Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40 - 59)

TUESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2001

MR MISHA GLENNY, DR KARIN VON HIPPEL, MR TIM JUDAH AND MR JONATHAN STEELE

Mr Rowlands

  40. We were told by KFOR people that they actually sat and watched these training camps training. That is, by any standards, a fundamental breach of the ground safety area, is it? There is no dispute about that, that is a fundamental breach of the arrangements.
  (Mr Steele) Yes, definitely.

  41. If that is the case, going back to Dr von Hippel's point and your reference to radicalisation ....
  (Mr Glenny) In part, the insurgency is ordered in order to undermine Mr Rugova in Kosovo. He does not favour this type of policy. He defeated fairly roundly some of the most visible members of the KLA in the local elections and this is in part a response to that. They want to destabilise. Why it is important for Kosovo is because we need to go towards parliamentary elections as fast as is possible in Kosovo and what this does is it makes it more difficult for democratically minded Albanians to put themselves forward in the wake of those parliamentary elections. The real danger for Presevo is not a big-scale war between two artilleries. That is not going to happen. The real problem with Presevo is Macedonia and its impact there. In the past four weeks there have been about four attacks in Macedonia (one on a police station, one on a train with a mortar) from Albanians, including one organisation called the Liberation Army of Tetovo. If Presevo is allowed to continue unhindered in the way that Jonathan suggests—and I agree with him fully that this is something we have to respond to very quickly—it could spill over to Macedonia and then you are into an entirely different ball game in the southern Balkans.

  42. And to Mitrovica, who has also had impacts with Interpol?
  (Mr Glenny) It is a parallel problem.
  (Mr Judah) I was going to say this morning, when we talked about Kosovo, but I might as well bring it up here—

Chairman

  43. We will be going on to Kosovo later. I want to come on to Montenegro as the next block.
  (Mr Judah) OK.

  Mr Mackinlay: We have jumped about a bit, but on this question of constituent assembly in Kosovo.

  Chairman: What I would like to do is to clear Montenegro, then there will be a lot of interest in Kosovo. Sir David Madel.

  Sir David Madel: On Montenegro, do you think British Government policy, on whether it should be independent, is consistent in starting to change? Are we different from the Americans on this and are there differences within the European Union?
  (Mr Glenny) I do not think there are many differences in policy here since October 5. There has been a fairly clear line to Podgorica that the EU and Britain and the US are not interested in independence. It is a pragmatic position. It is rather difficult to argue with the Montenegrins that they should not go for independence, everyone else was allowed to go for independence, they are allowed to under the Badinter Commission, and so the Montenegrin's have a case. But the reason why the American and the EU position on this is as clear as it is is because of what it does to Kosovo, what the implications for Kosovo are if the federation ceases to exist, and there is real fear in the foreign ministries of Europe and in the State Department of what that impact should be. Djukanovic understands and the impact of October 5 in general is that Croatia and Serbia will become the most important territories again in South-Eastern Europe, and the smaller areas, whatever form they take, whether they are Kosovo or whether they are Bosnia or whether they are Montenegro, are going to suffer in terms of investment, politically they are likely to develop more slowly, and so this is an attempt, a bid, I think, by Djukanovic and his people to say, you know, we still exist and we are important, even if it is at the expense of Western fears about the impact that this may have on Kosovo, Macedonia, Southern Serbia.
  (Mr Steele) I would perhaps slightly disagree with Misha there. I think it is clear that even though before October 5 Western policy was not for the independence of Montenegro, they were using Montenegro as a lever against Serbia. They were encouraging it to be as independent diplomatically and economically as possible, even if they did not encourage it to go for full sovereign independence in the international legal sense. Now that has changed, and Montenegro has been partly ignored and even, to some extent, snubbed, certainly by the new administration in Washington, and I think this is very damaging and incorrect policy. I think we should be consistent, we should say that this is an issue of self-determination. As Misha says, the Montenegrins have the right to secede if they wish and we should not be taking sides in this way, we are using Montenegro as a hostage to our failure to come up with a proper policy for the future status of Kosovo. I think that annoys people in Kosovo, it annoys people in Montenegro, and I think it is a foolish policy and they should change it.

Sir David Madel

  44. Really what you are saying is that British Government policy has become inconsistent.
  (Mr Steele) I think so, yes—well, it has done a massive zig-zag, and I think the new line is much worse than the old line and we should not be telling Montenegro they cannot become independent, and certainly not have the kind of implied economic conditionality that is there, that if you go on talking about independence you will get less aid and all that kind of thing. I think that is a total violation of the principle of self-determination for the people of Montenegro.

