Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140 - 159)



  140. Could you explain then what is the merit of a policy which is simply perpetuating what is a total fiction?
  (Mr Vaz) It is not a fiction because we believe that that is where the future of Kosovo lies, but the ultimate decision is something that we are not taking at the moment. This is not an issue for now. The issue for now is to make sure that Kosovo is reconstructed, that we are part of the process that we were just discussing before you started your question that brings communities together.

  141. You say it is not a fiction. If you say it is not a fiction, will you tell the Committee where is the political authority of the Serbian Government, which is effectively what is left of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia? Where is the political writ of the Serbian Government running today as we now speak in Kosovo? It does not exist.
  (Mr Vaz) I understand what you are saying, Sir John, but what we are trying to achieve is a means by which the people of Kosovo of the different ethnicities in Kosovo are at peace with themselves. We do not believe that a constitutional settlement at this very moment is in the interests of the people in this troubled land.

Mr Mackinlay

  142. What about a representative assembly, not necessarily providing an executive but a representative assembly of Kosovo? What is your latest thinking on that?
  (Mr Vaz) We are doing our best to make sure that there is democratisation, that the various bodies that are representative of the local people—

  143. You are avoiding the question. What about a representative assembly of Kosovo?
  (Mr Vaz) We are not in the position of rewriting constitutions. What we are in favour of, Mr Mackinlay—and you may not be happy with the answer but that is my answer—what we are in favour of—

  144. So the answer is no.
  (Mr Vaz)—Is ensuring that the people of the area find their expression through democratic institutions. What we will not do is rewrite constitutions.

  Mr Mackinlay: I understand that.

Mr Rowlands

  145. You have to, I am afraid, because there is not a constitution.
  (Mr Vaz) I am not proposing to do it today.

Mr Mackinlay

  146. This proposal of the Yugoslavia Federal Government to deal with the Presevo Valley was presented to the UK Government and Western governments on or about 8th or 9th February when it was canvased with them. Again it does not seem that the necessary degree of urgency is being demonstrated to the window of opportunity presented. Full marks to the Federal Government.
  (Mr Vaz) Mr Mackinlay, I think you expect us to be able to move very swiftly in what you know is a very complicated set of relationships. Of course we support the plan and we are doing our best to make sure it is achieved, but it cannot be done like that.

  Mr Mackinlay: The questions on Kosovo lead to this question of the Federal Yugoslavia. The fact is, Minister, and I would like to have your views on this, that there is one part of the two-part Federation where the writ of Belgrade does not run this afternoon, and that is Montenegro—

  Chairman: I would like to finish on Kosovo first before we move to Montenegro. Sir David Madel?

Sir David Madel

  147. Can I make a comment on the judiciary. The Foreign Secretary made a joint statement with the Secretary-General of the United Nations last March about this matter. You were wondering where the hold-up had been. Is the hold-up in New York or is the hold-up in Kosovo as to why this has not happened?
  (Mr Vaz) Wherever the hold-up is I will make sure that I know about it and I will tell the Committee.


  148. And you will write to the Committee?
  (Mr Vaz) Most certainly.

Sir David Madel

  149. You have referred quite often to the "ultimate decision". Part of Resolution 1244 on Kosovo says "... facilitating a peace process designed to determine Kosovo's future status". Who is going to make the ultimate decision, the Security Council of the United Nations or the General Assembly of the United Nations?
  (Mr Vaz) The ultimate decision rests with the people of the area. That is the basis of sovereignty. If you impose from the UN or anywhere else a decision that is not in keeping with the views of the people, it will not be sustained. In the end, as far as representative democracy is concerned, it is the people who decide and if you impose on them a constitution that they are not happy with or if you try to make them work in a way that they do not feel comfortable with, it will not survive and that is why it is taking so long. We are not in the business of dismantling just for the sake of it. We need to be able to create further and strong institutions that will outlast the ethnic rivalries that you have all seen with your very own eyes.

  150. So if the people in Kosovo now say "we wish to be independent, that is our decision", you would expect the United Nations to say "we accept that"?
  (Mr Vaz) They are not saying that now but I think the fact of the matter is all international bodies will take cognisance of what the people want, of course they will.

