Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80 - 96)



  80. Do you think this is a fact of life on the ground of any final settlement?
  (Dr von Hippel) It is very different for the areas where the Serbs live in Kosovo. In the northern area there is not a lot of security outside of Mitrovica municipality, the city itself. You can drive through and it is mostly Serbs that live there. There are some isolated Albanian communities and there is also Strpce which is over in the Gnjilane region, and that has an Albanian community that is completely separate from the Serb municipality. That is a municipality which is quite aggressive. They were very pro-Milosevic during the whole Milosevic period. Then you have the Serbs that live in the more central region and they are the ones that are in isolated enclaves. They are very poor, they are much more isolated in terms of getting information, etc, so there are lots of different types of pockets throughout Kosovo.

Sir John Stanley

  81. Could I ask each of you what would you wish to see the British Government saying as of now about what should be the future status of Kosovo?
  (Mr Steele) I think we should be pressing for the kind of self-government arrangements that are already going forward to try and work out a constitution for Kosovo that will provide the sort of minority rights and individual protections that I have mentioned before so that we make sure it is a state of law which has been created. Secondly, we should be beginning diplomacy at the United Nations (because after all the future status of Kosovo does depend very much on the United Nations) to try and get some serious hard-headed thinking about what should be going forward. My personal bias, as I have made clear, is in favour of the independence of Kosovo. I think that the least that the British Government could do is to say, "This will never ever be part of Yugoslavia again" so that they should foreclose options. They do not necessarily have to say exactly when independence for Kosovo should come or how its links with the rest of the world should be worked out, but they have to make it clear that the Yugoslav option is finished, just as a democratic thing. The Albanians of Kosovo do not want that. For people to try and force them back into Yugoslavia would be stupid, undemocratic and counter productive.
  (Mr Judah) I am not so sure whether we have to make announcements at this stage but I think we do have to fulfil the obligation of 1244 which is to get moving on building the institutions. I think it is absolutely essential to start shifting the responsibility for running the place on to the people who live there. That is the priority. I understand what you are saying. Part of the problem is that we have to bear in mind the larger context and the fact is that in Serbia there were 20 per cent of people who voted for the hard line nationalist party. Was it 20 per cent, Misha, who voted for the former Arkan Party? We are always going to have to look over our shoulder, there is this revolutionist rump in the Serbian body politic and there are people who say that Seselg is not in parliament now, that he is an extreme nationalist but he is biding his time, he is not finished. We should bear some of those external factors in mind.

  82. So you are saying that as far as you are concerned you do not think the British Government should be expressing any view at all about what the long term—
  (Mr Judah) I do not think we need to. What we need to do is what we are committed to do on paper, which is implement resolution 1244.
  (Dr von Hippel) To add to that, it is almost dangerous in a sense now to open questions on independence. If we want to follow the line that we tried to with the Badinter Commission, if we define what self-government or substantial autonomy means and allow the Albanians the opportunity to show that they can protect minority interests, then that is a sort of staging ground for later discussions on independence. It would be better to consider about independence later, to make them prove that they can actually respect the rights of everyone who lives in that territory. As to what the British Government can do, I suppose what Misha was saying in terms of criminality, certainly they can put pressure on the NAC. I think the NAC has more control over what is going on in terms of allowing KFOR—

  83. The NAC?
  (Dr von Hippel) The NATO Council. They are the ones that provide the policy direction. They are the ones that are saying to KFOR, "No, you cannot go and arrest the Albanian mafia. You have to focus only on holding the borders tight." That is not an issue any more because the Milosevic threat has undermined that reason for KFOR to be there. To put pressure on KFOR to change applies to everybody else.[2] That is quite important. I agree. I do not think 40,000 troops should be painting schools and building bridges as much as they should be working on trying to—

Mr Rowlands

  84. It implies that the UNMIK police force is worthless.
  (Dr von Hippel) They are not worthless. It is just quite small. there may be 4,000 police. Some of them come from countries that are not very strong in policing, so whenever you involve the UN operation you have to bring in police from places that are not necessarily as good. They need a lot of support. There are certain things that KFOR just will not do that they should be doing more, and they should be supporting more, or you bring in more specialised police, gendarmerie-type police who can do those types of things.
  (Mr Glenny) I think that the most important thing is to concentrate on building institutions, having, when it is appropriate (ie when the structures are in place) parliamentary elections, not constituent assembly elections but parliamentary elections, so that the people of Kosovo take responsibility for the government of that territory. I think it is counter productive to talk about independence now. My own feeling is that Serbia will understand that for most Serbs in Serbia within the next ten to 15 years, as far as they are concerned, Kosovo is an economic and political burden which they are better off jettisoning in any case.


