Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): It gives me great pleasure to open this debate on the report of the Foreign Affairs Committee, published in March, on Government policy towards the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the wider region following the fall of Mr. Milosevic. Indeed the Committee was in the region the previous year and visited Kosovo and Montenegro, but was unable then to visit Serbia. It was indeed Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark, but we have since repaired that omission. On reflection, so many significant developments have taken place since March, when our predecessor Committee published its report, that it all seems such a long time ago.
In the course of its inquiry, the Committee heard evidence from a panel of independent experts, including Charles Crawford, the excellent British ambassador in Belgrade, the European Commissioner for External Affairs, Chris Patten, as well as the then Minister of State for Europe, my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz). In February, the Committee visited Belgrade, where we were fortunate to meet, among many others, Federal President Vojislav Kostunica and the Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.
Two Members of the Committee left the main party to visit Kosovo, which the Committee as a whole previously visited in March 2000. The rest of us visited Novi Sad, a remarkable middle-European city and the capital of the Vojvodina region, where we were able to see for ourselves the damage inflicted by NATO bombardments on the bridges over the Danube and the regional television station. I was delighted to learn during the past few days that an agreement has been reached between the Danube Commission and the Yugoslav Government to allow the final phase of the de-mining and clearance of the Danube to go ahead. Indeed, the removal of debris is expected to be achieved by mid-2002, which will be a major contribution to the integration of the region.
The Foreign Affairs Committee in this Parliament has kept a watchful eye on developments in Yugoslavia and the wider region. We received a detailed memorandum from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office only a few days ago. That has been reported to the House and copies have been placed in the Library. A week ago today, we were delighted to renew our acquaintance with President Kostunica during his visit to London.
Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax): Has there been any progress on indicting anyone in Kosovo for the second wave of ethnic cleansingthe Serbs, the Roma, the Gorani and the others who were driven out by the KLA when NATO ceased bombing?
Donald Anderson : I am certainly not aware of any indictments that have been laid by the ICT at The Hague in respect of Kosovo, but that is entirely a matter for the tribunal; if the evidence is available it should be followed through.
In response to the new situation, Britain and the European Union evolved a twin-track approach towards Yugoslavia, aimed at isolating the Milosevic regime and encouraging democratic and economic reform in Serbia. Our Committee concluded in the report that the approach was a success. Support by the Government was well judged, both for targeted European Union sanctions against Yugoslavia and for encouragement of the democratic opposition to Milosevic. The Committee felt that that strategy could provide a useful model for dealing with autocratic regimes elsewhere in the world.
The main thrust of the Committee's report looked to the future and the Government's action to help maintain peace and prosperity in the region. That inevitably concentrated on not only Serbia, but Montenegro and Kosovo, which are largely self-governing areas but remain in their different ways parts of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The report also commented on events in Macedonia, which at the time showed worrying signs of developing into a regional flashpoint. Indeed, paragraph 2 of the Government's reply to the report emphasised the key differences between their policy and the Committee's consensus, stating:
The Committee found that for once there was general praise for the European Union for its assistance on the economy. Yugoslavia faces the problems of reconstruction and transition following more than a decade of isolation and economic sanctions, as well as the burden of a massive national debt. In the longer term, however, as Yugoslav politicians realise, the aim must be to move away from reliance on aid towards self-sufficiency. Although aid is important in providing basic
The danger of sudden economic reform is that the most disadvantaged elements of the population suffer. That is why the Committee recommended that the Foreign Office examine the current disposition of EU humanitarian and economic funding. I also welcome the Government's continuing input into the form and content of the CARDS country strategy paper for Yugoslavia, the £3.4 million given by the Government to pay arrears of welfare benefits and the commitment of £5 million towards paying family welfare benefits during the next three years.
On paper, the federal structure duplicates many functions at federal and republican levels, which causes confusion about where real power lies and creates competition between different authorities. The constitutional powers of federal positions do not reflect the authority wielded by their incumbents. In practice, the federal Government's writ runs only barely in Montenegro and only nominally in Kosovo. The powers of the federal and Serbian Governments largely extend over identical territories. It was clear during the Committee's visit that President Kostunica and Prime Minister Djindjic had different approaches on several issues. Clarification of the future of the federation is crucial for the effective governance of Serbia, as well as for the political stabilisation of Montenegro and Kosovo.
The International Criminal Tribunal at the Hague aims to ensure that suspected war criminals of all ethnic backgrounds are brought to trial for the crimes committed in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. In response to my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon), Kosovo is certainly within its remit. When the Committee's report was published, Milosevic himself was still ensconced in Belgrade. Numerous voices there claimed that to send him to The Hague for trial would make him a hero at home and potentially destabilise Serbian society. Milosevic is in The Hague under arrest and, if anything, his popularity in Serbia seems to have decreased even further. Events have moved on and so, it seems, have the people of Serbia with their new European aspirations.
Mr. David Drew (Stroud): I do not really want to talk about Milosevic, but I had the opportunity, a year ago, to visit Bosnia with the armed forces parliamentary scheme. It was interesting to examine how the forces were trying to arrest war criminals, known as Pifwics, which stands for persons indicted for war crimes. How long does the hon. Gentlemanthe report does not dwell on the matter for very longthink British troops should remain in such roles? We should consider not only how we conduct peacekeeping operations, but how we bring international justice to the appropriate quarters.
The Committee was keen to stress that domestic trials could not be substituted for trials at The Hague. No Bosnian Muslim or Kosovar Albanian witness should be expected to testify in Belgrade. On the other hand, it is crucial that the international tribunal be seen to be scrupulously impartial. That was one of the Committee's main concerns. Developments in the Presevo valley are encouraging. The Committee was fully supportive of the Covic plan to resolve the crisis peacefully. For Yugoslavia to be accepted back into the fold of western democracies, it is crucial that the Government in Belgrade address the grievances of minority groups, such as those referred to by my hon. Friend, and recognise the need to solve political problems by political meansas they seem to be doing.
Montenegro is the other constituent state of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but to all intents and purposes has been autonomous since the mid-1990s. The writ of the federal Government only runs in Montenegro in respect of the armed forces and air traffic control. The British Government have repeatedly told the Foreign Affairs Committee that a unilateral declaration of independence by Montenegro could destabilise the region. The Committee was not convinced of this, but was convinced that a positive neighbourly relationship between Serbia and Montenegro was in the interests of both. President Kostunica stressed that to us last week. He has a vision of a rather minimalist federal structure covering foreign affairs, defence and macro-economic matters, but with major devolution. European Union High Representative Solana has been seeking to build bridges between both sides.
Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby): To return to the question of ethnic minorities in Serbia, did the Committee examine ethnic minorities in and around Belgrade? Are there any Albanians in Belgrade and if so, do any of them hold positions of responsibility there? Was there any investigation of the position of the Muslims in Sandzak, a region of Serbia?
Donald Anderson : We did not specifically address those issues. However, the more that minority rights are respected in the new democracy of Serbia, the more Serbia will be ready to be fully accepted into the European comity of nations. That is a challenge for the new Government in Serbia, given all the tensions and pressures that draw people into their ethnic enclaves.
Events have moved on since our report was published. The minority, pro-independence Government in Montenegro seems determined to proceed to a referendum on independence, and many Serbian politicians seem content to let that happen. It would be useful to know how the Government intend to respond to a referendum.
The Committee was concerned about inefficiencies in the international administration in Kosovo. In their recent memorandum, the Government outlined positive and welcome moves to improve the morale of United Nations staff and strengthen law and order. Alas, Kosovo's status is an unsatisfactory fudge and will remain so for some time. However, the alternatives are worse. Independence would destabilise the region, while reintegration with Serbia is not on the practical agenda. The success of moderate ethnic Albanians in the recent elections and the relatively high level of participation among the Serb minority are welcome signs of growing inclusiveness and the rejection of violence, which we all hope will persist. President Kostunica told the Committee last week that all the peoples of the region must abandon any idea of living in ethnically pure states. He said that there should be no greater Serbia and no greater Albania. I am sure that my colleagues on the Committee agree with that.
When the Committee published its report, Macedonia was showing worrying signs of descending into the sort of inter-ethnic violence that had plagued much of the rest of the former Yugoslavia. The Committee recommended that the British Government take the most urgent steps to galvanise the international community into bringing the situation under control and countering Albanian extremist violence against Macedonia, much of which was coming across the border from Kosovo. It is heartening that the international community has learned some of the lessons of Bosnia and Kosovo and that the threat of widespread interethnic violence seems so far to have been averted. We all have before us images of the violence in the former Yugoslavia, in places such as Srebrenica, Mostar and Vukovar. The Macedonian Government must be held to their commitment to guarantee all their citizens equal rights. Ethnic Albanian leaders must be held to their commitment to join the political process and not resort to arms. I commend the speed of NATO's response on the surveying of weapons decommissioning in Macedonia. The operation was highly successful.
Events in the Balkans cannot be separated from European security."
Although threats remain and economic difficulties will not be easily surmounted, there are real signs of hope in the region. Those include the development of a democratic and reform-minded Government in Belgrade, the opening of the Danube, the positive vote in the Macedonian Parliament and the result of the elections in Kosovo.
Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk): It is a great personal pleasure for me to follow the speech of the distinguished Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson). I unreservedly applaud him and all the members of the Committee for producing the report. It is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the Balkans and it sets the tone for discussions of the future pattern there.
The Committee has made a positive contribution to the debate about the future of the region, and particularly the role that the United Kingdom Government can play in assisting with the complex political issues that arise there. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the terrible catalogue of displacement and slaughter that has taken place in the Balkans in the past few years. That has been a matter of international concern. With your indulgence, Madam Deputy Speaker, I want to discuss some background before dealing with the specifics of the report.
