Monday, April 5, 1999 Published at 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
Analysis: A blueprint for Kosovo
Returning Kosovo's population would be no easy task
By World Affairs Correspondent Nick Childs
Nato governments have said they will make sure the flood of refugees currently pouring out of Kosovo will be allowed to return.
Various plans have been mooted: a Nato invasion of Kosovo; a protectorate guaranteed by the international community; safe havens; or defended corridors.
But are any of them viable?
Eastern Slavonia is a strip of Croatian land which was overrun by the Serbs. It had seen some of the grimmest fighting of the war in Croatia.
But in late 1995, Croatia had turned the military tide, the local Serbs had been largely cut adrift by President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade and the two sides agreed to a UN transitional administration in Eastern Slavonia.
'Co-operation is vital'
The man who would become the UN Transitional Administrator, virtually the viceroy of Eastern Slavonia, Jacques Klein, was clear at the time about why such a deal was possible.
To back him up, Jacques Klein had, amongst other things, 5,000 heavily-armed troops.
Mats Berdal, a specialist on Balkans peacekeeping at St Antony's College, Oxford, says the eastern Slavonia experience was an important departure from previous UN operations in the region.
"It was a much more powerful force. One which had considerable ... military resources at its disposal and in which the person in charge of the transitional authority was able to do pretty much as he wanted during that particular transtiional period."
Nato stands firm
On Kosovo, Nato insists its objectives for now remain what they have always been:
Publicly at least, Nato says there is still no question of it fighting its way in to Kosovo. So does an agreement along the lines of eastern Slavonia present a possible solution?
According to Mats Berdal, there is one important problem.
"The Croatians had effectively won the war, Milosevic had agreed in advance that this territory was going to go back. So what the UN transitional authority was charged with doing was really to oversee the peaceful transition of that territory."
The Eastern Slavonia experience has meant some, if not all displaced Croats have returned. But it has not persuaded many Serbs to stay.
Mats Berdal says the UN operation has certainly allowed for a peaceful handover of the territory, which might not have been the case, but it has not stopped what one western official has called "soft ethnic cleansing".
However the Kosovo Albanian refugees are persuaded to return, it seems clear it will require a significant, possibly open-ended western commitment.
Western governments will inevitably face some tough decisions, and the longer the crisis continues the starker they are likely to become.