Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 220 - 233)



  220. Is it your assessment that the Yugoslavia Government is likely to proceed on charges against Milosevic on what one might characterise as domestic political crimes like rubbing people out or fraud or whatever and might then get round to handing him over to The Hague for the actual war crimes subsequently, in which case how are they going to deal with the American deadline that is looming at the end of March?
  (Mr Crawford) What you are saying is one interpretation of what they are doing. I do not think it is a bad interpretation. There are different ways in which you can look at this.

  221. You do not think it is a bad interpretation?
  (Mr Crawford) I do not think it is a bad interpretation of what they are doing at the moment. It is a bit difficult to tell where they are because different parts of the system over there say very different things. The law on co-operation with the Tribunal is working its way through the system now. I do not think it will be finished for a few weeks yet but they are doing that. The Hague office is now being opened. The Hague investigators are coming out and there is a sense of process happening there. You would have to ask the American Ambassador what the significance of their deadline is. What it will take for Congress's requirements on that to be met, I do not know. I do not think, as far as I can see, the Americans are saying, "You have to hand over Milosevic", the Americans are saying, "We want something real here and not just the promise of a law a few weeks down the road." The question is what will it take for that to be accomplished? I am talking to people and trying to persuade them that this has to be a real thing. Chris Patten has raised it and you can ask him about what he said to President Kostunica when they met the other day. They know the issue is there and in a way I think they know they have to deal with it. They say various things on this. You have heard some of them yourselves. First of all, is it better for us to deal with it because that means we are facing up to it? But what about the practical problems? There are a lot of people out there who are afraid that The Hague will go after them because these people could be a destabilising element. There are strange things happening in Belgrade in the middle of the night. One of the things that happened after you left was the attempt apparently to kidnap or assassinate the interior minister. That was quite a dramatic thing. There is quite a lot going on there. They feel that they need to proceed carefully. On the other hand, there are people who want to proceed a lot faster than is happening at the moment. There is a lively debate about it which is happening right under your nose.

Sir David Madel

  222. I have got one supplementary on what Dr Starkey said. Do you think they have decided what to do about Milosevic but are finding it difficult in how to announce it, or are they genuinely undecided?
  (Mr Crawford) Personally I think they are still undecided.

Mr Mackinlay

  223. Can I clarify one thing; is there any impediment as to who the responsibility would rest with for arrest? Is it exclusively Federal and is it seen as such, or, again, is this one of these areas which could be blurred between two jurisdictions, the Serbian Government and the Federal Government? Is it quite clear and understood? It is not a matter we have to discuss and talk about with the Federal Government, is it?
  (Mr Crawford) I think you are right to say that this is one of those issues that is a bit blurred. It would not be fair to mention his name but a senior Serbian politician said to me, "This is a Serbian matter. So far as we are concerned Milosevic should go and hide on Federal territory, if he can find any", so these are all slightly murky things. Having said all that, the team of people looking at it are what you might call the Belgrade leadership which include Federal and Serbian level people. Will this issue get tangled up into personal rivalries and ambitions of people there? Up to a point, yes, for sure; there is a lot at stake.

Mr Maples

  224. I want to ask about the Stability Pact and the economic side of all this. I realise this is constrained by continuing military and terrorist activity in and around Kosovo and until recently by Milosevic being in power in Yugoslavia, but could you give us a sketch of how you feel it is going. One feels in one sense that progress is slow. I wonder also whether you think that the European Union is organising itself in a way that will maximise this effort. Again there are lots of stories of too many Directorates, too many Commissioners being involved, too many overlaps between Mr Patten and Mr Solana and what individual governments are trying to do as well. Do you think that economic effort is being managed and co-ordinated to maximum effect?
  (Mr Crawford) The answer is that not everyone wants to be co-ordinated, not all bilateral donors want to co-ordinated. What we have done, which is a very good thing, is set up an aid co-ordination unit within Belgrade which is trying to get some authority so that people regard that as a one-stop shop to try and make sure that, at least insofar as the big players in this are concerned, they are co-ordinated. I was at a briefing with Mr Caborn this morning for our trade task force which we set up following the changes there, and the DFID people there gave a good presentation as to what they are doing. It does not seem that anyone else is doing this work which is trying to help co-ordinate the aid very practically, by putting British people on the ground to help achieve this, and also piling in with some technical assistance to get the policy framework right. There is a feeling out there that we do not want to replicate the mistakes, if we can call them mistakes, of what happened in Bosnia where to some degree everybody rushed in and I would not say threw money at the problem but there was a certain real sense in which you wanted to crack on without getting the policy framework right. With the Serb Government you have got a team of people who by any standards, and certainly by any transition economy standards, are extremely impressive people.