Mr Maples

  151. This is a very difficult question and in some senses it has been answered by Resolution 12/44, although whether that can stand the test of time remains to be seen. It does seem to me that there is a danger in just simply saying "if a lot of people want Kosovo to be independent it is the only way you can go", while at the same time if we are going to create institutions for the long-term future we have to decide which route it is going to be. Since the end of the Cold War one of the principles on which Western foreign policy has been made is that we will not finance the redrawing of borders in former Central and Eastern Europe. That has not stopped us allowing elements, states of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to secede as such but at Dayton we strove very hard not to allow the sub-division of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It does seem to me that while I can see the arguments in favour now of deciding independence for Kosovo, I do see some great difficulties in that and if we start to allow the borders of Serbia to be redrawn, is that not going to reopen the Dayton Settlement, is it not going to encourage the extremists in Kosovo to go for a greater Albania, whether that is the Presevo Valley or parts of Macedonia? I wonder if you see real problems in countenancing an independent Kosovo in that while it might solve one issue it opens up a huge can of worms in neighbouring parts of the Balkans?
  (Mr Vaz) I agree with Mr Maples that this is a hugely difficult question for which I do not have a simple answer. These are issues that will have to be resolved over time and you cannot impose settlement against the will of countries. There are only going to be accusations of arrogance if people start telling the people of the Balkans what they would like to do with their countries. I think in the end it must be on the basis of dialogue and it must be on the basis of negotiation. Mr Maples is absolutely right that the risks involved are huge and immense, and what we do not want to do is to reopen past conflicts.

  152. I want to get this clear. You do see second order issues in pursuing independence for Kosovo in the areas I have talked about, perhaps reopening Dayton, the Presevo Valley, a greater Albania. Do you think those are realistic possible consequences of allowing independence for Kosovo or do you think those are dangers that could easily be overcome?
  (Mr Vaz) I think that anything that allows any section of the FRY to be seen to be doing anything different from what it has done before is going to create problems.

  Chairman: Minister, you have got the clear message from the Committee that there are a series of unrealities perceived by this Committee which now form the basis of policy and cannot be the basis for a secure future. I would like to move on to Montenegro, Mr Rowlands.

Mr Rowlands

  153. Could I just ask one more question on Kosovo, checking whether there is one other reality or unreality. In the Department's evidence when we started out on this inquiry the memorandum said: "The Kosovo Serbs (along with other minorities) are also now playing a full role in the Joint Interim Administrative Structures and Kosovo Transitional Council, the interim structures put in place by UNMIK to involve the local population in the government of Kosovo." How real is that? I tried to find out briefly when I was there and I could not get a handle on any suggestion. Which Serbs are turning up to these meetings? What are they mutually agreeing to do? What is happening through the JTA and the KTC that is meaningful?
  (Mr Vaz) I know this sounds like a non-answer to the question, but was it Mr Rowlands' view that there was no participation?

  Mr Rowlands: I tried to find out how much participation there was and I did not manage to get anything meaningful from that.

  Sir Peter Emery: Nobody seemed to know.

Mr Rowlands

  154. Can you give me chapter and verse which justifies the statement that there is now a full role being played by Kosovo Serbs in these two institutions and that these two institutions are doing something sensible? Mr Charlton, perhaps.
  (Mr Charlton) I think that is certainly right, that they are members of it. I cannot tell you with my hand on my heart whether they turn up to every meeting. What I can tell you is that certainly in the last few weeks there has been a great deal of contact involving members of the Serb community there who have increasing contact with the new government in Belgrade. I met a couple of them on the trip that we shared. I think it is certainly the case that the High Representative is consulting members of the Serb community and, indeed, ones who have good contacts with Belgrade, but I cannot answer your question, I am afraid, absolutely directly.

  Chairman: Full participation sounds rather—

Mr Rowlands

  155. Did the Department over-egg the statement a little bit when they talked about a "full role"?
  (Mr Vaz) I think what would be helpful to Mr Rowlands, since it is a statement put forward by the Foreign Office, is we will get him chapter and verse as he has suggested.


  156. Further and better particulars?
  (Mr Vaz) Indeed. And full discovery.

  Mr Maples: Can we have full discovery? Very interesting.

Mr Rowlands

  157. Again, it is the same issue. Does the Government believe that if the Montenegrin people choose in a referendum in the next few months to leave, as they are entitled to under the FRY constitution, to secede from FRY, that there will be any dramatic domino effect in the region as a result of that decision?
  (Mr Vaz) Yes.

  158. Will we respect the Montenegrin decision?
  (Mr Vaz) Yes, we do believe that any decision taken by Montenegro will have a knock-on effect. We have stated the position in the GAC Conclusions of 22 January, the EU position, that we believe a democratic process of negotiation in a redesigned Yugoslav Federation is the best option.

  159. We have taken quite a lot of evidence that challenges that domino theory and we will evaluate it. If the Montenegrins actually make the decision in a referendum in June or July, whenever the case may be, to secede, and under the FRY constitution they have just the same rights as the Macedonians had and others had, on what justifiable basis can we refuse either to recognise that decision or, in fact, say that we should accept the logic of it and try to plan accordingly?
  (Mr Vaz) There is no question that we are seeking to dictate an outcome, it is not our position to dictate what should happen, but we have expressed a preference and a view. We do not wish to see anything happen that will destabilise the situation in the area, in the FRY, because I think what has happened since 5 October has been very positive. The slightest movement in the wrong direction may destabilise a stable position. It is not a perfect position, I would not be here if it was a perfect position.

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