Examination of Witnesses (Questions 99-119)|
26 OCTOBER 2004
Q99 Chairman: The Committee is continuing
its inquiry into the Western Balkans. Today, for the first group
of witnesses, we have Dr Othon Anastasakis, Head of the South
East Europe Programme at St Antony's College, Oxford. We also
have Mr Nicholas Whyte, who is Head of the Europe Programme in
the International Crisis Group. Dr Whyte, we do draw frequently
on the work of your group and find it very relevant indeed in
a wide range of areas. Gentlemen, just to give a general setting
of the scene, it would be helpful if both of you were to comment
on the strategic significance of the Western Balkans, both in
itself and as a source of international contention. It is a relatively
small group of countries, containable. How would you put it its
Dr Whyte: The two important factors
about the Western Balkans both stem from the geography of the
region. First, it is across a main transport route by land from
Western Europe to the Middle East, and that is something we cannot
get away from. All of the main roads, the famous Corridor X, of
the pan-European corridors go through Belgrade, either south to
Thessaloniki or south and east to Istanbul. That is just a plain
fact of where it happens to be. The second point from the more
political side is that the Western Balkans are right inside the
enlarged European Union, once Bulgaria and Romania join, as they
are programmed to do in 2007. Then you have an island of territory
completely surrounded by EU Member States with which the EU is
going to have to come to significant terms sooner rather than
later, whose stability is crucial. It now becomes an internal
rather than external issue for the European Union.
Dr Anastasakis: Thank you for
inviting me here. I am very glad that you are so interested in
the Western Balkan region because, as it happens right now, international
attention, especially EU attention, is diverting towards Bulgaria
and Romania where there is a commitment for 2007. There is also
a lot of discussion about Turkey now which is dominating the picture.
There is a risk that the Western Balkans, which is becoming smaller
and smaller as we see now it is minus Croatia, will become an
island of instability. I think it is of great strategic significance
to the European Union because, as we know from the 1990s, whatever
happens in the region affects directly or indirectly the rest
of Europe. In that sense, the EU has to learn some of the examples
of the 1990s and its own failures and try to incorporate the region.
I am happy that you are putting forward the question on the Western
Balkans today and that you are showing interest in this region.
Q100 Chairman: Gentlemen, in all the
key hotspots of this small but significant area both the United
States and the European Union are involved. We see it particularly
dramatically when EUFor will take over in Bosnia in a couple of
months' time. What differences of strategic perception are there,
in your judgment, between the United States and Europe in this
Dr Whyte: It is very simple. None
of these countries in the Western Balkans is likely to become
the 51st through 55th state of the United Statesit is going
to stay pretty much where it is at 50whereas the European
Union has actually made the promise of future membership to every
single one of the territories in the Western Balkans. From that
point of view, the quality of engagement is very different. For
the United States, it can only ever be a security issue with a
certain nod towards economic stabilisation, but that too is in
the security context. For the European Union it is much more than
a security issue. This is a question of ensuring the economic
stability as well as the military stability of a territory that
actually borders on the EU itself.
Q101 Chairman: Given the long-term implications
for Europe of stability or instability in that area, and perhaps
the other pressures on the United States in terms of over-stretch,
do you see, over time, the commitment of the US to the area diminishing
and that of the European Union increasing?
Dr Anastasakis: I think we are
already seeing that. There has been a decreasing commitment since
the beginning of this new century. We should also consider that
during the 1990s there was very reluctant involvement by the United
States, due to the inability of the European Union basically to
deal with this kind of security question. We realise now that
this is going to be a big issue for the European Union. The EU
has to prove that it is able to bring about stability and security
in that area and also economic prosperity. In that sense, I think
this is the big gamble for the European Union. It has to prove
to itself and to the region that it has commitment and that it
can also stabilise the situation. As I write in the memorandum
which I distributed yesterday, I think that the EU is the only
game in town for them and in that sense it is particularly important.
Q102 Chairman: But it is not the only
game in town because the US is there and the US has a substantial
commitment of troops. We are told, for example, that the US has
far great clout in a key area like Kosovo. To what extent is it
imperative for us as Europeans that the US commitment is maintained
to that area and at what level?
Dr Anastasakis: To follow up,
I think it is important that those two co-operate as smoothly
as possible in that region, and I think they have done so. In
the Western Balkan area, the way the United States and the EU
have worked together has proved that they can do it without any
major problems. The region is very significant for the United
States in terms of terrorism and also as a transit route for illegal
traffic and organised crime. In that sense, I think it is of strategic
significance for the United States, and it will continue to be,
but there is commitment on the part of the United States elsewhere
in other parts of the globe. In that sense, it is decreasing,
and the fact that the EU is now becoming the major force in terms
of a police mission and military mission, that proves it has to
take the upper hand in that.
