Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200-219)

30 NOVEMBER 2004


  Q200 Andrew Mackinlay: Precisely the issue I have been talking about, about Kosovans being returned from the United Kingdom and other Western European countries such as Germany.

  Mr MacShane: Forgive me, Mr Chairman, this is way beyond my competence. I hate to duck an issue. Obviously the Home Office, as a responsible Minister, was invited.

  Andrew Mackinlay: We have a joined-up government.

  Q201 Chairman: Can you give Mr Mackinlay a note?

  Mr MacShane: An official attended. No, a Minister did not.

  Q202 Andrew Mackinlay: I chose my words deliberately and with precision—it was a Ministerial meeting.

  Mr MacShane: I will find out a list of all the attendees there.

  Q203 Andrew Mackinlay: And why I ask you, Minister, is this: it is wilful ignorance. You have indicated that what I have put to you is the first time you have heard it, et cetera. If you, as a politician, as a Minister, or Des Browne, somebody of that ilk, are not going to these meetings, you are going to be insulated from the naked truth, are you not? That is what is happening here. You are not facing up to the responsibility. You are not being told what is the situation there on meetings which matter.

  Mr MacShane: Mr Chairman, with respect, I wonder if I could offer an alternative perspective, which is that obviously this is a matter for the Home Office. There are many meetings all over Europe concerning many government Ministries and under British parliamentary rules our Ministers are not free five days a week to travel and attend every meeting. But I will send a full list of participants.

  Q204 Chairman: Minister, you have given an undertaking to give us the background of who attended and why no Minister attended.

  Mr MacShane: I am happy to do that.

  Q205 Andrew Mackinlay: The question of the Police Service. The PSNI[11]were highly regarded and valued. There have been, I think, Ministry of Defence police officers in both Kosovo and other parts of the Balkans that we are going to address. But why has not the Foreign Office done a deal with chief constables, allowing the professional police officer, as a police officer, to be maintained in Kosovo? As you know, the Chief Constable of Northern Ireland felt that he had to withdraw for reasons which one could fully understand, but basically it was absence of sitting down and doing a deal, was it not?

  Mr MacShane: Not at all. The invitation, the request was sent out to all police forces and we were very grateful that the Northern Ireland Police Service was able to respond so quickly. At the time also—I am not sure, not being a police expert, if that is still true today—they were more used to wearing side arms as a norm and all had regular arms training, which was not the case for every serving police officer in the mainland British police services. But we are in the hands of chief constables; I cannot oblige them.

  Q206 Andrew Mackinlay: They have to be funded, do they not? I put it to you that that is where the Foreign Office has shirked its responsibilities, unless you can go to Chief Constables and offer a reasonable deal, like people who are about to retire they extend their service.

  Mr MacShane: The deal was on offer; we offered to fund it. They were not having to pay this out of their own taxpayers' or Home Office Grant. The plain fact was that there were not officers for the funding.

  Q207 Andrew Mackinlay: Could we have a note on that?

  Ms Pierce: May I interject on that? We do go out to the chief constables and there is a scheme run by one particular part of the Foreign Office—though not mine—that deals with this. The problem is that chief constables would like to help in principle, but find their own resources very stretched in terms of manpower. So, as the Minister said, it is more a manpower issue rather than a funding one, which is why we do have retired officers in those places.

  Mr MacShane: I am happy to send a note[12]

  Q208 Andrew Mackinlay: But in that note will you explain why you cannot have a deal where people who are about to retired, you extend their service so that there is no loss to the Chief Constable? On the final status you ducked and dived with all my colleagues' questions. The fact is that you rightly said that you wanted to see more competences given to the Kosovan government and to the legislature, and everyone will agree with that. But you and others in Western Europe do not seem to be able to spell out to Belgrade—and this is what came over to us when we were there—that the naked truth is that there is not going to be Kosovo ever again as part of the state of Serbia. We—certainly myself—felt profoundly worried that very intelligent people, not a million miles from the Prime Minister of Serbia and the Foreign Minister for the rump federation, seemed to still believe that there was never going to be a challenge to the ownership, the sovereignty of Kosovo by Serbia. What I came back with, and I put it to you, is that there are occasions when you have to tell friends things that which they do not want to hear. You would not bring yourself to say, "I think there will have to be an independent sovereign at some stage down the road," and it just seems to me wholly unrealistic and also a mistake not to start addressing that fact.

