Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240-259)

30 NOVEMBER 2004


  Q240 Andrew Mackinlay: It is perverse, is it not? The state level may have a policy, as the Croatian Government has got, of saying: "We wish to comply with ICTY". The rest of the country, that is at the federation level—for what it is worth—and all the cantons say: "Hear, hear", but they cannot deliver compliance by Srpska. Therefore, are you suggesting that forever and a day the rest should be held back?

  Mr MacShane: This is the argument. You mentioned Croatia and those who say, "Just because we cannot establish authority over all state structures, the EU should not worry about this". I reject that. I think if, as Carla Del Ponte said, government-linked networks are supporting an ICTY indicted gentleman, then the government as a whole has to ensure its authority runs, not just from prime ministers and foreign ministers talking to ministers in other European capitals, but right down to the lowest level of state authority.

  Q241 Andrew Mackinlay: As in Cyprus. Could you not have some situation where you recognise or encourage the acquis to be applied where it can? I am not talking about full membership of the European Union, but at least there should be some advance for geographical, ethnic and multi-ethnic areas that wish to collaborate for advancement in terms of Europe.

  Mr MacShane: We are focusing on creating state structures and Lord Ashdown has made a big contribution to that. Clearly, within that there is leeway on whether it is economic relations, trade, travel or financial support in which there is more carrot than there is stick. Also, we think that the Federation could do more to create a climate within which the Republika Srpska understands its duties to do more to help meet ICTY obligations. I do not want to give any indication that there is any thought by the British Government of a kind of repartition of Bosnia-Herzegovina by separating the country into those that are EU compliant and those that are not. It is a state as a whole and the state must also accept its responsibilities.

  Q242 Andrew Mackinlay: Generally, it is unclear what carrots there can be for the Republika Srpska to collaborate because purely in terms of administration it is a successful political unit in terms of delivering domestic services, health, housing, education, et cetera. I think that is not disputed, but there is no incentive for them to collaborate with ICTY and to recognise its responsibility to the wider state of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

  Mr MacShane: I do not agree with you, and I do not think many people living in the Republika Srpska feel that in economic terms, social advance, travel, trade and inward investment, they are living in a particularly satisfactory part of Europe. The incentive is the same as with their Serb neighbours in Serbia or with their fellow BiH citizens, which is Europe's door just waiting to be opened, as is NATO's, on the condition that they accept the obligations that we all do of fully accepting international law. That is why Lord Ashdown has been so active in removing extremists and trying to ensure that the old militaristic structures, which certainly deliver a certain minimum level of services, are civilianised and democratised. It is uphill work. Again, I have to say on the record, I do not want to give any encouragement to people, whether in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Mostar or any of the main cities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, that there is even a scintilla of possibility of thought in the British Government's mind or any Government's mind—to my knowledge—of any kind of differentiation in terms of access to the EU between the different elements of the state for Bosnia-Herzegovina.

  Chairman: I would like to move on. I know Ms Stuart and Sir John have questions again on Bosnia-Herzegovina.

  Q243 Ms Stuart: Again, for the record. Are there any practical steps the United Kingdom could take to help Bosnia-Herzegovina in their desire to join NATO and the EU in terms of providing a carrot to comply with them and what are practical vetoes you think the Committee should take into account for our report? I am very happy to take that in writing to give us more time to move on to Macedonia.

  Mr MacShane: We will provide you with a note on that.

  Q244 Sir John Stanley: Minister, there is a great deal of comment about the inadequacy and ineffectual nature of international interventions. Indeed, in certain places some argue they have been positively damaging and resulted in worse states than were found. Would you agree that as far as Bosnia-Herzegovina is concerned the nine years' worth of international interventions, since the civil war has finally been brought to a halt, has been a truly remarkable achievement in a country where, if you translated the deaths into British terms, it would be the equivalent of six to seven million people in this country being massacred in a civil war? Here we are nine years on in which the three communities are living peacefully together and working co-operatively in a wholly recognisable democratic state. Given that achievement, do you agree or not that it would be very dangerous and possibly at risk of throwing everything away if the international community and possibly the British in particular, having played such a very significant role in Bosnia-Herzegovina, left too prematurely?

  Mr MacShane: Very much so. There is a desire, as I said, to "de-UNMIKise" Kosovo and to "de-EUFORise" Bosnia. Certainly, Paddy Ashdown said he would like to be the last High Representative and Special Representative, but I think those ambitions stated the commitment to stay the course with our partners and it is very clear and very firm.

