Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20 - 39)



  20. Supposed to. That is your word, but it seems to me that we are always going to be saying "supposed to". There is not even clarity amongst them who has jurisdiction.
  (Mr Judah) That is why I think it is a political problem rather than what is actually on paper. The second part of your question—well, yes, there should be clarity one way or the other. Either there is going to be a new federation, in which everything is clear, or there is not going to be a new federation, in which case Serbia will obviously have only one government.

  21. Even if, supposing, in the unlikely event of the Montenegrin people voting to stay in FRY, it seems to me the issue is not going to go away. It is going to continuously hamper progress because the Serbs, in fairness to them, are giving generous terms—like positive discrimination in terms of legislature, seats in government rotating between President/Prime minister and so on—whereas you have a federation and you have large and small units of federation sets, there is no precedent for a federation which has got, say, this lacking of symmetry and scale. I mean, the Serbs are going to get aggravated by it eventually.
  (Mr Judah) I agree with that, but we have to understand that, if there is going to be a new federation, it will be accompanied by precisely a lot of negotiations and discussions about what any federal authorities which remain will do. "Probably not very much," is the answer to that.

  22. Yes.
  (Mr Judah) But we have not got there yet.

  Mr Mackinlay: Your colleague, Dr von Hippel, mentioned constituent assembly for Kosovo. I wonder if you could beef up on that.

  Chairman: We will be moving on to Kosovo. I think, Mr Chidgey, you had a question.

Mr Chidgey

  23. Mr Glenny, you were talking about the need to keep the Balkans in the public eye and the feeling of neglect. I would like to come back to finish that point, if I may, before we drift off into other areas. One of the issues that was made very strongly to us by many of the ministers in our recent visit was the awareness they have of the population's need to see change, to see something better than they had under Milosevic, to see an end to the deprivation and the poverty of their lives; the ministers feeling that they have to deliver and deliver fast or chaos could return. It is rather like they have just learned to ride a bike and have to keep peddling, because, if they fell off, it would be a disaster. Sir John was mentioning policy a moment ago, British policy, what it should be. I really wanted to say to you all that there seem to be a series of priorities here. One is the EU package, which has been moving, and moving very fast. The other one, of course, is the wider issue, or potentially wider issue, of the events in Presevo and the latest package announced by the Serbian Government on how to provide economic and social developments to which all ethnic groups can have access and take ownership of. In your view, do these priorities clash? What should the British Government's policy be in supporting both or either in priority to the other? How important is the Presevo initiative?
  (Mr Glenny) The Covic initiative of the last week or so?

  24. Yes.
  (Mr Glenny) As far as I can see, there is an extraordinary consensus building around the Covic package, including local moderate representatives of the Albanians,both as a strategy for reducing tension there but also building up the region economically. My own feeling is that this initiative at the moment looks like it may fly. It has strong international backing; it has strong local backing from both instances; and everyone I have spoken to involved in the negotiations is very impressed with Covic's personal performance.


  25. I would like to move on to—
  (Mr Glenny) May I briefly say something about Montenegro?

  Chairman: We would like to move on to Montenegro later. Basically, I would like to move on to the Hague Tribunal, then move on to Montenegro, and then Kosovo.

Mr Chidgey

  26. Mr Glenny, again you touched briefly, in your response to an earlier question by Dr Starkey, on the issue of the indictment of Milosevic and whether or not the reluctance to indict him by Kostunica was because of the danger of making him a hero or a martyr if he was taken off to the Hague. That was a situation expounded in Belgrade. You did not seem to put much credence on that but can I just press you on that. There was quite a persuasive case made that the first thing that needs to be done with Milosevic is to discredit him by making it clear he is nothing better than a common but rather successful criminal, which was an argument for prosecuting first in Serbia and maybe then eventually in the Hague. Or is your argument that, if he was carted off to the Hague and indicted and successfully tried as a war criminal, that in fact would be an indictment against the Serbian nation? Would that not be, therefore, the end finally of any aspirations of the further agenda of continuing to support the concept of greater Serbia? Are there undercurrents here about which we are not particularly clear?
  (Mr Glenny) There are lots of undercurrents. It is a terribly complicated situation, largely because the institution of the Hague Tribunal itself is a very new institution with really quite substantial implications for policy in international relations. Kostunica resists the extradition of Milosevic basically because he believes the Hague Tribunal to be compromised by its relationship with the Americans, in particular, and American intelligence. He believes that the Hague Tribunal is being used as a way of demonising Serbs and he makes a persuasive case for this. Personally, I do not think he is thinking politically. Djindjic, I think, in his response, shows that he is thinking politically about the Hague. It is important, certainly, for Serbs to have a crack at the whip, in my opinion.


