Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Fourth Report


Road to Europe

11. Charles Crawford, the new United Kingdom Ambassador in Belgrade, who gave excellent oral evidence to the Committee, told us that the question for the United Kingdom now was "how do we realign the whole basis of our effort down there to take account of the fact that Belgrade, for all the problems we have got, is fundamentally becoming part of the solution, not the large part of the problem?"[17] Chris Patten, the European Commissioner responsible for the Balkans, told us that before the fall of Milosevic, "Serbia remained a black hole in the region, it was extremely difficult to see how one would animate the economies of the region while Serbia was still stuck in the Milosevic years."[18] Chris Patten set out a vision for south-east Europe, which now includes Serbia, and which we discuss below.[19]

12. The initial signs from the new administration in Belgrade are that there is a strong will to engage internationally and with other countries of the region, as well as to improve economic policies. We were encouraged by the outlook of the enthusiastic young technocrats we met. Charles Crawford told us that "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."[20] However, referring to the administration inherited from Milosevic, he went on to ask: "what are they attached to?"[21] It is not enough for the members of the new government to be well versed in economics and the technicalities of privatisation: they will also need the political skills and legitimacy to carry through what will inevitably be contentious and difficult reforms. The IMF has referred to the need to limit the growth of credit to control inflation, widening the tax base, and "bringing the grey economy into the tax net."[22] All of these policies, while undoubtably necessary in the longer term, will cause financial difficulties for many of Serbia's citizens in the short term.

13. Zoran Kusovac points to the fact that "the past relationship of a number of members of the current regime with the former establishment is often the current regime the benefit of the doubt could prove to be bordering on naivety. Rather, they have to be judged on performance..."[23] While this may be true, the performance of the new administration so far is encouraging.

14. However, there are certainly risks for the new government. Nationalism and conflict, which have plagued the region for the last decade, could continue to distract Yugoslavia. Nationalists of one form or another gained 20 per cent of the vote in the last elections, and it is entirely possible that disillusionment with economic liberalisation and international engagement could set in. Discussions over the future of the federation,[24] the Presevo valley,[25] and the future of Kosovo[26] all may constitute possible reasons for public opinion in Serbia to turn away from the new government. Dealing with the political difficulties is therefore as important as ensuring that Yugoslavia gets the economic and financial help which it needs.

Serbian/Federal rivalries

15. On paper, the current federal structure duplicates many functions at federal and republican levels, causing confusion about where real power lies and competition between different authorities. The constitutional powers of federal positions do not reflect the actual authority wielded by their incumbents.[27] In practice, the federal government has only two areas of operation in Montenegro—the Yugoslav armed forces and air traffic control.[28] Its writ runs only nominally in Kosovo. As Zoran Kusovac identifies, the powers of the federal and Serbian governments thus largely extend over identical territories, and this as well as the "different natures and political agendas of the two current leaders, Kostunica at federal and Djindjic at Serbian level" means that "such a conflict can be safely predicted."[29] It was clear during our visit that President Kostunica and Prime Minister Djindjic had different approaches in a number of areas. While Mr Djindjic has been a leading opposition figure for some time, Mr Kostunica gained much personal popularity and credibility during the transition. Clarification of the future of the federation is important for the governance of Serbia as well as Montenegro.

Reconstruction and economic development in Serbia

16. In contrast to our previous inquiries, reports of the administration of the EU's aid programme for Serbia have been positive. Jonathan Steele told us that "the EU money has come through very effectively for fuel oil for the power stations in the municipalities and electricity is being imported from Bulgaria, particularly, and being paid for by the EU. Some food, I think sugar and cooking oil, is being supplied by the EU."[30] The EU agreed a package of 200 million euros (£122m) for Yugoslavia in October 2000, almost all of which has been disbursed.[31] Chris Patten told us that the EU was now looking beyond emergency relief to reconstruction and economic assistance. Medium term support will be provided under a programme for south-east Europe as a whole: country allocations have yet to be determined, but the allocation for the region is 4.65 billion euros (£2.83 billion) from 2001-2006.[32] DFID has allocated £13.4m for emergency assistance to Serbia.[33] Charles Crawford told us that "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."[34] £12.4m of this is "new money" in the sense that it comes from uncommitted humanitarian aid funds for 2000-2001.[35] Mr Vaz told us that "we have also provided £10 million of humanitarian assistance, £3.4 million to pay arrears to family income support."[36] Aside from simple humanitarian concerns, dealing with the most pressing social protection issues will help the new government to maintain its legitimacy during the economic transition. Mr Vaz told us that he would ensure that EU funding would be examined to ensure that it takes account of the needs of the most disadvantaged elements in society.[37] We welcome the FCO's assurance that it will examine the current disposition of EU humanitarian and economic funding to ensure that it takes adequate notice of the need to protect the most disadvantaged elements of the population in south-east Europe, and we look forward to seeing the results of this review.