  Q245 Chairman: Minister, we visited Macedonia and we were there shortly after the referendum and shortly after the United States had assisted in the vote in the referendum by deciding to call Macedonia "Macedonia". When we were there it was put to us that there is no precedent of one state not being allowed to call itself what it wants. What is the best case you can make to the Committee for continuing to call Macedonia "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia"?

  Mr MacShane: I do not and I do not think anybody does. We all call it Macedonia, but as you know, the Greek Government has a very strong view that does not accept this name. I suspect it is a question you would have to put to representatives of the Greek Government.

  Q246 Chairman: With respect, I put the question to you. Slovenia, for example, within the EU, calls it Macedonia. Greece has impaled itself and has set itself for over 10 years on this. What is the best case you can say for not proceeding to call Macedonia "Macedonia"?

  Mr MacShane: Exactly the same problem—not problem—that we have in saying that in international treaty law in the EU and in NATO each country has a de facto veto. In those international fora Greece can say: "The only terms under which we will accept the participation or presence of Macedonia is if it is under the title of FYROM". At the meeting I was at last Monday in Brussels, the Macedonian Foreign Minister was there and I had a very useful discussion with her. I am sure in discussing Macedonia with any one of my colleagues I refer to Macedonia. When she sat down with a little label in front of her it said FYROM. That would be true for the United States when they sit down in NATO, it will be under FYROM, and when the United States sits down at the United Nations, it will be under FYROM. On a recent visit to Skopje I was very pleased to get the reports. There were discussions under the UN auspices between Athens, Skopje and New York on trying to find a way out of this problem, but there are profound passions in Greece and I would not underestimate them. I think it is too easy to sit here in London, click your fingers and say: "This position should be accepted" or "That position should be accepted". As far as I am concerned, and certainly, when I write a letter, I talk about Macedonia or the Republic of Macedonia, but at international gatherings where the Greek Government is represented, and was there before Macedonia arrived, Macedonia sits with its partners as FYROM.

  Q247 Andrew Mackinlay: During the British European Presidency, in a year's time, when you are the host and you are in the driving seat, how will you flag it up?

  Mr MacShane: I would treat the rules on that the same as in NATO and the UN. Certainly, I am not going to go unilaterally against the United Nations, NATO or the rest of my Union partners.

  Q248 Chairman: Even if the UK was not to proceed unilaterally, what argument do you see against, for example, the EU Three braving these passions, which you have mentioned, by going ahead and deciding to call Macedonia "Macedonia"?

  Mr MacShane: As I say, Chairman, every time I read a paper, have a conversation or hear an interview in Germany, France or any other European country, Macedonia is called "Macedonia". Not speaking Greek, I am not sure what the usage is there. Can we express a hope, as I do, that very serious and mature diplomats in Athens and Skopje can find a solution to this problem. We are not going to go against a powerful EU partner like Greece. I am sorry, Britain is not unilaterally going to say that if this is that important to Greece, even if we do not agree with it, we know better and the Greeks have got no rights in this regard. It is a passionate problem in Greece and we have to have some respect for our Greek colleagues, partners and friends as well.

  Q249 Chairman: Of course, Greece is a friend, but they have impaled themselves on this absurdity. Why can we not, together with other key members, France and Germany, call it an absurdity?

  Mr MacShane: Chairman, perhaps unimpaling people is something of a Transylvanain pastime. I am not good at it. As I say, very serious diplomats, and this is true of the PASOK[20]Socialist Government, it is true now of the new democracy, the Conservative Government under Mr Karamanolis and the authorities of Skopje, are talking in a UN framework. I can think of nothing more likely to derail that process than any unilateral statement from the United Kingdom beyond what I have said. Our Americans friends, when they sit down with Macedonia in the context of the UN, NATO or if it is a joint meeting with the EU, will find that the name badge for the country is that which our Greek partners insist on for the time being

  Chairman: For the time being, as long as there is a term.

  Q250 Ms Stuart: When the Chairman moved on to Macedonia, he made reference to the dramatic American intervention to swing the referendum. Of course there are some of us who like the alternative version, it was your visit and a demonstration of the watch that really swung the Macedonian vote. We talk about EU membership and my colleague, Mr Mackinlay, made reference to this. We will hold the  EU Presidency at a time when very crucial negotiations for Macedonia's EU membership will come in, and similarly, its aspiration to join NATO. Again, are there any practical steps which the United Kingdom is taking to facilitate the speedy process of both EU and NATO membership?

