Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Fourth Report


190. During the last decade more than 90,000 have been killed in the Balkan wars and civil conflicts. At one time or another more than 4.5 million people have been displaced from their homes. NATO has been compelled to go to war for the first time in its history. More than 70,000 international troops, including 6,900 from the United Kingdom, maintain peace in Bosnia and Kosovo. This is certainly not a "quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing."[395]

Events in the Balkans cannot be separated from European security. The power of instant media coverage of the conflicts and humanitarian disasters is now a major foreign policy factor, forcing governments to act. Other than altruistic and humanitarian motives there is also a mutual self interest of Western European governments to prevent major refugee flows across porous boundaries. As this Report further underlines, what happens in Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo matters, and influences European security and stability.

Our report was prompted by the dramatic events in Belgrade in October 2000—a people's revolution which overthrew Milosevic. We have attempted to evaluate the consequences of these dramatic events not only upon Serbia but also upon the immediate issues confronting its neighbours, Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia, and of course, upon United Kingdom and Western policy.

During the course of our deliberations we have identified that certain key assumptions at the centre of Western and UN policy are frankly unreal. There is precious little substance to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Two parts of its territory are de facto outside its jurisdiction. In any meaningful timescale there is little or no likelihood that Kosovo will wish to enter into a relationship which could be considered remotely federal. Montenegro is about to embark on a referendum to consider seceding from the Federal Republic.

That does not mean, of course, that new relationships cannot be created in the future. There may come a time when mutual self interest will forge such a relationship; though it would be foolish to assume mutual economic interest will easily override the intense bitterness engendered by recent conflicts or endemic in historic experience.

Secondly, there is an unreal assumption both within the UN resolution 1244 and international policy pronouncements, that there is any likelihood in a meaningful timescale of a restored multi-ethnic Kosovo; while 100,000 Serbs live in enclaves, tightly guarded by KFOR, more than 100,000 refugees remain outside with little hope of returning. Albanian/Serb co-operation within Kosovo is marginal.

One of the more immediate challenges will be the issue of Montenegro's status. While we more than understand the reluctance of the international community to see further fragmentation, and conscious of the fact that such earlier secession fuelled conflict, we have concluded that Montenegrin independence, if endorsed by a free and fair referendum, should be manageable. A far greater threat to peace and stability are the unresolved issues surrounding Kosovo and Macedonia.

It was not our original intention to revisit Kosovo during this inquiry. But both events and unresolved issues have compelled us to do so. We call for an urgent and more intense dialogue with the Kosovo Albanians both to carry forward change within Kosovo and to stem Kosovo as a source of violence and conflict within neighbouring territories.

The growing tension and violence in Macedonia have a frighteningly similar pattern to that experienced in Bosnia. The British Government should take the most urgent steps to galvanize the international community into giving both the UN and NATO a clear remit to bring the situation in Macedonia under control and counter Albanian extremist violence against Macedonia.

However, amid an essentially gloomy and threatening situation, the real positive hope for the future of the region will be the development of a democratic and economically reformed Serbia/FRY. The source of much of the original conflicts, Serbia now has the capacity to be a powerful positive political and economic force, under courageous democratic leadership. The new democratic Serbia deserves the full support of the United Kingdom and international community.

395   Neville Chamberlain, radio speech, 27 September 1938. Back

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