Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1
TUESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2001
Chairman: Lady and gentlemen, may I, on behalf
of the committee, welcome you to our proceedings. We are really
looking, as a committee, at the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
post the fall of Milosevic. The whole landscape of the area clearly
has changed as a result of the dramatic picture of October 5.
It could have been a violent change, as happened in 1989 with
Ceaucescu; it could have been a velvet change. It is to the credit
of those in Serbia that it was, indeed, a non-violent change.
We shall, with you, explore the implications. I welcome, on behalf
of the Committee, Misha Glenny; Dr Karin von Hippel of the Centre
for Defence Studies of King's College London; Tim Judah, who has
appeared before us before; and Jonathan Steele, to give us your
views on the significance of post-October 5 Yugoslavia. May I
begin by asking for an assessment from each of you as to where
power now lies in the new structure. How do you see the coalition
which brought President Kostunica to power? What are likely to
be the relationships between the federal authority of President
Kostunica and the Serbian authority, and, also, the personalities,
with Prime Minister Djindjic? Where does the power now lie? How
is that power likely to evolve? Who would like to start? Tim Judah,
you have written excessively
Sir David Madel: Extensively.
Chairman: "Extensively" is the word
I was looking for.
Sir David Madel
(Mr Judah) Thank you. Over the last few days and weeks
there has been this debate that has been going on and on about
what to do about Milosevic and we have seen various ministers
all giving contradictory statements. I think that really puts
a spotlight on what you are getting at. I think the obvious problem
is that you have a coalition of 18 partiesmost of which
are rather small, of course, but still they are holding together18
parties within the Serbian Government, and then you have got the
Yugoslav authorities which are dominated by Mr Kostunica, and
then again, of course, you have the problem of Montenegro, the
integration into the Yugoslav authorities of one wing of the Montenegrin
body politic. Although it is hanging together somewhat or it is
hanging together, it is making decision-making an extremely slow
process. I think it is to their credit that the major conflicts
which could have broken out have to quite a large extent been
contained and internalised, but for the long-term, for the future,
how that pans out remains to be seen.
2. How fragile is it?
(Mr Judah) A lot of it will depend on what happens
in Montenegro. We have elections scheduled for April 22 in Montenegro.
After that it will be clear if and when there is going to be a
referendum. Clearly, if the pro-Belgrade forces win, it seems
very unlikely that there will be a referendum, or, if there is,
they will phrase a question which will be to their benefit; if
the pro-independence forces which are now in control win the election,
by implication they would also win a referendum because really
the election is about the future of Montenegro, obviously, and
therefore is about independence. But, of course, if after April,
perhaps in May or June or a little bit further onwe do
not know yetthere is a referendum then Montenegro secedes,
then there is no more Yugoslav layer of authority. Part of the
problem is that in Belgrade you have a country with a population
that is smaller than the size of London but really with two governments:
you have got a Yugoslav layer, but which does not actually run
anything in Montenegro, and you have got a Serbian layer, which
is also trying to contain a very diverse coalition. But I think
it is really only after we have clarified the situation in Montenegro
that at least one part of that problem will go away.
3. Would anyone like to disagree with that or
(Mr Glenny) There has been, frankly, a fairly obvious
power struggle in Belgrade ever since October 5, between Kostunica
on the one hand and Zoran Djindjic on the other hand. My own feeling
is that Kostunicaalthough the Montenegrin issue and the
survival of the federation plays a very important role in itis
losing this struggle at the moment, fairly obviously; that his
influence is waning domestically. Although he still maintains
considerable popular support, he does not have a political base.
Djindjic is a much more experienced politician. He has a very
powerful and sophisticated political party which is sinking itself
very effectively into all sorts of institutions. I think more
and more the counterbalance to Djindjic and his influence comes
from two politicians within the Serbian Government, Nebojsa Covic
on the one hand, a former mayor of Belgrade, who is the deputy
prime minister and the man who is responsible at the moment for
the discussions of moving the negotiations on Presevo Valley,
and Dusan Mihajlovic, who is the interior minister. They are not
from Djindjic's party and they act as a certain balance on Djindjic.
But Kostunica himself, I think, has damaged himself somewhat recently,
particularly over the way that he handled the Carla Del Ponte
visit to Belgrade. There is more pressure on Belgrade internationally
and it has focused more on Kostunica's attitude than Djindjic's,
who was much more cautious about how he responded to Del Ponte's
4. Do you wish to comment, Dr von Hippel?
(Dr von Hippel) I would rather focus more on Kosovo.