  Mr MacShane: The British Government is financially supporting the European Integration Office of the Macedonian Government. Also, we are providing a series of public administration reform aides in the area of the general secretariat and the public administration reform unit in the civil servants' agency. Via NATO, we have a senior adviser in place to advise a defence reform of future NATO integration. Obviously, Macedonia's very positive ambition to aim for the EU is something that Britain supports and welcomes. I would say that the referendum result there was a very positive and mature signal from the citizens of Macedonia and that that is where there own aspirations are, but of course, full compliance with the Copenhagen criteria is necessary for Macedonia, as for any other country. We want to see the full implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement. That referendum process, as we know, was designed to derail it, but it is an example of how Ohrid has not yet fully embedded itself in the hearts and minds of all of Macedonia's political class. We want to see more progress on the SAA, the Stabilisation Association Agreement, and in particular on opening up the economy, judicial reform, corruption and organised crime and these remain serious areas. I am cautiously optimistic about Macedonia because I think the two communities there, Macedonia and Albania—despite the tensions that we know about—have repeatedly walked back from the brink and, also, are witness to the international community's involvement there since the first President Bush mandated troops under the UN back in 1990, I think. We travel and deal regularly with leaders and have very positive relationships with them. They have suffered terrible blows with the loss of their president in that ghastly plane crash in Mostar in the winter of this year. I attended the funeral and I was very struck at the maturity of all the communities there. In a funny way, of all the countries in the regions it does not have an ICTY problem, thank goodness. I hope, with the help of the very able diplomatic brilliance of Greece and good will all round, perhaps the main problem could be solved and they can move forward in the other areas with a lot of encouragement and help from, certainly, the Government in London and the EU to fulfil their ambitions before too long.

  Q251 Ms Stuart: As they do not have the war crime problem, they may be well ahead. If I could just leave you with a thought, as we are leaving this, one of the thoughts for solving the problem of the name was that a solution on the spelling could be found.

  Mr MacShane: I have heard solutions about the pronunciation. I am trying to work out whether I want to see the new film with Alexander the Great. I would not add any other qualification to him, whether there is guidance for us all out of Hollywood!

  Q252 Sir John Stanley: Minister, I must just return to this issue of the name because this is of such key importance to these two countries, Macedonia and Greece. As of today, we now have three members of the Security Council, the US, Russia and China, all of whom, we understand, have recognised Macedonia as the correct constitutional name for that country. Surely it is the case that if the British Government accepts that a sovereign country is entitled to determine its own name, it must be the case that the British Government should be becoming the forth member of the Security Council to recognise Macedonia by its constitutional name. I have not heard an answer from you which gives any degree of cogent reason as to why the British Government should not make that move other than the unseen, unheard, unspoken one, which is that we must do nothing that could take us out of line with our fellow EU member countries. Is that what is determining British policy on this point?

  Mr MacShane: Not at all, Chairman. We are at one with Russia, China and the United States. I must confess to the Committee, I did not know that Russia and China had decided this policy and, certainly, I will check up on that with Greek and other colleagues. At the UN they will sit down with Macedonia and they will have a label in front of them called FYROM, ditto, NATO. We call it Macedonia in correspondence and conversation, but, yes, in the EU it is one of the rules, it may be uncomfortable for some and very important for others, that each nation state member of the EU has got certain rights, one of which is to express a veto on this particular nomenclature. It is not really for me, and certainly it is not helpful for me, to be disobliging about Greek colleagues. As I say, I hope the solution can be found, whether it is through spelling or pronunciation. There is another row bubbling up on whether the euro can be spelt with a "v" in some Slavonic countries, which Mr Trichet of the European Central Bank is very exercised with. Perhaps that is evidence from the Treasury Minister that you need on that problem. I have to say Macedonia by any other name would smell as sweet. What is in a name? It is of great importance for two countries that we have good relations with. You want me to be a Solomon and come down just on one side? As I said, I would be very happy with that position. It is the same position de facto despite announcements that have been made by the United States. We call it Macedonia in correspondence and in discussions. If I have an interview on television or if I am in Macedonia or Greece I refer to Macedonia or the Republic of Macedonia, but in international institutions the name FYROM or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is still used by Russia, the United States and any other country in the international community.

  Q253 Sir John Stanley: Can I turn to the other issue which is a feature of national sovereignty, which is that a state should have clearly defined borders. Is the British Government able to help with what appears from the outside to be a pretty ludicrous dispute which we understand relates to just approximately 200 hectares of uncertainty of border between Macedonia and Kosovo? Can the British Government make a contribution to resolving that issue and getting that out of the way?

