Just as the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia fractured the political map of Europe, it has dramatically changed life for Canadian diplomats in the region. Where once there was one Yugoslavia, there are now five nations and three stripped-down Canadian embassies. The three Canadian ambassadors met recendy with Macleans editors in Toronto to talk about their work in the postwar Balkans—work that is largely centred on the reconstruction of states and their economies, distribution of aid, repatriation of refugees and reunification of shattered families.
The dean of the three ambassadors is Dennis Snider, who represents Canada in Croatia. Formerly ambassador to Yugoslavia itself, Snider is in Zagreb with one other Canadian officer and six local staff. Sam Hanson, ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina, isn’t much better off; he has two other Canadians plus seven local employees in Sarajevo— where about 200 Americans work at the U.S. Embassy. Meanwhile, in Belgrade, capital of what is left of preSlobodan Milosevic Yugoslavia— Serbia and Montenegro—Canada’s ambassador, Angela Bogdan, is happily working with the government of
Vojislav Kostunica, winner of last Septembers election.
“We have an excellent relationship with the new government, having worked so closely with them when they were in opposition,” she says. “They are an extremely brave and able group of men and women. They’ll need a lot of sustained support from the international community, I think, including urging them to do what needs to be done—even though certain decisions would be very challenging for them, like the extradition of Milosevic to [the UN War Crimes Tribunal in] The Hague.”
Bogdan says the extradition of the ex-president is a matter of intense debate in Belgrade. Some leaders, including those of Serbia, want him sent to The Hague sooner rather than later; they fear putting him on trial in Yugoslavia would divide the country. But others worry that handing him over to The Hague would make him a martyr at home. For the moment, Milosevic is under house arrest—just two doors away from Bogdan’s residence. “There are more guns pointing in than out,” she reports.
One of Bogdan’s first tasks when relations were re-established following the Kosovo war was to repair the embassy itself, vandalized by the same crowd of Milosevic supporters who looted the U.S. Embassy down the road. “It was mainly a lot of broken glass,” she says. “They trashed our computers. Pockets of human waste were left in the area, which is supposed to mean something.”
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