  225. Is this on the Serb side?
  (Mr Crawford) The new team in Belgrade are by any standards good. These are people capable of operating at world-class levels. The question is what are they attached to? They themselves are having to look at the books and find out what is going on. To answer your question, the EU has done a good job in Kosovo, an orders of magnitude better job in Kosovo than it did in Bosnia in the early days; there is no comparison. They are moving to try and replicate that success in Serbia, in FRY, and the new agency is helping up there. It looks like a very good effort. It is never going to be perfect but it looks like a far better effort than it has ever been before. The big money is going to come when you get the World Bank and IMF in and that requires them to look at the books to work out what the best thing to do is. The banking sector are billions of deutschmarks in debt. They have inherited an economically awful situation. Working out exactly how one times one's run into the assistance penalty area to make sure you get the whole thing right is not straightforward. While all this is going on, as I think some of your Committee members saw, the economic situation is very bad. People are really poor. There is always more money sloshing round than you think but people are basically poor. The gap between Serbia and Slovenia, according to any conceivable indicator, has widened terribly over the last few years and it is going to take decades to put this right. It is not going to be a matter of putting it right within months. It is a great tragedy that it has happened. The Serb Government is running out of money and our DFID team came back very conscious of the fact there is going to be a need to get more money into the system to keep the government system going in the short term before you move into the whole big donor programme. The World Bank is setting up a trust fund. The EU is setting aside some money for budgetary support. You could ask Chris Patten about that. It is okay. To answer the question, in a nutshell it looks pretty good but it is as if you have had a tremendously bad party where everything has gone wrong and you are waking up the next day with the most amazing hangover. You have brought in people who are people well-equipped to sort out the mess, but the fact is there a spectacular mess and it is going to take a long time to sort it out.

  226. The big help rather than just keeping the government going, is it repairing and re-establishing the infrastructure after the bombing campaign? Is clearing the Danube an important part of creating the conditions for economic regeneration?
  (Mr Crawford) I do not know. I tend to take the view that the real money is the private investment money and that means you have got to get the right policy framework which means dealing to some degree with absurd problems of inter-enterprise indebtedness which have built up, but also making investors feel welcome and getting the rule of law right so if you or your friends want to invest in that part of the world (a) you feel you are going to make a profit and (b) if something goes wrong, you can go along to some legal system and have some recourse and know where you are. Without that, all the assistance budgets in the world will not change anything. They seem to understand this, which is really encouraging compared to my time in Bosnia when I do not think this was understood properly by what you would call the "thinking" classes there. The big money will come from that. I have had more British businessmen turning up in the last five weeks in Belgrade than I had in two years in Bosnia. People coming along not looking for aid hand-outs but looking for real deals. This is encouraging because it shows there are traditional strengths there, it is not all bad, but they are starting from a very bad place.

  227. But this point about the infrastructure and the Danube (which has taken a long time I understand because the Yugoslavs wanted a Yugoslav project director and now one is in place), do you regard that as a very important pre-condition for economic development not just of Yugoslavia but presumably the region; it is still unnavigable?
  (Mr Crawford) The Danube will help but will the Danube on own transform the situation? No. It is a very important thing to go right but there are lots of other things that need to go right as well. The big issue this year is the question of the debt rescheduling because they are very, very massively indebted in terms of their GDP. If you unlock that you are helping free up the conditions for private investment to follow as well because a lot of the debt is to private investors as well. In terms of very very large sums of money the debt issue is, in a sense, the key to it all and that leads to various sequencing issues as to how quickly you can work your way through the detailed work required to make that happen. Things like the Danube will make an enormous difference. Things like building the roads and getting new telecoms firms in will make a big difference. One of the comparative advantages they have got is young people who are red hot on the Internet and those sort of technologies. One of the things we have done in the Foreign Office is to launch the electronic initiative for South East Europe within the Stability Pact which I think is something which is growing quite nicely. I will be trying to help Belgrade empower those people and make sure that the young people who are going to be the big magnates in 30 years' time, that their concerns are registered with the EU, with the Government, with us, so we can try and build upon that. But the fact is they have spent ten years digging themselves (with our contribution through sanctions) into a very deep hole and there is no quick way out of that hole.


  228. Could I just ask on Kosovo how long do you think the international missions in Kosovo are going to have to stay?
  (Mr Crawford) My view on this is that fundamentally it does not matter—this is my own view but I think it stands up—whether you call Kosovo "independent", a "confederation" a "Hong Kong variation" or a "pineapple", the point is that either there is a strategic attempt by Serbians, Albanians, and to a degree Macedonians, to agree that this has to be sorted out nicely, peaceably and to some degree with European support, or there is not, and then there is going to be tension and violence and mayhem down there which is going to be very difficult for us to walk away from because all that will happen is it will explode again and there will be hundreds of thousands refugees swarming backwards and forwards. The good news is that for the first time ever—and this is what I said to Mr Covic when the Covic plan was presented to the group of Ambassadors—not just in ten years, but in a hundred years or a million years that official Belgrade has presented a democratic, reasonable policy to their Kosovar fellow citizens. You have got to start somewhere and that is a good place to start. Given the history of the last last 50 years, and particularly the last ten years, it is going to a big job turning that round, but the spirit is very different now, thank goodness. To answer the question directly my guess would be a very long time because it is going to take a while for the very deep—

