Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
TUESDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2001
VAZ MP, MR
180. But you are not in constant contact with
(Mr Vaz) We are in constant contact.
181. The other issue was the issue of Bosnia.
We were given evidence which indicated that essentially in Bosnia
we still have a situation of extreme dependence on external forces
trying to run the show and certainly evidence that we were given
by Misha Glenny who said there is a terrible problem with Bosnia-Herzegovina,
the fact is there is a Frankenstein constitution which encourages
and enables people of various communities to exploit its intricacies
to their own best benefit. He said that at some point he felt
that we were going to have to come round to a Dayton 2, a revision
of the Dayton Agreement, simply because the current Dayton Agreement
is not working. Given that Serbia, so to speak, is now democratic,
that the major problem, the threat, that Milosevic posed has gone,
is there not some merit in revisiting Dayton to try to bring some
sort of stability and shape to Bosnia-Herzegovina so that it could
actually get out of this dependency and the mess it is in at the
present leading to some sort of stability, not changing international
borders but rejigging the internal arrangements?
(Mr Vaz) There is always a great danger in reopening
anything that has been agreed at such length and has taken so
much time to negotiate. We keep these matters under constant review
and the concerns you have expressed we have heard ourselves and
we will certainly be addressing them.
182. There is a danger in sticking with a constitution
that was worked out when we thought that Milosevic was the solution,
not the problem. The danger is that Bosnia might implode.
(Mr Vaz) We understand the concerns and we keep all
of these matters under constant review.
Chairman: Minister, I would like to turn to
Mr Rowlands who has one question on Macedonia.
183. I wonder if I could put this to Mr Charlton,
if you do not mind, because I think Mr Charlton went to Macedonia
in his regional tour.
(Mr Vaz) Of course you may.
184. Thank you. Mr Charlton, what impression
did you come away about Macedonia? How fragile is it? How far
do you think that decisions taken inside about Kosovo either would
or would not have implications for Macedonia?
(Mr Charlton) I think I would say two things, Mr Rowlands.
First of all, I came away encouraged by the way the government
is tackling the economic agenda. They have made a certain amount
of progress there, there was a five per cent growth last year
and there is a good chance of five per cent growth again this
year, so the people have an opportunity to enjoy greater prosperity
than they have known for several years. The second point is that
everyone is aware in Macedonia that this is a country of two nations
and these two nations have to be brought together. At the very
top level, at the political level, as you know, the governing
coalition is a coalition between the Slav Macedonian and Albanian
parties, but at the lower level the two communities do live largely
apart. For that reason we were rather encouraged when the Macedonian
Foreign Minister came here a couple of weeks ago and saw the Secretary
of State and the first thing he raised with us was EU support
for a new multilingual university in Tetovo, which we thought
was a very good sign.
185. Do you agree that more than decisions about
the sort of structure of future institutions of Kosovo, the more
immediate worrying concern is if one does not address the Presevo
issue that that certainly could have a spill-over effect into
(Mr Charlton) There is no doubt that the Macedonian
Government is concerned about this, just as all the other governments
in the region are, and to that extent it is positive that in NATO
even tomorrow there is going to be a further meeting looking at
what can be done on the border.
Sir David Madel
186. Mr Charlton, do you note a determination
in Macedonia to improve their relations with Greece?
(Mr Charlton) Definitely, Sir David. In fact, I think
relations with Greece in many respects are very good. Greece is
the first direct investor in Macedonia, however the third trading
partner. I was told that last year a quarter of the Macedonian
population visited Greece. There are still some problems regarding
the name, as you are aware, but apart from that relations are
Sir John Stanley
187. Can I ask two questions on issues we have
not covered so far, one on depleted uranium and the other on freedom
of the media. On depleted uranium, obviously the Committee is
aware that there is a hugely wide range of views, which have been
expressed in public, from those who believe that the medical evidence
is that depleted uranium has had extremely severe impact on members
of the civilian population in the Balkans, to contrary views suggesting
that the relationship between health hazard and depleted uranium
is largely, if not wholly, unproven. The question I want to ask
you, Minister, is is the British Government doing all it can in
terms of proper, independent, professional, well-resourced studies
to try to establish the medical facts of the case here and to
come up with a valid, professional, fully informed medical view
as to whether or not depleted uranium used has caused serious
disease in the civilian population in the Balkans where these
weapons have been used?
(Mr Vaz) As Sir John will know, there is an agreement
that NATO and the FRY authorities should co-operate fully on the
exchange of information relating to depleted uranium. I can tell
the Committee that this co-operation is proceeding very successfully.
There is no evidence from the FRY authorities of health problems
caused by depleted uranium. At the request of the UN mission in
Kosovo the World Health Organisation has set up a screening programme
in Pristina Hospital for any civilians concerned about the contamination
from depleted uranium. He will know from his time at the MoD that
it is important that we always establish the facts, and we will
continue to do so. We will continue to look carefully at this
issue. We can only do so by co-operation with others.
188. Can you let the Committee have a note as
to precisely what the United Kingdom Government is doing to resource
studies of its own or in co-operation with others, proper, independent,
medical studies to try to get a fully objective, independent answer
to the issue?
(Mr Vaz) I will certainly provide a note.
