Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180-199)|
30 NOVEMBER 2004
MP AND MS
Q180 Sir John Stanley: I am conscious
that we are trying to race round four countries in two hours and
normally we have 30 minutes a country and other colleagues want
to get in, so I shall ask some short questions and hopefully you
can do some reasonably short replies. Why does Britain not back
independence of Kosovo now?
Mr MacShane: Because there is
a UN Security Council resolution under which we are all operating
and we prefer to operate under the UN Security Council resolutions.
Q181 Sir John Stanley: Is it not the
case, as you have actually hinted, that if we do not at some point
provide an independent Kosovo the alternative is going to be that
the international community is going to have to take basic responsibility
for running that geographical area in perpetuity? There is no
choiceit is either independence or international government
in some shape or form, is it not?
Mr MacShane: As I said to President
Rugova, and I have said on the record in Pristina, in Europe we
tend now to talk about interdependence. I find both the language
out of some sectors of Belgrade that Kosovo is still under Serbia
tutelage, or the notion that there is an ultra nationalist independent
Kosovo just around the corner, under which all problems will be
solved, both of them are rather out-of-date thinking, if I can
put it as diplomatically as that. What we want to see is a status
for Kosovo that over time transfers as much authority and responsibility
as possible to elect representatives in Kosovo. But equally the
international community has a supreme responsibility, mandated
under the UN, to ensure that any change in the status of Kosovo
happens in accordance with international laws, a key one of which
is security for all the people in there, not just one of the principal
Q182 Sir John Stanley: But you would
accept the basic proposition that I am putting, almost as a statement
of the obvious, that the choice is between the international community
effectively ultimately running Kosovo, possibly with more decentralisation,
or independence? Those are the only two policy options that are
open to us?
Mr MacShane: There is only one
policy option open to us and that is to keep pressing and arguing
and working for the arrival of such standards in the daily life
of all Kosovans, irrespective of their communities, which allows
a fundamental shift of status towards Kosovo becoming a country
in which the elected Kosovans themselves have as much autonomy
as possible. It is not for me to say what the final status is,
but our policy is to keep pressing them to move towards standards
that allow a change in the existing UN-defined status and to say
to colleagues and friends in Belgrade, "You can help enormously
in this process by entering into an active, full-hearted dialogue
with the Kosovan authorities to try to arrive at the standards
that they legitimately want for Serbs living in Kosovo."
Q183 Sir John Stanley: Would you agree
that one of the areas in greatest need of improving standards
is the whole criminal justice system, in an area which is rife
with criminality in pretty well every shape and form? We were
told when we were in Kosovo by a senior EU officialand
I do not think I should name him because it was a private meetingthat
the judiciary was the weakest link; and we were also told that
the only British police officers who are in Kosovo are retired
police officers and we have no serving members of the British
Police Force in Kosovo, which seems to be a serious deficiency.
In addition there is no modern prosecution service. Is this not
an area where the British Government might make a significantly
greater contribution than it is making now?
Mr MacShane: I do not think you
can fault the Government on its contributions specifically in
that area to Kosovo. You are right to say that the officers are
retired, Sir John, but without exception they are men with enormous
experience and ability and everybody I have met has been younger
than meand I suspect possibly younger than youand
they have been very fit, virile and active because our police
officers do retire at quite a young age. But there are difficulties;
they do not speak Albanian. You are absolutely right about the
judiciary. I see a steady progress being made but our objective
is to build up the local indigenous capacity, if I can use that
term. We have serving police officers in Bosnia and in Macedonia,
not in Kosovo. But I would say on the record that four words you
do not hear enough in Kosovo are "Here comes the Judge"
and "I am going to lock you up if you are a bad chap."
Unfortunately it is working the whole international community
to see things that way. I do not think it is exclusively the United
Kingdom that has to find taxpayers' resourceswhich are
pretty stretched resourcesto provide an off-the-shelf Albanian
speaking judicial system in Kosovo. But I am very impressed by
the dedication of the very experienced men and the senior police
officers just retired that I have met down there.
