Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 240 - 259)



  240. There is overlap between you and Mr Hombach if he is coordinating the work of all the donors, and the European Union is the biggest donor, there must be overlap there?
  (Mr Patten) There is only overlap in the sense that we contribute to Stability Pact programmes and the Stability Pact brings together donors from Europe as well as outside. I am responsible to the Council and responsible to the Parliament, which are my budgetary authority for the 850 million a year, or thereabouts, that we spend in South East Europe, in the Balkans under our CARDS Programme. I am responsible to the Council and Parliament for explaining the progress we make in Stabilisation and Association Agreements. I am responsible for explaining to the Council and to the Parliament how our autonomous trade measures for the Balkans work.

  241. How often do you meet Mr Hombach?
  (Mr Patten) Mr Hombach, Mr Solana and I meet formally about once every two or three weeks. Mr Solana and I not only meet every week but in the last three or four weeks we have spent the best part of every week together, because in the last three weeks we have been in Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Kiev, Moscow and Moldova together and next week we are in North America, and the week after that we are in the Middle East, so we spend quite a lot of time together.

  Chairman: Nothing to do with this Committee, we have a Georgia Parliamentary Group here at the moment and they were commenting on your visit, not unfavourably I am glad to say.

Mr Mackinlay

  242. Mr Patten, in a sense I want to put something to you I put to the British Ambassador earlier, it seems to me that your words in relation to Montenegro were a preferred option, but it struck me in a sense, I do not mean this in a rude way, you would say that because it is the preferred option, marginally preferred. It did seem to me that looking both at your responsibilities, the European Union, in terms of the delivery of aid, of building up the economy and attracting the aspiration of European Union membership it could actually be helpful now if there were to be two states and there is a variable geometry economically and politically, which probably cannot be married together very easily anyway. Even the loose confederation, which we have just talked about, is really almost an impediment to a coherent strategy, both in Serbia and Montenegro, which has the prospect of being a Malta in both size, scale, product, tourism, and so on. I just wondered,—this is the final point I want to make—I want to know if I understand this, we realise that there are Montenegrins in Serbia and there are Serbs in Montenegro. Hopefully we share your view that if there is a referendum it is a pretty robust yes vote. It just seems to me we are always trying to keep alive something which is gone and it might be more prudent if everyone embraced that or at least signalled that we were prepared to work with two separate independent states and it might be beneficial. Sorry to have gone on a bit.
  (Mr Patten) I was cautious in what I said earlier because it seems to me that it would be politically maladroit in the extreme for us to appear to be lecturing the electors of Montenegro on what they should do. If they are like most electors in other places they would, I guess, if one gave those sort of lectures, promptly do exactly the opposite just in order to demonstrate their independence. I have to say that I find the present political strategy being pursued by President Djukanovic, who I saw on Monday, almost at the same time as Dr Solana and we put the same arguments to President Djukanovic, I do find it curious that having accepted a constitutional position within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia throughout the 1990s, but standing as a bastion of democracy during that period, now that Serbia has become democratic President Djukanovic has decided that he does not want to be part of the Federal Republic. I just find that rather curious. Some people wonder whether President Djukanovic believes that he made the wrong option when he chose not to take part in the Federal elections in Yugoslavia back last autumn. The other thing which I think is a bit risky is to assume that a move to independence in Montenegro would not have any effects on the debate elsewhere. When I went to Podgorica after my first visit to Belgrade, shortly after President Kostunica had been elected, the argument that was then being put by President Djukanovic and his colleagues was that there should be a unitary state in Yugoslavia but with two seats at the United Nations. I pointed out that there were rather a lot of members of the United Nations who might find that difficult to swallow. Since then the policy has evolved.

  243. Kostunica said that?
  (Mr Patten) No, that was President Djukanovic. Since then the policy has evolved, I think, though I am not clear exactly what constitutional relationship President Djukanovic thinks that Podgorica should have with Belgrade. The point that we have put to President Djukanovic is that while we hope there is not any radical change, and we would prefer to see an accommodation openly arrived at between Podgorica and Belgrade, what is important is that whatever happens the process should be democratic and should be transparent. For example, will the arrangements made for a referendum and for any subsequent constitutional change be based on, say, a majority of those voting or a majority of those registered to vote? Those are important fundamental issues. Will there be any change in what I understand as the present constitutional arrangement that there should be a two thirds majority of the Parliament in Podgorica for any constitutional change? Those are important questions which I think President Djukanovic has to be able to answer if whatever happens is to have both national and international legitimacy. Now, we were strong supporters of President Djukanovic when he was, I think, extremely bravely standing up to Milosevic. We cannot because we rather disagree with his political strategy now simply wash our hands of him, it would be intolerable. On the other hand, I think it is reasonable for us as friends, who were very supportive of him and providing 60 million for a country of that size last year is serious chequebook support, to point out where we think he is wrong. At the end of the day this is going to be decided by the Government in Belgrade, by the Government in Podgorica and by the people of Montenegro.

