Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs Committee Report: Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Wider Region following the fall of Milosevic: an update

  1.  On 28 March 2001, the House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs published a report entitled Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Wider Region following the fall of Milosevic[1]. The Government set out its response to that report in a Command Paper in July (Cm 5220).

  2.  This memorandum outlines progress on a number of specific points raised by the Committee.

Progress on the preparation of country strategies under the CARDS Regulation and HMG's influence on these strategies and progress on UK participation with the Word Bank in the reform of pensions and benefits systems (paragraph 16[2])

  CARDS country strategy papers provide a valuable strategic basis for co-ordinating EU assistance and aid to the region. The Government has contributed significantly to the form and content of the country strategies, ensuring that they meet the aims and standards set out in the CARDS Regulation. The UK's relatively large pool of specialist advisers and strong presence in-country have played an important role. The CARDS Country Strategy Papers for Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania have now been approved. The papers for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Macedonia are due to be completed by the end of the year.

  Since last October the UK has given £3.4 million to the FRY to help pay arrears of welfare benefits and has committed a further £5 million over the next three years towards Family Welfare benefits. The Government is exploring further opportunities to provide technical support for improved delivery of social services alongside the World Bank's Social Services Adjustment Credit. This may involve expanding the UK's assistance to strengthen social service planning at the municipal level and continuing support for health care reform.

Further assistance provided by HMG to the development of an independent and free media in Serbia (paragraph 21)

  Assistance to the development of an independent and free media in Serbia remains a high priority. Independent media companies have argued that their long-term operations are under threat unless a regulatory framework is introduced soon to resolve revenue, advertising and broadcast licensing problems. They also feel that they are still at a disadvantage in comparison to those media outlets which prospered under the regime of former President Milosevic. In July FCO Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Dr Denis MacShane, visited Radio B92 to discuss these concerns and he raised the matter with Serbian Ministers. On 8 November 2001 the British Ambassador in Belgrade, Charles Crawford, wrote to Serbian Prime Minister Dr Zoran Djindjic, highlighting the concerns of independent media groups in Serbia about slow progress on introducing new broadcasting and freedom of information laws.

  The Government plans to identify Global Conflict Prevention Fund (CPF) projects, largely in the independent media sector, to improve journalistic reporting standards and promote objective in-depth reporting on public policy issues.

  Since the publication of the FAC's report, the British Embassy in Belgrade has funded English Language training for Serb journalists and documentary programming for B92/ANEM on Balkans conflicts; and a project to enable internet access to the Belgrade Ekonomist magazine. Plans are under way to support independent TV and radio stations in Novi Pazar, Central and Southern Serbia, some of which focus specifically on programming for ethnic minorities such as the Roma, ethnic Bulgarians and Vlachs. The FCO and Embassy also work closely with the British Association for Central and Eastern Europe (BACEE) and the Thomson Foundation, who organise training courses for Serbian editors and journalists.

Progress on the pardon or retrial of Kosovo Albanian prisoners held in Serbian jails on charges of terrorism (paragraph 53)

  The Government continues to monitor the detention of Kosovo Albanian prisoners. When he visited Belgrade in July 2001 FCO Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Dr Denis MacShane raised the matter with President Kostunica's policy advisers. The British Embassy in Belgrade remains in close contact with the Serbian Ministry of Justice and continues to press the authorities in Belgrade on this matter.

  Around 2,000 ethnic Albanian prisoners were transferred from Kosovo to prisons in Serbia during the 1999 conflict. Many were arrested in groups and detained en masse. Most such groups have been released. Remaining detainees are held on an individual basis, with the exception of one group of 15.

  Since the new authorities came to power in Belgrade, around 1,800 prisoners have been released. In some cases sentences have been served; in others evidence was insufficient or destroyed; some cases were regarded as initially flawed.