  27. What does that mean in fact? That he would have a domestic tribunal?
  (Mr Glenny) A domestic trial for crimes committed inside Serbia, because, although Jonathan pointed out that he was elected, he first came to power, Milosevic, using all the institutions of a one-party state and when he was elected he was elected with the use of rigged votes and so on and so forth. Therefore, to claim that he is a legitimate representative and a metaphor for Serbian political aspirations, I think, is questionable to a degree. So the Serbs want him for crimes committed/undertaken; they are, however, committed to extraditing him prior to any national—

Mr Chidgey

  28. If I may just on that point there: the arguments also point out that they have to change their constitution in order to have a fair trial.
  (Mr Glenny) In fact yesterday, I think it was, Momcilo Grubac, the Federal Justice Minister, said it will take between four and five months and then they will have extradition procedures in place for the Hague.

  29. In the interim, is there anything to stop the Serbian authorities handing over other indictee war criminals who are from other countries and other nationalities?—from Croatia or Bosnia and Slovenia, for example.
  (Mr Glenny) They cannot hand them over if they are Yugoslav citizens. If they are not Yugoslav citizens they can hand them over to third parties; that is, they can send them back to Bosnia.

  30. Is there any evidence that there are any of these indictees in the country?
  (Mr Glenny) There is a suspicion that Mladic is in Yugoslavia, but there is not hard evidence.

  31. One final question from me, if I may. Again, it has been mooted that there should be an establishment of a Truth Commission in the context of the ICTY. I would like to hear your views on that because one of the issues that concerns us is that it is no more than a public relations exercise or, even worse, would it be suggesting there should be an amnesty attached to it, as in the South African model. In fact we were advised by some people we saw that this was not the case, but I could well see that if we went to a Truth Commission that concept of amnesty certainly becomes attached to it.
  (Mr Glenny) The situation is not comparable with the South African situation, for reasons I will not bother to go into. The problem with truth and reconciliation is that you are dealing with not just Serbia and Yugoslavia but also Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Were there a truth and reconciliation committee, to be of any value it would require everyone involved to commit themselves to it and the indications that I hear, out of Croatia in particular, is that they possibly would not be very happy with this idea. But those are only indications. Also, the Serbs are probably going to have very different opinions on this as well.

Dr Starkey

  32. May I just clarify a comment you gave in answer to David Chidgey's previous question: Is Mladic a Yugoslav citizen? Are we talking about Yugoslavia as it was when we talk about Yugoslavian citizens or Yugoslavia as it is now?
  (Mr Judah) Perhaps I can just read something. This comes from Belgrade every morning (indicating newspaper cutting)
  (Mr Glenny) The Soviet Justice Minister says—and I paraphrase—that there are indications that General Mladic might be a Yugoslav citizen.
  (Mr Judah) Yes, although he says he is still not sure. Asked whether he referred to Ratka Mladic, he said, ". . . he has obtained information that Ratka Mladic is a `FRY citizen' but he himself could not confirm it."

  33. So the answer is that it is fuzzy, is it?
  (Mr Judah) Obviously no-one seems to have gone to check. I am not quite sure why. In answer to the question of whether he lives in Yugoslavia, he said "Everyone knows that he used to live, until at least a couple of months ago, in a suburb of Banova Brdo."


  34. I think Mr Steele is trying to answer your question.
  (Mr Steele) Chairman, I wanted to bring up a point in answer to what David Chidgey said about Presevo, unless you are having a block of questions on Presevo later.

Dr Starkey

  35. I am unclear what the answer was then. Are we saying that nobody knows whether he is a Yugoslav citizen and ditto Karadzic
  (Mr Glenny) The Serbian Justice Minister is evidently unclear as to whether Mladic Ratka is a Yugoslav citizen or not.

  36. And the same with Karadzic?
  (Mr Glenny) Yes. I mean, I cannot imagine that either of them would have taken out Bosnian citizenship! That is the only thing I can say on that.


