Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140
TUESDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2001
VAZ MP, MR
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
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
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 Mackinlayand you may not be
happy with the answer but that is my answerwhat 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.
145. You have to, I am afraid, because there
is not a constitution.
(Mr Vaz) I am not proposing to do it today.
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
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.
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,
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
Sir Peter Emery: Nobody seemed to know.
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
Chairman: Full participation sounds rather
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
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