between Great Britain and the United States in recent months. I donâ€™t think that anything from the mental has changed but just that politics always bring an amount of change and we see this happening now also.
SA: What kind of vision of the European Union do you have? Would you like to see Europe as a federal state or a confederation of independent states?
DT: I think that Europe will continue to be a system of sovereign states. That does not exclude very clear definition of a single foreign policy. I think it is quite possible for the member states to agree on foreign policy objectives and acting, which could make a European foreign policy meaningful as a single foreign policy. That I donâ€™t think is in contradiction with the idea of sovereign members of the Union. I think thatâ€™s the way the things will go. I donâ€™t believe that the federation is a likely outcome in the coming decade or so or even more because Europe is very diverse and diversity is something that is also the source of its strength. I donâ€™t think that diversity is something bad for Europe.
SA: Is the European Union ready to admit a Muslim state?
DT: Well, the case of Turkey will be decisive. It is not only about the Muslim state but it is also about strategic importance of the state, which is on the border of Europe and the Middle East, the larger Middle East, which includes Iraq, Iran. Therefore the strategic importance of Turkey would be a critical factor. Of course, Europe has difficult history with integrating Islamic element into its political and cultural texture. This is a very much unfinished process and Europe is now involved in a program called Inter-cultural Dialogue, which I think will provide some basis for discussion of these issues but in general Europe has not been very good in integrating the Islamic element in the past. It could learn more from places like the United States, which has been much more successful in that regard. But of course, the United States is the country of immigration and therefore it has a different attitude toward immigration in general. I am in favor of Turkeyâ€™s accession, being understood that all candidates for member states have to meet the conditions. I donâ€™t think that Turkey should be discriminated against just because it is a large Islamic state or that it is a Middle Eastern state. When it comes to Islam, Turkey is secular in many ways. Therefore I think that the progress of democracy in Turkey should be appreciated.
SA: What do you think the European Union should do to improve relations with the Islamic world?
DT: I am not sure if the European Union is the first to do something. Islamic world should also do things to improve its relations with the European Union. It is a one way street. I donâ€™t think that it is wise for the Islamic world to stimulate or tolerate the kind of outburst of violence that we have seen against certain countries of Europe at the time of the cartoons of Prophet Mohamed. That was misunderstanding of two cultures but certainly no reason for violence. I think that the countries in the Middle East have done too little to curb or prevent that violence.
SA: Do you believe in Samuel Huntingtonâ€™s theory of the clash of civilization, the clash between Western civilization and the civilization of Islam?
DT: I donâ€™t think that he is entirely right but of course there are cleavages, but I do not think that they necessarily lead to clashes. The issue of dialogue between civilizations should not be reduced to the dialogue between Christianity and Islam. There are many civilizations which co-exist quite handsomely, if you take China for example, which is enormous space and number of people, but generally finds a way of positive communication with the Western civilization. In other words, one should see all the aspects and this questions should not be reduced only to the relationship between Christianity and Islam. Although that is where the most problems arise and obviously one has to be attentive but not reductionist.
SA: When Turkey is possibly admitted to the European Union, the problem of Kurdsâ€™ independence will come up to Europeâ€™s agenda. How the Kurdish problem should be solved?
DT: Well, this is not only a problem of Turkey. Kurds also live in Iraq, Iran and Syria. So it is a regional problem and it will have to be handled in a regional context. I donâ€™t think that there is a single solution, which applies to Turkey only. And even if there was a solution in Turkey that would not mean that issue of Kurds in Iraq is solved. I have followed it in the past and one of the things I have noticed is that the difficulty the Kurdish representatives have is putting together a single Kurdish agenda in all areas where Kurdish population lives. Therefore I would not want to link this problem to Turkey alone. Itâ€™s a larger problem and has to be addressed regionally.
SA: Do you think that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be solved? Do you think that the European Union has a role to play over there?