17. Although aid is important in providing basic needs and reconstruction in the initial phase, the longer term priority is to get the policy framework right so that, as Charles Crawford told us, investors "(a) feel [they] are going to make a profit and (b) if something goes wrong, [they] can go along to some legal system and have some recourse..."[38] He went on: "The big money will come from [private investment]. 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."[39] However, a precondition for this investment is debt rescheduling: "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."[40] Even if intentions are good, many problems remain: Jonathan Steele told us that the last privatisation minister of the former regime "carried out a rather odd, slightly sleazy form of privatisation: something like 200 companies were practically given to old cronies of the Milosevic regime. I think one of the questions which the new government has to face is whether to try and unravel these rather hasty privatisations of the last three months."[41] We deal with the regional context of aid to Yugoslavia below.[42]


18. While we were in Belgrade we attended part of a conference being held under the auspices of Wilton Park (an executive agency of the FCO) for the media in Serbia. It was clear that there were important issues for the new administration to resolve concerning the regulation of the media. A number of media organisations in Serbia were established under Milosevic. These have less than transparent ownership structures and dominate the broadcasting frequencies. Doubts were expressed to us while we were in Belgrade as to whether the new government was really prepared to embrace genuine freedom of the media.

19. One issue frequently mentioned to us during our visit was the allocation of bandwidth to radio and television stations. According to B92, an independent broadcaster, 95 per cent of Yugoslav broadcasters are currently unlicensed.[43] The Yugoslav government has claimed that the current situation is untenable, and that bandwidths are full to the extent that aircraft communications are being endangered. In October 2000 the government imposed a temporary moratorium on the issuing of new frequencies, to remain in place until new broadcasting laws had been passed and new tenders offered for frequencies. In March 2001 the government announced that all television and radio stations which had begun operating after October 2000 would be closed.[44] If put into effect, this would mean that most if not all of Yugoslavia's independent broadcasters would cease to operate in the short term, at least until new laws were passed. However, there is also a longer term danger. The overall number of broadcasters after the new tendering process has been completed will be reduced. Independent broadcasters may be unable to afford the new tenders, the tendering process may not be transparent and the government may be unsympathetic to the need for an independent broadcasting sector.

20. Given the history in former Yugoslavia of state­controlled media there is clearly a huge political and cultural sea change to bring about. Mr Vaz told us that ensuring "a flourishing and a free press" was a high priority, and that he had asked the British Ambassador in Belgrade to make assistance in this area one of his priorities.[45] The Wilton Park conference recommended that a system of temporary broadcasting licensing should be established, to overcome the lack of regulation of the existing media, and the dominance of some of the media organisations established under Milosevic.[46]

21. The World Service has played a significant role in promoting a free media in Serbia. It was the only international radio station to be rebroadcast locally on 6 October 2000, by the independent radio station B92.[47] Within two weeks, the BBC's Serbian programming could be heard on six stations broadcasting from eight FM transmitters, covering 50 per cent of the Serbian population. This was in addition to short wave and internet services. The World Service Trust also addresses "the training and development needs of a severely distorted media environment in the region."[48] We recommend that the Government attach a very high priority to providing assistance to the development of an independent and free media in Serbia.


