Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 263-279)

13 JANUARY 2005


  Q263 Chairman: Ambassador Eide, may I welcome you most warmly to the Committee and thank you for coming specially to us at our invitation. You are a distinguished Norwegian diplomat. You currently are your country's Ambassador to NATO. Your career has focused mainly on international organisations. After the riots in Kosovo last year you were appointed by the Secretary-General to look specifically into the future of Kosovo. You produced your report in July. The Secretary-General has said in terms that he accepts the key recommendations which you made, and I think it is fair to say that other governments too have warmly commended the work you did at that time. Just to prepare the ground before other colleagues come in, can I ask have you been able to keep in touch with developments in Kosovo since your intensive period in the summer of last year?

  HE Eide: Mr Chairman, first of all, thank you very much for inviting me to come and have this meeting with you. I am very honoured to be here. Of course, I do have another job. As you said, I am now Norway's Permanent Representative to NATO, so I had to return to that after my few weeks in June-July May on this particular assignment. As you will understand, the last few months have been taken up by Afghanistan, Iraq and other issues related to NATO. I am somebody who has been for many years interested in the Balkans and have tried to follow developments as much as possible. I have also tried to keep track of what is going on in Kosovo, but, of course, not at the same intense level as during those weeks.

  Q264 Chairman: You clearly have kept in touch with   developments. You made a series of recommendations last July. I notice, for example, that one of the points you made was, "The Serbs understand that they cannot and should not remain outside the political process". Alas, following that the Serb community in Kosovo boycotted the election. Has that development or any other caused you to amend any of the conclusions you reached in the recommendations you made?

  HE Eide: Let me put it this way. I do think that many Kosovo Serb leaders also were deeply disappointed that there was not a unanimous recommendation from Belgrade in favour of participating in the elections. Why have they not re-entered the political structures and the political process? I think it is very hard for the Kosovo Serbs to do that without feeling that they have Belgrade behind them. I feel that they hesitate when it comes to doing that without feeling that there is that backing present. At the same time I do think that they also look at the situation with regard to what is happening in the key areas that affect them, such as reconstruction, decentralisation, etc I think it is regrettable that they have not chosen to re-enter the political process and we try to say to them all the time, and I was able to say that to the leaders in Belgrade only a few weeks ago, that there is no other way than for them to re-engage; the process as such in Kosovo is not going to stop because they stay out of the process and therefore the only way of protecting the interests of the Kosovo Serbs and their own interests in the processes that will follow is to re-engage.

  Q265 Chairman: That said, you made a number of recommendations both in terms of managing the interim and also the longer-term future. Do you still hold, as you did last July, to those same recommendations or do you wish to refine any of them?

  HE Eide: I hold to those recommendations. I believe that what I tried to do was to develop what I saw as a comprehensive strategy leading from what are the immediate steps that need to be taken and a strategy that would include the question of the future status. That kind of strategy is still required and I do also believe that the Special Representative on the ground of the United Nations, Soren Jessen-Petersen, is really basing himself and his work on that kind of strategy.

  Q266 Sir John Stanley: Ambassador, would you agree as far as final status is concerned that ultimately there can only be one of two options: either Kosovo is going to have to remain under some form of ultimate international government or it will have to be an independent nation state? Do you agree that in the long term there is an inescapable choice between those two options?

  HE Eide: I believe that is fair to say. I have said also in the report that it is unthinkable that Belgrade will in the future have authority over Kosovo and that Kosovo will be governed, I did not say by Pristina but from Pristina, with the EU in the lead international role, and I believe that to be the case.

  Q267 Sir John Stanley: Do you agree or not that the likelihood of the international community, whether through the EU or the UN, wanting on a permanent basis to have responsibility for Kosovo is really almost inconceivable? They will not want to have that as a permanent responsibility. Do you agree that is correct?

  HE Eide: I agree absolutely.

  Q268 Sir John Stanley: Therefore, that being the case, it would indicate that the only viable long-term answer to the status problem must be that Kosovo sooner or later, in whatever timescale, does emerge as an independent nation state?

  HE Eide: I cannot see any other option in the long run, the long run not being that long.

  Q269 Sir John Stanley: You just anticipated my next question. Could you give us your view, if that is what all the logic points to and you have confirmed it, that is that the ultimate final status will be Kosovo as an independent nation state, as to the timescale in which this needs to be achieved, bearing in mind the very crucial point you made in your report that "seen from internal Kosovo perspective, the longer we wait the more would the frustration in the Kosovo majority population increase"?