Dr Starkey

  244. About the referendum, you said you think it is reasonable for the European Union to point out a few things about the nature of the referendum. Do you think that it might be an actual role for the European Union to make it clear that if the European Union is to continue to fund Montenegro afterwards we would expect the referendum to follow certain rules or at least to live up to certain criteria?
  (Mr Patten) I think it is reasonable for us to point out the point that Sir David and I were talking about earlier, that to have a relationship with us countries have to have demonstrated their democratic credentials. I think that is absolutely the right thing to do. I also think that we have been firm so far but relatively low key in what we have said about the importance of stamping out smuggling in Montenegro. I think we have to be much more assertive about the importance of co-operation with the Montenegro authorities about dealing with the very, very considerable problems there are.

Mr Mackinlay

  245. And throughout the Mediterranean.
  (Mr Patten) And throughout the Mediterranean.

  Mr Mackinlay: That is a problem endemic in the Aegean in the Mediterranean, is it not?

Dr Starkey

  246. You did not talk about the referendum. Would it be reasonable to lay down criteria to meet?
  (Mr Patten) No. I think, Dr Starkey, it would be reasonable for us to make it clear that we would expect any democratic arrangements to be properly democratic. I think if we were to try to fine tune those arrangements from outside ourselves it might blow back in our faces. It is why I said I think we have perhaps a slightly different attitude to conditionality than others. I am very conscious of the dangers of applying conditionality in such a minute and legalistic way as to have the opposite effect from the one you wanted.

Mr Maples

  247. Mr Patten, in the meeting in Skopje last week, were all the Heads of Government or the representatives of all the Former Republic there?
  (Mr Patten) Yes.

  248. What were they saying to you? You painted a fairly rosy picture of the aid effort being put in. What, if any, criticisms were they making? What shortcomings were there? Was there a shopping list? Were you talking about the mechanics and the conditionality and things like that?
  (Mr Patten) On the whole the criticisms tend to be two fold, leaving aside specific issues like the security issues on the Serbian Kosovo border. On the whole the criticisms tend to focus on two things. First of all, there is sometimes criticism about the firmness with which we negotiate our Stabilisation and Association Agreements. I think it is exceptionally important, as it is with enlargement negotiations, that we make it clear that this is not just a political fix, that this is not just a question of political lobbying. In Albania, to take a case in point, where they are trying very hard at the moment, they do have to demonstrate not only that they have put the right legislation in place but they are implementing it. In Bosnia- Herzegovina, where they have a long way to go, they have to demonstrate that the authorities for Bosnia-Herzegovina are prepared to take ownership of the reform process and are not going to depend on Mr Petritsch, the High Representative, to impose every reform on them. I think it is incredibly important that we maintain the integrity of the process because if we do not it sends, first of all, all the wrong signals to those who have not yet negotiated an agreement with us, and it sends very bad signals to those who have and have made considerable sacrifices, for example in Macedonia or in Croatia, in putting into place the reforms which are necessary in order to sign an agreement with us. So the first thing is there is some concern that the negotiations take as long as they do and that we are absolutely insistent that people should meet the criteria which are specified. Secondly, there is some criticism, though there is much less criticism than there was, about the speed with which we deliver assistance. I think we are now delivering assistance in most of South East Europe as fast or faster than anybody else. This is the first example, I suppose, of the effect of the reforms that we are trying to put in place all round the world, and, my God, we need to do so. There are still a few difficulties, there are still skeletons in cupboards, but by and large the criticisms that we were getting a year or ago, or even when I arrived 18 months ago, are greatly muted. There is not much criticism of the level of assistance that we are providing, nor should there be. 850 million a year is an awful lot of money in a pretty small area. I guess we are spending in the Balkans now almost as much as we are spending in Asia and Latin America put together.

Mr Maples

  249. Are they critical at all? You described your dealings and discussions with Mr Solana and Mr Hombach, do they find that easy enough to deal with?
  (Mr Patten) Yes. I think they know who to call for what. They see a lot of us. I was in Kosovo last year six or seven times. I am not going to the Balkans quite as frequently this year, but last year I was going to the Balkans pretty well every month.

