Europe of Sarajevo 100 Years Later: Was History Ever on Holiday? Part I

Europe of June 1914 and of June 2014. Hundred years in between, two hot and one cold war. The League of Nations, Cristal Night, Eurosong and Helsinki Decalogue Coco Chanel, VW, Marshall Aid, Tito, Yuri Gagarin, Tolkien’s troll, Berlin wall and Euro-toll Ideologies, purges, repeated genocides, the latest one coinciding with the Maastricht birth of the Union…  a televised slaughterhouse and the Olympic city besieged for 1,000 days, just one hour flight from Brussels.

E non so più pregare
E nell’amore non so più sperare
E quell’amore non so più aspettare

Key words in 1914: Jingoism, booming trade and lack of trust, assassination, imminent collision, grand war. 100 years later; Europe absorbed by the EU project, demographic and economic decline, chauvinism reloaded … Twisting between the world of (Gavrilo) PRINCIP and global village of (instant) MONETISATION (of every-thing and everyone)… Are our past hundred years an indication of what to expect throughout this century?! What is our roadmap?! Is it of any help to reflect on the Sarajevo event of June 28th, 1914 which has finally fractured a fragile equilibrium of La Belle Èpoque, and set the Old Continent (and its world) into the series of motions that lasted for almost a century, before ending with the unique unionistic form of today’s Europe?

Four men leading one man bound

One man whom the four men hound

One man counted bound and led

One man whom the four men dread[2]

The following lines are not a comprehensive account on all of the events. Rather interpretative by its nature, this is a modest reminder of what Europe used and still tends to be, despite all our passions and hopes, visions and targets, institutions and instruments.

*          *          *          *          *

Is the EU a post-Westphalian conglomerate and post-Metternich concert of different Europes, the world’s last cosmopolitan enjoying its postmodern holiday from history?[3] Is that possibly the lost Atlántida or mythical Arcadia– a Hegelian end of history world? Thus, should this OZ be a mix of the locally domesticated Marx-Engels grand utopia andKennedy’s dream-world “where the weak are safe and the strong are just”? Or, is it maybeas Charles Kupchan calls it a ‘postmodern imperium’ (exhorting its well-off status quo by notoriously exporting its transformative powers of free trade dogma and human rights stigma[4]–a modified continuation of colonial legacy when the European conquerors, with fire and sword, spread commerce,[5] Christianity and civilization overseas), a kind of ‘newByzantium’, or is that more of a Richard Young’s declining, unreformed and rigid Rome?Hence, is this a post-Hobbesian (yet, not quite a Kantian) world, in which the letzte Menschexpelled Übermensch? Could it be as one old graffiti in Prague implies: EU=SU²? Does the EU-ization of Europe equals to a restoration of the universalistic world of Rome’s Papacy?Is the Union a Leonard’s runner of the 21st century, or is it perhaps Kagan’s‘Venus’–gloomy and opaque world, warmer but equally distant and unforeseen like ‘Mars’?[6]

Is this Brussels-headquartered construct, the 20th century’s version of Zollverein with standardized tariffs and trade, but of an autonomous fiscal policy and politics? Thus, is the EU a political and economic re-approachment of sovereign states or maybe just an(other)enterprise of the borderless financial capital? Ergo, would that be a pure construct of financial oligarchy whose invisible hand tacitly corrupted the Maastricht Treaty as to web-up a borderless, limitless, wireless and careless power hub, while at the same time entrenching, silencing and rarefying labour within each nation state?

Is this a supersized Switzerland (ruled by the cacophony of many languages and enveloped in economic egotism of its self-centered people), with the cantons (MS, Council of EU) still far more powerful than the central government (the EU Parliament, Brussels’ Commission, ECJ), while Swiss themselves –although in the geographic heart of that Union – stubbornlycontinue to defy any membership. Does it really matter (and if so, to what extent) that Niall Ferguson wonders: “…the EU lacks a common language, a common postal system, a common soccer team (Britain as well, rem. A.B.) even a standard electric socket…“?[7]Kissinger himself was allegedly looking for a phone number of Europe, too. Baron Ridleyportrayed the Union as a Fourth Reich, not only dominated by Germany, but also institutionally Germanized. Another conservative Briton, Larry Siedentop, remarked in hisDemocracy in Europe that it is actually France who is running the EU ‘show’, in the typical French way – less than accountable bureaucracy that prevents any evolution of the European into an American-style United States. Thus, Siedentop’s EU is more of a Third Bonapartistic Empire than possibly a Fourth German Reich. The Heartland or Rimland?

