Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 280 - 299)



  280. Are refugees able to return from Montenegro to Kosovo?
  (Mr Cook) Yes, and it should be said, in praise of President Djukanovic, that he maintained an open frontier policy throughout the whole of the conflict. At one stage, there were 90,000 Kosovo Albanian refugees in Montenegro. That may sound small, compared with the numbers in Macedonia and Albania, but pro rata to Montenegro's 600,000, it was as high as either of those.

  281. You have just mentioned Albania and Macedonia, who are obviously in principal need of assistance in the immediate future. How will the Stability Pact provide for economic reconstruction in those two areas to help them to cope with the very serious economic effects of the conflict?
  (Mr Cook) Albania and Macedonia?

  282. Yes.
  (Mr Cook) First of all, before I turn to the Stability Pact, do remember that the European Union has now earmarked 250 million euro precisely to be spent in that sub-region. Most of it is for the economic impact but 100 million of it is for budgetary aid, reflecting the additional financial pressure on those countries from the refugee crisis. The Stability Pact will act as a clearing house and co-ordinating role and, also, hopefully, will act as a stimulus to activity by international agencies. Some of them, like the World Bank and the IMF, are critical to getting the economic reconstruction of the region going. The Stability Pact's focus is on the wider South East Europe region, but it fully will recognise the critical importance within that of Albania and Macedonia and, in particular, the pressures on both of them of the economic consequences of the war. In the case of Macedonia, 60 per cent of its exports before the conflict went through Yugoslavia, and that has been reduced to virtually zero during the conflict, and that creates an enormous economic issue which needs to be addressed. So I hope that both the direct aid that has been provided and, also, the stimulus of the Stability Pact will make a significant difference. Finally, if I can just add, bilaterally, the United Kingdom is now spending £90 million through DfID on tackling the humanitarian problems within the sub-region. Much of that will now be spent in Kosovo, but much has already been spent in Macedonia and Albania.

  283. One last question, Foreign Secretary: going back again to Serbia and the differentiation between Serbia and Montenegro, is there any view that there might be a need for more immediate aid to increase protection, perhaps, in economic or in other terms, of the Hungarian population in the area?
  (Mr Cook) You touch on what is a very real issue, and one on which we remain vigilant. There are 300,000 ethnic Hungarians within Serbia. Their welfare and security, of course, is a matter of acute concern for the Hungarian Government. At the present time we have not seen overt moves against them, but, as I myself have warned, Milosevic is a serial nationalist and we must be on guard against the next attempt to try and exploit nationalist sentiment by identifying another threat to Serbian nationalism. At the present time, on the basis of those reports we are receiving, which the Committee will have read, in the open media, Milosevic does seem to rather have his hands full and it may well be that, at the present time, he is not in position to make such a move. However, we are watching with great care.

Mr Rowlands

  284. Just pursuing for one moment one point arising from the Montenegro question Mr Heath raised. I think, if I caught you, you said that if Milosevic interfered it would be against the spirit of the arrangement. If there was any attempt to destabilise and, in fact, overthrow the President of Montenegro, would it actually not just be a matter of the spirit, and, in fact, direct intervention would follow on behalf of NATO in defence of the Presidency?
  (Mr Cook) I am not quite sure of my ground on the legal nicety of it—and perhaps Dr Jones Parry might keep me right on the legality of the issue—but, leaving aside the legal niceties, we have repeatedly said that if there was any move against the democratic government of Montenegro it would be followed by grave consequences. We have deliberately left Milosevic guessing as to quite what those grave consequences might be, but we are, of course, militarily, in a much better position to make sure consequences are indeed grave. Dr Jones Parry, is there any legal agreement we have that would regard it as a breach if Milosevic was to move on Montenegro?
  (Dr Jones Parry) In a strict legal sense, Mr Chairman, one would need to look at that, but I do not think it would be sensible, in the sense the Foreign Secretary has just said, to preclude options, at this stage. So, in that sense, I do not think a precise legal answer would actually be useful.