  85. A lost cause?
  (Mr Glenny) A lost cause, exactly. I know that privately this is the opinion of several senior members of the Serbian and Yugoslav Governments and it is a question as far as they are concerned of timing. There is one other thing I would say about the independence issue. I stress this frequently but it is very important. Talk to the Macedonians about the independence of Kosovo and then you will get a very hostile response to anything being done prematurely. In terms of Kosovo's independence, which I think is inevitable down the line, I would say just take this slowly and make sure that the place is a functioning, decent place for people to live before you move ahead on the independence question.

Mr Chidgey

  86. I want to come back to this issue of criminality versus the political and economic stability and the ethnic hostility issues. Is it not the case that it is really clutching at straws to talk in terms of establishing institutions, the political stability and the ethnic tolerance in Kosovo when the criminality itself is to such a degree which goes far beyond the walls of Kosovo, and in fact is deeply embedded in the systems that go back ten, 15 years under Milosevic, where organised crime was part of the structure, part of the deal, with the ruling class or party in power? With all due respect, and I do not wish to be in any way aggressive about this, to talk about giving KFOR more power when we are trying to solve what is basically an issue of international crime seems to be clutching at straws. Is there not something much more dramatic that needs to be done if we are going to bring the Balkans under the rule of law to create the platform which will establish stable political and democratic institutions? To talk about independence in the light of what has happened in that region frankly does not seem to be relevant. Could I ask your views on that?
  (Mr Steele) I think you can separate the two things. I take your point that there is a lot of international criminality and some of these people are linked with it, but it is still possible to separate the two issues and concentrate on the rule of law within Kosovo so that people can walk freely down the street.

  87. Can you ring-fence Kosovo?
  (Mr Steele) No, but I think it comes back to the point that Misha Glenny made. You have to start arresting some of these people and the only people who can do the arresting is KFOR. They have to start arresting some of the leaders of these protection rackets who are terrorising people in the housing estates and so on. That has to be the way forward, so that this culture of impunity is broken finally and some well known senior figures are locked up.

  88. Would you not accept that that is not the role of the military forces which are currently in Kosovo? They are not trained to act as—
  (Mr Steele) If you look at the UN resolution it does talk about establishing order and security, so I think it certainly is not a very big stretch of the terminology to say that KFOR have a right to arrest people.

  89. I am talking about the forces themselves. They are trained as fighting soldiers, not as civilian policemen. There is a great danger there if you start giving them a different role. They are not trained for that role.
  (Mr Steele) No, but that is a much wider issue.

  90. Ask the Northern Irish.
  (Mr Steele) That is a much wider issue, whether our whole concept of peacekeeping in the 21st century needs to be changed so that instead of having these heavily armed people who are going in with armoured vehicles we should have people who somehow straddle the gap between police and the military trained for peacekeeping in a new context, but that is a different thing.
  (Dr von Hippel) I agree with what you are saying in some respects. It is also true that for the Albanians they had to establish an underground economy anyway so the criminality in some ways is linked in with maybe legal type activities that they were doing anyway during the whole Milosevic period. What we were trying to do in UNMIK was trying to change slowly, slowly, without losing some of our own people. Yes, we have to start putting taxes on these hotels that are now mafia rackets, and maybe you do not start out with the Grand Hotel at first, but you start out with smaller hotels and then take those bigger hotels.[3] This will do a lot to undermine some of the mafia elements.


  91. Your assumption is that the Grand Hotel and others are possibly a conduit for funds to mafia organisations?
  (Dr von Hippel) Yes, or to certain politicians. That is definitely the case.

  Mr Mackinlay: It was not very grand either, was it?

