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Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way. The thrust of my remark was exactly as she has stated. It would be very nice if it could be the other way round as regards 5 billion euros a year for the military and 5 billion euros over five years which is the sum for aid. But we can only do
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am glad to know that we are at one on that. The international community, therefore, can be said to be playing its part and with one or two exceptions the countries of the region now live up to their obligations and take responsibility for their own future.
Progress towards the conditions for EU eligibility have been mixed so far. The peace is fragile, as I have described. In some places it is still dependent on large numbers of peacekeepers, but those numbers are diminishing. NATO will review the position later this year. Meanwhile, as I indicated, those troops are still necessary. Democracy is starting to take root. There has been a host of elections across the region during the autumn. Broadly speaking, they have been fair, free and peaceful. Most have been run very effectively by local authorities with only modest support from the international community. So the region is taking ownership of its own democracy.
But the elections also exposed a growth in apathy on the one hand and in a nationalist vote on the other. I agree with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. For example, only 45 per cent of the population voted in the recent Serbian presidential election. Not all elections deliver effective governments with the will or the capacity to push ahead with the reforms that the region needs. As the noble Lord said, this is no recipe for long-term durability. It is something which is still very much in the forefront of our minds as being a difficulty for us.
On the plus side, the region's economies are recovering, underpinned by sound reform. That offers new hope for citizens and the prospect of better times. But there is still a long way to go. Almost everyone in the region is poorer than they were 10 years ago before the war started. That is a solemn thought. The refugee crisis is improving. After Europe's biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War, most refugees have now returned in large numbers and in safety. But others still have to find the courage to make that brave trip home. Some war criminals have been brought to justice. Milosevic is on trial at The Hague. There are others from every side in the recent war and clearly not all those indicted are at The Hague. Mladic, Karadzic and others remain free and we remain committed to bringing them to justice.
Perhaps I may touch on four key areas which are the priorities where we believe that the work must continue. They are similar to the points made about the Tirana declaration by the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper. There is the strengthening of democracy. Democracy is about binding a society in which the leaders are accountable to the people who elect them. In democracies there are constitutional checks and balances which moderate the power of elected governments. There is an independent judiciary and parliament to which the government is accountable. There is a free media which is able to
There needs to be greater reform in the economies. Everywhere a start has been made, but much more needs to be done if the region is to create jobs and prosperity including mixed economies in which private and public sectors both play some part not only in manufacturing but also in the development of services. There has to be improvement in tax collection and real tackling of corruption in the public services; a simple, certain and transparent legal structure that encourages legitimate economic activity and foreign direct investment. In this the emphasis by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, on training is very apposite and his point on education exchanges is very relevant. I shall undertake to take a look at Chevening scholarships for the Western Balkans and come back to him on the points he made because I agree very strongly with what he said.
We need well-trained publicly accountable police forces, official and impartial courts and a real effort to stamp out organised crime. The Balkan mafia is still very well organised and it is very well armed; sometimes it is better resourced than some of the Balkan governments. Sadly, I have to agree with a number of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. That is why the UK Government hosted a conference in London in November with the regional countries, European Union members and others to focus international attention on the problem of organised crime in south-east Europe and to agree on key measures which we each can take. The London conference produced a joint commitment and strategy to tackle these issues.
I gave an answer to my noble friend Lord Tomlinson on 27th November which set out the successes of the conference. The documents have been placed in the Library of the House. I believe that they answer a number of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Russell-Johnston, when he asked about the measures being taken by this Government to tackle corruption. In addition to those internal measures we hope that the governments of the Balkans will accept and co-operate with the authority of the international criminal tribunal in The Hague. The fact that the governments have a legal obligation to co-operate with the tribunal is not always acted on by those governments. It is clearly established by international law under the UN charter. In co-operating with the tribunal, governments send a very clear signal either that they want to be treated as genuine candidates for membership of the European Union or they do not. If the countries in the region seriously aspire to membership of the EU and closer integration with the other international structures, they have to take the obligations of the international court.
The noble Lady, Baroness Rawlings, raised the question of what had happened in Croatia in relation to Bobetko. The process of ratification will continue once the ICTY informs us that Croatia is fully co-operating, which is not the case at the moment.