We support that sentiment and recognise the contribution made by the United Kingdom, through bilateral and multilateral action, to the establishment of a democratic Government in Belgrade. However, some questions that we have raised in the past two and a half years remain unanswered. Of course, it would be absurd to suggest that there is an immediate solution to the situation in the Balkans, given the history and tensions. There is too much historical baggage for simple answers, but Britain is a major military player in the former Yugoslavia. British forces were central to the NATO-led implementation force IFOR, which was in turn succeeded, after UNPROFOR, by the stabilisation force, SFOR. In the more recent past we need only think of the role played by British troops in attempting to secure peace in Macedonia.
The situation in the Balkans is fluid. In the seven months since the report was released, there have been welcome, historic, elections in Kosovo, constitutional amendments in Macedonia and an end to the United Nations Security Council arms embargo against the federal republic.
Mrs. Mahon : Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern about the second set of elections in Kosovo, in which voter turnout dropped and extremist parties obtained 30 per cent. of the votean increase on last year?
To make the peace a long-term one, the international community must work towards a framework, from which a consensus on long-term stability in the region can emerge among the Balkan countries, however difficult, and international players. We have long called for a policy that, rather than focusing on each individual state, would adopt a broad, embodying approach to the region. That way of thinking echoes sentiments recorded in the Committee's findings.
In its conclusion the Committee stated that what happens in Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo matters, and influences European security and stability. That is a crucial observation and echoes what the right hon. Gentleman said in his remarks. I pay tribute to the Minister for his interest and involvement in what happens in the region. There has in the past been criticism of what has happened and we should perhaps gently pass that by, but the interest that the Minister has shown in the area, on behalf of the Government, is appreciated. For our interest to wane once more would be a tragedy for the region, and such neglect might have implications for all that has been achieved so far.
Only five days after the report was published, a landmark in the political evolution of the Balkans was reached. Slobadan Milosevic was arrested and, in June, was extradited to The Hague to face the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. He inflicted terrible harm on his own people, masterminding a programme of ethnic cleansing throughout the western Balkans, so it is right that he should be brought to book.
We welcome the encouragement provided by the United Kingdom Government to the democratic opposition to Milosevic during the election campaign and subsequent transition period. The trial of Milosevic is a test of the integrity of the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. We welcome the progress made to date and, in the face of Milosevic's defiant words, his trial must be seen to deliver impartial justice, as I am sure that it will. The voluntary surrender of Halilovic to the International Criminal Tribunal showed that the tribunal has the potential to deal with injustice in the region. Therefore, we hope that it will be a success and complement the role of domestic courts.
The hundreds of millions of dollars of aid received by the federal republic since April are proving crucial in rebuilding the country's battered economy. However, I recently saw reports of concerns about the living standards of many in the region, most notably in Serbia, and I welcome the fact that the Danube is to be cleared. On 20 November, a letter appeared in The Times from the European Commissioner Lord Patten. When adding to his comments on the clearing of the Danube, he said:
The Committee noted in March that the growing tension and violence in Macedonia had a frighteningly similar pattern to that in Bosnia. Instability in Macedonia has proved a great threat to the region. I express our sorrow at the death of sapper Ian Collins, who died trying to restore peace to the region, and welcome a full investigation into his death. Macedonia must simply not be allowed to disintegrate into another Kosovo, Bosnia or Croatia, which would constitute a massive reverse for the United Nations, the European Union and NATO, as the report observed.
A strong international presence in Macedonia proved crucial in supporting the Government and deterring rebels. It remains important that the Kosovar Albanians do everything possible to ensure that ethnic Albanians end terrorist activities in Macedonia. We should remain unequivocal in our support for the Government of Macedonia, which is democratic, legitimate and endeavours to protect the interests of the Albanian minority. It should be little wonder that many Macedonians protested in June when Francois Leotard, the EU representative in Macedonia, stated that the Macedonian Government must hold talks with Albanian guerrillas. That is a difficult problem.
On the point of concern that NATO has not acted rapidly or effectively enough to prevent the flow of arms and men across the border from Kosovo to Macedonia, I remind hon. Members that NATO has been a prominent force for peace in the Balkans for a long time. NATO facilitated a situation wherein the strongest and boldest nations could play to their strength, while accepting that others had different sorts of capabilities. I am sure that all hon. Members will agree that NATO must remain at the heart of the debate about European security.
The Committee concludes that Montenegro has the right to seek independence. The decision to recognise the state is a matter for other states to consider, but we must not deny the people of Montenegro an independence for which they voted in free and fair elections.
Javier Solana, the EU High Representative, recently said that Montenegro's chances of gaining entry into the EU would be harmed if it left the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The matter is difficult and I am not clear exactly what he meant in that regard. To echo Lord Patten's comments in the letter, if that is the route that is ultimately taken, I hope and believe it will be possible in the fullness of time to embrace it into the European Union.
Some Members have argued that an independent Montenegro would provoke instability, but the Committee concluded that the problems caused by Montenegrin independence would be slight when compared with other factors contributing to regional instability. I understand that the Serbian and Yugoslav Governments have said that they will accept a legal and peaceful declaration of independence by Montenegro, although there may be an argument about some processes of devolution. I certainly support the Committee's conclusions on Montenegro.
In the light of the desire of all factions to build stability in the region, I urge the Government, as the Committee suggests, to investigate the fate of those Serbs missing in Kosovo. That is important in demonstrating that equality and democracy are alive in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I also urge the Minister to pay heed to the recommendation that the Government should attach a very high priority to providing assistance for the development of an independent and free media in Serbia. We have all too often seen how a free and fair media is central to democracy and stability, and it is an important element for the future democratic development of Serbia.
In conclusion, the conflicts in Kosovo and Macedonia have constituted the latest festering sores on the political landscape of the Balkans. If they are to be the last, the international community must play a facilitating role in the future development of the region. The Committee concluded that the real positive hope for the future of the region will be the development of a democratic and economically reformed Serbian Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I would add that in the Balkans instability breeds instability and always has. We must try to break that cycle. The fall of Slobodan Milosevic and the process of the trial is only a piece, albeit a large piece, in that jigsaw. We have long arguedthe Committee's report demonstrates thisthat for stability to be achieved in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the international community must adopt a policy that broadly embodies and encompasses an approach to the whole region.
Mr. Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central): I congratulate the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs on its excellent report. Members of the Committee who are present will forgive me if I make the obvious point that it would have been much better if we had debated the report when it came out, particularly as it covers such a fast-changing region as the Balkans, and we have had a general election since its publication. One of the difficulties of commenting on the former Yugoslavia is the extraordinary pace of change not only since the report was published but since the Foreign Office responded to it. In some aspects, we are now a long way from the circumstances then.
I want to go back a little further. It is always possible to say that many things are going wrong, but in fact many things are now going right as wellit is important to record thatpartly as a result of the international community's action. The history of the region and its future would have been radically different had there not been such intense activity by the international community. We should place on record our strong approval of the activities of NATO and, more generally,
In 1995I offer it as a largely arbitrary point half way through the previous decadeoptimists would have described Slovenia as a success in the wake of the break-up of Yugoslavia. Ironically, Macedonia might have been next in line for applause. My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson), who is Chairman of the Select Committee, asked whether Milosevic was seen at the time as the problem or the solution. I had some involvement in the region, and I doubt whether anyone saw Milosevic as the solution. The region was dominated by President Tudjman of Croatia, and if anyone deserved to appear before the war crimes tribunal alongside Milosevic, it was him. I regret to say, however, that he did not.
At that time, anyone would have said that it was impossible to put Bosnia back together, and that its ethnic, religious and other divisions were so intense that it could never make a viable nation in its own right. However, matters have moved forward. Milosevic has gone, Tudjman has long gone and Croatia is arguably a success story. There is a message in Croatia's progress that the rest of the region should bear in mind. During the time of Tudjman and afterwards, it was made clear to Croatia that it would pay a price if it failed to accept a road map to Europe, and that it would be recognised and welcomed if it took a different course to that which it was taking. That had two consequences, one of which was very important. It emboldened some in Croatia to stand up and say that the activities of the Tudjman Government were not in Croatia's interests.
Even during times when the level of control is not what we would want or accept, it is important that we give the strong message to those who oppose such regimes that there are different rewards for different kinds of futures. I strongly endorse the Select Committee's important observation that the role of the free press is fundamental in building democratic institutions in the region. However, it is important that the people of the region be able to discuss their future in the knowledge that there is a proper road map to the Europe of which the region is rightly a part, and from which it can benefit in the longer term. As the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) said, there is no doubt that the European Union and other European institutions beckon for those in the region who are prepared to take such steps.
Bosnia is no longer the basket case it once was. There is now multi-ethnic co-operation, and that is an issue on which I want to concentrate for a few moments. It would help if the Minister could put on the record his own view on where Bosnia is going, and on the problems as well as the successes. Bosnia is still undergoing enormous transformation, but it remains very important to the rest of the region. If Bosnia can get it right, we can dispel the myth of a Balkans that must always have splits and ethnic division. Ironically, that is a very glib reading of the region's history.
Mrs. Mahon : My hon. Friend might be interested in a summary on Bosnia that we received last weekend from Gary Dempsey, of the Cato Institute in Washington. He said that he was very sceptical about Bosnia. Although billions have been invested, it is still run as a
Mr. Lloyd : I can think of no time when there were not those who were prepared to say of Bosnia, "It's too difficult to handle, let's redraw the Dayton map, or rip it up and move towards mono-ethnic solutions." The problem with mono-ethnic solutions is that they would leave the Balkans made up not of countries recognisable by today's standards but of tiny, ethnically pure enclaves. It would be a Balkans not of countries but of cantons. If my hon. Friend thinks that it is difficult to put a Bosnia back together, she should think about how a region of such cantons could be put back together. That would be massively difficult and not in the interests of stability in the region or more generally.