  Since Dr MacShane's visit the Serbian Ministry of Justice has confirmed to the British Embassy that 181 Albanian prisoners (most from Kosovo) remain in detention, charged under both the Federal and Serbian Criminal Codes with offences ranging from acts of terrorism, sabotage and murder to robbery, drug trafficking and rape. They say that those remaining in detention have been legitimately tried by courts and found guilty. A number have appealed to the Serbian Supreme Court but their original convictions have been upheld. However the Ministry of Justice has confirmed that 34 individual cases are due to be reviewed. The Government will continue to encourage the government in Belgrade to complete all outstanding reviews as a matter of priority.

  The Serbian government and the UN Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) have agreed that those ethnic Albanians charged with committing offences in Kosovo would be transferred to the UNMIK prison system "after a review of their cases according to international standards". This will be a key issue for the high level working group, agreed in the new UNMIK/FRY Common Document of 5 November.

Further assistance provided by HMG to the strengthening of independent media in Montenegro (paragraph 96)

  Since the publication of the FAC's report, the British Embassy in Belgrade has provided financial support over a six-month period to Radio Mir, an ethnic Albanian station in Montenegro, for programmes on women's health and youth issues. The British Embassy also visited media outlets in Montenegro in October in an effort to help improve broadcasting and reporting and to promote services offered by British Satellite News, London Radio Service, UK Today, the London Correspondents Service and the Picture Library.

  The Government continues to look for opportunities to support the independent media sector in Montenegro. As in Serbia, support to the independent media has also been provided under the Global Conflict Prevention Fund (CPF) to help to strengthen democracy and promote inter-ethnic relations. The Government plans to identify worthwhile projects, to be funded by the CPF, which improve journalistic reporting standards generally and facilitate objective in-depth reporting on public policy issues.

Details of which UK diplomatic staff have visited Montenegro since 11 May and on what occasions; and HMG's current position on the case for a UK diplomatic post in Podgorica (paragraph 102)

  Since 11 May 2001 FCO and British Embassy staff have visited Montengero as follows:

JuneAmbassador; Defence Attachê 1st Secretary Development; 2nd Secretary Political
JulyCounsellor Political; 1st Secretary Development
September Ambassador; Counsellor Political; Vice Consul
OctoberHead of FRY (Serbia & Montenegro) Section; Eastern Adriatic Department, FCO; Counsellor Political; 1st Secretary Commercial; 1st Secretary Development; 2nd Secretary Political; 2nd Secretary Economic
NovemberAmbassador; Counsellor Political; Defence Attachê 2nd Secretary Economic.

  The Director of the British Council in Belgrade has also made monthly visits during this period.

  The Government's position on the case for a diplomatic post in Podgorica remains as set out in the annex to its response to the FAC's report (Cm 5220).

A progress report on staffing and morale of UN staff in Kosovo (particularly of the police) (paragraph 105)

  Since the Government's response to the FAC's report in July, further progress has been made on the length of postings in KFOR, to ensure better continuity and enable staff to make better use of their experience. General Valentin (Commander KFOR) and his staff arrived in post in September 2001 and are the first KFOR personnel to deploy on one year postings, rather than the usual six months.

  The Government welcomes the fact that, since a protocol between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) was signed in May 2001, two UK police officers have extended their tours of duty to the new maximum of two years. UK police forces are in general understandably reluctant to allow their serving officers to stay away from their normal duties for two years, but have shown flexibility when the mission is critical. The majority of UK police officers (including from the Ministry of Defence Police, which is not part of the ACPO) choose to extend their tours from 12 to 18 months, which suggests that the experience is rewarding and that morale is good.

What specific action the Government has taken and proposes to take to strengthen law and order in Kosovo, under both UNMIK and elected authorities (paragraph 114)

  The Government fully supports UNMIK's efforts to strengthen law and order and to improve administration of justice in Kosovo. The Government plans to support projects in these areas through the Conflict Prevention Fund.