5. So be it. We will come on to that. Jonathan
(Mr Steele) I would like to add a couple of points
which are more to do with institutions rather than personalities.
I think there is still some question mark over the role and loyalty
of the Yugoslav army, which is still led by the chief of staff
who was there at the time of Milosevic. This has relevance, I
think, for the Presevo Valleyand I am sure we will come
on to that in detail later onbut also some questions over
the Serbian police. We have just heard Misha Glenny pointing out
that Dusan Mihajlovic is in charge of that, but some of the top
people who have just been appointed, like Sreten Lukic ... He
is a man who has quite a bad past in the Kosovo issue and he is
now very influential at the head of the Serbian police. Then on
the economy, although this may be in more detail than you necessarily
want, I think there are problems about privatisation. In the last
three months of last year, strangely, they allowed the privatisation
ministry to be in the hands of only one minister, whereas most
of the other ministries were divided up into three, as in the
transitional government. That particular minister was loyal to
Milosevic and carried out a rather odd, slightly sleazy form of
privatisation: something like 200 companies were practically given
to old cronies of the Milosevic regime. I think one of the questions
which the new government has to face is whether to try and unravel
these rather hasty privatisations of the last three months.
Sir David Madel
6. When we were there last week, we had quite
a lot of formal and informal references to the standard of living.
If the standard of living slips, who will get the blame? If the
standard of living rises, who will get the credit?
(Mr Steele) I think obviously the government has to
be thought in charge, but I mean the question partly will relate,
I think, to the issues with which you are concerned, which is
the European Union role. As I understandand I am sure you
were told on your recent visit to Belgradethe EU money
has come through very effectively for fuel oil for the central
heating plants in the municipalities and electricity is being
imported from Bulgaria, particularly, and being paid for by the
EU. Some food, I think sugar and cooking oil, is being supplied
by the EU. So there is a responsibility that the EU has taken
on board, and I think, therefore, if the EU suddenly stops, let
us say after six months or in the short term, and says, "We
have now given enough aid," some of the blame may be put
on the EU by the population for having supported democracy and
begun to give some help and then apparently stopped it.
7. The reason I asked the question was because
you had already referred to a power struggle and it breaking down.
(Mr Glenny) It will depend where people are. On the
whole, I think, it will impact negatively both on Kostunica's
rating and Djindjic's rating, but it is also a very localised
thing. There are some areas where unemployment is much, much heavier
and where there is considerable despair already. There is a peculiar
situation in Belgrade, to which I think DOS is being very slow
to respond, and that is the absence of a mayor, who has considerable
executive powers, because the very popular elected mayor has gone
off to be our master in Washington. The people of Belgrade are
extremely angry about that. I think the question of where they
put the blame will depend very much on which part of the country
they are in. But, on the whole, they are more likely to blame
Djindjic and his government than they are Kostunica. There is
still a lot of popular faith in Kostunica.
8. I would like to pick up on something that
Mr Steele said, which is something of which we were aware when
we were there. There are a lot of people still running the government
who were there before, whose commitment to democracy must be somewhat
doubtful. Are those people going to be gradually eased out? If
they are not, are we right to have any real confidence in a democratic
transition in Serbia?
(Mr Glenny) When you say "people still running
the government" what sort of people are you referring to?
9. Various. I think the person who bombarded
(Mr Steele) Lukic.
10. Lukic. Lukic walked past us in one of the
meetings that we were in. You mentioned people who were pretty
close to Milosevic who are in the ministries and what not, and
of course there is the Montenegrin participants within the government
who actually represent the party which was largely an ally of
(Mr Glenny) I think you will find, if you look at
the transitions throughout Eastern Europe, there was often tremendous
overlap, for one very simple point of view: you have to have some
people who actually understand the administration of government.
There are some people who should clearly be unacceptable to the
Serbian political establishment itself and the international community.
There are individual cases, like the one, Lukic, that Jonathan
has pointed out, but, on the whole, bearing in mind that a large
number of people, including members of the opposition themselves,
were compromised in one way or another under Milosevicif
not to do with war then certainly to do with the economyyou
have to have a certain flexibility here. I am not saying that
you allow war criminals in or anything like that, but there is
a fundamental commitment to real change and opening up of institutions.