Mr. Lloyd : I do not particularly want to look down my hon. Friend's ethnic kaleidoscope, because I do not think that that would be very helpful. Of course Serbia is ethnically mixed; Sandzak and Vojvodina have been mentioned and some ethnic minorities living in Serbia suffered brutally under previous Belgrade Governments. The future, however, for Serbia and Yugoslavia is as a multi-ethnic country. There can be no doubt in anyone's mind that multi-ethnicity must be made to work in Serbia.
Multi-ethnicity must also be made to work in Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and, although I will not go into the legal structures, Kosovo. There is no future for any of us if we begin to pick and choose which side we are on and which ethnic groups will be the inheritors. Montenegro itself is multi-ethnic. We must say to all parties that there can be no truck with those who look for ethnic solutions. Those days are long gone in the Balkans, and there can be no long-term future that way.
There is a future if we canI hear the despairing voicesplay a part in building a Bosnia with multi-ethnic institutions and politicians who are beginning to grow up. My hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) made a point about the rise of the extremists in democratic elections in Kosovo. I ask her to cast her mind back to not many years ago when people were saying the same about Bosnia. It was divided, with the extremists in control of almost every part. Since then, Bosnia's people in each ethnic community have begun to say, "No, hang on, that is not a future for us. We are not prepared to have truck with the lunatics who did so much damage to the country." Increasing numbers of Bosnia's people are saying that they want to work with, and will vote for, politicians who campaign on the basis of being part of a multi-ethnic and multi-institutional solution.
There is a similar situation in Macedonia. The international community's work has been tremendously important there. I was at a meeting yesterday at which the High Representative spoke. Questions were put to him by Macedonians and others about the failure of European institutions to put Macedonia back on a firm footing. He rightly pointed out force-fully to all concerned that not many months ago when civil war was on the agenda in Macedonia the international community's work prevented the outbreak of a war that could have seen the whole region consumed by bloodshed.
Of course some unacceptable things took place, but the international community responded rapidly and with certainty about what it wanted to achieve. That is a model of how we should behave as good citizens in this common Europe. On record, I want to congratulate our Government and other Governments. The role that the Germans played in succeeding the British in their peacekeeping role should also be noted. That was a difficult decision for the German people, but they took that step because they recognised that, in modern Europe, Germany must move away from its past to a different future.
I strongly share the view that we must send signals to the whole region that we believe that its future is in the European family and that long-term membership of the European Union is important for each country. That is an important signal to send, but it must be given with the condition that those who want to split up the region will not gain support. That is why I disagree with the Select Committee's conclusions on Montenegro. It would be far more rational to give the signals that I have suggested to the people of Montenegro. Let none of us believe that the issue was ethnicity in Montenegro; it has a huge Serb minority and a mixed population.
One could hold a romantic view of a Montenegro that was once independent, but that is some time in the past. It is more plausible to talk of the future and understand that it would be dangerous to be party to a break-up of any part of the region, or give the signal that we supported or applauded that. We should say that we expect to see increasing co-operation in the Balkans and that rewards will be given to those who are co-operators and who build up common institutions. The economy and polity of that region depends, in every part, on strengthening the common role of the region; its future in a common Europe depends on that message being understood.
I would like the Minister to say whether we can begin to define a road map for the region and show each country that we recognise its difficulties by showing it the steps that it needs to take to strengthen democratic institutions, the free press and the control of the military. Those elements are hallmarks of a movement towards democracy. Under that framework, can we define how progress is to be made towards European institutions? That would be particularly relevant for Serbia. What message will we give to that country, which is inevitably bruised by its recent past? We should say that there is no antagonism or hostility towards the people of Serbia in general, just because it was disastrously ruled by Milosevic for a period and that, for them, the road map will mean a systematic dismantling
It is in our hands, through international action, to ensure that we are partners to helping those in the region to build a future, which is democratic and in Europe. We can give that signal and I hope that the Minister will say what the map will be for each nation.
Mr. David Chidgey (Eastleigh): Contributions from hon. Members, and particularly from the distinguished Chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson), have already drawn attention to the inescapable fact that the situation in the Balkans changes rapidly and unexpectedly. It is worth reminding ourselves that the Select Committee report of March called for a resolution to the reluctance of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to extradite Milosevic, yet by the time the Government had responded to the report he was already incarcerated in The Hague. The report highlighted concerns over the instability in Kosovo, yet the elections in November brought fresh and hopeful mandates to the new provisional Government.
The report drew attention to the aspirations for independence in Montenegrothat was mentioned by the hon. Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Lloyd)especially in relation to the potential clash with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia if Montenegro's political establishment continued to pursue those aims, yet elections in Montenegro and the removal of Milosevic have brought a new dimension to these arguments. The Committee was concerned about the fighting that had broken out in the Presevo valley, but those fears have now to some extent been allayed. Nevertheless, the territorial disputes spilled over into Macedonia during the summer, and it is fair to say that so far only a fragile restoration of peace has been achieved through the intervention of our EU forces.
Having studied the report and contributed to it in some small way, I believe that a key factor in the future stability of the region is the economic and political stability of the "new Serbia", as the report describes it. The coalition of democratic parties that swept to power on a promise of widespread economic and political reforms is key to the future of the democracy that is being established. Under the Prime Minister, Mr. Djindjic, the Serbian Government have managed to push through a series of important structural reformsimportant enough for the International Monetary Fund to be impressed by their speed and commitment.
However, there is still growing discontent in Serbia at the slow pace of change. Salaries remain very low, strikes are frequent, output has fallen by about 60 per cent. over the past 10 years, unemployment is approaching 50 per cent.admittedly that relates only to the taxed economy, not the shadow economy, but it still has a significant effect on the tax base of the countryand a 10th of the population are pensioners or refugees. That situation provides fertile ground for the ascendancy of the ultra-nationalist parties that supported Milosevic in the past. With elections due on
The EU acted with commendable speed at the end of the war with Serbia. About 200 million euros of emergency aid was dispensed quickly, and in July the international donors pledged some $1.3 billion, of which the EU donated about $445 million. Overall, the EU has committed the staggering sum of 145.3 million euros, to be disbursed to meet essential needs this year. Over the next five years an even more staggering sum of about 4.65 billion euros will go to the region as a whole.
That is pretty impressive by any standards, but the critical factor is how, when and how quickly the aid will be disbursed. I understand from the Foreign Office report that work on a country strategy for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Macedonia is due to be completed by the end of 2001that is, of course, the end of this month. However, will that allocation of aid be sufficient to restore economic stability in the long term and, more importantly, to maintain political stability in the short term? The President, Mr. Kostunica, tells us that the cost of repairing NATO bomb damage alone is twice the national debt. I do not have a figure for the national debt of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but I suspect that the Minister, who takes great interest in these matters, and is an encyclopaedic fund of knowledge on matters to do with central Europe, will be able to give it to me and put it in the context of the money that we in the west are offering to help restore the country.
Mr. Chidgey : I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. It appears that the national debt of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is $14 billion, which is an interesting figure in comparison with the amount of aid that the west is currently offering over a five-year period.
If we shall not have the report on aid strategy for Yugoslavia until the end of this year, and given that elections will be held on 23 December, there is a danger that, given the current economic situation, the ultra-nationalist parties could begin to gain ascendancy, which would damage the fragile democracy that the DOS has established. The disbursement of international aid to Yugoslavia is linked closely, if discretely, to co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The extradition of Milosevic was directly to linked to the United States deciding to withhold its aid programme until the last minute, but the situation is more complicated than that.
The issue is clouded by Yugoslavian political rivalries, which are the bedrock of Balkan politics. Although President Kostunica argued that the rule of law in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia could not accommodate the extradition of Mr. Milosevic, the Prime Minister, Mr. Djindjic, who is a realist if ever I
Events in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia have moved on, and to counter the President's arguments, opinion polls taken over some time show that public opposition to the extradition of indicted war criminals has declined markedly. The pre-eminent issues for the Serbian people understandably concern domestic matters such as employment, wages and the economy. Sadly, there is little political appetite for pursuing the extradition of other indicted war criminals because the political rivals are preoccupied within their internal power struggle, and extradition may be seen as a lever to gain political advantage among the competing parties.
It is interesting to note that Carla del Ponte, the tribunal's chief prosecutor, has criticised President Kostunica for not releasing army files to enable the tribunal to pursue indicted criminals because they may contain state secrets. Although Milosevic's extradition on Djinjic's orders did not destabilise the Government, President Kostunica was reported in The Sunday Times on 25 November to be arguing that. He said:
Carla del Ponte claims that the Serbian army is sheltering Ratko Mladic, a wartime commander who has been indicted for genocide. It takes only a brief assessment of the political intrigue that still exists in Serbia to reveal that the situation is more complex than we might think.
Examination of the views currently being expressed in Serbia indicates that there are different opinions on what is happening. On 21 November, the Serbian magazine Reporter published a list of members of the Yugoslavian special police forces who, it alleges, had been indicted by the tribunal for war crimes. Spectacularly, Reporter claims that the list was leaked from President Kostunica's office in a secret deal with Prime Minister Djindjic. We need to remember that the special police forces, or the red berets as they are known, are the same forces that committed the worst atrocities in the course of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, under the direct command and control of Arkan. In Serbia today, there appears to be no one controlling these special police forces. Apparently they are organising strikes and road blockades around Belgrade in protest at the indictment of their colleagues by the tribunal. The question of who controls the red berets is causing deep concern in the Republic of Serbia. There are an increasing number of protests that should be reigned in under the control of the national police force, and not be aligned with nationalist politicians.