  Mr MacShane: A very good point. It is about 2,500 hectares with hardly anybody living on it. When I have been down there I have asked to see the detailed maps. The dispute is not entirely clear to me, but I think, as a nation that remembers some of these issues in curves and lines and the border between what then became Pakistan and India et cetera, perhaps it is not something Britain should pile on too much. What we have got is a working commission that UNMIK set up between representatives from Macedonia, Pristina and Belgrade. Of course, the original delineation was between Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia without any involvement by the Kosovans. There are one or two Kosovan locals who say that the border is not quite drawn right.

  Q254 Andrew Mackinlay: You used the word Belgrade, is Belgrade the Federal Republic of Serbia-Montenegro or just Serbia?

  Mr MacShane: The delineational border was between Serbia and Montenegro on one side—I use Belgrade de facto as a capital of the two—and Macedonia, the authorities from Skopje. Since then Kosovan authorities have objected and we have a problem, but I would be very reluctant to say there is any problem in that part of world, which is minor and technical because goodness knows what could happen in the future.

  Q255 Andrew Mackinlay: I think the answer is yes. Your colleague has said yes.

  Ms Pierce: I think they are state union officials, but we will check.

  Q256 Andrew Mackinlay: You see the point of me asking because it goes to the heart of my earlier question to the Minister?

  Ms Pierce: It was a FRY delineation, so it was definitely a countrywide one.

  Q257 Sir John Stanley: Just on the figure, maybe this went wrong in the translation or in my notes, but, very firmly, I have got down from the Macedonian Foreign Minister a figure of merely 200 hectares, but, Minister, we will take your figure as being correct. If it is not correct would you let us know, otherwise, we are totally off course?

  Mr MacShane: Of course. I will have to write to you on this[21]

  Q258 Andrew Mackinlay: The only other thing I want to ask you is what we are doing to help judicial reform in Macedonia? I imagine it is probably a lack of agencies, presumably it is DFID or the Department for Constitutional Affairs, is it not? They were crying out for assistance and seemingly there was no one available to help?

  Mr MacShane: As I said earlier, generally we have help from the Government, but certainly paid for out of the DFID budget on reform in public administration. Also, we are helping the Macedonia Government to decide a new counter-insurgency public order unit because, as you can imagine, that is quite a pressing law and order issue down there. We are supporting judicial reform because that is important in Macedonia and we are doing it through the OSCE. We have helped to organise seminars on alternative dispute resolution and, of course, DFID with the Foreign Office, with the Ministry of Defence, are all working collectively with other international donors like US Aid to help Macedonia.

  Q259 Andrew Mackinlay: In fairness to the Minister, perhaps we could have a note from him on that. On the other side of the coin, similarly, privatisation had been somewhat botched. It would appear that there had been, not necessarily with any malevolence, privatisations to existing workers, laudable in intent, as it were, but which did not attract foreign investment. Again, I wonder if you could give us a note as to a position statement on privatisation and how the United Kingdom-EU might be able to improve on that? The evidence we had was that this had been a missed opportunity to the extent that the privatisation had gone ahead, and I am making the assumption it was not exhausted, but it was not attracting foreign investment, whether or not the international community and the UK were on top of this in doing what they could to facilitate a more beneficial programme of privatisation. I am happy for that to be left to a written note.

  Mr MacShane: I am happy to send the Committee a detailed note on the economics of privatisation and what the UK involvement is there[22]What I would say is that of course Macedonia needs to send out enduring signals of stability. The one thing the international investment community is frightened of is being frightened and when the news out of Macedonia is of conflict or referendums then they run away. I should correct myself, Chairman, if you will let me put it on the record. I said that Macedonia was not involved with ICTY. Of course that is true in terms of the big ICTY area of operation on the wars of the 1990s, but there are five cases ICTY has shown an interest in relating to the crisis of 2001. You remember the summer of 2001 with the killings of ethnic Albanians in one or two countries, the kidnap and torture of civilian road workers and, of course, the tragic death of a British solider there. ICTY has still got an interest in those cases, but there are no indictments as yet and I do not think you could put Macedonia in the same category as the other countries

  Ms Pierce: May I add on privatisation and investment? Another problem, as well as stability, is that none of the Balkan countries have the sort of laws that enable companies to protect their own assets and that is something we encourage them to pass quickly.

  Andrew Mackinlay: Absolutely. I am grateful to Ms Pierce for raising that. If you felt able to amplify on that and not just on Macedonia, that would be something you could also put in writing[23]

20   Panhellenic Socialist Movement. Back

21   Ev 102 Back

22   Ev 103 Back

23   Ev 103 Back

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