  250. Can I ask you a question in another related area, we have concentrated a lot on Kosovo and Macedonia and Montenegro and Serbia, there are some pretty unhappy signals coming out of Bosnia at the moment. I gather there is a meeting between the Serbs leadership and Kostunica next week, of which they are going to sign some sort of pact, I am not quite sure what it is, but is this a prelude to the Serbs leaving Bosnia. Secondly, the Croat member of the presidency seems to want to pull Croatia out of the Federation. Do you see these as signals that we are reaching some sort of stability?
  (Mr Patten) No. One of the conditions that we apply is acceptance of the Dayton Agreement, and that has been accepted by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, just as it has been accepted by Croatia. The Croatians have been pretty firm with some of the Croatian extremists in Bosnia and I hope that President Kostunica will be equally firm with the extremists in the Republika Srpska. Bosnia-Herzegovina has to work. The problem at the moment, as you know, is that there is not sufficient either political or commercial traffic between the two Entities, between the Republika Srpska and the Federation. I think we have to be absolutely insistent on the state institutions in Bosnia-Herzegovina working properly. We have said on several occasions to Sarajevo, we cannot even consider a feasibility study for agreeing a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with them until they have completed a number of specified reforms. To use one of the cliches of diplomacy these days, we have laid out a road map for Bosnia-Herzegovina saying exactly what they need to do before we will even consider a feasibility study for them. I think every donor, every partner is giving the same message to Bosnia-Herzegovina, and I hope they believe us. There are real signs of donor fatigue in Bosnia-Herzegovina. There are real signs of donors' contributions to Bosnia-Herzegovina declining, ours is declining. It is very largely focused on refugee return, but we are not spending as much in Bosnia-Herzegovina as we were. I hope that people there and political leaders will recognise that people will lose patience unless they make it absolutely clear that they are prepared to accept Dayton and make Dayton work.

Mr Madel

  251. There are still, of course, a number of potential flash points, what I was going to ask you is, do you think the EU is ready, willing and able to provide more EU monitors should they be needed? I am conscious of the Swedish presidency, and Sweden has a long and honourable tradition of an enormous number of peacekeeping people in the United Nations, stretching right back.
  (Mr Patten) I should make it clear that this is an intergovernmental issue rather than a Commission issue, it is an issue which is primarily, although not solely, for Member States. We sign the contracts with the monitoring mission and pay the bills. I have no doubt at all that there will be a ready acceptance by Member States of the importance of providing more people for the EU, including, as you said already, in some parts of the Swedish Presidency. You will have seen that earlier this week there was the announcement of a new head of EUMM, an extremely experienced Irish diplomat who headed the EUMM before and has recently been ambassador in Turkey. I am sure they are going to be required in larger numbers on the border between Kosovo and Serbia.

Dr Starkey

  252. I just want to take you up on what you were saying to John Maples about Bosnia and Dayton. We took evidence from Misha Glenny where he said—and I was trying to find the exact words but I will have to paraphrase it because I cannot find them—essentially that the Dayton Agreement had set up a Frankenstein constitution in Bosnia which gave a very powerful incentive to each of the entities to do their own thing. His view was that there needed to be a Dayton 2. Do you think that the difficulties of a Dayton 2 are so great that somehow or another you are going to have to force the entities to follow what the EU and others now want, not what the Dayton Constitution effectively incentivises them to do?
  (Mr Patten) I start from a position of being deeply sceptical about advice even from scholars as distinguished as Misha Glenny, whose book on the Balkans is about the best introduction to that part of Europe that one can read. I start from being deeply sceptical about proposals that all that we need in the Balkans is a bit more tinkering with borders.

  253. No, no. He is not talking about the borders, he is talking about the relationships between different entities and structures which in his view incentivise each to do their own thing and not co-operate with each other.
  (Mr Patten) I am not sure that even if one found more diplomats of the personality of the legendary Mr Holbroke it would be very easy to get better agreements out of the three communities in Bosnia-Herzegovina than the one they got at Dayton. When you read the constitution and when you see what it is trying to achieve I would not pretend it was other than extremely complicated. Perhaps I am being too modest but I would not fancy my chances at trying anything better and I am not sure that anything else is more likely to work. I think there is a very simple, well sort of difficult simple, issue in Bosnia-Herzegovina: are the political leaders of the three communities prepared to give the political leadership which is required to make the state work? I think that Wolfgang Petritsch has been following a sensible policy of trying to insist that political leaders own a process of reform but, my God, they do not want to. They do not want to be identified with some of the difficult economic and political questions that they have to face up to but I think we have to go on insisting that they should take responsibility for those issues. I think that Belgrade and Zagreb have an enormously important role in saying in very clear terms to the communities in Bosnia-Herzegovina which have been most identified with them that they have to make Bosnia- Herzegovina work, that there is no question of them being a sort of favoured local Diaspora. I repeat, I think the Croatians have sent out some pretty good signals. I hope that President Kostunica will do the same. I think he is sufficiently regarded as a nationalist by certain communities to be listened to.