  Mr MacShane: Mr Chairman, even on occasion one has to tell distinguished friends that sit in House of Commons Committees what they do not want to hear, but I am happy to say that all the press cuttings—if I can find them—and all the interviews I have done on Belgrade Serbian TV and radio, making exactly the points that my honourable friend has just made. I have said again and again in Belgrade, that Kosovo is not going to fall under their sovereignty and will return to be Kosovo. The language I use usually is that there is no return to 1999, "let Kosovo be Kosovo". I cannot say to you—because it is a UN decision, we are operating under a UN Security Council resolution—what the end status will be, and I do not use that word "independence" because I prefer the word "interdependence". So on the contrary, I think probably of all European Ministers, I expect—and I do not control what every one of my colleagues says—I have been the most explicit and upfront face-to-face, in private and in public saying people have to work out a new status for Kosovo and I think the best people to work that out are the Kosovans and the Serbs themselves.

  Q209 Chairman: Minister, I am going to ask Sir John Stanley to ask the last question in this section and then, Sir John, if you would, to move into Serbia and Montenegro as well. Just one question from me on this. At the moment, Minister, Kosovo could be characterised as a UN protectorate, under a UN Security Council resolution. Is it the vision of the Foreign Office that we move step by step to an EU protectorate?

  Mr MacShane: I do not think that it is where anybody wants to be, and the EU in particular does not want to be there because although obviously Kosovo is part of European soil, the European continent, this is an international responsibility, we are there under UN law. Other countries have a stake and involvement. The United States troops are based in Kosovo, for example; there is a longstanding Serb/Russia connection, so I think we need to keep this with the UN.

  Q210 Sir John Stanley: Minister, I want to raise one very key point of policy of the international community and of Britain, and that is the policy towards the KPC, the Kosovo Protection Corps, which of course is the renamed disarmed KLA[13]The point that was put to us by, again, somebody to whom we were speaking privately, but somebody of real weight, substance and authority and knowledge in this area, is that the international community in the UK were basically wrong in the policy they were following towards the KPC, the present policy of sidelining the KPC, neutralising it, almost pretending that it does not exist. It was put to us that the danger of this policy is that this could well encourage members of the KPC to covertly start re-arming, and was likely to encourage increased militancy within the ranks of the KPC with potential serious destabilisation or worse within Kosovo. It was put to us that an alternative policy would be very, very much more in the interests of the international community and indeed the Kosovans themselves, which is the policy of recognising the reality which is that the KPC is the bedrock or certainly the first building block of the new Kosovan defence force/Army, and that the right thing was to recognise this, to take a grip on the KPC and to adopt positive policies towards it, cleanse it of undesirables, start to train it properly, training it not least in modern democratic attitudes towards handling the civilian population, and, indeed, trying to do what we are assisting the Iraqis to do in Iraq, which is to create a modern, responsible armed force for that country. How do you respond to the argument that was put very persuasively to us that instead of the present policy, of the kind that we have spoken, we should be adopting quite a different policy, one of a positive policy of building up the KPC as a modern defence force with proper democratic attitudes?

  Mr MacShane: I think that is the approach now certainly of the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Mr Petersen. There is a review of how to provide security for all Kosovans, Albanians and Serbs alike, after the March events. We want to see what the security review proposes. Certainly the Kosovo Protection Corps, in my judgment, should be part of that review. It is rather large and it is very hierarchal and it certainly does not have adequate funds. We want to see it become more professional; we certainly want to see it develop its ethnic base, and the Kosovo Police Service has a better record in this regard. Mr Peterson adopts that point of view and so does the Commander of KFor. Some of our other partners there do not, and one of the difficulties I have to put to the Committee is that this is a not British-led or British-controlled operation; we have to get agreement in New York, we obviously have to get agreement from our partners in Europe and we have to bear in mind the position in Belgrade. But the general thrust of the points you are making, Sir John, are ones that I would not dissent from.