  Support provided by the Government includes contributions in the following specific areas:

  a:  policing—through the secondment of Assistant Chief Constable Albiston of the Police Service of Northern Ireland as UNMIK police commissioner, 122 UK policemen for executive policing duties and 23 UK policemen as trainers for the Kosovo Police Service. Eighteen UK personnel are also seconded to the Criminal Intelligence Unit. UK personnel will participate in the Organised Crime Bureau, which will soon be operational.

  b.  assisting in the secondment of UK legal professionals to practice in an international capacity in Kosovo (see separate answer to paragraph 126 below);

  c.  through funding provided by the EU pillar of UNMIK, a new prison will be built in Kosovo during 2002 which together with another project currently being funded bilaterally by another partner, will significantly increase penal capacity. We are encouraging UNMIK to conduct as soon as possible an assessment of current and likely future penal requirements, to enable sound decisions to be taken on future prison building.

  d.  FCO provision to UNMIK in June 2001 of £86,200 to part-fund the establishment of a witness protection programme;

  e.  criminal defence: the Government has agreed to support the development of criminal defence capacity in Kosovo, under DfD's bilateral programme. There has been comparatively little international support to criminal defence in Kosovo. The OSCE estimates that out of 700 lawyers who might be eligible for registration, only 121 are defence lawyers. The Government will fund the short-term placement of an experienced UK criminal defence specialist in the Criminal Defence Resource Centre (CDRC), in addition to contracting a legal consultant to design a longer-term programme of support.

  Under the terms of the Constitutional Framework, the Special Representative of the Secretary General retains significant reserve powers and responsibilities in the law and order sector: the new Assembly and provisional self-government will have only limited administrative responsibilities in this area.

Progress on resolving the failings of the international police force in Kosovo (paragraph 117)

  Work continues to further develop the capabilities of UNMIK Police, and also to improve the ability of the Kosovo Police Service to assume increasing responsibilities from UNMIK Police.

  UNMIK Police are adjusting their structures to focus on the regional problem of organised crime and extremism. The establishment of the Organised Crime Bureau will be drawn from overall UNMIK Police levels. The UNMIK-FRY Common Document agreed increased levels of co-ordination and co-operation between Kosovo and Serb/Yugoslav police authorities, building on earlier contacts between police authorities in the region, which should help increase the effectiveness of Kosovo Police in combating regional problems such as extremism and organised crime.

  According to the latest UN figures (dated 31 October), 4,451 international police officers are currently serving with UNMIK (below the mandated level of 4,718). But capability is more important than overall numbers, especially as responsibilities are transferred to the Kosovo Police Service. The key issue is whether police officers with the right skills are deployed eg to meet the needs of the Organised Crime Bureau. The Government will continue to monitor this aspect, and to assess whether it can do more to help in these areas.

Progress on recruitment of recently retired police officers to serve in Kosovo (paragraph 118)

  The FCO, through its International Policing Unit, widely advertised the opportunities for recently retired civilian police officers to apply to serve with the UN in Kosovo. Twenty-five recently retired officers were selected from applications received; seven subsequently withdrew. The remaining 18 have now been fully trained and will be deployed to Kosovo on 6 December.

A report on the Association of Chief Police Officers' response to HMG's suggestion that armed officers be allowed to perform executive tasks in international peacekeeping missions (paragraph 119)

  The issue of arming police officers who are deployed to UN peacekeeping missions has been raised with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) which has agreed to review its policy.

Progress on the deployment of members of the UK legal profession in Kosovo (paragraph 126)

  Following pressure on UNMIK from the Government to recruit additional international judges and prosecutors, and the Government's statement of willingness to respond positively to any request, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office facilitated interviews in London in September 2001, supported by the Crow Prosecution Service and the Lord Chancellor's Department. As a result, four prosecutors and one judge from the UK were offered employment with UNMIK and are now in the process of taking up these posts. The Government remains willing to respond to any further requests for assistance

A progress report on recent developments in the Presevo Valley (para 159)

  The Serbian Government remains committed to implementation of the so-called "Covic Plan" named after their Co-ordinator for Southern Serbia, Dr Nebojsa Covic. Covic has recently increased his activity in the Presevo Valley area to address Albanian concerns about slow progress with developing confidence building measures (CBMs). To accelerate implementation of this "Plan" Covic has proposed eight new joint commissions to address specific CBMs including state institutions, security/judicial matters, economy and development, education, sports and child care, culture and media, health and humanitarian welfare, religious affairs and cultural heritage, and infrastructure and utilities. Each commission will be composed of representatives from the main ethnic communities and both the Federal and Serbian authorities. Covic has also indicated that the international community could have a role to play in the work of the joint commissions. The joint commission on state institutions will prepare the groundwork for local elections to be held in early 2002; the prospect of elections, promised under the Covic Plan, has been a particularly sensitive issue for ethnic Albanians. It remains unclear whether moderate Albanians will participate in these new structures. However, the Government welcomes these developments and especially the personal commitment shown by Covic to address the problems in this region.

