Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 79)



Sir David Madel

  60. You are saying that if Montenegro went independent it would be just as peaceful in its relationship with Serbia as Scotland would be in its relationship with England?
  (Mr Judah) Unless there were people who decided that it was in their political interests to stir things up, if there were people who wanted to stir up those who were against independence in the north, but I do not think that realistically that that is going to happen. Historically the Serbs and the Montenegrins, as you know, were never extremely close. There is no legacy there, there is no history of hostility between them, so in that context, yes, I think so.

  Mr Rowlands: The point that Mr Judah started to touch upon, a rather serious point, I thought, was that if in fact the European Union or the international community are going to be in a position to endorse the result of a referendum do they have some right to have an input into the way the referendum is going to be run and organised? There is a Referendum Bill, is there, or a Bill going to come through in Montenegro to establish the referendum? Would it be proper for the European Union and the international community to say that that Bill should either have a qualified majority of the kind you were describing, Mr Judah, and secondly that there should at least be some fair opportunity within the media for those who are not in favour of a referendum to be heard properly? The impression one gets is of a pretty one-sided state media in Montenegro.


  61. Who would be entitled to vote?
  (Mr Judah) I am not sure it is up to us to tell them how to run their referendum.
  (Mr Glenny) We were saying that it was up to us to—

  62. You do not think it would be up to us?
  (Mr Glenny) It is just that we have intervened on the way referenda in the former Yugoslavia were run before in terms of what we consider right and proper, including access to the media and so on. I do not see why this one should be any different.

  63. Is that right?
  (Mr Judah) Yes.
  (Mr Steele) That is absolutely right. I think Mr Anderson made the point about who would be entitled to vote. I think one of the most crucial things is whether Montenegrins who have lived most of their lives in Belgrade, for example, should be allowed to vote in the referendum. I think that is going to be a key issue. Beyond the OSCE having a mission there and passing comment on what they think of the eventual legislation I do not think we can intervene to change it as such.

Sir Peter Emery

  64. Can I put three questions to you? First of all on prisoners, do you think enough is being done to get the release of Kosovo prisoners held in Serbia back home and what knowledge have you of Serbians being held illegally in Kosovo? Then on the administration, how well do you rate what the United Nations, what the EU and what KFOR are doing in Kosovo? Do you think this is adequate, do you think there are great difficulties that have not been overcome, or do you think in time this is beginning to come together? That really leads to the last question. Do you believe that in the future there is a possibility, any or none, of there really being a multi-racial Serbian/Albanian acceptance in Kosovo in order that there can be a feasible community operating?
  (Dr von Hippel) I think there was an Amnesty Bill going through the Belgrade Parliament yesterday, so it is possible that they will be released very soon. I think we should continue to put the pressure on them to release the Albanian prisoners as soon as possible and hand them over at least to the UNMIK authorities to decide whether or not the Albanians that are in Belgrade[1] were actual criminals or political prisoners. That will be an enormous gesture which the Albanians desperately need right now in Kosovo.


