Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 280-299)

13 JANUARY 2005


  Q280 Chairman: Is that approach such that there might be a danger of Russia obstructing mid-year discussions on the future?

  HE Eide: I do not dare to speculate on that. We will have to see how positions evolve in light of the progress that we can manage to make in Kosovo. I do not dare to speculate on what the future Russian position may be in that particular area.

  Q281 Chairman: And Washington?

  HE Eide: In Washington I feel that there has been general support for the recommendations that I made. There has been, I must say, a strong underlining of the fact that what I called a prioritised standards process must not lead to us putting less emphasis on the standards, not scrapping the standards policy; that was certainly never my intention.

  Q282 Chairman: I want to clarify one or two matters before I call Sir John. In your recommendations you rule out partition, you rule out any continuing relationship with Serbia, and that would mean, for example, rejecting the proposals by the Serbian Government for a decentralised local government structure bringing together the Serb communities within Kosovo?

  HE Eide: If the Serb plan means bringing together all these areas in one contiguous region then I would certainly do that.

  Q283 Chairman: Not contiguous but having groups which are responsible for key elements and, I suspect, therefore looking towards Belgrade.

  HE Eide: I think the process that is now under way, which means to identify certain pilot projects, like municipalities where the Serbs have more control over their own fate and their own situation, is the right way to go. There are many good things to say about the Serb plans, the concerns we share, and certain aspects of it also I do not find difficult to accept. However, I do believe that the process that is under way now with regard to identifying pilot projects such as Gracanica and others is the right way to go.

  Chairman: In response to Mr Chidgey you referred to government in Pristina or from Pristina but not by Pristina.

  Mr Chidgey: It was from but not in.

  Q284 Chairman: The formula was what?

  HE Eide: I said that it should be governed from Pristina with EU in the leading international role, which does not say, of course, how important should that role be. Where is the emphasis? Obviously, as we discussed, there will be a transition period where after a while "from" will become "by".

  Q285 Chairman: In that transition period, rather like the bucket and the well principle, the UN role would decrease and the EU role would increase?

  HE Eide: I would find that a sound way of proceeding, yes.

  Q286 Chairman: But not excluding other organisations like, for example, the OSCE?

  HE Eide: Chairman, I think the OSCE would have a very useful role to play in Kosovo for a number of years also after the end of the future status process. Here I come back to what I said about the European Union. I do believe, unfortunately, that the whole process, for instance, of capacity building, where the OSCE plays an important role, the Council of Europe and others, is an area where the international community has not come far enough in developing what I would say is a robust, lasting policy. We see so many weekend courses, seminars, conferences, where representatives of Ministries and politicians and bureaucrats are invited to attend in a number of countries. I believe that we need more of what, for instance, we see in the Kosovo Police School, which is an institution that has been established by the OSCE outside Pristina, which has carried out a constant series of training courses for the police and has built up a very good police service. That police service is an example of what we should do in other areas. It is difficult but it is doing good and it is necessary.

  Q287 Chairman: Is it your view that the European Union is prepared to accept this enhanced role, particularly in the field of capacity building? How has Brussels responded to your package of recommendations?

  HE Eide: Chairman, the meeting rooms that I normally attend in Brussels are in another organisation, as you know. What happens in the corridors of the EU is hard for me to judge but I would be very pleased if I could see evidence on the ground of a firmer long-term strategy. I do not see that today.

  Q288 Chairman: You do not see that?

  HE Eide: I do not see that today. I think there is a significant amount of hesitation and perhaps also confusion about how to move forward with regard to Kosovo. It is not easy because it is not a sovereign state. It is something else, something still undefined, where it is very difficult to engage with the mechanisms that have been established for sovereign states.

  Q289 Sir John Stanley: March last year demonstrated that the security situation in Kosovo is much more fragile and potentially more explosive than I think a lot of people thought. I think it spells possibly a growing degree of complacency about the security of the position in Kosovo. I would just like to go through the three main security components with you. Could we start with KFor? Could you tell us what you think should take place within KFor by way of improvements dealing with the security position in Kosovo?

  HE Eide: Sir John, since this is an area that I know better than most other areas. I think we have gone through a comprehensive process of identifying where the shortfalls were. They had to do with national caveats put on national contingents. I have been positively surprised to see how much of that has been removed and the fact that today I think we are better equipped to handle that kind of situation than we were before, not only with regard to national caveats but also in the way we operate on the ground with mobile observation teams patrolling constantly, trying to get closer in touch with the community, which is what you really need. It is not only a question of technical intelligence; it is also a question of contact with the communities. I think that has improved significantly. I think also the relationship between KFor[1]KPS[2]and UNMIK[3]has improved significantly since that happened. Finally, we have postponed a previously planned restructuring of KFor because there is a general understanding, which was also confirmed at the Ministerial meeting which took place in December, that we cannot at this stage restructure or reduce our presence on the ground and cannot do that for some time

  Q290 Sir John Stanley: Thank you. That is very encouraging. The national caveat issue is one that we very much pursued when we were in Kosovo and our colleague, Ms Gisela Stuart, was particularly following that whilst we were there. Can I now turn to the police, starting with the UNMIK civilian police? Can you tell us what improvements you would like to see as far as they are concerned when they are dealing with their security responsibilities?