After all, is the Union yet another virtue out of necessity, as Brzezinski claimed, that after centuries of colonial overstretch and of mutual destructions (between protagonists in close geographic proximity), Europe irreversibly lost its demographic, economic and politico-military importance, and that the early EU was more of an attempt to rescue a nation state than it was the quest for a true enterprise of the European Community building?

Despite different names and categorizations attached, historical analogies and descriptionsused, most scholars would agree upon the very geopolitical definition of the EU. It is, thus,predominantly defined as a grand re-approachment of France and Germany after WWII, culminating in the Elysée accords of 1961. An interpretation of this instrument is rathersimple: a bilateral peace treaty through achieved consensus by which Germany accepted a predominant French say in political affairs of EU/Europe, and France – in return – accepted a more dominant German say in economic matters of EU/Europe. All that tacitly blessed by a perfect balancer– Britain, attempting to conveniently return to its splendid isolation from the Continent in the post-WWII years. Consequently, nearly all scholars would agree thatthe Franco-German alliance actually represents a geopolitical axis, a backbone of the Union.

But, what does it mean, precisely? Why Germany, and why France?

And why, besides the geographic (e.g. north-south, Nordic-Mediterranean) and political (e.g. the EU and non-EU Europe; the ‘good old’ West and new ‘transitioning’ East, or old EU 15 and new EU 13, or the Paris treaty core-6, etc.)categorization, do we need to take an additionally due look at the classification of historical Europes?[8]

Una hysteria importante

History of Europe is the story of small hysteric/xenophobic nations, traditionally sensitive to the issue of ethnic, linguistic, religious, and behavioristic otherness.[9] If this statement holds the truth, then we refer to events before and after the Thirty Years’ War in general and to the post-Napoleonic Europe in particular. Political landscape of today’s Europe had beenactually conceived in the late 14th century, gradually evolving to its present shape. The universalistic world of the Holy Roman Empire and Papacy is steadily contested by theexplicitly confronta-tional or implicitly dismissive political entities, be it ideologically (theThirty Years’ War culminating with the Peace of Westphalia) or geopolitically (Grand Discoveries and the shift of the gravity center westwards). The early round of colonizers,the two Iberian empires of Spain and Portugal, are the first entities that emerged, followed by France, Holland, England and Denmark. (Belgium too, although it appeared as a buffer zone at first – being a strategic depth, a continental prolongation of England for containment of Central Europeans, Dutch and Scandinavians from the open sea, while later on alsobecoming a strategic depth of France for balancing Britain and containment of Denmark and Prussia.)

Engulfed with the quest of the brewing French revolution for the creation of a nation state, these colonizers, all of them situated on the Atlantic flank of Europe, have successfullyadjusted to the nation-state concept. Importantly, the very process of creation/formation of the nation-state has been conducted primarily on linguistic grounds since religious grounds were historically defeated once and for all by the Westphalia:[10]

All peoples talking the Portugo-phone dialects in one state, all Hispanophone dialects in another state, all Francophone dialects in the third state, etc.[11] This was an easy cut for peripheral Europe,the so-called old colonizers on the Atlantic flank of Europe, notably for Portugal, Spain, France, England, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden.



Although geopolitically defeated and ideologically contained by the Vienna Congress and its instrument: the Holy Alliance of Eastern Conservative Courts, the very idea of a nation-state remained appealing. Once the revolutionary 1848 ousted the principal guardian of feudalism in Europe, Metternich, the suppressed concept got further impetus. And, the revolutionary romance went on… Hence, the very creation of central European nation-states was actuallyenhanced by Napoleon III. The unification of Italophones was his, nearly obsessive, inten-tional deed (as he grew up in Nice with Italian Carbonari revolutionists who were fighting papal and Habsburg’s control over the northern portions of today’s Italy). Conversely, thevery unification of Germanophones under the Greater Prussia was his non-intentional mis-chief, with the two subsequently emerging ‘by-products’; modern Austria (German-speaking core assembled on the ruins of mighty multinational and multi-linguistic empire) and modern Turkey (Turkophone core on the ruins of mighty multiracial and multi-linguistic empire).