Q103 Chairman: And why we should beware
of the precipitated US withdrawal from the area?
Dr Whyte: As Dr Anastasakis has
already said, we are seeing that to a certain extent; but we will
never see it happen completely. At one point the catch phrase
of the trans-Atlanticists in this debate was "In together,
out together". There is no out for the European Union in
the Western Balkans. There potentially is for the United States,
at least in military terms. However, it is impossible to see the
United States as a permanent member of the UN Security Council,
as a member of the Six Nation Contact Group, disengage completely.
The United States will remain politically engaged, I think, whatever
happens on 2 November. Certainly it will remain sufficiently politically
engaged to be playing the key role in the resolution of the Kosovo
final status, which is going to be the big question that comes
up in the next 12 months.
Q104 Chairman: As we have seen in Bosnia,
are we likely to see the US increasingly seeking to disengage?
Dr Whyte: Absolutely, and that
is my understanding from conversations in Washington, that the
Pentagon basically has other priorities at the moment. We can
see that by watching the news. There is no great desire in the
United States to keep troops in the Balkans any longer than they
feel is necessary. Who defines what is "necessary" is
a different question.
Q105 Mr Illsley: Following that theme,
you mentioned that the European Union surrounds the Western Balkans.
We are looking at Bulgaria and Romania in terms of accession countries.
The European Union throughout the Nineties did not exactly give
a united front towards the Western Balkans. What can be done to
re-engage the European Union in this and take a more immediate
and more urgent view of the area?
Dr Whyte: The first thing that
happened was the very failure of the EU in the 1990s caused a
great deal of sober reflection among heads of government. It is
often said that Slobodan Milosevic did more to build the European
common foreign security policy than any other individual because
he demonstrated the failures of the previous system. We do now
have things we did not have in the EU. We do now have Javier Solana.
We have a whole set of structures within the European Council
Secretariat which simply did not exist before. Now the EU can
actually put several thousand troops on the ground in Bosnia.
That was unthinkable even two years ago, let alone 10. Things
have progressed in the last 10 years.
Dr Anastasakis: I agree that there
has been, in the last four years, an increasing and growing engagement
and commitment on the part of the European Union, but there is
also a difficulty in that engagement has to be effective and successful.
This is a real test area for the European Union because it is
engaged in many ways in the Western Balkan region. It is engaged
in military terms. It is engaged in reconstruction efforts, in
co-operation and reconciliation efforts, and also in transition.
This is the major difference with central and eastern European
countries, and this is also the major innovation for the European
Union that it has to deal in multiple ways in that particular
part of Europe.
Q106 Mr Illsley: Is the Stability and
Association process model working effectively within the Balkans?
Does that need to be altered? Does it need to be bolstered? Is
there anything the British Government could do to try and encourage
our European Union partners to improve the SAp process?
Dr Whyte: The SAp process works
well where you have well-functioning states on the other end to
work with, and that clearly applies to Croatia, and I would argue
that most of the time it applies to Macedonia as well. It has
run into real problems in Albania, due really to the failure and
unwillingness of the Albanian Government to undertake the necessary
reforms. I think it has clearly had a beneficial effect in Bosnia
along with all the rest of the international efforts. It has certainly
increased the credibility of the Bosnian state. But I think it
has shown almost no tangible results in the case of Serbia, Montenegro
and Kosovo because that state is not really a state, it is three
different states, which happen to be bunched together internationally,
and the SAp has almost had a negative effect rather than a positive
effect over the last three or four years there.
Dr Anastasakis: To continue, and
I agree with it, the EU has been used to dealing with the central
authorities. In that way, that particular area of Serbia, Kosovo
and Montenegro is a new territory for it because of the unclear
borders and the non legitimate authorities basically. The SAp
process has been a good step in the right direction. It is just
that the priorities have to be adjusted to the specificities and
the needs of the particular countries. I think that has been acknowledged
by the EU, especially lately, and they are trying to be as specific
as possible, focusing on the particularities of each country.
There is the wider discussion about how technical the understanding
of the EU is and how technical it should be because there are
other developmental needs in the region that are not adequately
addressed by the European Union through the Stabilisation Association
process in particular.
Dr Whyte: Could I add two points?