DT: I certainly hope it is not too late. I think that the two states solution is a key to peace. The question is whether conditions for creation of Palestinian state still exist. I think that much was lost between the years of 2000 and 2006. Itâ€™s a great pity that the Roadmap didnâ€™t work as it was designed. This may have been a last of the opportunities for creation of the two states system. My hope would be that the two states solution is still an option. Although now because of the disintegration of the Palestinian communities, it is hard to see how that could happen. We donâ€™t see any single representation of the Palestinian people. Therefore difficulties would rise should some of the more serious problems be put on the table, like the issues of refugees or Jerusalem. These issues can be resolved only if there is single representative leadership of entire Palestinian people. Otherwise there will be always differences and possible complications as a result. On the Israeli side, itâ€™s not clear if the current government is able to handle these basic questions and negotiate them successfully. So the outcome is uncertain when it comes to the current efforts. I think that the Annapolis Conference was a valid attempt. I was disappointed to see that the Security Council was not able to adopt a resolution welcoming the conference in Annapolis. There was a draft resolution presented and then withdrawn. This shows that misgivings continue and the question of trust in that process still has to be resolved. When it comes to the role of the European Union, obviously I would like to see this role be developed further and become more political. Right now, the European Union is investing a lot of money and is paying for special humanitarian programs. Politically it hasnâ€™t establish itself sufficiently. Should the Annapolis process proceed one of the questions will be how the European Union should make itself more politically relevant in the process and what role it should play in security arrangements. This may be still very far away, we donâ€™t know how successful this process will be.
SA: The European Union is involved in the negotiations with Iran to stop this countryâ€™s nuclear program. Do you share the opinion of French Foreign Minister, Mr. Bernard Kouchner, that the West should prepare for war with Iran should the diplomacy fail?
DT: This is a very serious matter. Obviously the warnings issued by Mr. Kouchner are very serious. I would say that at present I am disappointed that the talks didnâ€™t go any further. It will be critical now to concentrate for the international community to act in a very coherent manner. In practical terms, I believe this should mean that main focus should be placed on IAEA and Mohamed El Baradei. They have the continuity and technical expertise, they have experience and can produce some judgment on the nature of Iranian programs and the best way of handling them. I think that the international community should rally around the IAEA and the IAEA should be the central element in the discussion with Iran. Obviously, IAEA also reports to the Security Council, so the Security Council should be the next layer should things go wrong. I am not sure if other actors could be very helpful at this point because each of them brings additional dimension and it can make things more complicated. The situation is serious, there is a need for coherent international approach and in order to develop such approach one needs to put IAEA and Mohamed El Baradei in the center and of course the Security Council should remain involved.
SA: What is more acceptable: Iran with nuclear weapons or going to war with Iran?
DT: Well, Iran says it has not a military nuclear program. First we have to see how this works and IAEA has been producing very interesting reports in regard to actual quality and nature of Iranian program and Iranian cooperation with IAEA. So I wouldnâ€™t go beyond that and speculate on what happens next. I would say that now at the end of 2007, letâ€™s have another very focused attempt to work through IAEA, let’s say for the three, four months, and then come to the position where next steps have to be determined.
SA: Letâ€™s talk a bit about the transatlantic relations. U.S. government plans to locate its national missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Do you think it is a good idea? It will definitely affect Europeâ€™s relations with Russia but on the other hand it may strengthen Europeâ€™s security.
DT: National security belongs to national governments. European institutions do not replace the national governments in their determination of the key issue of national security and key solutions to those issues. Of course, nobody can replace the Czech or Polish governments and their respective parliaments in decision-making on this matter. Thatâ€™s position of principle. More in general, I think that one should strive to find agreed arrangements. Now, if the problem really is potential threat of missiles from Iran then obviously Russia has to be brought into picture and one has to see how this different observation posts will work together in coherent and combined fashion. One in Azerbaijan, which Russians own and Azeris are willing to put them to disposal for an internationally agreed system and the ones in the Czech Republic and Poland. So, I think that one should do everything possible to find an agreement to this. I frankly donâ€™t know where the talks are right now. I know that there are discussions and national decisions expected but I am not familiar sufficiently with the actual process between the relevant governments. My plea would be, you should talk and you should come to an agreement.
SA: There were parliamentary elections in Russia last week. Before the elections some opposition leaders were detained, for example Gari Kasparov. Do you think democracy is prevailing in Russia?
DT: I would not want to give lectures to Russians on democracy. Every country has its own culture of democracy and Russia has made progress from where it was some 50 years ago. The political forces in Russia have matured. One can say that one prefers some other type of democracy or something else, but thatâ€™s essentially for the Russian people to determine it. We are not the ones to determine what kind of democracy they want. I donâ€™t think that the outside world is well placed to lecture Russians on how exactly to organize their democratic processes. Nobody is perfect in this and we know that all democracies have flaws. One should not lose sight of the fact that Russians have made progress in democratic transformation.
