Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Fourth Report


The Foreign Affairs Committee has agreed to the following Report:—



1. We reported last year on the Kosovo campaign, the reconstruction of Kosovo, and some of the regional issues surrounding the crisis.[7] As part of last year's inquiry we visited Montenegro and Kosovo. Following the revolution in Belgrade in October 2000, we decided to launch an inquiry into United Kingdom policy towards Yugoslavia. We visited Belgrade in February 2001 in connection with this inquiry, with some of us also travelling to Novi Sad, and others to Kosovo. In Belgrade, we met with a wide range of politicians, economists, business-people, journalists, academics and the military. We were fortunate to meet with both Federal President Vojislav Kostunica and Zoran Djindjic, the Prime Minister of Serbia. We are grateful to all those in the region who were kind enough to see us, thereby giving this inquiry a first-hand perspective.

2. We held oral evidence sessions on 13 February with Mr Jonathan Steele of The Guardian, with the authors and journalists Mr Tim Judah and Mr Misha Glenny, and with Dr Karin von Hippel, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Defence Studies, King's College London. On 27 February we took evidence from Mr Keith Vaz MP, Minister of State at the FCO, Mr Alan Charlton, Director, South Eastern Europe at the FCO, and Mr Jonathan Marshall, Head of Section, FRY/Serbia, Eastern Adriatic Department at the FCO. On 1 March we took evidence from the United Kingdom Ambassador to Yugoslavia, Mr Charles Crawford, and from Mr Chris Patten, European Commissioner. We also received a large number of written memoranda, and held a number of private informal meetings at Westminster, including with Mr Svetorzar Marovic, Speaker of the Montenegro Parliament and some of his senior parliamentary colleagues, with Mr Crawford, with the Macedonian Foreign Affairs Committee, with Mrs Nadezhda Mihailova, the Foreign Minister of Bulgaria, with Mr Goran Svilanovic, Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia (whom we had previously met in Belgrade) and with the Macedonian Ambassador, Mr Stevo Crvenkovski. We are most grateful to all those who gave written and oral evidence, and to those who gave us information more informally.

3. We are grateful for the specialist advice of Dr Richard Caplan of Jesus College, Oxford, whose expertise has been most helpful. We are of course responsible for the conclusions which we have reached.

4. We much appreciated the help of FCO staff in the region, and of the United Kingdom armed forces attached to KFOR, who assisted us in a visit to a region which is neither easy nor safe. We are particularly grateful to the staff of the British Office in Pristina for putting together a very useful programme at short notice. The FCO has been prompt in the provision of written answers to our questions, and we appreciate the work of the staff involved in meeting our often tight deadlines.

5. In two Annexes to the Report, we list all those that we met during our visit to the region, and give brief details of individuals mentioned in the Report.

The former policy framework

6. During 1999, a fundamental change occurred in Western policy towards the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). As we noted in our previous report on Kosovo, for much of the previous decade Western governments had appeared uncertain as to whether President Slobodan Milosevic was the problem or part of the solution to the many crises in the Balkan region.[8] The decisive turning point came with the Kosovo conflict, the programme of ethnic cleansing and the subsequent indictment of Milosevic for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in May 1999—developments that were to place the Yugoslav president beyond the pale internationally.

7. In response to the new situation, British and EU policy towards Yugoslavia evolved a twin-track approach, aimed at isolating the Milosevic regime and encouraging democratic and economic reform in Serbia. The EU sanctions regime was adapted so as to target the Serbian and Yugoslav governments: in addition to an arms embargo, a freeze on funds and an oil embargo, the EU imposed tight financial and visa restrictions on individuals linked to the Milosevic regime. To minimise the impact of the sanctions on the general public various humanitarian exemptions were introduced, most notably through the EU's 'Energy for Democracy' programme whereby fuel oil was supplied to municipalities under the control of the democratic opposition. In addition to the practical benefits, the 'Energy for Democracy' programme had important symbolic value in demonstrating that the West was anti-Milosevic, as opposed to anti-Serb. Kosovo and Montenegro were also exempted from the oil embargo and, where possible, from some of the financial sanctions. The Montenegrin government of Milo Djukanovic was viewed in the West as an important democratic counterweight to Milosevic.[9] We commend the EU and the British Government on both the scale and the speed with which this aid was disbursed.

8. As an incentive to the Serbian people to embrace democracy, the EU and US indicated that real democratic change in Belgrade would bring about the lifting of sanctions and the end of Serbia's international isolation. While it is impossible to quantify the impact of Western policy on developments in Serbia, we concur with the FCO that "one of the motives of the Serbian people in voting for the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) and for Dr Vojislav Kostunica was the desire to return to normality, to stop living in a country cut off from the international community."[10] The desire to return to normality was repeatedly and strongly expressed to us during our visit to Belgrade, and was voiced by a number of our witnesses.[11] We also agree with the FCO's view that "the imposition of a carefully targeted EU sanctions regime...was a significant factor in convincing the Serbian people that, under Milosevic, there was no prospect of a European future for Serbia or the FRY."[12] We conclude that support by the United Kingdom Government for the targeted nature of the EU sanctions on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was well judged and believe this approach should be considered fully for any future application of sanctions.

9. The main credit for bringing about the fall of Milosevic and returning Yugoslavia to the democratic fold must of course go to those brave representatives of the Yugoslav opposition who were prepared to challenge Milosevic publicly at great potential danger to themselves. The role of the international community was subsidiary, but important nonetheless, particularly in terms of the provision of financial and organisational assistance to the democratic opposition in Serbia. The Government financed a series of initiatives under the Independent Media and Civil Society Programme, comprising local government co-operation through the Local Government International Bureau (LGIB),[13] and workshops and seminars on future policy, organised as part of the New Serbia Forum.[14] In addition, funding and training programmes were provided for the independent media, which came to play a crucial role during the election campaign in offsetting Milosevic's control of the state media.[15]

10. Zoran Kusovac—an analyst and consultant on south-east Europe—has characterised the United Kingdom role in the downfall of Milosevic as "significant", saying that: "On the whole the FCO did a much better job in identifying the organizations and individuals which could provide practical knowledge and suggest realistic, pragmatic and efficient policy than did the corresponding ministries of most other Western countries." He added that: "there is no doubt that the United Kingdom approach produced results."[16] Given the level of anti-Western feeling in Serbia after the NATO bombing campaign, it was vital that the United Kingdom and EU acted discreetly in the provision of assistance so as not to allow Milosevic the opportunity to portray the democratic opposition as disloyal and unpatriotic. We conclude that the support provided by the United Kingdom Government gave encouragement to the democratic opposition to Milosevic during both the election campaign and the subsequent transition period. We recommend that the Government take account of its successful strategy in Yugoslavia when providing support in the future to democratic movements in an autocratic state.

7   Fourth Report, Session 1999-2000, Kosovo, HC 28. Hereafter "Kosovo report." Back

8   See for example Kosovo report, para 20. Back

9   We discuss British policy towards Montenegro in greater depth below. See paras. 54ff. Back

10   Ev.p.29. Back

11   QQ 18, 197, Ev. pp.94-95. Back

12   Ev.p.30. Back

13   Appendix 3, pp 85-87. Back

14   See Back

15   See Appendix 5, pp 89-90 for more information on the role of the BBC World Service. Back

16   Appendix 9, p.96. Back

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