Courtesy Reuters

War in the Balkans

In late June 1991 Yugoslav army tanks rolled into the newly declared Republic of Slovenia, igniting a war long feared among the peoples of Yugoslavia. Now, more than a year later, the war has resulted in some 50,000 deaths (mostly civilians), more than two million homeless and as much as $60 billion in property damage. Numerous Croatian, Serbian and Muslim villages have disappeared from the map in the fighting, with what was once the thriving city of Vukovar, population 45,000, reduced to rubble. The Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, the city where World War I began, was placed under siege by Serbian forces in March, and in the daily bombardments that have followed, the unique cultural blend that gave Sarajevo a special charm has been extinguished, probably forever.

The war is increasingly being felt beyond the borders of what was once Yugoslavia. Austria and Hungary, Croatia’s neighbors to the north, have taken in about 50,000 refugees each. Germany, which had taken in some 125,000 as of late April, subsequently closed its borders to refugees lacking German visas, but relaxed the restriction on July 20. The number of refugees in Germany has since shot up to 200,000. There are also some 40,000 refugees from the Balkan war in Sweden, 13,000 in Switzerland, 4,000 in the Netherlands and as many as 50,000 in other countries. Italy, which has already accepted 7,000 refugees, is starting to brace for what its politicians fear may become a full?scale exodus if and when the war spreads to the Albanian?populated Kosovo region of the former Yugoslavia.

Other European states, such as France, Britain and Spain, however, have done precious little to relieve the pressure from the flood of refugees straining the economies of Germany, Hungary and Austria. Meanwhile the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees expects the war in Bosnia—if it is allowed to continue—to result in up to one million additional Bosnian refugees seeking new domiciles. Few of these are expected to return to their homeland.

Albania, Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey have all signaled that they

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