You asked for improvements that could be made and the two that
I would suggest are, first of all, that the process needs to include
a better perspective for economic development. At the moment,
it is aimed very much towards institution-building. It is all
very well to have a well-functioning parliament built in Sarajevo
but it still takes three hours to drive there from anywhere else.
If that corridor were to be improved, then Bosnia would be opened
up much better to the world. The second thing, and I think this
may be a bit more controversial, is the question of the visa policy.
The mean spiritedness of Western Europe in its approach to the
Western Balkans is exemplified best by the restrictive visa policy
that exists. The current policy empowers people-traffickers and
penalises honest travellers. If we want to send a real signal
to these people that they are considered as Europeans, we have
to allow them to travel here.
Q107 Mr Illsley: Is there anything in
the idea that maybe some countries within the region are looking
at European Union accession and the SAp process as the be-all
and end-all and that they are representing to their own countries
that they have done enough because they have got within that process?
Dr Whyte: You would have to bracket
that also with NATO accession, which, as we know, on the ground
is of less dramatic effect but symbolically is of equally dramatic
effect. Certainly, in terms of national goals, I think one could
do worse than have that.
Q108 Chairman: On that, would it be fair
to say that although all the countries want to join the Euro-Atlantic
structures, NATO would just be seen by them as a first step on
Dr Anastasakis: I think we do
tend to put those two together but they are very different. The
aim of NATO is different from the aim of the EU. NATO is a security
organisation and in that respect it is much easier for NATO to
commit and to engage those countries within its own ranks. For
the EU it is a much more complex organisation and it has its economic
dimension and also it has a growing political dimension as well.
In that respect, the process which brings those countries closer
together is much more complicated. I think there is a differentiation
between the two and how easily the countries can become members
of the organisations.
Q109 Mr Olner: On the EU accession point,
and I can understand all the choreography of the dance to join
the EU, I just wonder whether we are going to be faced with the
same difficulty that we have with Cyprus joining the EU where
there was a promise of an amalgamation and a joining and the reality,
at the end of the day, is that they are not joining now. I would
hope that the EU is not going to face the same problem in the
Dr Anastasakis: This is a very
interesting comparison. I have been thinking a lot about Cyprus
lately and why the EU, in the end, has not been so effective or
maybe it has been effective in some ways that we do not see and
we might see in the future in that it is now gradually engaging
with the north of the island. That seems to be an unavoidable
pathway for the north to be integrated into the EU. Maybe there
are differences because the EU did make mistakes with Cyprus in
that it never held out any stick to Cyprus. It only gave the carrot
of membership without using its conditionality. It also left the
Turkish Cypriots completely outside the process. In that respect,
there was a different kind of situation there when we compare
it with the Balkans where all the different parts are really engaged
in the process, but in different ways.
Q110 Mr Pope: I certainly agree with
that analysis on Cyprus where the Committee is going in a couple
of weeks. I wanted to ask, though, about the European Union's
reconstruction and development funds. The EU has allocated over
4 billion to 2006. It struck me that that did not
seem a great deal of money, given the scale of the problem. If
economic stability and political stability go hand-in-hand, it
seems to me that there is at least a case to be made for saying
that the EU is trying to do this on the cheap and that it should
allocate some more money. I wonder what your view is?
Dr Whyte: I would agree with that
in terms of development. As I said earlier, I think there is a
lack of an economic development aspect to the SAp, indeed to the
EU's whole approach to the region. On reconstruction, on the other
hand, I would give the EU quite good marks for the last few years.
The European Agency for Reconstruction has been a good model of
how to do ita decentralised agency accountable to Brussels
eventually but set up very much based in the region. I think it
has a very good rate of disbursement of funds. If you look at
4 billion as a reconstruction budget, that is probably
about right, considering the absorptive capacity of the region,
but, on development, you are quite right.
Dr Anastasakis: I agree with you
that there should be more money but there is one qualification:
what do you do with this money? I come from a country, Greece
namely, where there was too much money coming from the European
Union and basically we did not know how to spend it. The issue
about absorptive capacity is very significant in the Western Balkan
countries. There definitely has to be money directed towards developmental
aims but there is one problem, I understand, from the regional
side in that where the money can be spent on projects is always
decided by the European Union. There is very little consultation
with local actors, those really involved in that business.
Q111 Andrew Mackinlay: You mentioned
the meanness of the European Union states with regard to the visa
regime. Are you saying there should be a relaxation in the visas,
and perhaps not a visa required, or are you saying there should
be full mobility of labour extended to this region by the European
Union before they come in?