  65. Either way there were major procedural deficiencies in the trials.
  (Dr von Hippel) Yes, and many Albanians have bought or purchased release of their relatives back. That has happened the whole way across. That is quite important. In terms of the UN administration, certainly we have had problems. I worked there almost a year so I will say "we" in terms of the UN, but there were problems throughout the process. We were setting up an administration in an area where there was no clarity about the final status. I do not think people anticipated the level of revenge activities that would go on towards the Serbs to the degree that it happened. We were unprepared, at least in the beginning, for that kind of activity and slowly we developed mechanisms to deal with it. We were also fighting against the UN bureaucracy, we were fighting against a whole host of different problems. I think that yes, it is going in the right direction. I think that there is a new administration now for UNMIK. The Haekkerup administration has just started and we need to give it some time to see in which direction it is going. There is always a danger that each new SRSG may try to put their imprint on so strongly that it changes the process that has been established, and that process is not incredibly strong and so it does need support to continue in the same direction in which it is going. In terms of what the British Government do, they can put pressure on the Haekkerup administration to develop this pact or to come up with their own internal charter to define what self-government in Kosovo means. I think they are doing that. It is quite secretive and I do not think it should be secretive. I think you can demand more transparency or even involvement in this process that is happening. In terms of future multi-ethnicity these three know more than I do about the history of the region. I do not think there has ever been multi-ethnicity in Kosovo. They do not like each other in general. Certainly there are Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs who get along quite well and have always got along very well, but there is a great level of distrust between the communities and the Serbs. Although there were many negative activities against the Albanians during the bombing campaign, the Serbs now feel like they are suffering and many people have been killed etc, so it is not a very safe place. On the other hand, if we allow each community to have their own space to build their own forms of administration, that may be the way to allow trust to be built. I am talking about these Community offices that I was writing about. If we can strengthen these offices, if we can pressure any new pacts that are written in Kosovo for self-government to have very strong guarantees for minorities, we will certainly go a long way to help that happen. Of course, we are going to need the security presence for some time to make sure that acts of revenge at least can be stopped and if they are not stopped they can go through a proper judicial process.

Sir Peter Emery

  66. Are there any comments from the other members to add to or subtract from that?
  (Mr Steele) On the question of Serbs held illegally in Kosovo, I think the best people to ask that question to is the ICRC, the International Committee of the Red Cross, who are constantly investigating this issue of missing persons. As far as I understand from the last time I spoke to them, which was some months ago, they do not believe that there are Serbs held illegally in Kosovo in secret detention camps. I think this is something that people like to believe if their relatives are missing. They like to feel that they must be still alive somewhere. I am afraid the reality probably is that the missing people are now dead.

  67. You have no evidence of this?
  (Mr Steele) It is the ICRC who would know the details of that.
  (Mr Judah) This is the same as the tragic Vietnam MIA syndrome. There are still people in the United States who believe that their loved ones are still alive in some detention camp in Vietnam. I think it is the same awful tragic syndrome. If they were still alive presumably somebody would be ringing up demanding money or demanding something, but since that is not happening there is no reason to believe it is true.
  (Mr Glenny) There is also the point that the Albanians in Serbia are prisoners of a state, whereas that is not the case of the alleged Serbs being held in Kosovo. It is a priority for the Serbian state and for the Yugoslav state to release these people as fast as possible if they want to show real commitment to the principles of dialogue and democracy. On the other two issues, it is terribly important that UNMIK work towards the establishment of a local administration in Kosovo and that we do not sink into the Bosnia syndrome which is really debilitating and damaging for Bosnia.


  68. That is your dependency culture?
  (Mr Glenny) The dependency culture, exactly. Unfortunately, Kouchner was a fairly dramatic character but he was not really the sort of person who needs to concentrate on a solid policy of building. He tended to be distracted here and there by all sorts of things. The jury is obviously still out on Haekkerup, but I fear that on the whole when it comes to the diplomatic and civil servant positions of the international community in Kosovo and Bosnia, particularly in Kosovo, we are getting to relatively low level characters. I really feel that Kosovo needs someone with much more drive but also more direction than we have seen up until now. As regards the multi-ethnicity, we have to be honest about this. Serbs and Albanians really dislike each other more than anyone else you can come across in the Balkans and Bosnia has a much better possibility of rebuilding relations between the communities than Kosovo does. If you accept that, and I would certainly put it forward, then you have to work out what the hell does that mean for the future of Kosovo? What does that mean for Mitrovica? What does that mean for the future of Serbs in Kosovo, for the status of Kosovo and so on?

  69. And your solution?
  (Mr Glenny) You either raise a radical solution, which is population exchange, which has been done lots of times before—

  70. Partition.
  (Mr Glenny) Or partition, and recognise that whichever choice you go for there will be very serious resistance from different constituencies. This is not a problem which has any easy answers to it at all.