  HE Eide: The UNMIK police consists of more than 40 nations. Having been myself head of the UN operation in Bosnia in 1997 and the beginning of 1998, which was basically a police operation with 2,000 police officers from more than 30 states, I can assure you that that is not an easy operation to lead. The differences in culture, in the way of performing on the ground, are significant. That also makes it very difficult to train and supervise and monitor and teach the local police on the ground in a uniform way how to proceed. I am not, I must say, aware of specific steps within UNMIK with regard to the improvement of their performance but they have, of course, also established much tighter links with KFor and with KPS in order to react more quickly and more efficiently to situations of that kind should they occur again. The next question you ask probably relates to the KPS.

  Q291 Sir John Stanley: I was going to do that, yes, so please continue. What about KPS and improvements there?

  HE Eide: There I must say I believe improvements have taken place and are constantly taking place. There were, as I have indicated in my report, plans worked out by the Director of the Kosovo Police Service School to establish riot control units in the KPS quite some time ago. The offers were there for training, the offers were there for equipment but, for reasons of priority probably, little had been done in order to bring that forward. What is happening today is that we are moving forward on that and three special police units have been established with the specific purpose of being able to handle riot control situations. That is ultimately where we have to go and where KFor should push the KPS to go. It cannot be a KFor role forever to do riot control and policing operations, nor can it be the task of an international police force consisting of more than 40 different nations. It has to be the responsibility of the Kosovo Police Service. We have made progress in that area over the last few months.

  Q292 Sir John Stanley: How successful do you feel the efforts have been to try and ensure the KPS is multi-ethnic force with some degree of Serbian representation?

  HE Eide: I cannot recall precisely how big they are, I think it is around 15%, but please take that with a pinch of salt. Should it be more? Yes, it should be more. What is important is that they engage. I believe it is developing as a rather efficient multi-ethnic police force. I think the situation has changed rather a lot since I was there as Chairman of the OSCE Council in 1999-2000. At the final ceremony of one of the police school classes there was booing from parents and friends of Kosovo Albanian policemen every time a Serb policeman's name was listed by the director of the school. I think we have moved beyond that. I would like to applaud the efforts that have been made by Steve Bennett, the director of the school who came in and built this up. He really took charge of the whole thing. He was a man who said, "I'm going to stay the course. I'm going to be here until I can say that this is a police force that can handle the situation." That is the kind of attitude and approach we need in other areas.

  Chairman: Mr Mackinlay is a member of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and so I suspect that will be music to his ears.

  Q293 Andrew Mackinlay: I am concerned about the impact of the United Kingdom and other Western European governments forcibly repatriating many refugees back to Kosovo. We have had some evidence to suggest that the remittances of people who are in the West are important to the families in Kosovo. I think we were told in broad-brush terms  that there is something like 80% male unemployment, although it is difficult to gauge precisely what unemployment there is in Kosovo. What do you think about that? Do you think that the Western European countries, including my own, should perhaps have a more accommodating position on allowing people to live here and have legitimate employment?

  HE Eide: Mr Mackinlay, this is a debate that takes place in a number of Western European countries, including my own. I am not quite sure if it falls within my remit to pronounce on issues that I believe in my country and other countries are issues of internal political controversy.

  Q294 Andrew Mackinlay: I understand. In four years' time it is highly probable that there will be a "velvet divorce" between Serbia and Montenegro. What impact will that have on the political situation vis-a"-vis the way forward on Kosovo bearing in mind it is an integral part of Serbia? I do not think many of us here consider it will ever be in the same political unit outside of the European Union with Serbia, but that is the position. Does a "velvet divorce" with Montenegro aggravate the situation, is it neutral or does it help?

  HE Eide: This whole question of Serbia and Montenegro adds to the political burden in the political landscape in Belgrade and complicates the situation further there. That is also why I have said it is so important that we spend more time having a constant political dialogue with Belgrade and being in touch with their leaders. They do have a significant number of challenges ahead of them. I believe it is important in this situation that the dialogue we have with Belgrade is solid and constant. I believe that there has been a tendency to pay insufficient attention to that dialogue and I think that is wrong. It is not helpful on Kosovo issues or other issues that may occur over the next few years. I would strongly appeal to all to try to see to it that the trust and confidence that is required to move into difficult processes vis-a"-vis Belgrade are there and that Belgrade also feels that the incentives that may be available to others are also available to Belgrade. There is the difficult question of the Hague tribunal. The Hague Tribunal is there and it is there with regard to NATO, it is there with regard to the EU, but I believe that even within the framework of that conditionality there is much we can do in order to bring Belgrade into more of a dialogue with us.