Dr Whyte: I think you could certainly
look at the latter alternative. I would be very surprised if the
costs outweighed the benefits. If that is considered too radical
a move, as I suppose it probably would be, let us consider what
the consequences of the current policies are. Currently, Croatia
and Bulgaria both actually enjoy visa-free access to the EU. It
is very easy for most Bosnian citizens also to get Croatian citizenship;
this undermines Bosnian statehood. It is very easy for Macedonian
citizens to get Bulgarian citizenship; this undermines Macedonian
statehood. The existing policy is actually making things worse.
Q112 Andrew Mackinlay: As we know from
experience, despite what the newspapers have said, the whole of
central Europe did not move here on 2 May, did they?
Dr Whyte: Certainly I did not
see them coming.
Q113 Mr Mackay: Can I move you on to
the International Tribunal? We note and are perhaps slightly puzzled
that the European Union and NATO seem to set slightly different
standards in respect of the various Western Balkan states complying
with the Tribunal. Would you like to comment on that and, in commenting,
which end of the scale should we be on: the rather more relaxed
view that the EU seems to take or the more stringent NATO view
probably backed by American pressure?
Dr Whyte: It is perhaps not fair
to characterise it in precisely that way. First, I would say the
view that should be taken is the hard line that is taken by the
British Government inside both organisations, inside both NATO
and the EU, and that tough line consisting of full compliance
with the internationally mandated tribunal is the right one to
take. What the EU has done is to promise a feasibility study on
whether or not further integration is possible with the EU to
Serbia and Montenegro. It seems, on present form, that that feasibility
study will be negative because there is no co-operation from Serbia
with the War Crimes Tribunal, apart from cosmetic things like
the arrest of somebody from Srebrenica who nobody much had heard
of. That simply is cosmetic. Until that happens, ultimately the
answer from both is gong to be the same. Of course NATO's cut-off
point comes a little bit sooner because of Partnership for Peace
specifically dealing with the army of Serbia and Montenegro, and
you cannot have a situation where you have indicted war criminals
participating in joint exercises with NATO troops. Obviously,
the wall has been hit a little bit sooner in that case but I think
it is in the same place in both cases.
Dr Anastasakis: I agree, and I
think everybody agrees, that there has to be a hard line. One
also has to be careful, especially in the case of Serbia because
the people there really feel that they are discriminated against
on that particular aspect, that there is a lot of punishment addressed
to them, that everything revolves around that, and that their
sensitivities are not taken so much into account. As far as linking
feasibility studies, which is a technical process leading towards
the start of the Stabilisation Association process, with whether
they are sending a war criminal to the Hague or not does not tell
us much about how able they are to adopt and implement standards.
There is this kind of discrepancy. It is, of course, part of the
political conditionality but there are other conditions that have
to be looked as well here.
Q114 Mr Mackay: Are they high profile
alleged war criminals, and obviously there are Karadzic and Mladic?
Are they just symbols and are they very important or should it
run deeper? Presumably, Mr Whyte, when you are trying somebody
fairly obscure, and this is Beara who was picked up recently,
and this is a question for both of you: is this all just symboliclet
us get one or two big fish, and then all will be wellor
should it run much deeper? What is realistic and practical?
Dr Whyte: This is a part of the
world where nothing is just symbolic, where symbols are of extreme
importance, and there is an operational security issue as well
in that as long as Karadzic and Mladic continue to be at liberty,
then we cannot say that the security mission in Bosnia has been
completed. That is an operational question but the symbolism is
very important as well, the symbolism of coming to terms with
what was done in the name of the Serbian people during the entire
period of the 1990s. Does it matter? Yes, I think it does. Whether
or not you then repatriate some of the war crimes trials to Serbia
or not, that is a decision that is up to the Tribunal and it is
fairly clear that the Tribunal will increasingly want to repatriate
trials to Croatia, to Serbia and to Bosnia, but it must go through
them first. I do not think there should be a short-cut to that.
Dr Anastasakis: I think that apart
from the issue of punishment, which is a fair thing to do, if
done in the right way, the Serbian people have to come to terms
with their own past and in fact during the 1990s many of them
were really unaware of what was going on outside their own country.
