Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 300-304)

13 JANUARY 2005


  Q300 Ms Stuart: Over the weekend I went back to reading some stuff which was said about the former Yugoslavia five years ago and then 10 years ago, and it was quite striking that predictions were made about the fragility of the structure in Macedonia but now it is actually much more stable than we no doubt thought. I am just beginning to get terribly concerned that if you look at this whole geographical area which with the fall of Tito fell apart, we end up with Kosovo almost being the bit which is the least resolved. All the other bits of the jigsaw are falling into place but this one is not. I was very interested when you said that we require unanimous political will on the part of the Serbian and Albanian leaderships but are we not in danger of creating political structures which are so unsatisfactory in their basis and also may be too small? The other thing which worries me terribly when you talk about police forces and compliance with the rule of law is you have got residual ethnic groupings together and I am seriously beginning to wonder if we are not dealing with sizes of structures which in the long term are not sustainable and therefore all our worries with Kosovo are much more fundamental problems than just saying we need more capacity building and we need more of these kind of courses. These bits of the jigsaw just have not played themselves out. That may be a terribly pessimistic view.

  HE Eide: Ms Stuart, I struggle with much of the same in my own thinking on the region, although I must say when it comes to Kosovo I cannot see any other way out than what we are describing. We can go through all possible other options and I cannot find any. You touched upon sustainability. If you go back to the 1980s, if I am not completely mistaken, there was also 40 or 50% unemployment in Kosovo while there was in Slovenia almost full employment, where Kosovo survived on resources being transferred from Slovenia and Croatia, so the outlook is not particularly encouraging, That is why I also like to emphasise when we have this situation developing with a number of rather smaller countries that it is so important to make them understand that much of their economic prospects depend on their ability to deal with each other. That is their most important market. That is where they have to inter-act economically and politically. Of course, that is going to be a tremendous challenge only a few years after the wars we have been through in the region. There is simply no other way and that is why I also think that it is important to say that, yes, integration into Europe must be our objective, but integration of countries and states where the borders between them are as low as possible and where we do our utmost in order to try to stimulate economic and other interaction and co-operation . It is going to be very very hard but I cannot see any other way of moving out of it.

  Q301 Ms Stuart: I do not want to put words in your mouth but I think I am almost detecting an answer to the question you declined to give to Mr Mackinlay because if the argument and the way it reaches agreement is an awareness that you need to economically co-operate within the home territory, then a significant ex-patriot population that simply sends remits back home may continue a kind of ethnic diversion but on foreign soil and therefore become entrenched and will not move forward, which would not be very helpful in the long run. So in the long run the solution has to be found on home territory?

  HE Eide: Absolutely. A solution has to be found on the home territory. If you look at the situation over the last few years, there can be no doubt that the assistance given by the government to Kosovo is going down, the money sent home by the diaspora is going down. All the sources are not drying up but there is less coming from those other sources. If we do not spend more money and effort on this area what is the result going to be with the kind of unemployment that I mentioned of young people? We are not going to see fewer coming to our countries, we are going to see more in one way or another. The question is what kind of policy do you want to implement here? I think the answer is quite clear. The more we can try to do now in that region the more problems we will be able to avoid in the future not only in that region but also in our own countries. The more we can manage to create a police service in Kosovo that can handle organised crime and corruption there the more we will certainly help ourselves also.

  Q302 Ms Stuart: This next question is to do with something which we picked up anecdotally when we were there and it was to do with money going into the area and the trail of accountability when outside money is being spent by outside institutions. Do you feel there is more that could be done, that there is an accountability trail and therefore we will not become a source of indigenous corruption?

  HE Eide: More can always be done, there is no doubt about that. I think this is a problem that we have been aware of for quite some time and where I  believe that governments and institutions, organisations, try to follow their money and what happens to it as best they can. Do they always spend it sensibly or in an optimal fashion? There is a question mark there. I would refer you to the capacity building. Many governments today spend millions and millions on seminars and conferences and weekend courses and travelling back and forth. Does it all make sense? I have been working on this for years, Chairman. I think we have come quite a long way when it comes to co-operation between various international organisations and nations, but it is still too fragmented and serious effort should be made by the international community to co-ordinate its effort and get the most out of the money that is spent.

  Q303 Sir John Stanley: Our Committee is particularly charged to focus on the policy of the British Government and we are aware that the UK has played a very wide-ranging role in Kosovo, not just merely on the security side with the military deployments we have made there and the police contribution we have made, but also in wider economic aid and government capacity building. For example, we found out, which I did not know until we went there, that a very, very senior and expert official from our Customs & Excise department here has actually created a customs service for Kosovo. If you were having this meeting this morning with Mr Blair or Mr Straw, what would you be urging them to do as far as the British contribution in the future in Kosovo is concerned?

  HE Eide: I would urge them, just as I would urge leaders of other European Union and OSCE countries for that matter, to ensure that what they do is well co-ordinated and that it is sustained. I consider the UK's contribution to be an outstanding one. I have seen that from my work for the OSCE and NATO. There is no doubt that the role that your troops have played both in Bosnia and Kosovo is really first-class. They have managed better than anybody to do the job efficiently and to get the confidence of the population in a way that others have not managed to do. I think the British contribution has been an example to many of us. I think we are also doing better now. It is interesting to see that operations are not called "NATO" anymore, they are "NATO-led". The Swedes have made a great contribution. I think many of us have learned from your way of operating on the ground. You played a great role in the policing part. When I was in Bosnia I had a British police commissioner at the end of my time there who went on to work in Kosovo and in many other places around the globe and he made an absolutely outstanding contribution. I applaud the contribution that you make.

  Q304 Chairman: Ambassador, you have immense personal experience in the region. You have helped us with your accumulative wisdom on it. Perhaps for me the challenge was that if we as the West, as OECD, as the EU, as NATO, do not go to Kosovo and go soon and work with the local people there, they are liable to come to us in all sorts of unwelcome ways. May I thank you very much indeed, on behalf of the Committee, for your evidence.

  HE Eide: Thank you very much.

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