Examination of Witnesses (Questions 97
TUESDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2001
VAZ MP, MR
97. Minister, may I welcome you again on behalf
of the Committee. Welcome to Mr Alan Charlton, to your left, who
is the Director of South Eastern Europe and Mr Jonathan Marshall,
Head of Section for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia
in the Eastern Adriatic Department. Minister, you know that the
Committee has somewhat refocused or renamed our inquiry. It is
now the Government policy towards the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
following the fall of Milosevic. What we would like to explore
with you this evening and with your colleagues essentially is
where we are after the fundamental change in Yugoslavia on October
5, what has happened during the winter, what vision we have and
what we as a Government, as the UK, are doing and what are we
doing together with our European partners. One word of preface,
that the Committee recently visited Belgrade, part of the Committee
went to Novi Sad, another part of the Committee went to Kosovo.
Everywhere we were treated extremely well and looked after by
our Embassy. The programme was full and we would like, through
you, to thank our Ambassador in Belgrade and the other members
of the staff whom we met. First on the changes, clearly there
was a fear, Minister, at the beginning that having voted for democracy,
having seen the end of Milosevic, that people of Yugoslavia might
suffer during the winter because of food shortages, because of
problems in heating and there needed to be an emergency programme
to tide them over the winter. In your judgment has that been done
(Mr Vaz) Chairman, yes. Before I go into
the full answer to your question can I, first of all, thank the
Committee for reorganising the time for this evidence session.
I know it was planned for early on. As you know we had a meeting
with the Prime Minister to discuss the foot and mouth issue so
I am very grateful, and I apologise to the Committee for changing
the time. Can I also say from the reports that I have received
from Charles Crawford, our Ambassador, and others that the visit
of the Committee was extremely welcome. You had a very full programme
of meetings and judging by what I have seen you are, in a sense,
in a better position to answer any of these questions than I am
because I am at the disadvantage of not having visited the area,
you have, and I commend you and the Committee and Members for
doing so. I believe that the changes that occurred in the end
of last year are welcome. They are important for the region and
for the rest of Europe. The EU moved swiftly to ensure that action
was taken to demonstrate our support for the new regime. What
we want at the end of this process is to support what is happening
in the FRY. Tomorrow you will be hearing from the Foreign Minister.
I think that the worst fears of what might have happened, as far
as the winter was concerned, were not realised and I am glad that
we were able to take the action that we have. This is not the
end of the situation, as you yourself discovered when you went
there. These are very complex and very difficult issues. You are
dealing with communities in a sense that have not got on for many,
many decades and it is impossible for the European Union, for
this Government, for any individual organisation to solve these
problems. It has to be done with co-operation with the various
people in the FRY working together and we will do our best to
support what is happening.
98. Thank you, Minister. We clearly are in an
interim phase where there are overlapping levels of government
between the residual parts of the Federal Republic and the new
Serbia. In your judgment where is the effective power at the moment?
Do you see a time when perhaps Serbia itself, Mr Djindjic it is
said does not get on very well personally with President Kostunica
may have far greater real power within the area?
(Mr Vaz) It is difficult to predict anything as far
as this region is concerned and I would be reluctant to do so.
What I can say is that I think there is an awareness on the part
of all those involved, all the key players in the area, that unless
they work together there is not going to be a solution to the
major problems facing the region.
99. Is it fair to say, nonetheless, that the
Federal structures will diminish in power and the national or
Serbian power will increase?
(Mr Vaz) I think it is fair to say there will be a
concentration and a focus on identity within the FRY. That does
not mean that the Federal structures are not going to be there
and indeed developed. I think that we are in early days at the
moment, we have just had an election at the end of last year.
You have met the President and therefore you can make that judgment.
You have met the Prime Minister and you have met other key players,
you can make that judgment. What I am saying as far as the Government
is concerned is that we want to work with all the various parties.
We do not believe that a simple solution is going to solve the
disparate forces that exist in the region. What we need to do
through the European Union is to make sure that we give the right
level of support, we respond to concerns. The President's visit
to Biarritz, his meeting with Prime Minister Blair and others,
was very significant and very important and we need to make sure
that process is supported.