  Q211 Sir John Stanley: Before moving on to Serbia and Montenegro I would just make the point that of course I accept that this is not a sole British responsibility and it is not chain of policy that could be adopted solely by the UK, but I would just make the point that you do happen to have in post at the moment a British General who is the KPC coordinator, and in a very significant role, and with the excellent and outstanding capabilities that we have within the British Army, at all levels, we have a unique ability to start bringing about the sort of change that I have been referring to.

  Mr MacShane: I have had very pleasant conversations with Major General Freer both in my office and in Pristina. He is a superb professional. As I say, we would like to see the Kosovo Protection Corps assume responsibility for more of its security problems inside the country, and in due course become a fully professional military unit. That is our desire, but I would respectfully say to the Committee that we would have to bring other allies and partners along with it, and I cannot simply click my fingers and see something happening just because of Britain's interest and involvement.

  Chairman: Now we will turn to Serbia.

  Q212 Sir John Stanley: Turning to Serbia and Montenegro as they are at the moment, I want to start with what was a very, very frank and disturbing report by Carla del Ponte, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and what she said in her address to the United Nations Security Council a few days ago on 23 November. Talking about those indicted for war crimes in this region she said to the UN Security Council, "The vast majority of them, probably more than a dozen, live freely in Serbia. Prime Minister Kostunica has made it clear that he is not willing to arrest fugitives but only to try to convince them to surrender voluntarily." I have to say that was not the policy which was expressed to us when we saw Prime Minister Kostunica ourselves, but first of all just for the record, do you agree with Carla del Ponte that is indeed Mr Kostunica's policy, that he has explicitly stated that he is not willing to arrest those who have been indicted for war crimes and he is only prepared to try to get them to give themselves up voluntarily? Do you agree that is a fair statement of his policy?

  Mr MacShane: I think that is a fair statement of the general approach in Belgrade. I found it almost unbelievable to be in Belgrade a few weeks ago where I had a cup of coffee or something to eat with the Presidents and Prime Ministers I met and, had I chosen to, I could have taken a car and gone into a hotel or wherever and sat down with General Pavkovic and General Lazarevic and taken coffee with them when these men are indicted war criminals. I do not think in post-war Germany I could have taken schnapps with Eichmann. I am not making any comparison directly but I find it offensive in the extreme that indicted war criminals—they are accused, they are not found guilty, I stress that point, innocent until proved guilty—are walking free in the streets of a European capital city. Yes, I completely endorse what Carla del Ponte said.

  Q213 Sir John Stanley: Thank you. That policy is significantly worse than, for example, the policy which is expressed in the Republika Srpska, when we come to Bosnia and Herzegovina later, where, though the record is a record so far within the Republika Srpska of nil arrests of those indicted for war crimes, at least there Government ministers say quite clearly, "Our policy is to try and find indicted war criminals and bring them to arrest." So the situation in Serbia is very much more serious and very much more worrying. The question I must put to you, given the extreme seriousness of this, the deplorable failure of the governments in Serbia even to accept a policy of making efforts to try and arrest those responsible and indicted for war crimes, why is the British Government not taking sterner measures against the Serbian Government in order to bring home to the Government of Serbia that this policy is intolerable, unacceptable, and if adhered to holds out absolutely zero prospect of Serbia ever making progress towards international acceptance and acceptance within international organisations?

