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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Boswell.]
Mr. Michael Stern (Bristol, North-West) : Following the initial stages of the collapse of Yugoslavia, the British Government, in common with their European partners, set out certain principles that would guide them in granting recognition to the republics emerging from the ruins. Those conditions included internal respect for human rights, a single territory with a well-defined population under undivided control, and all the normal diplomatic standards--including a clearly popularly elected Government.
As a result of unilateral action by Germany that the remaining countries of the EEC loyally and predictably followed, two of the emerging republics-- Slovenia and Croatia--were duly recognised. A third, Serbia, has rightly been refused recognition because of its naked aggression against others, while a fourth, Macedonia--despite being itself the subject of aggression from Greece--has been left in limbo. Despite Macedonia's ethnically mixed 2 million population of Serbs, Albanians, gipsies, Turks, Bulgarians, Greeks, and--above all and overwhelmingly--Macedonian Slavs, and despite its history of being tugged in different directions by big and powerful neighbours in the form of Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, and now Albania, the population of Macedonia have been able to unite under their present Government. Until a recent outbreak of intercommunal violence that left at least four ethnic Albanians dead, Macedonia has enjoyed internal harmony. After all--as Macedonia's president, Kiro Gligorov, recently pointed out to the Centre for Policy Studies--Macedonia was the nation that negotiated the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army without a single bullet being fired.
According to The Times, Macedonia is the only ex-Yugoslav republic to elect a moderate, non-nationalist Government and which has made no attempt to build up an army--yet it is the republic to which the British Government and their allies refuse recognition. The reasons for that refusal lie solely across the southern border. The peace-loving democratic republic of Greece, which claims in its history to have been the source of so much of that which we now regard as civilisation, has--in what can only be described as an act of war against an undefended country--imposed economic sanctions against Macedonia that are already the cause of grinding poverty. The reason? Greece does not like Macedonia's use of that name. I wonder what would be the reaction of my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office to an announcement by France that it was about to impose economic sanctions on Great Britain and seek in the world's councils for the British Government to be isolated purely because the inhabitants of Brittany objected to our use of the name. After all, those inhabitants are as entitled to use that name as we are--and probably had it before us. Of course that is a ridiculous argument, yet it is exactly that argument--that Macedonian Slavs are not entitled to call themselves Macedonians, while the Macedonian Greeks are--that gave rise not only to Greece's
Column 120unprovoked action against Macedonia but to that country's success in dragging its allies along with it. The same Greek republic was recently welcomed into the Western Europe Union. According to its secretary-general, Mr. Wim van Eekelen, the WEU is a pillar of the North Atlantic alliance--and Greece sees WEU membership as ensuring that it helps shape future EC security and defence policy. Perhaps we should be a little more careful about our allies.
The consequences of Greek economic aggression in a small country that is dependent almost entirely on agriculture are inevitably severe. The embargo against Serbia--which of course Macedonia does not have to join, since Macedonia does not exist, but to which Macedonia has voluntarily acceded-- will cost Macedonia about $1.3 billion this year, yet according to Kiro Gligorov, if the Greek blockade continues, the people of Macedonia will face real hardships that will threaten life this winter. Are the sanctions against Serbia as severe? Is there not a real danger that while the rest of Europe cowers behind Greek prejudice, the inter-ethnic violence which, as I previously noted, is already beginning to appear will spread, as it has done in other former Yugoslav republics, including Croatia which we continue to recognise?
Is there not at least the possibility that the nations of Europe, by treating Macedonia as a pariah, will end up carrying the responsibility for the growth of an Albanian separatist movement, a Bulgarian separatist movement--we should not forget that it was such a movement which in 1923 was responsible for the return of Bulgarian Prime Minister Stambouliisky to his capital in two separate boxes--and even, dare we say it, a Greek separatist movement? Is that what Greece is really after?
I suggest, in all sincerity, to my right hon. and learned Friend that, while the nations of Europe continue to ignore the existence of Macedonia, their legal and moral position is at least very difficult to defend. Can we not use the remaining days of our presidency of Europe to reduce unprovoked aggression within Europe, rather than to increase it? Have there not yet been any results from the shuttle diplomacy of a British diplomat between Athens, Skopje and London? Above all, can we not, this time, follow the lead of Germany in taking notice of
"a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing"?
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg) : I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North- West (Mr. Stern) on raising the question of the recognition of Macedonia. He has urged the case for the recognition of Macedonia in urgent, pressing and persuasive terms, which I hope will be listened to by persons outside this House, not least by our friends and allies in Greece.
I welcome the debate. It gives me the opportunity to say something about the Government's thinking on the matter. We ought to understand the background. Even in Tito's time, the Greeks made no secret of their dissatisfaction with the choice of the name Macedonia for this Yugoslav republic. They claimed that such a name was historically Greek and should not be used by a nation which is predominantly Slav. That was their claim, even though the Slavs have been in the area since the 6th century.
