Economic Interdependence Knits Europe Together (Perhaps)

Well, sort of. I somehow doubt Jean Monnet would have been thinking of this when he came up with the idea of a Europe so closely bound together by trade war would be forever impossible. Rogue Planet reports that the biggest buyer of Bosnian armaments is…Serbia. Bosnia is also the biggest supplier to Serbia. Yes, that’s right; the people who were the targets of the JNA’s artillery in 1993 are selling its current owners the shells to go with it, and the people whose kinsmen were driven out of eastern Slavonia in 1995 by the Bosnian and Croat armies are relying on them for their ammunition.

I’m not sure whether this is a heartening sign of increasing inter-dependence in the Balkans, a merely pragmatic way of bringing in some foreign exchange and taking advantage of the fact both parties have the same knockoff Soviet equipment, or insanity.

As they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Given that one of Bosnia’s few assets is a collection of Yugoslav arsenals and a big pile of left-over ammunition, you can hardly blame them for trying to turn them into cash. But Serbia? Right now on the eve of Kosovar independence? Isn’t that a tad risky?

In fact, the weapons may well be safer in Serbia than any of the alternatives. An under-reported story of the times has been the export of large amounts of weaponry from Bosnia-Herzegovina to a wide range of wars around the world. Not only is the Bosnian government keen to sell, it’s also spectacularly corrupt, and its officials are known to have connived at smuggling arms past the EU checkpoints at the ports and airports. One of the biggest arms-smuggling networks, that around Jet Line International and Tomislav Damjanovic, actually got started in the Bosnian war, and they were involved in the notorious incident of the 99 tonnes of armaments bought by US agents in Bosnia for use by the Iraqi army, and flown out by the even more notorious smuggler Viktor Bout, that never arrived in Iraq and remain untraced to this day.

Given that there is not currently a war in the Balkans, and that Serbia is more like a functioning state than, say, Iraq or Somalia – both places that have imported (and possibly re-exported) guns from Bosnia – it’s quite possibly better that the weapons go to Serbia than anywhere they are more likely to be used or to vanish into the black market. This, of course, assumes that the Serbs are not planning to re-sell them, which is quite a large assumption.

The Lure of Membership in action

If the EU didn’t exist, would we have to create it? Arguably, one of the best reasons for doing so would be the power it has demonstrated to spread democracy, constitutionalism, peace, and other good stuff through the accession process. Today, we had an excellent example of this. On the 7th of July, the European Commission updated the list of airlines that aren’t allowed to land in the EU. In the wake of the ban, the Moldovan government decided to solve the problem by shutting down a succession of really dodgy operations, revoking the Air Operator’s Certificate that is required by international law and grounding the planes.

The reason for such dramatic action is simple enough – it’s not just flight safety that was at stake. The list of dodgy airlines includes one that was involved in a regrettable incident in which 99 tonnes of assorted firearms were purchased from Bosnian war surplus by the US Government, and flown in a couple of Ilyushin 76s to Iraq for the use of the Iraqi government. However, the guns never arrived, and their fate remains a mystery – perhaps the least disturbing theory being that they were never actually shipped, and the Americans were defrauded. More disturbing options include the suggestion that the weapons were offloaded somewhere else, switched with another cargo, and sold God knows where, or that they were delivered all right, but to the former Iraqi army. The airline which was meant to move the guns, Aerocom, was itself later shut down after a plane was seized in Belize with a load of cocaine – but it actually subcontracted the job to one of the current crop, Jet Line International.