  (Mr Crawford) The bitterness and hatred. The thing to understand about the Kosovo question is that it is different from the Bosnia question because—and I do not like to be too blunt about it—there has been a racial connotation to this in the sense that the Serbs have looked on Albanians not so much as people they did not like but people inferior to them. That of course creates a different quality of resentment to what you saw in Bosnia where there is more of an ethnic rivalry. There is a psychological bitterness on both sides which is very, very difficult to deal with very quickly. It has been there for years and of course each killing simply adds to it. Yesterday a Serb couple in Kosovo were hacked to death by an axe. This is a catastrophic thing to be happening. On the other hand, there are probably all sorts of acts of petty discrimination going on against Albanians in parts of Serbia which do not reach the newspapers but nonetheless they are fuelling the bitterness on that side. Stopping the cycle of mutual distrust and fear and so on when the language is so different is a jolly tough job.

  230. I agree entirely with you. I think we have to understand that when you have the position where your daughter or your wife has been taken out and raped and murdered and your brothers or family shot, the idea that that can be dissipated in a matter of weeks or months or even just a few years I think is expecting too much. It seems to me that there is going to be a generation before one really begins to overcome some of the great difficulties which exist in the civil strife that there has been. I would hope it is not, but I think we have to be prepared that it may be.
  (Mr Crawford) The tragedy of the situation is that bad behaviour has consequences and it has on the whole negative consequences and people who promote bad behaviour are much faster at promoting it than we are at stopping it. It would only take a guy with a Molotov cocktail to burn down this building, if we are not careful, and it has taken hundreds of years to build it up. Damage can be done very fast. On the other hand, we are bigger than them, if I can put it that way, and we have got a European context for engaging with people and accelerating processes of reconciliation of a sort we did not have 30 or 40 years ago, or even frankly ten years ago. We can get some big building blocks in place. If you could imagine a situation in which we had the VJ and NATO having a sense of partnership that would go an awfully long way to removing the war option and that to some degree empowers the political option. That does not apply just in FRY, it applies across the region.

Mr Mackinlay

  231. Foreign Secretary Cook said in March 2000 that there would be judicial assistance to Kosovo and he said he expected "shortly to see at least a dozen, perhaps more, of the British legal profession working to help bring justice to Kosovo. The first should arrive before the end of next month." We have been told there have been 70 firm applications by members of the Bar and judiciary in the last six months but none of these applications have been taken up. Can you throw any light upon this?
  (Mr Crawford) No I cannot. I saw this was raised with Mr Vaz and I think the office are going to prepare a reply to you on that. Clearly this is something which we need to take up with the UN. It is very unsatisfactory. The difficulty with Kosovo, as compared to say Bosnia, is because of the civil disobedience that went on there it was almost like a greenfield site in terms of institutions when we went in there. For all the problems in Bosnia at least at the end of the war there were three functioning ethnic spaces where there were police, there were sorts of courts. In Kosovo there is nothing there and it is very difficult to build something up (with all the problems of interpreting and all the rest of it) which is going to be sustainable. This is a tremendous challenge. It is frustrating that these things do not work as fast as we would like. One of the things I want to try to do is to make sure that the UNMIK team, at least on issues of crime, terrorism, customs and drug smuggling, starts to work closely with the people in Serbia who are quite good on this and seem to want as much of our help, international and bilateral as we can possibly give them. Things like this are very disappointing, there is no doubt about it, but on the other hand there are a lot of things going quite well.


  232. Ambassador, before we thank you, are there any things we ought to have asked you which we have not and that you would like to make evident to us before you disappear?
  (Mr Crawford) Can I just for the record, because we are doing a lot, just very, very quickly run through some of the things that are happening bilaterally. I do not necessarily want you to ask lots of questions about them. We are adding to our Chevening scholars list, the number of Chevening scholars will go up significantly this year by up to five times, which will mean something like 20 people will be able to come across. That is an achievement. The local government links you have been briefed on—those are working quite well. The number of people travelling from Yugoslavia to the United Kingdom is going up. The number of visas has almost doubled year-on-year which is very good. British experts in Kosovo did a very good job in terms of co-operating with the Serb side on helping identify the victims of this terrible bomb explosion. That has gone down well. I met some of the British people down in UNMIK dealing with crime and customs issues and lots of other issues and the British presence there is impressive and very, very effective. We have got a team of Home Office people going out on Sunday for a few days to look at a whole range of crime and co-operation issues with Belgrade. We have got a new OSCE police adviser, Mr Monk, who is a great expert in the region. You probably know him. We had an RUC officer out last week talking about police reform issues. He went down very well. There are lots of other things. This is a busy agenda; we are not sitting there doing nothing.

  233. It was quite obvious when we were with you in Belgrade that that was not the case. May I thank you very much for coming to the Committee and again repeat our thanks for your hospitality when we were in Belgrade. I think we would all wish to end by wishing you well. Thank you very much indeed.
  (Mr Crawford) Can I say thank you for your interest too.

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