I said that there were four key issues and I have dealt with three of them. I turn to the fourth very important issue which many noble Lords have raised about regional ownership. Nobody wants the international community presence in the region to continue forever. I was very pleased to hear the reported remarks that the noble Lord, Lord Russell-Johnston, was able to tell us came from one of his interlocutors who said that those in the region really do want to take responsibility for themselves. The InterCam national community does need to work itself out of a job in the region, but nobody wants to jeopardise the gains of the past few years. So the change has to occur in a measured way as conditions allow. The international community recognises the progress which has been made in the past few years, but also recognises that engagement must continue in an open way as I have described at least for the foreseeable future before we are able to move forward to disengagement.
I make it clear that we in Britain intend to stay engaged in the region. We want to stand by all who want reform and a modern European future. We believe that we can be proud of what we have done for the region. Our troops are helping to deter war and build peace; our police are helping to build local police forces that can operate to European standards; and our development experts are helping to promote good governance and sustainable recovery. Our diplomats continue their good work with the governments of the region and others to sustain the stability and reforms of the region. We shall sustain that engagement for as long as necessary.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, this question was raised by both the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, and the noble Lord, Lord Russell-Johnston. The Danube Commission is leading on the clearance of the Danube. The commission comprises a collection of international financial institutions, the European Commission and the countries of the region. It is making some progress although I agree very much that the progress has been slow. One shaft of light that I can offer your Lordships is that the stability pact has formed a similar commission for the Sava river, which is a tributary of the Danube. The noble Baroness was also interested in the tributaries. The commission has been successful in clearing the Sava and we have supported it.
On the larger question of progress on the Danube, I am afraid that it is painfully slow. I shall seek additional information on that issue and write to the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, and to the noble Lord, Lord Russell-Johnston, and place a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.
I wish briefly to comment on a few matters. The noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, said that he viewed matters differently from me. So far as I could judge, he did not. Admittedly, I did not talk about the eastern Mediterranean access and the problems of Greece and Turkey. However, I believe that Simitis has moved Greece forward enormously. One of the most significant things that happened was the rejection of the mention of religion in the Greek passport. That step took a lot of courage in the face of the orthodox Church and illustrated the way that the Government think. The noble Lord did not mention Giscard in his remarks on Turkey which I thought were ill-timed and ill thought-out. We have to look at Turkey in terms of a bridge to the Islamic world and not in a negative way such as Giscard set out.
My friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, and I have been together for a long time in the Council of Europe. She stressed the positive effects of pressure for free trade agreements and the fact that negotiations have served as a vehicle for improving relations. They have; that is very true.
The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said that we have not debated the excellent report of the European Union Committee. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, is no longer present. I did not try to initiate a debate on that report but I have read it and it is very good indeed. However, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal controls these matters. I note that he is present. He may well take note of what is being said.
The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, also said that it is dangerous to assume that everything is all right. I refer not only to the fact that on two occasions under 50 per cent voted in presidential elections in Serbia and Montenegro, but also to the fact that on the first occasion Seselj, who is the direct supporter of Milosevic, received 25 per cent of the vote. That is worrying in my opinion.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, emphasised our failure properly to appreciate the length of our commitment in the Balkans. He was unlucky to find no trucks crossing the Bulgarian/Serbian frontier. One of the successes of the stability pact is that the long queues of trucks on both sides of the Customs posts have been considerably reduced. I am afraid that I shall not argue with the noble Lord about Montenegro but I could do so and I shall in another place.
The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, is absolutely right to stress the importance of infrastructural development. I always remember flying in a helicopter from the south to the north of Albania. Both the road and rail land connections in Albania are awful. However, it is potentially an enormously rich little country with a relatively low population, immensely
The Minister gave a good and positive response. As regards Kosovo, I do not disagree with her that one should have standards before status. That is a good way of putting it. However, it is possible to indicate that if you reach a certain standard, you will achieve a certain status. That really was what I was saying. As regards there being no good end date, I thought that the phrase that the Minister used about the pact bringing an added value sums up the whole matter very well indeed. She was the only person who mentioned the Hague; I did not. As I said, the Srebrenica massacre took place in 1995. Mladic is still at large in a relatively small geographical area. That means that some people are actively not co-operating with the whole Hague process.
I end by again saying that I am grateful to noble Lords who took part in the debate and to those who listened to it. They also serve who only sit and listen. I hope that the debate was useful. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.