The Reporter accuses the Democratic Opposition of the Serbian Government of being unable to contain Arkan's red berets. Yet, according to President Kostunica, they are under the control of Prime Minister Djindjic. I wanted to set out that piece of information to show just how complex and devious politics can be in this region. If the red berets are controlled by Prime Minister Djindjic, it begs the question why Djindjic does
If the UK Government are following the events in "new Serbia" as closely as I hope they are, they will be aware that it is vital to ensure that the aid to support economic stability, and of course political stability, is disbursed quickly and appropriately. They need to do this if they are to be sure that the Government of Serbia will survive and not suffer a major reverse. The timing of aid and extradition is crucial, but the Government must be aware of the pitfalls of overplaying their hand.
In the Foreign Affairs Committee report, the Committee dwelt at some length on Montenegro. It is important to remember that relationship problems between Serbia and Montenegro are still unresolved. Even though the Montenegrin President, Mr Djukanovic, failed to secure a sufficient mandate for independence when he won the elections in April, he still insists on holding a referendum. I understand that the laws to enable one to be introduced are being worked on now, and they are expected to be ready early next year. President Djukanovic is on the record as saying that the question is not whether a referendum will be held on independence in Montenegro, but when and under what conditions.
Members might like to reflect on the fact that Montenegro is already independent in all but name. It controls its own monetary policy, its own foreign affairs, its own security and its own customs. The only things it seems not to control are the army, which is Serbian, and air traffic control, which remains in Yugoslav hands.
We all know that the international community openly opposes independence for Montenegro because it does not fit the ball game; it does not fit the chart that has been mapped out. There is obviously a tremendous fear of a domino effect redrawing the borders and leading perhaps to the Albanians in Kosovo and Macedonia, or even the Serbs in the Republic of Sprska, seeking secession. We should recognise that the Montenegrins see that as unfair. As a former full republic in Tito's Yugoslavia, under the EU's guidelines Montenegrins should claim the same rights as other republics.
Mr. Chidgey : I was not suggesting support or otherwise for whether Montenegro should become independent. My point is that we must accept that they will have a referendum. We must accept also that the people of Montenegro have the right to show their feelings and register their views as part of the democratic process.. It is not right for us, in the august chambers of Westminster, to tell people around the world how they should run their own affairs. They have the right to self-expression, including Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and
Mr. Lloyd : That touches on a fundamental point. Many of us grew up with the right to self-determination. My lifelong belief in it is based on the struggle for independence in Irelandvery romantic. However, there is a problem with characterising that right as unlimited, as the hon. Gentleman did. It opens up the question of the right to self-determination of the Serbs in the Republica Srpska and Croatia and, very importantly, that of the Albanians in Macedonia. These issues are very difficult. I ask the hon. Gentleman to reflect on the balance between the right to self-determination and the right to maintain the integrity of international borders.
Mr. Chidgey : I chose my words carefully. I spoke about the peoples of those republics, not the ethnic groupings. That is the essential difference. The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) made it clear that it is for the people of those areas to express their views, not ethnic groups. It is no good us assuming that the problem will go away. We must accept that these peoples, whatever their ethnic background, will express their views. We must be flexible enough to understand and work with that.
According to the Montenegrins, the international community has changed the rules of the game. It is believed in some quarters that Montenegrin independence would have negative consequences, and that takes precedence in some people's minds. However, no one in Belgrade or Podgorica denies the right of the Montenegrins to vote on their future. Heavy-handed opposition could be counterproductive and could strengthen the independence vote, for obvious reasons. The international community must be prepared to react flexibly, even if it is displeased with the results of the referendum. Failure to do so would be a recipe for future instability.
Kosovo is a major part of the Committee's report. Its status has not yet been resolved, and probably will not be for some time. It will remain for some years under UN administration. However, the mid-November elections were a major step forward in establishing democracy, particularly as Serbs participated in significant numbers for the first time. The elections produced a clear victory for the Democratic League of Kosovo, led by Dr. Rugova, which augers well for the democratic process. Even so, Dr. Rugova, who is known for his pacifism, on winning the election promptly called for Kosovo's independence "Today or tomorrow". That call was approved by 90 per cent. of Kosovo Albanians. Prime Minister Djindjic of Serbia recognises that approval. He was quoted in the Financial Times of 2 July 2001 as saying:
That is clearly not a prospect that he relishes. He is far more concerned with protecting the Serb population that lives mainly in the north of Kosovo. The international community must recognise, and persuade the key players in the region to recognise, that as a quid pro quo for 36,000 NATO troops being deployed to keep the peace in Kosovo, Dr. Rugova should be
A number of Members have spoken about the Foreign Affairs Committee report on Macedonia, which is critical. In paragraph 164, the Committee highlights its concern that NATO had not acted sufficiently rapidly to prevent the flow of arms and men across the border from Kosovo to Macedonia. The Committee also pointed out that although Macedonia had been a model in multi-ethnic and democratic government, it could disintegrate into another Kosovo. It called upon the Government to take the most urgent steps to galvanise the international community to counter Albanian extremist violence. In the event, action was taken, and operation Essential Harvest secured a tenuous cessation of wide-scale violence. However, a large question mark still hangs over the political and economic stability of Macedonia.
A major concern must be the withdrawal of the Social Democratic Alliance from the governing coalition. Its departure is likely to strengthen the position of the Macedonian Nationalists, which has taken a hard line on the unrest in the country, and particularly on the ethnic disparity in the north of the country. The rise of the Nationalists will heighten ethnic tension.
Macedonia, too, is suffering from a fragile, unstable economic base. In 1998, more than a third of its working population was unemployed, and more than 80 per cent. of manufacturing and other equipment was obsolete. Inward investment was less that half what it was in 1972. Macedonia's Minister of Finance points out that, among transitional countries, Macedonia is at the bottom of the ladder in terms of inward investment. However, it is clear that investments are unlikely to materialise until there is some certainty that political and ethnic stability can be restored. The situation gives even greater weight to the Committee's recommendation that the Government must give a clear lead by ensuring that measures agreed by the Macedonian Government to give greater recognition to ethnic Albaniansmeasures essential to reducing ethnic tensionare implemented.
Finally, will the Minister tell us what progress has been made in increasing the proportion of Albanians in the police force from 5 per cent. to the target of 25 per cent.; what progress has been made in introducing the Albanian language into state institutions; and most important, what progress is being made in the investigation of the war crimes allegedly committed by both Government and NLA forces in Macedonia earlier this year? In Macedonia, as in Kosovo, Montenegro and the new Serbia, the Government have a key role to play in trying to bring stability to the region.
Although the Government's response to the Committee's report is in many ways encouraging, rapidly changing events make it clear that much more needs to be done, both now and in the longer term. It would be folly to underestimate the destruction wrought by Milosevic and his cronies in every sphere, or the effort that is needed now by the international community to help rebuild shattered communities. It must be accepted by our Government and their partners that a long-term commitment is essential. We must continue to deploy peacekeeping forces sufficient for the task to rebuild political institutions and restore democracy, to restore economic stability and, above all, to give all the peoples of the region the right democratically to express their views on, and pursue the determination of, their future. 3.44 pm
Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax): I welcome this opportunity to discuss Yugoslavia. The Committee's report was produced in March and is based on information that is at least a year old. Given that the report concludes that the Government played an important role in bringing about the present situation, we are entitled to know what progress has been made on the many outstanding problems that the report highlights. I hope that the Minister can update us.
Hon. Members know that I do not share the Committee's favourable view of the United Kingdom's role in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. I thank my colleagues for re-electing me to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. My position as a delegate has allowed me to observe events at first hand for a decade, and I know that the picture is not as rosy as the report paints it, despite dwelling on the problems in the former Yugoslavia.
I wish that the report had placed a little more emphasis on refugees. I do not know whether the Committee visited any of the many refugee camps in Serbia, but I have visited one or two. Serbia has the largest refugee problem in Europe, but because the Serbs were so demonised they received the least help from the aid agencies. Those agencies purport not to be political, but they have acted very politically in recent years.
The Yugoslav experience is not a useful modelbombing is not a useful model for anyone to adopt. The Labour party used to have an honourable record on diplomacy. It sought to be a peacemaker rather than to take immediate military action. Now, however, we take so much notice of American foreign policy that we support almost everything with a military outcome.
I want to concentrate, however, on the present and the future. In particular, I want to consider international terrorism and Kosovo. We cannot separate the situation there from current events, nor can we discuss international terrorism without considering Macedonia. Events in Yugoslavia led to the situation in Macedonia.
I have been to Macedonia several times. I recently spoke to Government and non-Government representatives, and I assessed the situation myself. In the recent terrorist attackswe cannot call them anything elsehundreds of citizens, including moderate
I am totally in favour of civil and political rights for minorities in Macedonia and elsewhere. That includes giving the Albanian language more status. However, the Macedonian Government have been doing something about that. Six members of the Cabinet are Albanians. My friends there include both Slavs and Albanians, and I have talked with them many times over the years. Education up to secondary level and now at university can take place in the Albanian language. I am not saying that the situation is perfect, but people have been doing something about it. It was certainly not worth taking up arms over. It would be wrong for the Scots or the Welsh to attack London because they wanted greater autonomy for the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly.
Mr. Randall : The hon. Lady will probably be aware that Lord Robertson described the attacks in Macedonia as terrorist incidents when they first happened. Ordinary Macedonians have a little difficulty understanding why the west takes a different view of different forms of terrorism.