  Q295 Andrew Mackinlay: When we met your deputy in the region I can remember raising with him and his colleagues an incident where the Serb Orthodox Church had declined European Union monies to restore buildings which had been damaged because they were laying down who the re-builders should be and saying that it should not be Kosovo Albanians and that was a cause of considerable concern to us. Has that attitude changed or is it one which is endemic in these areas where there are Serb communities within Kosovo? Are they shunning help to restore that which has been destroyed or laying down conditions which would be unacceptable?

  HE Eide: I believe that is still the situation, although I am not following this day to day, that we are not moving ahead with regard to the reconstruction of   churches, monasteries and other religious monuments that were damaged during the March violence. I think that is a great pity because these are also buildings that represent the identity of the people who we want to live there.

  Q296 Andrew Mackinlay: Has it been their choice not to proceed? One has to ask whose fault it is. I would not want that to be said in evidence against Kosovo Albanians if it is the case of there being international money available but the conditions being unacceptable to the international community.

  HE Eide: It seems the money is available but the   Serb Orthodox Church has stalled the reconstruction. I think it is always very difficult to make judgments on this because when you are on the ground you find out that there are layers after layers of reasons and arguments. I do not want to make simplistic judgments but I do think it is a great pity that we have not been able to move forward. We have been able to move forward on the reconstruction of houses to a significant extent, I may say.

  Q297 Chairman: Is that for the same reasons, Mr Eide?

  HE Eide: We have made progress.

  Chairman: You have made progress.

  Q298 Andrew Mackinlay: One final question. Last week there was a cause of anxiety because there was an incident which had all the chemistry, it would seem, for the same kind of situation which triggered the March riots. From what you have said, but I wanted to confirm this, although there was that incident last week that caused some concern that has been successfully contained, as it were? Would that be correct?

  HE Eide: There was a very tragic situation when a young boy was shot dead and, as you said, it was contained. I think there is greater awareness today in Kosovo and in the region that one should do what can be done in order to avoid new turbulence occurring. I think there is also on the Kosovo Albanian side a certain nervousness with regard to what the consequences of new turbulence could be. We have to keep the pressure on, I must say, in order to see to it that they stay on the right course and that they try to do whatever they can do to prevent new violence from occurring and also do what they can do in order to make progress on the reconstruction, return, etcetera. I raise that because I am not quite convinced that it is the case today. I think within the Kosovo Albanian leadership also there are different views. I do not think that everybody is equally convinced that we have to move forward, for instance, on the decentralisation and the development of local government which gives the Serbs what they need to have in order to have a sustained presence in Kosovo. I am not sure that even among the leading politicians that that is a view deeply held and we can only see to it that this happens if we keep the pressure on. What worries me as the months go by is that pressure will slowly disappear and we will return to the situation that we were in earlier where the push for progress disappeared.

  Andrew Mackinlay: I apologise I was a little bit late but have we asked or are we going to ask about the Prime Minister of Kosovo?

  Chairman: No, by all means raise that.

  Q299 Andrew Mackinlay: The new Prime Minister of Kosovo is seen by Belgrade as a war criminal. There is talk about an indictment. Do you have an indication as to the timetable of when that uncertainty will be resolved or indeed what the impact would be on the body politic of Kosovo? We cannot wish this away. There is this thing hanging over us and we are not going to see you again for a little while, I guess, so I wonder, to the extent you are able, if you would just take us around that particular issue which is a cause for some concern. I realise I am asking you to crystal-ball gaze to an extent.

  HE Eide: First of all, I think it is very unfortunate that we are in a situation where week after week month after month we are talking about whether this person will be indicted or not. It is a rather unusual situation and an unfortunate situation. Of course it prolongs an atmosphere of political uncertainty in a situation where we need something completely different. It has created a situation where there is more political confusion in Pristina than we need and there is more political confusion in Belgrade than we need for the moment, and that complicates the whole process of moving things forward. I will not be able to look into the crystal ball and say when this matter will be brought out of the way but we all hope that period will be as short as possible before clarity is established. May I also say that I do believe that in the situation we are in now, clearly the best situation would be to see to it that there is political unanimity among the Kosovo Albanian leaders as they move closer to a process of status definition. How that can be done will be up to the special representative on the ground, but I think that we have to keep that in mind, that the more clarity and the more unanimity we can have among the leaders in Kosovo and the Kosovo Albanian leaders today, the better it will certainly be for the status process that will lie ahead of us.

1   Kosovo Peacekeeping Force. Back

2   Kosovo Police Service. Back

3   United Nations Mission in Kosovo. Back

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