Mr Rowlands

  45. I suppose independence is what most European capitals fear. Could we ask of our witnesses a simple answer to the basic proposition that, if in fact Montenegro goes to independence, there is this domino theory, not only in Kosovo but in Macedonia and Bosnia, that Bosnia/Macedonia will eventually unravel as a result of a decision of Montenegro to independence.
  (Mr Steele) The question of Bosnia is not linked to Montenegro because the Republika Srpska was never a constituent part of the old Yugoslav federation so that if Montenegro now chose to go independent the idea that that means that the people of the Republika Srpska have some kind of similar right to become independent is just not true. There is no linkage of that kind. I think the linkage is much more the one that Misha talked about Kosovo, because that would undermine the Yugoslav federation if Montenegro became independent. Then you cannot have Kosovo part of the federation any more.

  Chairman: Do you accept the official view?

Mr Rowlands

  46. Do you think that the official line we are getting, that there is a domino theory in the case of Kosovo, and Macedonia is often referred to as well, is a valid case?
  (Mr Steele) No, I do not think it is. I think each of these issues should be treated on its merits. We should have a proper policy towards Kosovo, a proper policy towards Macedonia, and a proper policy towards Montenegro. Although I think there can be some psychological carry-over from one to the other, there is no inevitability. The domino effect assumes things that are inevitable: the first domino hits the second, the second hits the third, the fourth. There is no inevitability.

Chairman

  47. May we have an answer from each one of the panel because this is such a crucial question.
  (Mr Judah) Part of the question assumes that Kosovo is somehow going to be reincorporated back into Yugoslavia. I do not think it is ever going to be reincorporated back into Yugoslavia. The question of: If Montenegro becomes independent, as it becomes independent it makes problems for Kosovo, is rather looking at it upside down because Kosovo is not going to be reincorporated back into Yugoslavia—or at least most of it is not. I do not think they should be seen in that context. I mean, you could argue that with Montenegrin independence that you are down to ground zero, you are down to all the constituent parts, and once you are down to all the constituent parts you could start to rebuild the whole area—obviously not as a single country but as a single economic, geographic, cultural, etcetera, unit. As many people have said, as a mini-EU, perhaps as a precedent for it joining the EU many years down the line.

Mr Rowlands

  48. That is two against the official line.
  (Dr von Hippel) I would agree with both of them, that the ideal solution is going to be a loose confederation, not necessarily just with Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo but probably with other states or provinces (or whatever you want to call them) in the region. It is not a question of Serbia and Montenegro staying in a federation; it is a question of how Serbia deals with Kosovo and how the three of them interact in some sort of arrangement.

  49. I am sorry, I did not quite understand whether that was yes or no.
  (Dr von Hippel) I do not think we are looking at unravelling or an enormous war about to happen, but everything is linked in the region, certainly.
  (Mr Glenny) Talking about hoping to establish policies of principle in the Balkans in British or any other foreign policy is rather shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, because this has been a policy of pragmatism from all European countries and the United States for 10 years and the zig-zags have been absolutely extraordinary and it is now so far down the line that any idea of principle has gone out the window; we have to play by ear. So the question is whether Montenegro will knock-on or not. My own feeling is that it is going to be difficult to stop the Montenegrins from going towards independence and, if they so choose, they should be granted that right through recognition by the international community but I would not be quite so sanguine as my colleagues about the smooth transition that will result from an independent Montenegro. I think it will have serious consequences in Kosovo and my fear has always been for a very long time that the great unresolved question in South-Eastern Europe is Macedonia and that this will—and I judge now in part by the statements of Macedonian politicians—have a pretty negative impact on the stability of their country. So I would, on the whole, support British policy but I would not deny recognition to Montenegro if, through a referendum, their citizens decided to go down the independence route.

Dr Starkey

  50. There are very serious criticisms in the Montenegro regime on the extent of criminality, corruption and lack of economic reform. Do you think that independence is a way of avoiding those questions? Should that not affect the level of aid to Montenegro from the EU?
  (Mr Judah) If it is the case, if there is clear evidence that that is the case, then, yes, presumably it should affect a level of aid, etcetera. I am not quite sure whether it should affect the political process.

Chairman

  51. Do you accept the evidence?
  (Mr Judah) I have not seen any evidence. I have heard rumours. I mean, I read the same stuff as everybody else, but I do not know to what extent it is true.
  (Mr Steele) I would agree with that, but I think one has to be careful about some of these allegations about criminality, the Mafia and so on in Montenegro because some of them come up for political reasons—I mean, particularly in the Belgrade media, but even in the Italian media and so on. Having said that, I think there is no doubt that what is going on in the economic privatisation process in Montenegro is not very transparent. There should be much more transparency, much more openness. There was a history of smuggling in the past and whether or not some people in the government of Montenegro are linked to it is I think an open question. I do not think we can completely exonerate all of them, but it should not be used, I think, as a conditionality for aid. It is something that we should be concerned about but not in any way use as a conditionality.