  254. If I might draw this to a conclusion, by putting some short questions, when Mr Rowlands and I were in Pristina ten days ago we were immensely impressed with Andy Bearpark, who seems to provide two roles, that is as Deputy Special Representative as well as representing the EU. He was suggesting to us that whilst the funding that was available was not ungenerous, getting some of it through quickly on a cashflow basis was a problem. Do you hear that?
  (Mr Patten) Yes. There are two problems, first of all let me explain, just to show you how simple this structure is, what his position is and the role of the European Community's Economic Reconstruction Agency is. Andy Bearpark is responsible for, as you know, that pillar of UNMIK's activity which, by and large, runs the economy, it is a sort of Ministry of Finance for Board of Trade functions in Kosovo, which was previously run by another British Commission official Joly Dixon, a very fine official. Andy Bearpark is the quasi Gordon Brown, he works most closely, in terms of the donor community, with our official Hughes Mingarelli, who runs our Reconstruction Agency, which has a branch in Pristina, Podgorica and another one in Belgrade, and he manages all our considerable programmes in those three communities. There is, I think, a relationship between Bearpark and Mingarelli. Fine. A lot of people would say, "Why do you need a Reconstruction Agency and a European pillar supporting UNMIK?" Well, it started like that. It started with the European pillar and the Reconstruction Agency came later. I think Bearpark's problem is not with the funding that he receives through the Reconstruction Agency for rebuilding houses or rebuilding roads or rebuilding bridges, I think the problem has been with the running costs of Pillar 4, where some of the more traditional financial procedures of the Commission apply. I have to say that the procedures we apply are not necessarily our own idea, they are as a result of what are the lowest common denominator, what the 15 Member States want. The difficulties we have are providing the funding for his pillar and not the funding for reconstruction in Kosovo. It is complicated. It seemed to me when some people suggested, when Joly Dixon went and before Andy Bearpark took over, perhaps we should have one organisation in Kosovo which should operate as a Ministry of Finance and the distributor of our funds I thought that would be too complicated and raise too many difficult political issues.

  255. If you started that that might well have been the way.
  (Mr Patten) It might well.

  256. That is not the way, is it?
  (Mr Patten) As I know Ambassador Crawford was saying to you earlier, it is a bit like East Timor, in all of these areas Ministry of Finance, policing and judiciary it was a greenfield site. There were no institutions of governance there. The first thing that Pillar 4 had to do was establish a tax system, finance ministries, so it might have been difficult for it to have been distributing funds.

  257. Lastly, can I ask you the most difficult of all questions I suppose. How long do you believe that the European Union and the West are going to have to have commitments in the Kosovo, Yugoslav, Balkan area?
  (Mr Patten) I think that is the most difficult question of all because you are not only asking a very difficult political question, you are asking an economic question as well. I think in Serbia, for instance, they have not only suffered from years of Milosevic, the Mafia economics, they have also suffered from Yugoslav Communist economics for years. The questions one asks oneself are how rapidly will an entrepreneurial culture take hold; how rapidly will the economy turn around? I think I am more optimistic than some because I think one of the consequences of the opening of markets, and one of the consequences of technology, is that economic change these days happens a lot faster than it did a few years ago. As you know, if you go to other parts of Europe, if you go to Australia, if you go to parts of Canada and the United States, you see large numbers of Serbs and Albanians and Kosovars and so on doing extremely well, holding down tough professional jobs, making money. Would that they were able to do that in their own countries. By and large I think that it should be possible to turn those economies around rather more rapidly than some people fear. I have to say one of the things that I have found most encouraging in Kosovo is the sign already of entrepreneurial activity as one goes around. What I think is really important is that the international donor community should demonstrate what I think Madeleine Albright used to call Tough Love and not create dependency cultures in those countries. I think it is a danger in Bosnia-Herzegovina and I think we have to be very careful we do not make that mistake. Politically, it is a bit of a lion and lamb question. I hope that we will see at least a great degree of inter-ethnic tolerance, even if one cannot expect people to love one another for some time to come, but we know from our own experiences in Northern Ireland that sometimes there is almost too much history for people to get down to the job of shaping the future.

  258. Chris, thank you very much. You will always be welcome here.
  (Mr Patten) Thank you very much.

  259. We think some of your analyses are very important to what we are considering and we are more than pleased that you have been willing to spend some time to come and be cross-questioned by us. Thank you very much indeed.
  (Mr Patten) Thank you very much indeed.

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