PROSPECTS FOR THE PLAN
153. Despite his accusation of EU inactivity, Misha
Glenny was optimistic about the prospects for the package: "there
is an extraordinary consensus building around the Covic package,
including local moderate representatives of the Albanians, both
as a strategy for reducing tension there but also building up
the region economically. My own feeling is that this initiative
at the moment looks like it may fly. It has strong international
backing; it has strong local backing."
154. Jonathan Steele sounded a more cautious note,
highlighting the risk if the policy of dialogue failed: would
the West then accept that the Yugoslavs could use military force?
He told us that he had recently been in the area and had seen
"tanks firing from Serbia proper into the buffer zone. Of
course we know that the Yugoslav army is not allowed to penetrate
that zone physically with vehicles or men, but, if they are firing
shells in there that may be a moot point in terms of legality
and the Kumanovo agreement [Military Technical Agreement], but
in terms of humanitarian consequence it is disastrous. It is creating
the same kind of refugee exodus that we saw when the Yugoslav
army was shelling Albanian villages in Kosovo two years ago."
One possibility was that "there could be a split of policy
between Covic and Pavkovic, the Chief of Staff of the Yugoslav
army, and, indeed, that it might be a deliberate one, that Pavkovic
might be trying to sabotage the Covic initiative because he wants
to move to military means."
Charles Crawford confirmed that there were different strains of
opinion on the Serb side, but in his view the peaceful option
was prevailing at this stage: "there are elements out there
on the Serb side who are dangerous and want to have a go and go
in there and sort it out in a very violent way, there is a sense
among the senior leaders, so far as I can tell, of a need not
to rise to provocations, to keep on with what you might call a
155. Jonathan Steele's solution was to put "some
kind of international presence into this area, whether it is unarmed
UN observers of some kind who can be there to monitor exactly
what is going on and give information so we do not just take all
the information from Covic and his people. Secondly, that we might
even have to think of allowing KFOR to be able to move into that
area in some capacity or other, preferably in a joint operation,
which could include not only the Serbs of Serbia but even the
Albanians of Kosovo, so that it was a tripartite thing, with Albanian
representation from Pristina, KFOR, and Serb representation from
Belgrade, so that it is really even-handed and able to see what
is going on."
156. On 8 March the North Atlantic Council authorised
the commander of KFOR to allow the "controlled return of
FRY forces into the Ground Safety Zone (GSZ), into a narrow sector
next to the border with...Macedonia. This is a first step in a
phased and conditioned reduction of the GSZ. Further controlled
return to the GSZ should continue rapidly thereafter in defined
sectors, subject to approval by the North Atlantic Council. Access
to the final sector which has seen the most conflict will be authorised
by Council at a later stage...[the NAC also confirmed] NATO's
intention ultimately to abolish the Ground Safety Zone."
The KFOR commander has said that the federal army would be allowed
to carry light machine guns and mortars in the zone, but no heavy
weapons or armour.
By allowing the Yugoslav army to enter a five by five kilometre
part of the GSZ next to the border with Macedonia before other
areas, NATO would appear to be implicitly accepting that there
is a connection between the insurgents in the Presevo valley and
those on the border between Kosovo and Macedonia. We discuss the
situation on the border with Macedonia below.
157. Also implicit in NATO's commitment to a "controlled
return" of the Yugoslav army and a "conditioned reduction"
in the GSZ is the idea that the Yugoslavs' activities in the zone
will be monitored, and that further reductions in the zone will
depend upon the Yugoslav army's behaviour. On 12 March NATO agreed
a week long cease-fire with the UCPMB in the GSZ, although a number
of Albanian insurgents have said that they will not be responsible
if shots are fired against the Yugoslav army.
United Kingdom troops have been among the KFOR forces which have
entered the GSZ with the Yugoslav army in order to monitor the
The EU also has a monitoring mission in southern Serbia, and Chris
Patten told us that "I am sure they are going to be required
in larger numbers on the border between Kosovo and Serbia."