Mr Rowlands

  71. I just wondered if the other witnesses agreed with Mr Glenny's assessment. We are still clinging to some sort of forlorn belief that there is going to be some significant return of Serbs into Kosovo and that is an unrealistic belief in any meaningful timescale that you can think of in policy making terms? Is that right?
  (Mr Steele) I would agree with that. I think Misha Glenny is quite right. The Serbs and Albanians do not get on well. The history of the last ten years and particularly of the last two years makes it pretty clear that it is going to be hard for them to live together. The issue is not to get people to love each other. It is a question of human rights. We have to make sure that the human rights of every individual now living in Kosovo are guaranteed, that community rights are also protected in terms of language and other facilities that respect people's cultural traditions and autonomy, but it has to be done within the framework of an independent Kosovo, I would say. What I think the international community, particularly the western governments, have not yet willingly tackled is the future status of Kosovo, and I think it has to be independent ultimately. Whether that means that the remaining Serbs in Kosovo would, when the thing is clarified, knowing that they now have to live essentially in a country where the majority is of a different culture, then pack up and go, whether the Albanians will feel, "This is now entirely Albanians" and all the Serbs have to go, whether it would increase the violence against the Serbs or reduce it, is a very big question. If you have a proper security framework, and I think it is really up to KFOR which still has an enormous number of troops in there, plus the international policy, they must guarantee the individual security of everybody there. I do not think the Serbs are going to go back.

  72. That is a very interesting point to me. You say we need the security system. I have only been twice, once 12 months ago and again this last week. I was astonished how bad it was in certain areas. They were still being bussed. We have put personnel carriers to schools so that the kids would still be bussed to school. Going shopping would require people—everybody still would not come out of their apartments etc. There was nothing. Okay, 12 months is a short time in the history of the Balkans but nevertheless there was no evidence that there had been any progress in respect of some easing of the tension within the Serb community. If we accept the Kosovo independence scenario or Kosovo progress and Albania/Kosovo being the basis, do you see a permanent military mission defending the minority within Kosovo or do you think that if Kosovo Albanians knew that they were going to govern the country they could have a different view about the Serbs who were still there?
  (Mr Steele) I think it is going to be very long term. Whether it is permanent is another matter. I think it could be at least ten or 20 years. I would tend to say that if Kosovo became independent the leadership of the Serb communities (I think the majority of them) would have to accept that and I think their advice to their people would be, "We now have to adjust to this new reality. It is a bitter reality but it is not our fault and it is not the Albanians' fault necessarily." It is the fault of the man who we talked about earlier, Milosevic, and that would be difficult for them but I think at least it will provide clarity and those who do not want to remain in an independent Kosovo will have to be helped to settle wherever they go, probably back to Serbia.


  73. Can you justify the military effort of protecting elderly and isolated Serbs in their apartments?
  (Mr Steele) I think so, yes. I think we do have a real moral responsibility to protect the Serbs of Kosovo. We have protected the Albanians of Kosovo. I think if we now abandoned the Serbs it would be an outrage. That means a very long term commitment.
  (Dr von Hippel) I wanted to come back on the returns issue. First of all, I think many Serbs want to return to their homes and it is partially because their life in Serbia is worse than it would be in Kosovo. We are not just talking about the Serbs. There are other minorities that live in Kosovo: the Roma, Hashkalia, Bosniacs, Slavic Muslims, the Gorani, Egyptians and Turks. They are communities and if you talk about an internationally sanctioned ethnic cleansing policy it gets quite dangerous for the future of all the other minorities in Kosovo. There are also Albanian Catholics. It is not necessarily the case that you want to create a predominantly Albanian Moslem society there. The people who do want to return to their homes have a right to return to their homes. What the UN and KFOR are trying to do now in Kosovo anyway is to help them return, to help protect these areas when they will return and to help rebuild their homes. I disagree that it is exactly the same way it was a year ago. By the time I left I felt that although it was not safe for a Serb to drive on their own or walk down the street necessarily on their own, although some were doing it because they are tired of being confined to their homes, but they think that among the Albanian community and the Serb community the tension had been reduced significantly because of the security and because of the police and because people were out there. In terms of whether these Albanian prisoners are released, that is already a confidence building measure and we can do other things to try to help the communities come together more. If I could make one other comment, going back to what you were saying about Serbs being held illegally in Kosovo, Kouchner said publicly several times that he also thinks that they are probably dead as well and he has been trying to encourage the Serb community to accept that in order that they do not make it as a tit-for-tat situation with the Albanians that are held inside Serbia.
  (Mr Judah) I would like to make a slightly different point about something which I wanted to talk about earlier, but I will now mention. One of the problems we are facing with the Kosovo Albanians is a serious lack of leadership. There are leaders but the sort of leadership they are giving I am not sure is even leadership, which is part of the problem which is connected to Presevo. They do not want to denounce what is happening in Presevo but I suspect it is in great part driven by local interest in that area, maybe hardliners in Presevo who do not want to miss out in Kosovo, but the fact is that for Kosovo Albanians as a whole it is absolutely disastrous because if you accept the premise that sooner or later Kosovo is going to become independent, if the Albanians have raised the question of frontiers the Serbs will say, "Fine. Kosovo is lost. We will take Mitrovica. Goodbye", and that will be a disaster for the Albanians. As I say, this is the result of lack of leadership.

