Ending The Armed Conflict In Croatia

Ending The Armed Conflict In Croatia

Year(s): 1995.

Location: Croatia.

UN Regional Group: Eastern Europe.

Type of Conflict: Risk of a Conflict Relapse.

Type of Initiative: Mediation of a peace agreement.

Main Implementing Organisation(s): The governments of Russia and the USA, and the EU and UN.

Impact: Lasting.

Summary: The Contact Group (composed of Russia, EU, USA, and UN) successfully mediated the negotiation of the Basic Agreement on the Region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium, which ended the armed conflict in Croatia during the collapse of Yugoslavia.

Description of Case 

Croatia emerged from socialist Yugoslavia as an independent state in October 1991 after the result of a referendum held in May of that year was implemented following a three-month moratorium on the decision, as advised by the European Community (EC) in the hope of a peaceful outcome to the crisis. Many Croatian Serbs (who represented 12 percent of the population) rejected independence and sought to forcibly prevent Croatia from leaving Yugoslavia. When this strategy failed, Croatian Serb leaders proclaimed the formation of a new state, Republika Srpska Krajina (RS), on the territory (around one third) of Croatia that they held and declared their intention to remain a part of Yugoslavia in December 1991.[1] Ongoing talks mediated by the UN secured a series of ceasefire agreements between November 1991 and January 1992, allowing peacekeepers of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) to deploy in interpositionary locations and contain the fighting. This lasted until January 1993, when the armed conflict erupted again.[2]

The effort to end the war in Croatia was led by an informal Contact Group composed of the EC and the UN, and the governments of Russia and the USA. In March 1994, Russian officials brokered another ceasefire between the belligerents, paving the way for further dialogue.[3] The Contact Group then drafted the Z-4 Plan, an agreement which was intended to bring an end to the fighting and establish a framework for a lengthier peace process. The Croatian Government agreed to use Z-4 as the basis for negotiations, but the Croatian Serb leadership (backed by Slobodan Milošević) rejected it as it did not recognise RSK as an independent state.[4] As 1995 progressed, the military situation of RSK significantly deteriorated.[5] By August, Milošević and many within the Croatian Serb leadership were calling for the initiation of a peace process based on the Z-4 Plan. At this point in the war, however, they had been resoundingly defeated on the battlefield in Croatia, thus losing much of the leverage they had held just months earlier.[6] The Contact Group renewed its efforts on 16 August. Just two weeks later, representatives of RSK and the Croatian government met for the first and only face-to-face negotiations of the war.[7] The talks culminated with the signing of the Basic Agreement on Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Sirmium in the village of Erdut on 12 November 1995. The Agreement stipulated that Serb-held territory would remain within Croatia but would enjoy a considerable degree of autonomy, while also offering provisions for the protection of minority rights and local elections. [8] In addition, it called for the UN to administer former RSK territory during the first two years of the post-conflict transition.[9]

[1] James Gow. The Serbian Project and its Adversaries. (London: Hurst, 2003) pp.145-171

[2] Ceasefire Agreement of 23 November 1991, 1991. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/croatia-ceasefire91 (Accessed 16/11/2020)

[3] Ceasefire Agreement of 29 March 1994, 1994. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/croatia-ceasefire94 (Accessed 16/11/2020)

[4] Peter W. Galbraith. “Washington, Erdut and Dayton: Negotiating and Implementing Peace in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.” Cornell International Law Journal, Vol. 30, No. 3. (1997) p.646

[5] Gow. The Serbian Project and its Adversaries. p.192

[6] Peter Galbraith. “Negotiating peace in Croatia.” in Brad K. Blitz. War and Change in the Balkans: Nationalism, Conflict and Cooperation. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) p.127

[7] Ibid. p.128

[8] Basic Agreement on the Region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (Erdut Agreement), 1995. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/croatia-erdutagreement95 (Accessed 16/11/2020)

[9] UN Peacekeeping. Croatia – UNTAES: United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Salvonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium. (Backgrounder). (UN, 1997) Available at: https://peacekeeping.un.org/sites/default/files/past/untaes_b.htm#MANDATE (Accessed 16/11/2020)