Mrs. Mahon : I thank the hon. Gentleman for that. The KLA was number two on the most wanted terrorist list, and many people in Yugoslavia were amazed when its status suddenly changed when America decided to take its side and bomb Yugoslavia. Suddenly its forces were our allies rather than the second-most wanted terrorists on the State Department's list.
That is not altogether to be ruled out, as the Albanian nationalists are not satisfied. The country has de facto been divided. Some of the excuses made in the west for the people who went into another country and encouraged an uprising are shameful.
I want to concentrate on the KLA and terrorism. Kosovo is a lawless state, and not one to be proud of. A direct link between bin Laden and the KLA is well established. At a recent NATO Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Canada, we were given a briefing and a report from Gwen McClure, the assistant director of the criminal organisations division of Interpol, about the Balkans route for drugs and human smuggling. The emphasis of her speech was on the links between terrorism and criminal activity. She said:
of terrorism has declined. That is important to note with regard to the bombing of Afghanistan, and the threats that Richard Pearl and others keep making about extending the bombing to other Muslim countries, such as Iraq, Somalia and the Sudan.
Tell that to the Serbs, the Roma and Gorani, who live in the tiny enclaves, or the people who try to protect with tanks the wonderful monastery at Decani. Given the information that we have about the connections between bin Laden and the KLA, should not KFOR be doing something in response and tightening up on the groups that continue to operate? Certainly, it should tighten up on Kosovo's borders with Macedonia, in that regard.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) mentioned Vukovar and Srebrenica and some dreadful crimes committed by the Serbs, but let us be even-handed and go to Knin and the Krajina and look at the dreadful crimes committed against the Serbs as we bombed them and they were driven out by the Croatian armies. Agim Ceku is now in charge of the renamed Kosovo Protection Corps. As an international community that believes in the rule of law and that war criminals should be tried, we cannot have good terrorists and bad terrorists; we cannot have double standards.
Mr. Lloyd : My hon. Friend's last point is right. No observer has any doubt that dreadful crimes were committed by every group. That is the brutal, nasty reality. Atrocities were recently committed in Macedonia by ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians, which gratifies neither side. All those atrocities need condemnation. My hon. Friend is right to say that the tribunal on the former Yugoslavia has a remit that would cover Kosovo.
Mr. Lloyd : I agree with my hon. Friend, but those guilty of crimes during the most recent upsurge of violence, whether they are Albanians or Serbs or from any other group, should face that tribunal. However, we should get away from the idea that anyone who condemns Serb violence wants to support Croat or Bosnian violence. That does not follow.
Mrs. Mahon : No, but it would have been helpful if the west had been more even-handed in its statements and in pursuit of criminals from the other groups. I visited the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague with two other people, and had an interview with Carla del Ponte when I returned from Krajina. She assured us that her people would look into the graves, which they know existwe photographed themand she wanted to be even-handed. On the wall of her office, however, she had a cartoon of four wanted Serb criminals and, look as I could, I could see no such pictures of anyone from the Muslim or Croatian communities.
Shortly afterwards, we visited Banja Luka in the Republika Srpska and met Mr. Collett, a British policeman from Preston. We chatted, and I was the Chair of the Committee when he briefed us. He said that only Serb war criminals were being sought, so that is on the record.
Just what are those 50,000 troops doing in Kosovo? What good can it do Rugova and the moderates who were recently elected if an army of ex-KLA people is still operating in Kosovo? After all, they found it very easy to stir up trouble in Macedonia and take lots of weapons. Although I would praise George Robertson, the NATO Secretary-General, and President Solana for their efforts in bringing about peaceof course I dono one is fooled because the real store of weapons is undoubtedly still in the bit of Macedonia that has effectively been taken over by the Albanians.
The recent elections were welcome but, as I said earlier, there has been a drop in turnout since last year and more people voted for extremist parties. It is time that we took control. It is time that we did something about getting many of the returnees back. We have 50,000 troops there; that begs the question of why, with all that protection, does the KLA need an army?
We should be doing something about the Serbs and others who are living in terrible conditions under siege. They are the forgotten victims of the international community; they are second-class citizens. As they made their exodus from Kosovo, driven out and burnt out, many of them were killed. I remind the Chamber that 1,300 of them are still missing, but the Albanians refuse to say anything about them, as does the KLAI make a distinction between those who support Rugova and those who support Hashim Thaci. When the Serbs were leaving in their tractors, the BBC and other media were shamefully missing. It was not reportedor only in very small numbers.
It is not good enough, as the report suggests, to pat ourselves on the back for deposing Milosevic. I am no supporter of Milosevic. However, he was an elected representative, and it is the Serbian people who deserve credit for getting rid of himand for voting in large numbers to achieve it. We are partly responsible for the economic mess that the country faces today, and nothing like enough is being put in to put the mess right.
I turn briefly to some other problems. We discussed Montenegro at some length in Washington at the weekend, and the representative from the Yugoslav Government pointed out that they had agreed to abide by a referendum. However, it was pointed out that the general feeling was that a loose federation was wanted; and the west is not supporting separatism.
It is time that we were given a detailed picture of the economic situation, especially in relation to sanctions. I hope that the Committee will support me in seeking an undertaking from the Minister that he will give Parliament an update and lots of information on that in the near future.
The report says that sanctions were instrumental in bringing about Milosovic's downfall. I believe that they played a role, but the people were more instrumental and we should give them credit for that. Have all the economic sanctions been removed? A modest sanction concerns Yugoslav AirlinesJATwhich has been unable to increase its flights between London and Belgrade. That is creating major problems as the airline tries to compete in a difficult situation. It has tried and failed to claim its rights and our Government Departments have been less than helpful in resolving the problem. I ask the Minister to look into the specific complaints from JAT.
Reports from NATOI received some this weekendsuggest that, sadly, the stability pact is simply not doing its job. We all had high hopes that it would do some good, but people are very disappointed. The criteria for receiving grants and help are tightly drawn; they do not fit in culturally, and the advice has not been good. People may have to change how they do things culturally, but if the advice is not correct, they feel as if they are operating in a maze and that someone is deliberately sending them round and round.
The memorandum submitted to the Committee by the Serbian Unity Congress said that the situation was still dire earlier this year. I know the people concerned and they are certainly not Milosevic supporters. They kept hope alive in the diaspora and within their country. They campaigned publicly for a number of years to get him out. They are very depressed about the situation and frightened that it might open the door to unpleasant parties that none of us wants to see operating again.
I referred to the bridge, but the town where the Zastava factory was has also been destroyed because we fired 21 cruise missiles at the factory. The only part of the factory with any military connections made fancy shooting guns, which are known worldwide. That was left standing, but the remainder of the factoryit made tractors and so onwas flattened and the whole area devastated.
The figures add up to a devastating impact on the daily lives of ordinary citizens, especially the elderly, the sick, children, refugees in particular and displaced people. At one of the camps I visited in Serbia, I met a woman from Bosnia who had been there for nine years and others from Krajina had been there since 1995-96. The irony was that there were also some moderate Albanians of whom the Kosovo Liberation Army had
Finally, what about the environmental clean-up? What are we going to do about the depleted uranium and the cluster bombs that still litter parts of Yugoslavia, particularly Kosovo? Incidents happen every couple of weeks because of the ordnance we dropped.
My message to the Government is that we want the facts about Yugoslavia. We do not want bland assurances now that we have moved on to another military operation and are obsessed with it. We must examine what is still needed in Yugoslavia and we really must get a grip on the criminality in Kosovo.
Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling): The right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) spoke of the mistakes that the international community has made over several years, following the break-up of the Tito empire in Yugoslavia. I agree that, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see that mistakes were made. However, as we debate the subject today, my overwhelming feeling is that the situation in the former Yugoslavia could have been much, much worse had not western countries intervened.
In Bosnia, ethnic violence, which was on an appalling scale, has been stopped. A few months ago, Macedonia looked in serious danger of disintegrating with the possible terrible consequences that we had already seen in Bosnia and Kosovo. That possibility has been arrested, and I speak highly of the personal contributions of the Secretary-General of NATO and the EU High Representative in achieving a degree of stabilisation there. Kosovo has just had elections and, against all the odds, there was Serbian participation in them.
As several hon. Members have said, just over a year ago, we saw the hugely brave and effective overturning of the Milosevic regime in former Yugoslavia and its replacement by a genuinely democratic Government. Last but by no means least, we now have Mr. Milosevic where he belongs: behind bars in The Hague, awaiting trial. All those things together form a striking testimony to the overall effectiveness and validity of the policy that the western countries have pursued including, I must say to the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) the military interventions.
However, none of us can be remotely complacent. Huge areas of concern remain. I am sure that ethnic violence is festering, probably just below the surface. There is much obscurity about the political long term, especially for Bosnia and Kosovo. The commitment of the international community to that part of the world looks to be almost indefinite, which is not a pleasing prospect. Against that background, there is still much that needs to be done. There is a substantial unfinished agenda. I would like to highlight four areas of that unfinished business.
Equally significant are Carla del Ponte's allegations about the authorities in Republika Srpska, including the one that they are harbouring Karadzic. Will the Minister say whether the British Government endorse her allegations? If they do, I hope that he can assure the Chamber that, bilaterally and through the international community, the Government will leave the authorities in Belgrade and in Republika Srpska in no doubt that it is wholly unacceptable to harbour those who, allegedly, have committed the major crime against humanity of genocide.