  The security situation in the Presevo Valley is currently relatively stable but not without incident. In recent months there have been isolated terrorist attacks on the security forces, the most recent being a mortar attack in Muhovac on 21 November and an improvised explosive device placed under a Serb security vehicle in Bujanovac in September. The security forces have also found small amounts of weaponry and ammunition hidden by Albanian extremists. But although they continue to control entry and exit points to Albanian villages and patrol the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) with Kosovo, the overall security presence is not unduly intrusive. There is also good co-operation with KFOR on the ABL. OSCE training of a multi-ethnic police force, whose members are recruited from all communities, is a key confidence building measure and will have an important role to play in maintaining internal stability in the area, alongside the security forces.

  As the Government has already outlined in its reply to the FAC, during the past year international assistance in the Presevo valley has been substantial. Since December 2000 the EU Agency for Reconstruction has spent 1.67 million euros on assistance to the area. The Government is encouraging the Serbian Government to demonstrate the benefits of a socially inclusive community in the Presevo Valley, based on a more equitable distribution of economic benefits and public services, and through an equitable approach to infrastructure improvements.

An assessment of whether the Macedonia census can go ahead in the short term, the implications for the region of the census not going ahead and the relative capacities of the Council of Europe and OSCE to supervise the census (paragraph 161)

  Following the signing of the Framework Agreement on 13 August, the Macedonian parties agreed that the census should be postponed from October 2001 to April 2002, to allow time for prior implementation of the main elements of the Agreement. While we cannot rule out further delays, a census in April should be achievable. Serious delay in holding the census, or a census whose results were questionable, would prolong doubts about the relative size of the ethnic communities in Macedonia, which have at times been a source of friction. The Council of Europe and OSCE are co-ordinating to ensure that the census is effectively supervised.

Progress on KFOR's action to prevent the flow of arms and men from Kosovo into Macedonia (paragraph 164)

  Since the Government's response to the Committee's fourth report in July 2001, KFOR has continued to act robustly to counter the flow of personnel and material across the border, with significant success in terms of arrests and seizure of weapons. A number of KFOR troops also took part in Operation Essential Harvest, which helped to stabilise the situation in Macedonia and to bring an end to illicit cross-border armed activity.

A progress report on recent developments in Macedonia (paragraph 168)

  Negotiations between the main political parties in Macedonia, facilitated by Javier Solana and Francois Leotard for the EU and Jim Pardew for the US, culminated in the signing of a Framework Agreement on 13 August. This committed the Macedonian Government to introduce constitutional amendments and legislative changes guaranteeing equal rights for all citizens and the ethnic Albanian community to desist from the use of violence. Shortly afterwards the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA) agreed to disband and to hand in a number of its weapons to the NATO task force Essential Harvest established for this purpose under British command. The exercise was completed within the stipulated 30 days. When he visited Skopje in September, FCO Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Dr Denis MacShane urged political leaders and parliamentarians to ratify the agreement. In September the FCO sponsored visits by Hon Members and a representative from the TUC to urge Macedonian political and civil society leaders to back the agreement. Ratification of the constitutional changes by the Macedonian Parliament was due to take place over the same timescale but was finally completed on 16 November. International monitors have been deployed by the OSCE and the EU to supervise the return both of displaced people and of Macedonian security forces to the areas previously occupied by the NLA. A further NATO tasks force ("Amber Fox"), under German command, is operating in Macedonia at the invitation of the Macedonian Government in support of the monitoring presence.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

November 2001

1   Fourth Report of the Foreign Affairs Committee, session 2000-2001, HC 246. Back

2   Paragraphs refer to the Committee's Fourth Report, HC 246. Back

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