  74. On the part of the Kosovo Albanians?
  (Mr Judah) On the part of the Kosovo Albanians, absolutely.

Mr Rowlands

  75. It is anecdotal, I know, but what people were saying to us outside the official line was that UNMIK and KFOR were actually presiding over institutionalised racketeering and extortion and protectionist rackets that are going on below the surface willy-nilly with impunity almost. Is that an accurate description or not?
  (Mr Glenny) To an extent. You have to remember that most of the Balkans at the moment, certainly in the former Communist areas, are sources of tremendous criminality which has a very serious impact on the—

  76. Lots of arms?
  (Mr Glenny)—EU. It is not just Kosovo but in Kosovo and Bosnia we have security forces, large numbers of them. At some point the issue of criminality has to be addressed in a more systematic way, both through institution building but also through policing. It seems to me that the political role of KFOR—I am not blaming the KFOR commanders here—is problematic in that issue, in the question of Greshamont(?). It is absolutely outrageous that we have got 40,000 troops in Kosovo and something over 500 insurgents operating in Presevo and nothing substantial is being done to stop the arming and operation of these people. Sometimes I think that we have got to keep the KFOR troops there, we have got to keep the troops in Bosnia, there is absolutely no question and it is worth it, for ten, 20 years; I agree entirely with Jonathan on this. I sometimes think that we could be using them to much greater effect than we are at the moment.

Sir John Maples

  77. About a year ago there seemed to some that in northern Kosovo, north of Mitrovica, along the north-eastern Kosovo border, there was almost a Serb zone being created. Is that still true?
  (Mr Glenny) It is a Serb centre.
  (Dr von Hippel) It always was a Serb centre but more have gone there.

  78. More Serbs have gone there as refugees. Does that mean more Albanians have left?
  (Mr Glenny) There are very few Albanians left.
  (Mr Judah) Apart from the town itself.

  79. When we talk about whatever the status of Kosovo is, is this a factor that is going to have to be taken into account? You said that the Serbs would not fight about Montenegro. Might there be more trouble about that part of Kosovo? If we went down the path towards independence for Kosovo, you said yourselves that the Serbs might say, "We will take Mitrovica and you can have the rest". I was just wondering if you could expand on that.
  (Mr Steele) I do not really agree with the idea of these partitions and certainly not with population transfers unless they are absolutely genuinely fair and balanced and voluntary. It is no good if the people who are being re-settled are not actually willing to be re-settled but it is only the politicians who decide they have to be re-settled. I am not in favour of that kind of forced re-settlement, nor am I in favour of partition. Nevertheless we have to accept security enclaves as a temporary measure because these people do not feel safe unless they are surrounded by KFOR troops and given protection and so on. I think that should be seen as a temporary measure, a security measure and not prejudicing any kind of political arrangements in the future.

1   Note by witness: Serb jails. Back

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