  HE Eide: I still believe that to be true, of course, that the frustration will increase. There will, of course, be a mid-year review next year with regard to standards and how to proceed from there. I really do hope that there will be an outcome from that which will be sufficient for us to say, "Yes, we have now to initiate a process of identifying the status", not saying, "Now we start the status negotiations", but the process of identifying the status. How long that process will be and what shape it will take will, of course, be a matter which the international community will have to look at when we reach mid-2005.

  Q270 Sir John Stanley: Given the rising tide of frustration (and that was brought home to us when we as a committee visited Kosovo) and potential for instability that that could create, do you think that for the whole process to achieve an independent nation statehood for Kosovo five years is a reasonable timescale? Do you think 10 years? What would be your own personal view with your background of having explored it with your report?

  HE Eide: Sir John, I think we are here talking about two or three issues. There is the process of identifying status and then the implementation. I think the process of discussing and negotiating the final status will have to be rather shorter, which could pass through several phases, which would then I believe culminate in some kind of conference like the one we had in Dayton or Rambouillet. Before that there will of course have to be a process of preparing for such a conference. When that has been done I believe that there will have to be a transition period where Kosovo is not given full powers as a nation state from the very outset but that the international community will have to decide about the duration of a transition period. During that transition period, of course, certain powers would have to be vested in the international community. I believe that if you say five years that would not be an unreasonable timetable.

  Q271 Chairman: The five years mentioned by Sir John?

  HE Eide: Yes. I think that would not be unreasonable. Much longer than that would be difficult. What does that mean? I think the international community would have to prepare itself to stay and be present in Kosovo for a period much beyond that, but now I am talking about the intermediate period before the date when the final powers, so to speak, are transferred to Kosovo authorities.

  Q272 Mr Chidgey: Ambassador, if I can carry on to a degree with that theme and particularly concentrate on standards before status, which you highlight in your report, I want to draw attention to your contention that the current process has proved ineffective. If I may quote from your report, you say that there is a growing recognition that the standards before status approach is untenable in its present form and must be replaced by a broader policy where standards implementation takes Kosovo in an orderly way from the present through future status discussions and into a wider regional and European integration process. I have two particular questions and then a general one. In your report you argue for a broader standards policy. Is there a risk that this policy shift could leave the minorities unprotected and result in Kosovo's independence before the achievement of decent standards?

  HE Eide: Here is the original standards implementation, 119 pages. When looking through this there is a great number of details and small points that will have to be implemented no doubt at one stage, but what I felt was that this process, which is so crucial, was developing into a bureaucratic process and not a political process, and that therefore we had to say to ourselves, "What are the priorities at this stage in order to move Kosovo forward?". I therefore argued for a prioritised standards process before and after status, which means certain standards have to be fulfilled before final status can be given and then we will have to continue with the standards implementation until Kosovo then is integrated into a wider European framework.

  Q273 Mr Chidgey: That begs the question, Ambassador, which standards will be the priorities?

  HE Eide: From my point of view it was obvious that following the events of March those standards relating to the safety and security of the minorities were the key standards. We have to try and concentrate (and there are some elements of that in all standards) on those aspects that relate to that and that the Kosovo Albanians must understand that without this, and this is what I saw as the immediate challenge, it will be very hard to proceed.

  Q274 Mr Chidgey: Thank you, Ambassador. That is very helpful. My general question relates to the experiences that I certainly discovered on our return to the Western Balkans recently. It seemed there was a general concept, and I would call it a sort of collective clutching at straws, in the attitudes of many of the people that we met in the sense that they seemed to have a concept in their minds that membership of the EU would solve all these problems—the economy, the security issues, the development, the identity if you like, of Kosovo within the international scene, but at the same time there was no recognition of the requirement to satisfy the Copenhagen criteria which we apply to every applicant's status sometimes more effectively than others, you might argue. There seemed to be a complete lack of any recognition of the rigour of that process going from an aspiration to being accepted as a potential applicant to going through the acquis, to becoming a member. I have to say that this is like trying to wave a magic wand or whatever. There was no reality in their political appreciation. What is your perspective on this?