  Mr MacShane: Again, Sir John, and I do not want to quote you what I have said on the record in much of the Serb media, these are the points I have been making consistently for three years. I entirely agree with you. I say it out en clair not just in private discussions in Serbia. The Serbs say they want to enter the Partnership for Peace, the waiting room, if you like, for joining NATO and of course they see themselves, and rightly so, as a great European nation. Belgrade undoubtedly, with a brilliant population and a clever, educated people, has the potential to be one of the great capital cities of South Eastern Europe, but this wilful refusal to comply with international law and the obligations of the Tribunal in The Hague represents an absolute concrete wall between them and their very reasonable EU ambitions. Just as similarly in Croatia we have the other alleged war criminal Gotovina also accused—and I stress accused—of very serious illegal activities not connected with the military fighting period who is at large. I have been told again and again by top level Croatian politicians in this Government and the previous one, "We are on the point of getting him, we will try and get him", yet nothing ever happens. Even in Croatia there is not a clear, express announcement that he is a wanted man, "We will arrest him, we are sending our best people to find him" and that order goes right through the military and intelligence and security apparatus. As Carla del Ponte said to the United Nations a couple of weeks ago, there are networks linked to the Government in Croatia protecting Gotovina. That too is unacceptable. We are nine months from the tenth anniversary of Srebrenica, 8,000 European citizens killed in cold blood because they were the wrong religion; far worse than the numbers killed in the slaughters in Lidici in Czechoslovakia or Oradour-sur-Glane in France, nearly as many killed in Khatyn, crimes that every European knows about, and yet those accused of having some connection or responsibility for those crimes are not being hunted down by the authorities, not being given up for arrest by those supporting them. In the case of Croatia with Gotovina, of course he is not involved in the Muslim massacres but if we do not say, "Gotovina must be in The Hague" we take the pressure off Croatia, and if we ignore Gotovina naturally the Serbs in Serbia will say, "You let Gotovina go, don't talk to us about finding Karadzic and Mladic", and that will mean the entire Muslim world saying, "Europe does not give a damn about the mass slaughter of Muslims if it is carried out by Christian generals". I find that wholly unacceptable and something the British Government I hope will never ever easily countenance.

  Q214 Chairman: Minister, how do you explain the apparent contradiction between what Carla del Ponte says about Croatia and the level of co-operation in this report to the UN and what she said earlier in respect of the degree of co-operation which led to the UK lifting its veto on the progress of Croatia in the European Union?

  Mr MacShane: I express the view we are guided by what the ICTY Tribunal says. This is also the view the European Union agreed at its council statement in June. I am not setting up the British Government position, and what I said earlier about Srebrenica and massacres was a strongly-held personal view. What I assume, and it is not for me to discuss these matters with the Prosecutor, Mrs del Ponte, is that, like me, she talked to the newly elected government in Croatia and accepted their assurances they were doing everything they could to find Gotovina. Those assurances, by the way, were on the record and were public, so I am not accusing anybody of bad faith. Since she made that statement in the spring the momentum seems to have stopped, there have been reports of Mr Gotovina being seen in Croatia in the summer, there is one town in the country, Zadar, which openly walks around with his picture on their t-shirts and so on, and I think Mrs del Ponte has exactly the same disappointment I have.

  Q215 Ms Stuart: Minister, you give a very good analytical, pessimistic view of the world out there but this is the British Government. If you have been on record for three years saying it is unacceptable and Serbia is falling increasingly behind in both the SA[14]Agreement and Partnership for Peace—and incidentally also Milosevic is playing the stage which makes Serbia feel even more of a victim—surely there must come a point when we review our policy and decide talking is not going to get us anywhere and consider whether there is any kind of incentive which would help this compliance? For the Committee, and given we have to write a report which analyses the UK Government policy and not give an historical narrative of what is going on out there—we have done all that—what can be done other than more hand-wringing and doing it collectively?