Q184 Sir John Stanley: One last area
I shall raise with you is that Kosovo, deeply regrettably, is
one of the worst areas, and indeed centres, of the trafficking
of women. There are two particular questions I would like to put
to you. First of all, we understood whilst we were in Kosovo that
there is a proposal before your department for the funding of
a shelter for trafficked women in Kosovo. I would like to ask
you first whether you have made a decision on that, and if not
perhaps we should have a note about what the decision is of funding
that important initiative. The second question I would like to
put to you is that I hope you will give the Committee the assurance
that the Foreign Office is doing all it can to make very strong
representations through our posts in the countries from whom women
being are trafficked into Kosovo, and whilst we were there reference
was made particularly to the Ukraine, Bulgaria and Moldova. I
hope, Minister, you can assure us that our posts there are making
it as clear as possible to the governments in those countries
that this appalling trade in women must be stopped, and that we
are very, very determined it should be stopped and we look to
the government concerned to try to seal up their borders as far
as possible to prevent women being basically put into captivity
and made, effectively, in many cases, sex slaves.
Mr MacShane: I agree with you,
Sir John. There is no decision yet to my knowledge on setting
up any kind of women's refuge. Certainly I am pretty sure that
no paper has come across my desk, and if I had been asked to sign
it off it would have stayed in my mind. So I will happily write
to the Committee to tell you what is the state of play on thatCertainly
it is a contribution. I have seen great support in Kosovo for
the different contributions in rebuilding civil society of both
British diplomatic staff, the Military Police and, above all,
the many NGOs, the charities that work down there. You are absolutely
right, that trafficking of women through Kosovo, through the Western
Balkans generally, is one of the focal points of our work with
our hosts in Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and generally
in southeast Europe. I think the Foreign Office now is learning
that it will have to re-educate its diplomats in a sense, to do
much more forward engagement in policing and justice and home
affairs' activities than perhaps has been traditionally the case
because all of this area has really upset everybody, and we have
to expose it and crack down on it. Also, if I may say, to see
what we can do to reduce the demand because these young girls
end up here in Britain because there is an active demand for them
Q185 Chairman: Minister, the Serbs clearly
have a major interest in minority rights in Kosovo. They have
come forward with a somewhat ingenious scheme for decentralisation
or cantonisation with five autonomous cantons within Kosovo, with
a very large range of responsibilities. Is it the view of the
British Government that this proposal is a runner and should be
on the table with negotiations?
Mr MacShane: I have said that
we welcome any proposal from Belgrade that moves us forward, but
I have equally said to colleagues in Belgrade that we do not need
West Bank type settlements in Kosovowe cannot have people
in Kosovo owing a single allegiance to Belgrade, paying taxes
under the control of agents paid for directly by Belgrade.
Q186 Chairman: Is this particular scheme
put forward by the Serbs one which you would rule out?
Mr MacShane: There is not one
particular scheme. There is one set of proposals in March; they
are reformed and changed as time goes on and different political
groups even within the Serb government come up with their own
approaches and ideas, and we are in active conversation with all
Q187 Chairman: There is one scheme, as
I understand it, which has been endorsed by the Serb parliament.
Mr MacShane: There was one scheme
in March, and I think that was not fully acceptable but there
have been other schemes since then. What I have said to Belgrade
is that Britain is not going to say, "Oh, yes, we think a
scheme for Belgrade is a good idea for Kosovo," what I have
said to them is, "Talk to Pristina, appoint high level emissaries,
go there yourself, invite Rugova and the Kosovan Prime Minister
up to Belgrade; talk; jaw-jaw; do not just draw up schemes in
Belgrade and say to the Kosovans, `This is what we think you should
accept.'" So I am not going to make a judgment on any particular
scheme. I have seen different varieties under the heading of decentralisation
in recent months. We want to see full participating dialogue between
Belgrade and Pristina, between the Serbs and the Kosovans. We
need to have an UNMIK UN approved plan because anything that changes
in Kosovo has to go through the sieve of the UN Security Council.
