Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120-135)

26 OCTOBER 2004


  Q120 Chairman: It is the declared aim.

  Dr Anastasakis: It seems to me that the way things are going is not creating a multicultural or multiethnic society but rather trying to divide them. I definitely think, particularly in Kosovo, it had to do with the fact that the international community was not able to deal effectively with the creation of this kind of multiethnic society. That was a very different development. In the end, people turned against the international community.

  Q121 Chairman: Should the result of the election lead to a fundamental re-think by the international community? Is the plan put forward by the Secretary-General of the UN Special Representative, Ambassador Kai Eide, now no longer relevant in the light of these elections?

  Dr Whyte: No, I think it is even more relevant. I think Ambassador Eide identified very skilfully a number of key problems facing Kosovo at the moment. The fact is that while the final status question remains unresolved, all the other issues are going to be held hostage to that, including particularly the issue of interethnic relations. Basically, any concession to Serbs as citizens of Kosovo is seen by Albanians as a concession against their own future independence and vice versa as well. At the moment it is purely a zero sum game. Until you have a credible process that is going to resolve the final status of Kosovo, you cannot expect ethnic tensions to become calmer.

  Q122 Chairman: The Serbs are just not going to participate in such a process?

  Dr Whyte: Which Serbs?

  Q123 Chairman: Only 500 odd people of the total Serb community bothered to vote. Even with possibly some intimidation, that does suggest a massive lack of legitimacy of the institutions in the eyes of the local Serbs?

  Dr Whyte: That is absolutely right but it means, as I read it, that local Serbs have effectively given the mandate to Belgrade to negotiate on their behalf rather than to their own locally-elected officials. That is how I see it. The Serbs will be involved but it will be Belgrade rather than the local representative.

  Dr Anastasakis: What seems clear is that Belgrade is guiding the whole game here. As far as discussions on the status are concerned, as you pointed out, the only unhappy thing is that the policy of standards before status is a failure because there is going to be a discussion on status without having made any progress on standards basically. In that respect, I find this even more pessimistic than anything else.

  Q124 Chairman: Before turning to Mr Illsley and Bosnia, a few questions in respect of Macedonia: I concede that because the result of the referendum is not now known, it is very difficult to speculate, but how significant do you believe is the referendum and the prospect of a "yes" vote, which some claim would undermine the Ohrid framework agreement?

  Dr Whyte: First of all, one lesson that comes out of this is that when you are writing peace agreements, look out for loopholes that can be exploited by other people, and that is what has happened in this case. It was not foreseen that a referendum could actually overrun minority guarantees that were inserted into the Ohrid peace agreements, but that nonetheless is what happened. Yes, the referendum is very significant. It is effectively a poll on one part of the peace agreement rather than the entire package, and this of course is very dangerous. If it is passed, at the very best it will mean a delay of at least a year in implementing the reform of local government, which was a key part of the peace agreement. That is the best possible result, without which further progress into EU and NATO integration for Macedonia is not possible. It will also, of course, result in a certain increase of internal tensions within Macedonia. That goes without saying, whatever the result of the referendum.

  Q125 Chairman: How significant is it?

  Dr Anastasakis: One aspect is that there will be a lot of internal tension, which is something which can go to unpredictable levels. The second is that EU integration will also be delayed. FYR Macedonia in particular is an interesting case in that it would act as a model for the other countries where you do have two different ethnic communities and there is an overall consensus as far as the EU goal is concerned. In that respect, I think especially the Macedonian case would be particularly critical to what happens with other divided societies in the Western Balkans.

  Q126 Chairman: The US Ambassador in Skopje has warned, and perhaps an interesting intervention in the domestic affairs of Macedonia, that if there were to be a "yes" vote, that would put back the prospects of Macedonia joining NATO beyond the next possible opening of the door in 2007, possibly for many more years. Is that a message which, in your judgment, is getting through to the electorate in Macedonia?

  Dr Whyte: As far as I can tell, yes. There is still another two weeks to go in this campaign but it is very interesting to follow the comments in the Macedonian press. The Ambassador's statement I think is absolutely unchallengeable. If Macedonia has to wait another year, then they basically miss the window that is currently opening for them, Albania and Croatia to join NATO.

  Q127 Chairman: In 2007?

  Dr Whyte: Precisely, and if they are not ready to join by the middle of next year, which they will not be if the referendum passes, then they do miss that opportunity. It is a straight statement of fact.

  Dr Anastasakis: I would say yes in principle, but in reality I would look differently at this and to what extent a factor such as NATO or the EU can be a gear, not just for people voting in a certain direction but also for reform. I think this is much more complicated, especially when one is inside this kind of society which is going through unemployment and poverty. Those issues are really important to the people. NATO and the EU are there as a long-term goal, and that means prosperity and strength and all that for them, but I think when people are in a referendum frame of kind, that kind of blackmail can have an adverse effect. If you blackmail them and say "you are not going to get into the EU or into NATO", that can have the opposite effect, as the case of Cyprus teaches us.