The second big area of unfinished business that I want to highlight is economic reconstruction, to which many hon. Members have already referred. Like other members of the Foreign Affairs Committee who visited the former Republic of Yugoslavia in February, I have an abiding visual memory of what is left of the huge road bridge high over the Danube at Novi Sad. Until its collapse on being hit by an American cruise missile, it must have been an extraordinarily graceful sight. Although a remarkable demonstration of the accuracy of such technology, it has also served as a reminderas if we need any remindingthat what can be destroyed in moments costs a lot of money to rebuild. In the meantime, the destruction of that bridge has inflicted considerable economic damage on the civilian population, particularly as it bestrode a major transport artery.
Like the right hon. Member for Swansea, East, I am pleased to hear that American aid is being resumed, and that agreement has now been reached on clearance of the Danube. I hope that the Minister will say whether agreement to clear the river and make it navigable again has been accompanied by sufficient funding to enable that crucial bridge and others that cross the Danube at Novi Sad to be rebuilt. What is at stake is not merely the navigability of the Danube, but major arteries, both rail and road, that cross it in the former Republic of Yugoslavia.
Perhaps the Minister could also explain the extent of the present American Administration's willingness to engage in economic reconstruction of the former Republic of Yugoslavia. Several hon. Members have mentioned the scale of the sums involved. We can all recollect that both the Clinton Administration and the Bush Administration have said that the cost of reconstructing the former Republic of Yugoslavia after the Kosovo war is essentially a European matter, and that the United States should not be seen to be a major financial contributor.
The third area of unfinished business is the huge requirement for civilian government capacity building, most conspicuously in Bosnia and Kosovo. In both areas, the situation must be almost equivalenton a reduced scale, but every bit as criticalto that in Germany post-1945, where to all intents and purposes the existing civilian administration had fallen away and new administrations had to be built up.
In both countries, there is a key need to strengthen the capacity for civilian administration to take over, and to do so without the side effects to which the hon. Member for Halifax referred. Police forces must carry out proper independent policing and not be seen as arm of an ethnic group, whether it be a minority or a majority. A proper system of central and local government administration and tax collection must be established. Those are huge tasks and there is no doubt that the international community will have to make a significant long-term contribution. I hope that the Minister will bring us up to date on what the Government are doing in that respect. Obviously the British Government are just one of many, but I have no doubt, given the quality of the police force and the standards set by the civil administration in this country, that we can make a significant contribution in helping Bosnia and Kosovo.
The final and ultimately most difficult aspect of unfinished business is what is to emerge as the long-term nation statehood of the area covered by the former Republic of Yugoslavia. The most problematic region is the rump comprising Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro. There is no question but that, beyond the territory of Serbia, the nation statehood of the former Republic of Yugoslavia to all intents and purposes barely exists. Only the most limited writ from Belgrade runs in Montenegro and no writ from Belgrade runs in Kosovo. Speaking bluntly, the Republic of Yugoslavia is substantially a fiction in the territorial area covered by Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro. It is almost completely a fiction in Montenegro and a total fiction in Kosovo. Although I can understand why it is in the interests of the international community to maintain the fiction for a time, that position will not be sustainable in the long term. It is always dangerous to base a foreign, or an economic, policy on a fiction. Reality will always break through, as it will here.
The Minister will be in no doubt that what he describes as a "hypothetical scenario" will almost certainly become a new feature of life in this part of the world within a matter of months. It appears certain that there will be a referendum on independence in Montenegro next year, and if that referendum comes out in favour of independence, it will be up to the British Government, and other Governments around the world, to make a decision on recognition. The Committee reached the unanimous view that recognition should be granted in those circumstances.
I recognise that the situation is more difficult in Kosovo. It is inconceivable that the Albanian majority would accept a return to sovereignty over their country by Belgrade, and the independence issue has greater potential than that in Montenegro to knock on to the situation in Macedonia. On that matter, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was prepared to go no further than this delphic reply to the Committee:
That is a reasonable holding position, but I should like the Minister to focus his attention on the long term, which is admittedly difficult to address. The stark and inescapable long-term choice that must ultimately be made is between granting Kosovo independence or the international community remaining as the ultimate civil and security administration in Kosovo for the foreseeable future. The prospect of Kosovo being an international, governmental and security responsibility for ever more is an unattractive possibility of doubtful sustainability. I accept that as far as Kosovo is concerned the Minister is unlikely to want to deviate from the FCO's response today.
During the many years since the break up of the former Yugoslavia, Tito's death and the rise to power of Milosevic, there has, properly and reasonably, been a difference of view in the House during successive Parliaments. In the past, a minority view has been reasonably expressedthe hon. Member for Halifax eloquently articulated it today. That view is that this is not an area for western military intervention and that, by implication, we can stand on the sidelines to a certain extent. That view has not been confined to Labour Members; members of my party have strongly articulated the view that we should not get involved in the Balkans and should leave it to its own devices.
However, the majority view is that there is the potential for a humanitarian disaster on an even greater scale than has occurred, and that is so compelling and pressing that we cannot stand aside. The majority view has also been that conspicuous circumstances in Bosnia, and later in Kosovo, have meant that western military intervention was the only possible means of stabilising the situation and preventing further bloodshed. I offer
Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby): I am glad to follow the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John Stanley) because not everyone who now believes in military intervention, or any intervention, in the area of the former Yugoslavia has always felt that.
In December 1990, I saw the then Minister of State at the Foreign Office, the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), and told him what I thought would happen in Yugoslavia. I was told that the European Union, or any of the western countries, had no part to play in what was happening in Yugoslavia. That was four months before I received a letter from John Major who agreed that it was for the west, and particularly for our country, to uphold the international integrity of the territory of Yugoslavia. Of course, all that was forgotten when the Maastricht treaty came along and the Conservative Government wanted a quid pro quo to go along with Germany and recognise Croatia as an independent state.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) and his Committee on the comprehensive report. It is material that will be used by historians in years to come. I have some criticisms, however, which he no doubt expects. It is a pity that there is so little in the report about Bosnia-Herzegovina. The report refers to Yugoslavia and Government policy towards it since the fall of Milosevic. One myth that must be put to rest is that Milosevic fell because of NATO bombing, as was claimed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook). That is not the case. Milosevic remained there until about 18 months after the bombing. The writing was on the wall for Milosevic not because of the bombing, but because of the local elections that took place in Yugoslavia two years earlier. There was some opposition by Milosevic, at first, to recognising the results of those elections.
A comparison, as is sometimes made, between Yugoslavia under Milosevic and a dictatorship along the lines of Hitler's or Mussolini's is, in my view, false. I have visited Yugoslavia many timesI have been in the country more than 40 times during my life. Elections took place when Milosevic was there, and his regime had a stranglehold on the media, but no more so than in Russia in 1996. According to Time magazine, the Americans were pouring in money to help Yeltsin, who received almost 100 per cent. support from the media, which was then Yeltsin-controlled. There was nothing particular about Yugoslavia to denote it as a regime like Hitler's Germany.
I do not regard the ICTY as not politically motivated. I only wish that the Americans would agree to the setting up of an international criminal court so that there is a proper international institution in future and decisions of international justice, such as these, do not have to be left to a politically motivated and biased tribunal.
There does not seem to be any real reference to the problems of the Serbs in Krajina. There was a large Serb minority in Croatia, including in the capital, Zagreb. They were ethnically cleansed, but we heard very little about that in the western media. We know that in Krajina crimes were committed against Serbs who were trying to get out of the country as quickly as possible to Serbia proper. We know that when, in 1995, the Croats occupied western Slavoniathat part of Croatia had a large Serb majoritythey refused the international community any sight of what was happening there. However, Croatia got off fairly well scot free.
Then there is the question whether Milosevic was a problem or a solution. The way in which he was treated by the west during the 1990s is relevant. When the Vance-Owen peace plan was being advanced, together with a small, all-party group, I met Karadzic and I think we played a part in persuading him to sign the accord at Athens. As a start to negotiating the future of Bosnia, the Vance-Owen peace plan had something to be said for it. It was Milosevic who, with the encouragement of the west, went to the Bosnian Serb Parliament, but found that there were no takers. Karadzic could not carry the Bosnian Serbs with him.
The following day, the group of us who had seen Karadzic in Belgrade went to Bosanski Brod in the north of Bosnia, close to the border with Krajina, to try to persuade some Bosnian Serb politicians to accept the Vance-Owen peace plan. However, on that day, 2 May 1993, I saw something that I hope I will never see again. I was witness to the exhumation of bodies from a mass
That was part of the anti-Serb hysteria that we were supposed to go along with throughout the 1990s. Many Serbs wonder why the British should have taken part in bombing their territory. They are confused. Did not we, they say, fight on the same side in the first world war and the second world war? What about the Ustashi and the fascists in Croatia? Not all Croatians, of course, are fascists. Tito was a Croat. The fact is, the word "Ustashi" could be seen as graffiti on the walls of Bosanski Brod, written there by Croats when they had occupied the territory. The HDZ party, which controlled Croatia during the time of Tudjmanis the child of the Ustachi. I am pleased that it is no longer part of the Government, but it still exists and could be elected in future. The party has the same philosophy as those who supported fascism and Hitler during the second world war
Misha Glenny, whom I met in 1991 when the war was beginning, is mentioned a lot in the report. He is an expert on the Balkans and I am glad that the Committee listened to what he had to say. It is a pity that western Governments did not listen more closely to what he had to say during the early 1990s. I remember having a conversation with him sitting outside a cafe in Zagreb in August 1991, when Serb extremists had murdered 19 Croatian policemen in Osijek. Glenny told me that he was concerned about the activities of Vojslav Seslj, who has never been indicted as a war criminal and has certainly not been taken to The Hague. Seslj was responsible for the people who murdered those policemen.