  Mr MacShane: I do not think we hand-wring. I was asked what my position was on compliance with The Hague and I had to give the Committee my best and most honest answer. I would report to the Committee, I see in Serbia, and with the election of the current generation of leadership, certainly, a much more outward looking and a more European-orientated leadership collectively. I think the mood is changing in certain political circles in Serbia. Equally, there are always those who want to return to the past, but the contacts I have with Serbian interlocutors is more positive. I used to knock on doors, go in and see people three years ago, frankly, just to be received with stony faces and I assume deaf ears. Now, people understand there is a problem. They are not quite sure how to get to it and there are quite strong divisions—as you probably know from your visits—between different elected leaders holding ministerial office there. That is precisely why we are seeking to offer incentives. It is carrot as well as stick.

  Q216 Ms Stuart: What are those incentives?

  Mr MacShane: Clearly, the most important ones remain agreements with the EU that allow the Serb economy to develop. We have had a British army officer working in the Serb Ministry of Defence, to try and say: "Look, this is the way you can get closer to Partnership for Peace" and to encourage our very high level of contact. I can report to the Committee, for what it is worth, I have spent far more time in Western Balkan capitals than I have in most other capitals of European Union Member States. As Minister for Europe, Belgrade and Pristina have seen a lot more of me than Lisbon or Helsinki, whether that is good or bad I do not know, but we have been very active, hands-on, trying to work our way through this. Now we are focusing on the key indictees. We are not saying every sergeant or lieutenant accused of some bad behaviour needs to be in The Hague, those can be dealt with locally. We have considerably narrowed down, in the three years I have been Minister, what we are asking of the Serbs, but I think there is an irreducible minimum on the question of the indictees and it is the principal blockage at the moment. It is felt very strongly in other European capitals. It is not just London, it is felt very strongly in Washington, at the UN and in New York.

  Q217 Ms Stuart: Is there anything you can say specifically on this Stabilisation and Association progress, where they have fallen behind and where we can give some positive support to allow them to go on their journey? I still do not understand what it is we are doing.

  Mr MacShane: We are seeking to negotiate agreements, protocols on trade, customs and other sectorial policies particularly to allow Serbia and Montenegro to grow together. Do not forget the relationship that Serbia and Montenegro have is a product of very strong EU engagement down there. The European Union has put in about 10 million euros-worth of EU funds from CARDS[15]funding[16]We have given them a preferential trading agreement on sugar, which is sensitive in bits of the sugar producing industry elsewhere in Europe. We, as the British Government, are funding different projects. We are helping out with the independent media. The British Council is extremely active in Belgrade and I pay tribute to their work. Believe me, I have hunted high and low in the toolbox that I have for something that unlocks this because I want this part of Europe to grow to its economic potential, and certainly the full rights as European citizens we all enjoy for very a clever, highly educated and, I think, profoundly constructive and peaceful people

10 billion to the whole of the Western Balkans through CARDS funding. Of this, the EU provided approximately

230 million to Serbia and Montenegro in 2004.

  Q218 Ms Stuart: It is helpful to have that on the record.

  Mr MacShane: We still have these terrible political blockages there and I am afraid with the best will and a lot of energy and, frankly, probably more presence from a British Minister in the last three years than any minister from any other European capital, we cannot get those blockages simply removed from the piping, so that the good Serbia and the good Croatia—and I believe the leaders I meet want the good Croatia and the good Serbia—can start to flow freely in the direction of European integration.

  Ms Pierce: Chairman, if I may add one point to that. I think, picking up on the Minister's irreducible minimum, once that irreducible minimum is past—and it is chiefly Karadzic, Mladic and a constructive regional approach—we, as the British Government, would be prepared to try and fast-track Serbia through some of the EU and NATO mechanisms.

  Mr MacShane: I can see Serbia and Croatia in the EU by the end of this decade.

  Q219 Chairman: Croatia will come in anyway.

  Mr MacShane: Croatia is waiting for a date to start negotiations which is linked to ICTY. Even if negotiations on Croatia were to start soonish, it still requires the normal negotiating period.

11   Police Service of Northern Ireland. Back

12   Ev 93 Back

13   Kosovo Liberation Army. Back

14   Stabilisation and Association Agreement. Back

15   Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stability. Back

16   Note by witness: Between 1991 and 2006 the EU will have provided nearly Back

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