Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 160-164)

26 OCTOBER 2004


  Q160 Ms Stuart: Let us take this "no brainer" a little bit further. Most of the issues which I wanted to raise in relation to Serbia and Montenegro you have in many ways answered those points in relation to other questions. Let us look at the FCO's approach to this. I remember when—it may have been 10 years ago—Timothy Garton Ash developed this theory, or was writing an article that he thought a lot of what was going on in the former Yugoslavia was settling things that in the rest of Europe were settled in 1945, when the populations moved and re-jigged, but somehow that did not happen there. You now have the former Yugoslavia, and when you look at the map of Europe you know that this bit in some way or another has to come into Europe, and this is the kind of "no brainer", that, if we do not, in terms of crime it is all there. If you go back to the structure of the European Union and its balance between large countries and small countries, if you really look at that whole section and at the end process, and you may look and think that Montenegro may be a separate unity to come in, do you realise that you completely destabilise the basis and balance of large and small countries and what comes to countries of membership, your Commissioner, your minimum of four or five MEPs, all that kind of stuff? Have you thought about that one?

  Mr Glenny: On that issue, on the issue of representation in the EU, believe you me you could do a deal with this region very, very quickly, for them to say, "Hell's teeth, we will have one Commissioner every five years; we do not care. What we want is structure and cohesion first. We want our economies to have the same kind of incentives and inputs and targeted work and data collection, all the things that happen in Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain, and transformed those countries within the space of 20, 25 years." That is what they are looking for. So on that issue I am sure you can do a deal; they are good at making deals, these people, as well. That is another cultural specificity. I agree with you that it is another thing to swallow, particularly after the last ten, and the security arrangements are going to be difficult. Where I think Tim was right 10 years ago is what in their murky, hazy, violent way the Serbs and the Croats understood was that the European Union on the whole—in fact almost exclusively—takes in coherent nation states, and Yugoslavia was not a coherent nation state, so everyone suddenly was pushing towards nation states equals early European entry, and of course it was a very bloody experiment. Cyprus does not count because Cyprus had the Greeks threatening to veto the whole of the enlargement if they did not come in in their unclear unconstitutional arrangement. There is no one who plays a similar function for the Western Balkans. Another reason why I suggest that Serbia and Croatia are key on this is that Serbia does have a certain tradition of statehood and a certain coherency. Kosovo is currently a basket case; Macedonia is not a whole deal better; Bosnia and Herzegovina also has real difficulties; and Albania has very serious problems as well.

  Q161 Ms Stuart: What about Montenegro?

  Mr Glenny: It depends what happens. My own feeling is that the Agreement will fall apart after three years; that is my sense. Even if Montenegro does not become a member of the EU straight away it has an economic relationship with parts of the Italian establishment, of various varieties, which will ensure that it becomes a sustainable economy—but not a terribly dramatic one.

  Q162 Ms Stuart: One final question on nationalist feelings, particularly in Serbia. I remember reading an article by a Serbian journalist where he said, "My identity is about to be stolen by a blue flag with 12 golden stars." Is he a single voice or is that a problem over there?

  Mr Glenny: If you look at the nationalist vote across Eastern Europe and south-eastern Europe the patterns in Serbia are pretty consistent. The radicals have two sources for their electoral strength. One is poverty and economic decline and the other is nationalism. Personally I think that the economic decline is a more significant percentage of that vote and the radicals will also suffer reverses in fortunes. It looks as though we may well have early elections in Serbia in the Spring. This is the time when Tadic and his party organisation are really on the line and I think this will be an absolutely crucial event. But I think you will see a fairly significant decline in Kostunica's vote. No, I do not think the voice that you read in the article is the defining voice of Serbian political consciousness.

  Q163 Chairman: We have not turned to Macedonia. May we have some final reflections on what are the bases of the current instability? Is it essentially economic? I have heard, for example, that in the past the Macedonians had most of the jobs in the bureaucracy; that those have been reduced. The out grouped Albanians became more entrepreneurial; they travelled; they are bringing in money now, causing certain resentments. How do you describe to us the roots of the instability in Macedonia and the prospects, which, since Macedonia appears to be, certainly in respect of NATO, well placed?

  Mr Glenny: I think it is partly as you described it there, in an extremely succinct, it seems to me, summary of one of the ESI papers, arguing exactly that. That is part of the problem with the Macedonians and the Albanians, there is no question. The Ochrid Agreement has always had some detractors in the Macedonia population which see it, (a) as selling out to the Albanians, but (b) as having been imposed from the outside. This, given the parlous state of the Macedonian economy, has not been helped by the way that the government has handled the whole referendum and the whole decentralisation business. They have acted in a shroud of secrecy; they have not bothered to explain to the population what is going on. But I think one has to also recognise that this is a people, both Albanians and Macedonians, exercising their right to a democratic initiative on what is a very serious issue for them. I do not think that it will succeed and I am pleased if it does not succeed. However, I do not think one wants to be too hectoring, particularly of your EU representative, about the need for the decentralisation package to go through because people will respond negatively to it. I think Macedonia will get over this, but it does point to a serious long-running problem in how the two communities inter-relate at times of economic distress.

  Q164 Chairman: So the roots being economic, social or ethnic?

  Mr Glenny: Consistently before, during and after the civil war of 2001 opinion polls in both communities in Macedonia put ethnic relations and ethnic tensions down at about fifth and sixth of ordinary citizens' major concerns, after the issues of unemployment, health, education and all those other things which we all recognise from our lives. What happens is that when you have a very weak economy in Macedonia, and what is culturally undoubtedly quite a divided community, when there are political tensions and failures associated with that then the economic tensions are very quickly translated and manipulated into ethnic tensions. On the ethnic issue the current Albanian and Macedonian parties in power have done pretty well, but they are both currently very weak and one hesitates to guess as to what might come after.

  Chairman: Mr Glenny, as always, you have been most helpful. Thank you very much.

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