  Chairman: I think President Mitterrand said the French always answer the wrong question in a referendum. That may be the same.

  Q128 Mr Illsley: I have a couple of questions relating to Bosnia and the hand-over from the NATO stabilisation force to the European Union force in December. There is a suggestion that because of the situation in 1992-95 the Bosnian perception is that the European Union will not act militarily or does not wish to act militarily. What implications does that have for the hand-over in December?

  Dr Whyte: The clear implication is that there will be a trial of strength at quite an early date, I would anticipate. Of course, things are very different in Bosnia now from 10 years ago. This is no longer a country at war. This is a country that has at least a sullen peace for the last nine years. On the other hand, if the EU does come into it, despite the improvements that we have both referred to earlier, with this very unfortunate legacy of failure, we can expect that people will be putting it to the test, so it has to be ready to face those tests and to pass them.

  Q129 Mr Illsley: What exactly does it have to do to face them?

  Dr Whyte: What form it takes we cannot precisely predict right now but I would have thought that there will certainly be challenges to the EU military authority of some kind, whether that is through rioting—rioting is a strong term—or through some other form, we cannot quite tell yet.

  Dr Anastasakis: When the EU takes over militarily it has to do that with a different frame of mind this time because it is not an immediate post-war situation; the security threats are different now from what they were in the 1990s. It is not just about the ethnic conflict and trying to keep those communities apart so that they do not slaughter each other; there are also issues of organised crime. There are issues of security but the agenda is much wider and I think that the EU will have to adjust to this new type of environment. The other thing that I would also suggest is that it is not just for the EU to prove that it can act militarily in a similarly satisfactory way as the United States or to prove to itself that it can do the job; it also has to know what the situation is on the ground basically and be able to help and act in synergy with other organisations involved in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

  Dr Whyte: Can I raise a slight technical point on this? I do not know whether this committee has considered this in the past but the EU force will not just be an EU force; it will include at least I think 11 other countries that I have seen listed as likely participants. I am a bit concerned about the lines of command and control in this case when you have Moroccan or Canadian or Turkish soldiers under EU command in an operation that is run by the Political and Security Committee in Brussels on which there are no Canadian, Moroccan or Turkish representatives, but there are indeed representatives of Denmark and Luxembourg, two countries which will not be participating. I think there is an issue of accountability there which I hope does not become a political crisis point but I can see that is a possibility.

  Q130 Mr Illsley: Are there likely to be difficulties within the EU as well between EU members and is there any likelihood—and this all depends on how smooth the transition is—of any conflict between NATO and the EU in terms of the hand-over?

  Dr Whyte: I think people are bending over backwards to try and prevent any such conflict, and this is why the two main military officers in charge of it are British. This is clearly an attempt to finesse the differences between the EU and NATO. There were problems in Macedonia when a similar situation was applied, with a much smaller force, specifically to do with what exactly the role of the NATO AFSOUTH[2]in Naples was to be within the command structure. I understand that they are working on that as we speak in Brussels to make sure it does not happen again. There will always be unforeseen problems.

  Q131 Mr Illsley: Given that the two forces are likely to have different mandates, would that make it easier for EUFor? Does the fact that the European Union has development assistance as well as a military force, the carrot and the stick approach, make it any easier for EUFor or does it not have that effect?

  Dr Whyte: Yes, provided that there is joined-up thinking, and I think the prospects for joined-up thinking are fairly good in this particular case. As a general point, I think it is a bit unfortunate to separate civilian and military lines of command, as has been done in the Bosnian case. In general for any intervention, I would have thought it would make more sense to have parallel and converging lines of command in a particular country.

  Q132 Chairman: Dr Anastasakis, you made the point that we are in a very different security environment now than we were four years or so ago. Is it therefore important that the European Union is able to bring together a whole wider range of instruments to bear on the problem in Bosnia and Herzegovina? Is it appropriate therefore, in terms of its possibilities of the instruments, that the EU is there now rather than with a narrower focus of NATO?

  Dr Anastasakis: Yes, and the EU is involved in a broader way in Bosnia and Herzegovina through its feasibility report and on all the particular points it has been advising the government to work on. Of course, the problem with Bosnia is that because of its protectorate situation, it is difficult to expect the government to act in a very active and passionate way on the demands by the European Union. I think it is high time for the EU to act in a much more broad way and deal not just with reconstruction or reconciliation, because I would say that has evolved in quite a satisfactory way, but also with development issues, which are particularly acute in that part of the Western Balkans.

  Dr Whyte: One specific security issue that we are facing in Bosnia in the next few months is the question of police reform. You may be aware that Lord Ashdown has set up a special commission to look at this. I would not be surprised, in fact I would welcome it, if his recommendation turns out to be a kind of nationalising of the Bosnian Police, removing security responsibilities from the entities; in other words, a greater incentive—

  Q133 Chairman: On the precedent of the Ministry of Defence, on a statement?