It is not clear that every Kosovan Serb supports the plans from
Belgrade because again I look at this map and on this area here
I invite anybodyand I lived in Switzerland so I know what
a canton looks liketo show me any kind of contiguous area.
Q188 Chairman: But at the end of the
day you accept that there is no conceivable way in which Serbia
would have any residual responsibility for Kosovo?
Mr MacShane: I think that the
Serb people collectively in the region have got rights; they have
the right to have their culture, their language, their patriotism,
their history, their religion fully protected and not under any
sense of threat or fear. Do I believe that the authorities in
Belgrade can exercise effective state competencies in the region
of Kosovo? I find that hard to imagine.
Q189 Mr Hamilton: On 23 October, as you
will recall, Kosovo's Serb population boycotted the elections
for the Kosovo Assembly. What do you think are the implications
of their decision?
Mr MacShane: I regretted that;
I said I regretted that in Belgrade. I said the leaders who called
for that boycott were wrong. I think that the elections have now
taken place and in discussions there after that election it was
clear that both responsible Serb leaders in Kosovo as well as
Kosovan Albanians understood that it was necessary for any system
of governance in Kosovo to be bi-communal. I did not think that
called for a boycott had any useful purpose at all and was a regressive
step which I condemned in Belgrade and I am happy to condemn again
Ms Pierce: May I add something,
Minister? It does not mean that there cannot be Kosovo Serb representation
in the government; they can be appointed.
Q190 Mr Hamilton: Even though they boycotted
Ms Pierce: Yes.
Mr MacShane: Yes. I met Mr Ivanovic,
a Kosovo Serb leaderand perhaps the Committee members didin
the main government building in Pristina. So responsible Serbs
will play a role in the governance of Kosovo.
Q191 Mr Hamilton: I think fewer than
1% took part in the election; is that right?
Mr MacShane: Yes. I regret that.
I really think that boycotts serve no purpose and told us what
we in a sense did not really need to know again, that Belgrade
considers it can give orders to the Serbs in Kosovo when what
Belgrade should be doing is entering into dialogue with the
elected representatives of the Kosovans in Pristina.
Q192 Mr Hamilton: Minister, as we know,
the Democratic League of Kosovo won the large number of seats
in the Kosovo Assembly and has formed an alliance with the AAKThe
leader of the AAK, Ramush Haradinaj, has become the Prime Minister,
but we understand that he is under investigation by the Hague
Tribunal for war crimes. Will our government deal with a Prime
Minister who is under investigation by The Hague, and do you think
the indictment could make the international community more unpopular
than ever in Kosovo?
Mr MacShane: I think that we deal
with anybody on the basis that everyone is innocent until, as
it were, indicted or accused of serious crimes. Ramush Haradinaj
has made it clear that if indicted he will surrender to the Hague.
I consider that he is the appointed Prime Ministeron
the basis of those election results and we will continue to deal
Q193 Andrew Mackinlay: We have evidence
from that table and also a point repeatedly made to us whilst
we were in Kosovo, that it is disastrous for Western European
governmentsand clearly one of those is the United Kingdomto
be returning Kosovan refugees, asylum seekers, call them what
you like, back to Kosovo. Indeed the view was that in light of
the very high unemployment to which you referred60 to 70%it
is essential that to take the pressure off is we allow people
to live and work in the West because their remittances to Kosovo
are essential for keeping people warm in the winter and well fed.
I took that evidence very powerfully and, as I say, it was unsolicited,
it came from private sources. Have you had discussions with Messrs
Blunkett or Browne about this issue and, if not, why not?
Mr MacShane: I assume you mean
my old friend Des Browne MP, not the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
Q194 Andrew Mackinlay: Yes.
Mr MacShane: No, not in terms
because one of the pleasures of my job was to host a meeting of
Kosovan Serb and Roma the representatives from Kosovo, headed
by Mr Rexhepi, their Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Assembly,
who issued an appeal to every Kosovan in Britain to return home.
