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Monday, 23 April, 2001, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Spotlight on Yugoslav fragmentation
War graves in Bosnia
Bosnia's civil war left some 250,000 dead
After the parliamentary elections, Montenegro took a step closer to breaking away from the Yugoslav federation.

Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia
Slovenia is in membership talks with the EU
But the road to independence from Serbia is not that clear cut and a referendum may be delayed until the autumn or even beyond.

Four Yugoslav republics have already broken away, and while Slovenia and Macedonia managed to do so relatively peacefully, declarations of independence in Bosnia and Croatia led to the worst violence and war crimes seen in Europe since World War II.

The Slovenian way

In June 1991, Slovenia declared independence from Belgrade after an overwhelming majority of citizens supported the move in a referendum.

The most liberal of the republics, and one with a low proportion of other ethnic groups, it managed the split relatively easily.

Macedonian security forces
Last month ethnic violence erupted in Macedonia
The Yugoslav Federal Army made a half-hearted attempt to intervene, but Slovene forces defended the country and within 10 days, and the help of a European Union-brokered ceasefire, the republic achieved independence.

The following year, Slovenia was recognised by the EU and the United States, and has since entered membership talks with the EU and Nato.

During the 1999 bombing of Kosovo and Serbia, Slovenia allowed Nato to use its airspace.

Croatia's war

Croatia's bid for independence was something Belgrade was not willing to let pass.

Pro-independence party rally in Montenegro
Montenegro's pro-independence coalition - less support than expected
Croatia had a substantial Serb minority of about 12%, many of its members living in the Krajina region of the country.

This minority had already declared regional autonomy in the shape of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serb Krajina and turned to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for support.

Backed by the Yugoslav army, by the end of 1991 Serbs controlled almost one-third of Croatia.

The United Nations intervened, brokering a ceasefire and setting up four protected areas. Serbs and Croats were kept apart by 14,000 peacekeepers.

But peace was fragile and the differences remained. War returned to Croatia in 1995, when Croatian forces retook three of the UN safe areas and the fourth one was peacefully re-integrated into Croatia by 1998.

Bosnia divided

Between 1992 and 1995, became involved in the war in the neighbouring republic of Bosnia, supporting the Bosnian Croats against Serbs and later against the larger Muslim population.

Croatian soldier
Croatian troops fought in Croatia and in Bosnia
The war in Bosnia had erupted in 1992, after a referendum on independence. Muslims and Croats mostly voted for separation from Belgrade, while the Serb population boycotted the ballot.

After the declaration of independence, Bosnian Serbs, led by Radovan Karadzic, lay siege to Sarajevo and began a policy of "ethnic cleansing", forcing non-Serbs out of Serb areas.

Bitter fighting divided towns, villages and streets and, according to Bosnia's Muslim-led wartime government, left more than 250,000 dead in three years.

In December 1995, the Dayton peace accord for Bosnia-Hercegovina was signed in Paris, creating two highly autonomous entities of roughly equal size, one for Bosnian Muslims and Croats, the other for Serbs. Overarching these entities is a central government and rotating presidency.

Macedonia's fragile peace

Like Slovenia, Macedonia also declared its independence from Belgrade in 1991.

But Macedonia's major source of problems in achieving statehood came not from Belgrade, but from neighbouring Greece.

International recognition of Macedonia - formally known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) - was delayed by Greece's objection to the use of what it considered a Hellenic name and symbols.

Greece lifted its trade blockade in 1995 and the two countries agreed to normalise relations but the dispute over Macedonia's name remains unresolved.

Last month, ethnic tensions erupted in Macedonia, with four weeks of clashes between Albanian rebels and the Macedonian security forces.

Both sides are currently holding talks, but ethnic Albanians - who, according to official statistics hotly disputed by Albanians, represent 23% of the population - warn that the current peace is fragile and a failure to meet their demands for greater rights and representation could spark a new wave of violence.

For its part, the Macedonian Government fears that any change to the constitution could lead to the break-up of the country.

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23 Apr 01 | Europe
Uphill struggle to secede
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