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05/23/2019 - 05/25/2019 | Leipzig

20 Years after the NATO Intervention in Yugoslavia

Local, Regional and Global Aspects of 'Humanitarian interventions'

2019 will mark the 20th anniversary of the NATO intervention in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), and the end of the Kosovo war. We take this as an opportunity to reflect on the role, importance and impact of military interventions, by presenting the dialogue between the diverse, often opposed interpretations of the NATO Intervention in FRY which have emerged during the last twenty years, when considering its role, political consequences and meaning on the local, regional and global scales.

On a local scale, the domestic mnemonic battles revolve around two contradictory interpretations of the NATO Intervention: in Serbia, the intervention is denounced as “a criminal aggression against a sovereign country and its people”, while in Kosovo the intervention is praised for supporting “liberation and a just war for independence”. The only position shared is a general silence about the victims of their own atrocities, the denial of these crimes and a political unwillingness to address, let alone prosecute, crimes committed by one’s own forces.

On a regional scale, the Kosovo war and NATO intervention were followed by a humanitarian crisis, with hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanian refugees seeking rescue in neighbouring Macedonia and Albania. Another refugee crisis followed the end of the intervention, when Serbs were leaving the Kosovo territory. The intervention changed the political map of the Balkans, paving the path to Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2008, and providing an incentive for other regions in the Balkans and beyond to follow Kosovo's example.

On a global scale, interpretations of the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia are similarly diverse. Described as the first “humanitarian intervention”, and a blueprint for the "Responsibility to Protect" (R2P) principle, the Kosovo intervention was criticized as “false humanism” employing human rights rhetoric as a tool of a new imperialism. It consolidated anti-Western sentiments in Russia and China, while turning Germany into an active military actor for the first time since World War II. Moreover, it was used as an exemplary case for later interventions in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, creating a new set of international practices, and of normative and political alliances in the West, while further consolidating the pro-sovereignty positions of China and Russia. Finally, the international diplomatic battle for Kosovo’s recognition divided UN members into those recognizing Kosovo, and those opposing its UN membership, further fuelling post-Cold War divisions.

We take such profound diversity of interpretations on the global, regional and local scales, on the one hand, and the relevance of the 1999 military intervention for domestic and international politics outside the region, on the other, as a point of departure, asking about the cultural, political and historical meaning of the NATO intervention with regard to the different scales.

Considering the diversity of disciplines, approaches and topics already addressed in the literature, the workshop aims at bringing together scholars and activists (both from the region and abroad) from various disciplines such as History, Political Sciences, International Law, Sociology, Anthropology, Memory and Cultural Studies, to discuss the local, regional and global aspects of the NATO intervention and its twenty-year-old heritage.

Information on participating / attending:


05/23/2019 - 05/25/2019

Event venue:

GWZO, Specks Hof, Reichsstraße 4-6, 4.Etage
04109 Leipzig

Target group:

Scientists and scholars



Subject areas:

History / archaeology, Politics, Social studies

Types of events:

Conference / symposium / (annual) conference




Virginie Michaels


Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit

Event is free:


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