Mr Maples

  52. Back to this question of Montenegrin independence. One can sit here and wonder whether Western policy should encourage or discourage it, and I take your point about zig-zags and that we used this as a lever on Serbia when Milosevic was there, but is there not another factor? We seem to be talking about this as though this was the free choice of Montenegro but Serbia may try to stop Montenegro independence. Is the Serb second army still sitting in Montenegro or has it gone back to Serbia?
  (Mr Glenny) I would say just over 50 per cent of Serbs would at the moment be happy to see Montenegro go. I really do not think that either Kostunica or Djindjic ... certainly not Djindjic, because for Djindjic this arrangement is just peachy, it is what he wants, because Kostunica is thereby effectively eliminated as a political subject (as the Yugoslavs would say). So I do not think you will find Serbia trying to resist the cessation of Montenegro.

  53. Do you all agree?
  (Mr Judah) Yes, but I would like to bring to the attention of the committee certain statistics which you will have to bear in mind and look at in the future. It is important, if and when there is a referendum, that there should be a clear answer. For example, if we are talking about a referendum in favour of independence, it should be a clear, a very clear majority.

Chairman

  54. What does that mean? Sixty per cent?
  (Mr Judah) I am not a mathematician, but at the moment it is about 50:50, perhaps a bit more, who are in favour of independence.

Dr Starkey

  55. In Montenegro
  (Mr Judah) In Montenegro. The problem is in Montenegro, I think, that 80 per cent of the population of Montenegro are orthodox Montenegrins; the rest are either Albanians or Sandjak Muslims/Bosniacs (whatever you like to call them). That 20 per cent are very pro independence. Of course, politically correctly, we should be talking about the voting systems. The fact is that if you had an independence referendum which was brought about, let us say, by 51 per cent, that would be a minority of orthodox Montenegrins, which could store up political instability for the future.

Chairman

  56. What would be a convincing majority in your view?
  (Mr Judah) I suppose it would have to be a percentage of 60-something plus, would it not? It would have to be whatever it is which would be a majority of orthodox Montenegrins.

Mr Maples

  57. Could I ask all three of you: do you share Mr Glenny's view that Serbia would not try to resist Montenegro—
  (Mr Steele) It certainly will not try and resist militarily. I think it is very likely that during the referendum campaign, if it happens, the Serbian media, including the broadcast media and the state media that I touched on before, will try and influence the voters, because, particularly in the northern part of Montenegro, many of them can watch Serbian TV and so I think there will be that kind of propaganda interference, if you like. But there is no threat of the military coming in and trying to stop it.
  (Mr Judah) The difference between Montenegrin independence and the independence of any other parts of the former Yugoslavia really is that it would never be a kind of hostile independence. There would never be a sort of hostile future between the two. I mean, if Scotland becomes independent, it will be a friendly country next door to England. There is not a legacy of problems.

Mr Mackinlay

  58. The analogy that I used when we were over there, and I want to bounce it off you, is that it could and should be a Luxembourg to Belgium. Even pre-EU it was two separate state structures, but with economic and political independence, and even then they had the same currency. Anyway, you have got two separate economies, have you not, so if the Federation was to survive how do you bring in what is a deutschmark economy with—can I bounce that one off you?
  (Mr Glenny) A friend of mine from the region said that the similarities between the Dutch and the Greek economies were closer than the similarities between the Montenegrin and Serbian economies.

Sir John Stanley

  59. All the discussion we have had for the last few minutes indicates the foreign policy importance and the sensitivities of the Montenegrin situation. The question I would like to put to you is whether you have any views you would like to put to us as to the adequacy of the way in which the Foreign Office is handling our diplomatic representation vis-a-vis Montenegro. As you will be aware, there are no premises which the British Government have in Montenegro for diplomatic purposes. Obviously there is no question of an embassy there as long as Montenegro is within the Federal Republic, but there is an issue as to whether, instead of trying to run the Foreign office arm in relation to Montenegro out of Belgrade, which is what is happening at the moment, given the importance of Montenegro, the Foreign Office should be investing in a consulate in Montenegro. I would be grateful to know whether you have any views to put to the Committee on that.
  (Mr Judah) I would have thought that given its importance it would seem to be a very sensible approach to have somebody there. I am not sure but I assume it would not be too great an expense as having people going backward and forward to Belgrade, just having one person based there in close contact with Belgrade.
  (Mr Steele) I would agree with that. We need to be well aware of what is going on in Montenegro and have regular daily reports but I do not think it should be seen as a way either of recognising the independence of Montenegro or that the office would try to have regular contacts with Montenegrin politicians telling them not to go independent. It should be purely representational and not in any way a political arm that is trying to influence policy.
  (Mr Glenny) Either way, if Montenegro decides to go independent, then obviously it would be there as the genesis of an embassy. If it decides not to then there is no harm in having representation in Podgorica. I do not think that anyone would get too upset except perhaps the Serbs but I do not think it would be disastrous.


 
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