Despite being geographically in the heart of Europe, Switzerland remained a remarkably stable buffer zone: Highly militarized but defensive and obsessively neutral, economicallyomnipresent yet financially secretive, it represents one confederated state of two confronting versions of western Christianity, of three ethnicities and of four languages. Absent from most of the modern European politico-military events – Switzerland in short – is terra incognita.

Historically speaking, the process of Christianization of Europe used as the justification toolto pacify the invading tribes, that demolished the Roman Empire and brought to an end the Antique age, was running parallel on two tracks. One of them was conducted by the Roman Curia/Vatican and its hammer: the Holy Roman Empire. The second was run by the cluster of Rusophone Slavic Kaganates, who receiving (the orthodox or true/authentic, so-calledEastern version of) Christianity from Byzantium, and past its collapse, have taken over a mission of Christianization, while forming its first state of Kiev Russia (and thereafter, its first historic empire). So, to the eastern edge of Europe, Russophones have lived in an intact world of universalism for centuries: one empire, one Tsar, one religion and one language.[12]

Everything in between Central Europe and Russia is Eastern Europe, rather a historicnovelty on the political map of Europe. Very formation of the Atlantic Europe’s present shape dates back to 14th–15th century, of Central Europe to the mid-late 19th century, whilea contemporary Eastern Europe only started emerging between the end of WWI and the collapse of the Soviet Union – meaning, less than 100 years, in best cases. No wonder that the dominant political culture of the Eastern Europeans resonates residual fears and reflects deeply insecure small nations. Captive and restive, these are short in territorial depth, indemographic projection, in natural resources and in a direct access to open (warm) seas, after all, short in historio-cultural verticals and in a bigger picture-driven long-term policies. They are exercising the nationhood and sovereignty from quite a recently. Therefore, they are often dismissive, hectic and suspectful, nearly neuralgic and xenophobic, with frequent overtones.

The creation of a nation-state (on linguistic grounds) in the Atlantic, Scandinavian and Central Europe was relatively a success-story. However, in Eastern Europe it repeatedly suffered setbacks, culminating in the Balkans, Caucasus and the Middle East, but also evident in the central or Baltic part of Eastern Europe.[13]



Keeping the center soft

Ever since Westphalia, Europe maintained the inner balance of powers by keeping its core section soft. Peripheral powers like England, France, Denmark, (Sweden and Poland being later replaced by) Prussia, the Ottomans, Habsburgs and Russia have pressed and kept the center of continental Europe as their playground. At the same time, they kept extending their possessions overseas or, like Russia and the Ottomans, over the land corridors deeper into Asian and MENA proper.[14] Once Royal Italy and Imperial Germany had appeared, thegeographic core ‘hardened’ and for the first time started to politico-militarily press onto peripheries. This new geopolitical reality caused a big security dilemma lasting from the1814 Vienna congress up to Potsdam conference of 1945, being re-actualized again with theBerlin Wall destruction: How many Germanies and Italies should Europe have to preserve its inner balance and peace?[15] As the late-comers the Central Europeans have faced theoverseas world, clearly divided into spheres of influence.

In very simplified terms, we can say that from the perspective of European belligerent parties, both world wars were fought between the forces of status quo and the challengers tothis status quo. The final epilogue in both wars was that Atlantic Europe has managed to divert the attention of Central Europeans from itself and its vast overseas possessions onto Eastern Europe, and finally towards Russia.[16] Just to give the most illustrative of many examples; the Imperial post-Bismarck Germany has carefully planned and ambitiously grouped its troops on the border with France. After the assassination of the Austrian Archduke in Sarajevo (28 June 1914), Europe was technically having a casus belli – as thesubsequent mutually declared war between all parties quickly followed this assassination episode and the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia. However, the first armed engagement was nottaking place on the southeastern front, as expected – between the Eastern belligerent partiessuch as Austria, Serbia, Russia, the Ottomans, Greece, Bulgaria, etc. The first military operations of WWI were actually taking place in the opposite, northwest corner of Europe and only months later. It was in German penetration of Belgian Ardennes. Still, the very epilogue of la Grande Guerra was such that a single significant territorial gain of Germany was achieved only in Eastern Europe. Despite a colossal 4-years long military effort, the German western border remained nearly unchanged.[17]