I think there is a lot of evidence that that is happening, and,
as regards to what Jonathan was saying about the sleazy privatisations,
they have in the past week or so made a very firm commitment to
investigate these and make sure that none of these cronies of
Milosevic pick up this stuff for free. So I think you will see
evidence of them really trying to strengthen democratic institutions
at the expense of individual profit.
11. Do the others agree with that?
(Mr Judah) Yes, I agree with that, but I wanted to
come back to a related question, which is to do with the economy
but it is also to do with war crimes and to do with the Hague.
It puts us, in a way, on the horns of a dilemma: Do we say we
are not going to give aid? Or do we condition aid unless war criminals
are handed over?which then makes problems for the governing
coalition. That is certainly going to happen with the Americans,
who, as far as I have understood it, have put a deadline of March
31, by which time the President has to certify that Belgrade is
co-operating with the war crimes tribunal to get aid, economic
12. One of the points that was made to us while
we were there was that the danger with the war crimes tribunal
is that it turns war criminals into heroes and martyrs in their
own country. The newspapers yesterday reported a big demonstration
in Croatia demonstrating exactly that, that they had turned into
heroes these people who had gone. Do you think the Truth Commission
is a way of actually dealing with that?
(Mr Glenny) The Croatian situation is somewhat different
from the Serbian situation. What has been going on in Croatia
identifies how delicate this whole process is and that there is
a very serious domestic impact that the Hague has. I sometimes
think that the Hague is not quite aware of how political a role
it has domestically in the countries in the former Yugoslavia.
But, as regards Milosevic and the other four remaining indictees,
hostility towards Milosevic and his regime at the moment is running
so high still, that, after a process of arrest, negotiation, the
whole process of getting Yugoslav laws in line so that they can
be extradited, I actually do not think there would be a problem
getting rid of Milosevic at the moment. Actually, it is in the
Yugoslav authority's and the Serbian authority's own interest
to get rid of this problem because while he is there I think he
is actually more of a problem than were he in the Hague or in
a Serbian gaol.
Sir John Stanley
13. As you know, the focus of the committee's
work is the British Government's policy. I would just like, therefore,
to ask each of you if you could, as succinctly as you can, to
answer this question. Do you feel that the British Government's
present policy is doing all you would expect to try to reinforce
the process of democratisation and genuine freedom within the
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia? Are there things you would wish
to see the British Government doing that it is not doing at the
moment? Are there things that the British Government is doing
which you would prefer it was not doing at the moment? What is
your view as to whether there should be a visit by a senior minister,
particularly the Foreign Secretary, to Belgrade at this time?
I specifically ask that question because it was suggested to us
during our meetings last week in Belgrade that there might be
a degree of diffidence in the Foreign Office at the moment about
the Foreign Secretary going to Belgrade, given the high visibility
of the cruise missile damage and possibly adverse public reaction
on the streets if he went. Do you feel that a visit by him to
Belgrade would be a beneficial and very visible indication of
strong British support for the new democratic movement in Serbia?
(Mr Steele) I think, broadly, British policy is quite
correct at the moment. I would only be sorry if, in line with
what I said before, there was any backing off in terms of money.
I mean, it is very important to build up civil society or restore
civil society in Yugoslavia. That was done a lot in the last year
or two through programmes that eventually did culminate in the
overthrow of Milosevic and I think it would be a great pity if
we suddenly appeared to be backing off that in terms of cutting
back our funding because we feel the whole issue of Yugoslavia
was simply whether Milosevic is there or not. It is obviously
a lot deeper problem than the fate of one particular man, even
though he had a great power at the time. We need to continue these
programmes for helping the media, young journalists, training
people in the judiciary and explaining the benefits of an independent
judiciary, all these kind of things, and, of course, in the social
field I think a great deal needs to be done, in terms of their
hospitals, their social work, their educational system and so
on. I just hope the kind of programmes we have already got in
place in many other transition countries would go forward in Yugoslavia.
Coming on to your specific point about a visit by Robin Cook,
if the visit is designed to establish contacts with the government,
we have already done that, of course -because Kostunica and Djindjic
have travelled a lot and people know pretty much what they think.
If it is meant to be, as you have suggested, a visible sort of
flag-flying exercise. I do not see any harm in that; I do not
see any particular urgency in doing it either. I do not think
it is very high priority one way or the other at this stage.