  285. Has he made any specific undertakings in respect of Montenegro?
  (Dr Jones Parry) No.
  (Mr Cook) No, and let us be objective here: the G8 principles, the Security Council Resolution and the Military Technical Agreement were focused on Kosovo. That said, NATO, the European Union, have already repeatedly made expressions of their commitment to Montenegro, and he is in no doubt about that commitment to Montenegro. It was particularly drawn to the attention of his negotiators during the Military Technical Agreement, when we insisted that the withdrawal must be to Serbia. I would add one other point here, Chair, and that is that the current evidence of the state of the VJ army is such that whilst one cannot preclude Milosevic seeking to embark upon another adventure, we do not get the impression that the foot soldiers are enthusiastic about being conscripted to such an adventure.

Mr Rowlands

  286. Who patrols the external borders with Montenegro? Is it the Federal Republican Army at the moment? Who actually controls the border with Montenegro?
  (Mr Cook) First of all, there is a significant VJ Army within Montenegro, yes, and that, of course, is accountable to Belgrade. There is also, of course, a police force in Montenegro, which is accountable to the Government of Montenegro, and in the context of Yugoslavia, "police force" is a broad term which embraces people who, in our culture, we would be more inclined to recognise as troops, or police troops. At one stage during the conflict, if I recall rightly, the VJ Army tried to take over border posts from the Montenegro Police, and I think that was reversed. Yes, it was reversed. So, at the moment, one would expect those border posts to be in the hands of police accountable to Montenegro.

  287. May I turn, Foreign Secretary, to the issue of what we have found out since the bombing has stopped? In the memorandum the Office has submitted to us, the lowest estimate of the amount of killing which went on in Kosovo was 10,000 deaths, according to the memorandum, and was, possibly, much larger. Is it the assessment from all the evidence you have received that the vast majority of those 10,000 deaths occurred after the bombing began? In other words, was the slaughter really post- or pre-bombing?
  (Mr Cook) The estimate that is commonly used, Ted, is that in the year preceding the conflict, 2,000 people were killed in Kosovo. The massacres that we have been uncovering as KFOR have gone through Kosovo are massacres which occurred during the period that followed the Serb offensive that was launched on 23 March.

  288. That is after the bombing, in effect. I think the bombing began on the 25th.
  (Mr Cook) Remember, there were a very large number of people made refugees in the first two days, because the Serb offensive commenced before the bombing—that was what triggered the bombing.

  289. I suppose one of the most curious images to the average member of the public after all the bombing that did take place, is the sight of a very large Serb Army relatively, seemingly, unscathed from all bombing, actually rolling out of Kosovo back into Serbia. Does that mean that, in effect, on the ground, the Serb military forces maintained and controlled most of Kosovo during the whole of the bombing period?
  (Mr Cook) First of all, we have never made any bones about the fact that the Serb Army was present throughout Kosovo and remained very active throughout Kosovo. There were parts of Kosovo, for instance in the western region, where it never really successfully eradicated the UCK resistance, which tended to grow during the period of the conflict. The main impact of the bombing campaign on the effectiveness of the VJ forces within Kosovo was three-fold: first of all, we blew up a large part of their fuel supply, and we know—and I think I reported this to the Committee—upon occasions the Serb Army exercises were called off because of the shortage of fuel. Secondly, we hit a number of ammunition dumps, and the conventional accepted estimate we are giving of the amount of ammunition we destroyed was almost two-thirds of their ammunition storage facilities. Third, in operational terms, the biggest single impact was that they could not move around in daylight on open days without cloud cover. Of course, as the year progressed the absence of cloud cover meant that was a bigger inhibition on them. In my conversations with Hashim Thaqi, on satellite phone during the conflict, he was repeatedly reporting that as the main impact on operational effectiveness on the Serb Army, that they could not manoeuvre and they could not concentrate their forces and they were less able to mount an offensive.

  290. But the large army that was on the ground in Kosovo was in a position to go round terrorising?
  (Mr Cook) Undoubtedly terror continued in Kosovo right up until the last day, yes.

  291. May I turn to the immediate future. What about law and order, and the courts? Presumably it is, basically, a NATO military government at the moment—
  (Mr Cook) No.