Column 121On 16 December 1991, the European Community and its member states adopted guidelines for the recognition of the former Yugoslav republics, including provisions specifically to deal with Greek concerns about Macedonia. They required the adoption by the Republic of Macedonia of
"constitutional and political guarantees ensuring that it has no territorial claims towards a neighbouring Community state and that it will conduct no hostile propaganda activities versus a neighbouring Community state, including the use of a denomination which implies territorial claims."
The Government in Skopje decided to apply for recognition. They made amendments to their constitution to meet the Greek concerns, and they made additional statements in a form binding in international law. Mr. Badinter, the chairman of the arbitration commission attached to Lord Carrington's conference, then concluded that Macedonia did meet the 16 December conditions. Greece remained unhappy about recognition, and a decision was deferred.
The issue was discussed by the European Community Foreign Ministers at regular meetings. The Portuguese presidency tried to negotiate agreements in Athens and Skopje to allow recognition, but without success.
At the Lisbon European Council, the European Community heads of state and Government expressed their readiness to recognise the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia under a name that did not include the term "Macedonia". The declaration was cast in positive terms. It did not say that a change of name was a precondition. Member states realise the need to recognise this republic and wish to do so as soon as possible, but the strongly held concerns of a member state had to be taken account of.
It therefore fell to Britain, which holds the presidency, to try to implement the Lisbon policy. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary appointed Mr. Robin O'Neill as his personal representative to handle the issue. He has visited Skopje and Athens four times and has been unstinting in his efforts to find a way of allowing the 12 member states of the Community to implement their readiness to recognise the republic. He submitted his report to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary today, but, as I am sure my hon. Friend will appreciate, this is not the occasion to announce its contents. Further discussion on the issue will take place at the Edinburgh summit on 11 and 12 December.
It is worth saying something about affairs within the republic of Macedonia, which faces severe problems. There is great concern in the republic about instability elsewhere in Yugoslavia, and in particular about the risk that could attach to Macedonia from unrest in Kosovo. The republic's economic problems have been worsened by the effect of United Nations sanctions imposed on Serbia and Montenegro and by an oil embargo imposed by Greece and European Community trade licensing regulations, which cut off trade between Greece and Macedonia. It is obviously important to keep the sanctions as tight as possible, but it is also important that we ensure that Macedonia does not suffer from unintended side effects of the sanctions regime. We are seeking to address that problem.
As hon. Members may know, a sanctions assistance mission--known as a SAM-- is operating in Macedonia to help and advise on the fulfilment of the obligations under the Security Council resolutions. Security Council
Column 122resolution 787 has tightened arrangements for the trans-shipment of goods through Serbia and Montenegro. Those decisions permit the European Community to withdraw its dual licensing regime for Community exports to Macedonia. The Commission has therefore proposed that Macedonia be omitted from dual-licensing regulation. We have supported that, and hope that rapid agreement will be reached with our partners in Brussels. At the moment, a Commission team is in Skopje examining the most effective ways of getting oil to Macedonia if the route from Greece stays blocked.
We have been pressing for increased European Community help for Macedonia. A proportion of the 240 mecu of humanitarian aid that the Community has commited since July has gone to Macedonia, in line with the UNHCR's needs assessment. The Commission has just commited 5 mecu of medical supplies and we shall encourage it to look at what more the Community can do.
The position within Macedonia remains volatile and unstable. Growing tension within the ethnic Albanian community and dissatisfaction with the current status has caused trouble. Tension flared in Skopje on 6 November, which resulted in four deaths, after police acted over black market trading by Albanians.
The Macedonian constitution is generous in its treatment of minorities and we have no reason to doubt the statement of the Government of Macedonia that they intend to adhere to their constitution. There is no doubt that the absence of recognition of the republic is exacerbating the problems to which I have referred and is leading to instability in the region.
A solution to the problem is urgent, but we cannot ignore Greek concerns and recognise the republic irrespective of the wishes of Greece--an important power in the region--if only because to do so would lead to the kind of instability which we are most anxious to avoid.
I very much welcome the decision to send the United Nations mission to Macedonia to review the possibility of United Nations forces being stationed in the republic. That could help to maintain stability, and we await the Secretary-General's recommendations. I am also glad that the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe has deployed a small team in Macedonia under a United States ambassador. The aim is to prevent a spill-over of troubles from elsewhere by diffusing tensions within the republic.
Such circumstances are not new. In the very different circumstances of 1897, William Gladstone wrote :
"nothing can be more deplorable and blameworthy than jealousies between Greek and Slav."
I agree with him. He then said :
"Why not Macedonia for Macedonians, as well as Bulgaria for Bulgarians and Servia for Servians?"
He had rather a good point. In calling for co-operation among neighbours and asserting the right of self-determination of peoples, Gladstone was ahead of his time in anticipating the results of the CSCE. I very much echo what he said about the need for understanding between neighbouring peoples.
We now need to find a solution that will ensure peace in the area for the 1990s and beyond, and, incidentally, settle the Macedonian question for good. The efforts of the British presidency will have gone some way towards achieving that. I very much hope that, at the Edinburgh
Column 123Council, we shall be able to find a way in which to resolve the issue which is right, meritorious in itself and acceptable to all parties.
Column 124Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at twenty minutes past Ten o'clock.
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