The end of WWI did not bring much change. The accords de paix – Versailles treaty was an Anglo-French triumph. These principal Treaty powers, meaning: Atlantic Europe, invited Germany to finally join the League of Nations in 1926, based on the 1925 Treaty of Locarno. By the letter of this treaty, Germany obliged itself to fully respect its frontiers withBelgium and France (plus demilitarized zone along the Rhine) with the unspecified promise to arbitrate before pursuing any change of its borders with Czechoslovakia and Poland. The same modus operandi applied to the Austrian borders with Italy, Yugoslavia, Hungary andCzechoslovakia. The Locarno accord actually instrumentalized two sorts of boundaries aroundCentral Europe (Germany–Austria): strict, inviolable ones towards Atlantic Europe; butsemipermeable and soft towards Eastern Europe.[18] That is how the predominant player from Central Europe, Germany, was accepted to the League, a collective system which the Soviet Russia (meaning: Rusophone Europe) was admitted to only a decade later (1934).[19] Soon after, this double standard sealed-off a faith of many in Europe and beyond.

In fact, the 1930s were full of public admirations of and frequent official visits to anAustrian-born Hitler. It was not only reserved for the British royal family (e.g. Edward VIII), but for many more prominents from both sides of the Atlantic. By 1938 in Munich, this ‘spirit of Locarno’ has been confirmed in practice when French President Daladier and British PM Chamberlain (Atlantic Europe) jointly paid a visit to Germany and gave concessions – practically a free hand – to Hitler and Mussolini (Central Europe) on gains inEastern Europe. Neither Atlantic Europe objected to the pre-Munich solidification of Central Europe: Hitler–Mussolini pact and absorption of Austria, following a massive domestic Austrian support to Nazism of its 890,000 members of the Nazi party as well as a huge ring of sympathizers. By brokering the Ribbentrop-Molotov non-aggression deal between Berlin and Moscow, but only a year after the Munich-shame – in 1939 (including the stipulations on Finland, Baltic states and Poland), Stalin desperately tried to preempt the imminent: A horror of an uncontrolled expansion of Central onto Eastern Europe and closer to Russia,something that was already largely blessed and encouraged by Atlantic Europe.[20]

For some 300 years, Russia and the Ottomans have fought series of bitter wars over the control of the Black Sea plateau and Caucasus – sectors, which both sides (especially the Ottomans) have considered as geopolitically pivotal for their existence. Still, neither party has ever progressed at the battlefield as to seriously jeopardize the very existence of the other. However, Russia has experienced such moves several times from within Europe. Three of them were critical for the very survival of Russia and the forth was ratherinstructive: the Napoleonic wars, Hitler’s Drang nach Osten, the so-called “contra-revolutionary” intervention,[21] and finally the brief but deeply humiliating war with Poland (1919-21).

Small wonder, that in 1945, when Russians – suffering over 20 millions of mostly civilian casualties and by far the heaviest continental burden of the war against Nazism – arrived on wings of their tanks and ideology to Central Europe, they decided to stay. Extending theirstrategic depth westwards–southwestwards, and fortifying their presence in the heart of Europe,[22] was morally an occupation. Still, it was geopolitically the single option left,which Stalin as a ruthless person but an excellent geo-strategist perfectly understood. Just aquick look at the geographic map of Europe would show that the low-laying areas of western Russia, Belorussia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe are practically non-fortifiable andindefen-sible. Their topography exposes the metropolitan area and city of Moscow to an extreme vulnerability. So, the geostrategic dictatum is that in absence of any deep canyon, serious ridge or mountain chain, the only protection is either a huge standing army (expensive and badly needed in other corners of this vast country) and/or an extension ofthe strategic depth.

In a nutshell, we can say that the very epilogue of both WWs in Europe was a defeat of Central Europe (challenger of status quo) against Atlantic Europe (status quo defender), with the relatively absent, neutral Scandinavian Europe, of Eastern Europe being more an object than a subject of these mega-confrontations, and finally with a variable success of Russia.

Finally, back to Franco-German re-approachment: This is far more than just a story about the two countries signing d’accord. It truly marked a final decisive reconciliation of two Europes, the Atlantic and Central one. The status quo Europe has won on the continent but has soon lost its overseas colonies. Once realizing it, the road for ‘unification’ of the equallyweakened protagonists in a close proximity was wide open.[23] This is the full meaning of the 1961Elysée.


(Continued in Part II, III, IV)


Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarević, Chair Intl. Law and Global Pol. Studies (and Editor of the Addleton’s GHIR Journal), is one of the frequent contributors for The 4th Media.

Vienna, 13. JUN 2014   

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