  292. A NATO military government is actually conducting the basic maintenance of civil law order in Kosovo?
  (Mr Cook) I think I would have to resist the description of Kosovo, at present, being under martial law. The mandate for the administration in Kosovo springs from the Security Council Resolution, which quite clearly puts civilian law and order, and all elements of civilian administration, in the hands of the UN interim administration. Now, it is a matter of fact that the first people into Kosovo were the Army, and I am pleased to say we now have 33,000 members of KFOR deployed in Kosovo, so we are making good progress towards the target of some 50,000. As the first people there—indeed as the only people there for some time—it is indeed the case that they have been obliged to try and maintain law and order on the streets of the towns and in the countryside. However, that is, strictly speaking, the business of the interim administration.

  293. The interim administration does not exist at the moment, just 39 UN police officers—
  (Mr Cook) It is not present on the ground. The United Nations has called for, effectively, approaching 3,000 police from member states to provide an international police force, which, over a period of time (and it is hoped a rapid period of time) would be replaced by a locally recruited and trained police force.

  294. In the meantime and until that is put in place, what happens if there is a dispute? Let us say there was a husband and wife incident and the husband might have assaulted his wife, it is the military that would actually arrest that person in this situation and lock him up.
  (Mr Cook) If there was an episode of violence, particularly if there was gunfire involved—

  295. I am not talking about gunfire, I am talking about criminal behaviour by civilians.
  (Mr Cook) Yes, I think, Ted, we have to be realistic about what our troops can actually do. They are not civilian police, let us be frank about it, and I do not want to suggest that our troops can replicate for the presence of civilian police. That has undoubtedly created a problem over the last few weeks, and one of which the military themselves are acutely aware. They have focused on serious crime and, indeed, have arrested those who are suspects of very serious crime, and they now do have judges who have been appointed from the Albanian community.

  296. There are judges?
  (Mr Cook) One should remember that Kosovo had its own indigenous administration up until 1989 when autonomy was suspended and, effectively, the whole of that governing elite were dismissed. One of the ways of trying to immediately kick-start a civil administration in Kosovo is to trace and reinstate those who were providing the administration of 1989. Sr de Mello, the Acting Special Representative for the Secretary General, has reappointed a number of those judges who were dismissed in 1989 to administer law and order in the interim position.

  297. I am interested in that, because, in fact, in the memorandum you say that UNMIK will need to draw up, interpret and apply law across the board. In fact, a UN organisation is actually going to rewrite the legislation, the laws of Kosovo and actually re-establish civil order?
  (Mr Cook) Dr Jones Parry will put me right on this, but I think it would be false to put it in terms of UNMIK rewriting the law; we would not regard ourselves as necessarily having the competence to do that even if we, on a strict reading of the Security Council resolution, may have some kind of mandate for it. We would much rather see the laws and customs of Kosovo as they were in 1989 being applied by people who understood them.

  298. I am only reading your own memorandum which describes it in those terms. "UNMIK will need to draw up, interpret and apply law across the board".
  (Mr Cook) But we are not going to draw it up unilaterally, Ted. We are only going to do it in consultation with those who understand it.
  (Dr Jones Parry) I think, Mr Rowlands, you have to take all three of those. "Interpret" means, actually, that there are laws of the FRY which are quite sensible laws and which should be applied. What UNMIK will have to do is specify and give an indication to the population what laws in totality should apply until there is some form of interim administration capable of actually enacting the law.

  299. A final point, if I may. In your memorandum you are quite encouraging about the demilitarisation of the KLA. The memorandum states that, in fact, the guns have been handed in at these checkpoints and the agreement is sticking. You are not complacent on that matter, are you? Is the situation as good as the memorandum describes, in terms of the KLA?
  (Mr Cook) I would like to think that I am not guilty of complacency in any dimension of Kosovo—I have had too much familiarity with the Balkans to take anything for granted—but the word we generally use is the word that is used also by KFOR, which is "satisfactory". First of all, a large number of the KLA—we believe the majority of those who were in full-time service with them—have registered at assembly sites. The fact that not all have registered is not necessarily sinister; indeed, one could well say that this is actually encouraging evidence of their rapid assimilation back into civilian life. A very large volume of weapons was surrendered in the initial week. Indeed, there was a feeling that we were actually ahead of where we might have expected to be in terms of the surrendering of weapons. So, at the present time, whilst nobody would seek to claim that there is 100 per cent compliance, the compliance is satisfactory, the agreement is working and there are not armed bands of the KLA active within Kosovo.

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