They wanted talented, industrious people, some of whom had fled
before 1999, to come back to Kosovo and help rebuild it. Again,
one of my pleasures in just a few individual cases, with Foreign
Office help, was to organise for Kosovans to go back to Kosovo
from the United Kingdom, ensuring the transit of their cars because
they like to go back with cars full of goods they have bought
here. I would say absolutely the contrary, that we need to have
more Kosovans in the diaspora, those who fled into exile because
of the brutality of the Milosovic years, going home, and that
is certainly the active view of other European countries. The
Home Office of course is in discussion with UNMIK. I am not going
to pre-judge individuals.
Q195 Andrew Mackinlay: Minister, I think
that you are confusing two issues. Of course you want the skills
and the expertise and energies of people to return to Kosovo and
build up the economy but you do not want them arriving all at
once, and the thing which is driving the returnees is forcible
repatriation by Western European countries, the United Kingdom,
at a time when many of those families are, rightfully or wrongly,
legally or illegally, returning remittances to keep their families
functioning in Kosovo. It was put to us, not just by observers
but byand I will not name themmembers of the international
community, indeed people who have mandates for Kosovo, asking
that the pressure is taken off. So it seems to me that your evidence
was that you have not discussed this, and I wondered if you could
or would look into that.
Mr MacShane: In all my visits
to Kosovo I have never come across a single complaint or problem
raised by anybody in the international community, amongst Kosovans,
amongst people in the streets, that this is in any way a problem.
Clearly anybody who is illegally in the UK has not and should
not have any money to send back as a remittance.
Q196 Andrew Mackinlay: The evidence was
that we should in fact make it lawful and let them have a scheme
so that people actually pay taxes, which is not unhelpful actually
Mr MacShane: That is a debate
to be had with the Home Office.
Q197 Andrew Mackinlay: Precisely.
Mr MacShane: All I can report,
Mr Chairman, is that the only discussion I have had with elected
Kosovan representatives, Roma, Kosovan and Serbs, is an appeal
which I think was on the Foreign Office website, "Kosovans
come home, we want your talents and energies back here."
Chairman: Before you continue, Mr Mackinlay,
Mr Hamilton wants to ask something on that.
Q198 Mr Hamilton: I think you made a
very important point, Mr Mackinlay. Minister, I would really like
to take this on slightly further. I have, as many of us do, have
a number of Kosovan families who, by all means, should return
because they have a lot to offer to Kosovo, but they are absolutely
petrified because of the experience that they suffered. I urge
you, talk to your colleagues in the Home Office to allow those
who are too frightened to go back to remain here until such as
they feel they can go back and make a contribution to their original
country, because many of them are quite integrated into society.
I have families in Leeds, in my own constituency, that have integrated
very, very well, and are really, really scared of returning, and
they have nothing to return to because their property has been
destroyed. We should have some humanity here and allow them the
chance to stay here until they are ready to go back.
Mr MacShane: Mr Chairman, were
we talking about a Serb who had left Kosovo and was frightened
to go home I might understand that language but the plain fact
is that Kosovan Albanians now do rule and run their own country,
so the fear that quite rightly drove them into exile in the late
1990s no longer exists. There are many Kosovan Albanians in the
UKand I had a very nice Sunday dinner at a Kosovan Albanian
restaurant in Chiswick, in which the proprietors got plenty of
two-way traffic with Kosovo. Surely the economic priority is to
reduce dependence on remittances? I have been in discussion with
colleagues because Switzerland where the biggest Kosovan Albanian
diaspora is to be found, to say what can we do to get that economic
energy and money from the Swiss back involved. Certainly I cannotand
I never have to anybody coming into my surgerysay that
if you are judged to be found here illegally you can just stay.
Q199 Andrew Mackinlay: We went to the
Balkans on 8th November and in the next seven days there was a
ministerial conference held in Pristina on the whole questions
of returnees. The United Kingdom government was not represented
by a Minister; why not?
Mr MacShane: I certainly did not
have that in front of me. Returnees from the rest of the Western
Balkans or the UK?
8 Ev 92 Back
Alliance for the Future of Kosovo. Back
Mr Haradinaj was officially appointed Prime Minister on 3 December. Back