189. The second question which I would like
to put to you is on the question of freedom of the media in new
Serbia. I think all of us who went on the visit would say that
probably of the two significant human rights concerns that were
put to us during our days in Belgrade, where expectations from
the new government might be in danger of not being fulfilled,
one related to how quickly and how readily they would deliver
up President Milosevic and other people who had been indicted
as war criminals to the International Criminal Tribunal for the
former Yugoslaviathe Chairman is going to come to that
point in a momentthe other related to doubts that were
expressed to us as to whether the new government of President
Kostunica was really prepared to embrace genuine freedom of the
media, in the sense that we would know it here. Given the total
post-war history in former Yugoslavia of state-controlled media
there is clearly a huge political cultural sea change to bring
that about. We were very encouraged when we were in Belgrade to
go to a reception at Wilton Park, which is an agency the Foreign
Office was running for the independent media and, of course, others
associated with the media in the Federal Republic. We met some
extremely brave people there who had managed to carry the standard
for the independent media during the ghastly Milosevic years.
What I would like to ask you, Minister, is how high a priority
is it in the Foreign Office at the moment to try to support, practically
and financially, those who are determined to try to ensure that
there is strong independent media in the Federal Republic? Can
you give us any further details as to what, in specific terms,
the Foreign Office is doing?
(Mr Vaz) As far as the grid of agencies and support
is concerned that will figure on the table that I will be sending
to the Committee. It would be interesting to highlight what we
are doing to the help the independent media. We want to see an
independent media. Anyone who remembers the wonderful scenes of
jubilation at the downfall of Milosevic last year will know how
important it is that we should support them. This is one of the
areas where we have continued to provide support after many people
said we could not do anything, because Milosevic was there and
in control. We have continued to support them. We have had dealings
and conversations with the independent media throughout the long
years of Milosevic's control. What we now want to do is to make
sure that there is a flourishing and a free press and we will
do our best to ensure that that happens. This is one of the things
that I have asked Mr Crawford, in particular, to look at, and
this is what he is doing.
190. Minister, to wind up, two quick questions
on the Hague Tribunal and the ICTY. We heard a number of criticisms
when we were in Belgrade of the alleged lack of even-handedness
of the political partisanship of the Hague Tribunal. How do you
answer a Serb who says, "Why should the ICTY not have indicted
the former President Tudjman, who was guilty and as bloody handed
as Milosevic in terms of crimes over the past years?"
(Mr Vaz) This is an independent tribunal and it is
an international tribunal. It is for the Tribunal itself to decide
on these matters. What we need to do is make sure that it has
support and that it retains its independence. It is acting on
behalf of the international community and we will continue to
insist on that full co-operation.
191. I suspect my Serb would not be satisfied
with that. One further question, are we reaching, in respect of
the handing over of the indicted war criminals (led, of course,
by former President Milosevic) a "high noon" situation,
in that the US Senate has said in terms that aid will be stopped
if there is not, by the end of March, full co-operation in respect
of the indicted war criminals, and that the President certifies
that there has been such full co-operation?
(Mr Vaz) I think it is a hurdle for the FRY, and that
deadline is very clear. I think everyone should take it seriously.
We hope that people will co-operate and make sure that it is successful
in doing what the international community want it to do. It is
a deadline that ought to be taken very seriously.
192. What are the chances?
(Mr Vaz) I am not a betting man, Mr Chairman, but
I think that people understand that these are serious issues,
and we hope they will comply with the deadline.
Chairman: Mr Mackinlay began the batting, he
will end the batting.
193. It did seem to me we have come full circle,
the competences between the Serbian Government and the FRY Government
are highlighted in a number of areas, and there is this question
of competence as to who can and should decide handing over and
who has the capacity to. Whilst the Serbian Government has conducted
totally free and fair elections, the FRY Government is still flawed,
is it not, because the Montenegrin element of the FRY administration
was elected because there was a void in Montenegro. They are not
representative of Montenegro and they are also a rump associate
of the old order. This is one of the reasons why I am very keen
you should go and see it first hand. We keep talking about the
Federal Yugoslav Government. We welcome the changes of October.
We welcome the fact that President Kostunica is there, but it
is still flawed. Until these other constitutional things are resolved
there is going to be a continuing problem. To give this recognition,
as if it is a comparable government to one which exists in western
Europe or even central Europe it is simply not so. That is another
illustration of where there has not been sufficient thinking through
about our response to it and also our expectations of them to
(Mr Vaz) Mr Mackinlay has for the fourth time urged
me to visit and I have given him assurance I will go, probably
before the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry goes to the
Poland, because I know that is another one of his campaigns. We
want to make sure there is full co-operation with the International
Tribunal, it is legally binding on the FRY. We want to make sure
that this whole process takes place as quickly as possible.
194. You make representations to the United
States Government and using our good offices there, whilst we
all share the view that these people should be handed up, there
is also our interests, European Union interests, and could be
jeopardised by too rigid a response by the United States.
(Mr Vaz) I have noted Mr Mackinlay's point. Chairman,
can I thank you for, first of all, inviting me to come and address
you today and for conducting this inquiry, which I think is extremely
195. We are obliged.
(Mr Vaz) I know you are off to pay tribute to your
departing Clerk, Paul Silk. Can I pay my own tribute to him, Paul
Silk was my first Clerk when I served on the Home Affairs Select
Committee in 1987. He was a wonderful Clerk and can I wish him
well, through the Committee, on his new appointment for the Welsh
Assembly. I am sure he will do a superb job.
Chairman: That is very kind. We shall pass your
good wishes to him, Minister. We thank you, we thank Mr Charlton,
we thank Mr Marshall. We look forward to a flurry of letters in
response. Mr Mackinlay and the rest of the Committee look forward
to your telling us when you propose to visit the region.