(Mr Judah) Yes, I completely agree with that. I think
the problem with Mr Cook is that perhaps it was his visibility
during the period of the bombing which made him something of a
hate figure. Why he became more of a hate figure than, for example,
Hugo Vedrine, who was there within days of the fall of Milosevic,
I have no idea, but that is simply the case and I think in that
case it is probably just unnecessary for a visit. There is nothing
really to gain. If that is the legacy of the bombing, well, let
us just leave it, I would have thought.
14. And on the wider issue of British Government
(Mr Judah) I agree, I think British policy is quite
correct at the moment. Of course I completely agree with Jonathan
that aid should be continued, etcetera, but I think the vast majority
of the serious problems are not things which we can ... We may
be able to advise or help when it comes to things like privatisation,
but a lot of the political problems are their problems. They have
to sort out their political problems. There is nothing much we
can do about that.
(Dr von Hippel) I can answer that in terms of how
it affects Kosovo, if I may.
(Dr von Hippel) I think that if Montenegro does become
independent that is going to undermine the stability in Kosovo,
and that would be something that will need to be addressed with
the new government in Belgrade. It may be the time to start putting
more pressure on both Kosovo and Belgrade to support a serious
definition of what substantial autonomy means in Kosovo as well
as to push them to hold province-wide elections sooner rather
than later. That is one point. The second point is that Javier
Solana went to Belgrade last week. There was a lot of negative
publicity surrounding his visit and it turned out actually to
be quite a positive visit and I think he felt very positive afterwards.
In terms of Robin Cook, he is probably equally reviled, but it
may be that it is time for him to consider when he will do it,
and, even if it is, just to get it over with more than anything.
(Mr Glenny) As far as I understand it, the diffidence
was actually more from the Yugoslav side than from the Foreign
Office's side of that visit, but the Solana visit is an important
breakthrough and after that, in terms of the Yugoslavs getting
over their problem, I do not think that exists any more. I think
the point that Jonathan and Tim were makingabout: Is there
a specific reason for doing it now?is more germane here.
But there are serious issues. British policy is, of course, always
linked up with EU policy as well. At the moment what you are still
seeing is a degree of competition and misunderstanding between
American policy and EU policy in the area. In some instances like
the Presevo Valley the EU appears to fade away, for reasons which
I do not understand. The main diplomatic thrust on Presevo is
now coming from the US, who are actually getting close to micro-managing
the whole situation, and I think, given that the EU must learn
to take primary responsibility, diplomatic and aid responsibility
for the former Yugoslavia in South-Eastern Europe, it makes it
look rather bad when this sort of thing happens. It is very important
to keep South-Eastern Europe in the public eye and not to allow
it to become a non-issue, because there are several very important
problems we are facing: Montenegro, Presevo, Kosovo and, in the
longer term, Macedonia, not to mention Bosnia-Herzegovina, where
they can come at you in their field and they can create a very
serious security problem very quickly. So I think it is an important
part of policy just to keep people aware that this is a very delicate
situation. Very briefly on Serbia, there is a question about the
independent media at the moment to which I would like to alert
the committee, and that is the question of frequencies to independent
television and radio stations. A moratorium has been slapped on
this by the government which is essentially excluding certain
independent media from proper access to the airwaves. One station
that claims to be affected by this is B92, which was really important
in keeping alive opposition to Milosevic throughout this period.
This is something in which British policy can keep a close interestwe
always have done in the pastto make sure that we do not
see any kind of abuses going on, coming from the new government,
which might restrict the flow of information to Yugoslav citizens.
Sir John Stanley: The independent media is an
issue which we raised on a number of occasions in our discussions
in Belgrade and we also had some very interesting conversations
with some of the representatives of the independent media, including
the B92 station you refer to. Could I say, through you, Chairman,
that, if Mr Glenny has any additional memoranda or any additional
information or concerns about what the present government is doing
in terms of restricting the independent media, it would be very
helpful to have it in any supplementary memoranda which he would
like to give the Committee.
16. Indeed. Sir John, you will recall that when
we were there, in relation to what Mr Steele said, there was a
Wilton Park Conference with experts brought in on the freedom
of the media, so we are doing something useful in that regard.