Many of the war crimes committed in Bosnia on all sidesby Serbs, Croats and Muslimswere committed by groups that were not really controlled by the nominal powers in the territories. Seslj and Arkan, whom the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Chidgey) mentioned, played a leading role in war crimes, particularly in the early part of the civil war.
Mr. Wareing : I thank my hon. Friend for that information. I am not surprised by it, because the west took a one-sided view of the situation. Those of us who wanted an even-handed approach were often looked on as pro-Milosevic. That was the sort of thing that was said about us. Nothing could be further from the truth. I was the first Labour MP to meet Milosevic in Belgrade in 1991 and attack him on the situation of the Albanians in Kosovo. That was long before some members of the present Government or the previous one had heard of Kosovo or knew where it was. I was tackling him then. Milosevic was used. He was used at Dayton as an instrument for bringing about the peace agreement. The western powers got him to assist them when it suited them.
The idea that the Dayton agreement will bring lasting stability to Bosnia is poppycock. The Committee's report mentions the events of March 2000. The Croats in Bosnia were appealing for independence. Bosnia is not a state or a nation, but a geographical expression. It consists of Serbs, Croats and Muslims, and even the Muslims are Serbs, because they are descendants of Serbs who converted to Islam during Turkish times. There is no such thing as a Bosnian. One can adopt that fiction, if one likes, but it is not likely to last. After the events in March 2000, the international high commissioner dismissed the members of the Croat leadership in Bosnia. He had taken similar action in the Republika Srpska a few years previously. There had been a democratic election, but the people elected an extreme nationalist so the international high commissioner got rid of their elected representative.
There is as much chance of Dayton bringing long and lasting stability to Bosnia as there was of the Congress of Berlin in 1878 bringing a long and lasting solution. We know what happened then. It is impossible to hold people down for ever. Bosnia and Kosovo are, in essence, NATO protectorates, but the day will come when sense prevails. The Republika Srpska will be allowed to join the rest of the former Yugoslavia, and something similar will happen with the Croats. That may take a few years, but we would be fools to think that the present arrangement is lasting. The report does not tell us how many times the collective Bosnian leadership has met since Dayton. It is supposed to be the supreme body in Bosnia, but what has it done? The answer to that question proves that it is unrealistic to expect the present situation to continue.
I shall say only a few words about Kosovo because other hon. Members have spoken comprehensively about it. The bombing of Kosovo and Yugoslavia was contrived through the Rambouillet ultimatum, which no one has mentioned. Appendix B to that so-called accord was no more than an ultimatum to Milosevic. No leaderwhether or not he is a dictatorcould agree to an ultimatum that allowed foreign troops simply to walk on to his country's soil, occupy its airports and sea ports, use its roads and to be completely in control. Appendix B provided the excuse for bombing Yugoslavia.
To conclude, I appreciate the report, which will be useful for years to come. Government policy towards Yugoslavia should consider ways and means to restore reality to that part of the world. The rights of Serbs to self-determination and their own state should be recognised as much as the rights of Croats. I agreed with some comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Lloyd). Self-determination has a limit but, given the geography of Yugoslavia, it is apparent that it would be possible to have one federal state of Serbs and one of Croats. Until those people attain their nationalist aspirations, there can be no stable or long-lasting peace in the Balkans.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane ): This has been a good debate on a fine report. It was a great pleasure to take up my ministerial responsibilities and have a vade-mekum presented to me in my first red box. I invite the Select Committee to make similar reports on other parts of the world to help Ministers as they try to work their way through the maze of Government policy and choice. I say that not to flatter, but to express real appreciation for the quality and depth of the report.
There has always been a strong British connection to Yugoslavia. One of our historical advantages is that, unlike some of our European partners on the continent, we have not been especially parti pris in favour of one of the nations or communities in that country. We have not been pro-Serb or pro-Croat, and instead have enjoyed a rich relationship.
That is much reflected in our literature. One thinks of Manning and Rebecca West. I remember reading "Eastern Approaches" by Fitzroy Maclean as a boy. I seem to re-read it in almost every ambassador's residence in which I stay in the former Yugoslavia, to see what insights he had. Reference has rightly been made to the contributions of Misha Glenny, Tim Judah, Noel Malcolm, Anthony Lloyd and other British writers who have examined the problems of the area, sometimes from one perspective and sometimes from another. Such literature helps us to come to grips with the situation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) described Bosnia-Herzegovina as a geographical expression. That phrase was first put into international diplomatic history when Count Otto von
Mr. MacShane : I shall refer to another German political leader, Peter Glotz, whom I heard address a conference in Montreal in 1988. He referred to a speech made by a Mr. Milosevic at a place called Kosovo Polje, in which he invoked Serb nationalism as the guiding force for his new Serbian politics. Dr. Glotz, then the general secretary of the German Social Democratic party, said that he had thought that he would never hear in Europe language that reminded him so much of the nationalist extremism that led to the disasters of the 1930s. I recall that I was with many trade union colleagues at the time, and we all said, "Miloso-who? Kosovo-where?" We did not understand the references, but Dr. Glotz, as a wise German politician and intellectual, understood the direction in which Yugoslavia was heading.
In 1990, all Yugoslav citizens were far richer than every Pole, Czech or Hungarian. They could travel freely without any visa limitations. The Danube carried $113 million worth of trade in 1990. By 1996, the Danube was carrying a bare $50 million worth of trade, and the other difficulties of the terror that we know about were already well in place. Let it not be said, however, that intervention by the international community caused the current problems. They were there from 1990 onwards.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson), the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, was right to say that there were real signs of hope. The right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John Stanley) was right, too, when he said that the situation would have been hugely worse without intervention. I can report to the House that this has been a good year for the Balkans. It has not been perfect and much remains to be done, but we now have democratically elected Governments throughout the region committed to the rule of law, international obligations and minority rights.
I shall lift the veil on what sometimes happens behind the closed doors of diplomatic gatherings. Last week, I was in Bucharest, and just before the ministerial conference at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, while taking coffee in one of the anterooms, I saw Foreign Minister Svilanovic of Yugoslavia, Foreign Minister Picula of Croatia and the new Foreign Minister of Macedonia, Mr. Casule. They were talking in an intense huddle, and shared a common language and understanding. I was about to say hello to them when I realised that I was seeing what any democratic politician would have understood. That group of democratically elected men, who were representing their Governments, were trying to sort out their problems. That such a return to political normality
It has been an important year for the three Rs of reconstruction, reconciliation and reform. Reconstruction is best symbolised by the rebuilding of the bridge at Novi Sad and the reopening of the Danube to commercial traffic on 29 November. The EU has contributed 85 per cent. of the funding for the Danube Commission, a total cost of about 26 million euros. I understand that there is a proposal to rebuild the Slovodon bridge at a cost of 22 million euros. It is not only the river that is being reopened, but the bridges that cross it.
Much of that arises from the brave decision of the people of Yugoslavia and Belgrade to abide by the obligations of the international commission at the Hague and surrender Mr. Milosevic to the international rule of law and justice. In passing, I ask right hon. and hon. Members to ease some of their criticism of the work of Mrs. del Ponte. She was a distinguished procurator-general of the Swiss confederation, who bravely tackled problems to do with political and financial corruption that touched on the sensitive area of Swiss banking secrecy. She had to deal with some rather entrenched establishments in her own country. She is a distinguished European jurist, and we should listen to what she has to say about her current job. I shall return to that matter in a moment.
The good news is that the crimes, the terror, the pain and the violence of the last decade of the previous century are, on the whole, behind us. The security situation is relative stable despite sporadic attacks on security forces in recent months. Attention has been drawn attention to threats by Albanian extremists with a wider political agenda, and we are aware of those. We must remain vigilant and tackle underlying problems in areas that contain extremism.
My first visit to the region as a Minister was to Pristina. I said on television, face to face with Albanian political leaders and in articles in the press, that Albanian extremism and the use of violence to achieve political ends was wholly unacceptable. I offered the analysis that the transfer of Milosevic from Belgrade had changed the international community's relationships, perceptions and willingness to deal with the Serbian authorities in Belgrade. I said that the time for any indulgence towards the Albanians was over as far as the British Government were concerned.
British troops are patrolling night and day on the Kosovo-Macedonia border. I wish that troops from other nations were as aggressive as ours and that they, too, operated 24 hours a day. However, Kosovo and other countries in the region need fewer troops and more police. The report made that point well. The OSCE's multi-ethnic police force is a key confidence-building measure.
The UK has played its part. I offered a mince pie and a cup of tea to retired police officers in my office on Tuesday. Our police officers retire when they are, in every sense, fighting fit for future duty. Today, they left for Pristina in a chartered plane and will spend their first
Mr. Lloyd : I shall pass over the fact that there was only one mince pie among all those people. The slow build-up of the civilian element has been criticised. It is crucial that civilian policing and support for it from outside the region are intensified to encourage the process of normalisation. Can the Minister give us any hope that other countries will recognise their obligations, as Britain has done?
Mr. MacShane : Yes, of course. It is perhaps easier to put together a military force. On the whole, soldiers do the same things in the same way. Police officers come from such different backgrounds and recognise such different norms of law that it is difficult to knit them together.
The four words that one does not here often enough in Kosovo and other parts of the region are "Here comes the judge." There is no robust independent judicial system and no adequate civilian policing system. Many hon. Members mentioned criminal elements, but we do not have enough jails to allow us to put them behind bars, which is where they belong. However, we are emptying prisons of people who should perhaps not be there. Since the beginning of the year, 1,800 out of 2,000 Kosovo Albanian prisoners have been released. According to the Serbian Ministry of Justice, 181 Albanian prisoners are in Serbian prisons on a range of criminal charges, and 34 cases are due for judicial review. I am pressing the Belgrade Government to complete the reviews swiftly, which was one of the report's recommendations. I raised that matter just last week with Foreign Minister Svilanovic during his visit to London on 29 November.
