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Bordering three EU member states, Austria, Italy and Greece, Yugoslavia dissolved in chaos in the 1990s as President Slobodan Milosevic attempted to create a Greater Serbia through 'ethnic cleansing' of the Croat and Bosnian Muslim populations and later the Albanian Muslims in Kosovo. In the course of the conflict Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia seceded (though Greece refused to recognise Macedonia under that name), leaving Serbia and Montenegro as the sole components of the new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a state not formally recognised by the UN or the European Community.

The long drawn out Bosnian crisis was full of negotiating twists and turns which saw the EU at its least effective. It was not until the USA organised the use of force by NATO in 1995 that a halt was brought to what had amounted to genocide by the Serbs. In 1999 the horror was repeated as Milosevic embarked on a programme of murder, pillage, rape and expulsion against the Albanian majority in the enclave of Kosovo, on the pretext of combating the rebel guerrilla liberation army, the KLA. Again NATO intervened (in the end successfully), but this time the prolonged use of bombing, including attacks on infrastructure targets in Serbia, was more controversial.

Among many lessons for the EU from the Yugoslav affair, two stood out. First, that a common security policy is meaningless without a common foreign policy rooted in common purpose and capable of commanding support from ordinary people. Second - a lesson also to be drawn from the Gulf War - that the mere combination of European forces can achieve very little without the logistics, surveillance and control capabilities that presently derive exclusively from the American contribution to NATO. (See also Bosnian crisis and Kosovo crisis.)

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