22. As part of the Independent Media and Civil Society Programme, the FCO has sought to bolster local government in Yugoslavia by supporting the Local Government International Bureau (LGIB). The objectives have been to establish links between selected local authorities in Yugoslavia and the United Kingdom, to provide the Yugoslav local authorities with a greater awareness of the functioning of local government in a democracy, and to offer technical assistance and expertise on local government issues.[49]

23. As the LGIB noted in evidence to us, the programme helped establish important contacts with the democratic opposition in Serbia prior to the September elections: "Each of the Serbian municipalities involved were key centres and foci of opposition. In some small way UK local authorities can feel that they have encouraged their counterparts on a road that culminated in the 'Bulldozer Revolution' of October 2000".[50] During our visit to Novi Sad, which has developed a longstanding and highly productive partnership with Norwich City Council,[51] we were told that the aid provided by the United Kingdom Government had been timely and much appreciated. The provision of technical assistance is also proving useful and the links established have enabled United Kingdom businesses to get involved in the task of reconstruction. The initiative as a whole has been widely praised and the LGIB told us "it is now seen by many as a model for future activities" in Yugoslavia.[52]

24. We are therefore concerned by reports that future FCO funding for the LGIB programme may be in doubt.[53] In evidence to us, the LGIB wrote that: "UK local authorities do not have the finances to fund such activities themselves", adding that: "there is considerable expectation amongst the local authorities on both sides that as the UK government has started this initiative they have some duty to support its continuation and keep these fledgling partnerships alive."[54] We agree. The LGIB also believes there is scope for expanding existing projects, commenting that: "Although the FCO have awarded funds to support four technical exchange projects during 2000/2001 a considerable amount more could be achieved with a higher level of financial support." We conclude that the encouragement of people-to-people links and the fostering of local democracy is of importance and believe the Local Government International Bureau has a key role to play in this regard. We therefore recommend that the FCO look favourably on requests for future funding of partnerships between local councils in the United Kingdom and those in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia.

Diplomatic presence in Belgrade

25. Between March 1999 and November 2000 the United Kingdom had no diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia. During this period, the FCO established a British interests section at the Brazilian embassy, but no United Kingdom-based staff were accredited. Full diplomatic relations were re-established on 17 November 2000, and Charles Crawford, the new British ambassador, arrived in his posting in January 2001. We were thoroughly impressed by the hard work British embassy staff have put into establishing a working relationship with the new Yugoslav and Serbian governments in such a short time. The help provided by the United Kingdom to the opposition to Milosevic[55] has assisted these relationships.

26. The FCO now has six United Kingdom-based posts at the embassy at Third Secretary level or above, with a further four staff due to arrive in the next few months.[56] Mr Vaz has acknowledged that the current British presence in Belgrade is insufficient.[57] The new posts for which funding has been found will doubtless be welcome to Ambassador Crawford, who has told us candidly that "there are not many Ambassadors in the world who would not like to have rather more troops on the ground".[58] We welcome the FCO's assurance to us that the Embassy in Belgrade will be rapidly reinforced, and look forward to seeing the results of this assurance. We recommend that the FCO give serious consideration in the next round of budget negotiations to proposing a further reinforcement of the British diplomatic staff in Belgrade. Our experience convinces us that there is a need for the FCO to give serious consideration to the creation of a diplomatic rapid reaction force to make a speedy response whenever sudden political developments anywhere in the world require a dramatically increased diplomatic presence, for example in Macedonia now.

Dealing with the past: war crimes and justice


27. Co-operation with the ICTY has been a stumbling block in the relationship between the new Yugoslav administration and the international community. The United Kingdom Government demands "full co-operation with ICTY"[59] by the Yugoslav government and insists that this co-operation is "an international legal obligation"[60] on Yugoslavia as a Member of the United Nations. Outside Yugoslavia, the focus of this obligation has been the fate of former federal president, Slobodan Milosevic, against whom an international arrest warrant has been issued by the ICTY. The US Congress has gone so far as to make aid conditional on Yugoslav co-operation with the ICTY by 31 March—leaving to the US President the task of assessing whether this co-operation is adequate.[61]

28. Most of the Yugoslav politicians we met in Belgrade did not disagree that Yugoslavia was legally obliged to co-operate with the ICTY. They did, however, claim that new national legislation would be necessary to enable this co-operation. They also raised concerns about the fairness of the Tribunal, and the implications of this for Yugoslav politicians accountable to the Yugoslav people. Finally, they had differing views as to what "full co-operation" might amount to, and whether those indicted of war crimes should stand trial in the Hague or in Yugoslavia. We deal with each of these issues in turn.


29. Yugoslavia does not currently have laws which allow the extradition of Yugoslav citizens. Such legislation would be required to enable Yugoslav citizens on Yugoslav territory who do not surrender themselves voluntarily to be tried before the ICTY in the Hague. The ICTY has suggested that parts of some trials could be held before the ICTY in Belgrade.[62] It is unclear whether this would obviate the need for extradition in some cases, but, if so, this could avoid delay. However, we assume that extradition will remain necessary in some if not all cases.