We have discussed independence for Montenegro, but I am not tempted to answer hypothetical questions. That may not satisfy right hon. and hon. Members who believe that Ministers should be able to see into the future, but I hope that they accept my reticence. Any formal suggestion of what the Government's response would be were certain situations to develop constitutes an intervention in that process.
Our concern is to preserve regional stability, which is why the Government and our EU partners are not ready to wave the flag for independence for any particular group or people. Under OSCE rules, we do not support the independence or separatist claims of nations that form part of states elsewhere in Europe. We must wait and see Montenegro's position, and from the discussions that I had in Bucharest with our OSCE partners, that is also the position of Russia, of the OSCE and of the Council of Europe's Venice commission.
Mr. MacShane : Mr. Solana visited the region at the end of last month, and he put forward a proposal to the federal Serbian and Montenegran authorities to organise discussions to find a way forward on this
There have been significant developments in Kosovo since the Committee's report was written, the most important of which were the peaceful, multi-ethnic elections on 17 November. For the first time ever, the people of Kosovo were able freely to elect a truly representative assembly. About 2,000 international observersthe British delegation was headed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), who is Chairman of the Select Committee on Defenceattended, and they praised the excellent way in which the elections were conducted. I also pay tribute to the strong encouragement from Belgrade, from the Serbian authorities and from the Orthodox Church to Serbian citizens to participate in those elections. There was a 63 per cent. turnout, which included a 46 per cent. turnout by Serbian electors. I do not recall the turnout in right hon. and hon. Members' constituencies in June 2001, but the Serbs in Kosovo may have put one or two right hon. and hon. Members to shame by their participation in elections.
The new assembly will meet for the first time on 10 December. The seven members of the presidency of the assembly, which is essentially the executive committee, will include two Serbs and representatives of five other minority communities. The voice of the Serb community will be heard, and I hope that the political road will be chosen to effect reconciliation.
I accept that we must have greater security for the Serb population in Kosovo. I have seen British soldiers installing panic buttons in Serbian villagers' houses so that if the villagers feel threatened they can send out a signal and a British vehicle with soldiers in it will arrive quickly to give them the assurances that they need.
I have made it clear that any attack on Serbian cultural heritage in Kosovothe cradle not of Serbian but of European cultural heritageis wholly unacceptable, just as the burning of mosques was wholly unacceptable. As I have said, KFOR needs to act robustly to counter the flow of personnel and materal across the border from Kosovo to Macedonia. Thanks to the presence of German troops who are maintaining peace and security in Macedonia in the wake of the Lake Ohrid agreement, those operations will become more successful.
Macedonia is a worry for all who are concerned about peace and security in the region. The British Government and Lord Robertson, General Secretary of NATO, can take some credit. Chris Patten, Javier Solana, and Alain Le Roy, who replaced Francois Leotard, are working for the EU to maintain the international community's presence in Macedonia.
I should remark on the high quality of our diplomatic staff and ambassadors in the region. Reference has been made to evidence given to the Foreign Affairs Committee. Ten years ago, we had but one embassy in Yugoslavia; now, we have five fully fledged embassies and a mission in Kosovo. I have been very impressed by
As I have said, we need to implement fully the framework agreement that was signed at Lake Ohrid. The Macedonian Parliament has now endorsed it, and as I made clear to the Macedonian Foreign Minister, the time has come to stop seeking to rewrite bits and pieces of it, and to get on with building a peaceful community in Macedonia and accept the rights of Albanians in terms of language and administration of the country. Equally, I am happy to use the words terrorists and terror tactics. The behaviour of Albanian extremists who resort to violence is unacceptable, but should one counter it through policing or a heavy-handed military riposte that engenders more violence?
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return."
This Government are determined not to see history repeat itself, and that is why we are in the region. The west's policy in the early 1990s of non-intervention, hand-wringing and issuing press releases failed. That is why this and other countries that have Governments who are ready to take a lead and accept their international responsibilities can be proud.
The hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) mentioned the question of ministerial oversight. I have tried to visit all the Balkan capitals, and I shall visit them again, although I have to combine such visits with trips to Asia, Latin America, China, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and about 20 agreeable islands in the Pacific. None the less, I accept that the Balkans, a region which has been visited more times than any other region in the world, is my primary responsibility. More than that, it has been a pleasure to see President Kostunica here, and it will be a pleasure to welcome President Mesic in two weeks.
There was discussion about Bosnia-Herzegovina, and a little over a month ago I was able to give dinner to Prime Ministers Ivanic, Behman and Lagumdjzia, representing the three communities that constitute Bosnia-Herzegovina. They are committed to making that state work. If my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby will forgive me, I shall go with their vision of their own country's future instead of his more gloomy animadversions dating back to the congress of Berlin.
We have a strong British presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina, including 18,000 troops in Bosnia, 3,500 troops in Kosovo, and administrators and colleagues from the Department for International Development, the British Council and non-governmental organisations. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) and my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Mr. Roy), who went to Macedonia at my invitation in September. They went quietly and behind the scenes with no publicity to talk to Macedonian parliamentarians as fellow parliamentarians, and to urge acceptance of the Lake Ohrid agreement. I am determined that those contacts between parliamentarians and others will be sustained.
We are looking forward to the role that Lord Ashdown may play in the region. We have all listened to his speeches over the years. He must often have felt like Cassandra standing to discuss in detail the complexities of the region as the House emptied, but I suspect that in his analyses and warnings he was right more often than he was wrong. We are delighted that he has the support of EU countries to become the High Representative in Bosnia later this year.
I turn briefly to the question of economic aid, to which a number of hon. Members referred. It is the key to moving the entire region out of its current difficulties. Economic sanctions were lifted after Milosevic was transferred to The Hague, but I shall look into the question of landing rights for JATthe Yugoslav airlineand reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon), although landing rights at London airport seem to cause a great deal of trouble for more than just the Yugoslav airline.
I have encouraged and continue to encourage business investment in the region, but we must have the right economic conditions. There is far too much economic activity there that no normal democratic market economy would recognise. The Foreign Affairs Committee reported that state firms were privatised and transferred to cronies of Mr. Milosevic and there is a huge amount of criminal activity, particularly involving cigarette production and smuggling, which is politically linked. It would be helpful if hon. Members, in addition to naming war criminals who should be at The Hague, would say loudly and clearly that politics and direct economic business activity, particularly in the area of cigarette production and smuggling, is unacceptable. The Balkans are the through route for drug smuggling, cigarette smuggling, arms smuggling and money laundering. I suspect that all of us know asylum seekers or economic refugees in our constituencies who have come through that route. That is why we need effective stability in the region, and the fullest co-operation with The Hague tribunal.
It is completely unacceptable that Messrs Karadzic and Mladic are not in The Hague. People know where they are. People know where they are. I have no evidence of where they are, but their friends, families, colleagues and contacts must. I am not going to make accusations about governments harbouring and sheltering them, but I think that Mrs. del Ponte made a fair point. As I made that point to the president of Croatia when I was there two weeks' ago, that it also goes for General Gotovina. He is a Hague indictee and he belongs in The Hague. I was told, "He started life in the French foreign legion. You know what these legionaries are like, you seek them here, you seek them there, but gosh, they can hide inside a desert dune." I said, "I'm sorry, Croatia is not the caves of the Hindu Kush or around Khandahar; he is living in a house, he is being fed and watered and he is seeing his family and his friends." This Government or governments of other international communities will not fully normalise relations until there is closure, and the indictees are in front of The Hague. The quicker that they are in front of The Hague, the quicker we can seal that part of the history.
Mr. MacShane : In every intervention, I refer to the need to fight organised crime and the links between political forces and groups, yes, even elected politicians, and crime in every partin Croatia, in Serbia, in Kosovo and in Macedonia. That is what I have been saying since I have been a Minister. Money, which is what that region needs more than anything else, is a coward. Money goes where it feels safe, where it feels that there is some security. As there is not yet acceptance of the need to, in effect, put into operation the recommendations of the Foreign Affairs Committee in co-operation with The Hague tribunal, much of the money that I believe could go into the region, does not arrive there.
The hon. Member for West Suffolk talked about the importance of the free media. I visited a B92 radio and television station, and I am examining ways of expanding support for free media in former Yugoslavia. Perhaps, having been a former president of the National Union of Journalists, I am indulging something that I believe to be important.
My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central asked me about Bosnia. I hope that I have given a suitable reply about the need to define a road map for the region. A road map for the region is very simple, it is called Europe. If there is engagement with European norms, we can find a solution. The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Chidgey) asked about Yugoslavia's debt. It is $12.2 billion. I hope that I answered his question about the investigation of war crimes on both sides. I will write to my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax about the question of the Yugoslav air force. The right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling talked about Karadzic and Mladic, and I could not agree with him more. I will say it publicly and privately and face to face, at state dinners, in informal meetings, in Lancaster house, or in ministries in Zagreb, Macedonia and Belgradewe need those gentleman and Croatian indictees in front of The Hague. I hope, in one of my future visits, to be able symbolically to paddle a canoe down the Danube, and perhaps cross one of the new bridges that the international community is helping to build.
The story is good. I think that Britain can take some credit in bringing peace and hope to this corner of Europe. I am grateful to the Foreign Affairs Committee's for its thorough report. I look forward to more reports on regions for which I have some responsibility, and I look forward to a continuing dialogue, collectively in this sort of forum, or individually with its members, whose comments, experience and contributions I value highly.