  37. Mr Steele, if you would make a comment on what Mr Chidgey said and then refer back to Dr Starkey.
  (Mr Steele) I simply wanted to use the opportunity to say something about Presevo, unless you are going to have a series of questions on that because I think that is an extremely important issue and it does reflect what Britain should be doing about it. I absolutely agree with Misha Glenny that the Covic initiative is very good, but at the same time I think it is very important not to give a total blank cheque to Mr Covic and his initiative. The main thing is about what the new government is doing: first, that they are recognising it as a political problem that has to be solved by political means—this is clearly a distinction to the way Milosevic behaved in Kosovo; secondly, they are recognising the past injustices done by Serbian governments to the Albanians of South Serbia, and recognising that they were thrown out of public service jobs, the police, hospital management and all the other things, and that, therefore, the Albanians would have a genuine grievance; and, thirdly, that they are trying to talk to the Albanians. I think it is very creditable that they are talking not only to political Albanians, like Riza Halimi the mayor of Presevo, but also they have said that they are willing to talk to the leaders of the UCPMB guerilla movement that is operating down there. I think that is a major step forward. However, I think the corollary of this initiative is: what happens if it does not work? That is where I come back to my point about the blank cheque. I think there is great danger, if British policy, indeed EU policy, overwhelmingly supports Covic, it is then going to be bound to say, if the policy fails, "Do they use military means?" and we look a little bit hopeless if we do not say, "Yes, we do now accept that they can use military means." Of course that would be a disaster. I think it is quite clear that the Yugoslav army is already doing things which they should not be doing in that area. I was there two and a half weeks ago and I saw tanks firing from Serbia proper into the buffer zone. Of course we know that the Yugoslav army is not allowed to penetrate that zone physically with vehicles or men, but, if they are firing shells in there that may be a moot point in terms of legality and the Kumanovo agreement, but in terms of humanitarian consequence it is disastrous. It is creating the same kind of refugee exodus that we saw when the Yugoslav army was shelling Albanian villages in Kosovo two years ago. I think that this is a very dangerous tactic that the Yugoslav army has been pursuing. Some of the senior Serb journalists I spoke to in Bujanovac, who are down there most of the time, felt that there could be a split of policy between Covic and Pavkovic, the Chief of Staff of the Yugoslav army, and, indeed, that it might be a deliberate one, that Pavkovic might be trying to sabotage the Covic initiative because he wants to move to military means. I think it would be very important that we get some kind of international presence into this area, whether it is unarmed UN observers of some kind who can be there to monitor exactly what is going on and give information so we do not just take all the information from Covic and his people. Secondly, that we might even have to think of allowing KFOR to be able to move into that area in some capacity or other, preferably in a joint operation, which could include not only the Serbs of Serbia but even the Albanians of Kosovo, so that it was a tripartite thing, with Albanian representation from Pristina, KFOR, and Serb representation from Belgrade, so that it is really even-handed and able to see what is going on. But, as I say, I think the situation could very well deteriorate quite quickly as the spring comes on and as the so-called fighting season begins, when you get cover from the trees and so on, and the snow, such as it is—though it is not particularly snowy at the moment—melts. If we are left with this policy, if we just say Covic is doing a wonderful job, we could be really caught.

Sir Peter Emery

  38. Could I ask you about the Presevo Valley. Mr Rowlands and myself went up with 4-5 Commando, watching. The fact is that every two weeks 60 new Kosovo Albanians were coming to a camp, being trained in military arms drills, etcetera, and leaving or dissipating and another 60 would come. Asking what all this meant, the reply that we had from the military who were there, much in contact with the local people, was: "War? The war has not ended. The war has not really begun." How far is that stretching? How much is that going to be a permanent factor in the next two or three years of re-armament, desire to re-fight, desire to avenge, I suppose, in some way or other?
  (Mr Steele) As I say, I think it could be very dangerous over the next two or three years, and, indeed, earlier. There is no doubt that there has been a radicalisation of the Albanian population of South Serbia in the last year. When I was there about a year ago, in January last year, local Albanians were willing to criticise the UCPMB, saying, "We do not want this, we do not think it is a good idea," and so on. Now, it is very hard to hear an Albanian criticise the UCPMB, so that there has been this closing of ranks. Whether it is entirely a genuine agreement or whether there is some kind of intimidation going on, that nobody wants to come out publicly and criticise them, you know, it is very hard to say, but there is clearly a radicalisation of the Albanian population. It was pointed out quite accurately that there is a massive training programme going on of these guerrillas. They want to destabilise the area, they do want to provoke something. There are some internal disagreements of tactics and so on but I think the general strategy is clear. Definitely a great deal of blame attaches to the guerilla side for destabilising the situation, but, nevertheless it creates a problem in which, if the Yugoslav reaction is excessive, it further feeds this Albanian polarisation and radicalisation. That is why I think at this early stage now, before it gets to major war, there should be some sort of interposition of independent people of the kind I mentioned earlier, to try and keep a lid on it at the moment at least.


  39. Before I call Mr Rowlands, who was also there, could I ask you, Dr von Hippel, to give the perspective from Kosovo on what has just been said?
  (Dr von Hippel) I agree with what my colleagues are saying, but I think it is important from the Kosovo perspective that whatever comes out of the discussions that are ongoing inside Kosovo that they include the Albanians in the Presevo region as well and try to open the dialogue between the two, so that if Kosovo does become independent there would still be cross-border relationships. If it is not independent, it is the same story in that sense. It is very difficult with the ... I do not know what to call them any more—the former KLA or some of the Albanian extremists that are undertaking a lot of this activity. It is very difficult to say who is leading it and where it is coming from. So I do not even know, in terms of inside Kosovo, the type of influence that they have across the border. On the other hand, as Misha Glenny was saying earlier the Americans do have a lot of influence. Last year, when this issue was raised, in March or whenever it was, when Tim was in Kosovo—and he was the only one worried about it at the time, but it was raised as an issue—the Americans quite quickly sat on it and somehow used their influence with the Albanians to stop the conflict from exploding. I think they are about to deploy some EU monitors. I think I read that yesterday or the day before. But I agree that those are good solutions to the problem.

  Chairman: Before asking Mr Mackinlay to lead on Montenegro, I know that Mr Rowlands, who was there with Sir Peter, would like to comment.

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