30. According to press reports, federal legislation to allow the extradition of Yugoslav citizens to the ICTY will not be in place until June-July 2001.[63] There is no obstacle, however, to the extradition from Yugoslavia of citizens of other countries,[64] which has led some to suggest that there can be no legal reason to delay the extradition of prominent Bosnian Serb indictees. In fact, these people are likely to have retained Yugoslav citizenship, although the situation is uncertain. As Misha Glenny told us, "the Serbian Justice Minister is evidently unclear as to whether Ratko Mladic is a Yugoslav citizen or not ... I cannot imagine that either of them [Mladic and Radovan Karadzic] would have taken out Bosnian citizenship!"[65] It may therefore be that all indictees currently in Yugoslavia hold Yugoslav citizenship, which would mean that none of them will be legally extraditable for several months. We note the first voluntary surrender to the ICTY by a Yugoslav citizen—a Bosnian Serb—in March 2001,[66] and view this as an encouraging development.

31. We appreciate that those accused of war crimes need to be subject to legal and transparent processes. If several months are genuinely required to enable extradition, the Yugoslav authorities will need to take other steps in the meantime to show that they are co-operating with the ICTY. Allowing the ICTY to establish an office in Belgrade was a preliminary gesture. Helping the ICTY to gather evidence and making documents freely available to the court would be two further such steps. Equally important, however, will be ensuring that indicted suspects are available for extradition—or trial by the ICTY in Belgrade as the case may be—as soon as this becomes possible, and that they are not allowed to escape justice. The whereabouts of Milosevic are known. Another indicted suspect, Milan Milutinovic, even now remains in office as President of Serbia. The Yugoslav authorities have not, however, been able or willing to ensure that Mladic remains on Yugoslav territory, although he was regularly sighted until very recently in Belgrade, where he has a home.[67] Press reports of 21 February 2001 quoted the Serbian Interior Minister as saying: "we do not have information that he is in Serbia at all".[68] This is evidence that, unless measures are taken, the risk is that indicted suspects will go into hiding or leave Yugoslav territory before they can be extradited. We recommend that the Government explore with the Yugoslav authorities ways in which it can be ensured that those indicted by the ICTY will be available for trial before the ICTY as soon as the relevant legislation has been enacted.

17   Q210. Back

18   Q235. Back

19   See para. 180. Back

20   Q224. Back

21   Q225. Back

22 Back

23   Appendix 9, p.97. Back

24   See paras. 54ff. Back

25   See paras. 147ff. Back

26   See paras. 103ff. Back

27   Appendix 9, p.97. Back

28   Tim Judah, Goodbye to Yugoslavia, New York Review of Books, 23 January 2001, pp. 5-6. Hereafter "Goodbye to Yugoslavia." Back

29   Appendix 9, p.97. Back

30   Q6. Back

31   Q115. Back

32   Ev. p.27. Back

33   Ev. pp.27-28. Back

34   Q225. Back

35   Ev. pp.28-29. Back

36   Q111. Back

37   Q112. Back

38   Q226. Back

39   IbidBack

40   Q227. Back

41   Q3. Back

42   See paras. 22ff. Back

43 Back

44   Ibid. Back

45   Q189. Back

46 Back

47   Appendix 5, p.89. Back

48   Appendix 5, p.90. Back

49   Appendix 3, p.86. Back

50   Ibid. Back

51   See Appendix 11, ev. pp-102-3, and appendix 12, ev.p.103. Back

52   Appendix 3, p.86. Back

53   Appendix 3, p.87. Back

54   Ibid. Back

55   See paras. 9-10. Back

56   Q106. Back

57   Q105. Back

58   Q225. Back

59   Ev. p.25. Back

60   Ev. p.38. Back

61   Q11. Back

62   ICTY Press Release, 8 March 2001, F.H/P.I.S./572-E, available at­e.htm. Back

63   Q28.; BBC News, 20 February 2001, Back

64   Q29. Back

65   QQ35-36. Back

66   Blagoje Simic, a former mayor of the town of Samac. See BBC News, 12 March 2001, Back

67   Q33. Back

68 Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 27 March 2001