  Dr Whyte: Precisely, yes. One does find other countries where the main police force is national rather than local, particularly if, as there is in Bosnia, there is a problem with local competence, local corruption of the police force that happened to be on the ground. I think that could be a very interesting development and that could well be the crisis point where we see the EU's courage being put to the test.

  Q134 Ms Stuart: I would like to take you back to Serbia and Montenegro in particular and turn to something which you started to address in your answer earlier to my colleague Mr Illsley and also to Mr Mackay and that is around the whole Stability and Association Agreement and the divergence between the progress the two countries are making. Do you think the new twin-track approach will actually help that or is there simply just such a big gap to be caught up on that it just leaves them behind?

  Dr Whyte: That is a really good question. I think that the twin-track approach recognised the reality that the attempts to make Serbia and Montenegro integrate with each other before joining the EU simply was not working and, in a sense, the EU thus avoided making one of the several Cyprus mistakes that my colleague referred to earlier. I think you are quite right to say that the interests of Serbia and Montenegro remain very divergent. I understand that the Montenegrins now plan to make the best go they can of proving their European credentials within the framework of the new proposed feasibility study, and they hope to be in a position to be able to turn around to their own voters and say, "Look, Serbia is holding us back from our European integration", and that will then be used as an argument for separation. Doubts are sometimes expressed about the capacity of the Montenegrin Government to deliver on this strategy but it is certainly an interesting approach for them to take.

  Dr Anastasakis: I also think this is an interesting development because it shows a genuine attempt by Chris Patten and the Commission to understand what exactly the problem is. My deep conviction is that the understanding on Serbia is still a bit underdeveloped. The centrality of Serbia in the Western Balkans is really crucial. I think one has really to try and approach this country in the right way in order to be able to have positive side effects in the other parts also. In that respect, I think maybe they recognise that this kind of (Solana) state was a kind of failure and they had to make up for it. Showing this kind of flexibility will definitely create this kind of competition between the two and end the antagonism in trying to approach the standards of the EU. We all know of course that in Serbia there is still this kind of polarisation and we do have a more clear distinction between the reform forces on the one hand and the more nationalistic forces on the other. There is a real battle going on between those two sides in Serbia.

  Q135 Ms Stuart: We have talked a lot about outside players and whether they have failed or succeeded. Something which struck me through the whole evidence session was that you talk about what the US does, what NATO does and what the EU does. Is there not an argument made that the people on the ground need to take a bit more responsibility? There is another outside player, which no-one has mentioned so far in particular in relation to Serbia, and it strikes me that could play more of a role and that is actually Russia?

  Dr Anastasakis: I agree with you. The international factor is always the easiest target to which to address criticism and to attack, but, by being critical towards local actors, and even sometimes being very critical towards them, one also shows them respect because that is how they should be treated. It is definitely the case, and that is why I tried to indicate this in my previous remark, that there is this kind of polarisation between the Serbian forces themselves. This is a country with a background and with human capital and really able people who can deal with the international environment. If the international community wants to work with people in Belgrade, they can find people who are really interesting and who know their way about. In that sense, the Serbian people, yes, and from my contact with them, do have a strong victim attitude and it is sometimes over-emphasised because that explains for them why their situation is not better. There is definitely a lot of work that needs to be done within the local actors themselves.

  Dr Whyte: I would just like to make two points in addition. One of them is that engagement by Western political figures with the local actors on a continued and sustained basis is the only thing that will work. For instance, Mr Chairman, it would be great if this Committee's report, when it is finalised, were to be launched in the Western Balkans as well as published here. I think it would be very interesting for the local media to pick up on that. It would certainly be a sign that you were taking them seriously, and they will take you very seriously, whatever you say. It will be a sign of respect in the other direction. My second point on Russia, Ms Stuart: the Russian attitude, I am afraid, is, frankly, irresponsible at the moment. On the one hand, they call for the United Nations to crack down more heavily on Kosovo. On the other hand, they have withdrawn their own troops, thus fighting to the last drop of somebody else's blood, in other words. On the one hand, the Russians describe the Kosovo authorities (dubious as they may be but legitimately elected under UN mandate and by UN structures) as terrorists and thugs; on the other hand, Russia continues to support separatist regimes which have much less legitimacy, in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria. There is a real problem there. It will take sustained attention from the Kremlin, not from the Russian Foreign Ministry, and at the moment the Kremlin has other things to think about.

  Dr Anastasakis: It goes further. Russia is going through an interim period because of its own problems within its own country. I think the importance of the Balkans for Russia is decreasing and will now be seen to be decreasing.

  Chairman: Gentlemen, you have contributed much to our own study of this fascinating area. We thank you both for giving us of your expertise.

2   Allied Forces, Southern Europe (NATO). Back

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