(Mr Steele) If I may just add a point. The independent
media is crucially important but so is the state media and I think
it is very important that the state media does not become just
a tool of DOS. One did hear remarks when I was there a few weeks
ago that DOS was a kind of mirror image of the old Socialist Party-run
media of Milosevic. I do not think that was entirely true. During
the transitional period before the elections they did have an
arrangement where the main parties were represented on some sort
of board, but I am not quite sure, to be honest, what the position
now is. I think if we could establish something much more like
the BBC model or the ITN model, where you do have genuine independent
non-partisan control of these state media, it is very, very important.
Sir Peter Emery
17. Just following on from that, we saw the
Commander in Chief and two members of the general staff in the
army headquarters. They all had been serving for some time and
we were inundated with a carrier of propaganda, pamphlets and
tapes, massively condemning NATO and holding out that all the
action of the American was scandalous, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Is that mainly with the military, only with the military, or do
you see that spread right across or just in central Southern Serbia
where Milosevic's support really lies? How deep is this? How difficult
is it going to be to overcome, to bring democratic feelings that
what happened was for the good of Yugoslavia?
(Mr Steele) I think that particular point is going
to be very hard to get across. It is very difficult for anybody
to accept the idea that bombing was useful to bring about democracy
in one's own country. Having said that, I do think that the bombing,
with hindsight, can be said to have helped to bring down Milosevic,
but I do not think the connection that ordinary people made was
that the bombing was right, Milosevic was wrong, therefore the
bombing helped to bring down Milosevic.
18. How much is this condemnation going to suffer
(Mr Steele) I think this is a very big issue, how
any country deals with its past, particularly when there are allegations
and, indeed, strong evidence that criminality was used, not only
at the top level but at many other levels, including, as you say,
the army, and the police of coursedo not forget the police.
To come to terms with collective responsibilityand not
collective guilt, because that is a different issuebecause
these governments actually were elected, the Milosevic governments,
is a very, very complex and long-term thing. Perhaps that will
come up in further questioning. I do not want to go on with that
(Dr von Hippel) In Kosovo, where I think the majority
of the Serbs are quite conservative, actually, there was certainly
an attitude among many of them that the Albanian exodus was organised
by the Americans, etcetera. So I think there is going to have
to be an information campaign, even in Kosovo, amongst the Serbs
and it will take them a while to get to the stage where they are
ready to have more discussions with the Albanians about what happened
during the bombing campaign. But there is certainly ... I hate
to use the word "ignorance" about what happened during
the campaign, or maybe "denial", I am not quite sure,
amongst many of the Serbs that I was dealing with there.
(Mr Glenny) The hostility to the bombing campaign
is very widespread, I would say almost consensual among Serbs.
However, I would say that the desire for reintegration into the
international community and Europe is for the moment notably stronger
than that and it overrides the hostility to the NATO campaign.
Where this is important is in the future, that if Serbs were to
feel in the future that they were bombed and then neglected, or
then discriminated against on, as it were, a more level playing
field, then it may return as a cause for unhappiness, resistance
to European policy or American policy. But for the momentand
this is why I stress needing to keep the region in the public
eye and everyone encouraged and for us to be engaged the whole
timethis is a problem that can be overcome with clear sensible
policy vision from the West.
19. The Federation of Montenegro. Take it as
read, we understand that there are plenty of Montenegrins who
support FRY and also a big community in Serbia, etcetera, we understand
that it is argued that there could be a knocking-on effect in
the region of Macedonia and so on if it was independent. Take
that all as read. It did seem to me that there is a paralysis,
because in fact you have these two governments, and the federal
one, the area in which it runs, does not include Montenegro, so,
in reality, there is not a federation at the present time. It
seemed to me this has an impact on (1) the delivery on justice,
including whether or not people are surrendered upbecause
who does it, the Serbian Government or the federal government?
The interface with the European Union and other organisations:
is it the Serbian Government or the federal government? In terms
of privatisation: who has title? Is it the federal government
or the Serbian Government? It seems to me that until that is resolved
there really cannot be any advance. (2) It seemed to me that,
despite taken as read the problems which might flow from Montenegrin
independence, would it not be better to have resolved that and
for there to be independence, because then there would be one
government, one administration in Serbia which would be both good
domestically but also in terms of international relationships'
developments and containing other problems in the region. I mean,
there is no constitutional symmetry at the present time.
(Mr Judah) I think, although there is of course this
overlap, it is perhaps one of a political nature rather than of
a constitutional nature because I think that technically who does
what is apportioned. For example, the Yugoslav Government is supposed
to take care of foreign affairs and