  HE Eide: I agree completely with you. I think there is, not only there but across the Balkans, an impression that EU membership and NATO membership will solve things for them and if we can only get there that is it. There is less enthusiasm for the nitty-gritty and the work that has to be done in order to move forward. It does not surprise me. I do not think they have been exposed to the requirements; they do not understand what the requirements are, and therefore I believe also that much more of a dialogue between the European Union and Kosovo and Belgrade and others is also required in order to create a better understanding of what the process really is and the fact that this is not going to solve everything, that they have to take their share of the job. Also, I must say, much of the solution lies in the regional integration and regional co-operation. Much of the economic progress that they need has to be fostered from within the region, not only from links to the wider Europe.

  Q275 Mr Chidgey: How do you feel that we in the EU can initiate the beginning of that understanding of acceptance of responsibility?

  HE Eide: I am of the view that unfortunately several international organisations have not played their role to the full yet both with regard to Kosovo and to other parts of the Western Balkans. I do think in particular with regard to Kosovo that the approach of the EU, and the OSCE for that matter, has been a little bit sporadic, that there is a lack of what I would see as a clear strategy, perhaps also a hesitation with regard to moving more vigorously into the job, which I can understand. Of course, also, the mechanisms that we have in place within the EU, which you know much better than I, for obvious reasons, not coming from an EU Member State, are such that they are naturally developed with regard to sovereign states and not an area like Kosovo without any status. I do believe that some more imagination needs to be produced and that a more robust and constant EU engagement is required to bring Kosovo forward. With that I am thinking of concrete projects but I am also thinking of assistance with regard to capacity building, putting in advisers where that is possible, engaging more and also seeing to it that the population in Kosovo can see that there are prospects, that there is hope. Because when you see today a population where 55% are under 30 years old and 60% are unemployed then you are facing serious trouble. The longer we wait with regard to doing something more vigorous the greater the burden will be along the road that we will all have to carry. I would appeal strongly for a more robust, less ad-hocish and less sporadic engagement from some of these international organisations and I think the EU obviously is the big magnet in this respect, but not exclusively the EU.

  Q276 Mr Chidgey: You feel that the politicians and the administrators in Kosovo would be prepared to accept that more rigorous intervention by foreign organisations?

  HE Eide: I think they would understand that they have to accept it. They have to accept that with greater engagement comes more responsibility and that if there is to be a bigger carrot there also has to be an acceptance that they have to be helped along the road. We have to get away from this client atmosphere that we so often have found to a state where politicians understand that they really have to shape up and take the responsibility. Unfortunately, the March events and the first few couple of months after that showed that they were not able or willing to do that, and that is very sad.

  Q277 Mr Illsley: Ambassador, on the question of final status in response to Sir John Stanley you said that eventually the idea of some form of independence for Kosovo would probably be inevitable in the longer term. Given that last year the Serbian minorities within Kosovo boycotted absolutely the elections and assuming that they would look upon a final status of Kosovan independence as something that they would not wish to see and perhaps not like to live under, is there a danger that by accelerating the process towards a final status we could see an exodus of the Serbian minorities heading back towards Belgrade, back into Serbia or out of Kosovo altogether?

  HE Eide: There is a risk of that occurring but do you not also believe that if we do the opposite, if we wait and wait and wait, the frustration that exists and that will grow could push the Serbs in exactly the same direction? That is why when I made my recommendations I said that while raising the question of the status has so far been seen as too dangerous, I think it is now too dangerous to leave aside. However, it has to combine with what are the priority standards, and that is seeing to it that we do everything we can in order to enhance security for the minorities and carry out a sensible process of establishing local and central government, seeing to it that return and reconstruction take place. I think we are moving along that road but without that work taking place now then of course a discussion of future status will entail more risk. We are faced with two situations which may both potentially lead to the same result.

  Q278 Mr Illsley: We are damned if we do and damned if we do not?

  HE Eide: Exactly. There is no good moment for raising the status issue.

  Q279 Chairman: Can you help on this? The Secretary-General welcomed your recommendations. How have the Russians responded, particularly because of their link with Serbia?

  HE Eide: Chairman, there has been more of a reluctance perhaps on the Russian side with regard to accepting moving into the process of the future status of Kosovo than there has been among the others. There has been more insistence that all standards have to be fully implemented before we can go into that. There has been a different approach taken by the Russians than by the other members of the Security Council.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2005
Prepared 23 February 2005