Mr Rowlands

  92. Is there not an amazing story about the housing commissioner who tried to implement the building certificates for the first time and he was shot dead?
  (Dr von Hippel) And that was something that KFOR would not go in and help secure. Initially they did not want to go and get involved with all that illegal construction. They said, "That is not our job; that is a police job", and as I was saying, the police do not have the capacity to do that. There are not enough of them to do that. Yes, of course, the militaries are not necessarily trained to do this but who else can do it? We have a very good overall military force in Kosovo which is primarily European. Most of them are very highly trained. At the border they can inspect more of the vehicles that are passing through. They can put up more border checks maybe in some of these forested areas like you probably saw in the Presevo Valley. There are lots of weapons that slip in through those forests. There are certainly things that they are trying to do that they could do more of but they are quite afraid to move in that direction.

Dr Starkey

  93. Mr Glenny said over and over again that we do not want to create a culture of dependency in Kosovo as has been done in Bosnia. I want to turn that backwards. Is there anything we can do now to deal with the culture of dependency in Bosnia and get that on an upward path instead of the sink for money that it seems to be at present?
  (Mr Glenny) I was in Belgrade over the weekend and there were two or three people were there from Sarajevo, both local and international people. All I can do is report their sentiments which were extremely negative. They feel that the political process in Bosnia is currently in stasis and that they are banging their heads about what to do about this and no-one has come up with anything concrete. Petritsch has tried to an extent through decrees to get things moving but that puts you into the other problem of it being a quasi-protectorate and everything coming from one man and then the Bosnians themselves actually blaming Petritsch for everything that goes wrong. There is a terrible problem in Bosnia-Herzegovina because of the fact that this is, let us face it, a Frankenstein constitution which encourages and enables people of various communities to exploit its intricacies to their own benefit. In this I do think that at some point you are going to have to come round to a Dayton II, to a revision of the Dayton Agreement, simply because this one ain't working.

Sir David Madel

  94. How great is the risk that Kosovo Albanians and Albania itself see the present situation as a stepping stone for a greater Albania?
  (Mr Steele) I do not think there is very much risk of that at the moment. Most Kosovo Albanians feel that their standard of living and general level of society is superior to what it is in Albania. Many of them went to Albania for the first time as refugees two years ago and were fairly horrified by the state of paralysis in Albania and the state of infra-structural decay and so on. I do not think they particularly want that. I think they rather see their future as an independent Kosovo and get on with that. I do not think that is a major issue.
  (Mr Judah) I agree.
  (Dr von Hippel) I agree too. Most of the Kosovo Albanians, if you ask them anything, will even blame a lot of the criminality on the Albanian Albanians.
  (Mr Glenny) The socio-economic level of Albania is so low that nationalism does not play a part there at the moment. There is a problem, as I said, with the Albanians of Macedonia and in 20 years' time the rest of the southern Balkans and the Albanians themselves have to come to terms with the fact that this is the coming nation of the southern Balkans and that there will be constitutional problems of a variety of natures but that is a little further down the line.

Mr Rowlands

  95. Mr Glenny has prompted us probably three or four times in the last hour or so to think about Macedonia. When we were in Belgrade we asked some journalists and we said, "Where is the next cloud on the horizon?", and they said, "Macedonia". You have sort of defined it. Do the other three agree that Macedonia is a real potential problem and, if so, are there any competence-building measures or anything that the international community can do to avoid Macedonia becoming the next big issue?
  (Mr Steele) I would rather downplay it. I know Misha Glenny has a reputation for being a sort of real champion of the Macedonian issue but he knows a great deal more about it than I do. I would say that the fact that Macedonia has a government which consists of the more radical elements of the Albanian political community and of the more radical Macedonians shows that the elites can live together. Geographically there are special factors. The fact is that a large number of Albanians are in Skopje, but nobody is suggesting as far as I am aware even that western Macedonia somehow become an independent Albanian entity, that they would divide Skopje or that the whole of Skopje would also become part of this entity because it is geographically impossible. If an Albanian identity was somehow created in Macedonia there would be a big problem for the large number of Albanians who live in Skopje who do not want to go back to that rural environment. There are geographical factors against the splitting up of Macedonia but the main thing is that, first, they have had experience of working together at the political level, the level of violence is minimal in spite of these four terrorist incidents quite recently, and I think we should not anticipate problems when they are not there. The final point I would say is that even the arrival of something like 200,000 Albanians from Kosovo during the refugee crisis of 1999 did not destabilise Macedonia. It is very hard for any society to have that number of people coming in and survive, but it did remarkably well. I think that is a tribute to the resilience and common sense of the leadership on both sides of that particular ethnic divide and therefore I would not be so pessimistic as Misha Glenny.
  (Mr Glenny) Can I say that within 25 years the Albanians will be a majority in Macedonia and I leave you with that thought. I am talking about UN demographic projections now. All I am saying is that it has remained stable up until now for a variety of political reasons, but the elites of both communities have real difficulties in bringing their communities along with them, and in terms of what Jonathan was saying about the geographical thing, I agree that what they were saying about Skopje is more or less true, the population split in Okara(?) is now 50/50 and if there were a Macedonian breakaway on the Albanian part I think you would find it very hard to convince not only Macedonians but Bulgarians as well that Okara should become part of some sort of Albanian entity. This is a state which is internally very weak. There are a number of government crises which it has survived but it is always on the verge of tipping over. It needs backup from the EU and it is a special case. It needs economic backup like no-one else because that will convince the Albanians of western Macedonia to stick with the Macedonia state for a while,