If the cease-fire breaks down, ascribing responsibility will clearly
be a delicate task. As NATO has sanctioned the Yugoslav army's
return to the GSZ, the sensitivity with which the Yugoslav army
operates in the GSZ will have implications for the whole of KFOR's
mission in Kosovo.
158. Jonathan Steele is correct in pointing out that
the Yugoslav army is thus far unreformed. We had an indication
of this from our discussions with representatives of the Yugoslav
Army in Belgrade. It did not suddenly learn on 5 October 2000
how to conduct an effective anti-insurgency campaign which minimises
civilian casualties. It is also unclear how much authority the
new administration in Belgrade has over the Yugoslav military.
159. One of the difficulties in dealing with the
Albanians of the area is that there is no generally accepted leader.
However, it appears that the reaction from the Albanians of the
area to the Covic plan has been less positive than that of the
international community. One of the leaders, Riza Halimi, the
mayor of Presevo, has said that he welcomed Belgrade's initiative,
but had several objections to the content and the "take-it-or-leave-it
attitude" of the Serbian authorities. According to him, the
Albanians of the area are seeking autonomy within Serbia: this
is not on offer in the Covic package.
On the other hand, Charles Crawford told us that he had recently
spoken to Riza Halimi, who had told him that "the local commanders
of the so-called UCPMB had accepted the proposition that a settlement
to the Presevo Valley story had to be within the boundaries of
The definition of "autonomy" will clearly be a significant
element of the negotiations, and much work remains to be done
to isolate the extremists and bring about a peaceful solution.
We welcome the efforts of the new administration in Belgrade
to resolve the crisis in the Presevo valley by peaceful means.
We also welcome NATO's commitment to ensure that the return of
the Yugoslav army to the Ground Safety Zone will be "controlled"
and "conditioned." Recalling the difficulties of the
OSCE KVM monitors in Kosovo in 1998-99, we recommend that the
Government work within NATO and the EU to ensure that any monitors
have a clear mandate and are fully resourced to fulfil their mission.
We further recommend that the Government make clear to the administration
in Belgrade that it will be held responsible for protecting the
human rights of all its citizens in the Ground Safety Zone.
160. Chris Patten told us that "what is happening
in south-east Europe is the most important test of our ability
in Europe to manage any sort of...common foreign and security,
We agree. We conclude that the crisis in the Presevo valley
represents a significant test for the EU's Common Foreign and
Security Policy, and for co-ordination between that policy and
NATO. Failure in this area threatens what has been achieved so
far in the Balkans, and we recommend that the Government act with
its partners to address and contain the problem before it worsens.
300 Some areas of the Presevo valley are 90 per cent
ethnic Albanian, while others are around 50 per cent. See www.rferl.org/balkanreport/2001/02/11090201.html. Back
Zoran Kusovac, Jane's Defence Weekly, 3 January 2001. Back
"The Ground Safety Zone (GSZ) is defined as a 5-kilometre
zone that extends beyond the Kosovo province border into the rest
of FRY territory. It includes the terrain within that 5-kilometre
zone." The purpose of this GSZ shall be, among other things:
"To establish a durable cessation of hostilities, under
no circumstances shall any Forces of the FRY and the Republic
of Serbia enter into, reenter, or remain within the territory
of Kosovo or the Ground Safety Zone (GSZ) and the Air Safety Zone
(ASZ) described in [previous article] without the prior express
consent of the international security force ("KFOR")
commander. Local police will be allowed to remain in the GSZ."
MTA available on: www.nato.int/kosovo/docu/a990609a.htm. Back
B92 Daily News Bulletin for 3 March 2001. Back
Ev. p.40. Back
Ev. p.40. Back
NATO Press Release, (2001)035, available on www.nato.int/docu/pr/2001/p01035e.htm Back
See paras. 161ff. Back
The Times, 14 March 2001. Back