SA: Would you support Ukraineâ€™s membership in the European Union?
DT: Yes. I donâ€™t know how and when this project will become of immediate importance. Right now it is a more of a long term thing. I think that the European Union should not be closed to Ukraine. It would be interesting to see how European Union and Ukraine are handling their things right now. I am not familiar with the details but I think there have been some arrangements regarding travel, trade, so forth in the past. I think that further steps are needed to make communication better and after a while one can start talking about the membership issue. Itâ€™s still an early thing.
SA: What can the European Union do for Belorussians? Itâ€™s leader, Alexandr Lukashenko, is considered the last dictator of Europe. Can Europe do something to change that?
DT: Europe should remain critical of what is happening in Belarus. But event/ually the changes will be brought about by the Belorussians themselves. I think that the opposition there is serious and can be relied upon and with time democratic options will prevail in Belarus.
SA: Itâ€™s very probable that on December the 10th or shortly thereafter Kosovo will declare independence unilaterally. Will Slovenia recognize Kosovo as an independent state?
DT: First of all, Slovenia will coordinate its views with the European Union and handle things in European Union context. Slovenia is preparing to preside over the EU since January next year, so we have to be very careful. European Union dimension is our first concern. We have to figure out how the Union will deal with Kosovo issue depending on what happens. One option is that independence will be declared as soon after the 10th of December. If that happens it will be one type of issues to be discussed within the European Union, if that is delayed then it will be another type of issue. But in any case Slovenia will have to watch and take part in the Unionâ€™s debate.
SA: One of the goals of Sloveniaâ€™s presidency is to help the Balkan states to access the European Union. What in particular does Slovenia plan to do to help those countries?
DT: Slovenia has already suggested and succeeded in moving Serbia closer. Croatia is pretty close already, so Croatia does not need any particular assistance. Slovenia will focus on Macedonia and Montenegro. Of course one should not lose sight of the fact that each candidate country has to fulfill certain conditions in order to become a credible candidate and succeed with membership. Slovenia will be very much engaged in helping these countries in changing their domestic legal systems and preparing themselves for accession and also stimulating the talks leading to that point. Thatâ€™s what, generally speaking, Slovenia can and will do. Now, exactly what will happen at a particular point is early to say.
SA: Letâ€™s talk about Serbia, which has already initialed Stabilization and Association Agreement, which is the first step to membership in the European Union. It happened despite the fact that the International Court of Justice criticized Serbia, early this year, for not apprehending and handing over the war criminals. Similar criticism came from the UN Tribunal in the Hague (ICTY). Do you think that it is a proper approach by the European Union, which gives a green light to Serbia, without Serbia meeting ICTYâ€™s requirements?
DT: The Accession Agreement is not a green light for membership. Itâ€™s a beginning of the process. Serbia will have to copmly with the requirements of ICTY. There is no doubt about that. Delays which have been created in the past years are very difficult to accept. European Union has decided to move ahead and make a step forward but that step is only a small step compared to the entire process necessary for accession. We are nowhere near accession. When I answered your earlier question, I clearly put emphasis on Montenegro and Macedonia, and not on Serbia, precisely for that reason because Serbia has to demonstrate its cooperation with the ICTY and if possible in handing over Mladic. Thatâ€™s the way it should be. We are not talking about immediate accession. We are talking about a process in which acts of cooperation will have to take place.
SA: In other words, if Mladic is not handed over, Serbia will not access the European Union?
DT: I canâ€™t see how that could happen, because there has been sufficient evidence of his involvement in genocide in Srebrenica. I canâ€™t see how this could be ignored in the case of accession itself. In pre-accession, things could go on because Serbia has many other things to do as well and obviously changes within Serbia could make the whole business of handing over Mladic easier. The European Union has taken moderate and controlled risk by saying â€œletâ€™s go ahead with preparations but letâ€™s not forget about the need to cooperateâ€œ. It looks as a contradiction at a first glance but if one is more careful one will see that actually this process of approaching the European Union could also help with changing things in Serbia and making the decision to hand over Mladic much easier.
SA: Do you believe that international community, NATO forces, are doing enough to help Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Serbia in apprehending the war criminals?
to be continued…
Dr. Danilo Turk holds Ph..D. in international law from the University of Ljubljana. Prior to becoming the President of Slovenia he served as Sloveniaâ€™s Ambassador to the United Nations (1992-2000) and as the U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs (2000-2005).