I think that process of bringing those people to justice will
also help them in some ways to come to terms with the past and
Q115 Mr Mackay: Finally, the repatriation
of some of these trials is clearly, at least in theory, a good
idea because the Hague is a very long way away and we have seen
elsewhere in the world that it is often better to have such trials
on site, so to speak. It seems to me that there might be very
real difficulties about intimidating witnesses and putting pressure
on witnesses actually in Serbia or Kosovo, Bosnia as well, that
there would not be at the Hague. Can that be overcome? There is
a balance I am trying to weigh, is there not, between keeping
it local, which I am in favour of, and not pressurising and intimidating
witnesses, which obviously I am against, and how should the balance
Dr Whyte: This of course is why
the Tribunal was set up in the Hague in the first place because
it was feared that local judicial structures were not up to it.
I think it is a developing process and it should be the Tribunal's
call as to whether or not local conditions have matured to the
point where repatriation of such trials is possible.
Q116 Chairman: Gentlemen, I am turning
to Kosovo. We now have the result of the elections of last Saturday.
It is very difficult to put any positive gloss or spin on them.
So far as the Serbs are concerned, there was a massive boycott
of those elections. Of the 108,000 possible Serb electors, both
in Kosovo itself and the refugees in Serbia proper, only just
over 500 actually voted. That seemed to be a response of the Serb
community, as it were, denying the legitimacy of the institutions
which are currently in Kosovo, and I suppose also responding to
the appeal of Premier Kostunica, ignoring the appeal of the more
moderate President, and really casting a question mark over the
effectiveness of the work of the United Nations over the past
four years or so in putting a massive block on any move towards
a multi-ethnic community, which is the declared aim. Can you give
me any glimmer of hope which arises from the elections last Saturday?
Dr Anastasakis: The only glimmer
of hope, because I do share your pessimism, is that they were
done in a peaceful way; there were not any conflicts or riots,
or worse than that. I do agree with you that that shows us how
much Serbia proper is divided on the issue when different political
factions advise on different directions. I would also add to what
you have said the fact that there was a very low turnout from
the Kosovo Albanian community as well.
Q117 Chairman: It was 53% of the total,
which is not disastrous in Western European terms. We only had
59% in our last general election in the UK.
Dr Anastasakis: If you look at
it that way, it is just over 50%. What I meant to say by that
is that the legitimacy of those electors in the eyes of the Albanian
community is something that has to be looked at, and not just
the Kosovo people; this kind of political apathy is a general
trend in the Western Balkans in general. There are regular elections
everywhere, more elections than anyone can imagine basically,
but people fail to go because they are not interested and there
is a certain point of political apathy in that process.
Q118 Chairman: Mr Whyte, does it signal
a failure of the UN effort over the past four years, in spite
of all the expenditure of money and a disastrous blow to prospects
of a multiethnic community?
Dr Whyte: You asked for a glimmer
of hope, Mr Chairman. I think I would like to depress you still
further just for a moment. I would say within the Albanian community,
look at what happened to the one Albanian politician who had started
from a very hard line position and had consistently tried to moderate
his line, particularly by making overtures towards the Serb community.
Hashim Thaçi, the leader of the PDKsaw
some of his vote fragmenting off to the new party led by Veton
Surroi; he saw other parts of his vote splintering off to the
more hard line political realities of President Rugova. The Kosovo
Albanian results were in fact even more depressing than you have
portrayed them. My glimmer of hope is that I think this clarifies
the issue. We have got two very hard line positions. Yes, the
UN was unable, through five years of enlightened government, to
persuade passions to cool and more moderate alternatives to emerge,
but anybody who believed that was going to be the case in 1999
was engaging in very wishful thinking indeed, given the history
of the region, and indeed given the history of UN interventions.
If the UN was supposed to deliver liberal politicians in Kosovo,
it obviously failed, but I do not think it was ever going to achieve
that. I would say that we have now got a situation where the Kosovo
Albanians have supported a very firm and robust line on independence
and where the Kosovo Serbs have clearly placed their faith in
Belgrade rather than in their local representatives. That is simply
the situation we must deal with. It is going to require serious
and sustained engagement by the international community to bring
about a settlement. They cannot just get on with it on their own.
Q119 Chairman: The policy of Belgrade
is clear, that there was the vote in July in the Serbian Parliament
in favour of this so-called decentralisation proposal, rather
Bantustan like, of having a list or group of dots on the map grouping
together the various Serb communities on an ethnic basis. Is this
the end of the attempt to form a multiethnic society?
Dr Anastasakis: Relating to what
you are asking and on the previous comment, I was just wondering
to what extent the involvement of the international community
is really geared toward creating multiethnic, multicultural societies.
This is a question that can be discussed both politically and
1 Democratic Party of Kosovo. Back