  Chairman: That leads to our final area and that is what are the Foreign Office doing bilaterally? Clearly we are part of the EU. What can we do to stabilise the area within the EU context?

Sir John Maples

  96. We have talked almost exclusively about the political factor as well as the stability factor for the design of which the EU has a responsibility for in large part and on which plainly, Misha Glenny, in your memorandum you are very critical about EU co-ordination. I wonder if you could explore that a little more in depth and perhaps your colleagues would like to join in. In particular I am interested in knowing are we seeing divisions between having Solana's operation on the one hand and the Commission on the other? Secondly, are we seeing divisions between different directorates, between the external affairs people and other people who are involved, and the Commissioners are not able to come together, or is the differing agenda within the capacity of ministers?
  (Mr Glenny) There are a number of problems here. I do not think the stability pact is working as one would want it to. It is too micro; it does not have an overall political vision of where we are going and a lot of the economic projects it is involved in seem to be having real difficulty getting off the ground. There is a problem between Solana's office and the Commission, in particular between the external affairs commissioner and Solana. There is a problem of national governance. The running of the stability pact is a consequence pretty much of German political aspirations and I do not think they are working in the stability pact. I strongly believed—as I said in the memo I do not think it is going to happen—that in order to overcome these differences there should be a special directorate created for south eastern Europe because the nature of the problems that we have been discussing this morning is so difficult and so important for the future stability of Europe that the Commission and Solana and the national governments should agree to put aside their differences, a lot of which are to do with bureaucratic one-up-manship, and allow a small team with a significant executive authority to create a proper strategic vision for what we are going to be doing in south eastern Europe.
  (Dr von Hippel) In terms of Kosovo—many different bits of the European Union have been involved in the Balkans—we heard rumours also that certain people did not get along with certain people, but in general we had a very good relationship with the European Union. Internally, Solana and Patten would do things together in Kosovo. Our only complaint was more about the electricity in Kosovo. That was one of the areas the EU had responsibility for but they were also doing budgets etc and they did a very good job.
  (Mr Judah) I am not particularly qualified to answer this.
  (Mr Steele) I will pass on the bureaucratic problems within the EU. I would like to endorse what Mr Glenny has said about the long term future. We have to see this as an economic problem very largely and try to minimise and reduce the economic development gap and the income and standard of living gap between north and south Europe. This over-arches all these ethnic questions we have been talking about. The EU has to make quite clear that it is allowing in the exports of these countries in a generous way and that trade is being fostered. That is the crucial thing. The temptation always with bureaucrats is to look for big infrastructure projects because it looks very nice to put a label up saying, "This was built by the EU", but less dramatic things like the civil society programme, fostering trade and so on are more important in the long run.

  Chairman: This has been perhaps more like a seminar but all the more enlightening for that. May I thank our panel most warmly on behalf of the Committee.

2   Note by witness: The UK could put pressure on the NAC to give KFOR more flexibility. Back

3   Note by witness: They are all considered public property, so thier finances should be transparent. Back

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