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Kosovo: Political and Economic Progress

2.48 p.m.

Lord Blaker asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, there has been considerable progress in Kosovo since the international community inherited the wreckage left by Milosevic's forces. Over 800,000 refugees, brutally expelled from their homeland, have returned. Kosovo's children, educated in cellars and garages during the years of Belgrade's apartheid, are now taught freely in reopened schools. Small businesses are opening. Kosovar Albanians are working with the UN Mission in a joint administration. Kosovar Serbs are soon to join them. Local elections are planned for the autumn.

However, we are not complacent. Much remains to be done. In particular, extremists on both sides need to understand that we will not tolerate the pursuit of political goals by violent means.

Lord Blaker: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that full response to my Question. Does she recall that while there has been good progress in some sectors, only three weeks ago the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, the Secretary-General of NATO, said that we are on a razor edge between success and failure? As one example of the problems, does she recall that it was stated in last month's report from the UN Mission that the number of police who had been recruited under UN auspices amounted only to 2,000, whereas the target figure was 4,700? Does not that and other examples indicate that a very strong effort must be made by every country concerned to ensure that further resources are provided so that we do not stand in danger of losing the peace?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I absolutely agree with the sentiment behind the noble Lord's comments. I am sure that many of us were reassured that at the European Council in Lisbon on 23rd and 24th March it was agreed that the international community needed a more coherent strategy to support Kosovo and the region. The High Representative, Mr Solana, has been asked to develop action-oriented proposals in full association with the Commission where Mr Patten will have the crucial role. The UK is working closely with them both.

I turn to the second part of the noble Lord's question in relation to police. We agree that more police are vital in the region. At present, only 2,500 police out of the 4,700 total approved by the UN are in Kosovo. The UK has met both UN targets,

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initially deploying 60 RUC officers and now a further 60 MoD police. We intend to contribute more, including up to 25 specialists in police and Customs work to strengthen UNMIK's capacity to tackle organised crime. Already, 40 UK police officers are training the future Kosovar police service. We must all do everything that we can to ensure a proper resolution to these difficulties.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, does the Minister agree that so far extremely little progress has been made in Kosovo towards civil and political education and that in the long term that is vital to the restoration of the health of Kosovo? Will she give some reassurance to the House that the Government will support such education with all the means at their disposal?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, although, respectfully, I cannot agree with the noble Lord's assessment that little has been done, I certainly agree that this is an important endeavour. Rightly, it is a matter that has been highlighted and worked upon. The noble Lord will know that many judges and lawyers from the United Kingdom are going to Kosovo to assist in this regard. We see this as a positive move and we are certainly encouraging all our partners to do what they can to meet this very clear need.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, will my noble friend give us a little more information? She has given us some information about the British contribution to policing in Kosovo. Perhaps she will give the House some information about the detail of our assistance to economic reconstruction in that country.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we have made a considerable contribution to Kosovo. In the second half of 1999, we pledged almost $8 million for activities to support UNMIK: $1 million for salary costs for utility workers; $1 million for prisons; $3 million to support transformation of the former KLA and $2.9 million for other support, including UN mine action. We have also spent $5 million on upgrading Pristina airport. We have done much to ensure that the reconstruction is as positive as we can make it.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there probably will not be much economic progress until there is law enforcement and a functioning system of justice? Although I welcome the British contribution on those fronts, will the Government ask the UN authority to do its utmost to restrain traffic, both in drugs and in women?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we absolutely understand the nature of the problem to which the noble Lord rightly refers. We are doing everything that we can to ensure that the civil systems work, and work properly, and to support the mechanisms that will enable such trafficking, if it has taken place, to be curtailed, if not stopped.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, with the greatest respect to the noble Baroness, I speak as

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someone who returned only this weekend from a week in Albania. Certainly, as seen from the Albanian side of the border, the picture that she has painted of the restoration of economic progress and political justice in Kosovo is, I can only say, one of excessive optimism. The Americans, for example, built a refugee camp in Albania for 60,000 refugees from Kosovo. It was never occupied by a single one because they wanted to return to their own homes as soon as they could. Does the Minister agree that, sadly, ethnic cleansing has occurred in Kosovo, but it is ethnic cleansing by the Albanians of the Serbs? Does she agree that one of the mistakes made was that not nearly enough UN people were involved early enough and that not enough concerted organised planning took place between international organisations on what should be done once the bombing stopped? That is a lesson that we should learn for future crises of this sort.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I do not accept that the picture that I sought to paint is in any way a rosy one. We are faced with incredibly difficult and pressing issues. No one who looks at the Kosovo situation could say anything but that we are faced with the most enormous challenge. However, we are determined to face that challenge and must bring about a creative resolution to it; nor do I accept that we are seeing ethnic cleansing in Albania if the noble Lord is suggesting that it is now ethnic cleansing of the Serbs. I should remind noble Lords (many of whom, I hope, will not need reminding) that Milosevic expelled over 850,000 of his own citizens from their homeland in Kosovo and made a further - million homeless within Kosovo. Since June 1999, approximately 100,000 Kosovar Serbs have left Kosovo. The scale of the problem is very different. We should concentrate all our efforts on finding a resolution as opposed to revisiting a history that is now well recorded.


3.6 p.m.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I beg leave to ask a Question of which I have given private notice, namely:

    Whether Her Majesty's Government will make a statement on the future of the United Kingdom's relations with Zimbabwe.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, together with other members of Her Majesty's Government, have sought in all statements to demonstrate that Britain is not an enemy but a friend of the people of Zimbabwe. It is because of that friendship that Britain is leading the international demand that the Government of Zimbabwe respect the rule of law and that the people of Zimbabwe have the right through free and fair elections to decide for themselves who will

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govern Zimbabwe. We shall continue to take every responsible and realistic step to secure those twin demands.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that statement. Your Lordships' House will be concerned by recent and continuing events in Zimbabwe: the wholesale intimidation of journalists and, as the noble Baroness is aware, of anyone with dissident views; the way that lawless thugs are being cynically encouraged by the Mugabe Government to break the law and invade other people's property, despite failing to win the recent referendum; the continued prosecution of a costly and pointless war in the Congo; and the postponement of the elections. All those things condemn Zimbabwe, which should be one of Africa's most prosperous and stable nations, to penury and oppression. The process has all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing.

Is the House aware that everyone in Zimbabwe agrees that land reform is needed but that the 1 million acres acquired by the Government over 20 years since independence has been given not to the dispossessed but to Mugabe's cronies? Can the Minister tell the House why bilateral aid to Zimbabwe's Government is increasing; why Britain is still providing military assistance to Zimbabwe; why Britain has done nothing to investigate freezing the overseas assets of Mr Mugabe and his cronies; why the European Union yesterday continued to provide aid to the government of Zimbabwe; and whether the Foreign Secretary has agreed to meet Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, as Mr Maude plans to do, in Britain later this week? Why has nothing been done to involve the Commonwealth?

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