Compensation for war victims in the Western Balkans

Image: Atdhe Mulla

January 19, 2023

Developments in the Western Balkans are not positive. Thus is the grim conclusion from the report ‘Dealing with the past, surviving the present’ that PAX presented on January 18. The presentation took place in the presence of representatives of local groups from Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo and North Macedonia. Rising tensions in Kosovo and the wish of several countries to join the European Union, the report provides answers to what victims of war need.

No response to politics

It appears that the real needs of war victims from these countries in the Balkans do not resonate with their political leaders. These leaders have a clear exclusive view on the history of recent conflicts. The approach to victim groups must fit in with that vision. There is only attention for victims from their own ethnic group. There is a lack of attention and a legal framework for what other victim groups need. For example, no work is done on finding the truth, because it is determined by the political leaders instead of actual events.

Dwelling on nationalist rhetoric

If the region really wants to take steps to deal with the wars of the 1990s, and before joining the European Union, the needs and wishes of victim groups must be explicitly examined. As long as victims and their interests are ignored, the communities will be stuck in nationalistic rhetoric. That is bad news, for the victims, for the countries of the Western Balkans and for the EU. EU diplomats should draw more attention to this in the talks taking place in the context of the accession process. Diplomats from the EU and EU member states can invite victim groups for periodic consultations. Improving the position of victims of war violence will boost the desired reforms and have a positive impact on society as a whole and contribute to the process leading to EU membership.

Read the full report

Get involved with our peace work.
Subscribe to the PAX Action Alert.